Hi, It's been a long time since I posted last. Nice to still see some familiar names, Bent Tree. This is for a short story, I'm looking for any thoughts on it. Thank you.
Raining, Damn, a weird green tinted rain. This is not how I wanted to start my Saturday, fun during baseball season but not on a Saturday that was supposed to be spent exploring the storm drainage pipes with my friends. Our parents didnít like the fact we spent time in the pipes mapping out different routes in our city of Lakeland, they had it built up as being much more dangerous than it was. Sure there were snakes and alligators but we were careful and the alligators canít run fast in a straight line. But the rain would make it too dangerous. We tried it once and Bobby got washed out into the creak behind the YMCA, into a place we called Alligator Alley. Bobby would have been a nice big fat lunch for them gators and they came swimming pretty fast. In the pipes they were slow; their long
An individual, put off by rain, recounts a past storm drain adventure.
That start immediately stalls forward movement. Effectively, any dramatic potential is all but cancelled. The rain does cause a problem in opposition to a want. However, allows no movement at all in the now moment. Is the now moment more about complication due to the weird, green-tinted rain? Not the rain per se, the weird tint? The substantive consideration there is movement is fully constrained, no choice as regards the storm drain adventure, cannot go play in the drains.
The title suggests, though, that the weird rain and drains are the dramatic substance, the weird rain causes something weird to come out of the drains. Perhaps the drain gang could instead meet at the drain entrance, be put off by the weird rain deluge, and encounter the weird creature at the start. Some ominous menace could be pre-positioned due to the rain being a problem with at first less upset to the gang's plans. Do not Little League-age boys barge on regardless of inclement weather?
Note the punctuation above. //weird, green-tinted rain// "weird" modifies "rain," "green-tinted" modifies rain, a parallel adjectives construct. Also, "green-tinted" takes the hyphen, an adjective-verbal modifier construct. Other punctuation errors in the fragment, too.
Storm drain adventures hold dramatic potential; however, the rain fully constrains forward movement at this time. No way forward except to recursively return to an over and done past moment and contemplate the navel, stuck in a bathtub.
I won't read on as an engaged reader at this time.
I'll offer a few thoughts on this, though I can't guarantee you'll find them useful. This excerpt runs in a very 'stream-of-consciousness' style, which is not one I particularly enjoy or have critiqued before (just personal preference, sorry!). That said, I'm going to comment on something else entirely:
I had a funny perception that the narrator was older. I'm not sure how old, but he doesn't sound like a kid. I'll try to explain, though my impression is more of a feeling and not that concrete.
"Damn. A weird, green-tinted rain." To me, right away, this sounds like the thought of an adult. At this point, I don't know that he's a kid, so I've already gained an impression that he's a grownup.
"...different routes in our city of Lakeland." This bit seems a bit too self-aware and proper to be coming from a kid who likes to spend his time in storm storage pipes.
I'll also second extrinsic's point about the green rain. It's an interesting way to start, but that hook was dangled for one split second and never mentioned again. The rain is green. Can we talk about that? If green rain is unusual, maybe the kid can make some additional observations. Do the grownups care that the rain is green? If green rain happens often, maybe the kid can mention that he's seen it a few times before.
In any case, my two suggestions would be to 1) make him sound more like a kid, and 2) skip or delay the memory to focus more on the rain in the first 13.
You present this as a stream of consciousness, but in my years I've met no one who would react to green rain with those words. As stated, this person finds green rain an annoyance, rather than a "What in the hell is going on?" issue.Would you? More to the point, would a reader?
More then that, having raised the point, the reader expects the text to address the rain, and why it's green (or at least that character's speculation on it). But instead, the narrator abandons the green rain and talks about things that happened before the story began. History instead of story. But if it matters to the plot, why didn't you begin the story there? If it doesn't, why are you slowing the narrative with gossip?
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A couple comments to add, although not anything surprising. (Agreed about 'Green rain? Holy crapoly!')
I'm not too interested in kids exploring drains per se (Goonies was okay). But I wonder about putting this review of pros/cons into dialogue at the gang's usual launching point. You could give us the spelunking info while characterizing more of the gang. (I'm assuming from the starting paragraph that the story will be about the gang rather than the individual.)
This suggestion might be too late to be helpful (or be totally off-base from what you want the story to do), but the principle of 'present action' is something I'm reading about in D. Swain's book. So I thought I'd mention it.
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I don't care much about the colour of the rain unless it has something to do with what happens in the drains you explore. I'd like to see the story start with you and your friends exploring the drains. What is in there this time? Is it a monster that has come from the green rain? Does it chase you out of the tunnels? Or, does it trap you inside the tunnel? Just a few wild thoughts I had. I hope it helps you.
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What you're doing is presenting a transcription of yourself telling the story aloud. And as such, since there are no pictures, you give the reader background, as a kind of mini history lesson. But that's a report, and who reads history books or reports for entertainment?
Story happens, it's not talked about by a voice that has no trace of emotion because we can't hear it. First person doesn't magically change a lecture to a story, because the personal pronouns are "I" instead of he or she. Have the computer read it aloud and you'll hear how different what the reader gets is from what you "hear" as you read.
When you need is viewpoint not simply POV. This article might clarify how a strong character viewpoint can involve the reader so much more strongly than just a description, and emotionally involve our reader.
