This is topic A tempist of Cosmic Guilt in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Bob Wyveryn (Member # 10861) on :
Buried under a burden of guilt and blankets I just can’t seem drag myself out of bed anymore. My heavy heart, head and footsteps have left a noticeable worn path in the carpet leading from my room to the unforgiving world outside. My life recently came crashing down on me. But I did not break. I'm a willow in a whirlwind I thought, although I still checked my limbs for cracks. My life is a tempest of cosmic guilt and my name is Sam. Well, my grandfather’s name is Sam. Mine is actually Samantha. But everyone calls me Sam. “Can you hear me? Are you in there?” My mother calls from just outside my bedroom. She's come to "help". Instinctively I flatten out my entire body, sucking in my stomach and pressing the rest of me hard into my bed’s soft mattress. Silent and motionless I hide under the bulky covers I had earlier pulled over my head in what I now realize was a
Posted by Jay Greenstein (Member # 10615) on :
You open with someone we know nothing about bitching about how lousy life is, for unknown reasons. That's not story, it's a report, because nothing's happening and we don't yet know where we are in time and space, who we are, and what's going on.

Given that I don't know the gender and age, or why this person is unhappy, what can it mean to learn that their "life came crashing down?" They could have lost a life, been arrested, been rejected by a lover, or any of a million things. Unless we know the why, the statement has no emotional content

Basically, you're transcribing yourself transcribing a verbal story, and here, you are setting things up. It can work when your performance can add in the emotional content. But on the page? A voice devoid of all emotion is talking about someone unknown.

In short, it's not a matter of talent or potential. It's that you're using the tricks of verbal storytelling in a media that doesn't support them.

Fixing that is simple enough: add the tricks of the trade of fiction for the printed word to those you now own. It's not an easy, or fast process, because you will be learning a profession, and that takes study, practice, and thought. But that's true of any field, right? And it is a problem you share with most hopeful writers, so it's not a big deal, just an unexpected delay on the path to publication. But if you improve just a bit each day, and live long enough...

The local library's fiction writing section is a great resource

Some minor points:

1. New speaker = new paragraph.
My life is a tempest of cosmic guilt and my name is Sam.
2. In general, one sentence = one subject. Here, it's unclear.

3. In line with the above, it's best to place the reader into the scene. You're talking to the reader, directly. Yes, that's first person, by pronoun choice, but the viewpoint is that of a narrator whose voice we cannot hear, and so is emotion free. Best to place the reader into the protagonist's viewpoint. In the words of Sol Stein: “In sum, if you want to improve your chances of publication, keep your story visible on stage and yourself mum.”
Posted by Jay Greenstein (Member # 10615) on :
Basically, you're transcribing yourself transcribing a verbal story
Whoops...I meant transcribing yourself speaking that story aloud.
Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
Transcribing yourself speaking a story aloud is not a bad approach to getting something down on paper (or on the screen), but that's only the first step.

Then you need to work on what you've transcribed until it actually works as a written story. You need to look at it and figure out what should stay and what needs to be cut, what matters and what doesn't, what will recreate the story in the readers' heads, and what won't.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
An individual reflects from a figurative bathtub, stuck therein, stagnant on a bed here, and no forward movement: ennui and angst, woe is me.

Little, if any, occasion for dramatic movement; most of the fragment is back story and otherwise summary tell. Show's reality imitation includes emotionally and morally charged sensation details' subtexts. Such summary and explanation blocks best practice are dramatic effects of dramatic causes and delayed tension relief bridges between dramatic movements.

Title source revealed within a first paragraph spoils readers' delayed want to infer a title's inspirations on their own initiatives. Some place past a halfway point is an ideal target location for a title's import development and realization. Dramatic movement sequence, for titles, too: scene mode setup, delay, realization; scene mode introductions, transition steps, follow-throughs.

The title, as is, is misspelled and mis-formated: //A Tempest of Cosmic Guilt//. Cosmic guilt??? "Cosmic's" denotative definition is of the known or knowable celestial realm's organized structure. A chaotic cosmos of guilt, stars and wanderers awry? Why? That cause before the ennui effect portrayal? What did Samantha do? In scene mode?

Several grammar glitches, mediocre craft and dramatic event movement, little, if any, attitude expression magnitude, limited, if any, appeal -- I could not read further as an engaged reader.

[ September 12, 2018, 02:22 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
I would not read on because this fragment does not engage my interest. A character experiencing emotional ennui and despair is often a powerful experience for readers. However, in this instance, why should I care?

As I have recently said in another thread, according to Aristotle in his 2nd book of rhetoric, the quickest method to ensure a reader 'feels' for the character is to invoke an initial feeling of pity for the character's current situation. We feel for such a character because if bad things can happen to good people for no discernible reason, they could just as easily happen to us. Thus, we identify with the character.

The trick with a short story is to get to that point of association with the character in the quickest and most direct way.

Hope this is some help.


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