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13/11/17 - WritingAubergine - Goats: An Excerpt (V) - (1,023 words)


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Hello all,

I was unsure whether to include the violence tag, but I thought better safe than sorry. There isn't much though, but it is there.

I'm looking for anything and everything, but the three specific things that come to mind are:

- Does the framing work, or do I need to bulk it up more at the beginning?
- Are there any bits that jarred you from the story?
- Which bits, if any, made you laugh?

I hope this finds you all well, and thanks for having me

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Great story @WritingAubergine! I love the voice of the narrator and the crazy twist on the classic fairy tale! Also, I'm not very good at this whole writing thing yet, so don't take anything I say as fact. I'm basing all of my comments on my personal observations and feelings, and my suggestions are what I would do to fix it.

  1. The ending where the narrator begins talking to Paul really threw me out. I think you realized this might happen based on your question about the framing. Establishing the framing at the beginning a little more would definitely help.
  2. Besides what I just mentioned, the dialogue from the big goat threw me off. He starts off with a lot of contractions and short sentences with bad grammar (I love it!) But he then transitions into longer sentences without any contractions at all. Another thing about his dialogue threw me off, which is where he goes from saying that he's told his family trolls are nice, to yelling at Bert telling him they're all thieves. This might be because this goat has a temper, but he seems to jump to a conclusion that all trolls are evil based on this one experience, which was a little difficult to believe. 

           The other thing that threw me off was the ending dialogue. It took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on, but I think this could be solved by introducing Paul and                 giving some lines of dialogue from the narrator in the beginning, similar to what we see in the end.

        3. While nothing made me laugh out loud, I was smiling the whole time I read this. The footnotes really add a lot of color to the story and the voice of the narrator give it a very                 different cast from the original fairy tale, which is awesome. I did notice a few times where you were trying to elicit laughs, and to me, those passages fell flat. The main one                 is the dialogue from the narrator at the end. I see how it's funny about a goat telling him the story, and then Bert being made up, but they really fell flat to me, and I don't                       know why. 

Overall, this story was very well executed, and was a great, funny read! Thanks @WritingAubergine

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@WritingAubergine Welcome! Super happy to see some new peeps :D

- Make sure you're indenting your paragraphs. The break makes it easier for the reader to organize the writing while they're reading. The same with your dialogue. Make sure that new dialogue is starting a new paragraph. P2/P3 you have a single paragraph is that is literally the length of a page and you have a couple of instances of dialogue within it to break it up. And it should be broken up quite a bit.

- I understand this is an excerpt, but it was really difficult for me to get into from the start. You might next time provide some setting. ie: Mr M studied the two grungy men across from him, deciding the best way to get through might be a good 'ol fashioned story, he took a large drink from his tankard, slammed it on the table and got into it, "This here story..."  - I have no idea of the pre-text here, so I'm just making stuff up, but I hope that makes sense.

- Mr M sounds like he's just sitting there with his hands on the table telling a story flatly. You might through in actions and hand gestures or something. The story itself is active, but the character telling it seems passive and boring. Being a great storyteller has very little to do with the story and far more to do with the drama and gestures used to tell it. I'm just not pulled in and within three pages I found it really difficult to get through.

- I do love the old story turned on its head though, well done.

Keep at it and I'm excited to read more!

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Welcome to Reading Excuses, @WritingAubergine!

I recognize this exercise...was it from the WX episode on the MICE quotient?

In any case, I also think this was a fun read, but pretty light and fluffy. I'd like to see more framework around it. Is this actually an excerpt of the whole thing, or is this all you've written? In other words, I think the concept is fine, but I want to see more of the execution.Like @TKWade says, you could add more about how Mr. M tells the story, and Paul is just thrown in at the end. The last sentence is confusing, because we've been told this was "based on a true story" then told that Mr. M made up Bert, but then Paul (I assume) insists Bert is alive. It seems like a good thread to pull to expand this into a short story. Why are these people talking about Bert? Is he real or made up? Dead or alive? Why was a goat talking to Mr. M?

