Shadow Dancers by Dale L Willett


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Post May 14, 2007, 08:21:38 AM

Shadow Dancers by Dale L Willett

I like a good military coverup with a sci fi twist - and this delivers all the right elements.  My only comment is the dialogue: it doesn't come across as very natural.  I struggle with this in my writing and it is difficult to do.  Everyone seemed to talk very formally in unnaturally long sentences, as though they were talking as much for our benefit as for the other characters'.  Sometimes a conversation can be implied rather than transcribed word for word:

"My boss is General Michael Taylor, and you can reach him at 645-876-4432. And thanks for your interest.”

Could become:

They exchanged contact details.

The story itself, though, was very enjoyable.

Gareth
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Post May 14, 2007, 09:56:29 AM

Re: Shadow Dancers by Dale L Willett

I like a good military coverup with a sci fi twist - and this delivers all the right elements.  My only comment is the dialogue: it doesn't come across as very natural.  I struggle with this in my writing and it is difficult to do.  Everyone seemed to talk very formally in unnaturally long sentences, as though they were talking as much for our benefit as for the other characters'.  Sometimes a conversation can be implied rather than transcribed word for word:

"My boss is General Michael Taylor, and you can reach him at 645-876-4432. And thanks for your interest.”

Could become:

They exchanged contact details.

The story itself, though, was very enjoyable.

Gareth


But wouldn't that be "telling, not showing"? (viz. Jaimie's comments about "The Way of the Warrior")

Robert "Too much editing and the authors complain, too little and the readers complain" M.
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

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Post May 15, 2007, 08:16:32 AM

Re: Shadow Dancers by Dale L Willett

'tis a tough job being an editor. I guess you can't edit everything to your style of writing or it ends up as your story instead. My comments are intended to be a suggestion to the author to try in future writing, rather than for the editor.

Gareth
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Post May 15, 2007, 09:39:12 AM

Re: Shadow Dancers by Dale L Willett

'tis a tough job being an editor.  I guess you can't edit everything to your style of writing or it ends up as your story instead.

Which is what happened with "Girl Facing Village"...

My comments are intended to be a suggestion to the author to try in future writing, rather than for the editor.

Gareth


And mine weren't related to editing, despite the tag line. They were intended as a general comment -- what you found clunky in Mr. Willett's piece was explicit description of a rather routine chunk of dialogue. (Oddly enough, this would showing telling!) But we as writers (or wannabe writers) are often told "show, don't tell", meaning that we should avoid the infodump approach to exposition. Now, it's hard to depict a galactic empire in flash fiction without "telling", but a simple exchange of names and contact information shouldn't be all that intrusive. Maybe if the way the characters handled the exchange had revealed something about them, or the technology in common use, or the organizations they represented, you might have been happier.

"My C.O. is General Taylor. Can your datapad take -- okay. I've just copied his contact info over to you. He's pretty busy, but his aide can probably handle any routine questions you might have."

This gives you ubiquitous use of small 'datapads' (PDAs plus ?) with wireless short-range data transfer, and tells you a little about the General's schedule -- and that inquiries are likely to be filtered through (or blocked by) an aide. (Dunno if that fits with the story as a whole -- I'm just giving an example.)

Anyway, "Shadow Dancers" was in Jeff's department, so I wasn't the one editing it! 8-)

Robert M.
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Post May 15, 2007, 04:52:30 PM

Re: Shadow Dancers by Dale L Willett

But wouldn't that be "telling, not showing"? (viz. Jaimie's comments about "The Way of the Warrior")

Robert "Too much editing and the authors complain, too little and the readers complain" M.


Whoa whoa whoa. I think you've misconstrued my past comments.

First, Gareth is correct. The dialog is unnatural. However, being too natural doesn't work either. I was employed as a transcriber in college and spent hours typing verbatim other people speaking. A real conversation tends to go on tangents, is circular and fragmented, filled with uhs and ers and uhms, and difficult to read when in print. The trick is make it seem natural without the pitfalls of a real conversation.

Second, I have issues when there's too much telling over showing. I've never stated you should always show instead of tell. When you there is an overabundance of telling, you end up with an infodump. The example listed above is not an infodump. It's also not an example of telling since there's a concrete action involved: They exchanged contact information.

I'm not a believer of rules for writing. I always thought that any rule should be viewed as a guideline. Some examples:
  • Rule: Never use passive voice. Reality: There are some times you should use passive voice. See Dan's topic on Editing in the Writers Workshop forum.
  • Rule: Never use adverbs. Reality: Adverbs are fine in moderation. Sometimes you just don't get the right nuance with a verb so an adverb is preferred.
  • Rule: Always show instead of tell. Reality: Sometimes, for the sake of moving the plot along, it might be better to tell than show. Also, there are ways to disguise telling so the reader's eyes don't glaze over. For example, using a humorous conversation to convey the background of a past event.
Knowing when to heed or disregard a guideline is what makes writing an art. I've never been one to believe in a magic formula for writing.
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
- Samani


jaimie l. elliott

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Post May 15, 2007, 05:25:03 PM

Re: Shadow Dancers by Dale L Willett

Now for my comments on the story...

http://www.aphelion-webzine.com/serials ... ncers.html

I enjoyed the story for the most part. I also thought the dialog clunky, almost perfunctory. I did struggle with the logic. It seemed inconceivable that thousands of cloned troops could be hidden for any length of time from the rest of the US military.

And yes, there is an overabundance of telling in the story that impedes the pacing. I found myself skimming through some of the longer infodumps.

One could compare the story to Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. However, in the latter, the Republic and Jedi seemed unconcerned about the morality of cloning, which is odd in retrospect. I didn't expect the ending to the story, although the General's clone seemed to believe himself the real man based on the opening section:
Once inside, he opened the closet door and removed the laundry-fresh uniform, the creases he always insisted on, pressed to perfection.

I suppose the clone always insisted on creases himself, but that's not the way I read it.
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
- Samani


jaimie l. elliott

[b:2o4dvkjg]Check out my website:[/b:2o4dvkjg]
http://www.jaimie.org/

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