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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » The Three Wishes of Bodie O'Connor

   
Author Topic: The Three Wishes of Bodie O'Connor
Sétanta
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It's worth noting that I had to restrain myself - copying and pasting this excerpt for you - from wanting to edit it, or preface it, or provide caveats... made me think that just submitting something is a good exercise in itself. =)

So without doing any of the things mentioned above, here you have the first 13 lines in a young adult fantasy novel. Go to town.

[Edit 1: to work on comma usage]

---

The little green man was watching him again.

At first, Bodie considered the possibility that it was simply coincidence. There were people you just happened to see, you know, around. It didn’t mean anything. For example, whenever he went to the grocery store with his mother, Mole-Chin seemed to be there too, browsing the soup aisle. "Mole-Chin" may not have been the nicest name for her, but a) he didn’t know her real name and b) you couldn't exactly miss the giant lump on her face sprouting a single, wiry black hair like a spider’s leg. The point was that he knew that Mole-Chin wasn’t actually following him to the grocery store - she wasn't interested in him at all. She just happened to harbor a deep, personal interest in soup.

[ June 02, 2015, 11:39 AM: Message edited by: Sétanta ]

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MattLeo
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Well, it's generally best not to preface and caveat yourself. A piece of writing, particularly an opening should speak for itself. Plus I think we can guess from the title and your username what kind of "little green man" we're talking about here.

One thing that sticks out is a plethora of commas. It gives the piece a bit of choppiness in my opinion. Some of these at the start of prepositional phrases are strictly speaking compliant with most official style guides but I believe can be ommitted if the introductory phrase is short (e.g. "At first" and "For example"); do others here feel the same?

Likewise commas on both sides of "also" seem too much to me; I'm not sure whether you're saying Mole-chin (or is it "Wart-chin") is "also there", or is "also browsing".

I like what you're trying to do here with the sound of the narration echoing the POV character's dialog voice. It gives the narration personality, and that shows talent.

Along that line you might consider reading this aloud and seeing how it sounds; that might lead you to pare down some of the commas where they impair the flow, even if they're technically correct from a style-guide standpoint, since you're going for a conversational voice. In some cases the pause doesn't sound right. In others ("you know") it hits just the right note.

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wetwilly
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I quite like it. Fun, humorous tone, reads smoothly, an intriguing mystery. My only nit is that "Mole Chin" switched to "Wart Chin."

I would read the rest of this.

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extrinsic
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Commas separate clauses and phrases and words of a dependent, independent, complex, compound, or serial nature, prescriptively anyway. A journalism grammar convention, not prose, advises if a phrase is less than five words, comma separation omission is discretionary.

Sometimes an adverbial phrase or sentence adverb is best separated from a main clause, to emphasize emotional commentary separately from what the commentary is about. For example: Frantically, he worried about the little green man.

Sometimes an adverb is part of a clause or phrase, therefore, an adverbial clause; for example, "Mole-Chin was there, also, browsing the soup aisle." Either or both commas that separate adverb "also" are discretionary, depends on what proximity pronoun "there" references, the somewhat remote subject antecedent "grocery store" or subsequent subject "the soup aisle" or both, actually. In any case, not only bumpy, also vague pronoun use, that the commas signal, imply, is problematic.

Also, the fragment voice is generally static; static voice of ongoing state-of-being stasis statements: to be, present participle, and nonfinite time span verbs. Look at the first sentence: "The little green man was watching him again." "was" to be verb, "watching" present participle, and root verb to watch static for its nonfinite summary and explanation narrator tell of what is best practice shown in scene mode: a dynamic, finite time span, a process statement, a visual, at least, sensation description that clearly implies the little green man watches the agonist from an immediate-now moment, place, and situation.

The fragment overall is an antithesis scheme: expresses by what a circumstance is not what the circumstance is. Mole Chin is the antithesis motif of what the little green man is not. Artful rhetorical scheme usage. Impressive. If only the discourse method were stronger suited to the occasion. The occasion: introductions apropos of a narrative start: complication, emotional disequilibrium, narrative point of view, voice, events, settings, characters.

Considerations worth a second look in the above regards are based on a top-tier rhetorical principle: decorum; suit words and subject matter to each other, to the occasion, and to the audience. I feel the words and subject matter and occasion are less than ideally suited to each other. Who the audience is seems on its surface an academic discourse community wanting a lark.

