This is topic Mack the Truck (Urban Fantasy, ~3k words) in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.


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Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
 
First time playing with urban fantasy in awhile. It's weirdly cathartic.
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A fist slammed against the back door of Decker Auto, loud enough to rattle the fiberglass window. Brandon Decker flinched. His pen tore a hole in the nightly paperwork he'd been filling out. Who the hell could be at the door this late at night? His shop had been closed for forty minutes; all of his mechanics had gone home.
The knocking persisted, loud and insistent. Brand scowled and flexed the muscles of his right arm. His myoelectric prosthetic hand clenched into a fist. The mechanical components moved as smoothly as a real hand, but the lack of physical sensation served as an unsettling reminder to beware of unexpected visitors.
Brand stalked out of the office and rapped his knuckles against the business hours emblazoned on the plexiglass window. “Shop's closed!” His left hand closed around the baseball bat he kept
 
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
 
A visitor disturbs an individual.

Clearly, Jerome Sterne's "Bear at the door" and visitation shapes, or danger at the door, or routine interruption. Each of those are complication features, problem specifically. Is the antagonism of a sufficient magnitude for a start thirteen lines? Low magnitude antagonism, quiet dramatic movement, perhaps another dramatic feature is indicated, one that specifies the threat at the door more concretely and more immediately, more than imminently present.

That Decker's prosthetic arm's sensation lack reminds him of the dangers of unexpected visitors doesn't timely realize that criteria, though is the sort indicated. However, the details about the prosthetic are premature, detract from the routine interruption movement development. Focus on that interruption of routine is the priority of bear at the door and visitation shapes. If the two features were more aligned, if not directly connected more concretely, they would suit each the other, though require more word count to develop those.

In the alternative, instead, the type of initial interruption could be more of a surprise event, to Decker and readers, or a dreaded anticipated event. Instead of a fist knock, like, perhaps a metallic or other material knock that is fraught with significance for Decker that readers can access. By the way, how does Decker know a fist knocks? He cannot see the fist through the door or its fiberglass window, not if he's focused on the business books. That's a narrator tell and not a "telling detail."

A dreaded anticipation needs prior development, before the knock and is of the Oh no, he knew this day would come: subjunctive mood. That, though, needs clear and strong specifics, like the knock is a sound only one scenario could indicate to Decker -- the knocker's material type and its sound against whatever material the door is made of. Wood? Plywood veneer? Metal? Plastic? What's the knocker made of? Meaty or bony flesh? Metal, wood, plastic? And such that Decker knows what or who is at the door and what the scenario means for him at the moment of the knock.

Not to suggest that a complete surprise visitor is itself contraindicated, that what the scenario profoundly means to Decker at the moment is the greater surprise potential for readers. So what if the knock annoys him? Who wouldn't be annoyed? Though an interruption nuisance, it is routine, and insistent nuisance no less a routine. A nonroutine surprise interruption is indicated. Or, why should I care? Profound interruption of routine, not a routine, everyday interruption. This is a bear at the door complication reason to care.

The fragment's narrative point of view oscillates clause by clause from narrator outside looks in to agonist inside looks out and back and forth in a one-to-one sequence. A to B. C to D. E to F, and so on, with an otherwise haphazard time and causation sequence with little, if any transition and connection. That Decker responds to causes is apt, though low or little magnitude movement.

Likewise, the syntax is as well an oscillation between main clauses and dependent clauses of that one progression.

Illustration:

//A fist slammed against the back door of Decker Auto, loud enough to rattle the fiberglass window.

//Brandon Decker flinched. His pen tore a hole in the nightly paperwork he'd been filling out.

//Who the hell could be at the door this late at night?

//His shop had been closed for forty minutes; all of his mechanics had gone home.

//The knocking persisted, loud and insistent.

//Brand scowled and flexed the muscles of his right arm. His myoelectric prosthetic hand clenched into a fist.

//The mechanical components moved as smoothly as a real hand, but the lack of physical sensation served as an unsettling reminder to beware of unexpected visitors.

//Brand stalked out of the office and rapped his knuckles against the business hours emblazoned on the plexiglass window.

//“Shop's closed!” His left hand closed around the baseball bat he kept //

Main clause, or sentence, to appositive dependent detail is the syntax sequence. The unattributed direct thought rhetorical question excepted (tag-free direct discourse).

Already noted above, how does Decker know a fist knocks? Other details like that, a fiberglass window? Later, it is a Plexiglass window? Myoelectric prosthetic arm? Is that mechanism detail timely? Or would it warrant later detail development instead?

