Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Dark Night of the Soul

   
Author Topic: Dark Night of the Soul
Jesse D
Member
Member # 3241

 - posted      Profile for Jesse D   Email Jesse D         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
To Whom It May Concern:

I haven't posted on here since 2011. (I had to check - it's been that long.) I've been lurking some extremely sporadically. The reason I say all this is because I feel some level of guilt over coming on here and asking for readers when I do very little contributing back. But I'm doing it anyway.

Here's my first 13 of what is probably an oversaturated genre: the vampire tale. It's about 55,000 words. And hopefully it's a bit of a fresh take on a tired genre.

"Darrow remembered little of the battle itself. They were storming Drogheda, seeking to wrest it from the Royalists and the Irish Confederates. It was like a distant memory; from the time the charge had been sounded, all detail seemed to blur. The only things that stood out in his mind were minutiae: the way Cromwell’s hair had stood out on all sides when his hat was knocked off; the way Darrow’s own stocking he could not seem to keep up over his calf as he kept pace with the men on either side of him; the glint off an enemy shield that made the light behind his companion’s head look like a halo. And he remembered face of the Irish boy who had run Darrow through with his blade.
It was shock: as if the boy could not believe he had done it. He stared first at Darrow’s face; then down at the hilt of his..."

Posts: 77 | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Here's my first 13 of what is probably an oversaturated genre: the vampire tale.
The vampire genre is a metaphor for the human condition that everyone is so sick and tired of and wish would just stay dead. Which is ironic, since it keeps on living, generation after generation, taking a new form to meet a new age.

You'll definitely get your complaints from using this literary vehicle to get your story across. In my novel, which nears 80,000 words, the word 'vampire' only comes up once. But there are some familiar tropes that the genre must have unless you've deconstructed it to an absurd level, and when one of them comes up in your fiction, I always think the general comment from some critiquers are pretty much,

"Wow, I was kind of enjoying this, but a vampire story? Really dude, another one?"

Yes. Another one.

But on to your story, and there are probably come overused narrative dynamics in vampire fiction that you *might* want to avoid. Of course, I haven't read your novel, so I don't know where you're going with this.

The first thing that stood out to me was your title, however. 'Dark Night of the Soul' sounds very familiar. Think of well-known vampire titles like, 'Forever Knight', 'Dark Shadows', 'Twilight'. All of them somewhat heavy handed when dealing with this overused metaphor. Yes, we know, a vampire story, but to get away with it now, you might not want it to sound *too* much like a vampire story. The title 'True Blood' did a decent job of masking what the novel could potentially be about, despite the use of the word 'blood'. Who can read this title and not think, "But what's *true* blood?" That movie, 'Daybreakers' also was good at obfuscating the story's vampire origins.

Oh, and we can't forget, "Let the Right One In". The idea of vampires needing permission to enter, I think, hasn't been touched upon in so long in modern literature that I'm sure most people wouldn't have made the connection.

So yeah, your title *maybe* could be a bit less obvious, unless you're keen to your audience and know what they're expecting, in which case, go for it!

quote:
Darrow remembered little of the battle itself. They were storming Drogheda, seeking to wrest it from the Royalists and the Irish Confederates.
Besides not using the word, I made a conscious decision recently to keep all of my vampires young. I went back and edited all of their ages so that 'old' is around forty years dead, plus the usual 20 to 30 years they were alive, which brings them to about 70 or so years on earth.

Which, not for nothing, is old for humans, if 'old' is perceived as more than just how one is physically holding up.

Part of the reason I did this, I admit, was purely practical. I'm not a historical writer, and I'm not interested in studying history. I tend to write more in the now.

Another reason, though, is that it's also quite common in the genre to introduce vampires hundreds of years old. I never read 'Twilight', but I believe they're all centuries old. I did read Anne Rice early novels, and I think Lestat was born in like, the 1700s, France, and Louis (or Lewis?) was born in like, the 1800s New Orleans. The guy from 'Dark Shadows' was also around that age group. Even in the manga/movie 'Underworld', they're all hundreds of years old.

Again, familiar use of the metaphor that might make people roll their eyes a bit more when they think, "Another vampire story?"

quote:
the way Darrow’s own stocking he could not seem to keep up over his calf
I wish I was a grammar nazi. I know to a certain, well, certainty, that this is grammatically incorrect. Or at the least extremely awkwardly written. I get what you're saying, he's having issues with his stockings staying up. They're riding down, right?

quote:
And he remembered face of the Irish boy who had run Darrow through with his blade.
And I think this is supposed to be 'And he remembered *the* face of the Irish boy...'

Anywho, what I see of this beginning is all world-building. Not much character development, as I'm not sure how Darrow feels about the events he's reliving and we're witnessing (and what he's reliving so that readers can know his backstory, as I'm guessing that's why it's here), and I see no inherent narrative conflict that's introducing the novel.

