“Oh, dear-dear-dear-dear-dear. Goodness gracious dear,” The Elderly woman came out from behind the front desk of the Gristol’s Inn and Faerie Wood. “Are you planning on wandering around here in that fancy outfit? Oh dear . . .” The charming old woman who wore the rustic look of an Innkeeper from days gone by continued to give a motherly frown as she looked Eleena over. “Are you the proprietor of this place, Mam?” Eleena asked as she fidgeted under the strange scrutiny of her light pink shirt suit. “I’m a traveler writer, and was wondering . . .” “Heaven’s yes dear. More like a caretaker, but I am the owner of this establishment.” She returned to the counter and asked in a kindly voice, “Do you know any witchcraft dear?”
A bewildered travel writer visitor encounters the misplaced expectations of an innkeeper stands out most for me. Dramatic movement, though, for me doesn't move yet. Little complication or conflict introductions. Some emotional disequilibrium movement.
The least works for me is the narrative point of view: third-person detached. Okay enough a narrative point of view, could work for me, and is consistent in this fragment. The drawback is the detached narrator doesn't focus on who's the focal persona. Eleena? She's the one named; that's the sole cue Elena is the focal persona. Or the elder innkeeper? Or the narrator?
Detached narrator narrative point of view in some way implies or expresses as much about the narrator's identity as about subject personas' identities. Third person detached narrators express the strongest emotional attitude about topics and subjects portrayed, thus, reveals a narrator's identity such that the narrator is then who readers align with, build rapport with, and anchor upon.
As is, only the name exposition clue, Eleena, is posed for whom readers are meant to align. I'm left put off for all three of our host Orson Scott Card's implied questions: So what, why should I care? Oh yeah, could I believe this? Huh, what goes on here?
One straightforward feature accomplishes the net dramatic movement crux of a thirteen-lines start, short or long prose, that is, an implied or declared motivation, complication, want or problem or both that are contested and want satisfaction. What does whom want at the now moment? And why? Eleena? The innkeeper? The narrator? if a detached narrator, who only looks in from outside, is the intended narrative point of view. One persona's complication is enough for a start fragment, though, ideally, each best practice reveals each's complication soon or late.
The title declares more so the action to come than implies what's to come, though still little forward dramatic movement. "Encounter," is inert. What, for good or ill or both?
I would not read on as an engaged reader at this time.
I see where you are coming from E. And I can't really debate its truth except to say it is a light-hearted story. It's not meant to take itself to serious. I tend to create the basic of a story before fine tuning and adding detail, but you're right that the narrator is detached. And you are right to assume it is the title that states why you should care. As is with most titles.
I could have started with observation, but the danger of info dump. Action is inappropriate for this story start, so dialog is where I settled.
Consider it an experiment in subtle unsettling dialog and action. There's room for a lot of improvement, but you have to start somewhere. Feel free to point me to some author's you think are good examples of this premise.
The story is based as faerie tale so believability is moot. Most light-hearted stories get a little leeway, unlike darker tales.
You would be correct again that I used Eleena by name over unnamed caretaker to point to protag. I also used, faerie, wandering, caretaker, and witchcraft as lead in's (Faerie being the darker version of fairy.)
Question's to reader's left unanswered. Why does the innkeeper care what Eleena wears? Why is the Innkeeper dress in earlier century clothes? Why does the Innkeeper consider herself more a caretaker? What is the Innkeepers interest if Eleena knows witchcraft? Each question with what appears seemingly obvious answers.
I appreciate the time you took and will mull a few things over. Light-hearted is not my forte, but a weak area I need work on, so no better time than the present.
ps. I still get 13 by full reply form measure.
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When you read this, the image of the innkeeper is there in your mind, because the line points to the image in your mind. But what about for the reader? As they read, the line points to the image in your mind. So they get an uninflected voice and no image. And while you do describe the woman after that, can that description retroactively remove that mental "huh?" Remember, at this point, the reader doesn't know whose skin they're wearing, where they are, or what's going on. And because you provide effect—the innkeeper's action—before the thing that produced it, the reader has no context.
But suppose you'd presented the opening from Eleena's viewpoint, telling the reader what she finds important enough to react to, and so providing context?
As she approaches the door (or pulls into the parking lot and gets her luggage) it's natural for her to notice the building and how it fits into the scene, placing the reader in time and space. And it's natural for her to react to it, liking or hating it, to act as a measuring stick for the reader's reaction, setting the mood.
She opens the door, and gains first impressions, as will the reader. You report nothing but what matters to her enough to react to. It won't be the entire scene, partly because when her focus turns to the innkeeper (placing her and giving a first impression) the cut-off of sightseeing gives importance to that person, and we learn Eleena's impression of her, not yours, which is irrelevant.
