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Burkholder
January 8th, 2017, 11:40 PM
This is a beginning of an as yet titleless short story I'm battling with. I eventually would like you guys to critique the whole thing, but since this is the first story I've posted for critique so I felt it would be kind of dickish to dump a 2100 word story on you wonderful people. <3


Nobody knows quite how to handle him. When people see his bulging eyes and his wide, Martian forehead and his webbed fingers, their eyes fill with disgust and fear like they think heís an alien. When Greg tries to reassure them by explaining that he just has a facial disorder called Apert Syndrome people just furrow their brows and say ďhuh?!Ē When he repeats himself they turn a sad, quizzical gaze towards his mother. Apert isnít one of those well known health problems that has fund drives, pink ribbon bumper stickers and awareness 4Ks. People only organize awareness events for the cool kid disorders. Otherwise, no one would show up.

Other boys tend to avoid him because he is such an adult magnet. If another boy calls him ugly or fish face or one of the other many names they dream up, an adult will materialize out of thin air to berate the boy before Greg even has a chance to think of a good hearty comeback or initiate a To the Death wrestling match. If he chucks himself from the top of the monkey bars and lands in a bloody heap, laughing uncontrollably, an adult will always appear, drenched in pity, asking him if he's ok are you ok are you ok?

The only time he can be an adolescent boy is when he dreams. He dreams of other boys like him, drenched in buckets of sweat, with webbed fingers, eyes bulging, and fractured, pasted together skulls playing without the threat of stupid adult pity. They kick each otherís shins on Mount Fuji and splash in the glittering Pacific, pretending to be mermen. They beat the crap out of each other on the moon, trading unspeakably crass insults until an alien appears in the distance and then they'll careen towards the green fucker, laughing and laughing until his mother shouts that it's time to get up for school, Greg, and bright morning light splashes across his face.

Tonight was different. He dreamed of an Apert boy locked in his best friendís parentís shed, pounding his fists against the walls as as spiders crawled up his ankles. He wailed as they bit his flesh and snakes coiled around his ankles. Nobody outside could hear his cries. The walls closed in and blood trickled from the ceiling as shrill, inhuman laughter filled the shed. Sweat poured down his face and the boy began to weep and weep and weep and cry for someone, anyone to come help him..........


thanks for reading <3

bdcharles
January 9th, 2017, 12:16 AM
It's a good opening. I really felt for Greg. In terms of the writing I could see no big technical issues. I suppose my only beef is that the first three paragraphs are quite back story heavy. You could conceivably write another story chronicling those events. When you get to the here and now bit, you might also look at ways of making it more vivid, as if it were actually happening rather than being relayed if that makes sense. Depends what you want your story to be and do ultimately.

Hope this helps. I think the premise for this is very strong.

CPMurphy
January 9th, 2017, 02:34 AM
I can't give much in the way of critique other than to say I enjoyed reading that.

Jay Greenstein
January 9th, 2017, 05:47 AM
Nobody knows quite how to handle him. This isn't story, it's an unknown person talking about someone we haven't met. Look at the reader's dilemma: Is this a first person narrator—a character in the story, or is it a narrator who forgot to introduce the character before talking about him. No way to tell as we read.

While you can say, "Read on and you'll find out," in general, readers won't, because they have no assurance you will, and because you cannot retroactively remove that "Huh" that came with the story's first line.
When people see his bulging eyes and his wide, Martian forehead and his webbed fingers, their eyes fill with disgust and fear like they think he’s an alien.So they have to see it all before reaching that conclusion? Don't you think a fast glance at "martian forehead" and bulging eyes they'll react?

Problem is, at this point we still don't know who the protagonist is. We still don't know where we are. We still don't know what's going on. And we don't know why the author feels this explanation is necessary before starting the story.

I'm not being picky, when I say this, because an acquiring editor, agent, or a potential reader viewing this opening ,would react negatively to the lack of context. The reader is expecting story, but they get an info-dump. And as James H. Schmitz said, “Don’t inflict the reader with irrelevant background material—get on with the story.”
When Greg tries to reassure them by explaining that he just has a facial disorder called Apert Syndrome people just furrow their brows and say “huh?!”First: Unbreakable rule: one and only one punctuation mark ends the sentence. If it doesn't work without it, change the line.

