just looking for some feed back on my opening. just dialog from chapter one let me know what you think thanks.
"Sir permission to speak frankly?" "Like you would listen if I said denied." "Well its just, I would really like to know what exactly you were thinking on this one sir?" "Well to be frank, its none of your concern. But if you must know, one through six show great promise. they have taken to the training rather well. Ideal little soldiers, one is even on the fast track to graduate early." "Yes I am well aware of the progress being made sir. My question however is not about one through six, its about seven. Why in gods earth would you just drop him in Sector nine, its nothing but non complaints, criminals sir." "Gods earth? No, god turned his back on us a long time ago."
Thank you. And yes it does number seven, and number one, Who's goal is to kill of two through seven. Its part one of a three part series I'm working on
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It's nice not to have to use "he said/she said" because you have (so far) only two speakers. You don't describe the character's movements and expressions, or even describe their features, which I prefer. I know they're required in fiction, but my imagination works well and I prefer to imagine my own scene. The boring details can come out later.
In the second line, how does the listener know he/she is about to receive a request? A lot of personality comes out in that second line. Are you certain you're projecting the correct personality? At the beginning of a story there is no room for an arbitrary word. The listener in the second line seems a bit weak and defeatist. That's okay if it's what you want. I'm just warning you about it.
You’re missing commas after words like “Sir”, “Well”, and “yes”, but those are small issues.
In the fourth line, the “listener” seems fairly wordy for someone who is in charge. Is this what you want?
The word “Sector” came across as cliché to me. (Nothing before that word did.) It was like a buzzer that went off in my head. Could you change it to, “group” or some other less-often-used word?
A few lines later the person in charge says, “First, he is not a boy, he is a number...” That sounds defensive, as if the leader is weak. I don’t think that’s what you want. I believe these “issues” will likely go away after your characters are more developed and you go back and adjust their dialogue.
I am bothered by why Number 7 must be put in Sector 9, why the main character would care about that, why the main character would know about Number 7 particularly, and why the person in charge would move him/her to Sector 9. All that provides us with a lot to care about without knowing why. Could you throw in a hint of a connection between the main character and Number 7, such as he/she was nice, or did something good for the main character? It doesn’t have to be much. Just a word or two might be enough. This elevates the scene from random, careless, artificial actions to something with humanness involved.
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A number of writers I know report their process begins with composing a scene's dialogue, then flesh out the scene's other features. This is solely dialogue from disembodied voices. Fully realized scenes include other sensations, visual, at least; emotion, introspection, and conversation; as well as description, action, narration; and perhaps summarization, exposition, recollection, explanation, and transition.
This fragment opens in medias res, in the middle of the action; however, the action is static. In medias res is more than just in the middle. It is in the middle of an emergent and ongoing complication crisis, closer to realization of the crisis (event) moment and place and situation (setting) than the start of one. Essentially, in medias res skips past the backstory of a central character's (character) ancestry, childhood, background and moves robustly on to the life-defining crisis moment.
This opening is backstory, summary and explantion lecture telling about Seven, albeit given in somewhat close narrative distance through the aural sensation of conversation; however, the summarization and explanation conversation portrays a central character, the central agonist Seven, from the remote remove of two overseers. If Seven is the central agonist, consider starting from Seven's viewpoint.
Though the dialogue is robust from parts echo, parts colloquy, a degree of squabble, no non sequitur, four features of dynamic dialogue, the dialogue is part overwrought, part generic, part empty pleasantries, part bland, part lackluster, part everyday slang, part overused empty-meaning discourse marker-type interjections: "well," for example.
Grammar faults are a first, easy reason for rejection. This fragment has more than a few.
"Sir[,] permission to speak frankly?" Missing comma.
"Like you would listen if I said denied." "Like," slang.
"Well[,] its[it's] just, I would really like to know what exactly you were thinking on this one[,] sir?[.]"
"Well[,] to be frank, its[it's]none of your concern."
"But*- if you must know, one[One] through six[Six] show great promise." Contrast conjunction mixed with conditional conjunction, fault: "But if," slang. Numbers used as names--proper noun capital case.
"promise. [T]hey have taken" sentence capital case.
