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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » A PETAL OF CHRYSANTHEMUM (lit. fic.)

   
Author Topic: A PETAL OF CHRYSANTHEMUM (lit. fic.)
Ben Brooks
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I see mostly fantasy/sci-fi around these parts, but figured it couldn't hurt to toss this out for critique. This is the first 13 lines of the current WIP. I'm currently 20k words into this draft of the 75k word novel.

Thanks!

The waters surged onward, their hunger insatiable. The windows of the shelter he had fled burst under the pressure of the rising sea. The little girl on his back in the ladybug dress screamed, the sound muffled beneath the churning roar of the ocean. A two story family house tore free from its foundation with a reluctant groan of twisting metal and snapping timbers. It sailed inland, riding the cresting waters until it crashed into the tall Lucky Lady Pachinko sign. The impact ripped the home in half, each side disintegrating into a pile of splintered wood. Furniture spilled out into the raging hell like the entrails of a gutted fish. The tsunami swallowed it all, leaving behind no trace of what had once been. It hungered for more.

----------------

Take 2!

Chris knew he was going to die as the water slammed against his back and the little girl screamed. He watched as the tsunami sucked a first grade class under. Children and teachers and everyone, all gone. Their yellow parkas and backpacks bobbed as they shouted and cried and clawed for anything solid to hold on to. Theyíd tried to run but they hadnít been fast enough. One by one they all disappeared beneath the surface. Silent.

The water was cold and he couldnít swim and the girl with the broken leg in the ladybug dress weighed on his shoulders. Behind him the tugboat groaned as it rode the waves inland from the harbor. He couldnít turn around to see how close it was now. There was no time to turn around. He knew how close it was. Too close.

[ April 29, 2012, 01:09 AM: Message edited by: Ben Brooks ]

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C@R3Y
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You have a good voice, and I would like to see where this goes. It's also got good description. You can send me some of this if you would like, and when you are ready.
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RobED
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I stumbled a bit on the first sentence. I don't think water is plural. I believe it should be "The water surged onward, its hunger insatiable.

For the rest, I like the image you are trying to paint, but the sentences seem too long, and I don't feel the urgency that you are writing about. Do you think you could try and condense the lines of, "The windows...," through, "gutted fish." into shorter, more concise sentences, and maybe mold some together? I think it might help.

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LeetahWest
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My note on this is the extensive use of "The" to start sentences. It is a pet peeve of mine, only reason I bring it up. Feel free to ignore me.
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Ben Brooks
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Thanks for the feedback! Specifically the overuse of "the" was something that went entirely unnoticed, and yet now it sticks out like a sore thumb. Ouch!
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stutson
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I'm confused a bit about the POV character vs the water. If the house he just left just burst under the pressure and he's seeing so much other destruction, I have the impression he should be pulp by now, overtaken by the tsunami or its debris. Is he off to the side or protected or ??? Interesting as a hook, I suppose, wondering how.
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Lloyd Tackitt
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Sounds like a good story, and one I would want to read. For the type of action being described, I would have written it in shorter choppier sentences.
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Matthew Jonathan Wilcken
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Like RobED, I too stumbled on that first sentence. Try add a simile or metaphor there.

How about: "Insatiable like a swarm of locusts, the avalanche of waves tore asunder the foundation, rendering useless the shelter (so and so) had (escaped? fled? hold-up?) to (in?)." There's a whole slough of words you might play with. I would recommend using the character's name here if possible. There is a tendency in contemporary writing to use too much ambiguity in identifying a character. I think it is entirely appropriate to let the reader know who you're talking about. Naturally, the use of "he" or "she" has its place in introductory sentences, my gut tells me this might not be one of those instances.

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Ben Brooks
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Thanks everyone. I'll play with the shorter sentences, and also with getting the MC in the loop as well, and see what comes of it.
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Jess
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The description is great. I just want to know who this guy is. You ask for a pretty big emotional investment straight from the get-go, but we don't have any clue who he is or even his name. Name's not that important. Maybe just give us something so that a few sentences later when all heck breaks lose we have that tight feeling in our gut because we don't want it to happen to him!
I adore the little details you've put in. The ladybug dress. The words on the sign. The splinters. Great visuals for sure!

