Hi This is all new to me, so please be gentle . Below is the start of a story. I'd appreciate feedback, if anyone wants to read the whole story (3000 words), please let me know.
The consequences of global warming have been devastating. Much of the earth is now uninhabitable; either dry, arid deserts as hot as one hundred and twenty degrees centigrade or under a sea that's risen ten metres following the melting of the polar ice caps. The world population has dropped from it's peak of nine billion at the end of 2050 to it's current level of five billion. Most of these people live in similar, rapidly constructed communities across the Globe. In Great Britain, one million people are living in each of sixty complexes. Thomas was born in UK06.
Complexes have a central accommodation unit covering sixty six square kilometres, surrounded by an 8 kilometre wide food production area, covered with a clear roof. Temperature
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited January 06, 2010).]
There is only one line about a character and it tells us very little. Your opening should be something that conveys what the story is about. It needs to give a sense of character and the conflict he is going to face. It needs a sense of the world he is living in too, but more atmosphere than statictics.
The thing your opening should do is make us curious enough to want to read more.
I'll ask so that maybe we can help. What is the conflict in your story?
There are many ways to approach it but to start you may try putting us in Thomas' head at the conflict point or right before it. This is a short story, you don't have time to waste.
I will be happy to take a look at your story if you like.
For me, lack of character focus isn't really a big issue, but all the statistics are. I dont mind starting with setting, quite the contrary. But as genevive says, this reads like a government report...which could maybe even work, if you specifically presented it as such.
For me, to ground me in a setting it needs to be described or narrated in a more organic way, with less mathmatical particulars and more feel. I don't mind if its an omniscient 3rd person narrator doing it, or a character, either way.
I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not bothered by lack of character, but I am bothered by lack of a voice. This feels like a collection of facts presented in the most straightforward, simplest way. I think it could work as an omniscient narration of the circumstances, but with your storytelling voice to it, or set up and presented as a government report, with some background.
Thanks to both of you for such a quick response. I did have the MC in the first para, but took him out as I felt the others had more impact. Obviously, I may have been wrong.
I do like the idea of the Govt report. For the story to work, I think it needs this information to set the scene for the main story. I'm not sure if this is really a short story, perhaps it should be a novel?
I totally get what you mean about needing/wanting to present certain information (or, often for me, to create a certain mood) right at the begining. There are lots of ways to do it. But in particular, I don't think you need the information of the exact measurements and the like (unless you do try to couch it as a government report)
You could have this information be the thoughts (recollections, musings etc) of a character.
You could give the information, in a 3rd omniscient narrator style, and then use it to present, in context, a character or even to zoom in on a particular place where your action is going to begin.
I will say also that technically its written quite well, its very clear and the word choices, for it is, are good. But for me, the actual premise itself isn't that interesting...voice or mood could draw me in in spite of that, but those things are lacking.
I'm going to echo the comment made by tchernabyelo in another topic.
As written, this isn't really the start of your story. This is you getting settled into the story. I find I often do something similar--a lot of exposition up front. Just go ahead and write the story. Then, in the revisions, cut to the place where the story really starts (where something happens that sets things in motion) and try to weave in the parts of the exposition you really need as you need it, not in one big block.
Depending on the story, you might use a government report to do some of that. But not, in my opinion, as the opening. Give us a character to care about first--whether you get right in his head or just show him doing something. Let us know who we're on this ride with and why we're rooting for him.
[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited January 06, 2010).]
There are of course several types of stories.
To me this most closely resembles a news story, but it registered more as a summary of last years discovery channel shows on the subject with a hint of speculation at the end.
The lack of a character makes this dull overall.
By browsing all the websites of publishers of this genre you will, on many sites, find lists of things they look for. I am confident in saying that most of them are seeking character driven stories. What makes a character driven story? First you have to find the character and then the story you want to tell. I feel that it is safe to say that holistically anyone reading the first page of a manuscript, namely slush-pile editors want to be introduced to a character, most often the Protaganist. But also they want to establish a connection with that character or at least become interested enough to want to read more.
I would classify the text you provide as a type of overview or background information. You will likely here this mentioned as exposition. Exposition is something to be dealt with with great care because most readers find too much exposition poor crafting.
