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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The TV Is Now Watching You, 5,000 words, umm...Contemporary Fantasy, maybe?

   
Author Topic: The TV Is Now Watching You, 5,000 words, umm...Contemporary Fantasy, maybe?
wetwilly
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Attempt #1
My house is the only 1,848 square feet in the entire world where I feel safe, and I spend my life alone in it. Man was not made to be alone, though, as a wise deity once allegedly said, so I bought a television set for every room of my house. They stay on 24 hours a day, and I never have to feel the totality of my self-imposed exile from humanity.

While I performed my daily cleaning routine, as I did every afternoon from 1:00 until 3:25, the soap opera about the rich, young socialites in New York City kept me company. Somebody must find the show engaging because it has been on for years, but I find it to be rather daft. The characters are all self-centered and insipid, and they're too lazy to pronounce their consonants clearly. The only reason I know anything at all about this particular program is that it's always on during my cleaning...

Attempt #2
The middle-aged man banging on the other side of your screen is me. The one with the receding hairline and the graying mustache. The quivering lips and wide eyes. Me.
Get me out of here.
In here, there's nowhere to escape to. I can't get away from other people. None of the places in here are real.
It's a facade that mimics reality only if viewed from the right angle.
I don't understand why I'm in here. I know the sequence of events that put me here, but I don't understand the how or why. To be honest, I don't care right now.
I just want out.

#

My house is the only 1,848 square feet in the entire world where I feel safe, and I spend my life alone in it...

[ July 12, 2016, 09:19 PM: Message edited by: wetwilly ]

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extrinsic
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A self-exiled individual describes a daily routine.

The title contains more drama than the fragment, then the fragment doesn't follow through. Several pieces move toward story movement though as much delay and detour movement.

Some of the pieces suggest or imply vaguely something will happen drama-wise, like, the title's TV voyeur substance, the exile's hermitage and television companionship, the scriptural proverb, that the soap opera is about socialites. Clearly, the fragment implies the story is really about companionship complications in some dramatic way, though wildly detours before a point of engagement access arises.

The title most of all implies some contest problem, not what it means, rather, only that a contest's routine upset is about to be afoot due to television watching back.

Borrowing from Orson Scott Card's three questions: So what? Oh yeah? And Huh?

So what? Why should I care? I don't.

Oh, yeah? Is the exile a necessary and natural, or probable effect of a cause why? I don't believe it.

Huh? What do a daily cleaning ritual and television soap opera have to do with TV watching the exile back? I'm confused.

I'd care if a reason why the exile is an exile came first. Social withdrawal is universally a consequence of a brutal existential crisis. And next, care if the exile genuinely wanted somehow to be less socially isolated or at least content from social isolation and therefore imply social activity could rudely impose, of something to those effects were expressed or accessibly implied. Televisions in every room for companionship, well, that's both a static want and a fantasy illusion of company from the make believe of television. If why the exile is an exile were implied or expressed, then I could care.

The exile itself is unbelievable because the exile just is an exile. Humans are social beings, and desperately want fellowship most of the time, unless existentially wounded. A cause of the isolation needs be first, I believe. Through that cause development, I could emotionally care and be curious what the exile could do about it, even if resist fellowship at the same time as want genuine companionship.

The fragment, instead of moving the contest forward or starting movement at all, focuses on trivial routines. Huh? I'm confused what the contest is and is about.

The proverb holds opportunity to express or imply the contest, vaguely, though too soon moves away to a wild detour.

Why is the exile an exile? What does the exile do about the exile?

A five thousand-word narrative allows up to thirteen hundred or so words to fully introduce its contest -- a fragment is a tenth of that real estate. Nonetheless, though, movement best practice starts from a first word. The title starts movement somewhat then the fragment stalls it.

The language forces emotional charge from diction and syntax that are too formal for stream of consciousness. The distance is by default close, due to first-person narration, though spoils close distance by being more or less a description of a neutral routine and formal language, as if an academic essay or lecture.

Words and phrases like these underscore bracketed below are inert, nonspecific or unnecessarily specific, empty superlatives, unnecessary comma and conjunction splices, and forced, not forceful.

"My house is the _only_ _1,848 square feet_ in the _entire_ world where I feel safe_, and_ I spend my life alone in it. Man was not made to be alone, _though_, _as_ a _wise deity_ once _allegedly_ said, _so_ I bought a television set for _every room_ _of_ my house. They stay on _24 hours a day__, and_ I _never_ have to feel the totality of my self-imposed exile from humanity.

_While_ I performed my daily cleaning routine, _as_ I did _every_ afternoon from _1:00 until 3:25_, the soap opera about the rich, young socialites in New York City kept me company. _Somebody_ must find the show engaging _because_ it has been on for years_, but_ I find it to be _rather daft_. The characters are _all_ self-centered and insipid_, and_ they're _too lazy_ to pronounce their consonants clearly. The _only_ reason I know anything _at all_ about this _particular_ program is that it's _always_ on during my cleaning..."

