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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Part Of a Scene From My Current Novel.

   
Author Topic: Part Of a Scene From My Current Novel.
Metta
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Hi
Comments please?
Metta
Kirsty shivered, more from fear of the circle of boys gathered at the far end of the platform than the biting cold that cut through the only winter clothing she possessed . She guessed them to be in their late teens. They wore faded jeans, torn and frayed at the bottoms. Their tee-shirts were stained and dirty. Rude messages and graffiti covered their well-worn leather jackets, which flapped open.
They were already halfway drunk as they took another swig from the aluminium cans and leered at the two girls. They made rude suggestions and guffawed at their own jokes.
Kirsty remembered the warning an old woman from years ago had given her about young girls traveling alone at night. And didn’t everyone say there was safety in numbers. Was that why the warden

[ September 11, 2017, 09:31 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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tesknota
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Hi Metta! First of all, this might belong in the Fragments and Feedback for Books section since you mentioned that this was from our current novel. Just a heads up for this, especially since it looks like you're new around here. =)

I think you did a good job establishing a scene here. The imagery was nice, the emotional state of Kirsty was portrayed pretty well.

To improve, I'd suggest a few things. First, I think the first sentence drags on, and it's too end-heavy. I might suggest splitting that into two sentences or doing something similar to that. Second, I think you could do write something else in place of this sentence: "They made rude suggestions and guffawed at their own jokes." This looks like a prime location for some show-don't-tell - a few lines of actual dialogue followed by laughter. That would make this a much more "active" scene rather than a "passive" one. Finally, there should be a question mark after the sentence ending with "safety in numbers".

Just my thoughts. Good luck on the novel, and welcome to Hatrack!

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Disgruntled Peony
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I'm with tesknota on this one--there's a lot of solid description in this fragment, but also an excessive amount of telling prose.

I think the first sentence would feel less unwieldy if it read 'cut through her winter clothing' rather than 'cut through the only winter clothing she possessed'. That information, while potentially pertinent, isn't necessarily needed here.

The first sentence in paragraph two is kind of awkward to me, too. 'They were already halfway drunk as they took another swig from the aluminum cans' is grammatically inaccurate and sends a lot of mixed messages. It also might be good to say 'leered at Kirsty and Sandra' rather than 'leered at the two girls', because Sandra hadn't yet been introduced in paragraph one so I thought Kirsty was alone and there were another two girls on the scene until I got further into the paragraph.

Reading the second paragraph over again, if you cut the line about the boys making rude suggestions and guffawing, you could go into more detail about their laughter and lewd comments in a third paragraph once Kirsty's wariness has been sufficiently quantified.

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extrinsic
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Young male ruffians intimidate a young woman and her companion.

Fifteen lines, by the way.

Though a vivid scene, the descriptions are either overly specific or generic and the content is largely summary and explanation tell. Causation is skewed, too, and not in an artful way.

The first sentence is a train-wreck run-on. Six prepositions and a conjunction, seven connective words that force content together. Connective tissue is a necessary part of formal and academic composition and problematic for prose. The sentence diagrammed:

"Kirsty (noun) shivered (verb) [main clause], more (comparative adjective) from (preposition) fear (noun) of (preposition) the (definite article adjective) circle (noun) of (preposition) boys (noun) gathered (verb) at (preposition) the (definite article adjective) far (adjective) end (noun) of (preposition) the (definite article adjective) platform (noun) than (preposition) the (definite article adjective) biting (gerund adjective) cold (noun) that (conjunction) cut (verb) through (preposition) the (definite article adjective) only (-ly adjective) winter (adjective) clothing (gerund adjective) she (pronoun) possessed (verb)[subordinate clause] (stray word space at sentence end before terminal punctuation).

Even formal composition principles recommend limited connective word use, especially prepositions.

That sentence also inverts the paragraph's causation artlessly. The sentence describes Kirsty's reaction effect to the ruffians' action cause before their actions, which the latter best practice comes first, logically. If that sentence were last, it would be more logical, more artful, and a conclusive statement, not a formal composition paragraph thesis sentence as is.

"She guessed them to be in their late teens." "She guessed" is an extra lens filter that puts the narrator in tell orientation between Kirsty's bare sensory experience and readers. Different syntax warranted for prose, that implies at least doubt on top of her fear. Even inverted from an indirect discourse paraphrase to a direct discourse summary is more artful: //What, in their late teens? she guessed.//

"They wore faded jeans, torn and frayed at the bottoms. Their tee-shirts were stained and dirty. Rude messages and graffiti covered their well-worn leather jackets, which flapped open." Duplicative syntax that is emotionally lackluster and static voice of the third degree; that is, stasis state of being statements that are of an undefined time span and generic, and of a stock stereotype. What sets these ruffians apart from every Hollywood stock of the teenage ruffian stereotype, that Kirsty observes?

