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Author Topic: Shane's Pearl
SkorPiun
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OK, this is my first post, so be gentle :o)
The title is "Shane’s Pearl" and it is rather short, only around 1,500 words.
I am looking for any critiques, and I don’t mind sending the full version to anyone who would not mind taking a look.

Thanks

-------------------------------------
Should it be used, Shane asked himself as he stared into the darkened orb. If staring is what one could call it. It is debatable if one can stare at something without possessing physical form. Unfortunately there is no better word to use in the English language. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he focused on the orb, suspended in space like a floating black pearl. It was the only one of its kind; Shane had never created anything like it before. Of course, he had no need for such an object until now. Should it be used, he asked himself again. He was not accustomed to doubt. He had not had to deal with such an emotion in many eons. But here it was; one of the most primitive of human emotions. If he didn’t know any better, he might even suspect that a hint of fear had emerged as well. Doubt, fear, it was all so troubling. Yet, now there was a sensation he did know. He was no longer alone.
--------------------------------------


[This message has been edited by SkorPiun (edited March 29, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by SkorPiun (edited March 29, 2005).]


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Elan
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My first thought is: when is it going to get interesting? We have a lot of description about what the narrator considers looking and not-looking, but there isn’t a whole lot of Shane in there, or any action to hook me. I got done reading it and I still am not sure what it was about. I would suggest trying to use Shane’s thoughts or any action that might be possible with a disembodied whatzits?
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wbriggs
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Or, perhaps the same thought expressed differently: what's going to happen with the orb? Start there.
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Rocklover
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I'd like to see you try this again, but this time using concrete visual imagery instead of vague introspective devices. Describe the character as he creates the orb. Describe the orb and create a MOOD of mystery. After the orb comes to life in your character's hand, then move on to having the inward apprehensions about its use.
Specific visual imagery is what is needed. Grab your reader and pull them into the experience. I need to know who the character is and what the orb is and THEN you can MAYBE, if you don't take too long doing it, go into the character's thought processes.
Try again, please. I think this could develop into something good if you're willing to work at it.
Good luck. Judith

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Jaina
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We learn a lot about Shane here, and I'm sure that it's all very necessary (after all, it's obvious that he's very different from a human POV character). But it's not terribly interesting. I want to know more about that orb! How did he make it if he doesn't have a physical form? I think that if you take Judith's suggestion and start with the creation of the orb, making it feel mysterious (and possibly dangerous?) as it's being made, it'll be a better hook.

I don't know that Shane would be worried about whether "staring" is the right word or not when he's got bigger fish to fry at the moment, either. So I would consider finding another way to introduce the idea that he's formless.


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SkorPiun
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Thank you everyone for taking the time to reply.

I'm already trying to revise this paragraph.
This is a story I have felt passionately about, but have struggled with it because I think my novice writing abilities don't do it service.
I think the biggest problem I have wrestled with it the fact that the characters are in fact in incorporeal. I think that's something that would be difficult for any write, and downright daunting to a new writer.

I think judging from the feedback above, that my fears about this are confirmed. I think I am giving an information overload before even getting the reader hooked.

I am playing with some ideas of starting with the creation of the orb as suggested. But one thing I am afraid of doing, is taking to long to define to purpose of the story for the reader. The purpose of the story is a character story and is about the decision Shame has to make. I'm afraid if a put to much focus on the orb creation in the beginning the reader may begin to feel that the story is going to be about this orb and what it does, and then may feel a bit slighted when the story actually focuses more on Shame's decision. Right now I have the very first sentence stating the purpose of the story, which I know I do not have to do. But I am afraid that even 3 or 4 sentences of orb-creation description could end up being to much.

There may already even be a forum post covering this topic, but can anyone give me a pointer on how much would be to much, and how quickly I should look at stating the purpose of the story?

[This message has been edited by SkorPiun (edited March 30, 2005).]