So, to start, you want to have this Character( Most often the MC or protaganist) Then you sumerge yourself into their POV. In otherwords you show us the world as they see, smell, taste,and feel it.
I will take a few lines from your intro to provide an example. I will be Thomas. Probably not as you see him, but I will make due.
Thomas had heard one of the old men speaking of times when birthdays were celebrated. He watched the sun rise, spilling orange light over the desolate plains. The compound was still silent. Today was his birthday he always remembered it, everyone did. It was the day they dropped the bomb...
I know this isn't likey the direction you are going but I think it demonstrate my points.
"Characters and viewpoints" by OSC is a great place to start. It is a really great book.
Here is another good link to find resources:http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/005900.html
quote: I think it needs this information to set the scene for the main story
I think you would be surprised how little exposition you really need to paint a story. The more you get into the craft of writing, the more you will refrain from exposition. A well crafted story can paint a past simply by the resonance it has upon the characters and scenes you provide Hope this helps.Welcome to Hatrack
[This message has been edited by Tiger Woods(edited January 06, 2010).]
[This message has been edited by Bent Tree (edited January 06, 2010).]
Thanks again for all your comments and support.
I did have an alternative start, which I've attached below. I think it addresses some of the comments. I took it out (didn't Chekov do this ) thinking that the other had more impact. But I take your points about no character interest, so here it is;
He stares at the pale green "calm inducing" walls, not sure if he can continue with his life, his existence! Reluctantly, he prepares for his remote teaching session, flicking on the two way holographic generator. In a few minutes, he will be appearing in the living rooms of two hundred thousand students. Their parents will be out labouring for eight hours producing the basic requirements of the community.
He teaches about the consequences of global warming, which have been devastating. Much of the earth is now uninhabitable; either dry, arid deserts as hot as one hundred and twenty degrees centigrade or under a sea that's risen ten metres following the melting of the polar ice caps. The world population has dropped from it's peak of nine billion at the
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited January 07, 2010).]
Thanks again to everyone. I'm glad you prefer the second version, hear what you say about "his existence" perhaps a bit too dramatic at this stage.
As for the info dump, I'm afraid there's another two paras of it following. I'm trying to get across the effort and cost (by the "govermnent" ) that has been put into "saving" the population. I was hoping these three paras near the front will give all of the context for what follows. The story then concentrates on Thomas's "journey".
I have to say, as a new person here, I'm really impressed with the supportive atmosphere in here.
I agree with the others. Too info dumpish. The second whack is much better, but then you get all info-dumpy again. It needs to be stretched out in the story or fed into it in bite-sized chunks.
You have to ask yourself, how does Thomas interact with the new environment? Can you hook the reader with a specific challenge he either acts out or gets as a question from a student where he can get a short tragic answer?
might I propose an excercise. You give us random lines from your exposition of which you say you have three paragraphs, and we will suggest ways in which it can be woven into prose.
quote:He teaches about the consequences of global warming, which have been devastating
this is simple just show us. If it is important enough to the story, it will be in the story at some point and we will know. You don't have to tell us now.
Also, May I please ask that you copy your revision and edit it into the original post. That way commenters can see it before they post comments. Some, like me, do not read the comments of others before posting in an effort to maintain the integrity of original and unswayed thought.
quote:I have to say, as a new person here, I'm really impressed with the supportive atmosphere in here.
Thank you for being receptive to critisism. I can say from my experience that I have learned alot here. There are many great and helpful people. I have no doubt that this place will be a benefit to you for as long as you seek it.
[This message has been edited by Bent Tree (edited January 07, 2010).]
the second go is definitely much better. instead of just giving facts and figures, have the MC ask the students how many people lived on the planet before the polar ice caps melted. make it a q and a with the students which give the information you want the reader to know about. that would read much better than just a 'report' of how things used to be and how they are now.
"Now, who can tell me roughly how many people lived on Earth before the melt?" The MC selects a student who has pressed their button to answer.
"Around nine billion, sir."
"Good, now who can tell me how many people are living now?" selecting another student, the answer comes quickly.
"Five billion, sir?"
"Right again. how many feet has the sea level risen since the melt?
That is just one way to do it. i feel that would be a better representation of the MC being a teacher and still imparting the facts and figures you want the readers to know.