For example, use of connection words, prepositions, adverbial verb particles, emotionally impersonal commentary, forced emphatic grammatical mood, static voice, negation statements, preposition substitutions for verbal adverbs and vice versa, pronoun syntax expletives, and conjunctions, some are essential for formal composition, they are everyday gossip conversation features, yet tend to force emotions and connections that are more artfully implied and cause a bumpy read for prose. Let's see which words are problematic, wordy, in that regard.

"The little green man [was watching] him again.

"[At first,] Bodie considered [the possibility] [that it] [was] [simply] coincidence. [There] [were] people [you] [just] happened to see, [you know,] around. [It] [didn’t] mean anything. [For example,] [whenever] he went to the grocery store with his mother, Mole[-]Chin was [there,] [also,] [browsing] the soup aisle. 'Wart Chin' [may not have been] [the] [nicest] name for her, [but] [a)] he [didn’t] know her [real] name [and[ [b)] [you] [couldn't] exactly miss the giant lump on her face{,* sprouting a [single][,] wiry[,] black hair{,* like a spider’s leg. [The point [was] that] he knew [that] Mole Chin [wasn’t] actually [following] him to the grocery store [-] she [wasn't] interested in him [at all]. She [just] [happened to harbor] a deep, personal interest in soup.

[Now,] if she [started] [showing up] at his chess tournaments, or when he went on a field trip with his class, or [sitting] behind him at the movie theater[...] [it] might start to worry him [a little]. [And] that was the problem [with] the Green Man: he had been all those places."

Wordiness tends to mask a lack of strong and clear emotional expression, personal expression, the opposite of formal composition's overtly impersonal expression. and tends to force emotional expression upon what could, best practice for prose, be natural and necessary emotional response commentary.

The antithesis scheme works for me, is a stand-out strength -- also a leaven of satire from the fragment is implied, inferrable and pleasant, from the conversational, conspiratorial force of impersonal, almost reflexive, second person use, for example, to aggregate and ironically expose human vice and folly -- the forced wordiness doesn't work for me, is to me a shortfall. I would not read on for that latter reason.

[ June 01, 2015, 07:54 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Commas separate clauses and phrases and words of a dependent, independent, complex, compound, or serial nature, prescriptively anyway.

I of course agree. I'm simply suggesting that one start out prescriptively correct and then use artistic license to get the sound right. Naturally if that creates comprehension problems then one backs off.
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Sétanta
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Fixed the annoying mole-chin/wart-chin error. =)

Thanks, everyone, for the thoughts on comma use. I will think about how to splice it more organically. I AM going for whimsical, to a degree, but I also know that I tend to babble.

Extrinsic: I think you *may* have given me wonderful feedback? But I have a difficult time parsing your sentences! I would love it if you would make your prescriptive advice a bit clearer and less jargony! ...I know from teaching statistics that it's easy to assume that others understand your frame of reference and vocabulary, but I fear I missed out on what are probably some really brilliant insights. I'm sure you don't write that way when you're novel-writing!

For example, I know I tend towards wordiness, and I worry that I still write too academically (I think you were pointing out both of these?). Do you think you might take one or two of those sentences that you bracketed and show me how I might get the same sentence written more concisely, or so that the tone matches the setting, etc.? Or for example, what verb tense you feel might be more dynamic for that first sentence ("the little green man...")?

Thank you all for taking the time to read and help!!

S

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Commas separate clauses and phrases and words of a dependent, independent, complex, compound, or serial nature, prescriptively anyway.

I of course agree. I'm simply suggesting that one start out prescriptively correct and then use artistic license to get the sound right. Naturally if that creates comprehension problems then one backs off.
My intended implication, my point, is commas that cause a bumpy reader effect signal revision considerations are warranted, not only whether a comma separation is discretionary. If more than one idea is expressed per sentence, revise, reconstruct syntax to separate disparate ideas. A comma splice is one run-on sentence type, for example. Another is a conjunction splice; others, preposition splice, or noun-phrase splice, verbal-phrase splice, etc., and other punctuation splices -- spliced: run-on sentence.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
If more than one idea is expressed per sentence, revise, reconstruct syntax to separate disparate ideas. A comma splice is one run-on sentence type, for example. Another is a conjunction splice; others, preposition splice, or noun-phrase splice, verbal-phrase splice, etc., and other punctuation splices -- spliced: run-on sentence.

Very sound advice, of course. When a sentence has got too big for it's britches it's better to reorganize how you marshall your thoughts rather than tweak the sentence's structure or punctuation.

