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Author Topic: Hel Rising
Grumpy old guy
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No, it isn't a typo, the main character's name is Heloise.

The mare stopped at the crest of the hill, snickered and started tossing her head. Darian leant forward in his saddle, slapping her firmly on the neck trying to settle her as he looked into the valley below. The corpses of thousands of men and horses littered the ground between the ridges where wolves, bears, and stoats feasted while raucous crows circled overhead waiting their turn.

He kneed his horse forward and descended into that noisome valley. As he passed a lone oak by a stream and the bodies strewn all about there, one caught his attention. It lay half in and half out of the water still grasping its sword in its right hand while its left clutched a rag-doll to its chest. Lifeless eyes stared back at him from a face contorted in death; a face he recognised from two days ago.

Originally, this story started on that battlefield a couple of days from now as Heloise stood over the body of the King, her father, while her henchman cut the royal signet ring out of his bloated stomach--it was a very dark beginning. This opening was inspired by a bit of throwaway prose I wrote in response to another thread.

Any comments appreciated. [Smile]

Phil.

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JSchuler
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Just a general remark as I see stuff like this a lot:

"It lay half in and half out of the water still grasping its sword in its right hand"

Metal is valuable. Arms and armor even more so. Even torn and soiled clothing was worth scavenging. Why would it be left to a corpse? Fallen armies on medieval battlefields were often stripped bare, literally, either by the winning side or by locals.

So, my question is, why not this battlefield? What has scared everyone off from liberating the wealth strewn about the field, yet allows wolves, bears, and stoats to coexist in a shared feast? (But not those crows; you need to draw the line somewhere.)

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
The mare stopped at the crest of the hill, snickered and started tossing her head. Darian leant forward in his saddle, slapping her firmly on the neck trying to settle her as he looked into the valley below. The corpses of thousands of men and horses littered the ground between the ridges where wolves, bears, and stoats feasted while raucous crows circled overhead waiting their turn.

He kneed his horse forward and descended into that noisome valley. As he passed a lone oak by a stream and the bodies strewn all about there, one caught his attention. It lay half in and half out of the water still grasping its sword in its right hand while its left clutched a rag-doll to its chest. Lifeless eyes stared back at him from a face contorted in death; a face he recognised from two days ago.

Starting your opening sentence with 'The mare' threw me off--my initial reaction was, "What mare? Where? What's going on?" and I was just two words in. If you use the last sentence of that paragraph as the first sentence instead and then specify the mare as Darian's mare and/or give her a name, that would flow a lot more smoothly in my mind.

'Kneed' is an awkward descriptor; 'spurred' might be better, or 'nudged'.

I'm not a huge fan of 'ing' words in anything but dialogue. It can be a pain to minimize them, but the resulting prose is often stronger for it in the end.

Also, something important to note about semi-colons is that in order for them to be properly used, each half of the interconnected sentence should be able to stand on its own legs as a complete sentence if the two halves were separated. This is something I learned quite by accident, but it's something that's stuck with me ever since.

All of that said, even with the grammatical awkwardness I would probably read at least a bit further; I find myself intrigued by the prospect of what happened to cause all of this carnage. This essentially reads like an early draft of something I would happily read in a more polished form.

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Grumpy old guy
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Thanks for the comments.

JSchuler interesting question: just what did scare the scavengers (human, that is) off? You'd have to keep reading.

DP: mare, man, Bruce Willis, the opening line's 'subject' could be any noun; why did mare throw you out so much? As for kneed, too many decades spent riding horses. However, spurred has different connotations from kneed as does nudged. As for the semicolon usage, 'he' is the subject and 'recognised' is the finite verb, I think that allows the sentence fragment to stand on its own. [Smile] Just nit-pick'n.

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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I think what threw me of is that the sentence started with a nonspecific subject and I had no context for what was going on around it. If setting had been established first, it wouldn't have thrown me off; that's why I suggested the rearranging of sentences.

I am aware of the different connotations; 'kneed' just doesn't flow with the rest of the sentence in my mind.

