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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » One Part Per Million

   
Author Topic: One Part Per Million
snapper
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Reworking an old story. Would appreciate any and all comments


quote:
Ben Hurtle lay curled in the fetal position on the couch in his dank and dusty apartment staring at the gun under a towel on the coffee table. He didn’t need to see it anymore. His nose could now probe and caress the weapon in ways his fingers never could. He smelled the gun oil that lubricated the gears, trigger, and springs within, the gunpowder inside the shells in its clip, and the metal shavings and powder burns inside the barrel the last time it was fired, years ago.
It needs to be cleaned.
He giggled. He’d let the next owner worry about that. It would take them plenty of time to scrub out the dirt and his brain matter that would be lodged in the barrel.


version 2


quote:
Ben Hurtle lay curled in the fetal position on the couch in his dusty apartment. His hands covered his face and fingers pinched his nose as he tried to shut the world out. He drew in a quick breath and caught a familiar scent through the noxious ones he tried to block out. Ben rose, walked to the door and inhaled.
Pine scented deodorant, mint flavored mouthwash, dandruff shampoo with a coconut conditioner.
He threw the door open. A startled Howard Lumpant stood the hallway with his fist drawn back, ready to knock. Ben yanked in the startled bio-engineer into the confines of his dark apartment and slammed the door shut. He quickly locked the door and latched the series of chains and deadbolts.

Version 3

quote:
Ben lay curled in the fetal position on the couch in his dusty apartment. He pinched his nose and held his breath as he tried to shut the world out. Bruises were all his clamped fingers could accomplish. His lungs begged for air. He drew in a quick breath and caught a familiar scent through the noxious ones.
Ben rose, walked to the door and inhaled. Pine scented deodorant, mint mouthwash, shampoo with a citrus extract.
He threw the door open. Howard stood in the hallway with his fist drawn back, ready to knock. Ben yanked the startled bio-engineer into the confines of his dark apartment and slammed the door shut. He locked the door and latched the series of chains and deadbolts.


[This message has been edited by snapper (edited November 09, 2009).]


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Dark Warrior
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quote:
clip

Techinical point- It is a magazine, not a clip. Clips havent been manufactured in decades...unless the gun is an M-1 carbine, then 'clip' would be correct.

I got the impression from it laying under a towel on a coffee table that it was a handgun, but since it hadn't been fired in years then it could be an M-1.


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snapper
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Got it. Magazine it is.

Thanks


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BenM
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Ben Hurtle lay curled in the fetal position on the couch in his dank and dusty apartment staring at the gun under a towel on the coffee table.
My eyes stopped and tried to make Ben Hurtle lay curled into a rhyme. The sense of verse here continued with a perceived alliteration in dank and dusty. I also wondered at the placement of in his dank and dusty apartment. Removed, and replaced with a comma, this sentence gained a sense of immediacy for me.

He smelled the gun oil that lubricated the gears, trigger, and springs within, the gunpowder inside the shells in its clip, and the metal shavings and powder burns inside the barrel the last time it was fired, years ago.
The clause and springs within seemed awkward at this place in the list of smells. Perhaps it's meant to signify springs within the trigger assembly but maybe it's a problem with me identifying what it's within? Also, can you smell gunpowder inside the shells? I'd have thought you were really smelling the burnt remains of previous firings, or possibly gunpowder residue on the outside of the shells or inside the magazine. Also, 'inside the barrel (from) the last time' seems to read better with the from joining the clauses.

It needs to be cleaned.
Read fine to me, but passive voice nazis may prefer 'it needs cleaning'?

He giggled.
Giggled seemed hard to place at this point. A wry or ironic smile might work better?

He’d let the next owner worry about that. It would take them plenty of time to scrub out the dirt and his brain matter that would be lodged in the barrel.
The plenty of time doesn't seem to match the It needs to be cleaned. It also seems passive: I would follow it better if both issues were addressed with 'They could deal with that when they scrubbed...'. And as it's clear what is being contemplated in this fragment, something about adding 'his' to 'brain matter' bothered me. Perhaps partly because I don't know where 'the dirt' is coming from, or perhaps because it's overstating his intention? Also if making the object of the sentence 'they', then probably 'that would be' could be dropped altogether?

As an opening I felt it needed something more - an unanswered question to keep me reading through what the MC considers an inevitability.


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snapper
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new version above
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tchernabyelo
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Arguably better. I am assuming your MC is in possession of an overdeveloped sense of smell, and that the apartment is dusty because he doesn't want to use the strong odours of cleaning products, and I'm really hoping thta this is going to be the main thrust of the story.

You use "startled" twice in rapid succession, which is redundant, and terms like "the startled bio-engineer" always kind of make me cringe. I'm guessing the fact that Howard is a bio-engineer is also significant - presumably something to do with Ben's heightened sense.

But I am guessing all of this, which is not necessarily a good thing (something a little more definite might be a good idea).

