After even more revision (although prob'ly not enough), we're back.
If you can give me a report card on the 13-line essentials below, I'd love it. Pass/fail? Any details or suggestions? Thanks in advance for your time and generosity!
Emotional disequilibrium - Writer voice / tone - Complication / conflict - Event - Setting and milieu - Character personas (and narrator persona) - One dramatic action - Subtext irony
=== Initial Revised ===
They had to escape. Soon. Ronak drummed his pale green fingers on the scarred and stained wood of their table, growing more and more certain: If they didn’t get out of this tavern quick, Alyonssa was going to get them into more trouble. Not that trouble itself was the problem. Trouble was fine, as long as it paid more than scavenger’s privilege. A detail Aly often ignored.
The auburn-haired halfling sipped placidly at her redcurrant wine, while Pallinon, their host and erstwhile taskmaster, looked on with typical condescension.
At least Aly hadn’t started grinning at them; that would be the point of no return. Ronak glanced around the common room again, at all three of the tables that filled it. He shook his head...
=== RE-revised - not sure how to measure an exact 13 with editing a post - sorry! ===
“We’re not staying in Mire-town, priest,” Ronak said. In fact, he and Aly couldn’t escape soon enough from this squalid taproom in this petty tavern in this backwaters nothing-town. Feeling something on his forearm, he raised his hand from the grimy, wooden table. A greasy blotch had stained his silk sleeve. “Perfect.”
“Mirreton, you mean,” Pallinon corrected in his usual, patronizing tone. “It’s just a small matter, m’lord Ronak. One I think you’d be most interested in.” He was talking with the half-orc, but watching the halfling. Alyonssa just sipped at her wine, watching the conversation like it was a comedy.
Resolute, Ronak shook his head. They had risked their lives enough here, all for the sake of kindness and scavenger’s privilege. “Well, I’m not interested. We’re heading back to King’s Landing. Today.”
So, an unknown number of people must escape something unknown, somewhere undefined. You might know what you’re talking about, and who, but I sure don’t, because you’re placing effect before cause.
On entering a scene you need to orient the reader quickly on, Who am I? Where am I? And, what’s going on? Without that they’re only words, because while you have context and intent, and so know, the reader has only what the words suggest to them, based on their background. It’s not a matter of listing everything, but of providing context as part of the prose. For example, had you opened with:
Ronak glanced around the tavern, not liking what he saw. Too many of the other patrons had the look of the military about them, and seemed uncomfortable in civilian clothing. And Alyonssa, as always, was talking about the king being an ass. He was, but based on the hardening expressions around them, it might be best to make an escape before they were all in trouble.
Your story? No, just a quick example of how providing context clarifies. Look at the sequence:
Ronak does something natural. He looks around. But as part of it, the reader is placed.
Ronak then responds to what he sees, while letting the reader know what matters to him, and why. So our knowledge of where he is expands.
Next, he takes into account another part of the puzzle, Alyonssa, and the danger being created for what appears to be more than two people. At the same time there’s a bit of character development on the part of Alyonssa. And, we learn that there’s a king who’s not liked all that much.
And finally, Ronak makes a decision based on his observations. And, the reader expects him to act on it, and has reason to want to know what he does and if it works. In other words, a hook.
Showing isn’t a matter of talking about what’s happening, it’s making the reader feel as if time is passing for them at the same rete as it is for the protagonist.
Entertain, don’t inform. For a fuller explanation of the trick I used, try this article. It’s a condensation of a really powerful technique for placing the reader into the action, emotionally. Chew on it for a while, till it makes sense. If it seems worth knowing more about you might want to pick up a copy of the book it was based on.
Hang in there, and keep on writing.
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A rogue fellowship awaits a spark to tinder. So does the story.
1. Emotional disequilibrium A quiet, though not a slow nor immediate start to emotional disequilibrium's incitement.
2. Writer voice / tone ? Writer voice is about on par for ninety-nine out of a hundred prose writers, nothing fresh and lively to speak of and perhaps a degree overwrought for the milieu's rogues' setting. Viewpoint agonist tone is generic too, almost any safety conscientious rogue's attitude.
3. Complication / conflict ? Complication's want-problem (pendent trouble at scavenger's privilege rates, a richer prize wanted) motivations are present, though, again, generic. Conflict, generic too, peace and turmoil.
The "scavenger privilege" is a toss off as is, at present, though of the fragment holds strong promise for what the story complication-conflict intangibles are really about moral human condition-wise, which without an immediate development of leaves the story at here today, evaporated this afternoon ephemera status: generic.
Both story and writer publication culture durability ask for such intangible specificity. A fellowship of rogue scavengers, hah, who have eyes on grand prizes and fail at every turn due to indiligence of vices: greed, sloth, gluttony, pride, envy, lust, and wrath; until they come together in virtues, even thieves' virtues, would hopelessly engage me.
6. Event A rogue fellowship awaits a spark to tinder. So does the story.
7. Setting and milieu Generic
8. Character personas (and narrator persona) Generic
9. One dramatic action Not yet clear and strong what the dramatic action is, some mechanical-tangible action introduction to speak of -- that of a pendent, generic tavern brawl -- not what the brawl aesthetically means to the overall story and its true expression of a human condition. Like what? Blood lust? Coin greed? Etc.? And movement from vice to virtue or virtue to vice? The viewpoint agonist is on the virtue side at the start; Aly, vice; Pallinon, what? Inert if a high brow snob.
No dramatic movement to speak of nor apt movement potentials from bad to good, good to bad, or bad to worse fortunes or personal transformation implied. Ronak could start bad, move emotional maturation-wise, and transform to good, for example, or otherwise good to bad or bad to worse for best dramatic effect.
10. Subtext irony Subtext irony, as noted above, perhaps something behind unrequited rogue scavengers possible, undeveloped though. For irony, satire and sarcasm, too, drama, generally, a moral tableau is essential and implied within subtext so as not to preach moral law assertions, rather a viewpoint agonist through error and trial and folly self-discovers a moral truth from a practical irony tableau, and reader engagement appeals.
Mommas don't leave your outlaws to be doctors and lawyers and such, let 'em grow up and be honest rogues and wicked clucks? Hah! Corporate raiders, tow truck operators, salvage boat pilots, barbarian adult daycare sitters, and such, for objective correlative contrastive comparison relateable for present day readers. And what an opportunity for farcical satire.
Might these rogues be tasked to salvage siege engines, armor, and weapons from battlefields as like tow truck drivers only with a decrepit ox team ready for the glue maker? The big score is just around the corner, over the fence, and on the greener pasture afar? Or are they afoot and their task is a hard-up haul of heavy burdens back from the hellish deeps of backwoods city states to the capital? What then is the fabled big score? Say, a rumored black iron and forge steel tool and weapon trove from a long lost city?
"They had to escape. Soon." Is "escape" the concise word most apt? "Escape" implies the rogue fellowship is confined against their will; yet they await their task manager's discretion?
Sentence fragment's prose strength is emotional expression. "Soon" is inert and a hedge word. Take to the outdoors now or not now? They had to get onto their shank mares and that right away. Now. Or imply Pallinon intends delay of them for the constable's pleasure? Which heightens complication-conflict magnitude and tension in an economy of words. More important than that Ronak tattoos impatience on the trestle table or who drinks what or what generic trouble awaits a spark. Show of the spark's background, not backstory, pre-stages the taproom setup of a gotcha ambush.
