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Author Topic: Falcon's Wings
Grumpy old guy
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Fragment:

Version 1:

I had the best job in the world. For six hours a day, five days a week, I rode a dirt bike around a rural outer suburb of Melbourne delivering the mail. I was a Postie. During my travels I would stop and talk with most of the dogs and some of the horses, those who wouldnít talk being too aloof to engage in conversation. I didnít bother with the cows or sheep though: who talks to food?

The second worst thing to happen to me occurred two years ago when I passed out for a moment for no particular reason we ever discovered. All I can remember of the following forty-five minutes is a flash of white light, being asked repeatedly what day it was, and then slowly re-entering the world I knew.

Apparently, I was acting normally the whole time. Despite that, I lost those minutes of my life and it still bothers me. The . . .

Version 2:

Two years ago I had the best job in the world. From Monday to Friday I rode a dirt bike around a rural suburb of Melbourne delivering the mail. I was a Postie. During my travels I would stop and talk to most of the dogs and some of the horses I met. I didnít bother with cows or sheep though: who talks to food?

On the weekends Iíd hop on my slightly illegal superbike and go for a fang through some twisties I knew. One of these roads was a riderís heaven; twenty-eight kilometres of tight corners and sweepers that spat out and killed roughly nineteen riders each year. Whatís life without a bit of adrenalin to spice it up, eh?

One Sunday in the spring of that year, the morning dawned bright and blue. The night before, in a fit of melancholia about growing old, I had hit the turps a bit more than I should have. Still, I

Alternate opening (Version 3):

We all die.

The child, ignorant of death, either is, or is not. The adolescent, if they think of it at all, will chance their arm and trust in skill, but mainly luck, to defy the odds. It is only in our middle years that deathís cold hand brings with it fear: the fear of night, of darkness, and of the ending of all that we are, all we hope for, and of all we hold most dear. Yet some of us have made peace with our future. We know that death will come to us with tender care and relieve us of the burden of life, thus setting us free. Years ago I lost my fear of death and now I am content to be until I am not.

We all die. And I think I just did.

But hereís the thing: how do you know youíre dead? The last thing

Version 4:

There is a rhythm in a set of corners. When the bike, rider, and road come together as one it is a high-octane tango: a sublime, exhilarating, and oh-so-deadly dance.

And itís why I get up in the morning.

That Wednesday I was on fire. Despite spending the previous night on the turps lamenting my lost youth and the bad choices Iíd made, my head was clear. As I rode what is essentially an illegally registered racing bike toward the Reefton Spur it was purring, my eye was in, and the mid-morning air smelled sweet.

I scrapped my knee on the bitumen when I took the left-hand turn at the spurís entrance and, heading up the mountain, the ride was orgasmic--until a logging truck came around a blind corner on my side of the road. I wonít lie to you; I did close my eyes.

Version 5:

On a Wednesday morning late in November fate dealt me a hand full of aces and eights. For forty years Iíd defied her, betting my life on my skill, judgement, and luck. But skills fade, judgement falters, and sometimes luck just runs out.

It happened on the Reefton Spur, a road full of adrenalin pumping corners and no escape if things went wrong. Just before one corner, I shifted my weight, picked my spot, and at that point dropped my knee as I flicked the bike into the turn. Thatís when I saw it; the glint of spring sunlight off a polished chrome bull-bar--and the truck bolted on behind it.

I should have felt something, anything; but that wasnít to be. Instead of being smeared across the bitumen like strawberry jam over burnt toast, I was--well--I didnít know what I was.

Comment:

Iím trying a new Ďvoiceí for this story. The first person narrator is the main agonist, starting with a fairly long distance and then quickly closing the gap to Ďalmostí immediate past. A bit like someone coming back after a long journey and sitting down to recount their adventures. Possibly a bit archaic, but who cares?

I wonít lie to you; this will end up being a clichťd Ďwaking upí opening. But I donít care; itís how I want this story to start. Iíve also had positive feedback concerning the manner in which my agonist wakes up and what he does next.

Thanks in advance.
Phil.

[ May 03, 2015, 09:14 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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If you're going to start with the second worst thing, and not the worst thing, why are you starting two years after the second worst thing happened?