That aside: Okay, I give up. Who's Greg? And why is he with this unknown person? You're talking about things that you have neither made the reader want to know, or given context to. It's history, not story.

I wish I had better news, but the first four paragraphs are backstory, not a word of it necessary. Why? Because when the actual story begins, the reader will know what's necessary, in context, and through the eyes of the protagonist, who is still unknown.

The last paragraph tells us of a dream this person has. But why would we care who owns a shed that appears in a dream? Why would we care about anyone's dream? Are you burning to know what I had last night? Of course not. And, in the first paragraph "no one" is not repelled by him, yet here, he has a best friend. That doesn't track.

Simply put, story happens. It's not talked about. And readers are hoping to be entertained by living the story, not reading an overview of the events within it. The storyteller's voice cannot be heard as they read, so the emotion charged words you hear as you read are replaced by a flat emotionless voice when the reader turns to this. Have your computer read this to you and you'll hear the problem.

What's tripping you up isn't a matter of story, writing, or talent. It's that there's a huge number of things about writing for the page that aren't obvious but are necessary. They're no harder (or easier), to master than the nonfiction skills we were given in our school days, but they are necessary, because they're enforced by the limitations inherent to the printed word medium.

Certainly, I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm trying to save you time, by steering you toward the answers to the questions you don't yet know you should be asking. Because as Mark Twain observed, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And we leave our school years with a whole lot of "just ain't so," about writing fiction.

One great resource I often recommend is the library's fiction writing section, where you'll find the views of successful writers, agents, publishers, and teachers. You don't have to take their advice, of course. No one says you have to use a given tool or technique. But can you use the tool you don't know exists?

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

Ell337
January 9th, 2017, 06:01 AM
Sorry to deliver the bad news but I have to agree with Jay on this. If you picked up a book that started like this - would you read it? Be honest with yourself. Does it grab you and say READ ME!! Sadly the answer is no.

Look through your manuscript and find where the action starts - where you have Greg followed by an action word (and I don't mean the cutsey version of 'verb' I mean a verb that is doing something.) Greg ran, Greg shouted, Greg cried. And that point is where your story starts.

Find that point and post from there onwards and let's take a look.

Burkholder
January 9th, 2017, 03:21 PM
This isn't story, it's an unknown person talking about someone we haven't met. Look at the reader's dilemma: Is this a first person narratoróa character in the story, or is it a narrator who forgot to introduce the character before talking about him. No way to tell as we read.

While you can say, "Read on and you'll find out," in general, readers won't, because they have no assurance you will, and because you cannot retroactively remove that "Huh" that came with the story's first line.So they have to see it all before reaching that conclusion? Don't you think a fast glance at "martian forehead" and bulging eyes they'll react?

Problem is, at this point we still don't know who the protagonist is. We still don't know where we are. We still don't know what's going on. And we don't know why the author feels this explanation is necessary before starting the story.

I'm not being picky, when I say this, because an acquiring editor, agent, or a potential reader viewing this opening ,would react negatively to the lack of context. The reader is expecting story, but they get an info-dump. And as James H. Schmitz said, ďDonít inflict the reader with irrelevant background materialóget on with the story.ĒFirst: Unbreakable rule: one and only one punctuation mark ends the sentence. If it doesn't work without it, change the line.

That aside: Okay, I give up. Who's Greg? And why is he with this unknown person? You're talking about things that you have neither made the reader want to know, or given context to. It's history, not story.

I wish I had better news, but the first four paragraphs are backstory, not a word of it necessary. Why? Because when the actual story begins, the reader will know what's necessary, in context, and through the eyes of the protagonist, who is still unknown.

The last paragraph tells us of a dream this person has. But why would we care who owns a shed that appears in a dream? Why would we care about anyone's dream? Are you burning to know what I had last night? Of course not. And, in the first paragraph "no one" is not repelled by him, yet here, he has a best friend. That doesn't track.

Simply put, story happens. It's not talked about. And readers are hoping to be entertained by living the story, not reading an overview of the events within it. The storyteller's voice cannot be heard as they read, so the emotion charged words you hear as you read are replaced by a flat emotionless voice when the reader turns to this. Have your computer read this to you and you'll hear the problem.

