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Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

7 days ago

Been working on one just for a bit of fun. So far, I'm happy with the orientation (what I've posted here), but there are probably ways to improve I haven't noticed yet.

He was late. He knew that. But he didn't mind. A middle-aged man, slightly balding, strolled down a deserted street whilst the sun set. The sullen sky was a mattress of grey, broken only by sporadic patches of a more tired grey. The buildings looming over the footpath were a similar shade, and battled futilely against perpetually blaring neon sights and lights. As he walked, Martin's gimlet sharp eyes, hardened by his many years, swept upwards, and he observed birds forlornly parade across a dreary sky. Passing several large billboards advertising the latest and greatest, and noting that the Money-Changers club had already closed, Martin turned the corner and joined the city at The Place of Worship.

Martin passed a smorgasbord of images, golden dollar signs, globes ensconced in disembodied hands, all icons of the World Bank. He briefly joined the mass of people genuflecting before a large statue engraved with the words "His Eminence, Adam Smith" then bustled upwards, past the 'have-nots', who were fervently worshipping various effigies of Smith, and joined the rest of the 'haves'. Martin watched with resigned interest as an elderly man made his way onto a raised platform, clutching a book everyone recognised as "The Wealth of Nations: The 105th Edition". Following the usual orisons, the luxuriously grey-robed figure proceeded to enlighten his listeners of the World Bank's divine compassion and its protection of their desires. He added, causing a ripple of delight, that a decision had been made to generously lower interest rates. He urged the people to further invest. But today Martin wasn't listening. He was distracted by his inner thoughts.
 

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

7 days ago

General questions would be:

Have I made my setting concrete and what tone/atmosphere does it set? Is it effective?

Has my figurative language communicated relevant characteristics of place without distracting from character?

Have I established a problem, through revealing character and/or situation/problem?

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

7 days ago

Nice metaphor with including the related words “mattress” and “tired”, although I’m not sure if comparing the sky to a mattress works. From the context, you’re describing a completely grey sky and I don’t think “mattress” is the best word to use. When I read “mattress”, my mind imagines descriptions like restful, comfortable, lazy, safe, and recovery. Maybe your mind imagines it differently. I do enjoy the description “tired grey”. Grey is already a meh color and “tired grey” makes me think of that feeling when you’re super exhausted and not thinking or seeing things correctly. In that moment, nothing really stands out due to mental or physical exhaustion, so it’s like you’re seeing the world in grey and no color.  

I actually didn’t know “gimlet eyes” was a thing. I had to look it up, so thanks for teaching me something new. Including “sharp” might be redundant though. Upon research, Gimlet also looks like a tasty cocktail. It gets better!

Cool contrast between the dull grey, same-color buildings, and the neon flashing lights. I did find it a bit strange that the speaker had a “luxurious grey robe”. Just from the brief section here, I would have thought the bank evangelist would have worn bright, outlandish colors in cohesion with the countless advertisements and billboards Martin walked passed.

It seems to take place in a dystopian future where the super power and religious authority is the bank. Got kind of a cyber-punk, Blade-Runner, Altered Carbon feel from it. Is that what you’re going for? I liked your use of adverbs. It really conveyed the right emotion during simple actions such as observing his surroundings or birds flying overhead. From this short excerpt, you set up the rest of the story quite well. The main character is introduced and has tons of room for a backstory. He’s obviously not someone to mess with, possibly with a military/spy/assassin background? I also got the feeling that the main character is someone with a tragic past. Like his family was murdered or something i.e. The Punisher archetype. The main baddies are shown and the world is interesting and different enough to wonder about what their norms are. Some questions that were brought up by the setting were: Do they have android brains? What’s the relationship between the different classes of wealth? Does this take place in our world and if so, when does/did history change?

Just some thoughts.

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

7 days ago

Thanks for the feedback! I didn't intend to make the main character so menacing, I tried to make him more - not disillusioned - but sceptical of the general state of things. The setting is pretty much a hypothetical extreme of 'what if everyone just decided the free market was everything Adam Smith said it should be' and hence the worship of the World Bank lol. Anyway, I'll post more bits soon.

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

6 days ago

2nd part

Having inherited the genes of wealthy business people, Martin was always destined for a comfortable life as a 'have', and had inherited the vocation of merchant-trader. His life had been spent travelling endlessly, buying and selling. Recently, while passing through a rather insignificant town, he had stumbled upon a rarity. A printed book. Although deciding it possessed no real market value, Martin, after prolonged internal debate, still purchased the oddity. Printed words had long been obsolete; the world's entire book catalogue had been collected and digitised before his lifetime. The book, strangely titled 'The Holy Bible', had ever since intermittently occupied his mind.

