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  1. #1
    Brandon Cleveland
    Guest

    Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    The setting seemed too familiar, the young man realized after he had ample time to absorb the view. The single story gray mass of a building was where Darren Kelly spent five years of his youth as a student and the last three of his life as a custodian.
    His was the only car that sat in the lot, as it had been for the all of the time that he had worked there. The ‘human-to-human’ teaching process was phased out back when his parents attended school some thirty years prior, and the artificial intelligence originally designed to assist human instruction eventually replaced it. The school board decided that the human mind was more fallible and prone to error than well programmed and perfected AI, and within weeks of the official announcement, the state of Pennsylvania dismissed its human staff (except for upper administration).
    Because of Federal law that required employers to maintain at least one organic sentient on staff, the State elected to dismiss its robotic custodial system and employ a human in the freed position. The administration also felt that it was beneficial to the learning process to have some adult presence in an education facility.
    Well Dave, he said to the car’s EPS, another day, another dollar.
    Dave, an Enhanced Personality System, was designed to complement Darren’s psyche to the subconscious level. Dave and every other EPS function in a state of constant evolution, programmed to develop through interaction from the car’s inhabitant. Most car owners, if ever they find themselves in the situation to acquire a new car, EPS were typically transferred to the new vehicle.
    Darren breathed deeply and touched the door’s interaction pad with two of his fingers, commanding it to open. At eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit, it was a cool morning by the day’s standard. By his watch, it was three minutes until seven-thirty. That gave him a half hour to get his office together before the personal and group transports arrived loaded with students.
    Kelly approached the building’s only entrance, and slid his hand into the thin unassuming slot next to the door. Blue light scanned every contour of his palm, and the door opened as the building’s innards illuminated.
    The hallway was long and white, with three doors on each side; spread fifty feet apart from another. The high ceiling and the narrow walls that lined the building doubled as the structure's source of light. It set a relaxed and attentive mood, Kelly thought. After the five minutes it took to boot the school’s AI system, he liked to sit in the hallway and think. Mostly, he spent the time thinking about his position in life. Officially, he was an Artificial Intelligence Maintenance Technician, but he was content with the considerably short ‘janitor.’



  2. #2
    June Casagrande
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    I love the story you're setting up. But your sentences are clunky, your choices are timid, and you can't be descriptive unless you make specific choices (i.e. you can't get me to see a car if you don't tell me what kind of car it is. You can't get me to see an evil if you don't give it a name and a face. You can't get me to care about a protagonist if you don't quickly designate him as someone more 3-D than "the young man.")

    Here are some notes (until I ran out of time), followed by a Crichton excerpt I found online. Hope they help.

    The setting seemed(WEAK VERB) too familiar, the young man realized after he had ample time to absorb the view. (EVERYTHING AFTER THE COMMA FEELS FATTY, CLUNKY AND UNNECESSARY)

    The single story gray mass of a building (DOES “MASS OF A BUILDING” REALLY CONVEY ANYTHING TO YOU? I DON’T THINK OF BUILDINGS AS MASSES. was(WEAK VERB) where Darren Kelly spent five years of his youth as a student(“AS” PHRASES CAN SUCK THE LIFE OUT OF SENTENCES, AS EVIDENCED HERE) and the last three of his life as a custodian. (“OF HIS LIFE,” “AS A CUSTODIAN” – TACKED-ON PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES THAT COULD BE REPLACED WITH ACTIVE, INTERESTING SENTENCES: “HOW MANY TIMES HAD HE MOPPED ITS GRITTY TILE FLOOR DURING HIS THREE YEARS THERE?”)

