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Author Topic: Spicy or not
Maya Volkov
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This is the first story I wrote, in this topic, mostly for my blog. It's personal narrative genre. It has 663 words.

"When you are in India for the first time you certainly search for not spicy food. And maybe you already know, India is full of spices. So, when you want to eat something, no matter is it street food or restaurant, you should ask for not spicy food but even then your expectations can be disappointed.

Long time ago when we came to India for the first time, our destination was Goa. After few days in Mumbai we took a bus to Goa. All night we slept in a cold aircondisioned bus which was surprising as we were in India. In the morning we reached small village not far from Margao. There we took a rickshaw (tuk tuk) to find a hotel or specifically flat for rent. After checking many offers, which took us around 30 minutes, we found a place for us, big, not far from the beach, for a small prize. We paid"

As this is short, it would be appreciated if you could make review on the whole work. [Smile]
Here is the writing from my blog:

Life of us

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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It seems to me that the story should start with the second paragraph. You can include the information in the first paragraph by showing an experience with spicy food sometime later in the story.

Also, it would be better that you tell us why you wanted to get to Goa and give us a little more about what your journey was like, so we can experience it with you.

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Maya Volkov
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This story is made for my blog so the first paragraph is like an introduction to the story.

To the third line I don't exactly understand what you mean. Did you mean that I should write in the story or you just want me to tell you more about it.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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If you are telling a story that you want people to be interested in so that they will keep reading, then you write it like a story.

If you are just relating things in your blog, then you say it the way you want to say it.

You asked us for feedback on what you posted, and to us "story" means something you want readers to keep reading.

My feedback was intended to help you tell a "story" not just relate things in your blog.

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Maya Volkov
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Thanks.
Then it is not a story but inside that blog post there it is.

I have readed few stories on this site and it is not the same kind. I'm telling my story from my life, just showing, explaining what happened. It is not so long as the story should be. Is there any genre for that?

Sorry if it is stupid question but I'm very new to this.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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There is a genre of writing called "creative nonfiction" which is a way of talking about actual happenings but told in a way similar to how stories are told.

Even though what is told is not made up the way fictional stories are, it is often more interesting if a "story" approach is taken to the events.

We don't usually deal with creative nonfiction in this forum, but we can offer feedback on how it can be written in a "story" way.

However, if that is not how you want to write your blog, we may not be able to be of much help to you.

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extrinsic
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An individual relates travel experiences, foremost, different cultures' foods.

Journalism anymore entails what's labeled New Journalism, a subset of creative nonfiction's story craft. Traditional journalism entails a more or less objective report of notable events, settings, and personas, news, more or less, reported impersonally and solely within a narrative's four corners. Prose writers label the latter flat or two-dimensional composition. Story, on the other hand, entails multidimensional expression that transcends its boundaries, usually a subtext of satiric commentary about a focal human condition. New Journalism relates "objective news" through a personal-subjective lens.

Three types of satire -- first, commentary that targets individuals or groups of similar individuals for sarcastic victimization. Political speech is this type, least challenge and therefore most common and least appeal. This type, too, more often asserts human moral law and is broadly ulterior agenda-driven propaganda.

Commentary that targets human institutional entities is next, like, say, a common commercial activity, tourism, for example, or government, charity entities, Nongovernmental Organizations, like Save the Children, and so on. Somewhat more of a challenge to compose, rarer and greater appeal, though still heavy on the propaganda and limited appeal scope.

Commentary that targets universal human conditions is the third type, most challenge, rarest, and of greatest and broadest appeal potential, from it is both self-effacing and externalized satire -- the type pokes as much fun or contempt or both at the self as others -- well, at all of humanity and with maybe only the thinnest veneer of hypocrisy. Hence, its appeal. Also, this satire type discovers moral truth, most so personal truth within more or less universal truth. This is artistic expression and not any way propaganda.

The "Spicy or not" essay start and whole contain germs of the three satire types, though unrealized any or all of which the essay is really about in terms of satire. By the way, all expression worthy of sharing in some way entails satire's revelations of human social vice and folly, prose's fundamental social function. The satire type that stands out most for me and holds the greatest appeal potential is the third type, commentary about a universal human condition.

Spicy food connects to a spicy life, for example. What about spicy travel and spicy food? Do Hindus believe their food culture is spicy? Or do they take for granted that's their native and routine cuisine? And other foodways and lifeways then are dull and spiceless? Persons unfamiliar with Hindu cuisine have no idea what distinguishes the cuisine nor the culture from others. Nor that Goa cuisine and culture in particular are more so than the rest of India as well influenced by Portuguese colonial-era cuisine and culture. British colonial influenced in other regions. Plus, East Asian as well, some Persian and Arabian. And so on.

