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Author Topic: Double Edged - short story, ya fantasy...again :)
Member # 10427

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Good morning, everyone!

So I thought more about the initial tension and swapped out the backdrops. I also found in David Wolverton's blog some references to neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and recklessly dove into that rabbit hole. So here we are with another take, hoping to bridge from an editor's physical situation.

Can you tell me:
- your thoughts about NLP in writing?
- how the context + conflict is working?
- how the POV + emotion-charged language is working?

Thanks again for your generosity!

The judicious clutter ranged across the desk made it hard to focus on the half-elf’s words. The priest was building to another desperate plea—the obvious motive for inviting Ronak and Aly to share a glass of mediocre wine in his cramped office—but the stacks of documents, the inkstand and quills, the white candle and lavender wax and brass seal left only inches for a gilded balance on the corner. Even less space for writing.

The drab pettiness of it all was a prison cell. Ronak stood up and cut into the priest’s monologue. “Pallinon—we’re not wasting another day here in Mire-town.”

Patronizing as ever, Pallinon said, “Mirreton, you mean. But truly, m’lord Ronak, I think you, most of all, would...

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Grumpy old guy
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A quick answer to your three queries: NLP is unsuitable for prose composition, what context and conflict, what POV and emotion. The fragment appears to be nothing more than set-dressing. And poor set-dressing at that. More importantly, I'd like to know exactly what you mean by the term POV. Do you mean viewpoint, person, or tense?


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I'd have to read how Dave connects NLP with writing before I could comment. Link?

I can see that desk, so your description works. I just don't see the characters, and they are more important to me as a reader.

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Member # 8019

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NLP is a topic for science fiction social commentary, proponent, opponent, or blend, best practice, leaves open both pro and op and readers decide: irony. Room for levity, sarcasm, and satire commentary about the dubious pseudoscience -- pseudosciences in general through that specific topic and what beliefs in junk like it and conspiracy theories, superstitions, and even genuine sciences' cult beliefs in science's infallibleness.

These mannerisms are the glory and splendor of social science fiction, and challenges, also known as, generally, soft science fiction, which usually entails physical sciences parts' of hard science fiction's fantastical sciences and technologies. For a full court press science fiction satire, even that hard-soft, social-physical dichotomy and pseudoscientific culture distinction is ripe for science fiction prose commentary. Hah! So so much fun potential therein.

NLP otherwise, junk science, which's strongest benefit, after a ripe topic for satire, is insight into a cult phenomena of dubious value, for cult and dubious belief avoidance strategy learning. Nextmost, who knows, possibly the junk contains a zirconium speck of brilliant gem quality. Such is the persuasions of charlatans and snake oil peddlers -- a minute germ of truth wrapped by trash.

As to the fragment, its conflict-context, slow start. Dramatic conflict, dramatic is the operative word, definition, simple as it is: a polar opposition of forces in contention. Dramatic's simplistic definition: a synthesis of Antagonism, Causation, and Tension forces in glorious concert, or convenient mnemonic, ACT, act up, out, off in the head, show the butthole, the bum's rush, the gutter fall, make a spectacle, event, setting, and character clashes, internal and external, and right soon and only dramatic.

If by "context" is meant setting, setting is time, place and situation (rhetorical situation, dramatic situation for prose). However, context, simple definition: the who, when, and where of a performance, as of a writing. Close to setting's mechanical two identities of time and place, when and where, far from dramatic aesthetics, which are situational, and who, when, where no less ask for drama. Texture is context's pair: what, why, and how, dramatic, especially "why."

"Why" is motivation -- The kids, oh the curious pesky kids, say Why? Parent says, Because. Child says, Because why? Go away, child, you bother me, W.C. Fields says. Why? Motivation: So as to pester you, Mr. Fields, Mom, Dad, sib, whoever, because the child wants attention and will accept negative attention in an absence of positive nurture attention.

The fragment's dramatic situation is the negotiation between Ronak, Aly, and Pallinon for the rogues' next caper, however, told, narrator tell, summary-like, in that little, if any, drama context and texture shown herein. Yet the access to Ronak's thoughts and perceptions forces forth his viewpoint as of a show, and is of a tell!?

Consider show is more than sensation description, actually, least of all description, is dramatic portrayal of details through "telling details," descriptive details which evoke emotional responses or, more artful, best practice, are emotionally evocative by themselves and, as warranted, amplified by emotional commentary; simultaneous, contemporaneous, or sequential emotional commentary.