After re-reading that sentence, I'd recommend replacing the semi-colon with dashes:

quote:
Lifeless eyes stared back at him from a face contorted in death--a face he recognised from two days ago.
The dashes give the feeling of a sudden rush of realization and help the flow of the sentence in a manner both grammatical and visual.
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extrinsic
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A mare and man come upon a battle aftermath.

The fragment starts specific though generic and close by, transitions to a broad and distant view, back to the specific and close by. For me, the view is jumpy, though the description of the individual with the sword and rag doll is most "telling," the rag doll in particular. If only that detail were given greater emphasis and meaning to set its mythology firmly.

The language of the piece attempts to imply the battlefield scene is dreadful though is unserious in effect. For example, the first sentence, in parts, "The mare," lack of specific details do not warrant the "The" definite article. Nor is indefinite article "A" suitable. A different adjective to distinguish the mare is advisable, perhaps a pronoun adjective use for de re specifics. De re, of the thing. //His mare//

The remainder of the sentence attempts to start an emotional texture of the horse's natural reaction to an appalling scene, though the action is bland. The action is a triplet, strong intent, though generic repetition, that lacks substitution's effectual amplification -- emotional emphasis escalation.

Also, the voice is static, static verbs, indefinite and nonfinite verbs and bland emotional texture. The touch of setting detail, though, "the crest of the hill," is soon and ample enough for a first sentence. The static verbs "stopped," "snickered," and "started tossing" stretch their time span longer than is best advised and stall forward movement, sentence and paragraph syntax movement. //Crested// is a stronger and more dynamic verb than "stopped."

Also, //ridge// is likewise more descriptive and specific of a term. "snickered" is strong enough, though lacks a texture detail, an alarmed snicker, for example, though generic, expresses the horse's emotional state and reaction to the battlefield scene, "started tossing" is a present participle verb, which are invariably static.

Also likewise, for amplification, the head toss is best accompanied by an emotional texture detail that expresses the horse's stronger emotional response, stronger than the snickers. That's a natural sequence that foreshadows the battlefield scene through Darian's perception of the horse's emotional response and reflects his to the scene before them.

The second sentence is a fused sentence, conjunction spliced by word "as." The sequential action verbs are also static, in particular the present participle "slapping" in the middle, which sags the sentence middle, best advised to arc the sentence up rather than down. Also, no emotional texture specifics for the sentence. "tried to settle her" doesn't cut it detail-wise. Battle steeds can be as lustful for battle and bloodshed as warriors.

I've gotten to the second sentence and no clue yet of the horse or the man's attitude about the carnage, nor at the fragment end, for that matter. Excited, forlorn, dread, some emotional attitude is warranted for reader anchor. Pro or con, unsettled or thrilled, something.

Third sentence, likewise an unnecessary and unwarranted article adjective "The." Plural subjects do not take a definite article. Also, two preposition "of" in short sequence -- best advised prose grammar practice to minimalize prepositions. "littered" is almost an emotional texture, though bland. If these are Darian's allies, are they trash? Or are they dear and mourned, deaths regretted?

A comma is warranted after "ridges" and before "where." Pronouns used as conjunctions may subordinate a clause, a dependent clause in this case, from a main clause. The dependent clause adds detail, though is nonrestrictive, doesn't restrict the main idea of the main clause. Actually, prose grammar often preferences a dependent clause first then a main clause for emphasis. The sentence recast then: //Where wolves, bears, and stoats feasted, while raucous crows circled, waited their turn overhead, horses and men's corpses [wasted] the vale grounds between the ridges.// Prose grammar builds to an emphatic pitch; formal composition syntax starts with an emphatic pitch and trails off.

Similar consideration as above for the second paragraph.

The fragment starts in medias res, though only the mechanical aspect; missed is the aesthetic feature -- implied prior situation. The man and horse are there why and how? Beamed into the scene? Wandered in? Intent upon witness of the battle outcome? Use emotional texture, received reflective thought, and interaction between the mare and Darian to imply a prior situation. For example, that the mare is a battle steed and yet shy of bloodshed unless she's in the midst of a battle. That's foreshadowing potential and a reflection of Darian, too.

