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Author Topic: Nuts (working title) Genre: not sure
Will Blathe
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Good morning & Happy New Year. I've roused myself from my months long AHDH induced literary torpor and have something for folk to look at (Bring the pain!):
________________________

The alarm goes off. Pretty Polly on the radio. Slap the off-switch. Don’t wake Mary. Can’t sleep. It’s too damn early. Make the coffee. Drink up. Feel warm.

Look at her. Worry lines. A white hair. The stubble on her legs can be a bit scratchy. Doesn’t hurt the sex any. Who’s to complain?

Where’s the list? On the table next to the door. Mary’s always putting things where they belong. First thing on the list: “Don’t forget the epinephrine.” Two Epipens in the backpack since yesterday. Keys. Jacket. Hat. It's cold outside. Better put on pants.

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tesknota
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Happy New Year!

---

I vaguely recall having seen some blunt, stream-of-consciousness things like this done before. In this case, however, I feel like the flow is a bit off and there are just too many fragments.

I think that the flow feels wrong because your fragments are not the same; some are observations, others are actions. To me, that's a little jarring.

For example: "The alarm goes off. Pretty Polly on the radio". This part sounds fine, because they are both observations. But the next part, "Slap the off-switch", threw me from my position as a passive observer to one of action. (Also, is this in second person? Is this in first person? I can't tell clearly.) Another place this happens is in paragraph 2. "Worry lines. A white hair." That flows for me because they're both observations. But "Look at her" right before doesn't fit well into the rhythm because it's an action, not an observation. I think that you could make these fragments work better if you choose some of the same kind (observations or actions) to keep.

It would also help if you intersperse the first 13 lines with some fully-formed thoughts and sentences. Even if the fragments flowed more smoothly, there are a lot of hard stops in my mind when I read short statements like this, and I have to work to piece them together.

Personality and setting are coming through; the excerpt is just a little choppy to read as is.

I hope this makes sense, and it's at least a little helpful!

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Will Blathe
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Thank you, tesknota.

In my own head, it's halfway between 1st and 2nd person. It's like the MC's talking to himself.

It is fragmented, but I wanted to see if other eyes saw it that way too.

I like your idea of grouping observations/actions, but I'm not sure how to do it yet.

I'm going to let it stew for a while. I'm curious to see other people find the same or different issues with the excerpt.

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extrinsic
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Individual narrates self.

Genre, experimental fiction; narrative point of view, reflexive stream of consciousness; grammatical person, implied second person transference from first person, third person couched; tense, simple present; viewpoint, inside looks in; setting, domestic situation; conflict, none; complication, none; tone, banal satire; mood, self-reflective; pace, staccato; theme, event, wake-up routine; personas, love interest partners; message, none; moral, none; title "Nuts" vague, nonspecific, incomplete.

Grammar errors, quote marks missed if "Pretty Polly" a song title; hyphen error: off switch; unwarranted static voice, tense shift: "Mary’s always putting things where they belong." //Mary always puts things where they belong.// medial case brand-name error: EpiPen; excess sentence fragmentation. Abundant sentence fragment prose writers publication successful: Anne Sexton, Joan Didion, William Gibson, E. Annie Proulx.

Audience target, middle adult English literature creative writing professor scholars.

"Pretty Polly" murder ballad now extant centuries, Britain, Australia, Canada, U.S. Appalachia, pejorative soccer game crowd song popular. EpiPen epinephrine generic self-injector severe allergy anaphylaxis shock treatment. Corrupt commerce practice, greed, overpriced, EpiPen cost $600 per U.S. twin-pack injectors, $36 cost for $2 drug delivery; U.S. marketplace dominance 90%, monopoly behaviors.

Promise potential if "Nuts," "Pretty Polly," and EpiPen cum hoc proximity imply drama to come.

I would not read on; pump setup only, no dramatic incitement, too internal discourse, none external, unsensational, unemotional.

[ January 01, 2018, 09:43 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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extrindsic gives me a lot to chew on. "no dramatic incitement" is something I want to look at.

By the way, this is the fifth draft. It's VERY different from previous drafts with the whole stream of consciousness semi-first person thing going on.

I think I might like to keep the perspective, at least for one more draft.

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extrinsic
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Stream of consciousness's strength is response to stimuli, subjective commentary expressed at least. To "Pretty Polly" for example, a ballad about a sailor, lover in every port, woos a new lover and murders her because she conceives his child. How does the agonist process then respond to the song? Does he favor the sailor or the lover? Admires the freewheeler love life of a sailor though disapproves of murder? Does he sing along? Or dramatically paraphrases the lyrics? So readers know the dramatic context, texture, and relevance of it for now and later. Some versions of the lyrics are under copyright, others are public domain.

A dramatic stimulus segment best practice incites a dramatic process segment and then dramatic response segment that are relevant to the drama of the moment and later. In that sense, "Nuts," "Pretty Polly," and EpiPen are possible Chekhov's guns, motifs that are dramatically relevant now and more so later when they dramatically "go off." Otherwise, those are irrelevant and best practice either made dramatically relevant for now and later or excised.

[ January 01, 2018, 10:52 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic: the Pretty Polly I was thinking of was a different version, but still a murder ballad. I've thought about how the MC (and Mary?) respond to the song, but it's an unformed idea.

The title will probably change (it does help me keep the core of the story in front of my face).

The epipens are definitely central to the MC's choices.

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Will Blathe
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Here's a different version. I took out the POV experimentation. There's a lot I don't like about it, but I trust other eyes more than mine. So, here goes.
_____________________________________________________


I wake to Pretty Polly on the radio and turn it down so it doesn’t wake Mary. I about turn over and fall asleep again when I remember why I set the alarm in the first place. She’s a lighter sleeper now. I push the bedspread off me as slow as possible. I really do not want to get up. Instead I look at her. Worry lines. A gray hair (She’s proud of it. It means she’s lived a little). Her kidneys may be failing, but I don't see any sign of it.

I can’t find my slippers, so my bare feet get bit by the freezing linoleum while I stand over the sink, downing a mug of coffee with three tablespoons of sugar and a quarter cup of half & half mixed in. Coffee flavored candy.

I find the grocery list under my keys. First thing on the list: “Don’t forget the epinephrine.” $80 with insurance.

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extrinsic
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An individual wakes up.

