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Infel
September 15th, 2016, 09:34 PM
The first 200 words of a short story titled "Lovelight". I'd love feedback on my writing style, and keep those critiques blunt ;)

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A row of locked doors in a red belly. The rust colored stone of the hallway arched and curved like the intestine of some great beast. The air inside was humid and musty. Torches flickered against the crimson innards, sending shadows dancing across the flesh-like brick. The locked doors, thick planks of heavy oak bound by enormous iron rivets, were dark against the red.

With a small clack a woman stepped down onto the stone floor. Her small black shoes clicked the stone, coming together at the heels, as she brushed some of the dust off her powder blue dress. She examined the hallway, ran her hand across the stone walls--as if she expected them to be made of a bloody, butchered meat. They were cold and smooth, despite the warm air. Slowly she made her way to the locked doors. They towered above her, imposing and resolute. Prison cells—rooms that led ever deeper into the dungeon’s bowls. Void of light beyond the faint torches that burned within. She stepped up to one of them, the door she knew was right, and placed a hand on its dull metal knob. She pulled. Locked.

Ultraroel
September 16th, 2016, 09:43 AM
Hi Infel,

Thank you for posting. It's a bit short but here is some feedback..

In 200 words, you mention 3 times that the doors are locked. For me, it seems weird to already know that the doors are locked before we know anything else and it makes the situation of the woman a bit unnecessary as we already know it's locked. Keep mystery. "A row of doors"

personally, I'm not a fan of descriptors at the start of the scene as I want to get into the action. Try to incorporate it into the story (Im not the best writer, but this feels more natural."

"With a small clack, a woman stepped into the rust colored hallway. The clicking of her small black shoes was warped by the curved walls and she had troubles breathing regularly in the humid, dusty atmosphere. She examined the hallway in the flickering light of the torches while she traced the walls with her hand. They were surprisingly solid for something that looked like bloody, butchered meat. " Etc.

Otherwise, the part is too short to get more than a interesting glimpse.

Infel
September 16th, 2016, 05:50 PM
Hah! I honestly didn't even realize how often I mentioned they were locked, only to expect them being locked at the end being "oh such a surprise"! Can't thank you enough for pointing that out. Changed to "A row of doors" just as quick as I read this.

Maybe 200 was too short. I know some people are wary of walls of text, but perhaps I was a bit too on the cautious side? Lets try 500 this time.

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Slowly she made her way to the doors. They towered above her, imposing and resolute, and made her thin figure appear small. Prison cells. Rooms that led ever deeper into the dungeon’s bowls. Void of light beyond the torches that burned within. She stepped up to one of them and placed a hand on its dull metal knob. She pulled. Locked.

The girl smirked to herself. Her lips thinned to a cynical curl. The lock did not matter much. It was as useless as the door’s thickness, or the metal rivets that bolstered it. It would not stop her. She placed a hand against the wood.

As if pressing into water, Alice fell through the door. Silently she phased into the room beyond. It was indeed a cell, the same color as the hall and even more miserably humid. With tempered curiosity her eyes began to dart about. The room was tall and square. An archway on the far wall linked it to a second room, dark and without torches. Thick iron bars walled whoever was behind inside.

To her left sat a jailer behind a desk, engrossed in a letter. He hadn’t noticed her. Pen in hand, he stared down at the parchment with a flustered and damp brow, scribbling away. Very focused. Very intent. Strewn about the table and floor were many more pieces of parchment. These were crumpled or torn, blotted out with ink, or simply tossed to the ground.

Alice did not care about these things. The letters and the man were uninteresting to her. Her eyes moved again.

To her right was a second table. It was much more interesting: a red coat lay out on it. Next to that lay a sword, then a pair of black gloves, then an intricate wood and metal pistol. Those were very interesting. The person who belonged to them was what she had come for. Alice looked across the room through the archway. Her blue eyes narrowed, cutting through the darkness. She smiled. There, hanging by chains cuffed tightly to his wrists, was her unconscious prize. That mess of hair was unmistakable.

A cry of frustration came from the guard at the desk. He crumpled the note and tossed it to the floor. His head sank into his hands, and after a moment he began to sob. Alice ignored him. He was uninteresting, and anyway what she had come for was right here. She gazed off through the archway, eying the young man in the shadows with a thoughtful smile. How had he managed to end up so pathetically? Usually he was so good about these things. It was hardly like him to be captured by anyone. It might be a first.

