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MrBF1V3
January 8th, 2005, 01:07 AM
Okay, here it is. This is kind of an experiment.

I'm looking for comment, critique, discussion, whatever would be offered for one of my stories. Does it hook you from the first paragraph? Does it flow? Do you care about the characters? Are there annoying, glaring errors all over the page? Is it deserving of two rejections slips (one for this story, one for the next one I might submit)? Be honest. Don't be cruel.

If you are interested in doing this for me, click on my name just to the left here and send me a message. I will send you an e-mail with an attachment, which will be a 98K, 8900 word story called, "Escapade and Goodbye." as an .rtf file, unless otherwise requested. (Best I can do at current technological levels.) It is a science fiction, near future, part mystery, short story.

Read, hopefully enjoy, return with comments, ask questions, read other comments, comment on other comments, have fun.

Thanks in advance.

B5

Dawnstorm
January 8th, 2005, 06:51 AM
I'll bite. See PM.

This should be fun.

MrBF1V3
January 8th, 2005, 02:06 PM
Additional Information:

I can also send the file as a .rtf, and I think I can translate it to former versions of Word Perfect, and to Microsoft Word.

Isn't modern technology wonderful? :rolleyes:
B5

KatG
January 8th, 2005, 05:23 PM
Save the file and send it as .rtf which should allow most people's word processing programs to read the file without a problem.

Drew
January 9th, 2005, 03:42 PM
I read it and replied in an email to you. :cool:

MrBF1V3
January 9th, 2005, 04:19 PM
Production notes:

"Wither" was supposed to be "whether". Oops :o

I tried the first scene with four instead of six friends. It didn't seem to work for me. Perhaps if I spend a bit more time developing them. Let me think about it . . .

I have a sequel story. I thinks it's pretty good (but then, I would), and sketches in various forms of completion for three more.--I like the characters, and in their world there are some interesting possibilities.

Thanks Drew.
B5

Dawnstorm
January 11th, 2005, 03:45 AM
Don't read this, if you haven't read the story yet. It contains


Spoilers!!!


Running through the questions

Does it hook you from the first paragraph?

Not from the first paragraph, but pretty soon after. (Strictly speaking, the first paragraph consisted of three words: "May I interrupt?" This didn't hook me either, but to make a more meaningful point, I re-interprate "from the first paragraph" to incorporate the one that follows, too).

On the first reading, what hit me was the style-type not the story. Start with dialogue, set a scene, introduce a gimmick (holo-T-shirt) and so on. This is a tried and true method (and perhaps still the best one around) for starting SF stories, but what it no longer draws me immediately into the story.

When I started reading SF-short stories in great numbers (late 80ies early 90ies), this used to draw me in immediately. But this way to start off a story was so predominant, that I'd create a mindframe to deal with them. So instead of drawing me into a story, I play spot the gimmick, set the scene... it keeps me interested long enough until the story sucks me in, or until I get bored.

Your story got me eventually, by force of your characters (see later).

Now, bear in mind, that I get the same complacant start with quite a lot of published SF stories, these days, which suggests that (a) I'm not a measure and (b) that you've produced something worthy of a published work.

On a second reading, the first paragraph or two got better. This time round, I knew the story, had some background to relate it to. This may suggest that my taste lies more with a slower beginning than with a "hook", although I've used hooks in my own writing and I remember Kage Baker almost pulling one off that worked on me.

Does it flow?

Oh yes, it does! In a SF story that's set in a superficially similar but actually quite different future (which I take yours to be), information control isn't very easy to handle, but you've succeeded admirably. There's just enough information for me to draw my own conclusions; and non of it disrupts the flow of the story.

This is as bad as info-intrusion gets, and it isn't bad at all:


The government station was probably the most exquisitely designed object in near earth orbit. Escapade had taken the tour once. The whole station had been fabricated to resemble an archaic building known as the "White House". It had real marble columns around the outside and a huge dome in the center. Inside were hard wood walls and stone floors transported into orbit at taxpayers expense while the congressmen debated the merits of opposing strategies for reducing the overall subjective deficit.

This section (a) tells us where they're going (b) colours the setting and (c) makes Escapade out as an observer of ironies (last sentence; I read your story as 3rdPerson limited to Escapade - with the one excursion to the terrorist in the middle).

In short, it flows very well.

Do you care about the characters?

Yes, I do.

However, I felt that, sometimes, there was unmined potential. That, sometimes, plot or setting or a point to be made took them over, because they weren't strong enough to resist as characters in their own right.

This hunch is personified in the relatively minor character of Lindy. She reminded me more of a named dog in a dog-food commercial than a character. Your story is at its weakest when you talk about her:


She was probably a designed triplet, one of the ‘new, better generation’ which was supposed to make Escapade’s generation look almost average.

How could Escapade tell? Memories? Visible indicators?


Errol left her alone. Alone like a little girl who would never again have sisters like her, and would never know why. In that respect Lindy was not alone. Who could possibly understand the thoughtless murder of so many people?

When I first read this, I had to re-read it two times. It confused me. The general direction is clear enough, but the "would never know why" dangles in limbo. Why what? Why she'll never again have sisters?

This paragraph has too many turnarounds: from Erroll - to Lindy as type ("a girl" not "the girl") - to a general point - to the girl herself (not alone...) - to another general point. The result was confusing.

What I find interesting, is that such confusion only struck me with Lindy sections. I think this might be because she's treated as setting not as a character. The terms associated with her are too general: she'd work better as an example for the point your making if you'd anchor her more, I feel.

For example:

Errol left her alone. Alone like... then have Escapade actually see her. Have some life-intrusion. A symbol works only if it's also the sign; to stand for something it needs to be something else. (Am I making any sense at all, I'm feeling vague... :cool: )

Another example for unmined character depth is Escapade deciding to try to save Charade. The actual decesion works very well (and I do mean very well), but the indicesion before isn't what it could be. I can't feel her indecision.

On the one hand, you've quite effectively prepared the loss she's facing. Something you re-inforce when Escapade thinks about what Charade would have done in her place in front of that vat. On the other hand, the "price to save her" is treated in objective terms, mostly, and I'm left wondering what about it tears escapades dicision the other way: fear of death? Pain? Social responsibility (see the reference to the parents later)?

In the scene in front of the vat the indecision is enhanced by a state of fatigue. Escapade would like to push the decision into the future, but by then it might be too late. Then she almost decides not to try the procedure, but Charade turns her head and she changes her mind.

I like the scene a lot, but the way it is arranged, the real antagonists in the indeciscion (something like, "Loss of a sister"vs."Fear of Pain & Death") are unevenly balanced, as one is more vivid than the other, yet the other appears to be winning (aided by fatigue). You might think of having Escapade react more vividly to the doctors' discussion, for example, to balance this out.


Are there annoying, glaring errors all over the page?

I tend to just skip those, they don't really annoy me.

One thing you're doing with regularity:

It's:

"Direct speech," small letters.

Not:

"Direct speech," Capital letters.

Even when the direct speech ends in a ! or ?.

Is it deserving of two rejections slips (one for this story, one for the next one I might submit)?

If I was an editor, the story would be one worth considering. Whether I'd take it or not would depend on what else is on the table, and how it would fit in with the next few issues. It's not a top priority story (but those are rare, anyway), but, with a bit of polishing, it's certainly good enough to publish.

The setting and characters are interesting in their own rights. They certainly have potential for another story.

***


I tried the first scene with four instead of six friends. It didn't seem to work for me. Perhaps if I spend a bit more time developing them. Let me think about it . . .

Not knowing the piece of criticism that prompted this, I have to say I'm glad you went with six instead of four. The others are minor characters, but that they're there is significant, I feel, for the setting.

For example, having only two pairs of twins, the naming conventions (Escapade and Charade; Erick and Erroll; I guess you'd get rid of the Alex's) might be considered a coincidence. With three it points more towards a cultural phenomenon.

Also, character dynamics would be different in the first scene.

To my mind, having six characters adds value, but doesn't take any away.

***

Now that you know my response to your story, you can let me know if you're interested in detailled comments based on a close reading. It's something I enjoy doing. On the other hand, it's a lot of work, and I'd rather not spend the time if my take is incompatible with yours and you're not going to profit from it.

Hope I wasn't cruel... :cool:

MrBF1V3
January 11th, 2005, 11:00 AM
Wow! Thanks, Dawnstorm, it was more than I really expected.

Obviously I will be going over your statements in more detail, but my first reaction is that you read the same story I thought I wrote. How gratifying!

If I understand, it looks like I need to assess how I treat my secondary characters. Drew did not connect with Alexander and Alexandria, you with Lindy. Just curious, did I do okay with Lt. Henning and Dr. Sukasha?

Sorry about the gimmick, it was an easy way to introduce Sharpe as the techniphile and knowledge junkie that he is. (Also, if it gives any clothing makers out there ideas, I'd love to have one :cool: ) I think I might sketch out an alternate beginning to see if there is any improvment to be made.

Detailed reading? It sounds interesting, but I don't want to put you out. Let me think about it for a bit.

More later, again thanks.
B5

Dawnstorm
January 11th, 2005, 12:48 PM
Just curious, did I do okay with Lt. Henning and Dr. Sukasha?

Yep, they were okay. They had a pre-defined (I mean professionally, not story wise) role to fill and did so with a style of their own. Lindy, oth, is a name tucked over a type, IMO.


Sorry about the gimmick, it was an easy way to introduce Sharpe as the techniphile and knowledge junkie that he is.

No need to be sorry for it. I actually like it. It adds flavour. It's just that after reading tons of in-medias-res-beginnings in SF stories I start to notice the style rather then the story. It's not a problem you're going to run into with most of your readers.

Having such a gimmick in the first paragraph is a tried and true method of reminding the reader "this is SF you're reading", kind of like using ordinary words in a way that don't make sense. And the T-shirt does it well.

Perhaps I should also add that getting hooked from the first paragraph is not a priority with me...

MrBF1V3
January 13th, 2005, 01:12 AM
. . . nor should it be, Dawnstorm. My favorite hook of all time "Call me Ishmael." is at the beginning of a book I really don't like at all. (The opinions stated on this thread do not necessarily reflect those of . . .)

I am, now that you mention it, in the habit of beginning stories with a one sentence paragraph, usually a statment made by one of the characters. It is an attempt to jump into the action, and define that action as we go. The emphasis being on the going. (There should be at least two other ways to accomplish that. . .)

WARNING: MORE SPOILERS (BTW You can still request your own copy . . . :rolleyes: )

Thanks for pointing out the paragraph with Errol leaving Escapade. I had read over that part a number of times, but now that you mention it, it is kind of a scattered mess. It may be better to show than tell at that point.

And it's embarrassing that I totally spaced that Escapade was not the one who had seen Lindy with her sisters. (I just thought I could tell those two girls apart.)

I've been thinking about how to move characters from being part of the setting to being, well, characters. I think they become more "real" when they interact.

With your indulgence, let me show you what I'm working on there . . .

REWRITE: (note, this is a first draft)

A little girl with dark hair came down the hall with a nurse, a cast on her arm and sealant bandages covering new skin growth on part of her face and neck. She sat down in the seat across from Escapade.

"Hi," the girl said, making eye contact and trying to smile through the thick plastiskin. "I'm Lindy."

"Hello," Escapade managed. Lindy was obviously designed, probably one of the 'new better generation' which was supposed to make Escapade's generation look almost average. They were most often designed as triplets.

"Are you waiting for someone?" Lindy asked.

"My sister was hurt," Escapade said.

Lindy frowned and reached out to put a small hand on Escapade's knee.

"My sisters were hurt too, and my mom," Lindy said. "My dad's coming to pick me up."

Tears welled up in Lindy's dark eyes.

"I'm sure they'll be okay, your sister too. You'll see."

"The doctors here are the best," Escapade said, repeating what the nurse at the desk had told her.

Lindy dug around in her bag to find a book. She carefully moved around and sat on the seat sideways to favor her restrained arm, and started reading. In a minute or two she was asleep with the book on her chest, breathing slowly and deeply.

END REWRITE.

I moved this scene around a bit, fitting it between Errol leaving and Sharpe arriving. It needs a bit of polishing, but I think it puts Lindy where she needs to be. What do you think?
B5