My first Fragment post. There's not much more than this (2 pages), and I haven't decided what direction to take this in yet. I'd say it a Revenge story, with the possibility of Redemption.
The rain beat him like a father. Cold and merciless like all fathers. God was giving Vince his usual treatment.
Angry droplets materialized out of the yawning dark to beat a staccato rhythm into his head and shoulders as if the universe were some mad telegraph operator, vainly communicating to him a gibbering prophecy in some eldritch form of Morse code. Vince heard the message loud and clear. Since he was a boy, in the myriad forms of myriad horrors, God had relayed to him the same indifferent acknowledgement, and in the clear ringing voice of the black divine that message was: “F*ck you.”
I've never thought that I was all that easily offended until I read this. I'm a father, and that first line rubs me wrong. I'm not saying you can't write that, and I understand Vince has daddy issues, but this line pushes an assumption that I don't appreciate. It feels akin to something like "He beat her like a husband" or something.
I obviously read past the first line, but if that showed up in a magazine or book, I'd skip the whole story.
A writing teacher once told me I was being timid in my writing and that I should "take it to the wall, hell, take it through the wall" because we could always pull it back after the draft was done. On this, I'd say you might want to pull it back (but that's just me).
I had less of an issue with the first sentence than babooher did, but I think the second sentence solidfies babooher's concern. I can handle "The rain beat him like a father." as it feels contained to the character, but following it up with "cold and merciless like all fathers" doesnt add anything to the character or the story
The second paragraph has already - more or less - been summed up in your third sentence.
IMHO - drop paragraph and lets see something happen
And when you consider the title, which appears to imply in this case that the point of view character (or someone, anyway) is going to become just one more brutal father/god-figure, I'd also stop reading after these lines.
Posts: 603 | Registered: Jul 2005
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Besides his father would have to puny to beat him like rain. I think it is a poor simile.
That said and bearing in mind you are a new member, I must point out that you have talent--that is obvious--but should throttle back a bit. It's all a bit over done. Try writing it making the point his father beat ONCE, and that it is rain ONCE; drop the eldritch morse code stuff (overdone) and try and get something else into your 13 liines to engage the reader.
If this is your first time to the crit altar--keep your chin up--blood is often let, but it only makes you stronger.
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited February 04, 2010).]
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited February 04, 2010).]
I like it. I especially can't even say how much joy I feel at seeing someone on Hatrack other than me or Brant use the word "eldritch"...a great and under-used, under-appreciated word in my opinion.
I agree that there isn't a lot going on in terms of plot or event. However, your digging into the character, which will do it for the character-people, and you have voice and atmosphere which is primarily what does it for me.
Although, I'm not sure if the double use of "myriad" is working for me.
I will warn you though...although, you've probably already figured it out...dark and gritty isn't very well liked around here, nor is stylized prose.
However, its my experience that there is, in fact, a market for this sort of thing...not the biggest or most mainstream, but it exists.
Over stylised is a matter of opinion and I said dark and gritty isn't well liked around here overall. We have or have had quite a few people who wont touch horror or anything macabre and generally likeable heroic protaganists are much prefered to anti-heros, villains, apathetics or otherwise "unsympathetic" protaganists.
But I read plenty of published stuff that is or has one or more or all of those things. I'm merely mentioning the fact, or at least my experience that here isn't always a fantastic place to get objective feedback on such. The fact that most comments on Hatrack about such a piece are negative...doesn't necesarily mean a whole lot because most people here dislike fiction of those sorts and with those elements, in my experience. ~shrug~
[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited February 04, 2010).]
Like I said, Merlion, I'm not gonna get into old arguments with you. You're not saying anything new, I doubt anything I'll say in response to what you've just said would be new to you either...
Posts: 2995 | Registered: Oct 2007
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Theres nothing to argue, since all I have done is state my personal experiences. Unless you really want to try to say I haven't had those experiences, which would be silly since you've seen them...in fact, have some times been the one giving said experiences.
You're also assuming or seem to be that I was responding directly, specifically to you with that first post. I wasnt. If you guys really truly dont want to "get into old arguments" with me, perhaps you...shouldnt do so. :-)
Thats exactly why I said a while back that I wasn't going to express my opinions on here anymore...cause I knew you and a few others wouldnt be able to leave them alone and would, in cases such as this, make the assumption that I'm address you specifically. Obviously I've decided against that. I will continue to offer my experiences and points of view, and like I said if you really dont want to discuss them...then dont.
I don't usually comment on first 13s because they're not my strong point.
I like the tone of this. It presents a character and the beginning of a setting very well--in the second paragraph.