Disgruntled Peony's comment about the semicolon is on the mark, the dash suggestion exact, though a colon will serve almost as well. A semicolon links two independent clauses -- syntactically complete sentences on their own. Their ideas must, though, be congruent or, for prose, also strongly imply a congruency if little or none is apparent. A dash or colon for prose links a dependent clause or phrase or word that adds detail though is nonrestrictive, is appositive. Nonrestrictive to mean nonessential to a main clause's meaning and does not limit (restrict) a main clause's idea. A comma would serve, though defuses emphasis, which is a dash's function for prose grammar that sets the dash's emphasis strength above a colon's.

I would not read on, lost about what the situation was and is and might become, and baffled by language that is emotionally bland and at odds with itself -- part frivolous and part serious intent. The fragment, though, does have potential to express a moral human condition of appealing strength, if only a mite stronger and clearer.

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JSchuler
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
JSchuler interesting question: just what did scare the scavengers (human, that is) off? You'd have to keep reading.

The problem is, there is nothing in the opening that tells me this question is intentional. As I said, I see these kinds of scenes a lot, and 95% of the time, it's thoughtless description, as if people just naturally leave a fortune laying around in the open for future archeologists to stumble upon. The main character in the opening doesn't wonder about it. He doesn't ask where the looters are or recognize the ghoulish opportunity in front of him. He's more concerned to take note of the crows being crows than anything that would frighten off an army. Since he is taking the scene as a given, I have no faith that there is anything deeper behind it.
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Grumpy old guy
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JSchuler, I can't see how you can come to the conclusions you have after reading only two paragraphs of narrative. Who said the battle is over, it could have moved on? Or, on the other hand, other hostile forces are thereabouts and dispersing an army to plunder and despoil the dead is a certain path to military suicide. Then again, who says any of the arms and armour is worth scavenging; I've only mentioned a sword. Maybe it isn't a very good sword or the guy in the A10 Warthog screaming down the valley looking for TO's (Targets of Opportunity) doesn't need a bronze sword right now.

quote:
Since he is taking the scene as a given, I have no faith that there is anything deeper behind it.
I beg to differ. Apparently you are certain there isn't anything deeper behind it because of your assumptions. What you don't know, and apparently never will because you won't turn the page, is that Darian is a sociopath and the third person narrative is filtered through his perceptions.

You also appear to be labouring under the mistaken idea that metal (iron and steel) was inordinately valuable and in short supply around the 11th to 13th centuries. Not so--it was as common as muck, anyone with half a brain, some ore and some wood could smelt iron and then turn it into steel. What wasn't so easy was manufacturing the stuff into swords, armour, and spoons.

The average price of a good sword in the 13 century was roughly 3-5 years of a noble's income--about the same cost as buying a house today. But, if the sword was damaged, too nicked and 'banged-up', or broken, it was worthless. The same goes for plate armour; it was 'made-to-measure' and no one would try and go into a fight wearing another man's plate, that was certain death. The plate was usually ransomed back to the noble who had been captured and relieved of it in the first place, otherwise the family might want it and be able to have it modified to fit the eldest son. Mail was useful, it could be repaired and altered easily. Other metal weapons, knives, halberds and the like, were usually made from inferior metals, as were the swords of the common soldier if he had one--which was as rare as hen's teeth.

As for medieval armies being 'stripped to the bone', that was usually at the hands of the local peasants--you never know when a bit of legging will come in handy. And, in the case of this narrative, who said there were any locals about who could strip the corpses bare anyway?

That said, it is an interesting notion to crit a work on the result of a conclusion arrived at from baseless assumptions rather than the words written on the page. I must try it.

Phil.

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JSchuler
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JSchuler, I can't see how you can come to the conclusions you have after reading only two paragraphs of narrative.