But even more than that, why aren't you starting with the worst thing - if losing 45 minutes of your life is the second worst thing to ever happen to you, why should the reader think that the worst thing would be very interesting?

And if the worst thing turns out to be finding out what happened in those 45 minutes (or else why mention them?), then why not start by telling us so?

Also, since you start with the dirt bike riding, the question arises regarding if you were on the dirt bike when you lost consciousness. Losing 45 minutes could be the least of things to happen to you in such a situation.

If this is worth mentioning at all, we need to know what the dirt bike and being a postie have to do with that second worst thing as well.

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Grumpy old guy
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All good questions, Kathleen. The importance of the lost 45 minutes is answered in the next line, the dilemma of only having 13 lines. The next line goes:

The upside of this was I lost my fear of dying.

Yes, the main character rides motorcycles, which will get him into trouble of 'the worst kind' and he does talk to animals, anthropomorphising them to an extent which has ramifications when he eventually get to where he is going to 'wake up'.

My question to you is: Are the questions you asked simply literary or are they intriguing enough to get you to turn the page?

Phil.

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JSchuler
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Starting out, we get a solid speculative element in the first paragraph: the guy is a regular Dr. Doolittle.

Then I get to the second paragraph. First problem, there's no setup for the transition. What is the connection between talking with animals and falling unconscious two years ago? What's the shared context? None is given. We, as readers, can infer a connection just by the fact the two elements are next to each other, but that's a poor device when the story is narrated by a character that claims to have no knowledge of any relationship. So I'm left with two separate topics sitting one on top of the other.

The next problem is, we're already flying two years into the past after a single paragraph.

Third, and biggest, problem is we're flying two years into the past away from something interesting that you already set up. I want to see this guy talking to animals now. That he was on autopilot for 45 minutes is boring in comparison.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Phil, when I ask questions in the process of giving feedback on a manuscript, I am sharing with the author the things that occur to me as a reader--the things I feel the author needs to think about addressing in any rewrites.

So you can take the questions as literary.

Even with the next line, I don't feel that the story opening is compelling enough to make we want to turn the page. And that's a little frustrating, because I believe you can make the opening more compelling.

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Grumpy old guy
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So do I, Kathleen; and I'm working on it. The context of the "second worst thing" is being changed.

Phil.

PS. As I've said before: I can edit other peoples work, just not my own.

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extrinsic
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To persuade me to turn the page, more development of the first talking to animals' motif as a bridge complication would do. The lost time motif seems to be the main complication though, and the transition feels too abrupt, rushed, without a full realization of the first motif first.

A full realization contribution orients around a motif's agency, its influence on the immediate and overall action. A motif's agency pivots upon revelation and reversal, a discovery that causes a transformation or a transformation that causes a discovery or both at once; antagonism, in other words. Any dramatic unit is incomplete without both revelation and reversal, though partial pivots for minor turns and full pivots for major turns, not 180s per se, just appreciable pivot turns: viewpoint "clip," scene, part, parcel, whole.

The animal conversation motif has curiosity and empathy appeals from not unequivocally making plain whether that's genuine or imagined, and who doesn't converse with animals, imagined anyway?

That motif though couldn't carry an entire novel's action. If it leads to greater complication, so much the better, necessary actually. Also, if once and done, is best practice excised. The motif best practice repeats later and differently in presentation and influence so it remains fresh and vigorous.

The lost time motif, though, will carry a novel's action. The conversations with animals motif is a conscious act, one akin to talking to one's self and all that entails, and such that he avoids admitting the fact he talks to himself. The lost time motif is a mystery, a done-to event that antagonizes action, and one which the agonist is nonconscious about in all regards except lost time in which he behaved more or less consciously to outward appearances. That to me is too rapid a reveal.

The conversations with animals motif is a tangible action; the lost time an intangible one for a first-person agonist in that he cannot be satisfactorily aware of all the lost time parameters from the outset. The overt action sets up the covert action as an artful misdirection: conversations with animals arouses empathy and curiosity, tension, and leads into the complications of lost time. How do they connect? Are agents of animals or the animals behind the lost time? That's an easy answer. A more surprising answer connects the two motifs in surprising though inevitable ways. Then the lost time motif can move ahead at breakneck velocity.