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Rocklover
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Dear friend,
Don't worry about length at first. You can always trim it away later in a rewrite. For now, just get the scene down, the way you see it happening in your head. Take a good paragraph or two and get the job done right, then move on.
Many beginning writers "freeze" because they feel daunted. Don't. Just let the ideas flow out. Don't worry whether they are brilliant or too short or too long or perfectly worded. Just let them come.
Then go back and start hacking.
When you get the thing to a point you think it is reasonable, throw it back up on the good old first 13 board and let your friends at Hatrack have a go at it.
Believe in yourself. And enjoy yourself.
The rest will follow.
Good luck.
Judith

[This message has been edited by Rocklover (edited March 31, 2005).]


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Keeley
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If you focus on your character's feelings as he creates the orb and keep a balance between the concrete and your character's inner workings, I think your audience will expect the story to be about Shane and not the orb itself.

I really don't know how to describe it, so I'll give you an example:

Keeley's fingers slammed against the old keyboard, her response to the submitter's response filling the screen. When she was finished, she paused and sighed. Too angry, she decided, and edited. Too sarcastic, she realized and edited some more. By the time she was done, nothing remained on the screen. Giving yet another sigh, she clicked the "x" that closed the window, instructed the computer to not save what began as her most poetic rant to date, and got up to check on the kids.

(BTW, the above scene only happens 0.01% of the time when I'm online and when it comes to Hatrack, it's only happened once with a newbie that I haven't seen since.)

[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited March 31, 2005).]


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Wenderella
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As someone who has read his story (Skorpiun and I are married ) I have to say Shane IS the focal part of the story. Its about his decisions and his loved ones and the orb's effect on what will happen.
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Keeley
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I think I saw only one person who fixed themselves on the orb. I know, as a reader, I really want to see Shane's thoughts and feelings, but with images that are clear instead of abstract concepts.

I'd like to see the concepts through the concrete reality of Shane, whatever that reality may be. It'll make him more real to me.

[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited March 31, 2005).]


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SkorPiun
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OK, I was going to rewrite starting with the orb's creation, but kept having trouble. It wasn't until I was driving home from work that I realized why. Even start at the orb’s creation, I think I was still starting the story to LATE in the timeline. Let me show y'all what I have now, and see if you agree...
------------------------------------
Life and death, day and night, winter and summer, everything has a lifecycle. Even atoms live in a perpetual cycle as particles circle one another like microscopic planets. Nothing escapes this law of life. Even the universe dances to a never ending heartbeat. And the universe was about to beat again, recycling itself, and ending the existence of all that lay within it. Shane knew this, and he was afraid.
Once upon a time Shane would have been accustomed to such an emotion, but it had been incalculable eons since he had felt anything even resembling an emotion like fear. He, along with all his kind, had long ago learned how to live outside his corporeal existence. But even before then, they had learned to control their emotions. Apparently I am out of practice, Shane thought to himself dryly as another shiver of fear ran through him.
He decided on the only course of action he knew, creation. Even among a people who could create entire planets with only the slightest effort, Shane was considered an expert creator. He put himself to the task, and began searching the farthest reaches of the universe for the matter he would need. The elements begin blazing through space, smashing together in a torrent of energy. Each particle joined the mass with an incredible flash. The entity continued to grow until finally there was suspended in space a smooth black luminescent pearl.
...
------------------------------------

Thank you agian for the feedback

[This message has been edited by SkorPiun (edited March 31, 2005).]


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rickfisher
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quote:
a smooth black obsolescent pearl

Obsolescent, huh? The guy just made the thing, and it's already becoming obsolete? He doesn't sound like such a hot-shot creator to me.

Or maybe you meant "opalescent"?

[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited March 31, 2005).]


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SkorPiun
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Hmmm... to be honest, I don't know what word I was trying to use there :o)


It will be replaced with: luminescent

Thanks!


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SkorPiun
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Or now that I think of it maybe I did mean opalescent,... hmmm ... it's getting late.
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wbriggs
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I thought I'd elaborate on Keeley's example. She wrote with sensory information, in the moment, the details that she perceived, and from this we were able to easily see what the story was about.