"Ideal little soldiers,[--] one[One?] is even on the fast track to graduate early." Sentence fragment--dangling participle, comma splice punctuation fault. Not clear if "one" is an impersonal pronoun or proper noun name.
"Yes[,] I am well aware of the progress being made[,] sir (passive voice). My question[,] however[,] is not about one[One] through six[Six], its[it's] about seven[Seven]."
"Why in[on] gods[God's] earth would you just drop him in Sector[~sector] nine[~Nine], its[it's] nothing but non complaints[noncompliants], criminals[,] sir." "In" implies planted in the earth; in any case, the interjection idiom is "why on earth." Single "god" is a proper noun, capital case. Captal case or lower case both words: "Sector nine," either proper noun or common noun.
"Gods[God's] earth? No,[.] god[God] turned his back on us a long time ago."
Despite extrinsic's criticisms, which are quite valid btw, I found the opening interesting in its starkness and lack of any reference points what-so-ever. It piqued my interest, which was dismissed just as quickly for the very reasons extrinsic enumerated.
Dialogue is not conversation and it is not English, it is a language all its own. It must be interesting, pertinent, informative and the best is at cross-purposes.
The disembodied, unnamed voices get this off to a rough start, as you have already established that you will withhold information from the reader that would be painfully apparent and relevant to the characters. But, there are other problems.
Within the first two lines, you've already got one of your characters acting out of character:
"Sir permission to speak frankly?" "Like you would listen if I said denied."
If this person (solider?) speaks out anyway and wouldn't obey a superior's order to be quiet, why is he asking permission to speak frankly in the first place? (Normal parlance is "permission to speak freely")
The next line compounds the problem. He has asked for permission to speak frankly, and, upon securing permission, doesn't speak frankly. Instead, he asks a question.
"Well its just, I would really like to know what exactly you were thinking on this one sir?"
And where before it sounded like he was about to really give it to his superior with his frank, book-tossing speech, instead we get hemming and hawing as he tries to soften the impact of his words. "Well... it's just... I would really like to know..." If you're going to speak frankly, speak frankly. "These orders make no sense. Why the hell are we sending Seven into Sector Nine?"
"Well to be frank..."
We're stuck on being frank. He's the superior, he can be frank with his underlings without telling them he's being frank. You can lose these four words, and he'll sound more authoritative.
"...its none of your concern."
Good! Conflict! The subordinate is overstepping his bounds and seeking answers to questions he has no business...
"But if you must know..."
Oh. Never mind. Conflict averted.
"Yes I am well aware of the progress being made sir. My question however is not about one through six, its about seven."
The problem here is you've just told the reader that, with thirteen lines to impress them, you've devoted it to information that's not relevant to the characters. "I am well aware;" if the CO has any knowledge of his subordinates, he should probably know that his subordinate knows this. So, he wouldn't tell him. "My question however;" see above: why didn't he come out and ask his actual question right from the start? Why is he only mentioning Seven now, when Seven was supposedly the focus of his question?
"No, god turned his back on us a long time ago."
This, this is the hook. Right here. Something really bad has happened and the world has gone to $%^& for these guys. I want to know what. I don't care about Seven as the only thing I know about him is he's in Sector Nine, and I don't care about the guys who have been talking, as I know even less about them (not even a number). I do, however, want to know what the CO is referring to with this.
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I'm sorry, but it didn't catch my interest. It seemed too familiar. "Permission to speak freely" is very over-used, so much so that it has become cliche.
In military culture, it is proper to tell a superior he's being an idot, but only in private. (And in much more diplomatic terms than 'idiot.') They don't need to ask permission. Lousy officers don't listen. Good officers do. Lousy officers always cave to the pressure. Good officers consider the advice of their subordinates and then make the most informed decision possible.
Another thing I do not like is that it is just the dialogue, like a recording. There is nothing that helps the characterization. To explain what I mean, let me make a suggestion for your last line:
"No," the general said quietly, looking down, and almost under his breath. There was an uncomfortable silence. He turned and looked into the eyes of Captain Smith and said angrily, "god turned his back on us a long time ago."
Without something like this, your dialogue is too flat(?) in my opinion.
Keep writing! What I do like is the mystery about sector nine. It's a good hook.
[ June 03, 2014, 12:00 AM: Message edited by: Mark ]
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