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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Shadow: hard SF, about 3000 words Revision #2

   
Author Topic: Shadow: hard SF, about 3000 words Revision #2
Jake Enholm
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I felt the sting of a fight coming when I saw the shadows.
I was playing with some black glassy rocks and sand at the playground down the street from our home when the shadows of two other kids darkened the ground. Logicusí hot blue-white sun poured down ultraviolet and infrared that the engines in my skin ate and stored. The Observare kids my age were playing the game of mazes, which I couldnít understand. Pieces were moved around a shifting maze and the rules were based on abstract logic and chaos mathematics.
The rocks I was playing with were there as decoration.
The shadows belonged to two other five year olds, Fírek and Rímek. ďIs that Viníchi's little moron?Ē

[ June 15, 2012, 10:08 AM: Message edited by: Jake Enholm ]

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babooher
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You're telling a lot. This makes for a flat intro. I think you could show more and shed some excess words.
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extrinsic
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I'm curious what a Pluralis ship is, which is Latin for plural.

Opening with a dream begins in a state of unreality that challenges reader investment from challenging willing suspension of disbelief in a narrative.

I'm not sure what the opening promises. A minor problem wanting satisfaction that presents is a nightmare of an overwhelming wave, seemingly foreshadowing a coming event, seemingly a prescient dream. Prescience isn't, per se, hard science fiction fodder, though Julian May's Pliocene Exile franchise trends that direction.

For a degree of greater reality, consider whether the character might relate the dream in a real setting to another character who's interested, maybe incredulous, thus plot, character, and setting development can move forward. As it is, the oral-seeming narration, as if directly addressed to readers from a lectern, gives little sense of setting's time, place, or situation, of character, or of a major or bridging problem wanting satisfaction (plot's primary foundation).

Seems to me the story might be about an impending invasion somehow connected to the toy Pluralis ship. Strong potentials. But I think the voice (largely narrated in summary recital rather than reality imitation) and craft shortcomings get in the way.

[ June 06, 2012, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You have room for 4 more lines, by the way.
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Jake Enholm
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You're right extrinsic, Pluralis was a word I came up with for a ship that transitions through "the many." I wanted something that conveyed something about the character in the introduction without spoon feeding it to the reader. Perhaps it didn't work.
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Nalix
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I like where you are going with it, but maybe you could approach it from another angle. As it is, to me it feels disconnected, which is fine if that's the mood you're aiming for.

The first sentence feels strong to me, and the second fits well with it. The third sentence feels disconnected. Does the fourth sentence imply that the father ran away and left the speaker to die? To me that conflicts with the first sentence, but could be a nice opening to further explain it.

I think it's a decent start. How do I read more?

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Jake Enholm
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Thanks Nalix, great advice. I think I need to add more detail: I should change father here to gene-father as the protagonist is genetically engineered from what he calls his "father" in the dream. I can send you the manuscript or post some more lines. I'm a little unsure of the 13 line limit and how that translates to screen space here. My first post only translated to two lines on my screen. I don't want to get kicked off the forum on my second day, I was saving that for a special occasion.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I promise I won't kick you off if you post more than 13 lines.

All I do is cut your post off at the end of 13 lines (which can be frustrating enough, I'm sure).

If you check the Please Read Here First area, you should find some topics that talk about the 13 line rule and how to tell if you've got 13 lines. (I'll go check to make sure the topics are visible.)

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Jake Enholm
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Got it, thanks Kathleen.
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rcmann
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In terms of readability, there's nothing wrong with it. In terms of grabbing an editor's attention, it lacks piss and vinegar. Most of the editors (that have bothered to send me any comments at all) seem to want openings that reach out and grab them by the short hairs, dragging them kicking and shrieking into the story whether they want to read it or not.

Now, if I could just figure out how to accomplish that myself, I might be qualified to critique other people:)

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
In terms of readability, there's nothing wrong with it. In terms of grabbing an editor's attention, it lacks piss and vinegar. Most of the editors (that have bothered to send me any comments at all) seem to want openings that reach out and grab them by the short hairs, dragging them kicking and shrieking into the story whether they want to read it or not.

Now, if I could just figure out how to accomplish that myself, I might be qualified to critique other people:)

Though I don't like the fishing metaphor, like phishing for suckers, it does have some apt implications. "Hook," for example.

What is a hook? A circumstance that evokes curiosity. Period. The most common hook method is to introduce a major problem wanting satisfaction.

The feature of Jake Enholm's introduction that most evoked my curisoity is what a Pluralis ship is. I'd want to know how a Pluralis ship connects to a problem pretty soon. The symbolism and imagery of waves returning the toy Pluralis suggests to me it rides on waves. And one overwhelming wave is coming, that implies a major problem wanting satisfaction. I've had recurring nightmares about waves. They turned out to be prescient though with both delightfully favorable and tragically unfavorable ouctomes.

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rcmann
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I think you may be running into the whole first 13 controversy again. You seem like the kind of person who likes to build a picture slowly. Not one thing wrong with that, imo. But the idea of thirteen lines is that it is approx. the number of lines on the first page when a manuscript is formatted according to traditional standards.

Fortunately, some online magazines are getting away from requiring submissions in that format. But for now, the first thirteen lines may be all that the first reader or editor ever bothers to look at. You need to write something that will snatch them by the shirt front and yank them forward so hard that their faces smash into the monitor, leaving them whining and scratching at the screen for more.

Both of the examples you posted are fine, in terms of quality. But they don't reach out and grab me. Speaking strictly as a reader, not any kind of editor, if I were flipping through the pages of a magazine and came upon a lead in like that I probably would not be intrigued enough to continue. Just putting the story on an alien world or in a future time isn't enough. Readers expect that from a spec fic story. Blood is good. Sex maybe. Mystery of some kind. A kid playing in the surf, or with rocks, isn't very eye catching.

No offense. This is just a reader's opinion. That's all I'm qualified to give you.

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Jake Enholm
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Thanks rc, I think that's pretty good advice.

Kathleen that is not an alternative, go ahead and delete it.

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Jake Enholm
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How about this change:

I used to have this dream back when I thought I was human. My father is still alive, and weíre on the beach as he shows me how he can throw my toy Pluralis ship into the surf and it always comes back on a wave. Heís smiling in his uniform but when I look out to sea I see this huge wave come up out of the ocean and I get this feeling of dread as all the people on the beach start screaming and running away. I look for my father and heís gone and Iím left alone on the beach, waiting for the huge wall of water that I know will drown me, but Iím too dumb to move.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Jake Enholm:
Thanks rc, I think that's pretty good advice.

Kathleen that is not an alternative, go ahead and delete it.

Thank you, Jake Enholm.

However, you might want to consider it as an alternate beginning. It may set the scene a bit more strongly.

And you've only got 9 lines in your revision, so you can add 4 more.

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Jake Enholm
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Thanks Kathleen. I think I'm going to do a total rewrite of the beginning of the story and post it in another thread. You guys gave me a lot of good advice.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Or, you can post revisions in this thread by editing your initial post. (In case you didn't know, the pencil and paper icon above each post is a link to an edit box so you can add and delete from any post you have put up.)

Just indicate that you've added "Revision #2" or whatever. That way, people can see the progression of your rewrites.

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