A sudden screech of wood and the slam of a falling chair broke the silence. The guard fell from his desk. He pushed to his feet, snatching a sword from the wall and drawing an ancient pistol from his side. He aimed it at Alice with uncertainty.

“How did you get here?” he stuttered, and tripped towards her from behind the table. “Get back to your cell—”

Jay Greenstein
September 17th, 2016, 03:55 AM
A row of locked doors in a red belly. The rust colored stone of the hallway arched and curved like the intestine of some great beast. The air inside was humid and musty. Torches flickered against the crimson innards, sending shadows dancing across the flesh-like brick. The locked doors, thick planks of heavy oak bound by enormous iron rivets, were dark against the red.Look at this from your reader's viewpoint and try to make sense out of the first line. Remember, as the writer you have intent guiding you. You know where we are and what's going on, so it has perfect meaning to you. But the reader must take the meaning the words suggest to them. And from my viewpoint, I have no idea of what a red belly is.

And while you might say to read on and it will become clear, in general, readers don't. After all, not having seen your work before they have no assurance that you will clarify. And even if you do, it won't retroactively remove the confusion felt as they read it.

What you're doing is telling the reader a story, as a storyteller they can neither hear or see. So we open with a description of the setting, as it's interpreted by someone unknown. Informative, yes, but is a report entertaining? Your reader is expecting to be entertained, after all, not just informed. And does the reader really care what matters to you? It's not your story, after all. To them, what happens matters. But when you introduce your protagonist she doesn't have a name. Can a reader care what happens to someone not important enough to be identified? Isn't it her scene?

My point is that while you have a focus character she's not the protagonist, because other then being told what she does and thinks she's a cypher, without a personality, a known goal, and any concerns. She simply follows your script.

But look at it from her viewpoint. She has an objective, and that guides her every action. She sees the place very differently from you, because she has expectations, and will focus on what's important to you. She chooses the door for a reason. But if we don't know what's driving her, and what caused her to choose that door it's your story, not hers.

Put yourself in her place. She enters the cell. Would she look at one thing at a time, or would she take all it in in a glance? What would you do? Wouldn't her eyes sweep the room first, to see if there's something needing immediate attention? Because if she does that, she sees him and the guard at once, and ignores the other crap. She would also focus on the guard first, and decide what to do about him, because he's a problem that must be addressed before anything else. So how she sees him matters to the feel of the story. If she's afraid of him his noticing her has one feel for the scene when it happens. If he's unimportant it has another. And which it is matters to the reader, because they want to see the scene as she does, not dispassionately, a list of events, as a history lesson would show it.

In short, you're telling the story as you would aloud. But for the reader, all the warmth you hear in your mental "voice" as you read is missing and it reads in a monotone. That strips all the emotion from the reading. The gestures you visually punctuate with are gone, too, as is facial expression and body language because you're "telling" when you should be showing her viewpoint, moment by moment. And that's not a matter of good or bad writing or talent. It's that like nearly 50% of hopeful writers you're telling the story as you would in person, using a skill set that doesn't translate to the page (the other half present it as a report, and that doesn't work, either.)

The problem is, fiction for the page is very unlike that for the stage or screen, and different from a storyteller's performance, too, because the medium is different. It's also unlike the skills we learned in school, because all the reports and essays we wrote were designed to make competent nonfiction writers of us, making useful to employers.

Film uses sight and sound, parallel senses that each give us a host of information in a second. Storytelling on stage is a performance art, where how you tell the story matters as much as the words you use, because the emotion comes from the performance, not the words. But the page is a serial medium, where everything must be mentioned one item at a time. And because the action as we read must take place as fast as in life, or be boring, we need to trim down what's given drastically. And we do that by mentioning only what matters to the protagonist in the moment they call, now. For why, one of my articles, Inside Out, is devoted to explaining why it matters, and may help clarify what I mean.

But that aside, here's the bottom line: Writing fiction for the page is unlike other forms of writing, and just like becoming a journalist or screenwriter, there are things that until pointed out are invisible. We no more learn to write by reading than learn how to care for and use the chefs knife by eating food a chef prepared. We see the product, but need the process. So spending a bit of time digging out the tricks the pros take for granted isn't just a good idea, it's a necessity.

