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Experimenting with Exercises from Wulf's Super Secrets

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Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posts: 2277

Wow. Lot's here. Cool, glad so many are working with these in addition to the Super Secrets' beasties! You've found and created some excellent examples of SET. YOUR. STAGE. in one line! More! More! These are great!

If you master this, you can hook your reader on their first nibble. One bite, and they're so deeply hooked you can reel them all the way to your ending, they'll never let go!

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" in Deep Magic Fall 2020 wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
NEXT MASTER CLASSES AT FYRECON ONLINE, NOV. 18-21ST. Click HERE before they are sold out once again!

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Posted : September 12, 2020 3:00 pm
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

My attempt: Sophie yearned to save the boy, yet she knew she could not; her white-tipped fingers clutched at her skirts and her toes dug into the wet sand as he toddled on toward the endless blue.

At two fifteen on Friday afternoon Hal Johnson picked up the office phone, paused a moment to reclaim his thoughts, and dialed the number of Demons-be-Gone scribbled on the palm of his hand.

This gets a lot of info in a short sentence. It sounds like a one paragraph sentence in a flash story, so condensed is the sentence. This is good, of course, but like I said by Liz, I feel like using a character's surname, while it gets more info into the sentence, causes the tone to sound estranged and hard to build on.

Aside from that, I don't have much to say--this is a great sentence. I liked how you used "office phone" to indicate he's in his office, although for WotF-rich-description purposes, you may want to add a little more. Also intriguing how it's scribbled in the palm of his hand. Wow, why is that?
One last thing is why he pauses for a moment before calling. The tone is made a lot less urgent by it, which makes it sound as if these types of things are regular occurrences. So if you didn't add it in purposely I would suggest leaving it out, making it much more succinct.

Thanks for the notes! They are helpful. I was trying to show that he had some demons in his head by the pause and reclaiming his thoughts, but I couldn't quite find the right words for it. It does slow it down a bit though. Perhaps steeling himself would have been better, but I find that cliche-sounding.

As for yours, I like it: it makes me wonder why she can't save the boy, it makes me feel connection because she wants to save him, I think we are at the beach, on the wet sand, and we have some urgency since he needs saving and her fingers gripping her skirt (a visual description) shows this. The only thing I found a little confusing was the endless blue. At first I though maybe he was drowning, but it says he is toddling. So I'd recommend making that a little clearer. Otherwise great! It sounds like the start of a story I would want to read.

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Posted : September 12, 2020 4:27 pm
Enchania
(@enchania)
Active Member
Posts: 18

This is for phase five of Set Your Stage, using one sentence to draw in the reader. I haven't done the other phases so may have left something out but I thought this looked fun.

After searching high and low I found an example in good ol’ Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.

“When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

We have a character (technically not the main protagonist though, but he is in the beginning.) We have gender and age, and an interesting age at that. The setting is in Hobbiton, more specifically near Bag End. We wonder where that is, it sounds a little fantastical. We learn that there is a party that’s going to happen, with emphasis on it being a magnificent party, so much so that everyone is excited about it. However there is no heart’s desire, other than the minor thing that he wants to have a party.

Here’s my example:

At two fifteen on Friday afternoon Hal Johnson picked up the office phone, paused a moment to reclaim his thoughts, and dialed the number of Demons-be-Gone scribbled on the palm of his hand.

Hey, EagerInk! Thank you for the critique, it was very helpful and I don't think there's a right way to do them--everyone brings their unique take on things! It is indeed confusing, I will work on it as I think I'm coming up with the rest of the story as well! Love these exercises Smile
The opening you chose is very iconic, but as you mentioned, it doesn't introduce the MC (although you can say that Bilbo started it all!!) and there's no talk of evil or the ring or anything. I think it is very hard to find a proper (as to the assignment) opening in most older books--they had the time to get into things, people weren't as restless and overwhelmed as we are now!

I really liked your opening! I want to know more about this Hal (I agree with the previous person, the use of the surname gives a certain tone that has to be supported throughout, otherwise maybe just the first name?). For me the pause worked, as it gave me a sense of this being something important and maybe even so extraordianry that he doesn't know how to talk about it and needs a pause to collect his thoughts. The genre is clear. The heart's desire--banish a demon is also very clear. Also, the fact he is calling a number scribbled at his hand, given to him by who knows who, is the immediate problem of the story: will he get someone to help him? Is this a legitimate operation/number, or something sinister and weird? Will he even get through to them or just get the answering machine and will have to hunt them down a different way?
Very good!! Maybe a tiny bit of sensory description? that's my only comment, some specific adjective to describe either the office, or the light, Hal, his feelings... Thank you for sharing and for commenting!!

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Posted : September 12, 2020 10:21 pm
Enchania
(@enchania)
Active Member
Posts: 18

My only suggestion on this one is look at what we're working on presently, Phase 5 of the Set. Your. Stage. Super Secret. Make that first line work for you. You could get more setup out of that first line, grounding your readers with setting, characters, and even what's going on that's so dangerous to give us some context. It's a mystery right now, and while some mysteries are good, withholding critical information from your readers is not.

Well done! Just enhance that opening line and you've got this!

Cheers!

Thanks Wulf! Here's my assignment.

