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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Scotsman's Daughter

   
Author Topic: Scotsman's Daughter
PatEsden
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Historic Fantasy novelette. I'm just looking for comments on the first 13 right now.
Thanks Pat
aka Kickle

The Ken of the Scotsman’s Daughter

Madagascar: 19 May, 1848
By the grace of God we survived the storm and found a cove in which to anchor and make repairs to the clipper. Though the damage is minor, one of the deck hands and the ship’s surgeon were lost to the sea.
Their deaths were quick, with not even time for prayer. But they have left behind a feeling of uneasiness and whispering amongst the crew.
#
Estelle closed her journal and drew a deep breath of sea air. After two days of weather-imposed confinement to her cabin, the sunshine and fresh air of the deck were pleasurable.


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HSO
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This is a good start. The journal entry is clearly a journal entry, which is very good -- no confusion there. I might recommend two things to help set up the story in that entry. Consider naming the clipper Estelle is on (for these details really enhance believability), and secondly, consider stating the final destination if there is one, or alternatively the reason for the journey, which will hook your readers, giving us a clear reason to read on, even if the journey turns out to be unimportant later.


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hoptoad
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If you are going to do that remember sailors (especially british sailors) were superstitious about using the word 'destination' rather they said 'set sail for' or 'sailing for' or 'bound for' etc etc so as not to tempt fate.
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LibbieMistretta
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Ooh, good advive from hoptoad. I also like the idea of naming the clipper.

I'd be interested in reading more when you're ready for a critique - I love historical fiction/fantasy stuff!


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Survivor
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I would go with a much longer journal entry. The current form of the entry doesn't convince me that writing in her journal is important enough to this character to justify including her journal entries in the narrative at all. That's just my sense of it, though you might be doing something transformative with the journal itself despite her lack of expression through that medium.

The sudden mood shift between what she wrote and the third person narration is also very troubling, it makes her seem a bit unconcerned about the crew. Or rather, totally unconcerned. A longer journal entry could allow you to deal with that better, transition to a conscious resolve to look on the bright side or whatever.


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PatEsden
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HSO I am thrilled with your suggestions. I posted this because I had a couple people tell me they didn't think the first sentence was quite right and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I think that my mistake was assuming that cutter was a common word and easy for readers to visulize. And I do think my POV would have used the name of the ship. The ship has a name, but I think I'm going to come up with a new name that works even better here at the beginning as well as in the context of the story--perhaps "The Bonnie Lass".
I in a page or so I do mention where they are head and it is not important to the story. Also I love knowing which phrases would not have been used by sailors because they truely were a culture unto themselves.
LibbieM I'll let you know, I am going though making changes like the cutter's name and checking for inconsistances right now.

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PatEsden
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Thanks Survivor. I do have something that I would like to include in the entry that I had not used because I was concerned about the length. I'll have to play with it and see if it slides in naturally.
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Sara Genge
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Not many nits to pick
I'm slightly suspicious of journal entries, I'm not saying you can't do them, but they're usually passive compared to a scene.
Someone said it should be longer. That surprised because I expected that you'd come back to the entry after you'd shown us what the character is like. I guess that means that if you're not coming back to the journal in a couple of paragraphs, the journal -should- be longer.

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Swimming Bird
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I dislike the journal entry. It seems like too much of a blatant attempt to get across plot points, like when Jean-Luc Picard would dictate a few sentences into his captain's log. I agree that you should either make the journal entries stand on their own merit as being necessary to the plot, or get rid of them and show what you want said in the journals entires through the narrative.
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Silver3
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I'd read on.

If the main thrust of the narration is the 3rd-person narrative rather than the journal entries, I'd say keep them short, off-hand (mainly because I think the journal might become tedious if the tone remains the same). But Survivor does have a point about Estelle seeming totally unconcerned by the deaths of the sailors (although personally I'd wait a little before passing moral judgment on her, so it may not matter that much).

I think it all depends on what you do with those entries, but I don't think I'll attempt to second-guess you

And I'm lining up to read that one, but you already knew it


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LMermaid
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I like this opening and would keep reading. The journal entry worked for me.
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mommiller
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I liked the short journal entry. It gave us a date and location, but was short enough as to not overpower the fragment, nor did I feel that it portrayed Estelle as uncaring toward the crew at all. In fact, I feel it was appropriate for the tone of a women's journal written in the mid 19th century.

The shift in narrative, to me, just adds to the tension of the piece. The journal being a terse description of events, to the more personal POV of the main character Estelle.

Of course, I want to read more. I want to learn more about the storm, the crew, and of course Estelles thoughts on the events in her life.

Please send it on.

[This message has been edited by mommiller (edited June 24, 2006).]


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PatEsden
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If she looks up from her journal instead of closing it does that solve the problem of her sounding uncaring about the crew.
I have a number of reasons for using the journal entries, one of them is that this novelette could easily become a novel, so to keep it shorter I need to fill in and soften some of the time transitions. Mommiller hit on several of the other reasons.
I want to do a bit more tinkering (boot camp made me question things that I am not sure I should question) and will ask who has time to read when I get to that point.

[This message has been edited by PatEsden (edited June 24, 2006).]


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Whitney
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I somewhat agree with Swimming Bird in the fact that unless the journal and her writings within it are an important point of the plot then journal entries would become tedious. If it's not important to the story, making mention occasionally that she writes in a journal would be sufficent. However, I was not distracted by this first journal entry.

So far I want to read more only because I waiting for my first hint of the "fantasy" part. I realize that 13 lines does not give you much time to display that, especially if the point of the story is the "discovery" of the fantasy.


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MarkJCherry
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Wow, I'd definately read on. When you're ready for someone to read through it, I'd be more than happy to.

Nothing wrong, in my opinion. As for what's been said about the journal:

It needs to be done tastefully. I don't think it necessarily has to be central to the plot, but it should be regular if you're going to use it. I may just be reiterating your own plans, even.

I'd just like to point out that OSC did this similarly in the Ender Saga. First it was discussions between Anderson and Graff in Ender's Game(and I think also in Ender's Shadow, but it's been a while) and then, and this was my favorite, e-mails between characters. Even following Ender, every chapter started with *something* be it Pipo's research, one of Val's esseys, or a snippet from the chinese girl whose name I can never remember(Sorry Card!)

But, that's just me, Mark.


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Silver3
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quote:
If she looks up from her journal instead of closing it does that solve the problem of her sounding uncaring about the crew.

Anything that makes us understand she didn't in fact finish her entry (like someone calling her, for instance, or her looking up) leaves open the possibility that she would have written more about her feelings on the event. I don't think you need more than that in the first 13 (and again, it's a minor problem).

(edited because I forgot one crucial word)

[This message has been edited by Silver3 (edited June 25, 2006).]


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Louiseoneal
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This part of the sentence stumbled me:

one of the deck hands and the ship’s surgeon were lost to the sea.

how about: we lost a deckhand and the ship's surgeon to the sea.

or: we lost the ship's surgeon and a deckhand to the sea.



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Novice
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Her journal entry mixes tenses, which makes it a bit choppy. It would help to alter the first sentence: "By the Grace of God, we have survived the storm..."

It's a well-written fragment, but a little bland. The scene, a ship-bound woman keeping a journal in the 1800's, is a bit cliched. The recently passed storm, lost crewmen, etc., doesn't help break it out of the cliche. I think you need something more individual to this story. Your title hints at what the story is about, but nothing of the title surfaces in this fragment. Maybe give us a hint?


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PatEsden
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Thanks everyone. And I will let those of you were interested know when I'm looking for readers--soon.
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