Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Book of Sorrow, Tears of Hope-Fantasy-5700 words

   
Author Topic: Book of Sorrow, Tears of Hope-Fantasy-5700 words
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So, this idea came upon me after looking at that fantastical-book themed anthology that's about to open up (though I've decided I'm not necessarily writing it for that.) Another story in The Universe of the Nine Roads. That's just a working title for now. Thoughts on the opening are welcome, offers to read when complete better. Thanks in advance.
Edit: Here is a completely new version, altered by a breakthrough I had.


Though I stared at my unsheathed sword as I knelt before it, I did not see its glinting blade. My minds eye was intent upon the ebony expanse of the Black Road, stretching away into infinity. Once it had been a comforting void of peace and focus, but in the months since the loss of my Zendriss, it had become a seductive vacuum of despair and loneliness. Each day, a longing grew in me to plunge into that darkness and never return.
What other option was there, for one so dishonored as I? In the early days of my grief I had thought to take my sword, spill out the life of my body and so be reunited in spirit with my dear wife. But how could there be such a reunion, when I had turned my back on her?
Each day it seemed more likely that Oblivion was the only balm that could alleviate my suffering.


Second version


Kneeling within the small house I’d inhabited since my wife’s death, I stared at the unsheathed sword before me but did not see it. My minds eye was intent upon the ebony expanse of the Black Road, stretching away into infinity. Once it had been a comforting void of peace and focus, but in the months since the loss of my Zendriss, it had become a seductive vacuum of despair and loneliness. Each day, a longing grew in me to plunge into that darkness and never return.
“Masanto, you must come!” the voice of my brother-in-law, Ibrill, ripped me out of my dark meditation just as the door flew open. The little scholar tumbled to his knees in front of me. “They’ve taken it. They’ve stolen The Key of Derzahla-Nar from the Library. You must help us.”


Third version


Though I stared at my unsheathed sword as I knelt before it, I did not see its glinting blade. My mind’s eye was intent upon the ebony expanse of the Black Road, stretching away into infinity. Once it had been a comforting void of peace and focus, but in the months since the loss of my Zendriss, it had become a seductive vacuum of despair and loneliness. Each day, a longing grew in me to plunge into that darkness and never return.
What other option was there, for one so dishonored as I? In the early days of my grief I had thought to take my sword, spill out the life of my body and so be reunited in spirit with my dear wife. But how could there be such a reunion, when I had turned my back on her? Some would say I’d had no choice. That she’d left me no choice. But the guilt tormented me just the

[ December 18, 2011, 10:39 AM: Message edited by: Merlion-Emrys ]

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
C@R3Y
Member
Member # 9669

 - posted      Profile for C@R3Y   Email C@R3Y         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Interesting opening.

I think that "The sound of a familiar voice" could be stronger, without the use of "The sound of a, etc..." I went over a few possibilities in my head, but I don't think that "A familiar voice calling my name..." would make much sense, because a voice itself can't exactly speak, right? I'm not sure how I'd word it, but "The sound of a, etc..." doesn't feel right to me.

I also think that instead of "broke", you could use "ripped me out of..." Personally, I liked "ripped" better, but that's just me.

Sorry I couldn't be much help. I like the way you word things, though, and the style.

And I would read on.

Carey x]

[ November 20, 2011, 11:09 AM: Message edited by: C@R3Y ]

Posts: 193 | Registered: Oct 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I quite like the idea of "ripped" for this, I think that works nicely.

I'm curious as to why you get the impression the character is female...it's actually a man. Is it the name?

His eyes are staring at the sword, but his awareness is inside communing with his Road so he's not really seeing the world around him.

And yes the line with "the sound of a familiar voice" took me several tries to get as it is and I may try to refine that a little further. Maybe just go to the dialogue, him shouting that from outside, then he tumbles through the door etc?

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
C@R3Y
Member
Member # 9669

 - posted      Profile for C@R3Y   Email C@R3Y         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh. Sorry. That is a typo. I actually did mean "he". My bad.

I got the impression that he is a man, from "wife's death". It was a slip when I said "she."

And I actually do like the line when he is broken or ripped out of his dark meditation, but maybe jumping into the dialogue would be better.

Here is a suggestion, however: After the last line "...darkness and never return." you could jump into the dialogue, as you were just saying: "Masanto, you must come!" Ibrill cried from outside, ripping me out of my dark meditation.

