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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Untitled steampunk / Need help on opening

   
Author Topic: Untitled steampunk / Need help on opening
axeminister
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Hi all,
I'm resurrecting this thread to ask for help again.
This time I've got an info dump quandary.
Below is said info dump. What I'm going for is the narrator feel. The one who sets up the story then steps back and lets it roll.

Does it work?
Does it convey information casually and interestingly, or factually and boring?
Should I find a way to weave these facts into the story?
Does the method of conveyance get overshadowed by the hook? (assuming you find it interesting.)

quote:
My father was a time traveler.
I say was because I haven't seen him in over two years. Not that he was around much to begin with. Always off trying to save the world. "War is coming," he would say. I was a kid. I didn't care.
The day after he last vanished, blueprints for a mechanical device appeared on his work table. At the time I figured he'd popped in, left them there, and popped out again. When he didn't come home for several weeks I began to wonder. After a year, I started building the machine.
#
Mr. Perrywinkle peered down his nose at me. "Erik Worthington. Your father was a good friend, but your application

[This message has been edited by axeminister (edited September 14, 2011).]


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EVOC
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We all wanted the job, obviously your MC wanted it more, to the point of Needing it. I would go with one of these. Depending on how you feel your MC would say it:

Actually,
However,
But,

I actually needed the job. sounds best to me in compliments of the sentence before and in tie in to the next sentence. IMO

The heat is actually mentioned three times:

quote:
sweltering in the heat

quote:
The thermometer above the front door read ninety degrees

quote:
I blinked a bead of sweat off my eyelid

I think you could just cut out the middle one all together. You already show the passage of time when you say:

quote:
I at last stood before the proprietors of the patent office

At last expresses the the MC felt it took awhile to get to the proprietors. And now heat is only mentioned once directly and once indirectly.


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Wordcaster
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1: I think the word correction would work best if you were only correcting the verb. It went from "we all wanted" to "I needed the job." The subject is different in the two sentences. In terms of style, the word correction works just fine for me.

2. Why not start with the action? Waiting in line and showing the passage of time is a difficult hook. I'm getting the vibe of a YA dystopia from the 13, but the narrator has withheld the job he was applying for. I personally would drop the temperature reference.

Not a bad start.


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WakefieldMahon
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On second glance, I tend to agree with EVOC regarding word choice to replace correction. Also, myself is an object not a subject, it maybe a colorful way to start the first sentence of the story but it may also throw a lot of readers off. Just an observation. You have an intriguing opening there.
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telflonmail
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Let Erik sweat in first sentence. Right now the first sentence feels like an info-dump.

"ninety degrees" - is it really necessary to provide an actual temperature? (Also putting forth Fahrenheit as the scale which you may or may not want to do.) I would rather have some more scenery/atmosphere than a thermometer above door. Was there a line? What type of people are in the line? What are they wearing? Is it out of place for the temperature?


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:

[Myself, and nearly every boy and girl in Philadelphia between the ages of thirteen and fifteen<--Doesn't sound like a kid.] Between the ages of 13 and 15 (in my experience, they think they're grown up. Anyone younger than thirteen is just a kid.[/b]] stood in line, sweltering in the heat, carrying our [mechanical applications<--why are the applications mechanical?]. The 6th Street automata patent office was hiring and we all [wanted the job. Correction, I<--I feel if you cut this part, it makes everything immediate, competitive.] needed the job. [This is<--Present tense.] where my father [had<--If you open this in past tense, this isn't needed.] worked, and the last place he'd been seen before his disappearance two years ago.
[The thermometer above the front door read ninety degrees<--Myabe you could use this oppurtunity to give us some smells of the dusty or rusty or whatever feel of the building.] when [I at last stood before the proprietors of the patent office.<--Doesn't sound like a kid.]
"You'll receive no special treatment, Erik," said Mr. Perrywinkle.
I blinked a bead of sweat off my eyelid and looked up

I should warn you this is the type of story I first thought of when I was aiming for a steampunk story. That means, likely, it is not an uncommon theme.

PS- Have you considered using the Kelvin scale? It severely limits the time period.

I hope this helps.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited July 25, 2011).]


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axeminister
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_________________________________________________________________
New opening in original post.

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babooher
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Not being privy to the rest of the story, I can't tell for sure, but I'm guessing this whole intro could be scrapped. I'm not saying it is bad, but job applications don't excite me. If he gets the job or not, I'm pretty sure Erik's getting into that factory.

Yeah, you've established time, character, and conflict, but I think the sense of place is vague. Sure, this is Philly, but is Philly the exciting, strange new world area or is the factory?

I'd read more of this, so please don't think that I disapprove of any of this. I just bet you could cut some.


