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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » In the property room

   
Author Topic: In the property room
HenryMcF
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Here's a possible start for a science fiction story of about 4800 words.
The door buzzed as it opened, and Tom looked up to see Jason Fong, a vice cop he knew, leading in a tall blonde in a halter top, miniskirt, and handcuffs. “Jason, this is the property room, Lock up’s downstairs.”
Jason laughed. “Look again, Tom, she’s property.”
Tom took a closer look. The blonde’s face and body were perfectly proportioned, too perfect. Her skin was creamy and clear, too clear. A sexbot, he’d read about those things.
The blonde looked angry. “I’m a sentient, thinking being!”
Jason sneered at her. “Shut up, bolts!”
“My name’s Iris.”
“Yeah and you talk too much.” Jason turned back to Tom. “She’s part of the evidence for a hearing tomorrow. Her batteries will

[ August 15, 2017, 04:04 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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extrinsic
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An individual receives a property.

Some potent potables in a humanoid robot contained here. Like, though, potential underrealized of the symbolic correlations for a humanoid robot pleasure model as property, especially as regards law enforcement's property evidence seizures and related objectification of womankind. Doubly objectified, one, for sex object, two, for evidence object.

That paradigm is rich for prose purposes! Where a parallel arises hinges upon the word "sentient." H. Beam Piper's signal work about sentience in contention is Little Fuzzy, 1962, "rebooted" by John Scalzi as Fuzzy Nation, 2011. Both challenge and question the concept of sentience as pertains to non-human beings. Likewise, both miss that sentience in its absolute denotative sense and connotative senses is only matters of responsiveness to sense impressions. A thermometer is sentient, a toaster, any device that measures and responds to temperature fluctuations (thermostats, thermocouples) is sentient: thermoception. However, none of those are self-aware and, ergo, sapient of temperature responses. Those are automatons.

On the other hand, the true question and challenge at stake (conflict) is sapience. Simple definitions attach wisdom to sapience though not wisdom's features, foremost of which is moral aptitude. Sapience is to a species, not an individual, and is the aggregate of the species' moral aptitude!

Can a pleasure model robot possess self-aware wisdom? No, not denotatively, can, though, connotatively, especially metaphorically for prose purposes. There, the representational value of people as property as moral vice (sloth, greed, pride, gluttony, envy, lust, maybe wrath) is a powerful persuasive tool, rhetoric and sapience's moral aptitude tableau all in one. That's an economy of words potential for prose's poetic equipment.

Likewise, economy of words, the title, "In the [P]roperty [R]oom," for example (note, capped words). More often than not, draft titles are overly brief, some essential parts and words missed. //Property Room// by itself speaks louder in an economy of words, two instead of four, relies upon ready reader familiarity with law enforcement's evidence procedures. The shorter word count example opens up possible interpretations of manifold meanings of more magnitude than the title's as is unconditional and sole objective meaning; that is, polysemy (Wikipedia).

One caveat for polysemes, the third herein: "Charles Fillmore and Beryl Atkins' definition stipulates three elements: (i) the various senses of a polysemous word have a central origin, (ii) the links between these senses form a network, (iii) and understanding the 'inner' one contributes to understanding of the 'outer' one." Flip-flop that, too, understanding the "outer" one contributes to understanding of the "inner" one. Both and more. //Property Room// accomplishes both and more -- irony, metalepsis, metaphor.

"The door buzzed as it opened, and Tom looked up to see Jason Fong, a vice cop he knew, leading in a tall blonde in a halter top, miniskirt, and handcuffs." Train-wreck run-on sentence conjoined by conjunction misuse. One idea per sentence is the guidance principle. Conjunctions may join dependent and -- and -- subordinate content to main ideas. Too many ideas in one sentence de-emphasize and confuse a main idea and lose reader attention. Not a best practice for a first sentence at all.

Conjunction "as" sole purpose is to append appositive and correlative detail. As is, the conjunction splice describes two action ideas that are not-simultaneous. A property room's secure door lock that buzzes is operated from inside the property room for security purposes, to keep safe the property and property clerks. The clerks buzz visitors in, then visitors open the door, and then enter. Sequential, not simultaneous action ideas.

