This is topic Ben and Jenny(Working title)-Modern Fantasy-9300 words in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by MerlionEmrys (Member # 11024) on :
So, here's another one. As before, comments on the first 13 are good, whole-story reads are better. Be warned though that this story is somewhat bawdy and contains homosexual, bisexual and polyamorous characters and relationships, and discussions of real-world religion.

Ben and Jenny came home, hand in hand, grinning like fools to find Emrys, Kyle and Ryan, three of their four friends/bandmates/housemates on the couch in front of the T.V. Emrys looked up and smiled when they came in. He had his clawed left hand buried in Kyle’s red hair, massaging the back of the sturdy young man’s head while he played a video game and the other hand out of sight down the front of Ryan’s pants as the lanky guitarist snored against Em’s shoulder.

“Well, you two look pleased about something,” Emrys said, removing his hand without haste or shame from Ryan’s nether regions and wrapping his arm around his waist instead.

“Yeah, what’s up, guys?” Kyle asked, shutting the game off and turning his full attention to his friends as Emrys pulled him closer.

Version Two

Emrys knew something was up the moment Ben and Jenny came crashing into the living room, grinning like fools with their arms around each other. The only heterosexual couple in his strange little family, their band’s keyboardist and drummer were generally not given to such fits of lovey-dovey giddiness.

Quite different from Emrys and his two lovers. He sat on the couch, his taloned left hand buried in Kyle’s red hair, massaging the back of the sturdy bassist’s head as he played a video game. Emrys’s right arm was wrapped around Ryan’s waist, his hand slid under Ryan’s shirt, fingering his happy trail as the raven-headed guitarist snored against his shoulder.

“Well, you two certainly look pleased about something,” Emrys said, smiling at their happiness.

[ March 02, 2019, 11:44 PM: Message edited by: MerlionEmrys ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
This is a genre I have never partaken of and have no appetite for, so my advice will be generic only: too many heads, too many names.

Just to compound the problem, to me, the narrative point of view seems fluid; I am left wondering just who is the viewpoint character in this scene?

It would seem to me, and this is only a guess, that you are trying for either omniscient point of view, or limited omniscient point of view. The first means you can hear the thoughts and motivations of everyone, the second means you can do the same thing, but with only a select group of characters: Tolstoy’s War and Peace being one of the best examples of limited omniscience.

Regardless of which it is, the viewpoint character should be anchored in the scene and remain constant. Change of scene, change of viewpoint character is the general rule of thumb.

If I were interested in this genre I would not read on, mainly because I’m confused by the crowd of characters.


[ November 12, 2018, 06:52 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Individuals gather into a population explosion absent any motivation, risk, or attitude.

Though a genre in which I am well-read, the lack of dramatic incitement or tone's attitude toward a salient topic or subject -- a standout of the particular genre to date and for its foreseeable future -- and absence of a fantasy motif introduction, leave me unable to read further as an engaged reader.
Posted by MerlionEmrys (Member # 11024) on :
Thanks for your thoughts, guys.

While I understand how some people feel about the head hoping/POV thing, like so many rules, of thumb and otherwise, I've seen it ignored so frequently that it doesn't worry me the end, the story is all and I'm none too sure this story can be told from a single POV.

That being said, I get that there are a lot of characters right here (and there is still one member of the "family" absent from this fragment.) I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do about that though, as the story is about all of them.

I know also that the fantasy element is light-although it isn't totally absent (Emrys's claw hand is mentioned) and I'd be very open to any suggestions about how to slip a little more in (the younger characters are all learning to use various supernatural abilities, Em is a powerful mage but tries to avoid using his magic in this world unless absolutely necessary.)

While there is no risk, I can't agree that there is no motivation or movement toward a topic. Ben and Jenny are excited and have something to tell their friends. I realize this may not be as gripping as some things, but this story is pretty much all about character and emotion. There is a bit of physical danger much later, but it's only there to forward and highlight what is really going on.
It's hard to say about this one, because the main crux is emotional and relationship related-Ben and Jenny are getting married and Ben has to deal with his mother's disapproval of their way of life (him cohabitating with Jenny before they are married and the fact they live with 4 polyamorous queers) and that forms the core of the story. Not for everyone, and hard to put an action-packed opening too, so any suggestions in that context are welcome (and someone to read the whole story and so get the full context would really be wonderful.)
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
A common thread across the non-masculist non-hetero dominant prose canon emerges from a general theme of an individual and society for the primary dramatic life influence, narrowed to widespread counter-real-world normative sexuality and oppression of real-world hetero-normative, to question and challenge of a tone about presupposed notions of propriety, regardless of a social paradigm's specific features. The nature of whatever sexuality and reproductive activity is incidental to a central social life influence derived therefrom, broadly, soft fantastic fiction.

