Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

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kailhofer
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Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Post by kailhofer »

I thought that this story had a good premise and that the author spent a fair amount of time building the world in his mind before the story began (and that's a good thing).<br><br>However, telling versus showing and, I thought, an unrealistic conclusion kept me from really getting into it.<br><br>Many a Mare story starts with people walking up & uncontrollably regurgitating their life's story to Max, so telling instead of showing happens a lot in the Mare. Max seems used to it, but I never will be. <br><br>I'd much rather see a short intro without the infodumps, then physically move the story to the recollection so I can see the relevant parts happen in real-time. Max & the storyteller can easily interject and serve as a segue to the next narrative bit. Here, however, the story never leaves the bar, so the places referred to are never described with any concrete details. Without that description (preferably using all the senses), the setting is not real to the reader. Mortz has only a passing description, much like the description of his evil deed.<br><br>A person I don't know much about, ready to do in another for something I can only guess at... this doesn't grip me. These then are unbelievable characters, and that's bad in my book.<br><br>Next, the conclusion was unrealistic to me. If Gratz spent 40 years of his life driven to find and kill this man (and there's no way that he couldn't have doubted his goal at some point--and he still pressed on), why would a few paragraphs from Max spin him around that fast. Who can turn their emotions off like that? Not me.<br><br>Furthermore, even if one does swallow the ending, not much actually happens in this story. Characters we don't know with any depth meet because of something we don't know clearly, then one of them decides not to do anything about it and the other leaves. <br><br>I'd like to say this was a story about a man deciding not to commit murder, but that's not really the focus as I saw it. Now, if he deliberated, struggled internally, and then because of something he learned as a character during the course of the tale caused him to grow and then not kill Mortz--that would be a whole different ballgame. I'd pay to read that. This may have been the intent of this one, but it just didn't come through for me.<br><br>I wish I could put a better spin on it, but that's the way I saw it.<br><br>Nate
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Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Post by kailhofer »

So yes, Nate, the venue is a little hokey and a bit overdone, but it is a vast playground with lots of neat toys to fiddle around with. I think Mr. Marks did a very good job, structurally. I don't recall having any trouble following either the characters or the significance of the tale. His whole point seemed more focused on how very different reality is from the historical record. It seemed to be more a testament to the motivations of those we consider to be heroes rather than having any kind of true message.

For a short story, that's enough. Usually, when you try to bite off more than the story can chew, your readers will choke on it. There's a reason why The Canterbury Tales never made it as a comic book.

Bill
<br>Forgive me if I misunderstand, but it sounds like your contention is, to paraphrase, "it's just a Mare story, so it's good enough."<br><br>I don't wish to be combative, but if that's the case, we'll never agree on anything. I am a firm believer in "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." There may well be 50 Mare stories that use this same device to infodump rather than tell a full story with rich settings, character development, and a well-crafted plot. If so, I'd say that there were 50 Mare stories that could have been told better.<br><br>My own Mare story is a prime "bad" example:<br>http://www.aphelion-webzine.com/shorts/ ... br><br>Pro writer Elizabeth Bear did a very thorough job of illustrating the numerous things wrong with it in the Aug '04 lettercol--especially that it wasn't really a story. It lacked a strong conflict and plot that developed the character, and instead followed him as he walked through his Hell, relying on a surprise ending to round it out. I was exceptionally proud of it, so the truly painful thing was that Ms. Bear was absolutely right in everything she said, and I've done everything I could to never be so wrong again.<br><br>Professionalism, a strong setting described with all the senses, engaging characters who develop over the course of a story, a credible plot with conflict, and believable dialog--every story needs these things.<br><br>I can't fathom settling for less than that.<br><br><br>Now, if I've missed the gist of your post, I apologize. I'm not trying to start a flame war or anything, and I have nothing against the Mare or any of the many writers who have written stories that take place there. A shared universe such as the Mare is a rare and wonderful thing for writers to adapt and grow by writing in it. Dan should be forever commended for his time and world-building efforts, philanthropically opened up for anyone to use. <br><br>My point here was that a story worth telling is worth telling well.<br><br>Nate<br><br>Addendum<br>Upon reflection, I did think of a story type that doesn't fit: flash fiction. While I'd like to think someone could be skilled enough to fit all that in and still be less than 1,000 words, I've never seen one--including my own. Flash is all about setting a mood and/or situation and then surprising the reader with a conclusion that changes the meaning of the story to that point.
Last edited by kailhofer on October 22, 2005, 10:10:46 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Post by Robert_Moriyama »

... oh, and "Riegar Mortz" wasn't intended as a play on "rigor mortis" - it was just an evil sounding name I picked out of assorted body cavities. Sorry 'bout that.
<br><br>But wasn't it Barbie who said, "Look, Ken, no cavities?"<br><br> ::)<br><br>Robert M.<br>
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Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Post by kailhofer »

