Re: ATM: More food than the blog wants

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Are you looking for just editing (regarding the writing), or also copy-editing specifically?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 1:00 PM
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Either, but a much higher priority on the former.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 1:09 PM
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Super minor, but Eloise has hair that's curly like her father's and then Margrit is described with curls too. I know curls are a motif, but it seemed weird unless there's somethin about the curls he and Eloise have that make them different from Margrit's.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 1:14 PM
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Not too minor at all! Thanks!


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 1:17 PM
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"Her hair hung down in ringlets of approximately 25mm in diameters as opposed to the 55mm curls found on Eloise's head."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 1:25 PM
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The future is really gonna suck, but at least we'll finally have good public transportation.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 1:29 PM
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Tia!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 1:42 PM
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So you should team up with K-sky, write a movie script based on this, and it could be Spike Jonze's next movie. It's a natural!

I always have this one issue with time travel services based on money -- why don't people just go back in time and make a big bet on the world series or play the lottery or whatever? It seems like if you could travel in time then money would be the least of your concerns.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 2:09 PM
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Hi, Alex! I've been around.

whaddya mean, PGD? Money isn't his biggest concern. And if he could hop around more than once, then yeah, he would have a lot more options, but he can't. The main thing he doesn't have money for is the time travel service, and he can't travel in time to get the money to pay them. It has to be upfront.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 2:23 PM
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I would cut everything about the 'dupe' scotch -- scotch is mass-produced now, and one shot of Macallan is supposed to taste exactly like the next. While I can imagine a luxury market for goods produced by old-fashioned methods, it seems unlikely that someone like your protagonist would perceive 'dupe' scotch as inferior unless he could actually taste the difference.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 2:27 PM
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And I may have just missed this, but since it's so important to see that he's writing a screenplay, it might be worth having more people showing interest in whatever format tv shows or movies would show up, since pretty much everything about the slates seemed to be (as I recall) advertising-related. I guess it depends on what the reason he's writing the screenplay is, whether it's a deliberate anachronism of his to signal he's secretly yearning for the past or if he's hoping he'll hit it rich and it will be his ticket out of the doldrums, whatever, the reason doesn't need to be clear but the screenplay also probably shouldn't only tie into itself. Or you may have addressed this and I just didn't notice.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 2:36 PM
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9: I meant, if I had access to a time machine I wouldn't cash in by setting up a time travel service for sad divorcees -- I'd just go back in time and play the markets.

But it wasn't meant to be a serious criticism, this kind of thing is a common/necessary conceit in time travel stories, including good ones.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 2:36 PM
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Also, the line about why the windows in the train were slits clanged. First, is there a speed where scenery would be nauseating? Wouldn't it just blur? Second, even if that were the reason, you're inside his head, and it seems unlikely that he'd be thinking about the anti-nausea effect of the windows -- you might say something about how the slitted windows blocked his view of the scenery whizzing past, but not why they were designed like that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 2:43 PM
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9: Ah, I see. Yeah, I suppose you could travel back to yesterday and buy a lottery ticket. But maybe the owners of the company see themselves as philanthropic.

11: I just want to make sure I understand this. You want to know why a screenplay, because we don't understand enough about how movies specifically would fit into the culture?

13: Yeah, I got another complaint about that. I'll probably just cut the explanation, as you say.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 2:58 PM
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Also, I hate to say this, because I don't think it's fixable, and so the answer may just be to ignore it. But how does NuBeginnings keep any money? Protagonist in Year X gives them money, goes back to year X-15 and changes the past so that he doesn't live the life that leads to his giving NuBeginnings money. The moment on his personal timeline where he paid them no longer exists.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:04 PM
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15: It's addressed in dialogue (maybe later than where you are in the story), essentially by saying that there's occult technology that handles it. I mean, I could make something up, but it would bog the reader down. I got forceful feedback on earlier drafts that the reader isn't interested in detailed descriptions of imaginary tech, and just wants to move forward with the plot.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:07 PM
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it seems unlikely that someone like your protagonist would perceive 'dupe' scotch as inferior unless he could actually taste the difference.

Just like no one perceives synthetic gemstones as inferior, even if they can't tell the difference?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:07 PM
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Also, the e-merge thing? In the scene with Tommy, I was puzzled by how it was supposed to work. The protagonist seems to be watching the simulacrum of himself as Tommy punches it, rather than seeing things from its point of view. Was it supposed to be like that?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:07 PM
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s/even if/because/


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:07 PM
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14.2: Yes, since the media seems to be user-created content plus advertising, although I know you mentioned movie stars it wasn't clear how movies and tv fit into the culture.

I also thought about 15 and was going to try to reread tonight to see if I could figure it out, what goes away when the time travel or jumping universes occurs and how, or whether and to what degree he's being scammed.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:08 PM
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Was it supposed to be like that?

Yes. There's a line -- maybe it needs to be highlighted more or clarified -- that said that the protagonist has a split screen view of third-person perspective and the e-merge perspective.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:13 PM
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17: See what I said about luxury, which gemstones are sort of a core example of. Scotch has some rarity value, but most of it, particularly to a sad drunk, is going to be much more the experience of drinking it rather than that it was produced in an unnecessarily difficult way. There's a market for handsewn clothes, I suppose, but not much of one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:13 PM
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I haven't read the story, but I have two suggestions. First, Poochie should be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine. Second, whenever Poochie isn't in a scene, the other characters should be asking each other "Where's Poochie?"


