Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Working Title- Quantum Flesh

   
Author Topic: Working Title- Quantum Flesh
David C
New Member
Member # 10554

 - posted      Profile for David C   Email David C         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hello all. Still new here so this is my first shot.

Know its been done before, but as a fan of Humphry Bogart, giving the gumshoe story a sci-fi twist. His name is Beau Blaine. Gets tied up with a street urchin whom his old –now dead friend– was trying to help.
------
It was a typical night. Warm and humid, the wet air filled with the smell of salt blown in from the ocean. Blaine took it all in as he strode along the nearly flawless sidewalk, recalling where he once read how cities use to smell of trash, sewage, and that smell old fashion cars blew out their engines.

The environmentalist and governments back then got rid of all that. Cleaned up places like this. Got rid of all the stuff polluting the air and water and the ground.

He just wished they’d done the same to people.

That was old news. Right now, the only thing really bothering him was that itch he couldn’t scratch.

Still moving forward, he turned slightly to see if that itch was still following him.
----
Thank you. David

Posts: 8 | Registered: Sep 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Meredith
Member
Member # 8368

 - posted      Profile for Meredith   Email Meredith         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It should be environmentalists, since I assume there was more than one.

Also, I usually experience humidity (rarely, where I live, thankfully) when there is little to no breeze. So the salt smell blowing in off the ocean and the humidity feel like they clash for me.

But that's not the main issue.

Beginnings are hard. You have to introduce the character and the setting, promise what kind of story this will be, and hook the reader into turning the page.

Here, I think all the attention to how dirty the city used to be is getting in the way, because it doesn't really tell us anything about the character or the story. It's an aside.

Instead, can you frame it so that it matters to the story? Do the pristine sidewalks make it harder to follow someone's tracks? Or play up the difference between the clean streets and the scummy people he traces? Integrate it into the story more.

Posts: 4406 | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
An individual contemplates his surroundings and their backstories; afterward, he contemplates an individual who tails him.

This fragment is rich with promise, and rich for critique commentary, especially about noir genre conventions.

Noir, different from film noir's garish, dark and bright lighting effects, to mean chiaroscuro, light highlights contrasted by dark shades and shadows, entails hard-boiled cynicism. Bogart motion pictures are both noir effects. Mickey Spillane novels are the former. Bogart was a motion-picture epitome of noir; that is, adventures of a hard-boiled cynic in bleak settings: adventure, event; bleak, setting; and hard-boiled cynic, character.

Bleak settings are and are not per se gritty pavements, nor skid-row ghetto climes, or appearance-wise edgy times, places, and location situations; they are edgy social situations comprised of cynical exposure of human vice and folly. And especially emotionally charged cynical-sarcastic commentary about the settings' vice and folly-ridden social situations. Those are the conventions of noir.

See dictionary definitions of "cynical" for the type of commentary that entails. "Satire," too, which is the victim targeting of human social vice and folly; and "sarcasm," which is mockery and ridicule of human vice and folly, or mockery and ridicule of human virtue and nobleness, never both. Otherwise, Kierkegaard's infinite absolute negativity transpires. Those above terms are noir conventions for commentary suited to a hard-boiled cynic.

Out of turn though apropos of noir is the third-paragraph sentence: "He just wished they'd done the same to people." That's artfully cynical, satiric, and sarcastic commentary. Also, that sentence develops somewhat Blaine's character, expresses that, despite environmental care taken, people are the same vice and folly-ridden creatures as ever, perhaps a core real meaning of what the narrative is about and apropos of noir in all its ironic splendors.

Actions develop character personalities, traits, behaviors, identities, even actions that introspectively interact with settings, the running reflected internal commentary of visual or other sensory perceptions and reflexive emotional responses to those. External interactions and internal commentary about them, though, is stronger for character development when two or so characters interact.

The first sentence is problematic, a sentence subject syntax expletive "It." The sentence more or less is equivalent to the notorious Edward Bulwer-Lytton opening sentence of Paul Clifford, 1830, "It was a dark and stormy night." much derided, mocked, ridiculed, and parodied since. It is also a florid melodramatic method. Use of syntax expletives, pronouns that refer to a subsequent subject placed in sentence object position, usually a weather motif, start from a vague subject, a nonsensical, meaningless subject. At the start of a narrative, they are more so vague, nonsensical, and meaningless.

