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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Marble Garden (First 13, 2,100 words total, complete)

   
Author Topic: The Marble Garden (First 13, 2,100 words total, complete)
Reticulum
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Readers wanted for critique. I want to submit this to Clarkesworld magazine for publishing.

The Marble Garden

"Aeneas grasped at her visage, but it was soft as the breeze, like a vanishing dream." – The Aeneid, Virgil

Vines reached over the white marble walls like intrusive green fingers and their shadows slunk down the white as the sun fell from the sky. The tall barriers flanked a winding walkway of cracked black marble, and various plants strained towards the sky from within the crevices. The sinking sun had barely escaped beneath the horizon, yet purple gloaming descended like a blanket across the garden. Oneiros looked down the hill to where the chipped pathway slithered into a forest; the shadows of the trees faded into the encroaching blackness. Before he could turn his dark blue eyes back towards the rusted gate, he stepped forward, releasing his fingers one by one, as if being

[ December 08, 2014, 09:40 AM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Denevius
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For a story of this length, this opening is fairly long, dense, and not especially compelling description of a structure. Which is another point, that I'm not sure what the structure is even after this buildup.

It's okay if you don't want to begin with some overt hook. And it's also cool if you want a slower style opening for your story. My concern with what you have here, however, is that the prose isn't offering anything to incite my curiosity to read further. The descriptions are a bit too commonplace, and we don't get inside of Oneiros' head to know what he thinks of where he's at and what he's viewing.

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extrinsic
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Oneiros explores a marble garden's setting. The dream-like nature of the narrative suggests this is an unreal place and maybe situation, akin to a dream or virtual reality. Either way or other unreality is generally problematic for me and readers genereally.

"Oneiros" is a label from Greek mythology. The Oneiroi are personifications of dream and dream-like events. For literature of the era and not much since ancient Rome, Oneiroi are narrative characters that personify otherwise unreal influences like nightmares, sex dreams, death dreams, etc. Oneiroi are typically influence agonists and not per se focal or central agonists. They are like dreams come in the flesh in person to agonists. They are often "messengers" and their scenes are messenger scenes. Oneiroi scenes use scene methods to imitate the dramatic action rather than "tell" essential details of idea or theme, event, setting and milieu, and character development. Present-day audiences are generally unfamiliar with Oneiroi mythology and, specifically, Oneiroi as literary devices.

None of which is per se a bar to their use as motifs, agonists, etc. Development, though, of an Oneiroi's relevance is important, especially if one is a narrative's focal viewpoint agonist. Simply naming a character Oneiros inadequately develops the mythology.

Three principal areas for narrative mythology development, a narrative principle that develops a motif's basic nature, behavior, and personality so readers may identify a motif and self-identify it and with it --the "telling" details of dramatic substance -- are sensation details, the actual sensory stimuli: visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory; the emotional attitude details -- expressed subjective commentary and reaction to sensory details -- the sixth sense of narrative: emotional feeling as sensation; and thematic relevance: sensory and reactive motifs' symbolic and representational import.

This start fragment as is covers the first of the above: sensations; not much if any of the other two.

Likewise, three areas for dramatic narrative are upset emotional equilibrium, dramatic complication's wants and problems wanting satisfaction development, and routines interrupted development, the three working in parallel. I see little if any development of those three in the fragment.

Further, successful narratives express commentary about a moral human condition crisis and a struggle with its moral dilemma. I see little if any development of that in the fragment either.

The actual dramatic action may start later, though this start is for me a kind of priming for writer access to the narrative. The agonist like the writer and readers enter the scene and begin exploring it. The scene prospecting part looks for antagonal influences that start and drive the action but do not locate one or more. Oneiros merely looks and moves around, makes no emotional obsevations nor responds emotionally.

For example, the chipped black marble is portrayed unemotionally. "Chipped" has neutral connotations unless placed in emotional contexture. Oneiros could subjectively perceive the chipped marble as aged and worn, cruelly neglected for emotional contexture's sake. "Slimy" comes close to an expressed attitude, though could as easily be taken as pleasing or disgusting, also for example.

