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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » all right, give it your best shot

   
Author Topic: all right, give it your best shot
ScottMiller
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This is actually an older story by a year and a half--two years, but it was one of the few semi-recent things I could pull up (most of my backups are in my closet somewhere, and probably still packed in boxes).

The story's already done, and I'm not looking to bother rewriting it, because it's a third rewrite already. What I want is to know what I did wrong, and where, because that sort of info is always useful. Have at it!

quote:
John Farmer was furious because that damned unicorn simply
would not leave his garden.

"That stupid thing is eating us out of our livelihood!"
He snarled at his daughter Theodora's cat Snooky, kicked the
wall, and, when the pain resulting from that action rendered
him unable to kick anything else, he ran his tongue over his
lips and cast a baleful eye towards his wife, Lara.

They had been arguing daily for fourteen years, and
neither cared to put an end to a good thing by divorcing.
Both felt, as they entered the twilight of their years
together, that they were entitled to a little fun.

"Oh, stop giving me that bloody awful look!" Lara put
down her dishrag....


Edit: that last sentence is fairly long (not quite Jamesian, though) so I had to prune it to make 13 lines.

[This message has been edited by ScottMiller (edited March 03, 2005).]


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Usana
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I love it!
The first line hook me from the start. It makes me want to read more.The information is well given out and the charactors are colorful; both the narator and his wife. I really don't see anything wrong with it, but hey, maybe it's just me. The other might see something that's helpful to you.
So, pardon my unuseful post. I just can't help telling you how much I love it.
Do you need someone to read your work, if so, you can send to me. I'll certainly read them with a pleasure and will try to make some useful suggestions.

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theokaluza
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I really love the first line. It made me smile.
quote:
"That stupid thing is eating us out of our livelihood!"
The second line is great, too.
quote:
He snarled at his daughter Theodora's cat Snooky, kicked the
wall, and, when the pain resulting from that action rendered
him unable to kick anything else, he ran his tongue over his
lips and cast a baleful eye towards his wife, Lara.

This was where I started to see a problem. First of all, that sentence is much too long. It starts with him snarling at a cat, and ends with him looking at his wife. This wouldn't be a problem if there wasn't a third action between the other two. You've put a paragraph's worth of action into only one sentence.

Try splitting the statement up into a couple of sentences. I know that all of those commas work for you, because it's the way that it sounds in your head, but to most readers, that many commas kind of, I don't know, makes for a confusing read, because it slows down the narrative and obfuscates the action. It can add an interesting voice sometimes, but I don't feel that this is one of those times. You know what I mean?

Also... on showing versus telling: You're doing a lot of telling. I think it would have been more effective had you showed him rearing up to kick something again, and then changing his mind when he realized how much it hurt the first time.

But I like the general idea, and I'd probably read the whole thing just to get an idea for the world.

[This message has been edited by theokaluza (edited March 03, 2005).]


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RFLong
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Hi Scott

how long is the whole story? I presume it's fantasy, given the unicorn. Length and genre are always a help in a post, though we all forget from time to time.

The only glaring thing in the intro is the long sentences, as pointed out already.

R


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TaShaJaRo
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Scott – I loved it. I did stumble over that one long sentence a bit but other than that, it made me laugh. The first line too my surprise because unicorns are always revered. You can almost hear the angels singing and see the light shining through the clouds every time one is described in Fantasy. I did a double take reading yours and that was great.

I also like the “voice” you have for the narrator. It is as if he has watched this couple for so long that he describes them with that affectionate dry wit you might use to describe a half-crazy grandparent. I liked it.


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NewsBys
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I liked it.
I had agree about the long sentences, esp. the cat one.

But the real problem for me is that I was instantly caught up in the action of the story, and then abruptly jerked out of it by this paragraph:

quote:
They had been arguing daily for fourteen years, and
neither cared to put an end to a good thing by divorcing.
Both felt, as they entered the twilight of their years
together, that they were entitled to a little fun.

I think you could find a better way to work in this info. Just stating it outright was jarring, and it is clearly the narrator's voice intruding, because it says "both felt". A POV character can't really know what any other character feels. Just like I can't say. "I know my brother thinks such and such." I can't really ever know what he really thinks.

Maybe if you started with something like:

He wondered why he even bothered to say anything to her. They had been arguing daily about things like this for fourteen years.


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Christine
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I pretty much agree with everything else that's been said here with one exception...NewBys, I'm afraid I don't have the same problem with that paragraph as you. It wasn't intrucive, it was only one line, and it added flavor to the character.

The one sentence, though, is a problem. For one thing, ther eis a grammar error that I'm surprised nobody else poitned out:

"He snarled at his daughter, Theodora's, cat, Snooky, ..."