Taproom, not tavern common room. The common room is a bed chamber where six or more sleep upon a double-sized rope springs, straw tick mattress bedstead, or for only a farthing a pinched floor space away from the warm hearth. Or instead of a taproom, a wicket bar; a wood wicket cage encloses the ale taps and wine and spirit bottles from thief light-finger hands, and crude trestle tables and benches set in the barroom -- ordinaries, taverns, public houses, inns, abbeys, etc., public traveler overnight lodges customs and accommodations.
"sipped placidly" Is either word apt for an "auburn-haired halfling" who goes off in the head at a pin drop? Empty adverb "placidly" anyway. Adverbs', like sentence fragments and adjectives, prose strength is emotional expression. "Placidly" is anything but emotional, is calm and at a peaceful repose.
Does it matter that Aly sips redcurrant wine? How is that dramatic? The clause more or less is a visual and inert physical description of what was previously promised as an easily provoked persona, stalled personality and behavior development. Make a scene spectacle, Aly, please; show who you really are? Wanna cut Pallinon's condescension off at his mouth?
"wine, while Pallinon, their" Unnecessary comma and conjunction splices, a run-on sentence. One main idea per sentence is a useful "rule of thumb." Any joined content then only modifies the main idea. Two ideas, two disparate subjects, two predicates, and two objects are contained therein as is.
"Condescension," for that matter, is a denotatively neutral term with negative emotionally charged connotations. Such ambiguity can be artful if aptly developed, is otherwise vague and an anachrony for this rogues' milieu and era. See dictionary definitions for the term's concise meanings suited for apt irony, and "condescend."
On the other hand, "typical," though often inert, is in this case an apt degree of emotional charge, understatement irony, actually. Could be a stronger modifier and nonetheless apt emotional charge. What instead? Remember that above about a signal Pallinon intends an ambush? Which doesn't even need to turn out as a valid suspicion, actually, more dramatic if invalid and strong for showing a character trait, Ronak's suspicious by nature? Anyway, maybe //smug// condescension. No need to imply it's a typical expression or not, only that the facial expression is suspicious, for dramatic movement's sake at the least.
"At least Aly hadn’t started grinning at them; that would be the point of no return." Wordy (At least), unnecessary negation statement (hadn't started), generic and unnecessary -ing word (grinning), and a dead-tired cliché (the point of no return). Apt semicolon join, though.
"At least" could be omitted at no meaning or emotional charge expense. Would not a stronger description of Aly's not yet expressed grin use a positive and more specific statement? Is her grin feral and predatory? A positive statement example and sans cliché, //Aly held her feral grin sheathed; grin unleashed, she raised a jackal's terror.// (My voice though.)
"Ronak glanced around" Unnecessary extra lens filter. Prior content already establishes Ronak is the scene's viewpoint agonist and stays in touch throughout the fragment anyway. The visual sensation verb "glanced" is static, too; the visual sensation best practice could be vivid and lively description instead of a recap summary that Ronak looks again around the taproom to no new or more detailed dramatic view. Static of the third degree, a state- of-being stasis statement disguised as a process statement, that entails no dramatic process.
Instead like, say, Pallinon nonverbally signals furtiveness and confirms Ronak's wayward suspicions, Aly likewise splashes her feral grin, intuitively senses something is off and is off on her terror? Ronak can note that others look about, though cannot see himself look, by the way, a viewpoint glitch. Though use the eye's have it, for emotional charge, thriftily. Mix it up with other nonverbal emotional expressions.
Noteworthy that the fragment touches on most if not all thirteen-lines essentials, mostly mechanical touches though, less so aesthetics essentials. The strongest and most meaningful piece of the fragment, could work for me, if emphasized, is "scavenger’s privilege" relevance for the start and the whole, though as is, I would read on only as an as yet unengaged reader.
A quick thanks to you both for the input. I appreciate it.
Jay, I'm working through Swain's book, Techniques of Selling Writer, which I picked up b/c the Snowflake Guy cites him. The MRUs make sense and I used them (plus goal-conflict-disaster-etc) for writing this short story. But the 13-lines seems to be a little bit different genre. Do you have any recommendation about whether to open with stimulus or with reaction?
extrinsic, painful but helpful analysis. Thanks for the point by point breakdown - that gives me smaller symptoms to work on in treating this dangerous case of generic-itus I've got. You used "pendent" a few times, but I'm not sure what it means - could you tell me more about that?
A non -ing word for overhanging, (suspended), or pending, a useful word in that it holds metaphoric powers due to close association with noun pendant: main part of speech, adjective, Middle English origin. A pendent balcony; a pendent chandelier; a pendent romance. As modifier words' prose strength is emotional charge, in and of itself, "pendent" holds none, though subtly shines when modifies a suitable noun. Pendent bridge collapse, pendent serial killer execution, pendent convict escape, pendent cataclysm, pendent apocalypse: a shadows forth (foreshadowing) word. The word is on the cultured side of over-visible due to its uncommonness in conventional mass culture social vocabulary's two thousand routine words.
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Aside from the fragmented second sentence, I feel like the prose in this opening is decently solid. My only real issue is the vagueness of the trouble the characters are already in/are likely to get in if they stay. Essentially, the conflict comes off as vague at present. Clarity of conflict is important in an opening, because conflict is one of the most useful tools for grabbing the attention of a reader.
Thanks, Peony! My other test-readers have gone easily from the opening to the rest of the story. But none of them are literary agents. So I'm wondering now about narrative experiments, sample sizes, and generalizable results. :)
I'm still trying to figure out how much the intro conflict has to be spelled out in the opening lines. I had been thinking that as long as there was the suggestion of imminent trouble, it would be enough to get a reader to the 3rd or 4th paragraph. But it seems I've assumed too much.
The next revision will be more immediate and specific.
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quote:Originally posted by Scot:The MRUs make sense and I used them (plus goal-conflict-disaster-etc) for writing this short story. But the 13-lines seems to be a little bit different genre. Do you have any recommendation about whether to open with stimulus or with reaction?
Though the question directed else whom -- I am versed in Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham's, et al, causation theories -- my dollar's worth answer.
Bickham's take on stimulus and response is the ages' old causation theory first applied by Aristotle to drama, simply, cause and effect, also action and reaction. Causation theory predicates upon cause before effect, and a knowable relationship between both. Cause A causes effect B. Formal and informal fallacies misapprehend cause and effect connections.
A notorious proverb about illogical causation demonstrates: "Correlation does not imply causation." Usually related to a cum hoc; ergo, propter hoc fallacy -- with this; therefore, because of this; post hoc fallacies, too, after this . . . Prose may subvert causation, however, to strong dramatic effect. Examples include nonlinear timelines, character causation misapprehensions, magical thinking, for one, emotional justification instead of logical and rational induction, where bias influences expectation, unreliable narration.
Many causation theories locate an identity duality: cause and effect; however, prose asks for further sequences, as well as simultaneous and contemporaneous causation. Causation might exhibit a cause, a delay, and an effect sequence, especially apt for prose. Rust Hills notes such a sequence is preparation (cause), suspension (delay), and resolution (or satisfaction, an effect, or outcome, if partial or complete).
One of the challenges of conjunction words and punctuation that join clauses is those may not be causal-logically correlated or coordinated; not-simultaneous and non-contemporaneous glitches result. He climbed upstairs and opened a door, _as_ he turned the doorknob. Improbably long arms -- not simultaneous, illogical causation. He mounted the stairs and opened the attic door. Not simultaneous nor contemporaneous and illogical causation. Nor does a "then" obtain relief for prose's challenges, though then is logical and sequenced. Consideration there is likely overuse of the adverb, conjunction, or adjective "then" for sequence clarity. "Then" is yet another word that warrants second thoughts and probably syntax revisions.
