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Wise Words
When you are describing,

A shape, or sound, or tint;

Don't state the matter plainly,

But put it in a hint;

And learn to look at all things,

With a sort of mental squint.

~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)
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 An Unfortunate Sign

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Stainqueen
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PostSubject: An Unfortunate Sign   Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:08 pm

I had started this as a story, but when I was given a short story assignment, I just used the introduction of the story as a short story, so here it is. (Comments are most welcome!!!):

The sun shone through the clouds as the Cunnings family boarded a small cruise ship in Boston Harbor for a week-long cruise in the Caribbean. Mr. Cunnings and his oldest son, William boarded first, followed by Mrs. Cunnings and their two daughters Sarah and Annie. As soon as his mother approached the deck, William reached his hand out to help her aboard, and took her suitcase for her as well. Once everyone, being five other wealthy families, had boarded the ship, the gangplank was disconnected from the ship, and the gates, both on the ship and at the dock, were closed. The smokestack came to life, choking out a cloud of steam, ash, and soot, causing the ship to lurch forward.
During their voyage to the Caribbean, Mrs. Cunnings, Sarah, and Annie joined the other ladies sitting on the deck, talking, and looking out at the vast ocean that surrounded them, until one of the ladies grew seasick and hurried over to the nearest section of railing. While occasionally looking over at the ladies bent over the railing and giving a chuckle, most of the men would sit under the deck’s awning and gamble.
Once the ship arrived in the Caribbean, the staff had planned a ball for that evening in the ballroom at six o’clock. The ladies spent an hour or so fixing their hair, make-up, and primping their dresses for that evening. Once the clocks struck six, the doors to the ballroom were opened, and all of the guests filed in, and took a seat at the dinner table. After dinner, the dancing began, Mr. and Mrs. Cunnings became partners, and within minutes Sarah and William both found dancing partners, leaving Annie in her seat on the sidelines beside the door. As the time passed, Annie grew weary at the countless dancers pass her and hearing others comment on what a wonderful time they were having.
After about two hours of sitting by herself, Annie heard a faint noise outside and slipped out of the ballroom without notice from the other guests. As Annie entered the deck, she scanned the area for the source of the noise. When she was unable to determine the source of the noise, she leaned over the railing to look below her. Annie searched the other ships in the area as she heard the noise again. As Annie tried leaning out even further, someone spoke from behind her.
“You should come inside, leaning over the railing can be dangerous.” When Annie turned around she saw her father standing just outside the door. “What are you doing out here, Annie?”
“I came out her because I heard a sound.”
“What kind of sound?”
“I’m not sure,” Annie stated flatly, “I’ll come inside in a minute.”
“Alright, I will go ahead inside, you should come inside soon.”
As her father reentered the hallway, the door to the deck closed with a soft thud, and Annie heard the sound again. This time, Annie recognized it. She stretched herself over the railing as much as she could to see where the sound was coming from. The railing began to screech as it bent and when the section broke off, Annie went tumbling into the sea. Her father had just entered the ballroom, when he heard the screeching of the railing, and rushed out onto the deck to make sure Annie was alright, but all he was able to find was the missing section of railing, and a piece of her yellow dress that had torn off as she fell.
‘Annie! Annie, can you hear me?” Although he called for her over and over, he knew she would not answer for he had heard the splash himself. Just as reality had hit him, he heard the same noise Annie had been hearing. Unlike Annie, he had been able to determine the location of the source, and looking towards the shore he saw a red parrot circle around a little and then land on a broken sign that read in blood-red letters, “Caution.”

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Kris
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:34 am

When I saw this was about a cruise ship, I knew it was going to be this story!!!

Brilliant descriptions. I LOVE the details and the ending. I would have loved to hear some more back story, or at least more details so this story is a tiny bit longer. Maybe build suspense and drama. Have her hear the noise again and again and then finally locate the source. It would be nice if her father warns her not to lean too far over the railing. It would be nice also if he didn't. You're the writer, and you know your story best. These are just suggestions!
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Stainqueen
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:53 pm

well, to be put in perspective, this is the background story for a larger work, but more of the family's history is talked about later in the story. Also, I played with the idea of her father warning her about the railing, but I thought that that would just be too subtle of foreshadowing.

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Kris
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:57 am

Cool.

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Stainqueen
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:29 am

After this comes the REAL twist.

