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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Fog & Ice Critique // Short Story

    Hi there.

    I'm a 26 year old Norwegian male who have just finished my business stuides. While writing my dissertation this summer i decided to take on my first fiction project as I have always enjoyed writing and reading.

    I was hoping some of you might be bothered to critique my short-story "Fog & Ice", which is posted on the front-page, as I am trying to develop my writing and storytelling.
    The story is around 4500 words and I hope that doesn't scare people from checking it out.
    Any feedback is warmly welcomed.

    Here is an excerpt from the story which I would like to get a critique on:

    "The days grew shorter and the nights longer this time of year and the sun had not yet lit up the world. Maybe it did not intend to any longer. Staring out into the mist, the Captain could not suppress his joy of once again being free from the real world. As he looked south, the Captain could see Nome becoming smaller and smaller and to the north the Beaufort Sea growing wider and wider. Familiar dark shapes bobbing up and down in the water began to take presence in his mind. Priorities were changing now.
    ‘The real world’, he muttered. ‘What could be more real than this?’
    Earl climbed out of the cabin and onto deck, map in hand, clearly sleep deprived and eager. The fog was begging to grow heavier now, and the Captain summoned Earl out of his map and onto the helm. Earl, whose body was molded by his ranging Montana home country, could feel the seafaring life take its toll. Challenging his perspective, that’s why he did this with all the heart he could muster.

    The environment still being somewhat charitable, Earl was assigned to mast duty. His eyesight was exceptional from growing up in Bozeman’s hills and he was pleased to be useful. With nervous tension and lack of grace, Earl struggled to climb the rope ladder. The Captain offered what he believed to be comfort;
    ‘It’s difficult to find your way home if you don’t know the path… My friend, do not worry, the voyage is my home…’.
    Earl shrugged with his whole body, ‘How could it be your home if you don’t know the way?’.
    Pausing at this, Earl felt tense and unfamiliar with the Captain. He knew this natural space offered little room for reflection and that action is rewarded over meditation. The true healing properties of this creation is action, then at night rumination.

    It’s always easy being brave in the day, Earl thought. The long shadows of the night, however, requires a different man. It could not have been any truer at these latitudes. Earl arrested himself in acting against his own rationale and was set straight as his first ice appeared. No familiarity was to be found in the patterns of this world. Therefore, now action, later rumination.
    ‘To my liking, we should pass through the Prince of Wales Strait’, Earl suggested timidly, knowing his true place.
    ‘Agreed…and continue north of Victoria Island’, Haynes added, who was confidently performing the morning routine.
    With eight years of sailing yachts across the Atlantic for billionaires wanting to spend their summer in the blue of the French Riviera, Haynes’ sea legs were steady. At least in somewhat decent conditions. Feeling unproven in his trade, he wanted to earn his stripes by undertaking this journey. Both Earl and Haynes knew that democracy was left at shore, and started to untie the long poles from the gunwale without expecting and answer from the Captain. The boat screeched as Earl and Haynes barely pushed it clear of an iceberg. It was exhausting work, and heavy on fuel, as they had to run solely on engine. Propulsion by sail was too risky, as the regulation of speed had to be immediate. A concern both Earl and Haynes shared materialized when they saw the western tip of Baffin Island and Sachs Harbor. Both began to realize that the Captain never intended to break north through the Prince of Wales Strait. Rather, the route of Roald Amundsen’s 1903 expedition was to be followed. Earl glared over at Haynes who was putting on his coat of doubt. Though being a stoic character, Earl had seen the unmistakable colors of disbelief on Haynes before. Being ruthlessly introspective, he only wore them when he was uncertain about his decisions. Both had the warnings of the sailors floating in their minds.

    Earl and Haynes, both Bozeman natives, had met the Captain at the infamous Monkey Wharf bar in Anchorage. It was a place known for two things; being a shelter for sailors and for the business-minded macaque monkeys they kept in cages. Seeking hire, Earl and Haynes entered the jungle and sought the barmaid’s advice. Lifting her arm from the sticky bar counter, she directed their attention towards a rugged whaler who was holding court at the corner table. Though the grace of young years was behind her, she was refreshingly eager to see other people fulfill their dreams. Clearly excited and serious, the whaler at the table said;
    ‘I trust this man with all my heart…I saw his true colors on a hard antarctic whaling expedition twenty years ago. Whatever he says or writes, I believe’.
    Earl and Haynes’ pondering over what this talk was about was swiftly cleared by the barmaid.
    ‘Talk of the town is that Roald Amundsen has Inuit descendants. Apparently, the elements wasn’t all he conquered on his voyages…’, she said with a grin.
    The Captain’s character, with his weather-beaten face, Norwegian accent and snow-goggles hanging from his neck quickly pleased Earl and Haynes’ attention. Asking around, people cautioned them about sailing with the Captain. He preferred traversing the Northwest Passage closer to the main land, rather than chasing open waters further north. Why was a mystery to even the experienced sailors who had been familiar with him for years. Rumor was that the Captain was looking for crew as he intended to sell his old faithful to a buyer in Saint John’s, Newfoundland. With a goal rising above their alcohol clouded minds, Earl and Haynes decided they would spend the night plotting how to approach the Captain. Young in their years, both men wanted to earn their stories."


