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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Martian Standard Time (Working Title)

   
Author Topic: Martian Standard Time (Working Title)
wetwilly
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Science fiction story, time travel on Mars. Several of you helped me get this one fleshed out by asking me some really great questions in another thread a couple months ago ("You think we can still put aliens on Mars?"). I have been working on it ever since, and finally have it in a form that I think is approaching what I want it to be. Throwing my first 13 out there to see what you guys think.

Corrigan melted into the shadows at the back of the bar like an ice cube into a pot of boiling water. He always kept the red fur shaved off of his body to expose his charcoal gray skin beneath; it was better for hiding in shadows. In this case, it allowed him to size up the woman who walked through the front door before she could see him.
She was human, probably in her thirties, and one-hundred percent civilian in her pleated khaki slacks and her lilac sweater. The purple headband with white polka-dots that held her hair back screamed of domesticity. He knew she had to be his client, because this was the grungiest, seediest bar on Mars, and he couldn't imagine a nice, clean, human woman like her stepping into it for any other reason than to hire him.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Very nice. I suggest changing "his charcoal grey skin beneath" to "the charcoal grey skin beneath."

Nice voice, good flow apart from that one thing and I particularly like the last bit.

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Reziac
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Love the red fur and gray skin thing. I did wonder if he's largely naked since you said "shaved off his body", which makes me see his torso. (Gray and ribby. Must be a tough shave.) Could omit "his body".

Don't be afraid of casual phrasing... frex, "it allowed him to size up the woman" would flow easier as "it let him size up the woman".

Nits aside, it's delightful, and feels lively.

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Bent Tree
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i noticed myself becoming engaged by this intro. I like the POV and i feel that the story is truly beginning at this moment which is very important and often lacking in introductions.

stylistically, I would like to see the POV deepened a bit. I feel human senses. Coming from what I presume to be an alien, I would like to see a unique set of perceptions regarding the human mark. Just a suggestion.

questions I think of:

What does it feel like to have its fur shaved? Is it uncomfortable? Since it is a strategy for camouflage what are its disadvantages?

What can the alien sense that humans cannot? The seemingly human social oriented reasoning makes me feel the alien is human. It could be that it has studied the human condition for a specific reason, but this did not convey. It had the mercenary in the bar feel, but the mercenary appeared human in all ways but physical description.

these are just thoughts. I feel the intro works, just some ideas on how to strengthen the story.

if you are looking for readers send it over.

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wetwilly
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Not looking for readers quite yet, but I will be. I'll answer a couple questions, and feel free to let me know if you think it's a valid answer, or if it's just lazy writing on my part.

Reziac: he is naked. His people don't wear clothing. I'll have to change that though, because he's an assassin and he needs to conceal weapons and other items on his person.

Bent Tree: I agree that his POV is very human. It is because his people have been living under colonial rule of the humans for multiple generations, so they have adapted much of their way of life to human norms. If you get this answer later in the story, does that do it for you, or are you still feeling like this Martian is way too human?

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extrinsic
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This opening portrays a native (Martian) at the moment before meeting an alien (human). The mystery of why they're meeting is strong, clear, and curiosity inciting. The prose is fluent to a degree though a bit disharmonious from the language sophistication and the simplistic descriptions.

The first sentence's simile is an example of both, for me. The simile is artful, sophisticated to a degree though I get an incongrous and vague image of a person melting into shadows behind a tavern's serving counter, which is often the most brightly lit area. A taproom is a customer area that often has dark shadows in the back. I think more setting development in general is called for, description that implies the "bar's" unseemliness. Even naming the bar, tavern, pub, saloon, ordinary, café, etc.

"It" twice. "It" in sentence or clause subject position is a problematic from resembling an expletive, my first impression, and vague subject antecedent. "It" in both uses above I assume are intended to modify the first clause's object, charcoal gray skin; however, "it" could also and to me more strongly reference shaving or even Corrigan melting into the shadows. "It," in general is a troublesome word. If dark skin is meant, consider the more artful use of repetition, substitution, and amplification that would further develop Corrigan's and the "bar's" physical appearance instead of "it."

Superlative-degree terms like "always" are tricky. This use gives a sense Corrigan is shaving all the time, even now in the "bar."

After the first paragraph's first sentence, explanation tells what Corrigan looks like and why, though at odds with the explanation nature, artfully developing a physical description of him that could be narrator or character voice.

The last few words of the first paragraph artfully transition to describing the woman's physical appearance and developing her character. The second paragraph doesn't work for me, though, from artless repetitions of "her". "Her thirties," "her slacks," "her sweater," "her hair." Repetition's strength arises from subsititution and amplification, not per se escalation but elaboration.

The repetition rhetorical scheme is more apparent as a shortcoming in the tautology of describing the bar as "seediest" and "grungiest." Those two descriptions are synonymous. Either one is adequately descriptive; identical repetition makes the second one flat.

I'm not comfortable with metaphorical uses of "screamed" or similar terms in science fiction. The metaphor can too easily be taken as literal, especially in early goings like openings before readers have settled into a narrative's rhythm and artful figurative expressions. I get a picture of a polka-dotted purple headband with a screaming mouth. I think the meaning intent is advertised, highlighted, or parallel broadcast, showed, revealed. But stronger emphasis, say by contrasting her appearance with other bar patrons' and Corrigan noting her facial expression, one of, what, contempt? In other words, showing how she appears to Corrigan in an emotional contexuture in addition to her being out of place among Mars' worst bar patrons.

"Polka-dots," hyphenated, is for an adjective; separate words for a noun. "One-hundred percent civilian," numbers not hyphenated otherwise are conventionally unhyphenated in adjective uses.

Overall, though, for me, this opening reads like a narrator summary and explanation lecture. I feel like the intent is for a closer narrative distance, stronger character voice (character perceptions, thoughts, emotions) than narrator voice. Stronger emphasis of Corrigan's immediate sensory perceptions, baldly portrayed, with less explanation would accomplish that intent.

[ October 15, 2013, 04:42 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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History
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Contrarily, I'll keep it simple:

It works.
I thought it overall read well and sparked my interest. I'd read further.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob [Smile]

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Reziac
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Ah, so I 'saw' Corrigan correctly. My mind's eye insisted he was naked!

I don't imagine he needs full clothing even to hide his assassin's gear -- a bandolier and/or belt with a pouch and hidden compartment would do well enough (surely any tech equipment is miniaturized, and basics like stiletto and garotte don't take up much space). -- A friend wears an under-the-armpit harness-and-pouch affair that's commonly mistaken for a shoulder holster, tho he uses it to carry small tech tools and his wallet.

I didn't hear precisely 'human' in the POV, but rather 'conscious imitation of the gumshoe type'. Well, that goes right along with having "adapted to human norms"!

Seems like at least for me, you're hitting the marks you intended.

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Bent Tree
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Inspiring questions is a good thing. I have noticed that sometimes we think we need to answer them all, but it these questions that propel the reader forward. The questions are why keep our interest. The only question that you don't want asked is, " why am I reading this?"

i was really just challenging you to make sure that you had the answers to the questions.

I think the intro is great.

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wetwilly
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Bent Tree, still down to read this? About 8,000 words, time travel sf set on Mars, Martian protagonist. I've got a workable draft ready for readers. I will of course return the favor whenever you want a reader for something.

Anyone else want something good (I think/hope) to read and tear to pieces?

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Smiley
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If that read offer is still valid I'm up for it.
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wetwilly
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Sent it, Smiley. Thanks.
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