"His pen tore a hole in the nightly paperwork he'd been filling out." Progressive past perfect tense shift contraindicated, a detail best given earlier when it is current and relevant to the moment or in the immediate present-past tense. Auto shop managers and owners loathe paperwork, to begin with. They hire unskilled bookkeepers for that reason, underpaid and neglected minions. Might he do some other more enjoyable task instead, like work on a hobby vehicle up on a lift?

Rhetorical questions are interjections in prose, not per se questions that ask for answers themselves. Might an exclamation mark substitute for the question mark? Fantasy uses exclamation marks more so than other genres. Script punctuation might use an interrobang instead. A period itself will do, too.

//Who the hell could be at the door this late at night!?//

"Who the hell" is on the trite side, perhaps outworn cliché. Auto shop workers use more colorful language, not per se foul language, though. And very often more emotionally charged. //Who the mud lover hell could be at the door now!?// for example.

"this late at night?" Really? The shop only closed forty minutes earlier. Auto shops are rarely, if ever, open late at night, more so late afternoon, early evening closures.

"His shop had been closed for forty minutes; all of his mechanics had gone home."

Semicolons imply close connection between independent clauses. This one forces an unnatural connection. More specifically, grammar's semicolon principles indicate semicolon splices for conjunctive adverb joined independent clauses, for serial lists and explanations. The latter is this case. The explanation is the first clause, though. The clauses' sequence is inverted. //All of his mechanics had gone home; his shop had been closed for forty minutes.// Colon or dash instead of the semicolon are options, too. Both colon and semicolon lean toward oversophistication for prose. A dash is warranted and apt for prose, judiciously.

Plus, determiner error, "his" twice. Maybe, too, an unnecessary and otherwise empty intensifier "all." //The mechanics had gone home; the shop had been closed for forty minutes.// Again, too, unnecessary shift to past perfect tense. //The mechanics were gone; the shop closed forty minutes ago.//

"persisted, loud and insistent" "loud" repetition in close proximity to a first instance. "persisted" and "insistent," likewise sound-alike assonance in close proximity, akin to -ing ring rhyme nuisance.

"moved as smoothly as a real hand" apt correlative conjunction "as" uses. For simile in prose, though, not an apt simile. Adverb "smoothly" does little to express attitude commentary.

"a real hand, but" unnecessary contradiction conjunction "but." Coordination conjunction "and" instead is indicated and all but invisible enough. "But," too, signals emphasis of a subordinated clause that is unwarranted.

"the lack of physical sensation" wordy. The sentence overall is wordy: "_The_ mechanical components moved _as_ smoothly _as_ _a_ real hand, _but_ _the_ lack _of_ physical sensation _served_ _as_ _an_ _unsettling_ reminder _to beware_ _of_ unexpected visitors." Three unnecessary determiners, "the," "an," "a" three "as" conjunctions; two "of" prepositions, wordy verb "served," wordy and empty "unsettling" gerund, wordy and unnecessary infinitive tense shift "to beware." "But" elimination and separated sentences adjusts a world of excess wordiness. Also, use of as few transition words, like "of," as possible defuses wordiness's emphasis confusions. Ominous menace is the dramatic situation point, right? Oh no, another attacker at the door. //. . . real hand. The gizmo's dead touch sense reminded him unexpected visitors brung trouble.//

"stalked out of the office and rapped his knuckles" not-simultaneous error. Or are Decker's knuckles longer than normal human finger anatomy?

"emblazoned" diction flaw. See dictionary definition. What? Inscribed heraldic decoration? A celebratory extolment?

Decker? Does that surname evoke the Bladerunner character of the same name?

"Mack the Truck" evokes numerous inferences, some that could contradict and confuse what might be the intent. Mack the truck company's brand name? Brandon [sic]? Mack is the Silent generation's noir equivalent to Boomer generation's "man" and X generation's "dude." What is the Millennial generation using for a comparable nominative impersonal pronoun? Or, slang verb "mack," to hit on, to flirt, verbally, vocally, physically, or gesturally, welcomed or otherwise. A confusion array of potentials. Title implications and signals can either narrow reader inferences or open them to best appeal effect. This one is the opposite. It's a pretty title, though does little that a title best practice does.

None of those possibilities suit urban fantasy's conventions. Nor does the fragment contain a fantastic feature development. Screeners who comment about how much they will read before one must be introduced say up to four hundred words, by the second page's end. Some say a first page's Standard Manuscript Format content, within thirteen lines. A title could be enough if it contains a fantastic feature or implication.

I could at this time read on as a somewhat engaged reader, though on notice not to be immersed very close. The interrupted routine complication introduction most deft and appeal of the fragment's contents, yet underdeveloped.

[ December 06, 2017, 07:47 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
 


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