Octavia Butler and Samuel Delaney are several of the better known writers of the genre within the fantastic fiction canon. Fantasy and metaphysical horror are far less represented than science fiction. When those genre are represented, generally, the tone aligns to real-world anti counter-normative notions, except niche vampirae and lycan within contemporary alternative fantasy. Even those favor off-stage and veiled real-world counter-normative private social acts and notions in favor of foreground public social life influences. Vampirae, isolated, social elite, episodic, idle mixed manic-depressive celebrities; lycan, isolated, athletic elite, episodic, wrathful celebrities.

New Feminist and Trad-con Masculist movements portray the unique lives of, respectively, empowerment-inclined women and entitled-by-default empowered men. LGBQT movements portray the unique lives and empowerment-inclined and counter influences thereof.

An uncommon movement, few and far between, portrays the unique lives of individuals aligned to one or all the former yet are not self-identified thereof. Feminist aligned yet non-feminist or, otherwise, male, or masculist-natured anyway; Masculist aligned yet non-masculist or, otherwise, female, or feminist-natured anyway. Etc.

Coupled to a social commentary message and moral, such a particular canon portrays the every-which-a-way puhsmi-pullya internal life influences of external social forces.

One movement subgenre, for example, shows a parent advocate for a real-world non-dominant sexual identity child, who, as an early adult, celebrates an in-your-face counter-sexuality. The parent's limitation boundaries stretch to a near break point.

The social message and moral is entailed therein: Alignment to infinity; confrontation tolerance goes so far, to an empowerment equivalency and no more. Severe personal-space privacy invasion will not stand. Exquisite. Such parent-child-adult attitudes clash from the outset, develop introduction within a few sentences of a start, and persist until a bittersweet end satisfies the contention, or to a closure outcome anyway. Meantime, a more overt, tangible, material, salient dramatic movement action unfolds alongside.

The claw hand, for me, evoked a severe carpal tunnel injury image of a crone's hand. Occam's Razor, given a choice between two possibles, the simpler is default. I recast the sentence, too, to find a yet simpler default: //His left hand clawed into Kyle’s red hair, massaged the back of the sturdy young man’s head while he played a video game. The other hand shoved out of sight into Ryan’s pants; the lanky guitarist snored against Em’s shoulder.// Okay, simpler, easier comprehension of a ruck-pile (population explosion) scenario.

Yet no fantasy motif introduction, the intent. Hmm. "The Edges of Ideas" offers considerations: "The places where technology and background should come onstage: not the mechanics of a new event, gizmo, or political structure, but rather how people’s lives are affected by their new background. Example of excellence: the opening chapters of Orwell’s 1984. (Lewis Shiner)" ("Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction," edited by Clarion workshops' David Smith, SFWA hosted, and applicable to any prose.)

//His curse-shriveled left hand clawed into Kyle’s red hair// Magic not, per se, at the moment relevant, though somewhat introduced incidental to a now-moment relevant action? The claw hand and magic ability do not at the moment matter to any of the group, least of all Emrys.

And setting detail that authenticates the narrative and further develops the fantasy situation also a consideration. Is this a "White Room"? "White Room Syndrome. An authorial imagination inadequate to the situation at hand; most common in the beginning of a story. 'She awoke in a white room.' The white room is obviously the white piece of paper confronting the author. (Lewis Shiner)" (Ibid.) Or no ambient dramatic space description at all.

"Ben and Jenny" evokes an association to Ben and Jerry of ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet notoriety. Yet the occasion for a portrait of a hetero-normative couple in a counter-normative dominant social situation, to me, seems a central feature of the start and the whole. These folk embrace social equivalency? Though Emrys' mother the one who objects to his lifestyle? Natural and necessary. Maybe consider a contention scene of that scenario beforehand, plus, due to potent emotional circumstances, perhaps an occasion to show Emrys' powers he reins in for now?

That, though, asks what magic represents respective to a unifier message and moral subtext. Also an introduction consideration for start essentials, so the whole's context is set up, implied or intimated, for reader emotional effect from start to end.

[ November 12, 2018, 08:37 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
I'm not advocating a single point of view; rather a limited omniscient POV where the character best placed to comment/observe the action is the dominant character in each scene. It isn't haphazard and it does require very careful thought. But it is very effective in telling a complex story.


