What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry? The youth wore an expression of puzzled concentration as he drew a perfect circle the size of a manhole cover in the packed earth. The pointed sprig of ash I’d given him scraped the ground with a gritty scratching sound, trailing puffs of dry dirt. These rose and opacified the cone of light that shone down from the lamp post behind the park bench where I sat, then drifted upward to be lost in the darkness of the night sky. The changeless stars shone down. He drew a square around the circle, each side interfacing with its cardinal points; and within the circle he drew an equilateral triangle, its three points similarly intersecting the arc of the circle, all three figures touching at its apex.
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These 13 lines are unlikely to do more than raise unanswered questions.
The inspiration for this short tale is On the Premises ' current contest, which is: NUMBERS, NUMBERS, NUMBERS In some way, numbers must be important to the story for this contest. Either specific numbers, or the concept of numbers, or maybe just one number. (And we don’t mean “musical numbers,” we mean what you write with numerals.) --http://www.onthepremises.com/current_contest.html
There are only two characters: the narrator and the youth. There is only one setting: the park bench and dry patch of earth lit by the lamplight, and the dark. There is only one conversation: a geometrically progressive mathematical, philosophical, and cosmological discussion until realization is achieved. The recognition of the conflict and its resolution occur simultaneously.
However, in regard to these thirteen lines, I may not be able to request comment on the story perhaps, but critique of the sentence structure would be welcome.
quote:What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?
I'm not sure what this is or why it is here. I would reflect to ask yourself if you even really need it.
quote:The youth wore an expression of puzzled concentration as he drew a perfect circle the size of a manhole cover in the packed earth.
I think you can come up with something better than puzzled concentration here. I just don't like these words together. Not to mention the phrase is telling instead of showing. Then again, because this is first person (sort of), I guess it doesn't matter.
quote: The pointed sprig of ash I’d given him scraped the ground with a gritty scratching sound, trailing puffs of dry dirt.
You use a lot of adverbs, but in jst this single sentence you have used three (I bolded them). It's not a huge deal, I suppose, but they are something you'll want to shy away from most of the time. I would either omit a few of them (like dry or pointed) or reword the phrase.
quote: These rose and opacified the cone of light that shone down from the lamp post behind the park bench where I sat, then drifted upward to be lost in the darkness of the night sky. The changeless stars shone down.
I feel like you should just scrap this entire thing. It sets the mood, but the complicated wording disrupts the flow a bit.
quote:He drew a square around the circle, each side interfacing with its cardinal points; and within the circle he drew an equilateral triangle, its three points similarly intersecting the arc of the circle, all three figures touching at its apex.
This last part works great.
Overall, I like the voice and the idea of playing with numbers, but I would change how you open it. Try starting it where it says "The youth..." and then follow it up with the "He drew a square...". Establish what's happening here first and leave out the tiny atmospheric effects because they just sound forced. Since this is first person, try to imagine if this is how your character would really talk. He's telling people a story, so would he use such descriptive language? I have a hard time buying it, but then I don't know the character at this point so I could be wrong. Still, it's something to consider.
I would read on for sure, partially because I want to know why he is drawing the circle and square. It reminds me a little of fullmetal alchemist (great show), although I'm pretty sure this is nothing like that.
I suspected it might be a quote, but I wasn't sure. Regardless, I find myself wondering if it is needed. As far as the quote, I would at least source it.
Also, is it an epigraph? Or are you inserting it into the text itself? If it is an epigraph, you more or less need to source it. As a part of the text, it doesn't seem necessary. But that's just my own opinion.
Sorry for the confusion, Bob!
[This message has been edited by jcavonpark (edited May 16, 2011).]
Yes. The first line is an epigraph; and in the manuscript, its author, William Blake, is noted. The 13 line limit does require compromise in an opening such as this. Ms Woodbury is very intuitive (or she has been reading too many of my shared bits of writing here at the Treehouse.) This line of verse is an allusion to the plot, conflict, and theme of the story. The only hint you receive in these 13 lines.
There is very little setting description in this piece (it is nearly all dialog), but I do wish to clearly establish the stage-like setting. The imagery is purposeful but perhaps obtuse (pun intended) and too much. Admittedly, I tend to write short works with a literary proclivity. However, this is the only style-type of mine that is currently selling.
Thank you very much for your comments. The telling not showing comment is appropriate, but the character is one I wish not to describe too clearly. Let me think on this.
Respectfully, Dr. Bob
[This message has been edited by History (edited May 16, 2011).]
I checked it out as soon as I saw your post, Kathleen. No worries. It's an interesting poem, but I'm a little surprised that I haven't seen it before, especially since I specialized in poetry in college. But hey, live and learn, right?
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Thanks, snapper. Best of luck to you as well. I've never submitted to ON THE PREMISES before, but then I've only completed one novel and five short stories in the last two years--and two of the stories were flash fiction (yet the only ones I've sold).
As for OTP, I'm a little disappointed their issues do not have a print on demand option (I am old-fashioned)--so I hope I don't win. But I would like to "place", since that would earn me their editorial review and suggestions for the story.
William Blake was mandatory reading for me as an undergraduate English major, umpity umpity years ago. And I fell in love with his powerful imagery and masterful command of language. His poem JERUSALEM is also a personal favorite, and I cannot read it without hearing it sung by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (I'm here, again, showing my age). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN11bI1_sZo You will note many familiar phrases within this poem that occur in others' writing (including my own, now that I think of it, in the beginning of Chapter 3 of my novel THE KABBALIST, where I reference old Boston and its "dark Satanic mills"). The title of the 1981 Oscar-winning film "Chariots of Fire" also was derived from this poem, though the phrase itself is from Hebrew Scripture [2 Melech (Kings) 2:11].
