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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Title: Nonsense at the Watering Hole, Genre(s): Fantasy, Noir

   
Author Topic: Title: Nonsense at the Watering Hole, Genre(s): Fantasy, Noir
Will Blathe
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This is from draft 8 of a completed short (under 1,000 words). I'm ready to have my ego scarred.


The club’s hopping. I’m at my usual spot with my back to the corner and a good view of the stage. It’s where I go to avoid the nonsense. Tonight, I’m waiting for it. On cue, nonsense arrives in the shape of a messenger boy I spot hemming and hawing just inside the door. A cigarette girl takes pity on him and points my way. The kid stumbles around the tables like a lost drunk, so he fits right in. He ends up across from me trying to find something to do with his hands. He’s scared as hell. I smell it.

“Wadya want?” I greet him politely. He fiddles his lips trying to get some words out. “Cheesits, man,” I say. “Out with it.”

“I can’t find my girl!” His words spill out in a jumble on the table. The kid sweeps them into his bag before anyone notices. That’s when I see the monkey on his back. It grins at me with pointy teeth.

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Jay Greenstein
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The first paragraph is composed of nine declarative sentences, as is most of the rest. But look at the flow. Someone is watching the film version of this and is dictating the director's comment track for that film. We know what's happening, true. But it's presented dispassionately, and reads like a report:

This is the location...I'm here, and here's why...I want things to stay peaceful...then this happens...and after that...

It's all written after the fact, and focuses on events and plot points. I'm not talking about telling in first person and past tense, because it would read the same way in third person and present tense. You're explaining the story progression to the reader in overview, not living it in real time. But think about it...

We learn it's a "club" that has a stage. Do we care, or need to know that, at this point? Unless there's a show in progress that's relevant to the plot, does it matter if he has a good view or not? No.

We don't yet know who he is, and what he does, or the year, country, etc. We know nothing about his past. So does a reader care that he has a "usual place?"

When you say, "nonsense arrives," you, the author, are foreshadowing, because the protagonist has no way of knowing that the person who came in is seeking him—or if he does, we don't know how he reached that conclusion, but should.

He goes to that club to "avoid the nonsense. He knows what that means. And the character knows. But shouldn't the reader have context, too. After all, he's our avatar.

The new arrival "stumbles." Yet our protagonist doesn't wonder why. Wouldn't you speculate on that were you him? And given that the man is facing the stage, how did he notice the person enter. And why is he tracking him? You know he will matter to the plot, but the only way the protagonist can is if he's read the script.

In short, you're telling this story as a chronicle, and as the creator. But shouldn't you have asked our unnamed protagonist what he wants to do, and what he notices about the kid? Perhaps ask him how he knows it's a messenger boy? Were you to have consulted him, and presented his impressions instead of yours, perhaps the reader would have context for him seeing that monkey, which could be an impression, his seeing a spirit being, or pretty much anything else.

From a reader's viewpoint, and as presented, we know that this takes place in a "club" and that someone arrived to see him. In the film the person would be shown arriving, and asking for him. At the same time we would have gotten the ambience of the club, an idea of where in time and space it is, and a look at him and the arrival, which would have told us a great deal about them: dress, attitude, mood, and more. Does knowing it happened create that picture? I don't think so.

For me, had you opened with:

"Are you Bugsy Malone," a voice said, from behind me. With a sigh, I put my drink on the table. Certain that trouble had arrived, I turned to find a messenger boy...

I would know the protagonist is in a bar of some kind. I'd know that someone wanted him, and that for unknown reasons the protagonist feels that trouble has arrived. In thirty-two words, as against 102 words, we learn the location, the mood of the protagonist, get the second character on stage, and provide us what a name for our protagonist.

Great writing? No. I don't do great writing. It's an example of placing the reader into the scene in real-time, as against summing things up. And with that, a suggestion: I've mentioned this article before. It's one I really like, as an introduction of a method of placing the reader into the scene in real-time.

Chew on it, and try a rewrite using the steps suggested. I suggest it not to fix you into a rigid series of staps, but because the methodology forces you to consult with the protagonist and ask them, "What are you focused on right now, and why does it matter? Then, you must consult them again, to ask what they think should be done about it. That way, instead of assigning the character a given reaction, you'll be forced to tailor events in such a way that the character will want to do the thing you feel necessary, and in the end, feel more natural.

Worth a try?

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Will Blathe
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Here's a second version using Jay's thoughts as a guide. I tried to move deeper into the POV character. I also cut out extraneous details to help build context a little more quickly. There's a lot I can't give away too early without completely turning the story upside down.
_____________

What I wouldn’t do to drink my scotch in peace. But, I know better. Three, two, one, . . . “Sir?”

And, my quiet evening goes to pot. I look the intruder in the eye and greet him politely. “Wadya want?” He's fiddling his lips like an imbecile, and my patience goes the way of my ice-cube. “Cheesits, man,” I say. “Out with it.”

“I can’t find Judy!” His words spill out in a jumble. He sweeps them off the table before anyone else notices. That’s when I see the monkey on his back. It grins at me with pointy teeth.

“You’re dead,” I say. “Why in hell do you care?”

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extrinsic
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An individual approaches an individual about a missing person.

Albeit, possibly a contemporary fantasy that involves a ghost, the genre is crime drama, private eye probably, maybe noir.

A hard-boiled cynic's dated and confused idioms and metaphor that implies all of the fragment is metaphoric leave doubt anything here is the milieu's reality -- for noir, a bleak setting is a convention requirement, too, not per se grungy and dark-lit, even a sterile, bright-lit, gold gilt corporate penthouse suite could be bleak, a matter of relative perspective.

"Cheese it" is a gangland kid 1950s era cheesy idiom for scram. "Monkey on the back" is a '60s heroin addict term for the addiction. Words that fall on a table to be swept off is an artful metaphor; however, fantastic fiction and metaphor sow confusion, especially in proximity to the last line of the second version's "You're dead . . ." Metaphorically dead? To be dead soon because a hit is out on him? Or an actual shade being? Or do the words actually possess physical substance emitted from an insubstantial ghost? Or ironic metaphor a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

A facet of creative nonfiction instruction and part and parcel of prose overall, fiction emphasizes show -- mimesis, or reality imitation -- CNF emphasizes narrative authentication features. Those are more or less identical facets. Those are sensation descriptions that anchor readers in a setting's milieu and entail dramatic expression, not per se sensationalized spectacle, only dramatic that tries only as much as is necessary for the moment, that may be ominous menace at the moment unnoted by a focal agonist. Premonition presaged for readers; oblivious routine for an agonist.

Lighting ambience, detail perception, textures, contrasts, maybe déjà vu for readers' sake, etc., sensations, and at least new perceptions of routine extant circumstances that are fresh, vivid, and lively to show event, setting, and personas are different from the dreary-dull everyday alpha routine. The Watering Hole is an apt saloon name, for example, perhaps overused, and too cutesy clever a name; there's one in every demographic market, like an O'Shandy's Pub and such. I expect the bar is a fern bar lounge for wannabe ecstasy ravers who won't drink the MDMA-spiked house kool-aid. As is, I get nothing of the place's identity.

Less trite bar name? The Water Trough? Proverb: You can lead a horse to water but not make it drink. Or The Water Barrel Bar and Laundry, like shooting fish in a barrel? The latter implies why this agonist might be here in the first place without ever having to declare so -- doing laundry? Later, tips an attendant to finish, fold, and hold the clothes he left in the washer? Maybe implies the agonist expects others to clean up after him?