First person present tense narrative point of view is both the hardest challenge to write for inexperienced creative writers and the most subjective voice, with strong appeal potentials, therefore, if managed artfully.

Too much of perpendicular pronoun "I" and its variants: me, my, mine; accumulates a nuisance factor, the greatest challenge. The "I" filters every circumstance through an extra lens. I see, hear, touch, smell, taste, feel, do, yada, something-something sensory happens, inside or outside of the I's head. The bald sensory experience is a best practice, without an extra lens or lenses.

Illustration: "_I wake_ to Pretty Polly on the radio" Underscores bracket an extra lens filter. And the song title, as is, is an italics fault. Song titles take quote marks; an album of songs' title takes italics. A simplification workaround is to set up that the title is a song and leave off the quote marks altogether.

//From the radio alarm clock, the murder ballad Pretty Polly blares and wakes me up// That defuses the extra lens filter, from places the "I" to object in acted-upon position, and places the true subject of the main clause into subject position, best practice for reading and comprehension ease, and adjusts emphasis ascension through subordination (From) of the first phrase to the second phrase. And, by the way, introduces a potential dramatic incitement of a murder ballad, might imply what the overall narrative is truly about!?

New sentence then for the second clause of the as is first sentence: "and turn it down so it doesn’t wake Mary." //So the radio blare doesn't wake Mary, I slap down the volume.//

L. Rust Hills, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, notes dramatic movement flows through segment sequences of three or so. Preparation, suspension, and resolution are Hills' labels. Setup, delay, payoff, or incite, process, react are mine. One, two, three; ready, set, go. Tension setup, tension relief delay or further tension escalation, and partial or full tension relief, partial for dramatic movement rises, full for dramatic movement falls. A sequence is subject to variants, too, say, 1, 1+, 2, 2+, 3; 1, 3; 1a, 1b, 1c, 2, 3; 3, 2, 1; 3 by itself, etc.

Dramatic segment sequences are of micro, clause-sentence level; medial, paragraph level; and macro, section, chapter, story, and overall novel sequence syntheses, also.

The fragments to date have little, if any, sequencing arrangement, from dramatic movement and organization shortfalls.

I am less inclined to read further than for the first version. The "POV experimentation" of the first version at least blunts the extra lens filter consideration. See "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" by Clarion workshops' David Smith, SFWA hosted, for the entry "Reality is filtered through an extra lens." Really, why reinvent the ladder, if giants' shoulders came before that writers may climb up and stand upon?

[ January 04, 2018, 02:44 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jack Albany
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Neither submitted fragment would entice me to read further. I am not engaged by the prose or the narrative style in either fragment. Both fragments seem lacking in purpose; the first, frantic confusion to no real point; the second, a dull and threadbare personal exposition to no real purpose. If I had to choose one over the other, at least the first has some implied dramatic content and movement; not that there seems to be any substance to it.

The one item of note in both fragments is the mention of epinephrine (adrenaline). The mention of ‘EpiPen' implies the treatment of anaphylaxis (allergic reaction), but it could also be used as a treatment for cardiac arrest. Why is it mentioned: is it for the main character’s use or Mary’s, and why? These are important narrative questions that should be answered as soon as possible.

By your own words it is an important item, so, why simply mention it in passing?

In this instance it seems to me that your are writing for yourself. You know what the story is about (presumably) but you want to impress the reader with how ‘creative’ you can be in getting to the point. The reader isn’t the slightest bit interested in how clever you are if they don’t understand what is going on and what the point of the story is – particularly in a short story. Tell the reader what they need to know in order to understand what is happening now instead of trying to be ‘clever’.

I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear but I hope it helps.

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic & Jack, I'm letting your opinions percolate. I might have something to show for it in a couple hours.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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As an exercise, try starting with the last sentence in your 13 line segment above, and then have the character's thoughts go to the person who wrote the list and why the writer put epinephrine first.

Skip all the waking up stuff that came before that last sentence.

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Will Blathe
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Kathleen! Why'd you have to do that? Now, I'm thinking about your idea too.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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[Smile]

Just doing my job.

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extrinsic
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A consideration to note, any circumstance mentioned implies it matters now and later. Informal fallacies, like cum hoc; and post hoc; ergo, propter hoc: with this; and after this; therefore, because of this, function for that capacity. That is, the EpiPen, "Pretty Polly," and "Nuts" in close proximity and at the outset imply relevance, correlation, and maybe causation between those. Readers, though, then need only realize what the relation and relevance is for the now moment and be not left for readers to decode what.

A title's relevance is best practice left for later. The epinepherine and murder ballad, though, are best practice related now to now. That the narrator-agonist wakes up at this time, unless related to dramatic movement, is irrelevant. Otherwise, wake-up starts are widely thought of as cliché. That scenario is akin to a Dischism: a writer's reality intrudes into a narrative. Wake-up starts are often an unconscious writer state that reflects a wake-up from the alpha reality of real life to an empty white page in the fiction dream state that creative writing and reading are.

From the "Turkey City Lexicon – A Primer for SF Workshops," Edited by Lewis Shiner, Second Edition by Bruce Sterling, SFWA hosted, for "Dischism, The unwitting intrusion of the author's physical surroundings, or the author's own mental state, into the text of the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and cigs. In subtler forms of the Dischism, the characters complain of their confusion and indecision — when this is actually the author's condition at the moment of writing, not theirs within the story. 'Dischism' is named after the critic who diagnosed this syndrome. (Attr. Thomas M. Disch)"

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Will Blathe
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I'm taking pointers from everyone here. I think this draft still suffers from the same defects but to a lesser degree (I hope). I wrote the wake up scene, but lopped it off around where Kathleen suggested. I think the waking up part can provide more something or other, but maybe not that much.

_______

I walk up and down three aisles before remembering why. Mary's list is crumpled in my wallet. This is the first thing she wrote on it: Don’t forget the epipens!!! xoxo She nags her incompetent husband from afar. Whatever. The rest of the list is powdered milk, Logan’s Peanut Free Gorp, fake coffee, Hill’s Bros coffee, and lamp mantels.

A young woman stands waiting at the checkout. I try not to stare. A bunch of 3 oz bags of peanuts fill the bucket next to her. The paper sign on the bucket says they’re on sale for 30¢. It’s hand written with little hearts and flowers. After she bags my purchase, I ask for a few bags of peanuts. I pay cash. She brushes my hand when she gives me change. It gives me shivers.

