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Distopia on the Plains- Chp 2 (688 words) (1 Viewer)

Quester

Senior Member
Chapter 2
Finishing the meal of catfish and corn, they rested in comfortable silence. Enjoying the summer
breeze near the heat of the fire pit, the man said "You might want to get the fish to the widow
Martin". The boy nodded and arose saying, "You're right, be back in an hour". He picked up the
container of grilled fish and placed it in the bicycles basket. After readjusting his gun, the boy got
on his bike and set off for town. The middle aged man watched the him peddle down the gravel
road, until lost in the high grass bordering the road. Looking over the cropped grass in the yard,
with the occasional bleat of a contented goat, he smiled. Many goats, kept the area mowed better
than his old lawnmower. Noticing his beloved truck resting on flat tires, reminded him of better times
The man rose from his chair and moved toward the farm house door.


He rarely thought of the men he killed in the house, with the exception of the cop named Mike
Cooper. Cooper had killed Jennie, of this he was sure He would always remember him.


Passing into his office, he immediately felt better. The office was his favorite place in the old
house. Oak wood floors, with an oval Persian rug in the middle of the room, and his Globe lawyer's
bookcase, holding his many books. They were a treasure to him. Calculus, American History, and
Mountain Man studies rested on a different shelf. On top of the desk, was a slide rule and a abacus
for calculations.. The unfinished rotational town security schedule remained undone for the next
week, and stared at him from the desktop.


Glancing out the picture window, there was no sign of John. He was a good boy, thought the
man, remembering when he and the boy first met.


Still in the depth of sorrow over the loss of Jenny and the life he had known, an acquaintance
from the nearby town of Bittlerville came to visit with her young son John.


"Mr. Stewart, I have no choice but to make a journey to find my husband. I..We are lost without
him." Wyatt Stewart broke his fixation on the field, and stopped rocking the chair. Turning towards
the woman, "Maam, I am unfit to watch your son. I am lost without my wife and I am recovering from
wounds. You don't want me. Some in town say I am a murderer, and I don't know that they 're wrong".


His words hung in the air for a moment. She moved forward a few steps from John, connecting
with his eyes and spoke with quiet intensity. "Many more will die along with the cowards that killed
Jennie. I don't care what they say in town. I need a strong man to take care of and raise my son, if
I don't make it back. I intend to come back, but I don't know what will happen. I need to be sure my
son will be safe, and he will be, with you". After another second of eye contact, Mary Osborne turned
toward John, and kneeled to his level."Momma will be back as soon she can. Mr. Stewart will take care
of you, while I go for Daddy. Be a good boy, and I will be back soon" Mary forced a smile, choking
back tears. "Do whatever he says". Steeling herself, Mary stepped quickly towards her tethered horse
by the road. Climbing in the saddle, she turned once toward the porch, and then galloped down the road.


The sound of the hooves gradually disappeared, leaving the man in the chair and a standing child.
They stared at one another for a while, with the man breaking eye contact first. "Oh man" Rubbing his
face with his hands, "Ok boy. How about I show you to your room, so that you can get settled. Come on
now". Wyatt gingerly rose from the rocking chair, and made it to the door, opening it. "Come now" The
boy stared for a moment more, and then walked into the house.
 

Folcro

Creative Area Specialist (Fiction)
WF Veterans
Are you a poet? You write like one who cares very much for cadence. Too much. It gets in the way of the narrative. I had a similar problem in my earlier years. I was worried that the story wasn't unique or good enough. I lost focus of the plot and character development. I became so obsessed with how I wrote that I lost sight of what I was writing. In spite of what others have said, I deeply feel that there is too much telling and not enough showing.

Some examples:

GOOD: Wyatt Stewart broke his fixation on the field, and stopped rocking the chair

BAD: "I am recovering from wounds"

GOOD: They stared at one another for a while, with the man breaking eye contact first. (Though I would change the wording a bit. Still, it SHOWS, instead of tells).

BAD: They were a treasure to him. (This is telling. SHOWING that there are sitting on a clean bookshelf is enough).

Still in the depth of sorrow over the loss of Jenny and the life he had known, an acquaintance from the nearby town of Bittlerville came to visit with her young son John. You seem to like this sentence structure. I have to say I don't. This time, it's a dangling modifier.

You're doing well. You have the foundation of a story. That is the most important thing. Now give the plot a break and show me who these people are. Show me the world they are in--- I'm not feeling like I'm in my place yet.
 

