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Old 06-19-2017, 06:40 PM   #1
rutger5
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Post Hoping for feedback on oddball story

Story in non-human genre and is just under 15k words in length. Main character is unusual to say the least. Story hasn't done bad in the ratings and received a few comments but hoping for more feedback. I believe it has heart and humor and wonder what others might think.


https://www.literotica.com/s/hoary-the-horny-snowman
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Old 06-19-2017, 11:55 PM   #2
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Nice

It's a nice story and it definitely has heart, it's certainly imaginative and clever. One problem I have is that it seems unnecessarily long for the story that it is and I wish there had been a more magical end. The ending seemed like it ran out of steam and was far too practical for an otherwise whimsical tale. That's just my feedback, I may be insane for all you know! That said, very great idea, interesting approach and just plain fun. Nice story!
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Old 06-20-2017, 10:52 AM   #3
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There's a lot of good things happening in this story. It's got a cohesive arc, grounded in more emotional depth than I'd thought it would have at first sight of the title. It's relatively well-written, and it's interesting.

It's also extremely unfocused. You threw tons of good ideas at this story, and at times they almost fight each other for control over the direction of the story. The stuff early on with Tommy's mother drowning her sorrows is powerful, and plants great seeds, but it is also completely lost in the childish antics as "Tommy Builds A Snowman!"

This is something I struggled with when I first started writing (and I'm inferring that this is one of your earlier works based on you stating that it is copyrighted as of 2013 but not submitted until 2017). I wanted my stories to be amazing, and so i included every single idea I had regardless of whether it was appropriate or even good. More complex is more better, right?

Over time, as i've become a more confident writer, I've learned to let go of a lot of that need to control and be overly specific. Instead of describing a character walking as a series of movements, in alternating fashion, of the left and right foot, or even describing the walking, I might just skip to the part where character A arrives at the destination because that's where the actions and events will finally be plot-relevant again.

And really, that's the heart of it. You need to have a hard talk with yourself about what kind of story you are writing. Sort out the tone you want, and get all your set pieces working toward a common goal. Don't build sympathy for Tommy if Tommy is going to disappear completely once Mom and Hoary get together. Spend that time building sympathy for the Mom.
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Old 06-20-2017, 09:46 PM   #4
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I tend to agree with AwkwardMD - good ideas but unfocused. If it were my story I'd be looking either to give Timmy a stronger ending, or de-emphasise him in the first act, rather than building up reader attachment to a character who just fades out. I'd be tempted to kill him off in backstory along with dad, and have his mother get drunk and build the snowman for old time's sake.

(Sorry Timmy, no hard feelings if you're reading this.)