What's tripping you up isn't a matter of story, writing, or talent. It's that there's a huge number of things about writing for the page that aren't obvious but are necessary. They're no harder (or easier), to master than the nonfiction skills we were given in our school days, but they are necessary, because they're enforced by the limitations inherent to the printed word medium.

Certainly, I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm trying to save you time, by steering you toward the answers to the questions you don't yet know you should be asking. Because as Mark Twain observed, ďIt ainít what you donít know that gets you into trouble. Itís what you know for sure that just ainít so.Ē And we leave our school years with a whole lot of "just ain't so," about writing fiction.

One great resource I often recommend is the library's fiction writing section, where you'll find the views of successful writers, agents, publishers, and teachers. You don't have to take their advice, of course. No one says you have to use a given tool or technique. But can you use the tool you don't know exists?

Hang in there, and keep on writing.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! I posted this intro because I shared your concerns, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't just plagued by self doubt. My current stumbling block is how to structure my fiction. I've been studying Dan Wells 7 point story construction and rather sloppily attempted to implement it in this piece. Every single word of your criticism I have taken to heart and will apply them as soon as I get in front of my computer again! (Except for the advice to never use double punctuation marks. That's a dumb rule lol)

Just one point of clarity: The dichotomy between no one understanding him and his has having a best friend is on purpose. Alot of us disabled folk tend to act like our lives are so much more horrid then they really are and I was trying to subtly express that idea. I think for this piece you're right though. It sends to many mixed signals. I have so much to say about facial disorders that I end up trying to cram all my ideas in at once.
Thanks again!!!

Burkholder
January 9th, 2017, 03:42 PM
Sorry to deliver the bad news but I have to agree with Jay on this. If you picked up a book that started like this - would you read it? Be honest with yourself. Does it grab you and say READ ME!! Sadly the answer is no.

Look through your manuscript and find where the action starts - where you have Greg followed by an action word (and I don't mean the cutsey version of 'verb' I mean a verb that is doing something.) Greg ran, Greg shouted, Greg cried. And that point is where your story starts.

Find that point and post from there onwards and let's take a look.
Good advice isn't bad news. I will rewrite with this in mind. I feel that all the information I dumped on the reader is necessary, but I'll sprinkle it throughout the actual action instead of one long info dump. My sincere thanks!

Gomer_Ashby
January 9th, 2017, 08:14 PM
I think the character of Greg would be great in a story. We know who Greg is, but now he needs to tell a story or make an appearance in one. But you write well. I hope you build on this and share with us...

JustRob
January 18th, 2017, 01:11 PM
I think you already have a consistent message here, but I'll add my agreement to that anyway. I think your writing style has a lot to offer, but you need to choose what you offer more thoughtfully. The story is the thing and the characters are almost just a part of the scenery that happens to move around and have attitudes, feelings and thoughts. Some might see that as an extreme view but understand what I mean by it. There must be a story and a story needs characters; that's the order of priority.

Part of the delight in writing, for both the writer and the reader, is the cat and mouse game wherein the writer knows things but only reveals them to the reader gradually. It isn't so much what you tell the reader that keeps them reading but what you hold back. Of course you have to let the cat see the mouse or else it will wander off or fall asleep, so you need the story to keep on flowing at a carefully regulated pace. Rather than describing Greg at the outset I would plunge into the story and hold back on the reason for his attitude to life and the attitude of others to him for as long as possible. The idea there would be to stimulate the reader's curiosity and empathy with the character. Get them wondering what it is about him that has caused these experiences and then let them into the secret gradually. Perhaps initially just have someone mention his "unusual appearance" without further explanation, but let them do that in the dialogue rather than mentioning it yourself in the narrative. Think about the events and what people actually say rather than the graphic reality. One great advantage that literature has over visual media is that we have complete control over what the reader "sees".

I have a character in my novel about typical English people who is from a Caribbean family, but I never specifically mention this fact, so the reader is left to realise this from that person's relationships and conversations with others. They won't, but I do mention the fact in passing in a later novel in the same series. My English characters are so indifferent to racial differences that it just doesn't matter to the story. Another character is forgetful, but again I don't reveal his back story and the reason until a later novel when it becomes relevant and all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are falling into place. Think of the story that way in fact, as a jigsaw puzzle being assembled until the reader can fully see the complete picture. It's a good simile because everyone knows how annoying it is to get to the end of doing such a puzzle and discovering that there are pieces missing.

