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Smith
September 11th, 2016, 09:35 AM
He trudged as fast as he could through the knee-deep snow. The tightly pulled drawstrings left him only a small hole in his hood to see through. A gust of wind battered him as he turned his back to it, shielding himself, eyes squeezed shut.

Distant barks and the revving of engines were silenced by a deep, powerful groan, turning into a rumble that shook the earth beneath Jay’s feet, and freed icy slush from roof ledges--one such avalanche narrowly missing him. Each clink of the massive, unoiled gears beat on his ear drums. Up and down the street the sheet metal shutters of the concrete apartment-blocks rattled. A baby started crying somewhere inside. Jay dug his boots deep into the snow and braced himself. There was a final, deafeningly high-pitched grinding, then silence.

This was The Iron Curtain being parted.

Fear covered Jay in a chilling sweat. The warning siren had sounded several minutes ago, signifying another cleansing. He knew nobody would open their door now to provide him sanctuary. Rather, it was encouraged to report any suspicious activity to authorities for a reward; what people would do when they’re hungry. Divide and conquer.

No, he needed to make it back home. They were counting on him. His feet started moving again. Only a couple blocks away, Jay told himself. But at the end of the street a light began drawing nearer from around the bend. The roaring of engines had grown louder, echoing through the streets, reverberating all around him, coming from everywhere and nowhere. Jay spun in circles, looking for somewhere to run but quickly realizing it was hopeless. They’d follow his footprints. Jay cursed himself for getting into this situation.

As the snowmobile turned the corner, Jay checked his pockets. He had his identification, thankfully. But his eyes shot open when he felt what he’d stolen was still tucked away in his coat.

It was too late to get rid of it. At that moment the high-beams showered over him, and he blocked his eyes with a hand. All around the snow swirled disorientingly as it reflected the blinding red-and-blue strobe lights.

“Hold your hands above your head!” a voice yelled out. The snowmobile engine cut to a low hum. Jay did as he was told. Squinting, he watched two silhouettes move toward him.

“Turn around!” the voice ordered.

Their footsteps crunched closer and closer behind him. His mind was racing faster than his heart could keep up, making him hyperventilate. Perspiration dotted his dark-brown eyebrows.

Suddenly a fiery pain struck his left thigh and he yelled out, knees buckling. His hands were forced behind his back as Jay collapsed into the snow.

thepancreas11
September 12th, 2016, 04:41 PM
So, I have a big question here: what did he steal that could get him in trouble and how did her forget that he had stolen it? There's a disconnect between those two ideas that needs some sussing out. On the one hand, you have this incredibly important something, and on the other, he's completely forgotten it exists. I think, sometimes, in a means of trying to introduce an important plot point or mysterious object, we all think it needs to be a surprise, but that's not the case. I think the object because more terrifying, more important, and more mysterious if we know that he has it from the very off and that he's uncomfortable having that object. Maybe it's even the focus of this short piece. You look at a film like Sunset Boulevard where the beginning of the film is the ending of the story, and it's the mystery of the character's death that's so interesting and keeps us watching. This stolen object is what keeps us reading. What if it's really cold outside but this thing is burning in his pocket?

I think suspense and horror are more in the details, the little things that drive one mad. I think emotion in general is more in the descriptions than in the labeled emotions. Instead of saying fear is all over him, say he feels his heart racing in his throat or something. That's something that we can feel along with him, and something that worries us. Vagueness and emotion labeling really leave the story flat because there's nothing to hold on to except words.

Smith
September 13th, 2016, 07:09 AM
So, I have a big question here: what did he steal that could get him in trouble and how did her forget that he had stolen it? There's a disconnect between those two ideas that needs some sussing out. On the one hand, you have this incredibly important something, and on the other, he's completely forgotten it exists. I think, sometimes, in a means of trying to introduce an important plot point or mysterious object, we all think it needs to be a surprise, but that's not the case. I think the object because more terrifying, more important, and more mysterious if we know that he has it from the very off and that he's uncomfortable having that object. Maybe it's even the focus of this short piece. You look at a film like Sunset Boulevard where the beginning of the film is the ending of the story, and it's the mystery of the character's death that's so interesting and keeps us watching. This stolen object is what keeps us reading. What if it's really cold outside but this thing is burning in his pocket?

