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Author Topic: Money Grab - First 13
mfreivald
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Title: Money Grab
Word Count: Estimated 4000 (Only just started it.)

I have a few concerns about this, so I'm anxious to see how you respond to them. I did cheat just a smidge to make the last line fit in the first 13, but I think the cheat is actually an improvement.

BEGIN:
Sal Palermo's irritation with his mother increased as they watched the show "Money Grab." It was all the rage, but it was stupid. The contestant was given two boxes. The only rule was that you keep any money you find in the boxes that you open.

"Mom, I think 'Keeping Up Appearances' is on channel 26."

She didn't bite.

To Sal's chagrin, he found himself getting caught up in the contrived build-up of excitement and tension. What would the doddering Mr. Gardner get? The two boxes were marked "1" and "2." Box number two always had two thousand dollars in it, so a contestant could at least be sure of that. You might expect every player to simply open both of the boxes and take what was there, but there was a catch.
END


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Lianne
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Hi,
I was interested enough in the first couple of lines to keep reading but the last few lines lost me. It may be because I'm tired as I found the writing fine. But I think too much description not enough grab?
Lianne

Sal Palermo's irritation with his mother increased as they watched the show (more forceful statement?) "Money Grab." It was all the rage, but it was stupid. The contestant was given two boxes. The only rule was that you "kept" any money you "found" in the boxes that you "opened".

"Mom, I think 'Keeping Up Appearances' is on channel 26."

She didn't bite.

This last paragraph loses me entirely...maybe needs a slight rewrite to catch reader interest...also whats the conflict - apart from who gets the remote?

To Sal's chagrin, he found himself getting caught up in the contrived build-up of excitement and tension. What would the doddering Mr. Gardner get? The two boxes were marked "1" and "2." Box number two always had two thousand dollars in it, so a contestant could at least be sure of that. You might expect every player to simply open both of the boxes and take what was there, but there was a catch.

[This message has been edited by Lianne (edited May 29, 2007).]


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darklight
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Is the game 'Money Grab' the plot of this story, or is it Sal and his mother?

I ask because if its the game, then why not be there in the game instead of watching it on TV. If its Sal and his mother, there's too much info on the game and I begin to lose interest toward the end. I don't feel anything for these characters, I know nothing about them.

quote:
Sal Palermo's irritation with his mother increased.
I don't feel this; show how the iritation increases, show how he begins to get cuaght up in the game.

Hope this helps.

[This message has been edited by darklight (edited May 29, 2007).]


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Marzo
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In general, the writing is clear accessible. Here are a few impressions:

I didn't like the use of "all the rage" - try and avoid clichés like that.

I hope an impression of Sal's age is shortly after these lines, because from reading this I can't get a clear conception of whether or not this is a mid-30s businessman watching the tube with his aging mother, letting her have the remote out of respect, or a young teenager in his mom's house under her rules, with no power over the remote whatsoever. I think establishing that dynamic early on (if you haven't already) could add more vivacity to the intro scene.

quote:
To Sal's chagrin, he found himself getting caught up in the contrived build-up of excitement and tension.

I liked that he finds himself pulled in against his will - it suggests that he has some manner of superiority complex (or at least tries to avoid watching evening TV reality shows), and this hint at character makes me want to know more about Sal.

I can tell (or at least, I imagine) you're building up to something interesting by the end of the first few lines, but this is still a "sitting and watching TV" scene that might get flagged up there with "waking up," "driving to work," and "dream sequence" scenes as something of a no-no for starting out with a punch.

It didn't put me to sleep, but it didn't snatch my attention from the get-go.

How about dropping the line about the 'catch' nearer the beginning, and backtracking to explain that Sal is watching this "stupid" show with his mom? That way, while the reader is getting the layout and the bits of dialogue, they already have the niggling question in the back of their head: What's this catch?

The desire to know what it is will ensure they keep reading.


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InarticulateBabbler
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No hook for me.

We're reading about somebody watching television. There isn't even a hint of why that's important.


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Wolfe_boy
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I'm alright with it so far. I'll read on for about the first page, so you've got me that far.

I was thinking as I read it, though, that instead of the narrator describing the rules, have the game show's host recite the rules. Lord knows every bloody game show/reality show out there does the same thing. How many times have you heard Howie recite the exact situation the player is in on Deal or No Deal. I find it annoying, but it is what's common, and will allow for an extra voice in the opening part of your story.

Just a suggestion. Sounds good so far. The writing is personable and direct, if utilitarian. I assume that was a stylistic choice. Good work.

Jayson Merryfield

[This message has been edited by Wolfe_boy (edited May 29, 2007).]