Also, how does the Postie on a dirt bike motif connect to the action? Rhetorical question. Unified motifs create congruency implications in readers' imaginations and are of timely fluent flow.

Eventually, with practice, editing others' work becomes a matter of turning hard won aesthetic hunches reacting to speed bumps and developed "treatments" into self-aware questions to ask of and answer for a draft. This one perhaps is, what's the connection to who, when, where, what, why, and how: complication, idea, event, setting, and character. Sometimes artful connections come up later than sooner, and are satisfying if pre-prompted and timely revealed.

[ April 12, 2015, 01:45 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Well, spurred on by Kathleen' observations, as well as JShuler's, I've dropped the added quirk factor of lost time; it was meant to reveal a character trait, nothing more. Obviously, the transition was too abrupt and to ethereal.

Second attempt is up top. What I'm worried about in this one is the use of vernacular Aussie slang and the rhetorical question in the second paragraph. Any thoughts?

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Both versions' "voices" are raconteur-narrator types: storyteller around a kitchen table or campfire, pasture, door yard, etc. In other words, the narrator and narration are overt. Tell, summary, lecture, etc., works for me when a strong and clear attitude toward a topic is expressed by the narrator.

Both openings to me are on the lackluster side attitude-wise, partly from little clarity on what topic is meant, partly from strong though empty, overall net a neutral attitude. Narrator attitude toward topics, complications, ideas, events, settings, and characters, reveals narrator identity, a crucial feature for tells.

Implication of a topic for attitude is lost among several motifs, tending toward -- I don't know what. What's this novel topically about. Even a long fiction needs an accessible introduction of what it's about on the first page, thirteen lines, to persuade readers to turn the page.

The "Aussie" idioms work for me in accessibility, timeliness, judiciousness, and appeal terms, though attitude-wise, partly effective from showing an enthusiasm attitude.

[ April 11, 2015, 09:45 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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JSchuler
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The Aussie slang coming so thick and so soon might be a turn off to some readers. I'm not entirely sure what a fang is, though I'm probably in the ballpark with my guess (akin to "go on a tear"), or the distinction between a tight corner and a sweeper, but these are minor issues.

The big one is still the same: we get talking with animals, and then it's dropped for bike riding with no clear connection, which reminds me of the standard ADD joke.

I would focus on a single concept, preferably something in the here and now of the story instead of two years ago.

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wetwilly
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Is there a reason you're starting with a distant narration before closing in? The downside is that it doesn't pull me into the story so much. What's the payoff you want out of it?

Now, start me off in a closer narration as this person tears down this dangerous road on a motorcycle: there you might pull me in.

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extrinsic
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For me, the voice of this start and whole is of a storyteller relaying the story to implied-real receivers. The apostrophe form relates a story to a real-fictional person or persons not present with the storyteller at the time of the telling; the apostrophe type is also an epistle if as like a letter or letters sent to a receiver. The raconteur type tells a story to a real-fictional person or persons present.

Each type entails similarities and differences. The situation of teller's setting (performance space) and receiver's setting are necessities for both types, either related or implied. Direct relation is most accessible though implied narrator setting situation enhances appeal from readers' awareness of the implications. They feel smart and like a narrator from appreciating they can interpret the implications.

For an apostrophe or raconteur type, a written-word narrator's setting situation is by default assumed to be a writing desk or the like if not revealed as otherwise. The default relies on readers' personal writing experiences to erect an image of the narrator's situation. In itself, that may be enough, with a few cues to affirm and reinforce the image or add details. The default image is by nature naturally and necessarily assumed; one challenge then is to keep from contradicting that image.

However, setting descriptions and sensory descriptions, action, emotions, thoughts, etc., generally of a performance space -- where, when, and situation a narrator writes or orates from -- are best practice related artfully if the default, and vague, writer's desk is undesired. Specific details like these matter to readers, not per se handholding: they are concrete anchors that aid readers' imaginations for erecting images. Why these matter is they develop narrator identity appeals -- characterization, in other words.

The types of narrator situation details are near infinite. They only need best practice be specific and congruent to the main action, if not transformation influences: antagonal, causal, and tensional. A writing desk situation is an easy answer, its details and relevance and influence usually neutral, unimaginative, and lackluster, one, because a writing desk is usually a place of peace and quiet, non dramatic overall, in other words, thus why that situation is a writing default, a Dischism, actually.