The car’s trunk is full with camping supplies. It’ll be a miracle

[ January 05, 2018, 08:33 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Jay Greenstein
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You're writing a chronicle of events. That's a report. Knowing that the person does/thinks something isn't story, it's information. Story lies in what motivates the character to act as they do, not what they do. It lies in the concerns, the hopes, and the necessities that drive the protagonist. Only when the reader knows that will they have reason to want to know what happens next.
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Will Blathe
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Jay -- yep! Funny thing, though-- I really got invested in it as if it did give us that sense of character motivation.


On to next draft.

I get that the story I'm telling needs two components:

1) Why does the MC do what he's going to do.

2) The MC does it.

In the excerpt, we aren't going to get to #2.

As for #1, I'm just not doing a good job expressing it.

The setting and events are pretty much window dressing. I might switch it all out and replace with something completely different if it gets #1 across.

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Will Blathe
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Jack-- rereading your post. It gets me thinking about the epipen. It's important as a vehicle for the MC's later action. I'm still trying to figure out how to make its relevance clear. I could dump it from the story.
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tesknota
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I like this third version the most so far. There's more coherent movement, a sharper personality, and a better sense of setting.

I agree with Jay though that it reads like a "chronicle of events, and it might help to cut out less useful info. For example, I don't see the relevance of knowing what else is on the shopping list: "The rest of the list is powdered milk, Logan’s Peanut Free Gorp, fake coffee, Hill’s Bros coffee, and lamp mantels." If you wanted this list to convey some other sentiment, you can elaborate on the list in a few words and state its importance to the reader or to the protagonist.

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extrinsic
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An individual shops, possibly for a camping trip.

That's the event; setting, some random generic retail shop. Personas, a shopper agonist, another random shopper, a random checkout clerk. What's the complication? If not a want, what's the problem? A nag for a wife? A clerk who's a possible love interest implies a want. No stakes risked-conflict introduced, maybe somewhat implied: severe allergic reaction pendent.

Peanut-free gorp strong and clear implies the Epi is for a severe peanut allergy. obviously the spouse's; the narrator buys peanuts for himself, after all, with cash at that. The narrator's peanut crave perhaps as well a subconscious design to poison the wife. Those small pieces work much implication readers can easily infer. Writer-narrative implication and reader inference is a large part of narrative conversation. Shy of the mark, though, the narrator's motivations underrealized. However, this, "I throw the peanuts and epipens under the driver’s seat." implies an agenda of more than passing conscious thought to hide, an actus reus, guilty act, implies mens rea, guilty mind.

The third version still contains overmuch extra "I" lens filters.

"lamp _mantels_" Wrong word [ww]: mantles for lanterns' light filaments.

"A young woman _stands waiting_ at the checkout." Ineffective static voice [static]: waits.

"A bunch _of_ 3 oz bags _of_ peanuts fill the bucket next _to_ her." Wordy [w], three prepositions.

"hand written" Faulty usage [usage], see usage reference, dictionary: handwritten.

"It gives me shivers." Pronoun-antecedent error [pn agr]. "It" what, the change?

More motivation implication for this third version. Somewhat more inclined to read on I am, though the extra undramatic content, grammar shortfalls, and overmuch extra lens filters confuses engagement with the drama undercurrent.

[ January 05, 2018, 05:56 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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In rendering my next version, I'll try to follow tesknota's advice to cut the fat and replace it with something more germane.
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Jack Albany
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A character enters a supermarket and reads a shopping list; the first item, and presumably the most important, is an EpiPen. He goes to the checkout and has some type of fleeting reaction to the touch of a girls hand as she gives him change. Returning to his car, we learn it’s full of camping gear, why? In fact, why is any of this important enough to eat up valuable word-count?

Will, there is no doubt you can ‘set a scene’, but to what point? Dramatic movement? There is none. Character development? The episode at the checkout simply makes the character look sleazy. Foreshadowing the importance of the EpiPen? We learn from your own words that you could easily erase it; and here I thought is was important simply by its prominence. Now I assume it’s just a faux quest item: an item whose sole purpose is to set the character in physical motion -- to get him off his butt. What’s at stake here for the character? What problem is he confronted with that must be resolved? Where’s the conflict, the drama, the reason for a story?

And yet another question: the camping gear? Are the characters preparing to flee, or are they just going to Yosemite?

A story, particularly a short story, should begin as close as possible to the inciting incident. This means the story should start as close as possible to the thing that gets your characters to flee for their lives. Usually.

I think it’s back to the draft table for you, my lad. [Smile]

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic: I might skip the 1st person POV. It's a pain in the ass avoiding the "I"

The rest can be poked and prodded into shape. E.g., "I try not to stare at the cashier." (there's that "I" again)

also

"She had a bucket full of 3 oz peanut bags."

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Will Blathe
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Jack, I see your point. I figure the setting is just a way to extract the MC's motivation. An alternate setting that I'm considering is the camping trip with the MC's action and the reveal of his motivations occurring in parallel. It's not flowing well yet.

[ January 05, 2018, 08:56 PM: Message edited by: Will Blathe ]

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic, I'm going back and forth between 1st and 3rd POVs in drafts. I'm having a lot of trouble removing the 1st singular subject pronoun from my sentences. If English were a pro-drop language, it'd be a hell of a lot easier.
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Will Blathe
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WIth this draft, I think I've created a new set of problems.

_________________________________________________


I’m at the grocery store grabbing a pile of outdoors junk. The lights give me a gawdawful headache. Camping with Mary used to be fun, especially before marriage when the sex was at still a little taboo and so much better. Now all I’ve got is the cheap thrill of a teenage cashier giving me change for a packet of peanuts. “Come again,” she says.

At the car, it’s a pain fitting the extra crap in a trunk that’s near to overflowing with camping supplies. I throw snacks in the backpack and end up taking Mary’s epipens out to rearrange things. “Did you remember the epinephrine, hon?” “Don’t forget the epipens! I don’t wanna come hope in a body bag, sweety.” I’ll remember the epipens, dear. Right in the dumpster.