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skadder
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I think this is well written. I read the original and pretty much agreed with most of the comments it drew from critiquers. I also agree with the last comment by babooher, in that you could sharpen the hook a little.

The draw fro me is the automata he is going to demonstrate. Why start with the queue when you can allude to it in start with the 'interview'--the action of the scene? Just an opinion, like I said, I thought it was well written.


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axeminister
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_______________________________________________________________________________
New opening in original post.

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Krina
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I like the voice in it. It gives me a good sense of the character’s personality.

One comment I would like to make is that the sentences are very choppy. Try eliminating “always off trying to save the world. "War is coming," he would say. I was a kid. I didn't care.” It seems unnecessary to have this in here.

Some of the sentences can also be restructured to sound less awkward. For instance, instead of “after a year, I started building the machine,” try keeping it simple with “I began building the machine after a year.” Also, instead of “The day after he last vanished, blueprints for a mechanical device appeared on his work table” you can say “Blueprints for a mechanical device appeared on his work table the day after he last vanished.”

Also* I see your 12th and 13th sentences are the beginning of a scene. You should try transitioning into the scene. I found it odd to go directly from the MC building a machine to applying for a factory job.

[This message has been edited by Krina (edited September 14, 2011).]


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Osiris
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After reading this, I felt uncertain where the story was going. On the one hand, I'm interested in the father's story, yet I get the impression the story is not about his story, but his son the narrator.

What I think would hook me is some sense of why the narrator is building the machine from the blueprints left on the father's work table. If this is a story about the son building the machine (maybe a time machine?) to try and find his father, that'd be a very compelling hook for me. I don't know if that is where you are going with it.

Wherever the story is going, I think the details in this new paragraph would best come as interspersed with some action. It'd be very relevant to include these details in a scene where the son is actually building the machine.


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axeminister
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@Krina. I could transition instead of a hard cut. (#)
I don't like when those # are so early in the story, but I did it anyway. However...

@Osiris. Nail on head. That's what's missing is his motivation! It comes later, but I need it HERE.

This character is angry. Try as I might I can't get that across. I'm not only referring to the first 13 either. Each draft I think it gets a little more clear, but this might do it. If I can squeeze into the first 13, then we'll know it for the rest of the story. Then I don't have to try so hard to show his anger, we'll already know, and then go with the words/actions on the page.

That's my hope anyway.

Thanks for this.

Axe


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pdblake
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I missed the first incarnation but the most recent attempt seems fine to me. It sets the story and draws me in, but angry is definately not coming across. I get more concern about his father and wonder at creating whatever was in the plans.
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Delli
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I am hooked but yeah, I don't get anger - I'm getting indifference from this first 13.

Your character doesn't sound like one to give over to displays of emotion though. Perhaps examine (maybe get into a little more detail) the fact that it's bad enough that his father wasn't around when he needed him as a kid and now he's left him without a word and your MC is having to take time out of his life to build a stupid machine and find his father (You don't say this in your first 13 but I wondered if maybe that was the MC's motivation). All this wouldn't have happened if his father had just been around like "normal" fathers are..... Or maybe he is so p*ssed off that it takes him a whole year to come around to the idea of building the thing that his father left blueprints behind for. Or maybe it was a year before curiosity finally outweighed the anger. Or maybe he does give over to displays of emotion and is in the process of busting up his dads workshop when he comes across the blueprints.

Maybe?

Short sentences work for me. I like short and choppy

[This message has been edited by Delli (edited September 15, 2011).]


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axeminister
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OK, I think I've settled in on my final answer. (I won't post it, or I'll have to start up all over again.)

I've got the motivation in the first 13 now, but I've reserved the anger until later in the story. I want it to build. Plus, an angry character may not be a fun one to read about. We still have to root for this kid. But when he's angry, we know why, and we root for him all the more.

Just wanted to come in and say thanks again to everyone who commented. Hopefully I can return the favor. (If not, e-mail me, I'll come by and take a look.)

Axe


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RyanRussellLunde
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I would love to read the rest of the story. It's one of the best first 13's I've read hear. Maybe just my taste but it is well written and has me hooked.
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OliverBuckram
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I also like short and choppy, so the first two lines are nice.

The rythm of the second line is really outstanding. "War is coming" - love it.

However, I find the paragraph "The day after he last vanished..." to be too abstract, too much of an infodump. If you could write it with more concrete details. Like "Two days after he left, I found the blueprints, still warm from the copy machine, sitting on his desk. The smell of his cheap aftershave lingered in the air. I put down the ham sandwich I was holding, and..." or something that puts it in time and space and communicates emotional relevant details.

And "Perrywinkle" sounds too comical to my taste.

But in summary an effective hook.

[This message has been edited by OliverBuckram (edited September 28, 2011).]


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