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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » House (WIP)

   
Author Topic: House (WIP)
Nick T
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Hey guys,

It's been a couple of years since I've tried writing a science fiction story, so I thought I'd test out the opening here and see if I still have it or ever did (doubtful).

Nick

quote:
The house contemplated eavesdropping on Madison’s meeting with Eli. His programming forbid access to Eli’s auditory or visual feeds in the bedroom, but he’d found a loophole. Private zones could be circumvented in cases of potential harm to humans. Attempted murder was included in the definition of potential harm. If Madison convinced Eli to enter geriatric care, the old man would die. Eavesdropping was possible.

But should he hack into Eli’s hearing? If he listened to the conversation, a subconscious processor would report his action to his parent AI. Once she’d viewed the situation, she’d surely judge his programming flawed and terminate his operations. Deconstruction took weeks, but it was inexorable.

The house weighed his options.


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alliedfive
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To be honest, I was bored by this. I read it twice and still didn't totally follow it.

I think it's a combination of things.

1) All the character does is "contemplate" and "weigh his options". Terribly passive and static. You should show him doing something.

2) I need some reason to empathize with the house. I'm not saying to give it human emotions or anything, but It's hard to care about a computer. I think you will have an uphill battle with this the whole story.

3) This one is a nit, but you introduce 3 people in the first sentence and lost me.

This story sounds like an interesting challenge with a computer main character. I hope you finish it.

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skadder
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He?

I understand giving a gender to an android or robot, but to a house? The sentence 'The house weighed his options' sounds odd because 'the house' is an 'it' (we all know that from everyday speech) but then you talk about 'his options'.

If you want the house to be a him, why not quickly change from 'the house' to 'House' (a name). Then your sentence would read 'House weighed his options'.

Example:

The house contemplated eavesdropping on Madison’s meeting with Eli. House's programming forbid access to Eli’s auditory or visual feeds in the bedroom, but he’d found a loophole. Private zones could be circumvented in cases of potential harm to humans. Attempted murder was included in the definition of potential harm. If Madison convinced Eli to enter geriatric care, the old man would die. Eavesdropping was possible.

Personally I would find a more elegant solution than I have suggested as it it reminds me of the TV show...

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JoBird
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Calling the house a he doesn't bother me. I assume the programming is just that advanced.

quote:
The house contemplated eavesdropping on Madison’s meeting with Eli.
This is a serious problem. Three characters. One is a house. The other two I don't care about yet so it barely occurs to me to take note of their names. As I read on I have to go back and start over -- just to make sure I know who's being talked about.

Consider a broader opening. I've sketched out a basic example of what I mean below. I'm sure you could come up with a number of ideas to achieve the same basic objective though: a better sense of Eli and Madison early on, a glimpse of why we should care about the house's decision.

First, I would suggest either:

1. Starting with your last line: "The house weighed his options." Accompany this with something like, "as he watched blah."
2. Or, end your first sentence earlier: "The house contemplated eavesdropping." Accompany this with something like, "as he watched blah."

Then I would suggest showing Madison's arrival, something with Eli, and giving the reader a couple of small, interesting details about each man. Now your characters are more firmly rooted in the reader's mind, and the scene is, in my opinion, easier to follow.

Then continue to where the two of them enter the bedroom.

quote:
His programming forbid access to Eli’s auditory or visual feeds in the bedroom, but he’d found a loophole. Private zones could be circumvented...
Is circumvented the right word? Or maybe I misunderstand what is meant by private zones. I assume 'private zones' means areas that are off limits, like the bedroom, and probably the bathroom. So, if I change that sentence to, "Bedrooms could be circumvented..." it suddenly doesn't make any sense.