That said, I don't think we're looking at that kind of situation here. The opening has a charming narrative voice, it just has a few eyeball-stumbles that can actually (I think) be corrected by tweaking. I'd suggest the best way to preserve the feel of this opening is to tweak it "by ear" (and I mean *literally* so) until it sounds right.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Sétanta:
Fixed the annoying mole-chin/wart-chin error. =)

Thanks, everyone, for the thoughts on comma use. I will think about how to splice it more organically. I AM going for whimsical, to a degree, but I also know that I tend to babble.

Extrinsic: I think you *may* have given me wonderful feedback? But I have a difficult time parsing your sentences! I would love it if you would make your prescriptive advice a bit clearer and less jargony! ...I know from teaching statistics that it's easy to assume that others understand your frame of reference and vocabulary, but I fear I missed out on what are probably some really brilliant insights. I'm sure you don't write that way when you're novel-writing!

For example, I know I tend towards wordiness, and I worry that I still write too academically (I think you were pointing out both of these?). Do you think you might take one or two of those sentences that you bracketed and show me how I might get the same sentence written more concisely, or so that the tone matches the setting, etc.? Or for example, what verb tense you feel might be more dynamic for that first sentence ("the little green man...")?

Thank you all for taking the time to read and help!!

S

Oh my! The principles I enumerate are from grammar handbooks, rhetoric guides, and poetics texts; they are numerous and, personally, I feel essential parts of a writer's Hatrack Utility Belt. Too numerous and complex to unpack for the whole. Yes, I presume writers have, could, or should resort to grammar handbooks, etc., and assume the discourse is part of a writer's community expression, though know full well grammar, etc., are perceived as an unnecessary, dry, and tedious study, if at all, beyond what currently, seventh grade?

Anyway, I shall endeavor to unpack "The Little green man was watching him again." Tense is less of an artistic consideration than the voice. Who expresses the observation? The options are: real writer, implied writer, narrator, or viewpoint agonist. The more immediate persona, and more appealing for best reader effect is viewpoint agonist. The sentence summarizes a visual sensation of an emotional reaction quality given remotely by the narrator.

"again" is as much emotional commentary, though, that the sentence contains, plus, maybe, a touch of a forlorn here-I-go-again emotional attitude from "was watching him again."

The substantive function of the sentence is an introduction of a problem the little green man represents for the agonist. However, the narrator is overtly the persona who reports the observation action of the green man's observation of the agonist observing the green man, and little, if any, development of the problem for the agonist.

The narrator's emotional attitude is also limited to a brief, rushed, unclear, and weak stasis statement about the little green man's observation action of an observation of the agonist. The narrator reports two personas observe each other. Frankly, I feel a case of figurative whiplash already, from head-whipping between two personas' viewpoints and a third, the narrator's.

A scene-mode sequence, or show, describes causal sensory stimuli, plus antagonal and tensional sensation, from, ideally, a viewpoint persona's perspective that, in turn or congruently, includes emotional reaction.

The persona who observes the agonist is little, is green, is a man. From the title, he grants three wishes to Bodie O'Connor. This is a three-wish folklore motif around which the main complication pivots. For folklore, a little green man represents a forest dweller, usually a trickster in league with wickedness. Signals these or other matters are the case more vividly and lively describe the individual's physical appearance such that the appearance represents the individual's basic, natural nature, personality, and behavior.

Wish motifs from folklore represent social vices: wrath, greed, gluttony, pride, envy, sloth, lust. Three wishes conventionally want wealth (greed), beauty (vanity as pride), and comfortable companionship (lust), and sloth overall from immediate, effortless self-gratification.

In other words, generally, how might the problem the little green man represents for O'Connor be introduced such that the problem is implied from how the little green man appears and observes O'Connor? Through sensory stimuli that congruently expresses O'Connor's emotional reaction to the little green man.

The sentence entails some of the above unclearly, though if expressed by the narrator as a direct received reflection from O'Connor's viewpoint, what O'Connor perceives and reacts to, then the sentence could become a short paragraph. Symbolism and foreshadowing are warranted. Perhaps the green man wears an Aladdin lamp broach. Or in keeping with European-Western folklore, he walks with a wood staff or some such motif. He's green, I imagine his complexion. How about his clothing? Dark brown like tree bark?