This is from The Fisherman and the Pig, by Kameron Hurley, reprinted in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Nev sat on the end of the charred pier, casting his line again and again into the murky water in the hopes of catching a corpse.

Why this sentence hooked me We have a character, presumably the protagonist, Nev, who is fishing for a ... corpse? The title is "The Fisherman and the Pig", so we intuitively know right away that Nev is a fisherman, but certainly not an average one, since he's looking for a corpse. (One trick I've learned is that if you want to make the title more effective and memorable past the first paragraph, let the reader know why it's called that in the beginning.) We also know a pig is involved, which is unusual and interesting.

So here we have a setting: the edge of a charred pier--a small description that implies a lot--a character: Nev, with a problem: he needs/wants to catch a corpse. We don't yet know his heart's desire, but it's probably something to do with corpse-catching. What I think is the best aspect of this sentence, however, is how easy it reads. It's amazing how much Hurley manages to include with 26 words and one comma, and uses the title as well.

My attempt: Sophie yearned to save the boy, yet she knew she could not; her white-tipped fingers clutched at her skirts and her toes dug into the wet sand as he toddled on toward the endless blue.

Here are my reads on the other exercises done:

Helena Baird stalked the perimeter of Silas Ellsworth's ivy-smothered Queen Anne style Victorian house and searched for fairy-sign, Papa's antique tire iron in hand.

I like how you got a character, in a setting--someone's else's house, Victorian style, in a problem, and with a weapon in her hand. The tire iron in hand is also intriguing in that it implies that this supernatural threat can be fought with such a simple weapon.

Personally, I like better to just use a person's first name in these types of stories, since we're seeing it from their point of view, and it sounds more "immediate" to me; I think Wulf's example is different because the tone is right. Aside from that, I think that the string of adjectives for house--Silas Ellsworth's ivy-smothered Queen Anne style Victorian--is a bit much and makes it hard to read. I think it would help to take out the Queen Anne style, because it keeps it descriptive, not many people (me included) knows who or what Queen Anne was, and because it's a three word adjective, as opposed to the others that are just two.

At two fifteen on Friday afternoon Hal Johnson picked up the office phone, paused a moment to reclaim his thoughts, and dialed the number of Demons-be-Gone scribbled on the palm of his hand.

This gets a lot of info in a short sentence. It sounds like a one paragraph sentence in a flash story, so condensed is the sentence. This is good, of course, but like I said by Liz, I feel like using a character's surname, while it gets more info into the sentence, causes the tone to sound estranged and hard to build on.

Aside from that, I don't have much to say--this is a great sentence. I liked how you used "office phone" to indicate he's in his office, although for WotF-rich-description purposes, you may want to add a little more. Also intriguing how it's scribbled in the palm of his hand. Wow, why is that?
One last thing is why he pauses for a moment before calling. The tone is made a lot less urgent by it, which makes it sound as if these types of things are regular occurrences. So if you didn't add it in purposely I would suggest leaving it out, making it much more succinct.

I liked both your openings, and I'm off to read the fisherman story!

Yours is very intense, while using a serene setting (a toddler toddling towards the sea) contrasted with the MC body and feelings (dug, clutched, yearned). I get the genre (her skirtS and probably precognition point to fantasy--loved how much information the single word "skirts" conveys!!). Immediate problem: not being able to save a child, and the heart's desire I think will be to find a balance between doing the greater good or saving a single person even if that will mean destruction for all. That's my reading of it, of course!

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Posted : September 12, 2020 10:36 pm
Reuben
(@reuben)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 216

I liked both your openings, and I'm off to read the fisherman story!

Yours is very intense, while using a serene setting (a toddler toddling towards the sea) contrasted with the MC body and feelings (dug, clutched, yearned). I get the genre (her skirtS and probably precognition point to fantasy--loved how much information the single word "skirts" conveys!!). Immediate problem: not being able to save a child, and the heart's desire I think will be to find a balance between doing the greater good or saving a single person even if that will mean destruction for all. That's my reading of it, of course!

My attempt: Sophie yearned to save the boy, yet she knew she could not; her white-tipped fingers clutched at her skirts and her toes dug into the wet sand as he toddled on toward the endless blue.

Thanks for the notes! They are helpful. I was trying to show that he had some demons in his head by the pause and reclaiming his thoughts, but I couldn't quite find the right words for it. It does slow it down a bit though. Perhaps steeling himself would have been better, but I find that cliche-sounding.

As for yours, I like it: it makes me wonder why she can't save the boy, it makes me feel connection because she wants to save him, I think we are at the beach, on the wet sand, and we have some urgency since he needs saving and her fingers gripping her skirt (a visual description) shows this. The only thing I found a little confusing was the endless blue. At first I though maybe he was drowning, but it says he is toddling. So I'd recommend making that a little clearer. Otherwise great! It sounds like the start of a story I would want to read.

Thanks, both!

Ania, you got it spot on! This takes place in the same world as my current quarter's story, and yes, saving the child is forbidden because the damage it might cause. It's toddling toward the ocean and will soon drown. I deliberated a lot about whether to put in "sea" or "ocean" instead of "deep blue", so mixed response from that.

