250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

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polymath
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by polymath » July 29th, 2011, 10:02 pm

Sanderling wrote:I find this fascinating, polymath. I loved the lyrical prose of Writecastlesinthesky's piece, but admit it would be the one I'd be the least likely to pick up in a store for exactly the same reason. I don't want a story I have to work too hard to understand, and I find a lot of the more lyrical literary fiction, while beautiful, makes me have to work to understand what's going on more than I'd like. I want to be able to pick up a book and get lost in the story without the prose getting in the way. Maybe that's part of why I gravitate to YA - simple language, simple prose, it's all about the story.
I'm not so much enthused by the lyricalness of the prose so much as the craft of the prose. Yes, it asks for a little more work to understand the action, more than is a best practice regardless of genre and age category. More writer work appreciating the audience's capacity to understand would go a long way toward smoothing out issues I see, unsettled narrative distance, everyday conversational voice, albeit less everyday than the others.

Yes, it's a story but more, plot. Paraphrasing E.M. Forster, The king died and then the queen died, is a story; in other words, a situation. The king died and then out of grief the queen died, is a plot; in other words, a complete dramatic action. The king's death causes the queen's grief, which, in turn, causes her death. Causation in literary terms at its simplest expression, with a begining, middle, and ending. Now, tension and antagonism are other matters. There's causation, tension, and antagonism facets I see in Writecastlesinthesky's piece stronger than the others, albeit asking for more reader work than might be a best practice.
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by Sanderling » July 29th, 2011, 11:25 pm

polymath wrote:Yes, it's a story but more, plot. Paraphrasing E.M. Forster, The king died and then the queen died, is a story; in other words, a situation. The king died and then out of grief the queen died, is a plot; in other words, a complete dramatic action. The king's death causes the queen's grief, which, in turn, causes her death. Causation in literary terms at its simplest expression, with a begining, middle, and ending. Now, tension and antagonism are other matters. There's causation, tension, and antagonism facets I see in Writecastlesinthesky's piece stronger than the others, albeit asking for more reader work than might be a best practice.
You're asking a lot out of 250 words. ;) Especially considering that these are the introductions to works that might be three or four hundred times that length - the goal of the first 250 words isn't necessarily to introduce the tension, etc, as much as it is to pique the reader's interest in the character and setting, at least in my humble opinion. I get what you're saying, though, and I think if we were looking at the first one or two thousand words I'd be inclined to give this more weight, too.
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by polymath » July 29th, 2011, 11:51 pm

Sanderling wrote:You're asking a lot out of 250 words. ;) Especially considering that these are the introductions to works that might be three or four hundred times that length - the goal of the first 250 words isn't necessarily to introduce the tension, etc, as much as it is to pique the reader's interest in the character and setting, at least in my humble opinion. I get what you're saying, though, and I think if we were looking at the first one or two thousand words I'd be inclined to give this more weight, too.
If there's a single facet that must begin a narrative, I'd say it's closing narrative distance so readers engage from the get-go. How it's done has infinite methods. For one, plot doesn't begin moving until the first cause. For another, upsetting emotional equilibrium, which ties to the first cause. For another, a beginning is when a protagonist recognizes something is out of sorts with the cosmos. Another truism I've encountered about narratives but don't know who said it first, 365 days in a year, the day that's different is the story.

Yes, I ask a lot of 250 words. I read like a screener. 250 words is a maunscript's first page and half the second one. That's one page look more generous than what I understand most screening readers will give a manuscript if there's little that's especially engaging. And yet a lot of real estate to scotch consideration if there's shortcomings in style, craft, and voice.
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by glj » July 30th, 2011, 12:23 am

WIZARD SEEKING TROPHY BRIDE

Grandpap was sitting at the table, waiting for me. “Sonny, I have made a decision!” He twirled a hand in the air. “Do you want to know what it is?” He looked at me with those glimmering eyes of his. “I am going to take a wife.”

“A wife, you say?” I picked up the only piece of bread that was not mouldy. “Why tell me this?”

“Because you will help me find my bride. But not just any bride—I will have a maiden most young and fair. A trophy bride!” He thumped his knuckles on the table.

I laughed. “That is outrageous, even for you! You could not obtain any bride, let alone a young and fair one. You are one hundred and forty years of age. And a wizard.” I wiped a drop of mirth from my eye. “Wizard seeking trophy bride? Beautiful and desirable maidens do not marry aged wizards! Has your sleeping potion fermented again?”

“I will find one, and you shall help me!”

“I shall not. I want nothing to do with your crazy schemes. I have schemes of my own to attend to.” It was merely one oddness of his, expecting others to return a favour that he himself would not extend. But I would not help without guarantee of pay.

