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Author Topic: Coyote and the Land of the Dead (Working Title), Period Fantasy, ~5k words
Disgruntled Peony
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I'm still editing the second draft of this story (and have yet to hit a title I even remotely like), but I decided the opening thirteen lines were ready for critique. If anyone's interested in looking at the story as a whole, let me know and I'll send it out once the draft is complete.

Please note: this is a different story than Coyote and the Green Man, although both stories feature the same protagonists. (Coyote and the Green Man is actually finished, and is in the process of getting shopped around.)

_______________________________________________________________


1st Version:

The Pale Horse Saloon was reputed to be the wildest place in Sanguine, which made it the perfect location to demonize the vice of alcoholism. A small crowd of faithful churchgoers gathered around the storefront, bibles and fresh-printed fliers in hand. Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched the protest intently from the front porch of the jail, which was located across the street by design rather than coincidence.
Coyote stirred within Mallory’s soul, flexed spiritual limbs and whispered in his mind’s ear. This should certainly be interesting.
Mallory scowled, pulled his hat low to shadow his face, and spoke softly enough for his voice to be lost in the noise of the street. “I warned Pastor Quill there'd be trouble.”

_______________________________________________________________


2nd Version:

Churchgoers besieged the front doors of the Pale Horse Saloon, bibles and fresh-printed fliers in hand. They pushed papers into the hands of everyone who approached the doors and spewed prohibitionist rhetoric at anyone who would listen. Their efforts, though fervent, earned little more than a litany of derision and profanity from the swarm of coal miners, farmers and ranch hands that frequented the drinking establishment.
Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched intently from across the street, on the front porch of the jail. Everything about this supposedly nonviolent protest reeked of trouble. Pastor Quill’s presence rankled Mallory especially, albeit for different reasons. The pastor had never openly called Mallory out as being half-Apache, but the air of superiority he exuded in Mallory’s presence was

_______________________________________________________________

3rd Version:

Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched, eyes narrowed and muscles tensed, as evangelists swarmed the front doors of the Pale Horse Saloon. The government had proposed a referendum to ban the sale of alcohol throughout Texas, and no one was more fond of the idea than the parishioners of Sanguine’s First Methodist Church. They pressed fresh-printed fliers into the hands of everyone who passed them on the street and hurled platitudes at anyone who would listen.
Mallory disapproved, not because of any personal fondness for alcohol, but because the protesters’ efforts clearly rankled the coal miners, farmers, and ranch hands who frequented the drinking establishment. The owner of the Pale Horse maintained a firm open door policy. Anyone was welcome so long as they paid their tab,


_______________________________________________________________

4th Version:

Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched, eyes narrowed and muscles tensed, as Pastor Quill led a swarm of dry activists onto the front porch of the Pale Horse Saloon. The sight made Mallory's gut churn. Protesters always meant trouble, but staging a temperance rally in front of a bar? Someone must have put Pastor Quill on the prod.
Coyote's voice rattled in the space between Mallory’s ears, loud and clangorous. What do these puffed-up white men care about the evils of drink? They’re the ones who brought it to our lands in the first place.
Mallory flinched. Even after three months of sharing a body, it still felt strange to hear Coyote's voice inside his own head. He took a moment to recompose himself, pulled the brim of his

[ December 15, 2016, 01:58 AM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]

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Grumpy old guy
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I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing but I remember the first two iterations of this opening. This third version does not reach the quality of the first two; despite their own shortfalls.

This opening seems unfocused in it's attempt to do too much, in my opinion. We are given a setting (the town of Sanguine), a situation (a temperance meeting in front of the saloon), a character (Sheriff Mallory), and a spirit totem (Coyote): which one is the most important to the story? And, as an aside, I would be offended if a spirit totem of mine was used to make a flippant piece of commentary of dubious import. Finally, this opening seems to have been contrived to submit as a thirteen line opening, not the opening of an entire short story. My advice, for what it's worth, write the story and then submit that story's first thirteen lines and leave the ending wherever it may fall.

Taking all three attempts at writing an opening for this story into consideration, I am forced to the conclusion that you have no idea of where to start. Given the information I was able to glean from the first two openings, am I right to infer that Sheriff Mallory is of mixed heritage? If I am right, is that not a perfect place to start--introducing both personal and societal conflict within the opening scene perhaps, or a refusal to accept the advice of a spirit guide, 'cos a proper Sheriff wouldn't take such advice, and the consequent psychic turmoil? Lots of possibilities there.

On the other hand, is Sheriff Mallory the right viewpoint character to tell the tale? The book Shane is a good example to use here. The story is told through the eyes of the young boy, Bob. This isn't done by chance; it is only through his eyes that you get to see his disappointment and disillusionment with his father's character when compared to the heroic stranger, Shane. Instant conflict. And it is only through his eyes that you can see the change in Shane's attitude to himself, Joe's attitude to himself, and Bob's appreciation of a different type of courage. So, are you telling your story through the right set of eyes? Only you can answer that question. [Smile]

Phil.

[ November 21, 2016, 05:30 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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This is actually a completely different story that happens to feature the same protagonist. Sorry for the confusion. I'll edit the opening statements to clarify. (Also, the opening thirteen lines honestly fell like that out of pure happenstance. I was rather surprised by it, myself.)

[ November 21, 2016, 09:44 AM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]

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Grumpy old guy
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My bad, on two counts. Sorry.

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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No worries. I honestly didn't think to specify, and I really should have.

I can see where you're coming from with the opening seeming too busy. I'll think on how to fix that. (I have a few inklings already, but I want to finish my edits on the second half of the story before I play with the beginning again.)

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extrinsic
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A confrontation between a protest group and the business to which they object brews across from a lawman and a town jail's porch. A spirit also rides the sheriff.

Though the action is more leisurely and developed than the writer's fragments of late, appreciably so, still a somewhat rushed and forced start: two complications jammed in; one, the pendent confrontation; and two, the Coyote-spirit rider. Both are external, done-tos of Mallory's, victimization complications, as it were, and not per se of a personal stakes' proactive conflict strength. Proactive responses to those complications appear as easy everyday routines for Mallory and of little to no personal problem, or consequence, thus far.

From my estimations, the latter high-stakes personal matters are greater features to begin from than routines.

Also, for a historical period drama, the language is anachronistic, present-day sophisticated as like a college graduate's affected dialect. The two "which" nonrestrictive relative pronoun subordination clauses are more patent examples of such, and a few similar achronic diction and syntax features.

"Nonrestrictive relative pronoun subordination clauses," is a grammar lingo handful. "Nonrestrictive" means unessential to the restricted meaning of a main clause. A relative pronoun is a connective word that introduces a dependent subordinate or dependent relative clause, the connective tissue that relates a subordination clause to a main clause. Who (and declinations whom and whose), which, what, and that are the common relative pronouns.

A subordination clause is a dependent clause that, one, contributes subordinate meaning to a main clause, and, two, arranges a clause emphasis hierarchy for complex, compound, and complex-compound sentence syntax organization.

Subordinate clauses emphasize main clause meaning. For that role, subordinate clauses best artful practice contribute emphasis to a main clause. Subordinated to a main clause means a dependent clause's idea is inferior to a main clause's superior idea. As such, thus, matters of emphasis and memorableness therefrom are the artist's considerations.

