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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Sinkhole and snowflakes

   
Author Topic: Sinkhole and snowflakes
Gregg L
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I have hit a wall of late, so last night I sat down and typed out a random sentence. About 6 or 7 hours later I woke up with a story from that sentence. I am posting the first 13 here as right now it seems to want to be a short story.

Colonel Williamson is scared, the only thing that keeps him from panicking is the 19 years of flying high performance aircraft and Astronaut training.

Col. Williamson is scrambling for footing on what was, only seconds ago level ground. He curses himself for the time it took to assess the situation and react. He attempts to jumps up the ever-increasing angle of the slope in front of him to no avail, his greatly reduced mass is of no help. His earphones are barking in his ears as Commander Jackson in the Lander is demanding answers to the situation he is still evaluating. As he crouches for his next attempt leap up, a bolder the size of a bus slides over the edge of the sinkhole he is caught in. Barely avoiding the bolder, Col. Williamson jumps to his left rolling

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extrinsic
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The situation here has a dramatic complication of strong potential. Williamson is caught in a sinkhole. That's a tangible external problem. He obviously wants to get out of the hole. Antagonizing want and problem is a dramatic complication, in this case, an external one. That works for me.

What doesn't work for me are the narrative point of view, the tense, some conjunctions, and language and a few grammar faults. The narrative point of view is a summary and explanation lecture, a tell. Scene illusion of reality imitation is show. Instead of narrator telling what the action is, scene shows the action from the perspective of a viewpoint character.

For example, the narrator tells that Williamson is scared and a pilot and astronaut. Instead of that method, an alternative is to portray that information as a thought of Williamson's in the moment of its importance. Say, //19 years flying high performance aircraft and [a]stronaut training. He'd panic but for that. Scared, no. Terrified. This is infantry's terrain, not airdales'.// Broken stream expression signals thought in third person and first person narration.

Instead of narrator telling that Williamson curses, what does he say or think? That as is is tell, summary method. Scene method reports the speech or thought.

Also, rather than summarizing events and the setting, describe them as though they come from Williamson's perspective in "telling" details. Details like the textures and circumstances of the sinkhole. Is this a sand sinkhole or a limestone sinkhole? A sand sinkhole would have a convex cone shape. A limestone sinkhole would have a concave bowl shape, for example.

Where does Williamson place his hands? On what features? Outcrops? Roots and vines? His mass is reduced; does that mean he's on a foreign planet? Does that mean he wears a pressure suit because the atmosphere is thin? These "telling" details are what develops the illusion of reality imitation.

Astronaut is a common noun and not capitalized unless part of a title, and thus a proper noun.

Present tense is challenging to keep in a finite verb tense. Finite tense is important for fiction; it keeps readers reading forward and engaged. Nonfinite verb forms keep actions open and ongoing and require readers to make more effort to remember what nondefinite verbs mean and signify and keeps them looking back for what they miss. They signal a kind of open-ended and empty emphasis. This is especially noticeable in the -ing verbs, which are entirely nonfinite. Also, along with -ing present participle verbs, gerund verbal noun and adjective forms, they create an annoying white noise -ing ring rhyme.

Suitable finite verbs express a time span that could be ongoing or once and done. "attempts to jump up" is plural and ongoing for a span. "attempt to jump up" is singular and once and done. Either is finite to different degrees. In another approach, Grasped the handle is once and done. Holds the handle is an ongoing span, though finite. Finite verbs do not require reader effort to remember what probably has no need to be remembered.

"As" is not a time conjunction word meaning while or when. It is a comparison conjunction for coordination or subordination. Generally, conjunction words and their clauses are for idea coordination or subordination. Coordination when main ideas of independent clauses are parallel. Subordination when a dependent clause emphasizes the idea of a main clause. Both instances of "as" in the fragment are used as time conjunctions. Neither coordinates or subordinates an emphasis of main clause ideas. Conjunctions are not for expressing concurrent actions. In the first place, concurrent actions are highly improbable. In the second place, even if actions are concurrent, they are as a best practice expressed sequentially so that each action receives its complete and fully realized signficance and expression.

Areas where the language doesn't work for me are the generic nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. This relates to all the above, too.

Also, several, I think, revision artifacts: "attempts to jumps up", number disagreement between "attempts" and "to jumps up", //attempts to jump up//. And "attempt leap up", Verb tense confusion, //attempt to leap up//, or as a noun-object phrase instead: //leap-up attempt//.

Hyphen error for "high performance aircraft": //high-performance//.

I think this dramatic circumstance would be far more appealing if it were written in scene mode instead of summary mode. The dramatic complication is the standout strength otherwise for me.

[ March 28, 2014, 01:52 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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