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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Sacrificing Mercy

   
Author Topic: Sacrificing Mercy
HenryMcF
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Here is the start of a 4000 word near future hard SF story. As always, all comments appreciated.

I tried to ignore how I felt and concentrate on helping Jenny into bed. She had a chance at life, at health, how could she refuse it? I wanted to scream that she couldn’t throw away our only hope, but it wasn’t the time. The exertion of the doctor’s visit had exhausted Jenny, and she quickly dropped off to sleep. She looked as peaceful as a saint in a stained glass window, and as fragile.
I had to change her mind; she had been my life for so long. On a spring day ten years ago, I had seen a petite young woman with a pixie hairdo pushing a shopping cart piled high with groceries across our college campus. Some cans fell from the top of the pile, and I picked them up for her. She thanked me with a big smile and told me she was going to the food pantry

[ January 01, 2015, 04:16 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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babooher
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As I read this, this is what I see. There is a bit of mystery as to why Jenny is dying, and (more importantly to me) why she is giving up. That part is not developed much in this section and instead back story was given. The world building is minimal. The sci-fi elements aren't present.

As is, I'm not interested enough. The narrator doesn't feel interesting enough and the set up isn't hooking me.

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extrinsic
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Not sure what this narrative is about. The agonist wants Jenny to live, opposed by a problem she wants to die. A little on the abstract side. Concrete details are warranted. Like, why does Jenny want to die? Something medical? The doctor visit could as easily be interpreted as assistive euthanasia evaluation as a fatal illness hospice treatment. Kind of vague what the cause of all this anguish, angst, and ennui is about.

"I tried to ignore how I felt and concentrate on helping Jenny into bed."

Three unnnecessary tense shifts in the first sentence signals the opening sentence may not be a best practice moment to start the narrative. "tried" simple past, "to ignore" infinitive case, "concentrate" simple present. Prose's strongest and clearest tense is simple past for its finite time span, which is least subjective.

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mithridates
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"I had to change her mind" sounds like something exciting might happen, but since it's just a thought maybe the narrator will forget all about it.
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HenryMcF
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Thanks for the comments so far. I will try to shorten the first sentence to something like “I tried to concentrate on helping Jenny into bed.”
The story is science fiction in the strict sense that a technology is available that is not available in the world of today. The conflict is that Jenny finds the technology, growing spare organs from embryonic stem cells, morally unacceptable and will refuse transplant with an organ grown that way even if the consequence is her death. Her husband, the narrator and POV character, wants her to have the transplant. But I don’t go into much world-building because the world is very much like today’s. It’s the United States in 2020. I am thinking about moving the start of the back story later and setting up the conflict sooner.

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Bent Tree
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These lines didn't really grab my attention.

Let me start by saying what did work for me. I did find a MC with which I could establish empathic bond. That is important. Very important.

Also, while I did not find any clues of a speculative event, there was enough of a hint of conflict to propel my interest. This is a good thing.

Two major issues turned me off.

Most importantly the POV felt weak to me. First person should be sharp. I want to see through their eyes. The repetition of "I" is an indication of a flat first person POV in my opinion because in well written first person narrative it is implied.

Without rewriting your words let me demonstrate.

How could I hate him so? His sweet face, my own son. Just yesterday his training wheels came off, or so it seemed. Time has a harsh distortion with this medicine. Would it even heal me? It certainly will not bring him back.

Not the best example, perhaps, but I recommend reading some sharp examples of first person narrative. Earlier in my writing days I learned to count pronouns. Even a brief scan will show where POV needs to be tightened.

Some of the prose was disruptive to my eyes also. "Dropped off to sleep" and "as peaceful as a saint in a stained glass window, and as fragile. " could be reconsidered.

That being said, I will gladly give you a full crit if you have a polished draft.

Hope this helps.

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HenryMcF
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Here's another try. Better?
Inwardly I raged against Jenny’s religion, her God, and yes against her. She had a chance at life, at health, how could she refuse it? Damn the religion that told her to destroy our hope! But showing my rage would make it impossible to persuade her, so I concentrated on helping her into bed.
The exertion of the doctor’s visit had exhausted Jenny, and she quickly dropped off to sleep. She looked as peaceful as a saint in a stained glass window, and as fragile. I watched her sleep and thought back on our life together, in part to find some clue as to how to change her mind.
On a spring day ten years ago, a petite young woman with a pixie hairdo was pushing a shopping cart piled high with groceries across our college campus. Some cans fell from the

[ February 27, 2015, 09:52 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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MiggsEye
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quote:
Originally posted by HenryMcF:
Thanks for the comments so far. I will try to shorten the first sentence to something like “I tried to concentrate on helping Jenny into bed.”
The story is science fiction in the strict sense that a technology is available that is not available in the world of today. The conflict is that Jenny finds the technology, growing spare organs from embryonic stem cells, morally unacceptable and will refuse transplant with an organ grown that way even if the consequence is her death. Her husband, the narrator and POV character, wants her to have the transplant. But I don’t go into much world-building because the world is very much like today’s. It’s the United States in 2020. I am thinking about moving the start of the back story later and setting up the conflict sooner.

Consider these three sentences and which one is the strongest:
"I tried to concentrate on helping Jenny into bed."
"I concentrated on helping Jenny into bed."
"I helped Jenny into bed."

In my opinion "I helped Jenny into bed." is the strongest, because it leaves the lingering question I believe you want the reader to ask: What is wrong with Jenny?

The others, leave me wondering why the MC is having such difficulty concentrating. Is that the question you want the reader left with?

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