And then go into the door slamming open, or the door flying open, and he tumbles inside. It's a thought, anyway. x]

Posts: 193 | Registered: Oct 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
History
Member
Member # 9213

 - posted      Profile for History   Email History         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hi, Merilyn.
Just my humble opinion.
I like the character building and the "interruption" that launches the action.
However, I find the first sentence too much of an info dump. Perhaps keep it simple: man, sword, despair, dark road. You can keep the cause of his despair a mystery, an internal conflict hook, to draw the reader in along with the external conflict of the theft of the Key (and the sense that the protagonist is someone of power/strength who can offer aid). Later, add the knowledge (indirectly) of his wife's death and how this now impacts his POV and behavior. By "indirectly", I mean I don't wish the protagonist to outright tell me he suffers "despair and loneliness" but to have me realize this from evidence of his grief. I see parallels to Michael Moorcock's Elric and Cymoril (his lost love, unwittingly killed by his own hand and the sword Stormbringer).


I stared at the unsheathed sword before me but did not see it. In my mind I saw the ebony expanse of the Black Road, stretching away into infinity. Each day, a longing grew in me to plunge into that darkness and never return.

“Masanto, you must come!” the voice of my brother-in-law, Ibrill, ripped me out of my dark meditation. The little scholar tumbled to his knees in front of me. “They’ve taken it. They’ve stolen The Key of Derzahla-Nar from the Library. You must help us.”


Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

Posts: 1415 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hmm...interesting thoughts, esteemed Dr. Bob. I've been going, so far, with the standpoint that Masanto's grief is so total that it, and it's cause, are more or less continuously in his mind. That being said, I realize that I do, sometimes, end up over doing it when I try to emphasize something, so it's a thing I'll certainly keep in mind.


quote:
y "indirectly", I mean I don't wish the protagonist to outright tell me he suffers "despair and loneliness" but to have me realize this from evidence of his grief.
This is an interesting subject about which I have many a discussion. Some people, it seems, want the thoughts and emotions of a character made crystal clear-stated in no uncertain terms. Others prefer the "indirect" route you speak of. So its a situation where I feel I'm unavoidably going to let some readers down, however I do it.

That being said, I actually intended the line you omit in your example as "evidence of his grief." Essentially, his perception of the Black Road (which contains within it both despair and peace) is shifting as a result of his grief and depression. However I realize that to many readers, that may not be clear.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts...I'm interested to see if this becomes a recurring thought from readers.

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Meredith
Member
Member # 8368

 - posted      Profile for Meredith   Email Meredith         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't comment on first thirteens because they're not my strong point.

But send it on when it's ready.

Posts: 3899 | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Overall, I like what you have written and I would continue reading. However, I do see a few potential problems, and they mostly surround the first sentence:
quote:
Kneeling within the small house I’d inhabited since my wife’s death, I stared at the unsheathed sword before me but did not see it.
By putting the participle phrase first, you have given it greater emphasis and weight in the opening sentence than the fact that he has unsheathed his sword. I am not certain if this was intentional, but at the same time, it is not clear why he has drawn his sword - is he making a vow? Also, the way it is worded, I initially thought the sword was invisible, but after a second read, I realized he was looking past it.

The other thing I see is that he is still kneeling and holding his sword when the scholar comes in and falls to Masanto's knees. I'm not saying you have him stand and put his sword back, but you could show that he is kneeling and standing in one movement (if that is what it is).

The other thing I see is more technical:
quote:
“Masanto, you must come!” the voice of my brother-in-law, Ibrill, ripped me out of my dark meditation just as the door flew open.
Since you are not giving an attribution, you should capitalize the word following "...come!" The voice... This part seems a little wordy to me, but that is more a matter of personal taste.

Edited to add:
Boy, do I feel stupid. I should have realized he was contemplating suicide. I was reading the Black Road as some task he had ahead of him. I think I got too caught up on that invisible sword. You might still want to clarify the first sentence a little. Maybe he could focus on the sword's sharpness.

[ November 20, 2011, 03:35 PM: Message edited by: philocinemas ]

Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
genevive42
Member
Member # 8714

 - posted      Profile for genevive42   Email genevive42         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The first line threw me a little. Even if it's a small house, a person in the middle of it could be anywhere. I'd like to see the location be more specific within the house.

You could also consider being more specific about his feelings of loss. What exactly was it about losing her that makes him consider leaving this life? What part of him is missing?

The last couple of lines that introduce the conflict feel a little detached. We don't really know anything about this guy, except for his loss, so we don't have a lot of context as to why he would be called in to help recover the key. And at this point, we have no stake in the key, though we do assume that this task is what's going to keep him from killing himself today. But honestly, I sort of feel like the conflict is forced a little too soon for the sake of getting it into the thirteen lines. I'd rather see a hair more development first.

The more I study openings, the less I believe in the first thirteen 'guideline' that says you have to get the conflict in. What I do believe you need to do is give the reader confidence that you know what you're doing. And I know you're fully capable of that.

Last night my bf and I started going through the bag of books I got at World Fantasy Con (free, with the price of admission). We went through about ten openings. Only two were standout. One had a killer first line and the rest of the prose gave me confidence in the writer. I don't know if I'll actually like the type of story it is, but I'm willing to give it a chance. The second worked entirely because of character and attitude. Both the character and the author had a strong, confident voice that won me over quickly.

