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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Steel Love

   
Author Topic: Steel Love
HSO
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Horror / 1800 words /

Inspired by the oft-heard: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

But what if guns really do kill people?

Crits welcomed.

Critiquers beware: A bit of foul language (B-word and F-word, once each), and some rather unpleasant adults-only situations, not to mention murder 'n' stuff. Nothing over the top, though. Just consider yourelf warned.

Also, for those willing to brave this story, I'm in a quandary. I have two possible endings. This is clearly marked in the story. I would be most grateful for an opinion on which ending you would like to see and why.

Many thanks.

**** ****

The gun felt electric in his hand...

Alive.

Pete Mosman held the 9mm firm in his sweaty palm while he raced through the office building, the gun telling him to hurry before it was too late. This extraordinary gun, Pete knew, somehow had superior knowledge of people and their godforsaken sins. It knew everything.

Turn left here, down this corridor.

Pete obliged. But he knew the way to Steve’s office; he didn’t need the gun to tell him where to find the adulterer.

The corridor was empty. The workers must have heard the shots a few minutes ago, he surmised. They fled, or they are cowering under their desks wondering if their fate included a bullet to the head before lunchtime.


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wbriggs
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I'm going to put [] around things I suggest striking, mostly for redundancy, and my comments in ALL CAPS.

Overall: I would like to know more what Peter's feeling. Anger? Fear? Resignation to the gun's control? But I still like it, I'm hooked, and I'll be happy to read it.
--

[The gun felt electric in his hand...

Alive.]

Pete Mosman held the 9mm firmLY in his sweaty palm while he raced through the office building, the gun telling him to hurry before it was too late. [This extraordinary gun, Pete knew, somehow had superior knowledge of] IT KNEW people and their godforsaken sins. It knew everything.

Turn left here, down this corridor, IT SAID.

Pete obliged. But he knew the way to Steve’s office; he didn’t need the gun to tell him where to find the adulterer BASTARD. I JUST WANT SOMETHING TO CONVEY RAGE, IF THAT'S WHAT HE'S FEELING.

The corridor was empty. The workers must have heard the shots a few minutes ago, he surmised. They'D fled, or they WERE[are] cowering under their desks*,* wondering if their fate included a bullet to the head before lunchtime.


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Beth
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What's the B-word? The only candidate I can think of is one that I commonly hear on primetime broadcast TV, so I wouldn't have thought a warning necessary for that one.

I was a little jolted when I got to the sentence about him running - the first few stentences make it seem like he's standing still contemplating the gun. Perhaps open with the running, and work in the electricity thing later?

And I'm a little concerned about how you're just telling us that Pete knows that the gun knows everything - I'd rather see this than be told it.

1800 words is pretty short - I can read.



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Shi Magadan
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HSO, send it over please, I'll take a look.
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HSO
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yes, the B-word is considered tame this days, but Hatrack is a "clean" board. I'm trying to be considerate of that, and some people don't like cursing in stories. If I tell them up front, they can avoid it.

wbriggs, I try to avoid using unnecessary adverbs (firmly, in this case), though I do miss or use a few now and then. If I can find another way to write the same thing without changing the sentence's meaning, I will. In this case, using "firm" as an adjective suits my intent and I believe works well. Just FYI. No big, tho'... just preference.

EDIT: Thinking about it, "firm" as used might be an adverb... maybe. Held firm. Sounds adverby. Modifying the action. Sure looks like an adverb. Hmm... ?

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 21, 2005).]


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onepktjoe
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Hi HSO,

Sounds like a fascinating premise. I was hooked. The only real problem with it that I had was this para:

>Pete Mosman held the 9mm firm in his sweaty palm while he raced through the office building, [the gun telling him to hurry before it was too late.] I THOUGHT THIS WOULD IMPACT BETTER AS ITS OWN SENTENCE, THAT IS: THE GUN TOLD HIM TO... This extraordinary gun, Pete knew, somehow had superior knowledge of people and their godforsaken sins. It knew everything.<

Then, you could just ease into letting us know that he trusts the gun for some reason, without forcing it in so hard, as Beth suggested. What you've got here is good enough that I'd happily read on to find out more about the odd relationship.

I also agree with wbriggs that something stronger than "adulterer" seems more appropriate.

Send it over, I'd like to read on.
Joe


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hoptoad
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I like it, It is good.
I do not agree with the above posts, your choice of words and the careful strength used is spot-on. It alludes to a kind of detachment in the POV character.