I sit in the driver’s seat, holding the medicine in one hand and

[ January 06, 2018, 02:33 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Will Blathe:
extrinsic, I'm going back and forth between 1st and 3rd POVs in drafts. I'm having a lot of trouble removing the 1st singular subject pronoun from my sentences. If English were a pro-drop language, it'd be a hell of a lot easier.

First person writers manage grammatical person mischiefs differently, all struggle, though, third person, too, and second person. I won't mention zero person and fourth person, also.

Workarounds for each and all are how much auxiliary person usage and sentence syntax rearrangement. The former, express external sensation descriptions in third person; the latter, locate agonist pronouns in sentence object position (objective case pronouns). A few sentence subject I's are inevitable. There, the challenge is to avoid extra lens filter usages, which is also the overall principle that guides the two workarounds above.

Also, distinguishing summary and explanation expressions (tell) from reality imitation (show) descriptions and when either is more apt than the other.

This is tell, though not an extra lens filter, yet does signal, oh no, the narrative will be heavy with the perpendicular pronoun by dint of the first word is an I: "I'm at the grocery store grabbing a pile of outdoors junk." Plus an uncounted noun, adjective use mistake, "outdoors," an affected use common to idioms, some discretionary usages though a stumbler. Reader stumbles for a first sentence cause speed bump distractions to accumulate, that one of the huh? variety.

The principle of "telling details" is a method that encapsulates an event, setting, or persona's true nature from a few specific sensory details. Each part of that above sentence contains generic details, summaries and an explanation.

(Reissenweber, Brandi. "Telling Details." Gotham Writers. Web.) "Chekhov described a story as 'the casual telling of a nuclear experience in an ordinary life, rendered with immediate and telling detail.' Telling detail, then, is a fundamental unit of fiction that captures the individuality and uniqueness—the very essence—of what is being described. It doesn't simply inspire an image in the imagination, it also suggests an abstraction, such as meaning or emotion. And it does all of this with brevity [and concision]."

A trip to a grocery store for outdoor junk. What, a warehouse Maul-park-mart? A chain branch Moe Wiggly Lion? A boutique frou-frou Epicurio delight? A corner punk bodega? What is the telling detail of this place that is in an economy of words yet an expansive detail? What evokes a visual sensation in readers' imaginations and is uniquely distinct, dramatic even, emotional no less, maybe ironic, satiric, saracstic?

Today, hereabouts, the maul-mart closed all but one of its four entrances, for self-convenience on the part of staff. One entrance limited wet floors to one location due to snow, and indifferent customers tracked the wet stuff in. Siege mentality, I thought, laziness and contempt for customer service -- for customers. So what? Made not one iota of difference. No staff minded the floors anyway. Had to go elsewhere, too, to fulfill the essentials shopping list.

That's a rhetorical situation, given those parameters, for a possible telling detail of an otherwise common-as-slush maul-mart, an identical one or more in every community.

MaulMart insipid signs, posted at the first two entrances tried, commanded, Use Other Entrance. An arrow pointed that-a-way. Laziness there. Slick black ice mounded car lot aisles and walkways, and, finally arrived at, slippery-wet floors ponded the sole open entrance at the farthest end.

Invariably, show consumes more word count. Show is verbatim expression. Tell, less, is paraphrase. Telling details make every word count for double or triple or more the actual numerical count. How does "I'm at the grocery store grabbing a pile of outdoors junk." translate to a telling detail or details shown? Might take a paragraph and, say, forty or so words. "junk" at least is maybe somewhat ironic, satiric, or sarcastic.

[ January 06, 2018, 01:15 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jack Albany
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At last, some juicy character development on the dry and dusty bones of setting. A husband tired of his wife; perhaps he is planing on doing something silly? This is a narrative opening for readers to get their teeth into and I could be tempted to read on once it is shaped and polished. Now is not the time for that though--finish the story first, then shape and polish. He isn’t a very likable character to be sure, which is a tough ask when trying to get readers to engage with the character. However the foreshadowing of things that may come to pass is artful. (Seems like Kathleen Dalton Woodbury edited that bit out)

With this draft, I think I've created a new set of problems.” I wonder what you mean by this?

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic: I'm having trouble balancing a number of factors, show/tell is definitely one of them.

Jack: I think this version is unbalanced toward showing who the character is at the expense of concrete setting. The MC is not quite in a "white room." But, it kind of feels a little like it. (extrinsic noted that the setting is not fully realized, e.g., what kind of store is it?)

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extrinsic
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Of a near infinite number of possibilities for a short story, another consideration is whether the narrative starts in the most appealing and dramatic time, place, and situation (setting's criteria) possible. Opening struggles often suggest this is possible and worth consideration.

Homicidal intents often start from a final-straw incitement, or a sudden betrayal. Those set up agonist sympathy or empathy, reader likeableness for a homicidal agonist or a victimized agonist turned proactive. Do wife's nags cumulatively rise to the occasion? Or are those everyday routines until one final, last-straw incitement of a magnitude to warrant homicidal designs?

Edgar Allan Poe exhorted starts as late into dramatic incitement movement as practical. So then, what, a start sample of routine incitements that escalate to an unbearable state? A final straw? A sudden betrayal? Or start after the incitement? Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" does that latter. Experimental fiction, by the way. (PoeStories.com, html)

The story is the denouement act of skipped drama rise, climax, and fall, the outcome end only. One act, no setup act, no action rise act, no climax act, no action fall act, only the final act, the outcome of the main dramatic complication: Montressor's perception Fortunato slighted him one too many times. Montressor believes Fortunato injured him a thousand times, and, at the last, insulted him. No specifics given about what, why, or how, though. Two proverbs alluded to in the first sentence: a death of a thousand cuts, and insult added to injury, ironic overstatement that implies a congruent opposite, that is, no real injury given, really, no show of what are the injuries nor the insult. Perhaps Montressor overreacts, left for readers to decide for themselves.

First sentence: "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge." (1848)

The narrative contains more than a few extra lens filters, more than a few grammar glitches, more than a few unnecessary tells, and more than a few other craft shortfalls, yet is widely considered a near perfect, if not perfect, short story. The story is a product of its time and expectations thereof. It is outdated for contemporary audiences due to the nonspecific nature of the injuries and insult to which Montressor reacts. Maybe enough antagonism and cause for reader sympathy are given, maybe not. Today's readers, though, want motivation clarity and strength.