Described as a contemporary fantasy, maybe, no clue to that narrative category in a fragment start leaves that open to confusion, too.

Forced and a slow movement, confused start. I don't care, don't believe, and don't know what the story is about.

I would not read on.

[ July 07, 2016, 05:31 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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The title of this story caught my attention, but there wasn't a lot that grabbed me in the opening thirteen lines. Overall, I think the big issue is that the viewpoint character is focusing on mundane details, so there's no serious conflict represented as a result. That leaves the fragment feeling slow and disappointing when compared to the suspense and paranoia implied by the title.

There is the curiosity of why the viewpoint character is in a self-imposed exile, but I have to wonder how s/he (as gender is presently unspecified) could afford a television in every house if they're so actively avoiding people. What sort of work does the viewpoint character do that lets them afford a television in every room of their house while simultaneously avoiding as much human contact as possible?

While I'm sure the soap opera is going to feature prominently in the story, the viewpoint character's lack of interest lowers my interest as well. Why are they even watching it if they don't like it? With the advent of things like multiple television channels, VHS, DVDs, DVR and Netflix, there are lots of options the character has available to them depending on the time-frame the story is set. In my experience, most people don't spend a significant amount of time on something they're uninterested in unless someone else is interested and they're trying to accommodate or impress the other party.

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wetwilly
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Thanks, Ex and Disgruntled One.

As I'm rehashing and reworking this story in my mind, it occurs to me that "The Man in the Box" would be a great title and/or "I'm the man in the box" would be a great opening line. However, since that's already a well-known Alice in Chains song, that makes it an unbearably cheesy title/line in my story. Thanks a lot, Layne Staley.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Would "In the Box" be too cheesy for a title?
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extrinsic
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As titles go, does The Man in the Box, or I'm the, express what the story is really about? Even trite expressions take on vivid proportions when they are relevant and expressive of meaning that a narrative then makes sense out of.

What about "The TV Is Now Watching You"?

Why not TV Now Watches Back? Less static at least and third person instead of second person. Why alienate right away readers who are wary of second person? The paranoia remains in any case.

And what does TV watches back mean in this age of ever present Big Brother and all and sundry watches and records? In the context of a recluse, akin to J.D. Salinger, Howard Hughes, and social affect conditions generally, what does TV surveillance mean? Of course, for the fantastic fiction convention of non-one-to-one motif correspondence, means anything, so long as one connection is central, perhaps farfetched, though strong and clear and emotionally provocative and incisive.

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wetwilly
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New intro (attempt #2) posted above. Does this catch your interest any better than the first one?

Comments welcome from all.

"The Man in the Box" as a title does indeed express what the story is about, on at least three levels, ex. That's why I really like it as a title. "In the Box" isn't too cheesy, Kathleen, but it is too bland, I think. I'm definitely 86ing "The TV Is Now Watching You" because it's misleading. This story is not about an Orwellian spy-state, which I think a lot of people would assume from that title. I kind of like "The Real Ones" as a title, though.

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extrinsic
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So the agonist now is inside the television, trapped there and wants out and, earlier, is outside the set.

Not clear that the first section of the second version is a future time from the second section, though the nonce "#" signals a transition, albeit to an earlier time perhaps. A stronger section break glyph or glyphs is indicated, though tough to do from Bulletin Board code.

Possibly, the narrative is about events that lead to the agonist becoming trapped in the TV. The dramatic question or questions then are when, why, and how. Why most of all is on point.

For belief's sake, the first section could benefit from less direct and static state-of-being expression of the situation as terminal outcome and more discovery, that the agonist just this moment discovers he? is trapped inside the TV.

The second-person address of the first sentence implies it speaks to readers or is an apostrophe -- the figure of speech that addresses a person or persons not present -- or is an address to the self, the agonist. That latter is second person's prose strength and one I favor for the narrative, that would be appealing to me from the agonist being both outside looking in and inside looking out. That being trapped inside the TV is a strong commentary about immediate, effortless entertainment self-gratification and use of TV for social isolation support. Clarity of which of the three is meant, though, is crucial. The fragment doesn't clarify which.

That above paradigm is profound, if intended. It entails a Twilight Zone-like mind mangle of substance not seen of late and of high appeal potential from its dearth in publication culture. Huh, commentary about this technological age's depersonalized society. Wow.

That too then supports the optional titles: "The Man in the Box," "In the Box," and "The Real Ones," or something similar yet different. If I were a publisher and if the above is the intent, I'd suggest something to the effect of //Stumbled by the Human Trap//.

If that paradigm's intended, aside from too unclear and weak a setup for me, I'd read on.

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wetwilly
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Funny you should mention Twilight Zone, ex. I didn't have that in mind while writing the first draft, but while revising, I realized I had a very Twilight Zone ending.

I'm working on smoothing the transition between the 2nd person section and the 1st person rest of the story.

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extrinsic
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Out of curiosity, is this about what I projected, that being trapped inside the TV is a strong commentary about immediate, effortless entertainment self-gratification and use of TV for social isolation support?