Identity establishment is another CNF term, known as characterization for fiction, same-same. Characterization is about identity establishment of setting and persona facets, maybe event, natural, dramatic, and necessary sensory feature descriptions. Like of a bar, its time, place, and situation, and its identity from a viewpoint agonist's perspective. Mindful, how a viewpoint agonist identifies a place also identifies the agonist's true nature, hidden even from the agonist. Reveals hidden identity of events, settings and milieus, and personas, actually; doesn't summary and explanation tell a self's perception of the self's persona, setting, and event identity. Given adequate cues, readers interpret an event, setting, and persona's identity for themselves. That's a best practice; show and tell, yes, both, emphasize show identity so that readers are hopelessly engaged.

The confused idioms attempt to show this agonist's identity as a hard-boiled cynical private detective; however, they're trite and outworn at least, if not cliché and cheesey '50 - '60s era crime drama idioms.

Though Hatrack's thirteen lines fragments somehow exhort runaway sensational spectacle exhibits, that is, overstatement, understatement is subtler and possibly more engaging. The proverbial "bait and hook" readers best practice shouldn't be gimmicky. Besides, this fragment's gimmicks were played to death half a century ago. On the other hand, though, if the narrative intends commentary about those gimmicky gimmicks, stronger parody or lampoon signals they're intended ironically are wanted.

Yet those gimmicks are for me the standout of the fragment, much less so works for me and more so doesn't work for me, somewhat agonist identity establishing -- a blast-from-the-past detective hopelessly out of touch with current mass culture. A dinosaur age neanderthal bone head. Could be fun if . . .

Maybe, the agonist identity "establishing shot" shows his dated, ironic take on detective work, the bar itself, perhaps in contrastive conversation with a cool-current hipster police detective, shows the bar's patrons and staff, and its relative identity compared and contrasted to the milieu of its community.

Also a blast-from-the past saloon? Where hipsters ironically (sarcastically) mingle for entertainment and mockery and ridicule of dangerous spaces? Who actually flirt with their fears and mock and ridicule those as a way to cope with dangers they are powerless to manage? That, in a nutshell, is today's younger generations' "ironically cool" aesthetic and is aptly suited to noir's hard-boiled cynic convention.

Much to ask for from thirteen lines, yet an identity establishing shot of the place's true nature per the agonist would start movement and also afford occasion to establish pendent ominous menace that engages and entices readers to turn the page.

Sometimes all that's wanted from thirteen lines is to not disengage readers at the outset, too.

In short, the fragment rushes and forces dramatic movement. I would not read on as an engaged reader

[ February 10, 2018, 10:00 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
What I wouldn’t do to drink my scotch in peace.
I know you're trying to use the technique suggested in the article, but are you? As suggested, you start a sequence by focusing on what has the protagonist's attention, then present the level of importance to the character, then the options and decision-making, and finally the action taken in response.

But here, you present an unknown person, in an unknown place, having a thought triggered but unknown event. And because you know the situation, as you read, the missing pieces automatically fill in.

You're presenting what he thought, but not what caused him to think it. Suppose, though, he has this thought after the interruption? That would tell the reader how he feels about it. see the difference?
quote:
Three, two, one, . . . “Sir?"
First, the style lately, seems to be no spaces between the dots of an ellipsis (except in a legal document where they're mandated), and no space before it. There is a single ellipsis character available, too. On the Mac it's Option/semicolon. On the PC it used to be Option 0133, but that may have changed.

In this line, you've reverted to telling. The character has no idea of what's coming, and certainly can't know that it will happen in three seconds. So this is you, not him reacting in the moment he calls now.

One of the hardest things for us to do is keep our existing writing reflexes from stepping in and taking control because it "feels right."

Try this. Think of the five steps the articles author references as akin to learning the box step. In the beginning, till it becomes automatic enough that you can embellish it, it feels awkward and rigid. But it's part f learning the dance. So write the staps down and check them off as you write. You can skip/combine a step if it's obvious by the action, but you do need to account for the function. so it's 1, 2, 3, 5, 5…. 1, 2, 3…

Then, when you finish, go back and be certain there's one motivating action for each reaction, plus the steps that result in that action. Smooth that, edit it, but be certain the steps are accounted for. And when you finish, and are sure it's right, look at the flow. I think you'll find you like it.

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extrinsic
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Ellipsis points Standard Manuscript Format, if the typeface is a monospaced face, for example, Courier New, is no spaces after antecedent text or between points, plus, two spaces after terminal punctuation.
code:
1, 2, 3...  Go?

If a proportional typeface, Hatrack's default font-family = Arial, Verdana, Helvetica are proportional, and Standard Publication Format is, then ellipsis points spaces per grammatical context for manuscript, typescript, and publication formats.

Grammatically complete sentence yet an ellipsis figure of speech, includes standard terminal punctuation: Kleptarch bowed. . . . (Intransitive verb case.)

Incomplete sentence: Kleptarch slimed . . . (Transitive verb case.)

The ellipsis figure of speech is text omitted yet easily understood as given.

Countdowns, however, are like the mathematical notation for a value ellipsis and no spaces for those in manuscript and publication formats. A number set, for example, 1,2,3,...,10, or to signal a set continues 1,2,3,... Count down or up to some number, though, 1, 2, 3, . . . typescript and publication format. Manuscript, maybe, 1, 2, 3,...

This, though, context is necessary, the ellipsis points an error due to no omission of readily understood content: //One, two, three, here comes chaos -- again. [new ¶ ] "Sir?"//

Also, discretionary ellipsis points uses signal broken discourse. Uh . . . did you -- you know, uh . . . spake the deutch?

Plus, at times, other punctuation marks might accompany ellipsis points.

Legal document style does not mandate any differences from the above. Stenographer transcripts are always anymore prepared and submitted to clients and filed of record in Courier New, due to revenue is apportioned from quantity-based piece work. Lawyer documents might be Courier New or Times New Roman, or other, though those two are legal style manual recommendations, Times New Roman emphasized as somehow more current and sparkly than Courier New.

The word processor proprietary glyphs are forlorn Apple and Windows' techs' attempts to standardize unstandardizable punctuation mark principles and best avoided, at least because those glyphs sow confusion and exhibit convenient habit at the expenses of intended clarity and emphasis strength. More so because those admit no necessary and natural distinction options.

[ February 11, 2018, 12:01 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic, there's a balance I haven't found between setting up the environment and barreling through the story. I've had this issue in the past, and will be struggling with it in the future. What's different here is that I have the story fully realized and drafted several times. I have a clear goal for work toward as I improve it.

BTW- I actually don't have a name for the location. I might give it one to help solidify it for the reader.

Also, you hit the nail on the head with the MC's confused idioms. I want him to be out of touch with the real world.

Now, the reference to "monkey on back" is meant to be about something holding the kid back. I didn't think about the drug connection.

It's not clear in the first thirteen, but the elements of the story should be taken literally. E.g., the words DO spill on the table to make a mess. The monkey IS on the kid's back. Everyone IS dead.

Jay, the "Three, two, one" is something I might get rid of, but it is, in this story, possible for the MC to know what will happen ahead of time (but it's not explained in the story).

