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View Full Version : Comments on short story #2 - 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'


King_Ghidra
11-08-2003, 16:19:57
you know the drill - rotten tomatoes, applause and lame confessions here

Scabrous Birdseed
11-08-2003, 17:03:43
I put first dibs on the word "Times" being a newspaper.

King_Ghidra
11-08-2003, 17:06:43
wouldn't that have to be 'It was the best of The Times, the worst of The Times'

Scabrous Birdseed
11-08-2003, 17:09:25
Not if we're talking about a single issue rather than a cross-section of successful and unsuccessful material over the years.

King_Ghidra
11-08-2003, 17:15:25
hmm..maybe, doesn't sound right to me

that would work if you were talking about a magazine like 'MAD'

'It was the best of MAD, the worst of MAD'

but with papers, generally known as 'The Times', The Sun', even if only referring to one issue it would still be 'The -' surely?

'It was the best of Sun, the worst of Sun' doesn't sound right to me.

Scabrous Birdseed
11-08-2003, 17:35:25
Of course it doesn't. The equivalent would be "It was the best of Suns, it was the worst of Suns". The Times is already plural so it can't be changed.

Darkstar
11-08-2003, 23:48:39
Go ahead.

What's this comment about don't make it any entry people won't read? That leaves us only 2 lines for story length...

King_Ghidra
12-08-2003, 07:52:57
Originally posted by Scabrous Birdseed
Of course it doesn't. The equivalent would be "It was the best of Suns, it was the worst of Suns". The Times is already plural so it can't be changed.

great, so you have a grammatically correct but utterly clumsy and artless sentence

Scabrous Birdseed
12-08-2003, 08:41:33
It's what I've got to work with! Anyway, it is a newspaper now and I'm well under way conceptualising (still lacking a forceful ending), so Nyah.

King_Ghidra
12-08-2003, 10:20:30
ok :D

Funko, nice, quite funny, but dude you have got to format that shit, it is utterly confusing to read - i didn't even know there were three speakers until the end.

Funkodrom
12-08-2003, 10:44:01
Yeah, I know. That was deliberate. The idea was you find out what's going on at the end then go and read it again and it makes sense and, hopefully, on second read you can pick up the three characters and can tell who's saying what . Ideally I'd like to be able to write a whole story with the whole thing in dialogue with everything about the story and characters' personalities coming out from what they say. That one was purely done in dialogue and internal monologue which just makes life a bit easier.

The formatting was also deliberate. It's a pub conversation so people need to be running their sentences together, slightly talking over each other. I tried it formatted a few ways and that seemed to give the best impression of the atmosphere.

Might not work but this competition seems like a good place to get feedback on experimentation like that.

King_Ghidra
12-08-2003, 11:10:35
Ok i hoped you were going to say something like that. In that sense then i think that that formatting is appropriate. To cover your first point, the question is: is the surprise of finding there are three speakers enough of an incentive to go back and try and work out who says what? For me it isn't, because it doesn't change your interpretation of the story. It isn't, to pick a bizarre example, like finding out at the end that one of the speakers is actually a talking parrot or something.

Funkodrom
12-08-2003, 11:18:15
Hmmm... it's not really supposed to be a surprise in that way. I've obviously missed the mark somewhere though because there are several places where there are 2 people speaking between "I" speaking. So that "either of you" comment is supposed to limit it to three speakers rather than expand it to three.

It's sometimes hard to judge what's too subtle for the reader and what isn't. I wrote it so I know what's supposed to be there if you see what I mean. :confused:

King_Ghidra
12-08-2003, 11:21:42
yeah i know what you mean :D

the eternal problem of literary criticism, interpretation does not guarantee intent on the part of the author

fp
12-08-2003, 11:31:20
Originally posted by King_Ghidra
the eternal problem of literary criticism, interpretation does not guarantee intent on the part of the author

IMHO the intent of the author is rarely relevant. I'm of the Derrida school of decontructive criticism myself - "There is nothing outside the text".