Strongest, and by default, sentence superior emphasis positions for main clauses are starts and ends. Starts for loose sentence syntax, the main idea clause at the start and subsequent dependent clauses contribute further meaning to the main clause; ends for periodic sentence syntax, the main idea clause at the end for at last got to the main point.

Middles? Not by default. Main idea clauses shoehorned between dependent clauses de-emphasizes middle main clauses. Unless a middle main clause entails interior and superior emphasis, it is easily overlooked and confusing, and is generally not done for those reasons. Artful exceptions notwithstood.

Strongest and clearest intended syntax idea emphasis is a shorthand for what a syntax organization does and how to arrange one.

Long lecture short, the two "which" clauses contain the superior though subordinated ideas of their overall sentences. Confused syntax confuses an action or segment and readers.

In general, readers nonconsciously prioritize content from structure signals. This is less important; this is more important; this is most important: periodic sentence. Periodic sentence syntax locates the most important idea last and is natural to average attention spans.

Loose sentence syntax inverts that order, starts with a most important main idea though for prose a no less emotionally charged idea and progresses toward a most important dependent idea and greater emotional charge end. For formal composition, loose sentence syntax is rare because formal composition avoids emotional charge and structures main ideas by order of strongest interest first then develops greater and less interesting detail sequentially thereafter.

However, for prose, periodic and loose sentences capture, captivate, and move readers forward at a headlong rush to at the last reach a conclusive end. For the periodic sentence case, reach the main idea; for the loose sentence case, reach a full realization of its start's main idea.

Needless to say, a periodic sentence more suits general readers' attention spans; loose sentences, less so, if at all. For both cases, though, overlong sentences are problematic for average attention spans.

An analysis of the fragment's first sentence, a short loose sentence as constituted: "The Pale Horse Saloon was reputed to be the wildest place in Sanguine, which made it the perfect location to demonize the vice of alcoholism."

The second clause contains the sentence's true main idea, though subordinated to an inferior main idea clause.

Generally, an article adjective for a first word is problematic on its own, especially the definite article "the." This case, however, the use modifies a proper noun, the definite subject of the article, an exception to article use principles. The "The" emphasizes that this is the only one of its kind and is an important subject to remember.

The indefinite articles "a" and "an" are likewise problematic for similar and separate reasons, indefiniteness most of all. What, A Pale Horse saloon? as if it's one of many franchise's branch stores?

Now, "Pale Horse" is inspired allusion to and implication of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, the Death horseman Thanatos' pale horse in particular. Also, allusion, maybe, to the Clint Eastwood film Pale Rider. That saloon name by itself raises my curiosity most. Is that important to the action, both the saloon name and the saloon itself? If so, perhaps the saloon name could inform the title, what, Thanatos and Coyote, Pale Horses and Coyote, Coyote and the Flushed Herd?

Pale's associations with death are that life's blood has drained and leaves a body, face especially, flushed pale.

Problems with above those suggestions is they are either too pat or too vague allusions to the story. Readers who delight to locate and decipher a title source within a narrative would be disappointed "Pale Horse" comes up in the title and first sentence, too soon to develop the dramatic irony tension between such readers and a story. Hence, an accessible though skewed exaltation, if allusive, of an overall theme-complication suits a title's functions.

Projection from what's given, that the Bible group is the overt complication and are somehow, someway warped and personally problematic for Mallory for it. If intended and meant, that for me is cause enough to read on, my curiosity aroused. What, these Bible trekers protest Death? Hah! Worth note agua vitae, Latin, water of life, is a euphemism for spirited beverages. Coyote:; Agua Vitae and the Bible Herd?

"was reputed to be the wildest place in Sanguine" ahh, a hedging let down, and passive and static voice for a first sentence. Reputed by whom? Two to be verbs, one past, one infinitive, stasis' nondefinite time span and context. For definiteness's sake and dynamic voice the saloon either is now or is not now the "wildest place in Sanguine."

"place"? is a vague referent, and "location," too. Pale Horse Saloon patrons raise unholy Cain at the rowdiest waterhole (barroom, taphouse, wet wicket, spigot, tavern, public house, inn, etc.) across the Oachita territory, okay.

Sanguine, for a town name, by the way, also is inspired, means blood-red, an allusion to blood, and a connotative meaning of self-assured confidence ease. Blood will easily, confidently be shed!? From such name exposition comes much of a start's implications of the action to come: artful and subtle foreshadows.

"which made it the perfect location to demonize the vice of alcoholism." Emphasis problems, this clause contains the more important sentence idea, somewhat contributes to the as-is main clause idea, and blunts emphasis progression overall. It does transition, lead into, set up the next sentence's main subject idea. To me, though, emphasis movement and escalation principles for a dramatic start require the clause be separate as its own standalone idea, or timely positioned later, or at least the main idea or superior emphasized idea of the sentence.

To make verbs are problematic stasis verbs from at least their to be state of being connotations. They are also present-day idiom anachronies unsuited to the period's dialects. "Made it" at the time meant only manufactured, crafted, prepared, created it. Who made the saloon a place to demonize alcohol? Maybe the imaginations of the Bible trekers. That, though, is not the overt intent of a purpose-constructed saloon, the opposite, in fact, for-profit glorification of alcohol bacchanalia consumption.

And "perfect" is a perhaps too pat superlative, an uncomparable adjective, actually, contrasted by positive, comparative, and superlative forms. Positive adjectives stand alone, modify by no degree of comparison: _white_ ball, for example. Comparative adjectives correlate two conditions as an implicit or tacit argument, compare a positive degree and a comparative degree, for example, perfect and more perfect.

Superlatives compare three degrees of condition arguments: perfect, more perfect, and most perfect. Conventional diction refuses those comparable terms for "perfect," though; is perfect or is imperfect, flawed; those are antonyms, though, not comparatives. Unconventional positives, uncomparatives, comparatives, and superlatives, on the other hand, suit both stream-of-consciousness methods and emotional emphasis criteria. Say, most perfectest!? Please don't use that latter, please.

Who says, too, or thinks, that the situation is perfect? Mallory? Coyote? Bible trekers? Saloon keepers? Not Mallory, certainly; confrontation that disturbs his peace and the public peace is afoot. Coyote delights in confrontations. Okay, a "perfect storm," though that idiom is played out trite and a present-day idiom that's an anachrony for the period.

Do the Bible trekers seek a conflagration? Probably not, only a peaceful protest intent, probably. Likewise for otherwise peaceful saloon keepers and patrons, maybe, though inclined to break heads that interfere with profits and alcohol enjoyment consumption. The perfection idea, ergo, derives from Coyote's motivations!? Not viewpoint agonist Mallory's. A viewpoint glitch.

"Demonize" and "the vice of alcohol" further confuse the viewpoint focal center. Does Mallory think those thoughts? Or are those Bible trekers' thoughts? Or Coyote's or saloon keepers'? As is, the Bible trekers'. Viewpoint glitch.

