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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Caught In The Battle

   
Author Topic: Caught In The Battle
LDWriter2
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This story just got a Honorable Mention at WotF... Niice but I would assume it still needs some significant work-of course KDW may have thought it needed more struggle or just not what they wanted at WotF or ? but at the same time I think it's save to assume it needs something more.

It got as far as it did thanks to some great crits and I had thought about sending it out again tomorrow but on second thought I would like to see if I could make it a touch better before I send it out.

It could be I'm going for a touch too far but I am surprised this story made it as far as it did even with the great help and I think one more revision probably wouldn't hurt if I'm careful. Three seems to be my limit for revisions but sometimes four works as I said, as long as I'm careful.

It's just under 6,000 words long. Space Opera but more.

So here's the opening:


Another warship came apart. Despite the fact Steve and his two passengers needed to get to safety he watched the explosion. At the same time he cursed Murphy, and his Law plus the fact that he needed money, again.
He gaped at the vessel as it exploded in slow motion... too close to his small freighter. The blast turned the great drives to space dust then continued up the center of the craft. His mouth dropped open as cabins, weapons turrets, and tiny pieces of the ship flew in all directions.
Damn, this should have been clear space. His two passengers were politicians who needed a quick trip elsewhere. Steve didnít trust them but that wasnít strange for him. He didnít trust Life either anymore. It always disappointed him.

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History
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Hi, LD.
Congrats on the HM. Take the following with a grain of salt as, for whatever reason, I've never earned even an HM from WOTF.

Structure suggestions:
lines 4-6: I'd lose your MC's facial expressions, change a preposition, and omit the inherent redundancy of the world "space": "The vessel exploded in slow motion...too close to his small freighter. The blast turned its great drives to dust then continued up the center of the craft. Cabins, weapons turrets, and tiny pieces of the ship flew in all directions."

lines 9-end: That "Steve didn't trust them" is fine, but the reasons for distrust are muddled for me. I perceive you wish to indicate that your MC is distrustful of everyone because of prior bad life experiences; that he engages with Life/others only because "he need(s) money, again." I think you could state this more clearly: "Steve didn't trust them, but then he didn't trust anyone."

From these 13, I see this as a character piece about Steve: What made Steve so distrustful of people? Of everything? Is it a reasonable distrust? Or is Steve just paranoid (this would be a fun MC to write [Smile] )?

I also wonder what would Steve do if he actually had enough money and didn't need to interact with people/Life again (like the great Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough to Last" starring Meredith Burgess http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Enough_at_Last ).

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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LDWriter2
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Thanks Dr. Bob

You could be right about the word "space". I try to catch words that are too close together but it's amazing at times the number of times I miss some.

And you're right, the story is more about Steve and his issues than the battle. I won't go into more detail than that. [Smile] but the title may not be that obvious.

But I will say that it's the sections that deal with his issues that I believe could use help and which is why I was surprised it got a HM.

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History
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Whatever you're doing, LD, it suggests at least you're on the right track for what they prefer.

Me? I'm now looking for WIMP (Writers of the Imagined Past). I may have better luck with them. [Wink]

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Shaygirl
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LDWriter2:

Overall I like it. Just a thought: second paragraph you have him gaping at the vessel, and then his jaw drops as the cabins fall apart. How wide is his mouth getting? Maybe you can have some raised eyebrows, hair grabbing...(or something less clichť then my options. I just finished writing a 9 pg. history paper and my mind is traveling at about ten words a minute). Personally I like a good physical description, if used right they can really bring out the character. But thatís your call [Wink] .

I found parts of it funny, the Murphy's Law thing. I love it when authors take stuff like that and use it. And I'm with History...paranoia is always a fun topic.

Keep writing. I'm normally not much of a sci-fi person, but I like how you've set this up. I would keep reading.

~Shay

History: when you find WIMP let me know. [Big Grin]

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extrinsic
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Words with "look" meaning, like watched, second sentence, and gaped, fourth sentence, tend to recite summaries of sensations that are more artfully written out as visual descriptions. In close proximity, the two summaries of the explosion signal to me that the visual appeareance of the explosion wants detail.

A writer acquaintance recently said to a workshop, "When I read, I want to read the story not write it." I'm projecting, writing in my mind what the explosion looks like.