When you introduce a person or cat in this way you have to separate the explanation or name from the rest of the sentence with a comma. It even works the same backwards, "He snarled at Snooky, his daughter, Theodora's, cat." The trouble is when you throw in a possessive noun, as you have done in this case, I always get confused. In fact, I simply try to avoid combinging to two because I'm not even sure if the grammar is right. (Maybe one of our house experts could pipe in.)

In fact, I would probably not even mention that the cat is his daughter's at this point, nor what her name is. It's TMI for so early in a short story. That, IMO, is one of the biggest tricks to opening a short story...tell only what is necessary to show the scene properly. A little color for characterization is fine, but scrutinize every word to determine how important it is.


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Jeraliey
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How 'bout something like:

He snarled at Snooky, the cat his daughter had taken in three years ago. Theodora was always leaving stray animals for her parents to take care of.

"That !@$# unicorn is the last straw!"


.....or something more relevant to YOUR story....I tend to get carried away sometimes.....

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited March 03, 2005).]


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RavenStarr
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Run-on sentences have been my greatest enemy since grade school. The majority of my editing work usually consists of switching commas with periods.

I kinda agree with Christine on her comment too. The lack of punctuation for one (which is an irony considering that same sentence also had too much punctuation) is the main problem. I understand that you're attempting to pretty much introduce the existence of another character (Theodora) through the possession of the cat, which I'm guessing is going to tie in with the unicorn or something at some point soon (the need for me to assume this is what really bugs me about the 13 line restriction), so don't take it out, just re-word it so it's not forcing the reader to have to try re-reading that line about 20 times to figure out what the heck you're saying.


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TaShaJaRo
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I have to agree with Christine to disagree with NewsBys regarding narrator intrusion. If these two have been married that long then it's perfectly understandable for him to know what she's thinking and speak for her in his mind. I liked it. I thought it added a nice flavor to the opening and a sharp insight into these two people. It's like he calls it arguing when in fact, it is more like affectionate bickering. I've seen a lot of elderly couples do this who love each other dearly.

[This message has been edited by TaShaJaRo (edited March 03, 2005).]


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Shendülféa
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I love your first line! I also thought that it was interesting because, as someone mentioned before, unicorns are usually thought of as being mystical and beautiful. Nice work. And, like everyone else has said, watch the run-on sentences. I have problems with that, too, though. *reads through first paragraph of novel and furiously tries to fix the run-ons*
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ScottMiller
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Well, I knew the story needed some work [grin].

theokaluza: I popped open the file and quickly skimmed through it while I read the thread, and, yup, there they are, a whole bunch of run-on sentences. Whenever an entire group zeroes in a problem, I pretty much have to figure that everybody is right.

RFLong: Whoops, I thought I'd put that info in, but I probably forgot about it while I whittled a run-on (yes, another one) to make it 13 lines. It's 4400 words and humorous (or at least supposed to be humorous) fantasy. Sorry.

Christine: I'm not sure what the grammar rule would be in that case, but I don't know most of the rules (in the "proper" sense) because I picked up most of my grammar in French class. But it is TMI. I haven't read this story since I "trunked" it so this is pretty eye-opening (and helpful).

Jeraliey: I like your suggestion for fixing the above problem. In fact, I think once I've gotten the story thoroughly critiqued, I'll rewrite it anyway as an exercise. (Right now I'm worldbuilding for something new, so it would be good practice when I'm not working on maps and notes.)

RavenStarr: Yeah, I was trying to get the daughter's name in there early (trying to follow Chekhov's advice about the gun). On reflection, I think I could have found a better way to do it, lol.

Ursana, TaShaJaRo, Shendülféa: You're all too kind. Thank you


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rickfisher
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quote:
as they entered the twilight of their years

I feel like I'm a long way from the "twilight of my years," but I've been married six years longer than John and Lara, and I got married rather late. Based on the information given here, I'd guess that Lara is maybe thirty-five and John is about thirty-eight. If you think that's old--well, you must be a veritable spring chicken.

If it's a second marriage, you can ignore all that, but I think you'd need to say so.


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ScottMiller
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Rick: Well, I wrote the first draft when I was about 20, and forgot about it for years, until I dug it up and rewrote it because a few lines struck me funny--so that's the reason for that little faux pas, because it's probably a remnant of the first draft that I never thought to take out. (I think 20 qualifies as "spring chicken"-ness.)

Hoo boy. LOL! Now I definitely think being part of a workshop is a good idea. I have a long ways to go. I'm approaching thirty and I'd certainly be offended if a college kid cheerfully told me I was heading for the "twilight of my years."


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keldon02
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That was GOOD! It works for me the way it was written.
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mouserah
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i'm new to this whole feedback/critiquing thing but i really liked what you posted. the conversational tone really drew me in and made me want to read more.
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ScottMiller
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Thank you, Mouserah.
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autumnmuse
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If you are interested in a full critique of the story, feel free to send it my way.
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