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:14 PM
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Heh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:16 PM
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23: I think if you read the scene where Poochie mows down the field of corgis with a howitzer while blasting Carmina Burana you'd know that I already addressed that critique.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:22 PM
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There's some 1940s? story I'm reminded of. Maybe CL Moore? Our hero is at his desk, trying to decide whether to marry an intellectual, aggressive, brunette, or a sweet, feminine blonde. Suddenly, the picture of the brunette in his office animates, and it's a young man from the future with a strong resemblance to the brunette, sending back a message through time to our hero, his ancestor. The message is all martial and manly, and is appealing for our hero to do something or other that will help the descendant in some war or other.

Then the picture of the blonde in our hero's office animates, and it's a sweet, gentle young woman from the future, also appealing to our hero, her ancestor, to help her out somehow -- it's clear that she's on the other side of the future war from martial brunet boy. Clearly, our hero is being given a decision between these two possible futures, depending on who he marries.

So he marries his secretary instead. I am totally not kidding.

Anyone else ever read this?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 3:44 PM
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Jesus, LB, you need to put some SPOILER WARNINGs on your comments. Not all of us have read the story yet.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 4:56 PM
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||
My niece is studying for her 9th grade biology semester final. She has to cover experimental procedures, lab safety, ecology, food chains, biomes, photosynthesis, DNA, cell transport, cell parts, and energy flow. Not in huge depth, but reasonably detailed. Doesn't that seem like an awful lot?
|>


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 5:23 PM
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Minor: In paragraph 3, "on his back" confused me. I thought for a moment that the keys were on his back. I'm easily confused, though.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 5:30 PM
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Minor: In paragraph 3, "on his back" confused me. I thought for a moment that the keys were on his back. I'm easily confused, though.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 5:30 PM
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See? Confused.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 5:31 PM
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I like this story a lot, but I would cut it by about 50%.

I love the opening, and I love a lot of the world-building.

Cut everything about the job. We don't need to see his job. Have him have lost his job, in fact. He should be unemployed, doing the microjobs, which is a great bit, I love that.

Cut most of the detail about how the time travel works and why his Ally wants to go back and all of that -- it's slowing your story down right when we're at the climax. I'd think about cutting the Ally's story / back story entirely, in fact. She's not your story; he is. She's a distraction. (I get that you're doing theme here, but ALWAYS CUT THEME.)

If you can, cut the transitional stuff after he agrees to buy the ticket and when he makes the jump. Cut to the chase.

You've got a really good story here. But at 28 pages you're killing it.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 6:14 PM
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Hi Tia - speaking from experience I think this is a bad idea. I haven't read the story. I would expect it to be pretty good. Most people here are smart, competent writers, but even still, they are going to tell you a bunch of useless shit. If you need a line edit, just for prose tightening, then give it to a writer you like and ask for that. Just one person. Don't take any general advice about what works or not from people unless you are absolutely sure they know what they're talking about and actually care to make your story better. I would be careful about even asking for a line edit if you already like the sound of your prose. If you like the story, just submit it.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 6:22 PM
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You're only saying that because we tell everybody a bunch of useless shit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:08 PM
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text: it will be okay! I've already heard some useful things, and I've already had the fortitude to reject some things. (I think LB's complaint about the alcohol is idiosyncratic! But she gave me other useful feedback!) Anyway, it's pretty hard to get people's attention, as I said. I gave it to my roommate, a writer I like, who read it thoughtfully and gave me some notes, but I invited her to keep it if she wanted more time with it and she said, "no, I should give this to you now, before god knows what happens." I just don't know that I have anyone I can get to really sit down with it who I'd also just love as an editor. Holly, PINY's old spark, should really sit down and read this thing considering I read her whole draft novel, but she might not, because honestly she can be a bit about herself. I did ask her and she didn't wind up replying to that email. I just feel inhibited about asking people who are always so busy. I need a writing group. I had one, and it was somewhat useful, but I didn't trust all of their judgment. I need a writing group full of people I totally trust. I have a friend who is a professional science fiction editor and I'd want her to look at most of all, but we're not very, very close friends and I'm inhibited about asking her to do her job for free. So I've thought about offering to pay her some kind of freelance rate, but I don't have a ton of money at the moment. I just want it to be the best it can be before I send it anywhere.

My last two readers both thought the middle section should be shorter, and I don't think I disagree, but it's a little frustrating to know I need to make something shorter when I'm not sure what's extraneous. It's hard for me to pull the trigger on deletion, although I've been doing it more and more as I've combed through it. Mostly to do things like cut the saleswoman's speeches, which do go on.