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DebbieKW
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Please realize that I don't watch TV and therefore am coming at this from a unique viewpoint.

quote:
Sal Palermo's irritation with his mother increased as they watched the show "Money Grab."

He's irritated with his mother before the show? If so, I'm interested to find out why. Or did you mean that irritation originating with the show and then increased thereafter (despite the fact he gets interested in the show)?

quote:
It was all the rage, but it was stupid.

I like this fellow! My thoughts exactly. However, if he doesn't want to watch this TV show, why doesn't he go do something else or watch the TV in the next room or at a friends house?

quote:
The contestant was given two boxes. The only rule was that you keep any money you find in the boxes that you open. .... The two boxes were marked "1" and "2." Box number two always had two thousand dollars in it, so a contestant could at least be sure of that. You might expect every player to simply open both of the boxes and take what was there, but there was a catch.

I was interested in learning the rest of the rules of the game mainly because they don't make sense to me from what you've given us. The contestant has to keep the money in the boxes they open? One would assume that they get to keep the money since making money the main objective of most game shows. However, the way you state this makes me think there is a major draw-back to keeping the money you win. If there is, then you have me interested. But, no, I wouldn't expect every player to open both boxes. Most game shows that I know about are an either-or proposition. Either you choice this door or that door, this letter or that letter, this challenge or that challenge, etc. At this point, I'm expecting this non-traditional sounding game show to be totally traditional but just written about oddly. If so, then I've lost interest the second I confirm that. As others have said, there are no stakes for our POV character. If I wouldn't watch this show in real life, why would I waste my time reading about it?


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oliverhouse
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Hmmm...

If you've just started, I'd say finish it first before polishing this any further than you have. There's a hook here -- why would anyone _not_ open both boxes, and why would anyone _not_ want to keep all the money? -- that will take me onto the second page. Is there more that you need to know about it right now?


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mfreivald
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oliverhouse,

Nope. Thanks for the reaction. I think that's good for now. I've gotten such a variety of reactions to it that I have a lot to think about to rewrite the first thirteen. But I'm already following your advice and moving forward with the story. I'll rework and repost it after the main story is finished.

And thanks to Lianne, darklight, Marzo, InarticulateBabbler, Wolfe_boy, and DebbieKW for your comments. All of them are valuable to me. If I wasn't so busy with other things, I would have responded to them and discussed some things by now.

Mark


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mfreivald
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Below is a new attempt on my first 13. I am also looking for any interested critiquers for the whole thing.

Title: Money Grab
Word Count: Approximately 5200

I think I have addressed some of the concerns from before, but not all. The economy of the first 13 makes it difficult. I'm still mulling them and open to suggestions.

FIRST 13:
Dave Palermo's irritation with his bedridden mother increased as they watched "Money Grab." It was an enormously popular game show, but it was stupid. The contestant was given two boxes. The one rule was that you kept any money you found in the boxes.

"Mom, I think Keeping Up Appearances is on channel 26."

She didn't bite. He remained a captive audience caring for her.

To Dave's chagrin, he found himself getting caught up in the contrived build-up of excitement and tension. What would the doddering contestant, Mr. Gardner, get? The two boxes were marked "1" and "2." Box number two always had two thousand dollars in it, so a contestant could at least be sure of that. You might expect every player to simply open both of the boxes and take what was there, but there was a catch.
END - FIRST 13

This first thirteen is very quickly followed with Dave deciding to apply to play the game so that he can get the $2,000 for a medical procedure for his mother. And you learn what the catch is, of course.

As always, I greatly appreciate any contribution.

ciao,
Mark

[This message has been edited by mfreivald (edited June 05, 2007).]


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mfreivald
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Okay. Perhaps I can generate some interest with a little more of a teaser.

This game show is a publicity show for the company Balotek and its new technology, Future Look. A technology that, yes, let's them see into the future. Balotek tells us that Future Look is in the beginning phases of development, but they have it to the point where they can see what the contestant does in the duration of the program. Because of the technology, the rather silly show becomes a bit of a psychological puzzle.

If the judges of the show see that the contestant is going to open box #2 with the guaranteed $2000, they leave box #1 empty. If, however, they see that the contestant did not open box #2, the judges will fill box #1 with a million dollars. Still sound silly? Well, it might be - but it sets up some interesting psychological paradoxes that the contestant has to work through in order to "manipulate future choices."

This is a story about Dave Palermo, who is going to play the game. He is in desperate need of $2000 to provide a procedure for his mother that will alleviate the pain she is in.

Any suggestions on the first 13? Any readers?

ciao,
Mark


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lehollis
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The title is okay, though some might find it bordering on cliché.

