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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Putting Down Roots, take 2

   
Author Topic: Putting Down Roots, take 2
Grayson Morris
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Thanks to excellent feedback in my first thread on this story, I've got a new first 13.

I think this is the place to start to really hook the reader, but I'll have to scramble to backfill the necessary information without annoying if I start here. So I'd like to find out if this really is a good hook before I kill myself rewriting the story. Please advise...

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The second recon team doesn't return within twenty-four hours. Gert flies the shuttle over the delineated scout area – protocol, for just this contingency: scouts must stay within a two-kilometer radius of the shuttle – but the team is nowhere to be found down there among the forest.
Gert looks at me. “Laru, you know the protocol.”
We're supposed to fly back to shipbase and leave them here.
“Can't we wait just a little longer?”
He sighs. I'm losing my mother, after all. “I can give it another six hours. But then we'll have to go.”
I'm grateful to rule-abiding Gert for breaking protocol this much. But I can't sit around and twiddle my thumbs. I put
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[This message has been edited by Grayson Morris (edited October 29, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by Grayson Morris (edited October 29, 2010).]


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WouldBe
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This seems like a zippier place to start.

The first sentence confused me. Should 'within' be 'for' or 'for at least'? The 'within' makes me want to stick an 'If' up front.

Similarly, I think it should be 'in the forest' rather than 'among the forest'.

The contingency could be made clearer. When you read it, it's worded like it has two parts to it (the 'but' enforces this). I tried to force it into two parts, but it's really one part, plus a restatement.

...just for this contingency: the scouts are not within the required two-kilometer radius. The team is nowhere to be found down there among[in] the forest.

Consider making 'We're supposed to fly back to shipbase and leave them here' part of Gert's previous dialog. Otherwise, it seems to dangle. We're not sure whose thought it is.

Also consider moving "I'm losing my mother, after all' to the (MC's) next line. It confuses who's speaking where it is now:

He (Gert) sighs. I'm (MC) losing my mother, after all. "I (Gert) can give it...."

GL


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sojoyful
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This is much better! We have a character and some forward motion to latch onto. I disagree that you will need to scramble to back fill "necessary" information. It isn't necessary yet. When it becomes necessary, drop it in.

The first sentence threw me, because of the first person present tense. There's nothing wrong with using that POV and tense, but maybe you could consider something like this:

"After twenty-four hours, the second recon team still hasn't returned."

quote:
The second recon team doesn't return within twenty-four hours. Gert flies the shuttle over the delineated scout area – protocol, for just this contingency: scouts must stay within a two-kilometer radius of the shuttle...
To me, this is saying that IF the recon team doesn't return, the scouts must stay within 2K of the shuttle. So, to recap, we have Gert & the POV character in the shuttle, a missing recon team, and some as-of-yet unseen scouts who are supposed to be near the shuttle. Something tells me this isn't what you meant to convey.

I second WouldBe's comments about "We're supposed to fly back to shipbase and leave them here." and "I'm losing my mother, after all."

This second try is definitely progress.

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited October 29, 2010).]


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Grayson Morris
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WouldBe and sojoyful, thanks for the feedback!

I hear you on the first paragraph, and I'll work on making it clearer. I picked it up from a later point in the story, and it does need some tweaking now that the reader has no background coming into it. (Quite aside from the confusing sentence structure - I am a queen of confusing sentence structure, a habit I need to break.)

As for moving the comments into dialog....hmmmm. Especially the "I'm losing my mother, after all" - this isn't something the MC is pointing out to him, trying to convince him. It's a thought she knows he's considering when he sighs and decides to break protocol. Moving it into her dialogue completely changes the feel and meaning of the sentence.

Similarly, in the "we're supposed to fly back.." sentence: he isn't going to explain protocol to her; he knows she knows it, and that it's particularly delicate now, with her mother down there. I hear you that it doesn't quite work this way, but I'm reluctant to move it into dialogue; somehow that just seems too heavy-handed. I always hate dialogue between characters that you know they'd never really say to each other, given their mutual experiences.

But I hear you - if it doesn't work for the reader, it doesn't really matter what my intent was. Will mull....

[This message has been edited by Grayson Morris (edited October 29, 2010).]


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WouldBe
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Make fixes that make sense to you, of course. The problem with the paragraph below is that it has thoughts of two characters plus dialogue. It's usually good practice to ensure that paragraphs have only one POV, especially when dialog is part of the mix. Perhaps "He sighs can be put in a separate paragraph or dropped.

He sighs. I'm losing my mother, after all. “I can give it another six hours. But then we'll have to go.”

I noticed this time around that "Can't we wait just a little longer?"...I'm losing my mother, after all. is a continuous train of thought. So He sighs. derails that train.


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Grayson Morris
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UPDATE: I think I answered my own questions below ;-). Will be posting a new 13, in a new thread, shortly. Please keep the feedback coming!
-----

WouldBe, thanks so much for the details, and please excuse me for being so dense about this...but why is that paragraph in two POVs? The MC sees him sigh, then infers what he's thinking that makes him sigh, then hears him speak. Isn't that all from her POV? Or are you saying I need to make that explicit for the reader, as in:

Gert sighs. I can almost hear what he's thinking: she's losing her mother. "I can give it another six hours. But then we'll have to go."


Alternatively, I could write, as you suggest:

"Can't we wait just a little longer?" I'm losing my mother, after all.
He sighs. "I can give it another six hours. But then we'll have to go."

In this scenario, the MC is the one thinking "Geez, buddy, I'm losing my mother here, cut me a little slack." But what I'm trying to convey is that the MC is watching him wrestle with his need to follow protocol bumping into his awareness that she's losing her mother (which the first alternate version above hopefully conveys).

I really appreciate you (y'all) going back and forth with me on this - it's so valuable in helping me understand the reader's needs, and uncovering my weaknesses as a writer.


[This message has been edited by Grayson Morris (edited October 29, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by Grayson Morris (edited October 29, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Grayson Morris, don't start a new topic, just edit your first post and ADD the new version to it. Number the versions, or date them, so people can tell which one you posted first, and second, and so on.
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Grayson Morris
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Kathleen, thank you for the pointer. I apologize if I'm breaking forum rules. By starting new threads, I'm trying to avoid a mega-list of posts to scroll through, especially for folks who wish to comment on the most recent version but don't want to wade through everything said about older versions of the first 13. Is this unacceptable?

I've already posted a new thread for the latest version; I'll confine any further revisions to that thread in the future.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Oh, it's not a rule, just a recommendation. That way, readers can just scroll up to see the other versions. The way you've been doing it, they have to leave one topic and go to the next one, and then to the next one.

Sorry for the confusion. Not everything I say is a rule.

It's just a way to make things more convenient for the readers (the same kind of thinking that writers use to try to make things more convenient for editors they submit stories to--editors appreciate that and take it as a sign that this writer might be easier to work with than some other writer--so it's good practice).


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Grayson Morris
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Okay! Thanks for the clarification. And here I thought I was making it easier by splitting it up. I think the big thing is for me to get better at writing so I don't need a zillion revisions of my first thirteen. ;-)
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