Why, besides wife's everyday nags, does this agonist think to kill wife? Final straw? Sudden betrayal? Or both? Such that readers judge for themselves whether homicide is justified or not, at least for empathy or sympathy functions (one of tension's two criteria, curiosity the other, both reader emotional effects)?

For optional starts, consider how real-life life-transformation nodes entail a peculiar synchroncity of cause and effect. If wife is allergic to peanuts, husband craves them, and if husband is fatally sensitive to epinephrine, what might be both a final straw and sudden betrayal for husband, regardless of how wrong he might be? Might he suspect she has homicide on her mind, first? For what? Another suitor? His life insurance proceeds? Because he has overbore control of her life, and she craves independence? Cosmic irony, that, he believes she attempts overmuch control of his life. Cosmic irony in that these two were predestined for each other. Speaking of "Nuts." //Cosmic Nuts//?

Or otherwise, like "Amontillado," husband agonist ironically implies or declares up front husband is past the final-straw stage, and later in the story develop the incitement specifics for best present-day reader effect? Note though, the persona and event situation of "Amontillado's" first scene and thereafter is chronologically linear, immediate-now, verbatim dramatic intersection and interaction between Montressor and Fortunato, some introspection and recollection paraphrases, and as well the settings of the archetypal event: personal homicide.

And yeah, the latest version store is kind of a "White Room." Delightful to note the "Turkey City Lexicon" has been referenced.

[ January 07, 2018, 02:33 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jack Albany
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I find the focus on setting development interesting. A narrative is composed of many elements, setting and character being just two of them. Each element within a narrative has its own weight of importance depending on the narrative itself and at what point within the narrative we are considering it. At another point in the narrative that weighting may have, in fact probably will have, changed.

Given the submitted fragment, which elements carry the most weight? For me, character development and motivation are the most important, followed by the purchase of the EpiPen and peanuts. The importance of these two purchases being highlighted by the developing character motivation reveal. Where these things happen, what it’s called, what it looks like, and any other details concerning the setting are, to me, irrelevancies and unimportant in the development of the narrative. The opening scene might just as well have taken place in a car park--a metaphorical white room.

Also, I would like to add that this story does not appear to be about ‘why’ the main character has decided to do some harm to his wife but rather, having decided to do that harm, the story is more concerned with the drama of actually carrying out the intent.

Of course, I could be wrong.

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extrinsic
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Setting's concrete particulars ground readers in a narrative's physical sensation and performance space reality, at least. A challenge of those is to create their relevance to the action at hand, overt action and covert subtext action, and for later judicious, timely further dramatic developments.

What might a place, a grocery store and an open pharmacy counter, for instance, imply and declare about a tenuous decision to commit homicide? Or wherever? How much emphasis on the place? How much event, setting, and persona introduction, especially motivations and stakes introductions, within thirteen lines limitations?

I'd consider the campsite setup for the setting where the event and persona introduction and dramatic incitement begin, where the action begins. Deciding to and doing, even in the face of second thoughts, are a world apart when it comes to robust drama. How might a campsite be expansively relevant telling details for homicidal designs? A near infinite number of possibilities, unfortunately, come to mind.

[ January 07, 2018, 02:39 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jack Albany
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Agreed, extrinsic. Personally, my level of setting development is dictated by the level of dramatic movement or conflict in the impending scene. The scene itself I usually leave devoid of settings details lest they distract from the action, having developed setting before the action.
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Will Blathe
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I'm doing home stuff, so I probably won't post another draft today. I 'm absorbing the combined critiques and discussion. It's giving me a lot to think about.

If I choose to write the start at camp, then I'll have to kill the stuff I've posted so far no matter how much I like it. Then again, there's a lot that can transfer over.


Think think think think . . . . .

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Will Blathe
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Oh, heck. I ended up writing the dang things backwards. Here's a pretty different take on the story.
______________________________________________________________

Mary’s dying. She’s leaning on a bristlecone waving me over. Her face has gone all red and puffy. It really smooths out the wrinkles. In a few minutes her lips will look like plastic surgery gone bad.

I have a choice. It’s easy for me to take off my backpack and grab an epipen. It’s even easier to reach into hers. But, that would mean an expensive trip to the hospital.

She’s wheezing a bit. I’ve hesitated long enough for her to notice. I wouldn’t hear the end of it once we got home. Her mom would never stop yapping. I smell me on the wrong side of alimony payments.

It’s not my fault. Any judge would say it’s my fault. A jury of my peers would say it’s my fault. My defense attorney would pretend not to know the difference.

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extrinsic
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An individual observes another in immediate distress.

Peanut or pine allergy? Nut allergies might cross species: root legume, tree nut; pine, pinyon, or piñon nut. The sole mention of bristlecone suggests a reaction to pine. Pine allergies themselves uncommonly result in severe anaphylaxis; pine and tree nut allergies can.

In-the-know adults with a severe allergy condition are hyperaware of reaction onset and self-administer treatment immediately. From unmistakable notice of a first symptom, several minutes or longer may pass before incapacity sets in, ample time to self-administer Epi. Persons who know they have a severe nut allergy keep Epi immediately at hand.

For the fragment, those mean our host Orson Scott Card's "Oh yeah?" Really? question pops into mind. (See especially "Three Questions Every Reader Asks," Characters and Viewpoint, pgs 19 - 21. Also discussed diverse sites online.)

The bristlecone mention is also the only setting detail mentioned. Readers familiar with the tree species might project an entire setting from that small mention. Not much reality anchor evocation to it, though. The tree does prefer harsh soil and climate conditions. The cones are among the smaller pine cones overall, and too small for commercially viable edible nuts. Severe pine nut allergies are next-most common to peanut and tree nut allergies. The most severe allergen contacts are from ingestion, though the more sensitive allergy sufferers severely react to airborne allergens, too.

Fortunately, my mast allergies are mild to moderate, and only to ornamental lawn grasses at that: Bermuda and fescues. Problems enough -- those species grow wild and tame across most of the world's habitable regions. Avoidance, therefore, is nigh impossible. I know where those don't flourish, a few small pockets here and there, one nearby I had to move away from due to other considerations. My knowledge of allergies comes about in part due to my own and as well due to work in food service, medical, and civil litigation fields related to severe allergy sufferers.

So Mary leans against a bristlecone. Huh? What's happening? Another of Card's questions readers ask, second of the three, Oh yeah? third; first, So what? Why should I care?