As explained, the main character is more interested in crows that aren't doing anything interesting. Ergo, there's no reason for me to think more will come of something that is horribly out of place.

Who said the battle is over, it could have moved on?

Based on what? The sounds of fighting that aren't coming from the next ridge?

Though the wildlife sure seems certain the fight is over.

Or, on the other hand, other hostile forces are thereabouts and dispersing an army to plunder and despoil the dead is a certain path to military suicide.

Well, that would explain why the losing side lost: they were lead by an idiot who split his force before the battle.

Then again, who says any of the arms and armour is worth scavenging; I've only mentioned a sword. Maybe it isn't a very good sword or the guy in the A10 Warthog screaming down the valley looking for TO's (Targets of Opportunity) doesn't need a bronze sword right now.

Ah. I see. Upon re-reading, I missed the description of people shredded from rounds of depleted uranium belched from a 30mm cannon. It's right before the crows.

What you don't know, and apparently never will because you won't turn the page, is that Darian is a sociopath and the third person narrative is filtered through his perceptions.

Sounds like something that might want to be in the first thirteen. That, or the rumbling scream of a twin pair of GE turbofans.

As for medieval armies being 'stripped to the bone', that was usually at the hands of the local peasants

"Fallen armies on medieval battlefields were often stripped bare, literally, either by the winning side or by locals."

Why, it's almost like I already said exactly that. Funny how that works.

That said, it is an interesting notion to crit a work on the result of a conclusion arrived at from baseless assumptions rather than the words written on the page

Sigh. For the third time, I have seen this scene before. You are following a clichéd pattern and given zero indication that you are doing anything different. If you are offended that I pointed it out, grow up.

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extrinsic
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Cliché, if the fragment is, stems from tired and trite customary topos: "a traditional or conventional literary or rhetorical theme or topic" according to Webster's. Tired and trite are more matters of unimaginative topos repetition than a topos use itself.

Conversely, minute scrutiny and disparagement on grounds of inauthentic facets of one or another topos, like combat aftermath, is a pastime of self-selected "experts" who contend other "experts" miss authentication details. Neither matters; one reader's cliché topos is another reader's topos appeal.

What does matter is how a writer surpasses trite and tired topos' staleness and unoriginality. Literary themes and metaphoric rhetoric are by nature and necessity prone to repetition -- by emulation and imitation at least, if not that the human condition is what it is and always has been and is universal. However, freshness at least, if not originality, derives from unique approaches and perspectives. Another facet of which is surprise arrangements and metaleptic conguencies; that is, unusual associations connected in startling and appealing arrangements.

For example, idioms, sayings, and proverbs are open to new, fresh, and original arrangements. "Time heals all wounds" can be reconstrued to Time wounds all heels. "A picture tells a thousand words" to A thousand words tell a picture." Erasmus's De Copia exercise demonstrates most any expression could be recast hundreds or more ways, express the same content, yet one or more most artfully express the intent and meaning most appealingly.

For me, a shortfall of the fragment, perhaps cliché, is the scene sets up for plot movement, from the spectacle of a battle aftermath, not for character movement. A protest could be lodged that character movement starts later than these thirteen lines, and next soonest; after all, this is long fiction. To me, if that's where movement begins, that's where the narrative ideally begins -- from character movement and, consequently, plot movement.

I believe character movement must begin from a first word, even a title's words. Hel Rising is about a character, Heloise, implies a character movement. The present participle -ing word is a drawback for me, static voice. Simple present expresses the same quality of ongoing movement and is less static: //Hel Rises// and, to me, more artfully expresses the character and action movement to come, as well as enhances the entendre intent. Now, simple past could be less yet static, stronger entendre, and more appealing: //Hel Rose//.

That's the title analyzed. What then, though, about character movement start from the content's first word? Character movement is self-involved want and problem satisfaction efforts -- complication, period.

