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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Rosita (Magic Realism)

   
Author Topic: Rosita (Magic Realism)
jdb2828
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When I last saw him alive, Loniís shirt was white, and his skin was white, and his hair was white from worry. Wrinkles surrounded his eyes, and some pointed down from his mouth, and others made wavy furrows across his brow. When he died, Loni was thirty-seven years old.
We were in the center room on the top level of my house, near the balcony overlooking the courtyard. We did not light lamps for fear of being discovered by my husband. The moonlight lit only one side of Loniís body, and when he moved in the light, it seemed like he was flickering on the edge of eternity, more dead than alive. Since he died, I have often wondered if he was really there at all, or if his spirit had come to deliver his final words.

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jdb2828
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Hoping for feedback on the opening lines of a (long) short story/novella.
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Denevius
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I haven't seen a magic realism story in a long time. Just curious, are you in a university/graduate program?

I'm left with two main concerns about this opening. First, it's all uninteresting summary of events that seem only mildly interesting. But it's problematic that by the end of your last sentence, we haven't yet gotten to the present moment of the story.

The other is that stories revolving around whether or not someone is dead or alive are really, really common. I don't think you benefit from writing yet another one.

So my suggestions are to start the story in a present moment, and just have Loni be alive with no question about it. Whatever you're trying to do, find another way to create the mystery.

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Jennica Dotson
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Overall, I like this. I'd keep reading. Your sentences have an easy flow to them that makes it easy for me to keep going.

I think you build the reader's interest in a steady, smooth manner. The first sentence introduces an interesting visual, and then in the third sentence we receive the first real noteworthy plot point.

From there it goes further as we learn that there is a husband involved. That's moderately interesting. And then finally, when the narrator starts musing about whether Loni was a spirit on his last visit, it starts to drift into magic realism territory. At least that's how it seemed to me.

I had a few nitpicky points, just little things I think might start you along the path towards really strengthening this opening.

1. I'm not sure how well I liked the word "surrounded" in the second line. I might swap that out for something else, some stronger, more specific descriptor.

2. In the first sentence, I feel as though adding "from worry" disrupts the cadence and parallelism going on.

3. I might switch "When he died, Loni was thirty-seven years old" around to read "Loni was thirty-seven years old when he died." I think it has more punch, and that way you aren't starting two of the three sentences in this paragraph in the same manner.

4. "center room": What room? Don't rooms usually have more specific names than that? Is it a sitting room? A living room, dining room? The vagueness distracts me, because now I'm sitting there trying to figure out how I ought to be picturing the room, but I don't have enough context clues to do it. Also, not sure if this really matters, but it might: Are Loni and the narrator sitting or standing at this juncture? Essentially I need help visualizing this a bit.

5. Perhaps simply say "moon" rather than "moonlight"? It might sound better.

As you may have noticed, these are all just my own preferences. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else particularly agrees or disagrees with me on any account.

Anyways, the only real thing I wonder/worry about is, if this is the opening, how soon will we get into some present-moment action? Because so far this is just the narrator telling us about what happened earlier on. That may be fine briefly, but I'll probably get bored pretty soon if the writing doesn't shift from the narrator thinking at me into the narrator *doing* something. Just something to keep in mind.

Take all my words with a grain of salt. I think is a good start, and could be even better with a little polishing. Good luck!

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extrinsic
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Magical Realism blurs mundane (earthly) and metaphysical (spiritual) realms' boundaries. The fragment's second paragraph enters into those territories. The title doesn't, as conventionally Magical Realism narratives' titles do.

Blurred boundaries? More so inverted experience realms; mundane existence is spiritually transcendental and metaphysical existence is earthly, ordinary routine. No subjunctive mood expressions of appears as if or seems like or wonders about: mundane is perceived as transcendental and metaphysical as ordinary; in other words, no personal doubt about either or both. Is.

The first paragraph's descriptions are mundane-ordinary and routine. Leavening in transcendental signals starts Magical Realism development up front. The second paragraph defuses transcendental motifs' appeal powers from subjunctive mood use.

On a promising track, the motif that most stands out for me appeal-wise is the subterfuge of the narrator's avoidance of discovery by -- her? -- the husband for what clandestine purpose. Something guilty is going on. Mens rea, a guilty mind.

[ February 22, 2015, 06:33 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Captain of my Sheep
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quote:
I'd be interested to hear if anyone else particularly agrees or disagrees with me on any account.
Jennica Dotson, I agree on point 1 and 2. I felt the flow break a little as I read those parts. I also agree with your suggestions.

jdb2828, I would read on but you'd have to show me the present in the next line, or I could quit. I like to be anchored in the present, even if you later keep thinking about past events for a bit.