    His was(“HIS WAS” IS, 99% OF THE TIME, A TERRIBLE WAY TO START A SENTENCE. HOW ABOUT, “HIS 1978 HONDA CIVIC SAT ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LOT – JUST AS IT HAD WHEN HE HAD WORKED THERE”) the only car that sat in the lot, as it had been for the all of the time that he had worked there. The ‘human-to-human’ teaching process was phased out(PASSIVE SENTENCE STRUCTURE. HOW ABOUT, “THE BUTTONED-DOWN ADMINISTRATORS WITH THEIR CRISP STARCHED SHIRTS HAD ELIMINATED WHAT WAS ONCE CALLED THE “HUMAN-TO-HUMAN” TEACHING METHOD THAT HAD REIGNED BACK WHEN HIS PARENTS HAD ATTENDED SCHOOL THERE SOME THIRTY YEARS PRIOR”) back when his parents attended school some thirty years prior, and the artificial intelligence originally designed to assist human instruction(SUCH AN INTERESTING FACT! SUCH A CLUNKY WAY OF WORDING IT. GET OUT OF THE ABSTRACT: “THE COMPUTERS WERE THE TEACHERS NOW. THEIR "ARTIFICIAL “INTELLIGENCE” WAS, AT FIRST, MERELY A TOOL TO HUMAN TEACHERS. LOOKING BACK, THEY SHOULD HAVE ALL SEEN IT COMING". ALSO, "ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE" ISN'T 3-D. I DON'T KNOW IF THEY'RE ROBOTS OR LAPTOPS OR A GAS IN THE ROOM.) eventually replaced it. The school board (VAGUE, FACELESS) decided(WEAK) that the human mind was more fallible and prone to error(TOO ABSTRACT. AN EXAMPLE WOULD WORK BETTER. “DR. DOCTOROW, THE PINCH-MOUTHED SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT, HAD DECLARED THE MACHINES SUPERIOR SHORTLY AFTER IT WAS REVEALED THAT A YOUNG ENGLISH TEACHER FROM BROOKLYN DIDN’T KNOW THE WORD “CONJUGATE.”) than well programmed and perfected AI, and (WHY AND? WHY NOT GIVE THIS INTERESTING INFO THE SENTENCE OF ITS OWN IT DESERVES?) within weeks of the official announcement(YOU HAVEN’T MENTIONED ANY ANNOUNCEMENT), the state of Pennsylvania dismissed its human staff (except for upper administration)(DESPERATELY DEVOID OF DETAIL).
    Because of Federal law that required (SYNONYM FOR: “GOODBYE, READER. THANKS FOR HANGING IN THIS LONG. BUT I UNDERSTAND WHY YOU’RE GOING TO STOP READING NOW.”) employers to maintain at least one organic sentient on staff, the State elected to dismiss its robotic custodial system and employ a human in the freed position(I LOVE THIS STORY. REALLLY COMPELLING. BUT YOUR SENTENCES ARE SUPER CLUNKY AND UNINTERESTING.) . The administration(WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU MENTIONED A REAL PROTAGONIST, A REAL ANTAGONIST OR ANY PERSON I AS A READER CAN IDENTIFY WITH? IT’S BEEN TOO LONG) also felt (WEAK VERB) that it was (WEAKER VERB) beneficial(WEAK ADJECTIVE, THOUGH POTENTIALLY USEFUL IN CONVEYING AN ADMINISTRATOR’S COLD INSTITUTIONAL VOICE) to the learning process(IF I NEVER READ A WORD OF FICTION WITH THE WORD “PROCESS” IN IT, THAT’LL BE OKAY WITH ME) to have some adult (AGAIN, YOU’RE AVOIDING PUTTING A HUMAN FACE ON ANYTHING. IT’S VERY UNINTERESTING TO A READER. WHO DO YOU HAVE STRONGER FEELINGS ABOUT: DARTH VADER OR THE EMPIRE?). presence(AGAIN, ABSTRACT AS OPPOSED TO 3-D) in an education facility(YIKES. NOT GOOD LANGUAGE FOR HOLDING A NOVEL READER’S ATTENTION).

    Well Dave, he said to the car’s EPS, (NO. 1: YOU NEVER TOLD US HE WAS IN THE CAR. NO. 2: IS IT A SHINY NEW RIDE OR A SAD BEATER? YOU’RE MISSING AN OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE MOOD AND VISUALS. 3. DON’T FORGET YOUR QUOTATION MARKS) another day, another dollar.(IS THAT REALLY THE BEST YOU CAN DO?)

