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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Price-Fantasy-5,900 words

   
Author Topic: The Price-Fantasy-5,900 words
Merlion-Emrys
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This is my new T&H General Services story, just started up tonight. It's inspired by some recent real-world events. Comments on the begining are fine, offers to read when its finished are better. Oh and the hyphen in his name is there to prevent the profanity filter from ***ing most of it.

My partner, Tommy had gone on vacation with his mother and Linda, his girlfriend, after I insisted I’d be able to handle T&H General Services solo for a week. I was enjoying the quiet, drawing up some fresh ofudas when I heard the door bell ring.
Looking up from the paper talisman I was working on, I saw a man and a woman, definitely a couple, hesitantly walking into the shop. Early thirties. They didn’t want to be here. I can always tell.
I stood up and smiled at them. “Good morning, folks! I’m Hashi-to Engleton. What can T&H General Services do you for today?”
The pair exchanged a look. I sighed inwardly. In this business, sometimes the hardest part of the job is getting the clients to tell you what their there for.

[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited October 19, 2010).]


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skadder
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( )

My partner, Tommy had gone on vacation with his mother and Linda, his girlfriend, after I insisted I’d be able to handle T&H General Services solo for a week. I was enjoying the quiet, drawing up some fresh ofudas(I don't know what an OFUDA is--perhaps not just me) when I heard the door bell ring.
Looking up from the paper talisman(Is this an OFUDA?) I was working on, I saw a man and a woman, definitely a couple, hesitantly walking into the shop. Early thirties. They didn’t want to be here. ( I think a '--' would be better than a period)I can always tell.
I stood up and smiled at them. “Good morning, folks! I’m Hashi-to Engleton. What can T&H General Services do you for today?”
The pair exchanged a look. I sighed inwardly. In this business, sometimes the hardest part of the job is getting the clients to tell you what their(they're ('their' is possessive, what you want is a contraction of 'they are' ) there for.

[This message has been edited by skadder (edited October 20, 2010).]


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Grayson Morris
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Engaging. I'm interested. And I like your style.

Tiny niggle: there should be a comma after Tommy: "My partner, Tommy, had..." (Assuming he's your only partner. If you have more than one partner, then it should be "My partner Tommy had...")

I don't mind not knowing what ofudas are yet; I assume you're going to tell me later, and the italics tell me it's probably a word from another language, and I'm not expected to know it. (And then you tell me what the word means in the next sentence - near-instant gratification. ;-) ) I assume ofudas will recur in the story, since you go to the trouble to name and define them.

I'd scrap "hesitantly" - it becomes redundant when you say "they didn't want to be here." And I generally try to avoid "ly" words; somehow they slow my reading down, and catch at me. Of course, sometimes they're perfect.

skadder already mentioned the "they're/their" niggle.


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Ethereon
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Hi Merlion
I would like to read it when you're done if you could use the perspective of a newbie.

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Meredith
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I'll read it. I don't think I've read any of the T & H stories.
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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
I don't mind not knowing what ofudas are yet; I assume you're going to tell me later, and the italics tell me it's probably a word from another language, and I'm not expected to know it. (And then you tell me what the word means in the next sentence - near-instant gratification. ;-) ) I assume ofudas will recur in the story, since you go to the trouble to name and define them.


You hit the nail on the head. On all counts. And in fact, they are a real-life thing, although the way Hashi uses them is a bit more...extreme.

Thanks everybody, some good catches so far.

quote:
I'll read it. I don't think I've read any of the T & H stories.


You know I think you're right. I havent written one in over a year..although they seem to be my most popular, comprising 2 out of 4 sales.

Ohh and Ethereon...definitely. I don't really make distinctions, the only opinions I maybe value a little more are folks who are super familiar with my work, like Meredith. You'll be on the send list once I'm finished.

[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited October 20, 2010).]


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Merlion-Emrys
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Finished at last. Can I get WIP replaced with 5,900 words?

Anyone up for a read?


