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John
March 13th, 2003, 07:10 AM
At one stage I wanted to be a professional writer. Now I kindof just laugh at myself on that point. However, that doesn't mean I lost all interest in writing, although I haven't really spent that much time at it.

Here's a story short I wrote, and this is the first story I've completed outside of high school English.

While I haven't really had much experience writing, I have read a fair amount of literature. Reading helps with writing I think.

If anyone thinks I'm good enough to be published... ummm like anywhere... then I'll be quite happy and will be very willing to get stories published. However, I am realistic.

Anyway, this is a short story about the dream of space. I would appreciate any feedback good or bad, as both will help me.

http://alphadimensions.net/~john/On the Shore of Endless Worlds.doc

John

---------------------------- Added information -----------------------------

After reading all the helpful comments I adjusted the story. No major changes though, just made it clearer.

http://alphadimensions.net/~john/On the Shore of Endless Worlds2.doc

Note it's suggest to read the story before the posts below, as the posts below explain much of what's going on in the story.

John

John
March 14th, 2003, 10:49 AM
Not even one comment, good or bad.

I must be putting people to sleep before they read the end of the 5 page story.

Never realised I was that bad. Even Robert Jorden took at least a chapter to put people to sleep with his latest book.

Although maybe I can market a book of short stories to people suffering insomnia.

IaNo
March 14th, 2003, 01:02 PM
John: I liked your story quite a bit. I thought the general idea was excellent and the way you repeated things in the story gave it a nice sense of infinite purpose that paralleled well with the idea of the infinite oceon of worlds. There was just a little bit much that you left unsaid for the reader to figure out for me, although I agree that you shouldn't explain everything. It was especially confusing with the scene change and the man David becomes a boy again. I liked the idea though, it just didn't seem to fit together as smoothly as it should. Also, what exactly was the "mission?" Was it to talk to one lonely kid on the beach somewhere and hope that it would reignite the dream of space into him and he would grow up to be a scientist and save humanity by continuing the space program into the future so they would have enough knowlege gained over the years to escape the exploding sun? That was the best they could think of? No warning of what would happen if they didn't do it, what unforseable event was going to happen in the future that only they could prevent? It seems like telling them the truth would have been much more effective. At least go to someone powerful, etc. Certainly, you could explain reasons, such as the fact that they aren't allowed to disturb events in the past or tell people about the future, etc. But at least explain that they know the boy on the beach is going to be the leader in the future or someone important, etc. This is all making me think of Terminator 2. Also, a lot of the writing needs to be edited and rewritten to sound more one of a kind and some of the dialogue is a bit unnatural. I really like your style of story telling though. Hope this helps. Keep up the good writing.

John
March 14th, 2003, 09:20 PM
Thanks for your feedback IaNo.

I'm currently thinking about making the story more transparent, and trying to make the flashback flow from the story and back into the story more seamlessly.

You wrote, "Also, a lot of the writing needs to be edited and rewritten to sound more one of a kind and some of the dialogue is a bit unnatural."

I'm still fairly amateur at present, but I don't want to stay that way. If you could elaborate that comment, that could help me improve my writing.

As for the whole time changing issue. I originally considered this very carefully. I figured I would leave it out as the original explaination I came up with was rather involved. Thus distracting the reading from the main story. However, from your feedback I think I need to put a condensed version in.

Just telling people, doom is coming, wouldn't really work I think. For example.

"Excuse me Mr president, but in one or two billion years the earth is going to get destoried by the sun."

Even after proving that you're from the future and not an escaped loony, it's difficult to believe that people will care enough to spend several generations trying to develop space flight. People just don't care about future doom in the billion of year time scale.

They could go back only a couple of centuries. However, they've been unsuccessful reaching other stars for more than two generations. They have no idea how long it will take.

Instead think about what started our current space program. It was all because a large number of people wanted to see mankind explore space. It captured people's imagination.

