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Author Topic: The Ascent of a Man
Grumpy old guy
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Inspired by Disgruntled Peony's recent writing challenge, I have taken that first draft (more of a sketch really) and worked it a little bit to get these 13 lines for the opening.

While this is technically a second draft, I consider it my first real attempt to tell the story.

On a Wednesday morning in April Jonas Hob died while waiting to cross East Twenty-third Street. It was his dream adieu: A quick ‘Sayonara Baby’. Exit stage left. Lights out. All over.

Only it wasn’t.

As he tumbled through the void, Jonas was certain of only three things: He was dead, he was falling, and he had been wrong. Oh, so terribly wrong.

The fall seemed eternal -- then stopped.

He stood at one end of a vast plain beneath a vaulted roof, ominous and oppressive. All around the rocks and ground burned with the heat of a blast furnace; yet from those flames no light came, only darkness made visible. As he took in his first breath he fell, choking and gagging. The metallic taste of the caustic air tore at his throat with fish hooks. . .

Phil.

PS: I should have mentioned the story is between 1,000 & 1,200 words long.

[ June 02, 2017, 07:57 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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H Reinhold
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Hi Phil, I like this a lot. Nice tone at the beginning to give a hint of Jonas' character, and some lovely descriptions of his arrival in hell. The only criticisms I can think of are minor, and entirely a matter of personal taste.

Something about the rhythm in the following line, for example, feels ever so slightly 'off' to me:

"...at one end of a vast plain beneath a vaulted roof..."

I think it places too much emphasis on the adjectives before each noun, and somehow also directs too much of my attention to the prepositions. Maybe it would be better if 'one' were replaced with 'the'? A slight simplification, but maybe a cleaner rhythm. Otherwise, I like the sentence a lot.

The rhyme of 'around' and 'ground' in the next sentence bothers me somehow; it sets up some odd expectation (in me) that the rest of the sentence will be somehow other than it is. Maybe just have another look at the rhythm there? Play around with it a little more? I'm no expert.

Finally, in your last sentence ("The metallic taste of the caustic air tore at his throat with fish hooks..."), the rhythm again seems to me slightly off. Another case of too many adjectives, perhaps. But the images are nice, sharp, and unique.

I would read on. Well done.

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Will Blathe
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I like this.

The last line makes me think that the taste of the air tore at his throat rather than the air.


". . .he had been wrong. Oh, so terribly wrong." This hooks me right in. I want to know how this guy's been so terribly wrong.

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Jay Greenstein
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I like it.
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extrinsic
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An individual dies and descends to the nether realm.

Except for an initial motivation shortfall, well done.

Why is Jonas Hobb at the crossroads of East Twenty-third Street and whichever crossroad? This is a critical detail, which, if aptly introduced, sets up the whole action movement for later full realization. The mechanism, that is, which is why he goes to Hell, which compasses what he'd done so wrong to warrant hellfire and damnation. Just a small cued dab-a-do will do.

The usual folk culprit across similar tales is hubris before the gods or a god. If Jonas Hobb channels Job's trials, the hubris act is refusal to shepherd the masses toward grace. The detail given elsewhere that the message of the tale is about false confessors, the hubris is of faith practiced on the face without faith. Now Jonas Hobb is damned to Hell, though, his faith is renewed, actually, no longer a matter of faith, rather the certainty of factual circumstances the rest of live humanity can only take on faith. Nothing is left for Hobb to freely believe or disbelieve once he's in Hell, nothing new to learn, nothing new to do. Consequently, whatever Hobb does in Hell is from full knowledge of the facts. No possible act of genuine faith.

Except exhibit a genuine act of faith. I expect that's the outcome, one of a more or less straightforward dramatic movement end. A simple plot of a linear action movement. A complex plot would instead entail one or more substantive dramatic pivots of profound personal discovery and reversal due to a personal motivation that is a misapprehension. I favor the complex plot. A genuine act of faith in the face of certainty would suit complex plot criteria.

Its setup at the start derives from what goal, what problem-want, Hobb has at first that his death and descent interrupt. What does Hobb privately want at first that's difficult to accomplish? And that the narrative at least satisfies at last, even if different from his initial superficial design, at the end? More appeal if different, by the way. Readers delight at artful "plot twists." Also known as dramatic pivots, of greater than a few degrees arc pivot, and revelation and reversal, and -- well, anagnorsis and peripeteia (see Webster's and Aristotle's Poetics).

