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Author Topic: Mild Tasting, Like Veal
HenryMcF
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These are the first 13 lines of a 500 word flash story. As always, thanks for your attention.

Daryl Darvish brought Susan to a room in the back of his factory. He called it a dining room, but the white and spotless space reminded her of a lab. Her search for unusual tastes had led her to a lot of funky places. This was the first time it had led her someplace sterile.
The only furniture was some chairs and a large Formica table that had one place set with a plate and silverware. Darvish gave her a smarmy grin. “Have a seat and I’ll be right back with the shmeats.”
In a moment, Darvish returned and put a large platter next to Susan’s plate. Then he sat too close to her and said, “Voila, a special preview of our forbidden meats line for our favorite food blogger."

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Will Blathe
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I'm guessing at the meat in question (learned about the veal taste from an actual food blog some time in the past (maybe it was a radio program)).

I'll nitpick: "lab" & "sterile" feel repetitive. I wonder would you consider putting "white and spotless space" into the first sentence and omitting "lab"?

I think the title is a stronger hook that the first 13 you've got here. Actually, I love the title.

I wish that I could be more constructive in my critique, but it'll have to do for now.

Verdict: I want to read it, but not too much.

Will

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outsidious
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This is an interesting idea. I don't think I've ever read anything strictly about food in this way.

I really like the sentence saying: "This was the first time it had led her someplace sterile." That is cool sounding and markedly different than the normal dining experience.

One thing I wanted more of was maybe more a hinting methodology for letting us know that the food is forbidden... like her sketchily walking to the entrance. Or maybe something about her flinching when passing an officer.

Something more would be nice beside the word forbidden to establish something unlawful is happening.

Nitpicky thing: Forbidden Meats should be capitalized maybe especially if it is a product line.

You could try cutting out some of your introductory prepositions like in the last bit: "In a moment," especially since timing could be established purely with pacing.

Not a pro, but I hope something I said will be helpful.

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extrinsic
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The premises are promising; the method of delivery doesn't work for me.

The fragment is summary and explanation lecture: "tell." The narrator blandly reports the action secondhand or thirdhand. Darvish, at first, by default of first named agonist, seems to be the viewpoint agonist, then the report focuses on though not from Susan. The narrator's viewpoint prevails. None of the three personas expresses a clear and strong attitude, so also not clear whose story this is. The narrative point of view is unsettled.

Five hundred words is not much word count to develop a close distance. The aspect readers most appreciate is a close distance to a narrative's reality imitation such that scenes feel real and as if readers are at least bystanders if not emotional participants.

In order to develop a close distance, one, a clear and strong viewpoint agonist personal perception of the action, sensations, emotions, and thoughts is crucial. Sensations include aural parts, like conversation (dialogue) and other sounds and sensations that a setting naturally and probably makes that a viewpoint agonist notices and is influenced by -- that develop along with the action.

Two, dramatic complication: wants and problems strong in opposition that want satisfaction. A flash fiction's condensed word count requires immediate dramatic complication development. Longer prose can take more time to develop complication, though, first and foremost, at least emotional equilibrium disturbance is essential, if not as well a routine interrupted.

Susan has a want; that is, for exotic food experiences. The clandestine nature of this narrative's food experience implies her want has taken her into sketchy territory. However, the bare setting descriptions lack development of the sketchy nature of the place and situation. The clean and sterile setting works against setting up the sketchy nature of the place.

Foreshadowing would develop the place, through Susan's sensory perceptions and thoughts -- emotional attitude -- toward the place such that the place and situation's sketchy nature affects her emotionally. That opposition of forces, want for exotic food experiences and problem of a sketchy place and situation would foreshadow, develop, and establish the emtional contexture of the narrative.

Three, setting details which are of most import are ones that represent personal emotional stimuli and response. Susan doesn't perceive the setting's time, place, and situation emotionally. Her perceptions are objective, emotionally bland, and bare. "Telling details" are ones that develop emotional contexture and influence from subjective evaluation. The place may be a harmless and innocent laboratory for all the objective details give. The potential nefarious situation is unsupported by the bare setting descriptions given by the narrator.

Four, the event of substance for the fragment and the whole is Susan's sampling of an exotic food. In terms of a moral human condition crisis, she's a glutton, which conventionally is diametrically opposed by temperance.

Any use of "white" for a setting description automatically raises a "White Room Syndrome" consideration. White room is a Turkey City Lexicon principle that addresses a setting development deficiency. Unaware of a dramatic need or unable to strongly and clearly develop a setting's unique, influential traits, nature, character, a room or other setting is described as "white" (sterile). This is also a Dischism: the page or wordprocessor screen is white and sterile; therefore, that inspires a "white," sterile setting description.

"White" for modern Western culture symbolically signals purity. White symbolizes other signals from past and other cultures, for example, death. Blood's red color pooled into extermities or drained from a recently deceased person leaves the dead "white" hued.

If white and sterile is the intended color description for the setting's scheme, it should be contrasted and developed such that its meaning is influential and significant from its influence, not neutral.

Five, the action mostly takes place away from the location of greatest dramatic import. The now-moment time and place where Susan samples the "Shmeat" is what matters, not that she's led into the setting nor that Darvish seats her then goes away to get the shmeat samples. The action begins when she is seated and takes place where she sits, and comes to sample the shmeats from her personal viewpoint perception.

Flash fiction's brief word count demands an immediate action strike right to the heart of the matter, though such that the action doesn't come off as rushed or condensed, nor a narrator summarized and explained family vacation slideshow lecture. A few brushstrokes of telling details from Susan's reactive perspective would develop the setting. Event and character development too. The summarized and explained backstory details the narrator reports could more artfully be reported from dialogue or expressed thought, like that Susan is a mercenary foodie, and in scene mode, Susan's personal viewpoint, not narrator or summary mode.

