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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Tidal

   
Author Topic: Tidal
dysfunction
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The last fragment I posted here, many a year ago, got a lot of good feedback, though it was a long time before I took most of it to heart. If anyone still remembers it, forgive the purple prose. I'd never even heard that phrase at the time, and when I stumbled upon it much later, I looked back and laughed at just how apt a description it was for the writing style I'd by then outgrown. Anyhoo I've got a new short, almost a vignette (about 2700 words), entitled 'Tidal'. I'd call this a third draft. Fairly hard scifi, in marked contrast to the aforementioned story (I actually spent several hours calculating orbital periods, semimajor axes and periapsis, and Hill spheres and Roche limits for the celestial bodies of the solar system in which it takes place), relatively far-future, and post-singularity. Here's my 13 lines:

quote:

Sabrozn had thirty suckers when he saw his first octopus.

Of course he knew that some among the visitors still referred to the fivekind
themselves as octopuses in private, though officially the visitors named
them ‘polypodes’ and called the fivekind by their own name when speaking in any
of their languages. But while the octopus bore some superficial resemblance to
his species, it was clearly alien, with eight arms instead of five, and the bulging
round sensory organs- ‘eyes’- that showed the creature’s kinship with the visitors’
ancestral form.

“He’s not exactly a true octopus,” explained the visitor showing it off. “A
real one couldn’t survive here; there’s not enough oxygen, and the pressure would
crush him. This one’s



[This message has been edited by dysfunction (edited November 01, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by dysfunction (edited November 01, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited November 01, 2010).]


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Brendan
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Great, punchy first line. It sets up a strangeness about both the environment and the MC.

The first sentence of the second paragraph goes a bit "as you know Bob" even though its not dialog. I not sure whether you should drop it, or simply give us some reason for the MC to be thinking about distinctions in names and the potential overtones (e.g. racism). The second sentence is fine, and perhaps all that's needed.

Also, there is a lot of information in the third paragraph. Perhaps you could break it up with opposing dialog. However, I did follow it, all except for the fivekind donorfem which I had no idea about. Still, science fiction allows such new words to be used, on the promise that we would find out what they mean soon enough.

Good job.

[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited November 01, 2010).]


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sojoyful
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That's a great first sentence. It gives us a character, and the promise of an interesting story.

I stopped reading about 2.5 lines into the second paragraph. Brendan nailed it by labeling it "As you know, Bob." I did go back and rough my way through the rest of your excerpt, but it's entirely exposition, and a too-chewy mouthful of words at that.

I would suggest following up on the first sentence by delving into the story itself. There's no need for such heavy info-dumping. I'm sure you can give your readers just enough of the relevant information along the way as each little tidbit becomes important to know.


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Amanda1199
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I agree with the first two comments. Your first sentence is a great hook and had me instantly. Continuing on, I lost interest and found my mind wandering. Just too much information and not enough action.

That said - the premise itself hooked me. I was intrigued on that point alone.


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dysfunction
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Hi guys, thanks for the feedback!

As per infodumping, this may be a fundamental problem with the whole story, though I believe it's mostly handled in a graceful way; there's a pretty high ratio of information to content. You could almost think of it as a Cosmos episode written for and seen through the eyes of a very alien species, with a twist near the end. But most of that is told through dialogue, with back and forth between characters, not just one lecturing the other, and mostly avoiding 'As you know', since much of the information is as new to the MC as the audience, and seen through the lens of his very different experience. But it may be that this fundamentally doesn't work.

Brendan, you said the third paragraph could be broken up with opposing dialogue; does it help to know that the very next line is opposing dialogue?


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Amanda1199
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Please also note that I'm not a big sci-fi reader. I tend towards fantasy, especially children's, so my inability to read may also be coming from my own interests.
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sojoyful
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quote:
As per infodumping, this may be a fundamental problem with the whole story, though I believe it's mostly handled in a graceful way; there's a pretty high ratio of information to content.
Personally, I don't think the overall ratio is as important as the pace at which the information is given. For example, a 30% info to 70% content ratio might sound good, but if half of the total 30% is delivered in the first few paragraphs, the pacing is off and you've got yourself an info-dump.

quote:
does it help to know that the very next line is opposing dialogue?
No. If your readers stop reading before they reach the next line, it won't matter.

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited November 01, 2010).]


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DavidS
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Yes, as the others have said the first sentence is great, but we lose our way with the long, rambling second sentence. By the time I got to "resemblance to his species" I had to think to work out who "he" was.

Perhaps you could start your second paragraph with the similarity:
"The resemblance to his own species was..." etc, then move into how the visitors compare the two.

And yes, I like the premise, and I like the alien narrator concept.


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dysfunction
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Ok, I reworked the beginning a bit, mostly just shuffling paragraph order and giving more of a reason for the exposition, making it less 'As you know'. I'm gonna go ahead and post a bit more than 13 lines so you can see where one of the paragraphs went; anything past 13 lines is material you saw in the original fragment anyway so hopefully this won't break the rules.

quote:
Sabrozn had thirty suckers when he saw his first octopus.

“Look at it move,” his birthfather murmured. “Not so different from us that way- though perhaps a bit unnerving when it just undulates in one place. A fivekind would asphyxiate if they stopped moving that long, especially up here.”

“He’s not exactly a true octopus,” explained the visitor showing it off. “There wouldn’t be enough oxygen for one here either, and the pressure would crush him. This one’s made of the same kind of tiny machines as the form I’m wearing,” that of a fivekind donorfem, “but it’s driven by the transcribed mind of a real octopus, and it’s interfaced so that he doesn’t notice the difference.”

“Still, it’s graceful,” Sabrozn said. And there was a


[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited November 03, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Rewrites of the first 13 still have to follow the first 13 rule.
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dysfunction
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Ok, sorry.
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