Hello, Hatrack River! I have returned from a long hiatus from this forum, but my fingers have never stopped writing . I think I could use some feedback on something I'm working on. Any comments and critique is appreciated.
So this story is a mix between high and dark fantasy or at least that is what I'm aiming for. It follows the story of two main characters from different lives that become intertwined by a chance of fate. Also I'm not sure if I got the 13 lines exactly right, I used the alphabet template as instructed, but if anyone sees anything wrong let me know!
Without further ado:
A silver moon glimmered in the night sky, hanging in the midst of an emerald nova. Ishali watched the numerous stars in the sky burn with a bright white and ringed with a scarlet flame. The Gloom Wood became suffused by the ethereal touch.
Gentle hills of silver Blade-Grass shimmered beneath elegant Leaves-of-Luriel half bent in a strong wind. Ancient Cherry Oaks dominated them from on high, their roots snaking down steep slopes and into the crevices of the earth. A constant rain of shed leaves—sapphire and crimson—played on the current of the wind across the radiant forest.
Ishali curled her fingers into a fist and raised it into the air and signaled the Bright Vigil to halt. She glanced over the stump where her ring finger once was, covered in sword-nicks earned...
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An individual contemplates celestial, earthly, and personal bodily sensations.
Thirteen lines correct.
The language is a consideration, some pretty though empty and forced visuals, plus, the action start is slow, too slow for me.
A "prologue" start is problematic, widely deprecated across publication culture. A prologue's function is to introduce prefatory circumstances necessary to understand the main action to come, and given from a summary and explanation backstory account by a narrator, told, more or less, why prologues are deprecated. Except for a few extra lens filters, this fragment is a prelude, actions and received sensations given, shown, in the now moment of the action, is not a prologue.
Quiet starts are okay by me, though that a start begin movement somehow. The late ring finger stump is the strongest engagement start for me, though, due to it sets up a recollection of the past, does little for me. And the overwrought diction, mostly emotionally empty adjectives, falls flat. Many of the verbs, too, force metaphor.
Part of my disengagement is the numerous grammar glitches of the fragment.
First sentence, second clause, a stranded, or dangled, participle. The clause modifies "night sky" and intends to modify "silver moon." Not sure about "emerald nova" either. Nebula maybe, nor of any green color without some mechanism detail. Green sky is a consequence of obtuse angle light refraction -- the proverbial dusk green flash, for example. A green-ish nebula that colors a night sky could be caused by a celestial copper ionization.
Second sentence, similar glitch, "bright white" an adjective phrase that modifies nothing, another stranded phrase. "with a" omitted corrects that glitch. The stars "seeing" are white pinpricks surrounded by scarlet against a green tapestry backdrop? The sentence is a run-on, too. The culprit more the extra lens filter "Ishali watched" than the remainder. Sure, the intent is to introduce the viewpoint agonist, though is a clumsy method.
Third sentence is passive voice, unnecessary. "The Gloom Wood became suffused by the ethereal touch." Active voice: //The ethereal touch suffused the Gloom Wood.// A transition sentence, though the idea of it belongs at the next paragraph start, due to the transition moves from sky to ground.
Second paragraph, views down to earth of a broad landscape seen in panoramic wide angle perspective, not especially interesting, either. Third sentence of the paragraph, a number of grammar and stylistic glitches. "Ancient Cherry Oaks dominated them from on high" Not capitalized, //cherry oaks//. "dominated" is a forced and dead metaphoric verb. "them" pronoun subject antecedent error. Them what? the wind, Luriel shrubs, Blade-Grass, the hills? All of them? "from on high" is dead tired, a cliché. "their roots snaking down steep slopes and into the crevices of the earth" another stranded clause and another dead metaphoric verb "snaking" and which is an unnecessary -ing word. "and into the crevices of the earth." Unnecessarily wordy, as much of the fragment is, preposition "of" causes the phrase's wordiness. The fragment contains fifteen unnecessary preposition links, "in," "with," and "of" mostly.
Second paragraph, third sentence, again wordy, dead metaphoric verbals "rain," "shed," and "played"; and an unnecessary dash-bracketed phrase. The sentence contains four unnecessary prepositions, a sure run-on sentence marker. A preposition links an object clause to a predicate clause, one or so object clauses per sentence and in object position, for best practice reading and comprehension ease.
