Thursday, October 20, 2011

"The Open Gate" & "Freeing Truth" Reception + Musings on School + The Fate of "The Shadow Loop" + Another Original Song!

It's been a bit (uh huh) longer than I'd originally planned since I wrote my last post. Well, anyway, I promised some reception for some of my newer stuff so I have that for you now!

On good ol' ZU, general member and Writing community member Anju_Amnell started a thread in which people could ask her to read their works and then comment on them. So I did that, asking her to take a look at my April 2011 story, "The Open Gate," (released July 2011) and my September 2011 story, "Freeing Truth." Which she did. This was quite possibly the first constructive criticism I've ever gotten from anybody besides my teachers at school, which is a nice change of pace. That said, you'll see that she also liked both stories overall. First, you'll see Anju_Amnell's feedback for "The Open Gate," which was actually the second piece she looked at of the two; then, you'll see her feedback for "Freeing Truth." Here we go:

Okay, this piece seems a little more fully formed even though its older, there is less trouble spots, and if I had to give any criticisms, they'd be the same as my last, though not so frequent.

I enjoyed the imagery in this, there are some beautiful things.

I crossed the street and walked through the open, black gate, drops of water on the iron causing it to shine.
I felt like this short story wasn't fully completed though, like the ending was rushed, or some element was forgotten. What happened to your need to contact your mother? Your feeling for anyone outside? I sort of felt as if you were trapped, but then thoughts of being trapped never really crosses the character's mind. Maybe like the character was actually in a coma, and couldn't come out so his mind was providing the only necessities it could, but again, there were no real second guessing moments. I suppose the strife of the story was missing.

You really have some solid, hard hitting imagery and writing bread crumbs that keep falling from your pockets, and I feel like the little bird pecking at the crumbs behind you, waiting to find the loaf. In other words, if you keep writing, and perfecting you art you'll improve so much that I'll expect to be reading your first novel. There's a lot of potential in your work, more than I see in most.
-Anju_Amnell, ZU Forums, 9/12/2011, here
Okay, first and foremost, I want to make it absolutely clear, that I loved this story. Its an exceptional piece of creativity, and I hope you'll continue writing and improving your craft.
I can see a few problems that might cause you to lose readers in the first half of your story however. Which is a crying SHAME. So here goes the detailed breakdown.

privileges and permissions that would normally be granted to princes
Great use of alliteration. This is VERY strong writing.
There are many, many weak spots in the story however, such as places where you use the same word too soon, like 
Despite the likely consequences of even laying eyes on the Light, many denizens of the kingdom travel far and attempt (rarely successfully) to sneak past the royal guards and cleverly break into the not-so-secret hidden room behind the throne room without alerting the guards.
Though this one would be a super easy fix, since you can change"alerting the guards" at the end of the sentence to, "alerting them."
(at the end, the light coming from the Light gets a little confusing as well) Radiance is a good replacement for the light coming out of the Light, though there are many equally good words.
Second point of weakness (and I have the weakness threaten me quite a bit) is using phrases or words that I really don't need. The problem with this, is that in the end, you end up sounding almost like you're stammering for something to say. If you've ever been told not to say "ummm..." in an interview, its the same concept.
Here's an example, and how you could make it stronger.
And so, Damen had a legitimate reason for being in the royal castle during the time when he planned to swipe the Light.
Damen had a legitimate reason for being in the royal castle during the time he planned to swipe the Light.
Also, this spot doesn't make much sense, and I know it does to you, however its one of those things that you look past because you understand it best.
his parents were determined not to spoil their son, despite his being a prince, and they deprived him of many of the privileges and permissions that would normally be granted to princes, such as huge feasts, any toy in the world…even friends—Arten’s parents decided that he should make all of his friends,
It sounds as if they decide to not allow him to have friends at all , and then decide to let him. Perhaps you meant predetermined friends?

One more thing is that as a reader, direction is hardly ever important. So whether the character is to the right, turns to the right, or heads north, doesn't really have any true meaning to us, since we have no real sense of the geography of where you are, nor does it usually matter if they imagine them to one side or the other. Its like telling someone who is in outer space, without a reference, to turn head north. 
Okay, so that is the best help I think I can give you but this is an awesome story and I think you should write something with a series of installments so that we can all keep reading, or even start a general short story thread, so that you can continually post new stories in it, without having to worry about it becoming a "necro thread". As long as you're still working on something you can keep posting it in one thread as far as the writing forums go, even if someone doesn't comment, and as long as its progressive, and not just thread bumping.
Good luck- keep writing, and maybe you'll take Holden's place as my favorite ZU writer.  
-Anju_Amnell, ZU Forums, 9/12/2011, here 

Thanks for the wonderfully constructive feedback, Anju, and I will take it to heart in the future! It is my dream to surpass Holden and take over the Writing forum (just kidding! Holden, you're awesome!). Actually, I had written this relatively long response to your feedback (also thanking you) back on the same day in the quick reply box in your thread, but something happened, and I wound up losing everything I'd written. And I was too lazy to rewrite it. So I won't rewrite it here, but I did want to let you know that I read your feedback and that I had meant to thank you that same day. So thanks again!