If Kirsty is a ward of some foster home, orphanage, reform school, etc., she would know specifics about this ruffian gang from talk in the home and her communities.

"tee-shirt" "T-shirt" is the conventional format, or "t-shirt" is discretionary.

"They were already halfway drunk _as_ they took another swig from the aluminium cans _and_ leered at the two girls." Another run-on sentence, notable by forced connections from conjunction uses. One idea per sentence, not just a general grammar principle, as well, for prose, a strategy for leisurely and lively dramatic movement and suspense development -- prose arts. Especially "as" misuse for a coordination conjunction. "As" is a correlation conjunction word.

"halfway" is hedge word in that use. Either the teen ruffians are or are not drunk. And how does Kirsty know they are drunk? Some description from Kirsty's perspective that unequivocally shows the boys' drunkenness is warranted. Likewise, "leered at" warrants a descriptive and emotionally charged sensory description of what Kirsty herself sees.

"aluminium" is the British variant of US variant "aluminum." No other cues the novel's dialect is British, that spelling appears as a typo otherwise.

"They made rude suggestions and guffawed at their own jokes." Nonspecific when specificity is warranted. Rude how? Carnal? Bigoted? What? The fragment;s overall idea is the ruffians provoke Kirsty's fear of them. Surely, a young woman of a foster home is more than average savvy for her age.

The last paragraph implies that the home's warden sent Kirsty and Sandra out, more than together, forced them to go outside. Why?

"Kirsty remembered" Another unnecessary extra lens filter.

"And didn’t everyone say there was safety in numbers." An unnecessary negation statement, a flat litotes. Negation statements take on special emphases and properties for prose; their function is irony through litotes, a poetic equipment type useful for prose.

Does everyone say there's safety in numbers? That is a saying, proverb-like, yes. How, though, is it ironic? Two against many is ironic if developed for reader access to the irony. In any case, the positive opposite statement is warranted, and in the main simple past tense of the fragment, unnecessary tense shift: //Everyone said there was safety in numbers.//

And what is the novel really and truly about? So far, the objectification and victimization of young women is about all the fragment expresses. Not much proactive dramatic movement potential from that. And the main instigators are stereotyped adult authorities and stereotyped ruffians of stereotyped victims.

If the fragment set up somehow that Kirsty is more proactive and less vulnerable victim victimized and expressed something both more focused and specific and "true to life" about the human condition, I'd be hopelessly engaged by an otherwise generic, rushed, and forced fragment, in which case, the few grammatical errors would transcend their clumsiness and express that is of Kirsty's stream-of-consciousness idiolect, even though the narrative point of view is third person narrator. At the least, as is, the narrative point of view closes near to limited, close third person, a widely preferred narrative point of view, though the back and forth between narrator and viewpoint persona perspective is unsettled and jumpy.

I would not read further as an engaged reader at this time.

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Metta
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TEKNOTA
Thank you for your excellent feed back. It should have gone into the ‘Fragments for Books’ section. I’m legally blind and struggling to navigate the site. Should I put it there now or leave it?
What did you mean by ‘too end-heavy’?
DISGRUNTLED PEONY
Thank you for your excellent feed back.
EXTRINSIC
Thank you for your excellent advice, but I struggled to understand most of it.
Do you mean I shouldn’t describe a character’s thoughts? Paragraphs 7&8.
How does the time span connect to my description of the boys? Paragraph 9.
Paragraphs 7,8 & 9 were particularly difficult to understand.
I must have miscounted my lines if there were 15. You wrote 88 lines.
Metta

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Metta:
EXTRINSIC
Thank you for your excellent advice, but I struggled to understand most of it.
Do you mean I shouldn’t describe a character’s thoughts? Paragraphs 7&8.
How does the time span connect to my description of the boys? Paragraph 9.
Paragraphs 7,8 & 9 were particularly difficult to understand.
I must have miscounted my lines if there were 15. You wrote 88 lines.
Metta

Response commentary and other content aside from fragments are of an unlimited length, per se, though overtreatment spoils interest and engagement.

Character thoughts, like speech, come in several categories along an axis of indirect to direct discourse, and how attributed to a persona, whether free, that is, untagged, or tagged by he said or she thought attribution clauses. Action tags indirectly, that is, imply, attribute discourse without speech or thought tags. Indirect discourse is paraphrases; direct discourse is verbatim speech or thought. Where a tag goes in a sentence depends upon natural speech and thought rhythms, somewhat syntax organized, and also depends on whether direct or indirect discourse.

