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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Silent Treatment

   
Author Topic: Silent Treatment
OliverBuckram
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I am not yet looking for readers for the whole thing. This is meant to be science fiction, not fantasy. In addition to "Silent Treatment", some alternate titles might be "My trip to the morgue" or (spoiler alert) "Necrophoresis"

===========

It was the paramedics who convinced me I was dead. They said it with such authority.
The morning started off normally. I heard Karen get up and start dressing, but stayed in bed with my eyes closed. Then I heard her gasp and pick up the phone.
"Hello, I need an ambulance at 142 Dana Street in Cambridge. My husband is not breathing."
I sat straight up in bed and looked at her. She didn’t react, but put one hand on my neck.
"No, there's no pulse. He's cold." she said into the phone.
"Um, Karen? What are you doing?"
She put down the phone on the nightstand and started


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micmcd
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I think I like everything but the first two lines. They certainly have impact, but they feel the most to me like first-13 overkill. Everything below that serves as a fantastic hook, and in fact that bit about the paramedics convincing him he was dead would sound more humorous and less cliche after seeing the panic of the wife and the calm of the dead-ish husband.
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axeminister
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Written fine, but implausible as written.

I sat straight up in bed and looked at her.
She ... put one hand on my neck.

After he sat up? While he was lying down? Did he see her do this? Yes. Where was he? Why would she put her hand on his neck if he sat up?

Plus, the emotion is off. Try to imagine finding your loved one dead next to you one morning. This is not it.

However, if you are going for humor, and you just want to take us on a fun ride, then this is fine. Judging by the first sentence, I'll lean toward comedy.

The morning started off normally... kill this line, it's just not true. If you want to go comedy, you could use the time or the day of the week. "Monday morning arrived. I'd called in sick twice last week. This time I was going to have to call in dead." Or some such.

That's not a re-write, just some off the wall thought.

Axe


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mythique890
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I like the first two sentences. I hope you keep them, even if they are moved. I also noticed the thing about his wife touching his neck. Other than that, I thought it was good. I'd read on.
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RyanRussellLunde
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I think it is obvious that he doesn't actually sit up in bed. He just thought he did, not quite realizing yet that he can't move his body.
The morning did start off normally, to his and his wife's perception. The underlying fact that he was already "dead" doesn't change the fact that neither of them knew yet. To both of their POV the morning did start off like any other morning (If the MC thinks it did, then it did) until, she noticed he wasn't breathing and he started getting confused.

Even without the possible working titles mentioned it's obvious to me this is a classic tale of "I'm trapped in my body, can't move and everyone thinks I'm dead, but I'm not", aware during your own autopsy, buried alive, all that good stuff. Or maybe I'm just clueless.

Whatever the case, I think it's a great intro, I'd love to read on, even if I've completely got the wrong idea about where the story is going.

[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited September 26, 2011).]


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OliverBuckram
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thanks guys very much for these insightful comments.

just to explain what i am struggling to communicate in this scene: the guys is alive and well and can move about normally. his wife, and later the paramedics, perceive him as dead and lying on the bed inertly. the paramedics strap him into their stretcher, he is kicking and screaming, they perceive him as dead and will later deny it was necessary to strap him in.

although the behavior of the paramedics convinces him he is dead, he is not. later, perhaps lying in the morgue, he realizes that he is no ghost, and must somehow make himself known.

[This message has been edited by OliverBuckram (edited September 26, 2011).]


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RyanRussellLunde
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I guess I was clueless. Now I'm even more eager to read the rest of the story.
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OliverBuckram
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ok, I decided to go in different plot direction and make the setting space instead of husband and wife. i am happy to send the whole piece to willing victims.