I am now more than a month into school, and as an 11th grader--I detest the terms "freshman," "sophomore" (though I like "sophomore" because it's an oxymoron), "junior," and "senior" in the context of school years--I have had more work this year from the get-go than I have ever had in my life. I have had three papers, lots of reading (boring textbook crap), and multiple misunderstandings with teachers (almost all have been resolved by now). And a math class that I am learning nothing in since the teacher is going so quickly and doesn't know how to help me within his "rules." I mean, I was in an honors math course last year, and until the last month or so, most of it was ridiculously simple. The teacher also went at a pretty leisurely pace. Not this year/teacher. This teacher, while funny and random on occasion, doesn't know the meaning of "accommodate." Or "prevent from failing." Instead, he lets people fail and then after the fact, he throws in extra things to help us bring our grades up! After the fact! Extra work! WTPF?! I thought I liked this teacher when I first met him, but now I see him as quite rigid, ridiculously self-centered and condescending--and I quote: "If you're not doing it my way, you're doing it wrong."--and just way too demanding. I am in the works of inquiring on the possibly of dropping out of his class to go down to the regular, non-honors class. Which, thank goodness, is taught by my math teacher from last year. (If you are reading this, current math teacher or student who really likes my current math teacher, then I am sorry if I offended you. Humans wonder how they are perceived by others. Well, now you now my side of the story. This is how I feel, and I am not afraid to express that.)

Other than that, this year is okay. I've been having tons of issues with motivation and anxiety in terms of work. Which has not served me well up until now. I've decided that an educational system based on grades is too flawed. And an educational system in which students are forced to learn stuff that they don't want to learn and/or they won't need any time in the future. And an educational system in which all teachers believe that their respective classes are the only classes. Bloody hell, America! And pretty much all of the "first-world" countries! Get real, here!

Unfortunately, the worst part of school for me right now is all of the homework and projects that I've had. As you may know from previous musings, there is almost nothing I hate more in this world than writing non-fiction, especially about something I have little to no interest in (i.e. Huckleberry Finn, one of the only books I've read that I can honestly say that I hated, despite liking Tom Sawyer). On the contrary, I absolutely love writing fiction. Which is why I am here.

It's nice that all of these musings have led to my next matter for this post. Unfortunately, it is perhaps the most depressing of them all. Because of all of the work I've had, I have had no time whatsoever to write fiction. As a result, I have made no progress since the summer on The Current...and I am forced to scrap my Halloween story for this year, "The Shadow Loop." I want my school to read this. And while I didn't quite expect this level of emotion, as I write this paragraph, my chest feels tight, and I can feel tears welling up in my eyes (no exaggeration). It breaks my heart to be forced to scrap a piece of creative writing because of school, the one place that should actually be encouraging creative writing. My school, I want you to read this, because this is what you have done to me. I know you're a college prep school, and you should give a fair amount of work. But the amount of work that you give is so much, that I almost literally have no life, except on breaks. I don't even have time to play too many video games. Or watch Netflix. Or see my friends outside of school. I have no life! The only reason I am staying in your school is that I have nowhere else to go besides public school, and I'd rather tear down the walls of the public school than attend it.

So...that's enough of my depressing lamentations! Because I have a treat for you today: another song that I wrote and recorded (a capella, of course)! It is called "Live Your Life," and it's one of my most upbeat songs ever. For more information (and lyrics), read on! (And, as a reminder, all of the audio versions of my short stories up to "Freeing Truth" are now available free of charge on the Audiobooks page on this blog! Check them out if you haven't already done so!)

Song Information: This is the only song to date that I have written just for the heck of it, as in not for any fake TV show or anything like that. This song is perhaps my most upbeat song, which is nice considering what the next song is! "Live Your Life," which I angrily found out was the name of an actual popular rap song about a year later (my song came first!), is all about just living your life, even if bad stuff happens. At the end, there is a bit about actually doing something about the bad stuff, but after all the stuff about NOT bothering, I guess it just means that you should do something about it but nothing extreme. Or something like that. This was the first song that I wrote to actually rhyme a bit. A line in the chorus doesn't really make much sense in the context of the rest of the song: "Just gotta figure out what to do on my own." However, this is better than the original version of this line (only found in the original recording), which was "Just gotta contemplate what to do on my own." Which makes no sense in the context of the song...or in general! Anyway, I like this song because it's incredibly catchy! (Originally written and recorded in 2008.)

Download my summer 2011 recording of "Live Your Life" by clicking this link!

"Live Your Life"
Lyrics written by Eric B., 2008

I gotta get up
Brush my teeth
Grab something good to eat
Then I'm off into the world

It's how I greet the day, every day
Whether rain or shine
But that's just me
I just do what's right!

It's a brand-new day
There's lots to do
Just gotta figure out what to do on my own

I know the world's imperfect
But there's nothing I can do about it

Just gotta live your life
I'm living my life!

When you're in the air
Don't look down
It's a really, really, really long fall
You know you're no Spider-Man crawling up the wall!

Saving the world's too big for you
Just gotta do what you gotta do
Just live your life!


Living my life
Living my life

The world should be perfect (live your life)
New day (live your life)

Live your


It's a brand-new day
There's lots to do
Just gotta figure out what to on my own

I know the world's imperfect
And I've gotta take a stand

You're living your life
Living your life
You're living your life

I'm living my life!