Also, I like your point about paying attention to action/reaction. I'm going to play with it for the next round.

What I wouldn't do . . . is my attempt to introduce the setting and the MC's mindset in a simple way. The impetus for this sentence gets made clear later in the story. But, that doesn't help the reader at this point.

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extrinsic
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Full realization of a narrative means its reality imitated fully, as much as necessary and natural to the subject at hand and not one word more or less.

The fragment to me doesn't fully realize the scene's import, one, if the viewpoint agonist is out of touch, that he's out of touch isn't shown or implied. That everyone's dead, too. And so on.

Once the agonist's first or second trite, out-of-touch idiom is expressed, another persona best practice calls him on it, himself if introspective and perhaps deliberate for within-the-milieu effect, appears out of touch so others think he's a clumsy detective, say, or a foil person does if he's unaware how out of touch he is and will hear none of it until a transformative event later. Those possible congruent opposites can be one and the same or distinct. See "Egosyntonic and egodystonic" (Wikipedia); that's what those are if fully realized narratively.

An "establishing shot" in motion picture parlance is usually a setting time, place, and situation ambience establishment. In deft hands, though, one will in a few seconds, or words, of story time establish what a narrative is truly about and what's on point for contention for the whole narrative.

The opening line of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, (U Texas PDF), novella and 1958 film interpretation, is its establishing shot; plus, the rest of the paragraph and section completes it:

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."

Told, yes, minimalist, possible, likely, untagged-unattributed indirect thought (Santiago's introspection), yet contains the complication-conflict contest and subtext of the whole. That one sentence, if shown instead, at least two hundred words would be necessary to establish that in a beforehand scene. Through to the as-is section break at "'I remember,' the old man said. 'I know you did not leave me because you doubted.'" The scene segment completes the establishing shot unit's forward movement incitement in three hundred seventy words.

The noteworthy facets of the section are that description, action, sensation, emotion, conversation, and introspection are timely and judiciously apportioned throughout and fully realized, even if a greater weight of tell than present-day readers might prefer.

[ February 11, 2018, 01:30 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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"ego(syn|dys)tonic" --this is VERY interesting. However, for the moment I'm downplaying the disconnect between the MC and reality. I'm not sure I'm up to that task of expressing that disconnect yet. Also, with this being a short short story, I feel I need to limit things a bit thematically.

Here's an attempted rebalancing of story and setup. I think I've given a sense of who the MC is and the surface conflict with hints of other conflicts underneath.


__________

I’m at my usual table with its nicotine stained tablecloth at the Star Fire Club. Its half-drunken patrons seem to be tonight's entertainment. All I want to do is drink my scotch and be half-drunk too. Maybe watch a show. Instead I'm waiting for some fresh meat to arrive. “Ma’am?” I flag down a cigarette girl and grab an extra pack of smokes. If I’m lucky, I won’t need them.

The kid I’m waiting for pops up across the table from me right on cue. I look him in the eye and greet him politely. “Wadya want?” He's fiddling his lips like an idiot, and the ice in my drink is melting along with my patience. “Christ on a cracker, just say it.”

“I can’t find Judy!” His words spill out in a jumble. He sweeps them off the table before anyone notices. That’s when I see the monkey on his back. It’s grinning at me with pointy teeth. I’m starting to regret this.

[ February 11, 2018, 03:15 AM: Message edited by: Will Blathe ]

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extrinsic
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A sentence-by-sentence deconstruction of the third version.

"I’m at my usual table with its nicotine[-]stained tablecloth at the Star Fire Club."

Tell. Visual sensation. Already too much or misplaced "I," "my," "me" for my tastes. An establishing shot would start at a broad facet and home in -- zoom in -- on a detail, from the club to the tablecloth, to "my usual table." If one tablecloth is stained, all of the club's are or worse. What else makes this one unique or at least different? Possible stream of consciousness though too literal. "Star Fire Club," a sounds and looks alike for sapphire? Is some kind of fire star a thematic metaphor for what goes on there and here in the story?

"Its half-drunken patrons seem to be tonight's entertainment"

Pronoun-subject antecedent error, its drunk patrons, the nicotine-stained tablecloth's table's entertainments? Patrons as opposed to whom? Staff, the viewpoint agonist, others with other agendas? A club that caters to a public also offers unspoken attractions other than drink: pickpockets and skin-flints and contraband peddlers, for instance. Half-X error, are or aren't drunk. Seem to be error, are or aren't the entertainment. Possible stream of consciousness, though too on-the-nose literal, literally.

"All I want to do is drink my scotch and be half-drunk[,] too." Intensive "all" mistake. "Want" mistake; want is a complication facet. Not much of one, wants to drink scotch. Now a pulp fiction cliché -- goes to a bar and drinks and prospects for edgy entertainments. Why not simplify and defuse the "I" centric-ness? Aim for stream of consciousness? //Scotch rocks numbs the frazzled nerves.//

"Maybe watch a show." Maybe mistake. The "show" is already given as drunk patrons. //Watch the show.// Double and more entendre there, command to the self and imply the visual action and carry forth the drunk patrons as The Show.

"Instead[,] I'm waiting for some fresh meat to arrive." Unnecessary conjunctive adverb "Instead" that telegraphs the contradiction design of the main clause. Another "I" sentence subject, invariant syntax. Tense shift error. Idiom mistake; "fresh meat" is a pickup bar idiom. Prison slang, too, for a new convict victim to at least torment if not turn into a cellie spouse. Another tense shift error and tense sequence error, from present progressive to infinitive tense, backward, and unnecessary static voice. Present tense is the main tense anyway. //Fresh meat arrives.//

"'Ma’am?' I flag down a cigarette girl and grab an extra pack of smokes."

Imagination lapse, "ma'am." Another "I" subject. "flag down" imagination lapse. "cigarette girl" imagination lapse. "grab" imagination lapse. "an extra pack of smokes" imagination lapse. Though those are verisimilitude features, ripe occasion to show the agonist's and girl's nature is missed. Is she a madame? Does he use an actual flag to attract her attention? Cigarette girl only or altogether candy girl? Hostess? Does she wear speak-easy period candy girl costume? Does he actually grab a pack? Why not carry the grab verbal metaphor further to signal more than the physical action? And possibly his clumsiness with period idiom and yet concise expression of how he actually thinks of himself? //Five-finger the candy girl over, her backside booty, and a pack more casket nails.//

"If I’m lucky, I won’t need them." More "I" subject. First person stream of consciousness omits any unnecessary first person pronouns. //If lucky, they won't be smoked this night.//

"The kid I’m waiting for pops up across the table from me right on cue.// Unnecessary first person pronouns. Does he actually "pop up"? Simplify? //The kid loafers [slouches, trucks, lines, etc.] up across the table on cue [or on queue].//

"I look him in the eye and greet him politely[,] 'Wadya want?'" "I" subject again. Does the kid actually look eye-to-eye? Would the kid avoid eye contact? Phonetic vocal intonation error. The period punctuation error misses an occasion to signal "politely" and the dialogue are connected and incongruent irony. //His bugged eyes hold the floor. 'What-a-ya want already?' I say. Polite as always me.//

"He's fiddling his lips like an idiot, and the ice in my drink is melting along with my patience."

