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allyson17white
July 6th, 2014, 07:49 AM
​It's sort of just a short introduction to a story I decided to work on because I dreamt it. Simple enough. Plus, I'm trying to tweak my style a little and wanted to see how it worked out.

The loud buzz of the helicopter roared from above as they traveled over miles of endless water. The sun was almost at it’s height beating down on the backs of the copter’s occupants. Aside from the pilot and co-pilot there were five people in the vehicle. Two were sitting near the open sides clenching their large guns, quite contently watching for anything that wasn’t the blue ocean to shoot at.


A man in a general’s uniform, sturdily built and nearly six feet, was crouching against the back wall combing back his freshly greying hair. The doctor beside him, also his best friend since their teen years, constantly insisted that it was stress, of course, the general denied that fact.


The doctor was somewhat skittish, and thin. He’d hardly built up any mussel since joining the army, but then, he was more of a scientist than a trigger puller. His, almost overgrown, sandy hair blew in all directions, and he felt a tad bit embarrassed for it doing so. He was a man of a gentle dignity and cool-headed humor. The ridiculous manner with which his his hair took did not suit him well.

Then their was his wife, who was the real scientist, a biologist, who sat with her seat belt buckled tightly on the opposite side of the copter. Her hair, a soft chestnut color, was pulled back in a ponytail which was loosened from the whirling of the copter’s blades. She wore kaki shorts and jacket over a plain white t-shirt. She looked like a true adventurer. The sandy haired doctor smiled wearily at her and she grinned back cheerfully. Despite her fear of heights he could tell she was thoroughly enjoying herself, but then, it could just be the thrill of the mystery awaiting them.


The doctor, suddenly impatient with both his hair and the long journey pressed the button that made his voice audible on the headphones which they all wore. “Ian,” He yelled over the thunder of the helicopter.

“Yeah?” The general shouted back without the use of the headphones.

“How long till we get to the island?”

Ian looked down at his Swiss Army watch. “‘Bout an hour an’ a half.” He shouted.

The doctor sighed and let his head fall back on to the wall. Sadly, he dropped his head a bit to quickly and snapped it back up at the immediate pain which shot through his skull. “Oww.” He yelled rubbing the growing bump on the back of his head. Ian threw his head back in laughter, also hitting is head, causing the three friends to erupt into laugher forgetting any previous pain.

An hour and a half later, an grand island came into view of the helicopter’s passengers. It spread far beyond their view, and had they not known they were headed to an island, they may have thought they came to a peninsula of a continent. From a distance everything about the island was grand. Grand trees sprung up from grand mountains, from which grand vines danced their way across the trees. However, as they came closer the island carried a new essence. Something mysterious, dark, even magical hung about the land mass. The helicopter landed on one of the three very large ships which were docked in a small harbor on the east side of the island. The doctor and his botanist wife were both in awe of the place as they jumped out of the helicopter. The general held a new demeanor which demanded respect. In private they called this “Rock Ian” in public the friends acted as they should, with respect.

“Your telling me this place hasn’t been mapped?” The botanist asked Ian in amazement and excitement.

“Well there has been a rough estimate done, there’s actually a chain of minor islands on the northwest side, but the majority of our current maps are unreliable.” The general replied formally. “Once we get inside I can show you where we’re planning on exploring.” The doctor’s wife nodded and they followed him, with many saluting and handshaking stops, to a room with an uncountable number of maps laid out on a table. “The top is the newest one.” Ian said in a much less formal voice now that they were alone. The island appeared on the map like an unstable blob which could run off the table at any moment. The strongest lines were of the area around the harbor but aside from that things were very blurry. Post-it notes told the group of three native villages across the blob, a dormant volcano, and areas that the natives considered sacred. Also could be seen were the chain of smaller islands on the northwest side and a strangely inwardly curving peninsula off of the southeastern side. Red pins stabbed the paper in certain areas along the map with no apparent grouping.

Emma, who was the biologist, pointed at the pins. “What are these?” She asked.

Ian sighed. “Well,” He said letting out all the air in his lungs. He sucked in a new breath slowly. “That’s why we’re he.....” He finished his word but it was made inaudible by a loud rumbling screech. It could have almost been a machine only it sounded much more blood curdlingly animal. The general repeated his sentence as if applying it to both the roar and the pins. “That’s why we’re here.” He said.

popsprocket
July 6th, 2014, 01:00 PM
Corrections in red, comments in blue, additions/large changes in orange.


