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Author Topic: A Knight's Blood
Grijalva
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I'm trying to finish a short story that's due in my creative writing class tomorrow. I mostly want to see what you guys think of the first 13. Also looking for readers.

Story:

In the quiet of a cold wintery day, one could sit and listen to the song of a small farm. The song emitted itself from a broken tractor that rusted in the snow. It moaned abandonment from the creaking wood of a decaying barn. A barn etched with loneliness from the snow that drifted through its hole ridden roof and covered the tracks of animals that have long ran away. But in this grey afternoon life did exist on this small farm. A blue house stood with the warmth of light, like a last refuge of hope to and otherwise sad song.
A motherís bony hands washed plates with and earnest need to scrub every spec of dirt. Her back slouched which made the bones of her spine protrude through her green dress, and every now and then she would sway almost falling into a deep trance

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited December 03, 2007).]


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WouldBe
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This certainly establishes the setting vividly. It's not clear if the farm wife is the protag or part of the scenary, like the rusting tractor. That's one way of saying that the story hasn't really been kicked off, yet. That's a biggie here at hatrack where the first 13 is considered the discard-or-read linchpin for slushpile readers/editors. That might not be the case in your classroom.

See the [notes in brackets].

[Not a sentence; wouldn't be a problem in a literary short story, but might be in the classroom] A barn etched with loneliness from the snow that drifted through its hole[-]ridden roof and covered the tracks of animals that have long ran[run] away. But in this grey afternoon life did exist on this small farm. A blue house stood with the warmth of light, like a last refuge of hope to and[an] otherwise sad song.
A motherís bony hands washed plates with and[an] earnest need to scrub every spec of dirt. Her back slouched[,] which made the bones of her spine protrude through her green dress, and every now and then she would sway almost falling into a deep trance[-] like sleep. She would shake herself awake as her sunken blue eyes would look up and peer through a window above the sink, as if in search of something she [had] lost.


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Plume
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Send away. I'll read it.
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Grijalva
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Thanks for the replies. What's your email address plume?
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supraturtle
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Obviously this is a first thirteen, but it might be a nice touch to be able to follow the scenery and funnel into the house to witness our farm lady's activities. You are SO visual, I'd like to see a camera pan instead of a jump from what I pictured as an overhead of the farm and suddenly we're inside the house.
Perhaps you can set the tone of the story on the way, start introducing elements of the plot as you pass over.
I'll definitely read what you have, I'm hooked on your canvas.

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Wolfe_boy
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Time for me to get back on the critiquing band-wagon, now that NaNoWriMo is over...

Grijalva, there are a few things I'd like to take a minute and point out....

quote:
In the quiet of a cold (1) wintery day, one could sit and listen to the song of a small farm. The song emitted itself from a broken tractor that rusted in the snow. (2) It moaned abandonment from the creaking wood of a decaying barn. A barn etched with loneliness from the snow that drifted through its hole ridden roof and covered the tracks of animals that have long ran away. (3) But in this grey afternoon life did exist on this small farm. A blue house stood with the warmth of light, (4) like a last refuge of hope to and otherwise sad song.
A mother’s bony hands washed plates with and earnest need to scrub every spec of dirt. Her back (5) slouched which made the bones of her spine protrude through her green dress, and every now and then she would sway almost falling into a deep trance...

1. You seem to be going for a very visual opening here, which is fine (though some might comment that this is a book and not a tv show, but that's neither here nor there if it's a decision you've made). By using simply cold to describe the day, you lose the effect of setting the scene for us a little more. What about something more akin to "In the quiet of a winter day, when no wind whistles through the frosted branches of a tree and the drifts of snow lie huddled on the ground undisturbed..."

2. I'm not certain the image of a sound emitting from a stationary rusted tractor works, really. You're also mixing senses here - you're trying to invoke the readers auditory senses with the talk of a song, but then proceed to toss visual images at us. THe mix isn't working for me, and unless the idea of the farm's song is integral to the story, I'd nix it.

