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Author Topic: Gwi'shin
Denevius
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The soft mewing started low, drifting out of the brass door into the narrow alley. The old woman couldnít remember how long the plaintive sound had been going on before she eventually became conscious of it. At the foot of the alley winding through the Dongmun neighborhood, the old woman sat in a semicircle of old women on a square wooden board balanced on a wide flat rock. She hadnít uttered a word all night, instead listening as the other women gossiped about their kids grown into adults raising kids of their own. Sharing anecdotes of failures done by progeny adrift from the traditional ways, and disappointments brought upon by a modern world obese with too much free time, the old women shared green bottles of white makgoli drunk from flimsy paper cups. The pitch of the mewing

[ January 21, 2016, 11:16 AM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Denevius
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The first opening of five 20 paged short stories world building a sequel tentatively titled Gwi'shin. Thanks in advance to all comments!
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babooher
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If you need readers, let me know.

The text here seems clunky and distant. Is there a protagonist? We have no names-just an old woman with other old women. Are they all the same age? Are they just generic old women? More than likely the third sentence has a misplaced modifier unless all of the women are on the square wooden board. The sentence starting "She hadn't uttered..." is awkward and has a tense shift.

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extrinsic
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Elder women, one elder in particular, contemplate their navels.

Though the fragment has a prelude quality setup to the main action, story movement is only propelled by the strong prose. Strong to mean reading and comprehension ease from exceptional grammar skills. Wow, what a difference from somewhat mediocre and average grammar.

For me, the slow movement is a consequence of an intro setup shortfall -- what the story promises to be about. What do the elder women contemplate and why? What do they want, at least, if not what problems they address, or vice versa, or built-in want and problem realization?

This sentence is too-boring long for its limited emphasis arc, though long sentences can signal emphasis. "Sharing anecdotes of failures done by progeny adrift from the traditional ways, and disappointments brought upon by a modern world obese with too much free time, the old women shared green bottles of white makgoli drunk from flimsy paper cups."

The sentence contains the germ of what the story could be about: idle progeny and a world fat and flat from immediate and effortless self-gratification. An exquisite satire potential. The emphasis arc falls flat on setting up a due call for attention. Actually, the sentence reads like two dangling participle clauses, one present participle, one past participle, and a main idea.

The sentence type, as is, is a periodic rather than a loose sentence, though contains loose sentence criteria. A periodic sentence leaves a main idea and its emotional charge for last. A loose sentence starts with a main idea and adds detail and builds emotional charge through subsequent clauses.

Recast for periodic sentence emphasis customs:

//The old women [sipped] green bottles of white makgoli from flimsy paper cups, [shared] anecdotes of failures done by progeny adrift from traditional ways and disappointments brought upon by a modern world obese with too much free time.//

That syntax organization builds emphasis, emotional charge, as it unfolds, holds reader attention closer.

I might read up to five hundred words to see if story movement picks up and if what the story is about clearly and strongly develops soon, mostly because the grammar skills signal a story's craft mischief, too, is about to be managed artfully -- dramatically, subtly, persuasively.

[ January 21, 2016, 04:36 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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Thanks for the replies!

Thanks for the offer, babooher. I don't need readers yet. I finished the first draft last week, and am almost done the second draft. I'll get back to you for a swap of a piece around 6000 words.

Are you currently working on anything that you'd want to swap, say, around Monday or Tuesday?

quote:
More than likely the third sentence has a misplaced modifier unless all of the women are on the square wooden board.
They all are.

quote:
I might read up to five hundred words to see if story movement picks up...
Around 600 words is where the cutting begins. I was tempted to begin the story around then, but it would have only been for this site. A more moderate buildup for a 6000 word story may be a tad of a risk that I'll take for now until I see the responses from readers who've read the entire piece.

quote:
The sentence contains the germ of what the story could be about: idle progeny and a world fat and flat from immediate and effortless self-gratification
That's a nice analysis. Self-gratification plays a pivotal role in this story, and ultimately the novel as a whole.

Thanks again for the comments!

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Grumpy old guy
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I see a solid story opening needing development. A routine (A gossip circle) interrupted (A mysterious mewing). Beginning with the mewing and then the reaction would seem the correct procedure: cause then effect. However, in this case there is a strong argument to reverse this.

The 'hook' in this case is not action, it is in fact very mild curiosity (What's mewing and why?)--which isn't enough to keep the reader engaged; you need something else.

In my opinion, an effective hook to keep a readers attention is to evoke within the reader's mind either a memory or a feeling. So I would focus on the viewpoint character's thoughts about wayward youth in such a way that the reader will immediately sympathise and agree with her.

Now, the giant square teeter-totter. If the purpose of this is simply as a metaphor for harmony and co-operation then kill it! When I first read it, it pulled me completely out of the story as I went, "Huh? He's got too be kidding! That's stupid! What if one of them has to get up and pee?"

