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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » dark sci fi

   
Author Topic: dark sci fi
Sara Genge
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Hi, here's the first 13 of a 2000 word story. It's a recording of the mind of a psycho. It's not up for readers yet.
Tell me what you think

She was a pretty little thing, lithe, dark. She swung her hair just so, without a care in the world, not a hint of tension to betray the inherent danger of the situation, a young girl taking the metro at night, alone.
I imagined she had a boyfriend. She was too hot not to. What kind of man would let her walk home alone at night? Some teen kid, surely, someone who didn't know what the world was like or didn't value her enough. If she were mine I'd protect her. I'd help her onto the 40 kph conveyor belts so she wouldn't have to take off her high heeled shoes. I'd accompany her home. That's what a decent man would do.
She wore nano; daddy had shelled out quite a bit for the bots that pressed her clothes to her skin in just the right places, showing off her not-quite-ripe figure.


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wbriggs
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I would like to know about MC, rather than figure him out. E.g., in paragraph 2, I found out there was a narrator. Later I deduced he was a man. I'm still not sure where he is. On the platform? On the belt? Watching a security camera? What's he doing -- coming home from a nightclub, cruising the metro for victims --?

Easily fixed, of course. "I stood on the platform at the metro, people-watching." Or something.

I think if I knew that, I would like this. You've got the psychological significance of the image of the girl nailed, and it has just a whisper of creepy.

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited July 15, 2006).]


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TMan1969
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I agree with mbriggs wrt the MC and I would love to point out that you have written beautiful imagery from the POV of the MC though.
Keep up the good work!


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MaryRobinette
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Ditto Will.

The only nit that made me pause was wondering if there were transition belts up to 40kph or if one was supposed to jump from standing to full-speed.


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Survivor
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40 kph is only about 25 mph, so that would be possible for a healthy young person wearing the proper footgear. It wouldn't be very easy for anyone else, though.

Personally, I just didn't think there was much I'd like about this story, given the person/character choice.


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Rilnian
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Very interesting! My only nit was the line "She was too hot not too". You had beautiful imagery until then, and that line throws me off. I do agree it should tell some about the MC, and should jump to something concerning the two of her. Maybe starting it with "I couldn't help but to 'do to her whatever he does/hint at what he did'".

Also, instead of teen kid, maybe throw in a stereotype of a different kind. Try instead of using an ignorant boyfriend maybe the alternative of someone who is a problem, and forces her into situations like this, if you understand me.

Fun to help, look forward to seeing the rest, tell me when you want readers.


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The Beast
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I might have started thus - with this punctuation (but that's a very personal thing so do what you want not what other English "experts" tell you):

I imagined she had a boyfriend. She was too hot not to. [I had no problem with that, it added to the picture of the MC.] She was a pretty little thing [condescending?]. Lithe. Dark. Swung her hair just so, without a care in the world. Not a hint of tension to betray the inherent danger of the situation: a young girl taking the metro at night, alone.
What kind of man would let her travel home on her own at night? Some teen kid, surely. Someone who didn't know what the world was like or didn't value her enough. If she were mine I'd protect her. I'd help her onto the 40 kph conveyor belts so she wouldn't have to take off her high heels. I'd take her home. That's what a decent man would do.
She wore nano. Daddy had shelled out quite a bit for the bots

[This message has been edited by Second Assistant (edited July 19, 2006).]


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thexmedic
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Personally, I really like The Beast's edit, except I'd stick the last 2 sentences after the words "Lithe. Dark." and then I think you'd have to start the sentence "Swung her hair just so..." with the word "She."

That could just be me of course... Anyway, hope this helps.


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Novice
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I've had to think about this one a while. I can't decide, but something about the tense bothers me. You start out "She was" and "She swung" and "I imagined". All past tense. Then you switch to a kind of future-in-past tense, "What kind of man would let her..." and "If she were mine, I'd protect her" and "I'd help her." I think I'd be more comfortable with the last statements being phrased in past perfect tense, even though normally I'd argue against using past perfect.

I'm sorry if I've confused the issue, because the most honest statement I can make is that "the tense bothers me". As for trying to name the trouble, or fix it...I've done the best I can. It would be helpful if I was a grammar whiz, but I'm clearly not. Maybe someone else will chime in, and either clarify things, or bust me for being wrong wrong wrong.

My only other problem is the apparent incongruity between where this plot seems to be heading, and the appearance of thoughts such as, "I'd accompany her home. That's what a decent man would do."

I probably wouldn't keep reading, but only because the subject matter bothers me. There's nothing in the mechanics that would make me put it down.


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Sara Genge
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Let's see if I can fix this

She cought my eye as soon as she skipped into the train. I was tired, but I just had to look.
She was a pretty little thing, lithe, dark. She swung her hair just so, without a care in the world, not a hint of tension to betray the inherent danger of the situation, a young girl taking the metro at night, alone.
I imagined she had a boyfriend. Her type always do. She probably enjoyed having a whimpering teenager fretting over her tantrums. What kind of man, other than a teen, would let her walk home alone at night? No, it had to be someone who didn't know what the world was like or didn't value her enough.
If she were mine I'd protect her. I'd help her onto the 25 kph conveyor belts so she wouldn't have to take off her high heeled shoes. I'd accompany her home. That's what a decent man would do.
She wore nano; daddy had shelled out quite a bit for the bots that pressed her clothes to her skin in just the right places, showing off her not-quite-ripe figure.