"And remember", the preacher's voice pierced his thoughts, "Whether you are a 'have' or 'have-not', the selfish pursuit of wealth..."

"Benefits society as a whole," the mass chanted in unison. All, including the speaker, then diverted their eyes, brimming with religious awe, to the large electronic board behind the platform. The highest point of this hallowed ground. The many flashing numbers stopped flickering, silencing the chorale of the street. It marked the closure of the stock market for another day. 

As Martin entered his temporary residence, he removed his worn, crumpled coat and headed for his usual pile of work. The road that had led him back snaked for miles through the concrete jungle, letting him traverse the feverish nightlife of downtown Springfield before returning him home. Without conscious thought, he sat down at his desk and automatically pulled out his ledger. Briefly pausing, something caught his bleary eyes, It was that book again. He had almost forgotten about it - originally reading to merely distract himself. Of course, it should have been dismissed as a preposterous work of fiction, a remnant of ancient times. But his curiosity betrayed him.

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

5 days ago
I thought this was reading like commie propaganda, but no, it's going to be Christian socialism! I'm so excited!

I had the same reaction to 'gimlet sharp eyes' in the first section as ninja did, something about it just jumped out as distracting in an otherwise pretty smooth descriptive section. I'd go with just gimlet there or maybe something like piercing.

The setting is well established, although I wonder if you're going to get tired of writing 'haves' and 'have nots' in quotes. If it's entered the language as a genuine caste-like label maybe go with capital letters instead? Haves and Havents.

The only thing I'd say is a little weak so far is the character himself. He reads to me as being kind of weary and resigned, but there's very little else to go on. We're told he's wealthy in a society obsessed with pursuit of wealth. Ok, so let's see him do some things related to work, let's see his family or else at least let's see him directly interact with people in some capacity.

There needs to be some personal stakes and conflict in here somewhere along with the larger one at work I'm there setting. At this point if he just randomly reads the Sermon on the Mount or the eye of a needle thing and is suddenly convinced of the evils of greed it's not going to mean much because we've seen so little of his life and haven't really gotten fully into his head yet. A life-changing epiphany should be like, a major milestone of character development, not something they just fall into.

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

5 days ago
Commended by mizal on 3/13/2019 6:42:40 PM

Actually, I think I'll post everything I have so far so there aren't only snippets of it accessible. Thanks mizal for the advice, although the M.C. wasn't the main focus of the story I tried to reveal his character a bit more. 

He was late. He knew that. But he didn't mind. A middle-aged man, slightly balding, strolled down a deserted street whilst the sun set. The sullen sky was a mattress of grey, broken only by sporadic patches of a more tired grey. The buildings looming over the footpath were a similar shade, and battled futilely against perpetually blaring neon sights and lights. As he walked, Martin's gimlet eyes, hardened by his many years, swept upwards, and he observed birds forlornly parade across a dreary sky. Passing several large billboards advertising the latest and greatest, and noting that the Money-Changers club had already closed, he turned the corner and joined the city at The Place of Worship.

Martin passed a smorgasbord of images, golden dollar signs, globes ensconced in disembodied hands, all icons of the World Bank. He briefly joined the mass of people genuflecting before a large statue engraved with the words "His Eminence, Adam Smith" then bustled upwards, past the Have-nots, who were fervently worshipping various effigies of Smith, and joined the rest of the Haves. Martin watched with resigned interest as an elderly man made his way onto a raised platform, clutching a book everyone recognised as "The Wealth of Nations: The 105th Edition". Following the usual orisons, the luxuriously grey-robed figure proceeded to enlighten his listeners of the World Bank's divine compassion and its protection of their desires. He added, causing a ripple of delight, that a decision had been made to generously lower interest rates. He urged the people to further invest. But today Martin wasn't listening. He was distracted by his inner thoughts.

Having inherited the genes of wealthy business people, Martin was always destined for a comfortable life as a 'have', and had inherited the vocation of merchant-trader. His life had been spent travelling endlessly, buying and selling. Recently, while passing through a rather insignificant town, he had stumbled upon a rarity. A printed book. Although deciding it possessed no real market value, Martin, after prolonged internal debate, still purchased the oddity. Printed words had long been obsolete; the world's entire book catalogue had been collected and digitised before his lifetime. The book, strangely titled 'The Holy Bible', had ever since intermittently occupied his mind.

"And remember", the preacher's voice pierced his thoughts, "Whether you are a Have or a Have-not, the selfish pursuit of wealth..."