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Merlion-Emrys
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Ethereon, I tried to send to you, using the address in your profile, but it got sent back. Do you have another email?
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snapper
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A few more nits for you...

quote:
My partner, Tommy had gone on vacation with his mother and Linda, his girlfriend, after I insisted I’d be able to handle T&H General Services solo for a week.

Think about cutting the 'after' and put in a peroid. The sentence runs on quite a bit for an opening one.

quote:
I was enjoying the quiet, drawing up some fresh ofudas when I heard the door bell ring.

Something redundant about 'when I heard the door bell ring'. Try when the door bell rang

quote:
Looking up from the paper talisman I was working on, I saw a man and a woman, definitely a couple, hesitantly walking into the shop. Early thirties.They didn’t want to be here. I can always tell.

Overwritten and just the type of herky-jerky wording that will turn some away. The first part is passive, 'definitely a couple' is writing down to your reader, and all the commas throws me right out of the scene. I know you really hate hearing this, but the last two sentences are telling. Trying some showing.

I looked up from the paper talisman I was working on to watch the thirty-something couple edge their way into my office. They were huddled together and their eyes had a look of dread in them. They looked as eager to see me as a teenage driver who just wrecked the family car would be to see their father.


I stood up and smiled at them.

I suggest cutting 'at them'

“Good morning, folks! I’m Hashi-to Engleton. What can T&H General Services do you for today?”

consider changing 'T&H General Services' to 'I'. We already know where they are (as the couple likely does as well)

This has a 'detective waiting for his next big case' feeling to it. If it is, I suggest you throw in a few outrageous similes that you'll usually find in them.

Good luck!


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Overwritten and just the type of herky-jerky wording that will turn some away.

Your "overwritten" is my character voice; and EVERYTHING will turn some away. Not every story is for every reader and trying to make it so is not usually very constructive. I appreciate the time and thought. However, you're re-iterating something I already know: that my writing style isn't to your taste. Criticism is more useful when as divorced as possible from the tastes of the critter.

Would you be interested in reading the story, and critiqueing it on its own grounds? I know its unlikely that you will like it, but I'd be interested to hear what you think with your personal taste laid aside.

[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited November 11, 2010).]


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Ethereon
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Sorry Merlion.
That's my email, but it should be ".ca" rather than ".com". If you could try again I'd still love to read your story. In the meantime I better fix my typo!

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Merlion-Emrys
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Trying again
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snapper
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quote:
Your "overwritten" is my character voice; and EVERYTHING will turn some away. Not every story is for every reader and trying to make it so is not usually very constructive. I appreciate the time and thought. However, you're re-iterating something I already know: that my writing style isn't to your taste. Criticism is more useful when as divorced as possible from the tastes of the critter.

Now, now, Merlion. You seem to be implying my comments are more personal rather than instructional. Not fair or accurate. Perhaps I will need to clarify my critique on the paragraph in question.

quote:
Looking up from the paper talisman I was working on, I saw a man and a woman, definitely a couple, hesitantly walking into the shop. Early thirties. They didn’t want to be here. I can always tell.

The opening to the lead sentence is a passive way to write. You took an action and tucked it away into a dependent clause, as if ‘looking up’ is incidental to your MC. Maybe it is but in a 1st person POV you rob your protagonist of his authoritative voice. Or as two editors (Renni Browne and Dave King) wrote in their well received writer’s guide manual Self-Editing for Fiction Writers put it better in their Sophistication chapter…

quote:
…avoid stylistic constructions that are common to hack writers

…and one of their examples reads as such…

Pulling off her gloves, she turned to face him

They explain further on why this is considered poor writing.

quote:
This tends to place some of the action at one remove from the reader, to make the actions seem unimportant. And so if you use these constructions often, you weaken your writing

Browne and King acknowledge that sometimes the narration of your story may require an action you want to convey to be incidental. But they warn if you find two or three of these constructions a page, you have a problem. They suggest if you can change it…

She pulled off her gloves and turned to face him

…than do so. Therefore I suggested the change for the benefit of lending your 1st person, tough guy narrative a stronger voice.

I looked up from the talisman I was working on and saw a young couple…

The next part I found redundant(ly) written.

quote:
I saw a man and a woman, definitely a couple, hesitantly walking into the shop. Early thirties.