By the way, have you read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Thomas_Covenant)by Stephen R Donaldson, one of my favourite series of novels? In them Covenant has leprosy in real life but a fall results in him being knocked unconscious and finding himself in a fantasy world known simply as "The Land". Believing it all to be a dream initially he rapes a girl and from there the whole question of whether it matters what we do in our dreams evolves. Eventually he becomes a hero and saves the Land from a terrible fate, not because he believes it to be real but because he cares about it. My angel said that that is how a reader can feel towards the characters in a story, not directly relating to them in any real sense but just caring about what happens to them. For that to happen there must be a story first and foremost though.

I think you have the makings of a writer, so do try again. What do I know though? This place isn't even real, is it? Well, maybe it's just because I care about it that I write these things then.

Jay Greenstein
January 18th, 2017, 11:53 PM
I've been studying Dan Wells 7 point story constructionThat's pretty general, and at a fairly high level. You might want to look at the nuts and bolts issues, first, like what a scene on the page is, and why, and what your reader needs to know first, to provide context. And of more importance, you need to know how to place the reader into that scene on a visceral level. As they say, art conceals art. So a good writer will make you care about the protagonist, and what that character is trying to accomplish. But they do it so well that were we asked why we care we'd probably not know why. Turning that around, Sol stein hits it right when he said, “Readers don’t notice point-of-view errors. They simply sense that the writing is bad.” So our first job is to recognize and self-correct our own viewpoint errors, and others we're not aware of till they're pointed out. The problem is that if we have a question we ask it. But what about the questions we should be asking, but don't know the subject exists?

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
~ Mark Twain

As an example, here's an article (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php) I often recommend. It provides a condensation of a powerful technique for involving your reader. It's well worth chewing on for a while, to get a feel for what's involved. It's a dramatically different approach—character centered rather than author centered. It's incomplete, of course, because you can't say in a page what the author devotes a chapter to. But it does get you started thinking with the protagonist's mind. And if, after thinking about it, it sounds like something worth pursuing, the book it was condensed from is filled with such things.

Bard_Daniel
January 20th, 2017, 05:54 AM
I think you have a lot to offer here. You have some very vivid and intense descriptions that are a strong point. I think you just need to pace yourself a little more. Maybe lean back a little and slowly bring your story to the forefront while not info-dumping too much on the reader at the same time. However, I do think you have a good basis to work with.

Keep on writing and thanks for sharing!

Absolem
January 21st, 2017, 09:50 PM
I thought it was pretty cool. I was engaged. Who's to say its an info dump without any reference to anything? You don't know how the story turns out.

jable1066
January 25th, 2017, 07:03 PM
Some really insightful critique that I am taking on board myself.

To the writer: There's nothing to be said, that hasn't already been said. I'd just like to say that I think you could have the basis of quite a powerful and compelling piece and I look forward to seeing where it goes!

Just to offer a different POV - I quite like reading about dreams in stories. This early on in the story it has me questioning whether it will be relevant in the future. Maybe it indicates the character is a little, psychologically messed up...maybe it doesn't. It has me thinking thought.

Of course, if it's not relevant in the future...then I see where the other comments came from.

JB

malone76
February 11th, 2017, 10:51 AM
In my opinion a lot of your sentences are too long. Run ons really. Maybe a little editing would help.

JacksonPoland
March 19th, 2017, 04:22 PM
Apert isnít one of those well known health problems that has fund drives, pink ribbon bumper stickers and awareness 4Ks. People only organize awareness events for the cool kid disorders. Otherwise, no one would show up.

I really felt this. Great write, Burk. Like bdcharles said, I think you could definitely back up a step and give the reader more of the backstory so they're able to both relate to the story/connect better and understand the situation at hand. Other than that, great start.

