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Author Topic: The Construct
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Previously called the Simulacrum, this 7500 word story has been reworked and renamed as The Construct. Thanks for any feedback.
Thirty-six hours after ProFIS-C had been sabotaged, Major Joseph Healey tensed as he watched the monitor showing the prisoner, shackled and hooded, being led into the interrogation room. ProFIS-C, short for Prognostic Field-Intelligence Simulation Construct, a simulation model capable of foretelling the behavior of terror cells, armies, or whole populations, had become the single most important predictor of military success ever devised. How could it be that the man who sat chained in the next room was also the genius who had created ProFIS-C, and then just as bullets began to fly, had sabotaged it, leaving the entire U.S. strategy for this war in shambles. Other’s questioning of this prisoner had yielded nothing. So now Joseph, reputed as the expert interrogator and psychologist, had been ordered to try and reason with this traitor and get him to reactive ProFIS-C before more lives were lost.

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There is a lot of info dump, explanation and summary in this intro. The only thing that actually happens is that Major 'tenses' (not sure why) as he watches the monitor of the guy being lead in.

I would suggest you consider trying to weave some of these details into the actual interrogation . The question/answer process could reveal a lot, even if the prisoner refuses to answer. It will take longer but will be more artful and less forced.

You also introduce the tech with an acronym, which you later explain. If you introduce the tech's real name first people will be able to make the leap when you hit them with the shortened version later, especially if you do almost immediately after.

[ July 12, 2013, 02:50 AM: Message edited by: skadder ]

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I think the primary "problem" with throwing information at the reader this early is that we can't visualize the character nor where he/she is.

This guy could be on a spaceship, on Earth, or the moon. And we don't know what kind of room he's in, or if he's alone or surrounded by subordinates clicking holographic keyboards.

One of Dave Wolverton's recent daily kicks addresses this issue. Have a look, if you haven't already, and see if this speaks to you.



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A little Isaac Asimov Foundation saga Psychohistory, a little television situation drama: CBS's Person of Interest the machine, a little narrative writer Philip K. Dick, film director Steven Spielberg Minority Report crime predictor. A little bit of current news events in the person of ex-NSA subcontractor turned rogue. Instead of the "Construct" creator being a force for the benefit of society, noble, he's a villain, wicked. Intriguing.

Unpacking this summary and explanation opening further, a war is underway. The Construct creator deactivated the construct when war broke out. The construct was intended to make pursuit of the war efficient and successful.

I would be most interested in the Construct creator's motivations, what his tangible, personal want and problem wanting satisifaction are: dramatic complication. That to me is what makes the difference between this narrative and others like it; the villain as perhaps anithero? I think interrogator Joesph might be in the way of reporting the creator's story.

Is the Construct a force for a greater nobleness? Is it wicked in the way it's used? A weapon turned to nefarious purposes?

Joseph's viewpoint seems to support the administration's agenda. The creator's viewpoint seems to be opposed to the government's. I see potent possibilities in showing powerful, faceless, imposing government authority's any means to an end is a corrupt force, that a machine cannot substitute for critical, conscious, conscientious human judgement.

A difference between a prologue-like summary and explanation opening where backstory details are told and a scene opening where a story unfolds by showing, is readers become part of the action as bystanders or vicarious participants through imitating the reality of the action in the moment, place, and situation of the scene: the setting, concrete sensations of viusal and aural stimuli, like dialogue conversation, perhaps tactile, olfactory, or gustatory sensations; the private thoughts and emotional feelings of one viewpoint character, and the public thoughts and emotions of one or two or a few more characters per scene.

How to get all that in thirteen lines without overburdensome summary and explanation? Introduce small but appreciable features that promise further development soon after.

A man entering an interrogation cell under armed military guard raises dramatic questions for readers. Do we feel empathy, sympathy, or pity for the prisoner? Or do we loathe him? Also, what incites our curiosity and suspense? That he's a prisoner and we want him to be punished or rewarded? Artfully posing a question of and artfully delaying an answer for why--this prisoner is in these straights--is an upfront feature for any dynamic story.

[ July 13, 2013, 11:00 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Unless what follows this intro is quite revised from the original, it still seems like you're trying to wrap a very interesting conversation around a thin plot. As a dialog, this piece is very interesting. As a crated fictional piece, it reveals a lot of flaws

I feel like this writing is begging to be a speculative essay, not a short story. Your chosen medium feels off.

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Its true that the story is almost entirely made up of dialogue between two characters (in an interrogation room). But it has interspersed in it several scenes in VR space. I still think it is a short story as it centers around the internal (but not external) change in perspective that the interrogator goes through.
I'm still in process on making a number of changes (to make it more personal for the protagonist). I've also completely rewritten the opening, so I'll post that here as well.
Thanks again for your inputs.

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A rewrite of the opening. Thanks again for your really helpful suggestions.
Having been told to take a seat, Major Joseph Healey’s palms began to sweat as he sat across from Lieutenant General Henry Bruce. He had never been directly addressed by the commander of all in-theater forces, much less ordered to meet with him in private.
"Major," the general said, "I take it you’ve been fully briefed on ProFIS-C?"
"I have, sir."
"What do you think of it?"
"It seems miraculous, sir. I didn’t think it possible to accurately simulate a whole city much less predict the behavior of an entire population. It's no wonder we've made such remarkable progress against the enemy in such a short time."
"Yes. Almost overnight, ProFIS-C has become the foundation of U.S.

[ July 16, 2013, 08:33 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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