===
It was the doctor who convinced me I was dead. He spoke with such authority.
"Victim is dead on arrival. No obvious signs of trauma," he said into his recorder after I was dumped on the metal table. Choi's body was already on the other table, covered with a sheet. I wondered whether my autopsy would hurt.
The doctor peered at me, then spoke again. "Preliminary examination of Lt. George Malatesta. 42 year old male."
Everything got dark and I felt myself floating. So this is death, I thought to myself. Peaceful. Then the emergency power kicked in, the lights and gravity came back on, and I fell with a thump onto the table. The doctor got up off the floor and rushed out.

[This message has been edited by OliverBuckram (edited October 02, 2011).]


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philocinemas
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This reminds me of a movie I saw recently called After.Life. In it, you do not know until the very end whether the main character is really dead or being tortured by a sadistic undertaker. If you decide to watch it, be forewarned, there is quite a bit of nudity in it. It was an interesting movie despite this.

Here are my thoughts:
I like your opening (the writing is very clear and effective), but it seems to be happening in a vacuum (maybe even literally) - the gravity coming "back on" was more jolting to me as a reader than it was possibly even to the MC. There is nothing in the previous lines to suggest to me that they are in space, so by the time you bring in what I assume is the artificial gravity, I have already established a preconception of milieu. Since I already know he isn't really dead, I can conclude that this is most likely happening in space; however, not knowing that he isn't really dead could lead one into believing his rise and fall were of a spiritual cause. I apologize for the circular comments, but my point is about grounding the reader as soon as possible. I believe you already have a good twist, so why bother confounding it due to not establishing the setting at the very beginning?

One other thing - consider eliminating your mind and sight filters ("I wondered..." and instead - Would the autopsy hurt?) and ("I felt..." as well as "I thought..."). If you can convey this in such a say that the reader experiences the thoughts and feelings directly without these filters (I felt, I thought, I wondered, etc), then the reading experience becomes more immediate and immersive.


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philocinemas
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Also, don't change the opening sentence (any more than you already have) - it is an excellent stand-alone hook.
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EVOC
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I think the second opening is a bit stronger, but it feels comedic to me still.

Don't mess with that first line anymore. It is good and strong as it is.


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Osiris
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Necrophoresis would make a great title, loved it.

I agree with philo re: mind and sight filters. It is sometimes hard to avoid them, but it always worth the effort to do so. I've noticed the more immersed I am in my POV character, the more natural it is to avoid these.

I like the opening as well. Consider if the following would make it even better:

quote:
"Victim is dead on arrival. No obvious signs of trauma," he said into his recorder after I was dumped on the metal table.

A very simple but effective tweak here could be to delete 'is'. Having grown up the son of a doctor, I noticed how my mother would drop a word like 'is' when dictating into her recorder: "Victim dead on arrival." It'd also allow you to lose the weak verb, 'is', and the grammatical incorrectness of it would be consistent with 'No obvious signs of trauma'.

Also, since you mention the doctor speaking with such authority, you could delete the dialog tag 'he said' and go with an action tag instead. Maybe some detail about how the doctor holds the recorder. Does it look like a toy in his hands? Does he hold it so close to his lips that he looks like he might swallow it? Etc..

quote:
The doctor peered at me, then spoke again. "Preliminary examination of Lt. George Malatesta. 42 year old male."

The first clause of the first sentence draws our attention to the doctor and serves as an action tag, so you don't need the second clause 'then spoke again'. The reader will get that the doctor is speaking without it.

quote:
Everything got dark and I felt myself floating. So this is death, I thought to myself. Peaceful. Then the emergency power kicked in, the lights and gravity came back on, and I fell with a thump onto the table. The doctor got up off the floor and rushed out.

Consider if 'got dark' can be replaced with a single, stronger verb (such as darkened).

Though I don't write in first person POV much, I've always felt that this is the one POV where you can get away with untagged direct internal dialog. So I think you'd be fine with 'So this is death.' without the 'I thought to myself'. The reader will get that this is internal dialog.

I also suggest a paragraph break after 'Peaceful'. This would allow you to drop the word 'Then' and get straight into the emergency power kicking in, and would convey the jarring effect more effectively, IMHO.


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