Travelers in part travel to exotic lands for exotic experiences, exciting cultures, cuisines, persons, settings, and events. Is spicy exciting, exotic, unfamiliar and, hence, appeals? Is it not good fun to travel and experience exotic places and people and cuisines and cultures? Though not too much spice such that a person becomes altogether adrift. Too much spice!?

That possibility of the essay is an onion metaphor, each onion layer contains related, connected, and congruent concepts, like peeling an onion, opening a Matryoshka doll, similarities between each layer or doll and artful, appealing differences that speak loudest though quietest. This is subtext.

Two onion layers do not a subtext make. One tangible layer and two subtext layers make for an appealing essay. So a third layer of spicy to mean exotic culture experience entails a reflection of the other two and a meaning and discovered truth that encapsulates the whole. The essay as is cues up a third potential layer of self-effacement, that is, satire about how humans take for granted their native comfort zones, cuisine, for one, and are unaware of how exotic their culture appears to outsiders.

The exotic is the attraction, the appeal, and is a universal human condition worthy of satire. Travel satire implies that's the intent of travel, though not too much exotica, nor should any of these above intangibles be stated directly. Rather, imply so, while otherwise reporting that Hindu cuisine, Goa culture, is spicy, too spicy for general outsider consumption.

Net truth discovery and outcome and message then could be variety is the spice of life, without which a routine life stagnates and perishes into obscurity or worse.

In an absence of robust, action-packed dramatic story movement, satiric subtext propels readers onward, perhaps more so than dramatic action movement itself. Both is an ideal appeal best practice.

If the above are considered and realized, such an essay transcends its flatness and impersonalness and becomes deeply personal and appealing from the social observation and commentary about spicy food.

The grammar of the essay is full of errors. The English second language unconventional diction and syntax are consistent with Eastern European nonnative English users. Yet the naivete of it signals more of appeal about the writer-narrator than meets the eye. Fewer errors and a rich voice that still implies narrator identity is a dicey and challenging balance, one that personal essays demand and are all too scarce in the form.

I did read the entire essay; I did read on, though am not at this time inclined to read further or follow other essays or the writer as an engaged reader. Due to the essay's flatness and ample grammar errors.

[ November 23, 2017, 01:33 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Maya Volkov
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extrinsic

Thank you for your opinion and provided information.

As you discovered English is my second language, and the first few paragraphs, you wrote in a quite difficult way for me. But I did understand the meaning.

If you could, can you give some advice or tips?

Actually, this is one of my first writings and I could use some help.

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Maya Volkov
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury

I would appreciate if you could give the feedback "how it can be written in a "story" way."

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Jack Albany
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Maya, discounting the propensity for people to embellish the facts, all stories are either true or made up (fictional). Regardless of which one they are, true or fictional, all stories have a few things in common: they have characters (the people in the story), they have a plot (the goal of the characters in the story--in this case your discovery about spicy food in India), and they all have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

In reading your entire blog post I can readily see you have a beginning: a trip to Mumbai and your arrival in Goa. I can also see that you have a middle: the tale of your experiences of getting over-spiced food even when you made it plain you wanted not-so-spicy food. Add to this your experience with serving under-spiced food to Indian nationals and you have the basic elements of tension. Finally, you have an end of sorts: where you make certain ‘discoveries’ concerning the use of spice in Indian cuisine. Personally, I find the ending a bit dubious.

What you don’t have, IMHO, is a story that flows rhythmically and poetically. This is not because English isn’t your native tongue, I believe it is because you have what is known as an episodic plot. This means that each event in your story follows one from the other without any strongly discernible link of effect following on from cause: this happened, which caused that to happen, and so this happened, and so on.

I hope this helps.

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extrinsic
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E.M. Forster famously said about story and plot: "Let us define plot. We have defined story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. 'The king died and then the queen died' is a story. 'The king died, and then the queen died of grief' is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it." (Forster, E.M. Aspects of the Novel. Edward Arnold-Harcourt. London: 1927-1957. Pg 86. Print.)

Forster is best known for the above cite about story and plot differences and book-length essay, among prose writers and instructors, and best known for the novels A Room with a View, 1908, and Passage to India, 1924.

Causality is cause and effect: A causes effect B, A and B cause effect C, and A, B, and C cause effect D. Story in the larger sense also entails tension, which is reader emotional investment and reader suspense's curiosity, and antagonism, which is want and problem motivations and stakes risked that compel dramatic movement. Or a mnemonic ACT: Antagonism, Causation, and Tension, that propel ACT-ion. the fundamental of dramatic movement.

Without a focused thematic relationship connection between parts and whole, though, a narrative can only be an And melodrama -- and something meaningless happens at the outset or start, and something meaningless happens at the next or middle part, and something meaningless happens at the end or outcome, and all to no meaningful result or end.

