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  1. #1
    The Pseudonym
    Guest

    "This is where we find ourselves..." (formatted)

    Originally posted <A HREF=http://www.writers.net/forum/read/12/25466/25466>here</A>. As mentioned, I'm just seeking non-specific comments and reactions. My response to that thread's suggestions by Bob and Debra to follow, as soon as I get a chance. Thanks!



    <span style="font-family:times new roman; font-size:small;"><pre> “This is where we find ourselves, gentlemen…” Laerin
    announced, as various auditory alarms and warnings began to
    sound.
    “Quite frankly, I’m more concerned with whether they’ll be
    able to find us in a week’s time- when the search parties
    arrive.” Doc Kuffman was his usual droll self.
    “Haha- not one for self-discovery, Doctor Kuffman? I
    suppose at your age, there’s little left to be discovered,”
    Laerin replied.
    “Always the jovial one, Captain Laerin.” Kuffman had to
    raise his voice to be heard above the wail of several
    additional sirens that had just sprung to life. “I’m surprised
    that you’re still with us- I’d have thought that your carefree
    attitude would have ended your pained existence long before
    now.”
    “On the contrary, my good doctor- high spirits are as good
    a preserver of life as gun and blade. Perhaps even more-so.”
    Some of the others were becoming physically sick, the
    rising g-forces playing cruel games with their internal organs.
    Others were only sick with worry. Even the eternally stoic
    Kashar had a funny look on his face, small beads of sweat
    forming on his brow. One hand gripped the base of the bench,
    knuckles white. The other, in a position of anguish, held his
    belly.
    Only Mivvec was unaffected. He sat in the corner, alone-
    a sly grin on his face, as always. Kashar contemplated
    whether he was crazy, or just simple. He then wondered the
    same about himself for being where he was without protest.
    “How is everyone doing?” Laerin queried, his eyes not
    shifting for even an instant from the display panel.
    One of the hired workers keeled over with a groan, hitting
    the cold metallic floor of the claustrophobic vessel with a
    thud. Laerin wasn’t at all distracted by the sound, nor was he
    bothered by the lack of response to his question. Most of the
    crew looked on with concern, but seemed too startled to do
    anything.
    “Planning your course of action, Doc?” the wiry Mivvec
    asked in a mocking tone, staring blankly yet amusedly at
    Kuffman.
    “What?” he replied sharply, snapping back to his senses.
    “One of the crew appears to have, em, ‘taken ill.’ Isn’t that
    your specialty? A one Mr. Vega, I believe it is, who has ‘hit
    the deck’.”
    Everyone watched in silence, too concerned with their own
    anxiety to speak or to take action.
    “I’m not that kind of Doctor!” he replied, a look of
    bewilderment crossing his white-bearded face.
    Mivvec just continued his ambiguous stare, silently. This
    seemed to fluster Kuffman considerably. It was as if Mivvec’s
    gaze had the power to drive a man mad.
    “I’ll see what I can do,” Kuffman reluctantly conceded,
    huffing and puffing.
    He stumbled over to where the man had fallen, and went
    to his knees. Turning him onto his back, the doctor first
    checked for a pulse. Not entirely sure what he was doing, it
    took him a few attempts- this did not serve to ease his
    frustration with the situation. The leathery consistency of
    Vega’s skin was no boon to the task.
    Kashar looked on as Kuffman checked the man for signs of
    trauma. He puzzled over the chubby little fluffy-haired
    “doctor”, who was feverishly trying to find a cause
    for the Mr. Vega’s plight. Obviously not medically inclined,
    Kashar supposed he must have been a “scientist doctor”. At
    one point, Kuffman was moving so frantically that it looked as
    if he were a crazed lunatic attacking the fallen man. This
    brought a small smirk to Kashar’s face, but was quickly
    forgotten as the throes of his stomach once again overtook
    him.
    Doc Kuffman finally threw up his arms in confoundment. He
    was now sweating profusely, his typically unkempt hair even
    messier than normal.
    “He’s fine as near as I can tell! He’s breathing. Must’ve just
    lost consciousness. Nerves, I suppose.”
    Mivvec seemed content with this diagnosis. The burly
    Kashar went over and helped the doctor prop Vega up against
    a bare portion of the wall. They then staggered back to their
    seats on the bench. The comatose Mr. Vega slumped forward,
    as if trying to hear better an invisible man’s tale.
    “Look, we’re almost through!” Laerin cheered, ecstatically
    motioning toward the display screen. Giddily pleased with
    himself, he was completely oblivious to what had just
    occurred.</pre></span>



  2. #2
    Wednesday
    Guest

    Re: "This is where we find ourselves..." (formatted)

    Hi Pseudonym,

    I'm finding your sequence much more interesting than my own that I'm working on right now. So, here's my reaction: Intriguing.