I don't think anything particularly jarred me out of the story, just as nothing really made me LOL. I'd just like to see more of it. Also, I may be in the minority, but anything with well-done footnotes draws me in.

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Hello and welcome to Reading Excuses! Your formatting looks just fine, and I had no problems parsing your paragraphs, so no worries there from me. :) Overall, I found this to be a cute little story. It did not make me laugh, but I was amused. Humor can be difficult in writing, so the fact that this story was consistently amusing is pretty impressive! 


That said, I was not a fan of the footnotes. Opinions are split around here (as you can see between @Mandamon and myself), but I'm pretty firmly in the camp of "footnotes break narrative flow" -- I find they are very difficult to use effectively and don't often contain information worth the hard stop they cause me when I'm reading.

I'm also going to disagree with Mandamon and @TKWade pretty firmly by saying I think you've sold the premise that this is a recorded bar conversation pretty well with the title and the conversational voice. The footnotes seem unnecessary as they are currently and any more framing would make the piece seem pedantic and just ruin its light and airy nature.  Not all things need to explained baldly on the page, especially in a short piece. I think this works because of its short length. If it was a longer work, maybe I'd want more background on the recorder, but for this, to me it doesn't matter. The recorder is not active in any of the story itself, so I don't really care, nor do I need to know, what he's thinking or doing or why he's doing it.


In general it could use some cleaning up, like all drafts, but it's a solid little piece. I liked the end where the story dissolves into an argument, but the transition felt a little abrupt. I don't know that I really need to know more about Paul or whoever he's telling the story to (because again, that doesn't seem to have any bearing on the story itself), but if there was a way to work the unraveling a bit more smoothly into the rest of the story, it might help. 


Here are some of my reactions as I go


--Some grammar quibbles at the beginning. I'm on the fence about them in that they could go towards narrator voice or be too troublesome to keep, but the story seems to even out later on.

-- "the littlest goat was traipsing " 1) yay traipsing! Great word. :)  but 2) here and subsequently whenever a new goat gets mentioned, the story seems to assume we-the-readers have already been introduced to them and know about them, when in fact we have not.  Just reading the story, I don't know there are only 3 goats, and that one is small, the other medium, and the third large. They are only introduced as "some goats." I know the fairy tale the story is pulling from, and it seems like it should be very well-known in general, but relying on the reader to have certain knowledge in order for the story to make sense can be problematic.

--". I pay for it to be upkept." I don't know if this is a stylistic choice or not, but all the repetition of 'upkeep' is bothering me a bit. 'Maintenance,' 'repairs,'  something else in place of one of them would really help smooth it out for me.

-- that third goat has a rude mouth! o.o 

--"The big goat rushes him! " Here the story switches to present tense, where before it had all been past. The whole action scene is in present tense, then it switches into past once it is over. 

-- " Shut you're gob" -- your


Anyway, I enjoyed this piece and look forward to seeing more things from you. Welcome! :) 

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Welcome to RE! Sorry about getting to this so late. Life has been beating me about the head recently.


It is an interesting idea, but I found the execution wanting. Tense was all over the place, the sentences were hard to read, and I never got invested in the why do I care about the troll issue. I think this has a lot of potential, just needs some tightening.

On 11/13/2017 at 1:45 PM, TKWade said:

but it was really difficult for me to get into from the start. You might next time provide some setting.

This. I agree completely.


As I go

- the way this is written I find hard to read. I had to really slow down to understand the first paragrpah

- tense jumps everywhere in this. Past, present, future. Definitely need to tie that down

- the ending is...confusing. Seems forced

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, it feels somewhat weird being back on the critiquing trail after so long, but good too. Guards, bring in the first victim… sorry, let’s get on with the constructive criticism :)

I am always excited to read a first submission on here, and so I dip my toe in the what appears to be some Goat excerpts. Sorry these comments are so tardy. I hope they are still useful.