Tense shift error. Simple present is wanted. Tautology error. Fused sentence: run-on. //He fiddles his blubber lips as like _a_ idiot. Ice melt waters the scotch -- melts my hard-strained patience.// Article misuse "_a_" is a stream-of consciousness facet, otherwise, a determiner error.

"'Christ on a cracker, just say it.'" Almost an off-skew idiom apt for the situation. An irreverent interjection. Maybe a sounds-alike mistake is wanted that is both clumsy and apt. //Gripes on a cracked wheat thin, say youse's piece." You-all, Southren; youse, Bronxies; yinz, Philly-tines.

"'I can’t find Judy!' His words spill out in a jumble." Attribution inverted. Action attribution precedes dialogue. "in" could be omitted and create a more apt prefatory attribution. //His words spill out a jumble. 'I can't find Judy!' Exclamation mark and all clack the tablecloth, domino-like.// "Jumble," the comics page word puzzle.

"He sweeps them off the table before anyone notices." Faulty subordination, inverted subordination, vague pronoun-subject antecedent. //Before anyone notices, he sweeps the word tiles onto the booth's bucket seat.//

"That’s when I see the monkey on his back." Tell, telegraph, another "I" subject. Vague as to whether the monkey is as real as the word tiles or a chimera. What kind of monkey? What suits the subject at hand? A rhesus, a macaque, spider, capuchin, proboscis, etc.? Proboscis for its pronounced nose? Nosy? Like the kid noses into the agonist's scotch business? Slang though? Nose monkey? //A nose monkey clings to the kid's neck.//

"It’s grinning at me with pointy teeth." Whenever practical omit any "it" and similar and recast. Another tense shift error. Another unnecessary first person pronoun, tell. Likewise, omit and recast any -y adjective word and such. Especially if a verb will do instead. Verbal modifiers are more robust and memorable and less vague. //The wicked nose beast sneers a pointed-teeth mouthful.//

"I’m starting to regret this." A reaction to all that has come before, yes, at last, artfully delayed, this, a tension relief segment. Okay, the viewpoint agonist's patience indeed wears thin. Time for a proactive outburst next. However, after all the "I," "my," etc., this one wears me thin, too. Starting to error. Tense shift error, too. Perhaps a non metaphoric and proximity error use of "this."

"This" is prescriptively a proximity pronoun that refers to a subsequent subject, thus, So let him think this: gone, done, been, already regret yinz' pesters. Otherwise, other proximity pronoun uses refer to an overall subject or topic, or are metaphoric when the subject is clear though not proximal. This is proximal pronoun use: this here. This is about proximity, overall subject reference. Grammar 401 this, metaphoric use.

Closer narrative distance than the prior two versions, still overmuch first person pronoun extra lens filters and tells. Still, not up to first person and in-scene reality imitation challenges. I might read further to see if the next page contains an outburst, though not yet as an engaged reader.

[ February 11, 2018, 07:11 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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Lens filters: that's a classic pain in the derriere. I'll play with this part most of all. Though, I don't guarantee that I'll be able to fix it very well.

___
The tense errors are a funny thing. This is a (one way-ish) conversation between MC and the reader. And shifting to a continuous aspect is natural to me. That makes it difficult to avoid.

I'll switch "fresh meat" with "idiot" (works better for me):

"All I want is a drink in peace. Instead, I'm waiting for an idiot. I hope he doesn't come."

Or?

"All I want is a drink in peace. But, I have to wait for an idiot. I hope he never comes."

The first one is more visceral to me. The second feels like the MC is reading cue cards.


_____
About "All" and "Instead": What are other ways to indicate what I want to indicate without breaking the MC's voice? "All" says that the MC would be content with a drink in peace. "Instead" says that the MC won't have it. (I get frustrated at the limits of my writing)

...

There's a lot more to consider, but I'm going to wash some dishes and let the critiques percolate.

I'll be back!

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extrinsic
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A start above into the next phase of creative writing skill expansion, that is, the Erasmus De Copia exercise, of abundance, a rhetorical exercise from the Renaissance through to circa 1960 standard English instruction, that builds craft, expression, vocabulary, rhetoric, and grammar skills.

A guide to the basics of the exercise, Copia Guide, PDF, by Gideon Burton, BYU Rhetoric professor emeritus, now passed into grace, of the Silva Rhetoricae.

Take a sentence, in the above instance, "Your letter pleased me greatly." Distinguish and divide the sentence parts and words by syntax unit and part of speech, define the rhetorical situation, and recast as many different ways as come to mind. Choose one that is most apt for the designed situation. Erasmus' original lists two hundred distinct and different ways to recast the sentence; Burton's lists eighty-four of Erasmus', though not from a lack of imagination, a space limitation. This exercise builds skills that become second nature prose craft.

First-person stream of consciousness sensation perception, thought, and speech are grammars distinct from Standard Written English's grammar; as well, prose's third persons' are distinct grammars. One central principle for which is unconventional grammar yet accessible expression. The rhetorical situation of which is to imitate a narrator-agonist's stream-of-consciousness received stimuli and expressed speech and thoughts reduced to written word such that readers transfer to nearby or within the viewpoint agonist's mind, eye, ear, hand, nose, mouth, etc., inside looks and hears, etc., outward and inward.

Extra lens filters' rhetorical effect is to situate readers outside and look in at a narrator lecturer in front of a family vacation motion picture and tell what the screen they cannot see projects, at least secondhand, if not third- and more-hand, if the fact of the motion picture is itself taken secondhand for the portrayed events, settings and milieus, and personas. Removal of the narrator and experience the firsthand nature of the motion picture is a goal of present-day prose craft, such that readers immerse utterly within the immediate-now fictive dream of a narrative's motion portrait.

Because words are the sole tools of prose craft, a persona's personal language, known as an idiolect, is an artful way, in part, to subtly engage and immerse readers, a persona's voice, so to speak. Agents, editors, publishers, and readers the world over crave potent character voices and are disappointed that English prose is more or less of one babble idiolect, fraught with static voice's to be state of being stasis and progressive tenses and milquetoast and dreary-same intellectual, academic grammar expression.

Hence, use the awkward idioms to abandon, yet consider those as curiously apt as well instead of clumsy and out of touch, mindful, though, consistent expression matters. Would he describe a candy girl as a floozie or a flapper or a conductor, or as she is, visual, aural, and tactile, a scarlet silk-draped Betty Boop redhead, and a bartender a mixologist? Inconsistent, the first examples are tells, then a show and an abrupt shift from brunt meat-force detective noir to a Playboy PhD sophisticate tell.

The "All I want" there is a feminine expression mode, use of an empty intensifier, for example. What would a masculist, unsophisticated private eye think with force instead? No just, nor so much, seems, "all" superlative, nothing feminine.

Verb changes from static and passive voice to robust and dynamic serve the greater rhetorical function of any case, verbal metaphors nextmost, adverb metaphors nextmost, though not the usual -ly crumbs and intensifiers like very and much and so and literally, and hedge words like kind of like, sort of, yada.

Verbs, especially standalone simple tenses past or present, contain most reader significance. Nextmost, nouns by a distant second; other parts of speech, stale adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, interjections, a far peloton pack at the way back third. Masculine voice expresses firm and concise words. No seems like, maybe, instead, kind of like, all, so, such, very, begin to; rather, process statements that contain, firm, robust, and dynamic verbs and nouns of significance, especially names that are significant or develop significance for readers.

