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-   -   Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST (http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/529972-improving-our-75-word-stories-read-first-post.html)

The Judge 29th December 2010 11:05 AM

Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
As mentioned in the Discussion thread, I thought I'd start a place for those of us who would like feedback on our stories in the monthly Challenge. I thought I'd start it here, rather than in Critiques, as this way we can keep it more as an exercise and encourage people to participate who might not like to go to Critiques. I don't know quite how it will work -- whether it will be used at all, or whether it will get overwhelmed with too many different pieces wanting help, but we can see how it pans out and make adjustments accordingly.

Some important points.
1) [U]Only[/U] give feedback on those stories which have been raised here by their authors -- this is [B]NOT[/B] intended as a free-for-all criticism of all the stories. Just because you want to comment on a piece doesn't mean the author wants to hear your comments.
2) This is [U]only[/U] for stories which have been posted in the monthly Challenges and where voting has finished.
3) The Discussion thread is still for general discussion and whimsy -- let's keep this to feedback.
4) As with all critiques/comments, constructive ideas only, please. This is aimed at helping all of us, not knocking anyone down.


[U]NB[/U] If someone wants to put their work up for specific and/or more detailed feedback critique in Critiques, as Allanon has already done, that is still an option.

The Judge 29th December 2010 11:22 AM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
What prompted me to think of this was noticing I could have improved my story on a technical level. I don't suppose it would have made any difference to anyone else when they came to vote, but when the standard of story is so high, even little things can turn out to be important.

So, my story as was:

[FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]Aztec pyramids. Celtic pyres. Dahomey councils. The time-tourists roamed ages and continents. Laughing voyeurs, watching prisoners slaughtered to consecrate temples, retainers slain to accompany kings.
[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]
No one interested in history, culture. Only in blood.
[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]
Inside the time-sphere, invisible to the men with swords, the tourists joked.
[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]
The tours had to end.
[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]
No one listened to ethical arguments. Only to blood.
[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]
She burst the sphere. Laughs became screams. Men with swords turned.
[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]
“Kill us,” she said.[/SIZE][/FONT]


The thing which I noticed? These two lines:
[FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3][I]Inside the time-sphere, invisible to the men with swords, the tourists joked[/I][/SIZE][/FONT] and [I][FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]She burst the sphere. Laughs became screams. Men with swords turned.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[/I]
To my mind it would have been better if they mirrored each other exactly, whereas at present it is sphere-swords-laughing and sphere-laughing-swords. Since the latter needs to end with the men with swords, this means the first should have been changed to [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3][I]Inside the time-sphere, the tourists joked, invisible to the men with swords.

[/I][/SIZE][/FONT]Something which I only changed at the last moment, and which I'm still in two minds about, is the final line. Originally it was [I]"Kill me," she said [/I]which was the sacrifice I envisaged. Then I saw her as being a little arrogant in her righteousness and changed it to her bringing death to all of the tourists, a very different thing. Still not sure about that one.

Mouse 29th December 2010 12:36 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
I agree with that. Or you could've switched these two sentences: [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]Laughs became screams. Men with swords turned.

[/SIZE][/FONT]So the screaming and the killing goes together.
[FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=3]
[/SIZE][/FONT]But I thought it was a really good story anyway, and didn't notice that until you've pointed it out!

mosaix 29th December 2010 12:59 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
TJ are you suggesting that we should be commenting on more than one story in a single thread? I think that would be confusing.

The Judge 29th December 2010 01:54 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
Thanks, Mouse.

mosaix, it might get confusing, admittedly, if lots of people pile in. But we seem to be able to handle multiple conversations in the Discussion thread, so I thought it was worth a try here -- after all, if one is responding to a story, you just need to refer to it in the first line, or quote it, to make it clear. If the thread does get well used, and we become mired in confusion and bemusement, then we can always look again at how to structure it. And, of course, anyone can go direct to Critiques should they want to do so.

digs 29th December 2010 02:50 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
I think you made the right decision in having "Kill us" rather than "Kill me". Both would have had a big impact, but the one you went with is (to me) more powerful. It underscores the abhorrence she feels for the whole operation and everyone involved, as opposed to just herself. That line really seals the deal for me.