Tom would see Fong before Tom admitted Fong. No need then to describe Tom looks up (static voice of the third degree and an impossible action for Tom to see himself do). What's the narrative point of view, by the way? Third-person close, limited omniscient access to only one persona's viewpoint and thoughts and sensory perceptions? Or narrator selective omniscient access to multiple personas one at a time? The former, Tom cannot see himself see. The latter, the narrator can see Tom, though that method is cold and remote from the immediate now moment of the action unless set up artfully, dramatically, persuasively.

This is the selective omniscience type "a vice cop he knew". "he knew" is the culprit there, a blatant narrator parenthetical aside summary and explanation "tell." Tom names Fong using the familiar nominative first name "Jason." That amply implies they know each other on a first name basis at least. No drama, though. So what? How do they know each other? Drink buddies who contend for who pays? Mortal nemeses who despise each other? Swinger partners who attend sex parties? Some reason why they know each other and less that they do than more so that each impacts the other's life. Otherwise, no gain whatsoever from that they know each other. Excise altogether because it bogs down the start or add dramatic emphasis are best practices.

Likewise: "tall blonde in a halter top, miniskirt, and handcuffs." Reduce content or add dramatic emphasis, like Tom's thought she's, what, irresistible liquid sex appeal to him? Or a dirty "bad girl"? What's Tom's attitude and its why source of reaction?

The noun of "Lock up’s" is one word, //lockup//.

"too perfect" that's Tom's attitude without significance given, is equivocal whether Tom thinks too perfect is an appeal or a revulsion. Emotionally empty exclamation and sentence fragment due to no clear and strong attitude pole: negative or positive. Likewise, "too clear."

"A sexbot, he’d read about those things." Only read? Really? What closer knowledge might Tom have, being as he's a property clerk? Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag has intimate prior knowledge of books -- like that.

"The blonde looked angry." Narrator tell, though Tom can see it. Show her anger flareup is a best practice. Dramatic that way.

"Jason sneered at her. “Shut up, bolts!" Tom can see Jason sneer, though a tell. An action of Jason's to attribute the speech speaker is indicated, though a facial expression isn't much of a dramatic action. The lower case "bolts" is an odd exception to capital case for common nouns used as proper nouns. Capitalize and imply that's her professional or otherwise name? Lower case and the label an ethnic slur akin to "broad"? Empty if that. Lower case and imply she's beneath name-basis status, an object, property? Depends on what the story is really, truly, actually about human condition-wise. (Sapience?)

"'Yeah[,] and you talk too much.'" Takes the comma separation, "yeah" interjection case. Interjections take comma separation or other punctuation separation from main clauses.

"Jason turned back to Tom." Another empty action used for speech attribution.

"'She’s part of the evidence . . .'" "part of" wordy. Is or is not evidence? Her centrality to the action and story start, if not the whole, warrants her emphasized as central to the pendent hearing.

Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep manages the questions and challenges of non-human sapience artfully, similar features to this start's implied story, Pris in particular, though Roy is a masculine counterpart of the warrior-leader type.

Though curiosity what the story is really about might entice me to read further, at this time, I would not read on as a hopelessly engaged reader. The few points above that would hopelessly engage me are if the story's subtext questioned and challenged humans as property, the sapience paradigm, and the title abbreviated to imply deep polysemy and story thread subtext to the overt action.

[ August 16, 2017, 10:40 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
The door buzzed as it opened, and Tom looked up to see Jason Fong, a vice cop he knew, leading in a tall blonde in a halter top, miniskirt, and handcuffs
Far too wordy, and stiff, because you, the narrator, are explaining the scene you visualize as an outside observer, without actually giving them that picture in enough detail to visualize. So this is not Tom looking up and reacting to what he sees. It’s you telling the reader that “This happened…and as a result Tom looked up …and this is what he saw…” My point is that the viewpoint is yours. But it’s Tom’s story, so let him live it in real-time:
- - - - - -
The sound of the door latch pulled Tom from the computer’s screen just in time to see a stunningly beautiful blonde follow Jason Fong into the evidence room. The halter-top she wore did little to cover her assents, which were accentuated by the arms-behind pose dictated by the handcuffs she wore.