How does Mary become overwhelmed by a severe allergic reaction that she doesn't timely medicate? Such that readers care, understand, and believe? Are readers meant to care about her or husband? Both? More setup indicated beforehand, of event, setting, and persona, and tension in particular, development in any case.

For instance, might husband know beforehand Mary suffers cross allergies? Mary, too, might know. Or does husband contaminate something she ingests? Or does an opportune occasion present itself otherwise? Husband might observe Mary have near contact with bristlecone pollen or nut, while they set up camp, afterward while they sit for a drink or food, or similar or different. Meantime, reality-anchor event, setting, and persona details expand.

Husband considers Mary might not know she's cross allergic to pine cone pollen (springtime then)(late summer for pine nut exposure, when tree rodents get into them; pine cones mature up to thirty-six months after pollination). Husband watches for a first symptom, debates with himself whether to say or do something. Mary becomes mildly distressed though timely self-medicates, initial disaster averted. Husband sees a gambit open. Yeah, medical caregiver attention is recommended. Mary thinks she's okay, says she is anyway. Let's stay. We haven't come all this way for nothing.

A principle from formal composition practices defuses possible So what? Huh? and Oh yeah? Anticipate objections and rebut them through antecedent, contemporaneous, and subsequent depictions, antecedent best. Thus: While Mary and husband set up camp, prepare lunch, whatever, they converse about Mary's Epi supply. Meantime, husband contemplates the place's stark beauty, its many hazards for the unwary, and a nefarious deed.

Timely and judicious use of all writing modes in natural and dramatic sequences fully realizes a narrative's dramatic essence. DIANE'S SECRET: description, introspection, action, narration, emotion, sensation, summarization, exposition, conversation, recollection, explanation, and transition, no special sequence priority there, a mnemonic for their mastery. Sensation, description, emotion, conversation, action, and introspection most crucial.

The fragment rushes to reach a dramatic peak long before the peak is earned. Setup and delay for payoff is a simplified principle of dramatic, antagonal, causal, tensional, ACT, sequencing. Self-screened effective sequence evaluation is a practical self-edit, rewrite, and revision method.

Look for antagonal, causal, and tensional sequence development. For instance, a first, minor close call with a severe allergic reaction establishes event, setting, and persona introductions. Say, husband notes bristlecone trees, a gnarled, tangled ancient grove nearby the campsite, like a slow-motion brawl of several centuries' span, like their marriage, the grove's relative situation: sparse ground cover, crumbly, dry sick-yellow soil, hot, arid, turbulent mile-high air, like their marriage. Mary kind of sidles toward the grove, stops, turns back, avoids direct contact. Unwittingly or deliberately teases husband's hopes Mary is also severely allergic to pine pollen or pine nut dust, which occasions implication or skewed declaration she's severely allergic to peanuts.

That's tension setup in a nutshell [sic]: antagonally, causally, emotionally charged context (who, when, where) and texture (what, why, how) readers know, learn, or infer beforehand that increase in relevance soon again and later. One, two, three; ready, set, go; setup, delay, payoff; incite, process, react.

Next, Mary encounters a closer call; husband delights and watches in horror of himself being shamefully wicked. Last, Mary suffers a full-blown crisis; husband clumsily, deliberately scrambles and fails to help. He can cover himself legally, because, who could have known Mary was severely allergic to bristlecone pine nuts, too? She didn't, except maybe a prior reaction to a pesto's pinyon nuts. He didn't, maybe. Though it had occurred to him beforehand, no one said, really. Reasonable outcome? Or another, less wicked outcome? Or different? Perhaps a guilty act tips off investigators and prosecution transpires? Or a noble outcome?

I am somewhat more inclined to read on, though plagued by So what? Oh yeah? and Huh? bumps.

[ January 07, 2018, 09:20 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic said, "The fragment rushes to reach a dramatic peak long before the peak is earned."

Yep. I need to remember that I'm not trying to shoehorn an entire story in thirteen lines. It's partly the affect this forum has on me.

Working through the rest of your critique will be a cake walk in comparison.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Will Blathe:
extrinsic said, "The fragment rushes to reach a dramatic peak long before the peak is earned."

Yep. I need to remember that I'm not trying to shoehorn an entire story in thirteen lines. It's partly the affect this forum has on me.

Working through the rest of your critique will be a cake walk in comparison.

Shoehorn syndrome occurs to every writer. Experienced writers expand basic sketched outlines and condense or create relevance for overwrought or empty details. For instance, compare a bristlecone grove setting's telling details to a contentious marriage's: simile, metaphor, allegory, metalepsis, subtext, figures of comparison, contrast, substitution, repetition, and amplification, to name a few figures of speech and rhetorical strategies possible.
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Will Blathe
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extrinsic, good stuff for me to think about.

In this case, since the story's 1st person, I want to avoid much fancy writing and connection. I just don't think the character has it in him. What I can do is replace unusual details with the familiar.

The bristlecone came from my own experiences on Wheeler Peak --the model setting for the events in question.

I will use, instead, a cliff face. there are plenty of trails where one side is a cliff face and the other is a cliff's edge. Plenty of fodder for physical tension and subtle connections.

That'll let me concentrate on realism (anaphylaxis), and not shoehorning.

[ January 08, 2018, 02:08 PM: Message edited by: Will Blathe ]

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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
I’m at the grocery store grabbing a pile of outdoors junk.

Here’s the first problem: Why does the reader care? The character isn’t living the story, he’s recalling it. You’re telling the reader things that are irrelevant to the man living the scene. You say, for example, that the lights give him a headache. Why? Is he sensitive to light? Hungover? Suffering some disease? Without knowing that the information is meaningless because the reader has no context.

You have him explain that he and his wife don’t get along and sex isn’t fun. That’s not story, it’s, at best, history. As far as the reader knows he has not the slightest reason to think about his sex life in the moment he calls “now,” if for no other reason than that he has a headache. So instead of our being with him in that store we’re reading an essay by the husband, called, “Here’s what you need to know as the story begins.”

But: if it matters to the story, and him, have the wife be short with him, and rebuff his attempt to get her in the mood. By the way he attempts, and by the way they treat each other, we’ll learn everything you say here, but do it in passing.