If Hobb is on his way to a confession, and thinks about it faithlessly, as giver or recipient, that in the first thirteen lines implies his personal want-problem complication. Like he wanted to avoid the confession, or intends it only as a salve for his wrongs of the week, intent afterward to continue his wayward ways, or about a thousand other faithless confession ways come to mind. The one which comes to my mind is a Catholic clergy confession delict of the Commandments concept that abuses the confessional's sacred secret privilege, known as the Sacramental Seal, for ulterior motives. (See the Vatican's "The Norms of the Motu Proprio, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela" for in-depth details about clergy confessional delicts of Canon Law. And the full text of the "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela.")

I might read on as a somewhat engaged reader, part because of the short word count, part because the movement is more or less dramatic, most because this issue of faithless confessors is very much on my mind, though as yet underengaged and held off due to no clue what on Earth or in the Hereafter Hobb really wants.

[ June 03, 2017, 04:03 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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walexander
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little nits,

How do you know you are tumbling in a void? Is there some point of reference? How do you know you are falling in a void? Is there gravity in this void? Voids are freezing cold is there heat or cold in the void? Or is he devoid of feeling until he lands? If he is devoid of feeling how does he know he is falling? Is he being pulled against air pressure or bumping each layer of hell on the way down?

How do you measure an eternal time if you don't even have a heartbeat to measure a length of time? Is it by the measure of internal thought he feels he has been in a void forever? Can he feel himself if he feels like he is falling or is it out of body experience?

How does he know for sure he is dead and not just in a dream that he will wake up from? If he knows he is dead why does he feel the need to breathe? He wasn't breathing in the void was he? Or was there air in the void?

Is he looking with his eyes or his mind, or does his mind just think he still has eyes? Because there is no light from the flames so how is he seeing?

Darkness made visible? So he sees the darkness? If he sees the darkness how is he seeing anything else? Especially the distant plain. If he can see in the dark does he know it is dark because it is dimmer, or is there some special effect that's cluing him in that it is dark though he can see?

But I do see where you are going. Like I said, just little nits.

Now if he would have arrived at the back of a big city DMV line at noon while on lunch break on the last day to renew his license with a boss who is a stickler for being on time or be fired. Now that's a vision of hell on earth. [Wink]

W.

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Grumpy old guy
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W, the void is poetic rather than literal. However I will consider an alternative. Darkness does not equate to a total lack of light.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Sure, black body radiation. Usually infrared radiation of variable degree heat intensity, depends on the heat of the body. Low intensity black body heat appears gray to the human eye, like a moonlit night's colorless reflected light though is direct light. Hotter appears variant reddish hues. Hottest appears blue-white. How hot is this circle of Hell?

[ June 03, 2017, 08:43 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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walexander
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The nits GOG really just are a note on show, don't tell. I face the same problem all the time. It's a take it or leave it kind of thing. But your opening leaves questions that block the flow for me, but that's just my 2 cents. It feels rushed to me. As if you are in a hurry to get his feet on the ground and say, "Look, I'm in hell."

I do understand that dark can mean dim, but again, if it is dim how is he seeing to the distant plain? If there is radiating heat, is there heat waves on the distant plain that he is looking through?

But if I understand where you are really going is a dream state, where logic is out, and it's all just an abstract journey in the mind, but you give no clue to that, so that's where you lose me. By making the character definitive on his situation it brings a physical reality to it that then makes you question its physics. That's all I'm saying.

Just nits, nothing serious.

W.

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extrinsic
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Externally observed appearance descriptions, when vivid visuals or other sensations, are lively metaphors, or objective correlatives, actually. They express tangible, concrete sensory phenomena that nonetheless entail aesthetic abstractions and intangibles, most notably emotional texture, and speak to theme as well. The tangibleness of them engages reader ability to experience the sensations of them vividly and lively in the imagination -- the crucial reading dream spell.

And without emotional texture, they lack the luster needed to enliven them. Then they are superficial. Likewise, their thematic contexture, if implied, then that too adds to reader engagement, at least at the liminal threshold. All three parts' synergy are needed for a whole objective correlative and unity of a whole action: tangible, intangible, and thematic.

Note that Farland's recent WotF guest blog suggests emotional texture, through viewpoint persona (agonist or narrator) thought, word, and deed, is essential for a well-crafted narrative. "Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention" "Still other authors have no internal dialog, so that you never know what their character is thinking or feeling. Instead, the author writes in a cinematic style that keeps the reader at a distance. In such tales, the reader might as well be watching a poorly made movie."

