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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » First 13 of a novel... trying to get the voice right.

   
Author Topic: First 13 of a novel... trying to get the voice right.
Jsteg1210
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The following is newly written for a novel idea I had (no pun intended). It is meant to be the opening lines. I just need to know if I've gotten the right narrative voice down, or it it's too confusing.

Thanks,

-Josh

quote:

Ch 1 - Conversations with Nimwe


I met Nimwe on her deathbed. Her arrival into my life was well expected; I had buried her the day before. For once I was grateful to be so isolated in this cave. I was not bombarded with people asking why I was not acting more sad, why I wasn't mourning. It is very difficult to mourn for someone you have yet to meet.

Nimwe was an old woman when she died, and I could tell that we both had a long while yet in this cave. She was pallid and looked as those who have lived on sparse nourishment for years. As I held her and the life returned to her body, my heart jumped through my chest and my very soul shook with glee. The way she held my hand confirmed that this was no illusion brought about by loneliness, we were in love. Love is a matter of souls and cares not about time and introductions. She knew everything about me at her death, her final words proved this.

"Merlin... You've only just met me. You have years of my love to look forward to, and you will only see me grow younger. I take some solace in knowing that you will never mourn me." She was quiet and accepting, as if coming out of a drugged haze.

"No my dear, I won't mourn your death. But I will miss you long past your birth."


[edited for typo]

[This message has been edited by Jsteg1210 (edited March 26, 2005).]


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wbriggs
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Overall: I am very much hooked! I also really like the last line you show. Except as noted, I understood what was happening as it happened. This is kicking butt so far.

The language works fine for me: standard English, mostly invisible.

I do suggest getting that run-on sentence thing under control.

I'm using ALL CAPS for additions or comments, and [] for things you might delete.


I met Nimwe on her deathbed. [Her arrival into my life was well expected;] I had buried her the day before. [For once] I was grateful to be [so isolated] ALONE in this cave. I was not bombarded with people asking why I was not acting more sad, why I wasn't mourning. It is very difficult to mourn for someone you have yet to meet. [I LIKE THE PARADOX OF MEETING HER AFTER SHE WAS BURIED. I *WOULD* LIKE TO UNDERSTAND IT BY THE END OF THE PARAGRAPH, I THINK.]

Nimwe was an old woman when she died, and I could tell that we both had a long while yet in this cave. She was pallid and looked [as] LIKE those who have lived on sparse nourishment for years. As I held her and the life returned to her body, my heart jumped [through] IN my chest and my very soul shook with glee. [I DON'T LIKE THE 'SHAKE WITH GLEE' THING; NOT SURE WHY. I SUGGESTED IN, NOT THROUGH, SINCE HIS HEART DIDN'T REALLY POUND THROUGH HIS CHEST] The way she held my hand confirmed that this was no illusion brought about by loneliness, we were in love. [RUN-ON SENTENCE!] [Love is a matter of souls and cares not about time and introductions.] [I SUGGEST STRIKING THAT SINCE IT TAKES ME AWAY FROM THE MOMENT, BY TELLING NOT SHOWING] [PARAGRAPH]She knew everything about me [at her death], her final words proved this. [RUN-ON SENTENCE!] [NO PARAGRAPH] [I SUGGEST CHANGING THE PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE SINCE HER "FINAL WORDS" ARE "MERLIN... ETC."]

"Merlin... You've only just met me. You have years of my love to look forward to, and you will only see me grow younger. I take [some] solace in knowing that you will never mourn me." She was quiet [and accepting], as if coming out of a drugged haze.

"No*,* my dear, I won't mourn your death. But I will miss you long past your birth."


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wbriggs
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I want to clarify what I mean by run-on sentence. Even if you know, someone may not. Maybe the correct term is "comma splice."

If you want to join sentences together, here are some standard-English ways to do it:

I know; I saw it. (semicolon)
I've come a long way and I'm tired. (conjunction: and or but)
She's here -- you just can't see her. (dash)

These aren't standard English:

I know, I saw it.
I've come a long way, I'm tired.
She's here, you just can't see her.

There are sometimes exceptions for very short sentences. I think.

I came, I saw, I conquered.
Everybody's moving, everybody's grooving at the Love Shack. (Actually I'm not too sure about this one.)


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Jeraliey
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I don't think song lyrics are good examples, as they sacrifice grammar to word rhythm on a regular basis...
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HSO
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Wbriggs: Commas are used to substitute for words, too. Indeed, that is standard English grammar.

For instance:

He looked up at the moon, howled, and then transmogrified.

In that example, the first comma is a substitute for the word AND. Or: He looked up at the moon and howled, and then transmogrified. Since two conjunctions is a bit awkward at times, the comma suffices. It is clear by reading the text what is happening. It is also clear what the comma is substituting for in this case.

These examples you gave as non-standard grammar are perfectly legitimate:

quote:
I know, I saw it.
I've come a long way, I'm tired.
She's here, you just can't see her.

Or: I know but I saw it.
Or: I've come a long way and I'm tired.
Or: She's here, yet you just can't see her.

