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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Paying the Pipers

   
Author Topic: Paying the Pipers
Inkwell
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Hey folks. Just wanted to get some feedback on this intro. Genre is SF. Target length is...uncertain at the moment, since it's still a WIP. Any comments and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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Walt glanced upward as he stepped into the prison courtyard, studying the roiling sky above the enclosure's transparent alloy roof. Yet another signature Procellan thunderstorm was brewing above Pluvia, the planet's sprawling capital. The tempest almost seemed to be a dreary proclamation of his release.

Fat raindrops started beating an intricate tattoo on the clear canopy overhead like a stunball game drumline. Walt guessed the roof had been designed to make inmates feel less restricted, without sacrificing security. In reality, it was more akin to trapping a butterfly inside a small glass jar.

Not that the prisoners could be considered butterflies, metaphorical or otherwise...though that winged Kumerian on level three almost fit the bill.

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Inkwell
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"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 June 24, 2006).]


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wbriggs
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My thoughts:

* It's a little hard to follow, because the description is so dense. I'd ease up a little (take some out, or use more common words).

* He's getting released. Why isn't he happy? (Nit.)

* If it weren't for the density of the prose, I'd keep reading, because I'm a little curious about this world and its multi-species population. It wouldn't hurt, though, if I had a reason to care about Walt, as well.


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Louiseoneal
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'Yet another' would work, or 'signature' would work, but not sure about using both.

Also, I forgot the roof was transparant by the time he got around to the glass jar description, probably the word alloy threw me off. Maybe you should turn the word 'clear'into the word 'transparant' in the second paragraph.

If he's not happy about his release, the last sentence should be stronger, the 'almost seemed' weakens it, I think.

I like 'stunball game drumline'.

Glass jars aren't usually very big, do you need the word 'small'?

He thinks it's like trapping a butterfly in a glass jar, so why is he then unwilling to compare the prisoners at least metaphorically, to butterflies? He might think the comparison amusing upon further consideration, but he did make the comparison. Or is that you making the comparison? To get into his head, if he's the one thinking it, maybe it should clearly be his own thoughts.

I'd keep reading if I knew for sure which descriptions are his and which are the author's.


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HSO
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You know, the language in this doesn't bother me at all. They are all "common words" to me. In fact, I like prose that stretches beyond simple language. Simple language bores me to death. I'm weary of simple. I'd like to be intellectually engaged by words and passages now and then, not treated as a moron incapable of understanding seventh-grade English while being force-fed stories that a kindergarten class could read aloud before naptime. Besides, these words are likely your voice, how you write and the terms you think in. It's you. Don't dumb it down, please. Each word is easily understood...

But, descriptions can also be overdone, and this does border on being a little too descriptive. On which side of the line it falls, I cannot say with certainty. Generally, I think it's all right for now, but if kept up in this vein, I'd begin to lose focus on the story and pay more attention to the phrasings and adjectives, which probably isn't ideal. Just something to consider.

I also think the information presented is good, but there are two things that sort of bug me:

1. Walt glanced...

2. Walt guessed...

On 1, you might consider simply saying he stepped out into prison courtyard. Since we'll assume he's the MC and POV, any description that follows will be what he sees. In my opinion, we don't need to be told that Walt glanced. Rather, consider giving the description as fact, as narrative, rather than tying it to an action; I believe it will be stronger for it.

On 2, well, it feels off for some reason I can't explain. If that statement were a question instead, then I think it would work wonders. As is, it's just missing the mark. I like the idea presented, but I'm not so keen on the "guessed" bit. On the other hand, perhaps if he were certain (for whatever reason) that the roof was designed for that very reason then I'd take less issue with it. It's just one of those things, I suppose.


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Turtle-Goddess
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Hi Inkwell,

I enjoyed the beginnings to your story. I thought the descriptions weren't too over the top, but that they were nicely done. My only problem with this piece, and I fear it may be major, is that it felt too expository to me. I wanted to feel how Walt felt, see through his eyes, hear through his ears, smell the odors he smells, and taste the same flavors as him. Except for the last two lines, the final paragraph, I felt as if I were being told, like "This is what Walt thought," not, "This is what Walt felt." Do you know what I mean?

Still, like I said, I did enjoy this little bit of your work. You have the vision of what the final piece will look like and include, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. Use what you can, chuck the rest. And Keep Writing. You do it well.

