Well I finally scrouged up a short story I'm working on for an attempt at publication (I hope?) so I thought I would go ahead and give my thirteen lines up to you lovely people to shred for the stories better good. ;-)
I guess what I'm really looking for are any comments and suggestions, of course, and if you would like to read more- does it compel you to go on or does it confuse you and make you want to just give up? Also, if you would like to read the whole thing (it's around 2550 words) - how did I do with 1st person PoV (My first attempt)- Unless you can comment about that with these lines only. :-)
The old gallows still stand, as they always have, in the town square. Their crumbling, bloodied appearance struck fear in all who have lived in the town before the hangings stopped, and immense curiosity of the secrets they must hold for those who lived after The Hangman visited. They used to provide endless, cruel amusement for the most sadistic pleasures the town held in their blackened hearts. They watched hungrily with inhuman eyes as their chosen victim writhed in agony, suffocating to death if their neck didnâ€™t snap from the precarious fall. It wasnâ€™t until their cruel pleasure was perverted, turned on them, that they faltered in their opinions of their activities. They became the prisoners of their own pleasurable dreams that quickly mutated into the true hellish nightmares of their desires.
Some insist that it is the gallows themselves that are haunted with the tortured spirits of all the victims who met their demise upon the old, rotted wood, heavy with the spilled blood of those who suddenly become innocent after their brutal deaths. I, however, saw the gallows as merely an instrument, filled with only the cruel intent behind those who choose to use it. Itâ€™s true, the memories of the atrocities that took place were still deeply engraved in the rotting wood, but haunted? I highly doubted it.
[This message has been edited by Elylith (edited April 19, 2005).]
....Beneath the beam that blocked the sky None stood so alone as I; And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there Cried "Stay!" for me in the empty square...
Posts: 1041 | Registered: Aug 2004
For some reason, I'm not hooked. Maybe it's a bit too info-dumpy for my sake--too much exposition, not enough action. And by action I mean stuff that's happening right now, not stuff that happened a long time ago at the gallows.
Of course, they are really haunted, aren't they? And your narrator is going to find that out the hard way.
Maybe it's just because I can already see that it looks to be going there, and I don't want to read another Scully-turned-Mulder story. Even if that isn't where it goes, I'm not going to keep reading because that's where it's taking me.
quote:....Beneath the beam that blocked the sky None stood so alone as I; And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there Cried "Stay!" for me in the empty square...
And when they asked for my last words I could not, I could not be heard, And my voice would not fill that square for I had no final words to share.
all poetry aside...
Your writing is vivid and descriptive and is filled with adjectives, lots of adjectives. The brief piece above leads me to imagine a setting, but does not give me any starting point for a story, not really. So,it looks to me like this is mostly backstory. Given the restrictions of the 13 lines, you have to get your story started somewhere there, and very quickly if you want readers.
My first thought: Wow, this is one evil gallows!
Well, there isn't any action here. The description is wordy. To me, long flowing sentences just don't fit the grisly nature of what you are describing. Adjectives are everywhere, and the whole thing feels a little melodramatic. This gallows can somehow generate the image of hell itself! But why? The story picks up in the last three sentence, because we get someone's contrary rational opinion instead of descriptions of eternal damnation.
Your second and seventh sentences (start of second paragraph), I am having a hard time following. They are crammed full of information. The seventh seems to join two separate ideas.
There are also repetitions of "rotted wood" and blood that could probably be condensed.
Grammar "all those who have lived" -> "all those who lived" "the town held in their" -> "the townspeople held in their"
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while think I see my friends coming riding many a mile my friends will get some silver you get a little gold what did you bring me my dear friends to keep me from the gallows pole
couldn't get no silver couldn't get no gold keep me from the gallows pole
For one, the "bloodied" appearance of the gallows threw me. It conjured up an image of a gallows that was spattered and caked with dried blood. While this may be the affect you wanted, hanging was an almost completely bloodless form of execution. You give an idea that the townspeople were bloodthirsty and evil for watching hangings, but make no mention of why people were being hanged. Were these always unjust hangings?
As for 1st person PoV, it doesn't even come into play until the second paragraph, which is kind of odd. I personally cringe when there is a lot of wordy exposition in first person. It may be more effective to have your narrator begin by inspecting the gallows more closely, rather than begining with an exposition about its purpose and history. This is a little less awkward, as the first person perspective is right there at the begining, rather than seeming to switch from third person to first person between paragraphs.
The thought I had as I read it is that all the adjectives actually weaken the description... sort of put it over the edge. Stark horror is sometimes best portrayed in stark simplicity. The contrast can work for you in a story like this.
Also, the evilness of the people who watched the hanging left me a little cold without more of a description of why they would be evil. For the most part, I think hangings used to be viewed with an attitude of wanting to see justice done, perhaps some sense of revenge or of the victim getting his "just desserts", and even from an entertainment standpoint. I don't know that I would naturally attribute an evil nature to people with those attitudes. And again, IMHO, evil is best "underplayed"... once you go over the top with the description, you lose believability.
There are two types of first person stories: framed and unframed. This one appears to be framed. That might change how people should respond to it. However, you might want to do something to make it more obviously framed (if it really is), since some of the other responses haven't taken it that way. (On the other hand, if it isn't framed, you need to start the events right away, and probably use past tense.)
[This message has been edited by QuantumLogic (edited April 20, 2005).]
What Jaina said. I'll add that: having the narrator think the gallows simply exemplify the evil of the town, is fine -- but can be said in fewer words.
BTW: you'd capitalize the T in The Hangman if the whole thing is a title, as of a book, but since it's a person, standard capitalization would be the Hangman (or better yet, the hangman -- just as we refer to the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker).
I'll read it. There are some points about the narrator's voice being a bit over the top. And Jania's point about how mixed tense causes the tense of each statement to be particularly significant has merit as well.
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999
Who was it that said something to the effect of: Writing is like building the engine of a car. You don't add any more parts to a car engine than you need to make it work, and writing is the same way.
Wish I could remember the quote verbatim; it was phrased more clearly than I can paraphrase. But you get the drift... a sentence can best do its job -- to communicate --if it's not overly cluttered with words that serve no real purpose other than to be showy.
Something I might add, that's been mentioned several times on this board, is that Orson Scott Card is a master at simple phrasing. If you've not read a lot of his work, pick up a few of his books and study the way he crafts his words. He's stingy with them... and he allows the reader to fill in a lot of the mental imagery. The result is lean, clear prose that is powerful. I admire him for his technical skills as much as for his clever plots and well developed characters.
Posts: 2026 | Registered: Mar 2005
I would agree with those who said it is very wordy prose. You have used a great many adjectives, which tends to confuse rather than clarify. OSC is good for minimal prose, as mentioned, but also Hemingway (if you prefer the oldies). Your sentences are very long, this does not help catch the attention. What is the point of this story? You need to figure the point out before you start - it makes life easier. Perhaps start with a pushbike, build up to a motorbike and then try a car. I'm still walking