  • I like the title, and I like the idea. I like the opening too, but (you could see that ‘but’ coming, couldn’t you?), I don’t think you need to have it as a footnote; in fact, I think the footnote hurts its effectiveness. I think some readers will skip reading the footnote, or wait until they get to the bottom of the page, and so will lose the flow of the opening.
  • I think the language in the footnote is a little rough, could read better and therefore be clearer, which it does refer to. Also, I tripped over the word ‘safety’. Does Narrator mean safety? My brain thinks ‘to preserve M’s anonymity’, but is it actually the narrator doing it to preserve his own safety? I don’t think it’s clear.
  • (Page 1, Para. 1, Line 1) – I think ‘in to’ should be one word, imho.
  • (P1, P1, L4) – ‘above’ rivers broke my flow, as I didn’t follow the context the first time.
  • (P1, P1, L5) – I think ‘now’ is redundant, because you already have ‘anymore’.
  • (1,2,2) – Why does no one want the goats?
  • I like the tone, which is very conversational. It really suits the piece, and I'm sure that’s what you were going for, given the setting and the context. I think the language could be tidied up a bit; it could flow better. Some of the issue I'm having, I think, is to do with the punctuation. It’s not a big issue: don’t get me wrong. Polishing, if you like. Have you read the piece out loud? That is an excellent tool to understand where you want pauses, and how you want language and narrative to scan.
  • (1,4,2) – When you said ‘roof’ I thought of a building. I didn’t think of the bridge until you mention the goat continuing on its way, further down.
  • (1,7,1) – I think ‘fine-hearted’ should be hyphenated. I think of that as a compound adjective. I know there is bound to be an actual grammatical term for it that I don’t know, but that’s how I think of it. ‘fine hearted fella’, I think, reads like it wants a comma after fine, as in a list, but that’s not the correct context of course.
  • (2,2,2) – I like how you repeat narrative in the dialogue, ‘young goat’ in this case. It’s a comic device that always makes me smile.
  • (2,2,3) – The word ‘hell’ caught me off guard. I'm not at all offended. It just seemed a bit out of character for the troll, based on his dialogue so far.
  • (2,3,1) – Sorry. You’ll have gathered by now that I'm pretty much incapable of not commenting on grammar and line-by-line detail. Tell me to stop if you don’t want to be weight down with this level of comment. Anyway, I believe there should be a comma after ‘Now, as the troll was saying…’
  • (2,4,1) – Sometimes, I have this vague feeling that when there is a ‘he’, it would be better (clearer) as a ‘Bert’ or sometimes a ‘troll’. Sometimes, vice versa. I think the reading out loud might help with this. When you mention ‘Bert’ here, I had quite forgotten who that was, although you do make it clear. It fits I really nicely with the tone for the narrator to be saying… ‘Then Best said… Then the goat says…’ it’s very much on-tone for the story, I think. It’s maybe just a matter of clarity sometimes, which I think would benefit from a few more ‘Berts’.
  • (2,4,8) – I like the footnote itself, and I think it works better here than the first one did, being so close to the start of the story. This one also though, might work just as well in brackets within the text(?). Also, I think you need a new paragraph when the largest goat comes onto the bridge.
  • (2,4,11) – Hmm. I really don’t understand the purpose of the word ‘bastards’ here. Personally, it feels like it does not fit the tone of the story. You could very easily read this story to a young child, I think, and then there are these swears that, for me, feel quite random.
  • (2,4,12) – ‘bad names’. Seems to me that what the biggest goat is talking about is the reputation of goats in general, but this phrasing sounds like each goat gets its own individual bad name. For example, compare with ‘giving goats a bad name’.
  • (2,4,13) – And there’s the ‘b’ word again. Given that this goat is standing up for his family, it’s odd he would spear in front of his youngster.
  • (3,2,3) – What’s a ‘worktroll’? I don’t quite follow.
  • (3,2,6) – Maybe just a typo, but no period after ‘…bam!’
  • (3,3,1) – Bert was a troll, not a man, technically. I think you could use any other word, like ‘good chap’, but ‘man’ implies human, imho.
  • (3,3,3) – ‘…send them away, the murderous…’ I’ll mention the benefits of reading aloud again. I think there’s a pretty clear pause (comma) there. Also, for me, the use of the ‘b’ word here is the most appropriate in the story, and serves to underline the punch of the ending. But, this instance loses its impact because of the earlier instances, I think.
  • (3,4,1) – Introducing a new name here doesn’t work for me. I think it’s way too late in the story for that. I know it’s only three pages, but it still has its own arc. Also, I have felt up to now that narrator is talking to me, whereas now I find he’s bending the ear of some Paul fellow. Also, need a comma before ‘Paul’.
  • (3,4,1) – Also, typo – ‘Shut your gob, Paul.’
  • (3,4,3) – ‘You're always stirring trouble, Paul, you know that?’ – comma and question mark at the end. Same with the next question ‘…didn’t it?
  • (3,5,1) – Ahhhhhh, now then. You had me all the way to the end, and I was processing the questioning of the narrator as to whether the story was true or not, or whether it was a tall tale – I thought that was working well. And I was trying to figure out the consequences of a goat having told the narrator, which was a decent twist, but then you lost me with the last line, like it was a twist too many, because I'm still processing the bit about the goat telling him. I’m not saying it can’t work, I'm saying don’t leave me confused at the end, which is what I am.