Kehawin

Senior Member
Good stuff. Quester. Some style and tone suggestions below (again, I have put additions in brackets and deletions in parentheses):
Chapter 2
[After they] Finish[ed](ing) the meal of catfish and corn, they rested in comfortable silence. Enjoying the summer
breeze near the heat of the fire pit, the man said "You might want to get the fish to the widow
Martin". The boy nodded and arose (saying), "You're right[yes sir], be back in an hour". He picked up the
container[? what kind of container?] of grilled fish and placed it in the bicycle[']s basket. After readjusting his gun, the boy got
on his bike and set off for town. The middle aged man watched the him peddle down the gravel
road, until lost in the high grass bordering the road [road here is repetitive. A rephrase such as "the man watched as the boy peddled down the gravel road until the boy was lost behind the grass that bordered it" Or something]. Looking over the cropped grass in the yard,
(with the occasional bleat of a contented goat - this is out of place), he smiled. [Having] Many goats(,) kept the area mowed better
than his old lawnmower [had]. [As his eyes passed over] (Noticing) his beloved truck resting on flat tires, [he was] reminded (him) of better times[.]
The man rose from his chair and moved toward the farm house door.


He rarely thought of the men he [had] killed in the house, with the exception of the cop named Mike
Cooper. Cooper had killed Jennie, of this he was sure[.] He would always remember him. [Him, he would never forget.]


Passing into his office, he immediately felt better. The office was his favorite place in the old
house. Oak wood floors, with an oval Persian rug in the middle of the room, and his Globe lawyer's
bookcase, holding his (many - better adjective would be more powerful) books. They were a treasure to him. Calculus, American History, and
Mountain Man studies rested on (a) different shel[ves](f). On top of the desk(, was) [sat] a slide rule and a abacus
for calculations.. The unfinished rotational town security schedule [for the next week] remained undone (for the next
week,) and stared [accusingly] at him from the desktop.


Glancing out the picture window, there was no sign of John. He was a good boy, thought the
man, remembering when he and the boy [had] first met.


Still in the depth of sorrow over the loss of Jenny and the life he had known, an acquaintance
from the nearby town of Bittlerville came to visit with her young son John.


"Mr. Stewart, I have no choice but to make a journey to find my husband. I..We are lost without
him." Wyatt Stewart broke his fixation on the field, and stopped rocking the chair. Turning towards
the woman, "Ma[']am, I am unfit to watch your son. I [too] am lost without my wife(,) and I am recovering from
wounds. You don't want me. Some in town say I am a murderer, and I don't know that they( )'re wrong".


His words hung in the air for a moment. She moved forward a few steps from John, connecting
with his eyes and spoke with quiet intensity. "Many more will die along with the cowards that killed
Jennie. I don't care what they say in town. I need a strong man to take care of and raise my [boy](son), if
I don't make it back. I intend to come back, but I don't know what will happen. I need to be sure my
son will be safe, and he will be, with you". After another second of eye contact, Mary Osborne turned
toward John, and kneeled to his level."Momma will be back as soon she can. Mr. Stewart will take care
of you, while I go for Daddy. Be a good boy, and I will be back soon" Mary forced a smile, choking
back tears. "Do whatever he says". Steeling herself, Mary stepped quickly towards her tethered horse
by the road. Climbing in the saddle, she turned once toward the porch, and then galloped down the road.


The sound of the hooves [had] gradually disappeared, leaving the man in the chair and a standing child.
They stared at one another for a while, with the man breaking eye contact first. "Oh man" Rubbing his
face with his hands, "Ok boy. How about I show you to your room, so that you can get settled. Come on
now". Wyatt gingerly rose from the rocking chair, and made it to the door, opening it. "Come now" The
boy stared for a moment more, and then walked into the house.

I'm a stickler for grammar in narrative (when you are talking about the past, and in that past you remember even further past, the verb should have "had" in front of it or the appropriate case of course. This is a stylistic thing, and your choice, but it made me have to re-read several times)

Hope it helps, I think it's a compelling story so far!
 

Quester

Senior Member
Are you a poet? You write like one who cares very much for cadence. Too much. It gets in the way of the narrative. I had a similar problem in my earlier years. I was worried that the story wasn't unique or good enough. I lost focus of the plot and character development. I became so obsessed with how I wrote that I lost sight of what I was writing. In spite of what others have said, I deeply feel that there is too much telling and not enough showing.

Some examples:

GOOD: Wyatt Stewart broke his fixation on the field, and stopped rocking the chair

BAD: "I am recovering from wounds"

GOOD: They stared at one another for a while, with the man breaking eye contact first. (Though I would change the wording a bit. Still, it SHOWS, instead of tells).

BAD: They were a treasure to him. (This is telling. SHOWING that there are sitting on a clean bookshelf is enough).

Still in the depth of sorrow over the loss of Jenny and the life he had known, an acquaintance from the nearby town of Bittlerville came to visit with her young son John. You seem to like this sentence structure. I have to say I don't. This time, it's a dangling modifier.