“I did not offer a choice,” he said in his best wizard’s I-am-about-to-make-you-do-something tone.

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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by AnimaDictio » July 30th, 2011, 12:38 am

Writecastlesinthesky, I like it and I'm curious, but I'm not sure what this sentence means.
The days of his sentence were marked by events in culmination, building upon each other not realizing the beginning until the middle and not the middle until the last stretch until his breath gave out and his legs gave out and his heart collapsed and he ran no more, a vise of iron keeps his heart from beating.
Who or what is "not realizing the beginning until the middle"? Why is the ending phrase in present tense? "a vise of iron keeps..." Is there really iron around his heart right now, while he's squatting near the Kennet?
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dios4diva, I love the world you've created. I can picture it. I would delete two unnecessary sentences. "Personally, I don’t see it." and "Luxuries like that don’t exist down here." Try it and see if you like it without them. Also, I wish the final paragraph had a darker tone. I'd like to be afraid for the missing people, but the way it's written, it seems like a minor annoyance.
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AveryMarsh, this has the potential to be cool. I can picture it. That's good. I just wish there was more here. You can do more in 250 words. For example, she's a "freak." Is that because she runs freakishly fast? Or is 28 MPH merely above average for this sci-fi world? See what I mean? I want stronger bearings. Also, I don't know what this means: "Yes, I am one of a kind, but only by the process of elimination." (Who knows? Maybe I'm an idiot.)
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Sanderling, I love how much story you fit into 250 words. I got right into it. Also, I love the conversational style of the first-person narrator. However, one sentence pulled me out of the story.
For one thing, it’s a small school, the sort of place where gossip moves faster than Mr. Sykes handing out a detention.
Who is your narrator talking to? If the narrator has to explain to the reader that it's a "small school" then how would the reader be familiar with the speed at which Mr. Sykes hands out detention? The logical inconsistency threw me off.
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CharleeVale, yours is my favorite. I'm into it. I want to know about the Vita. I'd prefer that you use "Everyone has some kind of idea..." instead of "We all have some kind of idea..." if you're ending the sentence with "except me." Just makes more sense that way, I think.
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Collectonian, I like the picture of her watching the boys laugh in the distance. I like how you've already set her up as an archetypal outsider. I would recommend that you read the sentences out loud. Some of them sounded awkward in my head, like maybe a comma was missing. Also, there are a few typos that threw me off. No biggie, though. I'm sure this is an early draft.
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glj, I like your plot so far. I could dig a story about an old wizard looking for a beautiful bride if there are some interesting and noble reasons. Otherwise, he comes off as a dirty old geezer. The biggest problem with these words is that your narrator talks weird, like a robot. Too much exposition in his dialogue and not enough contractions. "A wife you say? Why tell me this? That is outrageous, even for you." It sounds fake.

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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by AnimaDictio » July 30th, 2011, 12:47 am

The first 250(ish) words of my WIP. I hope to finish this first draft by Christmas at which time I'll be seeking a critique partner to help me snazz it up.


Keturah was a sentry with bones afire. She tried to calmly scan the horizon but her heart galloped, her right foot ground the dust beneath her and her wide nostrils flared, ready to exhale flames. The boy was out there somewhere in a sandstorm that was higher than ten full grown palms and solid as a wall of rock. Posted at camp’s edge, Keturah glared at the wind.

Gusts of heat assaulted her doe-bright eyes, but she didn't blink or look away. Her face like flint, she gripped the sand with her toes and hoped for a shadow, or a signal from his mirror, anything to let her know which direction in which to run. Moon's face shone just brightly enough.

Music arose from the central tent behind her. No doubt, they were celebrating the big hunt. It had been successful: four gazelles and twenty-three partridges. No deaths, they assumed. Only the son of Jared and Keturah hadn't returned.

"He's smart," they said. "Tomorrow, after the storm, we will see him. Probably with horse meat on his shoulders."
Foolish men. He was too young. He never should have gone. They took him only because of his size and his father's reputation. His dead father, she corrected. Thoughts of Jared the Great almost wrested her heart from the horizon, but she swallowed the grief. This was no time for tears; they'd cloud her vision.

The storm was closer. Now she heard and felt it. It screamed at her, and though she was wrapped in the cloth of the flax plant, hot grit whipped at her from everywhere.

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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by CharleeVale » July 30th, 2011, 12:55 am

AnimaDictio wrote: CharleeVale, yours is my favorite. I'm into it. I want to know about the Vita. I'd prefer that you use "Everyone has some kind of idea..." instead of "We all have some kind of idea..." if you're ending the sentence with "except me." Just makes more sense that way, I think.
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Thanks so much Anima!

