This is topic The Fourth Discontinuity (on hold) in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by WB (Member # 10414) on :
I've gotten enough comments on this -- will do a rewrite before going further. Thanks.


I wrote this a while back before OSC's writing class. It still works for me, but it's not his way of doing things... I want comments on the first 1000 words, which is the part that most breaks from what I've since learned.

When Peter was decanted he had the body of a twenty eight-year-old. Genes structured to match those found on a flake of dead skin, obtained with stealth from an airplane seat, formed the blueprint for that body, which grew from zygote to adult in the course of a few months. The home zaibatsu, they told him, was a world leader in human engineering. He believed everything they told him.

They programmed Peter's brain with knowledge others learn on their own: visual processing, language, coordination. Six weeks out of the tank he was walking, running, and doing simple gymnastics, like a robot, without self-awareness. Things were presented and he did them. His trainer, David Ash, looked on dutifully and took notes.

[ July 03, 2015, 09:04 AM: Message edited by: WB ]
Posted by Captain of my Sheep (Member # 10362) on :
The home zaibatsu, they told him, was a world leader in human engineering.
Maybe I'm thick but I tripped on this sentence. I don't understand it even after reading it three times.

I'd read on. I want to know why they grew Peter, simple as that. The prose is clear, if a tad distant. I assume that's intentional.

Time montages aren't my favorite kind of beginning for a story but you made it interesting. Edited to add the following: The implied shenanigans in "obtained with stealth from an airplane seat" makes me think they cloned somebody they shouldn't have. That little part also piqued my interest.

You promise me a scene in the present with the last line. If the narration had continued I'd be a lot less interested.

Hope this helps, I don't have a lot of experience in critiquing here.

[ July 02, 2015, 08:53 AM: Message edited by: Captain of my Sheep ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
My biggest problem is that you are telling me about the character and his origins. Where's the fun in that?

If his origin story were told with a little more verve, or joie-de-vie, it might make an interesting introduction. So far, all the intrigue or interest piquing I've received is the term "home zaibatsu" which leads me to wonder when, how, and why that particular economic type of conglomerate was reintroduced?


PS. Perhaps the above makes little sense; its not meant to, its supposed to get you to think about your opening differently. Where does the story really start?

[ July 02, 2015, 08:25 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by telflonmail (Member # 9501) on :
Just because you took a writing class from an author you admire doesn't mean you have to do everything exactly like the author.

I like the 1st sentence and it told us a lot! It actually told us more than the 2nd sentence that is technical hogwash. Why do we need to know what is said in the 3rd sentence? To make the 4th sentence work, I would change the 2nd sentence to: "The doctors told him they created him from a flake of dead skin, ..." and get rid of the 3rd sentence.
Posted by JSchuler (Member # 8970) on :
The opening is functional. It gets a lot of detail across about this cloning process. In that respect, it's good. I especially like the opening line, as it tells us what the story is about up front.

I do get a dissonance in the presentation, however. Peter is programmed. He's like a robot. He does things without question. Yet, his creators brag to him about how advanced their facility is. They tell him details of how he was made. Why? For what purpose? Maybe it does play an important role, but for now it strikes me as a contrivance to get more information across.

Beyond that, for what it's worth the opening is not something I find personally appealing. I dislike exposition and like character. I like showing, but only the last sentence has anything approaching that. Even there, however, is a solid criticism: David Ash looked on what dutifully? "Things?"

If I was coming at this for a rewrite, I would delete the first line and start again. As much as I like it, it does set the pace for the introduction, forcing the story to begin maybe too early.
Posted by WB (Member # 10414) on :
You've all convinced me to rewrite the beginning. I still think I'm going to have to say who Peter is before any action, but I will attempt to reduce that to a single paragraph. Thanks.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
For me, a shortfall of the fragment is that the viewpoint is from the narrator's perspective. Maybe from implied or real writer's. In other words, tell lecture. Two paragraphs sweep across six weeks of summarized time. Also, backstory.

An option is to relate the information in scene mode instead of lecture mode. That would mean a decision about whose viewpoint is foreground for the scene such that the information could be spoken or thought in the moment of the unfolding action instead of narrator after-the-fact factually orated. And likewise, the setting developed through conversion of the summary into a developed causal event sequence.

Ash seems to be that agonist. Perhaps he could examine Peter in a non-clinical setting and note a troubling problem, say, that Peter exhibits a flat emotional affect and is otherwise a normative twenty-eight-year-old man-Pinocchio.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
Your concept here intrigues me, and I'm willing to read however much of the story you're willing to send my way.

Others have more or less covered the issues I have with the story (not knowing what a home zaibatsu is, and wondering who the protagonist is). Your grammar is solid, although the pacing is slow.

Have you finished the first draft of the story yet? I'd wait to rewrite the beginning until you have your first draft. If you have that, though, by all means, feel free to start reworking.

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