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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Girl in the Second Row -- Revised

   
Author Topic: The Girl in the Second Row -- Revised
Charles P. Shingledecker
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Sorry I've been away for a few days. I've been working hard at revising my short story.

It is 3700 words, and as before if anyone would be interested in taking a look at the whole thing I'd really appreciate it. Or just give your thoughts on the first 13 lines which I'll be posting below.

From my correspondence here thus far, I have learned a whole lot about writing. I think it is much better now, but would still like to improve it as much as I can. I'm learning that writing fiction is VERY different from non-fiction but I think I'm learning thanks in great part to the hands on approach taken here.


**************

Debby's Levi covered rump pressed against the half down passenger window. Her and Jim's unrestrained lip-lock was going to make us late. "Enough with the mouth-to-mouth," I said.
Debby moaned when Jim's hand found the small of her back. Was he rubbing it in? "Let’s go all ready," I said.
She wriggled free and gasped. "Go on," she said wiping her mouth. "Or you guys will be late for the movie." The passenger door creaked open.
"Finally," I said.
"Sorry Richard," he said, shutting the door.
"Yeah, I bet you are."
"Hey, it's not my fault you haven't found the right girl yet." So he was rubbing it in.

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extrinsic
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Much stronger yet on voice, definitely in scene imitation--mimesis--or an in-medias-res voice focused on and in touch with the viewpoint character's perspective in the moment of the unfolding action. Craft consequently is strengthened too. Much more accessible as well. Voice you're getting a firm handle on.

About what's left in terms of building mimesis fiction writing skills is a matter of developing stronger facility with antagonism, causation, and tension, and sensation, introspection, conversation, and emotion writing modes through practice and in concert with the other writing modes. All of them in a mnemonic device: Description, Introspection, Action, Narration, Emotion, Sensation, Summarization, Exposition, Conversation, Recollection, Explanation, and Transition. DIANE'S SECRET. Diane, the Roman goddess of the hunt and my muse.

My full fiction writing mnemonic: DIANE'S SECRET SPICED ACT. SPICED: Setting, Plot, Idea, Character, Event, and Discourse. ACT: Antagonism, Causation, and Tension.

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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Extrinsic,

Thank you very much. I've really enjoyed revising/re-writing it, though it was a huge pain as well. [Smile] I feel that it is a much stronger story and I can now see that it reads much better as well.

I'm sure I could alter the thing forever, but I'm pretty happy with it at this point. Still a few things I'm going to change here and there, but I'm going to try to move on to something else. Although I'm really enjoying this one so I'm definitely open to more changes. It would probably be best to move on for now though instead doing the eternal rewrite. [Smile]

Any other comments, suggestions etc from anyone are greatly appreciated it.

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Corky
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You need a hyphen between "Levi" and "covered" and one between "half" and "down" in that first sentence. And since I'd guess you're using "Levi" as a generic (surely the narrator doesn't know if they are really Levi-brand jeans?), I'd get rid of the capital L.

Unless, you want to say something like "The Levi tag on Debby's rump pocket pressed against the half-down passenger window."

Do Levi jeans have tags on the rump pocket, for that matter? I think they do, but I don't have any pairs to check.

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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Thanks Corky,

I did a quick search for Levi jean images and it looks as if a lot of women's jeans do NOT have the tag while men's jeans do. I'm sure it's different for every style though. I just chose "Levi" because I thought it sounded better than "Jean" or "Blue Jean" -- and a lot of people use the term "Levi" as a synonym for "Jeans." I hadn't thought of it as being a major issue until now. Guess I'll change it to "Jean-covered" instead.

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mayflower988
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You could always say "denim-covered".
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rcmann
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Or, she could be wearing men's jeans. Women do sometimes.
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Brendan
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I liked the internal thoughts - that is really strong as it puts forward the internal conflict almost as an external conflict - a nice merging and a good hook.

A couple of points did trip me a little. Firstly, starting with two characters, by name, jarred me when I later found out that the MC was neither of them. If you can, reference the MC to establish in the reader's mind who the story is about before introducing other characters and settling into their story. Failing that, make it the second sentence (you get the first for free).