Speaking of: thanks, delagar. I did get one other reader who thought the saleswoman's backstory should go. But a lot of other people disagreed (this was in my writing group). I would have to hear a lot of people say that before I would be willing to give up that material, which I care about. I care about her as a character, and I care about her interaction with him. In practice, it would be so painful even to try that the force urging me to do it would have to be strong. I could maybe tell myself, "it's just an exercise" and then compare the drafts when it was done. I think I feel even worse about cutting the transitional stuff -- trimming, maybe, but probably not cutting. It's important to me to have him have this brief experience of being liberated, to have the fantasy of being well-cared for the capitalist machine, and to have him talk to his daughter. I don't think I can give up any of those things, unless I reliably hear from readers that it is burdensome to read as is. I mean, there comes a point when you're just deluded about whether what you're doing is working. I had more visual description of what it was like going back in time, and I kind of liked it, but I got unanimous feedback that it was distracting from the emotional impact of everything else I was trying to do. So it went.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:12 PM
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oops, that was me.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:12 PM
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I just feel inhibited about asking people who are always so busy.

... so, by implication... right. Makes sense.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:13 PM
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shorter me: If everyone tells me useless shit, then I will reject it. If they tell me useful shit, then I won't. Either way, no harm done.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:14 PM
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For whatever it's worth, I also thought it flagged a bit in the part with the saleswoman's backstory, but mostly I liked it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:19 PM
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By that process, if we tell you everything, you'll write the best story that it is possible to write.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:21 PM
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What's the referent of "it", essear -- the saleswoman's backstory or the whole thing?

I could try shortening that passage.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:34 PM
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I so do not have the fortitude to take critiques so even handedly. Admiration, T.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 7:46 PM
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OT: It is possible for a refrigerator door to fall off its hinges.

It is equally possible, following the occurrence of the foregoing, for an educated man who is not, thanks to an impoverished childhood, a stranger either to minor household repairs generally or the hanging of doors specifically (albeit not refrigerator doors), to spend two hours on his stomach with a flashlight, a small mirror and a Philips-head screwdriver without accomplishing a goddamned thing.

God damn it.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 8:00 PM
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Refrigerator doors are specifically made so that you can switch the side on which they open without trouble. Unless you have a side by side.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 8:06 PM
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Well if you're looking for just any kind of feedback, I would leave the ending open. Have it end as though it's unclear which of the two realities is the real one. Maybe he just keeps going back and forth between them. It was also hard to sympathize with him when he choked his wife. It made him a different character. It made the story darker. If you want it to be dark, then he shouldn't redeem himself in the end. He should cycle back and forth.

You have a typo on the bottom of page 22 -- projecte -- and you repeat a word on page 25 -- down stairs down.

You are the only one who can decide which details to cut. Doing it otherwise makes you Raymond Carver and he was very unhappy about that and wound up ruining his own stories after the fact. Just delete things according to your own whim. Sometimes you can delete things that seem really necessary and actually make the story better. But you shouldn't ask other people to do that for you. You already have a care with language and can be trusted to edit your own story.

I would have him meet the same woman at the bar at the end. She would have found a way to cheat on her husband anyway. I would try to pull the pieces together a little more in that way. Maybe Margrit cheated too.

And I would concentrate my cuts on the first couple pages. You could probably lose a lot there.

But you could also write a good story that strays and begins slowly. It's a good story now, and you shouldn't let it sit on the shelf too long.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 8:11 PM
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41.1: To clarify, I liked the whole thing, but my interest flagged in the part with her backstory.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 8:26 PM
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I haven't had a chance to read the story tonight, but I look forward to reading it tomorrow.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 9:28 PM
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I really like the ending, and I would not fuck with it.

A suggestion for the bit with the saleswoman / Ally (something I do when I have a bit I'm really fond of, but people tell me I should cut): cut it, but save it to a file called scrap. You can then maybe use it for another story?

Your idea about saving two different versions of the story and comparing them is a good one, too!

I think maybe you have two stories here? His story and your saleswoman / ally's story?

In general (this is what I tell students in my workshop) in *novels* you can tell the stories of more than one character, but in short stories you only have room to tell the story of one character.

Maybe tell the saleswoman's story in a different story.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 12-19-13 9:41 PM
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For what it's worth, I found the interaction at the bar to be the most compelling part. I think it's the heart of the story.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 12:38 AM
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This exchange is great. It's confirming for me that I don't want or need major changes. There's nothing like hearing two people have totally opposite opinions about what you might cut or change to make you feel like you don't have any big, glaring, consensus-generating problems. It's very helpful. I really do appreciate hearing readers react. It's also maybe illuminating that I'm not getting that much negative reaction to how anything reads. I have a lot of paranoia about being too explicit/heavy-handed/on-the-nose, but if no one is piping up about that, then maybe it's fine. (But still feel free to pipe up!)

text, I appreciate this: "But you could also write a good story that strays and begins slowly." delagar, the other person who wanted me to cut the saleswoman backstory also did it in terms of the rules for short stories, but eh, this isn't a short story. It's a long short story or a novella.

text, I'm not changing the ending, but I'm not sure what you mean by this: "Have it end as though it's unclear which of the two realities is the real one. Maybe he just keeps going back and forth between them." It makes me worried the ending is unclear as currently written. I used to have it written so that there could be no possible confusion, but I changed it a little bit for rhythm and hoped it would still be clear. What did you mean? What did you think happened in the end?