Joey

Kusinjo
March 31st, 2017, 03:33 AM
Nobody knows quite how to handle him. When people see his bulging eyes and his wide, Martian forehead and his webbed fingers, their eyes fill with disgust and fear like they think heís an alien. When Greg tries to reassure them by explaining that he just has a facial disorder called Apert Syndrome people just furrow their brows and say ďhuh?!Ē When he repeats himself they turn a sad, quizzical gaze towards his mother. Apert isnít one of those well known health problems that has fund drives, pink ribbon bumper stickers and awareness 4Ks. People only organize awareness events for the cool kid disorders. Otherwise, no one would show up.



I'm no pro. I get lots of feedback from pros all the time. Proffesors and students. I am one unit away from finishing my creative writing major, and the single most important lesson I've been having beaten into my brain, CONSTANTLY, with lowered marks and comments that say, "I'd like to see..."

So, in keeping with that theme, I'd like to see you be more ... wait for it ... consice. Yes, it was my problem, and I now finally see that it is a big one for lots of writers. Especially new ones. The thing with writing is, REEVISHUN REEVISION Revision. See how that works? I believe people start off trying to tell a schizophrenic story when they first start writing it. They split their brain in half and try to say what happens, while simultaneously trying to say it poetically. Just tell your story. Tell it like you are telling your neighbour. That is where your voice will be. On the second rewrite, remove the crap people say in real life that noone likes to read. Words like "um", "uh", and "You know what I mean?"

In a conversation, people will ask questions when they need clarification, but when reading, we don't have that luxury. Therefore you have to give the answer to the question, before it needs to be asked. Here's what your first paragraph might look like if I was writing it. Again, I'm no pro, and you'll find stuff wrong with my version, but I'm attempting to demonstrate consiceness.

`Greg struggles with people. His friend has Apert Syndrome. A genetic disorder that has given him the appearance of an alien. When people see Greg's friend with his large forehead, sunken face, and bulging eyes, their faces become even uglier than his friends. Ugly with disgust, and bewilderment. Most don't even know they're doing it. Greg tries to educate them, but their confusion only increases.`

That is my example. I'm sure it isn't perfect, but I tried to give only pertinent information, before I tried to evoke emotion. Don't try to evoke emotion before we know what we're feeling for.

Also, I have a disabled son. This is a story I can relate too. However, Apert Syndrome does indeed get events. I've been to one. It's your fiction world, though. Who am I to say what happens in it, however, if you write about something real in a fiction world, your knowledge of it needs to be as complete as the way you feel about it. Reason being, you don't want your readers saying, "Oh, that's a load of crap." in the first paragraph.

Again, great story, just revise. Good luck, and I would definitely not give up on this one. If only to bring more awareness to AS research.

C.Stone
April 19th, 2017, 05:33 PM
I think it's a great beginning for a story. From the info I've read so far I would think Greg is bound to lash out in some kind of attack against other student's and the people who pity him. The dream give's me the thought that there's some deep mental frustration that's just waiting for that one thing to happen that cause's him to snap. Interesting so far, I'm looking forward to reading more.

Penless
May 26th, 2017, 09:16 AM
My critique can't compare to others on this forum, but there are a few comments I can make about my experience as a reader reading your work.

Overall, I found the tone too descriptive.
I think you should write each of these events he describes as an actual scene, with dialog and action to show the reader his relationships with adults and other children.

Specifically, I found:
Although not the most enticing or artful introductory phrase, I found it was enough to keep me reading: I wanted to know who 'he' was, and what they couldn't handle. It was the next phrase, which still didn't get me involved, which put me off. Particularly the 'when people saw'. I'm not sure why, but this stands out to me as particularly boring.
I think you'd do better to drop the character straight into a scene so we can meet him more personally.

I did enjoy some of the languages you used. Particularly 'adult magnet', 'an adult will materialize out of thin air', 'drenched in pity', ' Apert isn’t one of those well-known health problems that have fund drives, pink ribbon bumper stickers, and awareness 4Ks. People only organize awareness events for the cool kid disorders. Otherwise, no one would show up.'

Those phrases were like little nuggets of candy in a sewer; nice in isolation, but too surrounded by filth to rouse the appetite.

The text just feels dead. It feels like I'm reading an article about the disease. I'm kept at a distance. The information is forced into the story, rather than flowing naturally.

More action! More dialog! Drive this story forward with characters and relationships.