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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Uncommonly Beautiful

   
Author Topic: Uncommonly Beautiful
HenryMcF
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Story is SF about 3600 words. I'm interested in comments on the opening.
The crowd along the Champs-Élysées was festive, even jubilant. They focused on the street where they expected the peloton to appear and bring the two-hundredth Tour de France to a triumphant conclusion. Daan stood a few feet behind the mass of people until he spotted a small dour man dressed all in black. Claude Danton was slowly edging deeper into the crowd, where he could cause more death. He was only about 10 meters away. This time, Daan thought, I’ll catch you and I’ll stop you. He began to stride towards Danton.
Suddenly a blow from behind sent Daan to the pavement. He struck his head and blacked out momentarily. When he came to, one cop was helping him up while another was yelling at a kid on a bike. Daan frantically looked around for Danton.

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ncthornock
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I like the clear picture of the setting. Given his description and destination, I can tell Claude Danton is the villain.

It would help to know more about Daan; who he is, why he's here, and why he isn't telling the nearby cops about the murderer. (For example: He unconsciously touched his pocket, where he carried his CIA badge / murdered fiancee's locket / picture of his policeman father, killed in the line of duty.)

I didn't like Daan getting knocked out. At the beginning, you want to get things moving and the accident completely stopped the momentum. Having Daan look for Danton wasn't enough to get it going again.

My two cents. [Smile]

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iffy
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I would turn the page.

Nitpicks:
- "stride" reads funny to me. It seems like an elegant word for something that I don't think is meant to be elegant.
- I first read "He struck his head" as Daan facepalming himself -- that he was the one doing the striking of his head.

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babooher
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"Suddenly" takes up more time to read and thus generally lessens the impact by slowing the revelation of the information that is supposed to be abrupt. You might try dropping it.

I'm assuming that the small, dour man (as I think it should be punctuated) is Claude Danton. This might be made more specific through the use of an appositive and then merging the two sentences together. In any event, I would not use a comma to separate the dependent clause "where he could cause more death" from its independent clause.

Is "He began to stride towards Danton" better than "He strode toward Danton"? Why can't he be ten meters away instead of "about" ten meters away?

The setting is vague even though you specified the event. What is the crowd doing to appear "festive, even jubilant"? Maybe some of this could be woven into the action to create a concrete feel.

There is mystery here. Why does Daan think "This time"? How does he know what Danton is planning? Will Danton succeed in the foul deeds? All intriguing and that's good.

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mithridates
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I would keep reading too.

Champs-Élysées wears me out because I have to search around harder for a way to say it. The words "festive" and "jubilant" didn't really make it into the scene in my head. But when you said Tour de France I imagined a crowd and the sound of clanking cowbells.

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Brendan
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I'd agree with babooher about merging the two sentences, but for a different reason. By introducing Daan first, he is assumed to be the point of view (POV) character. But a second character is named as the subject of the next sentence, without any explanation of their relationship to the first, so it seems that it is swapping to that characters POV. This is reinforced as the character's motive is explained by the sentence, something that other people are unlikely to know. POV shifts are expected to occur at scene breaks, and if they occur elsewhere (or even seem to be) it is often judged to be a mistake by the author.

Secondly, it seemed a bit too passive in feel for its intended tension. To correct this, make more of the verbs active. For example, "Claude Danton was slowly edging deeper into the crowd, ... He was only about 10 meters away." has two "was" verbs. While "Claude Danton edged deeper into the crowd until he was only 10 meters away." Using "edged" here makes the action more immediate, while the "was" is reserved for a relational comparison back to the POV character.

[ January 14, 2015, 10:58 PM: Message edited by: Brendan ]

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extrinsic
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The term "passive" is problematic when discussing writing. The term is easily confusing for writers with less grammar understanding than sharper grammar knowledge writers. Passive when applied to verbs and syntax refers to passive voice. Likewise, active refers to active voice.

The clause on point, "Claude Danton was slowly edging deeper into the crowd" contains two of the three passive voice markers. A to be verb, "was," and a prepositional object phrase, "into the crowd." The third and subtler marker, a passive voice's sentence subject is the object of the verb's action and the sentence object, if given, is the subject doer of the verb's action, is not valid for the clause above. Danton performs the action of the predicate phrase. Therefore, the voice is active.

However, to be verbs and their state of being analogs, to have, to get, and most any verb that expresses a nonfinite state-of-being time span, is the static voice of a stasis state of being. State of being, stasis, static. "Was" verbs and similar verb and predicate phrase constuctions express nonfinite action through static voice, which may be active voice or passive voice nonetheless. Dynamic voice is static voice's diametric opposite.

Voices passive, active, static, and dynamic permutate out to passive, passive-static, passive-dynamic, active, active-static, active-dynamic, static, and dynamic: eight grammatical voice possibilities, though grammar handbooks label and explain only passive and active voice.

I second that the grammatical voice of the fragment is perhaps more static than the scene situation warrants, though is not passive.

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Brendan
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Extrinsic is technically correct, which is why I used the term "passive" as an endpoint in a spectrum. That's a bit like saying 4 degrees is hotter than 0 degrees, even though most would never say that 4 degrees is hot.

Since I am not sure how experienced you are as a writer, Henry, I wasn't sure how much technical knowledge you have or want to discuss. So I thought I would explain a concept as simply as I could, without getting too technical too early.

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Bent Tree
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Above all else, I feel that the POV should be tighter.

quote:
The crowd along the Champs-Élysées was festive, even jubilant. Here, 'jubilant' seems synonymous with festive and could be omitted. I feel it seems awkwardThey focusedI believe in grouping like terms especially in relation to subjects. Here the use of 'the crowd' in the previous sentence created a subject-verb disagreement in this sentence employing, 'they focused' I would like to see a continuance of the term relating to that subject (ei. the crowd... it focused) also I feel the verb focus may have a more appropriate replacement such as (the crowd... it gathered) on the street where theySame here... continuation of a subject expected the peloton to appear and bring the two-hundredth Tour de France to a triumphant conclusion. Daan stood a few feet behind the mass of people until he spotted a small dour man dressed all in black. Claude Danton was slowly edging deeper into the crowd, where he could cause more death. He was only about 10 meters away. This time, Daan thought, I’ll catch you and I’ll stop you. He began to stride towards Danton.
Suddenly a blow from behind sent Daan to the pavement. He struck his head and blacked out momentarily. When he came to, one cop was helping him up while another was yelling at a kid on a bike.This is the main thing that troubles me with the POV. I feel the POV needs to be tightened. It seems to me that being KO'd would require a scene change. I suppose a distant omni could support this, but for me it is uncomfortable to read. Daan frantically looked around for Danton.


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