Look at every line you place into a story. If it doesn’t advance the plot, meaningfully set the scene, or develop character it does not belong in the story, and serves only to slow the narrative. Remember, if it takes longer to read about the character crossing a room than it takes to do it the story will drag. So, remove everything that’s not necessary. No history lessons. No gossip. No authorial interjections that stop the action. As Jack Bickham put it, “To describe something in detail, you have to stop the action. But without the action, the description has no meaning.”

And in this, the only action taken is that this person we know nothing abou buys a “pile of outdoors stuff,” (what does that mean?) yet pays only for a bag of peanuts.

Why do we open here? What significance to the plot does his shopping for a bag of peanuts have? Were you chronicling a series of events, this would be part of the report. But story lives in what matters to him in the moment. And that’s what you need to focus on: what catches his attention, why it matters, and what it motivates him to do. All the rest serves only to stop the action.

Sorry me news isn’t better. You might want to take a look at this article, for a powerful way to place the reader into the viewpoint of the protagonist. Chew on it till it makes sense. And if it seems like something worth pursuing, pick up the book the article was condensed from. It’s filled with such things.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

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Jack Albany
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The latest fragment submission is a fine example of a dramatic ‘white room’. The entirety of the dramatic action as outlined takes place in a narrative vacuum. Where are we, who are these people, what do they want, what is happening, why is it happening, etc.. I could go on endlessly.

I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but I think it is time to take a break and consider your story again. Finding the right place to start should not be this hard. Unless, of course, you don’t know what your story is really about (a personal opinion). Again, don’t take this the wrong way; I never really know what my own stories are about until after I’ve written the first draft--and sometimes not even then--and thought about what I’m really trying to explore with the story. Once I do know exactly what my story is really about invariably the first draft and most of my notes are tossed out. Why? Because my whole story is changed by a new understanding.

Good luck.

Edited to add:

Let me explain what I mean. Once you know exactly what your story is really about you can easily find the exact point within the narrative where the story really starts. Once you have that, the next thing to determine is what exactly does my reader need to know about the circumstances and the characters in order to understand what I’m telling them? Which leads inexorably to deciding which character viewpoint is the best one for enlightening the reader? Perhaps, in the opening scene, Mary’s viewpoint would have been the best one to ‘show’ the failings in the relationship. In this case, perhaps we would be more sympathetic to the motives of the husband.

Hope this helps.

[ January 09, 2018, 05:45 AM: Message edited by: Jack Albany ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Will Blathe:
extrinsic, good stuff for me to think about.

In this case, since the story's 1st person, I want to avoid much fancy writing and connection. I just don't think the character has it in him. What I can do is replace unusual details with the familiar.

The bristlecone came from my own experiences on Wheeler Peak --the model setting for the events in question.

I will use, instead, a cliff face. there are plenty of trails where one side is a cliff face and the other is a cliff's edge. Plenty of fodder for physical tension and subtle connections.

That'll let me concentrate on realism (anaphylaxis), and not shoehorning.

"Cliff face" and "cliff edge" risk possible cliffhanger clichés, literally, an individual depicted hangs onto a cliff edge or tree or root, of some extension from a cliff above a precipitous fall.

For "fancy writing and connection" or not, Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction, asserts, Refuse one rhetoric, another does take its place, wittingly or otherwise. Seconded per moi. Every human older than four years or so uses some degree of rhetoric. Rhetoric's a human condition and native-natural facet of language and social life.

An intentional rhetoric use creates a consistent rhetorical scheme natural to a given narrative, persona, narrator, agonist, and otherwise. An unintentional rhetoric effect can be unnatural and confuse a narrative and its readers. Orson Scott Card's Huh?

A simplified definition of rhetoric illustrates: dynamic persuasive expression. At the least, for prose, a desirable persuasive effect evokes emotional reader responses.

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Will Blathe
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Jay, in other words, I'm gonna have to kill my darlings. Sheesh! Funerals are such a drag. BTW- the article you referenced has been suggested before to me (by extrinsic?). Thanks for reminding me of it. It helped me when I was crafting my novel's first 13. I think it'll be my morning reading.

Jack, my sense of the story is blank but for the bare core. I think there are several ways of telling it that are compelling. I'm just not quite good enough (yet) to make them work. I'll think more about your suggestions.

extrinsic, you're making me think too hard! But, I think I get what you mean by the bad results of unintended effects on the reader.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Will Blathe:
Jay, in other words, I'm gonna have to kill my darlings. Sheesh! Funerals are such a drag. BTW- the article you referenced has been suggested before to me (by extrinsic?). Thanks for reminding me of it. It helped me when I was crafting my novel's first 13. I think it'll be my morning reading.

Jay Greenstein's recommendation. Advanced Fiction Writing site's Randy Ingermanson is a Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham devotee. I am not a fan.
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Will Blathe
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extrinsic, I'm not familiar with those names. I definitely want to get a sense of what to avoid or what to pay attention to while knowing it's not the end-all-be-all.
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extrinsic
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Many writers swear by and idolize Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham. Both published professionally and numerously. Aside from their narrative theory texts, between the two, the best known fiction work is Jack Bickham's The Apple Dumpling Gang, also a motion picture. They were colleagues at Oklahoma University writing programs and collaborated about narrative theories, Naturally, therefore, their theories are somewhat derivative of each other. Their main theory revolves about causation's story relevance.

The signal text about narrative causation is The Poetics of Aristotle. Neither Swain nor Bickham refer to that text. However, despite my misgivings regards Swain and Bickham, some of their thoughts are worth study for their theories, at least because they cover much territory.

My overall disappointment with their theories is their take about conflict's roles and what it means for narrative theories and applications. Much of their theories conflate and reorganize already extant narrative theories, at least update language and accessibility for contemporary culture.

Conflict is one area that they skimp defining and explaining, more so a misunderstanding of what dramatic conflict actually is. They apply the generic meaning and short shrift the fundamental narrative theory meaning.

Webster's "Conflict, 1: Fight, battle, war;

2 a: competitive or opposing action of incompatibles : antagonistic state or action

b: mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands

3: the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction

Synonyms: see Discord"

Swain and Bickham emphasize 1 and part of 2 a & b and the discord synonym sense: Discord, strife, conflict, contention, dissension, variance.

