View Full Version : Critique Request - Birkin Storage
April 13th, 2006, 11:48 PM
I posted the first chapter of a novel I have thought about for at least a year in the stories section. I am requesting critique please. How does the saying go, "If I can be talked out of writing, I should be."
I critique other's work, I just do it under the comments section for each story. I don't feel qualified to critique Fantasy, even though I do have a paperback copy of Piers Anthony's "The Blue Adept".
I'm the guy that wrote "Captain Normath", if anyone read that piece of flash. :eek: Only 215 have viewed that story, five bubble rating after 12 votes, but no comments. Now, as I go back and read it, every word needs changing. Every comma gets doubted. And I want to change the title, but nobody commented. Was it just to horrible to deserve comment? LOL
To tell you the truth, y'all can be somewhat intimidating. Many thoughts I have had that I might post are usually already mentioned by someone else in the many threads I have read on this site.
Thank you for your time.
And now, my first attempt at a link (http://www.sffworld.com/community/story/1451p0.html) to Birkin Storage.
April 14th, 2006, 10:01 AM
I don't feel qualified to critique Fantasy, even though I do have a paperback copy of Piers Anthony's "The Blue Adept".
I remember that book, and Juxtaposition, as an interesting mixture of science fiction and fantasy. Didn't think it worked particularly well as either, on their own, but somehow the mix of the two was amusing.
Anyway, on to "Birkin Storage." Hmm, well you definitely do not need to be talked out of writing (as if I think anyone should). There's skill and talent here, to be sure. (Why do I sound like the Sorting Hat, all of a sudden?) What you posted was rather slim for an opening chapter, and I would suggest that you beef it up with a little more description of the Watcher and interaction between he and Birkin. No obvious weaknesses with grammar or spelling. I found the style a little dry, with sentences largely simple subject-verb constructions, and would suggest a little more diversity in sentence construction and length. All in all this was a good effort, a good beginning.
However, the ending seemed, to be blunt, gratuitously violent. The sophisticated and business-like Watcher that I saw would use a different means of wrapping up the loose ends. Maybe he would even leave that part of things to an assistant. Frankly, if I browsed this far and saw this conclusion, then I would put the book back on the shelf. Violence is fine, conflict is great, but it should not be used gratuitously. As this is your opening chapter, reading this far would lead me to expect more of the same throughout the story and it would not appeal to me.
April 14th, 2006, 10:14 AM
I agree with BrianC regarding the chapter's closing paragraphs, however, as to the rest, for mine, the narrative read more like a series of diary entries rather than a flowing story. It could be just a personal thing though, as this somewhat stilted style of writing seems to be widely used these days. I guess some will prefer it, others won't. :)
I also agree with BrianC that you should definitely carry on with writing. If nothing else, it's great for the soul! ;)
April 14th, 2006, 12:31 PM
I noticed it also. The "Jack and Jill" sentences. See Spot run. Run Spot run. LOL. I should have rewritten prior to posting because I think that is what most members would mention.
I'm not addicted to adjectives or adverbs, but perhaps I'm allergic to them. Not enough flowers in the landscape?
Yuck, a first chapter that doesn't hook the reader is less than useless. Thanks for the input.
April 14th, 2006, 12:38 PM
Overall, it's a solid chapter- and the structure is fine for hooking the reader- with some changes.
First, it's bit hard to understand what exactly the Watcher is, at first anyway.
Second, the part where the Watcher reads off the professors info- it's a good part, and needed, but not in so much detail. The professor dies at the end, so unless part of the story will follow a family member or friend, the detail drags the pace slightly.
I do like the idea though- corporations killing to keep new technologies off the market.
If you continue this, can't wait for more.
April 14th, 2006, 12:49 PM
Going back to the ending, (assuming that he used a less messy method of disposal and doesn't need to hose down the facility) I think that the next logical step for the Watcher would be to send a report to his employers. Handled well, this would give you the opportunity to connect a face or even just a voice to the faceless corporations behind the assassin. Obviously, however, you wouldn't want to give too much away.
April 14th, 2006, 01:28 PM
Good story so far.
I agree with Erebus on the sentence structure. Sounds choppy.
Maybe describe the Watcher through the prof's eyes. Details are fun to play with later in the story. You could use a distictive feature and have a victim meet someone with the feature casually, setting the suspense for his/her kidnapping.
Describe the memper machine. Does the prof recognize it? Should he feel fear as the Watcher hooks him up to it?
Why does he bother to shoot the prof in the head when the memper turned him into a vegetable already? Is the prof's body expected to be discovered, here or some place else? Does the Watcher need to hide telltale marks of the machine? Is he shot to throw suspicion in another direction? (Indicating the he wants/expects the body to be discovered)
With the memper and DNA the prof can be 'reanimated'. Does he plan to preserve that body somehow? Or do you mean reconstructed? Use the DNA to build a new body (clone) and insert the memper data?
Show more emotion from the Prof. Uncontrolled trembling, silent tears, quavering voice, profuse sweating as examples. Does he really believe his family is safe? Wouldn't his last moments be filled with worry over them?
Describe the room more. Is it an abandoned building, in a warehouse, in a bad part of town? Is it an office of the prof's or the Watcher's? If the latter, wouldn't he remove the body to a designated 'crime scene' while the prof was still a vegetable THEN shoot him? The watcher seems highly professional at this business and I wouldn't expect him to leave incriminating evidence on his own turf.