The first paragraph is repetitive and made up completely of short, choppy sentences.
I will say this, though. I've been known to start a story and figure out where it's going as I go along (often). I'm a confirmed pantser. But, what goes along with that is that you really don't know if this is the start of the story until you find out where the story is going. So, don't agonize over this part, yet. Write the story first. You may find out that it starts on page two and just have to do this all over again.
Wow. OK well thanks to everyone for giving this a look. I know my work's not for everyone and I'm fine with people not liking it. I do have a tendency to be verbose, which is one of the reasons I joined this community in the first place, so I can work on my technique and get feedback from people who know what they're talking about.
For what it's worth the 13 line thing is brand new to me, and it seems I wasn't quite grasping the purpose of the exercise. Of course stuff happens in the story, but it's clear I'm not holding some people's interest with it long enough to get them there, but that may also just be because this sort of character doesn't appeal to some of you. That's cool, for some they're probably not the audience for it and I don't really feel that inherently reflects poorly on any of us.
The structural comments I do take seriously and will consider revising some of it or maybe start another new one. Anyway, thanks for your comments, and I don't mind "bloodshed" so long as it's honest. I'm also happy to share the totality of what's written so far if anyone wants, but just as content to leave it as is as well.
I'd also note that those things arent mutually exclusive. Theres plenty of commercially successful stuff that doesn't follow trends.
Thats how trends start, I would think.
But yeah I think it would be great for everyone to provide more info on their goals with a given story and in general (although they then run the risk of criticism by those who, for some odd reason, don't feel you should do that and that everything should completely "stand on its own."
I have to say that I like this opening too. It promises a very intense character and story and that would keep me reading. There might be a point where you could overdo it, if the style were to get in the way of the story, but except for some of the technical advice already given I'm not seeing that as a problem yet.
I'd be happy to look at this for you, but you should probably finish your first draft before you start worrying about editing. But if you want an early set of eyes on it to discuss the direction, that's okay too.
And this line:
quote:The rain beat him like a father
To avoid offense, you may simply need to change it to "like his father".
ha... I wanted to come back and add one more thing. Keep in mind, whether your agree its over written or not - the effect the writing is having on the readers perception of the character. I don't find the writing to delve deep, or even really define the character past the obvious that could be shown as mentioned before. For me, It feels like he's coming off whiney. If he were a real person id probably roll my eyes "yea, vince, whatever, life is sooo unfair."
I like it. Establishes tone and character. I would very much hope it starts being a story soon afterwards, though.
Please ignore the spats between Merlion and skadder (indeed, between Merlion and everyone). Merlion has his own ideas that, as he says, don't tend to conform to the "norm" on this board (though the "norm" is not some homogenous, Midwich-cuckoo-like hive-mind, which Merlion sometimes likes to pretend it is).
All critiques are valuable but it helps for the critiquer to know the author's aims, and for the author to understand the critiquer's approach (I for instance, attempt to read like an editor, since that's what the first 13 is all about, and my main verdict is simply whether I would read on or not).
I apologise - it was not intended as a personal attack. It was,however, intended to give some context to your remarks that I felt might be helpful, both to the original poster and to others reading the thread.
You are absolutely right, though. I should, instead, have written "which Merlion seems to like to pretend" rather than "which Merlion likes to pretend".
I'm not sure how it's a case of "pot calling the kettle black", though. If you could explain what you mean by that in this instance, I'd be grateful.
Sorry, i was overgeneralizing. I felt like you were doing exactly the same things I just got skewered for supposedly doing in the other threads.
I realize that you feel or more or less everything you say seems to indicate that you feel that I put myself up as an "iconoclast" for its own sake and to get attention and I also figure you figure its an extended way of trying to defend my own writing or assure myself I have a chance at getting published even though I sometimes choose to write stuff that doesnt fit current trends.
In reality, all of my issues and discussions and arguements around here stem from a couple of basic, inetrconnected things. The biggest being that to me, creativity is sacred. Each individuals particular creativity is sacred. So when people come through this section and essentially tell others they should scrap their story, or their subject matter, or their writing style and do it differently just because they believe it will be more marketable (and assume that is thepersons primary goal) its a problem for me. Especially when its done in an imperative voice rather than put forth purely and clearly as an opinion. There often seems to be little or no respect for authorial intent or goals. The assumption is that everyones goal in writing is to win WOTF and thats not always the case. And even if someone wants that, how much they are willing to compromise their own creativity in order to perhaps, maybe (given that plenty of counter trend stuff gets professionally published) achieve that is going to vary from person to person.