Now how could you spread a idea like that, and hopefully make it last a few generations perhaps longer? The answer is writers. Especially book writers as books tend to stay around far longer than movies, newspapers etc.

Think carefully about Orwell, and a few other stories and movies that tell about the power of media used to control the population. We are greatly affected by the ideas that are put towards us, and this can be a good thing or a bad thing.

So far in all literature I've seen, emphasis has been mainly placed on the evil of media. It warps minds, misleads the population, and changes how we think for the worse. The good aspects are subtler and generally don't lead to obvious changes that can be easily linked back to the media, so that is mainly ignored in many stories. I was hoping I could incorporate one of the good aspects into my story.

This was one of the themes I was hoping people would pick up in my story was how a writer can inspire others with his ideas and dreams. I did my best to hide it, but I think I hid it too well. I didn't want to make it obvious because the half suggested ideas tend to have greater impact in the long run. You're left to think about it, look at the possiblities. When people have to figure out the idea themselves they more fully realise what it means than if you just tell it to them.

In the story I mention that the experts decided that David could do what nobody else could, because he "used" to believe in the dream of space. He's the best qualified out of the whole of the future world, because nobody else had recaptured the dream even for the short time David had. Also this is used to highlight the despair that is rather prevalent in David's time.

They were going to use their one chance to get David to try and plant the dream of space in the past. Obviously, since they were only getting one chance to change history they had thought this through very carefully.

So they picked a great writer that could eventually spread this dream, and sent their best chance (David) back to try and inspire the writer.

Well thanks for your feedback, it a pity I didn't communicate the above ideas effectively.

John

Singleton
March 14th, 2003, 11:17 PM
I liked that story quite a bit, but I have a lot of suggestions. I think it has increcible promise, but is currently lacking. But before I get into a details, I have my own little story.

I started a short story about a month ago. It was initially based on a premise, and I got to about page two and had no idea where I was going. So I continued down the road of randomness, until I got a brainflash about an ending. I typed it up, brought in my story at around 5 pages. Afterwards, I wrote up an explanation, much like yours in your post. I realized how little of it was in the story. It is now 8 pages long.

No to your story - I followed a lot of the under plot, but some of the interesting details you informed me of below absolutely escaped me. You raised some interesting questions, which I had not even thought of. It is obvious that you ahve put a lot of thought into the concept behind this story. In a large way, however, that is not reflected in the story. Go through and start adding things in bits and peices. I find that with a short story, printing it out and spreading the pages across the desk is a good way to look at it all and decide where to add some hints. Then read back through and see if the bits fit. Eventually you'll get to the place where adding anymore would be giving away too much. You want to make it seem complex, which your description made clear, without making it ambiguous.

I felt the writing itself was quite good. I caught no spelling errors, but I think you may have made some grammar mistakes as far as dialogue is concerned. You had new paragraphs starting for the same speaker - there were times when I read a paragraph and thought it was being spoken by someone other than who it actually was.

So, there are my two sense, and I enjoy reading you subsequent editions.

BTW, don't beat yourself up that only two have commented - It's only been one day.

John
March 15th, 2003, 07:15 AM
Originally posted by Singleton
I liked that story quite a bit, but I have a lot of suggestions. I think it has increcible promise, but is currently lacking. But before I get into a details, I have my own little story.

I started a short story about a month ago. It was initially based on a premise, and I got to about page two and had no idea where I was going. So I continued down the road of randomness, until I got a brainflash about an ending. I typed it up, brought in my story at around 5 pages. Afterwards, I wrote up an explanation, much like yours in your post. I realized how little of it was in the story. It is now 8 pages long.

No to your story - I followed a lot of the under plot, but some of the interesting details you informed me of below absolutely escaped me. You raised some interesting questions, which I had not even thought of. It is obvious that you ahve put a lot of thought into the concept behind this story. In a large way, however, that is not reflected in the story.


I don't intend to make all the themes clear in the story. First and foremost because the reader would get side tracked from the main story line. Some things I intended to leave as hints, that most who simply want to the skim the story will ignore.