Objective correlatives fulfill those criteria, poetic equipment generally, even if a narrative is construed for ready motion picture adaptation -- where internal discourse is a challenge to express through audio-visual media. Implicature is the method of substance for -- well, written word and cinema emotional and thematic expression through tangible object sensation emotional stimuli and response.

[ June 05, 2017, 12:50 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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W,consider this: God is a quantum being; how else can he be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient? It also follows that Hell is a quantum state.

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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I'm a little late to the party, but better late than never. [Wink] Busy weekends are busy.

The first sentence reads as tell, to me, but it's still very attention grabbing. The rest of that first paragraph has a very lively and flowing writing style. I was thoroughly hooked by the end of it.

Paragraph three is all tell, but you might be able to convey the same information in a stronger way with some tweaking. (Consider: by saying that Jonas was sure of those things, you're actually pulling out of his point of view a bit in order to explain his surety to the reader.)

How did the fall stop? The sentence structure implies it was sudden, but were there any accompanying sensations? An impact against a flat or rocky surface, perhaps? You don't have to add anything here, but it might give an extra bit of flare.

There's only one issue I have with the final paragraph:

quote:
As he took in his first breath he fell, choking and gagging.
I love the idea of the sentence, but the execution seems awkward to me. It's probably because the sentence opens with 'as' and you've very recently used the word 'fell' for a much grander purpose. You might want to consider an alteration such as the following:

quote:
He took in his first breath and collapsed, choking and gagging.
It's only a couple of minor changes, but I think it might flow better with the rest of the prose. I really liked the fish hooks description in the next sentence.

All in all, I feel that this is already a decent opening and with a bit more polish it could be amazing. As things currently stand, I would read on (and am, in fact, willing to read the entire draft if you're inclined to send it my way).

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walexander
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Ugg, I don't know if quantum theory is a good example to mix with the concept of divinity. It's kind of a pandora's box for any thinker.

Quantum theory more supports the fact that you are your own divinity and the science of the brain tends to support this based on the fact it has been proven that we subconsciously make decisions upward of six seconds before we are consciously aware of it. Let alone adding lag time for the brain to process what you visually see. It's a paradox. Just in the basics of quantum theory, especially when dealing with time, the notion of free will is on a precarious edge. Let alone add a divinity into the mix. The concept of granted free will would overrule any notion of hell because a threat of punishment would invoke a limitation to said free will. You can't list ten rules that absolutely must be followed and then say you have free will. That's like saying, "You have free will to do as I say or else!" A universal consciousness would mean all things are possible, good and evil, there would be no right or wrong. And since the universe exists by feeding upon itself, including all living matter that we know of, our moralities are subject to point of view.

But let's say you were going to chase the concept of a divine quantum being, here's the danger to the devout. Putting aside the many views believed, blood spilled in their name, excessive violence in their past publications, and the asking of servitude and worship: Quantum theory would suggest that this being is all aspects of the whole. That it can manifest itself to suit the individual, that no one theory of a divinity is correct except to one's own personal reality, thereby, making all views correct at the same time. The only hell to fear is the one you helped manifest by your own belief.

Let alone the fact that if you added all the deities, their servants, armies, throngs, etc together that have ever been proposed they would still be one overworked multitude to cover all the galaxies in the universe. Then, as diverse as our one planet is with mythos, factor in another million planets of thinking life, that's a lot of religion out there each believing their view is right.

I continue to chase the quantum rabbit to this day and (This is just personal opinion.) it's no place a devout worshiper wants to go unless they are open to broader possibilities. Worship often places a limitation on what you are allowed to believe, that's a tough atmosphere for the open minded. I've had far too many debates with the closed minded. I don't fault them their beliefs, I fault them a lack of open-mindedness, and their want to force me to believe what they believe or there will be divine punishment. I will always listen to any well thought out argument, even about religion, but not rhetoric. And my personal beliefs I would never force on another, even my own family.

But that's just me.

Think of my comments in a quantum way GOG -- In a parallel universe I had no nits. [Wink]

W.

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babooher
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Do the first two lines violate your third principle? They seemed like the warm up to the beginning. I can't judge completely from just a few lines, but I think the information, at least the direct information, is probably not needed.
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Grumpy old guy
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I would have thought knowing the character has just died, rather than getting to Hell in some other manner, is essential information in understanding what is happening.