In this thread, all I did was offer 1) my opinion of the fragment and 2) a bit about my experiences on Hatrack. Nothing more.
Edit: Also, up there, I'm not saying dont do harsh crits. I'm saying I have issues with people offering totally transformative criticism, not taking the authors intent into account or basically telling them they should just write something totally different. Be as harsh as you like, but do it in context.
[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited February 09, 2010).]
um.... Welcome to Hatrack! I want to personally apologize for the hijacking that has happened on this your very first F&F post.
If you want to argue, everyone, take it of a newbies post. IMhO
What is clear from your thirteen, Reliquum, is that you know how to write attitude very well. I have a clear picture of the character both in age, and general demeanor, and that is really good.
The problem, as I see it, is that the character isn't very sympathetic as written. I am on board with the character until he said that God himself was telling him off, which I found sounds egotistical and off putting. I hope that helps.
I also hope you don't judge your entire Hatrack experience of this your first post. We can help you. I know Hatrack has helped me.
Merlion - I operate on the broad principle that, unless someone specificlly indicates otherwise, they have come to Hatrack because of a belief in the commercial potential of their writing. The reason I tend to believe this is because people are asking for input and advice (on the fringe site of a popular and commercially successful writer).
I don't think creativity is necessarily sacred, or that everyone should be praised for the simple act of writing (though I have come across writing groups that work from that perspective), but I have no problem with you feeling that way. However I certainly think that if someone feels their creativity is sacred, they will not be in a state of mind conducive to th receipt of criticism - and I've certainly seen plenty of (would-be) writers exhibit THAT attitude on the net. Strangely, I don't see it amongst those who are published, no matter how conventional or otherwise their published works are (and I will repeat again, here, that there is FAR less homogeneity in the marketplace, and even here in Hatrack, than you seem to put forward in your posts about marketability).
We now return you to your regularly schedlued thread.
quote:I don't think creativity is necessarily sacred, or that everyone should be praised for the simple act of writing (though I have come across writing groups that work from that perspective), but I have no problem with you feeling that way. However I certainly think that if someone feels their creativity is sacred, they will not be in a state of mind conducive to th receipt of criticism
The belief in creativity as a sacred concept in no way precludes openness to criticism. Especially constructive criticism. I don't consider criticism that essentially consists of "you shouldn't write this story, or write in this style" and/or "if you write this it has no chance of publication" to be constructive criticism.
I also feel that criticism presented in an imperative voice is often not constructive or even if it is or could be, its hard to see it as such because of the tone.
quote:Merlion - I operate on the broad principle that, unless someone specificlly indicates otherwise, they have come to Hatrack because of a belief in the commercial potential of their writing.
Ok. But that isn't always the case. I know we have at least one person with no real interest in publication at all, and...
quote:The reason I tend to believe this is because people are asking for input and advice
Ok, but that can be for a lot of reasons. And to a lot of degrees. Sure, there are people here who are willing and able to adopt just about any situation based on the idea that it increases marketability. Thats fine and great and dandy. But, again, the degree of artistic compromise people are willing to make for (supposed/possible) increase in marketability varies.
Also, again, the stated purpose of this site is to help writers get the stories in their minds onto paper in an understandable way...in no area is there an actual, stated focus on publication or trying to alter writers writing to fit more strongly with (real or percieved) trends or whatever.
quote:and I will repeat again, here, that there is FAR less homogeneity in the marketplace, and even here in Hatrack, than you seem to put forward in your posts about marketability
Ohh I agree totally about the marketplace especially. In fact, one of the issues I have is that it often seems that many (and many doesn't mean all and doesnt necessarily even mean most) people including many of the most vocal here seem (thats seem, not absolutely do) to feel that the marketplace IS very homogeneous and that if you deviate to far from that you kill your chances of publication.
I just feel that constructive criticism, barring specific request/indication from the author should try to stay within the context of whatever is being critted, not try to alter its basic nature. But I realize that here, as near as I can tell, saying whatever you want about someones writing is fine, but offering opinions or criticisms of criticism is off limits, so I will try to avoid it in future, and do what it is I feel the need to do in other ways.
[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited February 09, 2010).]
Given that we are all here for a similar reason (and I accept that not everyone is here for this reason, but a common frame of reference is required for true understanding), that being to create pieces of writing that are publishable as accepted by the prevailing standards set by editors and slush readers...
If the "basic nature" of a piece of writing is in itself flawed, is it not disingenuous to ignore that and comment only on grammar, spelling, and maybe a wooden character?
