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Author Topic: The Sumerian
Jed Anderson
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Years after I was banished, I heard the story of a man who pulled a spear from his chest with his pierced heart still beating on its tip.
This legend told of a man who'd been cursed by the gods. He was said to have angered Ereshkigal, Goddess of the Underworld, by not accepting her advances. As punishment for a mere mortal embarrassing and insulting a god, the Goddess slew the man's wife and son and declared she would never allow him to enter her kingdom, Kigal, the Land of the Dead. The man was to spend the rest of eternity alone, never to join his beloved family in the afterlife.
There was but one chance of redemption for the man. It was said that he would earn his passage into Kigal if he were to be

[ November 26, 2014, 02:22 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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This is probably more than 13 lines.

If the action of the first line was made into an entire story, I think you might have something quite interesting. But this introduction as written is all summary, no present action, and so not very engaging to read.

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Possible parallels between the legend story of the man cursed by the gods and the banished-man narrator's similar mortal exile hold curiosity arousing potentials. However, the cursed man's backstory is misty and disconnected to the narrator-agonist from a received thirdhand rumor nature.

The fragment is the summary second-place portion of a scene and summary sequence. The distance is remote, too remote for prose for an opening for me. Recast as a scene, the narrator would receive the rumor firsthand from another character in dialogue and physical sensations of a setting in which both occupy. That kind of event is still on the static-stasis side but would be a scene. Dynamic dramatic action would set up that kind of dialogue scene as a messenger scene caused by antagonal actions of the narrator-agonist. The banishment, for example, could happen in the now moment, instead of "years before," then cause the narrator-agonist to receive the legend rumor of the eternal man.

Note how several sentence constructions are negation statements that as a best practice could be recast as positive statements through use of stronger and clearer diction.

For example, "Ereshkigal, Goddess of the Underworld, by _not accepting_ her advances." "Not accepting" could be replaced by scorned or a similar term.

Likewise, "she would _never allow_ him to enter her kingdom." Refused or denied "him entry to her kingdom." or similar could replace "never allow."

Again, "_never to join_ his beloved family." barred or excluded (or similar) //from his beloved family's afterlife companionship.//

Strunk and White disparages use of nouns when verbs will do. Verbs are more significant than nouns from their stronger and clearer relation to events. Although Strunk and White is a style guidance for formal academic composition and not as much prose style, the underlayed principle of maximal audience appeal and reading and comprehension ease spans both writing styles.

The latter example above and its original sentence uses more nouns and adjectives than is a best practice for maximal expression strength and clarity and reading and comprehension ease. The entire sentence could be recast into two or more independent sentences such that several one-noun, one-verb, perhaps one-object sentences replace the single sentence.

In all, as summary backstory and thirdhand action report, the fragment rushes through the start essentials, missing mostly event and setting development, and character development from reporting another character's remote distance legend.

A degree of curiosity arousal rises from an implication the banished narrator-agonist and the afterlife-exiled character will meet up soon or later and robust action will ensue. Otherwise, I would not read on due to the largely summary non-scene start, expecting the entire narrative's action is summarized.

[ November 28, 2014, 04:39 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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This reads like the promotional blurb (or back cover) of a novel--one I would very much like to read. I was snared by the hook in the first line and drawn in to learn more.

It is all exposition, however.

Dr. Bob

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Same as the others, the story sounds good but this is more of a summary than actual story-telling.
Besides the first sentence, this feels like an outline. Nothing wrong with a story in a story, but probably shouldn't open with it. I'd say either go into what is happening with the narrator who was banished or just talk about the man of legend directly.

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If I read this while reading for a magazine, I would read on to the next page, at least, but would do so with a skeptical eye.

The skepticism comes from my not being sure if this story is primarily about the narrator, or the cursed gentleman who came to a bad end. This makes it a little harder for me as a reader to commit to the story.

But there are things here I like and I want to engage with: the use of the "story within a story" device makes me feel like the author has a clear purpose to his tale; the mythological and primitive elements draw me in; the image of the beating heart on the spear-tip is powerful.

So I'm on the fence, but would think you've earned at least a little more of my slush-reading time. I hope this is of use to you. If you have questions about anything I've said, feel free to ask. I try to respond promptly but Your Milage May Vary.

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