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Old 03-07-2014, 07:22 PM   #31
arjaybe
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Annie the Dreamer

I've uploaded version 1.1. I think it addresses the issues, such as the POV problem.

The rings - touching them with her thumbs is an example of the stereotyped behavior often found in emotionally troubled people.

The knife - just the kind of thing that might be left on the counter in such a house.

The sudden violence and abandonment shows how near the edge she was.

I didn't do much to the opening. Let me know if it's still confusing.

I think it's better. Thanks for your help.

Jim
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Old 03-08-2014, 05:57 AM   #32
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When My Father Died

Version 1-3 is up now. Hope it is a little better, albeit longer.

Removed the quotes around 'died' so as to make it less predictable.

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Old 03-08-2014, 07:16 PM   #33
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When My Father Died

v1.3

I can see where you've made improvements.

Clarify the rooms - maybe ". . . all the lights in our flat . . ."

No need to mention the snuffing. Don't want to lessen the effect of the tobacco.

Did he have a stroke or a heart attack?

The paragraph with the book fair is unnecessarily complicated.

Good to see you working on the contracts. We're learning more about the father.

Good to see you using dialogue to explain things.

Does the Mom go to the kitchen or her room for the rice balls (bowls)?

There's more to talk about, but I want to see what the others say and avoid overloading you.

Jim
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Old 03-09-2014, 03:42 AM   #34
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When My Father Died

Thanks Jim. V 1.4 now added. I made almost all the improvements you suggested except the book fair thing which I would like to keep 'as is' in keeping with the 'mysterious, strange' nature of dreams; but let's see what other pros have to say on that.

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v1.3

I can see where you've made improvements.

Clarify the rooms - maybe ". . . all the lights in our flat . . ."

No need to mention the snuffing. Don't want to lessen the effect of the tobacco.

Did he have a stroke or a heart attack?

The paragraph with the book fair is unnecessarily complicated.

Good to see you working on the contracts. We're learning more about the father.

Good to see you using dialogue to explain things.

Does the Mom go to the kitchen or her room for the rice balls (bowls)?

There's more to talk about, but I want to see what the others say and avoid overloading you.

Jim
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Old 03-09-2014, 08:59 AM   #35
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Planting the Flag

I've uploaded v1.0 of "Planting the Flag". I'm happy for you to comment on this one now.

I'll read through the latest versions of Jim's and Marlowe's stories this afternoon.

This is fun.

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Old 03-09-2014, 02:38 PM   #36
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Annie the Dreamer

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
I've uploaded version 1.1. I think it addresses the issues, such as the POV problem.
Yes, you've fixed the POV issue well. I was momentarily confused as to who was speaking at the end of the paragraph - but I think that was just me, as it's clear that the mother is repeating herself. Only worry about that if someone else also mentions it.

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The rings - touching them with her thumbs is an example of the stereotyped behavior often found in emotionally troubled people.
The addition of the final reference to them in the closing paragraphs solved this for me. It feels balanced now, thanks.

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The knife - just the kind of thing that might be left on the counter in such a house.
Yup. Worked for me this time through. Removing the word 'vegetable' helped.

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Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
I didn't do much to the opening. Let me know if it's still confusing.
The open window and losing 'kraft' made things much clearer for me, however now that I know the story it's hard to say whether the opening is still confusing. We need a fresh pair of eyes there, really.

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I think it's better.
Definitely. There’s just one more place where I tripped up a little.

Spoiler:
In the part that goes:

Annie forgot about her urban fantasies and remembered her past. She dreamed, holding the silence in.

I was confused by the 'and remembered her past'. My impression of Annie's past is that it was tormented, and anything but silent. Could this work just as well without that phrase? Or be made more specific, e.g. so that the dreaming is either of happier times or to block out the bad ones?


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Old 03-09-2014, 04:04 PM   #37
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When My Father Died

Hi Marlowe,

Here are my comments on v1.4. I really like the added background details.

Spoiler:
The addition of the burning pyres in the opening is much better. It gives us a sense of place immediately. Do you think it would be good to make it even more specific? For example, could this be set in Varanassi? If not, why not?

It feels as though the 'guy from the south' is in the story simply as a sounding board to get the background details across. He is useful for this, but I think you could do more with him. For example, if he was staying at the house for some important reason - presumably to do with these business contracts - then it may be vital that the protagonist and his mother maintain a semblance of normality. Their increasingly frantic attempts to cover up the activities of the ghost would then make sense, and could be a source of increased tension and humour. We'd understand better then why they become desperate to hold a shradh and rid themselves of the problem.

You could bring out the 'auntie'-ness of the mother's relationship with the guest more - making it clear whether they are blood relatives or if he is calling her auntie the way every woman of a certain age seems to be 'auntie' in India.

By the time the 'fat man' appears and gives directions, as a reader I'm firmly involved in a ghost story (note: not a dream), and in such stories we expect things to have mystical connections. So, my mind throws up questions like: Does this 'fat man' already know about the ghost? Did he cause the ghost? Is he trying to get something from the family? Does he know what's behind those business contracts? Also, it seems so convenient that the regular priest was away. Was this fat man behind that in some way?

