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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Untitled WIP

   
Author Topic: Untitled WIP
RyanB
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Just want to see if this makes sense to anyone else and if it makes them feel anything.

-------------

Mommy’s going crazy again. Bounce, bounce, bounce.
I roll and tumble, crashing on my back, crashing on my head. Brother grabs my foot, then my leg. I reach out for him, but my arm gets tangled in the ropes. He kicks me in the nose and I catch his foot with my free arm. Now we’re twirling and bumping, but me being caught in the rope keeps us from flipping over and over.

The bouncing stops for a second and I reach out to connect with mommy. I find her light and bond to it. Mommy’s scared. It comes pouring out of her, pressing around me, making me feel cold and alone. I push back against it. I push with love as hard as I can push, but brother is sucking on my toes and mommy starts bouncing again and I lose the connection.

My arm comes free of the cords and me and brother go tumbling

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wetwilly
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Does it make sense? Not in the sense that I know what is going on yet. I hope that will become clear soon enough in the story. Does it make me feel anything? Yes. Sadness, pity for what I take to be a scared child. Pretty effective emotional opening for me, actually. I like it.
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Jared W. Cooper
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As just the first handful of lines, I would keep reading mostly because I'm not sure what I'm reading! There's imagery here, and it's disorienting, so, no, it doesn't make sense.

I think the bouncing and the language give a feel of lightness, of playfulness. The bonding/connections and sensations of cold, etc., make me think of magic.

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Denevius
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Children voices are always tricky and hard to pull off. When I read them, I can't help but think of an adult talking to me in baby-speak. The issue, for me at least, is that a toddler just isn't going to know these words you're using. So this makes it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief and become one with the narrative.

Like, I imagine my three year old niece. But she does't speak like this. You know, she's desperately trying to make herself sound like adults around her, but failing because of her age. And prose like this doesn't sound like a child trying to sound like an adult. It sounds like an adult, in a way, talking down to a child.

For instance, would a child understand the concept of "crazy"? Why? What do they have to compare it to? "Crazy" is something we grow to understand. So you have this mature concept delivered in an infantile voice.

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RyanB
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Those are great points, Denevius. I wrestled with that very issue for quite a while and finally decided I would tell it as the child would tell it IF she could understand words.

Otherwise the story can't be told.

Hopefully, I'll pull the reader in enough that they won't notice this issue.

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extrinsic
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This opening, to me, does make a degree of sense. if I project meaning onto it that's not given.

The choppy sentence fragments, clauses, and sentences artfully, directly imply and resonate with the physical, emotional chaos of this traumatic event. That's strong and clear. But I think this is an effect-event scene. I project several causal events precede it. This opening to me starts late in the logical sequence of events.

One, that a precipating event scared Mom and started Brother and protagonist's fall, maybe Mom's fall too. She bounces, seeming from a fall down a stairway or bumpy slope. Setting-wise, I don't understand where the fall occurs, from a stairway landing or a cliff precipice or elsewhere. That too I feel belongs in a prior causal event scene. And why is there a rope?

Also, that I project this scene is a recollection mode, either a flashback or a reflection-recollection event in a present future time about a past event memory. The sophisticated adult voice of events happening from a child's viewpoint cues that up. That too, narrator identity introduction and development I feel needs setup prepositioned in a prior scene.

The second law of writing: A writer writes the story, not readers. I feel I'm writing too much of this story for it to make enough sense to me what the story intends and means.

I feel the same sense as the protagonist of fright, chaos, uncertainty, desperately wanting a secure hold to grab onto physically, the rope or Brother, or metaphysically grab onto Mom, the rejection by both and a tenous, failing hold onto the rope, the bumpy, painful fall, but I just don't feel all the reality of when and where I am, nor why or how I came to be here. This is dream like in that regard. Will I wake up in the next moment and be disappointed as a reader that this was only a falling nightmare? Disturbing the reading spell. Third law: Do not break the reading spell. However, that I feel almost like I'm a participant is masterful.

Otherwise, the illusion of reality is almost artfully managed. Competing strengths and shortcomings, what works for me or doesn't, almost favors strengths. Almost a masterful fragment, but I feel this is a late breaking opening that more artfully begins priorly in time for maximum strongest and clearest effect.

Superior mechanical style

Problematic competing voice and craft strengths and shortcomings.

Possible audience appeals, if craft and voice portray a full portrait of events that complicate the protagonist's situation.

[ February 14, 2014, 12:15 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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wirelesslibrarian
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I may be completely off base here, but I visualized the narrator and his brother as being in utero - the cords and ropes and the brother sucking the narrator's toes led me to that assumption. This raises two questions for me: one, what is happening to the mother, and, two, how is it that an unborn child has such a strong command of language? That he or she exhibits such suggests a super intelligence, which could be an interesting point.
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extrinsic
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I had a flash of an in utero possibility too, but not enough detail given to find that possibility a stable interpretation. Symbolically, though, intangibly, the in utero possibility has a powerful subtextual meaning potential if stabilized and not necessarily unequivocally affirmed.
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kmsf
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The emotional impressions are there, but the voice is in conflict for me as well. I'm finding the same challenge in my own writing; melding a child's POV with narrative voice.

One device commonly used is for the adult to tell the story as imagined from the infant's POV - pieced together from imaginings, known facts and emotional memory. In this case, the child does appear to be in utero, so there is the benefit of a defined physical environment.

And now that in utero appears to be the setting, this looks like it could be downright cool if you decide to develop it further!

