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Thinking Aloud
May 27th, 2013, 09:26 AM
The first part (of four) from my Short Story: Hamartia. This part concentrates on setting a dream-like, kind of surreal tone rather than blasting plot or action. The issues that I'm having with the whole tone-opener is it's kind of slow and I'm not really sure how interesting it is. I personally found it effective and somewhat absorbing, but only because I know how the entire story unfolds, so perhaps I'm a little biased. But anyways, let me know what you think, and enjoy!

(Full working-draft can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NE6CFpIpQBaqd_PvNtpV7oltEL6LiUP6PhOqiClkl1E/edit)

Part 1 (Samsara)
Void

I love my world. It is so peaceful here. So beautiful, and tranquil, and quiet. There is this timeless still here; my friends, the windswept plains and silent stars in the night sky, look so happy in their slumber. The white rubble and ruins that dot the landscape smile at me, and invite me warmly into their welcoming arms.

I could spend an eternity, lying among the soft grass. My world is a delicate thing, blissfully silent as it is. It is this captivating silence that blankets and surrounds me at all times. I could always fall freely into its affection, reveling in all of its mystic charm and frozen beauty. I could spend hours basking in the warm glow of the night sky, counting the stars that hid themselves within, or running my hand across the scattered marble columns and arches, searching for any secrets that may lie hidden in plain sight. I love my world: a world that is mine alone to enjoy. But my world is shy, and there is so much about it that I do not understand.

I would wander around my world,thinking. Thinking about my world. About where it came from, and where it was going. I would think about myself as well. About where I came from, and where I was going. And whenever I would ponder these things, or whenever I felt lost or confused, I could feel my world closing its hand gently around mine, leading me towards the answer.

My world always seemed to lead me to the same location in pursuit of this answer. Whenever I felt its guiding spirit, I would close my eyes to focus on my thoughts, knowing that I would reopen them to a familiar sight. My world hid away a treasure, a place of true serenity and sanctuary. I had first awakened in this beautiful place, without memories of a life before, nor the desire to remember them. All I wanted was to lie in a dreamlike state, forever surrounded by the soft glow of the crystals, and the hushed love of the grey-blue walls.

This secret grotto was the very essence of peace and blissful escape. I could flee here whenever I was too far lost in thought, allowing its soothing presence to sink deep within my soul. The smooth cavern walls were cool to the touch, and lined with magnificent crystals in all hues and colors. This alcove cradled my world’s most precious treasure: a lake of the deepest and most sincere shade of blue. I would lose myself in this azure hue, allowing mind and presence to slip into its inviting waters, which would embrace me with the tenderest of care. I would stare into my own reflection, tracing the features on my face through the water. I realized why my world and I could be such good friends: my reflection was as delicate, tranquil, and quiet as the world around me. And when I would stare into my lake, I could feel the gentle pulse of my world—feel the sweet sigh of its breathing. I liked to think that my world was a girl too—the same age as me—who enjoyed drawing just as much as I did. I would close my eyes, and listen deeply to my world's innermost thoughts. We would share secrets, and tell each other how we were feeling. Whenever I began a new drawing on the cavern walls, I would ask my world for her feedback and encouragement, smiling happily upon her reply. I loved my world. I felt truly happy in this place.

My world was peace. My world was ambrosial. We were inseparable, and I firmly believed that no obstacle could ever come between the two of us. And for a long, long while,nothing did. But as time went on, I felt a sort of pressure building up in my world’s heart. A sort of hunger; lurking, growing evermore with each passing heartbeat. I felt its swelling impatience, its mounting anger and frustration. In time, the ground seemed to quiver with anxiety and the stars in the night sky began to dance a frantic whirl as they flung each other around in a fierce fandango. My conversations with the lake began to mutate into yelling matches as it would howl at me for answers. Always the answers. Where were they? I do not know! I would shout back, trying to pacify its rage, trying to reclaim my old friend, but to no avail. I felt lost, confused, but the broken-hearted tones of sadness rung truest of all else. I could feel my world’s precious peace bursting at the seams, as a ferocious storm of inevitable darkness began to brew. And still, my world would wail for answers. A ghastly moan that would haunt me no matter how hard I tried to shut it out. No matter where I ran.

