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Author Topic: Character Flaw
HenryMcF
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Near future science fiction currently about 1700 words. Thanks for taking a look. Comments are welcome.

I accessed Hal from the computer center—a short line would be more secure—and late at night, when no techs would be around. Every campaign used an AI, but not for opposition research. They didn’t need to know we did.
“Nice work on the analysis of Lawson’s policies, Hal.” It made no sense to praise an AI—something with no emotions, but talking to Hal as if he were a person felt natural, like naming him.
“You must be disappointed, Liam—there were no hidden flaws.”
“Yeah, but you can’t find what isn’t there. Anyway the biggest problem he calls a promise. We’ll call it the “Let Your Parents Die Plan.”
“Perhaps ‘Let Mom Die Plan’ would be better? Women, with their longer life expectancies, will be more affected, and they are

[ May 27, 2016, 12:46 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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walexander
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a quick note H,

There's a famous Hal AI in Clarke's 2001 S.O.

W.

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extrinsic
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An individual researches political opposition using a computer that talks. Not finding any useful dirt, the researcher and computer spin an opposition's platform promise.

Would be useful to know the original promise so that the spin could be understood and interpreted.

Odd that the researcher finds no dirt, not impossible though unlikely -- unless Lawson is clean because he's inhuman.

The fragment is mostly flat and bare dialogue, one tidbit of setting from the computer center setting late at night. The two voices are consequently mostly disembodied personas.

All campaigns use computers to do opposition research, anymore, very little else except to dig up details found by computer searches from paper and microfilm archives.

This adds very little, if anything, to the fragment's drama or otherwise: "“Nice work on the analysis of Lawson’s policies, Hal.” It made no sense to praise an AI—something with no emotions, but talking to Hal as if he were a person felt natural, like naming him."

The fragment sets out a political intrigue that is timely and relevant; however, to me, is too direct, too on the nose, and too easy.

Liam wants dirt, he doesn't find any, instead, he spins what he has out of context. Those are realistic enough political campaign practices; they don't entail therein, though, dramatic struggle, contention, or clash. They just come as easily to mind as a breath of air.

Dirt also starts with a truth. Spin embellishes, elaborates, and exaggerates the truth through several revisions; a germ of undeniable truth survives among the toxic spin. Other rhetorics also accompany spin. They are all calculated to appeal to emotion and also defy logic or at least rational thought.

Lawson's promise seems to me to be something related to healthcare. Liam's intent seems to me to be to show Lawson's promise as a negative influence for healthcare, possibly elder healthcare. Not clear though, so I project guesses.

Ergo, for this start to work for me, a clearer and stronger development of that above Lawson-Liam clash, and as an emotionally charged clash development, is indicated.

I would not at this time read on due mostly to the fragment being slow to start and flat and short of details: complication, conflict, emotional charge, event, setting, and character development details. The matter of Lawson's promise standing out most, an emotional clash nextmost, setting details thirdmost.

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HenryMcF
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walexander, Thanks. Liam has used the name Hal as a deliberate reference, which is pointed out later in the story.

Extrinsic, thanks for your comments. You've pointed out a number of things I will have to work on.

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dmsimone
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I thought the same thing as walexander as soon as I saw "Hal" and "computer" in the first few words [Smile]

"Short line" sounds very retro/1980's to me...almost like "land line", and if this is a futuristic setting then it is out of place. Same with "computer center" - "data center" might fit better into the setting, and perhaps some comment about cloud securities. I kept imagining Matthew Broderick hacking Joshua in War Games, and I'm sure that's not what you were trying to achieve.

When Hal first spoke to Liam, I was expecting some kind of description of his computer-generated voice, or at least something that differentiated him beyond Liam's ruminations about an artifical intelligence.

"Anyway the biggest problem he calls a promise," is either missing words or punctuation.

I had trouble understanding the latter dialogue between Liam and Hal. I know that Liam asked Hal to complete some analysis, but after that their interaction doesn't give me any more information. That's where I would have liked some big reveal or news.

As these lines are presented now, I am not hooked or emotionally invested.

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Stephen
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I accessed Hal from the computer center—a short line would be more secure—and late at night, when no techs would be around.
1. The computer center sounds retro as does the short line—a lot like a hard or land line.
Every campaign used an AI, but not for opposition research.
2. This asks the question why not? Aside from a personal log the computer would be the next best source.
They didn’t need to know we did.
3. Who are they? Establishing that up front might help some.

“Nice work on the analysis of Lawson’s policies, Hal.” It made no sense to praise an AI—something with no emotions, but talking to Hal as if he were a person felt natural, like naming him.
4. For me, the definition of AI would be something that is almost human or as human as its programing allowed, so for me any way, it would be natural for a person to treat it as a person.
“You must be disappointed, Liam—there were no hidden flaws.”
5. As a counterpoint to any policy, you can always find a flaw.
“Yeah, but you can’t find what isn’t there.
6. Again from the oppositions POV—a flaw can be always found, so it does not make sense to me.
Anyway the biggest problem he calls a promise. We’ll call it the “Let Your Parents Die Plan.”
7. I know it only the beginning, but is the policy the “promise”, or is there a policy “Let Your Parents Die Plan.”?
“Perhaps ‘Let Mom Die Plan’ would be better? Women, with their longer life expectancies, will be more affected, and they are
8. I am a wee bit confused. Parents die and women do live longer. For me, anyway clarifying the policy would greatly help. The opening seems disconnected somehow and does not draw me in.
Good luck.

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Disgruntled Peony
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The second sentence in the second paragraph reads awkwardly. It's a run-on. There are at least two different directions the sentence goes in. Also, you hint at Hal's name having been specifically chosen in this sentence but don't elaborate (apparently until later in the story). This is actually a prime spot to do it, if it's important to the story.

Overall, I don't have enough information as a reader to emotionally invest myself in the fragment. There are already two important questions that get brought up and left unanswered in the opening lines:

What kind of campaign are we talking about, here? My best guess is political, but it's not clear in the opening fragment, and that's something I as a reader would love to know.

Why choose the name Hal when such negative connotations are associated with the name in conjunction with AIs? (I know you've discussed this with other people in the thread, but even a hint of the reasoning right away in the story would be good. When I first glanced at this, I was concerned that it might just be fanfiction.)

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