This, like my other previous attempts at storytelling, started off with a random thought while I was at work.
How much time did I have left? I lost count on the previous slide. No matter, gotta to keep going. My tongue danced as I relayed my memorized speech. I do hope that I enunciated my words clearly, I tend to stutter when I'm rushed. My boss nodded his bald head in understanding. Good, good, seemed like he was still listening. Pushing on my clicker, I started explaining the next topic. "I'dliketorecommendanalternative, insteadoffocusingontheenvironmentalmarket, Ithink-" Something rang in my pocket. My phone, of course. Damn it all, I forget to set it to silent. Grimacing, I pulled out my electronic device to see who was calling me. All that greeted me was a text showing a big red zero and a smiling devil hopping around it. ****. I was so close too this time.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
This doesn't work for me on a number of levels. First: first person POV. For me, I find such POV's limiting and, in the main, usually poorly done. I have only ever written one story, and that in draft form only, in first person, and that was also in immediate present tense. Second: the in medias res opening. IMHO, unless such openings are carefully chosen and constructed they leave the reader floundering around and wondering what's going on. Just as I am here.
For me, best practice is to limit openings to introductions of either who, why, what, where, and when, or combinations of such introductions rather than simply diving in to a story where I have no idea of what is going on, no knowledge of, or sympathy for the character, and no context in which to understand the apparent urgency hinted at at the end of the submission. A submission I might add that seems to have been tailor made to fit 13 lines.
Just one persons opinion.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
A presenter presents a presentation to a boss.
I don't know, possibly the matter lacks complication and conflict magnitude, though the last line implies magnitude is about to rise. Probably, the magnitude of complication and conflict could be front loaded, to begin the narrative; that is, the narrator-viewpoint agonist's want and problem and the motivations and stakes thereof given first.
Complication: want and problem wanting satisfaction. Conflict: diametric opposition of antagonal forces related to stakes and motivations and outcomes, re: life and death, acceptance and rejection, riches and rags, success and failure, salvation and condemnation, etc.
Both complication and conflict, and of a magnitude proportioned to a narrative's word count, are essential narrative features. A simpler and common workshop expression for the features is give an agonist a problematic want and set obstacles in the way to satisfy the want.
Note that the excerpt contains twenty first-person pronouns, out of 144 total words, roughly one-seventh. For me, the agonist's degree of self-involvement and mediation is excessive, tell.
First person's strength is internal discourse, and by default entails closest narrative distance. However, I feel the distance is under-distanced -- too close too much. Net, for me, the aesthetic distance is remote.
A possible treatment is more use of third person to describe external influence motifs, like the bald boss, and that he listens, perhaps more of the setting for reality imitation, like the conference room is in a hotel and a side bar offers coffee and danish, though without the first-person pronoun mediation excess.
I would not read on, actually, past the first word, "I," and that the first sentence is an emotionally empty rhetorical question, more lackluster interjection than raising an artful (appealing) suspense question -- the function of rhetorical questions for prose, though other suspense question raising methods are possibly more artful.
The rhetorical question implies a time limitation the boss budgeted for the presentation, though the last line implies another, possibly nefarious and outside agency is at work. Consider placing that up front, which will alleviate a few of the shortfalls of the fragment.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
The short story is different in a number aspects from its longer form cousin. Chief among these is the requirement to introduce either the inciting incident or the dramatic complication in the opening sentence, or as close to it as possible: As noted by Damon Knight in his book--Creating Short Fiction.
The next difference worth noting is that every word and sentence should be doing double, or even triple duty: That is, imparting information about character, complication, or milieu at the same time.
As an example, the short story I'm currently developing opens with a first sentence that describes the main character contemplating whether or not to push the 'Accept' button apparently hovering in the air in front of him. The purpose of that first sentence is, mainly, to introduce the idea, and reinforce it again and again until the climactic end, that this story is all about the MC being forced to accept what he doesn't want to accept. It also works to introduce character traits and hint at milieu--all in one sentence. Not in-depth, of course, but it is introduced and then built upon with every subsequent sentence.
I'm afraid that for me, the only thing your opening sentence tells me is that the man with no name is pressed for time. But why, and over what? Being forced to consider such questions in a vacuum isn't a way to get me to keep reading.
[ September 19, 2015, 08:07 PM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
There's definitely a sense of urgency here, but without an explanation for said urgency I have a hard time getting into the character's shoes. Also, there are some grammatical issues (the first one I noticed being 'gotta to' in the first paragraph, although that seems more like a matter of editing gone wrong).
I'd like more description of the boss--knowing he has a bald head isn't enough. Does he have male pattern baldness? Does he shave his head? I'd assume he's wearing a suit, but what kind? What's his name?
I agree with extrinsic and Phil that things would flow better if the conflict were introduced earlier and/or more clearly. As things currently stand, I wasn't really drawn in until the last couple of sentences. If a hook had shown up in the first paragraph, something that got me to ask questions that I wanted to see answered, I would be more likely to read on. As it is, I probably wouldn't, but I see potential for improvement.
Posted by Alex B (Member # 10454) on :
I want to gently disagree with Grumpy Old Guy as regards the in medias res opening. Ever read Connie Willis? I think she's a wonderful novelist, one of the most suspenseful writers I know of, and I flounder for the first few pages of each of her books. Part of the joy of the beginnings of her novels is figuring out who's who and what's what.
I also believe the urgency is sufficient here to keep me reading. I'd sooner know the subject of the presentation than what the boss looks like, or whether the MC has stage fright or if something deeper is making him tense.