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gkergh
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This is vivid, which is great for starters. I'm not a fan of personification, so the description of the hungry water seems over-done.
I like the image of the furniture spilling out "like the entrails of a gutted fish."
For a couple of sentences, I'm really confused about what's going on. The sea is raging, but the guy's running by houses and trees? For a moment, I was asking if this was some sort of crazy fantasy/sci-fi scenario, then I realized it was a tsunami. I would have liked to know that in the first sentence (but I may just be dense at the moment).

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piratequeen65
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heylo- I too stumbled just a bit with the sentence structure. I try to read all my work out-loud to make sure if flows properly. This can be embarrasing though so I recommend making certain no one else is at home. [Smile] That said, I am curious, intrigued and I want to know more! Is the MC scared? Is the girl his? Why was he there? Was he watching this unfold before the wave reached shore? I know you can't answer all of this in 13 lines. I was able to visualize the wave and its aftermath, very vivid. I'm up for reading more if you'd like. Let me know.
Cheers,
Elise

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Josephine Kait
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Love the visuals. Love the first sentence, of course Iím one who does like personification. I liked the guy well enough just for having the little girl on his back. I donít care who he is, if heís trying to save her, then for this moment, I like him.

I only had one hang-up. Where is he watching all of this destruction from? I get the sense that he is relatively safe, after all the girl is screaming in fear not pain. But where is he? Even so, if that is answered in the next few lines, then Iím good to go.

Nice work.

-JK

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MattLeo
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I dunno, Ben. It's a matter of taste I guess, but I think that this come off a bit melodramatic; it's a combination of stuffing so much into the opening paragraph, and the liberal use of figurative language, particularly personification. For me at least that gives this opening a "dark and stormy night" vibe. You've obviously put effort into making the descriptive language as artistic as possible, but unfortunately the effort *shows*. That makes the description sound less credible.

Another thing I noticed is that the observations have a disembodied quality, a kind of stream of random scales of perception. If you think about what great reporters do, is that they're *orderly* about the scale of observations, either painting a general picture and then riveting your attention on a single telling detail, or starting at that detail, and pulling back to reveal the whole picture. An author's freedom to create detail out of his imagination often leads to early drafts having lots of randomly arranged detail, unlike a person *in* the situation, who doesn't let his consciousness drift randomly over detail. The person *in* the situation is trying to make sense of it.

So you've got a lot of material in your head for this scene, and that's a huge plus, but if you want the words to be dramatic, you've got to arrange that detail and get it out on the page in the most credible way possible. I often advise authors to try rewriting a scene like this in a completely straightforward and simple way, to see what they've got before all that chrome gets tacked on. Pretend you're Hemingway and you have to file your story by telegraph. They charge you by the word, so make every word count.

I think the Pachinko sign is a terrific detail, and you could lead with a simple statement that the house removed it as it passed by, with no elaboration or explanation. Then you can draw the eye of the camera back to encompass the entire scene.

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Ben Brooks
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Thanks for that excellent feedback, MattLeo. This was from a first draft, and I think you nailed a lot of the problems that arise due to that fact. The biggest problem I have in this half of my split narrative is that it's too distant from the POV character. The first major pass I'm taking in revisions is to tighten that way down.

At some point I'll post an updated first 13 to gauge further reaction.

Thanks everyone!

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henriksen.laura
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quote:
Originally posted by Ben Brooks:
The windows of the shelter he had fled burst under the pressure of the rising sea. The little girl on his back in the ladybug dress screamed, the sound muffled beneath the churning roar of the ocean.

I tripped over these lines, but I thought the rest had great detail and good characterization of the water.
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rcmann
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I like it. I hate to be a killjoy, but I see nothing wrong with it.
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Ben Brooks
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Alrighty, the novel is finished and I've begun edits. Figured I'd toss the new First 13 up and see if anyone had any thoughts. Left the old one up too, for whatever reason. (Edited the original post, look for "Take 2")

Thanks for all the excellent feedback so far!

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