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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Demon in Me - SF incomplete

Author Topic: Demon in Me - SF incomplete
Michelle M.
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I hope I'm not posting too many topics. I really love getting feed back from others. Everything that has been said has been helpful. I wanted to post the first 13 lines of "Demon in Me." I just recently found the fragments on my computer and reread it. I started writing it a while ago, and it fell by the wayside. I was looking at the beginning to see if it captures what Kathleen told me on another thread about the faith, hope, and clarity. I think, of all of the things I have written, it reflect that outline the most. I want to know what others think and if they are engaged enough to want to keep reading. Thanks!

Hell? Iíve seen Hell. The big Pitchfork took one look at me and told me to get the hell out, that I didnít belong there. Canít say I argued with him.

I woke up in a hospital, an empty IV drip in my arm. I didnít know who I was. The band around my wrist said: Cassidia Rhinehart. I didnít know who that was either. Assuming it was me, that was an awful name. I decided Iíd change it as soon as I could. I did a systems check. I flopped about the tight muscles in my arms. Apparently I worked out or something. Maybe I was training for one of those athletic contests they show on TV. Arms? Check. I raised the covers and peeked beneath the sheets. Wiggling my toes, I pretended to run in place. No pain. Everything seemed to be in working order. Legs? Check. Ears? Noes? Eyes? Triplecheck. Whatever put me in here didnít seem to be crippling. I felt like I could just up and walk out. But I didnít.

[ February 24, 2017, 01:18 PM: Message edited by: Michelle M. ]

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Too many topics posted? Without participation and contribution, activity stagnates. Have at it, I say.

The fragment: Hell evicts an individual, who awakes with selective amnesia in a hospital and does a function evaluation.

Aside from the delightful synecdoche "[B]ig Pitchfork," capped "Big," by the way, the Hell eviction stands out most for me; one, that is a contention between two individuals and ripe for event, milieu, and character development, alas, though, incomplete, mere paraphrase of why evicted, from a vague appearance "look" that expresses nothing. Two, that eviction vaguely implies volumes, though is generic paraphrase, ergo, uninferable what it means.

The rest of the fragment, a text wall paragraph of at least three ideas, which warrant a paragraph or more for each, similarly rushes forward, notable, though, that the narrator-agonist is by herself, like stuck in a bathtub navel contemplation while she looks into a figurative mirror to self-describe her appearance. Plus, vague sensation physical exploration of setting's time, place, and situation, meantime, no forward dramatic movement. No movement but slight eye and bodily movement.

Wake-up starts contain all the above: agonist by the self in self-reflective description, navel contemplation, and vague setting explorations that amount to a marble-statue and white-room syndrome. Also Dischism. Both and others are common, trite, clichť that screener editors all too often encounter and know right away a decline is indicated. See the "Turkey City Lexicon."

"I flopped _about_ the tight muscles in my arms." Awkward.

"said[:] Cassidia Rhinehart" Colon error, comma indicated. Also, does the wristband speak?

"Apparently[,] I worked" Comma warranted.

"Assuming," "something," "training," "Wiggling," "Everything," "crippling" Sudden unnecessary rash of -ing ring rhyme words.

I cannot at this time read on as an engaged reader.

[ February 24, 2017, 12:00 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Michelle M.
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The fragment is actually two paragraphs. There is a break right before she wakes up. I just wanted to fit the whole second paragraph in there. Didn't want the spaces to count as one of the 13 lines.

That said, what can I do to make this more appealing to you, make you want to read more?

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Empty line breaks, for paragraph breaks, don't count for Hatrack's thirteen lines. Block style paragraphs and line breaks sans paragraph indents is online style (Online Publication Format).

Whatever caused Rhinehart to die and go to Hell and caused her eviction, to me, are important and potential appeal matters, because those entail potential contention development between agonists and, through the contentions' portrayals, event, setting-milieu, and character development. Agonists who are solitary invariably contemplate navels. No per se shortfall for navel contemplation at some point, though right up front before event, setting, and character identities are established through contentious interaction, I lose interest for navel contemplation, because I don't and cannot care, due to I don't know this person, don't know what is afoot, nor know where and when this navel contemplation is and what it, the narrative, is really and truly about.