Once again, though, it's a matter of knowing your audience. I love vampire fiction, and if I knew beforehand that this was a vampire novel, I'd read on past this even though there's nothing particularly gripping in these opening lines. But let's put it this way. If this was a sample I downloaded on Amazon onto my Kindle app, and if it didn't pick up in an unexpected way in the next page or so, I probably would leave it as just that: a sample on my Kindle app.

I won't say that I hated the 'Twilight' series, as I never read it. Two girls I knew dragged me to see 'Dark Moon', or 'New Moon', or whatever the heck it was called, and though it certainty didn't seem impressive, the author did do some new things with the vampire that hadn't been seen before. The oft-mentioned sparkly skin was one of them. It sounds a bit hokey to me, but initially, I think it was one of those descriptions that lessened the whole, "Not another vampire story", critique.

[ January 29, 2014, 11:13 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

Posts: 728 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A close literary analysis of vampire works' subtext and symbolism yields a stable metaphor interpretation, from Bram Stoker, through Anne Rice, and on to Stephenie Meyer, the standouts of three generations of revenant creatures. Stoker's villainous vampires represent idle, rich, and abusive Old World aristocracy literaly sucking the life's blood from their estate subjects. Rice's era vampires, somewhat sympathetic, represent idle old money sucking the life of subjects from society's peripheries, some considerate and some abusive. Meyer's era are still to a degree idle wealthy but they are new money, taking their life's blood from nature's beasts, more sympathetic, and with some considerate and some abusive, all socially elitist as are Stoker's and Rice's. The social value systems shifted somewhat along with focal characters, from villians to protagonists, and favoring regardless poetic justice, to somewhat more or less sympathetic--sympathy for idle, wealthy, abusive elitists.

Frankly, I've been weary of vampire genre since I first read Stoker, as I've been weary of the abuses of money power for as long as I can remember. But I feel the third generation vampire genre has worn out its welcome. You say you have a new twist on the form. I don't see it in the sample. That for me would be a reason to read on, if it came up right away.

As this opening is, it's backsory without dramatic development that I can see. The sole problems I see are a generic battle and specific problems with hats and socks and being run through with a sword, signaling perhaps the beginning moment of revenant life. That opening death scene imitates many vampire narratives. I feel opening there might not be an ideal starting place unless another meaning more engaging than the overdone death-to-undead motif stands out. Something fresh, something dramatic, something else additionally or instead of the change.

Cueing up an engaging dramatic complication is fundamental for openings, no matter where or when in a narrative's timeline they may fall. A dramatic complication, oftentimes labeled "conflict" in writing discussions, is a want or problem wanting satisfaction. Time enough for backstory later, if it contains no complication. Openings are for introductions; the most crucial introduction item is a dramatic complication, usually in some way an event, be the event external, like stockings that ride down and cause escalating complications, or the event internal, like a thought rising into the foremind, that this battlefield is problematic, that that love interest is attractive, that money is wanted for an essential purchase, etc.

Denevius touched on grammar glitches, the low hanging fruit, revision artifacts I expect. In a broader view, a mechanical style hiccup for me is a lack of now moment context and texture for where the scene's recollection takes place. "Darrow remembered little of the battle itself." signals unequivocally this is a flashback scene. Opening with a flashback leaves readers in the dark vacuum of a mind's thoughts and stakes no ground for developing the illusion of reality where setting, event, and characters' dramatic complication unfolds.

The quotation marks bracketing the sample confuse whether the whole is spoken or used to signal the opening sample's boundaries, the container so to speak. I infer the latter.

For me, I'm most interested in how this novel is different, if it actually is, as soon as possible. The principle underlying Hatrack's thirteen-lines policy is to strengthen introduction skills. That's all the lines and word count real estate a first page of a submission gets for a first look by a screening reader. I'd pass over this one, unless that cue or hint about what makes this novel different, fresh, and timely and relevant to the present time were developed right away.

In other words, who are today's idle, rich, abusive aristocracy sucking the life's blood from their estate subjects? Revenant genre is about social commentary disguised by visceral and psychological horror drama, be the revenant motif vampire, werewolf, witch, scientist, zonbi, satanist, or whatever undead motif.

[ January 29, 2014, 03:26 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3398 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
jerich100
Member
Member # 10202

 - posted      Profile for jerich100   Email jerich100         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Jesse D, don't worry about not contributing. If you stick around you will soon. The site will suck you in. Resistance is futi... You get what I mean.

If I had written your novel and found out afterward there are too many vampire stories, I would create a new monster with different nasty traits (it eats the bones from people's hands and feet), and alter the entire story accordingly. I'm serious. I'm not trying to be flippant. If you have a good story, with real characters, that's alive, that people want--except for the vampires--then invent a new monster. You are then God to the new world you've created and are not limited to the rules in the past.

All that being said, do NOT throw out your story. You won't even have to change it that much.

Now, I'm supposed to be commenting on your writing and not pontificating...sorry.

You use the phrase "seemed to blur". Consider changing it to "blurred". It's stronger; more direct. I find I'm removing the word "seem" or "seemed" everywhere I've written it. Seems (lol) like a flimsy word. Same with "like a distant memory". Change it to "a distant memory." It's more confidant, direct, strong. it makes the narrator sound sure of him/herself. People like confidence.

