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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Nesting Place (15K Hard SF)

   
Author Topic: The Nesting Place (15K Hard SF)
bobbyshane
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I wrote this story a couple of years ago. I've learned a lot since then and liked the concept of this one so much that I'm going to try and rework it. Here's the first 13. I welcome any crits of the original story as well since I could use the feedback to help steer the revision.

Art was taking Ginger for her evening walk the night they found the man. Being a Collie, she'd always obeyed well from the time she was just a pup. They headed down Sheldon Street just like any other day. Ginger was panting along, grinning from ear to ear. They passed Dead Man's Hill and immediately she began sniffing the air in the direction of the massive hill. Before Art could do anything to stop her, she nearly drug him up the hill, barking the entire way.

"Ginger," he said. Art's age swollen hand let loose, and Ginger, free of his grip, ran upward, leaving him to fall at the edge of the hill. When she came to a spot about three fourths of the way up, her leash dangling behind her, she sniffed the ground with the intensity of a cocaine addict.

[This message has been edited by bobbyshane (edited February 06, 2011).]


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Foste
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This seems to be promising tale, but I think you could start this at the moment of discovery.

Also the cocaine addict simile doesn't quite work for me.

Edited to remove spelling mistakes.

[This message has been edited by Foste (edited February 06, 2011).]


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philocinemas
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I agree with what Foste said.
I cannot tell whether this is from Art's or Ginger's POV - it could read either way. Also, naming the area "Dead Man's Hill" is self-defeating - you either disappoint by not having a dead body there or you divulge information that could build tension.

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Reziac
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The professional dog trainer in the audience gives you 40 whacks with a nylon leash. <g> Being a collie doesn't make Ginger well-behaved; being well-trained makes her well-behaved. But the moment there's a distraction (which a well-trained dog would ignore), she behaves like a dog that's not really leash-broke and has been taught to be a tugboat (which is a byproduct of poor leash technique). Gotta make up your mind here!

quote:
Before Art could do anything to stop her, she nearly drug him up the hill...

Um... one solid correction with the leash and even an untrained dog is stopped. Either the dog is untrained or the owner doesn't know the basics.

Also, she nearly dragged him up the hill, not drug.

I think you're trying to show us that the distraction was so drastic that it made this nice dog misbehave, but it doesn't actually work that way. However, if the two of 'em are out for a casual stroll, dog off-lead and being allowed to sniff and wander (which for a trained dog is done under command, not just because it wants to) then the dog bounding up the hill and finding something fascinating would work.

And wouldn't perpetuate the irritating stereotype of the poorly trained dog (which in today's world of never applying any *gasp* discipline is starting to be taken as "how it should be" much to the detriment of both dogs and children).

BTW heavy-duty sniffing like that happens because either 1) the dog can't locate what it smells because it's hidden or buried, OR 2) it has a poor nose and can't identify what it smells.

Now.. ahem! This is supposed to be about the writing... we'll pretend I didn't see the dog being naughty. <g> The picture is fairly strong but the presentation is a little clunky, such as

quote:
They passed Dead Man's Hill and immediately she began sniffing the air in the direction of the massive hill.

This kinda double-describes stuff -- we're pointed at the hill TWICE in that sentence. I might try something more like

quote:
As they passed the dark bulk of Dead Man's Hill, Ginger's nose came up to sniff the air.

Similarly, you've got excess words in

quote:
Before Art could do anything to stop her, she nearly drug [er, dragged] him up the hill...

Means the same without the bolded part, and doesn't stutter due to too-many-words.

Now, if she finds a body, or an unconscious person, I'll be disappointed, because that's been done a thousand times. Hopefully she'll find something more interesting. A zombie at the very least.


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bobbyshane
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Thanks for the feedback guys. Yeah, maybe this one's not worth the trouble and should just be trunked. The cocaine line (no pun intended) is pretty distracting.

Funny you should mention that Reziac... they do find a living person... but deeply buried, very conscious, and unable to speak. And my experience with pure breds verses mutts gave me the impression that pure bred are usually more easily trained and obedient hence attributing such to being a collie. The main point was to show how uncommon her behavior was which I apparently didn't pull off very well. I wonder does the fact that she behaved so abnormal because she knew a man was in danger change any of the behavioral problems for you Reziac?

I'll have to take a good look at this one and decide if it's worth it to mess with. Thanks guys.


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bobbyshane
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oh yeah and I forgot to mention the man they find is in a strange rusty metal object.
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philocinemas
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Your response should be your hook - the living person/and the strange rusty metal object. The first line is good as it is, but you might want to condense the dog getting away and digging on the hill. Get straight to Art realizing someone/something is buried there and alive. My greatest concern as a reader would be how you integrate this person into Art's life without forcing the story.
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Reziac
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With a trained dog, when something is wrong, you generally get some form of "Look, dad, look!" -- not barging off like the dog doesn't know anything. In this case, whining, persistently stopping to look at the hill or making small attempts to go that direction as a hint to the owner (one or two steps before returning to heel), and possibly barking at nothing visible (how much barking is somewhat breed-dependent. Collies are noisy, but they're noisy for no reason too... that was predator-discouragement back when they were a farm dog. So barking would not be so unusual as to draw attention.)