Dischism: where a writer's writing environment and situation intrudes into a story. A common example is the writer smokes tobacco while writing, and uses cigarettes or cigars or pipe smoking motifs for tension development and relief. Yawn, really.

For fun and demonstration, say this narrator tells the story in part to the animals. That poses opportunities for persuasive and appealing scene setting development, and characterization and action, etc. Say the Postie notices two horses, one a brash young stallion mustang and a swayback mare matron thoroughbred, or whatever. The narrator describes them as he sees them, their interactions with each other in such a way that implies they listen to him. They seem to respond at times, at times they seem disinterested, or at times they signal they approve or disapprove or are baffled by human behavior, etc. These are the narrator's subjective interpretations of the horses' behavior. Fun, by the way, to read and write.

Now to a few mechanistic considerations with aesthetic appeals. Consider aesthetics on their surface as emotional appreciation, though also subjective experience and response thereto, and the artistic persuasions part of expression.

Subjunctive mood is a grammatical concept in which imaginary, subjective, doubt, uncertainty, future probability, etc., are expressed. The narrator personifying the horses' behavior, for example, as responsive to the storytelling best practice leaves doubt open whether the horses do indeed raptly listen and respond.

In addition to judicious and timely subjunctive mood use, consider also the matter of discourse method. Direct discourse relates verbatim details as they are received and responded to and are relevant. Dialogue, for example, details verbatim what was said, fictionalized though. Same with thought for direct discourse. Direct discourse also portrays scenes and actions, emotions, etc., as verbatim expression. Above where the horses are described, the brash mustang and swayback mare are examples of verbatim direct discourse details. Direct discourse for this narrative type best practice relates the narrator's performance space situation.

Indirect discourse, on the other hand, is the narrator's oration of the story, for example, to the horses. Other animals may also be present: hapless and wary dogs, a mischievous cat, the food animals across the way at the far back forty and miffed they are left out, so they show their backsides to the narrator.

Indirect discourse paraphrases, through summary and explanation, as it were. Paraphrase, though, is the operative term. Most of this post is paraphrased indirect discourse, by the way. Paraphrased dialogue, thought, description, emotion, etc., tells a narrative more or less secondhand, perhaps objective after the fact reporting, perhaps subjective interpretation and assessment of the action, perhaps at times both, the latter more appealing from timely and judicious variety and the strong appeals of subjective experience and response.

Subjunctive mood, direct discourse for narrator performance space situation development -- as like a frame story's frame: is a frame story's frame -- and indirect discourse for the main action orated to the present, or not, audience of the story told, these are conventions for an appealing storyteller's story told. This is artful tell, the voice I assume is intended and the start versions resemble.

[ April 12, 2015, 11:49 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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extrinsic, a good explanation of what I was trying to do, but youíre version is more imaginative than mine. Food for thought, and writing exercises, indeed.

I was hoping to start this story in a lighter vein, and a bit further from one of the dramatic complications before I got down to the nub of the story: commitment to something you donít want to do but have to, because your own moral code wonít let you walk away--no matter the personal cost.

Above is my alternate opening, right at the initial moment of crisis.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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We studied writers and readers, and editors, confront the challenge of overly broadened horizons. The alternate opening changes appreciably the reader effect from somewhat connected to scenes to a self-reflexive meditation -- address to the self, prior versions are addresses to readers -- a theme opening. I don't know if a broader disparity is possible. Target bracketing is uncentered, shot marks at opposite sides of a bull's eye.

Also, the mystery appeals of the first two versions from vague implication of what the story is about to direct, one-to-one statement of the alternate version that leaves no mystery or implication for interpretation what the story is about diminishes puzzle-mystery appeals.

Sapients are clever puzzle solvers, The human capacity to make sense of chaos is profound and of considerable appeal value. Yet narratives need give clues that are amenable to intended interpretation and, artfully later, confirmation. I feel none of the three versions quite manages the intent.

Imagine the alternate version told to the animals of the first two. Their eyes avert; their body postures turn away; they shuffle and fidget like teenagers given an adjustment, correction, and castigation lecture. They don't want to hear it.