True themes in the sense of literature's opus invariably involve a focal human social condition, moral vice and virtue most of all. Story subtext is social commentary about such human conditions, without which a story is little more than melodramatic anecdote, vignette, or sketch. Without the melodrama, those are art forms themselves, usually short works or parts of longer works, only those are snapshot moments of events, settings, and personas, respectively, which use other dramatic features that serve causal, tensional, and antagonal movement criteria.

A short personal essay-story about too spicy food favors one of those, also, a snapshot moment of an event, setting, or persona. Short essay journals define their word count length for publication: roughly, several brackets, similar to fiction's short story brackets, one hundred words or so, five hundred, one thousand, and eight thousand words. Book-length personal essays and essay collections run into novel-length territory and more so require thematic relationships between the parts and robust dramatic movement overall so that readers' engagement prevails.

Social commentary subtext fits that dramatic relationship criteria's demands. This is story in the larger sense. Many features of near infinite number fulfill dramatic relationship and movement needs, too many to relate in a few hundred or thousand words. The basics, though, of time-sequence, causality, tension, and antagonism, and theme are first principles of story dramatic movement, plus, of course, dramatic events, settings, and personas, or characters, which populate a narrative's reality and to whom, from whom, and by whom action and dramatic movement unfold.

Also, a commentor cannot know the intent, meaning, and mind of a story; only the composer can, though readers may infer and lend their own meaning, intent, and mind to the story. Actually, that part of story's value relies on a conversation the story invokes between itself, its composer, and its readers. Journalism is more or less a factual, transactional discourse. This information is given for the facts asserted; readers then bargain, haggle even, for the news's "truth" value for the self. Journalism, note, can include food review critique, like too spicy food, travelogue, too, travel guides and such, both often included in periodical publications' lifestyle section.

Story, on the other hand, is fraught with clear and strong ambiguities that come to some clearer and stronger personal meaning satisfaction by the end. For example, what does too spicy food personally mean at the start's antagonism, in the middle's efforts to make meaning, and at the end to a satisfactory meaning conclusion? A multitude of possibilities come to mind, some way strong and clear commentary about a human social condition.

Humans are transactional social beings in all aspects of existence; even story composition and reception. What's the transaction if expression is not commodified commerce? Simply, a whole and meaningful social event's moving portrait, albeit, fraught with contentious vice and folly that motivate meaning making at stakes risked. Those two, motivation and stakes, are root features of story, too; both are antagonism features. Add in attitude commentary toward a social condition, that is, tone, and above and herein are all the basics of appealing story.

Further story criteria detail at this time can only impose one person's creative vision upon a creator's. That is the biggest no-no of critique comments. A story is the creator's ownership alone. Once published, though, in other words, publicly shared, receivers might usurp ownership. That is an ultimate outcome of a successful story, shared creator-reader ownership through shared meaning making. If the story, though, is not written nor read, it is not shared; no way can it be owned by creator or receiver.

[ November 28, 2017, 04:52 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Maya Volkov:
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury

I would appreciate if you could give the feedback "how it can be written in a "story" way."

Maya Volkov, my first comment had to do with "how it can be written in a story" way. You should start with the second paragraph and give the reader more information about why the narrator is going to Goa, so the reader will care about the narrator getting to Goa.

The experience with spicy food (and the message of the first paragraph) come later in the text.

As you have written it, with an "introduction" (that repeats what the title already tells the reader about the content), it is confusing, because you stop talking about spicy food and start talking about going to Goa, with no connection between the two paragraphs at all.

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Maya Volkov
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury

Thank you for your help and feedback. I appreciate it.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You're welcome, Maya Volkov.

Have you read any books about writing? Sometimes it helps to read a good how-to-write book so that you can learn the terms that writers use when they talk about writing.

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Maya Volkov
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No, I haven't.
Do you have any advice?
It must be an e-book.

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Maya Volkov
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Jack Albany

Thank you for your feedback and help.

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Maya Volkov
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extrinsic
Thank you. I will have that in mind.

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Jack Albany
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I would recommend How to Write a Damn Good Novel: James N Frey. ISBN 0-312-01044-3. Yes, it is available as an ebook.

Its major shortcoming is that it skims over its subject matter without any deep investigation of the various writing techniques it explores; essentially it is a ‘toe-dipper’. What it does have in its favour is that it gives a brief overview of most of the writing techniques required as a minimum by both fiction and non-fiction writers in an easily understood manner.

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Maya Volkov
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Thanks, I will check it.
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extrinsic
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Incumbent of how to write personal essays is as well story craft texts that describe essay theory and example essays to compare and contrast how-tos' recipe formulas and the more insightful descriptive theory texts. That is, three types of study materials; one, how-tos that lay out prescriptive formula criteria; two, descriptive narrative theory texts; and three, example narrative models of the former two types and their variants.