Now, the woman notices Eleena and naturally, reacts to her with your first line. And because we know what she looks like, and how her expression changed when she reacted to our protagonist, we will literally hear her voice as you intended it to be heard.
As it stands, after saying something that Eleena must find startling, and criticizing her appearance, our protagonist will focus on, and react to that, not the woman's "motherly frown." So only you notice the frown, and you're not in the story. So since you appear to be an outsider—a play-by-play announcer commenting on the action—why don't they both turn to you and ask who you are, and what's going on?
My point? You, personally, are explaining the story to the reader, from-your-viewpoint. But that's a report, not a story. And because you can hear the emotion in your voice, and see the images in your mind, it works...for you. But the reader can't hear the emotion in your voice, so for the reader the narrator speaks like a text speech program (have your computer read it aloud and you'll hear what I mean).
It's not a matter of talent, potential as a writer, or story. The opening sounds interesting, in and of itself, so far as the event. But presented in a fact-based and author-centric way, it sounds too much like a report because that method is what we learned in school specifically for business use, informing the reader clearly and concisely.
But our readers are seeking to be entertained. They don't want to learn the details, they want to be made to experience the story in real-time, in the tiny point of time the protagonist calls "now." They want an emotional experience as a form of entertainment, and that takes an emotion-based and character-centric approach, one never mentioned while they were teaching us nonfiction writing skills in our school days.
So it's not a matter of bad/good writing, or talent, it's that to present the story to best effect—to place the reader into the story—a few of the tricks of the trade the pros find necessary would be a huge help. After all, if you don't know what an acquiring editor would see as a well written scene, so far as structure and pacing, can you write one?
And here's the best part: if you truly are meant to write fiction, you'll find the acquiring of that knowledge fun, like going backstage at a Broadway play. And in the end, having traded the dray horse we're issued in our school days for Pegasus, who knows where you'll fly to?
Lots of articles and resources available on the Internet, some of them mine. But a great resource is your local library system's fiction writing section, where you'll find the views of successful writers, teachers, and publishing pros. There you'll find both the writing and the business side of the profession available. So it will be time well spent. As always, my personal suggestion is to seek the names, Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, or Debra Dixon on the cover as a starting point. They focus on the nuts-and-bolts issues of scene construction and character development. Then, with a solid foundation, Sol Stein and Donald Maass can give you great suggestions on stylistic issues.
But whatever you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.
I think that what this piece most needs is more of a sense of time and place. At the moment I am having trouble even figuring out if this takes place in modern day or medieval times.
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quote:Originally posted by walexander: ps. I still get 13 by full reply form measure.
This may be a browser problem - I judge 13 lines as I see them in the box using Chrome. I've heard that those using Firefox see space for one more line in the box than I do - so as long as I can tell that you've tried to keep it within the 13 lines (truncated sentences are one clue), I will allow the extra line.
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The writing life is tough, not made any less rough by publications which make the life appear glorious and easy; and is solitary. At least Hatrack is a welcome and dynamic, vibrant artists' social community for same-minded writers.
quote:Originally posted by walexander: Consider it an experiment in subtle unsettling dialog and action. There's room for a lot of improvement, but you have to start somewhere. Feel free to point me to some author's you think are good examples of this premise.
Maybe Charles Frazier's novels, Thirteen Moons more so than Cold Mountain for subtle, unsettling action and dialogue.
For short fiction, fantasy in particular? Fable, fairy tale, folk tale, etc., are lackluster illustrations, for their detached narrator convention. Rhetoric's fable imitation exercise, though, prompts revision from the indirect discourse paraphrase summary and explanation brevity nature of folk tales to direct discourse, verbatim, to, say, third person limited close, or first person. (See "Progymnasmata," "Fable": Silva Rhetoricae)
One Grimms' narrative stands out to me as a most lusterous tale, of subtle and unsettling action and dialogue: "The Old Grandfather and the Grandson" (*), despite its indirect detached narrator discourse. The tale's premises transcend the paraphrased action, contains sublime, unsettling action and dialogue, though no less paraphrased. The dramatic situation exceeds the "tell"; the narrator's attitude, too, implies self-identity.
I don't know. Many examples from which to select. Maybe Tim Powers' 2011 collection The Bible Repairman and Other Stories, especially "A Journey of Only Two Paces." Tim Powers twice won the World Fantasy Award for novels, and once for the short story above, and other awards. He also teaches creative writing and is at times a WotF workshop proctor. In any case, my process is to locate a model for the type of narrative method and situation I want and emulate its voice at least, for this situation, maybe not at a start, find it within a narrative somewhere. The search's journey itself is worth the midnight candles burnt.
* Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. "The Old Grandfather and the Grandson." The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Jack Zipes, editor-translator. Princeton University. Page 245. Print.