Here After by Doug Donnan


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Post April 20, 2012, 09:37:55 PM

Here After by Doug Donnan

I don't know if it was intended as such, but this story came across to me as being very much tongue-in-cheek with its characterization and dialog -- and I enjoyed it as such.

As to the matter of fact regarding enormous, carnivorous birds -- on the island of Borneo (IIRC), there were discovered the remains of some truly hellish monstrosities: a species of terror-bird that could grow up to over ten feet tall. Their extinction was fairly recent, and coincided roughly with the time that humans took up residence there. I'm sure they tasted like chicken.

Madagascar -- ? Who's to say?

Various technical errors, mostly with missing quotation marks. A fun read, though.
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Post May 02, 2012, 08:08:01 PM

Re: Here After by Doug Donnan

Unfortunately, this is another story I did not like. I normally allow for some GSP errors—it isn’t a professional zine, after all-- but this story is riddled with them. The author states he’s been writing for 30 years. I can’t imagine anyone with that level of experience to submit something so shoddy. Overall, the piece feels like a rough draft rather than a polished piece of literature ready for publication. You really need to take pride in what you’re submitting. Hyperbole aside, it’s now immortalized on the Internet.

There’s a very odd cadence to the writing that makes it difficult to read. The overuse of parentheses and commas really hurts the flow. For example, this paragraph:
The mysterious island of Madagascar (one of the largest and poorest on the planet) is a biodiverse cornucopia of exotic, unimaginable and undiscovered species of flora and fauna. A vast assortment of lemurs, birds (such as the peculiar serpent eagle, the rare red owl, and the impossible helmet vanga,) not to leave out the ubiquitous hissing cockroach population, countless species of tropical butterflies and an array of color coordinated chameleons, are unique to this biological paradise just off the tip of Africa. This particular group of interlopers, lead by their steadfast guide (the aforementioned field expert Mr. Armand Coll,) had come as planned to take it all in. Audio, video, photo and even scent analysis--they had no intention of missing any trick or treat of Madagascar's wonders and ways. That was the plan, not to mention the signed agreement that they all had, and the intense and dogged Coll was resigned to give them their money's worth.


The writing is extremely clunky. The dialogue isn’t much better. I would recommend that it’s okay to use ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ and leave it at that. This is the first story I can remember of any length that not once was a simple ‘said’ used. It was either modified with an adverb or a nonverbal action verb was used in lieu. People don’t ‘laugh’ or ‘sigh’ or ‘guffaw’ when they’re speaking. They may say something with a laugh or a sigh or a guffaw, but those verbs don’t replace said.

One plot issue I had is when Penn went missing. I can’t imagine any responsible group just saying oh well, he’ll show up later. It’s only a jungle. No sane group of people would act that way. Mercenaries, maybe, but these are academic types.

I didn’t like the phrase broken, thatch-hut classroom English. If a character said that, that’s one thing. To have the narrator use that term smacks of elitism at the very least. However, I was impressed with the accent the author used for the Madagascar people. I googled and found an audio file of someone from Madagascar speaking English. I definitely heard an “ee” sound when speaking the “i” sound in words like “this”. Either the writer did his research or he’s been to Madagascar.

Sorry for the negativity, but I don’t think the author spent much time polishing this story. I like to compliment people when they put the effort in, even the story falls short. That wasn’t the case here.
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Post May 03, 2012, 04:33:57 PM

Re: Here After by Doug Donnan

There were several things that I enjoyed about this story. It was an easy, fun read - like a summer movie. It wasn't "Mystic River" but it was "the Avengers".

Night fell like a huge curtain at the end of some exotic, melodramatic play and, all of a sudden, it was pitch dark--period. : I’ve been there I the pitch black before – I like the sarcasm/reality of the sentence. I think the sentence makes its point.

"Well, well--if it isn't the wise and wondrous Bwana Coll," Penn chuckled as he passed over a pint of Jack Daniels whisky to Kyle Lattimer, a decidedly rotund little zoologist from San Diego with multiple chins and a blue K-Mart bandana tied around his balding, Buddha-like head. : Rather long-winded, but builds a real picture of people quickly.

