We were so excited. Bad light danger had passed again. Being outside felt so warm and free. Good light, good air, all the other children laughed and played in the courtyard surrounding our new dome. Our android and robot, Picky, had finished it during the danger. Bad air and bad light didn’t bother them. I was so happy. The dome had thick walls and was the biggest building yet. It was going to be our new classroom. “Look, Ghana!” Dominica giggled and pointed behind the dome. Picky and the android were building a wall. Poor little crane couldn’t keep up, trying to lift stones up the four-armed android that placed them high up on the growing wall. Two of its arms plastered them in with mortar. I smiled until I noticed stones bouncing off Picky. Chad stood in the shadows, throwing rocks at the little robot.
“Good air, Teacher.” 78 remaining first-generation Homo sapien children Greeted their Homo superius teacher. First assembly in the new dome constructed of indigenous stone and mortar by a 4-armed android and a small crane-like robot the children had named “Picky” “Good air and safe light, children. I have a very exciting announcement. During our last danger, H. omnibus successfully incubated the 7th generation of humans. 100 new H. sapien children are being tended in the nursery. Do you think we should give them names today after our lessons? Perhaps we can give them names from characters in history.” Excited smiles filled the room. Teacher’s translucent skin shimmered as the air siren blared. Children reached for masks beneath their desks.
[ January 17, 2018, 05:13 PM: Message edited by: Bent Tree ]
Posts: 1886 | Registered: Jan 2008
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The second paragraph grabbed my attention. The first paragraph not so much.
The infodump in the first paragraph took me out of the story.
The second paragraph worked for me. I think it's because the "infodump" here was part of the story --said by a character rather than forced-fed to the reader. It's more natural. It makes me ask when/why/who.
"Children reached for masks beneath their desks." The snippet ends on a what/why note and hints of danger which makes me want to read on.
The first paragraph does not make me want to read on.
What I think I learned from the snippet: Technology is important (SF). Breeding is artificial. There is an (some?) unnamed danger(s). These dangers are (partly?) known and understood by the characters. Humans may be an endangered species. The location may not be Earth. There may not be "aliens." The danger(s) are at least somewhat routine.
Posts: 155 | Registered: Sep 2014
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G’day Bent Tree. It’s bad news, I’m afraid; I would not read on. There are two areas that individually would prompt me to put the MS aside, together they make such a decision certain.
First, technical issues. I know in these modern times style, form, and other such writing considerations seem passé, however I think they are important if you want to be published.
78 – Numbers should not be used within a piece of prose unless you are re-creating a document. Seventy-eight is proper usage.
Homo sapiens – In taxonomy the preponderance of names are Latin. As such, and as Latin is a legitimate non-English word, it should be italicised. For example: Homo sapiens.
H. sapiens – This is scientific shorthand and should be avoided within prose.
The term Homo superius I take to mean a superior type of hominid above Homo sapiens. The Latin word for superior is actually available on the Internet if you do a brief search. It is: superiorem comparative of superus.
Second, narrative issues. Human children gather in what appears to be a newly constructed school and receive the ‘news of the day’: more humans have been born. Oh yeah? So what? Who cares?
As a critic I can intuit a number of things from the piece (Will Blathe picks up on most of them), but as a reader I shouldn’t have to work that hard. That’s your job as the writer; tell me what I need to know to understand what’s going on.
I don’t have a character to focus on and I don’t have any stakes at risk to feel fear or pity for the poor, dumb humans. What is there within the fragment which would encourage me to see what happens next? Nothing, I’m afraid.
I hope this helps even if it isn’t what you wanted to hear.
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Bent Tree, a much improved submission fragment. So much so I might be tempted to read on for a few more paragraphs at least. You have begun to introduce character(s), assuming they’re the right ones, into the mix. I particularly like the ‘Young Turk’ chucking rocks at the droid. And you have begun to introduce setting with an economy of words; why waste word count on setting when there are more important things to say/tell/show. Overall, well done.
One criticism though. Stakes, where are the stakes, and what’s at stake? There is the hint contained within, “Good light, good air, bad light, bad air.” but this is too nebulous for me. I can intuit, but I think it would be better to get a clearer hint. I don’t expect you to ‘blow the surprise’ at this early stage, but I think a broader hint regarding the seriousness of the stakes is needed so the reader understands the problem really does matter to the characters life/death/sanity/humanity etc..