Such agonists agonize in private and are stuck, cannot move in any meaningful dramatic, story essential direction. They are galvanized to one magnetic pole of contemplation. The most an agonist in solitude can do is recap, reflect, recount, tell, summarize, and explain what happened event-wise in some over and done past time, reflect upon the past, or maybe contemplate wants for the future, maybe come to a decision that is subjunctive -- might happen in the future and is abstract in a vague way for being uncertain, plans unravel when they meet opposition -- and the essential, immediate present now time is static, stalled, stagnant, unmoving, nondrama: uneventful.

As Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) says, "Be here now." Live in the now moment of closest possible conscious sensation event certainty. That's prose's forte: the present experience reflected in simple past tense as if just this past moment happened in the present, metaphorically now futureward.

Damon Knight, Creating Short Stories, page 37, notes that he exhausted much wasted time obstinately believing he could write short stories with an agonist who interacts only with a setting. His guidance: Complicate an agonist by pitting her or him in contention now to a suitable degree against another agonist now: foil, ally, nemesis, villain; or it, if a personification of a force natural, social, spiritual, paranormal, technological, cultural, or human-ish.

"Complicate" is the key word, want and problem that complicate an agonist's existence, life, self, and each the other. Otherwise, without complication, a narrative is more or less a routine diary or journal entry of private and not so dramatic reflections. Another term for complicate is motivate.

Plus, in concert with motivation-complication, is conflict. Conflict, in creative expression composition terms, is a polar opposition of forces in contention related to stakes and outcomes, like life and death, acceptance and rejection, riches and rags, damnation and salvation, fame and obscurity, power and servitude, only one conflict outcome pole possible in the end, never both. "You can't have your cake and eat it, too."

Complication's duality, though, is manifold, nonpolar opposites, a want is itself a problem and vice versa, and both at once, and more. Want for money, or whatever want, is a problem of none or too little. And want and problem are parallel, perpendicular, and obtuse and acute tangent motivations; conflict is only polar stakes and outcomes opposites. A victimization problem is a want for proactive satisfaction: proactivism, at least a want to be left alone, if not thwart those who would treat a body as a child with which to trifle.

Complication-conflict, too, in concert, can imply through a single concrete motif, say, want for money. Antagonal, causal, tensional dramatic questions dramatically implied therefrom pit an agonist against whomever has money to loan, to pay, or steal from. A motif like that, though, needs as well stakes development. What the money is wanted for implies what's at stake, even if enhanced prestige is the sole intent, or wanted riches and the alternative is rags, etc. Complication-conflict is event's substance.

Plus tone, the third drama essential aspect. Tone is the moral-emotional attitude of a dramatis personae toward a topic, emotionally positively charged or negatively charged, never neutral charge. Tone is narrator and agonist attitudes, at times together, at times separate, at times at odds, as the case may be. The synecdoche "Big Pitchfork" is a strong and clear tone-attitude, a sarcastic irony that expresses more so Satan's no big deal and implies nonetheless an undertone of fear, plus, is morally charged. Such incongruencies are irony's forte and dramatic expression's.

Of course, a Hatrack start fragment can only contain thirteen lines' roughly one hundred thirty words or so and not much real estate is that for the essentials: event, setting, and character introductions. Event is the more essential aspect. Event entails complication-conflict in and of itself, that happens now to an agonist in contention with other agonists now, in a now setting, and of a now tonal attitude toward the signal event of substance now. Plus, prose's arts are full event, setting, and character realization in a timely and judicious economy of words. Poetic prose equipment expresses more with less words.

The number-one commonest shortfall, to me, of starts, in less than confident hands on the keyboard, is those that rush past essential and due attention to details to get to the crux. Nextmost shortfall, once the crux arrives, it too is rushed past to get to the end, and it too rushed. Maybe that's due to habits of convenience and expectation readers will fill in the blanks. One strong guidance to defuse these above shortfalls is lavish attention on essentials: event, setting, and character. Event development is foremost and is concurrent with setting and character development. The rest will follow.

Much of this above is itemized and explained to a degree in "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction." A read and close study, as tedious and awkward as it is, and at times off kilter, gets a jump-ahead start on prose composition essentials.

