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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Distant Worlds

   
Author Topic: Distant Worlds
skadder
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Polly stirred her coffee with the sliver of wood, but her eyes flicked every few seconds to the two men negotiating in hushed tones on the far side of the cafe.
A quarter of a century before, the war had ended like gutter dogs die--snarling and biting to the last breath. Its artifacts, a sabot-flechette pistol in this case, were still in demand.
Almost without thinking, Polly imaged the pistol as it passed from one man to the other and stored its statistics in her databank. She sipped her coffee and sighed--not enough details to make a precise copy, but almost. Rain drummed on the cafe's window.
"Miss Saria Dèfris?"
Polly glanced over her shoulder--a man in a long coat with a weathered face watched her. She didn't recognise him, but the name was one she'd used a lifetime ago.

Version 2:


"So how much, then?" Mrs. Smythe played with her gold ring.
Polly shrugged and gazed out of the cafe window. There was only one reason this housewife-type wanted military spec hardware.
"An occular nerve tap is a difficult item to fabricate, Mrs Smythe." Polly paused and turned back the woman. "It needs a unnoticeable delivery system into the body, it has to reach the optic nerve without harming or alerting the target. Once in situ, the signal must be covertly accessible. It can be dangerous. Who's the target?"
Mrs. Smythe looked down and her lashes fluttered like butterfly wings.
"My husband."
Polly nodded and pursed her lips. "Are you sure this is what you want, Mrs. Smythe?"

[ August 11, 2012, 02:37 PM: Message edited by: skadder ]

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mayflower988
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quote:
Originally posted by skadder:
Almost without thinking, Polly imaged the pistol as it passed from one man to the other and stored its statistics in her databank. She sipped her coffee and sighed--not enough details to make a precise copy, but almost.

I really don't understand this passage. How does she "image" the pistol? It made me think you meant she imagined it, like it was either a typo or you wanted to emphasize the mental picture she saw.

When you say "stored its statistics", are you referring to the pistol? What kind of statistics? Why would Polly need or want to store them?

What kind of databank? Is it like a computer? Or do you mean in her mind? Is Polly an android? Or is this a setting where people just have really good memories, and you're using the word "databank"?

"not enough details to make a precise copy" - Details about what? The pistol? The coffee? Is she making a copy of the imagined memory that she put in her databank?

When the man says "Miss Saria Dèfris?", it sounds too forced, like you're just putting it there for the reader's information. I think in real life we would be more likely to use just the person's title and surname.

Overall, it sounds really good. I liked how you set up the history, but did so briefly.

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hoptoad
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I quite liked this, but there was a lot of cerebrating in order to get the meanings.

Three minor nits:

One; I read "sliver" as "silver" expecting a silver teaspoon I guess... regardless it threw me and made me reread.

Two; I am wondering if the two negotiating men are going to figure in the story any more, if so the introduction of a third man seems a little premature.

Three; It is not completely clear that the man in the long coat is the one who spoke.

I would keep reading

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skadder
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You think I ask too much of the reader?
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extrinsic
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I think the premises are strong, mysterious, and artfully evocative. Though I also feel the summary and explanation recital voice is handholding a bit stongly.

"Polly stirred her coffee with the sliver of wood, but her eyes flicked every few seconds to the two men negotiating in hushed tones on the far side of the cafe."

Narrator voice telling the action. Handholding. In character voice, the action would describe Polly's personal perception of the action and set up a transition to the bit of history recital following, her thoughts rather than the narrator reciting a summary.

The line "Rain drummed on the window" is a strong, perhaps strongest sensory description but its placement feels like an aside.

A problem wanting satisfaction is pending. I can guess what it is, but I'd be projecting.

I feel held off at arm's length. I am curious what will happen to Polly but not especially aligned with her empathy-wise or beginning immersion within the setting.

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hoptoad
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quote:
You think I ask too much of the reader?
Maybe. There are a lot of concepts in succession in those few lines - although itself not a bad thing - the process of decoding could be eased by more straight forward writing. For instance the line -- Its artifacts, a sabot-flechette pistol in this case, were still in demand. -- could be rearranged to ease the path while we digest the gutter dogs simile before the introduction of 'imaged' and 'databank' ideas.

Like I said though, I quite liked it and would read on. These nits are subjective and minor.

[ August 08, 2012, 06:35 AM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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skadder
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Re-thought version above.
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BoldWriter
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quote:
There was only one reason this housewife-type wanted military spec hardware.
I have the impression that Polly is the housewife, but it's a bit confusing because the other character is called Mrs. Smythe. I think some dialogue tags might help clear things up.

The conversation about the occular nerve tap is very intriguing. I had this great image of a tiny nanite being injected, floating through the bloodstream and then latching on to the optic nerve. Very cool.

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Twiggy
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Both these starts are intriguing.
The first one seems to flow better, which makes me prefer it at the moment. I think the ‘telling in the second sentence, stalls it a bit. I love the idea that she was called by another name a long time ago. I want to know why.

The second version poses equally interesting questions. I particularly want to know what the husband has done. Or, is Mrs Smythe not all that she seems?
It just read as if it needs smoothing out. The name ‘Mrs Smythe’ appears too often, and the action sometimes feels disjointed from the dialogue.

I would read on with both versions.

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Grumpy old guy
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Personally, I prefer the first version. However, it needs work. As extrinsic said, the opening line needs to be from Polly's POV and not your description of what she's doing. I also agree that concepts such as 'Polly imaged the pistol' and 'stored its statistics in her databank' give me, at least, a firm impression she is not quite human. If that's the case, I'd be inclined to make that plain to the reader in the beginning so they won't feel manipulated by the author.

I don't think you're asking too much of the reader, but you are making it difficult to read without pausing to make sure what you think you read is what the author actually wrote.

Still, an intriguing opening that will 'hook' a lot of people.

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