Anyway, I don't know what the relationship was between Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish, but I don't want to just say, "oh, you know best" -- I want to see what someone would suggest and then decide what I think about it. I want an external perspective to react to. Sometimes things people say about certain sentences confirm something I was already thinking, but wasn't sure about. But maybe I'm not going to find that at the moment, and I'll just decide I'm mostly done, go through it myself a few more times, and then send it places. I won't just let it sit on the shelf. I resolved to let go of all my defenses about writing that had kept me from doing it for years, and one of those defenses is telling yourself it's okay to hoard your work.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 5:53 AM
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and wound up ruining his own stories after the fact

Well, that's one way to look at it. But there is indeed no doubt that the whole dynamic made Carver feel terrible.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 7:27 AM
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Interestingly, I also think the interaction at the bar is the heart of the story and my attention flagged during it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 7:29 AM
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I have a lot of paranoia about being too explicit/heavy-handed/on-the-nose, but if no one is piping up about that, then maybe it's fine.

Well, it is, a bit, but it seems like that's the kind of story it is. I don't know that you could fix that without making it feel just pointlessly meandering instead. I think text is right and it's probably just about time to send it off and start the next whatever.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 7:42 AM
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Interestingly, I also think the interaction at the bar is the heart of the story and my attention flagged during it.

I am inclined to agree that this section needs to be streamlined! I will try to hunker down and decide how to tighten it up if getting my manuscript handed back to me with a bunch of suggested deletions turns out to be a pipe dream. In truth, the beginning used to go on too long, and mostly by my lonesome I aggressively cut it down, without losing any of the pieces of what I thought was important to communicate. I can probably also do that to the middle by myself.

I really appreciate this, guys.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 7:47 AM
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50: I tend to prefer less heavy-handedness, but there is a lot of heavy-handed writing out there getting published and read and enjoyed, and I enjoyed reading your story, so I would stick to writing in the style that you prefer.

There are a lot of good short stories that focus on more than one character.

The kind of relationship that you desire I also desire, and I understand why you want it. But I have had difficulty finding it, and would like to advise you not to pretend it exists if it doesn't. Then again, I've also had conversations that improved pieces I was working on. But those are all conversations that happened in person, while we were sitting and looking at the piece.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 7:51 AM
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I tend to prefer less heavy-handedness, but there is a lot of heavy-handed writing out there getting published and read and enjoyed, and I enjoyed reading your story, so I would stick to writing in the style that you prefer.

In earlier drafts, so paranoid about my heavy-handedness, I purposely stripped out a lot of interiority, and then readers told me they weren't getting the emotion I intended or had no idea how characters were reacting. And the truth is, I really don't have a minimalist aesthetic. My favorite art is big and lyrical and operatic and florid. So it may be that you have to have the minimalist aesthetic to be able to achieve powerful, resonant minimalism, and as you say, I should just embrace my own style.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 8:41 AM
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I think it's sort of silly to think that a writer needs to have a philosophy of minimalism or whatever its opposite would be to achieve any given effect in any given work. What I mean is that you could decide to write a minimalist story, or you could decide to write a story in which you tell the reader exactly what's going on in each character's head, and you should decide among those choices based on whatever it is you're working on, rather than whether or not you like opera. I like the Carver stories. I also like Saul Bellow. While most writers have tics which show up in a variety of different pieces, which give them away, they are also capable of varying. Faulkner tried a lot of different things, for example. I would think that most writers would get bored writing everything in the same style. The pressure of success may militate against variance, but that is not a problem I have faced.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 9:13 AM
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Hi all, can't get online for some reason. So no posts forthcoming in the short term. Sorry.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 9:26 AM
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Paradoxical.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 9:29 AM
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OT hardware bleg: For the second time, I've had a USB cable stop charging unless I jiggle the micro connector around and/or push hard on the micro connector and hold it in place. With the first cable, it took a couple of years for this problem to develop; with the second, just a few months.

These were both Samsung cables that came with the devices, not cheapo after-market cables. Both my Samsung phone & Samsung tablet charge just fine on my cigarette lighter charger, so it's not the devices.

1. Am I doing something to cause the problem or is it
this just a thing that happens?

2. Is there an actual difference in the quality of USB cables?

3. Etc.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 9:35 AM
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59: I guess so. What I mean is that: "This story does not comport with my philosophy of literature, therefore change it," is not a helpful form of criticism, and yet it is almost always said by people who think they know what they're talking about. Write in the style that you think works for the piece.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 9:36 AM
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Oh, I understood what you meant, text. I was responding to heebie's comment.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 9:58 AM
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How could heebie be online complaining she can't be online?

Time travel.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 10:14 AM
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In my experience, the biggest issues with asking for feedback come when the work just doesn't pass some basic threshold of readability -- when there's something essentially wrong with it and it fails the 'would I want to read this at all' test. That is hard news to deliver to someone who has worked really hard on something, and it can also be hard to pinpoint exactly what the reason is for that kind of broad-gauge failure (since this can happen to people who are decent writers line by line). Basically, it's back to the drawing board territory.

This story clears that threshold easily It's not perfect, it might be too long, but it works at the basic level. It's engaging, it's readable, it's interesting. So you can give feedback on details and specific decisions that is easier for the author to absorb.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 10:38 AM
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Tia - I made a bunch of comments in Word track-changes. Would you be able to view that, if I sent it to the Gmail address associated with the document?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 11:00 AM
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Late to this, so people (mostly text and delagar) have already said most of what I'd say. But I think now is the time to go back to RFTS' 53. Send it off. One of three things will happen: either you will get a brusk, anonymous rejection, in which case you will have learned that you probably don't want to work for that outfit in future anyway; or you will get a considered rejection from a reader who has actually thought about it and will give you better advice than most of us; or you will sell it.