I also agree with what you say about the echoed lines, although really, I think these are probably little details that bug the author more than the reader. These things could maybe have been tightened up a little, but I didn't even notice them as flaws when I read it, and I don't think changing them would make a huge impact on the quality of the story (which I liked).

Parson 29th December 2010 04:34 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
[B]Judge:[/B]
I would agree that this was an excellent story. I voted for it after all. You were most definitely right about changing "Kill me" to "Kill us." Kill me sounds more like death by cop than an attempt to change society by sacrifice.

I'm not sure I would have noticed the neat parallelism you suggest, but I would have been impressed if I had seen it. I am probably a bit slow in these kinds of things, but for me to notice it, I think you would have had to arrange the lines directly after one another. Unlike the first change, which I think you were dead on to do; this is a "fancy" one, which like Digs says probably is more an author than reader thing.

Parson 29th December 2010 04:37 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
My story (with the changed made to fix the acrostic.)

Sacrifice Changes Everything

The crowd swirls dangerously.
“Sacrilegious!” they cry.
The Judge urges.
“Away with him!”
The Priests wail incessantly.
“Cleanse the temple!”
The word surges.
“Retribution will be ours!”

The end draws near.
“Inform the executioner!”
The command is clear.
“Fix the blade!”

They believe my death the end, but
Instead it is a beginning.
They believe old ways will return, but
Change begins with sacrifice.
They believe my name will fade away, but
Everyone will remember.


I have had no formal poetry training so my verse is always awkward at best. What I wonder about is this.... Does my change of rhyming pattern effect the piece and does the last strophe work with the rhymes of "but?"

Thanks!

TheDustyZebra 29th December 2010 06:02 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
Judge, I have to say that I totally misunderstood your story until now, and through no fault of your own. It is clear now what is going on, so I'm sure it was clear then (!), but I somehow thought it was the people being gawked at who wanted to be killed so that they wouldn't be on display anymore -- I guess I saw it as more of a museum display setup, for some stupid reason. But that's not your fault, it's mine.

To answer the question, I think what Mouse said is right -- switching it to "Men with swords turned. Laughs became screams." would do what you're looking for in that instance. It probably wouldn't have made me less of a bonehead, though.

The Judge 29th December 2010 06:11 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
[B]Parson[/B]
I think the last stanza works well with the change of pattern -- and indeed, with the change of viewpoint from third to first person as you have done it. And since "change" is an integral part of the whole piece this alteration seems entirely appropriate. I also think the repetition of "but" works well at the end of the lines there, like a heavy drumbeat.

I actually had more trouble with the first stanza. I personally don't like "dangerously" and "incessantly" either as words in context or as rhymes, but I can't think of any better off the top of my head -- I wonder whether it might work if both were omitted? For my nit-pickiness the punctuation needs to be smoother, too -- the constant full stops (periods) bring an extra-heavy halt to each line. That choppiness isn't necessarily bad in itself, but it meant lines which should have been linked got mislaid and ever so slightly confused, so is it the Judge urging or the Priests wailing "Away with him"? I think a comma or colon after the end of the odd-numbered lines to link speaker and phrase would help with that.

Not being a theologian, the "Cleanse the temple" line confused me and felt out of place, and "The word surges" to me implies something hopeful particularly with the idea of beginning and change since, after all, "In the beginning was the Word", so again this felt wrong to me. And since "word" is single, not plural, it raised my nit-picking hackles to link it to a phrase comprising several words. (I know it can be used in this way as in eg "The word was out" but that isn't then linked to a specific sentence as this is.) Perhaps if the earlier line had been "The Pharisees urge" ("The Judge urges" seems clumsy to me with the repeated "dge" sounds), you could have had something like "The calls surge".