Constructive criticism can be helpful and nice. It also tends to be time-consuming. And in my experience it can also be unhelpful - I've seen people on Hatrack rewrite their openings after each individual commenter, which is NOT a sensible approach. Far better to wait for a range of critiques, some "constructive" and some not, and let a more general consensus view build up than react to every individual comment.
Non-constructive criticism can also be helpful, though I accept it may not be read well by the recipient. However Hatrack is NOT a harsh environment compared to some others out there. And, again, IF people are looking to be published (and please note that above I did explicitly acknowledge that not everyone is here for that reason - but that I will assume so UNLESS I am specifically told otherwise, and frankly if told otherwise I am unlikely to offer critiques because I fail to see the point) they are gong to have to get used to that. Very few editors offer constructive criticism (they don't have time). And even if you DO get published, you can get some pretty snarky reviews (I've received some - Lois Tilton at IROSF really hasn't liked either of my pieces she's reviewed). Developing a thick skin is one of the things you have to do in pursuit of publication.
I often state quite curtly in a critique that "I wouldn't read on" though I will (I hope) always give a reason for that. I won't ever - EVER - suggest a rewrite (which is what a lot of people mean by "constructive criticism") because I am not interested in teaching people how to write like me (I'm by no means successful enough to have any such presumption). So I read and crit as if I were an editor in receipt of a submission (but one with a little more time than real editors), and state succinctly what works and what doesn't.
I'm a father who attempts to be anything but cold and merciless. Now this early in the story, I can't yet tell the difference between character voice, narrator and author intrusion. So this (unfortunately) forces me to question the author's motivation in writing this, which then throws me out of what I'm reading for: to get immersed in the story.
Vince's opening is difficult for me for another reason: I don't know why I'm reading about this character. I have met plenty folks with a chip on their shoulder, and hearing them drone on about how life has dealt them a raw deal is rarely interesting, especially when they show no redeeming quality with which to win my sympathy. Vince seems to have this issue for me: Why should I care?
I thought the first two paragraphs were redundant- you could eliminate one or the other and still make the same points. You also could combine the first two sentences and eliminate some of the offensiveness to fathers :The rain beat him like a father- cold and merciless. Or some other merging. That would also make it less redundant.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
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You also could combine the first two sentences and eliminate some of the offensiveness to fathers :The rain beat him like a father- cold and merciless. Or some other merging.
I felt the issue was that the narration needs to tread a fine line between the character observing that all fathers he has ever experienced are cold and merciless, and that the author is perceived to make a commentary statement (which I don't believe is the intention). Clearly the easiest way to do this is to simply say his father, which precludes him having experience of other cold and merciless fathers, but doesn't put off the reader because it is clearly limited to his experience.
It is also entirely possible that were this paragraph to appear on page five, the reader wouldn't care: they'd know enough about the character for there to be a context to the statement, which is all that's really lacking here anyway.
In the meantime, don't worry too much - if this is still a work in progress, finish it and come back to the topic later. I usually find I want to change my opening once I've finished the story and realised what it's really about.
I only came over here to see what all the drama was about. But I like this opening, so here is my take on it.
quote:The rain beat him like a father. Cold and merciless like all fathers. God was giving Vince his usual treatment.
I like this begining although I can see why others found it offensive. I think it defines the character in only a few words. I feel sympathy for some kid who was brutally beaten by his father and cannot or will not see that not all fathers are that way.
I agree with others that the next paragraph is over written. You kind of are beating us over the head with how miserable his life has been. I have some suggestions for what to cut and what to keep.
quote:Angry droplets materialized out of the yawning dark (I don't really get what you mean by yawning dark, so it doesn't work for me. I suggest cutting yawning.) to beat a staccato rhythm into his head and shoulders (don't need shoulders) as if the universe were some mad telegraph operator, vainly communicating to him a gibbering prophecy in some eldritch form of Morse code. (wow long sentence, and very redundant. I would pick one of these two images "some mad telegraph operator" or "vainly communicating to him a gibbering prophecy in some eldritch form of Morse code" since they both say the same thing. Personally I like the second one, but you don't need both "vainly" and "gibbering". If he get a gibbering prophecy clearly the universe's attempt to communicate with him was in VAIN.) Vince heard the message loud and clear. Since he was a boy, in the myriad forms of myriad horrors, ("the myriad forms of myriad horrors" part is vague and doesn't really tell us anything. It should be cut IMO.) God had relayed to him the same indifferent acknowledgement, and in the clear ringing voice of the black divine that message was: “F*ck you.”
I hope this helped and that all of this drama won't chase you away. This is a good place to learn and get feedback.
Good luck with this.
[This message has been edited by MAP (edited February 10, 2010).]