Eagernik, my only suggestion is perhaps, depending on the tone, to put in something like "he paused, and to a casual observer it would seem as if her were gathering his thoughts" which tells the reader that something deeper is going on.

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
V37: R, R, R, HM
V38: SHM

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Posted : September 14, 2020 12:33 pm
Enchania
(@enchania)
Active Member
Posts: 18

I liked both your openings, and I'm off to read the fisherman story!

Yours is very intense, while using a serene setting (a toddler toddling towards the sea) contrasted with the MC body and feelings (dug, clutched, yearned). I get the genre (her skirtS and probably precognition point to fantasy--loved how much information the single word "skirts" conveys!!). Immediate problem: not being able to save a child, and the heart's desire I think will be to find a balance between doing the greater good or saving a single person even if that will mean destruction for all. That's my reading of it, of course!

My attempt: Sophie yearned to save the boy, yet she knew she could not; her white-tipped fingers clutched at her skirts and her toes dug into the wet sand as he toddled on toward the endless blue.

Thanks, both!

Ania, you got it spot on! This takes place in the same world as my current quarter's story, and yes, saving the child is forbidden because the damage it might cause. It's toddling toward the ocean and will soon drown. I deliberated a lot about whether to put in "sea" or "ocean" instead of "deep blue", so mixed response from that.

Eagernik, my only suggestion is perhaps, depending on the tone, to put in something like "he paused, and to a casual observer it would seem as if her were gathering his thoughts" which tells the reader that something deeper is going on.

Haha don't know if it's allowed to say "awesome" or "sounds very cool!" when we are talking about drowning children... but I would read that story (and weep!) . Let me know if you need critiquers! Also, I think toddling towards the endless blue, when it's clear we are on the beach doesn't leave much room for interpretation, but also just writing "towards the deep sea" (deep would help allude to the danger and the drowning perhaps) wouldn't mess with the language too much in my opinion--just so as to eliminate any misunderstanding in the first sentence! Also, maybe what is happening is so strong and awful and real that there's no need for poetic descriptions!

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Posted : September 14, 2020 8:47 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

Thanks, both!

Ania, you got it spot on! This takes place in the same world as my current quarter's story, and yes, saving the child is forbidden because the damage it might cause. It's toddling toward the ocean and will soon drown. I deliberated a lot about whether to put in "sea" or "ocean" instead of "deep blue", so mixed response from that.

Eagernik, my only suggestion is perhaps, depending on the tone, to put in something like "he paused, and to a casual observer it would seem as if her were gathering his thoughts" which tells the reader that something deeper is going on.

Haha don't know if it's allowed to say "awesome" or "sounds very cool!" when we are talking about drowning children... but I would read that story (and weep!) . Let me know if you need critiquers! Also, I think toddling towards the endless blue, when it's clear we are on the beach doesn't leave much room for interpretation, but also just writing "towards the deep sea" (deep would help allude to the danger and the drowning perhaps) wouldn't mess with the language too much in my opinion--just so as to eliminate any misunderstanding in the first sentence! Also, maybe what is happening is so strong and awful and real that there's no need for poetic descriptions!

My two cents? You need a poetic, magical, intriguing opening line. In this case, endless blue is best. Deep sea is too obvious, and loses a bit of mystery. Mystery makes us read on, as all good opening lines should make us do.

Well done!

Wulf Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" in Deep Magic Fall 2020 wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
NEXT MASTER CLASSES AT FYRECON ONLINE, NOV. 18-21ST. Click HERE before they are sold out once again!

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Posted : September 15, 2020 5:10 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

Here's my attempt at the previous exercise, writing your own first three paragraphs:

"Electric desert"

Eugenia was sailing alone through the sea of ghosts. No one could have predicted such a turn of events--not her husband or kids, certainly not the island's Mothers.
Reaching above her head, Eugenia touched the thin, curved glass of the ship's sail. Condensation glistened in the rare sun rays, a thousand tiny rainbows so beautiful, her heart caught somewhere inside her, like a plow over a stone. She licked some of the drops –water would be scarce soon—and they rested on her tongue like little beads of mint and jasmine.
It wasn’t so horrible on the sea. No ghosts yet, no spurts, no underwater tornadoes—though those you never saw coming, according to her husband. Should have done it years ago, Eugenia thought. Not that anyone would have let her, not even herself. The decision had grown inside her like a third baby, made up of moments of disappointment, fatigue, moments when she couldn’t breathe and, if she could, she would have screamed. Everyday moments on the island, every single day of her life. It had come to feel like if she hadn’t stolen the ship last night, she would have died on the shore.
When she saw the first water column, right before she sent the ship underwater, Eugenia thought she might die now that she had stolen it. No matter. Bracing for the dive, her eyes swept the horizon for her island. It was no longer there.

Nice opening, Ania. I listened to Terrry Brooks recently. He said you only get two pages to hook your reader, that's it. He said openings matter, the new paradigm is you have to get your readers involved right away. He said your opening line is your teaser to bring the reader into your story. I found it ironic, because I've been having my Super Secrets' challenge beasties working on this skill for over a month. And here you and others are working on it as well. Good! Let's have a look at yours!

Good job opening with your protagonist. I will never fault anyone for giving me the heroine's name in the opening line, even starting with it. Readers need to know who this story will be about, and they need a name to lock down. You've done that, well done!