Alcohol consumption circa pre-Prohibition was justified by poor to bad infectious-diseased potable water. Drinking alcohol was at least a thirst satisfaction substitute for foul drinking water. Tippling considered a social disease arouse as temperance movements circa 1820s and gained momentum thereafter up through Prohibition's repeal, somewhat declined afterward; as a moral and physiological disease labeled alcoholism, was a much later movement situation, mid-twentieth century. An anachronism.

"_bibles_ and _fliers_" Proper noun Bibles is capital case, and "flyers" for the trekers' tracts, textual ephemera: cards, leaflets, sheets, broadsides, posters, placards, folios, and pamphlets documents. Fliers is for airspace pilots and passengers and animals. In terms of "flyer's" anachrony, it is more a present-day label, "leaflet" is a more suitable label for the period.

"watched the protest _intently_" an adverb for strongest and clearest emphasis precedes its modified verb; plus, "intently" is an extraordinarily emotionally bland adverb. It is a Tom Swifty of Turkey City Lexicon infamy. Pointless adverb, if not emotionally charged.

"of _the_ jail" definite article "the" to modify an indefinite subject. At least another adjective like the "town" jail is indicated and that develops more setting detail, perhaps adds emotional charge. Consider also how might the viewpoint agonist's emotional charge, Mallory, presumably, responsively think of the jail; graybar inn, hokey-poke, pokehole, fleasack, noose bank, and so on; that suits the period and Mallory and clearly, definitely, at least for memorableness's sake, if not emotional emphasis, labels the gaol (eighteenth century label).

"_which_ was located across the street by design rather than coincidence." Another subordinate nonrestrictive relative pronoun dependent clause, spoils its more important and the sentence's main idea emphasis.

"was located," a passive and static voice predicate, akin to "to make" and "by design." Whose design set the saloon across the street from the jail? Mallory's? Are "design" or "coincidence" saloon locator actors? That is unconventional grammar syntax, and passive voice construction, and static, vague forces deflect expressing who the doer is, though, if intended set across the street, is known to Mallory -- because he caused either the jail's, or saloon's, or both, setups there, right? Viewpoint glitch.

"Coyote stirred within Mallory’s soul, flexed spiritual limbs and whispered in his mind’s ear. This should certainly be interesting."

"stirred" is enough of a period contemporary idiom for awakened to be clear, though is emotionally quiet, could be stronger charged. A spirit rider takes notice and stirs, right? "within" and then "soul" is redundant, and a mite too sophisticated for an Old West sheriff's thoughts. A term like spurred is more focused, //spurred into Mallory's soul.//

Likewise oversophisticated "flexed spiritual limbs[,] and whispered in his mind’s ear." Takes a comma before the "and" conjunction, between second and third serial items, to begin with, so that those three actions are clearly shown as Coyote's and not the middle one confused as Mallory's. The second clause could use a pronoun subject for clarity, though ("its" at least, if not a more definite and perhaps charged noun from Mallory's perspective of Coyote's identity). At least the clauses' tense sequence is coordinated and not mixed past and present participle.

The concepts of "spiritual limbs" and "mind's ear" are a mite too present-day spiritual sophistication, too, plus, on the trite side, and less definite than specific, and too pat specific for the period and perhaps for characterizing who Mallory is. They explain and summarize overmuch, are writer intrusions, I feel, leave too little option for reader interpretation. Anachrony and viewpoint glitches.

"This should be interesting." thought by Coyote, the fragment's first direct discourse, by default poses Coyote as the viewpoint agonist, instead of Mallory. Also, it is a present-day idiom, anachrony, and indefinite.

The event will or won't be worth witnessing from a safe distance, right? Stronger charge, clearer expression, and period contemporary -- consider if the thought is Coyote's response to Mallory's reaction to observations of the Bible trekers. Or if the thought is Coyote's direct reaction to and observation of the Bible trekers. The former, Mallory's viewpoint; the latter, Coyote's viewpoint.

The understatement's irony either way is inaccessible. That's understatement and that idiom's power: accessible understated irony signaled by "this" relative comparative pronoun, relative proximity pronoun "this" compared with "that", that "that" is more apropos, "this" here is where Coyote and Mallory are; "that" there is where the hubbub is; and conditional verb auxiliary "should"; and self-contradictory subject complement adjective in object position, "interesting," to mean attention arousal. The pendent dramatic public display attention arousal is the self-contradiction, contrary to Mallory's interests, motivations, that is, for peace and quiet.

Note that a common present-day idiom uses "interesting" to imply approval, build rapport, and deflect confrontation when a situation is otherwise negative and contentious. The recent snafu cluster flock at Wichita's Kansas For Statehood convention was interesting. Too flat on its own context for the irony of understatement to be accessible.

"Mallory scowled, pulled his hat low to shadow his face, and spoke softly enough for his voice to be lost in the noise of the street. 'I warned Pastor Quill there'd be trouble.'"

"scowled" can Mallory or Coyote possibly see or sense that, essentially, nonvolitional emotional reaction? Nope. Viewpoint glitch. Writer or narrator maybe viewpoint. "Pulled his hat" is a volitional reaction, at least.

"To shadow" is an infinitive verb nested among all otherwise past tense verbs, tense sequence glitch. And the concise verb is to shade not to shadow. A shadow cause is the effect of a shade. Subtle, but yes, and one syllable less. An adjustment would distinguish the shade action from the pulled down hat and softened speech, into a double doublet after a number of triplets, for the spice that is sentence syntax variety. //Eyes squinted [volitional action], Mallory tipped his hat brim [specific essential details] low -- shaded his face, and spoke . . .//

"and spoke softly enough _for_ his voice to be lost _in_ the noise _of_ the street." wordy, again, oversophisticated language for the period, maybe for present-day prose, too. Note three prepositions and their attached prepositional phrases: "for," "in," and "of." Clause adjustment could consider less wordiness, and language apropos of the period, notably Mallory's subjective expression mode, plus add emotional charge emphasis, and no less express the same actions.

"'I warned Pastor Quill there'd be trouble.'" Similar language considerations as above: Somewhat too present-day, too pat, too indefinite, too inaccessible understated irony. Would not a sheriff be less indefinite? Told, not warned Quill there would be trouble? Not "there" either, rather they, the Bible trekers are, not would be, trouble? //'Told deaf ears Pastor Quill them was trouble.'// for example, and Mallory's ironic implied imperative Quill ignored no less.

"was" is apropos of an unsophisticated English speaker's unconventional grammar, a stream-of-consciousness method, that "were" is the suitable subjunctive mood verb, even if implied imperative mood. Stream-of-consciousness grammars also omit personal pronoun sentence subjects, "I" for example. And accessible though unconventional pronoun and other parts of speech substitutions, like "them" for "they," "it" for "there," "this" for "that" or even "yonder," the farther, third relative degree pronoun of proximity, now much deprecated for its outdated provincialism, yet suited to the period, and so on. Yonder went these this and that ruminates.

Though, of course, language dialects of past periods are open to question, they are knowable and applicable for artful expression, aesthetic movement, emotional charge, emphasis contextures, and event, setting, and character developments' sakes -- all which enhance and broaden appeal, curiously, from enhanced, timely, and judicious specificity.

I might read on, curious at least to observe the Bible trekers, saloon patrons and keepers, Coyote, and Mallory contest over I know not what, though project and hope about difference intolerance. Where and what is Mallory's private opinion and complication-conflict about that? I'd anticipate a bumpy read due to awkward language and grammar, though.