When you sell it, that is the time to work through with your editor the detailed points of vocabulary and grammar that this forum is simply not suited to. Ideally do it face to face, or at least IM.

If I was an editor I'd buy that (which may be why I'm not an editor). But I wouldn't publish it without further work, and as your editor I'd want to work with you while you did that.

Submission time.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 11:03 AM
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Minivet, I think so.

If I was an editor I'd buy that

This was a very encouraging, and frankly, moving thing to hear from someone I respect.

In my experience, the biggest issues with asking for feedback come when the work just doesn't pass some basic threshold of readability

At least for this writer, in a lot of ways getting feedback was the easiest in my first draft when my work was the worst (probably not passing a basic threshold of readability). It was a first draft; I expected to hear some hard criticism and knew I had to take it on the chin. (Heebie compliments me on taking criticism, which I appreciate, but really it's just self-interested -- if I can't calmly hear criticism how am I going to make my shit better?) Plus, I could tell myself, as you have to when you start to write anything, "Expect this to be bad at first. You have to be able to tolerate seeing something bad on the page if you want to get to something good." And when things are crappy, feedback from smart readers can be clear, consistent, and right. The better something gets, the more readers disagree and you're left to try to sort through a lot of noise.

When you sell it, that is the time to work through with your editor

Ok, I want to ask for a different kind of advice now. I have never tried to sell a story. This is only the second thing I ever basically finished, and the first was years ago. I have no idea how this works. I get editorial attention for a short story? I know people do for novels.

I only have three ideas for venues, given the length. Kindle Singles, this contest and, uh, the venue edited by my friend and another guy well-known to this blog. Does anyone have other venue ideas, or ideas about how you research venues? How do I handle submitting to a venue where I know an editor well? I'm going to see her tomorrow.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 12:38 PM
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This is a good place to start in looking for venues. Most of the magazines have online submission systems, and the smaller web-based journals are all on submittable (used to be submishmash).


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 1:36 PM
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It's science fiction; why not send it to a science fiction mag?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 1:48 PM
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That makes sense too, and they typically pay. But I think the story also qualifies as literary fiction.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 1:51 PM
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For instance, George Saunders has published work which could be termed "science fiction" in the New Yorker and a bunch of other fancy places. I guess that The Metamorphosis and In The Penal Colony could also be called science fiction by someone who hasn't read much literary fiction, or by someone who wants to expand the science fiction genre. Of course Tia should send her story wherever she thinks it fits best.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:10 PM
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If I was were an editor


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:11 PM
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I guess that The Metamorphosis and In The Penal Colony could also be called science fiction by someone who hasn't read much literary fiction, or by someone who wants to expand the science fiction genre.

This confuses me. I'm no expert in science fiction, but I know a damn lot about Kafka. People try to read his work through all sorts of genres, but that one doesn't seem like like a great fit. Like you're reading his some of his influence back onto him, but not thinking about the actual works.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:20 PM
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Magical realism is in a lot of his works a closer fit. The dystopianism in a lot of sci-fi may be Kafkaesque, but that doesn't make Kafka sci-fi. And technology, when it is a theme, plays a different role than in sci-fi (as I understand it) (which, again, is maybe not that well).


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:25 PM
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You are right, I don't think it would be a good fit, Blume. This is why it would be attributable to someone who hasn't read much literary fiction, or someone who wants to fit more authors into a genre, perhaps even by putting them into a genre containing other writers who were influenced by them. I assume that's what you meant.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:27 PM
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Of course magical realism, to the extent that it is a genre, rather than a description of a subset of literary fiction, also arose post-Kafka. At least, I don't think people were using that term while Kafka was writing.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:28 PM
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Some might call The Swimmer SF, if they had never read anything before, but I would have no truck with such people, and I hope none of you would either.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:29 PM
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A nice note is not only that the SF venues pay, they are also more likely than most to accept longer short fiction (novellas and novelettes). Also, George Saunders hasn't just published work that could be termed science fiction -- it is, it has been, it has been anthologized accordingly, it has won science fiction awards, etc.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:30 PM
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And of course, science fiction predates Kafka. But perhaps the type of science fiction which can claim Kafka as an influence does not. Can we agree on that?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:31 PM
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Publication: If you have a friend, by all means start with the friend.

Next step, I would recommend Duotrope. It's $50/year, but it's worth the price. It's a service that lets you search for magazines and contests and publishers, for any length of fiction (or poetry or non-fiction, for you strange people who write that).

You can search by genre, too, so you can search for SF or for literary fiction publishers. Duotrope also lets you track your submissions, so you can keep track of where you have submitted a given work to.

