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tzebley
July 15th, 2019, 06:07 PM
I recently started taking a home based creative writing course and since this course is free there isn't an instructor to give feedback or guidance. I was hoping I could find that here. I am currently tasked with completing an exercise and I would appreciate any help, feedback or criticism on my exercise.

The exercise is: Write a paragraph portraying a well rounded character.

I wrote a paragraph and if someone has the time, I would appreciate some feedback or perhaps some constructive criticism. By the way, the paragraph looked much bigger in Word. :icon_cheesygrin:

Here is my paragraph:

Daniel’s heart pounded in his chest like a hammer hitting an anvil. The adrenaline coursing through his system had his hands shaking uncontrollably but he kept running. This was the score he had been waiting almost a year for. Like the good little thief he was, he had kept his head down and his mouth shut for nearly a month, waiting for the opportunity to present itself. He had stalked her to understand her routine, watched her as she put away her jewelry in the fancy wooden box on her dresser before her nightly shower. He wanted what she had, the money, the stature and the power that came with those things, and now he had it. The jewelry he just stole from Mrs. Westington’s house now safely secured in the black cross-body satchel he carried. The ideas of how he was going to spend the money flowed through his imagination as if someone had destroyed the dam that once held them back. He mentally listed off all the cars and trucks he would have parked outside his new mansion as he ran back to his hideout. It wasn’t much, just a run down old concrete factory with vines crawling up most of the exterior walls. Home thought Daniel as he rushed through the now bare door frame and up the stairwell to the second floor. Racing down the corridor toward the rear of the building where his mattress lay upon the concrete floor, he was stopped in his tracks as a wave of guilt overcame him. The thought of how much good the money could do for the orphanage he had run away from clashed with the ideas of having everything he ever wanted. Conflicted, he plopped down on the dusty floor with his head between his knees. The memory of countless nights going to bed hungry because there wasn’t enough food to fill everyone’s belly caused his stomach to growl loudly. Even worse yet was walking into Ms. Vanessa’s office late one night only to find her crying at her Credenza desk, the financial summaries spread over the desktop. The sorrow in her eyes cut through him like a hot knife through butter, he could see the helplessness through her tears.

Ralph Rotten
July 16th, 2019, 07:35 PM
The exercise was for a single paragraph?

That was not a bad piece of character development. There are some mechanical issues that cause derailments, and re-use of critical words like Month. But it did get us into the character's head, did give us a feel for his deep desires, then uncovered another layer to reveal that mebbe he wasn't such a bad guy after all.

But really, that should have been chopped up into 2, or even 3 paragraphs. Tis why I was curious if it was supposed to be a single para.

If that is your first stuff, then you are off to a good start. Character development is the biggest stumbling block for new writers...and the modern market is absolutely character-driven these days.

tzebley
July 16th, 2019, 08:07 PM
Appreciate the feedback and I don't understand why the exercise was limited to only a paragraph myself. I see what you mean about the critical words, and I think I could resolve the issue by rephrasing those few sentences. It is actually my first attempt at creating a rounded character, from what I've read in the course work that means displaying a contradiction within the character. Although I am certain it's actually more involved than just a single internal or external conflict. Am I right in assuming that developing a well rounded character also extends into the characters personality and the events that not only define who they are but also who (or what in some cases) they develop into?

Bard_Daniel
July 18th, 2019, 01:43 AM
A great start! You rocked with it! And hey, you used my name. ;)

In all seriousness, besides a few issues that fine Mr. Rotten has mentioned, there is room for development. If you want to keep doing the course and posting the pieces on here (as your material) I believe that'd be a good strategy.

I'm going to hold off on your question. That is analysis of literature and books at that point and I do not feel as if I'm the best candidate to answer it.

Nevertheless, someone will come along who will (I'm sure.)

Have you thought of turning this into a longer piece? I wonder if the comparison between art and writing applies: "Start large." I've heard that artists are encouraged to start with larger (although not too large) pieces of work so that they can learn from their mistakes in a broader light. I wonder if this would mean that it would be better to write a full story rather than individual small exercises and then be guided. This is just a thought, but I "thought" you might find it interesting! :D

LCLee
July 18th, 2019, 04:33 AM
I can see you have skills and I like the heartfelt change at the end.
I have felt the adrenaline rush and I think you described it well.
I struggled with the tense. I don't know why. I looked for something specific but couldn't find it.
Below is my effort to tighten it up a bit. Ignore anything you don't agree with, and I didn't try to change your voice in my critique.