At the climax of one such exchange,there was a sharp crack in the air, piercing the silence and splitting the atmosphere. I felt energy course through my world, electrifying my soul and taking the breath from out of my lungs. I awaited an eruption, an explosion of sorts. I waited for the walls around me to come crashing down, or for my world to unleash a mighty tempest of which would blow everything to oblivion. But nothing came. Everything returned to normal. The stars in the night sky were pacified, and that ghastly moan returned to a gentle whisper on the wind. My world heaved a sigh of relief, and embraced me once again, willing to reconcile.
But as I hugged my world back, I felt something different. The solitude of the sleeping sky and the windswept plains and the mystic ruins had been agitated. When I looked back into my lake, I saw not the steady, undisturbed surface I was so accustomed to and loved so dear. Instead, I saw a single set of ripples, slowly but steadily pulsing across the lake in a perfect symmetry. That ripple. Atwater.

*A couple things to note, the sentence structure may seem kind of redundant (lots of "could"s, "would"s) but I found that it helps create a kind of "out-of-body" feel when lots of things are referred to as hypotheticals. My main concern is that the "tense" part of the passage--encompassing the last two paragraphs--is too abrupt and out of place. I really just needed to wedge it in somewhere to get the plot going, and to actually have something "happen" during this chapter, so if there's any tips on how to ease into it a little better I'm all ears.

JamesOliv
May 27th, 2013, 01:24 PM
For me, pacing and flow is a problem here. I found myself struggling to read paragraphs. What happened is my eyes would read the first sentence of a paragraph, then instinctively jump to the next paragraph. You know how an info dump is jus a big block of dense background information? I feel like this does something similar, but focusing more on tone. You are trying so hard to set a tone for me that you gave me way too much information. You told me a whole lot of things without showing me anything.

The result is that my brain put my eyes into "skim through this" mode. Even that was a bit difficult because the content of each paragraph basically could be summarized as "my world is very peaceful and I find solace in my world."

I really like the idea of this world, however. I'm not sure what the broader context is and I am curious. But I would recommend including some form of action. It reads like a diary entry right now; incredibly meaningful to the author, but a bit confusing to the reader who has no context for the story.

But don't be discouraged. I like he way you craft words. I think you write well. Just right now your tone and pacing needs some work, especially if this is to be the first part of the story. It needs a hook. It needs something to draw me in and convince me to flip the page. So consider what you want me to take away from this first part once I've read it. What do I need to understand about this world to put part two in its proper context? Give me that information as clearly, concisely and as interestingly as possible. Don't trust me to keep reading without a hook. Don't trust me to read the whole story hoping the slow parts are just at the beginning.

If it messes with your story length, I say "who cares?" I would rather read really good flash fiction than a really slow 10k short story.

I can see you have the tools. I wish I could give you some examples to improve, but without context I'm finding it difficult to provide a concrete example. I hope this helps and I hope to read more of your story.

Thinking Aloud
May 27th, 2013, 09:47 PM
Thanks a lot for you time and input. I totally agree with you on the whole "telling" and not "showing" thing. Hopefully that's just a matter of switching the wording around and not including so many first-person explanatory phrases. Pacing issues are just a matter of condensing a few things and trimming down a few paragraphs. As for a "hook," the problem isn't really the fact that I can't write anything interesting, it's the fact that nothing amazingly interesting happens in the plot until the next part, so I'm not entirely sure how to get around this one other than to force something to happen, which I don't necessarily agree with.

Thanks for you help!

Jeko
May 29th, 2013, 04:49 PM
It needs more conflict.

JamesOliv
May 29th, 2013, 10:01 PM
Thanks a lot for you time and input. I totally agree with you on the whole "telling" and not "showing" thing. Hopefully that's just a matter of switching the wording around and not including so many first-person explanatory phrases. Pacing issues are just a matter of condensing a few things and trimming down a few paragraphs. As for a "hook," the problem isn't really the fact that I can't write anything interesting, it's the fact that nothing amazingly interesting happens in the plot until the next part, so I'm not entirely sure how to get around this one other than to force something to happen, which I don't necessarily agree with.

