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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Perdition's Pocket

   
Author Topic: Perdition's Pocket
E. W. Finch, III
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The Charis was a mote of a ship as star ships go. At only a hundred tons displacement, it was among the smallest that dared cross the vast distances between suns. It was adrift all alone in the vastness of space. But its crew did not mind; as a matter of fact, it was what they craved. It gave them scope, it gave them perspective.

If a human had been aboard the ship, he or she might have identified the three occupants in terms of the creatures of ancient earth. One was leonoid, lion-like with flowing mane, although he walked upright on two legs and leaned on a walking staff. He called himself an aslan.
The second, an ursoid, was covered with fur and had the massive height and breadth of a grizzly bear. Only his up-right

[ January 01, 2015, 10:27 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Grumpy old guy
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E.W. I would have stopped reading as soon as I got to your description of the crew. Following are some observations and the reasons for not wanting to go further.

Good opening sentence, instructive, enlightening and evocative but ruined by the second and third. dared cross, vast distances, and vastness of space are melodramatic and cliche.

Second paragraph: most people know, if not intuit, that a leonid is a lion, and usoid, like Ursa Ursa, is a bear. However, the final straw was the Leonid calling himself an Aslan. If people haven't read the C.S. Lewis stories then they've probably seen the Chronicles of Narnia movies.

Hope this helps.

Phil.

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Denevius
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Feels mostly like warmup writing, with the story beginning later on, perhaps on the next page. You'll generally run a lot of risk beginning with explanation in your narrative, as you're basically giving a lecture to the reader. Lectures aren't something that people generally find stimulating. But this opening is written as if you're at a board meeting. You explain the Charis, you explain where it is, you tell us the crews' thoughts, and you tell us how they look.

quote:
One was leonoid, lion-like with flowing mane, although he walked upright on two legs and leaned on a walking staff.
Perhaps open with this, except instead of telling us, have the character walking into a chamber, and letting us get the details of your world through active narration.
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JSchuler
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I snapped out of the story as soon as I read a spaceship's size described in terms of displacement.

"It was adrift all alone in the vastness of space;"

Adrift is interesting. It implies a ship without thrust, means of guidance, or known destination. That the crew doesn't mind the fact that they are completely at the mercy of whatever random trajectory they were on when the ship's engines cut out does pique my curiosity a bit. Unfortunately, I missed that word in my first read through. It was hidden by clichés: "all alone," "vastness of space."

Beyond that, there's nothing of interest for me here. In the end, I'm left with a spaceship that has an anthropomorphic lion and bear that I have no connection to. Even the complication that they are adrift doesn't concern me because I'm told flat out that the passengers aren't concerned.

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extrinsic
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A tiny starship drifts in the great empty.

An opening's first duty is to engage readers. As engaging openings go, three criteria are foremost, each related to emotional stimulation: the least is a change of emotional equilibrium, nextmost is a routine that signals a pendent interruption, foremost is implications of or directly stated complication. Complication is want and problem forces in opposition. Many complications can be want or problem and then have a problem or want, respectively, inherent.

This novel start has rudiments of an emotional disequilibrium stimulus: that is, awe and wonder, which is a "hard" science fiction convention from the Golden Age. A possible routine interrupted stimulus is also implied though under-developed. Static situations imply an interruption waits in the wings; otherwise, why a dramatic narrative and not a direct lecture? Prose's needs of event, setting, and character development signal a drama is afoot.

Rudiments of awe and wonder arise from a tiny starship traverses a trackless void, albeit adrift. Further and focused development of the awe and wonder feature is warranted if that is the intent, intuition, or nonconscious development.

Several glitchy grammar features blunt the awe and wonder appeal the fragment does contain. "Starship" is one word. Displacement tonnage may have merit in starship commerce terms, though is contrary to displacement's expected meaning. Perhaps starships displace, as in move, an expected amount of paying freight, passengers, science or military mass. "Tonnage" is a measure of useable volume aboard a vessel: for applying crewing standards and safety regulations, and levying vessel registration fees and port-of-call taxes. The current convention is Net Tonnage, a unitless measure of a vessel's safe carrying space.

For example, a fifty-ton vessel has a maximum carrying space equivalent to one-hundred volume tons moored in calm conditions, the balance half a safety margin for rough weather. The vessel may actually displace more mass tonnage, the volume tonnage a complicated calculation of all volume minus crew, engineering, life support, etc., non paying spaces or their equivalent for noncommercial uses. And a vessel's registration tonnage may be less than actual carrying capacity, under-reported so that the vessel doesn't require the more stringent conformance to regulations of greater registered capacity vessels. Less tonnage: fewer and less trained crew, fewer safety measures, lower fees and taxes, also, less cargo and fewer passengers.