And that's why I so often suggest the local free library system's fiction writing section as a resource. If you're meant to be a writer—and I hope you are, because the world needs more crazies who can say they're working while looking at nothing—you'll find it fascinating, like going backstage at the theater (and if you don't, you've learned something important about yourself).

Looking at the story, I would suggest you bypass that step for the moment and pick up a copy of Debra Dixon's, GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict. It's a warm easy read, and will give you a solid introduction to the elements of fiction for the page. It won't make a pro of you. That's your job. But it will give you the tools with which to do it. You can download it from any online bookseller, or get a hard copy on Deb's site.

Not good news, I know, or something you were hoping to see. But I thought you might want to know.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

Infel
September 17th, 2016, 06:20 AM
In short, you're telling the story as you would aloud. But for the reader, all the warmth you hear in your mental "voice" as you read is missing and it reads in a monotone.

This is exactly the kind of critique I need. It helps me realize that there is a piece of the core--a piece of the basics--that I'm missing. Because I am trying to tell it like I would a story, like have a voice; and I don't. Thats part of the medium, and it's a part crucial to learn. Thank you--and I mean that honestly--for taking the time to offer that advice. I'm going to take a look at that book you mentioned.

In the mean time, here's 500 more words. If anyone has insight on how to skip the boring stuff while still establishing a setting, I really, really need to learn how to take the anthropology essay out of my fiction writing.

Cheers, and thank you.

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Alice’s arm shot out to her side. The guard was flung heavily against the wall. The sword and the pistol crashed to the floor as a faint, gurgling cough escaped his lungs. Only then did her blue eyes turn towards him, and the nostalgic smile faded from her face.

“You have a fair bit of nerve: trying to jail people as powerful as we,” she said. Her voice was light, nearly sweet—befitting of her young appearance. Her body turned. She took a few measured steps towards the man. His arms and legs were pulled to either side, and he hung in the air as if by invisible strings. His eyes were wide, bloodshot, and frantic. Magic didn’t work here. It couldn’t work here.

“And then to think to harvest us? How very,” she paused, “…courageous, of you. Yes, I believe that is the word. Courageous.”

Alice turned her head, lowering her eyes in thought as her fingers began to move. They twirled across her palm, opening and closing in a rhythm. The man began to writhe. His skin began to bubble, his veins began to swell.

"Please, stop…” he choked. “It hurts.”

“And yet I must admit it’s a bit na´ve,” Alice said, turning back to him. “Most people don’t like being taken against their will. They might be angry with you, you know.”

She moved around the table until she was standing beneath him. She smiled. It felt good to see him struggle. She took a moment to appreciate the vivid blue veins in his face.

A crumpled sound came from beneath her shoe. Alice looked down. The letter. Her eerie grin widened, and with a wave of her right hand it flew up. She took it, shook it once to straighten it, and began to read.

After a moment she let out a laugh, looking up towards him.

“How odd indeed! I would never have guessed,” she giggled. “How incredibly sentimental. Are you sure you wish to confess to her why you really can’t come home? The things you’ve been a part of, here? I wonder how she would feel about you then.”

Her fingers continued to twist as she read. The man began to sweat. Tiny pustules of blood and skin began to burst on his neck. Air bubbled beneath the flesh under his arms and about his collarbone.

“And your children?” she asked, not taking her eyes from the paper. “How would they feel knowing their father was a slaver? A murderer? Would they be able to hold you you, would they even be able to look at you? They’d be afraid, you know. They wouldn’t want to be in the same house as you.”

The man choked suddenly. Alice was not sure what from. She looked up from the letter.

“She’d leave you, if she ever found out,” she said to him sadly. “She’d take her children and leave you. And how could you blame her? A monster like you; you’re frightening. They’d be scared. It’s only reasonable.”

stevew84
September 22nd, 2016, 02:58 PM
I'm new to the whole writing scene and don't feel worthy of really critiquing someone's work. But I do one have thing to say.

Sometimes people can go a bit overboard with the use of analogies, or get a bit too "wordy" when describing simple things. I know that some readers will find that clever word play makes for a good story, but if you have a decent plot, the wording could play an important part in either taking that plot to a new level or taking a backseat to the writing itself.