Let me begin by saying: I like it. It's tight. Not too wordy. Paced perfectly.
But: I'm REALLY confused by this line:
quote:Wrapped in a white towel, he shook his head as he padded across the wood floor to his bed and climbed up. “The people with the hoods are, though.”
What? The people with the hoods are what? It's like we missed a line of dialogue, so it's hanging there without context. (Also, that sentence preceding the dialogue is long and awkward.) What am I missing?
Posts: 77 | Registered: Feb 2006
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The standout strength for me of this opening is how the dialogue is managed. This contains three of the four artful and appealing qualities of dialogue: non sequitur, echo, and colloquy. The fourth is squabble, which is used for passive-aggressive argument, resistance, flirting, power gamesmanship, and such. Maybe this dialogue contains a hint of squabble in Stanley's stronger than Mom's awareness of events and his slow revelation of what he understands that Mom doesn't, a power game, so to speak. Maybe not. It's not clear or strong enough to be sure.
The opening dialogue line is non sequitur, spoken without a prompt or apparent cause; in other words, it does not follow anything causal beforehand or in any sensible way what does come beforehand. Yet Stanley obviously reacts to some stimulation, the meaning of which he gradually reveals to a degree. Mom misunderstands what Stanley talks about, too. Her question doesn't follow his response, either.
The first non sequitur raises a question of whether this opening starts at a timely moment. I don't think it does. Whatever Stanley sees and Mom that her hands are still shaking I think is artlessly withheld. The characters know what they saw. It should open the scene.
More so, tension develops from what readers know. The withheld scene would portray the events that lead to this scene, making this scene important and engaging. The missing, I believe, event scene is scene in terms of scene and summary. The conversation scene is summary in the same regard. An event scene is comparable to a cause scene; a conversation scene is comparable to an effect scene, The event cause of this conversation-dialogue-summary-effect scene is absent without leave. Scene and summary is a conventional organizing principle that oftentimes accompanies plot organization.
Events develop significance most, especially for openings where character and setting development may take more time and word count for readers to know, care, and be curious about characters and settings. Characters develop significance from events, how they react to stimuli, how their personailites are revealed by events, how their event behaviors develop their characterization. Settings are more significant by a degree than characters, though less so than events. Events transpire in settings to characters. Events are what founds and begins plots barreling up the rollercoaster track, and founds setting and character development, and antagonism, causation, and tension, the fundamental matrices of plot.
Echo dialogue echoes words, terms, sounds, patterns, and sequences from speaker to speaker, For prose dialogue, conversational back and forth repeats, substitutes, and amplifies content so that it is emphasized for readers. That is artfully accomplished in this opening's dialogue lines.
Colloquy is question and answer conversation or dialogue, oral sensory stimuli and response, cause and effect, action and reaction. Readers want to ask questions and know answers too. Dialogue is for this reason often a dynamic method for artfully developing information details that might otherwise be given through less dynamic narrator or writer telling. Ineffectual colloquy dialogue gives trivial summary or explanation or overburdensome detail information in a lackluster manner. This colloquy is artful, though, developing dramatic questions and answers. The meld of non sequitur, echo, and colloquy dialogue types is artful as well. This is artfully well-done. Clearer and stronger squabble blended in would earn my highest praise for dialogue skills.
I've expressed at length issues with using "as" for conjoining clauses that probably are not contemporaneous actions or ideas. Whether conjoined actions are indeed contemporaneous is problematic both logically and artistically. Single actions, single ideas, single sentences persuasively propel flow and pace. This opening has two instances of the "as" issue. Stream of consciousness and perhaps character speech for its informal nature might use "as" to conjoin ideas or actions, if artfully persuasive in stronger proportion than its shortcomings.
The hundred most common English words are cause for careful evaluation, including "as," for whether they clarify and strengthen meaning, enhance flow and pace, or do the opposites. These two "as" instances I feel do the opposites. From a different perspective this time, I'll say the proportion of writers and general readers who believe this isn't an issue to the proportion of screening readers, editors, and publishers who believe it is an issue falls in favor of auditors. Not numerically, but weight of decisions regarding publication readiness.
This opening feels to me like it comes from Stanley's viewpoint, but the voice and language are too sophisticated for a child still wearing jammies. Formal narrator voice in most cases is a best practice so that it's easily distinguishable from character voice, which is often most artful from its informal language characteristics, as well as how these distinctions pertain to children's undeveloped language skill characteristics. But Stanley switches from adult informal to formal language, most noticeable by whether he uses contractions or not and use of "though" in speech.
Sixteen lines at the time of my comments, by the way. To evaluate for thirteen lines, paste the fragment into a New Reply or Full Reply Form text entry box. Delete any empty line breaks. Thirteen lines will occupy every line of the text entry box but not activate the scroll bar on the right side of the text entry box.
Mechanical style glitch. The first line has an extra "they" immediately following the first "they."
Thank you Jesse, and thank you extrinsic. Thank you all very, very much. Both your responses point to my next steps, and I had been stuck.
extrinsic, thank you very much for your feedback, analysis and explanation. I had fallen into endless tinkering with this opening.
I found myself stuck the with the chicken or the egg dilemma, with the information you provided, I know what I want to do next. I especially thank you for the sorting and explanation of events, character, and setting.
Your help with dialogue will enable me to better use it to desired effect. And duly noted on the diction level problems with Stanley and narrator.
I've been struggling, unsuccessfully, to rid myself of using "as". Time to crack open the rhetoric book for some exercises, not just skimming.
Jesse, thank you for your honest feedback on what the lines did as you read them. Very good to know.
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