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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Gamble-- new short story

   
Author Topic: The Gamble-- new short story
Dr.Awkward
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A new short story I just began. I have a couple different ideas on how this story could go, but the general idea is a poker game in the backroom of a depression-esque brewery, although it might hint at the supernatural as it goes on, but not sure. Anyway:
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The smell wafted across the table, a fitting companion to its offensive point of origin. It was the odor of a habitual diet of imported hand-rolled cigarettes and Johnny Walker Blue, with each subsequent bathing never quite washing away the collective stink of the previous ingestion and each drag and draught building upon the olfactory foundations of the previous revelry or solace, as the occasion demanded. The stink, deeply layered with the remnants of past debauches both public and private, and seemingly as targeted as a round from a sniper’s rifle, had been my personal assailant for the better part of 15 hours, with no foreseeable relief in sight.


My first post in here, please let me know if there are any forum guidelines I am not following. Thank you!

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rabirch
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Hi, Dr. Awkward. Welcome!

This is a highly atmospheric opening and delves deeply into the sense of smell, which is often overlooked in fiction, so that's good! There is also a good sense of voice.

Aside, however, from the fact that the narrator is in the presence of something/someone stinky and is likely to remain that way, I'm not finding anything plot-like that would pull me forward into the story.

You tell us in the intro that this is a poker game in the back room of a brewery, but I don't get that from the text. Is there a way you could drop in some reference to location, or to the cards? Even something as simple as changing 'table' to 'poker table' in the first sentence would help to ground the reader a little more firmly in where you want us to be.

I like how the smell is "as targeted as a round from a sniper's rifle." It's descriptive and full of voice and I hope it tells me something about the narrator. I expect him to be someone who knows or has experience with snipers and rifles.

Thanks for sharing!

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Dr.Awkward
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maybe change to the "felt-covered table"...

solid call.
thanks for the feedback!

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extrinsic
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There's a problem wanting satisfaction: an offensive person, implying there will be a passionate personality clash. Effective for introducing at least a bridging complication and inciting curiosity if not empathy.

Though smell sensations aren't Mickey Spillane's forte, the hard-boiled cynical character in a bleak setting resonates with Spillane's noir mystery writing. I'd want the character to experience a degree of just comeuppance, though, for his cynicism, and consequently, a degree of personal growth as a final outcome, which Mike Hammer never experienced, so certainly righteous was his worldview and self-perception.

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rcmann
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I have to agree. You need to know who, what, where, when, why, and how. At least most of those. We don't know who anyone is,or where they are, or why they are there, or when the story takes place. We know what (somebody stinks and the POV character can't get loose from them). We know how - the stink comes from smoking, drinking, and not washing. It might take place today in somebody's frat house. It might be in 1843 in London's slum district. It might be in Paris in 2348. The characters might be human, alien, or tulips.

Needs more.

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Dr.Awkward
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sounds good. Maybe there is a different way to convey what I am trying to do then. This story was inspired by the bumcars in the nyc subways (a rookie mistake: its a packed train with one empty car, you step in the empty car and a bum is sleeping in there and the smell is enough to make you question life). Instead of a big hook and whittling it down, I wanted to start with a very specific overpowering sense and then expand the room and situation from there.

How would you go about doing this?

Also how important is it to give the full scenario right out of the gate? kind of like the idea of giving it away a bit at a time to keep interest, but then again I'm kind of noob.

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extrinsic
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Introducing the dramatic complication is a mischief managed. For simultaneous setting and character development, consider interlacing causation, cause and effect, action and reaction, or in this case, reactions to sensory stimuli.

Does the character want to murder the foul-smelling person? Does he think about it? Does he touch a handgun concealed in his pocket? A knife in his boot? Does he consider what else he might do? Spray the offending man with perfume? Which he allows might make the situation worse still.

Does he recollect a shower party he experienced in a previous place? You know, beat a guy in his sack with a pillowcase loaded with soap bars, trundle him into the barracks shower, hose him down, and scrub him with soapy water.

Using setting for a reaction to causal stimuli? Maybe the character looks around the poker room for relief. Windows, doors, fans, AC, even a motherloving towel he can drip with cologne. Maybe a tube of Bengay, which overpowers most any odor and is more tolerable than foul odors.

Ease into opening introductions but entrain causation for plot, character, and setting development right away.

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rcmann
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Maybe mention that he stepped aboard and got smacked with the stink. Then go into the description. You can explain where he's going and why in between snips where you come back to the smell. Instead of piling the whole description on at one time, might mention the "whew!" factor. then have the character sit down and get settled, then notice the smell again, even worse. Try to distract himself by thinking about where he's going, not be able to concentrate because of the reek, etc.
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C@R3Y
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This is interesting. I like your depictions of the smells.

Honestly, I'm not really sure what Johnny Walker Blue is. But then, I'm not a smoker and scarcely am even near smokers. I think your second sentence could do with being shortened, or at least made into two sentences. It was hard for me to follow when I got immediately past Johnny Walker Blue. With me, sometimes I prefer shorter sentences depending on the sentence or paragraph and how words are used.

It's pretty hard to stay tuned into a story, for me, if there is something that boggles my mind or leaves me unsure. It's my ADHD, makes me drift away into other thoughts from the story, if that makes sense.

And I'm not saying that your very well-put together sentences don't make sense, I am simply saying that it is hard for me to grasp a good part of the middle section of your story completely conceptually. But that's just me and my ADHD a lot of the time, even tears me out of really good books. I find it to be a curse sometimes as a writer and reader, Lol.

One thing is for certain though. You portray an excellent first person account of this man! and that is hard to do. I usually don't say excellent when it comes to first person, unless your James Patterson, Lol, BUT the way you did this... I didn't even know it was first person until just right now as I read it over a third time and saw the words "my." It's good when a reader doesn't even recognize your point of view because you do such a good job at portraying it!

Job well done. Take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

[Smile]

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C@R3Y
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To add: I realize Johnny Walker Blue sounds like it is a man, and if that's the case, the way it's written in this opening, I didn't get that. You make it sound like Johnny Walker Blue is a "thing" of some kind, something that has to do with cigarettes. That's where I found it to be quite incomprehensible for me.

Perhaps I just couldn't take ALL of this in one swallow.

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Dr.Awkward
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thanks guys

very helpful

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extrinsic
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Johnny Walker Blue is a special label scotch whiskey.
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