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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » On the fence.

   
Author Topic: On the fence.
walexander
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On the fence. - Here is the first thirteen for crit.

The old photo showed a young woman clutching a chain link fence. She’s looking back on her imprisoned life and wishing to return. I feel somehow she knows her fate is sealed. Her hands had betrayed her thoughts: The right clutches the fence longing to rip through it back into the safety of starvation and disease within the Lodz Ghetto. The left is turned inward against the side of her face. Two of the fingers are pressed to her temple as if to force within a desperate vision, a small hope, that she could somehow survive. She’s trying to face the rising fear of the upcoming journey toward death, or at least that’s what I want to believe. There are no tears, just a blank stare; I can see my dreams--her dreams are slowly dying.


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DavidS
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My first reaction on reading the second sentence was how do we know what she's wishing? But I think we find out by the end that the woman in the photo is the narrator - is that right?

The first sentence is past tense, but the rest is present, so I think it should read "The old photo shows...". Similarly perhaps "Her hands betray her thoughts."

Obviously there are questions raised - why does she want to return to imprisonment, starvation and disease; what's so bad outside the fence?

There's an air of desperation and sadness to the piece.

Overall it's intriguing enough for me to want to read on. It kind of feels like the rest of the story is going to be one big flashback.

I kind of wonder who took the photo, too.


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babooher
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There is no mystery here. You've described a photo but not given me anything to really latch onto. Nothing is making me want to know more. The narrative so far (in my head) is just sad photo. I know nothing about the MC, and I have no stake in the story.

The best mystery, so far, was raised by DavidS when he wondered who took the photo. Maybe your narrator should raise that question.

I'm not saying you have to write a mystery, but I need more than a description. I don't know what kind of story this is. What am I supposed to care about? The narrator, the woman, what?


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snapper
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I agree with the others intriguing enough but has a few problems. One is, despite the nice imagery, there is some telling over showing being done.

quote:
The old photo showed a young woman clutching a chain link fence.

May I suggest you describe the condition of the photo first. I think this will reinforce the feeling of the reader is looking into a window of the past, something you did well later in teh paragraph. Something like...

The photo was bent and crinkled. A yellow smudge in the upper third of it hinted that it sat exposed to light at one point. It made me wonder where and how the photo was stored all these years. The haunting stare of the woman clutching a chain link fence inside its frame swept aside those thoughts.

Probably too lengthy but should give you something to consider.

quote:
She’s looking back on her imprisoned life and wishing to return. I feel somehow she knows her fate is sealed.

This is the telling I referred to earlier. Aside from that this reads like a summation of what the MC is seeing. This should be moved to later in the paragraph. After the MC has drawn a picture of the woman in the photo for us.

quote:
Her hands had betrayed her thoughts:

May I suggest you change 'had betrayed' to 'betray'. I know the events in the photo are in the past but the MC is viewing it in the present. You are writing it through his eyes and teh narration should reflect it in a present tense for this instance.

quote:
The right clutches the fence longing to rip through it back into the safety of starvation and disease within the Lodz Ghetto. The left is turned inward against the side of her face. Two of the fingers are pressed to her temple as if to force within a desperate vision, a small hope, that she could somehow survive.

Excellent. Loved this paragraph. The only thing you may want to do is mention she is standing on the outer perimiter of the Lodz Ghetto earlier than this, if only to establish the setting sooner.

quote:
There are no tears, just a blank stare; I can see my dreams--her dreams are slowly dying.

This confuses me. Is the woman in the photo the same person who is viewing it? I will feel cheated if it is. If not, you may want to rewrite or clarify what you mean.

Nice job.


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sojoyful
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quote:
I feel somehow she knows her fate is sealed.
If the narrator is both the I and the her in this sentence, it should read more along the lines of, "Her fate is sealed, and she knows it." ...unless she doesn't know what has already happened to herself, but her memory seems ok so far. This phrase has a similar confusing vioation of POV:
quote:
She’s trying to face the rising fear of the upcoming journey toward death, or at least that’s what I want to believe.
With utmost respect, I disagree with snapper that you should describe the condition of the photo. Personally, I feel that the last thing you want to add to the very beginning is more description, especially description of an inanimate object.