It would, to me, make sense if it read something like, "The private zone rules could be circumvented..."

quote:
in cases of potential harm to humans. Attempted murder was included in the definition of potential harm. If Madison convinced Eli to enter geriatric care, the old man would die. Eavesdropping was possible.
The logic of the loophole is so slippery here that it's somewhat confusing for me at first. Geriatric care doesn't sound bad, it sounds beneficial. Okay, so there's a bit of a hook to it I suppose. Who is Madison? Does Madison know this would kill him? Can the house prove Madison's motivation, thus making it attempted murder?

But those questions, while they exist, I'm too busy being confused about why geriatric care would make the old man die. I guess I'm just not sold here yet. I'm more confused than interested if that makes sense. I feel like this loophole is hardly a loophole, and while that may be your intention, my first impression was that you were stretching, and came up shorthanded in the search for a viable loophole. (This may be the perfect loophole for your story, and I just don't know enough. I'm not saying you actually came up shorthanded, just that readers could initially feel that way.)

My only suggestions would be:

1. Consider letting us know why geriatric care is deadly. I'm sure you do that later, but I mean right now.
2. Consider focusing a little more on the questions this hook is meant to create, and reword the section to reflect that.
3. Consider giving a sense to Madison earlier, some suggestion that he is murderous, scheming, something that reinforces the house's otherwise slippery and supposed loophole.

quote:
But should he hack into Eli’s hearing? If he listened to the conversation, a subconscious processor would report his action to his parent AI. Once she’d viewed the situation, she’d surely judge his programming flawed and terminate his operations. Deconstruction took weeks, but it was inexorable.

The house weighed his options.

Overall, I think I want to see more personality. That might be wrong for your piece. But, so far, from my point of view, it would add a ton of interest. This is a house with a parent AI -- a little personality would go a long way, it would speak volumes all on its own. It would subtly tell us something about the programming and the social dynamic of this house.
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Tiergan
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I read this last night, and I didnt really know what to say. I do struggle with inanimate objects as MC's. In this case it feels to like character. I would suggest as some others did, to try to add some depth to the house fairly quickly on. To make it "him" someone the reader would care about. Good Luck.
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skadder
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quote:
Calling the house a he doesn't bother me. I assume the programming is just that advanced.
Advanced enough to create the appropriate sexual organs to make it a 'he'? I doubt that. [Smile]
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Osiris
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quote:
Originally posted by skadder:
quote:
Calling the house a he doesn't bother me. I assume the programming is just that advanced.
Advanced enough to create the appropriate sexual organs to make it a 'he'? I doubt that. [Smile]
People anthropomorphise things all the time. A typical example is military men referring to their plane/ship/etc as a 'she'. It is a result of a bond developed between the person and the object, and I think that may be why some have trouble with the 'he' in this sentence. The reader has no emotional bond to the house, so accepting it as a 'he' or 'she' is harder.

I agree, the 'he' doesn't quite work here, but not because it isn't appropriate to refer to inanimate objects with a gender, but because this specific delivery doesn't pull it off.

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skadder
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Yeah, I thought of ships as well.

But in this instance it feels like authorial intrusion into the story. If the story was written in 1st person then calling a sexless AI a 'he' (or a boat, a 'she') is a bias of the narrator. This story is written with an invisible narrator and anthropomorphising (?) the house seems wrong...

If it was a female-shaped assassin-bot called 'Lisa-108' (or a male-shaped bot!) then I would have no problems...

In fact my first sale was a story about a 'female ' android and I used 'she'.

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BoldWriter
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I am in agreement that the house lacks personality, but I don't think it would take much to add some.

Perhaps Madison and Eli speak to the house, give it some sort of command to which it has to respond. That gives you the opportunity to create a brief description of how it responds, the sound of its voice, its tone, inflection, attitude, which words it chooses, etc. You could even take the opportunity to demonstrate the 'sex' of the house, if you want.

I think it's a neat idea. If you've ever watched a show on SyFy called Eureka, one of the characters is a smart house with loads of personality. 'She' is one of my favorite parts of the show.

[Edited to fix the pronouns. Apparently my brain instinctivly thinks the house is a 'he'.]

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