Simultaneous or contemporaneous causation is sublime and subtle. What, stimulus and response at a simultaneous moment? Logical, upon occasion. A simultaneous emotional response to a visual stimuli is one of prose's finer artful methods. Here, metaphor is foremost. Borrowing from the above fragment, an auburn-haired halfling could be described emotionally, the dark-reddish hair tint a possible source for the metaphoric situation: fiery dark hair, fiery dark temperament, simultaneous or contemporaneous stimuli and response potentials -- the kind of subtle detail that, if developed, enhances characterization specificity, of the persona described and the persona who describes for best reader effect.
Similar "telling details" for event and setting description do similar manifold duties. Specificity in part depends on specific concrete details: stimulus, cause, action; and their specific simultaneous or contemporaneous abstract details: response, effect, and reaction. Would halfling be a concrete or abstract detail? Simultaneous or contemporaneous? Or sequential? For the two and more concrete, abstract, and emotional causal detail essentials for prose.
Recap, causation might be artfully inverted -- effect precedes cause, or cause and effect unrelated (non sequitur: does not follow) -- simultaneous, contemporaneous, sequential, or multifaceted, more than only dual stimulus and response oscillation anyway. And variety is spiced.
If not patent, my position for which of stimulus or response first is some from column A, some from chapter 1, some from room I, some from stockpile i, some from some utter other n, and yada, whichever strongest and clearest suits the rhetorical situation. By default, though, dual or triple causal sequences foremost, triple sequence emphasis -- cause, delay, effect; stimulus, suspension, response; action, reflection, reaction. However, for action-adventure segments, dual preferred; not much, if any, realistic time for meditation mid sword duel to the death.
quote:The MRUs make sense and I used them (plus goal-conflict-disaster-etc) for writing this short story.
One of the hardest things you will ever do is convince your current writing skills, honed over decades till they feel intuitive, to get out of the way when you're writing fiction.
quote:“We’re not staying in Mire-town, priest,” Ronak said.
This is okay as an opening, but why not change the tag so as to do double duty, with something like: "Ronak said, as he put his tankard on the battered table." That sets the scene without the need to tell the reader, as yourself that he's in a tavern. In fact, why not follow the original line of dialog with, "In fact, I'm for leaving this crap hole tavern before we find ourselves in trouble." Done that way, you don't have to appear on stage, as yourself, to explain, as the next line does.
quote:Feeling something on his forearm, he raised his hand from the grimy, wooden table. A greasy blotch had stained his silk sleeve. “Perfect
He doesn't feel "something." In his viewpoint it's wetness, or something else specific. And instead of stating it in the storyteller's viewpoint, use something cause and effect for him, like, "Wetness on his sleeve caused him to raise his arm and shake his head at the grease stain on his silk shirt—the result of the filthy table." Done that way, it's what matters to him in the way it does to him. At present, it's you reporting on the situation.
I'd go further, and ask why it matters to the reader that his sleeve is dirty, as originally presented. He doesn't take action because of it. But, presented this way it's scene setting, and we learn that he can afford silk shirts.
quote:Alyonssa just sipped at her wine, watching the conversation like it was a comedy.
While this might be true, is it our protagonist noticing it or you reporting it and breaking POV? If it's him noticing, he has to react in some way.
The short version: You're making progress, but you can't switch from the presentation habits you've been using since first grade to one with its own set of craft in a day.
The funny part of it is that after all the struggle, when you do have it under control you'll wonder what was so hard about it.
Read that Swain book slowly, with plenty of time to think about each point as it's raised, and how it relates to your writing. And be certain to practice the point, or a week later you'll have forgetten it exists.
And six months after you read it, do it again. Then, with an idea of where he's going, you'll learn as much the second time as you did the first.
You'll also find that in the beginning, the step of diagramming the M/R pairs is a pain, and may feel like paint-by-the-numbers. But it's like learning the box step in ballroom dancing. You start out counting 1-2-3...1-2-3, like a metronome. But once you have it under control you embellish it, and modify it, and suddenly, you're dancing.
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One individual refuses another's assignment proposal.
Less generic, stronger subtext, a clearer and more developed yet artfully withheld complication-conflict for the second fragment version. The fragment moves ahead of below average prose skills overall.
By the way, fifteen lines, one of which contains only one word, "'Perfect'", neither of which's loss detracts much from meaning. That former one, though, is an emotionally charged sentence fragment. Maybe "Perfect" is an anachrony, a present day interjection idiom, and ironic, a litotes, actually, understatement that affirms the opposite of its literal meaning, often a positive opposite of a negation statement; an interjection, idiom, and irony I've not encountered in historic times' expressions, more a present-day mall crawler and cubicle dungeon denizen idiom.
The artfully withheld portion of the refusal complication-conflict is subtextual, leaves room for reader inference and, hence, engages intellect; imagination and emotional engagement promised soon.
However, a non-causal flow dialogue start from a disembodied voice, initially; a small population swell of trivial setting and character introductions that lack dramatic movement; and an unnecessary and drama-less wordiness -- empty descriptions -- detract from dramatic movement.
A consideration for dialogue to begin with -- is cause and effect aligned? What causes Ronak to speak his refusal? Developed later in the fragment, though after infill fluff. Maybe more artful -- dramatic and logical -- if Pallinon speaks his assignment piece first. Or if an unconventional causation works stronger drama-wise, sooner if not immediate relation of the cause of the Ronak dialogue effect. Alternative C, perhaps a non sequitur, does not follow, follows the dialogue line, that contrarily does follow through implication of the refusal's cause rather than direct cause relation.
Refusals, by the way, are a sublime component of folk tales. Vladimir Propp first located those in Russian folklore. Joseph Campbell later derived similar derivative insights for Western folklore. A hero refuses the hero's journey three times before acceptance, a one-two-three-go. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, from the Kübler-Ross model for grief coping strategy, those are an emotional texture sequence potential for the hero's refusals tableau, conflated or drawn out sequences for artful suspension segments. Propp noted a ready-set-go as well and refusals of more sublime contexts than the more overt one of refusal of the hero's summons.
The fragment contains a first refusal, promises and implies at least one or more further refusals before Ronak accepts or outright bolts. This subtle feature's promise of piled on persuasion and refusal escalation contains dramatic movement of the type a thirteen-lines start warrants, is a sublime inferable subtext. That is a powerful strength of this second fragment version, perhaps the scene's central action point and pivot.
About the dialogue start, perhaps a prefatory event, setting, or character description start would defuse the disembodied voice, could be more artful and dramatic and more appeal. Say, the fragment rearranged and revised to place the grease stain first? Such motifs are ripe for objective correlatives' metaphoric subtexts -- that connect concrete and abstract content for situational and extended enhancement. Might the grease stain reflect Pallinon and Ronak's personality, characterize them? One or both is a greasy slime hole?
The silk shirt is an anachrony. Whatever era this takes place, silk is likely to cost an emperor's ransom: only spun in China, costly transport to the West, and every hand along the trade route takes a deep "scavenger's privilege" cut. Plus, enacted laws might, some places did, forbid its wear by all but the most elite. The day shirt fabric of pre-Modern eras was summer-weight linen or winter linsey-woolsey. Ronak might have come by the silk shirt through hook-and-crook, or happenstance, though would intimately know its perils, possibility of mugged for it, possibility of arrest, possibility of spoliation, and would only wear it when most apropos. As is, it's a toss off, means little, and its dramatic context and texture untimely and undeveloped.