Think Lenin or Hitler or Mao or bin Laden for name examples that entail extant significance. Think "Harry Potter" for a name that develops great significance and difference through artful relation. Harry, Harold, herald; Potter, a humble clay worker, a potter's field cemetery for indigents; difference from positive sentiment, Potter uttered as a forceful interjection, accusative; writer began with significance in mind and furthered throughout.

Mindful creative license allows for a few deviations from the masculist script, after all, women bore, raised early, and part taught men to speak, hence, retain feminine expression modes, though the diligent masculist modes may prevail through male adulthood.

[ February 12, 2018, 10:16 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Lynne Clark
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from your last comment: what about 'All I want is to be left in peace with my drink. Instead, I'm waiting for an idiot, who, if I'm REALLY lucky, might not come...'

Here is my take on your last version of the whole piece -- this is how I would write it, but that doesn't mean you have to, it's just to give you another view of it.

quote:
I’m at my usual nicotine-stained table at the Star Fire Club. The ice in my scotch is melting while I wait for company I don't want. “Ma’am?” I flag down a cigarette girl and grab an extra pack of smokes.

The kid pops up across the table from me right on cue. I look him in the eye. “Wadya want?” I say. I can be polite sometimes. He's fiddling his lips like an idiot, and my patience is catching up with the ice. “Christ on a cracker, just say it.” I throw him the cigarettes.

“I can’t find Judy!” His words spill out in a jumble. He sweeps them off the table, filching the smokes at the same time. Then I see the monkey on his back, grinning at me with pointy teeth.

I am starting to regret the whole thing.

I didn't change (much) the bit about words spilling out on the table; I assumed this was a literal, real thing in your character's world, but you might have meant it as a metaphor. If it is a metaphor it doesn't quite work, but if it is a real thing, then it probably does. The pack of cigs are a Chekhov's gun. You mention them, you need to use them.
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Will Blathe
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extrinsic: I'm going to try the exercise.

Lynne: I like your prose. It compresses some of the imagery. The first sentence is an especially nice read.

BTW- the smokes will come in a bit later in the story, but I like how you used them.

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Lynne Clark
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cheers. hope the rest of the story is taking nice shape.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Metaphorical words and phrases can be a real problem in fiction, especially speculative fiction because they can be literal or not. Because of that, it can be very easy to confuse the readers (fail to answer the "Huh?" question).

Be very careful with them and make sure to be very clear about their figurative or literal status in the story.

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extrinsic
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Suggested keyword search for purposes of metaphor mastery, all tropes, for that matter: "verbal metaphor comprehension study." Eight million-plus hits, many relevant, especially PDFs hosted at edu sites.

Trope categories: reference to one thing as another, wordplay and puns, substitutions, overstatement/understatement, semantic inversions. Reference to one thing as another trope types, metaphor, simile, synecdoche, metonymy, personification, for examples. See Silva Rhetoricae, "Figures of Speech: Tropes" for details (Gideon Burton, BYU).

[ February 13, 2018, 12:22 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jack Albany
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I am reluctant to critique your submissions Will for the simple reason you seem to jump this way and that depending on which critique you last read. Also, these changes are made with unseemly haste with little time devoted to reflection on what the various critics are counselling you to do.

Study takes time and thought before implementation. You have been supplied with enough study subjects by extrinsic alone to keep you 'in the books' for probably a year.

That being said, I will make an observation on your first fragment submission. The genre you have chosen is noir in first person. A time honoured choice despite extrinsic's disparagement. My main issue with the fragment is the excessive use of I, my, etc.. For demonstration purposes only, I offer the following as an example of how to avoid such things.

Tonight it's hot and sultry in this windy city. So are the dames strutting their stuff on the stage of Dante's Burlesque & Bar. It's the usual crowd of reprobates and whiners crying in their watered down whiskey. No where to go and no one to go to.

A commotion at the door. The bouncers frisking Nuisance as he struggles pointlessly while searching for something. Me....


Just a quick example that requires thought in order to discern how to avoid excessive personal references. Hope this is useful.

[ February 13, 2018, 02:54 PM: Message edited by: Jack Albany ]

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Will Blathe
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Jack, it's a fault of my wiring. I suffer from ADHD which leads to whipsawing obsessions followed by a profound disinterest. Rinse and repeat.

One side effect of this is I glom on to details before the whole, and I act on those details. But, while my writing attempts end up six ways from Sunday, I still learn from them.

One last thing, you noting my habits is a good way to help me remember that I have them and work to mitigate them. I do appreciate that.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Jack Albany:
Study takes time and thought before implementation. You have been supplied with enough study subjects by extrinsic alone to keep you 'in the books' for probably a year.

Closer to a decade and more through my likewise yet undiagnosed learning deficit status. I have yet to bring out the howitzer barrages at hand.

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Albany:
The genre you have chosen is noir in first person. A time honoured choice despite extrinsic's disparagement.

extrinsic's "disparagement" is of first-person excess perpendicular pronouns and their ilk, not noir, nor first person, per se.
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Jack Albany
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Now I understand. Thanks, Will. I will keep this in mind for the future.

extrinsic, I misunderstood.

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Will Blathe
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Jack, your first-person-less version of the intro of my first-person story is different from the way I'd thought about doing it before. I like it.

I'm going to spend a little time writing today. Let's see what happens.

extrinsic, I'm crossing my fingers that I can get past the filters (of doom).

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Will Blathe
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Kathleen, I really like playing with mixing metaphor with the reality of the story, but the "huh" factor trips me up because I don't immediately notice the issue.
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Jack Albany
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Will, my little fragment isn’t really personless; it's just in doubt until "Me." And that's there for dramatic effect only, not to signal viewpoint.
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Will Blathe
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Jack, yeah, but it's wonderful how ambiguous it is, but it has a personal sense to it even without the MC being clear to the reader yet.

BTW- I missed the "Me...." at the end.

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extrinsic
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Jack Albany's illustration's personalness comes from the stream-of-consciousness facets of a personal noir detective's thought processes, diction, and syntax, patently a personal identity, language, and grammar. As well, patently not Jack Albany's Aussie dialect, on its surface.
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Jack Albany
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Correct, extrinsic, up to a point. On the face of it the fragment seems personless, however the clue this is a first person narrative are these opening words, "Tonight it's." The same stream of consciousness can also be used in third and second person as well, with appropriate modifications to tense and mood.

[ February 15, 2018, 06:21 AM: Message edited by: Jack Albany ]

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Will Blathe
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Good afternoon everybody. I'm writing a few lines with the following goals:

1) Set the story in a way that feels close and personal to the POV

2) Let the reader know that there will be conflict

3) Reduce 1st person pronoun filters

I think I am closer with each of these. But I'm still trying to reduce the "report" sense of the prose.

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Will Blathe
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I smell "tell" in this one. I'm not really too much in the mood for colorful imagery so I prefer things this way at the moment.

_______


I like the quiet nights. They’re best for escaping other people’s nonsense. Just flag down a waiter for a glass of whiskey that’s empty before it hits the table and watch the burlesque girls play to an audience of me. But, nothing that good ever lasts.

A rube shows up at the door --a wide eyed, bushy tailed complication in the shape of a kid hemming and hawing, stinking up the place with a nauseating mix of anxiety and enthusiasm. A cigarette girl takes pity on him and points my way. He sidles up to the table then doesn’t do a damn thing but block the stage where a Marilyn Monroe impersonator is doing a bang up imitation of a cat in heat (apologies to cats in heat).