    My non-specific comment: The action clips along, you just need to tighten it. Like Debra said, consider nixing some adverbs (in the other post below). Also, right off the bat, I mentally deleted the word "various" in the first sentence (this phrase: as various auditory alarms and warnings began to sound). Keep an eye out for other extraneous words.

    Best,

    Wednesday

  3. #3
    The Pseudonym
    Guest

    Re: "This is where we find ourselves..." (formatted)

    Now, my responses to Bob and Debra's comments from the original thread.


    Originally posted by Bob:
    "<u>Doc Kuffman was his usual droll self.</u>" - "This isn't needed. A mistake I frequently make, too; the author commenting on what was just said. What was droll about what he said? Didn't seem droll to me, so that comment pulled me out of the story. If you're doing dialogue, let the dialogue speak for itself, so to speak."

    There are two segments to this:

    Firstly, my use of the word droll. I tend to think of droll as meaning "humourously odd or whimsical". And indeed, that's what I think of the doctor's statement. What is a good example of droll, in your mind? Perhaps a better or different word to have used in this situation would would have been "sardonic". Would that make better sense to you?

    Secondly, your point that dialogue should speak for itself strikes me as being quite intelligent, and is something that I don't think I've thought of. However, in this case, I consider my statement to be more of a "narrator's commentary" than needed description. A bit of a dryly sarcastic comment, as in, "so-and-so is certainly himself, today." Perhaps it would be easier to take in this manner were the characters' back-stories known. Admittedly, it might also come off as sounding rather odd at the beginning of a selection, especially if you do not know the tone. I would chalk this up to a stylistic quirk. Though perhaps I miss your point? Perhaps you could tell me what you think in response, and elaborate if still adamant.


    "<u>Kashar had a funny look on his face...</u>" - "I suggest replacing "funny" with something. A reader could interpret it as meaning comical. "An odd look" would work, or "stange" or "unusual." Don't use words with contrary double meanings unless it's clear which meaning you meant. The later sentences told me it wasn't comical, but that was"

    Quite right, Bob- we can't confuse the reader. Thank you for mentioning this. I think it's a little unfortunate though, as funny just "seemed to fit", in my mind. Funny (meaning odd) just has a slightly different connotation than odd itself, or strange/unusual/uneasy- don't you agree? I think of it as being, sort of, "cutely strange".

    But then, do you really think of "humour" when funny is used in conjunction with look (other than in the case of a clown)? Personally, I don't think that I do- although, it's expected that the "odd look" may strike someone as being humourous (though not being humourous in itself). Of course, if I'm the only one who thinks of it this way, then I still must conform if I wish for others to understand me. ;P But do you see what I mean? Can you think of a better way to phrase what I've just described? Because I just don't think that a simple "odd" does it justice.

    Remember that the character Kashar is meant to be "stoic"- let's draw a comparison to, say, the character of Mr. Worf (played by Michael Dorn) from the Star Trek series (hopefully you are familiar with him). Were a look of uneasiness to cross his face, no doubt any onlooker who was familiar with him would find this to be cute or slightly humourous, as they're so used to him being so self-controlled and emotionless. But then, you're not familiar with the character of Kashar, so it's not really a fair analogy, I suppose.


    "<u>...staring blankly yet amusedly...</u>" "Hmm. Which is it? I maintain that no one can look amused and blank at the same time. "Blankly" is okay, but try to avoid two adverbs together, especially if they're contradictory. IMO. it's smoother to say something like "he stared with amusement.""

    Perhaps a poor use of words, on my part. Though as incomprehensible as it may seem, I did mean to say that his expression was vacant and amusedly intent, at the same time. There's just not a word that I can think of that encompasses all that. The best that I can come up with is "bizarrely capricious"- and that's even more difficult to decipher. Can you think of a solution? Or are my ambitions simply unsound?