Like any other profession, there's a lot of specialized knowledge and tricks of the trade that must be acquired and perfected when traveling the road to publication. Many of them are obvious once pointed out, but since our schooling is concerned with giving us a set of general skills employers find necessary, the tricks of writing prose that entertains, instead of simply informing weren't mentioned. So it's not a matter of good or bad writng, but one of picking up a few necessary tricks.
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Academia holds the belief creative writing cannot be taught to any degree of proficiency. The mid-twentieth century Postmodern social upheaval led to that belief through free-association creativity emphasis at the expense of writing and study discipline abandonment. The creativity emphasis forced out the equal essential of discipline. Anymore, even creative writing instructors put forth the proposition that much of creative expression cannot be taught, some small amount learned, most, though, more absorbed and intuited than designed development.
Hence, general English and language arts and sciences instruction and learning focuses around measurable objective criteria and overlooks subjective criteria that are nonetheless measurable, only that the span of the latter is near infinite of scope and the former's scope determined by limited parameters and habits of convenience.
Take comma use, if in doubt, sound it out, is a common usage principle for where commas are apt and where not, even from post graduate-level English instruction. A comprehensive grammar handbook details a hundred or more comma usage principles, details about nine out of ten of the possible principles thereof. The remainder are left for writers to decipher from applying the extant ones to discrete occasions -- or not. Journalism grammar generally omits critical dependent content comma separation, and countless though countable other omissions, a holdover from traditional periodical publication when newsprint paper costs drove "efficient" and "thrifty" space-conservation consciousness. The ads were and still are the true revenue product -- the content, mere teasers to entice buyers.
Consequently, convenient grammar habits propagated then and propagate to this day across expression culture overall. Instructor, editor, publisher, and proofreader grammar naivete, too, contributes to convenient grammar habits. Plus, they can dope it out, if they're literate, anyway, right? From where do those professionals draw their grammar examples if not most from journalism's haphazard grammars? If every comma were placed, or left out, for its true functions, for breath pauses and signaled emphasis as warranted and dependent content separation from main ideas, fewer publications would be available from which to learn convenient habits a creative writer is best practiced to unlearn and avoid at all costs.
Not to mention, though of note, apt punctuation, in turn, informs diction and syntax and, in turn as well, clarity, strength, and appeal of expression -- creative expression. Plus, of course, present-day English grammar principles are both at once more comprehensive and a greater challenge to learn than grammar texts' willy-nilly past attempts that purport to "standardize" those principles, and are open to interpretative and discretionary usages, even if flawed or otherwise. Never mind that habit of convenience holdovers persist; resist discipline, resist change, resist effort expenditure, instructor and pupil, editor and proofreader, and reader and publisher and itinerant writer alike.
Many are the chaotic expressions that stream from human consciousness, sentences like, "I thought you said in 2016 that the Waymooth Inn steam boiler needed repairs." What does that intend to and really mean? The "you" said back in 2016 the repairs were needed in 2016? The repairs were needed in 2016 and actually that expression uttered the first time just this past moment? Or both? And more? Repairs were needed in 2016 and overlooked and put off until the thing killed people? Or does the "I" mean the "I's" thought occurred in 2016 or just now? Or all of the former? Huh? The meaning about as clear as visibility through dark glasses worn in a blizzard at night. No wonder the boiler went unrepaired, to a disastrous outcome, no doubt. Habits of convenience.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynn Truss, 2003, approaches apt punctuation from an at times farcical direction; however, the narrative is proscriptive and prescriptive, an imperative mood dictation, "Zero Tolerance," also, is of a journalism grammar, and of a British grammar dialect. Three strikes against it for U.S. audience creative writers. As if British ways are the only proper ways and U.S. ways are mistaken.
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman, 2007, non-imperative, descriptive punctuation usage, not commanded, for creative expression punctuation methods, not journalism, per se, and of a broad U.S. grammar dialect basis.
Of course, as it is above and below, punctuation can visually clutter a sentence, a paragraph, a page, readers' thoughts, and estrange readers from a narrative to the point of abandonment. There is where Lukeman's text shines, describes excess punctuation's shortfalls, and describes a productive treatment -- rethink, rewrite, revise, recast. The most straightforward treatment is to realize, a sentence, if a run-on cluster wreck filled with conjunctions and prepositions and multiple ideas: revise it into multiple sentences and append predicates and subjects and objects as indicated.
Next, realize and throttle the habits of convenience that force and rush expression, realize to slow down and focus on the dramatic movement's moment depicted. From otherwise disciplined mechanical grammar movement through to creative grammar development for maximum audience appeals. From the dreaded grammar school imperative instruction that alienates many pupils, to a dash of prescriptive, conscious, critical interpretation, to an effective creative descriptive appeal -- this is creativity meshed with discipline.
And not too coincidentally, realize that school writing instruction by its very nature can survey only the broadest composition principles and focuses only on measurable objective criteria. Writing instructors overall are like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's "I know it when I see it" about pornography, (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964), they know when they read effective, artful, appealing creative expression. Otherwise, they dwell in the tangible parameters and cannot "see" the intangibles, whether they wish to or can, actually, or cannot. This is educational Socratic Irony at its finest presentation: give the basics and imply how much more is extant or yet to be developed, if wanted for a writer's own initiatives, ironically, often through such nonsense as "creative writing cannot be taught." A passionate creative writer, ultimately, will, or will not, develop the finer distinctions and greater appeals of the intangibles.