Examples, She (or a name) thought the day too short. He said he'd go on to Monday Petals this time. Note those are tagged discourse paraphrases, tagged indirect discourse. Direct discourse, verbatim, so to speak, The days here in winter are too short, she thought. "Heck and libel," he said, "my turn to go for Monday Petals." A best practice for direct discourse is to start with a discourse phrase, interject the attribution tag of two or so words midstream, like she thought, or he said, and follow up with the main sentence remainder if any. An interjection part of speech word or phrase that's a sentence fragment could start a line, for example, followed by the tag, then followed by the main idea, like the he said version above.

Actually, several syntaxes are artful candidates, though that follow general grammar syntax principles of simple sentence subject, predicate, and object, though with conventional as well complex and compound and complex-compound syntaxes. A tagged direct discourse sentence is actually a complex or compound sentence type. Like "Oh," he said, "you meant to go to Monday Petals this time?" A compound sentence, that. Interjection "Oh" is dependent content, tag "he said" is an otherwise medial standalone complete sentence, and "you meant to go to Monday Petals this time?" is the main clause, complete sentence, and main idea of an otherwise simple sentence.

Time span often is subtle in well-constructed sentences. For prose, simple past tense metaphorically substitutes for simple present tense and as well present and past progressive tenses. "They wore faded jeans, torn and frayed at the bottoms." "wore" could as easily be //were wearing// and "frayed" be //fraying// for the indefinite time span of when they wore jeans, for example. They wear jeans now and for an indefinite time span into the past and future. Such apparel descriptions are a challenge to portray dynamically, which is the opposite of static voice's indefinite time span static stasis state of being expressions. Verbs entail the most significance, dynamic verbs most of all, otherwise, adverbs nextmost if a verb doesn't express as definite a time span and emotional texture as indicated. Nouns and other parts of speech take their significance from verbs and predicate phrases.

How to avoid static voice that stalls or stops dramatic movement? Focus on emotional texture and specific details that propel movement. For illustration, the main idea of the ruffians' apparel is they want to and do project bad-boy attitudes, trouble, and danger, antisocial rebellion against social conventions, as it were. Boy gangs do so because of anger caused by fear of and frustration for social conventions that deny them their self-gratification wants at others' expenses.

So what about their apparel is the most specific "telling detail" in those regards? Something in particular that frightens Kirsty and Sandra, too. What do the girls fear? Gang colors, symbols, and marks broadcast particular statuses and reputations. A teardrop tattoo, for example, for many gangs, means the wearer caused severe bodily harm or killed someone, or means something else scary, depending on the gang's symbology.

Leather jackets often contain patches and embroidery that are gang-specific, too, sometimes jeans and t-shirts do too. Here, definiteness of time span a symbol is worn may signal how recent, say, a member was initiated into the gang. Otherwise, definiteness of time is less about how long the symbol is displayed or leather jackets worn and more about, say, Kirsty's immediate-now-moment perspective of such symbols.

She sees in the now moment a bird feather tattoo on one particular member's cheek or patch on his jacket and knows at that instant he's a convicted rapist and proud of both, would do so again without hesitation. That could badly scare Kirsty and she tell Sandra its significance, which then clues readers into the danger she's in, from her internal perspective and foreknowledge, and develops tension such that readers are curious what Kirsty will do and what will happen to Kirsty. If that's the intent.

Such a scenario then is of a definite now-moment time span and dynamic voice for it, not the jeans and jackets, Kirsty's now perceptions and emotional reactions to one telling detail fully realized in the dramatic movement now moment. One such telling detail, developed such a way, substitutes for otherwise static, indefinite, emotionally bland, generic, artless descriptive details.

[ September 19, 2017, 01:51 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Metta:

I must have miscounted my lines if there were 15. You wrote 88 lines.
Metta

The line count only matters when you are posting story text, and it is limited to 13 lines.

Please read the topics about the first 13 line rule on the Please Read Here First area of the forum.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Metta:
It should have gone into the ‘Fragments for Books’ section. I’m legally blind and struggling to navigate the site. Should I put it there now or leave it?
Metta

I'll move this topic to the Books section. You will still see it here, but it will be closed here. You will need to go to the Books section for further discussion.

I hope that makes sense.

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Metta
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Hi Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Thank you for moving my story and the replies to the correct place.
You will have noticed some of the replies are very long, much longer than 13 lines and quite a chunk to read through. Does that mean I can make my story parts a bit longer?
Metta

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Metta, the replies can be as long as necessary.

The 13-line limit is only for text from a story. Have you read this topic?

Maybe I need to do something so it and the other topics in the Please Read Here First area will be visible.

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