Peace Out,
The Turtle-Goddess


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EvoL
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I don't have much to say to critique it that hasn't already been said. I loved it and would definitely read more.
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Novice
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I can't add anything useful, critique-wise, to what's already been said. (I heartily second the motion to take out the "glanced upward" part of the first sentence.) But I wanted to say that I like this, and I'd definitely keep reading. I love the last paragraph, which sets your "hook" with the mention of the winged prisoner.
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Inkwell
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I've gotta say these posts have been some of the most helpful I've received in at least a year. And all in the same thread! Thanks for the encouragement, and (more importantly) for the concise and relevant commments. I rolled out two more pages in less than an hour, and a full rewrite to get myself on a better track (I added what I'd like to think of as more 'humanity' to Walt and his guards...it's more of a character-driven story now, not an event-driven). However, I didn't change too much. Had to push back the 'winged Kumerian' part a little, which seemed to be a bit of a hook factor, though it should all balance out. I hope.

Please let me know if this is an improvement, or otherwise.

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Walt stared up at the sky as he shuffled into the prison courtyard, studying the dark clouds above the enclosure's transparent roof with more than token interest. If a signature Procellan thunderstorm was already brewing above Pluvia, the planet's sprawling capital, it probably intended to drop on him the moment he was released. Not exactly the celebration he’d had in mind, though it just might help wash off what he had come to think of as ‘cell stench.’

Fat raindrops started beating an intricate tattoo on the clear canopy overhead like a stunball game drumline. Walt frowned as old musings came to mind, now that he had both the time and mental energy to explore them further. Perhaps that roof had been designed to make inmates feel less restricted, without sacrificing security.

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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 June 25, 2006).]


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MaryRobinette
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The second version is much more engaging. I was with wbriggs on the description in the first version, and I like big words.

The only thing that threw me out of the story was "Walt frowned as old musings came to mind, now that he had both the time and mental energy to explore them further." I'm sure this is a knee-jerk reaction, but it sounded like we were about to go into flashback land. It also doesn't really tell me anything about the character except that he was tired and now he's not. It feels a little authorial, know what I mean? I think you could get me the same information in other ways.


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Survivor
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I don't know why it was so dang hard for me to follow the text...but it really was.

I don't know whether the second version is better, though it seems a bit easier to understand. That might simply be because I'd already read the first opening a half dozen times and scanned through the comments on it.

There might be a hint in the questions about why Walt is so unhappy about being released. Maybe you haven't really cast this from Walt's POV.


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oliverhouse
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I liked the second version better. Definitely better with the deeper penetration of the point of view.

I didn't mind the vocabulary much in the first, but I did think it was a little overdone. While none of the individual words was unusual, too many in a row always sounds to me like the writer's trying too hard. I probably tend to be a little plain in my writing, which may annoy people like HSO. Don't worry about it too much, but pay attention to it in the rewrites and -- this is my advice, nothing more -- err on the side of simpler vocabulary and sentence construction.

One specific case: I think "roiling sky" fit with "Procellan thunderstorm" better than "dark sky" does, so I'd retain the original.

Nits:

"more than token interest."

This is a backhanded way of saying, "with serious interest." I'd prefer a fronthanded way of saying it; and if he's seriously interested, why is that? If it's just because he knows it's planning to dump on him, then the phrase is redundant. If not, I'd like to know why not.

"it just might help wash off what he had come to think of as ‘cell stench.’"

Because you're deeper in his point of view, you don't have to say "he had come to think of as" -- saying "wash off the cell stench" or "wash off the 'cell stench'" would be fine.

Regards,
Oliver


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Ellepepper
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Walt glanced upward as he *stepped* into the prison courtyard, *studying* (Match tense and time) the roiling sky above the enclosure's transparent alloy roof. Yet another signature Procellan thunderstorm was brewing above Pluvia, the planet's sprawling capital. The tempest almost seemed to be a dreary proclamation of his release. (Good description.)

Fat raindrops started beating an intricate tattoo on the clear canopy overhead like a stunball game drumline. Walt guessed the roof had been designed to make inmates feel less restricted, without sacrificing security. In reality, it was more akin to trapping a butterfly inside a small glass jar. (Ok, first big question with two alien and two terran references, is he human? Second is does earth we know still exist? If not, how does he know about it? If so, again, Procion is a loooooong way, so how does he know? Day trips, vacation, used to live there?)

Not that the prisoners could be considered butterflies, metaphorical or otherwise...though that winged Kumerian on level three almost fit the bill. (Almost with you, but since I have no idea what anything looks like I'm almost curious enough to continue. Try tightening up a bit.)


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