You repeated things that were obvious to the reader not five words before. Isn’t a man and a woman that is walking together already considered to be definitely a couple? If you argue that is not necessarily the case, than you’re telling when you should be showing, and telling over showing is a bigger no-no when you’re writing in a strong 1st POV voice. What pray tell makes your MC believe they are a couple? Are they holding hands? Have their arms hooked together? Wear identical wedding bands? Or is it because they are a ‘man and woman’ explanation enough? Whether you meant for them, the next part is telling all the way.

hesitantly walking into the shop

Adverbs like these are like neon signs for professional publishing editors. Yes, you wanted to add an extra nuance for your skittish couple, but pro-editors have long tagged this ‘style’ as lazy writing. What makes their walking seem hesitant? Can you show us? Browne and King also touched on this in their Sophistication chapter by introducing this adverb starting sentence…

Angrily she set the cup and saucer on the kitchen table

…and demonstrated how and why it should be improved.

quote:
…you can root out these verb/adverb combinations like the weeds they are. The weak verbs that come to mind so readily can be jettisoned for stronger, more specific verbs – verbs that can say what you want to say without help.

She slammed the cup and saucer on the kitchen table.

Finally the qualifying tag after the sentence is put in almost as an after thought. If their age is important, why not say so when he first sees them? You can merge it with the description of the couple. Show us what your MC sees when he sees it. Separate the action of your MC from the visual of what he is seeing as well. They are separate clauses and should be treated as such. What you will have is two sentences that will flow smoothly with your strong guy narration.

I peered over the partially constructed the talisman in my fingers and watched a young couple in their early thirties shuffle in. Their eyes darted about the room and they clung to each other as if my well-lit shop was a dark alley in the roughest part of town.

I know you think this is only my taste clashing with your style. But I’m going to point out your style is not unique. I have been rejected with notes from editors to fix passages very much like the sentence you wrote. Call it lazy writing, call it poor editing, but it is hardly original. The common name for what you call your ‘style’ is rejected. I’m not telling you this to be hurtful but I am speaking from experience and from a desire to do better, a desire I believe you share. There is another reason why I have gone through this long dissertation for a single sentence.

It could be this is the only instance of a sentence like that. If it is and it appeared 4000 words into a gripping 5900 word piece, the editor would likely tell you they loved it and probably suggest a small fix, assuming you missed it in a self-edit. Happens. But on the first page is a completely different matter.
You see, Browne and King are respected editors who have sponsored and sparked many writer workshops. That 18 year old book spawned the growth of many of the authors of today, some of which you’ll find as editors to the magazines we all like to submit to. Workshops like Clarion hammer home what they briefly summarized in that book. The editors of the next magazine you’ll likely submit to probably have ingrained in their being to be correct what you dismiss as archaic rules. If my untrained eyes caught it, their eagle ones will never miss it. You might as well write every ‘their’ as a ‘there’ and every ‘you’re’ as a ‘your’ if you litter your script with that particular type of ‘style’ and ‘voice’. The result will be the same.



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sojoyful
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Not to stir the pot, but...

For what it's worth, that passage snapper thinks is overwritten, I think is just fine. It has a sort of film noir quality to it. And as I am a human being who selects and reads fiction for pleasure, I feel I am speaking from a highly qualified position of authority.

I agree, it's just your voice, your style. I agree, no single voice or style appeals to every reader. Yours clearly doesn't appeal to snapper. Fortunately for you, his tastes are not the only tastes around.

More importantly, from one writer to another, I want to tell you not to let his bad critting etiquette get you down. He said some very harsh things. Ignore them and listen to critters who can give you feedback more constructively. You just keep working on your writing. You're fine.

Those who can write fiction, write fiction. Those who can't, write about writing fiction. If followed religiously, all that blah-dee-blah about proper sentence structure and correct grammar will suck the soul out of good writing. What would Flowers for Algernon have been if an editor had corrected the spelling?

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited November 17, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You know, it's okay to disagree with another Hatracker's feedback, but it really isn't okay to critique it.

quote:
I want to tell you not to let his bad critting etiquette get you down. He said some very harsh things.