I like both fragments for different reasons. The original fragment grabbed me with the masks. That told me I to prepare for something big (and gave me important clues to the story world). If you can get something similarly compelling, it'd encourage me to reed on.
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A good deal of the story remains in your head, I'm afraid. You have context for where we are, so the term "bad light danger," is meaningful. You know who the "we" refers to. But a series of declarative sentences, with no trace of emotion in them (only you can hear yourself reading, and only you know the emotion to place into the words) can give us data, but not meaningful data because you provide no context.
Pity the reader. For them, a voice they cannot hear is talking about things that have no meaning.
Why does being outside feel warm and free? Were you to walk outside my door today you would not feel warm. So wouldn't it make sense to make the reader know where they are, and why being inside isn't warm? Wouldn't you want to know who was speaking, and why, so the words have meaning?
My point is that you're telling the reader a story as if they know what you know, and can visualize what you do. But we don't want to tell the reader a story. That doesn't work in print because the reader hears none of what you hear in your head as you read the story. You can hear yourself performing. And telling the reader what the character can see doesn't build that picture in their mind.
Sight is a parallel sense, but the print medium is a serial one. That means each item you describe must be spelled out one at a time, which slows the process compared to film. Obviously, we can't spend pages on what can be seen, and need to focus on what matters in the moment.
My point is that presenting fiction for the printed word is very unlike storytelling, or writing for the screen/stage. There are lots of tricks and techniques for transferring the story in our head to that of the reader, intact. And those tricks are different for each medium.
Ours has strengths and weaknesses unlike the others, so some time spent on the structure and methodilogy imposed on us by our medium would be time well spent.
Your local library system's fiction writing section iis filled with the views of successful writers, publishing pros, and noteworthy teachers. Make them your friends and you can't go wrong.
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The second version's viewpoint is consistent to one first-person persona, inside looks out, and a somewhat young language of a primary grades' pupil.
Yet some of the diction and syntax is seventh-grade-plus level. Precocious child? What do those mean as far as audience target? Primary grade primer readers? Primers' main function is to teach reading skills to naive readers. Young readers do read up in age, skill level, or both. Rarely if ever down in age. There's that. Viewpoint consistency works for me.
Possible conflicts include health and injury due to bad light and bad air, might or might not pay off soon and later. The title "Good Air, Bad Apple" implies the proverb One bad apple spoils the whole bushel. Presumably, Chad is the bad apple, and the Homo sapiens clone generation of the narrator-viewpoint agonist is the bushel. Maybe life and death conflict, too.
If sapience is on point for the narrative, its relevance wants early introduction: sapience; wisdom, more or less, especially moral wisdom, prudence at least. Or a conflict of vice and virtue and folly and prudence attends another, say, health and injury or life and death. Whose wisdom, too? Chaperones'? Or, as best practice suits a poetic justice narrative, the viewpoint agonist's development of age and emotional-psychological appropriate maturation over the narrative's course, even if a degree precocious?
"We were so excited. Bad light danger had passed again. Being outside felt so warm and free." Jumbled causation. Consider cause-effect natural flow: //Bad light danger had passed again. Being outside felt so warm and free. We were so excited.// "Bad light" is an age-appropriate expression and one that implies ultraviolet light hazard, which is probably not an-age appropriate expression. More savvy readers can infer such, though. Inference is a subtle method that engages readers.
"Good light, good air, all the other" Dangled participle. "Good light, good air" is an interjection, a saying, a greeting of the milieu there and wants a sentence fragment or a dash separation to clarify those contexts. Maybe an exclamation mark? Loathe though I am to recommend their prose use ever. Dialogue line maybe? Instead of a thought? Could then be a call and response setup and dramatic occasion for personal, immediate social interaction with another child or a chaperone. The response then could express a dramatic ominous menace the children do not note though readers might? Ghana later, too, could follow Dominica's line of sight to see Chad throw stones.
"all the other children laughed and played in the courtyard surrounding our new dome." A descriptive setting detail, though flat, drama-less, therefore, unimportant. May be excised or made dramatic. If readers are aware of a menace bad apple Chad poses, are the children's joys then a congruent opposite to events about to break loose all heck and mayhem? That clause is on the wordy side, too. "all the other" and "in the courtyard surrounding". Obviously flawed, too. Chad doesn't play along. He flings stones at Picky.