I'm not sure what that says about Funko's piece though. :D

Funkodrom
12-08-2003, 11:43:02
There's nothing inside the text either. ;)

Immortal Wombat
12-08-2003, 11:59:27
The first time I realised that there's three people (at least) was with "What?" "Yeah, what?" about half-way through. But re-reading it, the first two lines gives it away if you're paying attention. I seldom do reading dialogue because usually the number of conversants is defined previously, and who is saying what is generally clear by the speech itself.

And there goes my quote-directly-from-Dickens idea. ;)

Why did she explode?

Funkodrom
12-08-2003, 12:06:46
I knew I wouldn't be the only person to think about quoting directly.

Read the book. :) The rest of the opening paragraph might help:

'It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach."

King_Ghidra
12-08-2003, 12:10:53
Originally posted by fp
IMHO the intent of the author is rarely relevant. I'm of the Derrida school of decontructive criticism myself - "There is nothing outside the text".

i don't totally agree with that, but i prefer it to trying to see everything in a novel from the perspective of a biography of the author as some criticism seems to

fp
12-08-2003, 13:15:01
Originally posted by King_Ghidra
i prefer it to trying to see everything in a novel from the perspective of a biography of the author as some criticism seems to

Indeed. Most criticism of Virginia Woolf is unbearable for that reason. OK so she was a depressed lesbian who went mad and killed herself, but if you forget that for a second and actually read the books you might find something else in there worth talking about.

Funkodrom
12-08-2003, 14:42:43
Qweeg's story: 2 people, I reckon. :D

Scabrous Birdseed
12-08-2003, 20:29:33
Right, I've written my entry, which *shock horror* is not about drinking. It's also 200 words over limit, sorry about that.

Whereas the last one had no plot and was all (weak) characterisation, this one has a plot which moves along at decent pace I think, but it fails in terms of atmosphere and because of its indistinct protagonist. I wanted to associate the "strange men" with mythology (past and present) in some way, but now that it's written I think the connection between the actions of the protagonist and the setting doesn't really gel, and the mood is a bit too clinical.

Scabrous Birdseed
12-08-2003, 20:34:43
And yes, I do conform to the critic stereotype of knowing where I want to go but not knowing how to get there. :)

King_Ghidra@home
12-08-2003, 21:51:32
Originally posted by Scabrous Birdseed
Right, I've written my entry, which *shock horror* is not about drinking. It's also 200 words over limit, sorry about that.


what limit??

anyway yeah i agree i think the 'inventors' are a little indistinct as characters, but i liked the idea anyway

scabrous write more if you feel good about it, it was never my intention for anyone to feel limited in any way by what they produced (apart from the opening line obviously) and i still have no idea about what word limit you are referring to...

Darkstar
12-08-2003, 22:05:53
Scab's there is no real limit. 500 is just the stated 'medium'. ;) Some stories need more, some less.

Mike, I liked yours. But I think formating it would help.

Qweeg, was that an actual story post, or just one of your regular posts? (Just teasing.)

Birdseed... I liked your story. It's best to let stories go where they want to, rather then force them. Otherwise, the forcing often comes through...

Scabrous Birdseed
13-08-2003, 06:52:48
What do you mean? Where else could it have gone?

Scabrous Birdseed
13-08-2003, 08:07:27
Wait, I think I see what you mean. I was panicking a bit about the word limit and didn't give the section from the beginning of the conversation to the end enough wordage- it could have used more events, more conversation, and most of all more description. The pace might have lacked though.

Funkodrom
13-08-2003, 08:55:13
It's got great pace and it's really well written but I don't understand why the 'inventors' wanted his essence. Joan Carling is a great name as well. :)

Venom
13-08-2003, 12:29:29
Originally posted by Darkstar
Mike, I liked yours. But I think formating it would help.


Who the hell is Mike?

fp
13-08-2003, 12:56:45
Own goal.