I ask, “wadya want?” Polite’s my middle name.

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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
I like the quiet nights. They’re best for escaping other people’s nonsense. Just flag down a waiter for a glass of whiskey that’s empty before it hits the table and watch the burlesque girls play to an audience of me. But, nothing that good ever lasts.
Perfect. We know it's night. We know we're in a bar that has a regular show, and what kind. We know the protagonist is the kind of man who tosses back shots. So we know who we are, where we are, and what's going on, all incidentally, with no one explaining it as a dispassionate outsider. A mood has been set, and that continues. You've broken the code. [Wink]

This would make me want to read more. Well done.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Yay!

Will Blathe, imagery doesn't need to be colorful.

Isaac Asimov related that an editor (maybe John Campbell - I don't remember, but extrinsic may) asked him if he knew how Hemingway said "The sun rose the next morning." The answer is "The sun rose the next morning."

OSC teaches that you only need to include what absolutely needs to be in the story - that everything should fight for the right to be there.

So don't do "colorful" if you don't need to.

I find myself wondering why Hemingway would include such a sentence in a story anyway, because it's a little obvious, but at least he didn't worry about dressing it up.

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walexander
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Will,

I'm hesitant to make a critique after all that praise jay and KDW heaped on you. I don't want to ruin that wonderful feeling when something so positive happens.

I too believe this opening is stronger than any you have written so far, that being said, I have a few notes you might consider.

If your protag. is a regular at this place, which he seems to be by the first line (Which is a blanket statement of unsure meaning.) Why would he reference the waiter as a waiter? People who are regulars would know all the staff personally. How would the waiter know he wanted another whiskey without asking if they didn't know each other. As a bartender, I always ask people I don't know if they want another of the same.

Back to line one.

quote:
I like the quiet nights.
At the bar? In general? Sound level?

quote:
The burlesque girls play to an audience of me.
Burlesque has a variety of music, sultry is only a part of the show, your protag would probably have a favorite singer if he liked quiet. If he's picked a place known for a smooth jazz/blues sound. It would probably be limited to certain singer/certain musicians. He would have his favorites.

I feel you are missing a moment to show, not tell.
There is a lot of subtle interactions between staff and regulars. Everyone has their own hand signal that staff keeps watching for - that means another drink, then a reaction like - "coming up" or "on the way", sometimes just a nod. Something keeps your protag coming back to this place even if it's just the only place to go.

quote:
The burlesque girls play to an audience of me.
This is just another blanket statement. The same subject matter could be adjusted to something like -

Ruby's eyes had the power to lift mine from the bottom of the glass. Her siren song calling, caressing, alway's making me feel I alone was her audience of one.

"Liken that Marilyn look, are you Briggs?"

I never took my eyes off Ruby, "Dress your dolls how you wish. It's your joint Edgar."

"Another?"

"It's empty, isn't it."

Edgar tapped the air, the bartender nodded.

"Don't you have better things to do Edgar?" Ruby's eyes had left mine and were staring intently at the door.

I would also caution about words like nauseated. Would a diehard detective really be nauseated by anything? Would he even give a rube the time of day? Maybe only if this person seemed to register some importance to someone important to him, like a Ruby, or the owner.

These are just notes, to take or leave. Whatever you do, your writing is better in that first paragraph.

Cheers,

W.

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Will Blathe
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Good morning everybody! I'm happy to see that I've gotten further along with my writing skills. I'm not really satisfied with my most recent post, but your responses tell me that I'm on the right track.

Jay, thank you. I'm glad I could hook you as a reader. The quality of the first paragraph was subtly different as I wrote it, and I think I can reproduce that as I work on this story and write the next.

Kathleen, I think I trapped myself in what I thought noir should be rather that getting the story down. I love crazy imagery, but it can be too much. This time, I think I'm a step closer to the right balance.

walexander, I took out a lot of the specifics you are asking about because I wanted to economize my prose and concentrate on fewer goals (limit 1st person filter, give a sense of place, and give a sense of the MC). I feel like I needed to give up on many wonderful details in order to accomplish this. I think the second paragraph is way behind the first in quality, and I'm definitely going to look at it again. I feel like it smashes in too much at once and ends up diluting the effect I want it to have. While the first paragraph is clear, the second one feels mushy and hurried like my previous efforts.

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walexander
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Okay, Will, I understand,

I hope you don't mind a little more criticism,

But before you get too far into the cut, cut, cut, you need to ask if this first 13 is conveying your story or your protag?

As it stands, I have no idea what your story is about, and there is nothing unique or interesting about your opening. So unless you are being judged for your writing style you still need something to hook the reader.

So far: Detective story, likes quiet, he drinks booze, likes personal attention from girls, doesn't like idiots. That's every noir detective story under the sun. You can easily make the same statement about that dribble I just wrote as advice. It's smart to be minimalist, but not at the sacrifice of story. So what's going to make your story stand out from the crowd: Your writing style or your hook? Or hopefully both.

Remember only you can decide the volume of words needed to convey the meaning of your story. Don't sacrifice the meaning, for style, or the story then has no purpose. No purpose, what's the point of reading? I'm not going to read it just to remark on its style. I want to be transported out of the norm, and into something unique, exhilarating, thought-provoking, etc. Then I might take note of how you formed it.

I highly suggest you study your favorites and find what makes you love their openings.

Sincere best wishes on this,

W.

Good luck.

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extrinsic
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I second the genericness and no clue what the story is about of the latest fragment. The first paragraph is closer narrative distance than before. The second paragraph is "mushy" from rushed and forced syntax -- a train-wreck run-on sentence in it, too.

From what's been given about the story overall through the fragment evolution, the purpose so far seems to be to introduce the setting and the personas, and event falls short. A heavy drinker in a nightclub drinks and a peculiar individual brings an unwanted interruption. Not even a punchline to the traditional So-and-so and So-and-so in a bar joke type, which would not work for me regardless. However, some such facet I think is a useful method to imply what the story is about: a proverb, a saying, an archetype event, a joke line, any or all.

Understood this is for practice, why not practice the congruent arts of other crucial introductions, too? Like what's the story about? The thousand-word goal means the true exposition best practice needs to be front-loaded at the outset. Exposition in the culture is usually dreary backstory summarization and explanation blocks; exposition's true function is to set forth introductions of thematic and metaphoric purpose -- as of a writing.

Formal composition asks for exposition in the sense of set forth a purpose, too, as part of or next after a claim assertion, known in pedagogy as the thesis statement. Prose craft asks for both, too, though given through implication and are not per se obvious to the personas for whom those are on point until later, yet realized within readers' grasps, soon to be confirmed.

Like prose entails eight parts, formal composition entails eight parts and similar word count divisions of a basic outline. Even Edgar Allan Poe's one-act short story "The Cask of Amontillado" entails eight parts, divisions noticeable by plot pivot points, or otherwise known as reversals, only not 90 or 180 degree turns, more like 15 degrees until the end's 90 degrees.