A good piece of verse, though, and well deserving of votes. If you have any kind of parish magazine, I do think you ought to put it out there for your parishioners to read -- I'm sure they'll be rightly impressed.


TDZ -- my view is that if someone misunderstands what is happening it's my fault for being opaque (except when it's the Other Half who doesn't understand, of course -- then it's because he's thick!). I'm glad the mystery is cleared now, though!

Parson 29th December 2010 08:36 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
[QUOTE=The Judge;1454806][B]Parson[/B]
I think the last stanza works well with the change of pattern -- and indeed, with the change of viewpoint from third to first person as you have done it. And since "change" is an integral part of the whole piece this alteration seems entirely appropriate. I also think the repetition of "but" works well at the end of the lines there, like a heavy drumbeat.[/QUOTE]:)This was exactly what I was going for!

[QUOTE]I actually had more trouble with the first stanza. I personally don't like "dangerously" and "incessantly" either as words in context or as rhymes, but I can't think of any better off the top of my head -- I wonder whether it might work if both were omitted? For my nit-pickiness the punctuation needs to be smoother, too -- the constant full stops (periods) bring an extra-heavy halt to each line. That choppiness isn't necessarily bad in itself, but it meant lines which should have been linked got mislaid and ever so slightly confused, so is it the Judge urging or the Priests wailing "Away with him"? I think a comma or colon after the end of the odd-numbered lines to link speaker and phrase would help with that.[/QUOTE]After reading (3 times to get it through my thick head) this paragraph I think I understand what you are getting after here. I totally agree with the punctuation suggestion. One of the problems of reading your own stuff is since you know exactly what you mean and other meanings don't seem to occur. My intent was to lay side by side the different forces at work to execute a person whose crime was not one of action, but of promoting a new way of looking at the faith of a society. Scripture is full of these kinds of actions to prophets and evangelists.

Now as to dangerously and incessantly; they are adverbs which I was thinking gave necessary nuance to the actions. But I do see what you are saying here. The words do not fit with the vocabulary of the rest of the piece, which might not be such a bad thing, but the fact that they are the rhymes underlines the words.

Perhaps something more like this?

Dangerously, the crowd gathers;
“Sacrilegious!” they cry.
Vigilante justice urges;
“Away with him!”
The priest blathers;
“Cleanse the temple!”
The idea surges;
“Retribution will be ours!”


[QUOTE]Not being a theologian, the "Cleanse the temple" line confused me and felt out of place, and "The word surges" to me implies something hopeful particularly with the idea of beginning and change since, after all, "In the beginning was the Word", so again this felt wrong to me. And since "word" is single, not plural, it raised my nit-picking hackles to link it to a phrase comprising several words. (I know it can be used in this way as in eg "The word was out" but that isn't then linked to a specific sentence as this is.) Perhaps if the earlier line had been "The Pharisees urge" ("The Judge urges" seems clumsy to me with the repeated "dge" sounds), you could have had something like "The calls surge".[/QUOTE]I think you have put you finger on something here. What you see is how the verse came to be. I ran across the word gurge (in Scrabble as you might guess) which means to swirl, so I stated with gurges, surges, and urges as the three rhymes in the first strophe. But in reflection I thought that "gurge" was best left to the "Say What?" thread in games. But I already had lines I liked with surges and urges.

With "Cleanse the temple" I was thinking of the central place religion plays in tribal society and having the priest call for cleansing I felt reinforced the idea that the man's death was unanimously called for.
[QUOTE]A good piece of verse, though, and well deserving of votes. If you have any kind of parish magazine, I do think you ought to put it out there for your parishioners to read -- I'm sure they'll be rightly impressed.[/QUOTE]Thank you. There no such thing as a Parish magazine, and I'm afraid my blue collar congregation would think the whole verse was a waste of time. I would guess their words to me would be something of the order of "Why not make another call instead of playing around like this?"

Thanks also for your time and your ideas. I believe them to be a valued resource for future writing.

TheDustyZebra 29th December 2010 09:03 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
Parson, I agree about the "but" being a nice drumbeat -- I definitely think it works.