[ November 21, 2016, 08:22 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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That post above is uber over-long, probably appears as overtreatment. I deeply explored through it matters of my own craft development. Apologies for the length to all.
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Disgruntled Peony
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So in summary, it looks like you're saying there are difficulties with period-appropriate language, passive phrasing, and unclear viewpoint, yes?
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extrinsic
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Yes -- well, considerations anyway, and maybe Mallory's action-related private complication-conflict representation, to me, an essential start feature, perhaps a most essential feature. If all the action Mallory satisfies is external complication-conflicts caused by others, those are done-to victimization satisfaction and restrict the audience more I feel than might be wanted by the target market.
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Disgruntled Peony
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...You know, I hadn't realized the internal complication was lacking (not just in the opening, but throughout the entire story) until just now. That's probably why I've felt like the story has been fighting me so hard--something was missing, but I couldn't see what it was.

I’ve given this some thought, and I realized what the internal conflict should be. It's actually going to have strong roots in some issues that I've been struggling with of late. I don't know if that will make things painful or therapeutic or both, but it should certainly make the story more powerful for the addition.

Thanks, guys. [Smile] The next set of lines should be a lot more solid.

[ November 22, 2016, 08:38 PM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Writers write what they know. I am the hero in my stories; some aspect of me at least is in each and every one of my characters.

The saying that an artist must suffer for their art is meant to remind artists, and writers, that their own travails, tragedies, and life experiences provide the fodder for their inspiration.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
...You know, I hadn't realized the internal complication was lacking (not just in the opening, but throughout the entire story) until just now. That's probably why I've felt like the story has been fighting me so hard--something was missing, but I couldn't see what it was.

I’ve given this some thought, and I realized what the internal conflict should be. It's actually going to have strong roots in some issues that I've been struggling with of late. I don't know if that will make things painful or therapeutic or both, but it should certainly make the story more powerful for the addition.

Thanks, guys. [Smile] The next set of lines should be a lot more solid.

Huzzah! Celebrations of realized missed pieces and function of internal complication-conflict. Took brain deaf me too utter long to even appreciate complication-conflict, let alone internal and external presentations, let alone missed content or how to analyze for it.

I did appreciate early in my formal studies that self-catharses, at least for making meaning from personal experiences, are a common compulsion to write. Asked an agent back then what was the more admirable writer quality personally encountered: courageous self-exposure of personal vulnerability. How apropos of complication's want-problem high-stakes conflict risks. Agents follow where writers boldly dare to tread (sic). (Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. --- Edmund Burke 1790)

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Disgruntled Peony
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Still tweaking things on the draft as a whole, but I feel like this is more polished than the last version that I posted. Thoughts?

_______________________________________________________________

Churchgoers besieged the front doors of the Pale Horse Saloon, bibles and fresh-printed fliers in hand. They pushed papers into the hands of everyone who approached the doors and spewed prohibitionist rhetoric at anyone who would listen. Their efforts, though fervent, earned little more than a litany of derision and profanity from the swarm of coal miners, farmers and ranch hands that frequented the drinking establishment.
Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched intently from across the street, on the front porch of the jail. Everything about this supposedly nonviolent protest reeked of trouble. Pastor Quill’s presence rankled Mallory especially, albeit for different reasons. The pastor had never openly called Mallory out as being half-Apache, but the air of superiority he exuded in Mallory’s presence was

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Grumpy old guy
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I find this opening to be static despite the adverbs used to describe the actions of the crowd. Where has your unique 'voice' gone? For me, the narrative distance is far too long, the crowd lacks any hustle and bustle, there is no fervour or animation among any of the participants gathered around the entrance to the Pale Horse Saloon. It's as if I am having a glass-plate photograph described to me.

And Sheriff Mallory simply looks on, unresponsive except for an uneasy feeling and a dislike, so I'm told, for Pastor Quill.

This fragment feels to me like a tale told by an uninvolved narrator who cares little for what is about to happen. One of the principles I hold for opening a short story is to firmly set the reader in the viewpoint character's point of view, Mallory's, in this case. Another principle I tend to follow is to always either reference the story's dramatic complication or the main character's internal conflict within the first few lines; it serves to focus the writer and usually tantalises the reader.

Just my two quids worth.

Phil.

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H Reinhold
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I’m interested in how this scene will play out and I’d be happy to read more to see where it’s going.

I like both versions of the opening, in different ways, and at this point I’m not sure which I prefer. There are nice elements in both.

The first opening is comparatively slow, distanced, but it does have a specific hook, even if the hook is not as strong as it could be: the mysterious appearance of Coyote, which, tweaked slightly, could be a nice hook. Part of me likes the slow beginning of this first version: it makes me feel like I’m in an empty, dusty place, where not much happens, and even when something does happen, it’s watched almost at a distance. And the fact that (to me) Mallory watches intently, but still with a certain amount of disinterest is good—it fits with my primitive ideas of what a sheriff should do in such a situation, i.e. look out for everyone and keep the peace.

I find the second version much more emotionally charged, and this cranks up the tension, so that’s also good. The conflict is, in theory, much closer to Mallory, and I think an inciting incident that’s personal to the main character will definitely make a stronger hook. However, the way in which the emotional charge is introduced is, to me, problematic (the cause of the ‘narrative distance’ Phil describes?). Mallory is the main character and provides the viewpoint, but this is not made clear until the second paragraph. Until then, I don’t have a character upon which to pin the emotional attitudes expressed. When I read emotionally charged things like ‘besieged’, ‘pushed papers’, ‘spewed prohibitionist rhetoric’, and ‘litany of derision and profanity’, in the first paragraph, I have no way to attach these emotions to Mallory, who’s only introduced in the second paragraph. So, whether I want to or not, I’m forced to read them as the narrator/author’s opinion. Finding the narrator voice initially so harsh puts me off. It makes me suspect the writer will try to push their own opinions rather than tell the story and opinions of their characters. So I feel it would be best to try to clarify this point.

In line with the stronger emotional charge of the second version, I think you could choose different words to describe how Mallory ‘watched intently’: currently these two words are too neutral. I think you’ve also missed an opportunity to show us something about the way in which Mallory’s watching: is he lounging on a chair, bored and slightly annoyed? Is he standing against a railing, smoking, semi-interested? Is he standing alert, ready to rush over the moment things turn nasty? Just a little detail would show the reader immediately how Mallory really views the situation.

Overall, it’s good that the opening is more coloured by negative emotional words. It creates more tension and makes it much stronger. However, you might want to think about cutting it back a little, so that Mallory’s emotion is more subtle, or at least more nuanced, and is clearly linked to your viewpoint character. You don’t need to give very many hints. The detail that the pastor resents Mallory because of his background is good--it gives the reader something with which he or she can build up an idea of underlying tensions. But I don’t know if you strictly need all the other hints about his negative feeling; one or two probably suffice, if you link them clearly to Mallory. The rest can be left to the reader’s imagination.

Perhaps beginning the story at a specific point would help strengthen the opening. At the moment, I’m not sure when the conflict began. Has Mallory been watching them intently since they arrived? Or only when he heard the first raised voice, or saw them try to give a flyer to one notorious character in particular? Does he start watching properly when Coyote stirs? I get the feeling that giving something like this, some particular trigger, would provide a much stronger opening hook.