This was the score he had been waiting almost a year for.
This sentence needs a rewrite. Not because it ends with a preposition but it is just clunky.
he had kept his head down and his mouth shut for nearly a month, I would use ..just shy of a month. Getting rid of an adverb and adding flavor.
He had stalked her to understand her routine, I would change the syntax to…To understand her routine he stalked her… Makes it stronger imho.
He wanted what she had; the money, the stature and the power that came with those things, and now he had it.
The jewelry he had just stolen from Mrs. Westington’s house now safely secured in the black
He mentally listed off all the cars and trucks he would have
Racing down the corridor toward the rear of the building where his mattress lay upon the concrete floor. he was stopped in his tracks as a wave of guilt overcame him. Might change the syntax here as well….A wave of guilt overcame him and stopped him in his tracks. I believe it reads stronger.
The sorrow in her eyes cut through him like a hot knife through butter.
This is an overused cliché; try to find another way to show it instead of telling us.

tzebley
July 19th, 2019, 09:11 PM
I can see you have skills and I like the heartfelt change at the end.
I have felt the adrenaline rush and I think you described it well.
I struggled with the tense. I don't know why. I looked for something specific but couldn't find it.
Below is my effort to tighten it up a bit. Ignore anything you don't agree with, and I didn't try to change your voice in my critique.

This was the score he had been waiting almost a year for.
This sentence needs a rewrite. Not because it ends with a preposition but it is just clunky.
he had kept his head down and his mouth shut for nearly a month, I would use ..just shy of a month. Getting rid of an adverb and adding flavor.
He had stalked her to understand her routine, I would change the syntax to…To understand her routine he stalked her… Makes it stronger imho.
He wanted what she had; the money, the stature and the power that came with those things, and now he had it.
The jewelry he had just stolen from Mrs. Westington’s house now safely secured in the black
He mentally listed off all the cars and trucks he would have
Racing down the corridor toward the rear of the building where his mattress lay upon the concrete floor. he was stopped in his tracks as a wave of guilt overcame him. Might change the syntax here as well….A wave of guilt overcame him and stopped him in his tracks. I believe it reads stronger.
The sorrow in her eyes cut through him like a hot knife through butter.
This is an overused cliché; try to find another way to show it instead of telling us.


LCLee,

Awesome, I mean really. This is the type of feedback I was hoping for. The creative writing class I am taking will be covering syntax and sentence structure later on. I think these starting exercises are designed to get the proverbial juices flowing. I printed out your suggestions and they now hang on the wall above my computer. As for the cliche, I am still learning how to express things like "a hot knife through butter". For some reason whenever I try to show it in my writing my mind just goes blank. I also find that I am always second guessing what I am writing. I write a little, then read over it and tend to just rewrite things over and over until I get frustrated with it. I tried something different with this exercise by just writing it exactly how i visualized it and forced myself to stop overthinking it. Is there a technique you use to prevent getting hung up in the middle of writing?

tzebley
July 19th, 2019, 11:16 PM
I have revised my earlier posting. I took your advice and made those changes and also made some changes of my own. Let me know what you think. :)


Daniel obsessively planned tonight’s heist for the last eleven months. In order to understand Mrs. Westington’s routine he had stalker her. He watched her every night for the last two weeks as she put her jewelry in the fancy wooden box sitting on her dresser. After closing the box, she always headed to the bathroom for her nightly shower. Daniel had waited for the bathroom door to close; it was his window of opportunity and he didn’t miss it. In less than a minute he grabbed the box and was back out the window, sprinting down the drive. Daniel knew she was wealthy, and he wanted what she had, money, stature and the power that came with those things, and now he had it. The jewelry he stole from Mrs. Westington’s house now safely secured in the black cross-body satchel he carried. His breath coming in gasps as he rounded the bend leading into the street. The adrenaline coursing through his veins caused his hands to shake but he kept running. His heart pounded in his chest like a hammer striking an anvil. Stopping momentarily to catch his breath the ideas of how he was going to spend the money flowed through his imagination. It was as if someone had destroyed the dam that once held them back. He mentally listed the cars and trucks he would have parked outside his new mansion as he continued running to his hideout. It wasn’t much, just a rundown old concrete factory with vines crawling up most of the exterior walls. Made it thought Daniel as he rushed through the barren door frame and up the stairwell to the second floor. A wave of guilt overcame him, stopping him in his tracks. The thought of how much good the money could do for the orphanage he had aged out from clashed with the ideas of having everything he ever wanted. Conflicted, he plopped down on the dusty floor with his head between his knees. Tears began to stream down his face as he remembered walking into Ms. Vanessa’s office late one night. The top of her Credenza desk covered with financial statements, each stamped with ‘Overdue’ in bold red block letters. She sniffled as she quickly wiped away her tears when she finally noticed him standing there. The guilt he felt turned to shame as he realized that he had been selfish. He knew he couldn’t spend the money on himself with a clear conscious, not while the other orphans were starving. He could save the orphanage just as it had saved his life eighteen years ago.

