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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Title: "Spindle-Leaf Winter"

   
Author Topic: Title: "Spindle-Leaf Winter"
Fox
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Title: "Spindle-Leaf Winter"
Alternative Title: "Broken Star"
Genre: Surrealist/Fantasy/Sci-Fi. Heavy focus on surreal/fantastic element.
Words Written: 8678

For now, I mostly want feedback on the first 13 lines* or so, because I'm still working on finishing the thing. The first half is pretty much done... second half still needs a good bit of work.

*I'm unsure what "13 lines" means. 13 sentences? 13 lines as-displayed on this BBS? 13 lines from the original document/page in the word processor? I'm posting the opening--the "hook"--I apologize if it's too long.

Here it is:

quote:
Convulsing violently above my head was a sign. Two iron-wrought rings suspended it from a stout oaken arm, the wood beaten and blackened by twin maladies of time and negligence. Peering down at my broken body with scorn, the placard's harsh lettering read, “Books.”

My right arm hung limp. With my left, I scoured the filthy, mud-spackled wall for a grip. I felt my knees cry out against me as I pried them open and rose to my feet. Wobbling and unsteady from the exertion, I fell into the open doorway, leaning hard into the wearied wood frame. I smeared the blood pooling in my lower lip, trading a dot of dark red for a dash of sticky pink. A nasty fall.

Stupid. Foolish. I inhaled carefully, measuring the slight


[This message has been edited by Fox (edited November 26, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited November 27, 2008).]


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monstewer
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Hi Fox. As long as your text fits the box without having to scroll, you'll be fine.

As for the opening, I think it is a little overwritten at the moment. The first paragraph is probably the most important in a short story and you devote all of yours to telling us that there is a knackered sign which says "books". 45 words devoted to this sign--is the sign important? Is it relevant to the rest of the story? If not don't let it take over the opening to your story.

With my left, I scoured the filthy, mud-spackled wall for a grip. mud-speckled?

I felt my knees cry out against me as I pried them open and rose to my feet. "pried them open" sounds strange to me. Do we pry our knees open when we stand? And do they cry out against him personally? I think this is more overwriting--something like "I rose unsteadily to my feet, my knees flaming in pain." or something like that might be better.

I smeared the blood pooling in my lower lip, trading a dot of dark red for a dash of sticky pink I didn't understand this sentence. What does he smear the blood with? And how does that trade work? I was lost here.

on the black-coal buttons coal-black?

I think there's little hook here. We have a guy, we don't know where he is, who he is, how he's been injured. I think you devote too much of this opening to the little details which aren't important to the opening. Maybe start a little earlier, show us how this guy has got into this situation and it might give you the hook to keep the reader interested and then you can have him staggering about for a bit.

Good luck with it!


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Fox
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Yeah, it's definitely overwritten. I kind of went out of my way to do that... maybe it wasn't such a good idea. To your first question, yes, I want to spend a lot of time on the sign--the bookstore kind of is the story, or at least the story revolves around it utterly.

The sign per se isn't too important, I suppose. Anyway, on to your other comments/questions:

-Mud-spackled. Spackling is, indeed, a word. It's a painting technique.
-That's a good point.
-His hand? I dunno, but I liked how the words sounded.
-That would be the iconoclast in me. Sort of like iron-wrought instead of wrought-iron: I like to reverse things.

Well, thanks for the input. What do you think of this (quick) revision?

>>>>>>>>>>

quote:
Convulsing violently above my head was a sign. Two iron-wrought rings suspended it from a stout oaken arm. The raw wood was black and beaten by the twin maladies of time and negligence. Peering down at my broken body with scorn, the placard's harsh lettering read, “Books.”

My right arm hung limp. With my left, I scoured the filthy, mud-spackled wall for a grip. My knees cried out as I rose to my feet. I fell into the open doorway, leaning hard into the wearied wood frame. I smeared the blood pooling in my lower lip across my cheek, trading a dot of dark red for a dash of sticky pink. A nasty fall.

Stupid. Foolish. I inhaled carefully, by focusing on the black-coal buttons of my coat straining against the wool.


<<<<<<<<<<

PS: How do you frame the text as a quote?


-

[This message has been edited by Fox (edited November 26, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Fox (edited November 26, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited November 27, 2008).]


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AWSullivan
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Hey fox. To wrap the text as a quote you have to use UBB code. Is similar to HTML if you are familiar with that but instead of < and > it uses [ and ].

So basically you would put this (minus the spaces)...

[ quote ]

at the beginning and this (again, minus the spaces)...

[ / quote ]

at the end.

Now on to your thirteen. I didn't actually go to any length ot measure it but it looks like you got your first 13 spot on, lengthwise.

I have to agree that is seems overwritten and this is necessarily bad but you'll want to make it worth the readers effort if you are going to stick with the style.

If the sign and bookstore are as intrinsic to the story as you say, then the first paragraph is fine to me.

I know you said that "wrought-iron" and "coal-black" seem too run-of-the-mill for you but I think you might want to go with it. From a style perspective you want to make sure that you don't overwhelm your reader with nuance and distract fromt he story.

I found the passages difficult to read in context without being distracted.

On the other hand you have a good hook here with the wounded individual. If I were you I would chop some of the overwriting and give the reader a reason to care about this poor fellow.

Good start, I'd like to read it.

