A page to ponder; literary fiction

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Serzen
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by Serzen » February 16th, 2010, 10:49 am

Ghost in the Machine wrote:Serzen,

After reading your post on my comments, I feel like a chastised child. Not that I don’t deserve it. However, in my defense, you did invite us to “play with” your work. And that’s all I was trying to do—just play. If you give a toddler an object with no context or instruction, the results will be unpredictable. A flute, for example, may never find its way into their mouth, they’d be just as likely take it and scratch shapes in the dirt or bludgeon their brother. I’ll give you back your toy now and trouble you no further.

As for the “whites’ bosses”, I saw the apostrophe and I did not think for one second this passage was referring to slavery. For months now, I’ve been reading about slavery in the years leading up to the civil war as research for my next book. Needless to say, it’s been on my mind.

You can’t control the associations your writing may evoke, but I hope you can control yourself. If someone accused me of racism, I would probably walk away, red in the face, and find a quiet corner to burst into gales of hysterical laughter. For I may be a “whiter shade of pale”, but my dear spouse of many years has skin on the other side of the spectrum. Remedial reading aside, if you want to punish someone, send them back to the seventh grade instead of the second. Now that would be harsh.

Ghost
I did invite everyone to play along. And I rather apologize if you thought I was going to take my ball and go home...I just wanted to point out that it wasn't really a ball, but a jump rope. It doesn't bounce well, but it's way better for playing Cowboys and Indians. There was no chastisement.

As I wrestle my burden to the top of this slope, I spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways it can roll back down. Some of my recent reading, and more than a few personal conversations have revolved around reading not just being a skill but also a craft every bit as complex as writing. I'm not one of these people who gets hung up on things like "Oh, the author said 'he bought a red flower', I wonder what he means by 'red'?" but I do believe in reading things as many times as I need to in order to see everything that's going on. "He bought a red flower, not because he likes them but because his mom does."

And, for the record, second grade was far more difficult for me. I was so heavily medicated due to very severe allergies that my six hours in the classroom felt like fourteen or more. By seventh grade they'd come out with different pills and I could get on with the business of whatever it is public schools do to kids. Besides, I thought algebra was neat (letters for numbers? awesome) and my French teacher was cute. It made things better.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by GeeGee55 » February 20th, 2010, 12:30 am

Two suggestions: Begin with this sentence - it's stronger, the voice is stronger.

This place didn’t smell fresh the day it was built, no reason it should today.

The tone is good throughout the piece.

Secondly, I'd suggest shortening the title to "Before a Broken Mirror" the standing is kind of obvious

Good though, and a difficult subject, good luck with it

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Trw78Writes
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by Trw78Writes » February 20th, 2010, 1:36 pm

I disagree with the setup of the mental institution. Personally, I know all too well what goes on in there. Save for making myself look crazy I will tell you people are allowed to wear their own clothes in these places, not every staff member is out to get someone, albeit, there is a large part of the market looking to keep people in just to get the taxpayer dollars that come with it. If you know a lot about this type of thing, I'd say go ahead and write what you will. I'm looking for some truth. That's basically what I'm saying. What period was this written in? 1960's? 1950's? Then it would be believable, although they were still allowed to wear their own clothes back then, or at least at the place they called the Pennsylvania State Lunatics Asylum, back in those days. And they aren't institutions they are state hospitals, for accuracy. If this is a current setting it isn't plausible. I like the description and the names given to each class of person but the plausibility is lacking for me, this from experience.
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Serzen
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by Serzen » February 20th, 2010, 11:03 pm

Trw78Writes wrote:I disagree with the setup of the mental institution. Personally, I know all too well what goes on in there. Save for making myself look crazy I will tell you people are allowed to wear their own clothes in these places, not every staff member is out to get someone, albeit, there is a large part of the market looking to keep people in just to get the taxpayer dollars that come with it. If you know a lot about this type of thing, I'd say go ahead and write what you will. I'm looking for some truth. That's basically what I'm saying. What period was this written in? 1960's? 1950's? Then it would be believable, although they were still allowed to wear their own clothes back then, or at least at the place they called the Pennsylvania State Lunatics Asylum, back in those days. And they aren't institutions they are state hospitals, for accuracy. If this is a current setting it isn't plausible. I like the description and the names given to each class of person but the plausibility is lacking for me, this from experience.
Thanks for the input. Let me try and muddle through what's going on in the passage I offered up.

The scene takes place at an unspecified period of time and in an unnamed place. The bulk of the novel takes place in a more or less modern world, but this is a one off mental break. It is, quite likely, not real but an hallucination experienced by an already damaged mind. It is possible that the scene is a memory, yes, but the facts are never touched upon. The goal was to create unease, paranoia and haunting, but not to evoke reality; rather, this is the first evidence given that reality is not what is being depicted.

Here in NY we call them 'State Hospitals' as well. I've no experience with places that specialize in caring for any mental disorder other than dementia, so I can't speak to the quality of care. Again, it's a hypothetical. Perhaps real, perhaps delusion.

