I'm back in my flash fiction phase. This is the first draft opening from a new piece that came to me the last time I drove the Chesapeake Bay bridge. Thanx for reading!
David locked his gaze on the dark and mild rippling Chesapeake Bay water at the bow of his idle motorboat. *1530.* His concentrated thought shot a stabbing pain between his eyes. A two-foot wave erupted from that very spot. David gripped onto the sides to keep his balance. Damn. The transition was getting more violent. He was running out of time. But at least it worked. That small area of water turned a deep blue before his eyes. He could even see fish---hundreds of them!---that existed in the year 1530. He looked down at his phone, already displaying a photo of his wife from a time before their shared ‘talents’ eroded her happy-go-lucky smile. “We’re almost there, sweetheart.”
Posts: 31 | Registered: Jul 2013
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I struggled to get past the first sentence, then gave up with the '1530'.
It has to be a cosmic coincidence that you should write a sentence that could be so full of import, and yet miss the mark entirely, just as extrinsic starts a thread, here, that I think, IMHO, you should read.
The first sentence is poorly constructed, in my grammatically challenged opinion. And, the moment I read 1530, I wondered what was going on. What is 1530: a time, a date, an address? Just shoving it in, without preamble, left me confused.
All that said, I think the idea has promise; the execution needs work.
The first line didn't work for me, either. I had to re-read it more than once to get an image in my head, and the whole while I kept thinking that it could be at once simpler stated while at the same time not nearly important enough to open a story with.
And it's a funny thing, though pet-names are commonly used in real life, for some reason when I read them in print, I'm always left cringing. 'Sweetheart', 'Honey', 'Dear'; all of these words just sound clunky in prose.
I'lll echo Phil also that you do seem to have an intriguing concept here buried under flawed prose. But the writing itself needs a lot of work.
Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011
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David idles in a motorboat somewhere on the Chesapeake Bay and opens a portal to a past time of 1530. Presumably, for a time after a first European-Algonquin contact, roughly 1527 by Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón. Also presumably, David and his wife plan to go to that time. Maybe not.
A standout for me for this fragment is that possibility of travel to the era and some complication satisfaction sequence of proportionate magnitude for flash fiction. Why and what they want or what problem they want to satisfy then and there is, I feel, most essential for development and, in this case, not clear and strong.
Reports from explorers of the time indicate the bay waters were tan-hued blueish-green, green tea-like, and abundant with fish, crustaceans, wildfowl, and cetaceans. Sturgeon and eels were most of interest to European palates. Most of the region's maritime wildlife population loss happened post the War of Northern Aggression, late nineteenth century, with industrialization of fishing and fowl hunting practices.
My point is description specifics are essential, more so for micro fiction, so that readers are immersed by event, setting, and character developments. Deep blue waters, for example, are miles out from the bay's mouth at the Gulf Stream.
Furthermore, the general voice is of a narrator looking in on events from outside the scene. For example, the first sentence depicts a camera's view of David looking forward across the boat's bow into the water. "locked his gaze" tells a static action that is actually a visual sensation wanting vivid and lively description. I understand the action is David exerting his power. The sentence, though, reads as if he merely looks ahead at the water surface.
Where in the bay does this scene take place? Even though sea life was abundant, places where fish concentrated were choke points: narrow channels and likewise where food concentrated. Fish also schooled, as they do now.
What kind of fish? I'd go with Atlantic sturgeon, because they are valuable and nutritious and comparatively easily caught by net, and because they are visually exotic for their primordial appearance. If that choice, they concentrate in schools when they migrate from pelagic to anadromous waters, open ocean and estuary nursery marshes, respectively. Then where this scene takes place can be narrowed and described vividly and lively.
The boat too, a vivid and lively description, concisely, might show characteristics that distinguish the boat's size and situation. An old wooden or fiberglass skiff? A shiny-new jet boat? Small runabouts are popular on the bay and the finger tributaries: Elizabeth, James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac Rivers and Susquehanna farther north. Say a 17-foot Boston Whaler, or at least a 27-foot out on the open bay.
A few details that evoke a vivid image from which readers can fill in visual details. Paint flaking from a wood deck; scraped fiberglass gel coat; stray nautical items: lifejackets, ropes and lines, safety kits, flares, whistles, and so on, items which develop the boat's mythology, the setting's place situation, and the character of the characters. An old boat may signal an economical or impoverished David, for example. Not any and every detail, only ones that develop verisimilitude, event, setting, character, and the dramatic action at hand.
The line *1530.* The asterisks I recognize as a workaround to signal italics and thus a direct thought. That listserv convention is a derivative of Standard Manuscript Format's special formatting marks, though underscores bracket italics strings, asterisks bracket bold formatting, conventionally. A derivative practice reverses the two listserv conventions.
A consideration is the narration is the indirect discourse of narrator summary lecture. Some parts are direct discourse thoughts and speech of David's. The voice switches awkwardly between the two: an unsettled voice.
Flash fiction mostly doesn't have the leisure of "almost there." There or not, no almost, is flash fiction's action.
Not sure if the wife is in the scene's present time, though not with David, or already in the past and David prepares to join her. Consider he, and she, goes, no prepares. Because this is an in medias res opening and flash fiction, start the action, not get ready to prepare to begin to start getting into the action. Leap right on in. The bay waters are fine and mostly shallow except mid channels nearby river mouths and the main channel.
But what does David and the wife want from the past? Escape to a simpler time? 1530 Tidewater wasn't a simple time. Tassantas (strangers who came from underneath the world) weren't sure of a welcome in Tsenacomoco. Though the pale faces of death spirits were initially hesitantly met, their fork-tongued thunder lances which bit were frightening and highly desired.
Complication's wants and problems development should be introduced swiftly in flash fiction.