tzebley
July 19th, 2019, 11:28 PM
A great start! You rocked with it! And hey, you used my name. ;)

In all seriousness, besides a few issues that fine Mr. Rotten has mentioned, there is room for development. If you want to keep doing the course and posting the pieces on here (as your material) I believe that'd be a good strategy.

I'm going to hold off on your question. That is analysis of literature and books at that point and I do not feel as if I'm the best candidate to answer it.

Nevertheless, someone will come along who will (I'm sure.)

Have you thought of turning this into a longer piece? I wonder if the comparison between art and writing applies: "Start large." I've heard that artists are encouraged to start with larger (although not too large) pieces of work so that they can learn from their mistakes in a broader light. I wonder if this would mean that it would be better to write a full story rather than individual small exercises and then be guided. This is just a thought, but I "thought" you might find it interesting! :D


Wow, thank you so much. I really don't know what to say. The piece I wrote for the exercise wasn't planned. It just happened as I typed, it was as if I was actually watching him steal the jewels. I just lack the skills to really bring the story to life. To answer your question about turning it into a longer pieces, I might do that. I just revised the piece using what I learned over the last few days. I posted the revision if you would like to check it out. Thanks again for the feedback, it really is appreciated.

Bard_Daniel
July 19th, 2019, 11:31 PM
Wow, thank you so much. I really don't know what to say. The piece I wrote for the exercise wasn't planned. It just happened as I typed, it was as if I was actually watching him steal the jewels. I just lack the skills to really bring the story to life. To answer your question about turning it into a longer pieces, I might do that. I just revised the piece using what I learned over the last few days. I posted the revision if you would like to check it out. Thanks again for the feedback, it really is appreciated.

Yessir! I like deadlines so give me until tomorrow and I'll check it out- just working on a bunch of stuff ATM.

DATo
July 23rd, 2019, 10:05 AM
Greetings tzebley!

A nice effort. I like your style. It is clean and crisp. Just a couple of criticisms but they are mild ones,

1) In the second to last sentence of the rewrite the word "conscious" should be spelled conscience.

2) The setting is not disclosed, but I feel any orphanage in modern times would be overseen by the government in the Western industrialized nations or at very least monitored in the case of private facilities for their ability to adequately provide for the children in their care. If unable to provide I would assume the state would not allow children to go hungry but would either provide support or remove the children from the environment. Now if this story were taking place around the turn of the last century (1900 or earlier) or in a third world nation it would be an entirely different matter. I think the standards might be relaxed or perhaps even nonexistent in those cases. I might refer you to Dicken's and other authors of the 19th century's treatment of homeless or indigent children and the lack of accountability by institutions of that era.

Otherwise a nice start. I would like to read more of this story.

tzebley
July 23rd, 2019, 06:47 PM
DATo,

I appreciate the feedback and I will have reprimand my spell checker for not finding that error :) As for the orphanage, when I wrote about it I was pulling from my own past experiences. I spend 18 years in foster care and in those 18 years I had over 15 placements so the topic is something I have a lot of knowledge about. Yes, there are suppose to be safeguards in place to prevent such things from happening. My last case worker had over fifty cases on her desk when she was assigned mine and that is typical of any case worker. Orphanages work in a different manner, they are usually run in a structured business method with the children at the bottom of the totem pole. Independently operated orphanages are assigned an inspector to ensure the welfare of the children under its care. However, just like case workers they are over worked and often do an inspection as quickly as possible. As long as the orphanage passes their inspection (whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly), the inspector doesn't see what happens when they aren't around. I've experienced this first hand, we were told to clean the dorm, the bathrooms and make the place look spic-n-span. We were also instructed to only answer questions with a yes or no, under the threat of punishment. Granted the system has changed greatly since I aged out of it when I turned 21 (and I am proud to say that I had a hand in that). I fought for years to bring about changes, to prevent any child from going through what I had. I had to bring that realism into the story due to the fact that the majority of readers have the misconception of what really happens behind closed doors. I just couldn't bring myself to go into further detail, some memories are just to painful, but I also wanted to establish a sub-plot about the orphanage for later in the class when we expand the story into it's final version. I hope I achieved that.