While I understand how some people feel about the head hoping/POV thing, like so many rules, of thumb and otherwise, I've seen it ignored so frequently that it doesn't worry me the end, the story is all and I'm none too sure this story can be told from a single POV.

Really? I don't think so. It isn't the head-hopping per see, it's the multiple POV's in the same scene. As for POV consistency being ignored, that's usually only in self-published, indi writers. No publishing house would accept it.


[ November 13, 2018, 07:40 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by MerlionEmrys (Member # 11024) on :
Thank you, extrinsic, for your post. I only about half understand most of it, but I appreciate the time and effort regardless.

About the hand, I get what you're saying, but quite frankly I feel like most readers...especially most readers of a story in a fantasy publication...are going to take "clawed hand" as literal and unusual. That being said, I could also add "scaly", because it is that too, and it would serve to unequivocally illustrate the strangeness.

Also, it's Ben's mom, not Emrys's who has the issues-Em's parents have been dead for an extremely long time.

Yeah, the Ben and Jerry's thing...but "Ben and Jenny" is just a working title. The easiest thing would be to just call it "The Wedding", but that's just kind of blah. I really, intensely loathe coming up with titles.

Basically my initial thought for this story was a sort of romantic comedy wedding movie type thing, but with fantasy-and of course, a certain amount of my own experiences, dealing with my mother and her disapproval of my queerness. It's also a sort of introduction for these characters (other than Emrys, who is one of my oldest characters) and the situation. So the writing of this definitely had a "splattering paint" sort of aspect to it. I'm mostly happy with the results, but I'm not sure if there is a good way to give it a "faster" start.

Grumpy, if you don't mind, would you please do me the favor of detailing for me how this fragment isn't 3rd omniscient? I'm not saying you're not correct, I'm just trying to analyze the situation more minutely.

It isn't the head-hopping per see, it's the multiple POV's in the same scene.
Not being facetious or flip here at all but, as I understand it, that's what "head hopping" is.

As for POV consistency being ignored, that's usually only in self-published, indi writers. No publishing house would accept it.
I must respectfully disagree. In my experience, both in terms of reading genre literature extensively and in interviews, commentaries etc from well-established authors, professional writers write just exactly whatever they wish to, however they wish to, and generally come to see rules as tools to be used, discarded, bent or changed in the service of the telling of their story/personal style/other assorted creative goals.
I can't quote you a specific example of the POV thing off the top of my head, though there is an example of the general concept of disregard for convention that really stuck with me from several years ago-in the novel "Iron Council", China Mieville switches from past to present tense mid-page (possibly even mid-sentence, I can't quite remember) and I honestly didn't even notice it.
I really wish I had taken the time to write down all the examples I've seen in the last few years of professionally published works utterly ignoring many of the things we obsesses over here.

I personally believe that this switch from "rules" that must be followed to "tools" that act as servants to the writer and his creative goals is one pretty much all "successful" authors undergo.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
A quiet start outshines a slow or no start. Contention is one method for quiet starts, between persons, actual minor confrontation, or feigned combativeness for quiet humor, of a message-moral mannerism: irony, satire, sarcasm.

"Get a room," say, said by Ben, Jenny, or both is passé, at least, and trite and cliché idiom, though otherwise apt irony. That or similar or other for freshness' sake. Reference to marriage, say, sarcasm, "When yinz gonna tie youse knots already?" (Philly, PA slang.) Aligns to and pre-positions, foreshadows, for Ben and Jenny's announcement, which is then artfully anticlimactic and occasions an emphatic sarcastic retort. (//Tied Knots//, consideration for a title's ramifications? Multiple yet congruent-opposite thematic relevance meanings -- irony.)

Say, the others said, in reply to the engagement news, "Duh-huh. | Youse who is hitched | are the least to know." The three rucked men could say the whole retort, one part each in sequence, finish each others' sentences. Later, that they don't finish each others' sentences could show, foreshadow, a knotty contention episode. Transformative motifs.

Quiet though movement start on all fronts: echo and squabble dialogue, event, setting, character, dramatic movement, tone, satire, message, and moral developments, subtext, implied motivations and stakes risked. Sublime.

[ November 15, 2018, 06:55 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
This fragment's narrative point of view is third-person detached, no psychic access to thoughts and no overt narrator tone or presence, interest, or investment, as like readers experience the narrative through the indifferent lens and microphone of a cold drone camera automaton. Detached is selective omnipresence, which is so pervasive for prose anymore, regardless of narrative point of view type, omnipresence might as well be taken for granted as a default given.