Setting is here as well. Sea of ghosts sounds creepy and mysterious, and mysteries beg answers. It's an environmental hook, and it's a good one. Also, who wants to sail alone through a sea of ghosts? Nobody, and yet here Eugenia is. Great setup!

Next, you have some background--she's married, she has kids, and there is some form of matriarchal authority where she comes from. All this begs the question, Why isn't she with her family? Another hook. Smart!

More setting, she's on a ship with glass sails. Unique. How do glass sails work? Dunno, but I'd like to. I better read another line... and the glass sail catches water, a good feature. You've got some functionality to them, which is worldbuilding. Good job!

Some constructive comments:

Don't say her heart caught somewhere inside her. Somewhere weakens because it lacks certainty. Specific strengthens. Just say her heart caught. Plow over a stone is a good simile, but I believe it's too much for this long sentence. Less is more, less is beautiful.

Rested on her tongue like little beads of mint or jasmine? Water, of course, doesn't contain these flavors. And flavors don't rest on our tongues like beads. If this water is magical, you need to set that up. I would love to experience a world where condensing water droplets have such flavors, but you need to clearly set up if this is the case for this simile to work.

Underwater tornadoes is a confusing term, as we have a word for them, whirlpools or maelstroms. If you are indeed describing those, use the term your readers know. Water columns are known as waterspouts, but your description is as they appear. It works.

When you are in third person close/intimate/personal, you don't have to say things like "Eugenia thought." You are already in her head. It flows better if you don't do this. Keep your narrative moving along, and if she thinks or considers something, just say it in your narrative. Strike it out and read along and see what happens. It's not necessary, and anything unnecessary has to go in a story. It obstructs flow.

Finally, I would like to know what "the decision" was about. Stealing the boat? Sailing the ghost sea? Leaving her sad life? What is it she seeks by doing this? A mystery is good, and you don't have to lead with her motivation, but I hope you answer this question quickly, in your first two pages. Readers need to know what she wants at the beginning of your story. That information should not be a mystery. I call this Heart's Desire. Don't miss giving indication of what she seeks, because the rest of your story should be about forces trying to keep it from her. That creates the conflict, knowing what a protagonist desires, and then watching her attempts fail as someone or something fights to keep it from her.

Good work here, Anja! You have a lot to intrigue the reader in your opening. Well done!

Wulf Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" in Deep Magic Fall 2020 wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
NEXT MASTER CLASSES AT FYRECON ONLINE, NOV. 18-21ST. Click HERE before they are sold out once again!

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Posted : September 19, 2020 9:03 am
Enchania
(@enchania)
Active Member
Posts: 18

Here's my attempt at the previous exercise, writing your own first three paragraphs:

"Electric desert"

Eugenia was sailing alone through the sea of ghosts. No one could have predicted such a turn of events--not her husband or kids, certainly not the island's Mothers.
Reaching above her head, Eugenia touched the thin, curved glass of the ship's sail. Condensation glistened in the rare sun rays, a thousand tiny rainbows so beautiful, her heart caught somewhere inside her, like a plow over a stone. She licked some of the drops –water would be scarce soon—and they rested on her tongue like little beads of mint and jasmine.
It wasn’t so horrible on the sea. No ghosts yet, no spurts, no underwater tornadoes—though those you never saw coming, according to her husband. Should have done it years ago, Eugenia thought. Not that anyone would have let her, not even herself. The decision had grown inside her like a third baby, made up of moments of disappointment, fatigue, moments when she couldn’t breathe and, if she could, she would have screamed. Everyday moments on the island, every single day of her life. It had come to feel like if she hadn’t stolen the ship last night, she would have died on the shore.
When she saw the first water column, right before she sent the ship underwater, Eugenia thought she might die now that she had stolen it. No matter. Bracing for the dive, her eyes swept the horizon for her island. It was no longer there.

Nice opening, Ania. I listened to Terrry Brooks recently. He said you only get two pages to hook your reader, that's it. He said openings matter, the new paradigm is you have to get your readers involved right away. He said your opening line is your teaser to bring the reader into your story. I found it ironic, because I've been having my Super Secrets' challenge beasties working on this skill for over a month. And here you and others are working on it as well. Good! Let's have a look at yours!

Good job opening with your protagonist. I will never fault anyone for giving me the heroine's name in the opening line, even starting with it. Readers need to know who this story will be about, and they need a name to lock down. You've done that, well done!

Setting is here as well. Sea of ghosts sounds creepy and mysterious, and mysteries beg answers. It's an environmental hook, and it's a good one. Also, who wants to sail alone through a sea of ghosts? Nobody, and yet here Eugenia is. Great setup!

Next, you have some background--she's married, she has kids, and there is some form of matriarchal authority where she comes from. All this begs the question, Why isn't she with her family? Another hook. Smart!

More setting, she's on a ship with glass sails. Unique. How do glass sails work? Dunno, but I'd like to. I better read another line... and the glass sail catches water, a good feature. You've got some functionality to them, which is worldbuilding. Good job!

Some constructive comments:

Don't say her heart caught somewhere inside her. Somewhere weakens because it lacks certainty. Specific strengthens. Just say her heart caught. Plow over a stone is a good simile, but I believe it's too much for this long sentence. Less is more, less is beautiful.