The first line is a grabber but I did think the 'gun told him to do it' line was telegraphing your punches. Made the thing a bit obvious from the start. I am not sure whether it suits the purpose of the story but, why would you tell us this 'story element' up front? It makes us look for something else hidden in the mix. What is hidden? Is the point that the gun IS talking to him or that it ISN'T, then again this may suit your story objective.

The only real nit-pick would be: what is a godforsaken sin? Is it supposed to be opposed to a god-engaged or god-accompanied one, indicating a matrix of beliefs that allows him to engage in the act he is about to commit? Otherwise it seems an illogical, tautological phrase.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited March 21, 2005).]


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rickfisher
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I'd like to read the whole thing.
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wbriggs
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About firm and firmly: If you "hold a gun firm," what noun would "firm" modify? But "hold a gun firmly" has "firmly" modifying "hold," which is what you meant. I think you're stuck with an adverb there!

About adverbs and adjectives: I believe the suggestion to reduce their number is that having large numbers of mostly irrelevant modifier words can somewhat increase the word count -- sorry, that having many modifiers increases the word count -- making the reader do more work without getting more story. Also, "smash" seems more powerful than "hit with force"!


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goatboy
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Way cool. I like the concept really well. It's one of those ideas that I wish I could come up with myself.

The only suggestion I can make is in the ordering of sentences. I have taken the liberty of shifting them around a bit and have added a couple of words in brackets. I hope you don't mind.

Pete Mosman held the 9mm [pistol] in his sweaty palm while he raced through the office building. The gun felt alive in his hand... electric.

This extraordinary gun, Pete knew, had superior knowledge of people and their godforsaken sins. It knew everything.

It talked to him -- telling him to hurry. Turn left here, down this corridor!
Pete obliged, [following the gun's instructions]. He knew the way to Steve’s office; he didn’t need the gun to tell him where to find the adulterer. [But he listened anyway.]

The [new] corridor was empty. The workers must have heard the shots a few minutes ago, he surmised, and fled. Or cowered under their desks wondering if their fate included a bullet to the head before lunchtime.

The problem with this adaptation is that it really makes your protagonist look like a maniac. If you are working the angle that the gun is causing him to do all of these things, then you might want to do something else.


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theokaluza
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If you're looking for a reader, I'd love to take a look at it.

theokaluza@gmail.com


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TaShaJaRo
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HSO - I love the concept and would like to read the whole story.

I did feel that Pete knew more about the magical properties of the gun than I expected but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There are lots of ways to go with a story like this so I'd like to see how you do it before I decide whether or not he should be in the dark at the beginning.


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hoptoad
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WBRIGGS says you may need an adverb in this sentence:
quote:

Pete Mosman held the 9mm firm in his sweaty palm while he raced through the office building...

You know, I may be wrong but this is where I get unstuck, I reckon we should just use stronger verbs instead of creating a double-barrell modified verb to make what is ostensibly a should-be-hyphenated-but-isn't word that conveys a single idea.

Held is modified by firmly right?
Well what verb means to hold firmly?

Why not 'gripped' which literally mean 'a firm hold'

so why not:

quote:

Pete Mosman GRIPPED the 9mm in his sweaty palm while he raced through the office building...

You do NEED an adverb if you want to use an insipid verb like 'held', but you don't need it if you just use a STRONGER verb.

I think this is what WBRIGGS meant by the 'smashed' comment, pick tasty verbs.

2 Australian cents worth (1.6 US cents)

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited March 23, 2005).]


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HSO
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Exactly the word I had been thinking about using for a substitute -- gripped.

And then, after a moment, I thought: "clenched" would more adequately complete the action in my mind. No mistaking what 'clenched' is.

Nevertheless, point well taken. Pick strong verbs to avoid unnecessary modifications to verbs. Thanks hoptoad and wbriggs.

Almost everything I've read about writing says to avoid using adverbs (usually words that end in LY) as often as possible. None said to avoid them altogether -- sometimes, the best way to say something is by using an adverb.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 24, 2005).]


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benskia
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clenched is a fantastic word.
I'm going to try and fit that into my story right now.
I'm not going to use clenched teeth though 'cos that would be cheesey eh?

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MaryRobinette
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I just read a story where the writer used "spun quickly" which could have been replaced with a stronger verb like "whirled" to eliminate the adverb. The same story used "spun synchronously". I defy you to find a verb that would replace that verb/adverb combo. Those are the times when adverbs should be used, when there isn't a verb that means the same thing.
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Ray
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I'd like to read the whole thing too, please. I thought it was really good.

[This message has been edited by Ray (edited March 24, 2005).]


