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Author Topic: Splintered and Taken
skadder
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The red of the sun glinted off the visible parts of the phase-shifted Cuerva vessel in its silent equatorial orbit.
‘Cut the drive, we’ll coast from here,’ I nodded at the pilot module. I leaned forward for a better view of the immense craft.
The Cuerva ship existed between two states. The larger part, like an iceberg in the ocean, languished frozen and unreachable in phases of far-space. Its partial resurge into standard space had shredded every Cuerva being within the craft, but the ship’s alien mind had survived. A priceless artefact for the taking...
A hand slid over my shoulder, and another spun me round.
‘Think you can penetrate it?’ Toopa smiled, his eyes flicked back and forth as though trying to read my mind. ’You sure? That mind has f***ed up four other wreckers who came to take it. Spilt open

[ November 13, 2017, 10:00 AM: Message edited by: skadder ]

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Lemonsqueezer
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It really grabbed my attention from 'the ships alien mind had survived' and I would definitely read on from this.
I loved 'a priceless artifact for the taking' and 'an iceberg in the ocean'- really nice choice of words.
I felt slightly lost with some of the science fiction language used but I think that may say more about me than the text [Smile]

All in all I really enjoyed this

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skadder
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Thanks for the crit, Lemons, I understand your point regarding the phase shifted ship—it’s quite a difficult image/idea to convey in a first 13 and perhaps could be be dealt with differently.
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extrinsic
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An individual and a foil contemplate a derelict vessel.

The science fiction language is no concern for me, actually, the opposite is a consideration for what doesn't work for me. The first sentence depicts a salvage target still life. Though it orbits, it is static. Another "telling detail" or two could solidify the dramatic situation of the ship, like, as is, is a flat visual sensation perceived through a view screen from afar or, what, a window, porthole? For as well, maybe a foreshadowed situation of the action movement to come.

An external view, a visual sensation, of a ship seen from afar gives no clue to its size, shape, texture, whatever. This is an artless summary tell given in a rushed summary. Further visual detail would go a long way toward expressing visual appeal so readers can imagine the ship's appearance. Plus, another sensory detail or two of another sense would add more appeal. This is outer space, so aural, olfactoral, and gustatoral are impossible.

That leaves tactile, touches with the eyes, so to speak, or another somataception perhaps. Tactile is ideal, though. What does the eye see of a texture detail about the ship? That as well implies the nature of the ship's propulsion system, its horrific situation, its value to the viewpoint agonist? Plus its representation of what the story is really and truly about? Like hoar frost spikes or splinters festoon or cloud the ship? Due maybe to the incomplete emergence from weird space, where the cold of passage affects the ship and crew? Many options present to my mind, that one is foremost.

The title raises for me a possibility of a meld of the A.G. Howard Splintered franchise, its edgy reimagination of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and Pierre Morel's Taken motion picture franchise about a rogue spy's family's abductions by sundry miscreants. Yet the fragment implies a salvage complication scenario. The three together holds promise, though no way cued by the fragment nor the title. Another word or two added to the title could speak volumes for what the story is about in those areas, or, again, a tactile description of the derelict ship. or both.

This rushed phenomena the folks of Clarion workshops label, among other shortfalls like it, "Get it in the mail syndrome," for one, "Microwaving the souffle: A tendency to rush past important setup material in the author’s haste to get to the payoff. Generally leaves the reader feeling frustrated on two counts: (1) the setup, being rushed, is uninteresting, and (2) the payoff, being insufficiently set up, is not earned. (CSFW: David Smith)" ("Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" by David Smith)

The next sequence, the first dialogue line and its companion action description, reads to me as "Mime conversation," also in the Glossary. The action attribution lines in particular: "I nodded at the pilot module. I leaned forward for a better view of the immense craft."

The next paragraph is a freeze-frame* explanation of the Cuerva ship's situation, apt enough, a valid simile, too, though I still have no reason to care, Orson Scott Card's "so what?" question. This is a hazardous salvage situation, which is a reason to care, if I at first care about the wreckers' well-being and curious about what will happen to them.

"Cuerva" is a Spanish feminine nominative that means beverage, or sangria, an iced red wine, fruit, and soda water Spanish libation. There's ice again!? What, are these smart subconscious plants* as yet unrealized? (* Glossary terms.)

"artefact" British variant of U.S. variant artifact is the sole cue in the fragment the text is British English dialect. Another such cue is indicated soon, so that U.S. readers don't think the spelling is a typographical error and stumble on or stop at it, so readers generally know this is of a British sensibility. Literature culture anymore is global; where a writer comes from, the narrative sensibilities thereof, might matter more than might be thought at first blush.

Then the fragment remainder uses dialogue to clue readers in to how hazardous the situation is, through Maid-and-butler dialogue*, Mime conversation*, and, from the "Turkey City Lexicon," "As you know, Bob" dialogue. In which characters tell each other details they know beforehand and a writer wants readers to know, a kind of summation tell, anymore as common as dirt and as problematic.

The hazardous salvage concept the fragment suggests holds strong potentials for lively dramatic movement though as yet doesn't start movement. A slow start. The scene is stalled in limbo. The concept of a space travel-type not heretofore seen in the canon is fresh and original and especially appeals to me. How, though, to connect the several threads and crucial start fragment essentials is near infinite of possibility.

