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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Corexit 9527

   
Author Topic: Corexit 9527
Notwald
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OK. Based on comments (and keeping in mind Kathleen's helpful advice below) here is a revised version. I'd be interested in having readers for the first 1000 words or so (it will be about 6000 total), if anyone is game. And of course I welcome comments on the the new 13. Thanks!

Version 2
Thunder growled in the distance so long and low it might have been an earthquake or a freight train.  He blinked,  licked crusted lips.  He'd been dreaming of the man in the elevator.  He shuddered and tried to clear his head.

He found a memory: Fatima crying and bending to kiss him, a nurse pulling her away as he struggled and sucked for air.

And another: overhead lights blurring past, the sound of gurney wheels on shiny tiled floor. An eternal elevator ride with an orchestral version of *Dear Prudence* piped in from hell. Then a face in a spacesuit saying "No, definitely not pneumonia, this is something new.  Put him in isolation, 6C."

He stirred and the lights came up slowly. A cheerful voice greeted him, "Hello Mr. Henry." He rasped, then coughed weakly. A tube snaked down from somewhere above, straw-like valve at the end. He sipped and tried his voice again.


Version 1
Thunder finally woke him, growling in the distance so long and low it might have been an earthquake or a freight train. He blinked slowly, licked crusted lips.

He found a memory: Fatima crying and bending to kiss him, a nurse pulling her away as he struggled and sucked for air.

And another: overhead lights blurring past, the sound of gurney wheels on shiny tiled floor. An eternal elevator ride with an orchestral version of Dear Prudence piped in from hell. Then a face in a spacesuit hanging over him, “No, definitely not pneumonia, this is something new. Put him in isolation, 6C.”

He stirred and the overhead lights came up slowly. A cheerful voice greeted him, “Hello Mr. Henry. Can I help you with something?” His voice rasped and he coughed.

[ July 24, 2012, 04:43 PM: Message edited by: Notwald ]

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babooher
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It is very hard to get a sense of where this character is. It all feels nebulous to me and it is hard to find something to grab onto. That might be exactly how the character feels, but that doesn't necessarily draw me in. This has several characteristics of the waking intro and the white room intro. We get bits and flashes that provide some interest (the section about it being something new for example) but I worry about it.
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Tiergan
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First, I will give the fair warning of the "starting story with waking cliche, and the starting story with weather."

But with that said, I wouldnt worry too much about the so called "cliche" portion, it really didnt effect me negatively.

The writing itself is very solid, but the main concern for me is I dont feet at all grounded in the peice so I dont really know where to go from there.

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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Hi there.

For me, the memories and/or flashbacks make it feel like there is too much going on in too short a time. I think I get the sense of what the character is feeling -- confused, he's been through a trauma and is recovering -- but I don't get it right off. Maybe if it was condensed down to one point, rather than three or four, it might work for me a bit better.


The following line really grabbed me though:

quote:
overhead lights blurring past, the sound of gurney wheels on shiny tiled floor. An eternal elevator ride with an orchestral version of Dear Prudence piped in from hell. Then a face in a spacesuit hanging over him, “No, definitely not pneumonia, this is something new. Put him in isolation, 6C.”
I don't know how much your story has to do with what is going on with this line, but I like it. The only thing that I'm fuzzy on is whether this is supposed to be 3rd person or 1st person.

The narrator saying that the music is "from hell" seems like something a 1st person narrator would say, as opposed to a 3rd person narrator.

However, I like the image of the face in the space suit looking over him diagnosing a problem. Of course this may have little to do with the over all story.

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Notwald
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Thanks to all for your comments. I especially appreciate the concerns about it being to cliche. This is a primary concern for me as well. The story develops from two points of view. I wonder if starting from the other could be stronger.

If I want to post a different thirteen lines, from the same story, as a potential new beginning, do I start a new thread or just continue here? Or edit the first post with the new 13 lines?

Thanks!

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You can post an alternate first 13 lines in this topic if you like.

You can put them in a new post, or you can edit your original post and add the alternate 13 lines to it (indicating that it is an alternate beginning), so people can compare the two possibilities more easily.

(In case you don't know, you can edit any of your own posts by clicking on the pencil and paper icon at the top of each post. That will take you to a page with your original post in a text box, and if you scroll down, you can see a "window" that shows all of the posts in the topic so that you can refer to any or all of them, if you need to.)

I hope that helps.

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mayflower988
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Although you do have the waking and weather cliches, I thought it was still a good piece of writing. It may not be your intro, but consider keeping it somewhere in the story. I really liked how you said "he found a memory" rather than "he remembered." It makes it sound like he's grasping for anything to give him a clue as to what's going on, and then - aha! - a memory!