​The loud buzz of the helicopter roared [doubling up on description; pick one - the helicopter buzzed or it roared but not both] from above as they travelled over miles of endless water [see, you've confused me, this makes it sound like someone on the ground has heard the helicopter. A helicopter isn't 'above' you if you're in it]. The sun was almost at it’s height, beating down on the backs of the copter’s [yeah, no, use the whole word or just say 'its'] occupants. Aside from the pilot and co-pilot There were five passengers in the vehicle: two were sitting near the open sides, clenching their large guns, watching quite contently for anything that wasn’t the blue ocean something to shoot at.

A man in a general’s uniform, sturdily built and nearly six feet tall, was crouching against the back wall combing back [you've used the word 'back' twice] his freshly ['freshly' is the wrong word, perhaps 'newly' would work better] greying hair. The doctor beside him, also his best friend since their teen years, constantly insisted that it was stress. Of course, the general denied that fact.

The doctor was somewhat skittish [t-t-telling; show us that he is skittish through his actions (and it doesn't have to be right this instant either, it can be whenever suits the story) otherwise this reads like you wrote a character bio and are trying to cram as much of it in as you can], and thin. He’d hardly built up any muscle since joining the army, but then, he was more of a scientist than a trigger-puller. His almost-overgrown sandy hair blew in all directions, and he felt a tad bit embarrassed for it doing so [what? why? he's in an open helicopter and he's not about to step out onto a red carpet]. He was a man of a gentle dignity and cool-headed humor [that doesn't mix with skittish]. The ridiculous manner with which his his hair took did not suit him well [that was a lot of words about his hair being blown about, you don't need any of them unless his hair is a major plot point].

Then there was his wife, who was the real scientist, a biologist, who sat with her seat belt buckled tightly on the opposite side of the copter [as above, use the whole word]. Her hair, a soft chestnut color, was pulled back in a ponytail which was loosened from the whirling of the copter’s blades. She wore kaki shorts and jacket over a plain white t-shirt [boring boring boring; see below for my distaste regarding character descriptions]. She looked like a true adventurer. The sandy [see this? this is the correct way to drop in a bit of character description; don't give me a laundry list, give me a trait every now and then in a place where it fits happily] haired doctor smiled wearily at her and she grinned back cheerfully. Despite her fear of heights he [so, wait, the POV character is the doctor? all the more reason for his description to not include the word 'skittish', it's not exactly a compliment and I can't imagine anyone thinking of themselves that way] could tell she was thoroughly enjoying herself, but then, it could just be the thrill of the mystery awaiting them.

The doctor, suddenly impatient with both his hair and the long journey pressed the button that made his voice audible on the headphones which they all wore keyed the button on his throat mic. “Ian,” He yelled [headphones in helicopters are usually throat mics that pick up on the vibration of your voice box, you don't need to shout to be heard through them] over the thunder of the helicopter.

“Yeah?” The general shouted back without the use of the headphones.

“How long till we get to the island?”

Ian looked down at his Swiss Army watch. “‘Bout an hour an’ a half.” He shouted.

The doctor sighed and let his head fall back on to the wall. Sadly, he dropped his head a bit to quickly and snapped it back up at the immediate pain which shot through his skull. “Oww.” He yelled rubbing the growing bump on the back of his head. Ian threw his head back in laughter, also hitting is head, causing the three friends to erupt into laugher forgetting any previous pain.

An hour and a half later, a grand island came into view of the helicopter’s passengers. It spread far beyond their view, and had they not known they were headed to an island, they may have thought they came to a peninsula of a continent continental peninsula. From a distance everything about the island was grand. Grand trees sprung up from grand mountains, from which grand [too many 'grands'] vines danced [vines don't dance nowhere unless you are on LSD] their way across the trees. However, as they came closer the island carried a new essence. Something mysterious, dark, even magical, hung about the land mass [I cringed because a) this is telling of the highest order, show us why the island gives off any of these characteristics, and b) this kind of description is so cliche it's not even funny anymore]. The helicopter landed on one of the three very large ships which were docked in a small harbor [three very large ships in a small harbour? might want to think that through] on the east side of the island. The doctor and his botanist [she was a biologist before] wife were both in awe of the place as they jumped out of the helicopter. The general held took on a new demeanor, one which demanded respect. In private they called this “Rock Ian” in public the friends acted as they should, with respect.

“You're telling me this place hasn’t been mapped?” [when is this set? mapping is almost a complete non-issue thanks to satellites] The botanist asked Ian in amazement and excitement.