I think suspense and horror are more in the details, the little things that drive one mad. I think emotion in general is more in the descriptions than in the labeled emotions. Instead of saying fear is all over him, say he feels his heart racing in his throat or something. That's something that we can feel along with him, and something that worries us. Vagueness and emotion labeling really leave the story flat because there's nothing to hold on to except words.

First of all, thanks for reading, and for the very helpful reply!

As it's an excerpt from a book-idea I'm working on, the vagueness isn't something I'm too worried about. But those are two very important questions, and definitely something I overlooked. In fact, you've made me realize that keeping it a secret isn't really necessary at all. The thing I want the reader to wonder is "What is he doing out in that weather, at that time anyway?" rather than what's in his pocket, because what's in his pocket turns out to be nothing out of the ordinary a couple pages later. At least, nothing special like a magic ring la LotR.

Now, onto descriptions.

My biggest worry with descriptions is this: "His heart was racing in his throat. He started to hyperventilate. His legs were shaking, but not from the cold. He began to feel light-headed."

I always have this tendency to just "list" the descriptions, like the sentences are on a shopping list; that, and the constant use of "His / He" just makes me frustrated (and I don't think that's only my OCD talking). I used to think the underlying problem with my inability to describe emotion, was a personal inability to feel it in real life.

Well, that's definitely not true lol. I think I just suck at describing it--or, to put a more positive spin on it, I'm not happy with my current ability to do it. So I just short-cut myself and use labels.

I'd like to be able to describe emotion realistically, rather than coming across in a ham-handed, overly-dramatic and obviously contrived way. So please, help me! I'm all ears! I want to improve. :D

In the meantime I will try on my own to make the descriptions better and clear up those questions you had so that it isn't so flat. Hopefully by then I'll also have more of the first chapter to show you.

Thank you so much pancreas! ^_^

DATo
September 13th, 2016, 10:25 AM
My biggest worry with descriptions is this: "His heart was racing in his throat. He started to hyperventilate. His legs were shaking, but not from the cold. He began to feel light-headed."

I always have this tendency to just "list" the descriptions, like the sentences are on a shopping list; that, and the constant use of "His / He" just makes me frustrated (and I don't think that's only my OCD talking). I used to think the underlying problem with my inability to describe emotion, was a personal inability to feel it in real life.

Well, that's definitely not true lol. I think I just suck at describing it--or, to put a more positive spin on it, I'm not happy with my current ability to do it. So I just short-cut myself and use labels.

I'd like to be able to describe emotion realistically, rather than coming across in a ham-handed, overly-dramatic and obviously contrived way. So please, help me! I'm all ears! I want to improve. :D

In the meantime I will try on my own to make the descriptions better and clear up those questions you had so that it isn't so flat. Hopefully by then I'll also have more of the first chapter to show you.

Thank you so much pancreas! ^_^

I have no problem with the repetition of the pronouns which concern you, but rather that their following statements are simple and terse. You may be unaware of it but I think that is actually what you are noticing. If a more elaborate description of the heart racing in the throat, the hyperventilation, the shaking legs ect had been forthcoming you wouldn't even notice the pronouns.

In the following, taken from one of my short stories, the operative words are "I" and "My".

As I advanced my footfalls echoed in the icy air of the cavernous enclosure. I then experienced an eerie sense of an alien presence. Mechanically I glanced behind me. What I saw arrested all physical movement. My mind went suddenly blank. My legs became as wax candles softening beneath the blazing heat of an arid desert, threatening to melt and drag me down to the uneven tiles from which I knew I would never rise again.

The personal pronouns are camouflaged by the description.