Is any emotion in the fragment's first sentence? "The judicious clutter ranged across the desk made it hard to focus on the half-elf’s words."

Note that adjectives, adverbs, modifier phrases express emotion, plus interjections and irony figures' modifications. That's those features' prose function: emotional expression.

So a look at the modifiers. Are any evocative? If not, excise, or substitute words that are, that amplify emotional details. "judicious" (adj) can go. The three "the's" (adj) of that sentence can go, the middle one most of all, and requires then a rewrite. "half-elf" (adj) can go . . .

A look at the sentence syntax, too. Inline sentence diagram method:

The (adj) judicious (adj) clutter (common noun) [sentence subject] ranged (verb, simple past) across (adv) |predicate complement of the subject| the (adj) desk (common noun) |sentence subject complement| made (verb, simple past) it (expletive pronoun) hard (adv) to focus (infinitive verb) [sentence predicate] on (preposition) the (adj) half-elf’s (adj) words (common noun) [sentence object].

Sentence diagram!? For heck and calumny's sake. Eyes in eye sockets rattle and rumble loud across the globe.

What a mess a sentence diagram makes of a sentence! What a cold mess the sentence is as is, demonstrated by the diagram. Five empty adjectives, two empty adverbs, three empty nouns, three empty verbs, one empty pronoun expletive (expletive: no pronoun antecedent or proximal subject referent), one empty preposition. Five empty syntax components. One empty sentence.

In an absence of overt action drama that supplies emotional evocation by itself, overt emotional commentary is crucial for otherwise nonaction scenery.

This scene's performance space is an office for a visitation and conversation performance, unripe for evocative action, asks for evocative description and commentary. The fragment lacks drama, lacks emotional evocation.

As to POV, that's a fan fiction derived shorthand for point of view, itself "narrative point of view" abbreviated, so short, in fact, it is meaninglessly vague. Fan fiction writers' culture generally (generically) uses the term to label a protagonist, and most often anymore of a first person narrator as well, or MC, main character. Oh the joys of that latter in face-to-face workshop discussions. Huh, did you say emcee? verbal abbreviation for master of ceremonies. Ten or thirty minutes expended about what was meant, what else is best practice for oral workshop discussions, definitions of terms, arguments, hurt feelings, pointless persistent dissent.

A next degree of understanding difficulty arises for "POV" when the term is used as a conflation that encompasses all dramatis personae perspectives: real writer, implied writer, narrator, viewpoint agonists -- protagonist, deuteragonist, triagonist. Viewpoint is to focal character; narrative point of view is to overall narrative, expressed through a narrator's perspective, conducted by an implied writer, scored by a real writer, the one crucial feature of which is attitude toward a topic or subject, situational to an instance or extended across parts, parcels, and wholes, in other words, tone and perspective of a narrator, et al, or viewpoint tonal attitude and perspective of a focal character. And fan fiction culture also contracts the whole bag of perspective and character and drama and grammatical person, tense, and mood and tone and yada into one acronym: POV.

This above grasped in hand informs narrative point of view and viewpoint deployment for best artful, dramatic effect. The fragment's loose grasp of narrative point of view and viewpoint arts' distinctions and overlaps demonstrates the pitfalls of loose prose term definition: low fidelity (audio tech label), low resolution (image tech label), low realization (realization, realized, reality imitation; prose tech terms and labels: the full grasp of a motif's sensible and emotional dramatic, antagonal, causal, tensional significance and its timely, judicious reality imitation portrayal on the page and that lively and vividly flows forth toward a meaningful, unequivocal, irrevocable, transformative outcome end).

Antagonism: motivational want and problem forces in opposition, in congruence, in parallel, in simultaneous, contemporaneous, sequential concordance, any one, two, more, or all. Note conflict pertains to stakes and outcomes, as in acceptance or rejection, this fragment's conflict, and other fragments of its similar tableau. Antagonism pertains to motivation, is somewhat causal and tensional and each related to each, too; is motivation, is complication. Distinction between complication and conflict is, conflict is polar opposite forces' contention only; complication is any-which-a-way forces of whatever codeterminated, cooperated, coordinated, contended, conflicted, confronted, conflagrated relationship or relationships.

Causation: cause and effect oscillations and accumulations. Cause A causes effect B; Cause A and effect B cause effect C; Cause A and effects B and C cause effect D, and so on, until a final outcome effect, after which nothing causal follows of natural or necessary cause or effect. First cause A, likewise, starts from no natural or necessary prior cause or effect.

