Sacrifice, scene 1 (1500 words)


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  1. #1

    Sacrifice, scene 1 (1500 words)

    fucking sick of this shit
    Last edited by archer88iv; December 21st, 2017 at 10:48 PM.
    Don't take my advice personally. Also don't expect me to provide disclaimers like, "Just my opinion, but..." You should know that by now.

  2. #2
    In the pale hours before dusk, both land and sea awaited the storm. Crowned by jagged hills clad with ancient firs, the island seemed nearer the past and closer to the Sun than any any living man should go. A cloak of green, sustained by the rough, volcanic earth, did little to conceal the harsh truth: visitors were not welcome here. They never had been.
    Here is the establishing shot to place the reader. And such things work, if kept short. Obviously you're going for vivid to catch the reader. Nothing wrong with that, but...What are the "pale hours before dusk." By definition, it the hours before dusk begins are in no way pale. And as for the sea ant the unknown island "waiting," what can the sea and the land do but wait. It's not like they can read the paper.

    And, you say the island seemed to...? Who is observing this and making this judgment as to what it appears to be doing? It can't be you, and we know no one else. And seriously, "the island seemed nearer the past and closer to the Sun"? Closer to the sun than what? And "nearer to the past? It's an island, and at this point don't know anything about it other than that it, seems to be consciously waiting (whatever that means) But above that. how in the hell can it get closer to the sun? And if living men can't, is it okay for a dead one?

    I know you have intent for how the reader should take the lines, but your intent doesn't make it to the page, and you're skirting purple prose a lot closer than a living man should go (sorry, I couldn't resist).

    The short version. You're trying to exite the reader with word piled on word, and dazzle them with vivid images. But they came to you for story, and nothing is happening but what amounts to a weather report.
    The girl's body burned,
    Forget the rest of the line, or what you intended, you just, literally, told the reader that there is a dead girl and her body is being consumed. Not what you meant, but it is how the reader will take it because you placed effect, her muscles buring, before you placed her into the action that would cause it. And how can effect come before cause?

    One of the downsides of telling the story from the outside in is that because you already know the story, and how to take what's being said, you will, invariably, include things obvious to you for which the reader has no context–like her body burning. And I know this was a lot of words for suggesting a tiny change, but suppose you'd said her muscles burned? Instant context. And in fiction giving the reader context is critically important.

    But more than that, why are you calling her "The Girl?" Does she not rate a name? 339 words pass before you fprovide a name the reader can identify with. Were this a traditional on-paper submission, the reader would be on the third manuscript page before learning a simple thing like, "Whose skin am I wearing?"

    When storytelling, you are center stage, and what you say is all the audience has. And since you're personally telling them the story, it can work. But it can't on the page. Why? Because the reader gets not a trace of your performance. They can't hear your voice so those vivid words are delivered in a monotone. They can't be mesmerized by the storyteller's dance; by the emotion living on your face; by your gesture, and your body movements. All they have are what the words suggest to them, based on their background, and the context that supplies. Your reader lacks your knowledge and understanding of the scene. They have a different background. Their school and life experience is not yours. And, are probably of a different age group. Their reading tastes and knowledge base from that is different, and even their gender outlook may differ. No way in hell can you talk to them and have them "hear" your words as you intend. When storytelling, the audience reaction causes you to adjust your performance to achieve what you hope to. But you're not with the reader, so you're shooting blind.

    In short, the way to solve that problem is to make the reader see the scene through the lens of the protagonist's experience, background, and gender. But since no one tells us in our schooling that the problem exists, we don't seek the solution to what we don't see as a problem. And when you read that story you perform it, and fill in any missing blanks because you already know the story. So for you it sings. One of my articles, What in the Hell is POV? might clarify why viewpoint matters so much.

    I know this isn't even close to the kind of news you're hoping to hear, and for that I'm sorry. But the simple fact is that if we want to write like a pro we need to know what the pro knows. The tricks aren't hard to learn (perfecting them though, is a bitch), and they're easy to find (and free in the local library). I think my favorite Mark Twain quote says it all, “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.” So time spent erasing a few "just ain's so" issues would be time well spent.

    But whatever you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.

  3. #3
    The indication of there being something mysterious in the woods is an interesting idea.

    I enjoyed reading it and wanted to provide a few comments.

    The beginning has a lot of information about her running and I don’t see how these details move the story along or engage the reader with a hook to want to keep reading. At least to me, the hook seemed to come near the end when you talk about the possibility of dark and secret things on the island and her reluctance to send the letter to Liam. Maybe she could be thinking about these thoughts at the summit. That would bring the thought of the dark and secret things to the beginning of the story. Then you could end with the wolf sighting and the thinking that maybe these things do exist.

