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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Novel - "Memoirs of an Unremarkable Man

   
Author Topic: Novel - "Memoirs of an Unremarkable Man
feralucce
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The following is the first thirteen of my novel, Memoirs of an Unremarkable Man. It is a first person narrative of the history of the universe from the stanpoint of a deity.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

They make it sound so simple. Like we just said, “I want a planet right there!” Isn't that always the way it is? Man always seems to gloss over the important bits – and just because he doesn't completely understand what it is he's looking at.

Let me set it straight. In the beginning, there was NOTHING. Nothing but us, the divine. We have always been. With an eternity stretching behind us, an eternity of nothing but us stretching out into the distance, we decided to do something with ourselves: we chose to create. In a single moment of consensual thought, it was done.

The universe existed in that one moment. Expanding away from us in a way that I don't think anyone really anticipated. But such

***Edited to separate the paragraphs***

[This message has been edited by feralucce (edited February 07, 2007).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited February 07, 2007).]


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WetherbyOwl
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I was curious: How powerful is this diety? Omniscient, omni-this, omni-that...or is it less powerful?

Also, I thought that the line "But that is a topic for another time. This is my story, not a philosophical debate." could be concivably cut pretty easy.

The rest seems interesting enough. Is it a finished novel, or in progress?

Oh, and I was wondering if you could start it in a way like: "First, I am not a man." because it is called "...unremarkable MAN" ...just a thought.

[This message has been edited by WetherbyOwl (edited February 07, 2007).]


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wbriggs
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What works for me: pretty much all of it. Gods is an interesting character. Gods' grudge against humanity is interesting. The unexpected inflation of the universe, yes, that's good too.

What doesn't: Gods seems petty to me, like a misunderstood teenager. I think I'm more tolerant than most of flawed MC's, but I will want something soon to make me like this one.

What else doesn't, which is just me: when I read stuff that is unflattering about God, I feel like you're badmouthing my friend, so I'd say I'm not the right market for this sort of thing.


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Survivor
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Eh, I badmouth God all the time, even though I've been trying to cut back.

I do think that the tone could be adjusted a bit, perhaps make it seem like the narrator has a reason other than simple peevishness to be "setting the record straight".

"That makes it sound so simple." Now the emphasis is on the record that has to be straightened, not whomever is to be blamed for it not being perfect already. Then you could go on, "Of course the oversimplification was necessary when speaking to men, particularly ones who lacked any terminology for the universe more precise than "that pretty place overhead"." Again, not assigning blame, just dealing with the relevant facts in a good humor.

"It is, perhaps, appropriate to expand on this account now that you have developed the concepts for a more complex, though still far from complete, understanding."

You also might want to treat the singular/plural mismatch. "Yes, "we". The concept of divine unity was a very important advance, naturally. Those purile ideas of gods always fighting and bickering amongst themselves really had to go. And in the world of men as it was, getting you to understand that diversity didn't necessarily imply disunity simply wasn't possible. Indeed, for many men it still isn't possible. But the time has come for you to embrace this fundamental concept if...?"

Or, you know...however you want to arrange it. But the tone problem does limit this as it stands.


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feralucce
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WetherbyOwl: very powerful, but not omniscient, nor omnipresent. The deity in question is a part of a multipartite entity.

"Oh, and I was wondering if you could start it in a way like: "First, I am not a man." because it is called "...unremarkable MAN" ...just a thought."

That thought had occured to me... but the bulk of the novel takes place through the eyes of the deity once he has taken on a human form so he can see creation through our eyes.

and it is complete... been through 4 revisions and I am actually seeking representation...


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feralucce
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wbriggs: I understand your view, and respect it. This next statement is not an attempt to convince you to read. I am a very spiritual person... and did, IMO, not badmouth the divine in any of its facets.
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feralucce
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I know I am not supposed to respond to the reviews... but if they ask a question or bring up a point that a response is valid for... is that ok???
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WetherbyOwl
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If you send it to me at my e-mail, in MS Word if possible, I'll read it in a week or two and let you know what I think, if you're interested.

[This message has been edited by WetherbyOwl (edited February 09, 2007).]


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wbriggs
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Regarding responding to reviews, see FAQs, Helpful discussions, Arguing with critiques. The consensus is that there are 2 valid things to say to a critique: "thank you" and "please clarify."

Regarding questions, there was an editor who responded to answers from a writer: he pointed to his ear and said, "Don't tell me here." He then pointed to the story and said, "Tell me here."

It feels artificial, but it seems to work.
[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited February 09, 2007).]

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited February 09, 2007).]


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kings_falcon
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I also think it (whether to respond and how to) depends on who asked the question and what your response is. I don't mind when someone asks me what I meant by X or answers a question I've asked. You also can also ask the person to go on an "offline" discussion about something they raised.

The problem with "responding" to reviews is that often times it leads to a pointless arguement or worse, rants. Pointless because if the writer is being defensive (ex - "well, I tell you that in the next paragraph") there is no real benefit to it. Remember, all we can give you is our thoughts.


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Survivor
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It depends on what you're after. If you're seeking representation....
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Mystic
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Yeah, I was about to start talking about my thoughts on this piece, but as I read the posts, I have to ask: What do you want us all to do? I mean if you are already set on this current version of your novel and seeking representation, then what are we supposed to say.