The part about Fatima kissing him and the nurse pulling her away: on the one hand, it caught my interest and made me wonder what had happened, but on the other hand, that may be what the previous commenters have said about not feeling grounded in the story - we may need a little more info. Personally, I thought that your POV was a newborn with a health issue, and they were pulling his mother away.

I really liked this part: "An eternal elevator ride with an orchestral version of Dear Prudence piped in from hell. Then a face in a spacesuit hanging over him, “No, definitely not pneumonia, this is something new. Put him in isolation, 6C.”
Because I could relate to a long elevator ride with terrible music! Plus, the part about the face in a spacesuit and the new disease made me want to read more.

I hope that was helpful.

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extrinsic
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A couple reasons why a cliché is cliché, overuse mainly, artlessly invoked another: trite, well-worn and in clumsy hands artlessly used for summary recital.

Waking up openings tend to be common and thus trite because of a subtle influence from writers' writing settings. The blank white page is a dawn where the transition from a writer's alpha reality to the secondary setting reality of a narrative is akin to waking up, causing a potentially artless authorial insertion if not intrusion. Nothing weak about waking up openings, per se. When they statically or stalely summarize an action, though, they are probably a shortcoming.

This authorial intrusion principle I know as a Dischism, named after Thomas Disch, enunciator of the shortcoming. The more obvious Dischisms are a character pausing to smoke a cigarette every time a writer does while writing. Or drink a cup of coffee, or listen to music, look out a window, answer the phone, etc. They are distractions from writing in a writer's alpha reality. Probably distractions from the action, too, in a narrative's secondary reality.

Artful waking up openings don't summarize waking up. "Thunder finally woke him," is not to me especially artful. Just describing the thunder is sufficient. //Thunder growled in the distance so long and low it might have been an earthquake or a freight train.// Beautiful simile regardless. And far more artful than the trite static summary recital, "It was a dark and stormy night."

I'd expect a second or perhaps third descriptor sentence for the weather motif though, that shows not tells waking up, so that the meaning is clearly, accessibly meaningful as a symbolism expressing an intangible circumstance. Ominous foreshadowing is the default intangible symbolism use of dark and stormy nights. Dark meaning figuratively in the dark. Stormy meaning unsettled, upsetting circumstances. Thunder meaning ominous, pending circumstances. A close by lightning flash, clap, and strike is the other shoe dropping, perhaps used for showing fully waking up.

The two uses of "overhead lights" resonate to a degree with the thunder rumbling motif, from a symbolism standpoint but as imagery. Lightning accompanies thunder; one an aural sensation, one a visual sensation of dark and stormy nights.

Most importantly, the opening relates a problem wanting satisfaction, an infectious disease. Oh my, a frightful and pitiable problem. That mischief is artfully managed.

[ June 28, 2012, 04:51 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Charles P. Shingledecker
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Extrinsic,

I don't know if Notwald found your comments helpful, but I certainly did. Thank you.

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extrinsic
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You're welcome, Charles P. Shingledecker.

If it's not clear from my post, causation is most on point. The dark and stormy night is the cause of Mr. Henry waking up. From appreciating that, a second or third weather descriptor can be developed and tied into the overhead lights and Mr. Henry's gradual, flickering return to consciousness.

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Eliza C
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The setting came across fine to me, at least as far as the character is aware of it with his limited memory. An illness, a gurney, a clinical setting, isolation in a ward for some contagious form of pneumonia.
The metaphor for the thunder worked for me and it didn't strike me as a cliche weather setting beginning.
I prefer a name in the beginning, rather than he/him, but I realize he may not remember his name at this point. If he does, then there is no reason to keep it from the reader.
Hope this helps.

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Notwald
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Thanks very much for your helpful comments. I've been blissfully on vacation, so I'm just digging into them now and considering changes.

I initially thought I might try beginning with the other point of view, but think I will try to work through the comments raised about this one for now. I remembered that the whole point is to try to improve the selection based on the comments!

I'll re-post the thirteen shortly and maybe ask for volunteers to read the first part (maybe 1000 words) that I'm almost finished editing?

Thanks again!

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MartinV
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"Thunder finally awoke him..." That sounds like a second sentence in the story to me. Other than that, you speak of a hospital and quarantine but you begin with a thunder, which gave me the impression the scene is happening outdoors.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Notwald:
I remembered that the whole point is to try to improve the selection based on the comments!