HoivinRossi
December 8th, 2016, 02:28 AM
The suspense in this story was enjoyable but him forgetting about a highly important object kind of bothered me. I would also like to learn more about what the current situation in that world is, will there be more of this?

Smith
December 8th, 2016, 06:12 AM
Thanks for reading, Rossi!

Yes, there will be more of this. I returned to this project recently, and this excerpt is no longer the beginning. Some of this scene will be completely scrapped, in regards to the main character stealing something. And him "forgetting" he stole something was just a massive oversight on my end, which I think stemmed from a failed attempt at adding suspense.

But I'm glad you would look forward to finding out more about the world that it takes place in. You have no idea how much that means to me.

Cheers,

-Kyle

The Fantastical
December 8th, 2016, 10:41 AM
Besides the already mentioned, what's in it's pockets (semi Tolkien quote), I am un-connected to the setting a little. I have the feeling that I don't know enough to actually engage with what is happening with the character. I don't know what the Irony Curtain is, I have no idea what those machines are and I don't understand beyond "being out after curfew is bad" every one is hiding or what sort of danger he now finds himself in.

I am sitting outside of the actual events still thinking about the were's who's and how's rather than fully pulled into the world and into the moment with the character. Although I do want to read more (if only to find out what he has in his pocket! (curiosity issues...)).

Oh! And I like your Avatar... where is it from?

Smith
December 8th, 2016, 11:10 AM
Besides the already mentioned, what's in it's pockets (semi Tolkien quote), I am un-connected to the setting a little. I have the feeling that I don't know enough to actually engage with what is happening with the character. I don't know what the Irony Curtain is, I have no idea what those machines are and I don't understand beyond "being out after curfew is bad" every one is hiding or what sort of danger he now finds himself in.

I am sitting outside of the actual events still thinking about the were's who's and how's rather than fully pulled into the world and into the moment with the character. Although I do want to read more (if only to find out what he has in his pocket! (curiosity issues...)).

Oh! And I like your Avatar... where is it from?

That is the main reason why this scene is no longer the beginning of The Irony Curtain. I realized that the reader wouldn't have a very clear understanding of the setting, which in turn would take away from any suspense I was trying to build.

Instead, those things will be built in and explained more appropriately for the sake of clarity and grounding. Sort of like stage-hands setting things up behind-the-scenes for the next act.

Thanks for reading, and for the feedback! The avatar isn't from anything in particular, as far as I'm aware. I was looking for an avatar picture with a fox and stumbled upon it.

The Fantastical
December 8th, 2016, 12:18 PM
That is the main reason why this scene is no longer the beginning of The Irony Curtain. I realized that the reader wouldn't have a very clear understanding of the setting, which in turn would take away from any suspense I was trying to build.

Instead, those things will be built in and explained more appropriately for the sake of clarity and grounding. Sort of like stage-hands setting things up behind-the-scenes for the next act.

Thanks for reading, and for the feedback! The avatar isn't from anything in particular, as far as I'm aware. I was looking for an avatar picture with a fox and stumbled upon it.

Ah! Well that sorts out my comment then! lol This is of course the issue about asking for opinions on a bit of a thing rather than the completed whole. There is always some context missed or a bit of info that is lost... :D

Ah well.... I was only asking because I love fox's almost more than I love dragons and that is saying something! lol

Smith
December 8th, 2016, 12:47 PM
Ah! Well that sorts out my comment then! lol This is of course the issue about asking for opinions on a bit of a thing rather than the completed whole. There is always some context missed or a bit of info that is lost... :D

Ah well.... I was only asking because I love fox's almost more than I love dragons and that is saying something! lol

Hope my original response didn't seem dismissive. I really do appreciate the feedback; I was just letting you know that I was already in the process of fixing it. :)

I wish more people would take that into consideration when critiquing an excerpt. Obviously there are going to be things you don't know about the setting yet, or the characters. While these things might be worth mentioning, you ought to mention them in more of a "heads-up" manner, rather than act like that's some sort of flaw. Glad you understand that!