"In fact" Wordy. "couldn’t escape soon enough" Wordy. "Resolute" Wordy.
"Feeling something on his forearm" Unnecessary extra lens filter. Any verbal word which entails a sensation; sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, or emotion, is an unnecessary extra lens filter. Recast demonstrates the extra lens. _He felt_ something on his forearm. This, too, is an unnecessary extra lens filter: "_he raised_ his hand", (proprioception sensation, reception of stimuli within an organism, Webster's, volitional self-awareness of limbs' movements and positions), another, "Ronak _shook his head_".
These above sensations are more dramatic when shown instead of told, though ask for more word count as an option, which then calls attention to their superfluity at the reading moment. An alternative that defuses all of those considerations is different methods of expression, through implication and emotional-dramatic context and texture. Or, least of appeal, the indirect discourse method of narrator foreground narrative point of view.
For illustration: //Ronak shook his head.// is a narrator tell, a paraphrase, an indirect discourse method that summarizes a complex action. Amid a bevy of third-person limited narrative point of view and viewpoint agonist inside looks out, the sentence is a viewpoint glitch of outside looks in. Ronak cannot see his head shake, though other characters and the narrator can.
This is sublime, an overstatement: "this squalid taproom in this petty tavern in this backwaters nothing-town" The "this" repetition emphasizes the private-personal emotional texture of it. The rhetorical figure is also syncrisis: "Comparison and contrast in parallel clauses" (Silva Rhetoricae). Syncrisis is beautiful though often invisible prose poetic equipment, plus repetition, substitution, and amplification's rhetoric equipment. If contrast were as strong an amplification as the comparison parallel of that phrase, that phrase would reach a poetic zenith.
Note twelve instances of -ing words in 132 words, enough to accumulate an -ing ring rhyme nuisance. Some are due to unnecessary tense shifts from main simple past to present participle. Plus, unnecessary tense shifts to past perfect. "A greasy blotch _had stained_" and "They _had risked_" A consideration of which is time sequence; past perfect doubles back to a farther back in time moment and interrupts the immediate now, just this moment passed flow of simple past.
Several negation statements, too, of dubious necessity throughout the fragment. For prose's necessary poetic equipment, negation statements are a type of irony: litotes, understated affirmation of the positive opposite of a negation statement. Ronak's refusal somewhat warrants the negation statements -- that assignment refusal, its negative affirmation, is the central idea of the fragment as is. However, those subliminally affirm their positive opposites: Ronak will accept the assignment despite his objections. Subliminal is sensation beneath recipient notice; liminal is transitive and at the threshold of notice -- the more artful and dramatic expression method.
This is confusing: "He was talking with the half-orc, but watching the halfling." Who is "he"? Ronak or Pallinon? And who is the "half-orc"? Who the "halfling" is, is obvious from the previous version's introduction of her, in the second version not at all clear who she is. And oh my, three -ing words in short succession.
"like it was a comedy" Similes in prose are another area where those are best practice emotionally strong and clear charged. Most, if not all, of prose best practice is charged -- pathos emphasis over logos (logic) and ethos (credible). The generic aspect of that simile makes it next to unnecessary from lacks emotional charge. High brow sensibilities looked down their noses at comedy throughout much of the past two millennia; comedy theater was thought a "circus" part of bread and circuses to appease the common masses -- tolerated. The instinct is on the mark; its delivery falls short. More specificity could defuse the emotional emptiness of the simile.
An awkward verbal sequence progression here: "'Mirreton, you mean,' Pallinon corrected[,] in his usual, patronizing tone." Simple present, simple past, simple present, present participle verbals. The latter nonrestrictive prepositional clause is a stranded participle. Takes a comma separation and best practice syntax is in sentence first position. Plus, a said-bookism "corrected." No comma separation between "usual" and "patronizing"; "usual" modifies the phrase "patronizing tone". If a coordinate or parallel expression of two or more modifiers modify a noun or noun phrase, then comma separation. This is one modifier of a noun phrase that includes a modifier of the noun "tone", takes no comma separation. Recast for illustration: //In his usual patronizing tone, [or --] Pallinon said, “Mirreton, you mean.”//
Beautiful, by the way, that Pallinon misses Ronak's sarcastic commentary about Mirreton being a mire, hostilely corrects him regardless. That's dramatic dialogue of the contentious squabble type, and dramatic irony's arts: Ronak knows his design, readers can infer the point; Pallinon is clueless.
More works for me in the second fragment version, some notable, inferable dramatic movement, foremost from the hero's refusal tableau, still about the same quantity and quality of what doesn't work for me. I am more inclined to read on as an engaged reader.
Thanks, Jay and extrinsic, for the analysis and, even more, the encouragement.
I plan to keep working on this until I'm actually doing all the things I "know" it should be doing. (It surprised me how far from the bulls-eye I still am.) So I'm grateful for your patience and continued coaching.
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Closer to the mark than appears from impressions. The hardest challenge of prose is complication-conflict introduction, too often unmet; here, well met if underrealized. The refusal tableau suits those essentials, most of character clash. And is herein a standout, artful dramatic feature. Focus upon that tableau for the central action of the scene transcends trivial grammar considerations, maybe poetic equipment, too; potentially, those fade into the background.
Our host Orson Scot Card and Donald Maass note that a "bridge conflict" is one method for an opening start, that sets up, prepares, too, for the main action, the main complication-conflict to come. A refusal tableau is and suits that bridge potential like a custom-tailored Italian silk and wool blazer and pants on a dime-store mobster -- of an artfully ironic, congruent opposites mannerism.
Then, next, after thirteen lines essentials, for to introduce, say Aly, she chimes in to reinforce Ronak's first refusal instead of is a static, flat little halfling lump on a crude bench: timely dramatic movement that secondarily introduces the third-corner persona of the conflict clash, this now one, and sets up for later clash action -- liminal shades that shadow forth (foreshadows).
Next in sequence, Pallinon could escalate persuasion through dramatic detail temptations about the scavenger target, which Ronak further refuses, and thus add to the dramatic movement and further dramatic event, setting, and character development for the present action and main action to come. Ronak must, though, of dramatic necessity, waver in his resolve, so that clash movement and doubt of outcome at the moment is preserved forward for tension's sake.
Then comes the third refusal. Convinced or unconvinced? Does Aly react her dark firebrand way? Before or after? Is a third refusal all done and grudged acceptance thereafter? Or the third refusal also causes simultaneous acquiescence effect? Or does the refusal take though cause a movement toward a different, congruent catastrophe effect?
The dramatic movement path started from a first refusal branches manifold at the third refusal. Events outpace refusal regardless; and Ronak's rogues fellowship undertakes an antiheroes' reluctant journey?
Sorry, Scot, my observation concerned version 1. As for version two, I have a similar reservation: Someone makes a statement without context. I don’t know who or what he/she/it is and I have no idea why they made the comment, therefore, I have no reason to continue reading if this is calibre of prose construction and delivery I have to look forward to. You’re supposed to be enticing me in, not putting me off. The same criticism applies to the remainder of the fragment—there is no context.
I have spent the last couple of months intently considering beginnings, and the first 13 line convention here at Hatrack in a small, related way.