"She wriggled free" - the POV didn't quite work for me because it was so definite - which implies she is the POV or interacting with the POV character. This may work for others, so see what the consensus is for this.

"Hey, it's not my fault you haven't found the right girl yet." - with such a pivotal line to come just after this, this dialog sound too formal, even awkward. He is teasing the MC, but it sounds a bit like it is simply a means of communicating the real issue to the reader. My instinct would be for Jim to make a statement about how beautiful she is, and leave the implications stand in the MC's silent reaction, and then follow up with either a statement by Jim or some observed body language in order to show that the MC isn't simply paranoid. It also has some potential to establish the MC as an unreliable narrator - if that is an element of your story.

On the Levi issue, I'm in agreement with mayflow of the use of the word "denim". It is more precise, as it is the material rather than the entire item that covers the rump.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Or, she could be wearing men's jeans. Women do sometimes.

Raises hand.

The stuff they make for women either costs too much or is poorly made (or both). Also, because I'm tall, long enough women's jeans are impossible to find.

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extrinsic
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What kind of jeans Richard describes will characterize him and Debby. If she wears men's jeans, she might be more cost or fit conscious than fashion conscious, perhaps casting her into an under class role. The brand she wears too. Wrangler and Basic Editions sell economical and durable factory second jeans through K-Mart. No back markings on Basic Editions jeans, pretty much generic, but Wrangler jeans have a fabric waist belt patch similar to Levi's traditional leather ones.

What Richard notices most about Debby's jeans and their contents characterizes him. I see him as attracted to Debby, but he only goes so far, not wanting to violate the bro' code bond with Jim. In other words, Richard is a fifth wheel, so to speak.

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mayflower988
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Yeah, you gotta be careful not to get too specific. The more specific you are, the more it's going to sound like Richard's attracted to Debby, or at least ogling her. And I agree about that last line of dialogue sounding awkward and formal, like it's only there to inform the reader. It should be something that a person would say in regular conversation.
Also, you misspelled "already". And maybe in the last sentence, put "was" in italics. (I don't know if you can on this forum or not.)

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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Thanks again to everyone. I really appreciate all the input. Not sure what to do with it because I just cannot see how it's possible to fit ALL of this information into 13 lines. I read short stories and I just don't see it in most published stuff. OTH I could just be way too dense to see the details that are there.
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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:

Also, you misspelled "already". [/QB]

Actually that's how I spelled it in my first draft and was told "all ready" was the correct way and not "already" ...lol!
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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:


"She wriggled free" - the POV didn't quite work for me because it was so definite - which implies she is the POV or interacting with the POV character. This may work for others, so see what the consensus is for this.

Any suggestions on how else I could phrase it?

"She wriggled from Jim's grasp" or something?

I was A. trying not too be wordy, and B. trying to not "dumb down" what was happening and risk insulting people's intelligence. In my non-fiction writing I constantly have to work hard to explain difficult topics in few words. From my POV I'm over explaining things but apparently the average reader doesn't think so. I've been told and read to not over explain things in fiction but then with real world scenarios people seem confused by what I write. Am I not explaining enough?


quote:



On the Levi issue, I'm in agreement with mayflow of the use of the word "denim". It is more precise, as it is the material rather than the entire item that covers the rump. [/QB]

Why didn't I think of that? Sheesh


Edited to add a thought, and hopefully not sound like such a jerk.

[ June 18, 2012, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: Charles P. Shingledecker ]

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extrinsic
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The suggestion was substituting "all right" for "alright," an acceptable variant for dialect and conversation, though perhaps not for formal writing or narration writing mode.

"Already" is the standard adverb variant. "All ready" is a prounoun-transitive verb clause.

Compare with altogether and all together.

Speaking to what to include in thirteen introductory lines, enough to evoke reader curiosity, mostly a character in a setting with a problem wanting satisfaction. You've done that. Now it's a matter of how well it works or not for the target audience and adjusting to suit the writer's meaning and intent so that it suits the audience's sensibilities.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Charles P. Shingledecker:
Any suggestions on how else I could phrase it?

