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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » "Hollow" - First 13

   
Author Topic: "Hollow" - First 13
Inkwell
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Just wanted to get your take(s) on this intro. Bear in mind that my goal is not to make the reader happy, or put him/her at ease. Genre is fantasy; target word length is 15-17 thousand. This is from the rough, unfinished draft, though the story concept, characters, etc. have been percolating for some time.

Thanks go out, in advance, for any and all comments.

--------------------------------------------

We wept. It was the first time I had cried since the war ended. This time, tears of joy were replaced by those of unyielding sorrow. I had felt loss before...many times, in fact. But never like this. It was a raw wound, like a gaping hole in my heart. In mine, and Myra’s. I vaguely recall her holding me, digging her strong fingers into my back so hard the nails cut through shirt and skin. I didn’t care; I was numb, now. The sickening feeling of no feeling was all I had left.

Hours passed, and with each turn of the ‘glass it seemed a lifetime had slipped away. I felt old, and not the way a grandfather contentedly sits with his children’s children on either knee. No, I felt decrepit...wasted.
--------------------------------------------


Inkwell
-----------------
"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited December 11, 2005).]


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wbriggs
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I can't say whether I *would* like this. As it is, I don't have any idea what's going on. That is, someone's sad, but I don't know why, so I can't be sad with him (her?).

Tell us up front, and we can relate, I think.

Note that this isn't a "dang that 13 lines rule" problem. I want to know what the disaster is *before* I see MC's reaction. Otherwise I just stare with incomprehension (and therefore disinterest).

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited December 11, 2005).]


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Kickle
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I don't have a problem with this beginning for a story of the sort of length you mentioned. I think it sets the scene and tone well.
At first the use of "we" in the first sentence bothered me, but that was quickly resolved with the introduction of the second character. The only line that I think could use some rethinking is: The sickening feeling of no feeling was all I had left. The repetition of the word "feeling" renders the line impotent. Perhaps replace the second "no feeling" with "hollowness".

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TL 601
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I liked it quite a bit but we need to know why they're weeping.
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sry
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I agree that the weeping is central to the first 13 and the sadness is just too much for me to care without something having happened first. You also have a bit of melodrama on the mood. It's sad enough, don't tell me 15 times, just once and then tell me why--or better, as wbriggs pointed out, tell me why FIRST and then let me cry along with the MC (and everyone else, apparently). If my tone sounds sarcastic, it's because your expectation of emotional response got me there. I can think of one and only one reason for someone to cry, spontaneously, unexpectedly, deeply, wailing even--shortly after someone they loved has died. No one died here. Kill someone and THEN have all these folks cry and be sad. That would work.

Otherwise, the level of sadness and weeping is too high for real people. Tone it down and use the extra words/lines to add some action or revelation or something to tweak my brain and hook me.

I'm not hooked and would not read on. Sorry. If you rewrite, however, do post and I'll re-read happily :) I would LOVE to see why (in your mind) these people are crying and you didn't have enough space in 13 lines to do that on the first cut. Or so you thought <<wink>>

-sry


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Inkwell
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After reading some of the initial comments, I decided that a little reorganizing couldn't hurt. Tell me what you think.

--------------------------------------------

My sons were gone. I had been too late--far too late--to save them. My gaze was frozen, locked on the horrifying sight of bodies dangling from the ancient tree at the center of our village. All the children were there...hung like herbs from gnarled rafters, swaying in the brisk autumn wind.

I wept for the first time since the day the war ended. Those tears of joy were now replaced and repaid tenfold by ones of unyielding sorrow. I had felt loss before...many times, in fact. But never like this. It was a raw wound, like a gaping hole in my heart. In mine, and Myra’s.

I vaguely recall my wife clinging to me, digging her strong fingers into my back so hard the nails cut through shirt and skin.
--------------------------------------------

Better? Worse? Something in-between?


Inkwell
-----------------
"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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Matt Lust
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Just one nit pick. I don't think that you need the clause that follows the elipsis.

My preference would be "I had felt pain before but not like this"

But if you wanted to keep the syntax choppy to help ilustrate pain find a way to punch me in the gut a little harder.


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Silver3
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It works much better because we know why he is crying.
Just one nit:
quote:

Those tears of joy were now replaced and repaid tenfold by ones of unyielding sorrow


I find this sentence too melodramatic and not in keeping with the rest of the paragraph's tone.

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wbriggs
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*Vast* improvement. Your current version has me repulsed, distraught, and lots of other adjectives that are exactly what you must have meant me to feel. Good job! Very creepy and awful!

I'll want you to get around to the story of why the children were murdered (or the investigation of it, if MC doesn't know) PDQ -- I get that he's sad, so I'll want you to get on to why such a monstrosity can happen.

Rereading it, I note that you've still got a touch of melodrama: you've got the emotions in me you wanted, by describing the scene, and describing the feelings as the saddest since the end of the war feels like a letdown (of course they're the worst thing!). My thought: trust the events to evoke the feelings for you! It's working!