Darian's introductions intervene before Heloise's, perhaps an artful misdirection, perhaps an organization shortfall. An implication is, sooner or later, Heloise and Darian will interact. They don't know; readers could -- a dissimulation, perhaps artful, of a practical or dramatic irony type. Readers could eagerly anticipate Heloise and Darian's meeting. A next installment, chapter or scene sequence, could introduce Heloise and reinforce the interaction implication.

However, that feature and character movement, and plot, and setting introduction, and complication introduction, and conflict introduction, and emotional movement, and introduction of what the novel is really about, the moral human condition tableau that unifies the whole and all the parts, is a tall order for thirteen lines. Doable, with focus, though singular emphasis of one is essential, and through focus upon the start's function. First and foremost, the true what the novel is really about.

If that is a hapless, self-pitying young individual's demands for emotional attention, that then is the self-involved complication and the function of the start and the parts and wholes. Though not a particularly likeable character trait. A proportion of an opposite and likeable trait is warranted. Or whatever, so long as readers align with Darian's plight, event as much as character. For example, if Darian seeks weapons from the battlefield, that's a self-involved want. Human scavengers flock to battles as much as animals. Which arrives first is a matter of proximity and need. A lone scavenger could arrive first before anyone or thing, next with a company of human scavengers, or last after animals. Other scavengers, though, are a tangible problem equally to be satisfied along with the tangible want.

A moral tableau is the subtext of an external tableau and both tableaus leavened together, simultaneous. The moral tableau, though, is the facet for fresh and original drama development -- what appeals to readers. Darian, for example, could want a knight's sword to self-promote and draw the attention he craves. Maybe he wants a particular sword and will risk all to get it. He could speak to the mare and say the sword is on the battlefield and he will take it, for example.

Specificity is essential, that the sword is named and famous perhaps. //"Ulforn of the Dragon's Edge is there, Maysport. I will have it my own."// Self-involved want expressed in an economy of words. Later mythology details then develop the sword's mythic identity and personal meaning to Darian. Darian's moral developments are implied by his humble status as a battlefield scavenger, and further and soon, though, that he is a pitiable cur. He takes the sword from the dead lord and does so guiltily, perhaps shown by his reaction to unexpected resistance, that the lord's rigor prevents easy removal. Darian reacts true to his character, believes the resistance is a personal slight, says, perhaps, "You looked so far down your nose at me it was a backside slip down an icy slope. Now I have your grace down my nose.//

[ August 19, 2015, 10:41 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Scot
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Thanks for those contemplations, extrinsic, and thanks, Phil, for prompting the whole discussion.
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Grumpy old guy
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Sorry for the brief absence, I was reacquainting myself with the rigors of academic research. A pastime I haven't indulged in for nearly three decades. 18 hours on the net and I'm still pining for a university library sack and the resources of a History Department. C'est la vie.

I really shouldn't pick solely on JSchuler for this, I made the same assumptions.

quote:
Originally posted by JSchuler:

Fallen armies on medieval battlefields were often stripped bare, literally, either by the winning side or by locals.

Really? At which battles did this occur and what sources are you relying on: Primary (and by whom?), Secondary, Tertiary, or perhaps folklore and hearsay? I'm waiting . . .

*

**

***

****

Don't bother trying to answer any of those questions--really. In eighteen hours of research, not counting the legions lost in the Teutoberg Forest, I found only three (allegedly) primary source references to battlefields where the defeated enemy was left to rot on the ground. One was in the Pyrenees and the other two were east of Budapest, and all occurred before 900 CE. In all three cases the battles were fought essentially in wilderness with no local inhabitants within fifty or more miles. But there is no mention of looting the bodies and stripping them bare at all.

The truth is that we really don't know anything about what happened after a medieval battle because no one thought it important enough to write down or chronicle. The only 'hard' evidence we have is that obtained from mass graves unearthed at the sites of some of those medieval battles.

In these graves, which are not representative of all of the battlefield casualties but only of those so far discovered, excavation has revealed some graves where the bodies are stripped bare, others where the skeletons are dis-articulated with various bits and pieces of fabric intermingled, and one in Visby where the defeated fallen were buried still wearing their armour.