Detached narrative point of view is the primary one for the Bible, Scriptures generally, also, contemporary narratives, among many though of late a minority, Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; John Grisham, The Confession; Gustave Flaubert, Madam Bovary; and the sole one for "Hills Like White Elephants," Ernest Hemingway. Objective Journalism is detached narrative point of view, though all but extinct in this age of New Journalism persistence. And -- well, scholastic essay's impersonal mien is detached, too.

For prose, mixed narrative points of view are more common than explicit sole ones, long more than short; detached of some flexibility mixes more friendly than several others, except for thought access; less thought access flexibility than third-person selective, god-like omniscience. Detached is a less common one than the several others since circa mid nineteenth century. Literature professors favor the detached-mixed narrative points of view; mass culture favors others, more so, third-person, close, limited, and mixed objective-subjective-active influence persona first person.

A convention common to detached is all activity is external, none internal from anyone, perceived from an outsider outside-looks-in perspective, no insider inside-looks-outward or inward. Visual and aural sensations only, maybe -- maybe -- olfactoral; though touches, smells, and tastes, and feels emotions, with indifferent lens eye and microphone ear not excluded. No subjunctive mood, conditional statement suppositions by narrator of agonists' thoughts and emotions, either, unless expressed aloud by, or from nonverbal, nonvocal, visible body language of, agonists.

The detached narrator is altogether absent, too, no tone's attitude nor identity development of the narrator's emotions, thoughts, morals, viewpoint, opinions, values, mores, sensibilities, sentiments, or personality or behavior. Those several solely expressed from externally observed reflections of agonist and auxiliary personas of a narrative's internal milieu.

Apt transition setup, delivery, and follow-through steps, includes jump transitions, attend mixed narrative points of view transformations from and to detached and auxiliary narrative points of view.

This above -- most all of my posts -- is detached.

[ November 15, 2018, 06:56 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by MerlionEmrys (Member # 11024) on :
Thanks for the ideas, extrinsic...even if I don't do it in this story, I definitely must have Emrys, Ryan and Kyle do some finishing of each others sentences and the divided, three-part response thing. I should have thought of those myself.

I really didn't have a specific POV structure in mind when I wrote this...I gave it some thought before hand and ultimately decided to just write it and let it play out, see how it flowed as a whole.

Didn't we (meaning a whole bunch of us here on Hatrack) have a long detailed discussion about POV some years back, and come largely to the conclusion that POV is, or can be, a sort of sliding scale? That's really more how I play it in this story, mostly omniscient but slipping into characters heads as needed. I feel like I see this pretty frequently in fiction.

Also, am I correct that switching between characters in the course of a scene is what people usually mean when they talk about "head hopping", or am I just crazy? (Well, I'm a writer, therefore I am definitely crazy, but you know what I mean.)
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Yes, to both questions, though fan and slash fiction folk, where the term originated, vary about "head hopping" definitions, explanations, and aptness. The least concise refuse any viewpoint persona switches and narrative point of view transitions by default of convenient habit and, Providence forbid, cannot track or tolerate detached-mixed narrative points of view.

Persuasive, deft detached uses serve controversial subject matter less viscerally, less offensively, less subjectively, more objectively, and far more remotely than any close narrative distance mannerism, and afford occasion for straightforward prose translation to motion picture media.

Inept detached defaults readers to implied writer or real writer viewpoint, disastrously perhaps, per Seymour Chatman and Wayne Booth: respectively, Story and Discourse, The Rhetoric of Fiction. I concur.

Though misapprehension and hyphenation error within the below, a strong lever to realize narrative point of view and viewpoint errors and arts. Narrative point of view method is to dramatic unit parcels and transition modes thereof; viewpoint mode is to personas and artful method switches among those thereof. Except for detached, includes a narrator persona's covert or overt viewpoints.

"Viewpoint glitch

"The author loses track of point-of-view, switches point-of-view for no good reason, or relates something that the viewpoint character could not possibly know." ("Turkey City Lexicon – A Primer for SF Workshops," Edited by Lewis Shiner, Second Edition by Bruce Sterling, SFWA hosted.)

[ November 15, 2018, 12:03 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by MerlionEmrys (Member # 11024) on :
So, with typical writerly inconstancy, I have turned my attention to edits and revisions of this story.

Everything said in the original post still applies.

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