Now that the intent for what the story is about is understood, consider he has to do or die, or do and die, as necessary to be implied rather than directly stated and a struggle for any way not to do or die. For example, if told to the animals, he thinks aloud, negotiates with himself using the animals as mirrors to reflect his thoughts.

Confronted by a must do or die or and die, etc., the natural and necessary response is refusal altogether. More than one refusal, too. Once is a trivial happenstance coincidence; a dance takes two to lambada; three's a riot and a party! Likewise, three refusals builds tension toward the inevitable surprise decision to commit; doubt left open because he oh so certainly wants anything but to must do. Through the denials the must do is implied.

A start at the moment of crisis-decision rushes into the action before tension arises to persuade readers to like and trust the narrator and care and be curious what will happen to him.

The alternate version also stages a pity party and tells the fear factor. Effective a mite that pity and fear emotions are expressed, though too direct and easy for best practice reader effect. Direct requests for pity alienate many readers. Direct statements of fear, or any emotion, leave readers' imaginations little or no access point for engagement.

[ April 13, 2015, 04:07 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jed Anderson
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What about this for an opening:

We all die.

But hereís the thing: how do you know youíre dead?

The child, ignorant of death, either is, or is not. The adolescent, if they think of it at all, will chance their arm and trust in skill, but mainly luck, to defy the odds. It is only in our middle years that deathís cold hand brings with it fear: the fear of night, of darkness, and of the ending of all that we are, all we hope for, and of all we hold most dear. Yet some of us have made peace with our future. We know that death will come to us with tender care and relieve us of the burden of life, thus setting us free. Years ago I lost my fear of death and now I am content to be until I am not.

Simply, we all die. And I think I just did.

***

The first two versions are difficult. It's been a few years since I was in Sydney, and being American, the slang is too much up front. Ease into it as we learn more of the character. I had to reread a few lines to make sure I read it right. Both versions also really have no hook in them. It's enough for me to go, "huh, all right," but that's about it. The voice is uninteresting. It feels as if I'm reading an editorial of some sort.

I liked the alternate the best. The voice was stronger, rather melodramatic, but better nonetheless. It actually pulls me in and want to know what the hell he's talking about.

The "talking to animals" is interesting. If this is important, save it for later, or start off with why it's important.

Also, I ride a Harley, so if you start off with a tale of break-neck rides through the gorgeous winding country-side, I'll know if you're full of it, or if you know what you're talking about. The former, I stop right there. The latter, I'll keep reading.

[ April 15, 2015, 01:44 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Bad as I am at critiquing my own work, let me have a go.

Version 1 is unfocused and doesn't either get the reader into the story or advance the narrative line. I have the advantage of knowing what the story is about. While it does incorporate a 'quirk' factor, that quirk has taken over the story opening.

Version 2 is simply rearranging the deck chairs on an already sinking ship.

Version 3, the Alternate version, doesn't do anything at all. It is simply writer's tell in lecture mode. In fact, it does harm; giving the incorrect impression that the main character is obsessed with death--he aint.

So: the answer? Go back to basics: What's the purpose of this scene?

First, introduce Peter Falcon (the main character) and give us a peek inside his life. Second, get him from this world to another ASAP.

So, version 4 is up.

Phil.

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JSchuler
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Fourth version is better, but here I feel that the narrative lacks an immediacy that would bring the piece alive.

The first two sentences are great. It loses a little steam at the third, and it's lost it at the fifth. The sixth is your opportunity to recover, but it needs to be converted from tell to show. I don't know how important it is for me to know that it's an illegal racing bike, but I'd rather hear about the thrumming of the twin inverted geegaws or whatever that makes this bike something special. Let the readers already in the know about bikes draw the illegal conclusion at this point and don't worry about us non-initiated until it becomes necessary.

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Grumpy old guy
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JSchuler, I understand your desire for more show and an almost immediate personal POV, but that distracts from my goal, get the character immediately out of this world and hint at some character traits: He's oldish, he is riding a motorbike, he has regrets about the choices he's made, he bends, if not flouts the law, and a hint of danger adds spice to his life.

Everything about the opening is implied, nothing is certain, and going in to 'show' at this point in the story is a distraction in my opinion. It's all about the character, not the situation--apart from the fact he's about to become strawberry jam under the wheels of a logging truck..

