See my previous post for disclaimers. Wherein I continue to advance through the ranks of hopeful (and mostly good, by the way) stories for possibly inclusion in Triangulation: Last Contact. I don’t have a ton of time today, but wanted to sneak a couple more stories in.
Story 125 (1/27/2011 Fantasy 1457 words)
Interesting idea, but it’s been done a few times. What hasn’t? That’s true enough. What I’m missing here though is a sense of story. The scenes are written pretty well, good details, adequate language. But I’m on page 3 now and I still have no sense of a story or character arc. Page 3 is additionally problematic in suggesting that these episodes always result in a death, yet the first episode we saw did not result in death. Stopped me in my tracks, which is why I’m taking time to write this now.
This is an interesting ending, but the story itself lacks… story. It’s basically a series of events that explain the idea behind the story without creating a story experience. Why does the story happen now? What is the MC’s goal? What stands in his way? Does he succeed/fail? What does his choice cost him? Right now we have several chunks of background strung together to get us to an interesting resolution. That resolution would be just as powerful without the first 6 pages, which is a sign that the first 6 pages are not doing their job yet. If I were revising, I would start with story concepts and tell the story forward to this ending, with the MC striving and learning along the way.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 3 An interesting (though not particularly new) SF idea. Story elements are lacking.
Story 126 (1/28/2011 Horror 1000 words)
Reader 1: “This is a one-trick-pony horror story where we find at the end that [surprise]. Since it’s a reprint, I don’t suggest we bother with it.” (plot spoiler removed)
This is a reprint from June 2010 and remains available online. This works heavily against the story.
The opening paragraph feels slightly overwritten to me. Unnamed character. Semi-omniscient viewpoint doesn’t work (hides the obvious in order to set up the ending, I’m betting). Yep. This one relies entirely on false mystery.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 3 A clever twist. The story relies completely on false mystery to set up its payoff.
Story 127 (1/28/2011 SF 1800 words)
Reader 1: “There’s very little sense of character in this one and that’s the result of not being rooted in the nominal MC’s POV. There’s not a great deal of reason to care about what happens to the MC, so the complication doesn’t create a lot of emotional power when it’s revealed that the MC is stranded forever. The structure of the story doesn’t quite hold either. There’s a lot of set-up, something goes wrong and the story essentially ends. The MC doesn’t react against the complication. As a result, we don’t get to see them as a person beyond the stereotypical army bad-arse and the story ends on a flat note.”
Unnamed characters acting in unison are not the way to pull me into a story, I’m afraid. That said, the story does drop me into mid-action and the prose is nicely active. We get a MC on page 2. I’m still okay with this so far. Never mind. Viewpoint shifts in middle of page. We get motive on page 3 (back in first POV at this point). Speculative element also comes at this point. Interesting complication on p4. Interesting development on p5.
There’s something powerful here, but the story does not bring it out. I very much like what the author does with a fairly standard idea. I even like the MC despite not identifying with him for a few pages. The main problem is that this isn’t really a story, but an event. I can see a very good (longer) story emerging from this situation. If I were revising, I would concentrate on story concepts. Inciting incident (what is it that causes the status quo to fall apart, i.e. the story to begin?). Character arc (who is the protagonist; what does he want/need? What stands in his way/complicates his journey? What forces him to make a choice? What does this choice cost him? How does he get/not get what he needs as a result?). I would either begin this story later, or move the inciting incident to the first paragraph and move forward from there. I would add additional complications, with a mixture of success and failure to the climax (which is here now, but not well set up). This is a keeper, but requires quite a bit of work to bring out the full power of the idea and character.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 5 An interesting take on a standard SF idea. The story unwinds erratically and lacks a true plot or character arc.