The point I was trying for, was that there are different styles of stories and that they offer the writer opportunities to do different things. Sometimes it is enough to illustrate only one point, only one really significant aspect of Life, the Universe, and Everything with the story. Not every tale needs to make us laugh, cry, ponder and dream of what might have been. And this is a good thing. I have finished books which leave me reeling with a cacophony of emotional turmoil, and frankly, if they all did that I think my head would explode. But then I read a lot. To me, if the author is going for a chuckle, and the chuckle happens, then the story is a success.
<br>I get more than ten minutes for rebuttal, right? :)<br><br>Your point may not be the only one missed, so let me try again.<br><br>If I compare ETD to your own The Customer is Always Right there is a basic, but I feel an important, difference in the structure of the story. In TCIAR, Tse-Pesh and Max chat for a bit, then the story leaves the setting and then tells the real story, in real time. We Rrraal/Tchak and what happens to him in his "human" story (funny to say that about a Dracula vs. the Wolf Man story). In ETD, the jump is never made into full story mode. Instead, we just get the outline--Mortz killed and Gratz conquered to get at Mortz. This is not the same thing as showing Gratz persuing Mortz, showing Mortz's immoral acts, and how it wore on Gratz, changing him as he chased.<br><br>
Some stories aren't meant to be life-altering events.
<br>As you said to Jaimie, the best stories are about people. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I would argue that all events involving people are life altering, because you can never be the same person you were yesterday. Gratz's love was, presumably, killed in a particularly unpleasant and unjust way, and Gratz yowed to spend the rest of his life getting revenge. This is about as life-altering as it gets, and these life-altering actions are central to this plot. However, in this story, it takes only 35 words: “And Riegar Mortz and his gang of thieves found Yanari one day, and stole many things from her. Money. Valuables. Innocence. Eventually they took her life.”<br> Gratz’s eyes narrowed. “That’s the day my mission began.”<br><br>
Our base discussion seems to be about the desirability and utility of the 'belly up to the bar and tell your tale' plot device as used in the short story venue. I still contend that this method of info dumping is completely viable, sensible even, and has a very definite place in the genre if done well.

Upon rereading my previous post I don't see anywhere where I said the writer doesn't have to do a good job in the format.
<br>Actually, I think the crux of the discussion may be what constitutes a story, but I'm not getting into that. As for doing a good job, I quite agree. My contention here is that to make this a human story that the audience relates to, it needed to drop out of overview mode and get personal. There is nothing wrong with starting out by chatting with Max. However, I do say there's something wrong with never stopping the chat and telling the real, human story underlying the character's motivations or what happens to him or her next.<br><br>
We're not writing for aliens, Nate. We don't have to describe how the climate is affected in the northern hemisphere by the axial tilt of the planet or how the Julian calendar came to be. There is no need to go into the chemical make-up of gunpowder or the function on chemoreceptive nerve plexi in mammals for this line to evoke both a visceral and a cerebral response from our readers. We needn't launch into a treatise on how humans congregate into cities and the evolution of urban blight to set a scene using common referents. We simply use the plot device of a shared cultural experience, and keep going with the story.
<br>This may not be a kick to the shin, but it figuratively sounds like dirt meant for my eye. Using all the senses to describe the world in concrete detail doesn't mean describing any of these things, and I think you know that. >:(<br><br>As for the Superman flash story, I think you misunderstood me. I didn't mean flash can't be told in less than 1000 words. Writers are paid to do that all the time. Alien Skin paid me to do that once. I meant I haven't seen a flash story that put all the elements into it--professionalism, a strong setting described with all the senses, engaging characters who develop over the course of a story, a credible plot with a conflict that's resolved because of something the characters learned on the way, and believable dialog. That's too much to fit.<br><br>If it happens in any way that connected to the Mare, it's a Mare story, and now is in that subgenre, no matter what. However, that doesn't mean there wasn't room for improvement in this or any other Mare story. I hope you'll allow that just because it's a Mare tale doesn't mean it's all beautiful. <br><br>No, Bill, the story doesn't have to move mountains and split the atom whilst whistling the Star-Spangled Banner. The final benchmark of any story must be whether or not it moves the reader, either with enjoyment or other deep emotion. You seem to have really liked this one. I thought it was ok, but I would have enjoyed something that portrayed human events and emotions as if they were happening at the moment more, and in a nutshell, I think that's all I was saying.<br><br>Nate
Last edited by kailhofer on October 24, 2005, 09:52:32 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Post by kailhofer »

Seriously, picking or creating relevant dramatic foci may have added background to the story, but I feared it would turn away many readers who would consider it 'fluff'.

I do appreciate the feedback. Please, I would love to have your input on future stories that I write here, should they be accepted.
<br>I grill all stories with even heat (that I have time to read) with "my wide pan", as Kate Thornton put it, and will try my best for you. You can always send me a private message on the board here when it comes out as a reminder.<br><br>Regarding what is "fluff" and what is the meat of the matter, I am curious. If you had to state what this story was about in a single sentence, what would that be? Deep down at a gut level, what really were you trying to say in this one?<br><br>Nate
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Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Post by Megawatts »

I know nothing about Mare Inebrium, but from what I read I can see that it's a good setting. <br> <br>This story could have taken place in any bar, in any time period, and in any culture. <br><br>To hate someone for forty years isn't new, and to hunt him down for forty years is also an old theme.<br><br>I think a setting such as Mare Inebrium deserves better then re-hashed drama.<br><br>
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