    I thank you very much, Bob- I highly appreciate your input. Please pardon me if it seems that I am unwilling to accept constructive criticism- because indeed I am. I merely tend to see a deeper meaning in some of my words (which is in no way conducive to the writing process- at least when it comes to writing that is meant to be shared with others).



    Originally posted by Debra:
    "As someone suggested on another thread, count your adverbs. I think you'll be surprised."

    Hmm... why do you say that? Personally, I'm not surprised- that's just my own way of thinking/writing. Lol. But no, I'm truly curious. Could you point me in the direction of the thread you mentioned? I realize that my writing tends to be rather "descriptor/modifier heavy", especially in the case of adverbs. But I've never thought of it as a problem or complication. Do you find that it muddles your impression of things, or makes the read difficult? I just find it to make things more colourful, and varied- more specific. But I admit that I really don't know what effect it has on outside perspectives.

    Thank you very much, Debra.


    Other comments are most welcome. Thank you everyone for reading.

  4. #4
    The Pseudonym
    Guest

    Re: "This is where we find ourselves..." (formatted)

    Originally posted by Wednesday:
    "The action clips along, you just need to tighten it. Like Debra said, consider nixing some adverbs (in the other post below). Also, right off the bat, I mentally deleted the word "various" in the first sentence (this phrase: as various auditory alarms and warnings began to sound). Keep an eye out for other extraneous words."

    Ah, thank you Wednesday. I suppose I can be a bit unnecessarily wordy, can't I? Again, I just sort of think in this way- not to say that it's conducive to my work. Though on the other hand, isn't this also a slightly archaic style? Though perhaps I should try to limit myself, regardless- I doubt that there's much market for such things.

    Duly noted- I thank you.

  5. #5
    Bob Kellogg
    Guest

    Adverbs and narrative voice.

    First, about your narrative voice. I'll try to explain what I mean. Perhaps the best way is to let Rennie Browne explain. This is from page 48 of Self-Editing For Fiction Writers:
    <<
    Imagine you're at a play. It's the middle of the first act, you're getting to know the characters, and you're getting really involved in the drama they're acting out. Suddenly the playwright runs out on the stage and yells, "Do you see what's happening here? Do you see how her coldness is behind his infidelity? Have you noticed the way his womanizing has undermined her self-confidence? Do you get it?"

    You get it, of course, and you feel patronized. You're an intelligent theatergoer, and what's happening on the stage is clear enough. You don't need the author to explain it to you.

    This is exactly what happens when you explain your dialogue to your readers. Consider the following:

    "You can't be serious," she said in astonishment.

    If you're like most novelists or short story authors, you write sentences like these almost without thinking. What could be easier than to simply tell the readers how a character feels? If she's astonished, you just say so--it saves all sorts of time and trouble.
    >>

    Well, she goes on. That's one of the many reasons that book is so good.

    In your case, the authorial intrusion wasn't insulting. But what you did is to give us dialogue, then offer an opinion about it. There are a couple of things wrong with that, in my opinion.

    First, I disagreed with your opinion. It wasn't humorous. Perhaps if I had read more and you'd primed the pump, I would've regarded it as droll. But if that were true, why did you need to tell me?

    Second, it took me out of the story, the one you're trying to tell me. You need to decide what's important, your opinions or your story.

    I have no wish to intrude on your style. If you want the reader to be aware of you, the author, so be it. You're taking a chance, though. What if the reader is annoyed by your intrusion? You lost him. If your opinions and observations are important to you, by all means keep them in. Let the chaff be blown away.

    About "funny." use it, by all means, if it feels right to you. I just heard an echo of a juvenile storyteller in the phrase. But your narrative voice is yours alone and must reflect your choices. It's not really important.

    Now about the adverbs. If you want to sell this, don't use any adverbs. Well, that's an exaggeration. But ration those adverbs as if they cost you money every time you inserted one. Big money.

    Why? Things like "bizarrely capricious" shout "amateur!"

    And why is that?

    Can you explain bizarrely capricious, or even blankly yet amusedly? Is it worth stopping the narrative to make sure the reader knows exactly how a face can be blank, meaning devoid of expression, and amused at the same time? What causes an amused reaction? Can you describe it? Would you want to do so in the narrative?

    The answer, I hope is no. You're either telling a story or you're playing with words. Try to do both, and IMO, you won't do an adequate job of either.