In critiquing a submission fragment, Jay has his biases, extrinsic has his, and I have mine. There was a point not so long ago when I would have seconded most of extrinsic’s observations. But not now. In his latest post, extrinsic mentions the term “thirteen lines essentials”, as if there are multiple essential components of the first thirteen lines of a story. There is only one ‘essential’: engage the reader. This may be done in a myriad of ways that may or may not include all, some, or none of the things Jay and extrinsic might consider essential.
It is the task of the writer to engage the reader’s imagination and hold it; if it were easy, everyone could do it.
I can neither affirm nor refute in good conscious whether any writer or theory exhibits bias. I could affirm that a top, if not the top-tier first and foremost priority is engage readers, not even that, though. Too many narratives, writers, and theories espouse and demonstrate otherwise to accept it as an absolute. I can, as a responder, work from what's given and infer and interpret a creative vision for enhanced realization potentials, if indicated, offer descriptive inferences for a writer's extant creative vision enhancement consideration.
Somewhere more than a billion written creative works archived or in print across the world, probably many times as many lost to posterity, each of its own distinctive methods, more than a few of which are indifferent or outright hostile to readers' sensibilities, though nonetheless appeal to a niche and amply profitable audience for inferable reasons. Such is the life of writing.
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I wonder more and more about that niche reader segment. I sustain the logic of the reader's personal preferences, as Phil and Dwight Swain and Steven Brust all argue for, since that's my experience as a reader too. As an initial premise, it leads to some different conclusions:
1. I need to find test readers who match my target audience as close as possible. To that end, does anyone have suggestions about what kind of readers the judges for Writers of the Future are?
2. When I'm giving feedback on some writing, I need to try and understand who the target audience, then try to respond from that perspective. If that's even possible.
3. When I'm submitting writing for feedback, I need to describe the target audience I'm hoping to engage, and ask folks to discuss things from that perspective. If that's even possible.
4. This is probably a discussion for General Writing Topics rather than the thread for my weak writing sample. However it's such solid discussion, I don't want to miss it. :)
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Writers of the Future judges' names are listed on the W&IotF website. A start for consideration, David Farland, pseudonym, aka, Dave Wolverton, is the current coordinating judge, the first submission screener, and the anthology editor. Follow Farland's Kick in the Pants blog to analyze his writing aesthetics, compare and contrast those with his published works.
Same for finalist judges, of which our Hatrack host Orson Scott Card is one. Also, consider same for publication editors-writers, Gardener Dozois was a past editor for Asimov's Science Fiction digest. Shirley Williams is the current editor. Analog, Asimov's Science Fiction, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction are fantastic fiction's "big three" magazine publications.
Likewise, investigate book publishers, say, Baen, Tor, Ace, Ballantine, DAW, Del Ray's editor and writer stables, not sure all are extant: Wikipedia's "List of science fiction publishers". Tor, Baen, and DAW are the "big three" that accept unagented novel submissions. Baen's Free Library online is a useful resource for study of editor-writer samples and the firm's aesthetics. Beware of Baen's writing blogs, can be more contentious at times than a burlap sack of mad-rabid politicians at odds over who burnt out the root cellar lightbulb and whether or not the new one is as bright as the old one was.
Understanding development of others' slants, perspectives, what have you, is a fine and noble method to learn how to bluntly appraise one's own writing and, while possible, might be less pragmatic a method than just full speed ahead regardless. Many midnight candles burnt not placing words on the page, though nothing is more productive of craft development than to read, read widely, read deeply, read close so as to learn how others succeed and what not to do that contributes to a nascent shooting star's decline from a zenith.
An alternative, define who a target reader is, what she or he likes most to read, also, which publication suits the self's ambitions, and write for that one reader and one publication, at first. That's focus's peril; though, oddly, specificity transcends the immediate and becomes universal, broader anyway than the one reader and publisher. Likewise, define the self's favorite reading material, locate who wrote what, who published it, who reads it, and emulate it more artfully than it is, transcend its shortfalls that detract from the self's reading experience enjoyments, so that publisher resistance erodes sooner or later.
Or blow it all off and resort to unscreened self-publication. Risky, high-stakes gambles there. Very few succeed grandly or even modestly by that route.
extrinsic's advice may be sage and worthy of the time and effort spent. Personally, I would find it more productive to walk into the fiction section of a bookshop and read the opening of a hundred or more published novels, noting voice, style, content, etc.. The problem with extrinsic's approach is that what publishers print may be different from what they tell you they want.
What publishers print now is what they wanted two or three years ago. You can learn some things by looking at what's on the shelves today, but not everything.
I'd suggest looking at the publishers who publish what you like to read. You are more likely to appeal to them than you are to publishers who don't publish what you like to read.
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Trying to chew the elephant.... This round I've tried to keep focus on establishing context/conflict, staying in POV, and emotion-charged language.
Thanks again to each of you for your patience and help!
==== Stickiness on his forearm distracted Ronak from the argument. He raised his sleeve from the grimy tabletop. A green blotch stained the pale silk. Grimclaw’s bones, he and Aly couldn’t escape fast enough from this squalid taproom in this petty tavern in this backwaters nothing-town. He glared at Pallinon, the half-elf who had bought their drinks, then picked this greasy table. “We’re not staying in Mire-town, priest.”
Patronizing as ever, Pallinon said, “Mirreton, you mean. Truly, m’lord Ronak, I think you would find this most intriguing.” He spoke to Ronak, but watched Alyonssa, who seemed entertained by the contest.
“Listen,” Ronak said, “we’re not intrigued. Risking our lives for the sake of kindness and scavenger’s privilege is over...."
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One of my processes is look to what's trending now and near futureward; social media, for Old Patch's sake, is rich prospector grounds. Some individuals see forward near future. Lifestyle media labels them "Cool Sharks."
Two notable conventions of which are aptitude for selective exclusion appeals and strong ironic coolness signals, subtle to overt sarcastic mockery and ridicule effects of social anxiety causes, about timeless and relevant social topics, like culture clashes and shocks and technology innovations, that influence mass society.
Plus that Cool Sharks and cool trends are here today, gone overnight passing fashions. Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame is due everyone anymore. Due to the ironic coolness of Punk media, an artful blend of amateur improvisation and imitation, and polished, fresh innovation, those blended are sarcastic and socially responsive angst and ennui about life's complexity challenges -- the challenge peak beyond immediate, effortless satisfaction.
Punk pushes sarcastic challenges and questions against presupposed conventional notion mandates, Pinocchio and Peter Pan syndromes -- resists, denies, deflects maturation growth. Though sarcasm is common across age phases, early adult is the most Punk sarcasm appeal phase, and the age at which identity formation is most free to explore and experiment with identity, sarcasm experiment also, and least supervised by or accountable to guardians, generally, and timeless, too.
Anyway, the X-generation, the ironically cool, which took Punk shock tactics to an extreme, has come of age and is now and for a few decades to come the dominant social entertainment media demographic target, now middle adults. To be followed by Y-generation Millennials and their own response departures from X's sarcasm fashions, their central aesthetic unemerged as of yet, maybe Pluralism.
Boomer generation preceded X, the Postmodern generation; The Silent generation preceded Boomers, the Stoic generation; The Greatest generation preceded Silents, the Modern generation, "Greatest" because the age cohort had been the most populous up to its conception and greatest generation expansion before Boomers'. Each their unique sarcasm, satire, and irony fashions. The trend over time has moved toward more dysfunction and toxic social interactions. The trend continues near futureward for a nonspecified time.
