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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Blindness - SF unfinished

   
Author Topic: Blindness - SF unfinished
Nick T
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Hi everyone,

Moved onto another story idea, I've got a much better idea where this one is going. Title is a placeholder.

Regards,

Nick

1st attempt


quote:
Cassandra Laight was halfway through applying her lipstick when she suddenly didn't recognise the face in the mirror. It was a human face, but whether that face was ugly or beautiful, young or old, fat or thin, female or male, she could not say. She could describe every unique detail in isolation, but she could not make sense of the face as a whole. It was only when she noticed the hairband and the bracelet that she realised that she was looking at herself.
She steadied herself against the edge of the basin and tried to understand what she saw. No moment of clarity came. It was like having a word at the tip of her tongue that would not come out. If she had not known it was her, then it could have been anyone.

Second attempt

quote:
Cassandra Laight was halfway through applying lipstick when the plague struck her. Suddenly she didn't recognise the face in the mirror. It was a human face, but whether that face was ugly or beautiful, young or old, fat or thin, female or male, she could not say. She could describe every unique detail in isolation, but she could not make sense of the face as a whole. It was only when she noticed the hairband and the bracelet that she realised that she was looking at herself. One moment, her face was its regular self, and then, suddenly, it no longer made sense.
She steadied herself against the edge of the basin as a great wave of nausea struck her. Her face had not changed, but had she not known it was her, then it could have been anyone.

[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited November 02, 2008).]


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ereitman
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This reads like the beginning of a novelized Oliver Sacks account (see, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Mistook_His_Wife_for_a_Hat). As a medical matter, there's an actual name for what the woman is experiencing. (Visual agnosia, maybe? Any MDs out there?) This doesn't necessarily make the story better or worse, but for me it let a little of the air out of the hook because my first impression was not of anything sci-fi-related.
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honu
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sorta reminds me of alzheimers a bit...I think to state the facts of whats going on tells half the story, but it's not compelling me to care because I don't have a sense of how your char is feeling about what she is seeing...is she confused? horrified? numb? Since you have a mirror there perhaps you can work elements and expressions into your storyline....the face she is seeing looks confused etc...and perhaps build up an emotional escalation? I am mildly curious but need to have a reaction from your char to know what to feel....

[This message has been edited by honu (edited November 01, 2008).]


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philocinemas
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It starts a lot like "Man in the Mirror" by alliedfive.

Is she blind at the beginning and then can suddenly see?
What's happening is not clear.


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Nick T
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Hi everyone,

Posted a second attempt above which hopefully clarifies matters a little. Ereitman has nailed what is happening in the beginning (though I can't quite get the speculative element of the visual agnosia into the 1st 13).

Regards,

Nick


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philocinemas
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I like the changes.

I felt the following line was overkill: "One moment, her face was its regular self, and then, suddenly, it no longer made sense."

I would omit that line and somehow fix "herself" appearing twice close together.


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snapper
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The prose is fine, no issues with it. The problem is I am having trouble buying into your premise and it all stems from this line.

quote:
It was a human face, but whether that face was ugly or beautiful, young or old, fat or thin, female or male, she could not say.

I can't wondering if she recognized that the face is human, why can't she recognize the differences of beauty, age, health, or sex?
There are one of two things happening from my perspective.

1) She has a sudden loss of memory.
Even if that is the case a person would know if the person in the mirror were old, a woman, etc, etc...

2) She is suddenly being possesed by somethinglike an alien.
The biggest problem with that is it's a POV switch. The first line being of Cassandra's.

Hope this helps.


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Nick T
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Hi Snapper,

Thanks for the feedback, you've always provided excellent critiques.

I'll break with the convention of "arguing" with critiquers to note that visual agnosia (or more specifically Prosopagnosia) is a very real condition. People with some forms of prosopagnosia sometimes can't work out attributes such as age or gender from a face, though they can tell it's human from what I can gather. It's like being unable to guess the age or gender of an animal from a photo. From what I've read, you can tell it's an animal, but you can't get the finer details.

It really does show how interesting the human brain is when something fundamental like this falls apart.

My challenge is to make those real facts plausible within the first 13 and I'd love any suggestions that could make this happen.

Regards,

Nick

[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited November 02, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited November 02, 2008).]


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snapper
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I was not aware of such a thing exsisted. Learn something new everyday.
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Nick T
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Hi,

Interesting isn't it? I think a lot of readers are going to have your reaction though, so I'm not sure how to tell the story correctly without losing them in the first 13.

Nick


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philocinemas
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Nick - you most likely know this, but there are varying degrees of this disability.