I want to comment on everyones, and I will, but I really, really, REALLY want to win July NaNo, as it's my first attempt at it. I'll be back in 9,375 words!

CV

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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by wordranger » July 30th, 2011, 1:12 am

Okay, here's mine. This is 241 words. I started quite a bit differently, and in a child's POV...


Grown-ups fight a lot, Magellan thought, as he looked out over the crowd. He wasn’t really listening to the argument going on between his father and the tall man anymore. They just kept saying the same things over and over… Something about freeing the Rorian moon.

“It’s a totalitarian government!” his father said.

“It is nothing of the sort!” the tall man retorted. “Give me one example of a person on that moon that wants freedom!”

They weren’t the only angry ones in the room. There were a lot of people gathered around his family in the center of the huge chamber, and every one of them seemed mad. They were all dressed in bright colors and fabrics Magellan had never seen. The men wore crisp, clean uniforms, and the women wore long, flowing gowns like the ones his sisters dressed their dolls in. His family’s drab, serviceable clothing stood out, and he felt a little embarrassed by how they looked. His brothers and sisters didn’t seem to notice the crowd. They were all huddled behind their mother, watching the argument with huge eyes.

Sometimes one of the people in the crowd would call out, agreeing with the tall man. No one agreed with his father. The only reactions aimed at his family were jeers and rude gestures. Magellan sighed, and brushed back a lock of golden hair than had fallen over his eyes. Why do grown-ups think yelling solves things?
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by wordranger » July 30th, 2011, 1:29 am

Dios: Loved the squashed toad. It sparked my interest and made me smile. I wanted to read on.

Charlee: I think I liked yours best, although the "Blue, Bluer than Blue" made me cringe for some reason. This is the way I make fun of writers who over-write their descriptions... "The grass was green, but it was greener than green" I know that isn't where you were going with it, but it still made me cringe. Other than that, I was interested. I want to know what is going on.

Sanderling: A lot of back-story smashed into 250 words! Nicely done, and great set-up for the beginning of your story.

Anima: Nice tone and setting. I like how much you got into your 250 words as well.
Words are your friend.
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by Watcher55 » July 30th, 2011, 1:32 am

Man, I hate I'm late to the party (we have outta town comp'ny), but better you than never late than me...aw hell, you know what I mean. I'm not much good at critiques and worse about picking good better and best. I can say that y'all could have gone over 250 words and I wouldn't notice.

Any way, I guess I'll show y'all mine even if I do have to buy my own Post Toasties.

There is an oak tree rooted in the graviton ground that harbors the changeless particles of the Universe. This oak is watered by Time and fed by Change. The air, indeed the sky around the oak, shifts and changes, and reveals and shrouds the six dimensions of Chaos. The oak’s trunk is billions of light years long and broad. Where the tree begins to branch is where and when Change’s brother, Imagination created Time’s spouse, History. Just above the lower pruning knots the single trunk splits into three nearly identical trunks that stretch out into Chaos and terminate in tangles of twigs. This singular ancient oak crouches in a vast forest of redwoods whose trunks grow straight toward infinity. Each tree in the forest is a universe, and the oak tree is home to a boy who thinks his name is Ted.

Ted knew what he knew, but he didn’t remember who he was before a large man wearing a uniform snatched him from the kitchen during an argument Ted was having with his Mom. The man appeared out of thin air, grabbed seventeen-year-old Ted’s arm and said, “I Zeus, claim you as my addict in the name of the Interversal Empire and the divine Procreator.” Ted blinked; the man was gone and the kitchen was replaced by what Ted had to describe as a garden with manicured topiary that mimicked wolves, lions, bulls, and serpents.

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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by CharleeVale » July 30th, 2011, 1:39 am

wordranger wrote: Charlee: I think I liked yours best, although the "Blue, Bluer than Blue" made me cringe for some reason. This is the way I make fun of writers who over-write their descriptions... "The grass was green, but it was greener than green" I know that isn't where you were going with it, but it still made me cringe. Other than that, I was interested. I want to know what is going on.
Yeah, I've gotten that before. It will probably go in revisions. :P

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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by wordranger » July 30th, 2011, 1:55 am

Watcher, I'd start here...
Watcher55 wrote: Ted knew what he knew, but he didn’t remember who he was before a large man wearing a uniform snatched him from the kitchen during an argument Ted was having with his Mom. The man appeared out of thin air, grabbed seventeen-year-old Ted’s arm and said, “I Zeus, claim you as my addict in the name of the Interversal Empire and the divine Procreator.” Ted blinked; the man was gone and the kitchen was replaced by what Ted had to describe as a garden with manicured topiary that mimicked wolves, lions, bulls, and serpents.
I liked this part. The imagery was really cool in the first paragraph, but for me, if I'm being honest, I find this kind of stuff, right off the bat, a bit too much. If I am deep into a story... already "into it" so to speak, I may have liked it, but my brain wanted to start skimming right away. (even though the image was neat, which is strange) The second paragraph engaged me a little more, though. Probably because something started to happen.

