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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Buck and Wing

   
Author Topic: Buck and Wing
MattLeo
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Logline:

A woman is forced by oncoming middle age into a battle of wits with fate.

Opening 13:

It'd be unduly flattering to say magic has a mind of its own, but it does harbor certain prejudices. It dotes on pomp and adores beauty. Most of all magic loves a fool: any blockhead third son can cut through strong enchantments like a bow-shot through a cobweb. Wizards as a rule are fools, up to their moment of fatal enlightenment. Anyone who willingly hoards that much magic has to be. But witches use magic abstemiously -- when given a choice.

During her morning poor relief rounds, the witch Dorothea learned that she'd become an evil queen. Returning by the postern door, she made her way to her chambers. Removing her enchanted disguise, Dorothea turned to that insufferable oracle of hers, asking, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?”

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rabirch
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MattLeo, I don't have anything particularly helpful to add here beyond this is really nice. Great voice, which pulls the expository first paragraph along and a great hook in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

Well done.

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mayflower988
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How did Dorothea go from being a witch to being a queen? That was the only major issue I saw; I was just a little confused as to how she would "find out" that she'd become an evil queen. The only ways I know of becoming a queen are to marry a king or inherit the throne upon the death of the ruler(s), the latter would mean that she was already a princess. And if she's making "poor relief rounds" (by which I'm assuming you mean she's going around helping the poor), she doesn't sound very evil to me.
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JoBird
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mayflower wrote:
quote:
How did Dorothea go from being a witch to being a queen?
For what it's worth, I think that section is sketchy and confusing too. That being said, I took from it that Dorothea learned she was an evil queen, meaning that she already knew she was a queen, just that she didn't realize she was an evil one until then.


***


quote:
It'd be unduly flattering to say magic has a mind of its own, but it does harbor certain prejudices. It dotes on pomp and adores beauty.
I love this section. It's cute, it's quaint. I feel like magic itself is your character, and I'm anxious to know more.

quote:
Most of all magic loves a fool: any blockhead third son can cut through strong enchantments like a bow-shot through a cobweb.
Come again?

I just didn't get this on my first read. It could be because I'm notoriously stupid. But I still didn't get it.

What does magic loving a fool have to do with what any blockhead third son can do? Is this to say that blockhead third sons make the best practitioners of magic?

It left me scratching my head because my initial impression was that the phrase would transition into a but -- as in: "any blockhead third son can blah, but it takes a real blah to do blah."

That thought is sort of reinforced later with the contrasting juxtaposition of how witches use magic.

quote:
Wizards as a rule are fools, up to their moment of fatal enlightenment.
I assume this means that wizards are fools, and then they die.

So, I'm gathering that magic favors wizards because they are fools. Which is what I suppose is important.

quote:
Anyone who willingly hoards that much magic has to be.
What does this mean? I don't know. They hoard magic, as in they don't use it? They sit on it?

Regardless, now I've got that magic favors fools. Wizards are fools. They're fools because they hoard magic. So magic favors the hoarding of magic. I'm starting to feel a little circular.

quote:
But witches use magic abstemiously -- when given a choice.
Wait a second. Witches use magic sparingly? When they can. Isn't that kind of like hoarding it?

But that can't be your intent. It's clear that I'm missing something. Because you started the sentence about witches with the word "but," obviously implying that they use magic differently than wizards.

Are witches like blockhead third sons? I find myself confused.

quote:
During her morning poor relief rounds, the witch Dorothea learned that she'd become an evil queen.
I get why this line might confuse folks, but I'm guessing the text that follows quickly answers the uncertainty.

quote:
Returning by the postern door, she made her way to her chambers. Removing her enchanted disguise, Dorothea turned to that insufferable oracle of hers, asking, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?”
And the fairy tale spin presents itself. Personally, I would definitely read more to find out where you're going with this.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:
How did Dorothea go from being a witch to being a queen? That was the only major issue I saw; I was just a little confused as to how she would "find out" that she'd become an evil queen. The only ways I know of becoming a queen are to marry a king or inherit the throne upon the death of the ruler(s), the latter would mean that she was already a princess. And if she's making "poor relief rounds" (by which I'm assuming you mean she's going around helping the poor), she doesn't sound very evil to me.

Why Dorothea must play the role of an evil queen is the whole point of the story.There comes a time when age forces a change of role upon you.

A young woman marries her handsome prince, settles down, has a few children, and suddenly discovers that she is no longer wanted in the Cinderella part, but she qualifies to play wicked stepmother. Barring obvious bad health, even a relatively plain young man can play the romantic lead, but eventually he must become the defeated romantic antagonist, even though he doesn't feel any different inside.

I look at pictures of myself from thirty years ago and I'm astonished how handsome I looked. I say this in all modesty because I'm not the least bit handsome now. Time deals more kindly with the character actors, the somewhat awkward looking people (like Angela Lansbury) who grow into their offbeat faces.

The evil stepmother or lascivious old guardian trope is all about someone refusing to step aside and let the next generation have their time on stage as lords of glorious youth. Youth never questions its privileges, never even sees that they *are* privileges so these characters chasing the appearance of youth are never young at heart. They can get facelifts until their skin is thin as parchment, and try to ingratiate themselves to much younger people by aping their manners and dress, but the effect isn't glorious, it's horrible.