Coll nodded towards Lattimer in appreciation, "Yes ma'am, I think we're just fine here. I see no reason to think otherwise. The bearers are just a little apprehensive about how this clearing in the jungle came to be. They have come to the crazy conclusion that this opening we're in is some kind of nest. Superstitions, old folk legends, something about a giant, ancient bird of the jungle that took a fancy to the bodies and blood of a few wayward villagers way back when--silly tales passed down over time, nothing to be concerned about I can assure you!" : This paragraph is a nice way of tidying up the ‘urban legend’ phase of the story.

"No, thank you," Coll answered with a big traffic-cop hand held out. "I think I'll turn in for the night, and might I suggest that you all do likewise. We'll try and get an early start tomorrow. That is if we're all up for it," he said with a dubious look at the tipsy Penn, "I'm quite sure the porters will be up with the first sign of daylight." The author just needs more periods and fewer commas, especially around quotations. Let someone literary take a gander at it before sending it in.

"Just for the record Mr. Lattimer, this is the real world," Coll declared, his eyes flashing red in the firelight. It would serve you all well to remember that fact while you are out here." Should be: “Just for the record, Mr. Lattimer, this is the real world,” Coll declared. His eyes flashed red in the firelight. “It would serve you well to remember that fact while you are out here.”

Here’s another one: Bellows cast some twisted sticks of wood that he had gathered at the licking fire, "Well, I feel like I tuned in at half-time and nobody will tell me the score of the game. Are we okay here? Penn--Anybody wanna fill us in?" There should be a period after fire not a comma.

Sssshluk, and the mammoth head with its chomping, steam-shovel beak swept down on him like a lightning bolt. He didn't even have a chance to cry out in terror. It was over and he was devoured, with only a few spurts of blood, just that quickly. And there, in the dying light of the lantern, the impossibly large creature spread down over its clutch of eggs and waited for digestion. I like this paragraph, good detail, the last sentence is very earthy, ‘and waited for digestion’ – it shows that people are a meal just like anything in nature.
"Coll---There is no Penn---It ees alive---...was a nest--other ones all around us now--...---be careful Coll...--be very care...---..." "Akkie--what the hell is going on?"--Are you all ri--" "Oiseau de Sang---...Oiseau de Sang--Meester Coll...---eet ees...They are here!--- Just then, the communication was cut off. Dead. This is fun. You can see it happening as the ‘monsters’ close in on the tiny group - not extradinary, but fun.

Unfortunately the ending was generic: the whole mother Godzilla thing.
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Post May 03, 2012, 05:57:16 PM

Appreciation

Jaimie wrote: However, I was impressed with the accent the author used for the Madagascar people. I googled and found an audio file of someone from Madagascar speaking English. I definitely heard an “ee” sound when speaking the “i” sound in words like “this”. Either the writer did his research or he’s been to Madagascar.

Jaimie,

I usually read comments BEFORE I read the story. I look for your comments/critiques first, because I learn a lot from seeing things from your perspective.

One of your previous critiques in this month's issue sounded like you were commenting on one of my recent flash stories. The parallel of the author's story's problems and mine were striking.

I appreciate the way you give a fair analysis and that you don't take cheap shots at the writer or their work. Treating an artist with respect regardless of whether you like their manuscript takes a lot of character.

I appreciate your instructional reviews and I wanted you to know it.

Mark

P. S. You actually searched online for an audio sound file of the story's dialect to do a study on whether the author was true to the culture in the written version of the language. Wow, amazing!
Last edited by Mark Edgemon on May 03, 2012, 06:13:57 PM, edited 1 time in total.

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Post May 03, 2012, 06:11:45 PM

Action and Intent Illustration

Jaimie wrote:The writing is extremely clunky. The dialogue isn’t much better. I would recommend that it’s okay to use ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ and leave it at that. This is the first story I can remember of any length that not once was a simple ‘said’ used. It was either modified with an adverb or a nonverbal action verb was used in lieu. People don’t ‘laugh’ or ‘sigh’ or ‘guffaw’ when they’re speaking. They may say something with a laugh or a sigh or a guffaw, but those verbs don’t replace said.

Okay, this is something that I do. Dan Edelman said the same thing to me sometime back that you are saying here about just using he said, she said, but at the time, I couldn't accept the advice.

What the author is doing is to both give a description of the mindset/emotion/intention of the character speaking and in addition, show the action surrounding the statement made. He does it throughout the story as apart of his writing style.

I do that too.

Now, is there a hole in my writing for doing this?