You can also use it month-by-month, for $5.00/month, to see if you like it.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:31 PM
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Duotrope here:

https://duotrope.com/index.aspx?bp=search


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:32 PM
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Questions of defining science fiction aside, it's worth noting that Tia explicitly categorized this story as science fiction in the OP.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:33 PM
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78: That's good for George Saunders, and I believe that it also illustrates my point. And I have nothing against science fiction magazines. I have submitted stories to them.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:33 PM
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82: Jeez, I was just trying to provide a helpful link.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:38 PM
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That wasn't directed at you in particular, text.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:43 PM
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Good, I was afraid you were trying to make me feel bad again.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12-20-13 2:49 PM
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Hi, Tia.

I may have some more detailed line edit comments later, but I have various thoughts about what you could do with the Ally's story. First, you could leave it basically as it is, which is what you seem to want to do. I enjoyed her back story, and agree that you don't need to follow someone else's vision of what belongs in a short story. Second, you could expand it. As it stands, we never do find out how her story gets resolved (except for a hint in how Henry's story resolves), which is typical for the stories of others we meet in real life, but leaves things a little bit hanging. In an expanded story, you could work towards a resolution that ties up both their stories at the same time, and not necessarily in a rom-com way.

Third, you could pull most of her back story into a separate, possibly interlocking story. Harry Turtledove did this in "Forty, Counting Down" and "Twenty-one, Counting Up," which is a pair of stories about a divorced time-traveller who goes back to meet his younger self in an effort to repair the great romantic tragedy of his life. The first story is written from the perspective of the older self; the second shows many of the same events from the perspective of the younger self. The two stories bookend his collection Counting Up, Counting Down.

Finally, you could just trim some of her back story. By making her motivation a bit more of a cypher, I think you could, if you wanted, use that to push the story in a darker direction. The true crux of the story may hinge on that moral choice of his that she keeps minimizing. After all, it is rather egotistical to believe that the rest of the universe will cease to exist just because your individual consciousness will no longer be a part of it. In that case, you may be retelling a much older story, and Henry's true name may be Faustus. (In fact, that is the direction I thought you were going, before I got to the part where you were telling so much of her back story.) That also would provide an answer to why a time-travelling corporation would be so concerned about his money - they don't care so much about the money for itself, it's just a gimmick to ensure his complete commitment. Earlier generations used a signature in blood for much the same reason. Perhaps the "angel investors" in NuBeginnings are emotional vampires who get off on the prospect of watching him destroy both his families' futures in a quest for personal happiness. Or perhaps they are god-like beings who are gambling between themselves on what choice he will make, much like God and Satan in the prolog to the book of Job.

In any case, you've written an interesting story, and I wish you success in placing it.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 12-26-13 4:31 AM
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Thanks, Dave W.

"Henry's true name may be Faustus."

I have never read this!

use that to push the story in a darker direction

it makes me happy that I feel like I wrote something impossibly bleak and readers are all, it could be darker!

Part of why I don't want to make her a cipher is that she was an ambiguously human cipher in the first draft, and I remember how boring the middle section was then. It read much better once I started writing her to have motivations.

I am noodling over what to cut, though. Minivet suggested cutting the movie, and that's a great example of something I've been a little dubious about for a while and probably just needed one more person to tell me it could go. I'll try making some things shorter (I've also been a little dubious for a while about the fantasies he has while talking to his daughter).

much like God and Satan in the prolog to the book of Job

hmm, I was telling someone my skeletal idea for the next thing I want to work on, and he said it reminded him of the Book of Job.

Those are all really interesting ideas. I think at some point I may want to come back to this story and this universe -- I actually already have a character/situation in a scratch folder from this universe. I wrote this scene in which my protagonist is working at an e-merge-based business in which women pretend to be potential Russian brides but were really Americans down the street, and he has to sub in for one of the women and operate her e-merge, and eventually take his shirt off in his office to get the e-merge to take hers off, and everyone watches him. I'd like to rescue this for a story some day. I also had a discarded idea that the saleswomen were destitute women who are just forced into these seductions for money, and literally every time they go out, they might destroy the timeline that made them and snuff themselves out of existence. I joked to my roommate that I would put that in New Beginnings 2: Time Whores. Anyway, what you say about God and Satan reminded me of The Hunger Games and The Cabin in the Woods. At the time they came out, I wanted to write something about their synchronicity, how they had very similar plots and both concerned the anxieties about being watched and used, not being in control, who got to be author, and what that captured about what everyone was worrying about, but I was busy dropping out of grad school.

All this is to say I think I might come back to the universe and do something expanded later, so I appreciate the ideas for broadening the scope. I think I would like to ship this off in short story form and then later, when I've done some other things and am ready to come back here, think of how I might wind some threads together.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 12-26-13 8:17 AM
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I have never read this!

I haven't actually read either Marlowe's or Goethe's versions yet either - I'm familiar through various derivative works and Wikipedia plot summaries.

Part of why I don't want to make her a cipher is that she was an ambiguously human cipher in the first draft, and I remember how boring the middle section was then. It read much better once I started writing her to have motivations.

Fair enough - experience with an actual draft trumps my speculation about how it would play out.

I also had a discarded idea that the saleswomen were destitute women who are just forced into these seductions for money, and literally every time they go out, they might destroy the timeline that made them and snuff themselves out of existence.