Phil.

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JSchuler
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If you want to get the character out of the world, then get him out of the world. I think you did that effectively in the first lines of your original pieces. The problem there was always the pull back.

Your character traits are easily hinted at in a more immediate piece. Allow me to propose a simple change: the logging truck is in the proper lane when the accident occurs. With that, you have flouting of the law and desire for danger already taken care of. A regret and his age are found in his last thought before he impacts. You can hit all your notes in two or three sentences of showing and move on before your first thirteen is over, if you so choose.

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Grumpy old guy
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To me, putting my hero on the wrong side of the road going around a blind corner makes him look stupid.
quote:
Your character traits are easily hinted at in a more immediate piece.
Agreed, but it isn't the way I write. And, in a first person POV piece, I believe the reader needs to know something of the character a bit before he hits the truck, not as his last thoughts before he thinks he's going to die.

But, that's just me.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Character development develops from events. Setting development develops from events. An event sequence needs only one feature to start all three's development; that is, complication. A want or a problem -- a problem is itself a want and a want is a problem when either is troubling to resolve.

A motorcycle ride to a wreck leads to a problem. However, for me, what's missing in the fourth opening is a purpose -- want or problem wanting satisfaction -- for the motorcycle ride. In other words, what's the cause of going on a motorcycle ride? To get somewhere, something, to someone? For the thrill of the ride? As a way to unwind? Practice for an upcoming event? Because a person needs the rider to come to the rescue? A love interest waits?

Plot movement begins with complication introduction, implied or otherwise. A bridge complication starts plot movement too, though leads into a main and higher magnitude complication. A barred gate implies want to get into a walled city, is a bridge complication example.

A wreck, though a problem, without a prior cause, self-involved cause, like a want to be somewhere, is a coincidence, even if through a fault of the cyclist or no fault. A want to feel the rush of wind in the hair needs a prior cause too, say, as a reaction to a dull morning's work. Or to unwind from a stressful event beforehand.

In other words, without a complication event first, the fourth opening starts in time and maybe place a mite late. What event leads into the wreck comes first?

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Grumpy old guy
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extrinsic, the first two paragraphs supply the want:
quote:
There is a rhythm in a set of corners. When the bike, rider, and road come together as one it is a high-octane tango: a sublime, exhilarating, and oh-so-deadly dance.

And itís why I get up in the morning.

The crash is a complication of the main character wanting to go for a ride among the gum trees, feel the wind whistling by, and the pounding of an adrenalin rush in his head.

Personally, I don't need any excuse to go for a ride. Rain, hail, or shine, if I can afford the gas, I'm out there in the corners.

Mind you, that's not the main dramatic want, or complication. But I have to get the character to the world where that happens before both dramatic want and complication materialise, without resorting to flash-back or narrator telling what he remembers just before he got there.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I realize the thrill of a motorcycle ride is intended for a bridge complication. Where that doesn't work for me is degree of accessibility related to degree of antagonism, both comparably low. The fourth version is like a still life in film, what filmmakers call a postcard clip, a pretty-picture snapshot pan of a landscape -- physical movement though little or no dramatic movement.

A word or two, not much, can make a huge difference for tension's development. Antagonism causes tension development and in turn character and setting development through the antagonizing event. The quirk of talking to animals of the first version had that antagonism implied, for example, from a want potential implied by a reach out to a "safe" confessor. The fourth version is a routine without a proportionate antagonism clearly implied.

I appreciate a slow start intent. A touch of foreshadowing of a proportionately strong complication implied is warranted, I feel. I don't know the direction of the story, a vague clue from the title, so I have no basis from which to suggest what in those antagonism regards to lead into a bridge or main complication. I am at a loss as both reader and evaluator.

The flow of the fourth version is more fluent than the others, mostly from lingering leisurely in the moment, though a touch of ominous foreshadowing unnoticed by the rider for readers I feel is warranted. In all, though, my reading on is negatively impacted.

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Grumpy old guy
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I'm surprised.

It's not like the pivotal dramatic complication is shrouded in obfuscation; it's sitting there in plain sight for all to see.

Despite spending the previous night on the turps lamenting my lost youth and the bad choices Iíd made, my head was clear.