Editorial hat; I might read on, but it's really borderline right now.


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ScardeyDog
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Just a minor point. He's lying on the couch pinching his nose shut. In the next sentence he takes a breath and smells things. I got the impression he breathed in through his mouth, since his nose is blocked, but it doesn't jive with the description of the scents. And the noxious odour you mention: does it have a source? Does he think about it? It just seems out of place.
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Wolfe_boy
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According to my text entry box you're a couple lines short.

quote:
Ben Hurtle (1) lay curled in the fetal position on the couch in his dusty apartment. His hands covered his face and fingers pinched his nose as he tried to shut the world out. He drew in a quick breath and caught a familiar scent (2) through the noxious ones he tried to block out. Ben rose, walked to the door and inhaled.
Pine scented deodorant, mint flavored mouthwash, dandruff shampoo (3) with a coconut conditioner.
He threw the door open. A startled Howard Lumpant (4) stood the hallway with his fist drawn back, ready to knock. Ben yanked in the startled bio-engineer into the confines of his dark apartment and slammed the door shut. (5) He quickly (6) locked the door and latched the series of chains and deadbolts.

1. The introduction of last names like this seems clumsy to me. At the beginning of a story, perhaps it's alright. Does his last name matter?

2. Someone else mentioned this already. If he's plugging his nose in an attempt to block the world out, why when he (presumably) breathes in through his mouth does he smell something? Does he un-plug his nose? If so, why? You've already made clear that he is attempting to block the world out, and for him that includes plugging his nose. It just doesn't quite make sense.

3. Of the four things mentioned, three have direct sensory etailed described (pine, mint, coconut) and only one with an implied scent. What does dandruff shampoo smell like? Maybe something like medicated would be more indicative of what the shampoo actually smells like. Head & Shoulders smells nothing like Selsen Blue does.

4. Again with the last names, and this one irritates me more than the other. Do these last names matter? Could you introduce them to me in a more elegant way?

5. This whole action scene strikes me as a little cumbersome. I don't know why, and I can't put my finger on what's causing it. I have an asinine instinct to say that you're telling too much, but I doubt it's actually that.

6. Shelve the adverb, IMO. Shelve them all.

Uhhhh..... yeah, I'd probably read on, though my irritation meter is pinging more than I'm typically comfortable with. Make my extended attention worth it on page 2.

[This message has been edited by Wolfe_boy (edited November 09, 2009).]


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snapper
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Thanks. Giving it another try. Version 3 above.
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BoredCrow
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It took me a while to get the line, "Bruises were all they could accomplish." Something simple like "To no effect" would work.

Also, I think you could mention that he notes that the smell is coming from the hallway. Otherwise, it doesn't make immediate sense that he knows to go to the door.

And to be truly picky, you start every sentsence with a proper noun, and only two that's not a 'he' or a name. Though that's easily fixed later on.


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snapper
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Thanks BC!

...and everyone else. big help from you all.


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Architectus
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Bruises were all his clamped fingers could accomplish.

This sentence reads awkwardly and pulled me out of the story.

I like the third hook, though. I'm almost wondering if there should be a clause of introspection stating how he feels about all the smells.


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adamatom
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I disagree with almost everyone on almost every point so far.

The first paragraph of the first version, don't touch it. Combine it with the second paragraph of the second version. In between, he reaches for the gun, puts it to his head, maybe comments that he can't stand it any more, is about to pull the trigger, then smells the bio-engineer. This uses the best of the versions and adds some suspense.

The description of the gun is vivid and detailed. Combined with the heightened sense of smell and the impending suicide attempt, you're off to a great start.

Careful though, with such a good intro, the rest of the story will have to stay at that level or you risk losing me. I wouldn't dwell too long on the suicidal agony. Steer toward exploring the heightened sense of smell and maybe a search for a cure or partial cure.

I think most readers would associate the bio-engineer with the heightened sense of smell. Either he's the guy that got Ben in this mess or he's the one who will get him out.


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LlessurNire
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I like version 3.

I agree with Architectus: "Bruises were all his clamped fingers could accomplish." throws me off, although I understand its meaning.

From reading all 3 versions, I get the sense that he has a heightened sense of smell that causes him distress and he is trying to block out the smells. Maybe a sentence could be reworked/added to version 3 that describes this more directly, saying why he is pinching his nose, or how his nose and the smell make him feel. This would cement the 13 for me and then I would read on.

edited to add:

I also think the title is hinting at something similar, could one part per million be about some chemical or molecule that changes his smell?

[This message has been edited by LlessurNire (edited November 24, 2009).]


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ScardeyDog
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My vote is for version 3.

Llessur - a part per million is typicaly the unit used to describe contaminants in air or water. It is literally 1/10^6, just as a percent is 1/10^2. You've probably seen it abreviated ppm. The odour threshold for H2S gas is 0.047 ppm, for example.


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