The vivid and strong, lively "voice" agents and publishers claim is in short supply and huge demand, though few can place a finger around its timeless convention pulses, is that social dysfunction and sarcasm trend -- Søren Kierkegaard's "Infinite absolute negativity." Though irony in all its arts and expressions asks for stable, inferable, accessible figurative content and satire's dramatic movement criteria, apt sarcasm, toxic or otherwise, nonetheless asks for transformative subtext, too, like life lessons learned regardless of how hard and unfair existence is and how much deflected and misdirected sarcastic gripes transpire meantime.
Go ahead, gripe on the page, make a sarcastic, satiric, ironic, "cool" spectacle scene in print; its safer and more respectable than in real public or private life. This meets, or exceeds, past, current, and near-future prose supply demands.
Third version, stronger "focus on establishing context/conflict, staying in POV, and emotion-charged language." Some bumps yet.
"Stickiness on his forearm distracted Ronak from the argument." Though now agonist inside looks out, immediate third-person limited narrative point of view introduction, two considerations: is stickiness of a dramatic magnitude and suitable specificity apt for a first sentence? And is "argument" too pat-direct, too soon, and too generic?
Sticky is a tactile sensation, though here which limits reader ability to share the sensation. It's a direct and generic touch description sensation. This might be ripe for metaphoric touches with the eyes, too, or maybe with the other hand or both -- nonvolitionally so that readers liminally think to clean their forearms and relieved they're not stained. And full realization then left for the later sentences so that what caused the stain is a satisfaction segment.
For me, I do not become aware something's off until I touch a grease blob stuck to my arm, preparation segment, look at what's in my hand, rub the stain spot, delay and suspension segment, then satisfaction segment, know what happened, from what, and emotionally react.
"distracted Ronak from the argument." Could be interleavened, though in a sentence later after the stain's dramatic situation is fully realized. The instinct to locate Ronak's name introduction late in the sentence is solid, though is a direct object of "distracted". The indirect object case is stronger for protagnist name introductions in object position, stronger for third person limited agonist viewpoint. How to describe a sensation Ronak is nonvolitionally aware of? Demonstration:
//Odd itches tingled at his forearm. The off hand scratched those pesky itches. Tavern stewpot porkfat, chewed, fell off his prized silk shirtsleeve, plopped onto the grimy taproom table. Rancid green grease soaked the sleeve cuff like bloodstains, like he'd opened a wrist vein.
//Pallinon blathered nonsense about friendship loyalty Ronak heard and ignored. Grimclaw’s bones . . . //
Barely liminal threshold at first, conscious thoughts escalate, shadows forth features about odd itches and opened veins, Pallinon's off though on stage speech dramatically paraphrased from indirect discourse mode, Ronak named in indirect object case position, and that the situation is a contentious negotiation refusal tableau left for later surprise revelation, when relevant, not foretold right away. The overall sensory effect thereof is reader accessible, vivid and lively enough for a start.
"escape fast enough from this squalid taproom in this petty tavern in this backwaters nothing-town" Consider other word or words that support parallels between "escape" and the emotional setting description details. Amplification at the end? //escape fast enough from this squalid taproom in this petty tavern in this backwater-nothing swamp bog [or potty dungeon, etc.] town//? Exaggerated for effect.
"He glared" Unnecessary extra lens filter, note, a sight sensation verb, glared. Ronak cannot see himself glare, a viewpoint glitch, now outside looks in after the prior content inside looks out.
"We’re not staying" Unnecessary -ing word. Static voice of the second degree, of a to be state-of-being auxiliary verb and present participle main verb construction, plus the intermediate negation adverb. A few options for consideration or guidance for other options: //We'll not stay longer// //We stay no more// //We leave now// maybe plain huh-uh // No. We go from Mire-town this night's moon rise//
"who had bought their drinks, then picked this greasy table" Wordy "who" connective and wordy "then" connective. Run on sentence overall. //Half-elf Pallinon bought the drinks. He chose this pig fat-grimed table.// Again, for illustration: simple past tense consistency.
"He spoke to Ronak," Redundant, readers already know Ronak and Pallinon converse and can infer they speak face to face.
"but watched Alyonssa, who seemed entertained by the contest." Unnecessary contradiction conjunction. Pallinon next looks from Ronak aside to Aly? Wordy, too, "who seemed", and generic. Is Aly not a dark firebrand anymore? The conversation entertains her? What's the conversation's appeal for her, such that readers share the appeal? "Entertained" is the word for reconsideration, to the effect she's engaged by possibility she can raise terrible fun? Her terrible smile, feral grin, her feline fangs barred for the promise of terrible fun? Ronak knows her smile is feral threat; Pallinon doesn't, does he?
"would find this" Nonexistent pronoun subject antecedent or proximal subject ("this" is a proximity pronoun, needs a positive or comparative proximal subject) and missed occasion to introduce the proposed task's what texture. //would find this gnome's hoard// or similar different?
A serious subject comes up from the third fragment version, "Ronak" didn't alert me to some of this is derivative from another entity's intellectual property; the interjection "Grimclaw's bones" did, from World of Warcraft role play games. Other names, Pallinon, Alyonssa, Mirreton, have no prior copyright claims. Ronak is almost an incidental use by itself, though Warcraft folk could be litigious if this work were published and drew more than trivial public notice. Use of Grimclaw is another creator's derivative intellectual property borrow too far for any incidental uses at all. Unless express written permission for incidental derivative uses are in hand from World of Warcraft folk.
A more than incremental stronger and clearer craft exhibited by the third version, comparable to I might more so read on as a more engaged reader.
I remain unengaged. This time it isn’t about context or setting, I find both acceptable in this incarnation, it’s about word-choice and sentence construction. It jars; there is no rhythm and that keeps me from entering the moment.
In his book, The Art of Fiction, page 150, John Gardner explains in a brief, and barely understandable manner, the use of poetic rhythm in prose. The pity is, I am not in a position to explain more clearly than that at the moment—this is my next area of intensive study: iambic rhythms, particularly pentameter and heptameter. But, before that, I need to learn how to reliably syllabify words and identify which is stressed (short) and which is unstressed (long).
Iambic pentameter is recognised as THE poetic metre or rhythm. In his Poetics, Aristotle says, “Once dialogue had come in, Nature herself discovered the appropriate measure. For the iambic is, of all measures, the most colloquial (and) we see it in the fact that conversational speech runs into iambic lines more frequently than into any other kind of verse; rarely into hexameters, and only when we drop the colloquial intonation.”
Shakespeare wrote a large number of his plays in iambic pentameter, for example, Richard the 3rd.
From Act 1, Scene 1:
Gloucester: . . . But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks, Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass; I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty To strut before a wanton, ambling nymph; I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion, Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,-- And that so lamely and unfashionable That dogs bark at me as I halt by them; Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace, Have no delight to pass away the time, Unless to spy my shadow in the sun And descant on mine own deformity: And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain And hate the idle pleasures of these days. Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams, To set my brother Clarence and the king In deadly hate the one against the other: And if King Edward be as true and just As I am subtle, false and treacherous, This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up, About a prophecy, which says that G Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be. Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: -- here Clarence comes.
As you can see, not all poetic metres need to rhyme. An even more colloquial metre is iambic heptameter, an example of which is an excerpt from A. B. ‘Banjo’ Patterson’s The Man From Ironbark. You may not understand some of the references—sorry, it’s Australian idiom and slang and unfortunately is in rhyming couplets, which sort of lessens its weight in my argument:
It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town, He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down. He loitered here, he loitered there, till he was like to drop, Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber's shop. `'Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I'll be a man of mark, I'll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark.'