The eight-part outline of formal composition essays:
Claim asserted
Purpose of the claim
Claim support section one
Claim support section two
Support support section three
Objections to the claim anticipated
Objections rebutted
Conclusive observation about the claim

An eight-part outline of dramatic prose:
Crisis introduction
Crisis incitement
Crisis rise
Crisis fully realized
Crisis climax
Doubt crisis
Crisis fall
Crisis outcome

Each part of each is roughly equal word count. For a thousand word narrative, thirteen lines affords roughly one-eighth total word count, or, in the above eight divisions, the crisis introduction part, the claim asserted part.

Introduction of the weasel in part implies he's the problem to be solved, noir, mystery in general's convention, a problem puzzle that wants to be solved, resolved -- conflict resolution in the vernacular, yet as much a want-problem satisfaction (complication). And the complication a personal one for the detective as well as a client's complication and whoever the villain or nemesis' complication.

Complication is also known as motivation. What's the detective's motivation? Then conflict is what's at risk or stake. What's at risk for the detective and other contestants? Within complication and conflict are what a story is actually about and an exposition-crisis introduction part. And complication-conflict in every piece from start to end.

The third essential for prose is tone, the several attitudes toward a topic or subject of a narrative: that of the overall narrative, the protagonist, and other want-problem, stakes-at-risk contestant agonists. Noir's tone convention is hard-boiled cynicism.

Though the stated goal is of less extra lens filters and more in-scene drama, and accomplishes those overtly, the language to me is covertly more writer than first-person narrator-agonist. Narrative authentication measures detail specific motifs, events, settings, and personas, from an inside looks out perspective, "telling details" for purpose exhibition. Like the several generics: a noir detective, the nightclub, the waiter, the whiskey, the burlesque revue, the cigarette girl, the Marilyn Monroe look-a-like, the weasel, each holds potential for optimum description that implies exposition of the complication-conflict and affords occasion for tone introduction, too. All, to me, forced, rushed, and empty: I would still not read on as a fully engaged reader.

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic: I don't want to be generic!!!!! Still need work making the MC's POV front and center.

walexander: tweaking within the limits of the story as I have it and the 13 lines. . .

Here's something that might bring the crises in quicker and provide potential conflict.

______________


I like the quiet nights. Just flag down a waiter for a glass of whiskey that’s empty before it hits the table and watch the burlesque girls play to an audience of me. But, the good times don’t last.

There’s a kid just stepped through the clubroom door. He hems and haws with the look of a deer in headlights. His name’s Steve. He just got flattened by a pickup truck. He’s looking for his girl. And, in five minutes he’s going to tell me all about it.

The kid comes to his senses, or maybe his eyes adjust to the candle lighting. He bee-lines it to the table, then doesn’t do a damn thing but block the stage where Marilyn Monroe practices her shimmy.

“Sit the hell down, or I’m gonna sit you in the river.” I'm always patient.

[ February 17, 2018, 08:31 PM: Message edited by: Will Blathe ]

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walexander
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Take a deep breath, Will. We're pushing you too much. Relax, have a drink or ten. See a
movie. Travel to Rome. Fly to the moon. Let it all settle down. Meditate on not meditating.

Let it simmer.

Sorry for pushing. Let the story come to you.

W.

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Will Blathe
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walexander: you speak the truth.

However, it's easier said than done. I'm in a hyperfocus phase. This means that, regardless of what I want, I will focus on writing, rewriting, unwriting, and dewriting my writing. Hopefully, this will subside in time for me to sleep tonight (otherwise I'll be useless come morning). Of course, I may be able to reorient my energy toward making a grocery list or getting in some studying, but reorientation is a mammoth task in its own right.

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extrinsic
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Aha! A Dead Like Us sort of story. Or Dead Whisperer: Electronic Voice Phenomena. Or The Sixth Sense. Dead kid looks for his girl, believes she's dead before him or when he died? Or wants to see alive-her live and she is in mortal danger now he's dead? Dead Whisperer Nonsense at the Coffin Club?

A short story offered at critters.org I liked and was somewhat well-written though panned by all and sundry except moi, was titled the "Horse Curser," a sober-serious parody of The Horse Whisperer, that had great potential except setting and reality imitation authentication "telling details" were shy of the mark, overmuch content summarization rush and missed content. I think a Dead Curser sort of flash might work for me, afford noir hard-boiled cynicism, too.

Yes, the latest iteration contains a germ of implied and accessible complication now, a best practice method for complication introduction. How about stakes risked likewise, particularly for the detective? If too much do-gooder and not enough wicked in his death shade, he's forced to leave the nightclub of the dead, bound straight for one or the other afterlife ends? A salvation or damnation conflict (stakes forces at risk). He loves the nightclub of the dead yet can't help but be a dead curser-whisperer?

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Jay Greenstein
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Something to keep in mind: A camel is said to be a horse designed by committee. So be careful you don't try to please everyone.

At this point it appears you've figured out how to tell the story in the protagonist's moment of now, so as to provide a strong viewpoint and act as a measuring stick to calibrate the reader's reaction to events to that of the protagonist.
And you're following Sol Stein's advice: “In sum, if you want to improve your chances of publication, keep your story visible on stage and yourself mum.” All else if a matter of practice and personal style.

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Jack Albany
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One thing I think you should be aware of, Will: critics want you to write your story the way they would like to see it. All of our opinions and suggestions are filtered through our own biases and preferences.

Jay is a follower of the ideas of Dwight Swain, walexander seems to prefer the development of atmosphere and mood within the narrative to ground it, extrinsic is always in a mad rush to conflict and crisis, while I prefer introductions first; who is the main character really, and what's his dramatic problem?

It's your story; keep in the front of your mind what you want it to do and say. And, as a last piece of advice, decide what your scene needs to do before you write it and stick to that goal no matter what we naysayers might opine.

Hope this helps.

PS: I also suggest you do an internet search on 'Purple Prose'. Your desire for 'interesting' exposition is not something to be pursued IMHO.

Jack.

[ February 19, 2018, 06:51 AM: Message edited by: Jack Albany ]

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic: It's a flash piece (in current form). There's one basic conflict that's resolved in the story. It doesn't look very high stakes from the outside, but I think it'll work. I'm still massaging the remainder of the story.

I think "Dead Like Me" is an influence. I loved the show.

The germ of this story came from my enjoyment of listening to "Guy Noir" back in the day and the fun I get from humor/noir mix. I've done some world and (potential) conflict building before writing this story. Having a complete story and a clear-ish sense of world may have helped me push through my writing issues.

walexander: Let it simmer. I think this is the single most important piece of advice. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Jay & Jack: I know what you both mean. There are often seeming contradictory suggestions on Hatrack, but I realized early on that stuffing my stories into a variety of (sometimes orthogonal) constraints forces me to strip my writing and rebuild it over and over. The story may suffer, but my storytelling improves. I figure I can back up and pick which constraints fit my storytelling later.

Kathleen: The sun rose the next morning. --a good reminder that a turn of phrase doesn't make the story.

Regarding purple prose: it's so fun! ! !

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Will Blathe
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One more thing. I'm letting the story sit for a while then rewriting it this coming week. I would like to send it to someone to critique afterward. Maybe there are other resources you could suggest for that, or you may be interesting in reading the work.

I'm confident that, with work, I may have a publishable story.

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walexander
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I will give you one more piece of advice Will. Especially because the word publish has come up a lot lately.

This is something I brought from my professional art career to my writing. If you show only one piece at a time, you are going to get a vote of yes or no, mostly no. If you put four pieces up, odds are at least one will be liked. If you put eight pieces up odds are one will be loved. Which one is the one most loved? The one that appeals to each individual person or favored by the mob.

