So, I started writing this story about two years ago when I was in college and just recently came back to it. I am now close to finishing the first draft. Any comments/feedback would be very appreciated. I've been reading a lot of posts, so I think I know what to expect. Don't hold back! And thank you.
I want more than this life, Asa thought, looking into the expanse of aquamarine blue beneath him. I am lacking. It had taken him a long time to form this thought and even longer to admit to himself that it was true.
Make the most of every situation, his Abba told him. We are not always allowed to choose our lot in life, but we can choose what we do with what we are given. Always a cliché with his Abba. Always old, but then Abba was old.
The horn blared. Asa bent his back, sweat dripping down his squat nose. He drove the handle of his mining pick down upon the glowing blue stone, splitting a flake from it with a sharp crack even as dozens of men and women did the same on either side of him. There was a volley of sparks like the sun and then silence.
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An individual contemplates their navel pondering the perennial question: There must be more to life than this? He then reminisces on a trite piece of advice given to him by an old colleague/mentor/who knows what. These mundane thoughts are then interrupted as the call sounds to get back to work doing something incomprehensible.
I find nothing interesting here. There is no set-up, no background, even peremptory, no hint as to who Asa is, what he wants, what he is doing, or why. I have no reason at all to be interested in him or his circumstances.
I offer up three quotes on starting short stories from Damon Knight:
quote:And why should we be interested in these people? You must tell us enough, immediately, to accomplish two things:
To make clear that you, the author, know your characters intimately.
To make us feel something about them—curiosity, sympathy, antipathy--anything but indifference.
Otherwise, why should we bother to read on
Damon Knight. Creating Short Fiction. p 108
quote:Five Questions every reader wants answers to:
Who is the story about? Why are they doing what they are doing? What is the story about? Where does the story take place? When does the story take place?
You should answer at least four of these questions as early as possible in the story--preferably within the first two hundred words. (Why can often come a little later.) Otherwise you will probably fail to give the reader a coherent image to focus his attention on, and that’s fatal.
Damon Knight. Creating Short Fiction. pp 107-108
quote:The opening is especially important and difficult because it has to stand on its own; every other part of the story has the preceding parts to lean on. The opening must establish character, setting, situation, the mood and tone of the story; it must provoke interest, arouse curiosity, suggest conflict, start the movement of the plot--all this in about two hundred words.
Damon Knight. Creating Short Fiction. p 120
I hope you find this useful. I look forward to further submissions.
Phil. (Yes, it’s okay to call me Phil.)
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I would recommend that you start your story (and your 13 lines) with the third paragraph. It gives us a character who is in a situation with other people, and then we have something to visualize and be interested in.
Of course, if you stop to go back and tell us why the character is in the situation, you will have wasted your opening.
You will need to show us what the character does to change the situation.
(And if the character does nothing, then you picked the wrong time to start the story - Damon Knight also said that the story should start when things start to happen.)
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I liked this opening. Yes, the opening philosophy is common, but it's still profound, and it gives an immediate theme to your story. I like that theme.
Then it contrasts with him being a miner.
Always a cliché with his Abba. Always old, but then Abba was old. I think this was getting too far away from the movement in your story. And if the character liked it, he would not be thinking it was a cliche.
"It had taken him a long time to form this thought and even longer to admit to himself that it was true." Shorten? Yes, I am picking out the philosophy that I liked and asking you to get to the action as quickly as you can. And you are not being in his head. That would be more like, "How long had he known that and not admitted it?"
Finally, I will ask if you would like it better with interleaving. Or I just like that technique, but the first line of philosophy, then your short paragraph on mining, then the other half of the philosophy.
I agree with the previous comment, you could start with the third paragraph. It's intriguing - we see hardship, oppression, we see the blue stones, we wonder where and when it takes place.
What comes to mind about the first two paragraphs is the "show not tell" rule. Also, I'm afraid old Abba rings very familiar. You even use the word "cliche", a possible Freudian slip on the author's part...
I will be using Richard Koch's evaluation heuristic as I respond to the writings that authors offer to us: 1) What can you identify with? 2) What did you like? 3) What questions do you have? 4) What suggestions do you have? Here we go: 1) I can relate to the focus on geology and the gem-like mineral or semi-precious material. 2) I like the title, and the poetic imagery engages me as you move forward from interior dialogue into description. 3) Is the horn from a vehicle? or a factory apparatus? or...? 4) Thanks for addressing us, but I would rather read more story lines.
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I agree regarding the third paragraph: that's the place to start.
The first paragraph, though lovely, doesn't give me anything I can see or relate to. In fact, I thought the aquamarine blue that he was staring into was water of some sort, not a stone. I start reading the second and I find myself struggling to care.
But the third paragraph immediately puts me into a room of miners harvesting glowing stone. And obviously there's a method to it, because there's a system to hacking away at this stone. In fact, it reminds me of the chain gang at the beginning of O, Brother, Where Art Thou?
In the third paragraph, I can clearly see someone who is just a cog in a vast system, and I want to see him escape.
Would be willing to read the whole thing if you'd like to send it.
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