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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » New WotF Entry (Q4,2010)

   
Author Topic: New WotF Entry (Q4,2010)
InarticulateBabbler
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Here's the first 13 to my new WotF entry. This is a first draft, and I'm looking for impressions. Obviously, if something stops you, I want to know what and where. Any glaring problems you have would be nice, too. (On the whole piece; not just the 13 lines.)

[Edited to remove prior drafts. All feedback has been helpful.]
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited August 30, 2010).]

Thanks, Snapper and Ethereon

What I'd like now is to know if you'd turn the page. Offers to read will still be appreciated.

Final Version:
Nkiru sat on a tiled roof outside her bedroom portal, watching the stars drift over the dome. This was her secret place, a place nobody would intrude upon. She'd found a hiding place in every orphanage, but none with a view, until Dome City.

The streets below were crowded by other buildings composed of salvaged spacecraft, a ghetto of rust and bolts as far as the eye could see. It was a junkyard, even if it was mortared with the last surviving bits of their home planet: mud, shrubs and a few small trees. Why the UN would go to so much trouble to preserve it was beyond her.

A NEWSwave tore into Nkiru's thoughts: The terrorists deemed "The Sublevel Mutants" have struck again. Sources


[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited August 31, 2010).]

I lied. This is the new "Final Version," and hopefully the real one:

Nkiru sat on the tiled roof and watched the stars drift around the dome. Music from her iWave drifted out of her bedroom portal. This was her secret place. She'd found one in every orphanage, but none with a view, until Dome City.

The streets below were crowded by buildings composed of salvaged spacecraft, a ghetto of rust and bolts. Dome City was a junkyard, even if it was mortared with the last surviving bits of their home planet: mud, shrubs and a few small trees. Why the UN would go to so much trouble to preserve it was beyond her.

A NEWSwave tore into Nkiru's thoughts: The terrorists deemed "The Sublevel Mutants" have struck again. Sources

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited September 02, 2010).]


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Ethereon
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If she is almost 18 would she be bothered that there is no longer hope of being placed with an adoptive family? Wouldn't a 17 year old be more likely to want to strike out on her own (perhaps to try to find her real family)than want come under some well-intensioned stranger's authority. That was my first thought after reading, but then I don't know what your character is like.

The UN ship vs domed city setting is interesting. So far the character seems resolute but passive. I'm not as interested in the character as I might be if she was doing something.


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Twiggy
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Hi
I spent a bit of time trying to order the first sentence.
gazing up from a roof is ok but then placing that below a bedroom portal disorients me.
Then stars drift over a dome

I think it's too many ups, belows and overs at first glance for a simple mind like mine.

I liked the idea of the roads made up of the spacecraft but don't see that buildings could ever stop her being alone. They're not people.

I want to know if her family survived and want to see her take a proactive role in escaping the orphanage life to go look for them.

hope this helps.
good luck



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snapper
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First impression...Too crammed. Nkiru's feelings feel forced, the visual of her surroundings comes off as a sensory overload, and her background history is rushed. Spread it out.

quote:
Nkiru gazed up from the conical roof below her bedroom portal and watched the stars drift over the dome.

Up, below, and over. I'm dizzy. I know this is set in space (it is, isn't it?), but I've read this five times and still cannot grasp the position she is in and what she is looking at. Maybe if you cut below her bedroom portal it would help.

quote:
Even though the streets were crammed with buildings composed of a hundred-thousand salvaged spacecraft, she felt alone.

An emotional qualifier attached to an info dump? Blech. try cutting Even though stretch the visual of what she is looking at, and seperate the emotional pitch from the sentence.

quote:
She wondered if even a single member of her family survived. Nkiru sniffed once and pushed the thought aside. She'd given that hope up with her transfer to a Dome City orphanage.

I am not exactly sure why but this attempt at pulling at my heart strings just comes off as forced and cliche. I am not buying it. Maybe it just too info-dumpish for my tastes. It may be better if this information was leaked in another way, and not thrown at my doorstep.

I think you will need to rethink your strategy of your opening and concentrate on how you want to go about your hook. Either focus on the dynamic visual setting or Nkiru's emotional state. The two together clash.

Stretch it out.