    Dave, an Enhanced Personality System, was designed(PASSIVE AND BORING) to complement Darren’s psyche to the subconscious level(THIS WOULD BE SO INTERESTING IF IT CONTAINED SOME SPECIFICS). Dave and every other EPS function in a state of constant evolution, programmed to develop through interaction from the car’s inhabitant(I GLAZED OVER ALTOGHTER ON THIS SENTENCE). Most car owners(I DON’T CARE ABOUT MOST CAR OWNERS. I CARE ABOUT A PROTAGONIST WHOSE SITUATION I CAN FEEL AND WHOSE CAUSE I CAN ROOT FOR., I’M STOPPING HERE BECAUSE I HAVE WORK TO DO. MORE NOTES BELOW)

    *******************
    Compare your sentences to the ones in this Michael Crichton excerpt I found online. Say what you will about Crichton, but this excerpt makes clear the power of short sentences, clear action, characters with faces, and choosing the specific over the vague:

    <<Beneath the high canopy of trees, the jungle floor was dark and silent. No breeze stirred the giant ferns at shoulder height. Hagar wiped sweat from his forehead, glanced back at the others, and pushed on. The expedition moved deep into the jungles of central Sumatra. No one spoke, which was the way Hagar liked it.
    The river was just ahead. A dugout canoe on the near bank, a rope stretched across the river at shoulder height. They crossed in two groups, Hagar standing up in the dugout, pulling them across on the rope, then going back for the others. It was silent except for the cry of a distant hornbill.
    They continued on the opposite bank. The jungle trail grew narrower, and muddy in spots. The team didn't like that; they made a lot of noise trying to scramble around the wet patches. Finally, one said, "How much farther is it?"
    It was that kid. The whiny American teenager with spots on his face. >>

  3. #3
    June Casagrande
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    For some reason, part of that Crichton excerpt didn't paste. Here is is again.

    Also, a note I forgot to include: You never mention he's at a school. You say there's a gray building and that a teaching method had been phased out. Mention first that it's a school building.

    Crichton:

    <<
    Beneath the high canopy of trees, the jungle floor was dark and silent. No breeze stirred the giant ferns at shoulder height. Hagar wiped sweat from his forehead, glanced back at the others, and pushed on. The expedition moved deep into the jungles of central Sumatra. No one spoke, which was the way Hagar liked it.

    The river was just ahead. A dugout canoe on the near bank, a rope stretched across the river at shoulder height. They crossed in two groups, Hagar standing up in the dugout, pulling them across on the rope, then going back for the others. It was silent except for the cry of a distant hornbill.

    They continued on the opposite bank. The jungle trail grew narrower, and muddy in spots. The team didn't like that; they made a lot of noise trying to scramble around the wet patches. Finally, one said, "How much farther is it?"

    It was that kid. The whiny American teenager with spots on his face.


    >>

  4. #4
    Carla C
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    June - What a wonderful tutorial! I hope that wasn't weak.
    Seriously, we can learn a lot from this.
    Thanks.
    C

  5. #5
    Brandon Cleveland
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    June -

    Wow, and thanks. I see I'm missing out on so many visuals, and it makes me rethink what I've done so far in my story.

    Also - this excerpt is from the flashback chapters I've entitled "The Legend of Darren Kelly (pts I - IX)" which is narrated in third person, whereas the rest of the book is in first person present tense.

  6. #6
    June Casagrande
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    It's weird: When I have an idea for a whole novel, I tend to approach it the way you did above -- just sort of blowing past detail and squeezing in backstory.

    But when I took a couple of writing classes in which they make you stop and focus on just one visual, one moment, or one scene. And with my first class I went from self-diagnosed "visually impaired" to someone who totally competent at description.

    The whole trick, for me, the thing I least want to do: Linger in the moment. Steep in it. See it. Smell it.

    The problem is that I don't want to do it. But when I do, it works.

  7. #7
    June Casagrande
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    Yes, I see my funny typos above. Hoping we can just leave it at that.

    : )

  8. #8
    Smiling Curmudgeon
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    Brandon,

    You can't go wrong by paying close heed to June's comments.

    cur

  9. #9
    June Casagrande
    Guest

    Re: Would like some input on descriptive abilities

    Hi, Cur!

    Are you writing? Did you finish that story I read part of? The writing was really good.

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