For me... too much imagery right up front is boring, and I'd put it down. I know others feel differently, though. Personally, I'd flip the paragraphs and give the tree image later.

Neat premise, though!
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Don't be afraid to lose yourself in them.

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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by Sanderling » July 30th, 2011, 9:18 am

polymath wrote:Yes, I ask a lot of 250 words. I read like a screener. 250 words is a maunscript's first page and half the second one. That's one page look more generous than what I understand most screening readers will give a manuscript if there's little that's especially engaging. And yet a lot of real estate to scotch consideration if there's shortcomings in style, craft, and voice.
I agree that screeners / agents / editors / etc are going to be a lot fussier about those introductory paragraphs than your average reader. I suspect that the particular criteria each weights most heavily varies by person, though. Reading itself is a very subjective activity; we don't all like the same books, and we're not all going to like the same openings. What one screener asks of the first 250 words might not be what the next does. When I stand in a bookstore or a library, for instance, and have been sufficiently intrigued by the back cover copy to open it up and try the first page, it's usually the author's voice, number one, and the appeal of the characters and setting, number two, in the first page or two that will sway my decision. I don't need a hook right off the bat - the back cover (=query) gave me the hook - I just need to know that I'm going to enjoy the ride.
AnimaDictio wrote:Sanderling, I love how much story you fit into 250 words. I got right into it. Also, I love the conversational style of the first-person narrator. However, one sentence pulled me out of the story.
For one thing, it’s a small school, the sort of place where gossip moves faster than Mr. Sykes handing out a detention.
Who is your narrator talking to? If the narrator has to explain to the reader that it's a "small school" then how would the reader be familiar with the speed at which Mr. Sykes hands out detention? The logical inconsistency threw me off.
Thanks for pointing that out, AnimaDictio. I was trying to come up with a comparison that was relevant to the MC's world but that we'd all be able to relate to. I thought that the image of the grouchy, detention-loving teacher would be something we'd all be familiar with in our own high schools. Even Harry Potter's got Snape. ;)
wordranger wrote:Sanderling: A lot of back-story smashed into 250 words! Nicely done, and great set-up for the beginning of your story.
Thanks, wordranger (also AnimaDictio). I expect this is one of those things that some readers could take while others will leave ("Get on with the action, already"), but glad it works for some people.
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by Sanderling » July 30th, 2011, 9:36 am

Really enjoying reading through these new additions and everyone's comments!

glj - I agree with AnimaDictio that the language of your dialogue sounds a bit unnatural, but it actually reminded me of old-style fairy-tales. I don't think it's necessarily a negative, as long as it fits with your setting and characters. Which, it seems to me, it might well do - you have a 140-year-old wizard deciding to find a young, fair maiden to marry, which sounds very fairy-tale-ish. :)

AnimaDictio - I have to admit, your second line made me think your protagonist was a horse at first, with the galloping heart and flaring nostrils. ;) This certainly introduces tension from the get-go! It's easy to empathize with a mother who's fearing that her only son has been caught out in a deadly storm.

wordranger - Love the POV on this one. I think you've done a great job of conveying information that the adult reader needs to know while keeping it in the child protagonist's voice.

Watcher55 - I disagree with wordranger; I really like that opening paragraph, and I love how it segues into your character introduction. I especially liked the "who thinks his name is Ted", which immediately poses the question, well if it isn't Ted, what is it and why does he think it is Ted? It makes me think of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, though I can't recall for sure if they ever actually opened a book this way. I do feel a slight conflict in the narrator's voice between paragraph one and two, though - in the first one it's very omniscient third-person, while in the second, "what Ted had to describe as" isn't (omniscient third-person wouldn't rely on Ted to describe the setting, the narrator would do it).
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by AnimaDictio » July 30th, 2011, 11:37 am

AnimaDictio - I have to admit, your second line made me think your protagonist was a horse at first, with the galloping heart and flaring nostrils. This certainly introduces tension from the get-go! It's easy to empathize with a mother who's fearing that her only son has been caught out in a deadly storm.
Interesting you should say this Sanderling. The image I had in mind was a horse at the racing track, anxious to begin the race, kicking at the gate. And Keturah's face is rather horse-like. Someone teases her about it later in the book. But I never considered that someone might think she's an actual horse. Ha HA! I'll have to rethink this. Thanks for the compliments.

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