All of the actions, crises, and decisions made by the protagonist as the story unfolds are coloured by the fear he will again make bad choices; and have to deal with the consequences.

Was I too subtle?

Phil.

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extrinsic
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For me, more so vague than subtle and as well more generically philosophical than tangible and specific. A lamented misspent youth ought best practice be shown and through implication judiciously and timely instead of told directly, to work for me. Moral struggles -- also best practice shown as external crises instead of internal navel contemplations. Moral philosophical narratives wind up on the great dusty shelf alongside trunk narratives and overwrought, so-labeled plot-less stories.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:


Despite spending the previous night on the turps lamenting my lost youth and the bad choices Iíd made, my head was clear.


I have to say, Phil, that the way you've presented it, the lament seems more incidental than crucial.

It might help if he were chewing on past bad choices as he rode along, or something. If they eat at him when he's sober, then they aren't just something that he gets weepy about when he's drunk.

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Grumpy old guy
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I agree somewhat with the both you; if that's all there is to it. The character isn't rendered ineffectual by his doubts; he is constantly forced to make decisions as the narrative unfolds. Life changing decisions. And each decision comes at an ever increasing cost to him; but that doesn't stop him 'doing the right thing' as he sees it. Eventually he comes to realise that, though his decisions may have a great personal cost, they are the right decisions to make: his hero's journey.

And his decision making trials start in the next sentence: Is he alive or dead?

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Consider that the narrator-agonist is solitary in the latter three versions, in the company of animals briefly the first version.

Consider that strongest, clearest, most artful character development comes from passionate interaction with other personas, in the now moment, place, and situation of a scene.

Consider passionate interactions are events, dramatic, to mean antagonizing suitable to the now moment, place, and situation.

Consider that a now moment, place, and situation is a setting, also antagonizing suitable to the scene -- the scene's function.

Consider a scene's function development as suitable to a complication: antagonizing want and problem wanting satisfaction.

Consider a three-act structure -- and formula for structure that is: start, introduce a bridge or main complication; middle, efforts to satisfy a main complication; end, outcome of the complication.

Consider a complication exercise -- identify the complication of numerous narratives: news reports, fiction and nonfiction compositions, films, short and long, even commercials, film or otherwise: billboards, magazine ads, etc.

Consider: Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, the title implies the thematic complication; an individual and nature. The first line unequivocally, though implied, expresses the main complication: "He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."

More complication strength and clarity develop in the next few lines: "In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after the forty days without a fish the boy's parents had told him the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which was the worst form of unlucky."

Salao: Spanish (slurred) provincial idiom; past participle and noun-adjective form of verb salar, to salt, inflected form of salado, salted, idiom for cursed, comparable to English idiom Old Salt. A cursed, old fisherman without a catch is the antagonizing complication. Salao -- the one word which compasses and defines the whole, the focus pivot.

The complication's antagonizing problems and wants develop through to the end of the first act, roughly a quarter of the word count; at which point Santiago proactively acts to end his long catch-less streak. Character, setting, and event development accompany complication development; leavened like spice onto the main complication thrust for reality imitation verisimilitude.

[ April 21, 2015, 04:23 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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extrinsic, I'm not Hemingway.

My opening scene, which purely by happenstance, happens to fill 13 lines has one main purpose, and one subsidiary purpose.

Main purpose: get hero out of this reality into another one. I think I did that successfully.

Subsidiary purpose: hint at the hero's dramatic complication (hero's angst). I think I did that too.

That means I accomplished what I wanted to. Is it done in the most artful manner? Possibly not, but as it is a second draft, I'm happy to let it lie for a while and ferment in my noggin.

Btw, I didn't mention this because I believe a sequel, or a book in a series, should stand alone. This is the sequel to ∆sir Dawn where the 'story's' dramatic complication is already clearly intimated at the end of Book 1.

Phil.

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Grumpy old guy
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I really hates youze guy's, especially that extrinsic tyrant. Why should I try and be a better writer?

Having pondered a bit, I see the failings of version 4, dammit! Version 5 is taking shape and may be ready in a week or two.

Phil.

PS. Now you know why I'm so grumpy.

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extrinsic
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The extrinsic tyrant has a valid point, if I do say so myself.