What is wrong with using the identification of who is speaking to illustrate intent and action of the character?

Hey, I spelled that out good. I was worried I would not be able to describe what it was I wanted to ask.

Yeah, I would like Jaimie's insight on this and anyone else who has an opinion. Robert? Anyone?

I really do not want to continue with a practice that either hinders the story or takes a reader out of the story due to ackward or out of place description.

Mark
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Post May 04, 2012, 08:45:16 AM

Re: Here After by Doug Donnan

That is if we're all up for it," he said with a dubious look at the tipsy Penn, "I'm quite sure the porters will be up with the first sign of daylight."

I'm with Jamie on the use of run-on sentences around quotes - I agin 'em. The above is just one example out of 20 in this story. There should definately be a period after Penn.
This beachbum just needs to make friends with a retired schoolteacher who can sharpen-up his quotations. Period.
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Post May 04, 2012, 11:32:26 AM

Re: Action and Intent Illustration

Mark Edgemon wrote:Okay, this is something that I do. Dan Edelman said the same thing to me sometime back that you are saying here about just using he said, she said, but at the time, I couldn't accept the advice.

What the author is doing is to both give a description of the mindset/emotion/intention of the character speaking and in addition, show the action surrounding the statement made. He does it throughout the story as apart of his writing style.

I do that too.

Now, is there a hole in my writing for doing this?

What is wrong with using the identification of who is speaking to illustrate intent and action of the character?


Thanks for the kind words, Mark. I’ve been critiqued for a number of years now, so I’ve made many of the mistakes that I point out. Also, everyone has different tastes and perspectives. One of the great values of Aphelion is that you get feedback from multiple people.

As for the speaker attribute discussion... there are actually a couple issues. When you use a word like “smile” or “sigh”, you’re describing a physically impossible act. You don’t smile words, you don’t sigh words, you don’t snap words... you say words. Maybe the English language will evolve to the point where it becomes accepted practice to insinuate an action by using a verb as the speaker attribute. However, I don’t know of any reputable author that writes this way. I don’t any editor that would allow them to write that way.

The second issue is that, like the adverb, it’s just lazy writing. (BTW, I believe adverbs are demonized to the point of ridiculousness, but there is an underlying truth to the criticism). If you find yourself using improper tags, then 1) your dialogue isn’t able to convey the message on its own and/or 2) you’re skipping an action you should be describing. For example, instead of saying:

“You’re so sweet”, she cooed.

...you should be more creative:

“You’re so sweet,” she said as she ran her fingertip across the stubble of his cheek.

My goal whenever I give critiques is to give feedback so the story can be submitted in a professional market. That’s why I don’t harp on passive verbs-- unless they’re excessive-- because published writers use passive verbs all the time. Many use adverbs, too. But sloppy work, bad pacing, improper speaker attributes... these are things that an editor will note and not proceed past the first paragraph.

Here are a couple links for the ‘said’ discussion (see what I just did there? :-P):
http://www.ranunes.com/forWriters-Dialo ... bution.php
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/arts/ ... all&src=pm
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Post May 04, 2012, 05:34:40 PM

Re: Action and Intent Illustration

Jaimie wrote:Thanks for the kind words, Mark. I’ve been critiqued for a number of years now, so I’ve made many of the mistakes that I point out. Also, everyone has different tastes and perspectives. One of the great values of Aphelion is that you get feedback from multiple people.

As for the speaker attribute discussion... there are actually a couple issues. When you use a word like “smile” or “sigh”, you’re describing a physically impossible act. You don’t smile words, you don’t sigh words, you don’t snap words... you say words. Maybe the English language will evolve to the point where it becomes accepted practice to insinuate an action by using a verb as the speaker attribute. However, I don’t know of any reputable author that writes this way. I don’t any editor that would allow them to write that way.

The second issue is that, like the adverb, it’s just lazy writing. (BTW, I believe adverbs are demonized to the point of ridiculousness, but there is an underlying truth to the criticism). If you find yourself using improper tags, then 1) your dialogue isn’t able to convey the message on its own and/or 2) you’re skipping an action you should be describing. For example, instead of saying:

“You’re so sweet”, she cooed.

...you should be more creative:

“You’re so sweet,” she said as she ran her fingertip across the stubble of his cheek.