Two that stand out to me regards this fragment and similar across publication culture:

"Get-it-in-the-mail syndrome. Prose over which the author, in his eagerness to finish a work, has taken too little time or care. It implies that the author can easily fix the problems if he concentrates on them. (CSFW: Sari Boren)

"Grouper Effect. Named after the grouper, which eats by opening its capacious mouth and swallowing a huge volume of water, toothlessly capturing its prey in the resulting suction, the specialized form of get-it-in-the-mail syndrome which results when participants in a workshop feel get-it-in-the-mail pressure to submit works to the group. A pun. (CSFW: Alex Jablokov)"

As our Meredith may note from time to time, my paraphrase: Proficient prose composition is a marathon, not a sprint, despite that many conclude artful expression is only a matter of thoughts strung out in an instant by words and lines put on the page.

[ February 24, 2017, 01:20 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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First, let me second everything extrinsic mentioned.

Originally posted by Michelle M.:
I hope I'm not posting too many topics. I really love getting feed back from others.

As far as I'm concerned, submit as much, and as often, as you have works you'd like feedback on. The three fragment submissions you have recently posted in quick succession though have given me some food for thought.

Originally posted by Michelle M.:
That said, what can I do to make this more appealing to you, make you want to read more?

As a personal observation, you have recently submitted three different stories, with three different characters, in three different situations; yet, they are all essentially the same. An unknown first person narrator dumps an unsuspecting reader into the middle of some unknown crisis for some unknown reason. Then you, the writer, explain to us when we point this out, everything will be made clear as the reader reads on. This may be true, but you are operating under a false assumption--that the reader will read on. Most won't get past the first paragraph, let alone the first page. Also, personally, unless you have a body of acclaimed published works in first person I won't read past the first 'I' I come across in the narrative.

extrinsic hit the nail on the head, I feel, when he suggested that you are rushing toward the 'meat' of the story without giving due attention to the set-up; the introduction of the characters, the situation, the dramatic problem, and so on. You might know all of the reasons for what is happening but the reader doesn't; and never will if you don't treat them with the respect they feel due them--to know what is going on. Most stories have beginnings for a reason. [Smile]

Hope this helps.


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Jay Greenstein
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Youíve gotten good advice. Adding to that, you need to edit to tighten.

ē The big Pitchfork took one look at me and told me to get the hell out
Would the master of hell say, ďget the hell out? Canít see that happening.

ē I woke up in a hospital, an empty IV drip in my arm.
Since one canít wake down, the word ďupĒ serves no purpose. And: empty and drip are at war. And in any case, were that true the warning buzzed would be sounding. If it matters to the plot if itís running or empty, have the alarm chirping. That would be a handy reason for a nurse to show up quickly.

ē I didnít know who I was. The band around my wrist said: Cassidia Rhinehart. I didnít know who that was either.
At twenty-one words it has way too much fat. Youíre explaining in unnecessary detail. But pull the fat and you can say it in thirteen. Make implication work for you:

The band around my wrist said: Cassidia Rhinehart. A name I didnít recognize.

ē Assuming it was me, that was an awful name.
So you wake in a hospital, see a name band on your arm, and assume they might have put a random name on your arm? Trim the fat and append it to the previous line and you save six more words:

The band around my wrist said: Cassidia Rhinehart. A name I didnít recognizeóan awful name.

ē I decided Iíd change it as soon as I could.
Isnít that implied by the previous lines? But that aside, seriously, you wake unexpectedly in a hospital. Would you immediately check your name tag and decide you donít like the name, or would you think back to the last thing you were aware of to try to understand what happened? Wouldnít you look around? Wouldnít you wonder who Cassidia Rhinehart is and why youíre wearing her arm band?

Hereís the problem: As has been previously pointed out, youíre missing some critical data on how to approach the act of writing fiction for the printed word. No crime in that, of course. Most hopeful writers face the same problem. But given that the skills you currently own are responsible for the things noted, until you change that situation everything you present will suffer the same problem,

When you read the piece those problems are invisibleóto you. When you read your own words you add in the missing emotion because you already know the story. A reader canít.

So keep writing, of course. But at the same time, put some time aside to fill your tool kit with the necessary tricks of the trade. Youíll find it time well spent.

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