One of the things we found in the weaker openings was a lack of specificity. The author was intentionally withholding details or their descriptions were just vague and generic. I read one where the person was trying to describe a resort town in Mexico and all it did was make me feel like the author had never been there.

These things don't necessarily apply to your opening Merlion, but this is something I've been looking hard at lately so you got the full diatribe.

But based on these thoughts, part of me thinks if you're going to start with the suicide contemplation you might consider going deeper into his head, be more specific and present a stronger voice. Bring us into his darkness and make us understand it.

Hope I haven't diverted too far.

And, of course, send it when it's done. [Wink]

Posts: 1987 | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KayTi
Member
Member # 5137

 - posted      Profile for KayTi           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I write in a much sparer style than you, and write for YA sci-fi readers, so there's a huge difference in voice ... however I wanted to give you a version with some different emphasis to illustrate the way I might approach a similar passage. This isn't meant to rewrite, just a few lines to illustrate a different approach entirely.

==
I've lived in this small house since Maria's death. The four walls are closing in on me, entombing me, but I'm not really here. I don't even see the unsheathed sword in front of me, even though I'm the one that unsheathed it. Instead my brain is locked on the Black Road, its ebony expanse calling to me.
==

I personally use the "xxxing on the floor, I do yyy" construction as a way to break up a series of sentences that are pronoun or actor name/verb/object. I don't care for the use of this structure as an opening line because at least for me they indicate a break, a pause. So as a reader, my primary feedback is that the first sentence makes me pause, and that is a little dangerous on a first line of a story. Your mileage may vary, but it feels like a slower start than what the rest of the fragment indicates is coming in the story. There's an important promise we make in our opening lines about the kinds of stories we're telling.

As always, take what works, leave the rest. Good luck with this!

Posts: 1911 | Registered: Mar 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks for commenting philo, you bring up some good stuff. In particular...

quote:
The other thing I see is that he is still kneeling and holding his sword when the scholar comes in and falls to Masanto's knees. I'm not saying you have him stand and put his sword back, but you could show that he is kneeling and standing in one movement (if that is what it is).
I think Masanto remains kneeling. However you made me realize, the sword is still there, which might bear mentioning as far as whether Ibrill injures himself on it :-)

Also your totally right about that The.

quote:
Boy, do I feel stupid. I should have realized he was contemplating suicide. I was reading the Black Road as some task he had ahead of him. I think I got too caught up on that invisible sword. You might still want to clarify the first sentence a little. Maybe he could focus on the sword's sharpness.
Strange as it may seem, he isn't actually contemplating suicide...with the sword. Even stranger, it never occurred to me that someone might, very naturally, think that. I think I'm having two problems here, both relating strongly to the first sentence. No, make that three. One, this is the first time I've really written a character who walks the Black Road...I'm not certain but I think his thoughts about "plunging into the darkness" are probably somewhat literal. Next, this character is from an area of the world with a strong Eastern influence, a weird sort of blend of West and East that I'm trying to reconcile. Lastly, I've never really written a deeply depressed character before.

I just have the image of him kneeling with the sword in that Easterny type way, and then the trouble starts. That's part of why the first sentence is constructed a little oddly, but I may need to work on that.


quote:
These things don't necessarily apply to your opening Merlion, but this is something I've been looking hard at lately so you got the full diatribe.
I do have a lack of specificity here, largely I think because there are some details I'm not sure of yet. My hope is that by the end of the story, I'll know a bit more about certain things and be able, perhaps, to strengthen a few points at the begining.


Anyway thanks everyone for your thoughts...these are really great comments.

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Merlion, I might have an opportunity to read this after next week if you would like to send it over - I intend to be temporarily unemployed.
Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks, phi. What I will do is, I'll post here when its finished and you can let me know if you are, then, free to do so. But I appreciate the offer.

I'll probably have a new opening soon as I've had a small breakthrough on the emotional content of the story.

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Added a different version of the opening.
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
genevive42
Member
Member # 8714

 - posted      Profile for genevive42   Email genevive42         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
But how could there be such a reunion, when I had turned my back on her?
This is brilliant. It immediately presents a question and makes him interesting and real. I think this is a good solid direction. Well done.
Posts: 1987 | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The pieces finally came together and I realized what was actually going on. Makes things a lot easier.
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I definitely like this version the best.
Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
your writing i've read so far is consistenly clear and concise. i'll take a look at it depending on its finished length.
Posts: 732 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm thinking 5-6k, that's usually where I end up.
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
yeah, if you're interested shoot it my way when you're done.
Posts: 732 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
She be finished. Anymore takers?
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've added a new version of the beginning. It got changed a bit during revisions.
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2