As long as snapper is polite, which I think he was, his feedback should not be called "bad." He spent a lot of time on it, and supported what he had to say, so that it would be clear that it wasn't just his personal taste. He deserves more for his effort than a brush-off.


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sojoyful
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I apologize.

I will admit, however, to being genuinely surprised that I'm the one getting a wrist slapped. I disagree that he was polite; I think he edged over the line. I've been on and off this forum for years, and his tone struck my as the sort of thing that in the past has been considered too harsh by the general Hatrack population. I thought I was adhering to that consensus standard, but perhaps I have become out of touch. My intention truly was only to be supportive of Merlion-Emrys. Only positive intentions. My apologies.

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited November 17, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, sojoyful. I appreciate your support for Merlion-Emrys. It's good when people step up and do that.

I just have to also step up when it appears that the discussion is moving away from writing and toward something that could be taken as an attack.

What I quoted from you might have been enough for some people here to become offended, and while I don't know that snapper is one of those people, I didn't want to wait and find out.

I much prefer that people let me know directly if they think someone has been too harsh in a critique, so I can deal with it directly.

But as I said, feel free to disagree with other Hatrackers' feedback, and feel free to encourage each other.


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philocinemas
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I've read some of the more recent comments, so I thought I'd comment on your 13 lines, Merlion. I read the original comments when you first posted, but I don't really feel I'd be able to give you the type of feedback you'd prefer for your entire story. But I hope this helps:

quote:
My partner, Tommy had gone on vacation with his mother and Linda, his girlfriend, after I insisted I’d be able to handle T&H General Services solo for a week. [I find this to be an awkward first sentence - long with two appositives. Technically, there should also be a comma after 'Tommy'. The word 'girlfriend' usually has certain relational connotations, so you may wish to use a different term.] I was enjoying the quiet, drawing up some fresh ofudas when I heard the door bell ring. [Not sure what an 'ofuda' is, but not too distracting; 'doorbell' is one word.]

Looking up from the paper talisman I was working on, I saw a man and a woman, definitely a couple,[I knew why you put this appositive here, but I did find the 'definitely a couple' a little distracting - I stopped and thought about it, so it pulled me out a little. I don't have a problem with your participle phrase, but I agree that they become problematic if overused. I don't find it as passive.] hesitantly walking into the shop. Early thirties. They didn’t want to be here. I can always tell. [I liked this comment - it told me a lot about the MC]

I stood up and smiled at them. “Good morning, folks! I’m Hashi-to Engleton. What can T&H General Services do you for today?”
The pair exchanged a look. I sighed inwardly. In this business, sometimes the hardest part of the job is getting the clients to tell you what their [they're] there for. [The 'they're there' is a little awkward]


Overall, I was not hooked. There were lines where I wanted to be hooked, like the end of the second paragraph; but it just didn't seem to come together for me. I think it would help your story if you quickly identified your MC as a male - it would help the reader understand some of the conflict with the young couple. Consider simplifying your first sentence. I like long complex sentences, but it is also a matter of flow. The breaks, the appositives, disrupt the flow of reading. My favorite sentence you wrote was also your shortest - 'I can always tell.'

One more thing - It might also help if you hint to what services 'T&H General Services' provides. I suspect this is where your true hook lies, but I'm not sure because I don't know what it is.

I hope you can take something positive out of my comments, Merlion. I know you started this a while ago and probably have it finished by now, but hopefully, this can allow you some editing ideas. Either way, good luck.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited November 17, 2010).]