In general, a hunting breed is more likely to notice a misplaced scent, like a buried person. (My Labs can pinpoint a beer can that's been 2 feet down for a decade... a recently buried human would be an easy find.) However most dogs are attracted to newly-disturbed earth regardless of what's down there, and a terrier will dig like a backhoe at the least excuse.

You are correct that in general, purebreds are easier to train -- having been largely selected for their ability to learn to work with man, one way or another. Also more likely to have a sensible reaction to something off-kilter, in that it's liable to trigger a bred-for instinct. (Mutts are likely to have a conflicting mess of instincts, thus uncertain reactions, and can be harder to read when they do react.)

Otherwise... putting this story to sleep might be a trifle premature <g> ...what philocinemas said. A living person, aware but unable to respond, *how* deeply buried in this rusty capsule? That's actually interesting!

(And makes me wonder... Is the capsule rusty due to age or due to conditions it's endured? did someone's "time capsule" get out of hand?!)

Is the story about Art, or about the buried person?

Anyway, give it another try... sounds like the concept might be fine, minus the distractions.


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NoTimeToThink
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I like the concept, but who cares whether the dog is well behaved or not? The collie could be a perpetual misbehaver, and you could use that for humor (once again Ginger drags poor, arthritic Art around, but this time they find this man...)

As a nit, you say "the night they found the man", but "like any other day." Inconsistent.


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Reziac
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I had the same thought... we probably actually don't give a flip about the dog, other than as a device to find the buried capsule.


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bobbyshane
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Thanks guys for all the feedback. I appreciate it. At this point I'm 50/50 on whether to trunk this one or not. Considering the beginning as it is, that I wrote it back when I used "ly" adverbs rather -gleefully-, and the fact that even at 15k the ending was rushed all make this story an uphill battle (my goodness I can't seem to stop with the accidental puns). But I appreciate the kind words and the critical feedback. I still wouldn't mind if someone (particularly with hard sf experience) could take a look at it some time though.
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Josephine Kait
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Actually I found Ginger to be the more interesting character. I found that I was hoping the story would be from her POV much like 101 Dalmatians. One of the creative things I loved about that book was that they talk about the dogs taking their humans for a walk rather than the other way around.

Reziac, since you know so much about canine behavior and so forth, have you ever considered writing a story from a dog’s POV?


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Reziac
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<considers request>
.
.
.
<thinks about what my dogs do and think>

If you want realism, there's an awful lot of butt-sniffing, poop-eating, leg-lifting, humping whatever stood still for two seconds and chasing whatever didn't. (And the girls are WAAAY worse about all that than the boys could ever hope to be! I had one who was a monogamous lesbian... 24 hours a day if she could manage it. <looking over fence> And we won't even discuss what Docker and Faro do with each other all day long!!)

Seriously, they think exactly like a 5 year old child, and about very nearly the same things (including stuff like playing with bugs for hours on end, or spending hours hoping that tumbleweed will blow close enough to the fence to grab). That can be interesting to shape (train) but it makes lousy fiction... unless you anthropormorphize 'em, and then they're ... furries??!

As to such anthro'd stuff, I cannot tell you how much I hate that... it has helped generate this "pets are children" mentality that is ultimately going to destroy your right to own a pet.


[This message has been edited by Reziac (edited February 08, 2011).]


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bobbyshane
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haha... I used to have a pair of female muts that I'm pretty sure were monogamous lesbians as well... there's nothing more hilarious than watching a female dog hump another female dog...

However, Dean Koontz has written some from a dog's viewpoint. I haven't read the material myself but I'm curious to at some point.


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MonaLisaClaire
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I like the idea of a kind of roswell-esque capsule holding a man in his nesting place. I think that you shouldn't incude the finding of the man in the first sentence. I think changing the dog to a more interesting one would perhaps make it seems less common. (Maybe a wolfhound?? If you were using a hunting dog they tend to reserve barking and excitement for special occasions.) Choosing a clear perspective for this opening would help capture me a little better. I was captured by the title and then in the discussion when i found out about the man in the rusty capsule...
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Utahute72
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Reziac, this sounds very much like a cocker I once had. I wouldn't consider him well behaved, however. He even caused a professional trainer to give up in exasperation with getting him to obey.

As for the story. I agree with a lot of the comments. The cocaine sniffing thing I found descriptive and kinda funny. The one thing that was a small flag. This appears to be a normal route, but I get the sense from the title that the pod has been there a while. Might be an assumption, but it seemed a little odd to me.


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