Rule of thumb is the more work you get out the more you'll sell/publish.

There is stuff out there published that I think is just complete trash. They don't follow any rules or guidelines, but they found that one person who loved that kind of storytelling and had the connection to see it in print.

There is nothing fair in this world, often no rational sense, no magic formula, except relentless time and effort, and a hope from friends and family to see you succeed. (Not always that last part, usually a hope to see you fail.)

All I'm saying is you won't know until you send it out, and the many others to follow. The more writing you do, the more chance to be published. Do what works for you.

W.

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extrinsic
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Writing culture asserts as many platitudes as business culture. A difference is writing's contain sublime truths that are paradoxical: contradictory yet a greater underlying truth within the dissonance. A similarity is both cultures' incite similar motivations and stakes risked.

The Lost Generation is an appellation of writers who were part of the Great Generation born before World War I, came of age during the war, became directionless and turned to writing and gathered around Paris and other places post war, and became the advanced guard of twentieth century's great literary movements. Not much else the group held in common -- least of all about writing aesthetics.

The Great Depression and World War II generation is the Silent Generation, forced stoicism due to fiscal and warfare deprivation, is not the Great Generation. That usurpation of forebears' generational label came about post war from exuberant elaboration.

The Lost Generation writer group included William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Dashiell Hammet, Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound, as different a group of writers as Hatack's are. Yet they all wrote for English language audiences and of a modernist mien. Their literary emergences transpired roughly one hundred years ago. If form follows pattern, a new literary culture generation is emergent now, maybe Millennials, and certainly as disparate as past generational movements.

A global war, exuberant technology advances, and business, culture, and government excess gone awry, let loose upon the world to excite change, were and are the formative movement influences. Writers write then to forge meaning for and from their lives and to cope with the ever present onslaught of life's meaning and meaninglessness.

Thus why what's emerged from the X and Millennial generations is "ironically cool" expression. Can't make sense or meaning of the life's complexities? Sarcastically mock and ridicule whatever. Noir, for example, started from the Silent Generation as a reaction to and coping mechanism for technological, social, and cultural changes wrought by World War II. Postmodernism, too, inspired in part and furthered by the mid-twentieth century social upheaval caused by the Vietnam war and et cetera.

What is today's influential war? Militant global nationalism. Technology influence is a no-brainer: Digital Age machinery. Cultural? Social diversity and broad empowerment movements.

The Lost Generation founded principles that became the bases of present-day workshops, though those early venues were contentious to a no-holds barred degree. Today's workshop rules, Hatrack's included, came from the worst of Lost Generation abuses.

Yet the group strove for fresh expression, in part inspired from plastic art movements, fine art painting for one: Romanticism, Realism, Modernism, Naturalism, Impressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Post-Impressionism, and, at the end of the generation's age, Postmodernism; and part adopted back by painters from literature, and back and forth ad nauseam. Each of the Lost Generation group competed for preeminence according to whichever art vogue caught anyone's fancy. Once any one found an aesthetic that suited the writer's mien of the time, the writer stuck to it and mastered it.

Yet much water has passed over the bridge since those heady heydays. Anymore, audience culture has appreciably changed, become both more savvy and more naive drama consumers then the Lost Generation's or Silent or Boomer Generations' -- the number one driver of which is motion picture expression; second, Digital Age technology; third, immediate, effortless gratification; fourth, meddlesome external influences that would neither ask for permission up front nor beg forgiveness afterward to do so, rather, all out influence peddling and exuberant, implausible denials of wrongdoing. Much fertile fodder for next generation life-coping and meaning-making aesthetics.

[ February 19, 2018, 04:30 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jack Albany
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Interesting observations, extrinsic. I am a baby-boomer; a child of the 50's & 60's, and a sour faced, cynical skeptic who believes our notions of freedom and free will are illusions. Yes, this manifests in my storytelling; think Phillip K. Dick without the drugs and paranoia.
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Will Blathe
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I was born in the 70's & grew up in the 80's. I never read Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, but they were read to me along with Pooh and Frog & Toad. Those things definitely influenced me. My formative reading years were built around SF short stories that I dug out of the school library. If they knew the contents of those stories.. hoo-wee! I certainly got an education. . .

I think whatever generational influences there are on me, they've been heavily filtered through the above. I think the short stories have had the most influence on how I view the world.

So, how does this effect my storytelling? I'm not sure even how to ask the question.

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extrinsic
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Except for the notions about free will illusions, I, too, am a Boomer generation artifact. Many appellations applied to our generation -- the worst of the lot: the Me generation our parents labeled us, what's in it for me!? Disestablishmentarians is another label. We are the Postmodern generation in all its glories and warts: challenged and questioned presupposed notions of moral and social propriety. Most of the answers were instead simple denials, if any, no real answers to problems.

Philip K. Dick was part of the Silent generation, though a Postmodern writer, as was Kurt Vonnegut of the Silents. George Orwell was of the Great generation cadre though apart from the Lost generation's core, as was Isaac Asimov though of the Silent generation. A standout fantastic fiction female writer of the Boomer generation though less stellar than the men is Platinum Age Octavia Butler, a true Postmodernist, too.

Generation X's most stellar writers, David Foster Wallace, not much into the fantastic fiction oeuvre, though his most famous work Infinite Jest is fantastical and Postmodern, and J.K. Rowling, of a modernist-traditional writing aesthetic.

Millennial generation writers are poised to stake their place yet on the young side for cultural ascendance. Many commentators deride or promote Millennials, where they fit into the culture and have yet to stake their territories. One is the Gig generation, flit from gig to gig, ever on the prowl for the next excitement, flexible, unsettled, yet to commit to the big four life areas' presupposed timely deadlines: education, career, marriage, and reproduction.

In no rush to settle, Millennials are a generation that still explores and experiments with early adult self-identity longer than and different from previous generations and expects to make a difference, like predecessor generations did and do, yet at a previously unheard of threshold and pace. Yet, unfortunately, more focused on all that's flashy new and shiny spectacular.

What's an ambitious Boomer writer to do? Appeal to a sunsetter oeuvre? Span the gamut? Revive a past movement, neo-retro traditionalist? Blaze paths for the about to soar? Me -- I believe I try to make sense of this generational conundrum and focus around method and meaning making for the ages. Like what is common to a generational phase: the Millennials are of an age for identity exploration and experimentation and middle adulthood onset, for instance.

Boomers grapple with late adulthood onset. Gen-X? Why they inherited the Earth and grapple with the realization they're no more or less prepared than any predecessor generation for middle adulthood, despite their expectations to make a contributory difference. Silent generationals missed the true function of late adulthood's span; that is, further propel the wisdoms of the ages, and waiver in doubt and fear of mortality.

Then there's the next generation born into this perfect crucible Earth, so far labeled only Generation Z, and showing the same ambitions of previous generations already, with a difference of greater bafflement by the cacophonous array than ever a generation before -- more "ironical coolness" sarcasm, therefore.

So, for me, coming of age, whatever age, initiation at attendant innocence lost costs risked is the influence I would dare -- an archetype event of the ages if ever there was a singular one.

[ February 21, 2018, 03:12 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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extrinsic, I'm going to let your post stew a bit in my head. Maybe I'll be able to look at what I'm trying to write and see better where it comes from.
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