Two signal sample essays out of an abundance online, the first about an incident in India; second, cruise ship travel -- some travel food-related content and commentary:

George Orwell, "Shooting an Elephant" (Orwell library, Web)

David Foster Wallace, "Shipping Out" (Harpers PDF)

Among many other essayists, these two are at the top of the mark personal essay story-wise.

[ November 28, 2017, 04:57 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Orson Scott Card's CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT has a lot of useful information that can be applied to creative nonfiction as well as to fiction. It is also available as an ebook.

Structure, characterization, point of view, are all things to consider in writing personal essays and creative nonfiction so that they are like stories.

[ November 28, 2017, 06:00 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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extrinsic
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Characters and Viewpoint is the second type of writing study text -- descriptive narrative theory. Within it, too, is Card's famous M.I.C.E. quotient, a matter of narrative emphasis placed on Milieu, Idea, Character, or Event. Milieu is part of setting and includes more so a society's cultural situation, time, and place. "Spicy or not" is ready made for Milieu emphasis, though Idea, Character, and Event best practice are amply developed, too.

Details about the M.I.C.E. quotient are abundant online, though any that delve fully into the ramifications of it are few and far between. Derivatives of original ideas usually are diluted and, in this case, the shortfalls are predictable. Each article, except for Card's, focuses on the mechanical aspects of M.I.C.E. and overlooks the aesthetics essentials, to which Card gives ample attention. Mechanics are easy to relate; aesthetics are a challenge due to they are abstract meaning-making developments.

For example, M.I.C.E. focuses emphasis on one story existent, or event, setting, and character in Aristotle's Poetics (available online, see Project Gutenberg) and likewise in Seymour Chatman's Story and Discourse. The focus is more than about the concrete mechanics of a setting's cultural time, place, and situation, or idea, character, or event, more so about the dramatic influences such emphases have on people's lives. Drama is difficult to define and explain in a few words. It is often thought of as "You know it when you see it" though otherwise taken for granted as understood.

Yet drama boils down to antagonism, causality, and tension, or, again, ACT-ion, that moves from start to end through transformative adjustment of a social perspective. And each ACT item relates to M.I.C.E.'s emphases, event in any case. Milieu, how does a culture's newness, newness to spicy food in this case, influence people's lives? Antagonal, causal, and tensional forces influence people's lives.

Antagonism is more than one-sided harassment of a person or persons, it is manifold and, more commonly in writing culture, labeled motivations and stakes, also labeled complication and conflict. Antagonism combines two or more influences and the end products are different than they first were. Take baking soda and add an acid, the end products are heat, water, carbon dioxide gas, and a salt. Some bread and pastry leavens depend on that chemical reaction for the food to rise. The baking soda and acid are antagonists of each other and are each transformed by the mutual antagonism.

Antagonism, motivation, or complication, is want and problem forces in concert, in opposition, too, and any which-a-way direction, that incite proactive transformative action. Attendant to antagonism is stakes, or conflict, which is a polar opposition of forces that are the stakes at risk, like acceptance and rejection, life and death, success and failure, salvation and damnation, etc., polar opposite forces that function in tandem to influence people's lives in any case.

Story depends on such a scenario, that is, transformative influence. Otherwise, a narrative is mere factual report of a state of being, a stasis suspended in static, frozen time. This is Hindu cuisine, it is spicy, too spicy hot for sensitive and naive persons' palates, it does not change. So what, why should I care? Because spicy food causes personal transformation.

Card, also in Characters and Viewpoint, raises the Three Questions Every Reader Asks: So what, why should I care? Huh, what's happening here? And Oh yeah, is this believable?

Like why go to Goa such that readers care, know what is going on, and believe? A child who accompanies parents on their relocation to a new and exotic place might have little, if any, say in the decision, little, if any, consciousness of the ramifications, and likely conflicted by the exotic attractions and social disruptions relocation entails.

I would care about that scenario, relocated as a child many times myself. Thirteen different schools, four different colleges, sixteen different homes, several continents and countries, many cultures, many cuisines, many places, milieus, ideas, characters, and events in the childhood story of extrinsic, a leaf carried willy-nilly upon the crosscurrents of the world, to what meaningful end?

Travel to Goa because why? A short personal essay about spicy cuisine might develop the private meaning of why travel to Goa. Because no other choice is available to the child, forced to relocate, forced to try exotic cuisine, though attracted by the spicy, exotic adventure of it all. An outcome then might be the child develops a degree of private meaning satisfaction and independent, adult decision-making skill.

Why go to Goa, what motivates that? And what's at risk? No choice in the matter, a victim of another's decision. Might as well see what happens, and what happens is a small increment of proactive social and emotional and maturation growth at the cost of a small increment of childhood innocence lost. Or, a coming of age tale.

[ November 29, 2017, 05:16 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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