Overt, tangible, external action is only a prose meaning-making delivery package, the persuasive surface action of a contest of wills, a contention between external personas. The action of import for prose is what a narrative expresses about a moral human condition, in this case, Susan's gluttony contest, if that is the case. How that gluttony contests and contends internally, or externally, or ideally both, is what, for example, supports a narrative's publication worthiness.

The seven fatal vices, aka Seven Deadly Sins, is at the foundation of Western social codes and is inherent, natural, and necessary for successful prose. The seven opposition force criteria for such moral clashes and social codes are wrath-patience, greed-charity, gluttony-temperance, pride-humility, sloth-diligence, envy-kindness, lust-chastity. They can be, though, mixed and matched otherwise; for example, lust as a gluttony moral vice and temperance of lust a noble virtue. An opening, a beginning, middle, and end act should cue up and expand on that sort of moral clash, all the while the external action clash unfolds.

I would not read on, due to the above enumerated doesn't-work-for-me considerations.

By the way, the only foodstuff I'm aware of that "tastes like veal" that's not "tastes like chicken," that's not veal, is porpoise. That description to me evokes a clashing sensibility about porpoise as a foodstuff. Herman Melville's Billy Bud is where I encountered that description in prose. Real life -- I should not say: a dead porpoise deemed safe for consumption and, by fisheries folk, permitted to possess and consume.

[ December 23, 2014, 01:50 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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HenryMcF
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Thanks everyone for your comments. The beginning never did feel right to me, and I think extrinsic found the problems. "In a moment" is also definitely going.
Will apparently got the forbidden meat referred to in the title right. It isn't porpoise.

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Lamberguesa
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Love the title.

The opening, however, feels slow and the descriptions seem mostly unnecessary. Perhaps one sentence is enough to describe the room. For the rest, I'd like to know what Susan is feeling. Comparisons of her past experience can wait for later. I like the scenario, think it has potential, but don't feel like I know enough about what is going on to be interested in finding out more.

I actually think it'd be better if the last line was first. For example:
Darvish set a large platter next to Susan’s plate, “Voila, a special preview of our forbidden meats line for our favorite food blogger."

Then, maybe, a line about the room to give setting and then go into why this a unique experience for Susan, a food blogger, and something to build tension between her and Daryl. Just a suggestion, hope it helps [Smile]

A.L.

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HenryMcF
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Thanks all. Is the following an improvement?

Susan glanced around the room Darvish had led her to. Every surface was a spotless white: the walls, the ceiling, the linoleum floor, the Formica table. Darvish had called the space a dining room, but to her it looked more like a lab. Her search for unusual foods had led her to a lot of funky places. This was the first time it had led her someplace sterile.
Darvish put a large platter next to her plate. Then he sat too close to her and said, “Voila, a special preview of our Forbidden Meats line for our favorite food blogger. Even if you would kill one of these animals, you couldn’t do it legally. But these meats were grown cruelty-free and killing-free.”
Susan wished Darvish would stop sounding like his ads.

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extrinsic
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The first sentence of the second version reads like a narrator tell. Note that Susan cannot see herself look around. The sentence is also in static voice from verb "glanced" is a nonfinite verb in the use. The next sentence then does what a sensation description ought best practice do; it shows the scene setting's place baldly, without narrator mediation.

The intent of the first sentence I realize is to identify the viewpoint agonist and place her in the setting. However, such opening lines are fatal to me and likely to screening readers.

More lackluster points arise from conjunction words that are superfluous and blunt the flow of the narrative: "but" twice and "then," maybe "even" though that word speaks from dialogue.

A micro fiction more than any narrative length must effectually use every word. If I were assigned to edit the fragment, about a quarter of the word count would go.

On more aesthetic levels, the fragment still is bland in terms of attitude and emotion. Susan's viewpoint should express that the place causes her an emotional reaction. Does the place frighten her, thrill her, disgust her, amuse her, or what?

Darvish's cleaniness fetish and sitting too close to Susan should cause her to react, like naturally and necessarily to Darvish's peculiar behavior. Might she edge away from him when he sits too close? Or speak to him about invasion of her personal space? Or physically push him away? That order is in ascending degree; the last, due to physical touch, the more dramatic and also more appealing from reflecting how readers are likely to feel about Darvish's space invasion, though not act upon the intrusion normally.

How Susan reacts to the place, to Darvish develops her character and the setting siuation. Reactions are events as are their causes. Is Susan strong willed or meek? Is she in control of the situation or is Darvish? Is the place peculiar, scary, comfortable, or irritating? Show the events, setting, and characters in contention at least, if not confliction or confrontation, and perhaps a lead up to conflagration.

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Lamberguesa
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Might be a little better but I still don't think it addressed the main issues the first one had. I do think the last line helps, giving us some insight into Susan's opinion.

I'm with extrinsic on this one. The sterile room may be important but it's not very interesting. Bring those characters to life!

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HenryMcF
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Thanks again for your comments. Let me try this again. (I think I need the room description, but I moved it down.)
Darvish put a large platter next to Susan’s plate. He sat too close to her and said, “Voila, a special preview of our Forbidden Meats line for our favorite food blogger. Even if you would kill one of these animals, you couldn’t do it legally. But these meats were grown cruelty-free and killing-free.”
Susan edged over in her seat to get more space between her and Darvish. She wished he’d stop sounding like his ads. As for calling her his favorite blogger, he could save the butter for the rolls. The room made her uncomfortable too. Every surface was a spotless white: the walls, the ceiling, the linoleum floor, the Formica table. Darvish had called the space a dining room. It looked more like a lab. Susan’s search for unusual foods had led her to a lot of funky places. This was the first

[ January 23, 2015, 05:18 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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