My primary concern is I don't feel hooked. I believe the reason is that we have a POV character, Sal, but nothing is going on with him. Any hook that exists concerns the person on the television. Without a connection, it's hard to care about Sal. I need a reason to care about either Sal or the person TV (and a connection to that person if that is the case.)

There's a catch? That hooked me, a little, but it doesn't involve the POV character.

I assume the setting is a living room.

I think it could be tightened up and made more active.

"She didn't bite." Okay, you told us she didn't bite, but what did she do? I'm not a big "show don't tell" writer, but here is a good place where some action would have told us something about the characters. It is one thing to say she didn't bite, but how she doesn't bite might tell us something. This applies to more than just this line. The irritation grows, but what is he doing?

As for your information about the show itself, I think you need to start at the beginning. When Sal watches the show on television, that is not the beginning. When his mother needs an operation, that could be a beginning. When he's on the show trying to get enough money to save his mother, that could be a beginning. Some writers use the advice to start as close to the end as you can--to a degree, that makes sense (but it can get silly if you take it too literally.)

I would say look for the strongest possible beginning and go from that point.


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nitewriter
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I think this idea is too much like present day "behind the door" shows like The Price is Right and others. I think you need to amp up the stakes here. Maybe the show is state sponsored and he "won" the "right" to play through a lottery - and those picked have no choice but to play. If he picks the right door, his mother gets the procedure. if he picks the wrong door, she is "parted out" in order to provide body parts for those who win. This is only an idea - it might not even be tenable, but I hope it illustrates that you need some higher stakes going on here that will hold the attention of the reader.
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debhoag
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I did the idea = remember Running Man? I think King wrote, if I'm not mistaken. Twisted futuristic opiate for the masses in which death is a real possibility. It was cool. Richard the family feud guy played the sleazy gameshow host.

My actual nit is that if they always put $2000 in box 2, and if they see the guy does not pick box 2, they put millions in box 1, then there would never be any reason to choose box 2 - unless some type of life threatening challenge is then imposed on you before you can walk off with the cash.

I'm hoping that this is it, cause that would be exciting. So the actual choice would be take the safe 2 grand, or take the other box and possibly die. I am assuming that the company would also be able to see if the contestant gets killed. Then the deal would be that they keep changing the challenge until they see for sure that a (financially) reasonable portion of candidates will die. And how do they choose who's going to live or die - it's like a Russian Roulette.

Does anyone remember a short story (maybe asimov or bradbury) where soldiers compete in an arena in a fight to the death, and the winner gets anything he wants, ever for the rest of his life? And cannot be prosecuted for anything he does? You win the contest, and you have complete freedom and unlimited resources. That was a cool idea, and the money was secondary to the complete absolution one achieved for any future act.


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Lolo
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I have to admit, I'm confused as to what "manipulating future choices" means. I'm interested, but confused. But maybe it will be more clear in the story. I'd read more just to find out what that's all about. But, that's based on the summary, not the first 13. I agree with lehollis that you need a stronger beginning point.

The only other thing I would comment on is that in your first 13, your MC's main emotion is irritation. He seems to feel resentful about being trapped into caring for his bedridden mother. I would be surprised that he would be willing to go on this show he hates (and possibly invovles some risk) solely for her benefit--unless the operation will mean he doesn't have to care for her anymore?

I'll read, but--I just volunteered to do somebody else's too, so it'll take me a couple of weeks. Unless you just want quick first impressions, that I could do in a couple of days.


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mfreivald
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This one is difficult. In order to hook you, I need to show the character is going to be engaged in this game show, but it is a little complicated to understand, so an explanation in the first 13 is inadequate to get a real feel for it. Here is another shot at it, but I think I need to find a better way. (Finkel, Einhorn; Einhorn, Finkel.)

Does this attempt lose or gain in interest?

Why would anyone want to watch this stupid game show? Dave Palermo sighed and fluttered his eyes. His sister would not relieve him from tending his bedridden mother for another hour. He was a captive audience. To his chagrin, he started to get taken in by the contrived build up of excitement and tension.

"Mom, I think Keeping up Appearances is on channel 26."

"Shush! He's about to open it."

In the game show, Money Grab, the money a contestant found in two boxes depended upon what the judges saw in the future. If the contestant opened box number two, which always had two thousand dollars, they left box number one empty. Otherwise, they filled box number one with one million dollars. They kept what they found. Stupid. But Dave thought he could beat it.


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lehollis
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quote:
But Dave thought he could beat it.