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Rin
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Wed Aug 04, 2010 10:45 am

Very interesting idea. I want to know what happens next now >.<

But to be honest, I feel like the entire first paragraph is so boring it nearly drives me away. I read in a writing book that if something doesn't drive the plot or doesn't build the character, you should scrap it. Insofar as the ballroom has nothing to do what's actually happening, I would get rid of it. Or, at least, inject bits of the family's personalities in what's going on, so instead of watching a boring scene, we are learning more about the character. Also, you might want to break it into smaller paragraphs. That helps with readers with really short attention spans (ME) and gives you more opportunities to shape the plot better.

Secondly, the dialog reads rather awkwardly. Read it out loud and see if people actually talk that way.

Third, fresh descriptions and new words are an important asset of prose. Stay away from cliches and find your own unique way to describe things. That will make your prose so much more engaging and interesting.

Therefore...insert something that should go after a therefore because I for some reason can't think of one.
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Thu Aug 05, 2010 6:47 pm

Rin, have you ever thought that maybe not everyone talks the same way you do? Some people don't cuss in almost every sentence (not to say you always cuss). Some people don't use slang. Actually, many people talk properly...

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Rin
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:36 pm

Kris, have you ever thought that maybe I'm able to put aside my personal preferences when critiquing someone (albeit grudgingly)? I take problems with sentences like these:

“Alright, I will go ahead inside, you should come inside soon."

Because I don't know anybody who talks like that. Alert me if you find someone.

I know not everyone cusses or uses slang. But you don't write out of a grammar book, you write out of real life.

No offense to Stainqueen, it's not like every sentence of yours is completely irrational. Actually, most of them are perfectly natural. I'm just saying to watch out for sentences like the above.

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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:18 am

Well, that's just my point. There's all sorts of people in the world. I agree that people wouldn't be so wordy usually, though.

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Rin
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:26 am

Your point escapes me somehow.
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Jay
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:02 pm

I enjoyed this story ^^

But I agree with Rin on separating the introductory paragraph into smaller ones :oooo
Most people like to read small paragraphs ^^ It's also a simple strategy for books to make people feel like they're reading quickly. Authors can shorten chapters so that way, readers can have a definite stopping point and feel smarter by reading a larger amount of chapters quickly. ^^
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:04 pm

Well, firstly, as I was writing this, I was kinda picturing it more in a film, and for a short story assignment in 9th grade, I didn't really feel like I should add more perspective to the beginning or during the ballroom scene. As for the language issue, this is meant to be set more in the early 20th or late 19th century, I'm sorry if this did not come across clearly.

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Rin
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:16 pm

Idk; to me, the sentence:

“Alright, I will go ahead inside, you should come inside soon.”

doesn't seem to flow very well no matter what time period you're in. At least, not with the commas. If you did something like this:

"Alright, I will go ahead inside; you should come inside soon."

That would look better to my obviously overdemanding, unreasonable, and uncredible eyes.
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:24 pm

I see your point with the punctuation, but I still think that this is a reasonable statement.

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Rin
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:43 pm

Right, that brings up something I'd been meaning to post about.

I think punctuation forms dialog just as much as the words do. For instance, to me, when I see a comma while reading, the little voice in my head pauses. And when I see a semi-colon, it's a more defined pause. And if I read the dialog out loud, I would read a sentence completely differently if it had different punctuation, even if the words were the same.

So if I were any more of a prick than I already am, I'd say that what you wrote was not a reasonable statement because the comma makes the sentence awkward, while just substituting it with a semi-colon would make it perfectly reasonable. But that's a pricky thing to say so I'll just remain content with the point that in my opinion, punctuation makes a huge difference.
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PostSubject: Re: An Unfortunate Sign   Sun Aug 08, 2010 7:44 pm

Rin wrote:
Right, that brings up something I'd been meaning to post about.

I think punctuation forms dialog just as much as the words do. For instance, to me, when I see a comma while reading, the little voice in my head pauses. And when I see a semi-colon, it's a more defined pause. And if I read the dialog out loud, I would read a sentence completely differently if it had different punctuation, even if the words were the same.

So if I were any more of a prick than I already am, I'd say that what you wrote was not a reasonable statement because the comma makes the sentence awkward, while just substituting it with a semi-colon would make it perfectly reasonable. But that's a pricky thing to say so I'll just remain content with the point that in my opinion, punctuation makes a huge difference.

I have to agree here. Writers get defensive with their work, but sometimes we have to "give a little to gain a little" to use a cliche. That's why it's important to get some other opinions.

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