Darkstar
13-08-2003, 19:35:59
Scabs, that's what I'm trying to get out.

Of course, I'm not even a hack, so why bother listening to me? But in my experience, as an avid reader and now a rare hack, it's best to let the story go where it wants to go, at the pace it wants to go. You can always clean it up later, but trying to keep it in a certain format, a certain length, tends to cause too much damage to the story. And that comes through to the the readers... Many of the "flaws" you see in your own works won't be noticed by most of your audience, but that sort of thing does stand out.

Basically, a story is a song. As the maker, you just start it, and help it along when it stumbles. Otherwise, you've got to let it do it's own thing, and take you wherever it is going. Otherwise, it doesn't "sound" right.

Bird's story did make me wonder WHY the dream machine wants his codec/essence. But you don't always get told why. In fact, the better stories don't tell you the whys of everything. Leaves you to wonder... that lets you fill in your own bits, and lets you better participate in the "art" of the story. TV has really spoiled people... wanting to have every little thing being cut and dried, and well explained. Such a waste and drag on the art of fiction...

fp
13-08-2003, 19:48:16
TV has really spoiled people... wanting to have every little thing being cut and dried, and well explained. Such a waste and drag on the art of fiction...

Like good books, good TV doesn't do that either.

Scabrous Birdseed
13-08-2003, 20:29:23
Originally posted by Darkstar
Basically, a story is a song. As the maker, you just start it, and help it along when it stumbles. Otherwise, you've got to let it do it's own thing, and take you wherever it is going. Otherwise, it doesn't "sound" right.

Unfortunately I don't work that way. I can't sit down and think up additional flow when put on the spot- my writing process starts on the go, pacing about the room, while demi-watching TV, whatever, with the actual physical act of typing only adding stylistic flavour and phrasing elegance. This post, for instance, I "wrote" while going to the bathroom and then while waiting for the sports news to start sitting in the living room, but then it was quite different and lacking this particular sentece which was an afterthought. Nevertheless, the post then and the post now is essentially the same post, and I already know how it will proceed thematically, if not stylistically.

I think the fact that I need to concieve of all the essentials before I start writing (I can go nuts trying to think up stuff from scratch in front of a blank screen) probably lends my talents more to poetry than prose, because the essentials there are so few. I mean, with a poem all I need is a theme and some sort of artistic meaning, the structure is flexible and the ending can be left much more open. When writing a poem I'll flash forwards and backwards from the keyboard rather than think up everything beforehand and then just tidying it up by typing it...

Darkstar
14-08-2003, 03:37:41
Well, whatever floats your boat. :)

I have a second scene to finish out my #2 short story, so it can stand on its own properly to meet the short story criteria. And be a continuation of #1. But I've been interrupted too much to have it finished out, and I'm not sure when I will be able to do that. Might have to wait until #3. Or maybe I'll just leave them off. Now at least the reason WHY the King had to be forced down has been partly explained. ;)

Funkodrom
14-08-2003, 08:45:54
I just sit down in front of the screen and see what comes out. Sometimes think of ideas in advance but mostly what comes out when I start typing is completely different.

Venom
14-08-2003, 12:01:06
I guess my starting phrase really did suck. No one is playing along this time.

I AM THE DESTROYER!

Darkstar
14-08-2003, 19:27:41
Ok. Second scene added. Features a seriously bad pun (for Funko), and several gratiutious explosions (for Venom). Now, It feels like its own little DS long joke to me. Which is what I wanted (so that means, lets see... only I, Drekkus, Trip, and Qweeg will get it. ;) )

Anyways, its done now. Let's see if anyone enjoys it.

Darkstar
14-08-2003, 19:29:57
Venom, it wasn't the best of phrases, I suppose. But then, it's only thursday. You know most people don't do work until the deadline is large and imminent.

Venom
14-08-2003, 19:39:36
Nobody wanted Dr Seuss so I went with the only fancy literary sentance I knew.