"Warm and humid, the wet air filled with the smell of salt blown in from the ocean." This is nighttime, right? Nighttime breezes blow offshore; no way ocean aromas breeze on shore, into town. Plus, sodium chloride is odorless. The dominant sea spray scent is iodine's pungent aroma. Iodine's sterile and antiseptic associations with first aid offer an opportunity to associate the setting's noir situation, chiaroscuro-like contrasts between a sterile-clean, bleak ambiance and an unclean bleak social situation. Ironic commentary, that is.

Also, if "salt" can be smelled, that means salt is on the breeze and will settle onto skin, hair, and clothes. The tactile sensation is that of crawling skin, a clammy sensation of damp, sticky, prickly, chilled skin, an unpleasant sensation.

"Blaine took it all in _as_ he strode . . ." Not much yet has he taken in. This is obviously a seaside setting, what, a manicured resort town? A rundown carnival arcade? A fishing boat wharf? A dockyard? Whatever, a place that Blaine cynically comments about in a contrastive manner, both clean and bleak.

The coordination conjunction use of "as" is an error, is a false clause fusion sentence splice. Though an idiom part of everyday casual conversation among close acquaintances, the use is generally problematic from that false fusion of nonsimultaneous actions and ideas. Maybe the actions are contemporaneous, "took it all in," "strode along," and "recalling," nonetheless, the sequence is stronger and clearer, more easily read and comprehended, more memorable if broken out into separate sentences, and each contains some small or subtle cynical commentary added.

"_nearly_ flawless sidewalk" Hedging term "nearly," an adverb. Adverbs' prose use, and adjectives and other modifier phrases, function is commentary, when verbs and nouns themselves do not express an emotional charge, attitude, so to speak, or, the narrative arts' most common term, tone. Like Dad said, Don't take that _tone_ with your mother. Usually sarcastic. In this fragment's case, hard-boiled cynicism.

Either the sidewalk is flawless or it is not. A hard-boiled cynic will note the attempt for flawlessness and comment about the flaws and the failed attempt, or simply use another word or term that expresses cynical commentary about the sidewalk.

"how cities _use_" Tense error. //used//

"smell of _trash_" Generally, trash smells very little if at all. Garbage smells, denotatively is food wastes, or the more liquid and fetid decomposition product wastes.

"that smell _old fashion_ cars" Tense and compound modifier construction error: //old-fashioned//

Nor back when did car exhausts smell all that bad, some scorched oil, maybe overheated radiator, or burnt clutch scents occasionally; bad enough, I guess. The foulest stenches come from diesel engines:, trucks, buses, etc. The stench is that of a skunk's defensive spray, when the diesel fuel is incompletely combusted, at start up and shut down, at idle speeds, when accelerating, when decelerating.

"Cleaned up places like this. Got rid of all the stuff polluting the air and water and the ground." Sentence fragments, too, their prose function is emotionally charged commentary and brief, so that they call due attention to their emotional charges. And "stuff"? A missed opportunity for hard-boiled cynical commentary.

This sentence again: "He just wished they'd done the same to people." Paragraph syntax principles join such sentences to their similar contextural ideas. This sentence could be closed up with the end of the previous paragraph. Set apart, it signals some increased emotional emphasis, though by itself is gimmicky, due to it best practice concludes the previous paragraph.

"only thing _really_" Another emotionally empty modifier. "Really" is also an idiomatic use in everyday casual conversation, intended to be emotionally charged; however, the word's emotional charge comes from vocal intonation of spoken word; without emotional context, is emotionally empty and meaningless in written word.

"itch he couldn't scratch" This is an otherwise trite and worn-out expression: cliché. The saving grace of it in this use is that it is a metonymy: "a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated" (Webster's 11th).