The punctuation was something I noticed in passing as well, where it didn't quite lead the right sentences into each other the way I'm sure you intended.

I like the changing tempo as it progresses.

I definitely think you did right in omitting your "gurge" -- if the crowd had been gurging, we might have ducked and missed the whole thing. :-)

Judge, I tend to agree with you about readers' misunderstandings, which is why I don't explain my pieces -- I figure if it was too thick for them to get, it wasn't worth their vote. However, in this instance, I would urge (not gurge) you to wait and see if more than one person managed to misunderstand, because it was really pretty clear and I was probably the only one.

The Judge 29th December 2010 09:37 PM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
[QUOTE=Parson;1454825]One of the problems of reading your own stuff is since you know exactly what you mean and other meanings don't seem to occur.[/QUOTE]
I couldn't agree more! Things that seem self-evident very often aren't.

[QUOTE]Now as to dangerously and incessantly; they are adverbs which I was thinking gave necessary nuance to the actions.[/QUOTE]Dangerously I can see, but incessantly to me isn't helping the verse enough to justify its place. That's a matter of personal feel, though.

[QUOTE]Perhaps something more like this?

Dangerously, the crowd gathers;
“Sacrilegious!” they cry.
Vigilante justice urges;
“Away with him!”
The priest blathers;
“Cleanse the temple!”
The idea surges;
“Retribution will be ours!”[/QUOTE]The trouble with that is that you've lost the "T" at the beginnings of lines 1 and 3, so you've also buried the acrostic which is a shame; and the "blathers" to me is too humorous a word for such a serious piece. The "swirls" was a good word choice, so I'd be sorry to see that lost if it could be saved somehow. And I don't think the semi-colons are quite right.

How about:

The mob, threatening, swarm.
“Sacrilegious!” they cry.
The Pharisees urge
“Away with him!”
The Priests, menacing, storm,
“Cleanse the temple!”
The calls surge:
“Retribution will be ours!”

[QUOTE]But in reflection I thought that "gurge" was best left to the "Say What?" thread in games.[/QUOTE]Good call!

[QUOTE]There no such thing as a Parish magazine, and I'm afraid my blue collar congregation would think the whole verse was a waste of time. I would guess their words to me would be something of the order of "Why not make another call instead of playing around like this?"[/QUOTE]Then that's a great pity. Man cannot live by work alone. Play, whether in sport or here playing with words, and taking pleasure in creativity generally, is important for us as individuals and as part of society. How about giving them a sermon on the subject!

TheDustyZebra 30th December 2010 02:46 AM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
[QUOTE=The Judge;1454843]
Then that's a great pity. Man cannot live by work alone. Play, whether in sport or here playing with words, and taking pleasure in creativity generally, is important for us as individuals and as part of society. How about giving them a sermon on the subject![/QUOTE]

And then start your own parish magazine! After all, if not you, then who?

Parson 30th December 2010 03:58 AM

Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST
 
[B]TJ and DZ [/B]I have done something which is calling a lot more literary work from myself. I have taken to regularly emailing a devotion to the people of my congregation with email. It has been very well received, I've had numerous replies saying that "this was just what I needed today." :) but it costs me 1-2 hours 4 or so days a week. I suspect that my work with the 75 word stories has made me think that I can write succinctly. My goal in the devotional mailing is something that takes less than 2 minutes to read, that gives a positive view of the Christian life, and challenges each reader with an action point for the day.

I am saving them and wondering if a devotional book might not generate some interest.

Who knows? Thanks for your time and effort on this.

As for a sermon on this subject.... Well, my congregation seems to have no trouble seeing for themselves that they need "play," especially as it applies to the badly misnamed "weekend." :( So it remains a low priority on the preaching schedule.

This week's sermon lifts up the idea that God doesn't hand us a blueprint of our lives that we either follow or live our life in regret, but instead gives us the tools to shape our life more like an artist works on a painting changing and shaping as time goes on into a life that pleases him, while it blesses us and the world.


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