You're doing well. You have the foundation of a story. That is the most important thing. Now give the plot a break and show me who these people are. Show me the world they are in--- I'm not feeling like I'm in my place yet.
ing

I do like poetic language, so I didn't like your comments at first. Yet, there is merit in "showing" more than "telling". The sentence structure I sometimes use, comes from that poetic style. I am influenced by writers that use a poetic style, one of which is Louis LaMour. I cut this chapter in half, making two from one. In the next two chapters, there is much more character development and daily routine in a distopian world.

Thanks for saying things I don't like to hear (I mean that). I have a writing "voice". I do want to be better, but I also don't want to lose that inner voice....There is a balance somewhere!
 
Last edited:

reverend ben

Senior Member
dialogue

Sorry if this is too harsh. I'm trying to be constructive.


I think the story is good, but I agree that the telling of it is a little shaky.

The thing that slowed my reading down was the dialogue.
The main thing that I noticed was the persistent use of "I am". It's awfully formal. Given the situation, I would think "I'm" would work a little better. More basic than that though is that the "I am" statement is a little unnatural in conversation.
Even in a confrontational and interview-y dialogue like this scene with Wyatt and Mary, the plain laying out of facts in conversation feels weird. It makes the characters seem like they are there like puppets. It would be more natural for the characters to hint at their explicit meaning, by having it be implicit in the slightly off topic things that they say.
:)
 

Jeko

WF Veterans
I agree with a lot of the comments above. This suffers from a slow pace due to both the poetic style and the dialogue. The overall effect, for me, was like I was being cuddled by the narrative. Maybe it does feel nice, but it's not exciting, it doesn't let me move around and the narrative that's cuddling me isn't attention-grabbing or interesting enough for me to allow it to cuddle me; I couldn't read it all.

On the positive side, the prose avoids being too purple. Improving the tone to make it more readable and the dialogue to make it more natural would help this piece breathe a lot more. You clearly have a good hold on the English language. It's your tone, mainly, that needs work. I would advise reading widely to help incorporate a more modern voice.
 

Jon M

WF Veterans
Thought this was pretty good. Full of specifics. I admit I don't see where others are criticizing your overly poetic style -- to be honest, I've read plenty of stuff that had more poetry in it than this. Which is not to say I think this is bad. Far from it, actually. Very solid writing style that just needs to be cleaned up more. Some of your sentences, because of their construction, suggest two simultaneous actions which cannot actually happen. The first sentence is an example. It's a minor nit, but they finish the meal and then rest in silence. Revised, the sentence would be better this way, "The meal of catfish and corn finished, they rested in comfortable silence" or somesuch.

Also don't agree with the "Show, don't tell" advice. Personal pet peeve of mine, I guess. I think you're doing perfectly fine here. Putting so much emphasis on "showing", or dramatizing everything, can puff up the wordcount with a bunch of meaningless description. Sometimes it's just best to get to the point and, for example, say "They were a treasure to him" or "They were something he treasured".

Agree concerning the dialogue, though. Use of contractions (I am - I'm) goes a long way toward making the prose feel natural, authentic.
 

Folcro

Creative Area Specialist (Fiction)
WF Veterans
dramatizing everything, can puff up the wordcount with a bunch of meaningless description.

Meaningful description is more effective than meaningful exposition. Just my opinion.
 

Quester

Senior Member
Folcro, and others.....Here is one rewrite..Better, or worse?

Chapter 2
Finishing the meal of catfish and corn, they enjoyed the summer breeze in the shade. "You might
want to get the fish to the widow Martin pretty soon".

The boy nodded and rose saying, "I was just going...be back in an hour".

He picked up the container of grilled fish and placed it in the bicycle's basket. After readjusting
his gun, the boy got on his bike and set off for town. The man watched him weaving down the
gravel road, until lost in the high grass. Getting up himself, he brushed by the goats feeding
around his dead truck. He sure missed the truck. He gave it a pat, as he neared the farm house
door.

The house still held good memories, except for Jenny's killer. He'd never forget the rogue cop,
named Mike Cooper. How could he?

Passing into his office, he took a seat behind his desk. Looking around the office, he
remembered how Jenny insisted that he have it when they remodeled the house. It was his room,
with wood floors and mission furniture. Jenny hated mission style, but she let him have the room
the way he wanted it. He moved the Calculus and American History books into vacant slots in
the lawyers bookcase, near his worthless TI Scientific Calculator. With the books gone, the
rotational security schedule glared at him, from the desk top. Wrinkling his nose at the thought,
he turned his head to look out the window for John. He's a good kid.