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Merlion-Emrys
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sojoyful: Thanks for the support. snapper's initial post, in general circumstances, wouldn't be that bad (although it does have the issue of stating opinions/criticism in absolute, objective factual language, which I do consider rude and I know others do as well, but I know also that some do not) however snapper and I have a long history. He knows how I think and how I write, and my irritation stems more from that than anything.


quote:
The common name for what you call your ‘style’ is rejected


And here we have, again, the thing that I usually have a problem with. The idea that certain style of writing will automatically, universally, absolutely be rejected by any and every single professional editor on the face of the planet, not matter what. You MUST follow EVERY "rule" or you WILL be rejected EVERY time. Despite the fact that for every "rule" you can quote (and quote one or more pro authors, etc, in agreement with) you can find a pro-published story, NOT by a "big name" author that flagrantly "breaks" said "rule"...because all pro editors don't share the same tastes. They all accept that the "rules" will be broken...they each just have their own opinion of which ones, how, and where is acceptable, to them.


quote:
The editors of the next magazine you’ll likely submit to probably have ingrained in their being to be correct what you dismiss as archaic rules. If my untrained eyes caught it, their eagle ones will never miss it. You might as well write every ‘their’ as a ‘there’ and every ‘you’re’ as a ‘your’ if you litter your script with that particular type of ‘style’ and ‘voice’. The result will be the same.

Of course. What I said above again....every pro editor has exactly the same ideas about everything, there is a universal law book on what forms of the inherently subjective concepts of "voice" and "style" are or are not acceptable, and of course everything you say is an absolute and indisputable fact.

I have no clue why you would want to post in my threads at all, but I have just one request, if you for some odd reason choose to continue to do so. Do not speak to me in imperative voice. It IS, in this kind of context, rather rude...and even more so since you know, very well already that I consider it rude...but you insisted on doing it anyway.



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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
I read the original comments when you first posted, but I don't really feel I'd be able to give you the type of feedback you'd prefer for your entire story.


Why's that, just out of curiosity?


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philocinemas
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Well, I have two reasons for feeling this way.

First, is how I critique. I tend to divide it up three ways - technique (grammar, punctuation, etc.), reader response (whether I understood clearly, emotional reactions, likes, dislikes, etc.), and editorial appeal (all those painful "rules"). It is the last that I know you wouldn't particularly care for, but I believe it DOES exist. I don't follow the "rules" with absolution, but I do follow them in concept - as guides. I also don't like debating them after a critique.

Second, you very seldom respond to anything I write. I don't know if this is NOT done consciously or unconsciously, or even if I am imagining it. I am not angry about it. And my notice of it is probably petty. Oftentimes, you quote (and respond to) everybody else in a thread, except for me. I believe I once said that I didn't care much for that type of argument, so I suspect that I hurt your feelings. But I can't imagine it has been any worse than how others have made you feel. I have tried to interpret it as you being respectful of my opinion, but it has bothered me. Anyhow, I don't feel that my reader response would hold great value to you.


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snapper
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Merlion, I am a bit taken a back. I believe you have completely misinterpeted my intentions.

I have no way suggested that every rule must be followed, I have instead pointed out why a single passage wouldn't pass muster, and went into great detail why I believed so.

I know you have sold three stories so far (congradulations and I mean it). That is no small feat but I believe you want to achieve the next level in writing. I am attempting to show you what may be holding you back.

I read your posts before showing flustration for places like John Adams' Lightspeed magazine. It sucks and makes you suspicious of them when your script comes back hours (not days) after you sent it. I know. I've been there. Truth is they're likely throwing your stories back in the heap because of your (bare with me) tendency to tell when you should be showing, among other things.

Now let me try again.

I've read one of your T&H pieces before so I'm confindently assume this is a detective story. You decided to write it in a 1st person POV, and as others have pointed out, gives it a 'Guy Noir' flavor. Nothing wrong with that. However, you're cheating your readers with a passage like

hesitantly walking in...

If your protag is a detective that never misses a thing, you should be giving us an example on how he doesn't miss a thing. Noting that he sees the couple is hesitant just won't do it. Good detectives notice stuff, small stuff. After all, would you expect the reader to buy...

He saw the gun on the floor and knew it was the murder weapon


I hope you would say no.

What you assume is harsh and rude is me getting to the point. I don't say your style is going to get you rejected because I don't like it, I'm telling you so because my experience, and everything I read on the matter (which is a lot) screams that it will. There is a standard out there for submitting these days and (from what I read) you're not meeting it. Hell, I'm not meeting it but I'm not denying it's there.