Darkstar
14-08-2003, 20:33:05
Not picking on you. I'm just guessing some people are repelled due the great scarring they suffered because of the forced readings in school of that book. ;)

Venom
15-08-2003, 02:46:29
Good thing I went to a shitty school that made me read nothing.

Darkstar
15-08-2003, 02:53:04
Oh. Home schooled! :D

Did you enjoy all the gratuitous explosions in my short story? And where's your hack entry? I see you whining about people not making entries... but I don't see your entry. Come on! Post it!

Sir Penguin
15-08-2003, 04:44:32
I never read the book, so I'm afraid that I'll reproduce it and be accused of plagiarism.

SP

Darkstar
15-08-2003, 05:01:08
Your a Canuck, SP. You had to read it in French or something, didn't you?

Venom
15-08-2003, 12:06:01
I've been entirely unable to motivate myself to write anything.

Drekkus
15-08-2003, 12:55:28
Wait until you have a shitty job to do, then you'll suddenly find motivation.

i submitted mine. I'm not happy with the formatting, as it looks very different than in the reply box. Note to self: don't use quickreply when submitting an entry.

Other note: of course my story is purely fictional. :cute:

Venom
15-08-2003, 13:45:40
Yeah, good idea.

Venom
15-08-2003, 13:49:37
I thought I picked up a hint of real life in your story Drekkus.

Darkstar
15-08-2003, 19:37:35
VENOM! JUST DO IT! You paisley wearing pansy! :D

Venom
15-08-2003, 22:25:28
I had writers block today. I tried but could produce nothing.

DaShi
17-08-2003, 16:27:01
I'm sorry about all the typos on mine. I hand wrote it, then had to quickly type it up at the library. When I have better internet access and the time, I'll try to go through and fix it. But I haven't had a chance to read all the stories fir this one yet. :( If they're anything like the last set, I should be in for a treat.

Venom, you wanker!

King_Ghidra@home
17-08-2003, 19:20:06
DaShi, i wouldn't worry too much about it. i think the most important thing is to have fun experimenting with ideas and styles and techniques, not running spellcheck :)

I have that problem myself because my fingers can never move as fast as my brain does. I'd love to learn to touch type but until that day call me typoman.

Scabrous Birdseed
17-08-2003, 20:23:01
Where's your story Phil?

King_Ghidra@home
17-08-2003, 20:36:00
just finishing it now :)

Debaser
17-08-2003, 21:07:49
Nice use of the 'Easy Rider' ending.

King_Ghidra@home
17-08-2003, 21:11:04
:D
if he'd been wearing a stars and stripes helmet maybe he would have survived

Debaser
17-08-2003, 21:15:55
I've not submitted a story this week because my computers been ill. It's fine now though so next week I'll be back in action.

King_Ghidra@home
17-08-2003, 21:25:51
fair enough, been a bit of a disappointing turn out this week though

fuck it, i'll keep going til they're dusting the cobwebs off me and my keyboard

Darkstar
18-08-2003, 04:21:54
Dashi, no worries.

KG, did your fingers get tired? ( J/T ).

We didn't have as many making an entry this time, but it was still a good group. So who's going to make the next start?

Scabrous Birdseed
18-08-2003, 08:27:01
Someone in the group. That way it won't be an extra incentive to stay out.

I thought K_G's story was really good, very filmic just the way I like it.

King_Ghidra
18-08-2003, 09:34:37
cheers, SB, another good batch, i enjoyed them all, from the funny to the surreal.

Now it's time to decide on another starting line for Contest #3!

First come first served, but let's try and keep it to a line from an existing novel, and one which is nice and open ended :)

Venom
18-08-2003, 12:12:55
I'm never picking the opening phrase again.

King_Ghidra
18-08-2003, 12:18:54
never say never again

Funkodrom
18-08-2003, 12:53:25
Then, every day was a week, each month a year. A season was a decade, and every year a life.