In terms of event, mostly the action is observation and physical event, not much plot movement. Setting development is likewise mostly objective, little if any subjectivity. Consequently from limited substantive event and setting development, character development is almost nonexistent.

Some promise from the Oneiroi mythology possibilities and a fresh use of an ancient and all but forgotten literary motif invention, though the above shortfalls, the don't-work-for-me's, keep me from wanting to read on. I would not read on.

[ December 04, 2014, 09:01 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Lamberguesa
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The description of the garden wall is nice but goes on too long (especially for such a short story) and doesn't seem important enough to warrant this length.
Too many arbitrary details, such as the footsteps echoing off the wall into the sky.

This phrase is confusing: "releasing his fingers one by one, as if being pulled" Was he grabbing something before? It seems an odd way to release.

There should be more about Oneiros himself and what he thinks and feels, his motivation, rather than just a series of actions he is performing. When writing a story so short (or really in any story), every line needs to matter and I don't feel that this is the case here.

I can give it a read if you'd like.

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Reticulum
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Alright, rewritten opening.

The Marble Garden

"Aeneas grasped at her visage, but it was soft as the breeze, like a vanishing dream." – The Aeneid, Virgil

Vines reached over the white marble walls like intrusive green fingers. Their shadows slunk down the white as the sun fell from the sky. Flanking the winding walkway of cracked black marble were white walls, and various plants strained towards the sky from within the crevices. Though the sinking sun had barely escaped beneath the horizon, purple gloaming descended like a mist across the garden. Oneiros looked down the hill to where the chipped pathway weaved into a forest; the shadows of the trees faded into the encroaching blackness. He almost turned his dark blue eyes back towards the rusted gate, but he felt the slimy vines coming over his hand; stepping forward, he released his fingers one by one, as if being pulled.

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Will Blathe
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Regarding the rewrite posted December 09, 2014 08:01.

I'm not sure how effective I'll be at critiquing, so it's grain of salt time.

I want to read more.

Feels like epic fantasy. I'm not much of a fan of it, but the description pulled me in.

I think someone mentioned "he released his fingers" in a previous post. This still throws me for a loop. I'll have to go back and read the comments.


Thank you for you fragment,

Will

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extrinsic
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The revision to me, while overtly a substantive rewrite, is more or less the same as before in terms of dramatic action. Oneiros explores a place, a travelogue vignette. No clue inferrable why he's at the marble garden or what he wants there or what problem drove him there.

The emotional contexture is still bland; neither Oneiros nor narrator expresses any emotional attitude commentary. The first sentence's simile "like intrusive green fingers" almost expresses attitude, though blunted by a too-sophisticated and neutral term "intrusive" to be personal attitude. Likewise, "slimy" almost expresses attitude, though again, too neutral a contexture.

These are diction considerations for strength and clairty of attitude. Consider, for example, a mataphor instead of a simile for vines as fingers, or a metalepsis. Also consider additional personal emotional contexture for each motif such that Oneiros's or the narrator's attitude is strong and clear and more specific concrete sensations.

For illustration: "Vines reached over the white marble walls like intrusive green fingers." //Fig vines hung over white marble walls, green fingers prying for earth, water, and air -- his soul.//

Other diction and syntax considerations include "Their shadows slunk down the white _as_ the sun fell from the sky. Flanking the winding walkway of cracked black marble _were_ white walls, and various plants strained towards the sky from within the crevices. _Though_ the sinking sun had _barely_ _escaped_ beneath the horizon, purple gloaming descended like a mist across the garden. Oneiros _looked_ down the hill to where the chipped pathway weaved into a forest; the shadows of the trees faded into the encroaching blackness. He _almost_ turned his dark blue eyes back towards the rusted gate, _but_ he felt the slimy vines coming over his hand; stepping forward, he _released_ his fingers one by one, as if being pulled."

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