But her appearance in the room made no sense, so he said, “Uhh…while I appreciate the view, aren’t you in the wrong place? As I remember it, lockup is downstairs.”

That brought a laugh, and, “Look again, Tom, she’s property…and all yours.”

“You’re kidding.” But he wasn’t. A closer inspection showed…

- - - - - -
Not great writing, or your characters. It’s just a quick illustration of what I mean. Look at the differences.

Instead of reporting, our protagonist notices, reacts, and then acts, as you and I do. He notices the door latch releasing, it’s not explained. And in response he reacts to the most striking thing, the unexpected woman. The policeman is known, but she’s unexpected. Do we care that Fong is from vice? Would it matter if he was just someone from the station delivering her? No, because who he is is irrelevant irrelevant to the plot, the scene, or the character of either person. If it matters to the plot, Tom can say something like, “You guys in vice have all the fun,” or something else that identifies him more closely, does it in passing, and is natural to the flow of action.

I presented her as he sees her. Given what placing ones hands behind themselves does to the female form, and the halter-top, the first thing he would notice is her upper body and hair. And since the intent is to introduce her as a scene participant, including her entire wardrobe is irrelevant.

As part of the flow of the scene I had Tom notice the girl, and react to her appearance. But that acts to motivate him to further action, and request clarification. I added “uhh” to his dialog line to show his uncertainty, and as character development to demonstrate his personality. Had I used, “is there some reason for bringing her here?” it would have created a different kind of character. For example, I added the “she’s all yours,” line to make the dialog more natural, and to show the kind of interplay the characters have, as part of the ambiance of the station. Your character may respond more seriously, or may needle Tom for not noticing that she’s not human.

And after it’s pointed out that she’s not human, I had him ask if it was a joke to show that the woman was so closely modeled on real that an initial glance wouldn’t show what she really is. Had I left that out, and just have him acknowledge that she isn’t real after inspection, he might seem a little less human—her too.

Notice that at no time does the narrator step on stage, kill the scene clock’s ticking, and explain anything.

Presenting the story from within the protagonist’s viewpoint helps make a scene feel more real because it forces the reader to use the protagonist’s perceptions and decision-making rather than having to interpret the words based on a given reader’s background and understanding. My article on that, titled Inside Out, might help clarify what I mean.

Bear in mind that my comments are not matter of your talent or potential as a writer. Neither are they on the writing being good or bad. The problem is that you’re still approaching the act of presenting fiction on the page in the way we were taught in our school days, which is fact-based, author-centric, and designed to inform the reader clearly and concisely. Great for reports and essays, but not useful for fiction, whose goal is to entertain. For that, you need writing that’s emotion-based and character-centric. We don’t want the reader to know what happened, we want them to live it in the moment the protagonist calls “now.” If it’s a horror story the goal isn’t to make the reader know that the protagonist is frightened. It’s to terrify the reader. And to do that takes a specialized tool set unlike the one we’re given in school. And of most importance, one you can easily learn.

And that’s my point. Putting some time aside to pick up tricks of the trade would be time well spent. After all, if we want to write like a pro, doesn’t it make sense that we need to know what a pro knows?

A visit to the library’s fiction writing section is a good place to begin. For an overview of the issues it would pay to look into you might dig around among my articles on writing. But whatever you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.

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HenryMcF
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I just wanted to thank you both for your thoughtful comments. I just got a book on creative writing, and I'll be doing a lot of rewriting.
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Metta
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I agree with Jay Greenstein's comments.
Metta

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Lemonsqueezer
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When I first started creative writing recently I was introduced to the concept of showing not telling. It was a priceless critique that has really changed how I write and I continue to work on this. Hopefully this will be useful for you too as there is a lot of telling in this piece but without knowing about the importance of showing its really easily done.

Hope this is useful
: )

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