Rested on her tongue like little beads of mint or jasmine? Water, of course, doesn't contain these flavors. And flavors don't rest on our tongues like beads. If this water is magical, you need to set that up. I would love to experience a world where condensing water droplets have such flavors, but you need to clearly set up if this is the case for this simile to work.

Underwater tornadoes is a confusing term, as we have a word for them, whirlpools or maelstroms. If you are indeed describing those, use the term your readers know. Water columns are known as waterspouts, but your description is as they appear. It works.

When you are in third person close/intimate/personal, you don't have to say things like "Eugenia thought." You are already in her head. It flows better if you don't do this. Keep your narrative moving along, and if she thinks or considers something, just say it in your narrative. Strike it out and read along and see what happens. It's not necessary, and anything unnecessary has to go in a story. It obstructs flow.

Finally, I would like to know what "the decision" was about. Stealing the boat? Sailing the ghost sea? Leaving her sad life? What is it she seeks by doing this? A mystery is good, and you don't have to lead with her motivation, but I hope you answer this question quickly, in your first two pages. Readers need to know what she wants at the beginning of your story. That information should not be a mystery. I call this Heart's Desire. Don't miss giving indication of what she seeks, because the rest of your story should be about forces trying to keep it from her. That creates the conflict, knowing what a protagonist desires, and then watching her attempts fail as someone or something fights to keep it from her.

Good work here, Anja! You have a lot to intrigue the reader in your opening. Well done!

Wulf Moon

Thank you so much!! Everything is noted and will be used when continuing with the story... Thank you for your time!!

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Posted : September 29, 2020 9:16 am
Reuben
(@reuben)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 216

This topic has been silent for a while. Just wanted to mention a solid podcast that encapsulates Wulf's recent post, plus adds some really interesting stuff about the Hollywood formula: https://writingexcuses.com/2011/10/02/w ... d-formula/

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
V37: R, R, R, HM
V38: SHM

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Posted : November 8, 2020 10:52 am
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

This topic has been silent for a while. Just wanted to mention a solid podcast that encapsulates Wulf's recent post, plus adds some really interesting stuff about the Hollywood formula: https://writingexcuses.com/2011/10/02/w ... d-formula/

Thanks, I'll check it out. And I would love to get this topic going a bit more. Perhaps we could dig up some old secrets.

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Posted : November 10, 2020 12:02 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

This topic has been silent for a while. Just wanted to mention a solid podcast that encapsulates Wulf's recent post, plus adds some really interesting stuff about the Hollywood formula: https://writingexcuses.com/2011/10/02/w ... d-formula/

Thanks, I'll check it out. And I would love to get this topic going a bit more. Perhaps we could dig up some old secrets.

I'll suggest one, and here's why. SUPER SECRET #45 is important to practice. SET. YOUR. STAGE. It's the number one problem I see in aspiring writer manuscripts. If you're not getting HMs, I'll bet this is why. There's some exercises you can train with in this one as well. As was pointed out by Becky, Jason from Apex magazine recently did a post that echoed this Secret. That's because it's a universal problem. When you're reading slush, you see it over and over again. But the aspiring writer does not see it, or they wouldn't be doing it. So they keep getting rejections and don't understand why. This issue is why, more often than not.

Cheers!

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" in Deep Magic Fall 2020 wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
NEXT MASTER CLASSES AT FYRECON ONLINE, NOV. 18-21ST. Click HERE before they are sold out once again!

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Posted : November 10, 2020 7:25 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

BTW, Dave's latest newsletter is on openings. Show's you how important it is. He explains both why he stops, and why he will read on.

My favorite line was this: "But the single most effective way to promise a powerful experience is to write an opening that in itself creates an emotional impact."

Nail your opening. Give your readers a reason to care. Deliver on that emotional impact through your entire story right up to the do or die climax. You'll have created a powerful story.

And powerful stories win.

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Posted : November 10, 2020 7:39 am
Don Coyote
(@don-coyote)
Active Member
Posts: 8

Interesting exercise. Good and useful critiques in this thread. I'll give it a go. A bit of dialogue from a short story I'm working on-

“I lost my beautiful egg,” Thom moaned, brushing at the yoke running down his birthday coat.

“Who are you and why, of all things, did you crack an egg over my head? I suppose you find all this amusing.”

“Who- What are you?”

“I am a dragon.”

“A-Are you going to eat me?”

“I am a bit peckish.”

“I won’t go down easy! I’ll give you such indigestion, you’ll never be able to look at another Pip! Besides, there are no such things as dragons, my mother said so.”

“Yet, here I am.”

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Posted : November 14, 2020 3:01 pm
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

Interesting exercise. Good and useful critiques in this thread. I'll give it a go. A bit of dialogue from a short story I'm working on-

“I lost my beautiful egg,” Thom moaned, brushing at the yoke running down his birthday coat.

“Who are you and why, of all things, did you crack an egg over my head? I suppose you find all this amusing.”

“Who- What are you?”

“I am a dragon.”

“A-Are you going to eat me?”

“I am a bit peckish.”

“I won’t go down easy! I’ll give you such indigestion, you’ll never be able to look at another Pip! Besides, there are no such things as dragons, my mother said so.”