    The full story can be found at the my blog which I have linked to on my profile.
    Please feel free to read and share my stories if you like them.
    I hope you do!

    Regards,
    H.G.H
    Last edited by hghwriting; 10-02-2016 at 05:19 AM.

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    This is pretty slow. Nothing much really happens in this excerpt.

    Since English probably isn't your first language watch for awkward phrasing like this:
    the Captain summoned Earl out of his map and onto the helm.
    I think "away from his map and over to the helm" would make more sense.
    It was a place known for two things; being a shelter for sailors and for the business-minded macaque monkeys they kept in cages.
    That should be a colon, not a semicolon.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Not seeing the link.

    Can't critique this now, but I'll try to stop by later.

  4. #4
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayce View Post
    Not seeing the link.

    Can't critique this now, but I'll try to stop by later.
    https://hghwriting.com/

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    The days grew shorter and the nights longer this time of year and the sun had not yet lit up the world. Maybe it did not intend to any longer. Staring out into the mist, the Captain could not suppress his joy of once again being free from the real world. As he looked south, the Captain could see Nome becoming smaller and smaller and to the north the Beaufort Sea growing wider and wider. Familiar dark shapes bobbing up and down in the water began to take presence in his mind. Priorities were changing now.
    Look at this from the viewpoint of a reader who comes to you knowing only what the words have said to any point. When they begin to read, your reader knows none of the background, has no idea of what's going on, who they are, or where they are in time and space. Remember, too, that the reader is with you to be entertained. With that in mind:

    • "The days grew shorter and the nights longer this time of year and the sun had not yet lit up the world.

    This makes no sense. As written, it appears that you're saying it's summer, because from the summer solstice onward the days are shortening. Yet you say "sun had not yet lit up the world," which seems to say it's mid-winter with 24 hours of darkness at the winter solstice. Yes, you're probably saying, it's summer before dawn, but that's not clear, partly because the sentence has two subjects, the season and the time. But that aside, who cares what time it is? The story has yet to begin. Why not introduce the character, the situation, and the scene and let the character notice the weather, if it matters to him/her. Because if it doesn't, why mention it? And why tell us it's before dawn and then have the character looking at things in and across the water.

    • Maybe it did not intend to any longer.

    Given that I don't know who's saying this (and can't hear the tone the words were spoken in), I don't know what led the unknown speaker to conclude that the sun has somehow decided to go dark. Again, unless it's a possibility, as part of this story, why slow the narrative with irrelevant data?

    • Staring out into the mist, the Captain could not suppress his joy of once again being free from the real world.

    Captain? What captain? You've given no hint, at this point that we're on a boat, or the shore, mountain or plane—or who we're with. For all I know we're on a planet light years from Earth. And certainly I don't know what being out of the real world refers to. Is where he is not part of the "real world?" And, I don't know about you, but I've never felt free just because it was misty.

    • As he looked south, the Captain could see Nome becoming smaller and smaller and to the north the Beaufort Sea growing wider and wider.

    Something to think about: You say he "could see." He probably could see a multitude of things. But he's focused on only one—the thing he will react to. And fair is fair. It is his story. Doesn't it make sense to talk about what matters to him in the moment rather than pointing out the sights that he's ignoring?

    My point is that you're telling the story to the reader as a storyteller, and when we do that our own knowledge of the settings, the character, and the background blinds us to what the reader will get from context and what we must give them to have context. So here, because you know the captain, why he's there, and what he's hoping to accomplish, you fill in the blanks as you read. But can the reader?

    Pity that reader. They can't hear the emotion you do when you read the story because they lack context. They can't see the gestures you visually punctuate with to add emotion, or any of the things that work in performance but don't make it to the page. It's not a matter of talent, but of knowledge.

    In our school days we write lots of reports and essays as we learn the skills employers expect us to have. But how much time did your teachers spend on things like the structure of a scene on the page, the role of the scene goal, or the things a reader wants to know on entering a scene? If yours were like mine, and my kids, the answer is none. And because they didn't, we assume it's unnecessary to know more than what we were taught.

    But readers, as I said, want to be entertained, while what we learned is how to inform, a very different goal. The good news is that since you mastered nonfiction writing it seems a reasonable assumption that you can do the same with the emotion-based and character-centric tricks of fiction. And your local library's fiction writing section can be a huge help.

    For an overview of a few of the issues involved, you might want to dig through the writing articles in my blog. This article is also a good introduction to one very powerful way of placing the reader into the scene, and worth a read.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

    Jay Greenstein

    Our goal isn't to make the reader know the character is frightened, it's to terrify the reader.

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Yeah, not much happening there. I don't know what Jay's talking about - I knew they were sailors on a boat somewhere near Alaska, probably sometime late in Autumn.

    Lots of odd and awkward wording. I can tell English is your second language. Either attend some English classes, or read a lot more English novels, or get an editor.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 10-04-2016 at 08:26 PM.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the replies people! This is what I need

    Again, thanks...

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