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thomaskcarpenter
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Agree with Snapper, either focus on the visuals or the emotional. Personally, I enjoyed the picture of the hundreds of derelict spaceships forming the city. Reminds me of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe, where space travel was so long ago that no one even remembers that the buildings they live in are old spaceships. So the last 13 lines is the one I enjoy the most.

I also like that it sets up conflict right away (getting an apprenticeship), sets the scene (old world with space ships) and gives me a good idea of the main character (age, introspective enough to watch the stars drift, willing to work for a better life, orphan). So I'd say you do a good job of starting the story.

Would be willing to read if you're looking for readers.


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InarticulateBabbler
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Headed your way, Tom. Thanks.
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snapper
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After third post...

...better, but still comes off as dry. I think it's because you switch gears after the first two sentences.


quote:
Nkiru sat on a tiled roof outside her bedroom portal and watched the stars drift over the dome. The streets were crammed with other buildings composed of salvaged spacecraft, a ghetto of rust and bolts.

For some reason I really want to know more about this strange city/dome/planetoid/space station she is living in. Bring this out. Describe what she is seeing. This is a teaser. Satisfy my desire and fill out this rough sketch with a vibrant painting. Take as many words as you need. Create a vivid, futuristic landscape and you will have KDW hooked, then fill in your MC's bilght and history. I've seen it done, over and over, in the contest anthology.
A couple of nits...
Nikru is looking at the stars (assumingly above) then mentions the streets (assumingly below). I didn't notice this disparrity until I read this version.

The streets were crammed with other buildings...

Not sure if streets is the right word. Streets are usually crammed with cars and people, buildings line them. Just insert 'city' and all will be fine.

Hope this helps!


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KayTi
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Great scene-setting, the third version posted is much clearer to picture.

Suggestion: Have her doing SOMETHING. (more than gazing.)

She picked at her lime-green toenails and thought about tomorrow. Her 18th birthday. Mrs. X was supposed to arrange an apprenticeship, but after the fight she'd had with Mrs. X today over the chore roster, N was pretty sure she'd end up on one of those stupid junkyard trawlers floating above her. Who cares that Dome City is the only place that pieces of her people's home planet can still be found. It was just a bunch of rocks and dirt to N. She craved something bigger, grander, something wild and crazy and out to the stars. N wanted to be a pilot. But no orphan from xxx unknown city in yyy backwoods of lll planet could ever become a pilot. It just didn't happen.

***decision point*** (but N was determined. She tossed aside the toejam she'd been picking at, stood up, smoothed down her jumpsuit, and decided to go confront Mrs X right now about her apprenticeship. She deserved a chance, and if Mrs. X couldn't make that happen for her, she'd just have to take care of things herself.


Obviously I got a bit carried away, and it's all clunky and ridiculous, but I hope you get the idea of where to go into her head, where to personalize it, where some action (even just picking at toenails) would help ground the scene-setting in this character. I know you know YA characters are generally VERY self-absorbed, they see everything through their world lens. In my opinion, this makes them GREAT character types to write deep 3rd person POV with, but that might just be me.

I also took liberties in the sketch above, I'm sure your story heads in cool directions. As with all feedback, take what works, leave the rest. Sorry I can't offer to read more right now - triple-booked at the moment and scrambling on my own deadline, but I think this is a great beginning. Good luck!


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Twiggy
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I like this better now.

One thing caught my eye -DEEMED didn't seem like the right word to me.
I think it is because this is obviously a new broadcast and the word offers an opinion rather than fact. Who deems them to be called that?
I think CALLING THEMSELVES or LABELLED AS .... BY would work better.

This might seem picky. I used to work on a newspaper (nothing glamorous- just a local rag) so this might just be me


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InarticulateBabbler
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They don't call themselves that at all.

Thanks for the impression.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited August 31, 2010).]


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Twiggy
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That's fine.

The terrorists labelled as 'sublevel mutants' by a community official

or something similar would stop it seeming as if the news broadcaster is giving the group a title.


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satate
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The setting sounds interesting. I like the idea of a Dome City but I'm having problems creating a clear picture. There's too much going on. I didn't have a good idea of where she was when she was sitting on the roof. I needed more scene setting of what the dome looks like. Then when it went below to the streets I had hard time putting it together and then there's terrorists.

So basically there's too much going on here for me. The setting is so different and strange that I need more time to figure everything out, such as, what is a bedroom portal. Why is it a portal, why not door? What does the dome look like? I like the idea, it sounds cool.

