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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Call of Duty - first 13

   
Author Topic: Call of Duty - first 13
rcmann
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Revised 6-17-2012:

Hook check. This is a story that got kicked back with compliments from both BCS and Clarkesworld, but neither of them bought it. BCS took the time to give me an in-depth explanation of what was wrong with the original beginning. I love that magazine:)

Anyway, I am revamping the start and wanted to know how it sounds with the new beginning. Any and all feedback is welcome.

(Revised beginning below. This is the one I re-submitted, so maybe it's too late to fix. But opinions are still more than welcome.)

-----new version-resubmitted to new place-----

It’s been three years since the Curg manbeasts killed our parents. It was hard at first, taking care of my little sister. Of course it was hard on her too. She was only twelve. But the whole settlement jumped in to help. Especially Pater's blade brother.

We weren't the only ones who lost family. Our settlement isn't very big, and losing that many Guardians in one attack was a major blow. In a place this size nearly everyone is distantly related anyway. We all took it hard.

I was finally old enough to be promoted from trainee to full Guardian this year. I wore Pater's rapier and dagger for the ceremony. For a while I wasn’t sure if the Eldest would trust me enough to let me join, considering what I did. The whole settlement tells me that I had no business trying it. But someone

-----old version----------

You think the Spirits don't talk to us? I know better. Of course I can't prove it, but I don't care.

It’s been three years since our parents were killed. It was hard at first, but the whole settlement jumped in to help. Especially Tylarn, our pater’s blade brother.

I was finally old enough to join the Guardians this year. For a while I wasn’t sure if they would accept me, considering what I did. The whole settlement tells me that I had no business trying something like that. But it was my responsibility. Otherwise, I never would have been able to live with myself.

The last time I saw my parents alive was just before they left on their last mounted patrol. We were standing outside the Armory stable, just talking, when Da’arfahn came charging up out of nowhere and tackled me behind the knees. The two of us

[ June 17, 2012, 06:07 PM: Message edited by: rcmann ]

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extrinsic
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Though there are more than two kinds of voice, let's say two types predominate: a recital voice that introduces characters and setting and dramatic complication through backstory summary and explanation. This is a voice that directly addresses readers as if narrating a family vacation slideshow. This voice doesn't, per se, close narrative distance. It is a remote voice from those shortcomings. It holds readers at arm's length, not letting them into the secondary reality of a narrative.

An in medias res voice begins in middle of the action, setting the scene, introducing characters and a complication through in scene imitation of viewpoint character sensations of the unfolding drama. This is a nonnarrated voice. It closes narrative distance. It is a close voice from those strengths.

The voice of the excerpt is the latter. This sentence is almost imitation: "We were standing outside the Armory stable, just talking, when Da’arfahn came charging up out of nowhere and tackled me behind the knees." Static verbs like "standing" and "talking," signaling ongoing action, recite (tell) a summary of action that's at a standstill. In-scene imitation in an in medias res voice would portray the conversation between the character and the parents and set the Armory stable scene.

Another signal the sentence is a summary is the conjunction word "when" joining two distinctly separate actions, introducing another character, and yet another clause run in by conjunction "and," "and tackled me." Three distinct ideas run together and none particularly artfully developed.

I think that sentence, though, is where the in medias res action might start. The character having a conversation with his or her parents is a routine that Da’arfahn interrupts. Ah ha! A contention or clash or confrontation between the two, perhaps good natured fun. However, it is a step toward introducing an impending routine interrupted in a big way. A foreshadowing of the coming interruptions of the parents going missing, whatever it is that he did the settlement thinks he had no business doing, and joining the Guardians.

Since the parents are going on a patrol, apparently they're Guardians, portraying that conversation would also set up the action and develop the character's character through their interaction. Maybe they discuss the character wanting to join the Guardians. The parents tell him, no, you're going to college, for example. At the moment, that is a major problem wanting satisfaction, a potent bridging complication for entering the story, a strong plot foundation from which to begin. Contention, clash, and confrontation in conversation most develop character.

Setting development would portray the character's sense of the stableyard, what it means to him. Gleaming tackle, eager horses chomping at the bit, strong aromas that others might find offensive but represent the character's happy fascination with the Guardian's Armory stable. Maybe he's voluntarily cleaning stalls during the conversation with the parents while they equip their horses.

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rcmann
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That conversation is, in fact, the point where the ball starts rolling. The parents are Guardians, killed on patrol. This leaves the protagonist, an adolescent boy, in the position of taking custody of his child sister. At the same time it forces him to confront his personal life choices, as well as deal with an issue of personal and family honor - what to do about the killers?
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Jake Enholm
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I would start with this set:

The last time I saw my parents alive was just before they left on their last mounted patrol. We were standing outside the Armory stable, just talking, when Da’arfahn came charging up out of nowhere and tackled me behind the knees. The two of us...

That's a pretty good set of lines.

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Brendan
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What did they say about the original start? This may be the key insight into what is needed.

To me, the change of voice is an issue, albeit a minor one. The initial voice is what I enjoyed (with one exception), and I have read too many stories that start out well and then change voice after the first 13, never recovering.

The one exception mentioned above was the phrase "considering what I did." This line telescoped that there is information that the narrator isn't prepared to tell me yet. That is a turnoff.

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mayflower988
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I don't think I would continue reading. You've introduced a lot of jargon and concepts in that one short intro, and it was kind of a lot for me to take in.
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