"She wriggled from Jim's grasp" or something?

The intent and context there I believe is to show Debby's reluctance to disengage from Jim and Jim's reluctance to let her go. Rubbing in Richard's face, so to speak, Richard's impatience and Richard's lack of female companionship. That's the context of the scene the way I see it.

Writing that more artfully develops that context so readers know, cognitively, consciously, fully; though Richard, Jim, and Debby are not as aware of their actions' larger meanings.

How to do that? Expand the scene's meaning through action and reaction, through Richard's perception, unreliable as it is. Over the course of the narrative's entire action, Richard should go at some cost from unreliable to reliable observer and reporter. It's a personal journey he's on. Make the scene more emotionally personal by expanding the essence in imitation of Richard's observations and reactions to them.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Charles P. Shingledecker:
Thanks again to everyone. I really appreciate all the input. Not sure what to do with it because I just cannot see how it's possible to fit ALL of this information into 13 lines. I read short stories and I just don't see it in most published stuff. OTH I could just be way too dense to see the details that are there.

But you don't have to get it all into the 13 lines, even if you want to get it all into the story. The 13 lines just needs to get the reader to turn the page. If it needs to be there and won't fit into the 13 lines, fine--just make sure it's in the story somewhere.
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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
[QB] The suggestion was substituting "all right" for "alright," an acceptable variant for dialect and conversation, though perhaps not for formal writing or narration writing mode.

"Already" is the standard adverb variant. "All ready" is a prounoun-transitive verb clause.

Compare with altogether and all together.


Sorry, I guess I had forgotten.

quote:

Speaking to what to include in thirteen introductory lines, enough to evoke reader curiosity, mostly a character in a setting with a problem wanting satisfaction. You've done that. Now it's a matter of how well it works or not for the target audience and adjusting to suit the writer's meaning and intent so that it suits the audience's sensibilities.

I guess my problem is that I don't know if it's working or not. Hopefully I will learn.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Charles P. Shingledecker:
I guess my problem is that I don't know if it's working or not. Hopefully I will learn.

Critiquing's main benefit accrues to critiquers learning how to distinguish what's working and what's not for their own writing. Try your hand at critiquing published works too. No sacred cow is off limits. If you don't share your critiques, no one will bicker with your opinions.

Pick apart O' Henry, Roald Dahl, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allen Poe, freely accessible on a Web site anymore, or Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke, Marion Zimmer Bradley short stories, whoever you fancy. Whatever is latest in the digests and online e-zines too. Pick a short one and shred it until you've gotten every erg it has to offer then move on to another and another then consider looking as closely at a longer work, work up to a novel.

I tore up Homer's Odyssey for a critique exercise, concluding in one sense it reads like a husband's elaborate excuse for why it took him so long to come home from work, bruised and smelling of strange women and booze.

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Brendan
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quote:
Any suggestions on how else I could phrase it?

"She wriggled from Jim's grasp" or something?

Perhaps something as simple as "She seemed to wriggle free..." Yes it is a little more wordy, but it adds that little ambiguity that the POV character would have. As I said, see what others think, as they may disagree with this judgment call.
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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
quote:
Any suggestions on how else I could phrase it?

"She wriggled from Jim's grasp" or something?

Perhaps something as simple as "She seemed to wriggle free..." Yes it is a little more wordy, but it adds that little ambiguity that the POV character would have. As I said, see what others think, as they may disagree with this judgment call.
Hi Brendan. Thank you! Again, all feedback is appreciated.

I'm going to write some thoughts and I am truly not trying to be a pain, only to understand the issue.

To be honest, I'm still not sure it's necessary because if someone "wriggles" or "squirms" free from someone or something, that is not necessarily limited to a 3rd person POV. The 1st person narrator doesn't have to be in the head of another character to see them wriggling from someone's grasp.