The itch is in the next sentence clarified as that of a persona who tails Blaine. Maybe a modifier word or two in that above sentence could timely strengthen and clarify the metonymy value of the "itch." In other words, artfully reinvent and reimagine the cliché. Metalepsis is one potential rhetorical strategy: figure of speech that uses an extant rhetorical expression in a new and imaginative way. For example, Always look Greek gift horses in the mouth. And, of course, such an addition affords hard-boiled cynical commentary potential.

"Still moving forward" That clause is a narrator tell, an intrusion and viewpoint glitch that pulls back from the close action and close, so far, narrative distance viewpoint of Blaine's.

"he turned slightly" Likewise, a narrator tell, Blaine cannot possibly observe himself turn. Also, another empty adverb, "slightly."

"to see if that itch was still following him" Tense glitches for the sentence overall, first, a present participle verb of the first clause, "moving"; next, a simple past verb, "turned"; next, an infinitive verb, "to see"; last, a static voice verb construction, also present participle construction, "was still following." The tense movement confuses the time sequence, confuses reading and comprehension ease, and are several unnecessary tense shifts. Tense in a sentence best practice flows one direction, from one time to another. Past to present, present to past, past or present to future, or future to present or past. Infinitives are always problematic for prose.

For illustration purposes:
//Moving on, he looked back at his trail. That itch still followed him.//

Also, "still" used twice in quick succession and not of an artful method.

Likewise, "itch" is repeated in quick succession. Artful repetition best practice entails perhaps substitution of terms, and certainly amplification of a repeated word or term. A substitution example could be "scab." Or, and both, use an amplification modifier for "itch," of course, one that is hard-boiled cynicism in this case.

Likewise, the last sentence best practice could be closed up with the previous paragraph's end. The overall ideas fit each other, no substantive change of topic. Plus, that sentence closed up would then afford one more line added to the fragment.

As is, the fragment comprises the thirteen-lines quantity principle, a sometimes challenging principle to understand. Got it the first time. Wow!

The title is somewhat intriguing. Quantum Flesh. For me, though, I'm confused about whether "quantum" refers to the denotative meanings of quantity, amount, or whole of a bulk, or the physics' meanings of quantum mechanics and theory, or both the traditional and the modern uses. That latter possibility would appeal most to me, a sort of metonymical figure of speech with one reconciled meaning from two disparate meanings. Perhaps a modifier term could achieve some stronger clarity and emotional charge!?

The title as is evokes for me a visual and troubling tactile sensation of a bleak setting where a whole lot of flesh presses and rubs against each other. Also, if taken apart, the physics' sense evokes for me a cyberpunk setting, where flesh is quantum mechanics, theory, and uncertainty principles personified.

The minor grammar glitches mostly don't set me too far out of the narrative immersion spell, except that "as" use, which gives me the most pause. The close internal world of Blaine most engages me, if only his cynical commentary were somewhat stronger and more and more unified. The promises of noir, and perhaps cyberpunk, also entice me.

I might read on, at least for further evaluations of whether, overall, the narrative works for me or not.

Edited to add: I bypassed comments about the "environmentalist" number error because Meredith commented about it and, at the moment, believed I had nothing substantive to add. Rethought that; that is, another opportunity to express cynical commentary there. A hard-boiled cynic will use cynical, satiric, or sarcastic terms instead of "environmentalists and government." Noir cynics generally distrust humans and especially human institutions. Other terms might be borrowed from anti-environmentalist movements. Tree-hugger is trite, same with Greeners and Greenies, maybe eco-snowflakes, that sort. Many are the cynical, satirical, sarcastic terms for government.

Trust betrayed too much and too harshly deep creates a hard-boiled cynic.

[ September 12, 2016, 02:05 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 5160 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
David C
New Member
Member # 10554

 - posted      Profile for David C   Email David C         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thank you both for your input. Very enlightening. Will edit and re-post for further commentary.
Posts: 8 | Registered: Sep 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
David C
New Member
Member # 10554

 - posted      Profile for David C   Email David C         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Quantum Flesh first 13- 2nd Draft Edited

Blaine strode along the nearly flawless sidewalk. Mercury free lights lit them from above, their clean, dull beams cutting through the dark. He recalled reading once how cities used to smell of trash and sewage, mixed with what those old–fashion cars and trucks blew out their engines. Or something like that. Didn’t matter anymore. The geeko-warriors and bureaucrats back then got rid of all that. Cleaned up the cities. Got rid of everything polluting the air and water and the ground.