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Eadwacer
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I'd like to read it. I like it so far and I do like the writing, rhythm, and what almost feels like detachment.

grrubin@gmail.com


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Rocklover
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I have read about swords and knives that take command of their owners, but not a gun. Now I'm wondering, are you planning to make the gun sentient? Will it have a chance to express its POV? What is going to be its motivation? Is it pure evil or is it a vigilante kind of thing righting wrongs and all that? Is the man a servant, a prisoner, a pawn, or a willing accomplice to the gun's actions? And, after the novelty of the idea of the gun being in control wears out, as it will after the first scene, what will you do to develop the idea into a story? I also would like to read what you have so far.
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HSO
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Ray, Eadwacer, and Rocklover: My apologies for not sending my story out to you.

It happened that everyone who received the story (before your requests) critiqued it and sent it back rather quickly. Usually, a few to half of those who ask to read don't reply or crit, meaning I can send it out to others. Presently, I've got about 7 crits, all of them good, so I feel anymore would add confusion or simply point out the same things the others did.

Again, sorry. Perhaps you'll be interested in reading the final draft in a few months?

-HSO


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HSO
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Rocklover, your answers:

quote:
Now I'm wondering, are you planning to make the gun sentient?

Yes.

quote:
Will it have a chance to express its POV?

No, but the gun certainly expresses itself.

quote:
What is going to be its motivation?

I've written this story so that the gun's motivations and morality is ambiguous and can be left for the reader to decide.

quote:
Is it pure evil or is it a vigilante kind of thing righting wrongs and all that?

Again, deliberately ambiguous. Each reader might see it differently.


quote:
Is the man a servant, a prisoner, a pawn, or a willing accomplice to the gun's actions?

In the first scene, I intend for the reader to have doubts about the gun being alive, and whether Pete is crazy or a puppet. The second scene hopes to resolve the issue as to whether the gun is alive or not.

quote:
And, after the novelty of the idea of the gun being in control wears out, as it will after the first scene, what will you do to develop the idea into a story?

It's a very short story. Novelty goes a long way in this regard, but it's also a pyschological journey through the minds of some troubled folk. Really, "Steel Love" is just a very small snippet of an idea -- and idea which should provoke the reader to think about a few things.

That said, I received lots of feedback said, "What is the gun's motivation?" to which I can only say: You tell me what you think it is. In other words, I hoped that each reader would form their own opinion on it, not have me bash them over the head with my opinion.

I like stories that make me think, that leave some things open to interpretation. Therefore, I write stories like that. However, I was not much surprised when a few of my critiquers wanted me to spell out every little detail in the story -- leave no stone unturned, that kind of thing; to make it very clear what the gun wanted and why.

Naturally, I disagree -- to my own peril, of course.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 28, 2005).]


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Eadwacer
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Yup, I'm still interested in critiquing it. This sounds very much like the type of story I like.
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Ray
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Yep, I still want to read it.
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Robyn_Hood
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I've been monitoring this thread and really like the idea; it reminds of Henry Winkler's T.V. show, The Deadman's Gun.

The gun wasn't really sentient, but it seemed to have a power over the people who possessed it. The concept was that the gun was cursed, but it was a character in it's own right and it didn't always bring evil or death on its possessor. Why it "behaved" different ways in different situations was never explained, the gun was just the gun.

Not really a point to that, and, as I haven't read your story, I can't comment on whether an explaination of the gun's motivation is needed. But here is an example of sorts of when a motivation didn't need to be explained or defined.

Good luck with the story. I'll watch for you to post the re-write and if I have time I'll do a crit for you then.


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HSO
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Dang it! Arrgh!

Oh, well, Robyn. Further proof to the saying that there are no new ideas... everything is a rewrite.

Dang.


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Rocklover
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I would like to read it all. I also like a story that makes me think, and does not spell everything out. I still hpe you intend, short story or not, to have some depth to the idea, not just rely on the novelty of it. Itis like, you know the movies that rely on special effect and forget character development and plot line? Please send more when you can. I want to see what you do with this.
Judith

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yanos
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There was a book called the Use of Weapons, which I believe had a sentient 'gun'. Gun is in inverted commas because it could change itself into the most appropriate weapon as the situation required. The whole book is about people trying to acquire this weapon, not realising that the weapon is actually using them. Still any idea is fresh if written well. And usually it takes at least 2 ideas to make a story.
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hoptoad
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It is an interesting story idea. It reminds of Steven King's Christine too. Or even the idea of Bushido(?) the sword is the killer not the swordsman...

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited March 29, 2005).]


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