“Well there has been a rough estimate done, there’s actually a chain of minor islands on the northwest side, but the majority of our current maps are unreliable.” The general replied formally. “Once we get inside I can show you where we’re planning on exploring.” The doctor’s wife nodded and they followed him, with many saluting and handshaking stops, to a room with an uncountable number of innumerable maps laid out on a table. “The top is the newest one.” Ian said in a much less formal voice now that they were alone. The island appeared on the map like an unstable blob which could run off the table at any moment. The strongest lines were of the area around the harbor but aside from that things were very blurry [is blurry the word you want to use? it's not like someone mapping an island by hand is going to draw in a coast they haven't seen, and if they've seen it but not measured it the line still isn't blurry, it would just be inaccurate]. Post-it notes told the group of three native villages across the blob, a dormant volcano, and areas that the natives considered sacred. Also could be seen [the start of this sentence just plain old needs rewording] were the chain of smaller islands on the northwest side and a strangely inwardly curving peninsula off of the southeastern side. Red pins stabbed the paper in certain areas along the map with no apparent grouping.

Emma, who was the biologist, pointed at the pins. “What are these?” She asked.

Ian sighed. “Well,” He said letting out all the air in his lungs. He sucked in a new breath slowly. “That’s why we’re here-” He finished his word but it was made inaudible by a loud rumbling screech [this could be worded so much tighter: 'a loud screech drowned out the last of his words']. It could have almost been a machine only it sounded much more blood curdlingly animal [this sentence too, delete it and try writing it again]. The general repeated his sentence as if applying it to both the roar and the pins. “That’s why we’re here.” He said.

Okay, so if you look about the forums a bit it probably won't be hard to find a post by me advocating characters whose descriptions are vague and minimal. Your example here is one the reasons why. I know that it seems like good practice to describe a character in their first appearance, but you're slowing the pace of this way down by including the laundry list of everyone's attributes in the first thousand words. I don't care what colour anyone's hair is. I want to know what this is going to be about. Your first passage is sufficient as far as hooks go - presumably military passengers in a helicopter flying somewhere. Good, that's an initial bearing, and then you ruin it by including the character bios that you wrote up for each of these characters. Skip that stuff for now and get to the meat of the story.

Words. You have a lot of them. In most spots a lot more than necessary. The phrase I want to give to you is 'muscular prose'. That means that you use less words to say more. Do an edit of this and pare it back viciously, see how much you can take out before it stops making sense.


As an opening this is pretty cliche as a whole. Military team with scientists on board flies to scene of [x] mystery and get a first-hand taste of what [x] mystery actually is.

But by far the biggest problem you have here is that you've mixed at least three scenes and condensed them down so hard that the only impression I'm left with is that this all feels very rushed. You add in details where they are unnecessary, but leave them out where they would help to construct the scene properly. For instance, when the helicopter lands you make mention of lots of hand shaking, but there was no mention of anyone coming out to greet them. My advice would be to do some research on scenes and scene construction in writing, then tackle this again and see if you can't come up with something that tells the story more efficiently.

InspektorF
July 6th, 2014, 01:21 PM
Well, here are a few things that I noted:

The loud buzz of the helicopter roared from above as they traveled over miles of endless water.--- You've got a lot of description going on here. I think it would read better if you refined this sentence.

Two were sitting near the open sides clenching their large guns---The word clenching is throwing me off. It makes me think of clenched fists or a clenched jaw, but not the way someone would hold a weapon.

combing back his freshly greying hair---conjures up images of his hair having gone grey all of a sudden, like only moments ago. If it has happened recently then perhaps add something to indicate such.

He’d hardly built up any mussel since--muscle

His(, )almost overgrown, sandy hair blew in all directions, and he felt a tad bit embarrassed for it doing so. He was a man of a gentle dignity and cool-headed humor. The ridiculous manner with which his (his) hair took did not suit him well.---This is nice but in the military you are not allowed to have overgrown hair. They even penalize you if you exceed what is deemed your acceptable weight.

Then their was---there, not their

“Yeah?” The general shouted back without the use of the headphones---unless he has super-hearing or can read lips, not realistic

The doctor and his botanist wife / Emma, who was the biologist,---who is Emma? if she is the doctor's wife then you have changed her profession in the second line.