You have a nice voice, by the way.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Jennica Dotson:
. . .
3. I might switch "When he died, Loni was thirty-seven years old" around to read "Loni was thirty-seven years old when he died." I think it has more punch, and that way you aren't starting two of the three sentences in this paragraph in the same manner.
. . .
As you may have noticed, these are all just my own preferences. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else particularly agrees or disagrees with me on any account.
. . .

Hatrack fragment comment and workshop general rules of conduct, writing workshop culture overall, proscribe critique of critique and direct address to critiquers. Comment on the writing, not the writer is the principle at hand. Otherwise, a persistent feedback loop propagates endlessly and perhaps contentiously.

Though assent and dissent are specifically requested. Okay. However, I endeavor to comment solely on the writing, not the critiquer.

I second the general consideration of stronger and clearer expression development warrants more conscious sentence construction; not given, how and why, etc. I dissent with examples given that emulate the shortfalls under advisement. The one above, for example: "Loni was thirty-seven years old when he died."

Static verb "was." Misused four-possible-parts-of-speech word "when:" adverb, pronoun, conjunction, or noun or overlaps.

The original sentence uses "when" for an antecedent subordination clause's subordination term, as a conjunction and an adverb. The suggested example uses "when" as an object clause conjunction and adverb, and, as well, for a subordination clause term connection to the main clause. The sentence's main idea is Loni died at age thirty-seven, not "when" he died, the age he died. Use of "when" vaguely expresses a relative time for when Loni died. Stronger and clearer expression, and persuasive and appealing, of the time of death uses more absolute time development.

Also, a consideration is the "was" verb's static nature. Static voice: an ongoing state-of-being expression. Death is an opposite from state of being, a state of not-any-longer being. That Loni died is a moment, not an ongoing state, per se. He's dead for the forseeable future is ongoing, though. The cadaver may be in a state of being as a thing, not a person in the usual sense, though for the fragment, implied, perhaps Loni is at a state-of-being transition threshold. However, Magical Realism may transcendentally perceive a cadaver as a state of being for a person. However, again, a cadaver's discorporeal soul in whatever state of being -- trapped, lingering, immanent, departed, etc. -- is a spiritual motif Magical Realism portrays as mundane-ordinary routine, taken for granted, in other words, not a spiritually transcendental mundane motif. Death and spirituality as mundane-ordinary routine, though, are Magical Realism motif conventions.

Anyway, the two words "was" and "when" are pivotal considerations for revision. "Was" is unnecessary altogether, the word "died" is the verb of substance.

And "when" developed as absolute a time relativity as practical for dynamic voice potentials is a consideration. When did Loni die? Last Friday? This very day? Magical Realism's conventions offer guidance: a holy feast day? A pagan or secular holiday? Because death and a soul's immanence are implied by the second paragraph, perhaps the day of Loni's death at age thirty-seven could be Halloween, All Souls Day. Describing the day, perhaps the time of day, develops dynamic voice and setting anchor appeals for readers and reader effect that also develops the setting and characters and the plot: events.

Another of Magical Realism's conventions is use of liminal motifs, subtle though they are. Liminal motifs are thresholds of time, place, and situation -- setting features -- and events and persons; loci of transitions between one state of being and another.

If Loni died at age thirty-seven on Halloween day, at noon, in a doorway, for example, that is three out of four liminal transition motifs, age thirty-seven not liminal unless he died on his birthday or the day of another influential person's death or birth. A liminal age close to about thirty-seven is forty, a threshold midpoint between the thirties and forties, or thirty-five, the liminal midpoint threshold between twenty-five, middle adulthood onset, and forty-five, late adulthood onset.

Similar considerations as the above for the remainder are advisable, in my estimation.

Please also note, this critique of a critique also builds upon the original critique's strength and clarity guidance and offers guidance for Magical Realism developments. In other words, contributes constructively to the overall conversation.

[ February 24, 2015, 12:49 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Bent Tree
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I would keep reading. I think it could use a light polish but I found the premise interesting and fresh. The narration was good.
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Grumpy old guy
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For me, the weakness of the first paragraph has stopped me commenting until now. I found the repetitive use of 'and' in that opening paragraph maddening.

The minor brouhaha over the manner of describing Loni's death is interesting, enlightening and entertaining. For me, at least.

If the shortcomings of the first paragraph can be overcome, there is enough interest generated in the narrative of two people engaging in a clandestine activity, whether harmless or of more dire import, to entice me to read further.

Phil.

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