William Blake was a patron of the Church of England, yet I have always been intrigued by his works that suggest he possessed some inexact knowledge of Hebrew and that he had more than a cursory interest in Jewish mysticism. http://www.forward.com/articles/120109/ I should, perhaps, write a story about him, or somehow include him in the mythos of my THE KABBALIST tales. But, here again, I am showing my "literary" inclination that may bore the typical reader of urban fantasy.
Respectfully, Dr. Bob
[This message has been edited by History (edited May 17, 2011).]
Actually Bob, you may want to reconsider that last idea. I've always been fascinated by the inclusion of historical references in literature. Remember: there are tons of people out there just like you, with interests just like you, and who are as old as you (I know, I know, when you get older it feels like you're all alone, but rest assured you are not). Just look at all the books out there. There's stories for everyone, and sometimes even if a person reads a name like Blake's and they don't know who that person is, the mere mention of his name as it relates to the written material should tell them all the need to know. You just have to make that material approachable and open, like the best novel always do.
I would be glad to critique your story, Wolf.
I'm just starting my vacation days. I'll be playing catch-up with the two critiques I owe our novel writers group (I think my last with them for a while), and the last 20 pages of jcavonpark's story. But I'll prioritize yours, since the OTP deadline is May 31st. Email me when you have it ready.
As for THE KABBALIST: SACRED GEOMETRY, I've already finalized and submitted it. However, snapper praises your critical/editorial skills, and I hope you will in return permit me a rain check.
Email him directly (that's what I did) and just put [Hatrack] in the title. I sent him a story in MS Word, so I'm assuming he can read that format if you have it. He just sent me the final critique on my story (which was really useful, by the way), so it sounds like he's knocking it all out.
By the way, Bob, I hope your story gets picked up. It was really fun to read!
Wolf, It's Saturday, and my offer is still open to critique your OTP contest submission. I see you did not enter an email address. However, if you are still interested, you may contact me through mine.
Thanks to everyone who commented on SACRED GEOMETRY.
Sorry you also didn't "place." And, "yes", please let me know how valuable you find their critique. OTP do list a critique of one of your stories already on their website as an "example", I noticed; then go on to showcase what they claim was the revised story--but it is by another author.
That they did not catch this makes me wonder how valuable their editing is?
As for SACRED GEOMETRY, I have no idea what to do with it (two other markets shot it down fairly quickly). Admittedly, it is a quirky piece. For me it was very visual, and I envisioned it as a comic book or short B&W film which ends in color with the MC walking away in the distance across the grass of the park as the sun rises with the credits rolling and Steve Windwood's CAN"T FIND MY WAY HOME playing in the background. I guess I'll just leave it aside as a freebie for my future "author's website" some day. >smile<
[This message has been edited by History (edited June 05, 2011).]
quote:OTP do list a critique of one of your stories already on their website as an "example", I noticed; then go on to showcase what they claim was the revised story--but it is by another author. That they did not catch this makes me wonder how valuable their editing is?
That is funny!
The critique is mine. It's to a story I sent to them in contest #10. The improved version appeared in the next issue. The story they link is to following issues guest writer. Tarl (the editor) never caught it.
I bought three critiques. Two have been published and the last one I have very high hopes for. The critiques I have received gave me an indication how close I was to being one of the finalist and gave me suggestions on how it may have made one of the finalist spots. They're unique because they are from the editor. If Stan Schmidt or Kathleen Wentworth offered teh same deal, I would have gladly paid more.
Sorry I'm a little late to this party, but I wanted to let you know I immediately recognized Blake - he's one of my favorite poets - Great quote! However, even though he should be fairly recognizable, I believe it is still recommended to reference him as such - Blake.
Hi, Kathleen. Thank you for your suggestion. I aim high: F&SF and Fantasy.
SACRED GEOMETRY is replete with references to atomic theory, electromagnetic radiation, and mathematics (e.g. the geometry of the title and the Pytahgorean tetracyts of decad). However, these are interweaved with mystical and theological correlates (e.g. gematria/numerology like the abracadabra grid and the Etz Chaim, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life) and, finally, with ethics (the balance between our selfless and selfish tendencies, and our personal responsibilities).
It is an intentionally layered story, emulating the traditional Jewish exegesis (approach to Scripture) called PaRDeS (I told you I tend to be "literary" in my short works ): --Peshat (ôÀÌùÈÑè) — "plain" ("simple") or the direct meaning. --Remez (øÆîÆæ) — "hints" or the deeper (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaning beyond just the literal sense. --Derash (ãÀÌøÇùÑ) — "inquire" ("seek") — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences. --Sod (ñåÉã) — "secret" ("mystery") or the mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.
Of course, this best works when it is neither too overt or too obtuse. I tend toward the latter, and the test readers of this short story rightly pulled me back toward the center; and I incorporated their suggestions for the ending in the final revision. Regardless, this seems to still have proved insufficient or, perhaps, this queer piece remains simply too far from the median. It is a moral puzzle rather than a story of character and conflict.
I've always considered ANALOG a "hard" SF publication. I did not think this story would be something Mr. Schmidt would consider. But, if you so suggest, I guess it couldn't hoit.
P.S. If you ever care to read this (or anything I share here) and provide me your thoughts, they would always be welcome. However, I understand if, as Forum Moderator, you need stay above the fray.