"Our android and robot[,] Picky[,] _had_ finished it during the danger." Stray commas; those confuse whether Picky is both the android and the robot or a separate automaton. Unnecessary tense shift from simple past to past perfect. The object word "during" enough expresses the event transpired in the past. Optional, too, sentence structure for natural emphasis sequence: //During the danger, our android [Legs] and robot Picky finished it.//
"Bad air and bad light didn’t bother them." Unnecessary negation statement. Consider a positive declaration and process statement? Maybe indicative, maybe subjunctive mood?
"I was so happy." Does not connect to prior or subsequent sentences. Maybe best at the paragraph's end, if that.
"The dome _had_ thick walls and _was_ the biggest building yet." "had" state of being verb and "was" want for more robust expression. Maybe a description of the materials? Cement? Plaster? Papier-mâché? Missed occasion to show a precocious child's allusive and awkward grasp of the physical world in which he or she lives. Like art paper or cardboard and paste instead of, say, stones and mortar. "biggest" is a superlative comparison, to what? "yet" there is an intensifier which wants clarity of yet what? Of the inmates' barracks, adults' lodges, life support pantries, water and energy supply structures, etc.?
"_It_ was going to be our new classroom." Vague pronoun subject antecedent. Second vague "it". Missed occasion to deepen description of the dome. Dome, walls, stones, "it," plastered mortar, are the descriptive labels. Non-emotional and non-representational substance, superficial only.
"'Look, Ghana!' Dominica giggled and pointed behind the dome." Action tags best practice precede the attributed dialogue, logically causal and emphasis sequence, too. //Dominica giggled and pointed behind the dome. 'Look, Ghana!'// The prior suggestion about Ghana says aloud "Good light, good air" would set up that Dominica is who Ghana is closest to, speaks to, and with whom she interacts, so that the above greeter dialogue comes from a known quantity instead of out of the blue.
"Picky and the android were building a wall." "Wall" so far means part of a building, or is this an actual wall? Unnecessary static voice to be construct again, too. "building" once before a gerund and now a verb, too.
"Poor little crane couldn’t keep up, trying to lift stones up [to] the four-armed android that placed them high up on the growing wall." Missed particle word of main verb "lift". Wordy, syntax and causation inverted, too. Participle phrases best practice precede main clauses for emphasis sequence. //Trying to lift stones up [to] the four-armed android that placed them high up on the growing wall, our poor little crane couldn’t keep up." "trying to" mistake, too. Does or does not. //Lifting//
"I smiled until I noticed stones" Unnecessary extra lens filters "I smiled" and "I noticed". Viewpoint glitch, "I smiled". Ghana cannot see herself smile. What proprioceptal description does a smile feel like to a smiler? Or emotional expression that implies Ghana smiles instead? "Stones"? Are those the stones Picky and the android handle? Pebbles? Gravel? A distinct term is wanted.
"Chad stood in the shadows, throwing rocks at the little robot." Shadows of what, where? Noun, stood, and the like, is a third-person type of unnecessary extra lens filter. Now ten -ing words in the fragment for fifteen sentences, twenty-five verbs total, 2:5, forty percent, average English prose -ing usage is less than five percent. Each -ing unnecessary and more so drags the time flow and pace to a static stall. Some are gerunds, some are unnecessary tense shifts. Most so, each wants for stronger language use.
For illustration. How many rocks does Ghana see Chad throw? What's the true subject of the above sentence? Chad? Rocks? Shadows? Picky? If Picky can lift stones high enough to reach the wall heights, how little can he be? "poor little" from before uses "little" as an intensifier and term of endearment, Here, it does neither. Huh? Oh yeah?
Chad threw a rock at Picky, is the true subject-predicate-object. //From shadow cover, Chad threw a rock at Picky.// That's the general sense, could do with from where, which structure or plant shadows.
Similar, best practice to excise every -ing word practical. Want to hear how much nuisance excess uses of those can create? Read a William Gibson novel after the Bruce Sterling co-written The Difference Engine. Ample enough -ings Gibson uses, too. More than forty percent.
Fair to good sentence length and syntax variety overall, not quite best practice variety.
A standout, to me, is maybe Chad is a bad apple and will cause mayhem, soon and later, and Ghana steps up, in this hazardous milieu's bad air, bad light episodes. Like Ender Wiggins does while in command school. That bad apple anti-agonist potential, to me, is a potential antagonism promise (complication). Adequate conflict development for now. Tone herein is a curious odd sort of attitude, of a happy, precocious child, yet shy of ominous menace something is about to break loose, irrespective of whether Ghana or anyone, besides readers, note a pendent routine interruption.