A full appreciation of dramatic conflict realizes 3's sense of an opposition of forces in contention, persons, too, in that personas in contention represent forces in opposition. The forces' contention is a polar opposition of stakes risked, or simply, what's at stake. Conflict equals stakes. Life and death, acceptance and rejection, salvation and condemnation, riches and rags, success and failure, ad infinitum.

An agonist who contends with or against an external anti-agonist, or antagonist, in many conflict situations, either wins or loses and the anti-agonist achieves the opposite. Only one can succeed and one must fail, or nemeses of each other.

Internal conflict is of the self, a moral crisis contest. Personal maturation growth transpires therefrom at a commensurate personal loss cost. Some gain, some loss. Coming of age, initiation, and bildungsroman (maturation narrative) narratives entail such internal conflicts and dramatic movement. Personal moral growth and expanded social privilege at the cost of lost blissfully unaware innocence is the general outcome of those narrative types.

External conflicts entail similar moral tableaus, though the conflict is between two or more personas and, of course, out in the open. The two conflict types are often part and parcel of narratives, one or the other emphasized, are not mutually exclusive, are related for one overall dramatic action.

Internal conflict often resides in subtext due to, if not, a narrative risks overmuch preachy moral law assertion lecture. Anymore, readers will not be lectured; however, personal, subjective moral truth discovery works around preachy risks.

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic, thank you for explaining. The part you wrote on conflict made me think about the story in a different way.

Here are three versions of my story looking at Mary and the MC from a perspective of conflict. (In version 1, Mary may not be aware of the conflict. Would that make the conflict entirely internal to the MC?)

Version 1
MC wants economic security (happiness).
Mary prevents economic security by her costly ailments.
MC overcomes obstacle by either killing Mary or allowing her to die.


Version 2
MC wants freedom (happiness).
Mary prevents freedom by controlling MC.
MC overcomes obstacle by either killing Mary or allowing her to die.


Version 3
MC wants freedom (happiness)
Mary prevents freedom by controlling MC and by her costly ailments.
MC overcomes obstacle by either killing Mary or allowing her to die.


The impetus for the story comes from years ago when I imagined how a person would go about guaranteeing the death of another through allergies. My thought was that camping and hiking can be very isolated activities. The isolation makes a good setting to do bad deeds. If the MC's able to finagle a "let her die" rather than "kill" then he can more easily rationalize things in his twisted way.

The motives for the MC came after I started imagining the narrative.

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extrinsic
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Security, freedom, and happiness wants are on the abstract, intangible side in terms of complication motivations, want itself most so a feature of complication with attendant problem, and conflict stakes less so. Complication tangibleness is far more essential to a dramatic action, at least an overt action and external senses, mindful intangibles serve a role, too.

One point Bickham makes is the necessity of a greater degree of external action for narrative success; that is, external contention is the stronger vehicle of dramatic movement. Others express similar sensibilities. An agonist who expends overmuch time in introspection is unlikely to dramatically interact, is said to be stuck in a bathtub and contemplates the navel. Meditative introspection expresses overmuch ennui and angst, with little, if any, transformative movement due to little, if any, external interaction to propel movement.

Best practice is to externalize introspection, action overall, as much as practical. Prince Hamlet's graveyard to be or not to be soliloquy is an example of one such stuck-in-a-bathtub scene. Famous enough, though deft, shows the shortfalls of the type. Hamlet only meditates aloud, makes no decision. The play stalls. No external agony to push Hamlet in one direction or another. He is in an agony of indecision, yes, not in movement, though.

An allergy as a means for homicide has been used often, in narratives and real life. The type is generally poisoning. Hamlet does use poison for the play's fatal scene. Poisoning is somewhat personal to deeply personal, always cold blooded and passionate. Often, too, macho masculists consider poisoning a craven coward's feminine act. Some do so to seek fame, power, or fortune, or all those. Some do so to eliminate obstacles to those. Again, those are intangibles, though.

A specific concrete, tangible, material want is wanted for robust drama. Proceeds of a life insurance policy, another love interest, revenge for slights; wrathful jealousy, greed, envy, lust, rarely sloth or gluttony, and of a want for something tangible someone else possesses and will not easily yield. Covetousness is the sin, from the Decalogue, covets the neighbor's spouse, property, land, livestock, goods, plus, the neighbor's prestigious reputation (why Cain slew Abel), and does murder or whatever to acquire or deny to another whatever.

What's wanted is as specific an object of desire or denial as possible. Homicide has been done for the most trivial of objects, too, either from sentimental value or to deny it to another out of spite, and as well for objects of significant tangible value. What's wanted is an object of value to the marriage that one spouse denies the other, who desperately must dispossess the other of it.

A family heirloom, perhaps, that the spouse brought to the marriage and, in the event of divorce, is restored to that spouse's possession. Maybe a prenuptial contract also asserts the object returns to the spouse's family in the event of the spouse's demise. Impossible odds of the agonist legitimately possessing it. Impossible odds are the fodder of drama.

What tangible object of desire does the homicidal spouse want and cannot possess that, in his twisted way, justifies homicide? An antique heirloom dowry chest of substantial resale value itself, for example, that is then sold anonymously, success so long as the murdered spouse's family doesn't recover it. Again, a near infinite number of options comes to mind.

[ January 11, 2018, 05:28 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jack Albany
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quote:
Originally posted by Will Blathe:

Jack, my sense of the story is blank but for the bare core.

It would appear to me from the above quote, other things you have hinted at, and your current list of three possible plot scenarios that you do not, in fact, have a story you are trying to write, simply the idea for one. It also seems the drafts you mentioned at the start were simply drafts for the start of a possible story; a story that doesn’t exist yet. This is really putting the cart a long way before the horse.

I would suggest you come up with some sort of coherent plot first--why is the MC doing what he’s doing, and just what will he do and how will he do it? From that start, you might find some clarity of thought and purpose which will let you write a draft of the whole story instead of muddling about. One thing I can help you with is your story’s premise--what your story is really about. It’s about greed.

Despite your insistence, the MC is not looking for happiness, he’s looking for a way to kill his wife that will leave him with the most money in his very own pocket. Murder being cheaper than divorce. If he really wanted happiness, cost wouldn’t matter.

That’s my take on the whole thing. Good luck with it.

PS: In all three plot scenarios you mentioned the conflict in the story will be internal. Simply because Mary is the unwitting victim,

[ January 10, 2018, 01:23 AM: Message edited by: Jack Albany ]

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