The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are, He wore a strike-your-fancy sash, he smoked a huge cigar: He was a humorist of note and keen at repartee, He laid the odds and kept a `tote', whatever that may be, And when he saw our friend arrive, he whispered `Here's a lark! Just watch me catch him all alive, this man from Ironbark.'
There were some gilded youths that sat along the barber's wall, Their eyes were dull, their heads were flat, they had no brains at all; To them the barber passed the wink, his dexter eyelid shut, `I'll make this bloomin' yokel think his bloomin' throat is cut.' And as he soaped and rubbed it in he made a rude remark: `I s'pose the flats is pretty green up there in Ironbark.'
A grunt was all reply he got; he shaved the bushman's chin, Then made the water boiling hot and dipped the razor in. He raised his hand, his brow grew black, he paused awhile to gloat, Then slashed the red-hot razor-back across his victim's throat; Upon the newly shaven skin it made a livid mark -- No doubt it fairly took him in -- the man from Ironbark. . .
And the point of all this? To my mind, storytelling is essentially an oral and aural tradition dating back tens of thousands of years, while the mass-produced, mass-marketed, written word is only a hundred and fifty years old or so. Because of this I get the sense that when we read, in our minds ear we are still looking for those spoken rhythms—and this goes to creating a writer’s ‘voice’.
Of course, this is just an ‘out-there’ idea I’m exploring. I could well be way off the mark.
On the mark. Points to add, disyllables like trochee, pyrrhus, and spondee, and trisyllables like anapest, dactyl, tribrach, and amphibrach, attend prose's invisible rhythmic accentual verse as well as iamb, for to avoid rigid iamb's visible-audible sing-song rhythm, or in iamb's unstressed-stressed sequence, sis sat, fish bag, hoe-dad.
Scansion of Richard III except from above: "But I, | that am | not shaped | for sport- | ive tricks," Iamb | spondee | spondee | iamb | iamb
Spondee stresses both paired syllables.
The ideal pentameter for poetry aspect reflects memorization ease, and how a verse line contains an idealized ten syllables and two eye-blinks content, for reading and comprehension ease. For prose's paragraph format, hexamater reflects Standard Manuscript Format lines' idealized twelve syllables, roughly, and two eye-blinks content, likewise, for reading and comprehension ease. Standard Publication Format's proportional typefaces defy line meter standardization.
Anytime. Though versed about the topic, this is one area I advise a wader's shallow depth. Gardner's take is ample for prose writers. Poetry's rhyme, rhythm, and meter principles are guidelines meant to be flouted at times, many poets did, have, do.
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Thanks all for expanding my view of the challenge here.
Phil, I'd love to get into musicality, but that'll have to wait until I can keep my authorial head above water, I think. :)
extrinsic, the revision demos are super-helpful. It raises a question though - with 13-line priorities of disrupting emotional equilibrium, is this 44 word/277 character expansion (from the 9 word/61 character sentence) what is needed? Or is this an example of providing "voice" - the agent/editor's golden fleece, that should outweigh the other factors?
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Scott, it's not about musical or poetic rhythm, both are mechanically repetitive, while human speech rhythms are more dynamic. It's about using metrical analysis to try and imitate the rhythms found in human speech in creating riveting prose.
A few points of each, voice, stronger language, more lively, vivid, inside looks out, subtext, etc., for illustration purposes. Given it be mine -- it is not -- I'd excise some parts, lavish more attention on others, rearrange parts, shorten words, shorten sentences, emphasize the scene's central action, experiment with options, etc., word by word, clause by clause, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph.
The imitation exercise a few creative writing program instructors assign prompts emulation of another creator's vision or voice, or both, or different modes and methods, or all possibles. The exercise dates back to Hellenic Greece in the progymnasmata, detailed at Silva Rhetoricae, and Renaissance Erasmus' de copia exercise. Such processes might work results that express more with less, that substitute for the extant fragment content and fit thirteen lines limits -- and mayhap be of a smooth, natural, invisible prose poetic rhythm.
I might be persuaded to illustrate; however, that would take ownership of another's creative vision, be a total rewrite of dubious difference, and which goes against every fiber of Hatrack fragment commentary rules.
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From the viewpoint of...well, viewpoint, this latest is much better.
quote:Stickiness on his forearm distracted Ronak from the argument.
You’re going in the right direction, but because old habits truly die hard, to a great extent, you’re still explaining. Since you’re starting the story here, think about what matters to Ronak. In this case, it’s that the shirt has been stained. And since it doesn’t flow from previous action and situation we're aware of, we don’t need to know why he lifted his arm. You’re presenting it as scene setting so we know that he’s on a dirty place, one that he’s not dressed for, and that he’s royalty, and, not smart enough to have seen the state of the table—or expect it after a look around—when he sat there. And since we don’t yet know what’s going on, the fact that there is an argument going on can’t be all that critical given that he finds his sleeve more important. So unless the subject under discussion matters to the scene, why even mention it? Why not begin with matters to him, and motivates him to speak, the stain? For example: - - - - - - - Ronak studied the green blotch staining the silk of his sleeve, a gift from the tavern’s filthy table.
“So tell me, Priest,” he said to the half-elf who’d suggested their destination, pointing to the stain. “When you said, ‘This is a good place to stop for the night,” who was it good for? The washerwoman who’ll try to clean this, and fail, or the bugs who will feast on us in our beds?” He leaned toward the priest, pointing an accusing finger as he said, “You led us to this squalid taproom in this petty tavern in this backwaters nothing-town…and you call it interesting? There’s nothing interesting in Mire-town from what I can see. So assuming that I’ve not been eaten by vermin by morning, we’re not staying.”
Patronizing as ever, Pallinon said, “Mirreton, you mean. Truly, m’lord Ronak, I think you’ll find this most intriguing.” As he spoke, his eyes strayed to Alyonssa, who seemed entertained by their words.
“Listen,” Ronak said, waving that away. “You may find squalor entertaining, but we’re not intrigued. Risking our lives for the sake of kindness and scavenger’s privilege is over...." - - - - - - It’s neither your story nor great writing. But look at the flow. We begin with the problem the protagonist will be addressing first, and use that to expand our focus it to place them, and provide a bit of information on who they are to each other, not visual detail we can’t see, or the steps leading to his discovery of the stain.
By having him verbalize his objections, which is natural in that situation, he says the things we want the reader to know, getting you off the stage, while at the same time, showing characterization.
Jay, thanks for the alt view on the scenario. That's helpful for me to contrast the habits I hadn't realized I'd formed against other options.
The opening sentence from your example brings a question to my mind about POV. Isn't "Ronak studied..." a tell also?
Is that just the realistic limit of showing - starting off with a simple tell, then shifting into the POV reactions? extrinsic demo'ed a full progression from liminal awareness, expanding my considerations as well. But I question the efficiency of that route, as mentioned above. My dilemma seems to be whether minor character/setting development details belong at all in the 13-line genre.
Would you (anyone, everyone) recommend that details other than the main POV and current conflict should probably be elided from the 1st 13 lines?
Of course stories are variegated and many-splendored, there's no silver bullet, etc. But I'm trying to identify some best practices to practice. (However then I think of putting this into the actual rhetorical situation---me writing YA fantasy for the readers of YA fantasy---maybe this is something I need to workshop with teens at the local library?)
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I understand the question and its ramifications. In short, what manner of narrative point of view is best practice -- for a writer, for any given narrative, for a genre, for readers, for a target audience, for screeners, for publication?