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Denevius
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Off the top of my head, I can't think of a successful piece of writing that has pulled off a baby's voice. However, there are some examples from popular media that does it in a surreal or comical/satirical way. Stewie from "Family Guy", or Mikey from "Look Who's Talking".

Both of these examples give the baby an adult voice, but writes their dialog full of thought constructs based on faulty premises as a result of their age. Stewie doesn't see Lois as a mother, but as a fascist figure trying to dominate his life. He doesn't perceive of his time in the womb as a fetus, but as a prisoner in a cell. The only example I can remember from "Look Who's Talking" is when Travolta's character notices Mikey staring at a woman's big breasts, and Travolta says, "You thinking what I'm thinking", and Mikey, not, goes, "Yeah. Lunch."

So for your story. I didn't realize they weren't born yet, but if they aren't, then definitely they wouldn't know words like 'Mommy'. They probably wouldn't know anything outside of the womb. And though it could be an interesting piece if writing which seems to exist in a world with only two people (as you can also play around with what a fetus understands of distance and time), I think it would be hard to pull this off for anything more than a flash fiction piece. And unless you're going for a purely sensory piece, you would still have to create narrative conflict. Who's the protagonist, and what's the antagonist?

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RyanB
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I can't think of any examples where somebody pulled it off either and I'm not sure I can do it. But I think it's worth a try.
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extrinsic
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I can't name examples where a prenatal voice was managed without an adult perspective voice; I can enumerate techniques I've encountered. In every case, each to degrees samples a child's voice from tiny cues, a child's awkward word use, awkward syntax, awkward logic, awkward thinking, undeveloped language skills, the hampered ability to express intent and meaning in any regard yet evocatively expressive regardless.

For every tangible quality of writing an equal if not more profoundly meaningful intangible quality enhances its situational and overall meaning. Like subtext transcends literal meaning. Evocative meaning, for example, is an intangible quality, where direct meaning is tangible.

In most cases, the techniques involve recollection of some variety, later-age characters expressing their memory impressions of an earlier age. That's tangible. Due to the memory's memorableness, legacy young-age qualities arise of their own later in life in a natural way. That's between tangible and intangible. Intangible qualities are the crux of the matter, though. I suppose they are as numerous possibilities as any writing potential: a kernel word, evocative thought, residual emotion, and so on ad infinitum.

Maybe, for example, a residue of collective nonconscious prehuman survival instinct inherent and native to the species and its natal and even maybe in utero young. Fear of falling from trees into the maws of apex predators: jackals, lions, saber tooth cats, panthers, hyenas, bears, wolves, and so on, the very fear of falling from a height itself. Likewise, swimming in a dangerous haline estuary--primordial fear of sharks--that the amniotic fluid closely emulates: salt seas.

Or contrarily, the pleasant sensations of feeling secure and comfortable, protected in Mom's nurturing womb.

Or not even so tangible but any quality that authentically may be naturally natal in nature. Hiding from _brittle_ noise behind brother, felt as painful pulses rather than heard sounds, for example.

In other cases, the narrator subjectively has omniscient access to a child character's thoughts and interprets them accordingly. This may involve irrealis grammar moods: subjunctive, conditional, optative, imperative, jussive, potential, and/or inferential (Wikipedia: Grammatical Mood); or be reported objectively as if omniscient access is not open to question.

In other cases, the adult perspective of the prenatal child is represented as a forward progression of events rather than a backward recollection progression. The adult dies, is reincarnated, remembers adult language sophistication unto the moment of conception or beyond. The moment when that sophistication fades begins with a time of labor or beyond, the wiring between thought and expression not yet working as it will later. Over childhood, speech centers develop but the reincarnated child's preternatural knowledge fades.

In every case, introduction and development of the narrator's identity and standing in relation to time, place, and situation worked for me to develop a credible, authentic use of adult voice supplemented with child voice features to express a prenatal or older child's perspective to stonger and lesser degrees. Regardless of whether that narrator is a protagonist or other character or solely narrator.

Challenges and issues to manage I see are the matters of close narrative distance and aesthetic distance and credibility and authenticity. Though, like I said, a near infinite number of possibilities are available that can make this work.

[ February 17, 2014, 09:57 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Smiley
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Call me crazy, RyanB, and some people do, but as soon as I read this I knew these kids were in utero. It came out clear as day. As for all fiction I have read, I am always reminded to suspend my disbelief to enjoy the story.
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Jed Anderson
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Make the sentences choppier. Rather than, "It comes pouring out of her, pressing around me, making me feel cold and alone."
Try: "It comes pouring out of her. Pressing around me. Making me feel cold. Alone."

Don't explain in so many words. Rather than, "Now we’re twirling and bumping, but me being caught in the rope keeps us from flipping over and over."
Try: "Now we’re twirling and bumping, but I'm caught in the rope and it stops us from flipping over and over."

Simpler explanations and choppier sentences will, IMP, make it feel more frantic and a childish.

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Kent_A_Jones
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The transition to corporeal roughhousing makes the action of mother bouncing unclear to me. It feels like MC is bouncing.

I am unclear about the function of the (P2 S3, ropes, P2,S6, rope and P4, cords) rope. It arrests some motion but does not affect other motion? I would like one word to refer to the rope/s.

I don't have a clear picture of where the siblings are.

MC and Mommy have a psychic/ non-corporeal connection that is predicated on Mommy not bouncing. Mommy is unstable and scared and this fear threatens to overwhelm the MC who combats it with feelings of love.

I imagine the conflict and plot involve saving Mommy. MC, if the child I perceive, may be inadequate to this task. Very little characterization indicated. I got nuthin' on setting or theme.
Kent

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