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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » 1st 13 - Running from home

   
Author Topic: 1st 13 - Running from home
Grumpy old guy
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First page, would you turn it to read the second?

James Horner was outside his apartment, leaning his back against the door and gently hitting the back of his head against it. He stopped and drew in a deep breath then sighed as he looked at the injector in his right hand. At a cost of four million credits it was worth every one of them.

He stepped away from the door and shook himself. As he pressed his lips together he placed the injector against the inner side of his left forearm; there was no sound as eight hundred million atto-bots and the soup of DNA-modifying retrovirus they were swimming in was pumped into his body.

“In three minutes all hell is going to break loose,” he said to himself, starting the countdown.

He walked to the hole in the floor and stepped into empty space...

Any comments welcome.

Phil.

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SR Dev
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James Horner was outside his apartment,

Someone once told me that it's never good to have the first like of a story be blank was. I don't agree with this always but I think the opening would be stronger if it was..

James leaned his back against the door of his apartment.


Also, the first sentence feels long to me for an opening, and I think the pacing would be better if you divided the action a bit between the sentences more. The same goes for the second sentence. Also get rid of the "of them" and just make it worth every one.

Other than that I found myself whishing for a slight bit more sense of place. I felt a little big like I was floating, especially when you jumped into the empty hole. How is there a hole in the floor if he's outside of his apartment. Where is the whole located exactly.

But I love the line about the atto-botts, and the concept seems intriguing.

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Long Writer B8
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Sorry, probably just me, but "James Horner" name had me thinking of the nursery rhyme. I think it's Little Jack Horner. Might want to change.

I agree with SR Dev's changes, particularly the first line and I also like the atto-botts.

Not sure you need him hitting his head against the door unless that has significance later.

I believe you want to get quickly to the hook. As such, I don't think you need the length of "He stopped and drew in a deep breath then sighed" Perhaps just "He took in a deep breath." Something shorter.

I think I would say "It'll be worth ever one of the four million credits" Again short.

For me the hook was the Botts and the hole in the floor, although as to the latter, I'm left hanging as to what this is or how it just appeared at this point. Is it because of the injection of a hole that was already there that he would have seen.

You have my attention with this. Keep it going.

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babooher
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With his back against the door, he is one the verge of a threshold. Seems he has stepped on through to the other side but he is still resisting.
I like the tension.

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Grumpy old guy
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At least you got the 'reason' for putting him there babooher. The hole in the floor he walks into is a 'free fall' lift and James is on the 500th floor. That's also meant to be a metaphor for the way his life has just changed, from top of the tree, he plummets down to the depths of despair.

Well spotted.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I like that the stakes for Jack are implied. That's well-developed. However, I don't see nor can I imagine a central dramatic complication. For example, table stakes are five to one in favor of the house. What's the game? Poker? Craps? Roulette? Blackjack? Keno?

What's Jack's want or problem wanting satisfaction? A cue would do nicely for the opening. I'll project from my creative vision. He's going down into the trenches of human suffering. He's looking for someone, something, some experience. Is it self-serving or self-sacrificing? What's his motivation? What caused him to leave his sanctuary?

"James Horner was outside his apartment, leaning his back against the door and gently hitting the back of his head against it."

"Was" or any conjugation of to be is used most clearly and artfully for expressing states of abstract being, like James Horner was a desperate and frightened man . . . While being outside of his apartment is a state of physical location of being, for clarity's sake, use more robust action verbs for physical states of being, which are not static. The sentence is static voice, also indicated by the gerund verbs in the added clauses: "leaning" and "hitting." Static voice openings immediately put me on editorial notice.

Overall, the excerpt is to me static voice. The next sentence expresses emotion statically. Breathing and sighing express vague emotions. If the breathing and sighing must be expressed, then a thought to provide meaning clarity for the emotion is indicated. Or in the alternative, another character Jack expresses his feelings to, though, of course, skewed, and by no means femininely.