This was overall interesting to read and left me curious to know more. With a bit of polishing up you will have a very nice introduction to your story.

allyson17white
July 7th, 2014, 09:30 PM
I would like to ask where the balance between the "showing and telling" thing is. Mostly I write with explanations of feelings and emotions not physical characteristics. I've heard from people that they don't like that so much, so I attempted to write with more "showing". Yeah, these are bits of advise I got before I changed my writing to weed these things out. So as I said above my story I was trying to change it once again to fit other critiques I got. Quite honestly, I'm confused but I'm trying. So might it be fare to ask what makes a story likable? Maybe, what makes it flow well? I've gone backwards here, but then I don't know how to go forwards.

InspektorF
July 7th, 2014, 11:25 PM
I think you have a good start here. It is suspenseful (hope I spelled that right) and kept me interested. Keep working to improve YOUR OWN STYLE, not someone else's. Read whatever catches your eye and observe closely how authors whose style you admire describe things, etc. As you continue learning you will find your own voice.

popsprocket
July 8th, 2014, 01:38 AM
I would like to ask where the balance between the "showing and telling" thing is. Mostly I write with explanations of feelings and emotions not physical characteristics. I've heard from people that they don't like that so much, so I attempted to write with more "showing". Yeah, these are bits of advise I got before I changed my writing to weed these things out. So as I said above my story I was trying to change it once again to fit other critiques I got. Quite honestly, I'm confused but I'm trying. So might it be fare to ask what makes a story likable? Maybe, what makes it flow well? I've gone backwards here, but then I don't know how to go forwards.

There's no answer as to where the line between telling and showing is drawn. It's different for everyone and depends on a lot of different factors such as the voice of the POV character, the type (genre) of novel, the pace you're trying to achieve, and the effect you're trying to portray.

The best advice is to just keep writing. Don't specifically try and bend your words to suit any one piece of advice, because as you get better these things will happen naturally. Don't forget to read too. In your particular case I think that reading will be very beneficial to your understanding of how to write.

Genghis Swan
July 8th, 2014, 04:06 AM
This was not a bad start to a story. I would recommend not spending too much time describing each character as it can make the story move a little too slow. Keep working on it though.

ShadowEyes
July 9th, 2014, 03:48 AM
Just going over some things that may or may not have been pointed out. Pops seems to have done all the heavy lifting. Just sweeping here! (:

"Loud buzz" and "roared" seems redundant. Same thing with "miles" and "endless". If it's at its height, and the occupants are covered by the rotors, how can the sun beat down their backs? "Contently" -- explain this because it's too vague. Well, what exactly are they looking for?

Just a nitpick, but I'm not sure that hair greys all at the same time, enough to comb. Secondly, how is his six feet height compared to his crouching posture? The stress point is nice. It shows the first sign of an easy rapport. Perhaps include some dialogue?

"Skittish" isn't a physical description. "More of a scientist" -- understatement, but redundant. How were these attributes (dignity, humor) visible? Again, redundancy with the hair comment. Which kind of doctor is he? How is he necessary?

What was loosened: the ponytail? In which case it wouldn't be a ponytail. She looked like a true adventurer from whose perspective? You say he is weary... What is he weary of; is he, perhaps, jealous of his wife with everyone else? Honestly, I think you can condense a lot of this to one or one and a half paragraphs.

What did they think, then? You're skirting around their feelings. "In awe" in which way? "New demeanor" -- I need to know what it looked like. Why should they be ashamed to call it "Rock Ian" in public if they were in awe of it?

"You're telling me this place hasn't been mapped?" It's a bit contrived, meaning that she's going over something she already knew just to inform the reader. Maybe, instead, talk about some of the unique features from her dialogue that may merit mapping. "Minor islands" -- Okay, but remember island chains usually form islands of the same size (if there's more than two). I think. Okay, so who are the natives? Have they had human contact? However, I like this map section because it's very imaginative. Very likeable that they rely on post-it notes.

The last paragraph is very interesting because it shows character motive and an immediate threat. If you clean up the previous paragraphs and make sure that you describe the characters in more character-specific ways, other than telling us that Ian is under stress and Emma is afraid of heights, and the doctor is skittish, annoyed, and unconfident, I will be enthused to read it. Because I honestly want to see how these characters grow out of their one-dimensional shells. Which they will.

AMiller
July 20th, 2014, 04:49 PM
Generally a little bulky, the descriptions don't bother me, but the tone does. It's a common way to start stories, the military in helicopters, while the description runs for each of them. If you want, you can run with it and make the rest of the story include a lot of intentional cliches.