“Yet, here I am.”

Hi, and welcome!

Since you posted this here, I assume you want some feedback Smile
My thoughts on this: It is clear to me who is speaking, so well done on that. One thing I found a bit confusing was the location of the dragon. It seems like Thom accidentally cracked his egg and it broke, and then there is a voice that comes from somewhere, somewhere beneath where he cracked the egg but I don't know where. And then he asks "what are you" and the answer is a dragon, so I assume that was something that was not obvious to Thom when he looked at whatever is speaking. Though it seems the dragon is big enough to eat him. Of course, these are things that would probably be clearer if there was more than just dialogue, but since this exercise is about dialogue it is not clear. I would suggest challenging yourself to come up with a way to show where the dragon is through the dialogue, such as "what are you doing under me feet?" or wherever the dragon is and how it appeared.

Keep up the writing and also, you get bonus points from me for having a dragon Smile

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Posted : November 16, 2020 4:08 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

Interesting exercise. Good and useful critiques in this thread. I'll give it a go. A bit of dialogue from a short story I'm working on-

“I lost my beautiful egg,” Thom moaned, brushing at the yoke running down his birthday coat.

“Who are you and why, of all things, did you crack an egg over my head? I suppose you find all this amusing.”

“Who- What are you?”

“I am a dragon.”

“A-Are you going to eat me?”

“I am a bit peckish.”

“I won’t go down easy! I’ll give you such indigestion, you’ll never be able to look at another Pip! Besides, there are no such things as dragons, my mother said so.”

“Yet, here I am.”

EagerInk gave you some great feedback, Don. This is good, but if you want feedback on the exercise from me, please do the actual exercise. Use tags or beats in your opening lines to identify who is talking, never use them again, and do it all in a total of twelve paragraphs consisting of one sentence dialogue. Write it fresh, don’t excerpt from a current story, and the exercise will train you how to write solid ping-pong dialogue, as I call it. Cheers!

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Posted : November 17, 2020 6:15 am
Don Coyote
(@don-coyote)
Active Member
Posts: 8

Thank you, Eager. Thank you Wulf.

I followed the links to read the exercises in the Super Secrets thread. I really like the Lincoln Lawyer (and Bosch series by Michael Connelly and am running through The Fifth Witness (on Audible) to listen to the dialogue. This is an area I definitely need improvement

I'll be reading the exercises and the suggestions again and tackle this once more.

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Posted : November 17, 2020 12:16 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

Thank you, Eager. Thank you Wulf.

I followed the links to read the exercises in the Super Secrets thread. I really like the Lincoln Lawyer (and Bosch series by Michael Connelly and am running through The Fifth Witness (on Audible) to listen to the dialogue. This is an area I definitely need improvement

I'll be reading the exercises and the suggestions again and tackle this once more.

Well done. That’s how we succeed!

All the beast!

Wulf Moon

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Posted : November 17, 2020 3:08 pm
Don Coyote
(@don-coyote)
Active Member
Posts: 8

I'll give it another go, this time writing twelve lines rather than the twelve sentences I wrote before- an important distinction. I'll get to the second part of the assignment later. For now, it's time to sleep. Got work tomorrow.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rookie Warden stormed into the office and slammed the door. “I get it, Lieutenant. We hate each other. I’m an Elf. You’re a Troll-”

“First, Lieutenant outranks Warden. Second, I am only half Troll. The rest has the misfortune of being… Elf. Third, you're insubordinate. Dismissed.”

“I'm not leaving, Lieutenant. Not until we have this out. I hired on to keep order on the streets, not cleaning holding cells or polishing doorknobs.”

“What do you want, Warden? Transfer to another district? I’ll be very happy to make it happen.”

“No sir. I gave the Commander my word. I want on patrol. My badge is newly minted, but I know how to deal with brigands.”

“You’re an Elf. The Quorum will never let you make a career of the Wardens. Save everyone the trouble and turn in that shiny brass badge. Go back to your cushy job as a caravan guard for your daddy."

“The Quorum has no other choice but to open the Wardens then, Quorum seats to the Elves. The Commander will make certain they know it. The Quorum cannot hope to govern without Elves. All kind will have a seat on the Quorum."

"Not Trolls. For the Elves, the Quorum will never seat Trolls."

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Posted : November 17, 2020 5:10 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

The above does ping-pong dialogue nicely, Don. The problem creates energy, and you don’t bog it down with speaker attributions. That’s because it’s always evident who is speaking. When it’s obvious, tags are superfluous. Just say no ... to unnecessary tags. Good job.

To any reading, this is an excerpt from the Super Secrets where this exercise came from:

“Now that you understand dialogue tags and beats, I give you a new Secret. Once you set up your players in a scene, you can actually make the characters speak for a long time without any attributions. How is this possible? Because you are clever, that's how. It's a good skill to know. One of the best I've seen at it is Michael Connelly of The Lincoln Lawyer fame. He really gets into his stride with this technique in The Fifth Witness, which I recommend you read just to watch the master at work. Instead of quoting an excerpt from the book, I challenged myself to create an example mimicking his style. Here goes:

Chuck frowned at his assistant. “The judge will never get us on the docket in time, will he?”
“You want me to find out?”
“You can do that?”
“Sure. Me and Judge Ramrod go way back. We went to law school together.”
“Well, if you can it would sure help.”
“Well, I can, and I will. Now how about that raise?”
“What? You just started working for me last week!”
“I know, but who has connections like I do? I have friends in high places.”
“You get me a win on this big one, and we’ll talk about it.”
“Okay, boss. You got it.”
“Stop calling me boss.”
“Okay, partner.”

