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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Untitled, SF

   
Author Topic: Untitled, SF
jcavonpark
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All feedback is greatly appreciated

quote:
The Chinese were being unusually quiet today.

Most of the time the airwaves were jammed with all kinds of messages streaking across the sky, but today there hadn’t been much of anything at all. Pretty unusual, but not enough to report on. Signals were still coming in, after all. There just weren’t as many as yesterday.

Staff Sergeant Travis Combs had been in the United States Air Force for six years now, two of which had him working in crypto-linguistics, a career he chose after he decided he wanted to get out of the flight line and into a job that had some excitement going for it. Much to his surprise, this wasn’t it.



[This message has been edited by jcavonpark (edited May 14, 2011).]


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JohnColgrove
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The only problem I have with this is, in my opinion, it doesn't move anywhere. The first thirteen are there as a hook. I just wasn't hooked all the way with that. I mean, I would probably read on just to get a feel of where you're going with this.

I say this to just about everyone, but, you don't have to change anything just because that person doesn't agree with it. yeah...just thought I would put that out there.


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Wonderbus
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I'm not all that hooked here. The Chinese are quiet, though that isn't all that unusual and this guy is in a surprisingly dull job. Obviously I as a reader know something is going to happen otherwise there wouldn't be a story so I'd read on to find where the story is.

I do think you could do some trimming here though to maybe squeeze the hook in. The first line is good, I like it, but in that second paragraph all of it from Pretty unusual on is repeating stuff we already know or you could work in more naturally later on. For example, you could show your army guy deciding not to report on the quiet rather than tell us its not worth reporting on here.

The weakest part imo is the third paragraph. I don't know this guy yet and I'm not too concerned with his emplyment history, this is the place where I reckon you could get your hook in.


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jcavonpark
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Thanks for the excellent feedback, guys. What do you think about this? I completely rewrote the second and third paragraphs.

quote:
The Chinese were being unusually quiet today.

For nearly two hours there had been silence over all the local airways on the Chinese border. Nothing was getting through. For a nation of almost two billion, that was a little hard to believe.

Sergeant Combs sat at his computer listening to the static white noise coming through the headphones. After four years of translating gossip and lunch menus from Mandarin to English, this was the most exciting moment of his career. And all he was doing was listening to static.




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shimiqua
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I love it. I like the first version better though, there seems to be more dread.

To me the point of a first thirteen is to show who what why and where. This thirteen accomplishes all of that and made me laugh.

For me it works, but it could be because I'm more of a character led story fan, then a plot lead.

Good work. Are you looking for readers?
~Sheena


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jcavonpark
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Yes, definitely. But I'm still in the process of writing this one. I've just finished another story, however, called Beyond the Metal Veil. I could use feedback on it if you feel up to it. I'm always looking for new readers
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Osiris
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Hi Jeff,

I'll chime in here real quick:

quote:
The Chinese were being unusually quiet today.

You can give the first line a bit more punch by deleting 'being'. Verbs that communicate only existence are considered weak verbs. In this case, you've got two weak verbs in a row with "were being". It's going to be a challenge conveying quietness using active verbs, so I'd say at least delete the 'being', the sentence works better IMO as 'The Chinese were unusually quiet today'.

Good job revising the second paragraph from the first post. I was going to remark that in order to make the quietness seem more important, you needed to first set up the normal, then starkly contrast the abnormal. The first iteration of your first thirteen lacked this, but you accomplished that with the second iteration.

I think you could give this a jolt of tension here by showing us his surprise at the change in pattern coming from the Chinese and giving us a bit of his internal dialog. Perhaps he wonders what happened.
In fact, what happened here, when you think about it, is a REALLY big deal. An entire country totally falling off the communications grid? Would he first try to rule out a problem with their own equipment? After verifying that their own systems were fine, wouldn't he really start wondering/freaking/getting excited? These are the questions/thoughts I think would be going through his mind now.

So that's where I'd take the third paragraph. Instead of having him sitting their passively listening to the white noise, he should be reacting in the way I mentioned above.

Side note: 'Static white noise' is redundant, IMO. I'd use 'static' or 'white noise', but not both.

In fact, this leads me to a totally different opening for this story. I'll just throw this out there, and feel free to take it or leave it.

My suggestion would be to use the first paragraph to establish the normal. Show us him actually sitting there, listening and translating lunch menus. Give us internal dialog of his boredom. Maybe he keeps glancing at his watch because he can't wait for his shift to end. Maybe he translates the menu, then instead starts writing 'blah blah blah' instead of the translation cause he is so damn bored. This will server to both establish the normal, and make the reader sympathetic, because heck, how many of us have boring desk jobs?

The second paragraph would be where you set the hook. The sharp, jarring transition from the normal (lunch menus) to abnormal (white noise).

The third paragraph would be the place where he starts reacting as I suggested above.

Hope that helps! Take what resonates and discard the rest


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jcavonpark
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Interesting ideas you have there! I'll change the static and the "being" parts. The rest sounds good too, but I'll have to rewrite the paragraphs to see how it will work. I'll send the story your way whenever it's done for sure
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Noctua
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It's good.
The only suggestion I have is making, "Sergeant Combs sat at his computer listening to the static white noise coming through the headphones. After four years of translating gossip and lunch menus from Mandarin to English, this was the most exciting moment of his career. And all he was doing was listening to static." your first sentence. At least that's what I'd do.
Sounds like an interesting story so far.

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