3. Good ol' Strunk & White. "Omit needless words." You've already told us that the barn is creaking and decaying (again with the mixing of senses, and I'm not sure barns will creak constantly unless there is a strong wind blowing). It is being redundant showing us the holes in the roof and mentioning the animals, and they're words that you could more profitably use to show us your character, or further describe other aspects of the abandoned farm, like a toppled and scattered stone fence.

4. The house seems out-of-place to me. The tractor is rusting, the barn is dilapidated, but the house is a vibrant blue? Use those valuable words you earned in the last sentence to tell us why the house is in good shape while the barn is falling down. Also, it is standing in "the warmth of light"? Is there a beam of light shining down on the house? Is it a nighttime scene and the house's windows are glowing from an internal light? I got the sense of a dreary winter afternoon, so this talk of warm light is throwing me for a bit of an immersion loop.

5. I thought it was a funny thought, that her back was slouching when she might perhaps wish to stand upright. Fighting against bodyparts, as it were. Make a quick change to she was slouching, since we talk about her back in the latter part of the sentence anyways and she is the subject readers are interested in, not her back.

Dem's my thoughts. I might read on for a few more pages, were I to pluck this off a slush pile, but not with a whole lot of hope that it would improve. Polish, and try to sharpen your focus on the story and its necessary elements. Expunge the rest.

Good luck with this in class.

Jayson Merryfield


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ArCHeR
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If you ask me, the language is a bit too "creative"

You should probably leave more to the imagination. Set the mood subtly...


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WetherbyOwl
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*Cracks knuckles* Alrighty, here we go...My comments will be in brackets. [Like this...]I'd also post what the fragment would look like with my comments grafted.

Initial comments: the story wavers between tenses, present and past. I'd stick with one tense.

In the quiet of a cold wintery day, one could sit and listen to the song of a small farm. [I might use "the" here instead of "a" because we're talking about *this* farm in particular.] The song emitted itself [This seems like an awkward phrase, mostly because of the word "emitted". You could just use the word "came"] from a broken tractor that rusted [I'd say "rusting" because it saves a word, and keeps us in past tense] in the snow.

It moaned abandonment [you could say "sang of" or "spoke of"] from the creaking wood of a decaying barn.[I'd drop i a semicolen, and cut the "a" of the next sentence] A barn etched with loneliness [eliminate the "etched with loneliness" because the connecting phrase "from the snow" makes no sense. You can't etch with loneliness *from* something. You can etch *into* something, not *from* something else.] from the snow that drifted through its hole ridden roof and covered the tracks of animals that have long ran away.[If the animal have long run away, there are no tracks left. You could say "filled the pens of animals...]

But in this grey afternoon life did exist on this small farm.[I'd say "But there was life on this small farm." and segue right into the next sentence.] A blue house stood with the warmth of light [I'd eliminate the "warm light phrase altogether], like a last refuge of hope to and otherwise sad song. [I'd throw in a transitional word or phrase here]
A motherís bony hands washed plates with and earnest need to scrub every spec of dirt. Her back slouched [in this sentence, and the previous sentence, you've made the mother's body parts the subject of sentences. It would be better to make *her* the subject; it would also clear up issues with tense] which made the [eliminate this phrase, and replace with "her spine protruded"] bones of her spine protrude through her green dress, and every now and then she would sway almost falling into a deep trance.

So, the revised version:

In the quiet of a cold wintery day, one could sit and listen to the song of the small farm. It came from a broken tractor rusting in the snow. It came from the creaking wood of a decaying barn, etched with the snow that drifted through its hole-ridden roof and filled the pens of animals that had long run away.

But there was life on this small farm. A blue house stood like a last refuge of hope to an otherwise sad song.
Inside, a mother washed plates with bony hands and an earnest need to scrub every spec of dirt. She was slouched, her spine protruded through her green dress, and every now and then she would sway, almost falling into a deep trance.


Your original fragment was 147 words, while the revision is 130, and yet is clearer in terms of flow and tense structure (that is: it's now all in past tense.) You now have almost 20 words you can use to describe other important details. I hope this has helped, and if you want, you can send off the story to me, provided it's not too long, and I have time in my finals schedule to get to it.


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