There you go. Twelve lines, and I even gave this vignette a chuckle ending. Not a 'said' in the lot. Only one beat, necessary to set up who leads this dance, and who the dance partner will be. Two characters in this little scene. Chuck, who we discover is an attorney, and his unnamed assistant. Get a sense of character? Feel the lightning fast energy? That's because it's a ripping game of ping-pong, and it's not bogged down with attributions.

I'm not saying to do this all the time. Along with the other points mentioned, it's just another powerful tool you'd be wise to keep handy in your toolbox. Skilled whippersnappers like yourselves should be collecting tools, and learning how to work with them like master carpenters.”

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NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
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Posted : November 18, 2020 4:59 am
Reuben
(@reuben)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 216

I'll give it another go, this time writing twelve lines rather than the twelve sentences I wrote before- an important distinction. I'll get to the second part of the assignment later. For now, it's time to sleep. Got work tomorrow.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rookie Warden stormed into the office and slammed the door. “I get it, Lieutenant. We hate each other. I’m an Elf. You’re a Troll-”

“First, Lieutenant outranks Warden. Second, I am only half Troll. The rest has the misfortune of being… Elf. Third, you're insubordinate. Dismissed.”

“I'm not leaving, Lieutenant. Not until we have this out. I hired on to keep order on the streets, not cleaning holding cells or polishing doorknobs.”

“What do you want, Warden? Transfer to another district? I’ll be very happy to make it happen.”

“No sir. I gave the Commander my word. I want on patrol. My badge is newly minted, but I know how to deal with brigands.”

“You’re an Elf. The Quorum will never let you make a career of the Wardens. Save everyone the trouble and turn in that shiny brass badge. Go back to your cushy job as a caravan guard for your daddy."

“The Quorum has no other choice but to open the Wardens then, Quorum seats to the Elves. The Commander will make certain they know it. The Quorum cannot hope to govern without Elves. All kind will have a seat on the Quorum."

"Not Trolls. For the Elves, the Quorum will never seat Trolls."

Hey Don,

This is very well done. Enough information was provided that it wasn’t confusing, and it wasn’t delivered in a “as you know Bob” fashion, despite there being a lot to explain. The only quibble I have is the last two lines, which loses me. It sounds like he’s quoting from something, but also not.

Also, welcome to the forum. You may want to introduce yourself in the "Introduce Yourself" place. Best of luck!

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
V37: R, R, R, HM
V38: SHM

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Posted : November 18, 2020 9:45 am
Don Coyote
(@don-coyote)
Active Member
Posts: 8

Reuben,
The last two lines confuse me as well. It was at the end of a long day and my brain was mush when I posted. I agree with you, they need to be reworked.

Wulf,
Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to help.

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Posted : November 18, 2020 11:21 am
Pezel
(@pezel)
Active Member
Posts: 14

Writing dialogue without tags is sooo scary! Here’s my attempt:

Sameer looked at his friend with disbelief. “Jon, what do you mean you think you left the car keys at the campsite?”
“I, uh, thought I put them in my pocket, but I can’t feel them now.”
“We’ve been hiking through the woods for two hours! The sun is going down! What are we supposed to do?”
“We keep going? We should be at the car in another hour or so.”
“A car which we won’t be able to get into, much less start.”
“We break a window! At least we’ll have shelter then, because I think it’s starting to rain.”
“That’s my new Sorento, man! And you want me to bash in a window? Oh, crap, it’s raining.”
“I just said that!”
“Jon, do me a favor. Just stop talking.”
“Okay, Sameer, I’ll stop. But I just have to say one more thing.”
“What, Jon? What do you just have to say?”
“There’s a pack of wolves behind us.”

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Posted : November 19, 2020 12:24 am
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

Writing dialogue without tags is sooo scary! Here’s my attempt:

Sameer looked at his friend with disbelief. “Jon, what do you mean you think you left the car keys at the campsite?”
“I, uh, thought I put them in my pocket, but I can’t feel them now.”
“We’ve been hiking through the woods for two hours! The sun is going down! What are we supposed to do?”
“We keep going? We should be at the car in another hour or so.”
“A car which we won’t be able to get into, much less start.”
“We break a window! At least we’ll have shelter then, because I think it’s starting to rain.”
“That’s my new Sorento, man! And you want me to bash in a window? Oh, crap, it’s raining.”
“I just said that!”
“Jon, do me a favor. Just stop talking.”
“Okay, Sameer, I’ll stop. But I just have to say one more thing.”
“What, Jon? What do you just have to say?”
“There’s a pack of wolves behind us.”

Haha! That ending got me! I think this is pretty good, except I would say that in the last four lines where you mention names, it sounds natural with the first "Jon, do me a favor..." but then after that the names sound awkward coming out of their mouths, and they aren't needed there either.