I love foxes myself. Not sure why, but they've always sort of appealed to me. Not just aesthetically, but in their behavior, and especially of course in mythology and culture. Definitely my spirit animal (and no, I didn't get that from an online quiz :P).

Cheers,

-Kyle

The Fantastical
December 8th, 2016, 01:40 PM
Hope my original response didn't seem dismissive. I really do appreciate the feedback; I was just letting you know that I was already in the process of fixing it. :)

I wish more people would take that into consideration when critiquing an excerpt. Obviously there are going to be things you don't know about the setting yet, or the characters. While these things might be worth mentioning, you ought to mention them in more of a "heads-up" manner, rather than act like that's some sort of flaw. Glad you understand that!

I love foxes myself. Not sure why, but they've always sort of appealed to me. Not just aesthetically, but in their behavior, and especially of course in mythology and culture. Definitely my spirit animal (and no, I didn't get that from an online quiz :P).

Cheers,

-Kyle

No, I didn't feel dismissive. I was truly just commenting on it as, "Ah well!! This is why..." lol I too wish that more people would keep in mind that A. This is most likely a first rough draft, unrefined and in question (as that is when you are most likely to want an opinion, before you put in all that hard work to get it perfect) and B. That is is now out of context. Even if a whole chapter is posted.

Often, yes, that part is slower, more talking, less talking, more exposition, or reliving of the past... and it might seem out of the rhythm of the whole work, but put back into the whole and it is just a natural part of the story. This leads to sometimes bad advice being given, as then books are passed to fast. :)

DruidPeter
December 9th, 2016, 01:07 AM
This post has been deleted by the user.

Smith
December 9th, 2016, 08:58 AM
I feel perhaps as though the true start of this chapter should begin at the third paragraph. I did find myself reading and rereading almost every sentence of the first two paragraphs, as it was difficult to figure out what was going on. At the point that the iron curtain parts, however, your writing smoothes out and is less shaky. I found it easier to follow the story from that point onward, and actually found myself getting into it.

Unfortunately, there were various things that did distract me. I tend not to concern myself with Spelling and grammar when reading, and truthfully, I would have failed to pick up on any spelling mistakes in any case. No, I simply found some aspects of the prose to be unpolished and perhaps worded a bit awkwardly. I felt like the author was perhaps impatient in trying to get his/her points across. It seems a bit rushed.

For example, lines like "They were counting on him." really helped the character start to become a character in my eyes, as opposed to simply a figure trudging mechanically through the snow. But then, you follow a sentence like "They were counting on him." with another sentence like, "His feet started moving again." I get what you were trying to do here: The thought that "they" were counting on him, and presumably the desire to come through for whoever "they" are is what prompts the character to continue to walk. But in the context of the craft, there's not much in the way of transition from "they're counting on him" to "he starts moving again". As such, the reader gets a bit of whiplash. The writing comes across as a bit jagged and rocky. Reader's don'e like rocky, though. It hurts the bum. :D

A simple transitional sentence would have easily smoothed things out. Something like, "They were counting on him. The thought of his failure dropped a cold lump down his throat. His feet started moving again." Or even just, "They were counting on him. A cold lump dropped down his throat. His feet started moving again."

The transitional sentences in both of these cases show the character in question reacting to some external element of the plot, and that's the sort of thing that the reader will really feel inside their gut. There were similar moments of the same sort throughout the piece. Another good example would be "But his eyes shot open when he felt what he'd stolen was still tucked away in his coat." Unfortunately, that sentence puts the reaction first. The reader can't identify with the emotion until they know what the emotion is reacting to, so a simple reordering would have worked like so: "He felt what he'd stolen was still tucked away in his coat, and his eyes shot open."

Although, even that sentence is a bit awkward to read. But I'm not sure why. <_<

Overall, you did succeed in arousing my curiosity for a bit. I am curious, though I will say that the prose isn't quite polished enough to my own personal liking. I do think that with a lot of revision, however, I would find this story well worth reading. :D

Hey there Peter, thanks for the critique!