On the virtue side of the writing coin, Steve's greatest want is introduced, money, and an opposition getting in the way, the ship explosion or the battle. Good dramatic complication development. I'm not sure if the exploding ship is Steve's or another one. Describing Steve's visual sensations would clarify that and perhaps might show where he is in relation to the explosion so readers know where they are setting-wise.

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LDWriter2
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Thanks to Shaygirl and extrinsic.

I will look it over with what you two said in mind.

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Eliza C
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Hi LD,
I second the congrats on the HM! Here are my thoughts on your first lines - hope something is useful to you.

I think there are some small changes you could make here that would put me in the skin of the POV character a little better:
Consider leaving off "Despite the fact" which would make the rest of that sentence more a direct and urgent thought by Steve - maybe even add a couple of words of why he stayed - curiosity? to see what damage was caused?
I don't think you need the comma after Murphy. I'd move it to after Law and perhaps strengthen the rest of the sentence by separating it from the idea of Murphy's Law. ie: 'that and the fact that he needed money. Again.' - or something along those lines.
There were a couple of 'telling' descriptions (he gaped, his mouth dropped open). If you drop "He gaped" and start with "The vessel exploded" and add that it was to damn close to his ship, that gives me a more visceral idea of what he feels than the adverb.
Without the rest of the story for clarity, I wasn't sure which ship had its drives disintegrated.
It's pretty much impossible to avoid all telling, but I find attaching info to a character's thoughts or actions can make it closer 3rd person. Is there a way to take this section "His two passengers were politicians who needed a quick trip elsewhere. Steve didnít trust them but that wasnít strange for him." and have him running toward them or whatever as he thinks that?? Just stabbing in the dark here as I don't know the story, but hopefully what I'm suggesting makes sense.
The last two sentences worked really well, both as a hook and for giving me a good sense of Steve's character.

Best of luck with this!

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LDWriter2
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Thanks, Eliza.

The reason he stays in the battle is because he can't get out. He zips out of warp hole into what is usually empty space. No one but him goes there. This time there's a battle and he's in the middle of it before he realizes what is going on.

I will be working on it soon, keeping what you and the others in mind when I do.

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LDWriter2
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Okay, made some changes in the opening, I think I condensed a couple of sentences so that's good.

Also ran it through my proofreader. Found some double spaces and I changed a couple sentences that started with But and condensed a couple of other sentences. I will be sending it out Saturday to F&SF.

After that I'm debating Lightspeed or IGMS. Or Analog or Asimovs. come to think of it. I haven't sent the last two anything for a while.

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easterabbit
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Hi,
Another warship came apart.

-I would consider being more precise about the fact that it is being blown apart. You clear this up in the next line, but you could specify here and save some words for other stuff later.

Despite the fact Steve and his two passengers needed to get to safety he watched the explosion. At the same time he cursed Murphy, and his Law plus the fact that he needed money, again.


He gaped at the vessel as it exploded in slow motion... too close to his small freighter.

-slow motion explosions? Not sure about saying it like that. I thought perhaps he was reviewing some recorded images 'in slow motion'. I would consider suggesting the slow motion effect in another way... (distance, size, speed)

The blast turned the great drives to space dust then continued up the center of the craft.

-space dust? I would suggest just dust and find a way of specifying the battle is happening in space another way. (terminology, orbital freighter, star field, etc.)

His mouth dropped open as cabins, weapons turrets, and tiny pieces of the ship flew in all directions.



Damn, this should have been clear space.

I would give this direct thought its own line.

His two passengers were politicians who needed a quick trip elsewhere. Steve didnít trust them but that wasnít strange for him. He didnít trust Life either anymore. It always disappointed him.


This is competently written. I think the visuals would benefit from a touch more specificity and the last two lines feel a little like hurried characterisation. If he doesn't 'trust life' presumably we will pick that up in due course as the story develops by how he reacts to stuff.

[ May 04, 2012, 03:15 PM: Message edited by: easterabbit ]

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LDWriter2
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Thanks easterabbit

Actually I already took out the space on space dust. [Smile]

But if it's good enough for certain pro writers It's good enough for me. [Smile]

The last two lines could be a hurried characteristic. I wanted to say something about his problem in the first 13.

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