He just wished they’d done the same to people.

That was old news. Right now, the only thing bothering him was an intriguing itch he couldn’t scratch.

Moving forward through the warm, humid air, he looked over his shoulder to see if the itch still followed him.
_______
A little more background on the story.

I am playing up the contrast between the clean up world and the not so cleaned up people that inhabit it. Blaine has seen much (I sprinkle in his back story here and there) and looks cynically at the holistic approach taken by society to perfect our world.
He sees greed where there is no want. Injustice where there is no crime. Longing where there is no limit to self-gratification. The story is also social commentary, as is traditional in sci-fi.

Discovering and old friend died helping a young woman named Licia, Blaine picks up his old trail. The reader discovers she takes a view of the world not much different than his. As she puts it later on: “People are still dirtbags. They just became socially conscious dirtbags.”

I use the term “quantum” in the title to reflect its non-sentient, scientific meaning; contrasted with “flesh” to evoke human emotion. Blaine discovers the much ballyhooed AI is not all what it appears to be.

Posts: 8 | Registered: Sep 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A rearranged duplicate of the first version, that, for me, steps backward from the first version's somewhat stronger emphatic expression and closer narrative distance. The language is the same or more so as naive as the first. The naivete of it challenges willing suspension of disbelief most of all, furthermore, spoils engagement of, first, intellectual interest; second, imagination interest; third, emotional interest; which, best practice for readers, transpires in rapid and contemporaneous succession. I am ejected from the story by the first sentence, actually, the first word: a name that comes from a wild-blue vacuum void as like from a disembodied thought.

One of prose's more crucial arts is artful management of emphasis's segment and sequence flow, in other words, emphatic tone, emotional charge, attitude. English entails no native emphatic mood. English language's native indicative, imperative, and subjunctive grammatical mood constructions, though, can be of an emphatic mood. For prose writers, pathos (appeals to emotion) more so than logos (appeals to logic) and ethos (appeals to credibility) derives from emphatic expression's overall appeal. Plus, what any given writer might feel is over the top, emotionally, emphatically, any given reader may feel is lackluster. Consequently, more charged than a writer feels is an ample charge could be charged enough to appeal to readers' emotions.

The first sentence, for example: "Blaine strode along the nearly flawless sidewalk." emotionally empty, and a narrator tell -- the sentence summarizes an action Blaine cannot possibly observe from within his reflected perceptions and reflexive thought reactions. The first version's three-sentence delay naming Blaine establishes a stronger close narrative distance. The second version starts off with a viewpoint glitch, odd to do and odd to then shuffle the narrator into the background. That sentence establishes the viewpoint persona as the narrator, an emotionally neutral persona without a tangible tone (attitude, emotional charge) and places Blaine in the background.

Then a later sentence of the first paragraph, "Or something like that." moves back toward Blaine's viewpoint. Although the emotional charge is low, the charge nonetheless presents -- that of resignation and indifferent cynicism.

Again, emotionally empty and hedging adverb "nearly." Either the sidewalk is, indeed, flawless or it is not. Even a modifier word like sterile contains more charge and incisiveness, and could be a thought of Blaine's that estranges the narrator. An emotionally stronger term would adjust the sentence into Blaine's perspective. Or delay naming Blaine, or locate his name as a sentence object will also estrange a narrator and foreground a focal character.

"strode along" is static voice, expresses a state of being of an indefinite time span. Dynamic voice expresses a finite time span state of being or a, likewise, finite time span process statement. A definite setting detail could also enhance dynamic voice expression, a limited sidewalk location, for example, a mom and pop boutique store front's distance span, which implies a briefer time span than "sidewalk" by itself.