The first paragraph contains five "it" pronouns and one similar "its" possessive pronoun. Repetition is usually considered a style vice when little or no substitution or amplfication accompanies repetitions. Repetition is a virtue when substitution of a word or motif changes meaning, as in ampifies, escalates emotional meaning. I feel the repetition in this case is emotionally lackluster and thus unwarranted.

"Adrift" is problematic from its denotative meaning signals a problem with maneuvering control. An adrift vessel signals with a flag or lights and sounds like whistles or horns and radio if available that maneuvering is out of control: the captain is dead is the maritime idiom for such signals. Such a vessel is privileged, meaning other vessels must give the command-less vessel a safe and wide berth.

"As a matter of fact" blunts the sentence containing the phrase -- the emotional impact of the last clause. Note that the prefatory independent clause "But its crew did not mind" already is subordinate to and emphasizes the main clause. "As a matter of fact" is wordy, illogical in the first place -- is the crew's disregard for being adrift an ironclad fact in fact? No, that's subjective -- and superfluous.

"But" for that matter is likewise superfluous in this case and for prose generally. Useful for dialogue though disparaged for too informal meaning in formal composition and needlessly used, and abused, in performance composition like prose.

The first paragraph is in indicative mood, the second paragraph in subjunctive. Subjunctive mood is usually used as an incidental auxillary mood alongside indicative, subjunctive too hypothetical for firm and reliable assertion suitable for prose. Regardless of intents, the second paragraph, first sentence's subjunctive mood and entirety is useless, superfluous, calls undue attention to the empty sentence: emotionless attitude.

A lion-like and bear-like and some other animal analog -- probably a tiger: lions, and tigers and bears, oh my -- crew the starship. Ursoid and leonoid are celestial terms, artful instincts there; however, expectations place them in terrestrial meteor labels. "aslan," though lower cased as a common noun borrows meaning from external sources which are unique to a copyright protected franchise. The uniqueness factor is of more import than copyrighted material. Single words are not subject to copyright protection, like ideas are not. Use of another creator's unique property is the issue. If the new use is artful, transformative, and reinvented, the use is passable, though in this case the use is offhanded.

Each of the above considerations raises a central consideration and which suggests a treatment strategy: mythology development. Mythology is a prose term for a motif's basic nature, behavior, and personality development: how the motif is, behaves, and influences a narrative's action. The starship's mythology development is well-begun, though the starship's mission (mythology) is under-developed. The characters' mythology is interrupted by the thirteen-line limitation; however, the character mythology is probably under-developed for the time being as well, signaled by the under-developed starship mythology.

In terms of event development, mythology, none save for a starship adrift in a stasis state of being. Causal events are foremost for dramatic development, with which readers most easily identify.

One feature most informs all the above; that is, dramatic complication. What is the purpose, the mission, the want, so to speak, of this starship and its crew? Then what problems oppose satisfaction of that want?

Perhaps the novel's title signals the problem, if "Perdition" is the starship's hull name or Perdition is a planet or place the starship is bound, or "Perdition" signals the moral crisis parameters of the novel: Hell bound; and "Pocket" signals a monetary want: greed. Or all the former!? I like the title for its evocation of mystery and suspense and a vice-virtue clash. As title's go, this one fulfills a title's functions, says what the narrative is about on several levels of meaning, foremost a moral crisis.

This start fragment expresses artful strengths, though outweighed by distracting shortfalls. Consider lingering a mite longer in developing the starship mythology and emotional appeal and reconsider how effectively emotionally stimulating every word is in achieving that end.

[ January 03, 2015, 10:23 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Will Blathe
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quote:

A mote of a ship.

What an image! A dust speck in the middle of a nowhere as nowhere as you can get.

quote:

displacement

Good word. Is it the best here? There's no water to displace :/
Now, it may be that there is “something” to displace that's not yet known to the reader.

quote:

vast

Avast me maties! Too much "vast" for one paragraph to take. Going to have to find other words for “really freaking big” to make the story more exciting.

quote:

the crew did not mind . . . perspective

I like this. It takes away from the potential conflict in the first 13, but it's a look into the crew's personality.

The last paragraph flattens the story. It feels a little like an academic paper. I like reading it, but I think it's going to turn many readers off. I am curious about the critters on board the vessel, so I'll plow on through.

Verdict: I want to read it, but I could put it down for a nap in a cozy bed.

Keep writing! I want to read more :)

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