Anyway, for now, you have definitely got me hooked.

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited December 12, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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The second version is incalculably better.

That first line, even the hung like herbs line got me.

It reminds me of some writing advice I once heard:

Mean less. That is, don't mean so much.
Give us as much of the ground situation as you can as soon as possible. The first paragraph is not too soon. The first page is not too soon. Tell us who, what, where and when etc -- Do not do this 'artfully'

The above advice is about having faith in the real value of your story. Do you believe in it? Can you believe that if you explain the situation people will be interested. In this case, you told us and we're interested. Well done.


Edit: (Advice came from The 39 Steps: A primer on Story Writing University of Southern Mississippi Centre for Writers website)

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited December 12, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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Thought I might add, you could maybe avoid the "in fact".
I don't know why, but it seems to be a bit of a speed bump in my reading.

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pixydust
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Second version is great. I liked it. Let me know when you need readers, I'd be happy to read the rest.
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Inkwell
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Okay. I think I've finally got this nailed down for sure. The rest of the story is progressing well, and is almost to that point of self-motivation, ya know? I implemented some of the latest suggestions for the intro and am fairly certain I can call this the final incarnation.

--------------------------------------------
My sons were gone. I had been too late--far too late--to save them. My gaze was frozen, locked on the horrifying sight of bodies dangling from the ancient tree at the center of our village. All the children were there...hung like herbs from gnarled rafters, swaying in the brisk autumn wind.

I wept for the first time since the day the war ended. Those tears had been joyful; these were anything but. I had felt loss before, but never like this. This was a raw wound, like a gaping hole in my heart. In mine, and Myra’s.

I vaguely recall my wife clinging to me, digging her strong fingers into my back so hard the nails cut through shirt and skin.
--------------------------------------------


Inkwell
-----------------
"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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NMgal
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I think it's much improved. The first lines (in the third version) bring about a gut reaction immediately. They make me want to read more to find out what happened to the children and what the MC and his wife are going to do now.
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eclectic skeptic
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Okay...

Everyone else is saying everything is one hundred percent better in the new versions as compared with the first. And in general I agree, but I am skeptical. For one; I liked some of the shared emotions of the first, describing what our MC is feeling helps me to feel as well. It lets me know how to react to the situation, but if overdone, its melodrama, and if done correctly it is perfect. Your first was tending towards the melodrama, the second cut alot out and the third left me with no indication really of he is currently feeling. I liked some of the description in the first that you cut out, they evoked an image of what this man was feeling, particularly, "I felt old, and not the way a grandfather...No, I felt decrepit...wasted" I liked that image, it made me understand something of how that would feel.

So although I think you have improved by the third, I also think you cut some of the things that made the first pretty good in my opinion. In essence, I think you cut the right things for the most part, and re-wrote some of the things that didn't work, but you also cut some of the things that did work. So although the third one I admit works better as far as being able to understand the scene, it doesn't work as well as it could as far as showing how he felt.

Hope that helps, And good work altogether


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TruHero
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Inkwell, I love the progression you've made with this. I am really interested to find out all the "why's" now. If it was a hook you were looking for, I think you found it. Anything to do with a childs demise is gripping. I think anyone, even if they have never been a parent can connect with that emotion. Good job so far! If you need readers, I'd take look. How many words so far?
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Inkwell
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^^^
The latest MSWord count reads 7,432. I really don't feel that it's ready for readers yet, but when it is...you'll be one of the first I send it to (you, and pixydust). Thanks for the offer.

Also, a very hearty thank you to all who've commented thus far. The suggestions and advice have been invaluable in the development of this intro and the piece as a whole.


Inkwell
-----------------
"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited December 14, 2005).]


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Monolith
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Inkwell,

I liked the last version. More and less you know what I mean.

You have more description with less words used in the first 13.

I'd like to read it when you're done with it.

Thanks in advance.

-Bryan-


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sry
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Inkwell, regarding this version

quote:

My sons were gone. I had been too late--far too late--to save them. My gaze was frozen, locked on the horrifying sight of bodies dangling from the ancient tree at the center of our village. All the children were there...hung like herbs from gnarled rafters, swaying in the brisk autumn wind.

I wept for the first time since the day the war ended. Those tears had been joyful; these were anything but. I had felt loss before, but never like this. This was a raw wound, like a gaping hole in my heart. In mine, and Myra’s.

I vaguely recall my wife clinging to me, digging her strong fingers into my back so hard the nails cut through shirt and skin.



Is this the latest? I hope so! It's amazing - sure it's the same story??!! What a little rearranging won't do, eh? I think my favorite visual is the "hung like herbs" from the tree...NOW I want to cry with this guy. I don't know why the kids were killed. I don't know why he's standing there looking at them. I don't know what the heck "the war" was or what started - but as a human being, seeing people hung from a tree just makes me FEEL something. If he feels like crying at the sight of it, I'll cry with him (well, maybe not literally until I'm more engaged but you get my drift)

VERY successful rewrite. Congrats!

-sry


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