Who is narrating? It isn't Cromwell or Darrow. I want to get to know and bond with the person telling the story. But I don't know who it is.

Also, and this is just me, I can't stand the word "glint". For some reason it's a sore to me. When I read "glint" I think of beginner. How about flash or glare or reflection...anything but glint. This is obviously a subjective comment.

Looks good!

Posts: 85 | Registered: Dec 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jesse D
Member
Member # 3241

 - posted      Profile for Jesse D   Email Jesse D         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks for the feedback - sorry for the late response. I appreciate both the literary analysis of the vampire genre and the feedback of the sample as well.

I'm not too ashamed it's a vampire story. I've had a fascination with them borne out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Bram Stoker's Dracula, and while I wrote this I was heavily dosing myself on the first few seasons of Dexter (not a vampire tale, of course, but there are some similarities there). I am not, however, trying to comment on the idle rich.

The story mainly features a father and daughter dealing with the aftermath of his transformation into a vampire. She seeks to cure him, while the "sire" (to use Buffy terminology) - Darrow from the snippet above - seeks to make his corruption final.

I've reworked the beginning a bit according to some of the feedback. I'd really love a few readers, too, who are willing to read the entirety. Darrow is the POV character here; if that isn't clear immediately then I do have to do some major revising in the opening lines.

Darkness had fallen over the battlefield before either side had an opportunity to gather their dead and wounded. Darrow heard the chorus of moans around him, men who, like him, had little hope of surviving until help arrived in the morning. If the cold did not kill them, their wounds, unattended, would.
He found himself fading in and out of reality, returning to the hearth of his own home in London, surrounded by the smell of Mary’s fresh-baked bread, the voices of Roger and William playing in the next room. He slipped his arms around Mary, pulling her close – only to feel the wound in his side throb, piercing through the warmth of his fevered imagination and jolting him back into the cold field.
Visions of the battle flickered before his eyes as he surveyed the

Posts: 77 | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
She seeks to cure him, while the "sire" (to use Buffy terminology) - Darrow from the snippet above - seeks to make his corruption final.

In the vampire genre, this plot is a bit familiar. I think you're going to have that problem with any vampire story addressing the character's attempt to retain his/her humanity.

I don't know if you saw it, but the Japanese anime "Hellsing" did a good job at rewriting the vampire, particularly the Dracula mythos. Instead of having a protagonist trying to *not* become a monster, "Hellsing" depicted a vampire fully aware that he was a monster, fully embracing his monstrous nature and awesome powers that come with it, but then having his human master always trying to keep his power in control to serve England.

quote:
He found himself fading in and out of reality, returning to the hearth of his own home in London, surrounded by the smell of Mary’s fresh-baked bread, the voices of Roger and William playing in the next room. He slipped his arms around Mary, pulling her close – only to feel the wound in his side throb, piercing through the warmth of his fevered imagination and jolting him back into the cold field.
I did like the way this was written, however. It actually made me interested to read more.
Posts: 728 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jesse D
Member
Member # 3241

 - posted      Profile for Jesse D   Email Jesse D         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yeah, I guess I'm not too interested in redefining the myth. I'm more interested in making it semi-believable, and in stripping it of some of the sillier elements (wooden stakes, aversions to garlic and crucifixes, etc.). But really the heart of the story is about human nature and whether there's limits to a person's ability to be redeemed.

Glad to hear the hook worked better for you this time, Denevius.

Posts: 77 | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, like I said, I'm a hardcore vampire genre fan, so hooking me isn't going to be difficult. Maintaining my interests, though, is another matter, and that's when a unique take on something familiar becomes important.

quote:
But really the heart of the story is about human nature and whether there's limits to a person's ability to be redeemed.
This sounds cool, but I can almost imagine a lot of character angst over something uncontrollable, which is basically the vampire formula. And I really don't mean to be difficult with you on this, it's definitely your story to do with as you please. But because the general reaction to this genre is, "Ugh, another vampire story...", you really have to think outside of the box when you put pen to page unless you're specifically writing to that hardcore element who'll allow you a lot of leeway just because of the subject matter.

Ah well, that's enough of that. I can go on about the subject and literary/pop cultural examples from it ad infinitum.

Either way, best of luck!

Posts: 728 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smiley
Member
Member # 9379

 - posted      Profile for Smiley   Email Smiley         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I recently read (at my wife's insistence) Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith. Did not see the movie. I found it a refreshing take on the vampire genre. Lots of ways this story could have gone but it was a fun read. BTW, my wife is the avid vampire story reader. I've looked at some of the books she reads, and Wow, when you say, 'Ugh, another vampire story...", Denevius, I know what that means. But this book was, to me, enchanting. I think because it involved Mr. Lincoln and an alternative reason for his abolitionist leanings. I can see this type of option working for another 'Ugh', vampire story. [Big Grin]
Good luck with it.

Smiley

Posts: 139 | Registered: Jan 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2