It's great that the story triggers these sorts of questions. It means it's working. My mind's racing around with 'what ifs' which is drawing me on through the story. But it means that to come to a satisfactory ending we need something that answers these questions at the end.

The book lawn fair is a lovely bit of place setting, and it's a shame that the priest isn't found at the end of the tunnels. Having to go through obstacles like a maze to get to a secret thing that can solve the problem helps to build the tension and reinforces the ghost story feel. Having this turn out to be just a diversion (bear in mind that we don't know this is just a dream) is very confusing, and seems a waste of a really good bit of build-up.

Next, in the scene with the priest, you write that "He talked about my father with such confidence as if he'd known us for years!" Primed by the encounter with the fat man, and because the story is cast as a ghost story and a mystery, my reading mind says, "Aha. He and the fat man are in cahoots! What's going on here? What are they up to? Hey, maybe the priest is the fat man!" If you don't then satisfy this I'll be left disappointed at the end of the story.

Then out the blue, comes the encounter with Mr Zant. This is good timing. I'd sort of forgotten about the contracts. Now I'm reminded, and my reading mind says to me "Ah, the contracts again. They're important. There's something going on here. It's got something to do with the contracts and that priest. And probably that fat man. Plus, I still don't know what's going on with that guy from the South."

Incidentally, you might not need both Mr Zant and the guy from the South. Could they be the same character?

The menacing shadowy figure appears a bit out of the blue. Could you foreshadow this anywhere much earlier in the story? Is it really necessary?

The whole story has been building towards the shradh. You've got some good atmospheric detail in here now, but I'm waiting for the climax. My reader's mind is telling me that everything is going to come together in the smoke of the shradh, something big is going to happen. Your ending's in there somewhere. Something that those ghosts can reveal at the shradh that explains the contracts, the guy from the South, the fat man, the priest, and the reason the father has to hang around until this very moment - when he finds his release.

You've got all the elements of a really good ghost story here. If you can somehow tie all these together you won't need to end it as 'just a dream'.


I hope all that helps. Again, these are, of course, just my impressions as I'm reading - so take as much or as little as makes sense to you.

Graham

Last edited by Graham; 03-09-2014 at 04:12 PM.
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Old 03-09-2014, 04:45 PM   #38
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Perhaps improper to ask but could you please give it another read? I think I changed some of these you mentioned (same old version, lol). Let me know that if it is now a 'passable' story for the anthology (assuming I don't make the other changes).

Quote:
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Hi Marlowe,

Here are my comments on v1.4. I really like the added background details.

Spoiler:
It feels as though the 'guy from the south' is in the story simply as a sounding board to get the background details across. He is useful for this, but I think you could do more with him. For example, if he was staying at the house for some important reason - presumably to do with these business contracts - then it may be vital that the protagonist and his mother maintain a semblance of normality.


Spoiler:
The book lawn fair is a lovely bit of place setting, and it's a shame that the priest isn't found at the end of the tunnels. Having to go through obstacles like a maze to get to a secret thing that can solve the problem helps to build the tension and reinforces the ghost story feel. Having this turn out to be just a diversion (bear in mind that we don't know this is just a dream) is very confusing, and seems a waste of a really good bit of build-up.


Spoiler:
The menacing shadowy figure appears a bit out of the blue. Could you foreshadow this anywhere much earlier in the story? Is it really necessary?


I hope all that helps. Again, these are, of course, just my impressions as I'm reading - so take as much or as little as makes sense to you.

Graham
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Old 03-09-2014, 05:36 PM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham View Post
There’s just one more place where I tripped up a little.

Spoiler:
In the part that goes:

Annie forgot about her urban fantasies and remembered her past. She dreamed, holding the silence in.

I was confused by the 'and remembered her past'. My impression of Annie's past is that it was tormented, and anything but silent. Could this work just as well without that phrase? Or be made more specific, e.g. so that the dreaming is either of happier times or to block out the bad ones?


Graham
Thanks for the comments. I'll work on that part.

Spoiler:
I'm trying to show the conflict between Annie's "traditional," "spiritual" heritage and the "modern" world, without being specific about what her heritage is. I don't want to exploit a particular culture. Do you think having her remember her people's past would be enough of a hint?


Jim

BTW, I registered at your blog. Hurry up and let me in!-)

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Old 03-09-2014, 05:47 PM   #40
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I'm slowly nearing the end of my story It turned out longer than I thought, to be honest. I had thought I'd easily be able to fit it within 4,000-5,000 words, but I'm at 4,198 words already, and I have three scenes to go.

I did put in some more descriptions than I had originally planned though, because I think the reader should not be left with questions afterward (except, obviously, if a followup story is planned).

Just before I post version 1.0, I'll do one pass to fix mistakes and take some things out I'm not happy with at this point: I seem to have the habit of making characters take too many deep breaths

After I post version 1.0, I'll be reading the latest versions of your stories, and give comments, hoping there's still something relevant to be said
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Old 03-09-2014, 05:51 PM   #41
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Thanks for the comments. I'll work on that part.