The principle on point here is of mythology development, which is the "telling details" that express, signal, and imply a motif's influence agency. One discrete and inevitable surprise about the little green man is all that's needed up front, for now. What could that one detail be? I can't, or rather, won't say. That would impose too much of my creative vision upon the narrative's intended creative vision. Use sensory details as symbolisms and foreshadowings, and for complication, event, setting, and character introductions and development.

For example, for illustration purposes: //Hidden by the vacant bicycle rack at Happlebon MallWort, a limp wood stick propped up a little green man. Bayberry leaves, yellow polka dotted and large, feathered the staff above his head. Dark brown pinstripe suit on a summer day -- too warm for Paris, Kansas. Again, O'Connor thought, the simpleton pesters me for what silly mischief.// Though that illustrates scene mode and mythology development, the voice is less, if at all, as humorous as the original. From which a writer's individual voice and creative vision must develop.

[ June 03, 2015, 12:54 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Sétanta
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Interesting. Gives me lots to consider. For example, I like your thoughts on competing moral agencies, and will think more on them.

I certainly can take something from your clear wealth of information! I am fairly well-versed in vocabulary and grammar, however. I did not mean to imply that I did not understand you because I was so far behind in basic knowledge that I needed a primer. Rather, I did not understand you because your writing is dense and occasionally unclear. Not that I don't appreciate all the time, thought, and effort you clearly put into your responses!

I do also think we have different voices, and that that's probably ok.

"The little green man was watching him again"

implies that a mysterious stranger, and clearly not of normal human origin, has been seen observing the protagonist upon more than one occasion. I think that conveys a decent bit in 7 words. Descriptions of the man himself come after the 13th sentence (i.e., not shown in the excerpt), but he is "slippery to the eye," meaning he can only be seen obliquely (the chapter title is "Out of the Corner of An Eye").

"Hidden by the vacant bicycle rack..." takes what is given in 7 words and expands it into an entire paragraph. Where he is, what he looks like, and how he's observing Bodie will come out over the course of the next page or two.

The green man is not, in fact, green - but he exclusively wears it, and my protagonist has a habit of nicknaming people (e.g., "Mole-Chin"). As some of you have guessed, he is a leprechaun, and this is a story of Celtic mythology.

MattLeo: I did try reading it aloud as you suggested, and that was thoroughly helpful! I guess I'll need to hire a narrator to read it to me now... LOL.

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Disgruntled Peony
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This opening has me intrigued. You've got a solid opening line to hook the reader, and a second paragraph that implies the story will be full of tongue-in-cheek humor. This is definitely a story I would keep reading, and if you're looking for critiques on the piece as a whole I am willing to provide them (although one chapter at a time would be easiest).

I'm not really going to bother with grammar suggestions in this case, because it seems everyone else has that thoroughly in hand and I didn't see the original version. The current version seems pretty solid overall to me, aside from the missing hyphen in 'Mole-Chin' in the last paragraph. I'm guessing that probably came about through editing, based on previous in-thread discussion.

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extrinsic
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Actually, word hyphenation conventions revolve around joined terms. For example, in these cases the hyphen reads as "and:" tractor-trailer, nurse-practitioner, which are combined nouns that define a single and contemporaneous function, as opposed to a slash means "or:" and/or, either/or.

For the other main word hyphenation convention, a hyphen joins contemporaneous modifier words; for examples, attorney-client privilege, rust-red wagon.

"Mole Chin" is a synecdoche, a rhetorical figure that uses a part for the whole to label an item -- a nickname, as it were. "Mole" modifies "Chin," not another word, nor is she mole [and] chin. As such, the words do not conventionally take a hyphen, suiting none of hyphen's conventional uses.

If Mole Chin was a modifier term for another word or term, like Mole-Chin Woman, or "Mole Chin" and "Woman" or similar are previously used together or clearly implied as a joined modifier, the term does take a hyphen. I feel the hyphen is unwarranted, though.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Sétanta:
MattLeo: I did try reading it aloud as you suggested, and that was thoroughly helpful! I guess I'll need to hire a narrator to read it to me now... LOL.

Brace yourself when you do this. Marion Zimmer Bradley recommended having someone else read your work to you (and when I've done in-person workshop sessions, I try to have that happen), because it can be very useful in seeing how your prose flows, or not.

It can also be extremely painful. You know how it's supposed to sound, and hearing someone read it cold, not knowing that, can really clarify what stumbling blocks you've unintentionally put into your text.

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Disgruntled Peony
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I just meant there was an inconsistency in the use of hyphen and lack of hyphen. XD That inconsistency has since been corrected.
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