Folly for me -- anyone -- to project what anyone outside the self favors, yet that's a common, practical characteristic of writing workshop. The dissonance reconciles on what works and what doesn't for a given receiver, plus, what that receiver perceives works and doesn't work for other receivers. From where might those external projections derive if not from the self's sensibilities and those sensibilities' bias projections onto others? From degrees of awareness learned, discovered, observed from past successful works and futureward anticipations, like new, fresh, lively, original methods, parts observed in minute excerpt situations that suggest possible extended application no one yet has realized in practical application, for full realization.
For me, from my experiences, I note that much past traditional literature tells to a fault by compare to current anticipations, summarizes and explains -- shorthand paraphrases -- what more artfully, dramatically, vividly, lively can be shown: mimesis, verbatim reality imitation, Realism's forte, though at first little different from predecessor diegesis and exegesis emphasis: respectively, summary and explanation. Over time, mimesis quantity and quality expanded; diegesis and exegesis contracted. However, show expends word count more than tell, ostensibly, contradicted by show more effectively appeals than tell and might, oddly, amount to word count economy regardless, expresses more with less, hence, rhetorical equipment, as much or more about what's left out by practical choice as what's given.
Economical or effectual? Conundrum and double bind and dissonance galore. Welcome to creative composition's blunt truth: frank self-choice reconciles all, not to mention, of course, contradiction contrasts, artfully managed, contends, clashes, transcends written word's flat and static lecture and preach and grade school report tendencies. As if anyone can tell anyone how and what to learn, make, do, think, act, behave, feel, believe, know, perform, value, yada.
The consensus today, generally, blurts, Show, don't tell, though allows not all can be shown, nor does pure show succeed the proverb Variety is the spice of life, as of writing and reading. Another cognitive dissonance which derives from the double bind of Show and Tell.
When best practice to tell and when to show stymies many writers, when a synthesis of both, too. In both is a dissonance reconciliation. Plain blunt, all written word is by definition tell. Aural-visual media, to wit, still and motion picture media, shows, by definition. Therein, the latter is a prime, if not the prime, impetus for Show, don't tell exhortations. What, now one hundred fifty-plus years after film's inception, itself emulation of agora, portrait, sculpture, and theater arts, recorded for playback, image and sound medias' imitations of live, in-person performances shape public entertainment expectations? Yes, for good or ill and both.
Moviegoers are anymore more and more sophisticated entertainment receivers than ever before -- to which they are oftentimes of blissful oblivion. The jump cut transition technique, an abrupt shift in time and space, is one of the more overt liminal performance arts' features though no less subliminal methods that illustrates moviegoer sophistication.
The jump cut method developed early in agora, performance art, theater, and film history, a shortcut that cuts out trivial, superfluous, untimely details between scenes, in scenes, too, borrowed from literature techniques, borrowed from theater techniques, borrowed from agora performance techniques, borrowed back by literature, and oscillates back and forth, evermore sophisticated each iteration -- jump cuts possible in film, theater, agora, and written word; impossible shortcuts, regardless of how much we wish it, for real life.
Retro-returns to less sophisticated transition methods notwithstood; the kids can, do, and must pick up on sophisticated techniques soon or late if they would appreciate adult entertainments; and some many ones must, will, can, do write for young receivers' transitional phase development advancements, so they catch up to adult moviegoers and readers' appreciations, right?
The form labeled picaresque exhibits that jump cut technique: performance, as of a writing, of a roguish protagonist's _episodic_ adventures in vice and folly-ridden social settings. "Episodic" is the operative word as relates to jump cuts, scene episodes which portray only the rogue operant in social vice and folly setting situations and leave off all else. A rogue is, by definition, also a vice and folly-ridden persona. Nonetheless, the definition entails event, setting, and character existents, notable, the outline of a plot, stripped to a naked, raw, skeletal debris lump. The pendent live narrative's bones await a creator's assembly, surgeries, additions of sinew and flesh, hair and claw, other life matters, especially transformative performances, influences, and outcomes, [quickened like lightning strokes].
William Faulkner and protégé thereof, now master, Cormac McCarthy are renowned for picaresques. Film media cannot do without picaresque any more than written word can; only by degrees do abrupt transitions work or not work, though, due to agora, theater, and film influences, are less problematic at present than at those medias' inceptions. Hence a technique borrowed from agora, theater, and film performances:
From David Smith of the Clarion workshops, " Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" "Film it. A self-test of critiquing. To judge a scene or chapter, mentally convert it into a movie or screenplay. This effectively subtracts all narration and exposition and leaves only description, dialog, and action. Things which shrink dramatically when filmed are heavy on telling, light on showing. (CSFW: Steve Popkes)"
Can this fragment, any fragment, any written word narrative be composed by those methods? Obviously, yes and no. One feature is unique to written word which film cannot do sans cinematic and oratory gimmicks: access thoughts. So no, those cannot be filmed. However yes, the rest of a reality imitation can be filmed, the external and accessible to everyone present and voyeur or invisible bystander camera and microphone access.
That polar difference between thought and sensible sensations of film and written word is the crux on which every writer cuts teeth and bleeds about. How much must be told, orated; how much shown, filmed; how much both; and, really, what's the narrative point of view anyway? Does the narrator summary tell the whole action, as in, say, Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities, or does the narrator stand aside and only reflects the pertinent received thoughts and sensory stimuli of the viewpoint agonist? Huh, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight cycle, Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games cycle, James Dashner's The Maze Runner cycle; narrative point of view, first person, the two former; third person, the latter; all young adult; all more shown than told.
Narratives nonetheless translated into films. Scriptwriters' chores were made easier for those than scripting and filming of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, due to a large portion of the latter unfolds from Santiago's thoughts; smaller portions of the former narratives unfold from thoughts, and, for those filmed, mostly were left out altogether and skipped scenes in which those thoughts are pivotal. Those formers' writers wrote "filmed" narratives; Hemingway, not so much.
So here's the crux, choose your poison, pick your narrative point of view from among the dissonance and make it work for you and the target audience. Be consistent, though. Viewpoint glitches are a result, generally, of clumsy nuisance admixtures of narrator tell and viewpoint show, that lack smooth setup and artful transition between the two personas' expressed viewpoints, in part, due to misperceptions of show and tell, narrator point of view and agonist viewpoint reflections. William Thackeray Makepeace's Vanity Fair poses the invisible narrator as strongest attitude holder and, oddly, an invisible agonist viewpoint, a peculiar and artful admixture of both that transcends its overt narrator tell aesthetic.
As to thirteen lines "genre," what to do? Either the narrator holds the strongest attitude and sensory perception focus up front and foremost or the viewpoint agonist does, for "voice's" emotionally charged and morally charged strong social commentary appeals at least. Pick your poison, stay on it, and see it flows throughout. And if the viewpoint agonist is the strongest attitude holder, emphasize equally the film show (public sensations and emotions) and thoughts (private sensations and emotions) access of it from that inside looks out perspective; if narrator, emphasize the tell oration of it, from an outside looks in perspective, as if narrated, orated, impersonally read aloud direct to an academics theater audience from a lectern, from a manuscript, accompanied by narrator personal-emotional-moral aside attitude commentary. Or of whichever seamless blend suits the self's sensibilities and the audience's, begun from one narrative point of view introduction.
"Double Edged" and manifold, indeed!? metafictional are the vagaries of narrative point of view. Define yours for general purposes and this fragment's in particular, for now.