Finally, a few more general thoughts—sorry, I feel this is already too long as it is! I don’t know much about Prohibition, or your intended setting, but such a clear-cut and confrontational division between the two parties (church-goers and drinkers) strikes me as a little over-the-top, without any hints that the situation is long-standing. Do the church-goers protest regularly, or has something unusual happened to provoke them on this particular day? Perhaps the reader finds out later, but an oblique hint at an answer would be nice in the opening. Mallory has some kind of a relationship with Pastor Quill, but it doesn’t seem entirely negative--if that represents the attitudes of the town more generally, why is there suddenly this huge protest and threat of violence?

Also, if Mallory really doesn’t get on with this group of people, have a think about his approach. From these 13 lines I get the feeling that he hates them, but on its own, that’s a bit flat. Does he view them as dangerous (violent or merely divisive?), irritating, ridiculous, pathetic, misguided, deluded? Nice people but out of place? Would he mock them for attempting to win over the hard drinkers of the mines and ranches? Anger or hatred is fine, but if you look at religious polemic, there’s often a lot of mockery alongside the anger, which helps people deal with strong emotions like these, and plenty of other feelings besides. Just a thought.

To summarise, I think both openings have the potential to be a strong beginning, with a small amount of work. I would suggest, if you’re thinking about tweaking the second, that you a) work in a potential trigger for the opening of the piece, b) tie the opening anti-church mob sentiments more closely to Mallory, c) (optional) nuance the emotional charge a bit.

I would be happy to read the whole thing once you’re ready to send it out for feedback.

Hannah

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extrinsic
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Same action for both versions, polar opposite narrative points of view. The first version is from inside looking out; the second version is from outside looking in. The first version's viewpoint location also is unsettled who the viewpoint persona is, struggles to be Mallory. The second version's viewpoint persona is a detached godlike omniscient director.

I prefer an inside looking out approach for the private intimate experience of a subjective rapport, of a shared vivid, lively action, even if I don't per se agree with a presented attitude. Yet I also enjoy outside looking in approaches when they are as well private and intimate, vivid and lively.

I feel the intent is for vivid, private, lively, and intimate. The first version succeeds more at those; the second version feels more forced toward that result.

The second version's modifier diction, the diction and syntax overall, frankly, also doesn't work for me, feels forced and either too pat or too bland or too sophisticated for the context and texture and milieu. "besieged," for example, a fourteenth century term, as medieval as besotted, befurbelowed, betokened, becalmed, betwixt, most any word with a be- prefix.

"Churchgoers," to begin with, too, and about every word pushes me away. "Reeked" in today's uses generally means foul stench, yet in historic times not so long ago was merely a verb for any smoke or vapor emitted, even perhaps a delightful perfume vapor. A few overwrought diction examples among more than I could appreciate.

The second version is more polished -- to the point of overwrought, if not melodramatic purple yet weedy prose.

"The Pale Horse Saloon's" allusions and the pendent confrontation action do work for me. The second version also clarifies a degree that the time of this story is set nearer to early twentieth century temperance movements era, "temperance" the word of the times, not prohibition. Consider instead of "spewed prohibitionist rhetoric" //spewed temperance bile// or the like, vitriol, acid, toxin, etc., simpler words (fewer syllables for concision's readable and comprehendable ease) and a more sensory mien, that is, visible vivid liquids allusions for their reality imitation powers.

For outside looking in narratives, strong emotional charge diction does establish a narrator identity, and which contributes to narrative reality authentication, a narrator with which to personally align instead of a viewpoint persona within a story's milieu, vice versa for inside looking outs, aligned with a viewpoint persona within a story's milieu and the narrator a neutral observer. However, personal diction is paramount for intimacy in either case. Somewhat skewed and as well concise, such language signals a subjective narrator attitude, not the impersonal attitude advised for formal composition.

The word "Churchgoer," for example, about as bland a word for those sorts as there is. For concision's sake, as well as skewed and of a strong attitude, instead consider a proper noun and expressed understatement, overstatement, oxymoron, metaphor, simile, metonymy, synecdoche, metalepsis, most any allusive trope. Those are criteria for what Seymour Chatman labels "estranging metaphors." Estranging metaphors estrange narrator "tell" in favor of viewpoint "show" by their emotional charge and skewed context and texture.

One estranging metaphor phrase that I use probably too often is "bittersweet end." The term is skewed from conventional expectation, the customary idiom "bitter end." That little difference from expectation works more causal magic's one-fifth writer causes and four-fifths reader effects than the conventional and perhaps trite idiom.

"Bitter end's" derivations are also crucial to understand its uses, the free end of a working rope that bitterly bites careless rope workers, sailors, other maritime workers, stevedores, weavers and knitters' yarns and macrame strings, too. The part of a rope or line, string, yarn, etc., too, that, if missed, let go, unminded out of hand, lets loose all heck and calumny, from a block and tackle, a mooring line, an animal tether, a knotted, woven, or plaited item, whatever, something gets away and wracks havoc.

"Churchgoers"? Metaphor? Almighty smokers? Synecdoche? Bible thumpers? Metonymy? Pew snappers? Hyperbole? Reverent faithful from the here-and-hereafter chapel? Understatement? Driven lambs? Simile? Like a bag of lost doves? Oxymoron? Gospel fibbers? Metalepsis? God's so-chosen folks?

Skewed and sarcastic, ironic, or satiric attitude estranging metaphors of a personal, intimate, subjective mien, regardless of whether first or third person narrator, regardless of whether inside looking out or outside looking in, regardless of whether noun, verb, adjective, adverb, interjection, a small piece here and there sets tone's emotional attitude and as well is the core feature of substance for a narrative point of view -- an attitude positive or negative or both at once.

The implied pendent action most appeals to me, something like the wicked this way comes proverb and unexpected, yet pendent urgent, too, about to break loose from routine and rain down all ungodly interruption terror and mayhem.

A model short story perhaps for inspiration and study of the above considerations is, writer best known for The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane's 1899 "The Blue Hotel." The short story parodies dime-store Western penny dreadfuls, for which it is most acclaimed. Subtlety and implication abound in it, and suited period expression, if a mite over-sophisticated and inert as well for penny-dreadful parody. PDF: "The Blue Hotel", five thousand words.

The second version's overwrought, to me, polish leaves me less inclined to read on.

[ November 29, 2016, 04:29 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Maybe I missed someone else's suggestion to do this, if so, I second their suggestion:

Try switching the two paragraphs in your second version and start us out inside of Mallory's head?

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Disgruntled Peony
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There was actually a (failed) Prohibition movement in Texas during the 1887 election cycle, which is the timeframe where this story is supposed to sit. I'll have to figure out how to make that more clear.

As far as the scene goes, I do feel that this is the right place to start it overall. It's not that Mallory is being passive--he's already asked the pastor to move the protest elsewhere, but the protesters weren't actually doing anything problematic so he had to let it go on. He's ready to act if trouble arises (which I should definitely elaborate on, since that's apparently unclear at present). I don't want to back further into the past because that pulls the story further away from the inciting incident. Conversely, if I push forward more the inciting incident doesn't have the proper weight behind it.