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Posted : November 19, 2020 3:19 am
Pezel
(@pezel)
Active Member
Posts: 14

Thanks, Ink! I completely agree that those last two names aren't really needed. Those were just me trying to slip in some illegal attributions. I'm sneaky like that.

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Posted : November 19, 2020 3:58 am
Reuben
(@reuben)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 216

Writing dialogue without tags is sooo scary! Here’s my attempt:

Sameer looked at his friend with disbelief. “Jon, what do you mean you think you left the car keys at the campsite?”
“I, uh, thought I put them in my pocket, but I can’t feel them now.”
“We’ve been hiking through the woods for two hours! The sun is going down! What are we supposed to do?”
“We keep going? We should be at the car in another hour or so.”
“A car which we won’t be able to get into, much less start.”
“We break a window! At least we’ll have shelter then, because I think it’s starting to rain.”
“That’s my new Sorento, man! And you want me to bash in a window? Oh, crap, it’s raining.”
“I just said that!”
“Jon, do me a favor. Just stop talking.”
“Okay, Sameer, I’ll stop. But I just have to say one more thing.”
“What, Jon? What do you just have to say?”
“There’s a pack of wolves behind us.”

Ha, this is hilarious! You differentiated the characters' voices very well. I think that's one valuable facet of this exercise--besides deleting unnecessary dialog tags--that even when you do use "he said"/"she said" that the voices are different, that they aren't just a bunch of intellectuals debating in a conference room.

Besides for that, my only problem is the second to last line, which seems forced and unnecessary. Regardless, I think this is a good beginning to any story, as it introduces the characters and the problem nicely. (See the Set The Stage super secret, you'll also want to get to more of the setting and the explaining the heart's desire and who the main character is).

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
V37: R, R, R, HM
V38: SHM

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Posted : November 19, 2020 4:49 am
Pezel
(@pezel)
Active Member
Posts: 14

Thanks for the feedback, Reuben! So. Much. To. Learn.

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Posted : November 19, 2020 6:10 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2277

Thanks for the feedback, Reuben! So. Much. To. Learn.

This exercise example is fun, fast, and furious, Pezel. You've gotten good constructive comments from EagerInk and Reuben (great meeting you at Fyrecon and in my master class, EagerInk!). Once you tag in your first line through a speaker attribution or action beat, no cheating at the end by dropping their names in. It should be obvious through the entire piece who is speaking after your initial introduction. We're only talking twelve lines. And after you introduce, try to get your subsequent dialogue into one sentence responses. That's the fastest pacing. Watch what happens when you do.

Good work here. I see Reuben is a secret Secrets follower. wotf001 Well done!

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
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NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
NEXT MASTER CLASSES AT FYRECON ONLINE, NOV. 18-21ST. Click HERE before they are sold out once again!

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Posted : November 19, 2020 7:12 am
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

Thanks for the feedback, Reuben! So. Much. To. Learn.

This exercise example is fun, fast, and furious, Pezel. You've gotten good constructive comments from EagerInk and Reuben (great meeting you at Fyrecon and in my master class, EagerInk!). Once you tag in your first line through a speaker attribution or action beat, no cheating at the end by dropping their names in. It should be obvious through the entire piece who is speaking after your initial introduction. We're only talking twelve lines. And after you introduce, try to get your subsequent dialogue into one sentence responses. That's the fastest pacing. Watch what happens when you do.

Good work here. I see Reuben is a secret Secrets follower. wotf001 Well done!

It was great to meet you too Moon! wotf007 wotf007

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Posted : November 19, 2020 3:44 pm
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

I'll give it another go, this time writing twelve lines rather than the twelve sentences I wrote before- an important distinction. I'll get to the second part of the assignment later. For now, it's time to sleep. Got work tomorrow.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rookie Warden stormed into the office and slammed the door. “I get it, Lieutenant. We hate each other. I’m an Elf. You’re a Troll-”

“First, Lieutenant outranks Warden. Second, I am only half Troll. The rest has the misfortune of being… Elf. Third, you're insubordinate. Dismissed.”

“I'm not leaving, Lieutenant. Not until we have this out. I hired on to keep order on the streets, not cleaning holding cells or polishing doorknobs.”

“What do you want, Warden? Transfer to another district? I’ll be very happy to make it happen.”

“No sir. I gave the Commander my word. I want on patrol. My badge is newly minted, but I know how to deal with brigands.”

“You’re an Elf. The Quorum will never let you make a career of the Wardens. Save everyone the trouble and turn in that shiny brass badge. Go back to your cushy job as a caravan guard for your daddy."

“The Quorum has no other choice but to open the Wardens then, Quorum seats to the Elves. The Commander will make certain they know it. The Quorum cannot hope to govern without Elves. All kind will have a seat on the Quorum."

"Not Trolls. For the Elves, the Quorum will never seat Trolls."

Since I gave you feedback on your first one I'll give you some on this too Smile
Great job on the beginning - the first line tells us where they are, who they are, what they are racially and their relationship. That's a lot, well done!

The last two lines are a little hard to follow, like you said.

And lastly, all of these lines of dialogue are on the longer side, yet it still has a ping pong effect because they are upset with each other. Good job!

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Posted : November 19, 2020 3:53 pm
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