Thanks for you help!

I don't think you even need to do anything crazy at the beginning. But you have to do something interesting. As is, it is very repetitive and there is zero action. You don't need to have a car blow up, but at least introduce me to a person or the plot. You can do a flashback to something interesting that happened in the past. You can foreshadow something exciting happening in the future.

DainTheDarkness
May 30th, 2013, 06:18 PM
Pretty good story. There's way too much description though. You might also want to make the paragraphs a little shorter because no one likes seeing walls of text, especially when most of it is annoying over-description. When I read I automatically feel a need to skip over long paragraphs, most people are like that, so maybe divide them so that they're shorter.

allyson17white
May 31st, 2013, 09:11 PM
I liked it. Probably because this is how I originally write before I change it to comply to others suggestions. I like the why the words flow on the page and the way they are sewn together "repeating" things is what gives it it's voice. To me this writing is like a beautiful painting. Nothing is out of place it all fits together to form the perfect picture. Honestly, the only thing I was thrown off by was the sudden "happening" but you seem to have noticed that. I don't know if I just like very descriptive writing or not but I didn't feel like it was to descriptive either. It just, fits. I love the voice of this character. And I don't think I need to know her name yet. You know who the character is and connect with her, wether or not there is a name present.

escorial
June 1st, 2013, 02:04 PM
I enjoyed it at first....but towards the end I was thinkin..to much explaining an not enough emotion.

Pluralized
June 1st, 2013, 02:54 PM
There's a very pleasant idea behind this, and you obviously have spent a lot of time thinking about "your world." The trouble I had with this draft is that I can't really tell you what it is about, other than the narrator loves her world, basks around in navel-gazing and looking at the sky, then something ominous hints at shaking that up.

In starting out, my excitement for reading this was charged up by the title, 'Samsara.' After reading it, I am not sure you know what Samsara means. This piece is all about 'my world,' and from the intimacy involved, it paints a very small planet, as if sixty meters across. So small that it can continually be referred to as a world, but all of its qualities lumped into one. See, when you talk about the 'world,' that is such an all-encompassing term, it carries arrogance by proxy. If I were to try and qualify 'my world,' meaning earth, there is no real way I can do that, except to describe my lonely corner of the county and state that I live in. Not that you can't do it, obviously it's your story and your 'world,' but after a while, I just didn't believe the narrator could be describing an entire world. Even after the word 'world' showed up in this story twenty-five times.

Referring to the 'world' in the context of 'the two of us' is jarring to me.

All that being said, you did a good job with the image of the grotto, and almost pulled it back on track. However, as it stands, I think this intro could be cut in half and tightened up.

In the first few sentences, there is a lot of doubling-up and saying the same thing. The second time I read this, it stuck out particularly:


I would wander around my world,thinking. Thinking about my world. About where it came from, and where it was going. I would think about myself as well. About where I came from, and where I was going.

Also, this:


I love my world. It is so peaceful here. So beautiful, and tranquil, and quiet. There is this timeless still here; my friends, the windswept plains and silent stars in the night sky, look so happy in their slumber. The white rubble and ruins that dot the landscape smile at me, and invite me warmly into their welcoming arms.

I could spend an eternity, lying among the soft grass. My world is a delicate thing, blissfully silent as it is. It is this captivating silence that blankets and surrounds me at all times.

In trying to get across that the world is silent and peaceful, you've gone heavy on the adjectives - peaceful, beautiful, tranquil, quiet, timeless still, silent stars, slumber, blissfully silent, captivating silence. All in the space of a few sentences. On my first read through, I found myself saying, "So, you're saying it was silent?"

I thought this piece could have worked really well if you replaced the concept of "my world" with some kind of identifiable being or deity or lost friend or ghost or... something you can wrap your arms around. Constantly referring to "my world" as something you're interacting with on such an intimate scale is confounding, at least for me.

I hope that something here is helpful, and thank you for sharing your work.