Anyways, I'm getting off topic. The reason the setting isn't disclosed is because I am learning how to disclose information about the setting without my sentences coming out flat. I really haven't learned how to accurately describe settings. I've been playing around with it for the last few days and I'm struggling with it. I find myself repeatedly deleting what I wrote because I don't like the setting description. But, as I learn new things I have been rewriting the paragraph and I hope that when it is finished I will have succeed in writing a short story that is captivating. I also want to salute all writers past and present because until now I didn't understand how much work is put into creative writing. I really had no clue about sentence structure, plot outline, character development and as I progress with learning how to write creatively it becomes clearer to me that writers are some of the most imaginative, dedicated and intelligent people around.

I hope you stop by and check up on my writing whenever you get the chance. I value your honesty and your criticism. Thanks again :)

DATo
July 24th, 2019, 07:07 AM
tzebley,

I am man enough to admit when I am wrong. Your personal experiences which relate to the content of the passage you have posted certainly trumps any opinions of mine regarding government oversight of orphan institutions. I am very sorry that you had to experience those things as a child. I am equally appalled that such conditions could exist in this modern day and age. Thank you for enlightening me to my misconceptions.

I'd like to suggest a couple of remedies for disclosing the setting in terms of time which may be of use. First, is the obvious - simply state the time and place at the beginning of the story, but I agree that seems a bit too flat and uncreative. In your first draft I think you mention "cars" and this helps place the story within a timeline when automobiles are extant. One could similarly use cleverly slipped bits of information like a movie which is posted on the marquee of a theatre. The reader could then relate the approximate date of that movie to the setting of the story. One could also draw upon what I had mentioned before about Dickens' work and describe yourself within the story as a modern day Oliver Twist or David Copperfield, both of which suffered as children. Saying something like, [Despite the modernity of the timeline I am about to relate, a time of computers and supersonic aircraft, I was living the life of an urchin suitable for a Dickens' novel, set in that Victorian era when unwanted children were treated as superfluous commodities.] I do not believe in putting words in another writer's mouth and I hate it when others try to do that to me. What I have written above is meant only as a guide which accomplishes two tasks: the first, to hint at the setting (computers and supersonic aircraft), as well as the state of the narrator's conditions as a child living in a difficult state of circumstances.

I think your writing is fine. You have an excellent premiss upon which to build for this story and you also have the experience to make it viable and accurate in its presentation.

tzebley
July 24th, 2019, 07:46 PM
Would disclosing the setting slowly over the period of lets say, two paragraphs be a good way of going about that? I mean, stating the time and place I can understand but I feel like when I write I am trying to be too descriptive to fast. Of course I am talking about the primary setting, like a city, town or even a planet in some cases. I know that sub-settings do not have to be extremely descriptive, just enough to paint the image in the readers mind. So how do you decide how to describe the primary setting for the story?

And than you for that, my past was hard and I had to grow up very quickly but I wouldn't change it. It made me into the man I am today and has also blessed me with several unique perspectives in life.

Irwin
July 24th, 2019, 11:17 PM
I recently started taking a home based creative writing course and since this course is free there isn't an instructor to give feedback or guidance. I was hoping I could find that here. I am currently tasked with completing an exercise and I would appreciate any help, feedback or criticism on my exercise.

The exercise is: Write a paragraph portraying a well rounded character.

I wrote a paragraph and if someone has the time, I would appreciate some feedback or perhaps some constructive criticism. By the way, the paragraph looked much bigger in Word. :icon_cheesygrin:

Here is my paragraph:

Daniel’s heart pounded in his chest like a hammer hitting an anvil.

I would expand on that idea instead of stating that he was running. Maybe something like:


Daniel’s heart pounded in his chest like a hammer hitting an anvil as his arms pumped into the air and legs churned beneath him.

Or something to that effect. :)