However, I agree with snapper that the middle section beginning with "The right clutches..." is beautifully written. Very poignant. I like the idea of starvation and disease being safer than the alternative - that creates opportunities for tension.

I also agree that you should clarify earlier that the narrator and the woman in the photo are the same person. I too felt cheated with that little twist.

I think you've created a great scenario, filled with tension and conflict and questions. I love the imagery. Here's my only problem: this passage is essentially a flashback. It's hard to give advice since I don't know how this passage functions as part of the larger whole. For example, perhaps you are writing the story in past tense, but this is a preamble, hence the different tense. If so, it's lovely. Or perhaps the entire story is a flashback and that moment at the fence was the beginning of the story.

But if the actual story is in the present and this is it's beginning, then you're missing a key ingredient: forward motion. My guess it's that's probably what babooher meant by "There is no mystery here." (If I'm wrong in this assumption, I apologize!) Your narrator is stalling by reminiscing over the photo. You haven't started the story yet.

How long is this story? If it isn't too lengthy, I would be happy to read and give feedback.

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited November 05, 2010).]


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walexander
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First thirteen can be very difficult. Each time I post a set I learn a lot more. Its hard to decide whats important to put in the first thirteen. You need a hook, a mc, a setting, and overall feel of what's to come. It seems simple, but I have found it at times very difficult.

The story is almost finished. I'm having as much trouble about whats important to the ending as I was important to the beginning. That's why I posted before finishing. I figured I'd get a feel for what others saw in the first thirteen.

I am very thankful for all who have so far given me insight and I wish a little more opinion from you and others before I rewrite the beginning. I like this story a lot and I will definitely be sending it out.

I don't want to give away the story, but I can give you the base so you can help me arrange the beginning better.

The narrator is not the girl in the picture but a person who has stumbled upon the picture. Almost right after the first thirteen this is revealed. In rearranging the first thirteen and I did this many times. I tried to find a way to describe what the MC first feels upon discovering the picture, and how minds try and guess what is happening. The difficulty was how to do this and have people understand it is the MC in the present viewing an image of the past. I didn't want the MC showing this with questions. The MC has a more definitive personality.

the line - There are no tears, just a blank stare; I can see my dreams--her dreams are slowly dying.

Which will probably have to be rewritten - was meant to hint at how we all tend to identify ourselves first in an image we see. It was meant to show that often the pictures we find interesting are ones we somehow relate to. It's hard to be subtle at the beginning and yet not to subtle. As I did by leaving you all scratching your heads which is why it probably needs a rewrite or placed differently within the story.

The flashback is only in the sense of how the MC is trying to guess what is happening with only the photo as the first clue. Which for me lead to confusion over the tenses. You guys gave me better insight into that, but I am open for more refined detail in this scenario, because I kept going back over the rules of tense, and still had trouble for this one.

In the following pages of the story it is explained how the photo was found, and the bases of the attempt to solve its riddle.

So you know, it is a mystery. It looks like it will end up around 5,700 WC but I won't know that for sure till I finish the ending.

Thanks for taking the time it really helps me become a better writer.

W.


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Corky
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Why not start with her finding the photo?
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walexander
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There's important detail in finding the photo that I felt would bog down the opening page.

W.


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sojoyful
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I assume that finding the photo is the inciting incident? On the other hand, it sounds like it may be more of a confirmation moment than a motivating moment, since the MC is seeing in the photo a reflection of the dreams she already has.

When you're ready, I would still be happy to read the whole story. Good luck!


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babooher
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sojoyful, forward movement is a pretty good way to describe what I meant. Thank you for saying it better than I did.
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walexander
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thanks SJF-

when its ready I'll you know,

W.


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sojoyful
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Great. Be sure to post here after you email me, just in case it gets stuck in my email filter.
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