The chemical drum vs magic wand thing was a smaller example of this. It felt as if you were suggesting two different explanations for how Hoary comes to life, but you only need one. Probably the wand; chemical waste isn't a good fit for something that feels more "magic" than "science".
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Old 06-20-2017, 10:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bramblethorn View Post
I'd be tempted to kill him off in backstory along with dad, and have his mother get drunk and build the snowman for old time's sake.
This.
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Old Yesterday, 10:30 AM   #6
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Just a quick comment - describe your characters when you introduce them. For Tommy, I was really confused about his age. Initially based upon the "young man" comment, I guessed he was a teenager. Then I kept making him younger and younger as the story went on. It would have been much better if you had said in your opening line:
Quote:
"Mom, I'm going outside to play. Don't worry, I'll be back before dark," Six-year-old Tommy Jones called out as he pulled on his worn winter coat.
It would have been good to describe what Tommy and Jill look like in that initial scene.
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Old Yesterday, 01:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by 8letters View Post
Just a quick comment - describe your characters when you introduce them.
Or don't, because that is a stylistic choice and not a function of good writing. Tommy's specific age is unimportant beyond the fact that he's under 18, and at no point was that unclear. Whether he's 6, or 8, or 10, or 12 doesn't matter at all to the story. He's believably written as is.
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Old Yesterday, 06:13 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by 8letters View Post
Just a quick comment - describe your characters when you introduce them. For Tommy, I was really confused about his age. Initially based upon the "young man" comment, I guessed he was a teenager
8letters, that's your personal preference being stated again, but you shouldn't be stating it as an absolute "writers rule." It's not. Not all readers want to be or need to be spoon fed, just sayin'
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Old Today, 04:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by electricblue66 View Post
8letters, that's your personal preference being stated again, but you shouldn't be stating it as an absolute "writers rule." It's not. Not all readers want to be or need to be spoon fed, just sayin'
Hardly *any*, actually.
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Old Today, 09:46 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by electricblue66 View Post
8letters, that's your personal preference being stated again, but you shouldn't be stating it as an absolute "writers rule." It's not. Not all readers want to be or need to be spoon fed, just sayin'
Let me google up "advice for writers character description. Clicking on the first link, I get:
Quote:
Here are some character writing tips to help you develop characters that feel like real people:
1. Backstory: We are born a certain way, but our life experiences continually mold and shape us. Each character has a life before the story begins. What is it?
2. Dialogue: The way we talk depends on the language we speak and where we live (or grew up) but thereís also something unique to each personís style of speaking. We repeat certain words and phrases, inflect certain syllables, and make certain gestures while we speak.
3. Physical Description: Our primary method of identifying each other is the way we look; hair and eye color, height and weight, scars and tattoos, and the style of clothing we wear are all part of our physical descriptions.
:
link #2:
Quote:
:
4. Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.

One well-chosen physical trait, item of clothing, or idiosyncratic mannerism can reveal character more effectively than a dozen random images.
:
As you describe real-life characters, zero in on distinguishing characteristics that reveal personality: gnarled, arthritic hands always busy at some task; a habit of covering her mouth each time a giggle rises up; a lopsided swagger as he makes his way to the horse barn; the scent of coconut suntan oil, cigarettes, and leather each time she sashays past your chair.
Link #3:
Quote:
2: Ask yourself if police could identify your character in a line-up based on your description
All of those articles recommend you describe your character enough that your reader can have a picture of them. None of them recommend not spoon feeding your readers.
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Old Today, 10:08 AM   #11
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These links are for developing characters. That's a function of world building, and working on how we as authors think about our characters. How we create an entire person, with layers and motivations, and not just a trope or a stand-in. None of these advocate frontloading a story with a complete, detailed, physical description like you want. In fact, that second link you provided wants you to choose one telling characteristic to share, because that's actually what human beings often take away from initial meetings, as first impressions.

Edit: yes, all of them advocate describing a character completely, but none of them sat anything about doing it all at once, and certainly not immediately like you want.
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Old Today, 10:41 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AwkwardMD View Post
Edit: yes, all of them advocate describing a character completely, but none of them sat anything about doing it all at once, and certainly not immediately like you want.
All I recommended was that the writer mention that Tommy was six when he's introduced. I didn't recommend a full description of Tommy.

I think it's important to start building a picture of a character when they're introduced, but it's okay to dribble out a description. In my story "My European Summer Vacation", I start with a vague description in paragraph 2:
Quote:
Originally Posted by My European Summer Vacation
I looked up from the travel guide on my tablet and smiled sheepishly at a woman about my age.
There's four paragraphs of dialogue and then more description:
Quote:
Originally Posted by My European Summer Vacation
She gave me a big smile. She was very pretty with long, dark blonde hair and pretty brown eyes. Tall and thin - I would guess 5' 10" or so. She looked a year or two older than me. She was dressed in a simple royal blue dress. It had a conservative length and cut, but nicely showed off her figure and made her hair look stunning.
17 paragraphs later, I provide more description:
Quote:
Originally Posted by My European Summer Vacation
Sinead gave me a smile. She had a brilliant smile that melted me. As we talked, she picked out some fresh fruit, berries and vegetables. She paid for her food and we left the market.