Anthony


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snapper
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Hey Fox,

You wanted to call AW Sullivan Sully, maybe we should call you Foxy?

Okay here is my take


quote:
Convulsing violently above my head was a sign.

The sign was convulsing violently?

quote:
Two iron-wrought rings suspended it from a stout oaken arm.

suspended your head or sign?

quote:
The raw wood was black and beaten by the twin maladies of time and negligence.

This ain't bad but I think 'twin maladies' is overdoing it.

quote:
Peering down at my broken body with scorn, the placard's harsh lettering read, “Books.”

I having difficulty associating your MC's general health with an ordinary sign. The two seem to be completely unrelated.

quote:
My right arm hung limp. With my left, I scoured the filthy, mud-spackled wall for a grip.

No problems with this, in fact I think it is excellent showing the MC's struggle.

quote:
My knees cried out as I rose to my feet.

How do knees cry out? Knees buckle, strain, protest. Maybe adding 'in pain' may work with it.

quote:
I fell into the open doorway, leaning hard into the wearied wood frame.

This is good.

quote:
I smeared the blood pooling in my lower lip across my cheek, trading a dot of dark red for a dash of sticky pink. A nasty fall.

How was the pooling blood smeared in his lower lip? What do you mean by trading a dot for a dash of a different shade of red?

quote:
Stupid. Foolish.

Is this an active thought? Italisize maybe?

quote:
I inhaled carefully, by focusing on the black-coal buttons of my coat straining against the wool.

This where it feels like you are overdoing the scene. We can see he is hurt and he is attempting to enter this book store. Why (seek help perhaps) we don't know, but I feel that someone else should be entering the scene about now. If there isn't another person (breaking in perhaps) I think you should perhaps be focusing on the how and why he is in this predicament.

Your instincts are correct. Overwritten, poetic, gobley-gook. It had the flavor of something that would open on a Fantasy and Science Fiction short story but it misses the mark. I think this needs a rewrite. Simplify. I think if you rearranged some of that opening so that the MC's condition and where he is seperate and relevant you would have a better flow to your piece. For example...

quote:
I sat on stone cobble steps and peered at my broken body with scorn. Above my head, two iron-wrought rings suspended a sign from a stout oaken arm; the raw wood black and beaten from time and negligence. The placards harsh lettering read “Books”.
My right arm hung limp. With my left, I scoured the filthy, mud-spackled wall for a grip. My knees cried out in pain as I rose to my feet. I fell into the open doorway, leaning hard into the wearied wood frame.
Yada-yada…

Hope this helps.


[This message has been edited by snapper (edited November 27, 2008).]


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Fox
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Fox is my name. It has three letters. Virtually no one can spell it right. Maybe Foxy would be a turn for the better... but I don't think it'd mesh with my personality. Hm....

Here's a fox: =^.^=

*ahem*

Thanks for the input. I should probably mention the background of this story... I started it last semester for a CW fiction class... the teacher kept making us read this really pretentious crap with long-winded, excessively ornate prose that, while quite beautiful to look at, didn't really *say* anything. This was my attempt to mimic that style.

Unfortunately, it's a real pain in the ass to sustain. I think I only managed 8 pages or so before it degenerated to my usual voice. I keep coming back to it because I like the story I'm trying to tell--I'm just having trouble telling it. I'll probably re-vision it (start over from scratch). I have to do that a lot.

-I don't believe in italicizing thoughts. At least not when writing from a first-person perspective.

-knees can cry out. Or they can't, but we can say they can. What is that, personification? I dunno. I slept through 6th grade english. Or read a book or something. Class was always so boring.

quote:
How was the pooling blood smeared in his lower lip? What do you mean by trading a dot for a dash of a different shade of red?

This seems to be generating some confusion... I don't know why--I rather liked it--but I'll explain. Maybe I should have changed some words... anyhow, the blood is pooling in the corner of the lip... where the lower and upper lip meet at the side of your mouth. When blood pools, it's a dark red. When that blood is smeared across skin (a cheek, in this instance) it dies the skin a sticky pink, which is also kind of sticky.

I think my main problem is that I spent so much time trying to over-write the thing, that when I come back to revise/finish the blasted story, I'm too cowardly to completely axe what I've spent so much time on.

Hm... how about something like this:

quote:
Convulsing violently in the wind over my brow was a sign. Two iron-wrought rings suspended the placard from a rotten oak arm; it read, simply, "Books."

The burnt-black circles in the wood seemed as eyes--they peered down at my broken body with scorn.

My right arm hung limp. With my left, I scoured the gritty, mud-spackled wall for a grip. My knees cried out in agony as I pried them open and rose to my feet. I fell into the open doorway, pressing hard into the wearied wood frame.

I smeared the blood pooling in the corner of my mouth, trading a dot of dark red for a dash of sticky pink. A nasty fall.

Stupid. Foolish. I forced my halted breath back into a steady rhythym. Where was I?


[This message has been edited by Fox (edited November 28, 2008).]


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deebum25
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Hi Fox,

Much better IMHO now that the sign is not convulsing but conversely as you said the bookstore is the center of the story I'd like to see a little more description of the sign, especially if it is a portent of some kind (just the vibe I got).

I don't know if I'd use the word scour. I think you scour a pan or some grout and it's a term I associate with cleaning.

My knees cried out in agony as I pried them open and rose to my feet.

Ouch. Can you explain how his knees are locked together necessitating the prying open?

Good luck!


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