    I also found it hard to associate with the MC when she is simply called “the girl” at the beginning. I have done stories like this before and have read many of other people’s work where they do the same thing. The common criticism of this technique is that the reader has a difficult time associating with the MC. For this story, adding Grier’s name right at the beginning would be beneficial.

    In the beginning, you talk about the way the island looks, which helps setting the backdrop but I have no idea where the island is located? When you talk about the volcanic earth, I immediately placed the island more in a Hawaii type setting and not the North Sea. Are there volcanic islands in the North Sea? A little explanation of where the island is located would be helpful.

    Why was she shivering when she had just finished reaching the summit? In my experience with mountaineering you usually only shiver when a cold wind strikes your sweat soaked clothes or if the surrounding air is already cold and you have stopped exhorting yourself. Shivering could also come from dehydration. One of these reasons would help to explain this. I see that you later mention a cold wind from the North Sea. Maybe that could be incorporated earlier.

    You also mention that she vomited on the slope but in the next line she spits out her gum. This seems like a continuity issue.


    Quote Originally Posted by archer88iv View Post
    Just as she was praying for an excuse to leave, someone else under the canopy gave a shout.

    "My God, did you see that?"

    Grier spun on the bench, startled by the tone of alarm in Dr. Hansen's voice. He stood now, pointing at a break in the trees to the east where Grier had been running earlier. There was nothing there now.

    This dialogue was a bit confusing. You said it came from someone under the canopy and then you talk about Dr. Hansen. It might be easier to follow if she looks at the someone under the canopy and recognizes that it is Dr. Hansen and then have her eyes follow to where he is pointing in the trees.

    If Grier is an archaeologist, what is she looking for? You leave the reason for the scientific camp a bit vague. You say they are studying Vikings but results show there has never been a permanent settlement. Yet Dr. Jacobs wants Grier to stay on for the rest of the summer. Is there a reason for this? Does Dr. Jacobs believe that there could be something else on this island? Some of this could be fleshed out and possibly associated to the dark and secret things. Or is Grier the only one who thinks about the possibility of wolves, witches and devils?

    These are just a couple of things that stood out to me. I hope these comments are helpful because I think you have a really good setup for a much longer story. Is there more to this story? You list it as scene 1. Will you post more?

  4. #4
    no, i won't post more
    Don't take my advice personally. Also don't expect me to provide disclaimers like, "Just my opinion, but..." You should know that by now.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by archer88iv View Post
    no, i won't post more

    That is too bad.

    I would like to see where you are going with this.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by archer88iv View Post
    fucking sick of this shit
    It's hard...agreed. Frustrating, too. You're working hard, and putting in so much of yourself that any criticism feels like someone has called your favorite child ugly. So you try harder to tell your story in an entertaining way. And again it's beautiful—and again they somehow, can't see what is so obvious to you.

    But...no matter how hard you try to solve the wrong problem you can never succeed. Never. There's nothing wrong with your use of language. your imagery is good. The problem is that just as you've been taught, you're focused on telling the reader a story, when they want to be made to live it. You're explaining what's on the screen the reader cannot see. And because the approach is outside-in, you are writing without consulting the protagonist to find out what she wants and needs to do. You might want to look at my article, Inside Out because it expands on that, as well as explaining why anything else tends to distort the communication channel between writer and reader.

    You open the story in media res, with her racing up the mountain. You know why she's up there, and why she feels she must be. So for you, she's motivated to move as she does. For the reader she just does what's described—reason unknown. You have reason to care if she makes it to the top. We don't know where she's bound till she arrives. So will we share her elation when she gets there? No. She doesn't even have a name. You called her "girl." So we know she's too young to be seen as a woman. But how old is that, and why did you have to make that distinction? In some societies a girl becomes a woman, and has the responsibilities of one, on the day she becomes capable of bearing a child. So she's somewhere between nearly thirteen and around eighteen—if she's human. And also if she's on Earth. If she's living on a world with a different year/day length her age changes, tjhough not her title. She knows all this. The people in her society know it. Those in the story who see her know on sight. You know it. But what about the people you wrote this for? They have not a hint, because you're presenting the storyteller's view, not here's. And that's critical (again I suggest an article, What in the Hell is POV? because this post is already long.