As I said: We don't know what really happened after a battle, but we can guess that it wasn't pleasant.

Phil.
PS. I'm going to be researching this in a little more depth for my Battle School essays. Ready some time in the future.

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extrinsic
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Satisfactions for what happened to artifacts of war and casualties and their personal belongings might look to other than combat accounts and such. Manifests and inventories of siege weapons, cannons, etc., might describe how they were acquired. Captured and salvaged weapons were often noted as such in commanders' private journals. Weapons purchase sponsors complained to their governments that buyers bought up or scavenged all the salvaged armory junk they could lay hands on, quantity not quality delivered. Battlefield medical history and journals described casualty treatment outcomes and their personal effects. Barber surgeons, for example. Personal journals were often part cover your backside and part memos and mementos for posterity, maybe for publication opportunity, unrealized memoir.
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Grumpy old guy
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The difficulty in finding journals/inventories etc is the level of literacy. Practically non-existent for anyone beneath the clerical/noble rank. Quartermaster style administration and record keeping was unknown until possibly the early 15th century.

One of the areas I want to research is the church's growing influence and power over the conduct of warfare. Christian belief at the time was that cremated or unburied corpses were condemned to spend eternity in Purgatory, the Jewish version, not the current conflation of Purgatory and Hell (One reason why criminals were left to rot on the gibbet). Such a movement did increasingly see the notion of respect for the fallen grow in importance.

Another area of interest is the osteoarchaeological conclusion regarding the primary cause of death in a medieval battle--multiple head wounds. See THIS.

Phil.

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Grumpy old guy
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Well, let’s get back to writing. So far this has been a worthwhile exercise for me and I want to take the time to reply to some of the comments.

The opening is cliché:

Yes, sort of. Is that a real problem? Cliché means, among other things, a stereotyped expression or idea, but that’s simply because it’s tried and true, and it works. Unimaginative? Yes, if done poorly: workable? Yes, if done with a bit of flair. Not that I’m saying my opening has any flair; it has multiple issues.

Beginning a story with the definite article:

Guilty as charged. The mare hadn’t been introduced so it was an inappropriate use of the definite article. I could have opened with an indefinite article, such as ‘A mare’ but that would have lengthened the narrative distance to a remote point indeed. A better opening might have been: Darian’s mare . . ., and after that the use of the definite article when referring to the mare might have been acceptable.

The ‘voice’ is static:

I’ll take your word for it. I’m just hoping at this stage that static is a smidge better than passive. I need to do a lot of work on my verbs.

The viewpoint character seemed strangely unmoved by the carnage he was viewing:

Yes. The viewpoint character is a sociopath, but I should have hinted at that character trait as soon as possible—preferably in the second sentence and certainly within the first paragraph.

Is the choice of viewpoint character appropriate?

That’s not exactly what extrinsic said, simply the gist. What extrinsic is referring to is Rust Hills recommendations in his book Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. In that he says the viewpoint character in a short story should, as best practice, be the character in movement: The character which is changed by what happens to them. However, he does add the proviso that in the long form (novel) where the viewpoint character may jump around this is not so critical.

That said, while it might seem that the central viewpoint character should be Heloise, she is after all the title character, I have chosen Darian as the viewpoint character. The reasons? Well, first, I’m not confident of writing a narrative from the viewpoint of a 12 yo girl going on 13. Second, I thought this would set the story apart: How is a sociopath affected by the journey he is about to embark on? How will a sociopath advise and raise a young girl as she first tries to claim her birthright and then defend it? It is Darian who will be changed most deeply by the end of the story.

And now I’m really asking for it—a metaphorical bloodied nose concerning my use of the semi-colon in that last sentence. Sigh!

As a clause, either principle or subordinate, the phrase, a face he recognised from two days ago has both a subject and a predicate that makes sense when read on its own and contains a finite verb which allows it to stand as a sentence in its own right. The clause is also a continuation of the previous clause, the primary one and, while the entire sentence could be written using a comma instead, the use of the semi-colon is both grammatically correct and an artistic choice.