She could have just told us what the story was about, but that wouldn't have been as much fun as experiencing it with her! If she had, she might have come up with something like this:

quote:
It's difficult to strike the right balance of passion and politesse. Keeley knew this, and struggled; she knew she was wasting her time, going to all this effort to craft her response to the post on the screen, but still she continued. Finally she decided on the only course of action that made sense to her, and ended her quest. She was an expert, and she wrote beautifully, but it would be better to turn to more practical pursuits, like checking on the kids.

Concrete detail and sensory information put us right there with her in the story. My abstract summary told the same story, but in my opinion, at least, it was boring. I would like to see what Shane sees, know where he is, feel what he feels (I'm already doing that, though), and there could be a few philosophical thoughts . . . but I'd rather get those thoughts from the action or from what Shane sees or otherwise senses.


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Keeley
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"expert"? "wrote beautifully"?

I don't agree with the assessment (I feel like a beginner in many ways), but thank you for the compliment.

I'd also like to add that the second excerpt is better, but still too abstract.

I would start with the sentence "Even among a people who...". It's not a great first line, but it's good and tells me immediately that Shane is not human, but that he's got interesting powers. It would hook me.

What you're trying to say before then -- his hesitance, his emotions, the details of his race, the nature of the universe -- can be woven through the creation of the pearl.

[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited April 01, 2005).]


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Rocklover
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Hi Skorpiun. Having fun yet? Isn't Hatrack awesome?
Your second version is much better. First, because you started us off in a better place. Second, because you are much more in Shane's POV than your were before. And I like that you are giving us more info on Shane and his race before we get to the orb. I like how you are showing more of his feelings.
And, I also like that you gave more explanation of how the orb comes to be. You could still add more detail here, I feel.
I don't think you have to worry about the reader thinking the orb is more important than Shane now. You have made it obvious he and his dilemma are what are going to be important.
That said...I still see room for improvement.
First: I see here a character who is very much a god and so I wonder, what is there he can't do? It's like having an invicible Superman show up. If he can put together planets, I do not fear for him. He seems too strong. More importantly, I do not relate to him. Don't you think is it important to have your main character a bit vulnerable? I expect you know a protaganist has to have some weaknesses, and there has to be huge possibility he will will fail in his task, or you haven't got a story. Shane is already too much in control, too daunting, too powerful. I think you should tone him down a bit. Or have another character for your main protagonist.
Second: I agree with some of the other comments that it is still a bit vague in places. But it is much much better than before.
You're getting there!
Judith

[This message has been edited by Rocklover (edited April 01, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by Rocklover (edited April 01, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by Rocklover (edited April 01, 2005).]


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SkorPiun
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What can’t Shane do? Nothing :o)
He and his people are for all intensive purposes, invincible. Only the collapse of the universe itself can harm them (and in fact will destroy them).
Yet, as you can see, Shane has even created an escape from that. Yet there are reasons he may be unwilling to use it. That’s what the story is about.

This making the character unrelatable is something I had not considered before, but is definitely a concern to me, and something I will have to put some serious thought into.

When you say it is still vague in places, are you referring to the third paragraph, or are you referring to points in the first two as well?


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Rocklover
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Okay. A few more things, then...
some of these are just questions I wonder if you have considered that will need answers eventually, if not immediately...
1. how do these beings live outside their corporal existence? Are they spirit or matter? If they are gods then I would think their corporality would be quite magnificent. Why would they wish to live outside it? Would it not be like saying to a butterfly, go back to being a caterpillar?
You will need to define their makeup further at some point.
2. why do they have to control their emotions? I would hate to think of a passionless gods in charge of the universe. If anyone should have passion and emotions of heightened love, fear, hate, or whatever, I would think it would be gods. Otherwise they are rather bor-ing creatures, wouldn't you say? At least, I think you take a lot away from them if you make them apathetic.
3. the elements BEGIN should be the elements BEGAN
4. Is Shane the only one of his kind to be concerned about this impending Big Bang? Why is he alone in this endeavor?
5. You call the black pearl an entity, infering it is a living, sentient thing? Is this what you inteded?
So where you're going with this is that Shane must decided to save the universe by using the black pearl, or let the universe destroy itself and he and all his kind along with it? I don't see there's a choice there.
Whatever reason he fears to use the orb cannot be as bad as not to use it and let everything be annihilated.
I'm not tryng to browbeat your idea. Just be sure you really understand where you're going with this because I, as reader, will demand that all these loose ends are at some point explained. Please don't make it so mysterious that you lose me along the way.
I look forward to your continuing effort with this idea.
Judith