This excerpt is no longer the beginning to The Irony Curtain, for many of the reasons that you mentioned. Certain parts of this scene will be salvaged, and take place in a later chapter.

This will allow for more character and setting exposition to be done. Hopefully by doing this, the reader will be more grounded, and have a clear picture of what is going on, as well as be more acquainted and emotionally involved with the MC.

In regards to awkward phrasing, or parts feeling "rushed", that's just how I am. Believe me, it's a billion times more frustrating for me than it is for you. But my only other alternative is to stare at my screen forever and endlessly revise the same sentence ad infinitum because it will never sound "good" to me.

However, like you also mentioned, this is a first draft anyway. Those things can be worked out in later drafts. Perhaps it is something that will come more natural to me with time and experience, both in writing and reading.

Or, maybe that will never get better, and it will never be second-nature, I'll always struggle with it, and have to deliberately fix it. Who knows. All I can say is I hate people who avoid this problem without trying. I say without trying, because whenever I ask them "how they do it" they seemingly don't know; either that, or they all refuse to tell me, and it's a world-wide conspiracy against me.

In any case, I'm glad that you're curious to know more, and would like to see a more polished excerpt. When I am ready I'll be sure to send you a PM, with a rough-draft to the new first chapter. Not that you're obliged to read it, or even respond. Just in case you're still interested.

Cheers,

-Kyle

PepperShaker
December 10th, 2016, 08:50 AM
Hey there Kyle, thought I chime in with a thought that hasn't been mentioned yet.

I was reading, and besides the Iron Curtain reference and the forgotten object reference, the "home" reference also bugs me a bit. Will you develop his longing for home? Or is it home the place where the others are counting on him?

To me it seems as home is that cozy place in the back of our minds where we long to be in times of trouble or heartache, but in this I don't feel that, I feel like it's just a place with no real feeling to it.

Hope this helps somewhat :)

I enjoyed the read and would read further.

JaneC
December 10th, 2016, 09:59 PM
I really enjoyed reading this piece, since you have stated that you have already changed a few things, I don't have much to add, other than the fact that by the end, I really wanting more. An explanation of why he was so scared, what this irony curtain is and so on.

I look forward to reading more. :)

Smith
December 11th, 2016, 12:46 AM
Hey there Kyle, thought I chime in with a thought that hasn't been mentioned yet.

I was reading, and besides the Iron Curtain reference and the forgotten object reference, the "home" reference also bugs me a bit. Will you develop his longing for home? Or is it home the place where the others are counting on him?

To me it seems as home is that cozy place in the back of our minds where we long to be in times of trouble or heartache, but in this I don't feel that, I feel like it's just a place with no real feeling to it.

Hope this helps somewhat :)

I enjoyed the read and would read further.

"Home" is now where the new beginning to the story takes place.

You are on the right track, in regards to the fact that "home" isn't exactly a cozy safe-space in this story. However, in the re-write there will be some feelings attached to this "home", just not perhaps ones you would typically think of.

It does help! A lot! Would seem that the main problem is I introduced all these things in this excerpt that I - the author - care about. But that's because I know where I'm going with the story. As many have pointed out, the reader does not know what the Iron Curtain is (what it symbolizes, what it even looks like, the purpose, etc), among many other things.

That being said, I believe your feedback, and the feedback of others, has allowed me to fix these problems. Thanks for reading!


I really enjoyed reading this piece, since you have stated that you have already changed a few things, I don't have much to add, other than the fact that by the end, I really wanting more. An explanation of why he was so scared, what this irony curtain is and so on.

I look forward to reading more. :)

Glad you are interested in reading more, despite such a rocky beginning to a story. Hopefully the re-written beginning will fix the aforementioned issues, and will still leave you wanting to turn the page.

Cheers,

-Kyle

PepperShaker
December 11th, 2016, 07:37 PM
Glad I was able to help :) Seems interesting to start with that, good luck. Just write it all out. I usually end up doing lots of changes during my process, just keep notes :lol: