250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

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Watcher55
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by Watcher55 » August 4th, 2011, 1:31 pm

oldhousejunkie wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:
Sleeping Beauty wrote:Watcher--are you being sarcastic? :-) While I'm a southern girl at heart, and have been through my fair share of my plantation homes, I can proudly saw that I descend from a long line of small time farmers/sharecroppers and mill workers!
No Ma'am. I'm not being sarcastic at all. I can't be called a Southerner (mores the pity), but I grew up in the South. One place I lived, a little town called Brownsville, TN, has a few well kept, still occupied antebellum homes - none of them is a plantantion home but they are complete with hidey holes and secret passages.

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

Post by oldhousejunkie » August 4th, 2011, 1:36 pm

OK, here are a few (very quick) comments before I go back to work. :-(

Aimee -- very interesting opening. I'd definitely read on.

glg -- I remember either reading your query or your synopsis this one and thought it sounded like a fun read. I understand what you're trying to do with the dialogue, but you may want to identify some ways to make it less formal.

ladymarella -- good to see another historical fiction in the making! You have an excellent grasp of the language for the 19th century (although I thought it smacked of the late 18th/early 19th centuries) which set the scene well. You might want to edit out the "anyway" that starts off the bottom sentence. A very modern expression!
Unlike Brenda, I'm not entirely certain I would start off the book with a letter. It has a way of distancing the reader, nor is very exciting. My first 250 started out as a letter and my betas all agreed that it should be shredded. But it's certainly up to you and depends on if letter writing is going to be used frequently throughout the novel.

Cheeky -- I thought your dialogue was great and very suitable for a romance novella.

Trixie -- I was loving your 250 until you got to the part that started with "Brandon..." It a strange interuption as the reader is expecting Jo to answer the door, to see who's so impatient, etc. I would work in details of the store as you go and not in big chunks.

Overall I have to say 'snaps' to everyone. The writing was solid in all of the submissions. How good are we? :-)

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

Post by oldhousejunkie » August 4th, 2011, 1:37 pm

Watcher55 wrote:No Ma'am. I'm not being sarcastic at all. I can't be called a Southerner (mores the pity), but I grew up in the South. One place I lived, a little town called Brownsville, TN, has a few well kept, still occupied antebellum homes - none of them is a plantantion home but they are complete with hidey holes and secret passages.
Good to know that I nailed it then! And thanks for the feedback. Also...born a Southerner, always a Southerner! :-)

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

Post by polymath » August 4th, 2011, 1:39 pm

The servitude experience throughout the British colonies and antebellum U.S. ranged from extremes of owners who took good care of their livestock to neglected and abused their livestock. Abuses increased as abolitionist movements brought to the forefront the inhumane conditions of servitude and bondage. Things didn't improve appreciably after the general emancipation. There are still institutions of oppression alive in the land.

About the only difference of consequence between servitude and bondage institutions at the peak of the practices was a Caucasian servant had some expectation of some freedom and free will at some future point, an African servant slim to none, Even if emancipated, the paperwork was frequently disregarded and no one to say different.

Ninety-nine percent of the Colonial population was owned in some fashion going into the U.S. Revolution. By the time of the antebellum South's decline, convenient legal fictions hadn't changed the proportion of master to property much. Share cropping and tenant farming and ruinous credit schemes kept the population in bondage to the few.

"It was well past midnight, for the slaves had retired to their cabins."

I see a couple of style issues there, one nondiscretionary, one or two discretionary related to factual circumstances and decorum. The first clause seems a dangling participle. An antecedent dependent clause modifies the subject of a main clause. I don't see a sufficient correlation between the "past midnight" time and the "slaves had retired."

"Slaves," "retired," and "cabins" challenge my credibility diction-wise and fact-wise. Household servants had lodgings in the master's residence or in an office close by--a domicile suitable to their station, i.e., laundry, kitchen, dairy, etc. Fieldhands and other outdoor livestocks resided in shacks or stables or "cribs" (yep, cribs as in corn still on the cob, wheat still on the sheaf storage cribs, or expressly mangers in Biblical parlance), etc., separate from the homestead proper, again, suitable to their stations. Household servants weren't turned out to stay among those of lesser stations. It was a strictly stratified society and everyone hyper conscious of their place in the scheme of things, even between plantation masters and their kin. A household servant, though no less in bondage, had a comparatively high station and "put on airs" distinguishing him or her from those of lower stations. As slaves is not how they self-identified themselves.

Decorum, especially with socially sensitive topics such as servitude and bondage, insists upon suiting one's thoughts, words, and actions to the subject matter, the circumstances, and the audience. If the servant bondage experience is intended for verisimilude's sake, then I feel factual accuracy is paramount in light of the social sensitivity of the topic. If it has little or no purpose, then it's superfluous and consequently potentially insensitive.
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by ladymarella » August 4th, 2011, 11:24 pm

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Would love to have a go at critiquing, but am currently in the middle of a most stressful exam period.
oldhousejunkie wrote:
ladymarella -- good to see another historical fiction in the making! You have an excellent grasp of the language for the 19th century (although I thought it smacked of the late 18th/early 19th centuries) which set the scene well. You might want to edit out the "anyway" that starts off the bottom sentence. A very modern expression!
Unlike Brenda, I'm not entirely certain I would start off the book with a letter. It has a way of distancing the reader, nor is very exciting. My first 250 started out as a letter and my betas all agreed that it should be shredded. But it's certainly up to you and depends on if letter writing is going to be used frequently throughout the novel.
Good to know it sounded late 18th century as the letter was written in 1778. Yes i do agree that the anyway should go, and I will see to that in my MS. I understand it's risky to start with a letter, especially a letter-prologue that takes place 22years before the start of the novel. Yet, I felt the letter was a way of trying to get across a fair bit of information that is quite important, and also set up the character of Charlotte Wedgwood who is one of the central characters of the novel.
Cookie wrote:LADYMARELLA: A letter, how interesting. I'm always intrigued by historical muder-mysteries.
Well the interesting thing is, I wouldn't call it a murder mystery, though it does open with a killing, that everyone assumes is a pub brawl gone deadly. (it is revealed later it was murder, but it's not central to the story), rather George's death is more of a catalyst for a number of changes, the results that then cause the plot of the novel to take place

And Sanderling, I am glad you picked up that she wasn't too concerned about her husband's death, because that is the point. Her motive in writing to her brother-in-law, you work out later on in the letter was to invite him down "to sort out some business" and entice him away from his wife!
Currently composing a sprawling family saga set in 19th century England
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Re: 250 Word Sharathon--post the opening of your WIP

Post by Aimée » August 5th, 2011, 12:18 am

Here are my comments, sorry for being short and not very thorough... There were a lot of entries to read! :)

Writecastlesinthesky - Very descriptive. Pretty words. :) "A cluster of them sit squat and round while he sits hunched and gaut" is a bit awkward though.

dios4vida - I like the voice in your opening.

AveryMarsh - Interesting... I'm curious as to what happens next, and how the character is an amnesiac.

Sanderling - I really liked this! I wonder how the accident happened... :)

CharleeVale - Very intriguing and descriptive.

Collectonian - Should be "As if she were that stupid," and "She knew he was lying," or "She'd known he was lying." But it's a very interesting opening.

glj - I agree with AnimaDictio about the dialogue sounding a bit fake. But I thought your opening was goofy and silly; I liked it.

AnimaDictio - Love the description. And I really liked the line "This was no time for tears; they would cloud her vision." It has a sort of double meaning.

wordranger - Well written — I like the child's point of view — but kind of weird. Must be fantasy or sci-fi? :)

Watcher55 - I really like this! I love "This oak is watered by Time and fed by Change."

Cookie - Opening sentence is kind of convoluted. And you don't need the comma after "tub." But I already care about the character, which is nice.

ladymarella - Interesting use of language here. Words like "tidings" and "furnish" help create the atmosphere of 1778. I like the letter format.

meganstirler - This is great! Mysterious and intriguing. I want to know what happens next...

Sommer - Love the first sentence! You created a great setting that I could see in only two paragraphs. I agree with dios4vida that the transition is kind of quick, though. We are in the neighborhoods, then all of the sudden there's a doctor, which sort of confused me.

sierramcconnell - I am confused at to what is going on here, mostly because of the silly creatures. :) But the writing is amazing for being an unedited first draft!

cheekychook - Cute! It made me smile.

trixie - I agree that it's a little cliche and maybe too descriptive, but I could see the scene and sense Jo's stress from the beginning.

oldhousejunkie - Great writing, but it seemed kind of cliche to me. As for that tricky sentence, it wasn't the word "retired" that bothered me so much as the order of the words in the sentence. It's a bit mixed up, I think. Unless I'm mistaken, the word "for" is mostly interchangeable with the word "because" in this sense. What you have hear sounds like it is midnight because the slaves are in their cabins, but I'm sure you mean the slaves are in their cabins because it's midnight. I'd replace "for" with "and."

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

Post by KyleS » August 5th, 2011, 12:00 pm

This is my first time posting or commenting on these forums, but I'm a longtime reader of Nathan's blog. I'm half way through a book called Acea and the Animal Kingdom. It's a YA mystery/adventure. Any feedback on the first 250 words or so would be appreciated. Thanks!

Acea and the Animal Kingdom

As I open my eyes, I quickly realize that I have no idea where I am or how I got here. Rather than staring at the constellations which my mom had painted on my bedroom ceiling, I am laying on a cold, red brick floor staring up at an old, arched dome made of marble. As my eyes slowly adjust, a painting on the dome comes into focus. In the middle stands an angry-looking man surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of animals encircled in the midst of vines. The man looks like some kind of wizard based on the pointed hat and white beard he wears.

Where am I?

The last thing I remember is being tucked into bed by my mom. As usual, every night during bed time, my mom would ask me if I wanted to hear another story about my father. I grew up believing these stories. But with time, I realized that my mom may be telling me stories more for her own good than mine.

I even used to believe the stories, too. With age, however, came the realization that one man, let alone my father who I’ve never even known, wasn’t able to have such an adventurous life. Besides, some of the stories involved my dad battling ogres, out-tricking sorcerers, and uncovering hidden magical treasures - these things just don’t exist. I knew it, but I think my mom still needed to believe that my dad was someone other than the man who abandoned us while I was just a baby.

“Acea,” my mom would tell me, “your father, William, loves you very much and is only gone on another adventure. When you get old enough, you’ll understand.”

At twelve, I am old enough to understand. ...

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

Post by dios4vida » August 5th, 2011, 12:20 pm

Hi, Kyle! Welcome to the Bransforums!

I saw lots of good in these words and a few things that I wanted to point out. First of all:
KyleS wrote:As I open my eyes, I quickly realize that I have no idea where I am or how I got here. Rather than staring at the constellations which my mom had painted on my bedroom ceiling, I am laying on a cold, red brick floor staring up at an old, arched dome made of marble. As my eyes slowly adjust, a painting on the dome comes into focus. In the middle stands an angry-looking man surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of animals encircled in the midst of vines. The man looks like some kind of wizard based on the pointed hat and white beard he wears.
This opening paragraph worries me for a few reasons: it's the typical "protaganist waking up" opening that's rather overdone. Agents and editors hate to see waking up openings. If you reordered this just a little - open with the mural first, then have him realize "wait a second, what happened to the constellations my Mom had painted on my ceiling [nice detail, btw]" that wouldn't change the basic opening premise but it would give this a little more originality and punch. Also, the voice is pretty distant. We're in first person but no one, especially a kid, would wake up and think "okay, I'm opening my eyes, and I'm realizing..." It would be more immediate. "I opened my eyes and realized that I have no idea where I am or how I got here." Notice the subtle difference? We go from reporting events to experiencing events, which is always a better way to hook your reader.
KyleS wrote:The last thing I remember is being tucked into bed by my mom. As usual, every night during bed time, my mom would ask me if I wanted to hear another story about my father. I grew up believing these stories. But with time, I realized that my mom may be telling me stories more for her own good than mine.

I even used to believe the stories, too. With age, however, came the realization that one man, let alone my father who I’ve never even known, wasn’t able to have such an adventurous life. Besides, some of the stories involved my dad battling ogres, out-tricking sorcerers, and uncovering hidden magical treasures - these things just don’t exist. I knew it, but I think my mom still needed to believe that my dad was someone other than the man who abandoned us while I was just a baby.
These paragraphs give us a lot of good information and set a great MG/YA premise. (It reminded me of Percy Jackson.) However, you repeat yourself. You say that he believed the stories twice, and also that his Mom was telling them for her benefit twice as well. These could easily be condensed into one paragraph. That would still give us the information without repeating it.

Even with these comments, I think you have a lot to play with here. Your story sounds like it's gonna be a whole lot of fun! It's definitely something that would catch my attention. I think a little work on closing your narrative distance and refining your voice would make this passage shine and really grab your reader.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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

Post by KyleS » August 5th, 2011, 12:45 pm

Thanks Brenda! Very helpful insight. Funny you mention Percy Jackson. I started reading the first Percy book when my wife recommended it to me. After three chapters, I put the book down and said "I can do this." My hope is to tell a story to the same audience. Anyways, thanks for the feedback. If anyone else has an opinion, whether the same or different, I'm all ears.

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

Post by Cookie » August 5th, 2011, 3:35 pm

Cookie - Opening sentence is kind of convoluted. And you don't need the comma after "tub." But I already care about the character, which is nice.
I am the queen of randomly inserted commas. It's quite a problem actually. It's almost like I'm putting my mental pauses down on paper. Thanks for pointing that out!

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

Post by polymath » August 5th, 2011, 5:00 pm

KyleS wrote:Acea and the Animal Kingdom

As I open my eyes, I quickly realize that I have no idea where I am or how I got here.
Also welcome to Bransforums, KyleS, and glad to have you.

I'm reluctant to play the devil's advocate and go off on writing vices. I will, though, never say never.

Opening with a conjunction word related to time, like "as" used to mean while or when, doesn't situate me well in the immediate moment of a narrative. There, the vice I see is as holds open the immediate moment of reporting the experience as close as possible narrative distance-wise. First person has by default close narrative distance, but I'm feeling a distancing right off the bat.

Substituting while or when for as illustrates the open in narrative distance time situation. //While I open my eyes, I quickly realize that I have no idea where I am or how I got here.// I feel that first dependent clause holds the time in abatement until later on in the sentence and, in turn, paragraph, and doesn't fully realize the when of the action immediately in the moment.

Recast for closing narrative distance demonstration purposes; //I open my eyes. I have no idea where I am or how I got here.// Closer to the immediate moment of Acea opening his eyes. However, the second sentence is a conclusion, in essence an effect of Acea opening eyes that has as of yet, at that point in time, little logical cause.

Also, that's still a recital, or tell, given by summarization and explanation. A show or imitation of the action might report what Acea sees when his eyes open, reported in such a way Acea's bewilderment is given in subtext, and in such a way as to engage readers in the immediate moment of the action. Then once readers have a sense of Acea's emotional responses to what he sees, cause and effect, he can logically conclude that he has no idea where or how he got there, if the subtext doesn't relay that already.

The writing principle KIT, keep in touch, applies to setting's time, place, and situation, as well as to plot, idea, character, event, and discourse, or SPICED. Not keeping in touch with the moment in time reported, clause by clause, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, is as good a way to lose readers' engagement as losing touch with a focal character.
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Hey Shirley!

Post by sladuke » August 5th, 2011, 9:40 pm

This is the first 250 words of my middle grade fiction story. It's been revised 4 times already. It's really different than most of the posts I have read. So, here goes:

Winston was anxious to be out of eyesight of the students on bus 12-88 from Toad Suck Elementary. Just a few more steps and he’d be around the corner of Newton Avenue. He could feel the big gloopy mass on the back of his neck begin to slide towards his collar. He had to get the spit wad before it slipped under the collar of his Captain America t-shirt. Reaching back, he pulled the blob off and flicked it to the ground.
“Gross,” he thought.

This trip home hadn’t been so bad. Sure, today Winston had three spit wads on the back of his head. But yesterday Marcus Devel had tripped him on the way onto the bus, given him a wedgie, tossed his shoe back and forth over his head, shoved into his face and called him Shirley. Today, Marcus was content to just sit on Winston the on the way home, his sweaty backside pressing down on Winston’s back, making his legs go numb.

Unfortunately, Marcus had made a bet with Billy Ray Pride today that he could get spitballs to stick to Winston’s head the entire drive from Main Street all the way to Mule Ranch Rd. He won Billy’s chocolate pudding for a whole week.

Winston of course had won three spitballs on the back of his head.

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

Post by Writecastlesinthesky » August 6th, 2011, 12:42 pm

Sladuke,
Thank you for sharing your opening. There's really nothing wrong with it as far as setting the situation. But it also feels like we've been here before. And I wonder what makes your story different than others? If this is your first 250 words as a reader I would like something weird or special that makes me care about this boy.

Though I must also say Toad Suck Elementary is very intriguing.

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

Post by Babs in Paradise » August 6th, 2011, 3:40 pm

OK, I admit it's a little more than 250 words(328 to be exact), but thought i needed to finish out, to make sense.


The water reaches to our chins before we see the rise of bubbles that signals Peter exhaling the last air in his lungs. He drowns. I have to look away when Mom says to Tom, “I love you.” She drags him off the ledge.

“Are you ready?”

I nod yes.

“Oceanna, say behind a minute. Let me go and see if your mother needs help. You don’t need to see this.”

“No. I can do this.” I say, as we step off the ledge together.

We catch up to Mom and Tom about twenty-five feet down. It is a sight right out of the worst horror movie. These are images that will haunt me forever, but I can’t look away. It’s as though I have to make a mental record of my mother’s determination and Tom’s final moments. Tom is clawing to get over Mom and head to the surface. Mom has her hands on his shoulders and is easily holding him down. I will be forever grateful that I was not able to see my mother’s face. I do see the look of panic and betrayal in Tom’s eyes when he turns his head and looks directly at me.

“Aqua let me…“

“No. I can do this. Take O-She out of here. Now.”

Someone is tugging on my arm trying to help me swim past Mom and Tom at the moment Tom exhales the last air in his lungs. He has a little struggle left in him. I see his eyes roll back in his head. He dies.

In my head I hear Mom’s cry of anguish, but worse than that, I feel it in every molecule of my body. Her pain runs through me like an electrical current. I am paralyzed at the sight of her clutching Tom’s lifeless body as she sobs. Hanging there in the water, I start to feel lightheaded.

“Oceanna, baby, breath, come on, breathe. Do not pass out on me. Breathe.”
Last edited by Babs in Paradise on August 6th, 2011, 3:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by polymath » August 6th, 2011, 4:04 pm

I guess turnabout is fair play. 200 words all told. Micro fiction.

      I Swim in Prescient Dreams

  I am tropical bronze, golden blond, loincloth wrapped swimming on a chiaroscuro lagoon under a cerulean and chiseled cumulus sky. My precious keepsakes pouch hangs from the loincloth's belt.
  I float face down above deep water. A shipwreck lies broken across a coral reef in the depths. The wreck's masts drape torn sails and seaweed luffing in lazy currents. A crystal egg gleams from a strongbox thrown open in the hold. The egg projects unimaginable wealth and fame.
  I dive.
  My feet plant beside the strongbox. I grip its handles.
  Cloud shadows scud across the hold. The egg's gleam fades. Narrow shadows, feral and swift, crowd inside the hold.
  I hold the egg. Shadows touch my toes. My heart thumps a galloping beat.
  I push off from the bottom. I fuss with opening the pouch. The egg tumbles from my hand. Reaching to catch the egg, I upset the pouch. Out pour cats-eyes, aggies, jaspers, a steely ball bearing, marbles, and a red pair of dice.
  Lungs aching to exhale, I expel my breath.
  Egg, marbles, and dice plummet into shadows. Air bubbles rise toward sunlight.
  I burst through the surface gasping for air.
  Screams echo from my bedroom walls.
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