Your MC is nice and sympathetic. I already like her and care about what might happen to her.
If I were you I'd spend more time setting the scene it's interesting enough to not need a ton of action right up front.


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snapper
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Now you got it! Much, better. In fact, I would describe a bit more before you get into the conflict. Painting could use just a touch of additional color, IMO.

One last nit...

[quote]The streets below were crowded by other buildings...[/i]

I'd cut other.


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babooher
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I'll give it a read if you send it (doc or rtf please).

Personally, the word portal is making me pause. It could mean all kinds of things and nothing is defined.

I also think your first 13 seem slow. I'm not saying you need THE CONFLICT, but I generally think openings where the protagonist is just observing are a bit flat. I'd rather see Nkiru doing something up there. Give her a bonzai tree to groom, a partially domesticated snarfak to feed, a satelite feed to mess with...something.

The word deemed also makes me pause. It just seems too formal for a news article.

Also, if the transmission comes without her control (as the word tore suggests) then I seriously question that. Being unable to shut something like that off seems unlikely to me because no one would want it. I think it a highly unlikely technological progression. I find it even more unlikely that if it did happen, why aren't there ads? If the news can intrude on your thoughts at any minute, why not Monty's ReCycles with a great deal on a new Fastthing?


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InarticulateBabbler
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Wow. I think you're reading way more into it than is there. Anyway, I'm about half-through with an editing pass (you know, tightening up and trying to clarify anything I felt was rushed or jammed) and have cut the equivalent of two pages. When this pass is through, babooher, I'll shoot you a copy. I'm glad to have a third set of eyes on this.
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skadder
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I'd turn the page of this version. I would suggest playing down the newswave TEARING into her thoughts. I would imagine few people would allow an implant that created an effect like that--I certainly wouldn't. I'd want a gentle bleep, followed by a calm message informing me with a precise neutrality of the incursion.
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InarticulateBabbler
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LOL. It's not an implant. The broadcast "tears" into her thoughts. Sheesh.


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skadder
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So she's hearing a sound?

...NEWSwave tore into her thoughts...

To me that reads like some sort broadcast directly into the brain. Possibly because of wave (brainwave) followed by thoughts, with no mention of sound. It may just be me that reads it like this of course...


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InarticulateBabbler
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Is that an offer to read?
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skadder
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OOh, sneaky. I know you write long stories--I am tight on time right now--if this one is less than 5k I'll read it.
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WouldBe
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I'd be happy to read it, IB, if you still need need readers.

--WouldBe


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InarticulateBabbler
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Thank you, WouldBe, when I finish this editing pass, I'll shoot a copy to you.

Skadder, you're right. I either write stories that are novelettes or flash fiction...although I am planning one for a market of 3k or less. I'll tell you what, after this editing pass is complete, I'll send it. If it doesn't carry you along, tell me where you lose interest, and that'll be that. I'll still get valuable feedback. What do you think? (Feel free to turn me down.)

And you can shoot a copy something to critique in exchange.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited September 01, 2010).]


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KayTi
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Awesome update! Opinions on other feedback: No issue w/word portal. I think if you don't read sci-fi much it might be hard to imagine, but it's standard SF fare (and certainly something WOTF judges are used to.) I read majority SF, the terms and scene is coming clear with the few lines here just fine.

My nitpick is term "intrude upon" which is a more formal phrasing than most kids would use. "where nobody would bother her." would be more kid-thought-fitting, in my opinion.

Tone on the NEWSwave (I have no plausibility problems like other posters. We're in a different world where she lives in a dome and has a bedroom portal. Maybe she's forced to hear news reports constantly. Different world, no trouble w/the intrusion yet.) -- I think a little more ... clinical in tone might be appropriate--although maybe this is exactly opposite what you're going for. The tone of the line, realizing it's just one line, is a little sensational. "Struck again" is a sensational way of describing an attack. I might go with fewer words, more fact-based clinical reporting (drop the articles a, the, etc.) Terrorists known as "Sub-Level Mutants" have attacked the third outpost in five days. All citizens are warned to... (if it's giving a direct order/warning to a person, the concern over intrusiveness diminishes, in my opinion. Though I had no believability problems with it.)

Good luck, I'm sure this is an awesome story! I look forward to having free time again some day so I can read it.


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