Overall, I like this version better. This line works as a hook. The only caveat I, personally, have left is that he seems bored and disgusted, but he thinks he can beat it. My first thought was that if it were me--and I'm obviously not Dave--was that if I had figured out some trick to beating a game show, I would perk up and be more interested in it. I would be thinking hard about if I could really beat it and watching to see if there was anything I missed. That's just my gut reaction.

Perhaps it might work if it were more a sudden realization.

quote:
"Mom, I think Keeping up Appearances is on channel 26."

"Shush! He's about to open it."


I like this better, too.


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InarticulateBabbler
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It's better. However, I have one major nit:

quote:

In the game show, Money Grab, the money a contestant found in two boxes depended upon what the judges saw in the future. If the contestant opened box number two, which always had two thousand dollars, they left box number one empty. Otherwise, they filled box number one with one million dollars. They kept what they found. Stupid. But Dave thought he could beat it.

If this was widely known -- from the PoV's perspective (disliking the show) -- why would anyone choose box #2?


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mfreivald
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quote:
If this was widely known -- from the PoV's perspective (disliking the show) -- why would anyone choose box #2?

That is the question! This does get explained shortly after the first 13. The short version is - if they find the first box empty, the only money they can get is in box number 2, so they get what they can. This story is actually based on a paradox that is well known in decision theory.

The protagonist is going to go through great lengths to position himself psychologically so that he absolutely will not open box #2 no matter what. But it is especially difficult for him because he *has* to have the $2000 to alleviate his mother's pain. (Which is explained shortly after the first 13.)

There are other paradoxes, too. For example - if someone already has the $1,000,000 in box one - what is to stop him from raiding the rest of the cash in box number 2? The story explores that, as well.

I'm beginning to think this story might actually be too complicated to be marketable. It's a story that is a puzzle, so the market may be very narrow for it. But - what the heck - I'm enjoying it.


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mfreivald
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quote:
The only caveat I, personally, have left is that he seems bored and disgusted, but he thinks he can beat it.

He does actually perk up. But not because he is more interested in the game itself. He perks up because he thinks he has found a way to get the money to pay for a procedure to alleviate his mother's pain.


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kings_falcon
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I had IB's question. If the POV can figure out that box 1 will have a million in it, why would anyone ever pick box 2?

This version is better. I liked the Mom/David interplay. I would probably give it a few more lines before I made my mind up about it.

quote:

Why would anyone want to watch this stupid game show? Dave Palermo sighed and fluttered POV violation? I don't think he's think of it this way. "Rolled" would work better for me, unless you are trying to indicate sexual orientation. "Fluttered" isn't very manly, IMHO his eyes. His sister would not relieve him from tending his thier bedridden mother for another hour. He was a her i.e. mom's captive audience. To his chagrin POV? , he started to get taken in by the contrived build up of excitement and tension. show me this rather than telling. Maybe - a line of dialog showing he's getting sucked in. ex - "Oh for dog's sake, pick box 1 you moron."

"Mom, I think Keeping up Appearances is on channel 26."

"Shush! He's about to open it."

In the game show you don't need to say "game" again, you already did it , Money Grab, the money a contestant found in two boxes depended upon what the judges saw in the future. Hu? Like if they'd need the money, the judges would put the Million in If the contestant opened box number two, which always had two thousand dollars, they left box number one empty. Otherwise, they filled box number one with one million dollars. They this still refers to the judges kept what they found.

Stupid.

But Dave thought he could beat it what. The system? The future? The game? .


IMHO, make the "stupid" and his follow on thought separate paragraphs for impact.

quote:
The short version is - if they find the first box empty, the only money they can get is in box number 2, so they get what they can. . . .There are other paradoxes, too. For example - if someone already has the $1,000,000 in box one - what is to stop him from raiding the rest of the cash in box number 2? The story explores that, as well.


So the contestant gets to open both boxes? Is the only tension in the game who gets to open the boxes?

What doesn't gel for me is the MC's description of the game. All game show "games" can be broken down down into a ten second sound bit - ex You spin the big wheel and the contestant closest to a dollar without going over is in the Showcase Showdown. - We'll miss you Bob Barker.

I liked the idea of the host of the show describing the 10 second rules of the final round. Then you can weave the MC's thought - "I can beat "it" " - into that narrative.

It might be too much of a story for a short. But it could be very marketable. Da Vinci Code was a story that is a puzzle.

Write it and see where it goes. When you are looking for readers feel free to send it to me.



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mfreivald
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quote:
Write it and see where it goes.

It's already written, so I'll send it to you.

The issues you have in your last point make it clear that I can't explain the game with so few words. Hopefully it will make more sense after you read it.

Thanks,
Mark


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