Am I bleeding yet? [Smile]

A comma implies a continuation of the thought of the viewpoint character. The use of a colon would, for me, introduce a break in viewpoint character observation similar to a period—as if it were an afterthought. The use of an em-dash implies, to me, either a sudden realisation or thought, or an afterthought, not what I’m after. I felt the use of the semi-colon best introduced a new item of observation by the viewpoint character without it seeming he is surprised or in some other way, discomforted by recognising a face.

Can I pick myself up now? [Smile]

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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Before I go any further, I just want to mention that, at least on my part, none of my comments are meant to discourage. You've previously said you wanted help with grammar, which is why I focused on that in my critiques. Not every story is for everyone; my experiences having the first 13 lines for Ravenous critiqued taught me that fairly quickly. I can't speak for everyone, but my suggestions and recommendations are just that, and I do try to come up with options that increase a story's flow while still keeping the author's voice intact. Don't let us kill your interest in the story. We're not trying to hurt it--we're trying to help you make it better.

That said, your opening does have issues but I also think it has potential. You don't need to edit it right away; I'd recommend that you continue the story and come back to this later with a fresh perspective. I do recommend an edit eventually. It's never easy, but it is worth doing.

If you do change the opening sentence to Darian's mare my issue with that is gone. That gives me context (the mare is owned by someone and I have a name to attach to the owner, which automatically gives me more context and therefore more reason to care about the story).

A good way to illustrate sociopathy would be to point out the absence of emotional reaction rather than to gloss over it. Perhaps Damian might ruminate on how someone else would react if they were there to see the carnage. Perhaps he stumbles across someone still barely alive and moves past them despite the fact they beg for a mercy killing. It's not necessarily something that has to be introduced in the first 13 lines, but it is definitely something that should be addressed in the first scene as soon as is logically possible.

I have a better understanding of why you used the semi-colon now, and also a better explanation for why it bothers me. The structure of the second half of the sentence suggests a new and incomplete thought to me, which is why I recommended the em-dash, but you intend it to be something different. In that case, a simple rephrasing of the second half of the sentence is in order: something like 'Darian recognized the face from two days ago'. The issue, essentially, is that it didn't read smoothly as it was with the semi-colon in place. The structure of the phrase made it read as incomplete despite its technical completeness. If you keep the basic idea of the sentence but restructure it so that it flows better, it will engross the reader instead of pulling them out of the story, and keeping people reading is always the goal.

Also, because I forgot to address this earlier in my response, I don't have an issue with Darian as the opening viewpoint character. I'd just like to get to know him better. Showing his reactions (or lack thereof) and giving a reason for them will definitely grab my interest as a reader. Sociopaths can be quite interesting when properly written. (Just remember, not all sociopaths are murderers. Many are perfectly capable of functioning in society. Of course, this is a different society, but my point still stands.)

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extrinsic
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Proscriptively, a clause does indeed contain a subject and a verb: "complete." Descriptively, a clause is any divisible syntactical unit. Prescriptively between, a clause contains a verb and an implied subject or a subject and an implied verb.

A semicolon separates two equally emphasized, distinct, related, parallel, and essential (main) ideas and the two are otherwise independent ideas, not to mention several other semicolon functions.

A colon introduces a series connected to or an explanation (appositive) of a main clause. Content that follows a colon is dependent upon a main clause's meaning. Appositive content strengthens, adds to, clarifies, or explains a main idea though is otherwise nonessential. What constitutes "nonessential" is a matter of interpretation and judgment. Not whether an appositive word, phrase, or clause changes a main clause's meaning, nor whether an appositive is meaningful, nor per se coordinate or subordinate -- that the content adds to a main clause's meaning.

A dash's artful prose and poetry functions fulfill functions similar to a colon, though informally. Otherwise, the dash's formal function is to mark interrupted thought or speech, for which a colon will not do.

"Lifeless eyes stared back at him from a face contorted in death; a face he recognised from two days ago."