Go through and start adding things in bits and peices. I find that with a short story, printing it out and spreading the pages across the desk is a good way to look at it all and decide where to add some hints. Then read back through and see if the bits fit. Eventually you'll get to the place where adding anymore would be giving away too much. You want to make it seem complex, which your description made clear, without making it ambiguous.


One thing a short story can do, which a novel can't, is to generate a crystal focus on a single idea. A novel needs to branch out to maintain reader interest. I hope to maintain that focus while adding some side themes so the storyline isn't completely two dimensional like some short stories that focus too much on a particular issue. So what I'm aiming for is fractal like complexity. People that skim the story will pick up the basic outline enjoy that and then go do something else without being frustrated. Others that like to ponder after they've read a story can start picking up some of the related but hidden themes.



I felt the writing itself was quite good. I caught no spelling errors, but I think you may have made some grammar mistakes as far as dialogue is concerned.


I will admit that my grammar mistakes were more from carelessness than design. I was worried about polishing the dialogue too much that it would sound fake, because I didn't think I have the skill to polish and still have natural sounding dialogue. I wrote dialogue by imagining the person speaking in the setting and just writing down the words that came out. If it made sense to me I kept it. Not a very good method I admit.



You had new paragraphs starting for the same speaker - there were times when I read a paragraph and thought it was being spoken by someone other than who it actually was.


I was trying to use new paragraphs to slow the reader down and hence put pauses in a character's dialogue. I guess wasnít very successful. Some writers do this by putting a descriptive passage in between. However, I was worried that descriptive passages would take attention away from the ideas in the dialogue.

From the novels and short stories Iíve read. Iíve liked the short stories that ONLY use descriptive language to describe important things. The descriptions you do put in have far more effect when you decide to use them and the reader wonít feel the story is going slowly. In full-length novels it seems good to have extended descriptions of feelings, items, weather and places that arenít always important. When this is used in short stories, the descriptions seem somewhat overdone. This is just my opinion. I would like to hear what other people think about the differences between short stories and novels.

Also going back a bit, does anyone have any ideas on how to have the sense of a pause in one characterís dialogue without bulking it up with superficial language? Putting a new paragraph in seems to annoy the readers from the feedback Iíve gotten, and I donít know any other way to do it.



So, there are my two sense, and I enjoy reading you subsequent editions.

BTW, don't beat yourself up that only two have commented - It's only been one day.

Thanks for the feedback Singleton. I appreciated the compliments and the criticism. It's helped me to think about what I've been doing and what I'm trying to do.

John

Singleton
March 15th, 2003, 07:42 PM
"I will admit that my grammar mistakes were more from carelessness than design. I was worried about polishing the dialogue too much that it would sound fake, because I didn't think I have the skill to polish and still have natural sounding dialogue. I wrote dialogue by imagining the person speaking in the setting and just writing down the words that came out. If it made sense to me I kept it. Not a very good method I admit."

No, I believe it's a pretty good method. If you can hear someone (or yourself) saying it, then it's probably natural.

"Also going back a bit, does anyone have any ideas on how to have the sense of a pause in one characterís dialogue without bulking it up with superficial language? Putting a new paragraph in seems to annoy the readers from the feedback Iíve gotten, and I donít know any other way to do it."

You could always insert a generic "he paused" or "she paused." My problem, however, was that there was very little indication that the paragraphs following were by the same speaker. I recently finished Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray," which was heavy on dialogue. When a new section of dialogue between two characters began, Wilde would make it quite clear who was speaking each line, by indicating it with "he said/she said" or other variants thereof. If the conversation lasted a while, he would leave those things out, so that it was just one speaker right after another.

Also, when one character was speaking for a while, using mulitple paragraphs, he would follow a similar method. For the first two or three paragraphs, "he said" or "he continued" was used. For the following paragraphs, it was sort of understood that it was the same person who was still speaking.