Sinead had a definite Cork accent. It was mainly how she pronounced her vowels, particularly before an "r". I had grown up listening to a Cork accent so I knew eventually I'd hear a "th" become a "t" as in "think" pronounced "tink" and "three" pronounced "tree". Mother would be "mam", pronounced like the American "ma'am". The Cork accent had a sing-song quality that made it very pleasant and I enjoyed listening to her talk.
I spend the first half of the first page building detailed character descriptions while advancing the story.

On the other hand, I think it's a terrible idea to provide basic character descriptions like hair color on page 2. By then, I think the reader has a mental image of the character and finding out that the character doesn't look that way is jarring.
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Old Today, 10:54 AM   #13
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This is a pattern for you. You want to know everything up front. You want the title to be ultra descriptive, and you want the description to be ultra descriptive, and you want the opening paragraphs to always be structured in such a way that tells you who what where when and why. You wanted that podcast post to answer all your questions and couldn't be bothered to read until the 5th post where the original poster had already answered the questions you had.

There a field of study called Historiography. It's sort like studying history, except you pay more attention to the hand that's doing the recording and the words they choose to describe things instead of the course of the events being recorded.

One very notable case study is on two books (the titles of which i can no longer remember) written about this one police unit that operated in Poland while occupied by the Nazis. One book, using primary sources, concludes that everything that they did, down to tying their shoes, was drivrn by anti-Semitism. The author, well-respected, pointed to numerous instances in these contemporary reports and depositions from the Nuremburg trials, to draw really rabid conclusions about hate and the effects of hate speech. Another author, using basically the exact same documents, wrote a completely different book painting citizens called into duty operating in a nation at war, at times callous and at others generous, that is much more sympathetic

Neither is 100%. Neither is accurate. Both say as much about the subjects as the authors thrmselves. Historiography is about watching for bias, and the way that unfairness creeps into our narrative without malicious intent.

I say that because you are being unfair to others in your feedback. It's not because you're trying to be mean, but you have your thumb on the scale and you're not aware of the impact that your own personal obsessions are having on your ability to be objective.

Edit: Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Gold, was the one about anti-semetism, I think.
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Old Today, 11:54 AM   #14
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You are Michael Bay. You write direct, easy-to-read, easily-interpreted stories. That's fine. There's a place for you, and a place for writing like yours just like there's a place for writing like mine.

Now picture Michael Bay telling an indie filmmaker that they need more explosions.
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Old Today, 12:08 PM   #15
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Tangent: are the eight letters in question E-N-G-I-N-E-E-R?
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Old Today, 12:19 PM   #16
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Don't know the book you're describing, but...

Daniel Goldhagen wrote Hitler's Willing Executioners.

Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning?

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Old Today, 12:22 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Malraux View Post
Daniel Goldhagen wrote Hitler's Willing Executioners.
THAT's the one. My bad. It's been 15 years.
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Old Today, 12:23 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Malraux View Post
Daniel Goldhagen wrote Hitler's Willing Executioners.

Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning?
YES!!! All i could remember was Gold and Brown, and i knew that wasn't right.
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Old Today, 12:27 PM   #19
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Good

I'll look for them. I was lost in a (failing) doctoral pursuit when this whole controversy began and I missed it for the study of antebellum proslavery fiction, perhaps the most sickening of American fictions.

Thanks for mentioning the books. I've seen Executioners not realizing the controversy; I'll look for Ordinary Men.

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Old Today, 12:36 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Malraux View Post
I'll look for them. I was lost in a (failing) doctoral pursuit when this whole controversy began and I missed it for the study of antebellum proslavery fiction, perhaps the most sickening of American fictions.

Thanks for mentioning the books. I've seen Executioners not realizing the controversy; I'll look for Ordinary Men.

Malraux
Reading them back to back was fascinating because you could see where each author would hold up the exact same event as evidence of their thesis, differing on which parts, or which viewpoint, of an event to focus on.

In my opinion, the truth of the matter was probably closer to Browning's assessment, but he seemed bound and determined to exclude Anti-Semetism as a factor completely, and that seems disingenuous. Or at least, that was what I remember thinking at the time.
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