Staring in thought, he acknowledged that the kid saved him all those years ago.

"Mr. Stewart, I have to find my husband. Can you help me?"

Wyatt Stewart broke his fixation on the field, and stopped rocking the chair.
He turned towards the woman with effort, and said "No. Now please leave" . He
turned again towards the wheat.

His words hung in the air for a moment. She moved from her son to stand in
front of him and spoke with quiet intensity. "You have to. It's crazy up there, and
you know it. No one believes you, but I do. I DO!

Wyatt shook his bandaged head, with closed eyes. "Please leave me alone"

"No." said Mary Osborne. "Pastor Hinkle told me to come to you, and I trust
him. He said he is your friend, and that it would be a favor to him if you watched
John for me."

"Mary, that's unfair..", but Wyattt knew what he owed Peanut.

She turned toward John, and kneeled to his level."Momma will be back as soon
she can. Mr. Stewart will take care of you, while I go for Daddy. Be a good boy, and
I will be back soon". Mary forced a smile, choking back tears. "Do whatever he says".
Looking back at Wyatt, "One or two days, Mr. Stewart." Steeling herself, Mary
stepped quickly towards her tethered horse by the road. Climbing in the saddle, she
turned once toward the porch, and then galloped down the road.

The sound of the hooves gradually disappeared, leaving the man in the chair and a
standing child. They stared at one another for a while, with the man breaking eye
contact. "Oh man" Rubbing his face with his hands, "Ok boy. How about I show you to
your room, so that you can get settled. Come on now". Wyatt gingerly rose from the
rocking chair, and made it to the door, opening it. "Come now" The boy stared for a
moment, and then walked into the house.
 

reverend ben

Senior Member
rewrite

Hey! I liked this much better. Wyatt's brevity really brings out his... sorry having trouble naming that emotion right now.

It's good.

Folcro, and others.....Here is one rewrite..Better, or worse?

Chapter 2
Finishing the meal of catfish and corn, they enjoyed the summer breeze in the shade. "You might
want to get the fish to the widow Martin pretty soon".

The boy nodded and rose saying, "I was just going...be back in an hour".

He picked up the container of grilled fish and placed it in the bicycle's basket. After readjusting
his gun, the boy got on his bike and set off for town. The man watched him weaving down the
gravel road, until lost in the high grass. Getting up himself, he brushed by the goats feeding
around his dead truck. He sure missed the truck. He gave it a pat, as he neared the farm house
door.

The house still held good memories, except for Jenny's killer. He'd never forget the rogue cop,
named Mike Cooper. How could he?

Passing into his office, he took a seat behind his desk. Looking around the office, he
remembered how Jenny insisted that he have it when they remodeled the house. It was his room,
with wood floors and mission furniture. Jenny hated mission style, but she let him have the room
the way he wanted it. He moved the Calculus and American History books into vacant slots in
the lawyers bookcase, near his worthless TI Scientific Calculator. With the books gone, the
rotational security schedule glared at him, from the desk top. Wrinkling his nose at the thought,
he turned his head to look out the window for John. He's a good kid.

Staring in thought, he acknowledged that the kid saved him all those years ago.

"Mr. Stewart, I have to find my husband. Can you help me?"

Wyatt Stewart broke his fixation on the field, and stopped rocking the chair.
He turned towards the woman with effort, and said "No. Now please leave" . He
turned again towards the wheat.

His words hung in the air for a moment. She moved from her son to stand in
front of him and spoke with quiet intensity. "You have to. It's crazy up there, and
you know it. No one believes you, but I do. I DO!

Wyatt shook his bandaged head, with closed eyes. "Please leave me alone"

"No." said Mary Osborne. "Pastor Hinkle told me to come to you, and I trust
him. He said he is your friend, and that it would be a favor to him if you watched
John for me."

"Mary, that's unfair..", but Wyattt knew what he owed Peanut.

She turned toward John, and kneeled to his level."Momma will be back as soon
she can. Mr. Stewart will take care of you, while I go for Daddy. Be a good boy, and
I will be back soon". Mary forced a smile, choking back tears. "Do whatever he says".
Looking back at Wyatt, "One or two days, Mr. Stewart." Steeling herself, Mary
stepped quickly towards her tethered horse by the road. Climbing in the saddle, she
turned once toward the porch, and then galloped down the road.

The sound of the hooves gradually disappeared, leaving the man in the chair and a
standing child. They stared at one another for a while, with the man breaking eye
contact. "Oh man" Rubbing his face with his hands, "Ok boy. How about I show you to
your room, so that you can get settled. Come on now". Wyatt gingerly rose from the
rocking chair, and made it to the door, opening it. "Come now" The boy stared for a
moment, and then walked into the house.
 

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