Imagine Olympic wrestling where one wrestler "wriggles" from another person's grasp. They didn't "seem" to wriggle free they actually did wriggle free. It is a visual action as opposed to an emotion where a 1st person narrator would have to say "they seemed uncomfortable" as opposed to "they were uncomfortable."

Wriggling, squirming, etc is an action I (or a 1st person narrator) can see. That's why I didn't know how else to word or phrase it (other than slipped free etc). I guess I could say "she pushed Jim away" but that seems a bit dry. Maybe I was trying to be too cutsey in my language?

This of course is just my opinion, and if there is some "rule" that says I have to do it that way then I will. But I still want to understand why the rule exists. Not that you're saying it is a "rule" but if it were, I need to know "why" it is rather than just accept that it is.

In the end, it's not a big deal to change something like that. If it is confusing people, then it needs to be changed. I'm just trying to figure out "why" it is confusing readers. It just doesn't seem that out of place of an observation for 1st person -- to me anyway.

Again, I am honestly not trying to argue or "defend" a mistake but only to understand. I truly am in debt to those who have given me feedback here. And as frustrated as I've been for the last week or so, it is has been a great learning experience and I thank everyone here. Sincerely.

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extrinsic
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I think part of the concern with "She wriggled free" is wriggled is both a transitive and intransitive verb. Intransitives require an object, transitives don't. Your first use is transitive; your second option is intransitive.

If that isn't deep enough, now down the rabbit hole:

This is a subtle and complex semiotics topic related to writing: what's signaled, what's signified, and what's received varies by writer intent and reader expectation, like for a verb that has both transitive and intransitive uses. A writer may signal a de dicto, of the word meaning, while readers will feel a de re, of the thing meaning, or a de se, of the self meaning, is signified and therefore received accordingly.

De re and de se contexts slip loose from the bounds of absolute meaning into sjippery relative meaning. Third person pronouns become a transference for first person. First person pronouns become a transference for third person. Singular persons become plural and plural, singular. Close persons become far away. Far away persons become close by, physically or emotionally, for examples.

Verbs that have both transitive and intransitive uses are ripe for artful de re and de se application and, unfortunately, for causing confusion. Like Brendan feels as though "She wriggled free" is from Debby's voice. While your intent is to have it from Richard's voice.

Therein is a potential way to strengthen context: meaning and intent. Voice. Is "wriggled" a word Richard would use? Or does the word imply it's Debby's voice? Does it adequately describe the intended action? Debby's reluctance to slip from Jim's grasp and Jim's reluctance to let her go. Or does it signify Richard's interpretation of Debby and Jim's actions?

"Wriggled" used as a transitive verb sets up both de re and de se meaning expectations. De re in that the pronoun "she," the subject of the predicate "wriggled," without an object of the predicate, to a degree transfers voice meaning to Debby, particularly for readers used to third person transference in fiction. De se in that the transitive verb's slippery meaning sets up voice transference to a degree from Richard being the self observing to Debby being the self feeling (touch emphasized more so than visual sensation) most closely the wriggle action.

Oh my, sitting at the Mad Hatter's tea party deep down the rabbit hole.

With a dictionary comprehensive enough to define parts of speech and list word definitions according to subcategories, like transitive and intransitive verb uses, and not a little native language intuition, you should be able to unravel these types of aesthetic hunches in future.

[ June 25, 2012, 11:08 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Brendan
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I can understand wanting more feedback on this. It isn't a big issue, and I wouldn't state it as strongly as a rule, because it does come within that grey area that requires judgement. I've had things like this pointed out in my work, and still went with the original words after considering the associated risks. So, it may be simpler to state why I thought it to be a POV shift.

As extrinsic pointed out, "wriggled free" is associated with touch. How does one tell when they are "free"? When it is obvious to an onlooker that she is free, there is space between them. But that space implies more than just the act of wriggling, it requires a stepping. The moment she actually is "free" is when she feels in complete control of her movements, which can be well before she loses all contact. (Or even, after there is observed space between them.) Because "freedom" (in this context) is a quality primarily associated to her feelings, it feels like a jump into her head. (Unless, of course, if there is greater abiguity in the assignment of that feeling, such as is carried by the word "seemed".)