Third paragraph, first sentence, run-on, the three clauses are not simultaneous action; they are sequential actions. Not sure what the Bright Vigil is, maybe a community ritual Ishali leads.
Second sentence, what, on to another idea before enough Bright Vigil details description? Extra lens filter again, "She glanced". If Ishali glances "over," she looks above the finger stump, focused on something else, what not given. The second clause is another stranded participle, this one a past participle instead of a present participle strand. Unnecessary hyphen join, "sword-nicks".
No movement, nothing dramatic to engage through is the main reason I would not read on as an engaged reader. The several grammar and language glitches spoil the rest of my interest. For this fragment to work for me, engage my interest, probably the purpose of the vigil would need to be middle ground, the overwrought setting and visual sensation details contribute to the dramatic meaning of the vigil from the background, and dramatic movement most forward of all. Like, what does Ishali want? Or what problem complicates her at this now moment? Or, ideally, both that are what the narrative is about related to the human condition.
The title implies some reaver storm is the problem, or want. Otherwise, no delivery of the storm's menace or ominous omen now for Ishali is introduced.
quote: A silver moon glimmered in the night sky, hanging in the midst of an emerald nova.
I have no clue of what an emerald nova is. That aside, why tell me what can be seen when I don’t know who’s seeing and reacting to it, where we are in time and space, or what’s going on? In short, give me context to make the observation meaningful.
quote: Ishali watched the numerous stars in the sky burn with a bright white and ringed with a scarlet flame.
So someone we know nothing about watched the night sky for an unknown reason, over an unknown time. You’re thinking cinematically—watching a mental film and telling the reader what they would see were they able to see it. That’s not the same thing as making the reader see it. Reading the result of your visualizing the scene won’t reverse engineer and give the reader that image.
quote: The Gloom Wood became suffused by the ethereal touch.
The ethereal touch of what? Why would he think it unusual? For that matter, why not give his reaction to what he’s seeing instead of talking about him? Remember, since the reader can neither see your performance nor hear the emotion in your voice, these words are delivered in a monotone. Have your computer read it aloud to hear what a reader does.
I’m absolutely certain that this has meaning to you. It has meaning to Ishali, and whoever else is there, too. But the people you wrote this for have not a hint of what’s happening because you’re talking about what you visualize, not what Ishali is focused on. And fair is fair. It is his story. You’re soon going to make his life a living hell. So instead of taking the reader on a tour of the local sky why not let the poor bastard live his story as we watch, and share it with him?
Story happens, it’s not talked about. It’s emotional and entertaining, not factual. In the words of James H. Schmitz, “Don’t inflict the reader with irrelevant background material—get on with the story.”
You might want to dig a bit deeper into the tricks of the trade of writing fiction for the page. They're very different from the nonfiction tricks we all learn in our school days, and well worth the time to learn. A really good resource is the local library's fiction writing department.
Hey guys, wanted to say thanks for the feedback! I understand what each of you are saying, I kind of went overboard with the description without giving much context. I'll keep that in mind for future writing, and will ruminate on this when making changes to the prologue.
There's a story here, it's just a little slow to pick up speed. I'll make changes accordingly and get back to you guys when I have something .
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Got some inspiration to make some changes. I dropped the descriptions that didn't really make sense, and modified some character descriptions(though there are none in these thirteen lines). Let me know what you guys think .
Three centuries had passed. Enough time for an entirely new generation to be born and raised in the forest realm of the Jumerith Conclave. For three centuries, the marked trained and made their routine patrols in the remote countryside. And though they were few in number, the lani elves that formed their ranks were veterans of wars long forgotten.
Another year gone by and the marked found themselves selected for the tradition and honor of the Vigil. Ishali combed the gentle hillsides of the Gloom Wood with a hawk’s sight. Once again, she would make the journey from Drake’s Landing to the remote shores of the Void Sea in the south.
Part detached narrator narration, part third person limited character viewpoint, the narrative point of view is mixed and a viewpoint glitch. Those two narrative points of view do not play well together in close proximity. They do require artistic transition when they are in the same narrative. The mental whiplash from abrupt narrative point of view transitions disengages me, and readers generally. Either no access to viewpoint character thoughts and internal sensations, the detached narrator narrative point of view; or access to one character's thoughts and internal sensations, the third person limited narrative point of view, at a time.