Another thing is that it was in more formal paragraph form - no blank lines between paragraphs, first line of new paragraph indented.

I hope this helps a little, as far as making the dialogue more clear.

Now, as far as pace is concerned. You can add ellispes or describe, briefly, such actions as looking down at hands, crossing legs, taking a drag from a cigarette, etc. It shows that the speaker isn't worried about speed, and helps the reader to slow down.

John
March 15th, 2003, 08:27 PM
Originally posted by Singleton
"Also going back a bit, does anyone have any ideas on how to have the sense of a pause in one characterís dialogue without bulking it up with superficial language? Putting a new paragraph in seems to annoy the readers from the feedback Iíve gotten, and I donít know any other way to do it."

You could always insert a generic "he paused" or "she paused." My problem, however, was that there was very little indication that the paragraphs following were by the same speaker.


Actually I was very careful about that restating the speaker's name when they continued talking in the next paragraph. However, you're right in that some of the dialogue needs more indication who's speaking. You can figure it easily enough, but it difficult enough for one or two lines that it distracts the reader from the story.



I recently finished Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray," which was heavy on dialogue. When a new section of dialogue between two characters began, Wilde would make it quite clear who was speaking each line, by indicating it with "he said/she said" or other variants thereof. If the conversation lasted a while, he would leave those things out, so that it was just one speaker right after another.

Also, when one character was speaking for a while, using mulitple paragraphs, he would follow a similar method. For the first two or three paragraphs, "he said" or "he continued" was used. For the following paragraphs, it was sort of understood that it was the same person who was still speaking.

Another thing is that it was in more formal paragraph form - no blank lines between paragraphs, first line of new paragraph indented.


Okay thanks. The rule of thumb I was using was.

Always put in a character label (David said etc) whenever the character spoke over multiple paragraphs. If the other character is replying you can leave out the character label. Basically if some dialogue wasn't followed by an indication of the character's name then it was the other character replying.

I've seen it used before, but I have to admit it's not that common to see it used as much as I have done. Also you mentioned that in the book you've read the writer had the back and forth dialogue for a few rounds before letting the reader make the assumption that the each paragraph is the other character. I didn't wait for the dialogue to make a few rounds before using it.

I also realised, when I was rewriting the story, that the dialogue can be difficult to follow at the start because I was making the boy seem like a shadow to the reader as much as he was to David. Near the end of the first scene I stopped labeling the boy's dialogue, as David is becoming more and more lost in his own thoughts. You're meant to get the impression David didn't do a very good job talking with the kid since he didn't focus too much on the boy near the end. David was instead trying to convince himself, because he didn't quite believe in the dream.

Thanks for that help, I'll make sure that I pay more attention to this problem.

Now if only I could figure out what IaNo meant by "and rewritten to sound more one of a kind".

John

Singleton
March 15th, 2003, 10:56 PM
In the paragraph beginning "David did not know what to say" (near the beginning) you may want to switch things around a bit. It is not obvious that "the man" who has been speaking is actually David. If you said "He did not know what to say" and then had the next sentence begin with "David", it would be more clear that "he" is David. I had thought at first that David was the boy. Other than this, the whole first section of dialogue flows very smoothly and naturally.

-"'I would like to see the sun rise,' David pleaded."-

This phrase seemed a little broken off from David's statement from the paragraph before. A "but" or a "just" would work to fix this.

I made a lot more connections on my second reading. I had at first taken issue with your whole concept of time travel being possible, but I caught the statement "we're just ghosts" the second time. Obviously, Dave and Sam aren't really in the boy's time - only their spirits are. It would be impossible for them to physically inhabit it.

The idea of "why explore when we can make dreams here" also made more sense. It is a very subtle commentary on our current fascination with video games, hyper-realistic movies, and virtual reality machines. You should see the stuff they have at arcades these days.

"'But we were always meant to explore space, and Earth was meant to be our nursery. Our time wasnít meant to end with the dying of this world.'"

