I am tropical bronze, sunbleached platinum blond, loins wrapped in a Tarzan breech cloth when I swim out over a chiaroscuro lagoon under a chis[e]led cumulus and cerulean sky. A pouch with a few prized possessions hangs from the breech's cord. I hover over deep water. A three-masted black shipwreck lies broken across a coral reef, the shipwreck's masts draped with luffing torn sails and seaweed shreds. A gleaming orb shines from a strongbox chest in the gaping hold. I dive effortlessly, swimming with powerful strokes. A [cloud] shadow scuds across the shipwreck. I plant my feet beside the chest, its bails gripped in my hands. The orb projects an impression of unimaginable wealth and fame. The shadow darkens the deeps, circles, pauses, slides away.
Quick Edits [*].
Minor rewrites and revisions, title change;
I Swim in Dreams
I am tropical bronze, sunbleached platinum blond, loins wrapped in a leather breechcloth when I swim out over a chiaroscuro lagoon under a chiseled cumulus and cerulean sky. A pouch with a few prized possessions hangs from the breech's cord. I float over deep water. A three-masted black shipwreck lies in the depths broken across a dead coral ridge, the wreck's masts draped with luffing torn sails and seaweed shreds. A crystal orb gleams from a strongbox chest in the gaping hold. I dive effortlessly, descending with full lungs. A cloud shadow scuds along the coral ridge. I plant my feet beside the chest, its bails gripped in my hands. The orb projects an impression of unimaginable wealth and fame. The shadow darkens the deeps, circles with purpose, pauses,
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 06, 2010).]
The only issue I had was that the narrator notices the shadow but doesn't look up to see what it is. This readers expects he would - and therefore concludes this is deliberate (and thus distracting) withholding.
Also chisled -> chiseled?
I liked the imagery (particularly the tropical bronze/sunbleached contrast and the pouch) and would read on. At only 265 words I'm sure I can find time to read the whole thing if that's what you're after.
Too many adjectives for my taste, even if some of the imagery is good. I think it was the "gleaming orb... gaping hold" sentenc that just tipped me over the edge into not-reading-on-ness.
I was also puzzled by "bails" - a word I have only come across in terms of cricket. A dictionary search shows that it does indeed have other meanings (the handle of a pail, the arch of a covered wagon, etc) so clearly my vocabulary is deficient in this area. Not sure if this is something to be wary of or not - it may be much commoner in the US than the UK, for example.
It definitely has a dreamlike quality, probably achieved by so many adjectives that do not really make the picture any clearer. That is a common experience in dreams, details that don't really make the picture any clearer. Clever.
The word 'TARZAN' threw me,though. It is a weird pop-culture reference that seems to intrude from the non-dream state, like a semi-lucid, self-concious moment.
In most cases, I would be with tchernabyelo on this, there seems too many adjectives, but I understand in this instance that you are portraying a dream-state (i may be wrong, but the clue seems to be the title).
The style feels languid and susurrous, 265 words may be short enough to sustain it, I don't know if I would enjoy too much of it... I would have to read it to know, because right now, I am just guessing.
( I admit bias here. I can't stand it when someone tries to describe their dreams to me in lengthy, excruciating detail, the only thing worse is having to smile through someone recounting the minutiae of their genealogy ).
Who is your intended audience?
[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited January 04, 2010).]
This story is a dream recounted in first person present tense, a prescient dream I've had recur periodically now going on five decades. It comes from that inspiration experienced at the very beginning of my creative storytelling endeavors.
I appreciate that the subliminal dream symbolisms of a tropical paradise, Tarzan loin cloth, shipwreck, found treasure, and more symbolisms later in the story are not consciously penetrable for some readers, but therein is one of the more potent aesthetics other readers have commented most favorably on. Then there's the ending.
I've tried rewriting this story in Romanticism, Realism, Idealism, Modernism, Postmodernism modes, tried it in other persons and tenses, more detail, leaner and tighter prose, more and less figurative meaning, one version longer by a thousand words, none shorter. As it is, this impressionist surreal version has enjoyed far better reception than any of its previous dozen or so iterations.
The target audience is an age peer cohort as a part under consideration for inclusion in a graduate program application writing sample submission. It won't fly at Flash Fiction Online, too short by about 250 words. Strange Horizons doesn't have a minimum word count. Nor are many other homes open for it, maybe an anthology.
From reading as many of the intended target audiences' stories as I can lay a hand to, it does seem possible with a little more rewriting it might appeal to several of the university writing department screeners who might read it. The rest of my application package is first rate, just the writing sample to get over the gatekeeper hurdle. Application pending for submission this coming fall for a winter 2011 admission. Then there's Plan D. Plans A and B failed. D is an assured default fallback that is not ideal.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 04, 2010).]
As with some others, it seemed a bit too adjective ridden for my liking. But two other things I thought could be changed.
I hover over deep water.
Hovering is something that I associate with movement in air. This contradicted with the swimming, so I didn't know whether you were floating in air above the water, or floating in the water above a particularly deep reach.
I dive effortlessly, swimming with powerful strokes.
The repeated concept, effortless dive and powerful swimming strokes, is a beacon that this is a key point to the story. Furthermore, swimming is a natural part of suntanned blonds, so there must be some other reason for emphasizing the importance of the concept. I got no indication of why it was so important, so I had to assume that the protagonist has tickets on himself. This snapped any emotional link I may have had and made me want to stop reading.
Within the confines of a dream, the effortlessness could be important because they contrast with the significant effort that your protagonist would really have when swimming. So, if you don't want the above impression of unwarranted arrogance, but still want to keep the point of effortless swimming, move the focus away from the protagonist to the details of swimming. For example
I dive, effortless, powerful strokes surge through the water.
First person present tense is outside my writing comfort zone. This story fails in any other voice. If nothing else, I've learned a bit about voice choices from trial-and-error experimenting with voice in it. I'm not a fan of modifiers either, but they serve contributing rhetorical purposes.
Question: Does the protagonist's confidence in the opening hint at a comeuppance later in the story? Possibly a tragic ending?
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 06, 2010).]
What threw me out of it was the pouch. I think it broke up the beginning. Does the reader care about it containing a few prized possessions? Unless it is important later on, I would eliminate it from the rest of the dream. Once we get a picture of the swimmer, all thoughts would focus on the wreck and the shadow.
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The pouch's contents do directly relate to the story's tragic crisis and resolving crisis and outcome. I intend to artfully raise a suspense question by nonspecificity and through foreshadowing, but it doesn't quite acheive that goal. I've tried valuable possessions, token possessions, totem tokens, cherished possessions, and boys' toys. Boys' toys comes closest to my intent, something along the lines of a big juju charm or amulet magic medicine pouch. I haven't found what I'm after yet. One thing I don't want to do is inventory the pouch's contents at that point in the story.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 10, 2010).]
"chiaroscuro lagoon under a chiseled cumulus and cerulean sky." shadow-dappled lagoon under a crisply cloudy blue sky doesn't have as much of the alliterative sibilances that suggest the susurant sounds of wind and water, although I appreciate it's a vocabulary builder.
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