Spoiler:
I'm trying to show the conflict between Annie's "traditional," "spiritual" heritage and the "modern" world, without being specific about what her heritage is. I don't want to exploit a particular culture. Do you think having her remember her people's past would be enough of a hint?

Ah, interesting!

Spoiler:
Yes. Particularly if it shed a little more light on the significance of the dream of the trees.


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BTW, I registered at your blog. Hurry up and let me in!-)
Yay. My first registree apart from my wife! Thanks.

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Old 03-09-2014, 05:56 PM   #42
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I seem to have the habit of making characters take too many deep breaths
LOL. Me too (though not in the story here, for obvious reasons).

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Old 03-09-2014, 06:50 PM   #43
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Ah, interesting!

Spoiler:
Yes. Particularly if it shed a little more light on the significance of the dream of the trees.


Yay. My first registree apart from my wife! Thanks.

Graham
Hey, I know how we bloggers love to get comments.

Spoiler:
And the raven. Even the silver rings, if you hold your mouth right.-)


Jim
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Old 03-09-2014, 06:52 PM   #44
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Planting the Flag

I think this is a complete story. All that's left is any tweaking you want to do.

The Mate was going to fix AND-E's arm, but you didn't give her time.

The POV switches are okay.

Spoiler:
I like how you slowly revealed their true nature, giving us enough to get it ourselves before the end.

I got a sense of the futility of their charming earnestness. Yes?


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Old 03-09-2014, 07:01 PM   #45
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Perhaps improper to ask but could you please give it another read? I think I changed some of these you mentioned (same old version, lol).
Hi Marlowe. No problem; I've read it through again.

Spoiler:
I had missed that the guy from down South was a friend of his father's, sorry, which explains that it's not a blood relationship.

Regarding my comments about the possibility of doing some more with this character, if I turn that round it might make it clearer what I mean: How would the plot would be any different if this character wasn't in the story?

Although the mother and son do go to some lengths to 'normalise' the activity of the ghost, it comes across to me as simply out of the normal embarrassment that you'd have with odd activity going on while you've got a guest staying. Do you think there's an opportunity there to raise the stakes, by making it imperative in some way that they keep this guest happy and thinking that nothing is wrong?

Regarding the book lawn fair, correct me if I'm not reading this right, but my reading is that the character is directed towards the book lawn tunnel, messed around a bit by the rapscallions, and eventually he is sent somewhere else - over to the construction site - where he finally finds the priest.

If so, then the sequence in the book lawn fair could be removed without affecting the plot in any way - it's just something that happens to him on his journey.

However, I've got a vivid picture of the colourful tunnel of the book lawn fair, and not really any sense of the house near the under-construction building. Is there a reason I'm missing why the priest's house couldn't indeed be something found only by going through the 'red, white and yellow' striped cloth tunnel? Your description has brought the fair to life for me.

Regarding the menacing shadowy figure, again, I may be reading it wrong, but I don't see it appearing until just after the mother 'withdraws her meagre savings' - just before the shradh scene. My reading was that all the previous shadowy (and hungry) figures were the father.

The shradh - as you make clear - is necessary to stop the soul wandering around after death. So the goal of the mother and son is to perform the shradh. In my head though, we've got the contracts and this mysterious guy from the South. Because it's a story I want to know how it all ties together. My expectation is that because these plot elements are presented early they will somehow be related and resolved.

If the main goal is that the mother and son need to perform the shradh, then what obstacles are put in their way? At the moment, the son needs to find a priest - which he does, without too much difficulty - and the mother needs to find the money - which she does quite easily. So, in my reader's mind - because there's no significant obstacle to the shradh I'm expecting the conflict that brings the story to its climax to come from the other plot elements that have so far been presented (e.g. the contracts or the guy from the South). At the moment the conflict in the shradh is the father's ghost getting his fair share of pinda - which isn't made too difficult for him.

Then Mr Zant appears and asks about the contracts, which aren't resolved at the end of the story, so the son still has the problem he was left with by his father.



Quote:
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Let me know that if it is now a 'passable' story for the anthology (assuming I don't make the other changes).
I don't think it's up to any of us to decide what's passable or not - it's a learning experience for us all. Katsunami may have some thoughts on this, but my take is we're going to keep working at the stories trying to make each of them the best we can, and then it's those versions that go into the final book. It would be tricky with this process for any one of us to set up as a 'commissioning editor'.

However, at this early stage, my feelings on this story are:

Spoiler:
  • I really like the feel that's emerging, with the Indian culture detail.
  • Elements of the plot feel unresolved, as noted above.
  • The 'it was all a dream' ending doesn't work because it doesn't satisfy my reader's desire to see the plot elements resolved.
  • We'll all go through a 'line edit' stage where we tighten up the prose, and I think you've got plenty of opportunities here to trim down the text without losing any of the story - increasing its impact.


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