I ask because, one, I've prospected for how might a narrative package such a commentary for years, more than TV, the entire Digital Age technology depersonalization influence upon society, somewhat a revisit to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and how a theme of it is technology destroys fine arts culture; two, my perhaps off-kilter interpretation and vision extension of the second attempt fragment fits the former; and three, though a trapped inside a TV idea, different though, both tangibly and intangibly -- not Tron, other -- I believe a creative vision is sacred to its creator. I don't poach others' ideas; that's idea plagiarism and a serious imagination deficit, certainly not poached from Hatrack.

Even if I ran with what I project, no way that any two creators' creative visions, based upon a single idea, like trapped inside technology, could be anywhere near enough the same to be plagiarism, not with more than one idea entailed and that one different enough to be unrecognizable as the same, and several other ideas pivotal to a whole. Certainly not the same in any case, different grammatical person, different narrative points of view and persona voices, different personas, different moral dilemmas, entirely different motifs and features, different figurative language, different tangible and intangible actions, different methods, messages, values, and morals of the story, and different plot pivots and outcomes. Just that one idea in common: trapped by technology, a common human condition subject to multiple interpretations, I'm sure.

Thought I'd gauge the sentiment. And otherwise express gratitude for inspiring a workable way to achieve a narrative's package I've prospected for at length. How I've wished sometime in my writing studies someone could have interpreted my creative visions' intents like this above and offered appropriate suggestions that would enhance my writing skills for my projects, sacred to a creator though a creative vision is, and have not yet come close to that type of insight from anyone.

[ July 14, 2016, 02:34 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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wetwilly
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My story is not about that, at least not what I intended. People bring different experiences and ideas to stories and sometimes a story can take on meaning for a reader that the author never intended, which is cool. You're welcome to read the rest of the story if you like; I am looking for readers. If not, cool. No hard feelings.

You're welcome to take the idea and run with. You're taking it in an entirely different direction, so I don't consider it plagiarism anymore than using laser guns or fireball spells is plagiarizing whoever first thought of them. Every idea comes from somewhere or somebody. The germ of my story idea came from a comment made offhand by the teacher of a class I had to take (to do foster care--totally unrelated to writing or science fiction or this story). Someone said they fell asleep watching TV, and she said, "next thing you know, the TV is watching you, right?" The phrase caught my attention and I ran with it. I don't feel like I'm plagiarizing, she just said something that randomly connected some dots in my mind. You're basically doing the same thing. Go write a "trapped in a TV" story with my blessing.

quote:
Possibly, the narrative is about events that lead to the agonist becoming trapped in the TV. The dramatic question or questions then are when, why, and how. Why most of all is on point.
You've got the structure of my story right. The 2nd person section at the beginning is really the end of the story, and the rest of the story is about how and why he got there. How is told explicitly, but why is sort of left between the lines for the reader to interpret and infer. I did that because the opening of the first draft was just too lame, and the story takes a little while before the really cool, weird stuff starts happening. I needed a cool hook up front, so I used my ending as the hook.

quote:
How I've wished sometime in my writing studies someone could have interpreted my creative visions' intents like this above and offered appropriate suggestions that would enhance my writing skills for my projects, sacred to a creator though a creative vision is, and have not yet come close to that type of insight from anyone.
I'm happy to take a look. I'll gladly offer whatever meager insight I have. Again, if not, no hard feelings.
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extrinsic
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No story trades at this time. I've been stuck for some time, knowing, though, that's because I was missing pieces of a story project. This discussion also led to an unraveling of a few central missing pieces for that project.

Missing pieces in my ken entail intangibles, usually of a brutal moral contest nature, plus, some large degree of personal and audience-relateable life experiences. Philosophical moral law assertion narratives raise my nonsense detector to an acute degree. They masquerade as drama but are lecture sermons and hypocritical and superficial, to me.

On the other hand, I delight to moral truth discovery narratives. The intangibles add a wanted degree of depth, freshness, appeal, and pertinent meaning that transcend an otherwise oft-repeated tangible storyline.

For example, from Trapped by Technology, social disaffect, and want for a meaningful and enduring social life, this is a personal experience much, if not most, on my mind. Before me most of my day is a technology trap that poorly substitutes for a real social life that I do not have and am at a loss for how to resolve.

Bluntly, it is unresolvable, can only be transcended. I am a Henry David Thoreau-J.D. Salinger in a Thomas Pynchon-Joseph Heller society, though tech savvy. My On Walden Pond is a deserted shore beside a trackless sea promonitory at the naked edge of the world, accompanied by a laptop, cellphone, and mifi, plus life support subsistence, hobbies, and essential medicines.

Anyway, unstuck for now, due to this discussion and afforded by insights derived from fragment meditation and commentary.

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wetwilly
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quote:
Anyway, unstuck for now, due to this discussion and afforded by insights derived from fragment meditation and commentary.
Here, here! I'll drink to that!
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