I didn’t mean to imply an omniscient narrator for the first paragraph. I was simply trying to set the scene as a whole and then dip further into Mallory's perspective. I'd read somewhere recently that could be a useful tactic, and it seemed to work well for the last story that Mallory featured in.

Ahh well. I'll keep working on things.

Also, thank you for the offer to read, Hannah. I'll send it your way once I feel like it's more consistent throughout (hopefully by the end of the week). [Smile]

Also also, that's an intriguing idea, kdw. I will definitely consider it.

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extrinsic
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Prohibition is legislative advocacy and practices toward and outcomes to that enactment end. Yes, a prohibition movement coursed through Texas legislatures at the time and countrywide from a formal Prohibition party platform.

Prohibition is distinct from temperance in that prohibition prohibits by law, temperance is optional and is to personal social persuasions for voluntary moderation or abstinence -- temperance anti-consumption persuasion is to dissuade voluntary consumption, is not personal consumption prohibited by enacted law.

Many present day documents mistakenly use the two terms interchangeably, not a few from the era and since either. Those terms are not prescriptively the same. They mislead based on the overlaps between ideas of prohibition is enacted law and temperance intends behavior persuasion and impositions.

Argumentum ad baculum, Latin for argument of the staff, appeal to forceful persuasion, an informal fallacy, of social control through force majeure. Like "Give up your foolish pride, kneel down and accept our religion (beliefs, values, standards, mores, etc.) today if you don't want to burn in Hell after we beat you to death for your wickedness."

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Kathy_K
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Wow, I can't give a comparable critique to Extrinsics but here's my two cents (I won't repeat what others have commented on):

I prefer version one to version two. I am assuming that Mallory is the MC, and his character is far more present and interesting in the first version than the second version. I liked your first line. It's a promise of conflict, and there's a wry tone to it that appealed to me as well. Good hook. The second sentence was weaker. I actually thought it was extraneous. If you cut it, would I no longer understand what was happening? I think if you added just a couple of clarifying descriptors to the third sentence, and cut out that second one, the story would move faster and be more engaging. Coyote is a trickster totem animal, if I'm remembering correctly, so having him make a flippant comment seemed appropriate to me. I'm not native american, however, and so I may not have any idea what I'm talking about. I didn't enjoy Mallory's line of dialogue. A sheriff in the old west, carrying a totem animal in his soul? His line of dialogue read stiffly to me. I want his words to help me visualize him better, but they don't right now. Is this guy cynical? Gritty? Practical? Salty? Stuffy? Young? Old? Let me hear it in how he speaks (even to Coyote).

I would not continue reading from version two. I would continue reading version one, but that line of dialogue has got to be made better for me to really get excited about it.

Gosh, I hope this feedback is useful. All the hard, analytical stuff has already been addressed by others.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathy_K:
Wow, I can't give a comparable critique to Extrinsics but here's my two cents

If people tried to give critiques comparable to extrinsic's, they'd all give up - and we'd all be poorer thereby.

Please, if you need to, ignore what extrinsic says until you've posted your own feedback. Then go back and read his comments, too. And you will learn from your own efforts at feedback as well as from what he has said.

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Disgruntled Peony
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Thank you for the feedback, Kathy. It is definitely appreciated. [Smile] I have a new version of my opening lines that I think takes the strengths from both openings (the more concrete illustration of Mallory's POV in the first opening, along with the stronger setting description of the second version). I just haven't gotten around to posting it yet.

My approach to feedback is pretty straightforward. I generally avoid reading others' critiques before I make my own, simply because it leaves me more comfortable to make my own observations. It's okay if they end up being duplicated elsewhere, because multiple people spotting the same issue indicates that it's more likely to be a serious problem than if only one person notices it. (I do tend to read others' responses afterward, just to see what other people got from the fragments.)

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Disgruntled Peony
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Okay! Here we go. This is the opening of my completed second draft (I'm now quietly poking away at the third).

_______________________________________________________________

Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched, eyes narrowed and muscles tensed, as evangelists swarmed the front doors of the Pale Horse Saloon. The government had proposed a referendum to ban the sale of alcohol throughout Texas, and no one was more fond of the idea than the parishioners of Sanguine’s First Methodist Church. They pressed fresh-printed fliers into the hands of everyone who passed them on the street and hurled platitudes at anyone who would listen.
Mallory disapproved, not because of any personal fondness for alcohol, but because the protesters’ efforts clearly rankled the coal miners, farmers, and ranch hands who frequented the drinking establishment. The owner of the Pale Horse maintained a firm open door policy. Anyone was welcome so long as they paid their tab,

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extrinsic
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Because this next version is a further polish of the already commented on version up above and contains matters already responded to, I'll wait to comment on the next version.

Except, a new observation, this and both former versions are polite, too polite I feel for making a dramatic scene. Someone, narrator, Mallory, or Coyote, even Pastor Quill, I feel could express at least one unequivocal impolite observation or utterance about someone or something within the fragment's four corners. Narrator, if such is the persona with which readers are meant to align, or whoever the viewpoint persona is meant to be, Mallory presumably, the persona who holds and expresses the strongest subjective, judgmental attitude overall about a topic or subject central to the narrative.

[ December 11, 2016, 03:25 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathy_K
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Tagging on to what extrinsic wrote, I hear the "too polite" cadence as well, but another potential way to mitigate that feeling might be to switch up the dialect a bit. Unless you're looking to keep some narrative distance, have the narration match the speech, slang, and grammar patterns that folks in that area and time period might use. That could help to add some "flavor" to this opening. Also... I kind of miss the mention of the totem spirit. For me, Coyote's presence in Mallory's soul was the real hook. Your sheriff became instantly interesting to me with that detail.
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Grumpy old guy
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I was going to wait until you had a final draft for submission rather than comment on a rehash of old ideas, however a structural issue has raised its ugly head.

First sentence: Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched, eyes narrowed and muscles tensed, as evangelists swarmed the front doors of the Pale Horse Saloon. This is direct character perception (almost 1st person, but not quite) which dramatically closes narrative distance down to eyeball-to-eyeball. Second sentence: The government had proposed a referendum to ban the sale of alcohol throughout Texas, and no one was more fond of the idea than the parishioners of Sanguine’s First Methodist Church. Sling-shot into lunar orbit for extreme narrative distance of indirect narrator summary tell.

The problem: Do one, or the other, but not both in consecutive sentences. It leaves readers floundering.

My second structural issue is with the prohibitionist demonstration: Just what has it got to do with the dramatic complication, and just how does it move the story forward?

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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The reason I keep opening with the Prohibitionist demonstration is because it is the setting of the inciting incident. What I'm trying to do with this opening is establish the setting (because our discussions about my last story in this setting led me to believe that establishing timeframe for a period piece paramount) while still showing a conflict to catch the reader's interest.

Immediately after the second paragraph in the scene, character interaction begins--Mallory and Coyote have an argument about the conflict, because Coyote wants Mallory to intervene (probably to make things worse) and Mallory wants to intervene but can't yet because everything is above board and legal. My goal there is to establish the two characters' personalities and plant seeds for the internal conflict Mallory experiences throughout the story. The argument is interrupted when Mallory notices the start of a conflict at the saloon and swoops in to intervene (which begins the inciting incident for the external conflict).