Usually, if not always, for a thirteen lines start, mixed detached and third person limited, the narrative point of view is jumpy and random. At best, those two narrative points of view may be for separate chapters, not contained within a few paragraphs, and each requires a transition setup, transition proper, and follow-through at least, from any one to another narrative point of view. Mindful a main narrative point of view overall is essential, and that auxiliary narrative points of view are apt and suited to a main one.
Several texts explicate the above narrative point of view principles expressly for fantastic fiction writers and span all creative composition genres and story lengths: Damon Knight Creating Short Fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin Steering the Craft, and our host Orson Scott Card Character and Viewpoint. Steering the Craft specifically notes that a writer who doesn't know any given method, narrative points of view, for instance, is advised to learn by whatever process: study of theory, study of model narratives, self-learned focus, for examples.
Here's where the viewpoint glitch occurs: "honor of the Vigil. @@@ Ishali combed". The "Ishali combed" is a filtered through an extra and unnecessary lens. Farther widened narrative distance between detached narrator and viewpoint character here: "Ishali was certain". "was certain" is a thought expression. Both examples are internal observations.
Detached narrator is the conventional and traditional narrative point of view for prologues and literature of old -- pre-Realism, circa mid nineteenth century and before back to the dawn time -- and Scriptures. Such is also widely deprecated at the present.
Third person limited is the overall preferred narrative point of view anymore, for its flexibility. Though first person has become the default overall, is fraught with challenges widely unmet, one of which is its stringent viewpoint limitations -- only access to one persona's internal and present location's sensations and thoughts.
That first person narrative point of view is memorists' sole choice. Ergo, fiction best practice defaults to third person limited, a parallel of first person yet with a distinct, separate narrator identity. Then at least two voices are possible. First person only allows one voice to narrate. Variety -- timely and judicious -- is the spice of narrative, as it is of life. Third person limited is the least challenging artful method, and the most flexible.
Detached narrator is the easiest, is the narrative point of view of academic expression from grade school to postgraduate and journal publication, is reporting, teaching, and lecture text expression, least emotional, if at all, most impersonal, and, therefore, is the most inopportune for creative prose.
quote:Three centuries had passed. Enough time for an entirely new generation to be born and raised in the forest realm of the Jumerith Conclave.
This could work to whet interest, hinting at big things. But given that the reader has no context for the places and events, expanding on this may be a problem so far as reader comprehension. And given that we’re in overview mode, for all the time you’re talking about this, the story has yet to begin, making this more of a teaser than story.
quote:For three centuries, the marked trained and made their routine patrols in the remote countryside. And though they were few in number, the lani elves that formed their ranks were veterans of wars long forgotten.
We don’t know where and when, or even who we are. We don’t know what the “marked” are (why isn’t it Marked, as a title?), so while these are words, for the reader they’re data that must be stored till they make sense. So in effect, it’s a course of study, memorizing data that will be forgotten before it’s needed.
And, a moment ago you said, “an entirely new generation was born and raised. So being vets of “wars long forgotten,” makes no sense. It may be that the “new generation aren’t elves. It may be many things. But only you know, and only for you do the words call up images and ideas to give context.
quote:Another year gone by and the marked found themselves selected for the tradition and honor of the Vigil.
A moment ago it was three centuries. Now, it’s another year. Has time passed since I began reading?
And what's "The Vigil?
And… They "found themselves selected?" By whom? And why? And how do they feel about it? And what were they patrolling for? Again, only you have context, and it’s driven by your intent, which the reader isn’t aware of.
The moment you free your words to the world you, your intent, and everything about you becomes irrelevant. It’s a given reader and what the words suggest to them, based on their, not your background and experience, so the words of the story must take that into account.
At the moment, you’re thinking in terms of telling the story, as you would at the podium or campfire. But that’s an outside-in approach. And because the reader has none of your knowledge, and can neither hear your golden voice nor see your performance, the words contain only the emotion inherent to your word choice and the punctuation. Have your computer read it aloud and you’ll hear what the reader gets. And as it does, ask yourself what the terms you introduce will mean to a reader seeing those words for the first time.
Story isn’t talked about, or explained. It happens as we watch, and is presented in emotional not factual terms, because only then can the reader find it entertaining.
The short version: You’re telling the story—informing the reader. That places you as a dispassionate outside observer, speaking without emotion. You can tell the reader that a given character speaks angrily, or that their mood is good. But you cannot tell the reader how you speak a given line. So it’s better to show the reader the protagonist’s world as they view it, staying within the moment that character calls now. That gives immediacy, and emotional content by placing the reader into the protagonist’s viewpoint.