"He stepped away from the door and shook himself," simlarly emotionally vague, is also static from little, if any, setting developoment in the excerpt. Expressing sensations and the attitudes expressing them artfully reveal emotions and meaning. One telling, specific detail about the space outside his apartment and Jack's emotional attitude toward it will serve for an opening. As it is, it's a disembodied "white room." I think it's meant to be a transitional space between the comfort of his apartment and the discomfort of his destination.

Further, use of the conjunction "as" (three instances) to mean while for joining concurrent actions is also static from combining actions, that while credibly concurrent, often are not logically concurrent. Micro moments separate them, yes, and using their minute separations in separate sentences for pacing and dramatic movement is an artful best practice.

By static voice I mean weak verbs, vagueness, conjoined sentences, conjunction splices, limited setting development, limited emotion development, and unclear meaning; in other words, everyday conversation.

I too noted Jack's pending symbolic fall from grace. That to me is the most artful quality of the excerpt, its meaning. It took more effort to work that out than I think is ideal, figuring it out outside of the initial read. If the meaning is important at the moment of reading, then a best practice calls an appropriate and timely attention to it. "all hell is going to break loose." does that, though its impact is blunted by preceding Jack's actual step down into the hole.

My diagnosis: Thirteen-line-itis, rushing through an opening scene to get to the meat of the dramatic action. This currently reads to me like a stuck-in-the-bathtub-navel-contemplation scene. Treatment: Slow down. Capture the emotional essence of the scene, namely, cue why Jack has taken this drastic step.

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Grumpy old guy
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Well, I've given it another shot. Ideas, anyone?

On the five hundredth floor, John Wallace stood bumping the back of his head on the outside of his apartment door while he leaned against it. He stopped and looked down. The injector in his right hand had cost him four million credits. It was worth it. He stepped away from the door, shook himself and placed the injector hard against his left forearm. There was no sound as he pressed the actuator. Eight hundred million atto-bots swimming in a soup of retroviruses were pumped into his body.

“In three minutes all hell will break loose.” Jack walked to the mag-lift and stepped into empty space. He reached terminal velocity as he plummeted past the four hundredth floor. Instead of being spread all over the base of the mag-lift like strawberry jam, his feet touched the ground at a sedate speed of half a...

Phil.

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Grumpy old guy
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extrinsic, I've had to have a long hard think, a few fermented grape juice drinks and a shower before responding to your post. Now I feel tempted enough to try.

I will defer to you superior knowledge of the technical aspects of writing. The styles and strictures, the forms and nuances. As I've said many a time here, I'm new to this writing caper.

If I were to try and describe what type of writer I am , it would be this: I am an intuitive writer.

What's that mean? Well, I feel the emotion of the moment and from that I choose the words, tone and POV to use.

Yes, the prose and setting is static -- it's deliberate. When I envisioned this scene, it was as a pause. A moment for the MC to catch his breath. To take a moment to realise the gravity of the situation, and then to take the plunge.

My reasoning was that beginning with a pause implies activity beforehand. And there was, lots of it. But that's all back-story.

Now, some may argue that this style I've adopted is asking too much of the readers. But I say, nonsense. They're not silly. If you could pick up that it was a static moment in time, so can they. It only falls apart if subsequent events continue to be static -- and they most definitely are not.

Having argued my defence, I'll still be pasting your comment in my 'help' file. Thanks.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Grumpy old guy, your position is honorable. Writing is anymore a labor of choices. A soft opening is a choice.

A near unanimous belief for fiction writing sixty years ago held that narrative structure had strict principles to be abided. Postmodernism questioned and challenged those presupposed notions. The ride was bumpy. Plot no longer holds a commanding lead but races with a pilaton of riders.

One feature of plot continues to be a singular expectation for fiction; that is, introduce a want as soon as possible. Science fiction is not immune; rather, science fiction is somewhat behind trends from perpetuating adherence to traditional narrative expectations. The genre is comparatively young, though, and appeals to young and young at heart readers.

Your working title "Running from Home" deliciously speaks to this, that science fiction is an escapism genre. I don't mean, per se, a literal escape for readers from the doldrums of everyday existence. I mean a maninstay of science fiction is portraying escapes from close supervision, thus establishing one feature common to many successful narratives: isolate the central character from her or his comfort zone.

[ December 19, 2012, 12:11 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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