Not exactly. I'd say that the point is more to consider what the comments have to say about the selection and decide if any of the comments are relevant to what you are trying to accomplish as a writer with the story. If any of the comments are relevant, then you consider how to use what they tell you to get the story closer to what you want it to be.

Yes, improving the selection is important, but the comments are only comments, only opinions, only reactions. You are the author, and you should only pay attention to two kinds of comments:

1--those that resonate with what you are trying to do and get you excited to write more

2--those expressed by three of more critiquers on the same problem, and even then, what they suggest may not be the answer. Instead, all those comments do is point you at a problem you need to think about more.

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wise
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I agree with Eliza C - is there a reason you don't use his name? If not, I want to know who I'm reading about right off the bat.

In Version 2, I don't get right away that he was asleep and the thunder woke him. It seems like the thunder is too far away anyway to wake him, so what if the thunder is closer and it's his fuzzy brain that hears it faintly at first? Maybe he hears it a second time after he shudders and this time the loud thunder helps clear his head?

In the last paragraph, "the lights came up slowly." It might be good to know that the room was fairly dark before this. Maybe right after the second loud clap of thunder clears his head and his eyes open?

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babooher
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I dig version II. Yeah, he's waking up, but he's doing so much more than that. You're implying so much and doing it artfully. This resonated with my experiences of waking from surgery, and it reads to me like in media res. Nice job.
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Notwald
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Thanks Wise and Babooher for your comments.

Wise: I dropped the "Thunder finally woke him..." from version two because of extrinsic's comments. I was trying to be more "artful" about it, but if it is not clear that he was asleep...

I would love other opinions about the waking/sleeping issue and the name issue. I tried to include his name in a couple of different places, but it just felt forced.

So, here are two questions:
1) Comparing v1 and v2, which more artfully conveys his waking and sets up the story and why?

2) What about his name? Should I introduce it higher up (its in the last paragraph) or leave well enough alone?

Thanks

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mikerancourt
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babooher brought up surgery. Notwald, this takes me back, I love it.

Are his memories fragments from anesthesia? If they are, maybe "overhead lights blurring" to "swimming?" Maybe describe the gurney wheels on shiny tiled floor?

I only get to 96 during the backward-counting with anesthesia pumped through that damn facehugger mask.

But from 100 to 96...ugh. My vision swam and noises were distant and low-pitched. I know these are weak descriptors. You'll do better.

The actual unconsciousness was anticlimactic as hell. A a blink of black, beer-goggle vision AGAIN and then I puke my guts out. Usually over a gorgeous nurse. Who I really hope has a puke fetish. Sorry.

Again, this is irrelevant if the docs weren't actually operating on him yet. But it sounds like they were. Especially with Fatima crying and kissing him. Sounds bad-ass. I cannot wait for you to finish this.

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skadder
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I would avoid having a waking scene in a short story. I think you risk an editor/slush reader moving to the next one because they see so many of them.

-------
Thunder growled in the distance so long and low it might have been an earthquake or a freight train (Pick one: earthquake or freight train? Why do I need to imagine two things it sounds like/) . He blinked (and) licked (his) lips. He'd been dreaming of the man in the elevator(THis could be improved as it is telling of a sort--try showing it. Example: Dreams swirled around his head like ghosts--the man in the elevator pressed the button...). He shuddered and tried to clear his head(How? Perhaps he shook his head to clear it.).

He found a memory ( Seems to obvious--I don't find memories, they come to me or I remember but in prose you can use otherways to introduce a flashback (should be avoided in first 13) like cutting to italics) Fatima crying and bending to kiss him, a nurse pulling her away as he struggled and sucked for air.

And another: overhead lights blurring past, the sound of gurney wheels on shiny tiled floor. An eternal elevator ride with an orchestral version of *Dear Prudence* piped in from hell. Then a face in a spacesuit saying "No, definitely not pneumonia, this is something new. Put him in isolation, 6C."

He stirred and the lights came up slowly. A cheerful voice greeted him, "Hello Mr. Henry." He rasped, then coughed weakly. A tube snaked down from somewhere above, straw-like valve at the end. He sipped and tried his voice again.


Two flashbacks (plus a dream) and a waking scene in the first 13? I would try and re-write this to avoid it. It usually signifies that you may be starting in the wrong place.

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BoldWriter
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quote:
He blinked slowly, licked crusted lips.
When I read this I understood that he was licking his own lips, but the image that popped in to my brain was him licking some else's lips.

Edit: Or perhaps some kind of inanimate lips-shaped object.

I'm quite enjoying this thread. Great feedback for all of us.

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