My problem, I suppose, is that if I open immediately with the inciting incident, the reader is left with no concept of the setting or the stakes. They need to understand the characters so they have the opportunity to empathize, and they need to understand the setting so they don't assume this is modern day or medieval France or [insert inappropriate setting of your choice here]. That's why I'm trying to introduce a conflict right at the beginning which is related to the inciting incident while simultaneously establishing the setting and will hopefully grab the reader's interest.

Also, I think the reason my prose keeps coming off as too polite or educated is because Mallory actually had a college education before he traveled west, and his thoughts patterns and diction keep bleeding through.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Could you put the argument between Mallory and Coyote right after your first sentence?
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extrinsic
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I feel the several versions show that too much introduction is attempted in the start, and is a challenge of thirteen lines, if not the challenge.

Within the traditional definition of "exposition" is a strategy for start development: the presentation, outset, introduction, setup, etc., the preparation segment of a dramatic work's theme. "Theme" is too generic of a term, too cultured, as dictionary definitions tend to be, for easy decryption. Instead, because a start is an introduction segment, the opposite end segment's definition provides guidance. The end segment, denouement, defined is the outcome of a main complication of a dramatic work. The introduction segment then is the introduction of a main dramatic complication, which is the incitement of a want-problem satisfaction contest.

Other events, and setting and character details, unrelated to a main complication are accessories to the complication. Though those details are the surface of an action, they are secondary or tertiary to the complication action.

Who, when, where, what, why, and how is the complication of this story presented to its viewpoint persona? Pose those questions and their answers artfully and that's what's necessary to introduce at the outset, piecemeal, not all over, once and done, never to be revisited again. For example, "Pale Horse Saloon" is enough of a setting introduction, time, place, and situation, if the saloon is central to all the action. Later development will fill in more and more details about the saloon, if necessary. Only that no current or later details confuse the emerging, like a Polaroid, setting image. "Tavern," for example, or any other label for a public salon (public indoor social space), is unsuited to the milieu.

Note again, also, "Pale Horse" is an artful allusion to the Old West and Death. No need in the start to confirm the allusion, if at all. However, the allusion doesn't introduce a main complication. Stakes maybe, of life and death. Beautiful that.

What is the story really about? Who, when, where, what, why, and how does the story make a statement about . . . ? [A moral-emotional human condition] So far. we have Mallory, Coyote, Pastor Quill, a gaggle of temperance goslings, cowboys, miners, farmers, barkeeps, remote politicians, in an Old West town of some indefinite late nineteenth, early twentieth century milieu in a town named Sanguine who are on a collision path over what social issue? Prohibition and temperance and intemperance?

"Sanguine" is likewise an artful allusion that is somewhat too cultured a reference for general readers. Blood will spill, to me. Blood and Death, wow, artful poetic equipment. "Sanguine" does need further development soon for whatever sense it matters to the action, and, when it does matter, more than once and done, at least thrice and of different yet congruent and further timely, judicious detail and emotional-moral charge amplification natures each occasion. Three times, like, uh, artfully once in the start segment, once in the middle segment, and once in the end segment, as drama's three basic parts are wont to be.

Coyote's trickster nature is also an allusion, perhaps too cultured, also, for general readers. Again, matters of artful development at some timely and judicious point, or three points, are indicated.

In short, the several introductions so far, to me, are at best vague, too vague I feel for a start, mostly problematized by incorporating too much at once and not focusing on the single matter of most significance: main dramatic complication introduction.

I yet have no suitably firm projection of a main complication, either through allusive implication or direct expression. What is this story really about human condition-wise and its personal to one persona want-problem satisfaction contest?

Could this be due to an artlessly withheld complication detail that best practice could be portrayed up front and instead of the event, setting, and character population explosion? Tension rises from what readers know beforehand and is the dramatic representation of the anguish of contested moral choices left in outcome doubt until unequivocally and irrevocably decided and acted upon to a full complication satisfaction end.

As to Mallory's formal education and cultured language equipment, the more relevant matter is tone -- his emotional-moral attitude toward a topic or subject at hand and overall. Coyote seems posed by default of its trickster nature to hold the strongest attitude, which will persuade readers to align with it instead of Mallory. Contrarily, Mallory's formal education recommends him most to irony and satire expressions, if not subtle sarcasm. Coyote's forte as possible foil to Mallory, though, recommends it to stronger, less subtle ridicule and mockery sarcasm equipment. And Mallory and Coyote's sarcasm posed in clash to some degree. The Greek god of guile, deception, trickery, chaos, disruption, clash, and discord is Dolus, an ancient parallel to Coyote's likewise ancient and present-day representation.

Here, Aesop's fable about Dolus:
quote:
530. PROMETHEUS AND TRUTH
Perry 535 (Phaedrus App. 5)

Prometheus, that potter who gave shape to our new generation, decided one day to sculpt a statue of Truth, using all his skill so that she would be able to regulate people's behaviour. As he was working, an unexpected summons from mighty Jupiter called him away. Prometheus left cunning Trickery in charge of his workshop (Trickery had recently become one of the god's apprentices). Fired by ambition, Trickery used the time at his disposal to fashion with his sly fingers a figure of the same size and appearance as Truth with identical features. When he had almost completed the piece, which was truly remarkable, he ran out of clay to use for her feet. The master returned, so Trickery quickly sat down in his seat, quaking with fear. Prometheus was amazed at the similarity of the two statues and wanted it to seem as if all the credit were due to his own skill. Therefore, he put both statues in the kiln and when they had been thoroughly baked, he infused them both with life: sacred Truth walked with measured steps, while her unfinished twin stood stuck in her tracks. That forgery, that product of subterfuge, thus acquired the name of Falsehood, and I readily agree with people who say that she has no feet: every once in a while something that is false can start off successfully, but with time the Truth is sure to prevail.



[ December 12, 2016, 03:19 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:

What I'm trying to do with this opening is establish the setting (because our discussions about my last story in this setting led me to believe that establishing timeframe for a period piece paramount) while still showing a conflict to catch the reader's interest.

The reason it was so important to set setting and time-frame in the first iteration of the submitted fragment for Coyote and the Green Man was that the opening setting was in a closed room. The solution was specific to that story and that situation. Nothing more and nothing less. One story is NOT the same as another – what one requires may not be necessary in another. Which is why a set of principles is better than a process, no matter whose process it is.

The use of the term 'Saloon' adequately identifies the piece as American West. It could be further enhanced by using the disparaging vernacular for Temperance Union members – in Australia these would be wowsers and god-botherers.

quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:

Also, I think the reason my prose keeps coming off as too polite or educated is because Mallory actually had a college education before he traveled west, and his thoughts patterns and diction keep bleeding through.

Odd. I have attended events that traverse the gamut from dock walloper's BBQ to diplomatic function. Private thoughts remain constant in the vernacular, public discourse is tailored to audience. Mallory's psyche is dominated by his upbringing, not the veneer of polite education. I bet he swears like a trooper.

Phil.