Me, I'd consider interleavened complication, conflict, and tone, and event, setting, and character development related first and foremost to what the story is really about human condition-wise. Salvage is invariably about scavengers; greed maybe, diligence perhaps, vultures at least. For greater empathy, though, some greater virtue appeal of the salvagers' nature is warranted among the other start essentials, so I and readers care.

As is, I would not at this time read on as an engaged reader.

[ November 14, 2017, 02:42 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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skadder
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Yes--it's pants! Thanks for the analysis, though--been a while since I put digital pen to digital paper, so I'll take that must-try-harder and see what I can do.
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Jack Albany
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This opening fragment does not work for me. The problem as I see it is I’m not enticed into the story. Instead I am confronted by a wall unanswered questions which keep me from engaging with, well, the narrator--whoever or whatever he/she is. And, while the narrator need not be, in all circumstances, the central character, they usually are. The questions for me, which pile up one upon the other are:

*A phase-shifted vessel (Huh?)
*A Cuerva vessel (Huh?)
*A vessel in equatorial orbit (What’s more important, the type of orbit or the name of the planet it’s orbiting?)
*The ship exists in two states (But what has this to do with an iceberg--it’s an unnecessary metaphor)
*It’s partial resurgence had shredded every Cuerva being (Why and how?)
*The ship’s alien mind had survived. A priceless artefact for the taking... (How and why?)
*Who, or what is Toopa?
*That mind has f***ed up four other wreckers who came to take it.(Why, and what’s a ‘wrecker’? They could be scavengers or simply vandals.)

At the end of the fragment I’m still wondering who the story is actually about: the ship, the mind in the ship, Toopa, or the unnamed narrator? And I don’t have a clue what it’s about.

In the most basic of terms stories are constructed of characters, plots, and settings. In my opinion, of these three items the most important are the characters. We read stories because of the people in them, not for the plot (no matter how engaging) or for the settings (no matter how enticing). In this opening I am not engaged with any character. Of course, there is less time for development in a short tale, but if it were easy we’d all be doing it.

To quote from Damon Knight in his book, Creating Short Fiction (pages 107-108), there are five essential questions readers want answered immediately.

Who is the story about?
Why are they doing what they are doing?
What is the story about?
Where does the story take place?
When does the story take place?
You should answer at least four of these questions as early as possible in the story--preferably within the first two hundred words. (Why can often come a little later.) Otherwise you will probably fail to give the reader a coherent image to focus his attention on, and that’s fatal.


Hope this helps.

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skadder
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Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
The red of the sun glinted off the visible parts of the phase-shifted Cuerva vessel in its silent equatorial orbit.
This could work, though it seems to define this as a "told" story.
quote:
‘Cut the drive, we’ll coast from here,’ I nodded at the pilot module.
Based on the sentence and tag, this unknown person nodded the message.

Forgetting that it makes no sense, what can someone unknown, in an unknown ship, ordering a piloting device to do something for unknown reasons mean to a reader who has been no context for who we are, where we are in both time and space, and what's going on?

In your mind, the image you hold of the skip, coupled with your knowledge of who's speaking, their backstory, mission, and the situation, give context.

But pity the poor reader, who lacks all that, and who is not willing to read on without it. You need to provide a self guiding trail that will provide the necessary context as it's needed.

As it stands, you, the author, are talking to the reader, in a voice that cannot be heard, and so is devoid of emotion.

In short: Stop talking to the reader and make them know what matters to the protagonist, in the moment s/he calls now. Only then can it seem real.

The tricks of writing fiction are not obvious. Nor are they taught as part of our schooldays. Like any other profession, ours must be learned and practiced till it's mastered. And our medium, and the mission—to entertain, not inform—mandates that we master those tricks.

After all, if we want to write like a pro doesn't it make sense that we must acquire the skills of the pro? They're not all that hard to find. The library's fiction writing section is filled with the views of successful authors, teachers, and publishing pros. So time spent there is well spent. And as Ernest Hemingway observed, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

And as a not so minor point: people who read sci-fi tend to be intelligent, college educated people, so drop the techno-babble. It turns them off.

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skadder
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Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Just to comment on your critique, which isn't something I usually do, but I would tone down the elements where you order me to do something rather than suggest it. It is, after all, only your opinion.

I am not particularly touchy, having gone through all this before when trying to reach my goals, but were I the newbie writer that you clearly thought I was (it has been 6 years since I last wrote, so I accept it could be confusing at present!), you may come across a little too authoritarian/prescriptive which could be disheartening.

Just a suggestion...

[ November 23, 2017, 08:16 AM: Message edited by: skadder ]

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Will Blathe
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I like the idea. It feels a little info-dumpy (but that's speculative fiction for you).

What if the following line went first: Think you can penetrate it?

It would flip the order of what you posted a bit. I think it'd ease me into the world a little gentler.

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Bent Tree
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Need a reader? I will give it a go.
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Bent Tree
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quote:
What if the following line went first: Think you can penetrate it?
I quite like this idea. Opening with the most important question of this scene. Opening with an important question has a way of really setting the scene, anchoring POV, and generating interest to me.

Otherwise, tightening down on the POV, editing for wordiness will shine this up. I would read on. All the ingredients are in place it seems. I will be glad to read the whole thing if you need a reader.

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Lynne Clark
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quote:
What if the following line went first: Think you can penetrate it?
I agree, I moved this to the top, ran everything else just as is below it, and it ran much more satisfactorily. Obviously, this is first draft and a bit of polishing is always in order, but this made a huge difference.
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