"Mercury free lights lit them from above," "_Mercury free_ lights" Compound modifier error. //Mercury-free// Or, if a name exposition is indicated, another reader-familiar light type could instead name the lighting effect. The future technology trend is toward low-voltage, high-luminescence LEDs, plus, emergent natural ambiance light color, closer to sunlight's warm color chemistry, away, certainly, from mercury vapor, fluorescent, and halogen lamps' garish Day-Glo colors.

"them" is a personal pronoun, inappropriate for objects, like lamps. The pronoun implies someone accompanies Blaine, causes confusion.

"their clean, dull beams cutting through the dark." "clean" and "dull" do contrast, though are emotionally empty, where an emotional charge could be expressed instead. "cutting through the dark" the present participle verb implies the lights cut through the dark at this present moment and also have for an indefinite present time span. Another example of static voice; that is, confused time span, just now and for an indefinite time span.

Blaine expresses no emphatic, emotionally charged comments about the perceptions he encounters from those two first sentences' context.

Due to a change in main idea, a paragraph break is indicated after that second sentence, before the third sentence: "He recalled reading once how cities used to smell of trash and sewage, mixed with what those _old–fashion_ cars and trucks blew out _?_their engines." "old-fashion" Tense error again. "out their" Colloquial dialect, missing preposition "of." Unless Blaine uses literacy-challenged colloquial dialect, in which case, other proximal instances of dialect are indicated, for characterization purposes and to indicate the syntax error is Blaine's and not the writer's omission.

"Or something like that. Didn't matter anymore." Somewhat emotionally charged sentence fragments, could be more emphatically charged.

"The geeko-warriors and bureaucrats back then got rid of all that." "geeko-warriors" somewhat emotionally charged though a compound words error, //geeko warriors// "bureaucrats" uncharged term for government. "Cleaned up the cities." Uncharged sentence fragment. "Got rid of everything polluting the air and water and the ground." Uncharged sentence fragment. "everything" huh? Too generic and illogical, not probable that everything was cleaned up. Nor is a hedging term indicated, like //_almost_ everything.// Mitigated air, water, and ground pollution; unmitigated polluted people, maybe.

This one-sentence paragraph is still gimmicky set out on its lonesome: "He just wished they’d done the same to people." Best practice if closed up with the prior five-sentence part, set as a separate paragraph from the first two sentences. Closed up, that sentence is conclusive commentary about the antecedent content.

"That was old news." Dismissal of the prior content expresses that it should be dismissed by readers as unimportant to the story. If it is unimportant, it has no place or function in the story, especially at the start. The attitude intent, and the tone's value, though, develops character from commentary expressed about the milieu, plus, ideally, expresses through implication what a narrative is really about, and starts overall story movement from directly expressed or subtly implied motivations and stakes, or, also known as complication and conflict, respectively. Story movement and, ergo, reader engagement start when complication and conflict introductions start.

The three dominant dramatic criteria, therefore, are motivations, stakes, and tone for their ability to carry story movement and carry readers forward. Motivation is personal antagonal want and problem realized and wanting satisfaction -- that's complication. Stakes are diametrically opposite forces in contention and signal an end outcome, nonetheless, an outcome kept in doubt until a bittersweet end, like life and death, acceptance and rejection, etc. -- that's conflict. Tone -- in this case, perhaps, hard-boiled cynical commentary about whatever complication and conflict forces relevantly draw Blaine's attention and elicit his commentary in the now moment of the action.

"Right now, the only thing bothering him was an intriguing itch he couldn’t scratch." "Right now" That temporal marker is redundant; "old news" by itself expresses Blaine's thoughts and perceptions returned to the now moment of the narrative's milieu. "the only thing bothering him was an intriguing itch he couldn’t scratch." "only" empty adverb. "thing" vague noun. "bothering" present participle verb and frequent resort to "-ing" words accumulate an -ing ring rhyme nuisance: "thing," "bothering," and "intriguing," plus, antecedent "cutting," "reading," "something," "everything polluting," and subsequent "moving."

That second clause, however, expresses somewhat indirectly through metonymical implication a complication problem for Blaine. Story movement starts there. The complication, though, the problem the "itch" poses, is of a low magnitude. Okay enough for a quiet start if the "itch" is a bridge complication event to develop milieu and character in the meantime, until the true main complication emerges later. That of the woman, Licia, expressed by the novel's summary afterword.