PS. The gravity of an inciting incident is it's repercussions, not it's setting or its perceived stakes; these may not be what you initially think they are. In fact, the inciting incident is essentially irrelevant, it's what it starts that matters.

[ December 13, 2016, 07:20 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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Sorry I keep tossing these out here. Just trying to find a better balance. I've been giving this opening a lot of thought, and I'd like to think I've started to iron out the kinks.

_______________________________________________________________


Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched, eyes narrowed and muscles tensed, as Pastor Quill led a swarm of dry activists onto the front porch of the Pale Horse Saloon. The sight made Mallory's gut churn. Protesters always meant trouble, but staging a temperance rally in front of a bar? Someone must have put Pastor Quill on the prod.
Coyote's voice rattled in the space between Mallory’s ears, loud and clangorous. What do these puffed-up white men care about the evils of drink? They’re the ones who brought it to our lands in the first place.
Mallory flinched. Even after three months of sharing a body, it still felt strange to hear Coyote's voice inside his own head. He took a moment to recompose himself, pulled the brim of his

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Grumpy old guy
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This I like. Especially this: "Someone must have put Pastor Quill on the prod." Made me giggle.

Phil.

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walexander
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The overall concept structure is sound. I think you need to stretch a little. Reach a little higher. here are some thoughts/examples

eyes narrowed, muscles tensed, as Pastor Quill...

swarm - throng, flock, mass

... Led a flock of "Dry" activists onto ...

protesters - mob

A mob always means trouble, especially when they come to take away your whiskey. Who stages a temperance rally in front of a bar without knowing there's going to be bloodshed? Only a man who believes God is on his side and Pastor Quill is such a man when prodded into action against the devil's drink.

I don't really like the coyote's voice. To write a divinity requires your best muse. In his sentences should be a clear distinction of his standing unless you are purposely making him ironic. Why would a powerful being like coyote talk like a native american that just learned english? He's a worldly being, would he really call them white men?

"Why do these men believe evil lay within their drink? I see no demons trapped within the bottles, only choices. There is only one container that can house such evil, and each man carries it in various shade and hue. If anyone should understand this -- it should be you, Mallory."

Anyways, just a scratched out example of what I'm meaning. Just thoughts off the top of my head. Keep battering away, its coming along.

Cheers,

W.

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extrinsic
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Appreciably stronger and clearer start. Grumpy old guy's observation about "on the prod" seconded. A mite more of that throughout would stand up, take names, and kick backside.

The "dry" adjective almost works similar to the former. It's suitable setting vernacular anyway. Not as sure about "activists," entered English letters about 1915, U.S. newspapers first. Noun "advocate" is fourteenth century forward. More clarity might be indicated; many readers could stumble over "dry activists." Or even //dry advocates.// "Dry" entered English, in the sense of no alcohol permitted, thirteenth century. A hyphenated term may serve clarity's wants, //dry-drinks advocates//. My acquaintances used euphemisms and dysphemisms when drink was prohibited, like at school dances and such. Silly Sally-all dry punch. Dry fruits cocktails. And such often with expletives. Dry axe-swipe juice. Etc.

One as yet grammar consideration, the "as" conjunction fault of the first sentence.

Two accepted if not acclaimed samples from Webster's English Usage:

"I gain'd a son; / and such a son, as all men hail'd me happy." --- Milton, Samson Agonistes, 1671.

". . . disposed to conclude a peace upon such conditions, as it was not worth the life of a grenadier to refuse them." --- Jonathan Swift, The History of the Last Four Years of the Queen, 1737.

Both, and two more examples from the Usage, contain content related to and amplification of their main clauses' ideas, are apposition clauses, modify noun subjects of their main clauses. They do not conjoin two main ideas as if they are contemporaneous actions while- or when-like.

". . . Mallory watched . . . as [while or when] Pastor Quill led . . ."

Alas, yet "as" conjunction to mean while or when is the fifth dictionary sense of the word and anymore part of everyday informal speech: <spilled the milk as she got up> (Webster's 11th).

My sense of the "as" conjunction use in the revised fragment is the paragraph's syntax is inverted and the "as" attempts a forced connection to compensate for the inversion. Mallory watches Quill and them-all because they first come into view, then Mallory responds, eyes narrowed and muscles tensed. Mallory watches is the effect. Quill comes along is the cause.

Also, Quill reported first sets up a preparation segment. Mallory's initial watch response is a suspension segment. Mallory's churned gut is a satisfaction segment, shows what Quill's sashay to the saloon and Mallory's watch emotionally mean to Mallory. Overall story movement and closed-up narrative distance begins in earnest then.

Illustration: //Pastor Quill led a swarm of dry activists to the Pale Horse Saloon and onto its porch. Sheriff Thomas Mallory watched, eyes narrowed and muscles tensed. The sight made his gut churn. . . .//

[ December 15, 2016, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
This I like. Especially this: "Someone must have put Pastor Quill on the prod." Made me giggle.

Phil.

I dug that phrase up last night and it fit far too well not to use it. (I rediscovered a Western slang website the other day. It's one of my favorite writing resources for this setting.)

quote:
Originally posted by walexander:
I don't really like the coyote's voice. To write a divinity requires your best muse. In his sentences should be a clear distinction of his standing unless you are purposely making him ironic. Why would a powerful being like coyote talk like a native american that just learned english? He's a worldly being, would he really call them white men?

I guarantee I'm going to rewrite that line. My interpretation of Coyote doesn't always lend itself as well to prose as I'd like. When I hear his voice in my head almost every line is dripping with a bizarre amalgamation of sarcasm, irreverence, and almost child-like enthusiasm. The challenge is in trying to find a way to make that translate well onto the page.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
The "dry" adjective almost works similar to the former. It's suitable setting vernacular anyway. Not as sure about "activists," entered English letters about 1915, U.S. newspapers first. Noun "advocate" is fourteenth century forward. More clarity might be indicated; many readers could stumble over "dry activists." Or even //dry advocates.//

How does 'Dry Party advocates' sound?
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extrinsic
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"Dry Party advocates" reads more comprehensible. Though it stretches more into bland territory. Might Mallory use an ironic euphemism for them? Maybe something congruent to "on the prod"? So that the first sarcasm, the Dry, instance builds and doesn't steal from "on the prod's" thunder at the paragraph end?

Illustration: Quill sashayed a Dry teetotaler lobby . . . ? Somewhat of a tautology that (Dry teetotaler). Tautology's rhetorical virtue is it calls due attention to irony by repetition's amplification emphasis. Its grammar vice is repetition empty of amplification. "Lobby" entered English in the advocate verb and noun sense 1837; noun "teetotaler," 1834; verb "sashay," 1836.

"Lobby" encompasses the several senses intended and is a sly ironic label for temperance and prohibition advocates. It is an understatement that signals irony due to its formal legislative politics connections in an informal context. "Dry" capital case is also an inspired understatement, signals this is dry in the intended sense without the busy clutter of unnecessary quote marks' emphasis. And lobby connects to "on the prod" lobbyists' dual sarcasm, backsides impaled on spikes and political advocacy nuisance, without untimely giving away its delightful surprise.

[ December 15, 2016, 02:20 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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I like the term 'killjoy'; first coined around 1776. Interestingly, the term kill-cow for bully was also coined.

Phil.

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