Though I've never been diagnosed, I suffer from a mild form of this where it takes several meetings with a person for his/her facial features to be imprinted in my memory. Some are easier than others - bald heads, mustaches, and other distinguishing features help. If I meet a person outside the environment I am accustomed to seeing them, especially if they typically where a uniform, I also have difficulties. I have learned to compensate in various ways over the years. This disability was a real challenge for me when I was selling cars. I basically acted like I knew people whenever I met them.


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Nick T
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Hi Philocinemas,

Yes, I've read that somewhere between 2 to 10% of the population naturally suffers a mild form. I'm going more for the non-congenital form that usually results from catastrophic damage to the temporal lobes rather than a relative "underdevelopment" of the fusiform gyrus (i.e. people who find it difficult tracking who is who in a movie, etc.).

Anyway, it's making the story hell from a POV perspective.

Regards,

Nick

[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited November 02, 2008).]


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ereitman
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Comments:

1. I like the new passage. Definitely an improvement!
2. Giving her condition a name, "the plague," makes me think that she knows what it is. I immediately have the sense that the plague is a known thing in her world and that once she recovers from the initial shock, she'll realize she's been hit by "the plague." If that's your intention, awesome. If not, if you want to set up a scenario where she doesn't know what's happened, then I would cut out "the plague struck her" and just combine the first two sentences. E.g., "Cassandra Laight was halfway through applying lipstick when she realized she didn't recognize the face in the mirror."
3. Double-check the medical details. Beauty/Ugly (and to a slightly lesser extent male/female) are social constructs that implicate value judgments. Young/old and fat/thin are more objective. Would prosopagnosia (sp?) give her both types of problems. I have no idea what the right answer is here, but it's worth googling just to make sure.
4. "One moment, her face was its regular self, and then, suddenly, it no longer made sense." No specific suggestion here. It's just not that powerful a sentence.


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Nick T
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Hi Ereitman,

In the visual agnosia I'm proposing, the afflicted can't distinguish faces upon any kind of categorical axis at all; it's a failure to make the individual components into a semantically meaningful whole.

As such, whether beauty/gender is socially constructed or not (which I disagree with to a certain degree; symmetry and skin clarity is pretty consistently selected as being markers of beauty across all cultures, even very isolated ones) is irrelevant to whether a face is distinguishable from another on the individual's construction of "beauty". Obviously this would rely upon a pretty catastrophic malfunction of the relevant area of the temporal lobe, but there have been a handful of cases which seem of a similar order.

Cheers,

Nick


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Broda
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I like where this is going but a suggestion:

If POV is Cassandra, show what happens don't tell what happens. Have her focus on individual features and try to make sense of it - anguish over the fact she can't "put it all together." I know I would be freaked out if something like this happened. What is her response?


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snapper
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quote:
I'm not sure how to tell the story correctly without losing them in the first 13.

I can feel your dilemma. How do you open this without violating the POV and make it hook? I have an idea, see what you think.

quote:
Cassandra didn't recognise the face in the mirror. It wore lipstick that was half-applied in a bathroom that smelled damp and musty. She couldn't tell if the face was ugly, beautiful, young, old, fat, thin, female, or male. She could describe every unique detail in isolation, but she could not make sense of the face as a whole. It was only when she noticed the hairband and the bracelet that she realised that face was hers.

A moment before, she was a person going about her morning routine. Now, nothing made sense.



Not great but maybe this sould give you a direction to go in.
Hope this helps


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Nick T
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Hi Snapper,

Thanks, great suggestions. I'd started working along the lines of your suggested re-write. I fear it's one of those stories where my ambition outstrips my ability to write, but them's the breaks.

Nick


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Rosalie005
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Hey Nick,
I liked the story. As always I just have some suggested sentence movements.

...Suddenly, she didn't recognize the face in the mirror. It no longer made sense.
She was sure it was a human face, but whether that face was ugly or beautiful, .... She could describe every unique detail in isolation; she knew the eyes were brown and the mouth was thin. ... It was only when she noticed the hair-band and the bracelet that she realized that she was looking at herself. Her face hadn't changed but for all she knew it could have been anyone's.
As a great wave of nausea struck her she steadied herself against the edge of the basin.

The last sentence felt off to me, as if it didn't fit at the end of the 13 lines. As always if you would like I'd be happy to read the story.


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Nick T
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Hi Rosalie,

Thanks for the feedback, greatly appreciated.

This story will be put on hold for a month or two as I'm going on a five week honeymoon. I'm happy to send it to you next year.

Regards,

Nick


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Congratulations, Nick T, and best wishes.
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Nick T
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Thank you very much Kathleen

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