"intriguing" is a vague modifier, lacks artful, dramatic, emotional charge. Curiosity is an emotional charge; however, why use a four-syllable word when a shorter word is more easily read, more easily comprehended, and more emotionally charged, will serve instead? Even "curious" is less vague, though strength and clarity needs warrant a clearly charged term, or an ambivalent term that is both positively and negatively charged, as the intent seems to be.

"Moving forward through the warm, humid air, he looked over his shoulder to see if the itch still followed him." "Moving forward through" "Moving" another -ing word in quick succession. Blaine is already in motion, "strode along," nothing has intervened to stop him yet. That clause is likewise, therefore, redundant. "warm, humid air" uncharged modifiers. "he looked over his shoulder" Does anyone look over a shoulder? Also, narrator tell; Blaine cannot observe himself look. "to see" infinitive verb, static voice. "the itch", word repetition without charged amplification. "that itch" of the first version is more emphatic than "the itch," somewhat more charged. Likewise, why use a two-syllable word, "followed" when a one-syllable word is easier to read and comprehend and perhaps stronger and clearer expresses meaning and emotional charge? "Tail," for example, which also implies a fixed appendage, one that is persistent and nearby.

The abundant use of sentence fragments and one long paragraph, two single-sentence paragraphs, and one brief two-sentence paragraph makes the fragment bumpy, doesn't settle into a fluent flow that by itself will pull readers into and forward through a narrative. Each bump affords an occasion to put aside the novel. At the start of a narrative, one too many bumps is fatal.

As noted above, the story movement starts with introduction of the "itch" problem. Up until that moment, the tone best practice carries story movement and readers forward. If the tone were stronger and clearer, emotionally stronger, more emphatic, and of a clearer interpretable meaning and intent, the delay of a complication introduction can wait for a few paragraphs or a page or so.

If this is the moral and message of the novel: "People are still dirtbags. They just became socially conscious dirtbags." That's somewhat Postmodern, for the literary movement's questions and challenges of presupposed propriety notions, usually moral propriety. A literary niche appreciates Postmodernism's open-endedness and preaching to the choir, fantastic fiction readers generally do not. Instead, they desire unequivocal complication satisfaction. How does the novel satisfy the main dramatic complication and express meaningful commentary about the aggregate human moral inaptitude which Blaine and Licia observe?

That -- that complication and conflict ideally is also best practice expressed or implied up front in a start so readers somewhat intuit what a narrative is really about. What, for example, implications of John Locke's pure state of Nature and natural law are two pieces of a tripartite social conscience? The third axis is what, that Blaine and Licia realize?

Or, as some factions would have humans be, free to be as self-gratified as they want at others' expense? Or, as other factions would have humans be, naturally subject to leadership's governance and attendant corruption? Or, as Pluralists would have humans be, part responsibly self-governed, part responsibly governed, part respectful for responsible free will exercise, and part attendant accountability ramifications suited to error and folly that cause undue harm. Yet all packaged in an artful practical irony tableau of moral truth discovery?

The second version leaves me less inclined to read on than the first version: less emphatic commentary, more remote narrative distance, an estranged shift away from Blaine's perspective and more toward a detached narrator's perspective.

Posts: 5160 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Disgruntled Peony
Member
Member # 10416

 - posted      Profile for Disgruntled Peony   Email Disgruntled Peony         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sorry it took so long to get around to responding to this. It's been a busy week.

Your initial opening had some rough spots and I wasn't fond of the first sentence, but there was definitely some potential there. However, as you've posted a second version of the opening, that's the one I'm going to focus on.

quote:
Originally posted by David C:
Blaine strode along the nearly flawless sidewalk. Mercury free lights lit them from above, their clean, dull beams cutting through the dark. He recalled reading once how cities used to smell of trash and sewage, mixed with what those old–fashion cars and trucks blew out their engines. Or something like that. Didn’t matter anymore. The geeko-warriors and bureaucrats back then got rid of all that. Cleaned up the cities. Got rid of everything polluting the air and water and the ground.