It might help to do a bit of digging into the tricks of the trade in the fiction writing section of the local library system. After all, if our reader is to perceive our writing as professional, don’t we need to know what the pros know?
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Lorveth, with a little rework any of these three sentences could become your opening hook.
quote: Ishali combed the gentle hillsides of the Gloom Wood with a hawk’s sight.
Gloom wood? Hawk sight? Cool, tell me more.
quote: Once again, Ishali would make the journey from Drake’s Landing to the remote shores of the Void Sea in the south.
Drake's landing = Dragon's landing? Void sea? Why is it a void? Cool, tell me more.
quote: Ishali was certain that when she looked over the shoreline for the hundredth time, there would be no sign of the armada.
Armada? Cool, what type of armada? Enemy armada? The thousand state armada. Galactic armada? The combined forces of the elves armada? Is the armada invading? Returning? Gathering? overdue? What's going on with this darn armada? Tell me more.
Thanks for the advice guys, it'll take time to digest all of the information.
Jay, unfortunately, I live in a small Mississippi town at the moment, so I'm not certain that the local library would have what I'm looking for. Any books in particular you guys would recommend? I think I have a number of how to write books by James Scott Bell and Orson Scott Card that I haven't read in quite a few years. Maybe it's worth breaking those out again.
Walexander, thanks for the tips, I'll be certain to take that into account the next time.
Extrinsic, I think I did indeed go over the thirteen lines a little, I'll edit that. Thanks for letting me know!
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The books named above are among the more insightful, comprehensive, and accessible entry-level prose composition theory texts. Card, Knight, Le Guin, and John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, L. Rust Hills, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular.
A next, intermediate tier focuses more on narrower topics. Seymour Chatman's Story and Discourse dwells into narrative point of view, too, less accessible than the former, though. A next, advanced tier is less yet accessible and yet more focused into specific topics, Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction, which drills into, of course, prose's rhetorics, The Poetics of Aristotle, see Project Gutenberg, and Technique of the Drama, Gustav Freytag, see Archive.org.
Companion model narratives for a test bench, so to speak, compare and contrast principles and theories espoused by narrative theory texts and is a good practice. A dozen or so limited length personal favorites will serve, a few short and long fiction. Plus, if the narratives earned popular and critical acclaim, that too is a good selection practice. Deconstruct those by tools learned from theory study.
All that said, however, the fundamentals are as elusive as scratches reached at cloud bellies. The several matters of plot, story, emotion, movement, and conflict-complication are no where explicated to an ample degree, among other topics. Where a few scratch at the edges of ideas, much disagreement debates.
Like plot, many do not know what it is, nor how to erect one, so they don't bother, disparage plot as unnecessary and a cruel tyrant, instead, use gimmicks in its place, melodrama, for one, or compose snapshot anecdote, vignette, or sketch narratives, that are more or less state-of-being portraits, still lifes -- static, no overall dramatic movement.
This, for example, is a portrait of a young woman stuck in a bathtub, contemplates her navel, figuratively, part anecdote, part sketch: Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People" in the collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find. No one in that short fiction, nor the collection overall, changes transformatively; the personas are the same at the end as they are at the start, except superficially.
quote:I live in a small Mississippi town at the moment, so I'm not certain that the local library would have what I'm looking for. Any books in particular you guys would recommend?
Check the library system, as against the individual library. Often, you can order in books.
My personal recommendation is one of two that focus on the nuts and bolts issues of structure, as against matters of style.
A gentle introduction found in Debra Dixon's, GMC: Goal Motivation and Conflict. It's a warm easy read, a lot like holding a conversation with Deb. That's available from any online bookseller,for download. Hard copies are cheaper on Deb's site.
My favorite, because it had such a profound effect on my writing (and brought my first sale) is Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer. He covers the same areas as Deb does, but to a far greater depth. In fact, most of the articles on writing in my blog are based on his teachings. For a sample of the kind of things he discusses, here's a condensation and simplification of one of the techniques he talks about to generate a strong character viewpoint. It's we;; worth chewing on till it begins to make sense. As presented it seems a rigid, by the numbers approach, but it isn't. It's only the framework to build on, like the box step when learning traditional ballroom dancing.
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