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I think part of the concern with "She wriggled free" is wriggled is both a transitive and intransitive verb. Intransitives require an object, transitives don't. Your first use is transitive; your second option is intransitive.

If that isn't deep enough, now down the rabbit hole:

This is a subtle and complex semiotics topic related to writing: what's signaled, what's signified, and what's received varies by writer intent and reader expectation, like for a verb that has both transitive and intransitive uses. A writer may signal a de dicto, of the word meaning, while readers will feel a de re, of the thing meaning, or a de se, of the self meaning, is signified and therefore received accordingly.

De re and de se contexts slip loose from the bounds of absolute meaning into silppery relative meaning. Third person pronouns become a transference for first person. First person pronouns become a transference for third person. Singular persons become plural and plural, singular. Close persons become far away. Far away persons become close by, physically or emotionally, for examples.

Verbs that have both transitive and intransitive uses are ripe for artful de re and de se application and, unfortunately, for causing confusion. Like Brendan feels as though "She wriggled free" is from Debby's voice. While your intent is to have it from Richard's voice.

Therein is a potential way to strengthen context: meaning and intent. Voice. Is "wriggled" a word Richard would use? Or does the word imply it's Debby's voice? Does it adequately describe the intended action? Debby's reluctance to slip from Jim's grasp and Jim's reluctance to let her go. Or does it signify Richard's interpretation of Debby and Jim's actions?

"Wriggled" used as a transitive verb sets up both de re and de se meaning expectations. De re in that the pronoun "she," the subject of the predicate "wriggled," without an object of the predicate, to a degree transfers voice meaning to Debby, particularly for readers used to third person transference in fiction. De se in that the transitive verb's slippery meaning sets up voice transference to a degree from Richard being the self observing to Debby being the self feeling (touch emphasized more so than visual sensation) most closely the wriggle action.

Oh my, sitting at the Mad Hatter's tea party deep down the rabbit hole.

With a dictionary comprehensive enough to define parts of speech and list word definitions according to subcategories, like transitive and intransitive verb uses, and not a little native language intuition, you should be able to unravel these types of aesthetic hunches in future.

What was that noise? Oh yes, the sound of a rushing wind going over my head. [Big Grin]


Edited to add: my comment is one about my ignorance and not intended as anything else.

[ June 25, 2012, 10:48 AM: Message edited by: Charles P. Shingledecker ]

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:

As extrinsic pointed out, "wriggled free" is associated with touch. How does one tell when they are "free"? When it is obvious to an onlooker that she is free, there is space between them. But that space implies more than just the act of wriggling, it requires a stepping.

Ah, I think got it!

In my head "wriggling free" implies the act of slipping from his grasp and stepping away. I can't even remember how I wrote it at first (in my revision) but I think I said "wriggled free from his grasp" but thought it was too wordy because I was worrying about the 13 line rule.(Which I'm not arguing with, just saying.)In my mind it still read "wriggled from his grasp" or some variant but again, "too wordy" I thought. Now I understand the problem.

I think I'm going to ignore the 13 line thing, and stop worrying about hooks and just write. If I don't "hook" people then I don't hook people. I hear and read so many contradictory opinions: the hook is now a cliche, no you still need a hook, blow things up in the opening line, don't blow things up, write to the market, don't write to the market, and on and on. You get the point.

This dialogue has been a big help and now that I "get" the issue of concern, I've learned something -- I hope.

Much appreciated.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Charles P. Shingledecker:
What was that noise? Oh yes, the sound of a rushing wind going over my head. [Big Grin]


Edited to add: my comment is one about my ignorance and not intended as anything else.