My goal whenever I give critiques is to give feedback so the story can be submitted in a professional market. That’s why I don’t harp on passive verbs-- unless they’re excessive-- because published writers use passive verbs all the time. Many use adverbs, too. But sloppy work, bad pacing, improper speaker attributes... these are things that an editor will note and not proceed past the first paragraph.

I read your comments in this post and every word of the two articles you gave links to and my only response is...wow!

The heavens opened up and for the first time...I see the light!

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to help me with this writing flaw. I am astounded that you can see these flaws, because I obviously do not. I can hear flaws and imperfections in audio that others don't hear, so I guess it depends on one's area of gifts.

I want to knock off the debris from my fictional writing, because I love universe building and story crafting. These obstructions are getting in the way.

Script writing has ruined my ability to be descriptive with characters and scenes, because I usually describe simply in scripts and do the heavy lifting in the editing bay with effects, audio techniques and musical underscoring.

I have been laboring to strengthen my descriptive prowess by writing poetry. I've written over 120 new poems over the last few months and have also learned how to get things said with economy of words.

So, using descriptive phrasing and indication of character's intent by way of speaker attributions is essentially "author intrusion"; the seams begin to show. You want the author invisible. You want the dialogue to do the heavy lifting of character description and the wrongful use of attributions is taking the easy way out.

Well, I don't like easy ways anyway. I'd rather fight for it!

Thank you very much Jaimie. Let me know if I can do anything for you!

Mark
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Post May 04, 2012, 08:36:19 PM

Re: Here After by Doug Donnan

Not too long ago, I reviewed a manuscript that a friend is working on, and because he does it so much, I had to go to extremes in my suggestions: I told him to do a search through his manuscript for "*ly" and get rid of as many of those as he possibly could. My comment to him was: 'These words should be used like garlic in spaghetti sauce, and you're using them like tomatoes.'

Then I got to thinking about my own novel project and wondering just how many I had in there, so I did the search myself (leadership is by example). I did find more than I thought I would, but they weren't too bad. I did get rid of quite a few.

It's hard to deal away with every adverb; harder yet to get rid of every adjective, and a few here and there don't hurt much. Just keep them out of attribute tags.

I might paraphrase the advice Jamie gave and linked to in this way: If you find you've written something like, "he said sadly," take out the adverb and substitute its dictionary definition (or something close). Even that is not the best way to do this; a better way is to think of what the character LOOKS like or IS DOING and put that in instead.

An excerpt from the R. A. Nunes article says it best:

"I don't think you really mean what you're saying," he growled.

Doesn't have a fifth the bite as say:

"Have you lost your mind?" David snatched the pen from her hand and pushed the manuscript off the desk. "You can't write something like that."


That said, I'm now about to forward those links to my friend.
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Post May 04, 2012, 09:34:01 PM

Bad Examples

So the following are out of the question...Right? :shock:

01. He constipatedly spoke, straining to make his point, but wound up making a big mess!

02. He red facedly and furiously, yet happily barked a reply to his students, who were already laughing at him.

03. She bosomly bounced her answer in reply to his inquiry, "Yes, oh yes, yes, yes! Now get off me!"

04. He shot his answer across the room, hitting his mark between her eyes before she could get a word in edge wise.

05. He chimed in since the doorbell didn't work.

06. He answered twice, showing he had the balls to remark.


And uh...like that!

I just had to get it out of my system.

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Post May 06, 2012, 02:57:48 PM

Re: Here After by Doug Donnan

I think the link to the story is broken. I only get the first page.

A general comment: I think a lot of people write the way they talk, and that explains some odd prose, like the increasingly (eeks! an adverb!) common habit of including past and present tense within the same paragraph. For example. since I am from the south, I use a lot of redundant or unnecessary words when I talk. When I am editing a story, I have to go through and chop out those unnecessary words. Like the word "out" in the last sentence.

Another general comment, one that I need to remember, too. The spell checker does not catch homophones--words that are spelled differently (eeks! another adverb) but which sound the same. Since we all read aloud in our heads as we are writing, it is easy to overlook these. (Change "we all" to "we.") However, readers read with their eyes, not their ears, and so these seemingly minor errors can become glaring on the printed page.

If someone will upload the rest of the story, I will comment on it.
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Post May 06, 2012, 04:27:02 PM

Re: Here After by Doug Donnan

I think the link to the story is broken. I only get the first page.
That happens to me sometimes. Try again, or try refreshing the page.
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