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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » New Sci-Fi story. First 13

   
Author Topic: New Sci-Fi story. First 13
rcmann
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I feel like I am being pushy, since I am so new here. But this one is bugging me. It's gone out a couple of times already. I would welcome any feedback, of any kind. Here is the first 13. I am more than willing to trade crits if anyone is interested in seeing the rest of it.

EDIT:

Here is a revised version. Anyone care to offer an opinion?

-------------

Even buried alive, Rokan knew that he couldn't be strangling this fast. It was the foulness of the air that made him feel like he was inhaling mud. It reeked of dust and rotten vegetation, along with the sharp tang of rats. The stink coated his nostrils and laid a foul carpet across his tongue. Cutting through it all was the biting smell of broken rock from the boulder behind him. The one blocking the entrance to the tomb.

He tried to muffle a cough in the elbow of his shirt. Sound echoed down the passageway, knocking loose ancient filth from the walls and ceiling. Every step he took shoveled up yet more dust. The choking cloud danced and swirled, mocking him, and dimming the few threads of light that trickled past the entrance barrier. He spat dark phlegm and squinted ahead.

[ February 14, 2012, 05:09 AM: Message edited by: rcmann ]

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CGreen
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Looks good. I'd drop the first line. It tells what you go on to show. Maybe reword to remove that - The stagnant air hung inside the tunnel. Drop tasted..., telling what you go on to show.

Need to work on the visual aspect of this. I see him with his back to the boulder, then he's walking. Is he walking away from the light?

The third paragraph starts with telling, show this instead.

How long is this? If anything above helps, feel free to send it to me, but it will probably be Thursday before I can look it over. chergreen1 at gmail dot com

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rcmann
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It's about 6k. Most likely too long, I know. I'll be glad to send it over. And everything helps. Feel free to send something back. I can at least give you technical feedback.
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babooher
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I agree with CGReen about dropping that first line. It doesn't carry the same narrative distance as the rest and I thought it made the into awkward.

Is there any reason you've kept Rokan's name a mystery until the 2nd paragraph? It might be nice to know the antecedent before the pronoun.

You can send it to me if you'd like.

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rcmann
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You both make valid points. You are right about that first line. No, I wasn't trying to keep the character's name secret, I just messed up. Thanks. I'll send it asap.
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Brendan
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The issue with the first paragraph is the change in the POV at the 4th sentence. The first sentence places it as (likely) a first person POV, or (less likely) second person. The next two sentences are close (as per the narrative distance that bobooher mentioned), consistent with the implied POV of the first. Then all of a sudden, we are in third person. The first sentence needs to establish the POV.

But there is a danger in changing the first sentence - context. It is a great opening line for establishing the context. Not just the location, as the following sentences do, but the context of the dilemma. Without it, there isn't as much tension created. So if you cut it, there needs to be a concommittant increase in tension the last sentence of the paragraph (or the next) in order to cover for that lost in from the first. (IMO, don't start with the second sentence, it is not strong enough.)

A nitpick, if he is buried alive, how can he see his surroundings, especially so soon after a change in light levels? Likewise, how can he know his phlegm is dark?

Second nitpick, ozone is created by a reaction with oxygen, usually with an electrical source (thus its the smell of blown electrical goods etc). How can a rockslide create the same?

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rcmann
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Good points. At the very beginning he can see (barely) by the small amount of light that makes it through the cracks around the periphery of the boulder that sits in front of the entrance. It isn't air-tight, as subsequent paragraph make plain. It was deliberately placed there by enemies.

The ozone is just a commonly used term to describe the smell of newly broken rock. Scientifically, it probably isn't ozone. I suspect ozone is probably odorless, although I haven't looked it up. I can easily change it to another word. "sharp smell" or "tang" or something.

Maybe I can come up with a way to rephrase the first paragraph and beat the POV into submission.

Thanks:)

[ February 14, 2012, 05:11 AM: Message edited by: rcmann ]

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extrinsic
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The scene is well developed in terms of sensations and a difficult situation. The concepts have potential, though the dramatic complication of the whole isn't introduced in the excerpt, so I can't say one way or another thumbs up or thumbs down for me.

I don't know about the language. A challenging writing principle suggests everyday language spoken in everyday life doesn't dynamically translate into prose writing, The idea being the language should feel everyday and look easy to write but be more crisp than everyday language, due to written word's two handicaps; one, no aural verbal intonation available to nuance meaning; and two, no gestural language to nuance meaning, unless described. And a viewpoint character can't describe very much, if any, of his or her own body language or verbal intonation, because he or she doesn't observe his or her own nonvolitional expressions, which speak the volumes that delight and excite readers' curiosity.

"that made him feel like he was inhaling mud" vague simile delivery, clarity diminished by "that made him feel." The passage I think would work as a metaphor, the air he inhales is mud.

"it" twice in the first paragraph with vague antecedent subject references.

"The one blocking the entrance to the tomb." sentence fragment used appositively, solely to give more information about the previous sentence. The fragment is a dependent clause. Sentence fragments work when they're interjections of the exclamation variety. Voice.

"Cutting through it all," "all" used to a superlative degree in contrast to the vague pronoun "it" antecedent reference, or as a vague interjection, "It all." I can't tell which.

"He tried to muffle," he did or he didn't muffle the cough or the try is his mouth didn't reach the elbow of his shirt. Vague.

"Every step" vague from superlatively suggesting every step he ever takes, not soley each one he's taking at the time.

"cloud danced and swirled, mocking him, and dimming," subtler mechanical style area in that one. The three verb clauses are not a three-item serial list. One, main clause, "cloud danced and swirled"; two, dependent clause, "mocking him," is the first effect of the cloud's actions and is a parenthetical comment; three, depedent clause, the serial second effect of the cloud's actions, "dimming." After "him" either the comma or the conjuction word "and," not both. Using both creates a tautology, the comma signaling and, and "and" both stating there's a conjoined action.

A bigger picture area is the opening sentence. "Even buried alive, Rokan knew that he couldn't be strangling this fast." That sentence summarizes the two paragraphs' following sensations and actions, effectively telling what the next two paragraphs are about and giving away their dramatic action, blunting their impact.

The other two recent Thirteen Lines you posted in Short Works declare a similar summary recital of the circumstances to follow: "By the Book" identically and the "Could really use some input" one through dialogue. Might that be an engrained habit to open with a thesis statement?

Some promise, some potential, great concept from what I can glean, only the language I think is pulling these Thirteen down.

This part, "The choking cloud danced and swirled, mocking him, and [omit and?] dimming the few threads of light that trickled past the entrance barrier." is working language-wise, vivid, vigorous, causal, artful writing. except for that minor mechanical style tautology in the parenthetical pause.

[ February 18, 2012, 11:25 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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Thank you. I will go over it.

I do have a habit of summarizing up front. All those inspection reports I spent years writing. Need to break it. Glad someone pointed it out.

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