Phil.

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Denevius
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quote:
However, in this case there is a strong argument to reverse this.

The 'hook' in this case is not action...

I thought of this, and may edit it after I get feedback on the whole to reflect this kind of opening.

If I don't set up the scene in the first paragraph, the subsequent paragraphs will feel like backstory since I have to place the reader in time and space. If I set up the scene to eliminate backstory, the opening *may* feel a bit slow, but at least the reader knows where they are and what the character is doing.

The second sentence of the second paragraph of this story is quite bizarre. So if the opening paragraph is solid enough to get readers to the second paragraph, I think that might be okay.

Thank again for the comments!

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Disgruntled Peony
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Overall, the opening strikes me as a bit slow, mostly for mechanical reasons: There are a couple of word repetitions (old woman/old women/women; mewing/mewing). You might not need the word 'soft'; "The mewing started low" might do just as well. I suppose my biggest issue as a reader, the big thing that makes it feel slow, is that the opening is one long paragraph. I know it might change the line count, but I'd recommend a couple of paragraph breaks for ease of reading, like so:

quote:
The soft mewing started low, drifting out of the brass door into the narrow alley. The old woman couldnít remember how long the plaintive sound had been going on before she eventually became conscious of it.
At the foot of the alley winding through the Dongmun neighborhood, the old woman sat in a semicircle of old women on a square wooden board balanced on a wide flat rock. She hadnít uttered a word all night, instead listening as the other women gossiped about their kids grown into adults raising kids of their own. Sharing anecdotes of failures done by progeny adrift from the traditional ways, and disappointments brought upon by a modern world obese with too much free time, the old women shared green bottles of white makgoli drunk from flimsy paper cups.
The pitch of the mewing

(Do keep in mind that as the last sentence cuts off, I don't technically know if that's relevant as the start of a new paragraph. It just felt like the previous potential paragraph was complete there based on what I can currently see.)

That said, those are the only issues I had with the opening and I'd consider them fairly minor. The general flavor of the scene interests me. I find myself curious to see what the source of the mewing is. I would read on, at least for a bit (and this isn't the sort of story I actively attempt seek out, which actually speaks quite well for your narrative).

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Denevius
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Thanks for the comments, Peony. The opening paragraph is 6 long sentences. I'll consider breaking them up and see if that changes the flow from what I intended.

quote:
this isn't the sort of story I actively attempt seek out, which actually speaks quite well for your narrative
Haha, that's good to hear. Curious though, from this opening, what genre does this story strike you as?
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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Thanks for the comments, Peony. The opening paragraph is 6 long sentences. I'll consider breaking them up and see if that changes the flow from what I intended.

quote:
this isn't the sort of story I actively attempt seek out, which actually speaks quite well for your narrative
Haha, that's good to hear. Curious though, from this opening, what genre does this story strike you as?
I couldn't really pinpoint a genre from the opening thirteen lines. It read a bit like a drama/literary piece to me, based on what I could see. To be fair, it's entirely possible I just don't have all the pieces yet.
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Denevius
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quote:
It read a bit like a drama/literary piece to me, based on what I could see.
It would be pleasant if most readers of NATURAL POLICE thought 'literary writing' when they read it.

Thanks again for your comments!

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walexander
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Just little nits,

"Started low" in your hook implies it should be building but never does. Maybe its the last sentence.
"Sound had been going on" implies the mewing has been going on for a while, but wasn't noticed---but it started low? Started low from the point the protagonist noticed it?
"Old woman/Old women" bad word combination. Seems lazy. You should rephrase. Re-imagine.
---A woman of twilight years, one of four--- etc. etc. You can do better.
"Semi-circle" implies no balancing point? Circle would mean they are balanced evenly.
Next three sentences imply she is more focused on the gossiping rather than the hook -- the mewing. Is it not the mewing which has broken her from the platitudes? Though artistically written, there should be less on the others more about the hook. I'm guilty of this a lot myself.

You're close. I consider these small nits.

W.

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Denevius
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Thanks Alexander, all good stuff to consider!

Thanks for the comments!

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Denevius
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Revision: The mewing started low, drifting out of the brass door into the narrow alley. Mok Haíneul couldnít remember how long the night breeze had carried the plaintive sound before she eventually became conscious of it. At the foot of the alley winding through the Dongmun neighborhood, the old woman sat in a semicircle of old women on a square wooden board balanced on a wide flat rock.
Haíneul hadnít uttered a word all night, instead listening as the other women gossiped about their kids grown into adults raising kids of their own. Trading anecdotes of failures committed by progeny adrift from the traditional ways, the old women shared green bottles of white makgoli drunk from flimsy paper cups.

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