    As to adverbs themselves, they've been described as rickety crutches trying to support a feeble verb. Use strong verbs instead. Your prose will be stronger.

    I know it's hard. Kind of like quitting smoking. But I quit smoking about 15 years ago and I'm almost cured of adverbs.

    I don't want to be cured completely. Sometimes an adverb is simpler, and I can move on to something more important. But that's the key. Use strong verbs when the prose is important.

    You've got a good narrative drive and a good dramatic sense. A sense of humor, too. You'll go far.

    Bob K.
    =============================================
    "Art is long, life short, judgment difficult,
    opportunity transient."
    ...Goethe

  6. #6
    Choppafreak
    Guest

    Re: Adverbs and narrative voice.

    Mr. Kellogg says most of what I would, and I'm in agreement with him on all points. That won't stop me from reiterating them, of course.

    Let there be no argument concerning the adverbs: Destroy them, all of them.

    "Eternally stoic" caught my eye, in a bad way, and looking around I saw a number of other words and phrases that while not all adverbs or adverbial had the same effect: Always, as ever, his usual self... these are shortcuts to avoid. Give us the characters' behavior, and let the reader generalize. .

    Your writing is rich and moves well. It took me a bit to orient myself and sort out the characters. The opening paragraphs felt stiff; as the piece progressed your prose became smoother and more efficient. It's difficult to give you my impressions without some sort of context. Is this the beginning of something? Would this occur midway through a longer work?

    The characters' use of each others' names in dialogue (“xxxx, Mr. Jones.” "To the contrary, Ms. Smith, yyyy.") gives the piece a stilted, archaic feel.

    Your excellent vocabulary renders the adverbs especially unnecessary. Hey! Writer! Leave those verbs alone!

    Laerin wasn’t at all distracted

    <dd>You don't need "at all" here at all. He wasn't distracted.

    This needs only minor stylistic tightening, notably the scorched-earth approach to adverbs advocated above, to be a commendably strong... chunk? Chapter? Whatever it is.

  7. #7
    The Pseudonym
    Guest

    Re: Adverbs and narrative voice.

    I'm beginning to better understand the war on adverbs, gentlepeople. So thank you for your continuing advice on the matter. It isn't something that I've much considered in the past. However, I also maintain that they simply tend to be part of my style, in some ways. But a sometimes excessive wordiness is not (or at least is not universally acceptable), and I shall attempt to cut down on it, adverbs and otherwise.


    I also see that I should be more discerning when it comes to my narration, Bob. While I feel that the "opinionated narrative" has its place, it was not my intention to use it here.

    However, when it comes to "First, I disagreed with your opinion. It wasn't humorous. Perhaps if I had read more and you'd primed the pump, I would've regarded it as droll. But if that were true, why did you need to tell me?". I didn't mean to say that that specific dialogue should be taken as humourous by the reader (or humourously odd or whimsical/sarcastic, as I put it). Rather that in the opinion of the other characters, it was. I was trying to give some insight into the character of Doc Kuffman- not elaborate on his statement for the benefit of the reader. Though perhaps I should have found away to make this more clear.


    Bob:
    "Things like 'bizarrely capricious' shout 'amateur!'"

    Lol, I wouldn't actually have used that- I was just attempting to describe the expression that I was trying to get across. But can I explain the expression? Be it "blankly yet amusedly", or "bizarrely capricious"? Yes, I can- in fact, I attempted to by mentioning "bizarrely capricious". Though perhaps it isn't fair for me to think that I'd be understood without sufficient elaboration. So point taken.


    Bob:
    "As to adverbs themselves, they've been described as rickety crutches trying to support a feeble verb. Use strong verbs instead. Your prose will be stronger."

    I can now appreciate this, so thank you. However, there are some cases in which I'd still reserve the right to use an adverb. No, I wouldn't dream of using the phrase "bizarrely capricious". But what "strong verb" can you think of that does such a complex statement justice? That's what I'm struggling with.

    Isn't there a common ground between concise and "colourfully verbose"? Perhaps the biggest issue is accessibility. "Is it easily understood?" If so, then what is the harm in using adverbs? Though I now fully understand that the problem is that in most cases, adverb phrases are not easily understood- and perhaps this is why they have been given such a bad name. But were they such a universal evil, I would question why they ever came into existence. Their proper use adds such a beautiful complexity to thought that I couldn't fathom that they came around through our clumsy use of the language.