He just wished they’d done the same to people.

That was old news. Right now, the only thing bothering him was an intriguing itch he couldn’t scratch.

Moving forward through the warm, humid air, he looked over his shoulder to see if the itch still followed him.

The biggest thing I've noticed in both versions of the opening for 'Quantum Flesh' is that your narrative has a strong voice, but the grammar seems a bit weak. (For example, in this version 'Mercury free' could be hyphenated to 'Mercury-free' and 'old-fashion' should probably be 'old-fashioned'. You could also probably shorten 'the air and water and the ground' to 'the air, water, and ground'.)

This seems like an interesting beginning and an interesting concept; keep working on it. [Smile] It might be a good idea to pick up a style guide if you hadn't already. That would help you out with some of the grammatical rough patches. (Time and practice will also help you spot those in time. Editing is a wonderful thing, once you get the hang of it.)

Posts: 742 | Registered: May 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
David C
New Member
Member # 10554

 - posted      Profile for David C   Email David C         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Quantum Flesh first 13- 3nd Draft Edited

Thank you all again for your input.

As far as the grammar -aside from my own mistakes- I was attempting to give the reader an idea of what and how Blaine might think as he went along. Disjointed notions tied together towards a single idea, cynical or concise. And people do not speak the King's English, let along think that way.

But perhaps this is not the place for that. Better to let the story do that.

Here's number 3:

The woman still followed him. He was sure of it, although he kept his eyes on the flawless sidewalk. A slight breeze wisped through the night air. Beams of clean, but dull light from the street lamps above lit up his path.

Blaine recalled reading once how cities used to smell of trash and sewage, mixed with what those old–fashioned cars and trucks spewed from their engines. Or something like that. The geeko–warriors and self–appointed intellectuals back then got rid of all that. Cleaned everything up. Rid the world of everything polluting the air, water and the ground.

He just wished they’d done the same to people.

That was old news. The only thing bothering him was the intriguing itch he couldn’t scratch. Without pausing, he glanced back. She was still there.

Posts: 8 | Registered: Sep 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Disgruntled Peony
Member
Member # 10416

 - posted      Profile for Disgruntled Peony   Email Disgruntled Peony         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by David C:
Quantum Flesh first 13- 3nd Draft Edited

Thank you all again for your input.

As far as the grammar -aside from my own mistakes- I was attempting to give the reader an idea of what and how Blaine might think as he went along. Disjointed notions tied together towards a single idea, cynical or concise. And people do not speak the King's English, let along think that way.

But perhaps this is not the place for that. Better to let the story do that.

Here's number 3:

The woman still followed him. He was sure of it, although he kept his eyes on the flawless sidewalk. A slight breeze wisped through the night air. Beams of clean, but dull light from the street lamps above lit up his path.

Blaine recalled reading once how cities used to smell of trash and sewage, mixed with what those old–fashioned cars and trucks spewed from their engines. Or something like that. The geeko–warriors and self–appointed intellectuals back then got rid of all that. Cleaned everything up. Rid the world of everything polluting the air, water and the ground.

He just wished they’d done the same to people.

That was old news. The only thing bothering him was the intriguing itch he couldn’t scratch. Without pausing, he glanced back. She was still there.

The thing about narratives like this is, since you're writing in third person instead of first person, the narrative is considered separate from Blaine's thoughts even though it reflects them. How he speaks and the kind of thoughts he thinks will show a great deal about his character. Speech is the big place where readers are willing to accept grammatical inaccuracy. There's a bit more freedom in first person than third, but first person doesn't often sell.

(Also, if you've read 'The Maltese Falcon', for example, you might notice that the narrative actually contains incredibly flowery prose in places--the characters speak like people, but the narrative flows like poetry. I'm not saying you have to do that, by any means, just that it isn't unheard of in this genre.)

As far as this third version, it might be good if that first 'him' was 'Blaine' instead so the reader knows who they're identifying with immediately. I feel it's a simple change that would give the first sentence a lot more punch. Other than that, I don't have a lot in the way of critique for this opening as it stands. It seems pretty solid to me.