Tension, about which writers pour out heartache and blood trials and trails, much less on the page than sat before the sacred page: the emotional content of a narrative, generally, an emotional cluster of two sensible emotions, and tension's co-identity emotion, suspense, curiosity arousal (the proverbial "hook": reader engagement). Pity and fear clusters are common across the literary opus, and tragedy's mainstay. Awe and wonder are Golden Age science fiction's mainstay. Despair and humor are a mainstay of comedy and farce.

Like other prose features, though any cluster may be a mainstay, other clusters span literature, too, and span both situational and extended cluster development, as indicated. Some bitter salt and savory here; some sweet sugar and sour vinegar here, some olfactory caustic and scorch here, some ugly and brutal sight here, some nuisance and clash noise here, some harsh sandpaper and stiff fabric here, ad nauseam, and one or more clusters across the emotional gamut of a narrative. Rejection, for example, is denial and, by default, evokes anger -- well, provokes conflagration. What might anger's overall paired companion be? Anger also responds to fear, doubt, intrusion, gall, vice, etc. Fear and anger?

Ah, fear! Pitiable fear is grounds for reader sympathy or empathy -- reader rapport and engagement and suspense's curiosity incitement. Who's curiously, pitiably fearful here? No worries, mate? What does Ronak have to fear? Some trivial detainer in a half-elf's office? What does Ronak privately want? What's his true motivation? What's the story truly about human condition-wise that is Ronak's true contest? What is his immediate and thereafter skivvy-stained fear he wants to resolve, overcome, satisfy? Poverty? Then riches and rags is an attendant conflict. Death by half-elf or Aly or other? Then life and death is an attendant conflict. Utter rejection and its attendant utter isolation madness? Back to acceptance and rejection there. Etc.

I suppose, as to emotionally charged language of the fragment works or doesn't work for me, I've written so above -- doesn't. And again, the fragment crosses back and forth the haggard weeds of a yellow wood between two roads which want for equal wear (Robert Frost, paraphrase, "The Road Not Taken"), narrator or viewpoint agonist focal perspective?

[ April 18, 2017, 04:22 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Member # 9345

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Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
I can see that desk, so your description works. I just don't see the characters, and they are more important to me as a reader.

I see the desk; I feel the mood. Enough interest, and prose good enough, that I'd easily keep reading, and trust that the characters will "arrive" a bit more fairly soon.

I see Ronak clear as day -- for me he came up as this burly middle-aged guy in a brown leather vest with a workmanlike lighter-brown linen shirt, and little metal knobs (not quite buttons) as trimmings on the harness that's part of the vest. (Where does my brain get these things? I swear it steals them from an alternate universe.)

The priest is this scrawny little older fellow in a black cassock over a white round-collared shirt.

I barely see the half-elf, probably because he kept his mouth shut, but he's sitting with one leg crossed and wearing faded blue and green.

All right, I have officially read WAY more into it than is there, which I take to mean that for me, it works just fine.

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Jay Greenstein
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1. As I see it, NLP in writing boils down to: Use all the senses as appropriate. Seems a lot of words for such a simple thought. And many of the words they suggest are what are often called filter words, because they can only come from the author. For example, "felt." If you have a character think, "I felt like a fool," that's within the protagonist's viewpoint, and works. And, if, as the narrator, you say, "He felt like a fool," it can be the protagonist's reaction, in the moment. But if you say, "Whenever Charlie was with Clara he felt like a fool," it's a report by the writer, and distances the reader from the character. So the list of words they suggest you are not universally a positive thing.

My personal reaction is that it's a tool not a method.

2. There's no conflict in what's presented because there's no context for what's happening.

3. There is no POV other than that of the dispassionate outside observer:
The judicious clutter ranged across the desk made it hard to focus on the half-elf’s words.
The first half reduces to "The cluttered desk made it hard to focus on the half-elf’s words." The more words you use the slower the narrative. Keep in mind that if it takes longer to read that someone crossed the room than it takes to actually walk it, your story is told in slow-motion. By all means, use vivid, evocative language. But umm...judiciously.