Unfortunately plausibility might be lacking if one views the passage from a strict point, but if one allows the rest of the narrative (I know, I only posted an out of context snippet) to carry it, I hope that one finds it works. Some of us have a hard time adjusting ourselves, though. Mrs Serzen gives me no end of grief because I point out that they have stirrups in GLADIATOR, despite the historical fact that they weren't introduced to Rome for several more centuries. It bugs me to no end. If this passage, even as a form of escapism, invokes the same in you I can only say that I hope the rest of the book is able to strike a chord somewhere. If not, I apologize for not writing the book as well as I wanted. I truly wanted to find something for everyone.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Trw78Writes
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by Trw78Writes » April 15th, 2010, 9:03 pm

I don't remember if this was a beginning passage but it would help to clarify things for the reader, if this is the case. When you are first reading a book, you take everything at face value, unless a review or a blurb specifies otherwise. I know this is supposed to be "literary" fiction, I write it too, but you are forcing opacity when everything should meld together and be written as smoothly as possible, especially in the first bits (if this is the case). Also, it would be wise to except the criticism graciously. I've learned in class that defending your work is not the best solution to adverse opinions of your work. Accept what you deem is helpful and toss the rest, but be gracious about it. To tell someone they would need to go back to 2nd grade to get a grip on that aspect of your book (whites' bosses) is just plain insulting.
My work:
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Pure Slush, Slut and Notausgang Issues- http://bit.ly/twhite-pureslush
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Blog: http://collegelackey.com

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marilyn peake
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by marilyn peake » April 15th, 2010, 9:53 pm

Serzen,

That is awesome and chilling. Very sad and ominous, mysterious. Although written about a different type of patient and institution than those in NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, your excerpt reminded me of that novel. Excellent!

There might be a typo. In the third paragraph, should “You know that happens here, though.” actually be: “You know that never happens here, though.”
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

Serzen
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by Serzen » April 15th, 2010, 10:56 pm

Trw78Writes wrote:I don't remember if this was a beginning passage but it would help to clarify things for the reader, if this is the case. When you are first reading a book, you take everything at face value, unless a review or a blurb specifies otherwise. I know this is supposed to be "literary" fiction, I write it too, but you are forcing opacity when everything should meld together and be written as smoothly as possible, especially in the first bits (if this is the case). Also, it would be wise to except the criticism graciously. I've learned in class that defending your work is not the best solution to adverse opinions of your work. Accept what you deem is helpful and toss the rest, but be gracious about it. To tell someone they would need to go back to 2nd grade to get a grip on that aspect of your book (whites' bosses) is just plain insulting.
Thanks for revisiting the thread. The passage originally quoted (typo safely removed) occurs in my current revisionist draft on pages 17 and 18. It follows an introduction/prologue (which might wind up getting cut) and happens some several pages into chapter 3. It is, as I say, a simple stand-alone vignette written solely because it advances tone rather than plot.

As to the criticism, I normally accept it well, so long as people remember that criticism and opinion are not the same thing. But during the few days that were the early exchanges of this thread I was also going through a lot. A grandfather who fell and broke his hip--outdoors, in 15 degree weather, so he got hypothermia on top of the break--as well as Mrs Serzen getting in a car accident that wound up busting her radiator (the car troubles were multiplied when the transmission in another failed and the starter in the third went kaput). There were a lot of things that I wanted to punch that week. I let it show. I'm human.
marilyn peake wrote: That is awesome and chilling. Very sad and ominous, mysterious. Although written about a different type of patient and institution than those in NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, your excerpt reminded me of that novel. Excellent!

There might be a typo. In the third paragraph, should “You know that happens here, though.” actually be: “You know that never happens here, though.”
Thanks, Marilyn. I'm glad the passage is still working for people. Re: the third paragraph. The line should be "You know what happens here, though."

I revisited The Institution for the story of "Earnest Ben," albeit with different characters. (see the blog if you're interested) I'm kind of thinking the place might become a character of its own for me to mine for additional material. We'll see after BROKEN MIRROR is totally wrapped up.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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marilyn peake
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by marilyn peake » April 15th, 2010, 11:39 pm

Serzen,

Ahhhh ... "You know what happens here, though." sounds good. Good luck with this! Sounds like a haunting and intriguing story.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Trw78Writes
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by Trw78Writes » April 16th, 2010, 6:03 pm

Well, Serazen, I'm glad things are better? I hope that they are. No one deserves to be that stressed out, with so many things happening to loved ones.
I have a suggestion. Before you cut the prologue/intro why don't you post it to see if it works? Maybe other people's criticism and direction can give you a sense of if it should be cut or if it just needs tweaking. Just a suggestion.
My work:
Connotation Press- http://bit.ly/twhite-fiction
Pure Slush, Slut and Notausgang Issues- http://bit.ly/twhite-pureslush
Grit Fiction- http://bit.ly/twhiteveronica
Blog: http://collegelackey.com

Serzen
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Re: A page to ponder; literary fiction

Post by Serzen » April 16th, 2010, 10:22 pm

Trw78,

Thanks. Things are better. Or as better as they're likely to be which is, frankly, good enough.

I've got the full text going out tonight to a couple of people, intro and outro included. I may very well post them here as well next week. I want to sit on them a little longer and see if I'm still unhappy about them.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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