So your view of the time travel/modification is that changing the timeline for one person in this universe can cause all kinds of other people to pop into/out of existence through various butterfly effects. That's the viewpoint expressed by the Ally in your story, of course, but I took that as just part of her sales pitch, not necessarily voice of the author. Of course, as author you get to say how it really works. But are these women any more at risk from changes that their client initiates than they are from changes someone else's client initiates? Or for that matter, from changes initiated by some alien on Epsilon Eridani changing his/her/its timeline? How far do these changes extend, and how much of a conservative force is there that tries to get different timelines to reconverge, making the different futures more rather than less recognizable? Should the villagers be banding together to go after NuBeginnings with torches and pitchforks as a threat to everyone's existence?

My view was that changing your timeline is more like backing up the train of your consciousness to a switch point and sending it down a different track, which was implied by the idea that at the center of the X you could see all of both timelines of your existence for a moment. Changing direction changes what you get to see from the train as it travels on, and might change direct interactions between the train and its environment, but both sets of tracks and the countryside around them exist all along, in a "many worlds" type of interpretation. That's what I thought had Faustian implications - he's being encouraged to not care about the consequences of his choice for his family in the timeline he's leaving behind, on the grounds that they won't exist anymore. But if his family does have an existence that is independent of his, then those consequences still have moral weight, he just doesn't get to see them. Which could be a metaphor for how outsourcing allows us to push the consequences of unsavory manufacturing processes off where we don't have to see them, or how many suicides don't consider (or wrongly consider) the consequences of their death on the people around them. (I do recognize that many suicides are caught in the depths of a depression that doesn't allow them to think clearly about those consequences, and simply want their pain to stop.) There are deep waters here that you are probing.

I've also been a little dubious for a while about the fantasies he has while talking to his daughter.

I thought those were really effective at conveying his pain at the loss of the relationships he is leaving behind. He may have been told that his daughter's life doesn't count because she won't exist anymore, but there is a part of him that is screaming in rebellion at that idea. Your call, but I would leave them (or most of them).

In fact, that suggests an alternate ending to me, coupled with that suicide metaphor. In this ending, everything up to the point where he gets to the center of the X is the same. But then, looking at both his possible timelines stretched out in front of him, he listens to the part of him that is screaming in rebellion, and chooses to return to his original timeline. His Ally may have suggested that both his families are equivalent - one winks out of existence and the other pops in - and in an abstract, impersonal sense that might be true. But damn it, these are the kids that he knows and loves, and has spent years raising, however imperfectly. At the moment of decision, he can't weigh them as equal to the abstract vision of a future kid that he hasn't even gotten to know yet, and he can't stand the idea of spending the rest of his life in a different timeline from them, regardless of what that means metaphysically. So he decides to give up on his dream of romantic fulfillment in an alternate future and go back to face the music. His life there may be fucked-up, and he's made it even more fucked-up by raiding the kid's funds (NuBeginnings isn't likely to give him a refund under the circumstances), but he'll face it, whatever it means, just to know that his kids are still there. Call it the "It's a Wonderful Life" ending - metaphorically, he was standing on the edge of the bridge, staring down into the abyss, and decided not to jump after all.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 12-30-13 7:26 PM
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I'm happy I checked back on this thread!

I thought those were really effective at conveying his pain at the loss of the relationships he is leaving behind.

Oh gosh. Alright, I'm putting them back. This settles it. I think I should cut the video (I can get a whole page into like four lines of dialogue by doing that), do some basic grooming (*I* started noticing some things that were blatantly repetitious that I think I just hadn't managed to catch and take care of before), and after that send it in. Beyond that I don't have a strong sense that any changes I make are going to be productive, and that's the time to send it off. Maybe I will find an editor who is invested and will help shave it down more.

I haven't actually read either Marlowe's or Goethe's versions yet either

Actually, after writing that I remembered I have read Marlowe's version, for an undergrad class called Science and the Literary Imagination. It just didn't make too much of an impression on me, obviously.

How far do these changes extend, and how much of a conservative force is there that tries to get different timelines to reconverge, making the different futures more rather than less recognizable? Should the villagers be banding together to go after NuBeginnings with torches and pitchforks as a threat to everyone's existence?

The villagers don't know about NB -- thus part of the reason for the secrecy. But good points. I hadn't 100% thought all that through, and I don't know that it's necessary at the level I'm working on now, but definitely could be if I ever came back to the universe. It is important to what I believe happens that he really does effectively snuff out both sets of kids over and over again, into infinity -- they never grow up. But maybe the kernel smoother of time travel influence is pretty narrow and rapidly decays as you have less and less connection to the people who made the decision. As you say, there could be a conservative force that keeps other factors in play.

I'm very committed to the ending, since it's what motivated the whole story. But what you say about the alternate ending is interesting to me especially given what I know of my own history of attempts at writing. The first long thing I ever tried to write, ten years ago, which started just terrible (I mean, I knew it) in the first "chapter" and worked itself into some decent writing by the end of it. That ended with a suicide that was essentially a retreat into fantasy (this is obviously core material for me!) but then I decided it was more satisfying/less cheeseball to let the protagonist live. So it's funny that the same dilemmas exist for Henry here. But I really don't think giving him an out would make for satisfying reading in this particular case.

