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Author Topic: Hangman
thecox
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Here's an excerpt from a short story I'm working on. Let me know if it catches the reader's interest:

Jonah squinted against the liquid sun, immersed in the patient beauty of those gallows. They signified a new beginning. They signified Jonah’s freedom. The still noose framed the sun perfectly like a blazing ring of fire. Like a halo, Jonah thought. Sheriff Hastings stood atop the wooden frame in silhouette. He began to declare Jonah’s crimes in a piercing voice, like a decree from heaven. His words echoed through Market Street with finality, reaching Jonah in the jailhouse.


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Bent Tree
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So long as this is an excerpt and not the intro, it is good. I am not sure about anyone else, but a story where the MC is facing the gallows in the first few lines is a little too cliche for me.

I didn't like the "liquid sun" line.


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Rhaythe
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quote:
Jonah squinted against the liquid sun,

I see what you are trying to do there, but I agree with Bent Tree; it really doesn't seem to fit. The mental image I get is someone drowning in sunlight. Not quite what I think you were aiming for.

quote:
immersed in the patient beauty of those gallows. They signified a new beginning.

This works, though. Gallows are a new beginning? A nice bit of reverse, counter-intuitive logic there.

quote:
They signified Jonah’s freedom.

Clearly he's on the desirable side of the noose. It's good to take joy in your work.

quote:
The still noose framed the sun perfectly like a blazing ring of fire. Like a halo, Jonah thought....

He began to declare Jonah’s crimes in a piercing voice, like a decree from heaven.


Too many "likes", I think. It's starting to sound valley-girlish if you read it aloud. Try using a different descriptive method: "...a piercing voice, like a decree from heaven" to "...a piercing voice, booming a heavenly decree."

quote:
Sheriff Hastings stood atop the wooden frame in silhouette....

His words echoed through Market Street with finality, reaching Jonah in the jailhouse.


This works.

Overall, I'm not quite sure where you're going with this. A hangman who enjoys his job, obviously. I want to hear more about this "new beginning" moreso than Hasting's booming voice. Maybe tease the reader a bit more with that.


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TheOnceandFutureMe
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Maybe I'm completely wrong, but I had the idea Jonah was in the jail, waiting to get hanged. The fact that I (or Rhaythe) read it wrong can be easily remedied, though. If Jonah is standing in a jail, I need to know that early on. Instead, you don't tell me this until the end of 13 lines. Since I'm immediately picturing your scene, when I read that he's in the jail, I have to go back and picture everything differently. This knocks me off the page.

A few line edits:

quote:
...patient beauty of those gallows.

The pronoun "those" refers to an already mentioned object. Use "the."

quote:
The still noose framed the sun perfectly like a blazing ring of fire.

Cut "still" and "perfectly." Unless you tell me it's swaying, I'll assume the noose is still. And "perfectly" adds nothing. The sentence means the same thing without it.

quote:
Like a halo, Jonah thought.[/quote

Consider cutting this. Rather than have your character inform the reader of the image you are trying to portray, trust yourself to portray that image in your prose. If you want the word "halo" in there, it could be added to the description in the previous sentence.

[quote]Sheriff Hastings stood atop the wooden frame in silhouette.


Great image. Awesome.

quote:
He began to declare Jonah’s crimes in a piercing voice, like a decree from heaven.

He did not begin to declare. He declared. And again, "like a decree from heaven" is a little heavy handed. I suggest showing me an image of light around the sheriff. Make me think "heavenly," don't tell me to think "heavenly."

The only story that comes to mind that starts with a hanging is "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (And the beginning of the Brisco County tv series, if you count that). I guess this might be a cliche, but it's a mild one.


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Rhaythe
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Huh. yeah, I really did read this wrong.
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thecox
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Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'll try to cut back on the "likes" and trim the unnecessary words. Jonah is watching this all from the jail, but I see how his location might be confusing at first. I'll think up a remedy for that as well. Thanks again for your help!
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NoTimeToThink
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Just wondering where Jonah thinks he's going once he's hanged...
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Wildstar
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This read differently for me.

I agree that liquid sun is doesn’t work though I like Rhaythe’s interpretation of it.

I read this as a man waiting for the release of death.

“the patient beauty of those gallows. They signified a new beginning.”

This life is not what he wants but the afterlife is. He longs for the gallows. Afterlife is a rebirth.

“The still noose framed the sun perfectly like a blazing ring of fire. Like a halo, Jonah thought.”

I like this imagery and it solidifies to me that he is longing for his hanging. I like the idea of the calm preparations before the hanging. However; it is hard to tell where this all leads to. Because this is an excerpt we don’t really know what the story is grounded in. I would think that we would know where he believes to be going after death or what awaits him but right now I don’t have enough information. There is an interesting suggestion here but I would want more information on where he is going after death.

DC


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