No harm; no foul, no offense taken. Brendan picked out the nugget of my post, the most on point connotations of wriggle. My elaborate explication merely relates underlying linguistic principles and theories related to diction and syntax. Dry stuff for most writers but context markers and fascinating for me, reading and writing.
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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
quote:
Originally posted by Charles P. Shingledecker:
What was that noise? Oh yes, the sound of a rushing wind going over my head. [Big Grin]


Edited to add: my comment is one about my ignorance and not intended as anything else.

No harm; no foul, no offense taken. Brendan picked out the nugget of my post, the most on point connotations of wriggle. My elaborate explication merely relates underlying linguistic principles and theories related to diction and syntax. Dry stuff for most writers but context markers and fascinating for me, reading and writing.
I'm glad. And I actually know how you feel in regards to other topics unrelated to writing.
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Charles P. Shingledecker
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I didn't know if I should post yet another new thread, but I don't want to clutter up the boards with endless revisions so I'll just post it here.

I had planned on moving on to another story (which I have done in a second draft) but I've decided to see what I can do with this one as well. So I've revised the opening 13 lines again, and am going through the whole story as well.


What do you guys think of this?

***************

My hands fidgeted with the steering wheel as Jim and Debby's lip-lock forced her denim-covered rump onto the hood of my used Forester. I suppose if I had found my perfect match, I'd be just as bad.

"Come on," I said, banging my hand on the roof of the vehicle, "enough with the mouth-to-mouth."

Debby pushed free from his grasp. "Go on," she said, sliding off the hood. "Or you guys will be late." The passenger door creaked open. "Sorry Richard," Jim said, smiling as he shut the door.

"Are you sorry about the Patricia thing yet?" I said, backing out of the driveway.

"Why should I be sorry? She's Debby's friend," Jim said.

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Tiergan
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Just some thoughts of mine.

"My hands fidgeted" this makes me think his hand moved on their own accord as if possessed, versus a man fidgeting with a steering wheel. I would assume he did it with his hands, or fingers.

Next point of concern are the dialogue tags. I would suggest losing them. You already have all the beats there, no need for the tags.

Example"
quote:
"Come on," I said, banging my hand on the roof of the vehicle, "enough with the mouth-to-mouth."
"Come on!" I banged my hand on the roof of the car. "Enough with the mouth-to-mouth."

Not sure this grabs me as much as the earlier version or not though.

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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quote:
Originally posted by Tiergan:
Just some thoughts of mine.

"My hands fidgeted" this makes me think his hand moved on their own accord as if possessed, versus a man fidgeting with a steering wheel. I would assume he did it with his hands, or fingers.

yeah, that's me experiment with "showing and not telling" -- overboard.

quote:


Next point of concern are the dialogue tags. I would suggest losing them. You already have all the beats there, no need for the tags.

Example"
quote:
"Come on," I said, banging my hand on the roof of the vehicle, "enough with the mouth-to-mouth."
"Come on!" I banged my hand on the roof of the car. "Enough with the mouth-to-mouth."

Not sure this grabs me as much as the earlier version or not though.

Thanks for the input. I think you're right though. This has a more stale beginning, even though I tried condensing it and getting more of a "hook" earlier on. (Just to see if it worked.)

It's just not working and I think I'm trying way too many things, and now I've lost all sense of what I intended with the story to begin with.

I have what I have, and might make a few minor tweaks here and there, (like the wriggled free comment) but over all it just isn't going to get any better. I caught a few problems later in the story but think it will be easy to fix those. It has been a good learning experience -- or at least I think it has. [Smile]

At some point you just have to move on to something else instead of revising the same thing forever. So that's what I'm going to do.

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Tiergan
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quote:
I have what I have, and might make a few minor tweaks here and there, (like the wriggled free comment) but over all it just isn't going to get any better. I caught a few problems later in the story but think it will be easy to fix those. It has been a good learning experience -- or at least I think it has.

At some point you just have to move on to something else instead of revising the same thing forever. So that's what I'm going to do.

Ain't that the truth. Sometimes you can get caught in the revision game and it seems to suck the life out of the story. Revising is a dangerous game.

A game I have been stuck in for years. My best advice. Write. Edit. Review. Submit. Repeat as often as you can.

Good Luck

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