Consider, if urgency of action is not wanted and a slower though no less dramatic movement is preferred, then perhaps anticipation will serve as well -- emotionally stimulating for readers in any case: Sympathy or empathy and curiosity are tension's emotional reader-effect handmaidens.

A workday tedium anticipates a thrilling countryside motorcycle dash, for instance.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Well, we love you, Grumpy old guy, even when you're grumpy.

[Smile]

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Grumpy old guy
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Well, here's version 5, up the top. Actually, it's version 11, I just haven't posted the gradual development of the passage. If people want to see the various incarnation that led to this latest version I'm happy enough to post them, but, for now, I'll just post this as the latest version.

Phil.

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wetwilly
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I like v5. strong sense of character and quickly gets the plot moving along. I would definitely read on.
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Grumpy old guy
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Thanks for that wetwilly. However, I'm still not satisfied with the last paragraph; it hasn't captured the tone I'm trying for.

At that point the hero is facing an existential conundrum: is he dead or isn't he? Everything he remembers tells him unequivocally that he has just died--except he can't remember dying. And, if he's wondering if he's dead or not, is he or isn't he? Dead, that is.

I'm trying to inject a hint of satire into his internal musings that parodies the cliche 'waking up in a strange land' opening scene because he is about to wake up in a strange land.

I guess I'll just have to wait for an epiphany.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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The fifth draft's flow is more fluent, and timely lingers. For me, though, the fragment tells the action from a narrator's perspective, prologue-like. First-person narration mode is distinguishable from first-person scene mode by which summarizes and explains by indirect discourse and which reflects received stimuli through direct discourse.

For the former case, an artful narrator persona holds the strongest attitude -- emotional -- toward subjects and themes; the latter, a character-agonist persona. That division and its hallmarks are an organization principle for a settled voice. Willy-nilly transitions between narrator and agonist voices give me figurative whiplash from frenetic inside-looking-out to outside-looking-in rough and bumpy transitions.

The stated intent for the fifth version is a satire of an agonist waking in an unexpected, strange place. Our host Orson Scott Card notes that is a milieu-type narrative. The trite nature start of such narratives entails two common shortfalls: no agency for the setting transition from familiar to exotic, and a drawn-out exploration of the setting without dramatic movement: a travelogue, in other words. Next-most shortfall is a navel contemplation scene, again, with no dramatic movement.

All three of the above shortfalls resolve around Dischism: where a writer's writing situations end up on the page. Other Dischisms include white room syndrome, settings described as white rooms, walls, furniture, skies, fields, meadows, seas -- the color of a blank page; and setting explorations as Dischist meditations seeking a drama place, time, and situation (setting and milieu) access point, and meditative characters' reflections of a writer's thought and writing processes, that are static statues, etc.

For satire's sake, perhaps the Dischism shortfall holds potential for ironically exposing the writing vices and follies of awoken-in-a-strange milieu and dead or not dead. Call undue though artful attention to a lack of agency for the setting change, for example, metafictionally: writing about writing. Also, call undue attention to travelogues and navel meditations. The undue though artful emphasis upon the three resolved around a writer's situation, a place, say, for an undead persona to record the after-the-fact event sequence of the main action.

For comic effect, consider emotional contrasts, like self-deprecation about how trite waking up in a strange place is, how trite a nondramatic travelogue is, and how trite character meditations are -- that net are the intangible dramatic action of the moment and a revelation that starts the tangible dramatic action roller coaster to barrel along its track, and all the while strong attitudes about the vice and folly of triteness, self-effacing and self-deprecating commentary clashes with antagonal action.

Metafiction and irony, those to me are an E-ticket to ride for satire about triteness.

[ May 04, 2015, 10:12 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
For comic effect, consider emotional contrasts, like self-deprecation about how trite waking up in a strange place is . . .

This is exactly the turn the narrative takes as my main character recognises the dilemma he is facing and what he eventually sees--the white room description of the landscape. My hope is that I can pull it off.

I'm not trying for overt satire, rather a quiet chuckle from the reader as they 'get the joke' and move on. The story itself is not meant to be satirical, although my hero is almost a parody of the heroic form. I have chosen to walk a fine line, I hope I don't fall off either side.

Phil.

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