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JoBird
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quote:
Why Dorothea must play the role of an evil queen is the whole point of the story.There comes a time when age forces a change of role upon you.

A young woman marries her handsome prince, settles down, has a few children, and suddenly discovers that she is no longer wanted in the Cinderella part, but she qualifies to play wicked stepmother. Barring obvious bad health, even a relatively plain young man can play the romantic lead, but eventually he must become the defeated romantic antagonist, even though he doesn't feel any different inside.

I look at pictures of myself from thirty years ago and I'm astonished how handsome I looked. I say this in all modesty because I'm not the least bit handsome now. Time deals more kindly with the character actors, the somewhat awkward looking people (like Angela Lansbury) who grow into their offbeat faces.

The evil stepmother or lascivious old guardian trope is all about someone refusing to step aside and let the next generation have their time on stage as lords of glorious youth. Youth never questions its privileges, never even sees that they *are* privileges so these characters chasing the appearance of youth are never young at heart. They can get facelifts until their skin is thin as parchment, and try to ingratiate themselves to much younger people by aping their manners and dress, but the effect isn't glorious, it's horrible.

Amazing description of your story. Seriously. I am beyond impressed with your ability to describe what your saying. You are talented, and skilled. I tip my hat.

I clearly have a lot to learn from you, and I hope to get a chance to read a lot more of what you write.

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extrinsic
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No fair telling what the story's about within a few hours of posting the opening lines. I was just about to say . . .

A Snow White fable reinvention told by a cynical narrator through the wicked queen stepmother's perspective. The strong narrator voice introduces a degree of narrator identity through diction: cynical, judgmental, condemning. That works for traditionally narrated stories. An advantage of introducing narrator voice early is setup for flexible access to multiple viewpoints. Disadvantages include remote narrative distance from omniscient narrative voice. Easily remedied by soon closing into one central viewpoint, like Dorothea's.

The opening paragraph is wide open narrative distance, closing somewhat on the narrator's viewpoint from the strong cynical voice. Closing somewhat more into the narrative's setting by summarizing Dorothea's day. Then closer still from the dialogue line. Narrative distance progressively closing is potent third person narration.

I would expect the next bit to dwell on Dorothea's thoughts momentarily and showing her interacting with the mirror. I'd be tickled if the mirror turned out to be the narrator.

Four instances of "it" in the first two sentences. Though the pronoun unquestionably refers to magic, their uses are on the awkward pronoun referent side from repetition and unclear pronoun subject precedent. but almost syncrisis: "Comparison and contrast in parallel clauses" (Silva Rhetoricae). Like Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities opening; "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." And nearly verbal irony in the sense of the opening from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but more cynicism than satirical irony.

I'm not sure what the surface problem wanting satisfaction is, though implied by the subsequent explanation and the logline that Dorothea is confronted by a midlife crisis.

The theme is clear from the explanation and logline. An individual before the gods (fate) suffering from predestination: "The gods mock the individual and torture him or her for presuming to be great" (Themes in Literature, (Listology). Themes are dynamic for unifying parts but not so great without a literal meaning, like Dorothea struggles to be more fair than Snow White or strive to kill her but fails is the literal meaning of the Snow White fable.

It's a wooden leg, Ahab. Get the literal meaning down and the figurative will follow. Else, a Rembrandt Comic Book might be the outcome: "A story in which incredible craftsmanship has been lavished on a theme or idea which is basically trivial or subliterary, and which simply cannot bear the weight of such deadly-serious artistic portent" ("Turkey City Lexicon," SFWA).

The voice stands out strongest for me as both working artfully from its cynicism and perhaps not working due to its remote narrative distance. If the mirror turns out to be the narrator, that might be exquisite artisanship; a hardboiled, cynical dramatis persona reporting from within the narrative's setting and at a personal cost, too, not to mention Dorothea's cost for personal growth.

[ July 14, 2012, 01:30 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Tiergan
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Not bad. A couple things that I wanted t osay. It read as 2 completely different paragraphs here. Exposition and a scene, made for a jarring start for me. Almost as if explained the story then started the story.

Also the 2nd paragraph the sentence structure red flagged me. 3 sentences in a row starting off with -ing, During, Returning, Removing.

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History
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A narrator guiding the reader to what they need know is part of the traditional fairy tale genre. The story is thus cast so the reader can take from it the message the narrator wishes to impart. I had no trouble with this.

My nitpicks, some of which have been mentioned, would be the off-imagery of "bowshot through cobweb" (I believe "sword stroke" would be better as I have shot an arrow through a spider web and found it may leave it mostly intact); I stumbled for a moment over the repetition of "fool" and "fools"; the phrase "poor relief rounds" is a bit unclear; I stumbled just a little over the parallel sentence structure of the two consective sentences that begin "Returning..." and "Removing"; and I wished for a reworking and more original rephrasing, of the trite "Mirror, mirror on the wall" (e.g. "Mirror! Am I not the fairest? or if a parody "Hey, Mirror! What gives? Am I the fairest or not?").

Anyway, the usual excellent themes to explore by Matt Leo.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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wetwilly
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No problems from me. I love it and think it sounds like a fun story.
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