Mind you, I could have just said: Jonas Hob died and fell to Hell. But that's a bit boring, don't you think? And, unfortunately, everyone seems to have missed the reader cookie concerning the number 23.

Phil.

[ June 14, 2017, 05:08 PM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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babooher
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3rd line, "As he tumbled through the void, Jonas was certain of only three things: He was dead, he was falling, and he had been wrong. Oh, so terribly wrong," covers the fact that he died. After that, I think innuendo suggests Hell. The first line reads to me like more of an authorial intrusion with an attempt to be cute. The second line, "Only it wasn't," is then illustrated by the 3rd line and everything after.

If the Twenty-third Street reference is something more than a wink and a nod, then I'd say it was useful information and thus it would not violate your third principle. So do we need to know the street he died on? As for his "dream adieu," that isn't explained, either, and seems to be a trivial detail. So, do we need to know it? Are the voice and allusion darlings you want to keep despite your principle? Or are these darlings a different type of information pertaining to atmosphere which stretches the boundaries of your third principle?

I liked your third line (aside from my issue of it not having parallel structure, but I'm not sure how I'd "fix" it either). I just find the lens of your principles really interesting.

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Grumpy old guy
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Think psalms. It speaks to the core theme of the story. As for the fall, the crucial item is Jonas realising Hell exists and all that implies.

Btw, the submission fragment is all narrator tell; done deliberately. Also, principals are not proscriptive rules.

Phil.

PS: If you want a more in-depth explanation of any of the principles I'm developing, you'll have to buy my book, Once upon a time.... Finding the best start for your story. (When I get around to writing it.)

[ June 15, 2017, 03:50 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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extrinsic
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The 23 Enigma superstition belief? Such "reader cookies" or "rewarding the careful reader" must first call due attention to those which are off the culture radar and develop at least that they are significant in order to hold value.

I believe babooher alludes to the three Grumpy old guy principles' give readers something to hang onto corollary axiom, the three principles and etc., boil down to context's who, when, and where and texture's what, why, and how anyway. Why especially and which I think is a shortfall to which babooher alludes.

Why Hob is at 23rd Street and why he warrants immediate condemnation upon death to perfidy? No audience with St. Peter first? Maybe a twenty-third un-confessed, unrepented grave mortal delict of the Decalogue happens at 23rd Street on the 23rd of July. Twenty-three repetition calls such due attention to the number's culture significance. Though as well, the enigma's occurrence is often remarked, too, of an emotional charge, angry denial at least, soon or late.

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Grumpy old guy
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babooher, sorry for coming off as brusque and a bit of an a-hole. At the time I didn’t have the capacity for lengthy replies (being essentially reduced to using only a mobile phone), and being in a very foul and grumpy mood. See Novel Support Group post.

To explain my current view of the principles I’m trying to develop, asking yourself the question what does the reader need to know is not a global question that relates to the entire story, that would be ridiculous. Instead, the writer needs to be asking themselves: What does the reader need to know right now—at this moment in the story?

Let me try and deconstruct the first paragraph. This may explain what I mean in more detail.

When I wrote the first sketch for this story I showed Jonas Hob experiencing all the symptoms of a heart attack. When I thought about writing the actual story, knowing it was about one the the seven deadly sins, my first inclination was to show Jonas indulging in the everyday small misdemeanours that transgress those sins: pride, lust, greed, gluttony, vanity, despair, wrath, and sloth (laziness).

When it came to actually writing it and applying my principles, I asked myself the question, What does the reader need to know right at the start? Well, all the action, and the resolution, takes place in Hell, so the reader only needs to know how Jonas got there. While dying is the usual method, in fiction there is the possibility of other ways. So just to make it clear, the reader needed to know that Jonas had actually died.

What the reader did not need to know is how Jonas died, what he died from, what he was doing, what he had for breakfast, if he argued with his wife, or even if he was married. None of that usual characterisation is important to the reader at this exact moment because the story takes place and resolves itself in Hell and everything the reader needs to know about Jonas, and Satan, will be revealed when the reader needs to know it.

So why mention the day, the month, and the place? I did that because I am writing dramatic prose, not a dot-point list.

As for Jonas’ dream adieu, it tells the reader, or it should, that Jonas does not believe in an afterlife. No Heaven, no Hell. That’s why the third paragraph; he realises he’s been wrong.

Hope this helps in understanding what I’m trying to do.

Phil.

[ June 18, 2017, 01:14 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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