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limo
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First part and first 13 lines has too much detail given that could possibly be spread out into more of the story.
It is hard to engage with a character who at the beginning is philosophical and amorphous.
Interesting ideas, though I'd agree with Keeley et al that going inside the characters head gives a more interesting viewpoint.
Your second version is far easier and more pleasurable reading experience. I like the way you put more of the character into the paragraph so that there is a background and a solid base on which to build an image of your world. However even in your second there are words and long phrases that you can write in a different way to capture the interest of the reader.
li
p.s Sorry my crits are short and blunt. I'm used to marking students work which tends to develop a short and sweet crit style please let me know if this is utterly horrible.

[This message has been edited by limo (edited April 02, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by limo (edited April 02, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by limo (edited April 02, 2005).]


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SkorPiun
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Rocklover, thank you so much for taking the time to provide all that feedback. It was quite helpful.
I am revising the first 13 lines again. When I finish it I will post it into a new thread (just so that other people won’t have to parse all of the above discussions to read it).
But I wanted to answer you questions here…

quote:

1. how do these beings live outside their corporal existence? Are they spirit or matter? If they are gods then I would think their corporality would be quite magnificent. Why would they wish to live outside it? Would it not be like saying to a butterfly, go back to being a caterpillar?
You will need to define their makeup further at some point.


They are spirit-like. But are not gods, they just have evolved to a point that they seem god-like. But I see how that is a bit confusion, and is something I have been struggling to get eloquently into words. I think (ok, I hope) my revision handles this a bit better.

quote:

2. why do they have to control their emotions? I would hate to think of a passionless gods in charge of the universe. If anyone should have passion and emotions of heightened love, fear, hate, or whatever, I would think it would be gods. Otherwise they are rather bor-ing creatures, wouldn't you say? At least, I think you take a lot away from them if you make them apathetic.


I see what you are saying, and you are correct. What I intended was they are in control of their emotions, not emotionless. Unfortunately that is exactly what I did :o)
In fact, later in the story you see his love for others. I corrected this in the new version, and I think the change has been quite beneficial. Thank you for pointing this out.

quote:

3. the elements BEGIN should be the elements BEGAN


Fixed, thanks

quote:

4. Is Shane the only one of his kind to be concerned about this impending Big Bang? Why is he alone in this endeavor?


Yes he is, that is covered later (and is actually an important part of the story).

quote:

5. You call the black pearl an entity, infering it is a living, sentient thing? Is this what you inteded?


Nope, that was just some poor word-selection. I have changed it. Thanks again.

quote:

So where you're going with this is that Shane must decided to save the universe by using the black pearl, or let the universe destroy itself and he and all his kind along with it? I don't see there's a choice there.
Whatever reason he fears to use the orb cannot be as bad as not to use it and let everything be annihilated.


The pearl has the ability to save Shane (and anyone else), but does not have the power to stop the Big Bang. I have tried to make this a bit cleared in the revision.
They can in effect use the Pearl to “ride out” the Big Bang.
But he has a dilemma to use the pearl or not. Why? Well, that’s coved later (within the next few paragraphs actually), and is a central theme of the story.


Keeley/Limo/WBriggs (and others),
I tried to step a bit more into Shane’s head in this next version. Hopefully I made things better, not worse :o)

Limo,
An English teacher?! I better not let you see my rough drafts, the spelling errors will probably send you over the edge. Trust me, just ask my junior high school English teacher :o)
No, I don’t mind the crits at all, that’s what I’m here for. In fact people at work often say I am “mean”, but I persist that I am just “direct”. :o)
Thanks for being honest.


Thank again everyone for the help


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