And if I seem to be on a punctuation rant of late, it's because I received a crit where a critiquer told me that someone on hatrack said, "Editors don't like semicolons." That critiquer didn't believe it, but, not knowing what editors do or don't like, could not be sure either way. Whoever gave that advice probably meant well, and probably meant that editors don't like misused punctuation. But to say that editors don't like semicolons is absurd.

Anyway, apologies to the author for not critiquing the story and going on this rant. I'm a bit prickly over punctuation this weekend.


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HSO
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On to the critique.

Yes, I believe you found your perfect voice. It works for me. That isn't to say this piece is perfect, but it needs very little to tighten it up. The hook is very good. I'd be willing to read this--then again, I already know from your other topic where this is leading. (I wouldn't be willing to flip a book over, though...)

Good job.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 27, 2005).]


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wbriggs
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Sinced we have no holy writ of standard English, we can't prove this punctuation thing either way. But for me, and for many others (including editors), the holy writ is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Here's what that book has to say about it.

--
5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma.

If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.

quote:
Stevenson's romances are entertaining; they are full of exciting adventures.
It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.

...

If the clauses are very short, and are alike in form, a comma is usually permissible:

quote:
Man proposes, God disposes.
The gate swung apart, the bridge fell, the portcullis was drawn up.

--

http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk.html#5

Whatever editors may think about semicolons, Strunk & White don't reject them. I've heard this "no semicolon" thing before, too, and I think, nonsense.

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited March 27, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited March 27, 2005).]


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HSO
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Well, see... you gave examples that were too short. You should have picked longer ones, I suppose.
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wbriggs
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Since we're getting too far from the fragment, I'll post my reply in open discussions on writing.

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited March 27, 2005).]


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Jsteg1210
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Yeah, speaking of the fragment... did anyone have any comments concerning that?

Thanks to both of you so far, it's good to know when you're on the right track.


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Survivor
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An interesting thought that this provoked in my mind: if Merlin is both literate and lives backwards, why can't he just write himself notes from his own future about important things like this? True, that tends to invoke paradox, but so does his living backwards at all. Consider for a moment that Merlin would know a lot about Nimwe before he ever met her for the "first" time. She would be part of the stories about himself that he would inevitably glean in the course of...say, learning to speak a human language. Merlin knows everyone else's future because he's "already" lived through it, but he also will inevitably know many of the important parts of his own future because they're famous long "before" he experiences them.

As for the voice, I'm a bit unsure. On the one hand, it simply does not seem like anyone I would identify as Merlin. On the other hand, you're going with the notion that Merlin is the way he is more because of the oddities of his existence rather than because he really has such a strange personality. But I already dispensed with that notion, Merlin could very easily fake being completely normal if he weren't trying to be outlandish. So my uncertainty is a bit one-handed , I don't see this as Merlin's voice but decline to be an expert on Merlin. Still, I will speak as a self appointed expert on the subject of time travel and prophecy, and say you need to explore the implications of both a bit more before you write this story.


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Rocklover
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Hi Josh.
We all know Merlin lives backward. That's no mystery.
Your presentation of it made me dizzy; it was as though my brain was more backward than Merlin's. (Hey guys, did I use the semicolon correctly?)
I would rather have a straightforward action sequence of Merlin holding a dead woman in his arms and her coming back to life. Then move on. There's no sense in trying to surprise us when we already know the secret.
And, by the way, do we really need ANOTHER Merlin story???? You had better have an entirely different take on this worn-out carpet or it ain't gonna fly.
Judith

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Jsteg1210
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There's a lot more to this story than I suggested that necessitate the structure, I'll try to gloss over it a bit.

Merlin doen't bother with messages to himself because he know everything will eventually be taken care of on it's own and he'll only confuse himself; one of the underlying themes of this novel is that linear time and causality are illusions. He is also not aware of the Authurian Legend at all, Arthur is actually incidental in the beginning of his story (I'm toying with the idea of changing Arthur's name, there are some theories that "Arthur" is actually a title). He's after the sword. He does play normal pretty well, he has a proximity sense of what is about to happen (or has just happened) and is extraoridinarily clever. But he's still moving backwards. There's a hard sci-fi reason for this, but I won't get into that here.

Yes, I think it's ok to make another King Arthur book. Point one: every few years another version of King Arthur makes itself to the best seller's list, so the public still hasn't had enough. Point two: This is a very, very differnt spin on the story that still preserves the heart and spirit of the old legend.

That explain things a little better?

Thanks for the input,

-Josh


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Survivor
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No.

Okay, I'll bite. When is he writing (or dictating, if you like) this story? Think that one over for a while.

And a hard SF reason for this? I'm afraid that in all known hard SF, causality is a given, possibly because science implicitly assumes causality, there is no possible science without causality. Really, I'm not just trying to be difficult, this is all in my role as an expert on time travel

I'll refrain from...well, saying anything more against the course that you're determined to take here. If you are satisfied, then it is no longer a matter in which I ought to meddle.


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