The second clause is decidedly an appositive explanation of and dependent on the main clause. Not an independent clause that would stand on its own as a grammatically complete sentence, though the clause contains a subject, predicate, and object, and a predicate complement, the appositive clause adds explanation to the main clause. The appositive phrase modifies the main clause's "face." That makes the clause dependent upon the main clause for meaning.

Disgruntled Peony's revised version does warrant a semicolon.

The position of the dependent clause's predicate complement, and its indefinite article adjective, -- "a face" -- at the front of its clause makes the clause a dependent, appositive clause that explains and adds detail to the main clause.

"a face" predicate complement
"he" subject
"recognised" predicate
"from" preposition of the object
"two days ago" object of the preposition and the predicate

If adjusted for grammatically proscriptive arrangement -- //he recognised the face from two days ago// -- then either a semicolon or period is warranted. That arrangement also illustrates suitable uses of the articles "a" and "the" respectively.

Actually, the clause as is sets up for suspension and, ideally, delayed resolution. To me, that's an artful choice, because the clause signals ample emphasis for a suspension marker and prepares for resolution to follow. The main clause is a preparation segment.

Also, the clause sets up for a transition to come that could then detail a stepped process into a flashback of the moment. The clause, as is, is a recollection, an ideal response to a visual stimuli. If a dash precedes the clause, that signals those facets and signals by custom what readers can expect soon or later -- what recognizing the face means to Darian, ideally soon enough readers' curiosity is timely satisfied though not too soon to defuse tension potentials.

The adjusted clause, though, declares a fact that has less tension potential. Besides, the clause, as is, signals stream of consciousness from its grammatical unconventionality -- suitably informal though accessible reading and comprehension ease. The clause timely closes aesthetic distance. If only the semicolon didn't signal a parallel relationship that doesn't materialize.

A final consideration: self-publication and publishers who do little, if any, editorial proofreading would let the semicolon stand. Conventional and discerning publishers' editors would change the semicolon to a dash. Any editor worth a body's salt considers a semicolon's misapprehension a nondiscretionary adjustment.

[ August 23, 2015, 01:08 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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A half-hour after I posted the last post I had that sudden sinking feeling I had the wrong end of the crocodile in my hands regarding my use of that dratted semi-colon. The second clause is not independent, it is a continuation of, an adjunct to, the principle clause, and not completely independent. While it might stand as a sentence in its own right, it doesn't in this case.

As a poor excuse, my grammar book is targeted at beginner/intermediate level and leaves a lot of explanatory detail wanting.

DP, my initial thought was to get inside Darian's head as he tried to settle his horse. The contrast between his care for an animal's distress and his indifference to dead people littering the landscape should make it plain. Cos, IMHO, nothing quite gets a character trait across like stark contrast. Plus, it helps make him a little easier to like, or at least accept.

I appreciate your help, DP, and yours, extrinsic.

Phil.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
Don't let us kill your interest in the story. We're not trying to hurt it--we're trying to help you make it better.

If I may... the purpose of critiquing should be to help make the manuscript better, not the story. The manuscript can be considered to be the vehicle by or medium through which the story is conveyed from the writer to the reader.

We really have no idea just how wonderful and exciting the story truly is, because it's all in the writer's head. As we give feedback on the manuscript, however, we may be able to help the writer more efficently, elegantly, and satisfactorily recreate a reasonable facsimile of the story into the reader's head.

Just saying: there is a vast difference between the actual story and the mere (and so often inadequate) marks on paper that we call the manuscript.

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Disgruntled Peony
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Excellent point, kdw. [Smile] I will remember the difference.
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jerich100
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There are a number of sentences where there are things listed in 3's: A, B, and C. The first three sentences have an A, B, and C type listing.

When this pattern happens to me I try to mix it up. The first sentence may have A, B, C. Then the the next sentence could just be a simple sentence. Then the third may have an A and B.

As I'm sure we all know, everything must be stirred up in writing. No patterns, else it gets less interesting.

In general I try to avoid creating lists embedded into paragraphs.

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