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Author Topic: Please pull up to the second window.
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Member # 1458

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It was a busy day at the San Francisco Center for Dysmorphic Personalities. Dr. Sherry watched the queue stretch around the lobby in a spiral that's tail ended far outside the entrance. "But I've been waiting for over thirty minutes!" a pretty big-hipped girl was whining. The receptionist at the Order Here desk tried her best to calm her. "I know, I'm sorry Miss, but as you can see we are extraordinarily busy. We'll get a doc jr. with you as soon as possible, but a full session is always the most time-consuming as you know; there are others waiting ahead of you. Are you sure one of our other products wouldn't help?" The girl glanced at the Menu of Services: Measurement, Image Conditioning, Group, Compliments, Cognitive Exercise, One-on-One 1/4, One-on-One 1/2, One-On-One Full, Medication, Surgery.

Dr. Sherry noticed the pain apparent in the girl's face who stood studying the menu and swearing under her breath. Ever since Convenience Medicine and Convenience Therapy became the norm she felt like her chosen career as a psychiatrist was the therapeutic equivalent of shoveling quicksand. It was all she and the Center could do to keep the customers level; to keep them from sinking deeper. She was pretty certain they were failing. "OK, I'll have a quarter and a Medication if I can get in within the hour" said the girl. "You can," said Dina the receptionist, "pay at the next counter and then head into Lobby 2."

Note from Kathleen: please keep posts of your work no longer than the first 13 lines.

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited July 16, 2002).]

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I read the non-edited version - from a personal perspective, it seemed to flow fairly reasonably - kept thinking "Phillip K Dick". But the wandering POV chararcter thoughts about the problems of the services provided seemed to kill the flow - maybe cut to a sentence or two, and reserve a more in-depth consideration for later scene.

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The first sentence is telling rather than showing; the second sentence shows and makes the first sentence somewhat redundant.

When you say " pretty big-hipped girl" do you mean that she was pretty, and she had big hips or that her hips where pretty big? If the latter, that should be made clear.

I like it.

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This piece has an amusing premise, but it doesn't seem to have the exploratory depth for a serious work. As polemic it also fails, becuase there is no convincing evidence that the premise is anything other than a ludicrous and unreasoned hyperbolic extrapolation.

The stylistic problems are less serious, though still points that need to be addressed with individual care, but I would stress first that because the story as it stands only works as broad farce, fixing the stylistic problems is not worth the effort, farce does not need finesse.

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Thanks for your responses. The first and second responses were very helpful, but the third response gave me a good laugh. This was an introduction to a story: the entire premise for the plot was not contained in the opening paragraphs, nor do I believe that it SHOULD necessarily be contained in the opening paragraphs. Believe me, the premise for the story I have is indeed more complex than what was presented in the introduction. I wanted response as to flow, and whether or not sections were confusing, etc. The responses I got along those lines were great.
Also, who says speculative fiction stories can't be funny? Who says that humor and serious subject matter can't go hand-in-hand? I say they can, and there are many great writers who have already paved the way: Harlan Ellison, PKD (who yes, I may be in danger of emulating too much), and Kurt Vonnegut for example.
I may need work on keeping POV clear and other writing technicalities, but I'm keeping my sense of humor intact.

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I certianly hope seriius and funny can go together---my latest SciFI effort is also funny on serious subject. I did not read the unshortened version, but I liked the bit that I did read here.


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"Speculative fiction cannot be funny."

"Humor and serious subject matter can't go hand-in-hand."

It looks like I just said it. I could be wrong. And I'm getting funny looks from the folks in the next cube. Quite possibly the funniest thing I ever saw was in the movie Poltergeist. When he rolls the TV out of the hotel room, what a riot. Spielberg used humor to release tension in that movie. He'd build you up and then release you, over and over again, until the climax when the little girl has been rescued. I remember that being one of the most exhausting movies I've ever sat through.

Real people use humor to relieve tension all the time. Humor in drama, done well, is like a fine spice used to accent the main coarse. And without it, it seems a little bland. It seems angst ridden. Who wants to read about a bunch of gloomy gusses? I suppose the teenage market would really get into it...?

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> The first sentence was telling rather than showing

I'd like to put out the idea that rules like "show, don't tell" are limited in how useful they can be, and are sometimes dead wrong. Sometimes telling is exactly the thing to do (I would argue), as for instance when there is something that happens but where the manner in which it happens doesn't advance the story.

I'm more inclined to suggest that if something throws you off from the story (OSC mentions situations where you don't believe what's going on, you don't understand what's going on, or you don't care what's going on), that focusing on that sort of thing is much more productive than trying to apply such broad rules.


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"Show, don't tell" is more of a cliche than a real rule.

In the case of the first lines of this story, it is also inappropriate. The current level of activity depicted in the SF DP Center should generate some kind of reaction from the POV character, whether she thinks, "gee, where is everybody?" or, "where the &^%$ did all these nutjobs come from?" Having her comment that this was an unusually busy day is entirely appropriate.

It might work a little better if the POV were established firmly before the comment, so that it was clearly her comment rather than an editorial injection from the author, but establishing POV is not an exact science, and if the main character is identified as a clinical specialist working there, maybe her perception of the level of activity is a good place to start establishing her character.

As for the humor aspect, I agree that humor is an essential part of everything. I was simply pointing out that the situation as it is developing here has the qualities of something from a SNL or MAD TV skit, with the POV character as one of the hapless anti-heroes that we all love to mock in their ludicrous misery--i.e., a farce. It takes more than a situation being unusual or unlikely to make it a farce. A situation becomes a farce when any intelligent, courageous, virtuous, beautiful, or otherwise praiseworthy individual would have the sense and means to escape. Thus by implication, those that participate are either willing participants are so utterly stupid, cowardly, vile, ugly, and otherwise unworthy of praise, that we cannot help but laugh at their plight.

Serious subject matter can be handled with a certain gentle humor, but farce is incapable of being taken seriously (hence its appeal). More importantly, from a writer's point of view, a character that stars in a farce can never be very sympathetic, the audience damns such miscreants with laughter.

I know that seems quite harsh, and let me hasten to point out that it only seems to me after reading this fragment that the story is in danger of becoming a farce. But when you present the thesis that in the future all health-care will be administered in the same way that fast food is administered today (and the fact is that actually very little of our food is handled as fast food nowadays--not even all of our fast food is handled as "fast food"), then the onus of demonstrating that this is not a farce falls on you, since that definitely is a farcical premise.

And you only have a limited amount of time before the audience determines that your story is, in point of fact, a farce. As has been pointed out (in justifying the 13 line rule--or as I like to call it, The Imperitive of 13 ), most people decide very quickly whether to keep reading a story, and one of the things that they base their decisions on is what kind of story they think it is going to be. Which means, that if in the first page or so of your story, you present it as being a farce with an anti-heroic protagonist, then the audience that continues reading the story will be unreceptive if you later try to make the story "serious" or generate real sympathy with the POV character.

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