These are just some areas I felt you could give a little more detail. I would very much like to read more.
April 14th, 2006, 03:45 PM
I see the first chapter as a page turning "hook". And I love to see the questions as that implies I was at least partially successfull.
The Watcher is an ET/human hybrid. Designed and left on our planet by the ETs. I forsee 6 Watchers worldwide to "watch" humanity to ensure we do not kill ourselves off with technology. He has advanced tech, and partial receiving-only telepathic abilities which should keep him ahead of any human authorities. So he doesn't care what is found of Birkin. Just that the effects of the memper scan not be obvious. Thus the shotgun/brain explosion.
LMAO! Your right Dazz, reanimate is the wrong word. Thanks for all those questions. The rough draft of this chapter included details of setting. A dilapidated barn with cobwebs and the stench of rotting wood and animal droppings, but the plot slowed down too much, and a page-turner was my goal. An undelete on some of the setting would be better.
Humans, us, are also ET/human hybrids. A result of genetic cross-breeding with the ETs. They came to this planet, found the apes, performed their experiments, and left. Proceding to the next star. It is the reason an evolutionary progression from ape to man is difficult for anthropologists to find in the fossil record. They are the same ETs from my flash fiction "Captain Normath" that killed off the dinosaurs with an asteroid. The Watcher has more capabilities than we do and extended lifespans. The ETs wanted to watch their offspring, similar to the way God might want to look over us. Birkin is calm because in understanding the Unified Field Theory he obtains a calm similar to very, very, religious people. A contentment. An understanding. The watcher, using his weak telepathic abilities, reads Birkin's mind and is startled to realize that Birkin does understand the UFT. Thus Birkin's statement, "Yes. It is beautiful." Birkin's wife is a religious zealot, introduced in a later chapter, that ties in the religion/UFT contentment similarity.
Good point Phoenix, I was long-winded with the description, especially if Birkin is just going to interrupt anyway. It was a cheap way to introduce Birkin's Physics background to the reader. And as a matter of fact, the protagonist of this story is the officemate of Birkin at MIT. In addition, I have played with a short story, first person, from the POV of an assassin sent to kill the only telepath (the accident of a botched brain download). No country or corporation could allow such a telepath to exist. It gives the "holder" of the telepath to much advantage. But the telepath would always know the assassin was coming. Interesting.
Reading one chapter, out of context, was a lot to ask of you. I agree about the choppiness. I forsee some semicolons and compounded clauses in my future. In an effort to not give away too much, but firmly hook, I have perhaps not offered enough to the reader.
I value all opinions. Criticism, for writers, is a precious, indispensable gem. Thank you.
April 14th, 2006, 05:03 PM
Hm, I'm the only one so far who actually likes the simple sentence/choppy rhythm structure. Toghether with the lack of setting this creates a surreal/abstract atmosphere, that somewhat makes the professor's calm plausible. (I assumed some sort of tranquiliser, to be honest.)
String theory, M theory... etc. goes over my head. Never managed to understand. Also, I'm doubtful that a unified field theory would have this kind of utopia effect. But, then, I'm not the person to ask.
The shotgun ending in itself doesn't bother me; but it somehow clashes with the phrase "disposer of useless, spoiled meat". The ending would merit more the phrase "defacer and abandoner of useless, spoiled meat". I expected an acid bath, or laser incineration, or something that would actually dispose of the body.
All in all it worked quite well for me.
April 14th, 2006, 07:30 PM
To write a critique, you have to be a reader first. Read and tell us what you like and don't like. You'll be surprised how easy that is.
This story's a little flat, I'm sorry to say. We don't know who the Watcher is working for or why, or why it's necessary for Dr. Birkin to be eliminated. We also get no impression on where this story is taking place.
Dr. Birkin's consciousness is returning to him slowly. He tries to move his arm. The arm refuses to respond. He tries his legs. The results are the same.
This rather dispassionate viewpoint sounds like a director feeding instructions to an actor in one of those 'Life Cycle' exercises, separate from both the subjects in this room. I'd recommend going with one of them.
"The anesthetic causes disorientation," his captor informs him, "it is an undesirable sideffect. I'm administering a counter agent." Swabbing the professor's arm with alcohol, he performs an old-fashioned injection.
You're tipping off the reader, telling them Dr. Birkin's a prisoner.
He is a victim of crime again, but this is the first time he is a victim of kidnapping. It reminds him there is a first time for everything. This is the narrator commenting, not Dr. Birkin or the Watcher. Cut it.
"Why have you done this? Release me. I am not wealthy. I am a professor at MIT. You must have the wrong man." Remarkably calm.
A UFT will also result in the demise of petroleum companies, electrical companies, airlines, and many other billion-dollar industries. I love that you've worked UFT in but you haven't explained at all why the UFT would be bad for business in your view. How would the theory result in the demise of petroleum companies and airlines? You do not give them the opportunity to argue the merits.
You missed another great opportunity. You could have had Dr. Birkin demanding to know how he was going to be killed, then have the Watcher explain everything rather than telling us.
You could also explain why he had to be awake for this, rather than just doing it all while he was sedated.
Reducing the memper field to restraint, he applies the anesthetic and takes a bone deep tissue sample from the subject's thigh.
If he's in restraints, why bother with anesthetic, if his mind's been turned to a vegetable?
There's some latent potential lying untapped in this story. I'm sorry, you're going to have to work a little harder.
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