    Choppafreak:
    "'Eternally stoic' caught my eye, in a bad way, and looking around I saw a number of other words and phrases that while not all adverbs or adverbial had the same effect: Always, as ever, his usual self... these are shortcuts to avoid. Give us the characters' behavior, and let the reader generalize."

    Point taken. In this case, I think the only reason that I used these devices was because of the lack of introduction, though. You can't already know the characters' personalities, and such a short selection likely doesn't provide ample time for you to form an opinion (as you later implied yourself, on the topic of "context"). But as for allowing the readers to gather their own information, I duly note this.


    Choppafreak:
    "It's difficult to give you my impressions without some sort of context. Is this the beginning of something? Would this occur midway through a longer work?"

    Ah, I'm afraid you've caught me, haha. I actually wrote this up off the top of my head. This short piece is the only place that Laerin, Kashar, Kuffman, and Mivvec exist- at least for now. Personally, I think the characters are too one-dimensional to do anything with, anyway- though I might enjoy modifying/completing them, in the future. But quite frankly, I have better things already floating around in my mind. These guys were just spontaneous. And there's really no specific plot to speak of, so....

    I'm preparing to begin a currently unspecified project, and was just looking for some initial input on my writing style. This isn't entirely representative of my abilities, but I think it offers a pretty good look. And of course, I'm always interested in improving and refining my talents. But I wanted to hear some opinions before I began, so that I'd have less to mop up, later. I'm very appreciative for everyone's comments and advice.

    Though if this selection were part of a project of mine, it likely would be a segment from the middle. Or perhaps an "action introduction", with a slower and proper acclimatization to follow in the next chapter. But I can see how it might be difficult to truly comment on it without context- so for this, I apologize. Of course, it was rather interesting writing it without context, as well. ;P


    Choppafreak:
    "The characters' use of each others' names in dialogue (“xxxx, Mr. Jones.” "To the contrary, Ms. Smith, yyyy.") gives the piece a stilted, archaic feel."

    I admit this, and perhaps more dangerously, admit that I like it, and tend to think/speak like this myself. Though I suppose that I'll have to amend my methods should they seem "artificial", and not just pleasantly antiquated. But you don't see anyone rushing out to "modernize" Shakespeare or Dickens, do you? Though I don't claim to have their specific abilities, either. But it would be wrong of me not to aspire to be able to do as I please in my writing. Haha, I hope I don't sound too pompous.


    Choppafreak:
    "You don't need "at all" here at all. He wasn't distracted." (From "Laerin wasn’t at all distracted...".)

    Hmm, then why do you need "at all" in the sentence "You don't need 'at all' here at all."? Though I do understand what you mean by your comment. It's about clarity and poignancy. I simply wanted to say that the character "wasn't distracted- not in the least". Would saying that, in fact, be better, in your mind? Or do you consider even that to be excessive? There are surely different degrees of "not being distracted". So that's all that I can think to say to get that across- unless there's a better word for being "not distracted to the extreme".



    Thank you very much, Mr. Kellogg, Choppafreak, and everyone else from earlier in the thread. You've all truly been very helpful to me.

  8. #8
    The Pseudonym
    Guest

    Re: Adverbs and narrative voice.

    I would like to post a follow-up to my response to Choppafreak's comment: ""'Eternally stoic' caught my eye, in a bad way, and looking around I saw a number of other words and phrases that while not all adverbs or adverbial had the same effect: Always, as ever, his usual self... these are shortcuts to avoid. Give us the characters' behavior, and let the reader generalize."

    I said before that my use of these words/phrases was because the selection lacked an introduction/context. In the case of "eternally stoic" and "his usual droll self", that remains true. However, I fail to grasp how "allowing the reader to form his (or her) own opinions" applies to "Only Mivvec was unaffected. He sat in the corner, alone- a sly grin on his face, as always." Did you intend for it to? And if so, could you elaborate? Because, in this instance, I'm not trying to inject opinion- I'm rather relating to presumably documented past events. If not in the eye of the reader, in the eye of the other characters. I'm just curious as to whether you found any problem with this- because saying merely "with a sly grin on his face" would have a different meaning, stylistically.

    Thanks again!

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