Posts: 742 | Registered: May 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Seymour Chatman in Story and Discourse explicates general methods for the close narrative distance of internal discourse. William James, older brother of Henry James, coined the term "stream of consciousness" for the scope of those methods. Unconventional grammar is one of the methods, though is a grammar itself, plus, an individual writer's voice is a grammar or grammars.

Other texts that explore and explicate stream of consciousness are Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction; John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, and others less as intensely.

Chatman especially demonstrates what he labels "estranging metaphors," terms which are allusive and off-kilter from conventional expectation, are delightful surprises. "Estranging metaphors" is one of stream of consciousness's methods. The metonymy and possible metalepsis potential of the "itch" in the several fragment versions above could be that sort, for example, though falls short to me.

A paradox of prose grammars and stream-of-consciousness methods is that they're both fluently readable and comprehendable and off kilter -- call due attention to their emphases from being unconventional.

The so-labeled "king's English," to represent cultivated grammar, is a misnomer and anymore a metaphor cum cliché invented since the king's English was a throwback to an outdated speech grammar. The Great Vowel Shift from Middle English to Modern English that transpired during the colonial era left behind a guttural speech affectation remainder from English's indo-Germanic roots. English royalty of the time balked at adapting to the pronunciation shifts of their subjects', considered those vulgar, in the sense of common persons' everyday language, not per se foul language. The kings were out of touch and behind the times. The king's English is a matter of pronunciation, not per se grammar, though the shift influenced grammar too.

Prose reading of writers who amply use stream of consciousness methods for third person includes Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and numerous others to more and less artful effect. First person by default closes narrative distance naturally, perhaps most strongly, though, as Disgruntled Peony notes, is not for every reader's tastes. Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games cycle, for example, and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight cycle.

A noir novel, to me, affords an opportunity for stream of consciousness methods developed especially for the genre, most notably by Mickey Spillane for his Mike Hammer cycle. Some of the language is now outdated though the methods are as artful as ever. To wit: emotionally charged reflections of sensory perceptions and emotionally charged reflexive commentary about those.

Between "reflection" and "reflexive" is an access point for stream of consciousness methods. "Reflection" depicts a viewpoint persona's sensations "reflected" in written word by a narrative's narrator, albeit emotionally charged. "Reflexive" expresses emotional reactions to reflected sensory stimuli overtly and often ironically and directed to or turned back onto the self, or itself.

Matters of de re, of the thing, and de se, of the self, less so if at all, de dicto, of the word, literally, stream of consciousness is received external reflections reflexively reacted to internally. These matters slip loose from the bounds of rigid literal expression and interpretation and expansively materialize figuratively for readers' intellects, imaginations, and emotions. Of all matters that prose methods exhort, contrastive comparison between literal and figurative expression is most crucial -- is the poetry of prose, that appeals most subtly and influentially.

If this novel intends noir, amped up, it would work for me and hold more appeal for general readers generally.

The grammar is less of what doesn't work for me, and more about that the language is neutral flat, an awkward mix of formal literal and a tiny amount of casual and figurative expression. Too directly on the nose for my sensibilities and in general. Figurative expression within the cognitive access of a target reader audience most and first engages intellect through the process of interpretation, which then engages imagination and emotion, because the initial effort shapes an acquisition effect; that is, effort already expended, therefore, worth the effort.

The rhetorical principle "decorum" covers that generically: Suit words to a subject matter, and each to the other, and to the occasion, and to the audience. The fantastic fiction audience, generally, has an able aptitude for sarcasm, irony's splendid finesse a degree or two less so, and most every motif of an artful narrative symbolically, if covertly, figuratively represents some aspect of the human condition. Like an "itch," street lamps, a "flawless sidewalk," seaside milieu, etc. Yet for fantastic fiction, such motifs are more so than literary prose genre of a non-one-to-one correspondence -- literal to figurative.

[ September 19, 2016, 05:37 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 5160 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
David C
New Member
Member # 10554

 - posted      Profile for David C   Email David C         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thank you all again for your input. I have learned much already.
Will continue plugging away at Quantum Flesh, among other things.

Posts: 8 | Registered: Sep 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2