Let me try and be as honest and sincere as I can be. I'm sorry if it's too blunt for you. I know I'm harsh but I do so because I think you're capable of doing better, not because I have a desire to knock you down a peg. If you think you're writing is good enough and don't feel any further improvement is needed than I am sorry I wasted your time. Sure, grammatically speaking, there is nothing wrong with the paragraph I tore apart, but publishers are expecting something else. I want you to succeed, and like others before me, I'm doing my best to help you get there.

If you insist on going on your merry way, good luck to you. But I suggest you don't submit to anything that pays more than a penny a word if do.



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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
First, is how I critique. I tend to divide it up three ways - technique (grammar, punctuation, etc.), reader response (whether I understood clearly, emotional reactions, likes, dislikes, etc.), and editorial appeal (all those painful "rules"). It is the last that I know you wouldn't particularly care for, but I believe it DOES exist. I don't follow the "rules" with absolution, but I do follow them in concept - as guides. I also don't like debating them after a critique.


Ironic, then, since that's actually much similar to how I crit. I tend to present my personal opinion as a reader seperate from a more generalized set of thoughts as a writer (which includes both my own philosophies and those I see in others) and then the technical stuff...typos, glaring inconsistencies etc. This is also what I enjoy when receiving critique.

As for "debating"...well if I don't understand a criticism, or if I want to know more/get further detail, I will ask, or I will say, this is why I did this this way...do you still feel the same?


quote:
Second, you very seldom respond to anything I write. I don't know if this is NOT done consciously or unconsciously, or even if I am imagining it. I am not angry about it. And my notice of it is probably petty. Oftentimes, you quote (and respond to) everybody else in a thread, except for me. I believe I once said that I didn't care much for that type of argument, so I suspect that I hurt your feelings. But I can't imagine it has been any worse than how others have made you feel. I have tried to interpret it as you being respectful of my opinion, but it has bothered me.


You've got it mostly right. You didn't hurt my feelings however, it just surprised me a little as the quote-and-respond technique has been the standard, accepted mode of discussion in every forum I can remember using (not to say it is so everywhere) and you are entirely right that I've avoided that because, just as I prefer if someone refrains from doing toward me something I've made known I consider rude or annoying, I try to do the same for others.


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philocinemas
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First of all, let me say that I wish you had addressed my comment when it was first made. However, I am sure you felt your hands were tied because I had criticized the very method you would have used to respond. I understand. I assure you that the comment was not intended to create any animosity. I apologize for what must have felt like an attack.

Hatrack was the first Internet forum I ever participated in. Before that, I wrote in a vacuum. I did not share what I wrote with anyone; I didn't even read writing books. Therefore I had no knowledge of proper response etiquette other than what I had seen here. Although others often used the [quote] feature, you tended to use it more than most. I saw this as being nitpicky.

I believe part of my misunderstanding of your use of this, is in how I perceive the debate process. When someone delineates his argument into points (as I did above), then I expect the other person to address the arguments separately as you often do. When someone presents what I refer to as a global argument (as snapper did above), I expect someone to respond globally (addressing the undelining issue and not responding line-for-line). When there are more than one with whom you are debating, however, I expect each comment (or commenter) to be recognized separately. This is my experience with VERBAL debate.

My criticism of your response style was based on my past experience (limited as it was) of verbal debate. We all make comments and criticisms based on our experiences and knowledge. You according to your experiences, and I according to mine. Again, I apologize if this felt like a personal criticism.

I hope you can feel free to make any comment to me you so desire in the future without reservation. I do value your opinion on issues regarding writing, and often we are not that far apart in opinion with possible exception to perspective.


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philocinemas
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BTW, regarding your first 13, I misinterpreted the word "partner" and I didn't realize that "T&H General Services" was a detective agency. You may wish to give those two aspects more clarity for the sake of a first-time reader.
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Merlion-Emrys
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Yeah I will probably be giving that first line a little tweak in revisions.

Although the stories do wind up with a bit of that sort of feel, "detectives" is maybe a little too specific for what they are...a lot of their services don't really involve detecting/investigating. But I suppose its the closest analogue.


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