See my previous post for disclaimers. Wherein I continue to advance through the ranks of hopeful stories for possibly inclusion in Triangulation: Last Contact. My sincere apologies to those of you who have been waiting patiently for decisions. At this point we’ve officially accepted 16 stories (42,000 words).
Story 369 (3/21/2011 SF 2500 words)
Reader 1: “This has a nice voice, but the ending is completely Deus Ex Machina and doesn’t involve the protagonist making choices at all. It completely spoils a perfectly competent (if unremarkable story) and made me lose my trust in the author straight away. ”
The opening establishes a solid steampunk feel and introduces a character. Good. Inciting incident a couple paragraphs later. There’s good solid background here. I would like a stronger sense of character motivation. I’m getting a bit of the tour of a world feel by page 2. Moves in scene on page 3. Good dialogue.
I’d rather have specific details of the part, to make it real. This scene is well written, naturalistic, and not very interesting. The problem is that the character is not motivated. The stakes are minimal because of it (i.e. the story is unimportant). With a motive beyond worrying she’s in trouble, this scene might well shine, provided, of course, the stakes are high.
On page 7 we get what seems like an inciting incident. We get some tension, though the stakes remain very low. There’s a good deal to like in this story; it’s told comfortably, I like the MC. But the story and character arcs are minimal. What does the MC decide at climax? To speak up for someone. What does it cost her. Nothing. Not that every story has to follow a formula, mind you, but often when a story doesn’t work, a formulaic analysis can help pinpoint why. The stakes are very low here; the tension minimal, and the character pays nothing for her success.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 An SF story about a kid learning a lesson. The story stakes are relatively low and the protagonist barely has to sweat to gain her prize.
Story 370 (3/24/2011 SF 1000 words)
Reader 1: “It’s a bit ‘twilight zone/to serve man’ for me. There’s no real observable conflict here, just a set-up for a ‘gotcha’ ending. While it raised a bit of a smile, that’s not enough reason to include it. ”
Effective opening. Establishes context, genre, viewpoint and a sense of conflict, if not motive in two sentences.
Good relevant background in second paragraph.
Then we start moving backward into world building and idea. This is how we got here, but where are we going now? When will story start?
On mid-page 2 we get forward movement. In a regular short story this might be fine, but we’re a quarter of the way through this one. The writing is smooth and confident. No problem on that front.
Good complication on page 3.
Yeaaahhhh… what the reader said. The story, which had my attention, settles for a punch line twist. Too bad. The situation was pretty interesting.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 5 An SF flash about a Mom and her pet. A solid setup is weakened by a too simple payoff.
Story 371 (3/25/2011 SF ?? words)
Reader 1: “I’m not fond of stories that start with unattributed dialogue and the dialogue isn’t particular effective as a framing device. We’re also far outside the girl’s head and I’m not particularly involved with her discoveries. It didn’t take me long to lose interest. ” (plot spoilers removed)
Story opens with a scene of unattributed dialogue. It’s skillfully written and does introduce the story. It’s also a technique that draws attention to itself. I usually worry that such techniques are used to paper over a lack of actual story.
Second scene opens with an unnamed character looking up. This is also technique that draws attention to itself. The scene itself is telling us about the girl, primarily what she doesn’t know. There’s a reason for this, but it’s not very compelling to read two pages of reason. This is a tale being told to a child. At times it feels like that; at others it feels like an infodump. The writing itself is solid. When will the story begin? Ah, there it is, at the end of the second scene.
An interlude in the present that basically repeats what we know and promises more tomorrow. Nothing wrong with the writing.
More explanation of the character and her background. A complication. It takes too long, but does move the story a little.
A complication in the next interlude. This one interests me.
Then we’re back to the other character, hearing about why she does what she does as she goes through her day. We take almost a page to say that she didn’t understand something said. This story is too long for its idea.
A complication, then a couple pages explaining it. Another interlude. A touch of mystery (true mystery since the withholding is intentional).
Then more explanation of the previous complication. I don’t buy that this character, who has been thinking abstractly and talking abstractly, has her mind broken when confronted with a fairly simple concept.
Then we skip forward in time and the character is given the second part of her reward. Explanation of consequence.
Foreground story slips into explanation mode. The end. The story is mainly telling about the idea. It does have some decent in-scene sections, but not 4000 words (I estimate) worth of story.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 A genesis fantasy. Too much explanation of idea and too little actual story hurt this one.
That’s it for tonight. I have a few more stories to deal with here, scattered among the final batch.