However, I took the time to make my opinion on these lines, so I may as well write it for reference. I think if you cut the opening sentence, then you can completely avoid picking any specific religion or God to "badmouth". Without that line, I go into generic deity mode and can accept this as a work of fiction. The inclusion of a Biblical quote makes this whole piece sound more like religious-philosophical critique, instead of a story about a deity's thoughts on his creation with a philosophical undertone.

Then again, if you were going for religious critique, I feel you are not handling the subject with enough seriousness. You are basically calling out all people who are willing to accept the idea that existence just came to be through the work of God and saying they are being naive and simple-minded. I would have to agree with the previous sentiment that treating a key religious concept as petty and wrong may send the wrong impression to your readers and simply tick them off.

[This message has been edited by Mystic (edited February 09, 2007).]


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Chaldea
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Who is your target audience, or what is the genre?

After I read the first line, I had no idea who was talking when the speaker referred to "They" and "we." After reading 3 times I finally figured out there was more than one God and the "They" meant men who wrote the Bible. I found this very confusing to follow. This opening didn't hook me. The concept is interesting though, using gods as the omnicient narrator. The idea that "gods" is/are frustrated with human behavior does seem small minded, but I find it works as an irony piece, or almost like dark humor, maybe tongue-in-cheek.


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feralucce
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I want honest critique and feedback... because, no matter what - there is room for improvement... since that statement, I made a decision that involves remaining un-agented, and possibly unpublished for the time being... but I seek to improve my work.

I am far from set in this version. I was simply responding to a question.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
I know I am not supposed to respond to the reviews... but if they ask a question or bring up a point that a response is valid for... is that ok???

One of the reasons people ask questions in their feedback to authors is so that the author will know that those questions came up as they were reading the story. The purpose is to let the author know if something is unclear, hard to believe, or boring. (See OSC on "faith, hope, and clarity.")

When a critiquer asks you a question as part of the critique, you need to ask yourself if the answer is something that needs to be written into the story at that point, or if the question is one that you can actually respond to in order to assist the critiquer in giving feedback.

The reason we discourage authors from responding with more than "thank you" to feedback is that most responses from the author really need to go into the rewrite of the story, so those questions won't come up when an editor reads the story.


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Survivor
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That's also the reason that posts should generally be either a description of the work or the actual opening as it currently stands. When we read an opening fragment, it's often quite helpful to see it only with the information that an editor/slushkiller reading it would have; title, genre, length.

I think that Weatherby's question about how powerful the deity was wouldn't even have come up if you hadn't said outright that the narrator is a deity. On the other hand, wbriggs might have been more receptive to reading further if you hadn't indicated that the narrator was God. It didn't make a difference for me, I could see clearly that the narrator wasn't God as traditionally understood, but was involved in creation somehow. I still thought the tone sounded a bit too...sarcastic for a creator speaking towards something he had a hand in creating. I can see this character pointing out defects in humanity, but I don't see that there is any value in making it seem that he's belittling mankind. He simply wouldn't need to do so.

Also, the opening to a first person narrative needs a strong sense of the narrator's purpose in order to be convincing. Real first person narrators write for real reasons, and it shows. Fictional narrators need to do the same if they are to seem realistic.


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feralucce
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I am sorry to break from convention here...

I AM going to respond to my reviewers... for a couple of reasons...

1) I have asperger's syndrome... diagnosed when I was very young... It is difficult a) to make myself understood and b) to understand. I tend to be INCREDIBLY literal... in a way that most people cannot abide or comprehend. As such I need precision and I will ask questions to get it...

2) Be responding to your feedback... it forces me to redifine and refine my thought processes. I understand the logic that if I have to explain it to you, it is not written properly. By explaining itt to you I will be solidifying it and exploring it in my own skull.

3) You give feedback. I respond. you reply. These actions force me to make my thoughts understandable to the public.

Now please understand... My tone, voice and word choice in the forums is not intended to be combative. Nor is it intended to be arrogant, etc. It is simply an attempt to interract. These are common misconceptions. My wife has tried to explain why people percieve my interactions in this way, but has failed to make it understandable.

My sincere hope is that you all can see beyond my odd, pedantic mode of interaction and look at what I am trying to make obvious.

I will be honest... I see the ear marks of the misunderstandings that arise from my condition, and was tempted to leave... But Kathleen has convinced me to stay and try to explain myself... in hopes that you all can see beyond...

Feralucce


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wbriggs
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I think "please clarify -- I didn't understand such-and-such" is a good way to respond.

I didn't see anything bad in your communication here, but I appreciate the notice about Aspberger's, and intend to take it into account. Welcome!


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Survivor
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I have no problem with requests for confirmation/clarification.

Sometimes it's good to present a new version and specify the criticism you're trying to address with the changes. That gives reviewers the best practical feel for how well you understand their advice. It's kinda the reverse of what I did in my first post, where I presented suggested changes with short explanations of what the changes were supposed to accomplish in terms of altering the tone.

Usually you just want to present a new version when you feel you've absorbed a good amount of advice, and just ask what everyone thinks of it without specifying exactly what problems you were attempting to fix. But that method relies a lot on the consistency and talent of the readers, and your ability to understand what they're saying each time.

Every now and then somebody will say something that you think is probably important but you really have no idea what it is that they mean. Like when a new writer is hit with a bunch of acronyms and insider Hatrack jokes about handwavium pellets. In that case, it's useful to be specific about which phrases were confusing.


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