Debaser
18-08-2003, 12:58:51
The first line of the foreword to '2001 - A Space Odyssey' is:

"Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts."

Sean
18-08-2003, 13:18:48
, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.

Debaser
18-08-2003, 13:28:55
I thought it sounded better without that bit, but whatever

King_Ghidra
18-08-2003, 14:17:05
funko where is yours from, it makes me go :clueless: seems a bit similar to the previous one too

debaser's is fine by me

whatever we go with, darkstar is going to write his humorous fantasy stuff anway ;)

Funkodrom
18-08-2003, 14:54:45
It's another one from The Crow Road. I like Debaser's better.

Drekkus
18-08-2003, 15:17:28
I just like to say that I'm too lazy to read the two (or more) posts entries. Sorry about that.

And should we take existing starting sentances as opening line? It doesn't seem to hinder the variaty in the submissions, but it just doesn't look very creative. Not that I would know a good opening line out of the top of my head like that, mind you.

King_Ghidra
18-08-2003, 15:27:05
well, according to maroule's original suggestion it didn't have to be an opening line from a novel, just a line from a novel

the original contest was based on the last line of American Psycho anyway

my preference is for an interesting and stimulating line rather than a famous one

Drekkus
18-08-2003, 16:23:21
Interesting lines is better. It should make people wonder a few minutes to find what feeling the line gives them.

Will the contest get a place on the counterglow page? Then I'll finally have the sense that I'm contributing anything to the site. :D

King_Ghidra@home
18-08-2003, 17:06:11
agreed

and as for the front page thing, i think it should do.

i'm compiling the stories in word docs at home anyway for the sake of posterity

Darkstar
19-08-2003, 05:23:34
Humm...

A few simple suggestions, in whatever order they spilled out of the stream:

"Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! Its... what the hell is that?"

"I'll be back."

They were the biggest coconuts I'd ever seen.

I should learn... never bet on black.

"Come on seven! Come on seven!"

I knew she was lying to me. Her lips were moving.

"Four out of five dentists recommend it!"

"I choose you, Pikachoo!"

"Happy Birthday!"

"Cause Santa Claus is coming, to town."

"That's one fine muffin!"

"They're here!"

"Look what's coming for dinner."

"Use your eyes, Luke, not the force!"

See Dick run.

"I am not a crook."

"Could you define what is means?"

"What sign are you?"

Danger! High voltage!

"That's not a knife. This is a knife."

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water...

Everything is bigger in Texas.

"Don't cross the streams!"

"Houston, we have a problem."

"I've just been slimed!"

"Screw you guys, I'm going home."

"You are the weakest link."

She was hot, really hot. She was so hot, that if she was suddenly dropped in Antartica, she'd melt all the snow and ice. I mean, she was hot.

She was trouble, gorgeous vivacious liquid trouble poured into a 5' 1" frame. The kind of trouble that crushed men's hearts and dreams with just the smallest of smiles.

"I'll make him an offer he cannot refuse."

"Don't disappoint me."

"Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

"What's that smell?"

"On your mark; get set; go!"

Scabrous Birdseed
19-08-2003, 09:33:56
How about:

"I used to like this town, a long time ago."

From The Little Sister by Ray Chandler (slightly edited). It's vague, it's a decent opening line, it sets a mood and it occurs in the middle of a chapter rather than at the beginning or the end.

King_Ghidra
19-08-2003, 10:27:21
that does have a good level of vagueness - it gets my vote

DaShi
19-08-2003, 15:55:44
Almost any line is good for me. I like to see what it will inspire me to write, except for the last story which was based loosely on a dream.

My suggestion would be, "And then the ninjas appeared." Who couldn't write a good story out of that? :)

Scabrous Birdseed
19-08-2003, 16:14:00
I've already started sketching on a town-line story, but if you want we can leave that for another week. Just get something going, please, Your royal highness.

King_Ghidra
19-08-2003, 16:18:48
I was going to wait til i got home, but as i just missed my train...