Summary: Well, that was enjoyable, and I thought it was well written. With a couple of passes you could really tidy up the language to make it flow better and you would have a very readable short there. I can’t recommend highly enough reading your piece out loud if you haven’t already. You will be amazed what easy changes you will discover to make it flow more smoothly.

Does the framing work? Yes. The conceit of a story told in a pub works very well, for me. There was just enough ‘accent’ and colloquial language (like ‘fella’) to carry that off, without it being over done, I thought. The problem that I had was the ending, but you can tweak that of course. That’s what editing is for!! Nice job for your first submission. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work, and in longer form perhaps.


Edited by Robinski
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On 13/11/2017 at 6:37 PM, Master OoklaJack said:

While nothing made me laugh out loud, I was smiling the whole time I read this.

Yes, that was my reaction too. My smile did slip each time I found a missing comma though.   :angry:..... :D 

On 13/11/2017 at 6:37 PM, Master OoklaJack said:

but I think this could be solved by introducing Paul

I must say my view is the opposite. Get rid of Paul. I feel like the narrator is speaking directly to me, that I'm in the pub with him. I bought into the mood of the piece and the atmosphere of the pub, just through the framing.

On 13/11/2017 at 9:45 PM, TKWade said:

I understand this is an excerpt, but it was really difficult for me to get into from the start.

Yeah, I underline my comments about the beginning and putting the footnote in the text. The start is sooooo important; don't distract the reader, make it as easy as possible for them to read right into it. Make it impossible for them to look away until they get at least to the bottom of the first page. On the excerpt thing. I am completely bamboozled as to how this can go anywhere else. For me, it read as a snappy and entertaining short, but there is nothing here that implies depth of setting, character, etc. I was entertained, but now I'm off to the next thing. That's not a criticism, by the way. I would say that is a positive result :) 

On 14/11/2017 at 1:39 PM, Mandamon said:

I also think this was a fun read, but pretty light and fluffy. I'd like to see more framework around it.

As above, I must say (and I'm in danger of disagreeing with @Mandamon for the first time since 7th July 1923...) that I don't want to see more of this. I don't mean that in a negative way, I just don't see how more information could improve this, because it's a story told in the pub. Everyone's had one, or two, or seven... and is just talking pish* for the sake of entertainment and getting a reaction. For that reason, I think the ending (last line) could work, but I don't think it does yet.

http://www.firstfoot.com/dictionary/full.html  [To put that into context; I'm frae Glasgow.]

On 14/11/2017 at 5:45 PM, industrialistDragon said:

I think you've sold the premise that this is a recorded bar conversation pretty well with the title and the conversational voice. [Agree] The footnotes seem unnecessary as they are currently and any more framing would make the piece seem pedantic and just ruin its light and airy nature. [Agree]Not all things need to explained baldly on the page, especially in a short piece. [Agree]I think this works because of its short length. [Agree] If it was a longer work, maybe I'd want more background on the recorder, but for this, to me it doesn't matter. [Agree]

:o I just agreed with @industrialistDragon five times. Go kiss your loved ones: I suspect the world is about to end.

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