I may be reading a lot into your story, but it seems to me, depending on your worldview, that this may be a clue to the ending. If you believe in fate, destiny, or the divine purpose of God, that is. Your character said, essentially, that humans were fated to travel into space. If you believe in fate, then it would be quite obvious that man did make it there.

I see two possible discrepancies, as far as believability is concerned. If Dave and Samantha had travelled back in time hundreds of millions of years, then their dialect would be far different than the boy's. I have no idea how you would indicate this, however.

I understand that it had to be hundreds of millions of years in order for the sun to turn into a red giant, but it seems highly unlikely that we wouldn't have made it out of our galaxy by that time. Even if there were no focus on space travel, the advancement of technology would make it so that far less time would be needed to get to other planets. Perhaps you could have the earth dying from pollution, nuclear war, etc. This way a lapse of a few centuries only would be needed.

However, it is your story. I hope I have helped you think through it under a new light. It is quite good. You could easily expand it into a novel, though you stated that you wanted to focus on one theme.

John
March 16th, 2003, 03:15 AM
Well I think I've finished ironing out the problems with the dialogue. I added extra lines so the story flows more smoothly into and out of the flashback, and added a little more explanation about what's going on.

I think I'm happy with it and will probably only make grammar spelling adjustments if I notice anything.

http://alphadimensions.net/~john/On the Shore of Endless Worlds2.doc

To Singleton:

You came up with a different theory of time travel to what I came up with for this story, but sci-fiction is like that. You figure everything out to the best of your ability, then you write it nice and general. Even if you do have expert knowledge if it doesn't immediately impact on the plot you keep it general. That way readers don't have issues with their own logic or understanding. If you look carefully at older sci-fiction stories which have been hailed as predicting the future. They subtlety keep things open to interpretation. Itís not a matter of being right. Itís a matter of allowing readers to believe what you have told them is in some way possible, and leaving enough open that your story wonít contradict new findings.

Hereís what I had incorporated into my story. They have a single chance to change the past, after they change the past it changes the future and they cease to exist. So they travel backwards in time David steps out of the temporal shield, which is like a bubble outside of this reality. Once David steps starts affecting the past heís got a limited amount of time before the changes make their way into the future and basically makes it so he doesnít exist any more. He has the chat, then rushes back and gets back into the temporal shield. Shortly after time runs out and they canít leave the temporal shield any more because they will cease to exist as soon as they step out.

Then thereís a bit of bending in the truth, because logically the changes in the past should have been erased when they were erased, but if the changes were erased then they still travel through time to make the changes. This generates a temporal paradox (all sci-fiction fans should understand that). The way I get around this temporal paradox is to say the once a change is made to the time stream, the time stream strangles out the possible feedback and keeps the change in the past, while changing everything in the future. In other words reality warps a little so the universe doesnít crash like a computer program with several bad memory leaks.

Youíre right in the other 2nd observation.

The final observation you made was more to do with peopleís faith in some larger power at work. Many people feel that there has to be something guiding events. I have no idea in this matter and am currently fence sitting. However, I would expect that many people believe this consciously or subconsciously, and this would come through when people are talking about an event as great as the ending of the world.

Your first discrepancy is entirely true, but a reader doesnít want to learn a new made up dialect while reading the story.

You second discrepancy, might be true, but youíve only to look at some of the older sci-fiction movies to see how many of peopleís expectations in the progression of technology vastly outstrip what actually happens. 2001 a space odyssey, has a neural net advanced enough to hold conversations, and manned space ships going all the way out to Jupiter. At present these are way beyond what we are capable of doing and itís 2003.

Anyway we donít need a nuclear war or plague to slow us down. A likely cause will be stagnation. Which is what I mainly hinted on with the comment about ďwhy explore when we can make dreams hereĒ. Humanity might no longer striving in the real world, because itís easier to satisfy ourselves in the imaginary.

Thereís probably more hidden ideas somewhere in there. If you need to get them clarified, just ask.

John