I got the idea of the 40 kph from a 18kph conveyor they have in Montparnasse (Paris). It accelerates you until you reach full cruise speed (they're a "propeller" conveyor belt that drops you off into the 18kph one already accelerated to that speed)
It's really cool, I suppose if the distance was longer they'd eventually work it up to 40, but you're probably right that as for now it kills believability.

The line break probably doesn't take care of the tense problem but I can't think of anything better.I don't like past perfect as a general rule. Did anyone else have a problem with it? If it's confusing people it might be a necesary change.


[This message has been edited by Sara Genge (edited July 19, 2006).]

[This message has been edited by Sara Genge (edited July 19, 2006).]


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oliverhouse
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The Beast's opening and your second opening immediately show that there's a first-person narrator. As wbriggs pointed out, it's generally jolting to get "I" starting in paragraph two. I think that made a big difference.

I had a little bit of a problem with the opening as a whole, and Novice nailed it. I'm not an English major, but the original and both rewrites have tense issues; the "future-in-past tense" Novice sees are really present-tense conditionals.

It's easiest to see if you break it apart. I'm using the Beast's version because that's what I copied and pasted first.

> I imagined ... She was ... She was ... Swung ...

Starts with first person POV, past tense.

> a young girl taking the metro

Slight dip into present, but that's the narrator's statement of the situation as a situation (i.e., it's essentially a noun phrase). It's not an observation from the narrator's point of view, so it's okay.

> ...man would let her travel...

Present. It's muddied by the conditional, but past would be "would have let her travel".

> Someone who didn't know... didn't value...

Past.

> If she were mine

This is where the hangup happened, I think. "Were" sounds like past tense, but it's not in this case: it's present tense, subjunctive mood. The subjunctive is a conditional generally associated (in my mind at least) with "if" and "I wish".

> I'd protect her.

Present, clearly, and therefore more jarringly.

The reason "If she were mine, I'd protect her" sounds okay as a sentence is that it agrees: both parts are present tense. The past tense version of this sentence is "If she had been mine, I'd have protected her."

From there on you're using present tense conditionals until you get to "She wore nano", at which point you're back in the past.

Changing nothing but tenses, we get:

quote:
I imagined she had a boyfriend. She was too hot not to. She was a pretty little thing. Lithe. Dark. Swung her hair just so, without a care in the world. Not a hint of tension to betray the inherent danger of the situation: a young girl taking the metro at night, alone.

What kind of man would have let her travel home on her own at night? Some teen kid, surely. Someone who didn't know what the world was like or didn't value her enough. If she'd been mine I'd have protected her. I'd have helped her onto the 40 kph conveyor belts so she wouldn't have had to take off her high heels. I'd have taken her home. That's what a decent man would have done.

She wore nano. Daddy had shelled out quite a bit for the bots...


There's a really evil Web page that explains conditionals:
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conditional.htm

It contains the first incidence I've ever seen of the Mister-Writing-Personesque term "habitual present conditional" -- apparently in dead seriousness. Fortunately, the examples are fairly clear.

Having said all of that, this is your narrator's voice, and it's possible that he wouldn't talk the way I've described. The voice is your call, as always.

Do I win an award for the most pedantically overexplained post of 2006?

Regards,
Oliver

[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited July 19, 2006).]


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Sara Genge
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No you don't because it wasn't overexplained at all, I'm still figuring the grammar out.
I don't know where to go from here. I think present perfect slows the narrative down. Also, it doesn't feel like the way a normal person would talk.
I'm going to give some thought to this. Maybe the easiest thing to do, is rewrite the problem paragraph...
I wish I had payed attention in English class.
Thanks!

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oliverhouse
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Consider just getting rid of the conditionals -- the "if I'd" sentences. I think that's where it starts to sound weird. Is there another way to express that?

If not, maybe you let the weirdness stay. As you say, it's your narrator speaking, not a grammarian.

Or maybe you add another grammatical tic to his speech, something not too crazy but more noticeable than just the sentence fragments you have (because they're so common). He's insane anyway, right?

[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited July 20, 2006).]


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Novice
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I think the root of your problem is that you are trying to convey an internal dialogue. Dialogue is always present tense, even in past tense text. So your tense problem would go away if you used quotation marks. i.e. "I imagined she had a boyfriend. I thought, 'Her type always do. But what kind of man would let her walk home alone, at night? If she were mine, I'd protect her.'..."

Another possible solution is to bring the entire text into present tense. I'm sure there are other solutions.


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Sara Genge
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Hmmm
I was avoiding present tense. I always write in present tense, it's an illness I think.

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Sara Genge
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Hi
I have a preliminary finished draft on this story. Readers? I'll be honest, this story needs work, so if you're not up to reading mediocrity today don't ask for it. I would fix it, if I could, but I'm pretty stuck, so I do need those crits.
Thanks!

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thexmedic
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I'll read.
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Sara Genge
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sent
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thayerds
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If present tense is really a disease then I'd like to see the symptoms. I'll read it.
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Sara Genge
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Ok, I'll send it in... except I went and put almost all the story in past tense. I couln't decide between the two, as one character was written in past tense and the others in present.
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Sara Genge
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The story is now in past tense, first person. Anyone else interested?
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