(Incidentally, this story was a response to a prompt: "write a story that answers a question that begins 'what if?'." I highly recommend writing in response to prompts for anyone, but especially for new or returning writers who are trying to shed some inhibitions, don't know which of their years-old treasured ideas to work on first, and are anxious about seeing something bad on the page. It's a good way to make writing low-stakes. You're not ruining your baby; you're just trying something. If it doesn't work out, it was always just a prompt.)


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-14 12:28 PM
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I'm glad that this showed up in the sidebar, it reminded me to finally read the story.

First thought, I'd agree that you should try to publish it. I wouldn't have been surprised to read that in an anthology somewhere.

Secondly, I am strongly in favor of keeping the Ally's background because the point where I felt the most immediate emotional pull from the story was watching just how fiendishly effective the sales pitch was. I'd just read the exchange between Tia and Dave so I knew that it would end badly, but even without that, I think there's a point at which it becomes clear that the offer shouldn't be trusted (if not before, the point at which he transfers the money while they're still at the bar has to be a giant red flag).

I thought the point when she's telling her story gives him an opportunity to reflect, "does this credible? Does her desire to change her own life in this way seem like a good reason?" I don't think that would have stopped him, but it gives an opportunity.

The other thing it made me curious about, just as a world building detail, is how people in that future interact with salespeople. There's the mention of ubiquitous adds on the slate, but how often do they have a real person selling them something. Would they, by default, have a higher sales resistance than an average person today? Again, the pitch seems irresistible, but I'm surprised that he doesn't try harder to say, "tell me whatever you want, I'm not going to sign anything tonight, but I'll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow. . . "


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 2-14 3:05 PM
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Thanks NickS! That, too is helpful.

but I'm surprised that he doesn't try harder to say, "tell me whatever you want, I'm not going to sign anything tonight, but I'll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow. . . "

He's already made a bad investment because he's prone to magical thinking about the solutions to his problems. He's not characteristically cautious and he's motivated to believe it will work out. He probably also knows at some level that waiting would encourage indecision and paralysis and an attack of conscience.

Would they, by default, have a higher sales resistance than an average person today?

Another funny thing about getting to hear people react to something you made: everyone reads it as more dystopian far future than I intended. I actually meant it more as slight future elaboration of the present circumstances, with a big fantastic element. So I think of people's relationship to ads and sales as similar to their current relationship. Some people are really suckers (and everyone's a little bit of one).


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-14 11:21 AM
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Hi, Tia. Glad you checked back. I sent an email to your unfogged email to let you know that I'd added to the thread - did you see that? If that's not an email you check very often, feel free to send me a better one.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01- 4-14 4:47 PM
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Meanwhile, some further thoughts about the Ally's story: she seemed pretty polished in her sales pitch for someone doing this for the first time. Is it possible that this isn't her first time, and that the company somehow allows her to remember stuff from her previous experiences so that she can improve? If so, does she become aware that she is basically selling long-odds lottery tickets to desperate people looking for a new chance, but that she keeps selling in the desperate hope that someday she will draw a winning ticket for herself? How does she rationalize all this? Or is she a novice and it's just really good sales training on the part of the company?

All possibly grist for the mill if you want to write a new story in this universe focused on her, or someone like her.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01- 4-14 4:57 PM
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Darn it, now the person with allergies cancelled & it looks like I turned down a home cooked meal for no reason :|


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 4-14 5:20 PM
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Oops that should go in the other thread.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 4-14 5:29 PM
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huh, I don't know where my Unfogged mail is going. I don't have an email at the address I'd expect it to forward to. I sent you an email from my RL address.

Anyway, I actually have a new little dilemma now if people are still hanging around the thread. Having decided I finished something, I opened up a new google doc to start the next thing. For a while it was blank, but now I've typed a few words, so that's better. But I have a problem. There's one idea that's the most compelling to me to work on right now -- probably just because it's most recent; hanging on to your old ideas too long without working on them makes them feel stale, or not reflective of who you are anymore. But the more I think about this idea and start to try to really plot it, it becomes clear that it's a novel, not a story. But I'm so busy, so it's not like I can spend a lot of time busting out a draft, and the way my thinking about this idea is going, it's going to require some reading, too -- I would need to read some mystery novels to get a stronger feel for those genre conventions, and also some more Victorian lit, because this might have a period element. I would like to have more of the experience of finishing things and trying to publish them. So I don't know if I should try to reorient myself toward older ideas that I think are more like short stories.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01- 6-14 6:11 PM
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Hi, Tia. I got your RL email; I've got a partial reply that I was starting to compose a few days ago, but I've been dealing with laptop issues since. It even decided to play expensive brick this morning before I rolled back the changes I spent most of yesterday afternoon working on with tech support. (I've decided that I hate Windows 8 for laptops with the fire of a thousand suns, and would have been much happier with Windows 7 had it been available as an option when I bought the laptop.)

On the novel thing: is there any reason not to write the first chapter or two now, and save more for later? As I understand the agent business, most agents will probably want to see an outline and some sample chapters before they commit to reading a full manuscript anyhow. I don't know if you will be able to get an advance to finish the book on the strength of that, or if that's mostly a thing for established writers who have already published a best-seller, but it doesn't seem like a bad thing to have a couple of sample chapters sitting around even though you don't want to commit the time to write a whole novel now.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:28 PM
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