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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Untitled Fantasy - Hook Check

   
Author Topic: Untitled Fantasy - Hook Check
rabirch
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I'm not ready yet for critique on the whole story, but I'd love to get an idea whether this has enough of a hook to pull a reader further in. Any other comments on the first 13 are also very welcome.

Thanks so much!

Moirin huddled on a moss-covered log staring into the licking flames of the campfire. Figures flickered in and out of being, dancing a haphazard minuet. Smoke wafted over her, and Moirin nestled deeper into her wrap, rubbing her stinging eyes. Her little sister had frolicked like that under the trees' canopy just that morning, wild and fickle as a maple seed caught in the wind.
A perfect lure for the Horned Lord.
"You will go?"
Moirin glanced over at Albreth. Silver hair hung lank over her mentor's hunched shoulders, disappearing under his braidwork-trimmed woolen cloak. Shifting shadows emphasized his wrinkled skin.

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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Hi rabirch --

I'm no expert so take what I say with a grain of salt. However, as a reader it feels a bit wordy to me. I actually like the scene, but I think less is more.

For example, the first sentence reads: Moirin huddled on a moss-covered log staring into the licking flames of the campfire.

I think it could read: Moirin huddled on a moss-covered log staring into the campfire.

Everyone knows what a campfire is, the "licking flames" seems redundant.

Again, I'm not an expert, or an English major, but the wordiness slows it down for me.

I'd be happy give more examples if you wish.

Cheers,

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rabirch
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Thank you very much for your comments. I do have a tendency to be verbose, so it helps to know when it's causing difficulties for the reader.

I appreciate your time!

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Brendan
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I'd agree with Charles on the wordiness. "Licking flames", "figures flickered", "frolicked" and "fickle" added a tongue twister feel to it. Then "Shifting shadows emphasized his wrinkled skin" completed the job. And the number of adjectives in "his braidwork-trimmed woolen cloak" could be reduced, or at least made more active.

On the other hand, this opening has a clear setting and shows the immediate conflict, enough for me to want to keep reading. In fact, it is almost feels too blunt given the voice of the remainder of the opening, but I may be in the minority with that opinion. This feeling may be ameliorated if Moirin stated who the antagonist is (say, in response to the question by Albreth,) rather than be told directly from the narrator.

Is it a complete story or just an opening?

[ June 08, 2012, 12:05 AM: Message edited by: Brendan ]

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rcmann
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As a tech writer, one of the things we constantly focus on is compacting descriptions as much as possible without cutting too much. You are trying to establish a mood here, as well as inform. You are not simply writing a newspaper article. So you really need adjectives and adverbs. The key is to simplify them as much as possible, use the most direct approach to saying what you want to say, and and do it in as few words as possible.

There are several options.

quote:
Moirin huddled on a moss-covered log staring into the licking flames of the campfire. Figures flickered in and out of being, dancing a haphazard minuet. Smoke wafted over her, and Moirin nestled deeper into her wrap, rubbing her stinging eyes. Her little sister had frolicked like that under the trees' canopy just that morning, wild and fickle as a maple seed caught in the wind.
A perfect lure for the Horned Lord.

This is lovely as it is written. It paints a picture of a woman/girl, staring into the flames and thinking about how the horned lord 'did something' to her little sister.

Since you are using the dance of the flames as a way to remind the protagonist of her sister dancing, you need to keep the description of their movement. But is it necessary to talk about them dancing a minuet? Maybe it is, only you can say. But you might consider something like (example butchery):

"Moirin huddled on a moss-covered log. Figures flickered in and out of being, dancing in the campfire. Her little sister had frolicked under the trees' canopy like that, just that morning. A perfect lure for the Horned Lord. Smoke wafted into her stinging eyes, over her, and Moirin nestled deeper into her wrap."

There are a dozen different ways to do it, at least. But that's the general idea.

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extrinsic
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The development of setting and through it character starts off establishing an anchor in the narrative. That's effective, though the voice for me calls a little too much undue attention to itself.

The first sentence somewhat tells in summary recital the action. "Huddled" and "staring" describe two actions Moirin can't possibly see and might not be credibly conscious of. Narrator voice instead of character voice. "Huddled" suggests it is an immediately past-present action yet "staring" implies ongoing action, as if she has been huddled before the fire staring for a while.

The adjectives reach for an effect that is to me overdone or underdone or disorganized. "Moss-covered log" and "licking flames" abate rather than amplify meaning. Mossy log (two words) and flickering flames licking (three words) smoke above the campfire, for example, amplify meaning. This is a subtle rhetorical scheme that's very effective for pulling readers forward and increasing pace. A repetition, substitution, amplification scheme, threes or triplets is a principle for amplifying. Up to three for strongest effect. E.g., the most famous triplet: Vini; vidi; vici, attributed to Julius Caesar, I came; I saw; I conquered. A tricolon, three parallel clauses of equal length. The preferred English translation of the Latin is, however, a loose tricolon. A tight tricolon translation, I came; I saw; I won. But that's not as faithful to the original.

Moirin's direct and credible sensation observations, however, draw me into her viewpoint. How she sees her sister in a recollection does that, is artful, and sets up for the next sentence as a volitional thought closing close into her perspective. That's a second step into character voice, after the first somewhat awkward step of describing Moirin's immediate setting.

A third step that completes movement into the narrative's reality and character voice is "A perfect lure for the Horned Lord." An exclamation, one of several useful methods for entering stream of consciousness. I'd expect, though, immediately after Moirin thinking about that that she would unravel what it means privately in her thoughts or through conversation with Albreth. It seems to me to be the pivotal moment of the scene. It implies the Horned Lord has taken Moirin's sister, which is a major probem wanting satisfaction, an artful hook, so to speak, if that's what happened, and a potent potential for the overall plot.

[ June 10, 2012, 11:57 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rabirch
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Brendan, good thoughts on the alliterative issues. I hadn't noticed them, which is a sign that I hadn't done an important step in the writing process that I'm only just now really discovering. Reading your work out loud. It's amazing how that brings issues like alliteration and toungue-twisterness to the forefront. Also, as of right now, this is not a complete story. Still in process.

Rcmann, I see your point on the streamlining. It's something I need to watch out for in general, and in this piece in particular. Note to self--it is not necessary for your fiction to read like a Thesaurus!

Extrinsic, that sense of repetition is actually something I was aiming for, but hadn't really thought about it in a technical manner. I like your idea of the triplet, and the example of Caesar is very helpful.

Thank you all for your comments and insight!

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mayflower988
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Well, it's definitely enough of a hook to pull me in! I agree that it's a little wordy in places, like "braidwork-trimmed woolen cloak" - I'd advise you to visualize the scene in your head and then find one word to describe the cloak.

Also, I thought it was odd that Moirin would describe her little sister as "fickle". Personally, that brings to mind someone unreliable, untrustworthy. Are those qualities you want the sister to have?

It sounds like it's going to be a great story! I'd love to read the rest.
P.S. As someone who has difficulty coming up with original names, let me compliment you on Moirin (very pretty) and Albreth, which sounds perfect for a mentor character!

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