But I have a deeper quibble with this. Shouldn't we place the character and introduce him before we talk about what he's focused on. Instead of you, someone not in the story or on the scene, talking about what you envision as being in the room, why not present what's currently pulling at the protagonist's attention?. Your character lives in the moment he calls now. So for him, in that moment, there's not "clutter," he's either reacting to the fact that it is cluttered, or or to some specific thing that has his attention. But when you factor in that we don't know that the elf is saying, why our here is there, why it matters, or anything useful, why would a reader want to know what you see as being in in the office? Yes, it's scene setting, but since the reader gets a list, not a picture, is it meaningful scene setting? Wouldn't what the protagonist is actively focusing on and reacting to be more relevant? We don't know what kind of office it is, or why the cluttered desk matters. But, you give most of the words to describing things that our protagonist is ignoring.

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Turbulent Flow
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Please forgive my obvious lack of experience at constructive criticism. I've arrived late in life to the art of writing romantic tales. Yes, that last bit betrays an old-fashioned literary background. This comment might not be particularly original or useful, but after half a century of reading million of words, I like to think I have a decent sense of what works well. ^_^

The premise is intriguing, but the opening paragraph is ... if you'll excuse the liberty ... cluttered. I'll resist the temptation to rewrite it to show an alternative approach. That much, at least, I've picked up from cautiously studying the many and varied forum rules. ^^;

The second sentence is way too long. It's okay to break it up into smaller bits. Also, adverbs like "judicious" usually can be dropped without harm. Brevity is golden. This is a lesson I've learned the hard way. I used to write like that myself. My sentences typically were very long. They had perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They were stuffed with adverbs, and they were technically flawless. Only an English teacher could have loved them. [Wink]

Also, I think I'd like the opening more if it began with an action rather than a background description. Does that make sense?

"The billion-ton meteor slammed into the city. The ranting of sidewalk preachers instantly gave way to an immense roar that announced the end of all that was held dear. Two million people perished within a second. Beyond the roiling atmosphere of the wounded world, the other four planets of the system sailed on with cold indifference.

Spaceman Biff gazed through the port in awe and revulsion at the immense destruction clearly visible even from orbit. The starship shifted slightly, preparing to descend for a closer look."

Mind you, anything I say should be taken with a cantaloupe-sized chunk of salt. I'm still working on my very first real stories. The other comments already left in this thread strike me as amazingly cogent and helpful, and I'm now carefully rereading them with considerable interest!

[ May 08, 2017, 03:30 PM: Message edited by: Turbulent Flow ]

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Member # 10546

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Can you tell me:
- your thoughts about NLP in writing?
- how the context + conflict is working?
- how the POV + emotion-charged language is working?

Thanks again for your generosity!

The judicious clutter ranged across the desk made it hard to focus on the half-elf’s words. The priest was building to another desperate plea—the obvious motive for inviting Ronak and Aly to share a glass of mediocre wine in his cramped office—but the stacks of documents, the inkstand and quills, the white candle and lavender wax and brass seal left only inches for a gilded balance on the corner. Even less space for writing.

The drab pettiness of it all was a prison cell. Ronak stood up and cut into the priest’s monologue. “Pallinon—we’re not wasting another day here in Mire-town.”

Patronizing as ever, Pallinon said, “Mirreton, you mean. But truly, m’lord Ronak, I think you, most of all, would... [/QB][/QUOTE]

I'f I'm late to the game with my feedback, allow me to apologize. POV has not been clearly established. It's not first or second person, but it could be third person omniscient or limited. There's little real conflict in this moment and not a whole lot of emotional tension, either.

My gut reaction when I read this opening was: Why is the messy desk so important? I know very little about neuro-linguistic programming (beyond what I read on wikipedia just now). First sentence: my focus has been drawn firmly to the clutter on the desk (and I'm not sure why you've described it as judicious; that confused me) rather than on the character who is having trouble focusing. I am guessing that the invisible person struggling to focus is the main character, and so you might want to re-write that opening line so that my focus is first on the character with the cluttered desk in the background. Second sentence has some structural problems. If you remove the information offset by the hyphens and read the sentence, the two clauses don't seem to have anything to do with one another. So, again, I felt confused. Is the priest making a verbal plea or writing a letter? Unclear, and again, confusing. Why is the drabness of the room petty? I'm not even sure whose room this scene opens in, but was it made drab to spite someone in some strange, passive aggressive act? Word choice is so important. Overall, I would not continue reading because I can't see any of these characters clearly in my mind, I don't know what I'm supposed to be paying attention to, I don't know what's happening, nor do I know where or when this is taking place. I will also add that the prose currently reads a little purple to me.

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