    In her view, she might "stretch her sixteen year old frame to the utmost" to reach a handhold, as she checks behind her to see if the sky is clear. And having done that, what she notices tells us a storm is coming, without you having to step on stage, kill the realism, and tell the reader what you see. So with a simple look as she climbs, and we, incidentally, learn her age and the weather as it applies to her. When you tell the reader it may storm the reader has no way of knowing what it means to the story, if anything. But when she looks she's guesstimating if she has time to reach the top before it strikes, and thinking in terms of if she has to change her route, etc. And given that it's her story, and she has to survive all the crap you're going to toss at her, doesn't it make sense to get out of her way and let her handle what comes? After, the fact that she doesn't turn to you and say, "Who the hell are you, why are you talking about me, and how are you moving with me without having to take a step?" says that this is not her living the story, only you explaining it.

    My point? You have the chops and the desire. And, you apparently have the time. What you're missing is all the things our teachers didn't tell us about writing fiction to the page—which is pretty much everything. So it's not a matter of talent or the story, it's that there's an entire profession's worth of tricks-of-the-trade out there that no one tells us exists during our school days. But that's true of any profession you haven't dug into.

    So there you are. Simple: add the knowledge they didn't give us and you have the tools and knowledge of how to use them that you need, and presently lack. For all we know you're dribbling talent on the floor as you walk by. You may have the greatest novel ever written waiting inside you. But neither of us will know that until you provide that potential with the tools and training it needs. So why not give it a shot?

    As I usually do, I'm suggesting you pick up a copy of Dwight Swain's,Techniques of the Selling Writer. I do that for three reasons. First, I've found nothing better. It's filled with good solid advice and analysis, rather than what I see so much in books on writing technique: "Here, read this excerpt from one of my novels, and then I'll tell you why it's so great. Second, because of what it did for me. But third is: about a year ago on another site, I had a go-around with a man who was certain that he was writing well, and that we learned all we need know in our school years and by reading. He was angry because though he kept "improving the work," as a "I'll show him," effort, I kept saying that he was telling when he should be inviting the reader into the protagonist's viewpoint. And as part of that I suggested Swain's book. Finally, he bought a copy, planning to read it and point out all the places where the advice was wrong, and that the issues he raised weren't relevant to today's fiction, and didn't didn't appear in popular fiction.

    That was his goal. What actually happened, was that he ended up selling his first novel, and thanking me on the dedications page. That was cool because though I've helped more than a few to publication, no one had ever done that before. So I'm hoping that if you do read it, and begin selling your work you'll include a, "Thanks Jay," in it.

    Keep in mind that if you learn something new about writing every day, you change the ratio of crap to gold in your work for the better by just a little. And if you live long enough... So hang in there, and keep on writing. The world needs more crazies like us, who can be looking out the window, and when asked what we're doing, can truly say, "working."

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greenstein View Post
    It's hard...agreed. Frustrating, too. You're working hard, and putting in so much of yourself that any criticism feels like someone has called your favorite child ugly. So you try harder to tell your story in an entertaining way. And again it's beautiful—and again they somehow, can't see what is so obvious to you.
    <SNIP>
    Unfortunately, this is meaningless to someone who is coming late to the party because the OP deleted it by the time I arrived.
    A pity, because I would like to have seen it.


  8. #8
    It really is unfortunate that the story was deleted. I thought it was quite interesting and I would have liked to see where the OP was going with it.

  9. #9
    [deleted as fuck]
    Last edited by archer88iv; December 22nd, 2017 at 08:31 PM. Reason: don't know why the fuck i'm even talking.
    Don't take my advice personally. Also don't expect me to provide disclaimers like, "Just my opinion, but..." You should know that by now.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by archer88iv View Post
    [deleted as fuck]


    hummmm.... well, maybe you need to put your story away for awhile.... take a break, and come back later, when you can be more objective...more objective about your work, and more objective about the critique you received.... I can see how much effort went in to the replies you received, and there were some complimentary things said along with the advice.... no one was rude.... I believe each post was a genuine effort to help a fellow writer... That's why I love this place, it really is a community, supportive and caring... lots of cool people here who are serious about their work.... and yours

    Hang in there, set this aside... this time of the year can be so tuff to deal with, but NOTHING stays the same...and the bad times will move on... stay strong! Circle your wagons and hunker down until the Calvary arrives yeah, I love those old western movies, where the good guy always wins.. * HUGS*....from your friend Julia, AKA FiremaJic... peace....
    She lost herself in the trees,
    among the ever-changing leaves.
    She wept beneath the wild sky
    as stars told stories of ancient times.
    The flowers grew toward her light,
    the river called her name at night.
    She could not live an ordinary life,
    with the mysteries of the universe
    hidden in her eyes....
    Author: Christy Ann Martine

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    love leaves a memory no one can steal....
    Author unknown.

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