"Benefits society as a whole," the mass chanted in unison. All, including the speaker, then diverted their eyes, brimming with religious awe, to the large electronic board behind the platform. The highest point of this hallowed ground. The many flashing numbers stopped flickering, silencing the chorale of the street. It marked the closure of the stock market for another day. 

As Martin entered his temporary residence, he removed his worn, crumpled coat and headed for his usual pile of work. The road that had led him back snaked for miles through the concrete jungle, letting him traverse the feverish nightlife of downtown Springfield before returning him home. Without conscious thought, he sat down at his desk and automatically pulled out his ledger. Briefly pausing, something caught his bleary eyes, It was that book again. He had almost forgotten about it - originally reading to merely distract himself. Of course, it should have been dismissed as a preposterous work of fiction, a remnant of ancient times. But his curiosity betrayed him.

He supposed that even the usage of words was dictated by The Invisible Hand, as the natural progression of language rendered archaic and unnecessary words obsolete. For instance, the word 'God' was frequently repeated. Consulting his dictionary, he found it too was ignorant of that word. In the past few days, he discovered that 'God' was a being who seemed almost as powerful as Adam Smith. Almost. It's difficult to think about these things. While he sometimes envied the cushy lifestyle of the 'Academics' - like his father, he had studied business and finance at twelve years of age - he preferred the simplicity of numbers and was glad to relegate ancient, esoteric musings to those specialised to entertain them. Martin paused to remove his clouded spectacles and attempted to rub the tiredness from his eyes. He sighed and allowed himself a sardonic smile. If his productivity slowed any further, he was certain that the market would be squirrelled away by sunrise. With an exhausted yawn, he picked up his glasses, cleaned them carefully, and resumed his calculations, but found himself still distracted by the book.

Earlier, he had flipped to the second half of the book, as it was curiously titled 'The New Testament'. For something that presumed to be the authority on reality, he was shocked by the countless stories of people aiding others without the promise of reciprocity. In the effort to progress humanity, the greatest virtue was to be rich - closely followed by an adherence to the government's rules and regulations. As an American prophet, Calvin Coolidge, once said: "The man who builds a factory builds a temple, that the man who works there worships there". Perhaps he was reading a Greek tragedy, and he had been blind to the irony. The grave naivete of Jesus and the chaos of primitive society led everyone, even the divine, to miss the point entirely.

Martin leaned back wearily in his chair. He had spent the night ploughing through his work and would be ready for the nine-thirty start to the trading day. He reached over and picked up the worn book, frayed at the edges, the flimsy cardboard innards exposed. It had become a disturbing habit to read more of the book before retiring to bed. His tired fumbling dislodged something tucked firmly between two pages. Gently, he picked up the piece of paper and discovered a faded photograph of what appeared to be a nuclear family - complete with a mother, father and children. They were dressed in rags and looked rather unkempt. Despite being crammed into a small room, their thin, wiry frames were dwarfed by the surroundings. And yet, with arms around each other, they were grinning. Their eyes shone with genuine happiness. 

Martin's thoughts began to go around in circles, in a fashion not dissimilar to a Ferris wheel. In the wee hours of the morning, it would be futile to even begin comprehending. He gently closed the book and decided to sell it to the Ministry of History. Even though it was just another work of fiction, perhaps they'll find a use for it.

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

5 days ago
I know you still have more planned but stopping right here with 'welp, maybe I can sell it for a few bucks' would be a hilariously bleak and appropriate ending imo. Still a little of heavy on the passive description but the last few paragraphs addressed a couple of the issues I had and it seems like he's getting ready to go and do something now. How long are you planning on the finished story to be? Briefly pausing, something caught his bleary eyes, It was that book again. // Meant to be a period there I assume. In the past few days, he discovered that 'God' was a being who seemed almost as powerful as Adam Smith. Almost. It's difficult to think about these things. // And this looks to be a switch from past to present tense. Also, while it's not at a level I would call a real issue at this point, you might want to keep aware of the number of adverbs you're using. Particularly those -ly ones. Briefly, gently, wearily, futiley, cautiously, and so on. That kind of thing is easy to start relying on as a crutch and if you go overboard can actually weaken a sentence and become distracting.

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

5 days ago

Actually, that's the whole story lol.

I'll keep an eye on adverb use. Would it be better to describe an action ('He cautiously looked through the door.' VS 'He peeped around the door.') in general? 

Sharing a bit of a short story I'm working on

5 days ago
You said 'everything I have so far' so I figured there was more coming, but actually it works really well like this and the length is about perfect. *Take notes, kids, you don't have to wrap every story up with a murder suicide jeez. And stronger, more descriptive verbs like in your second example and a more active voice in general are usually the solution, yes. They're a neat and effective way to paint a clear visual image to the point the adverbs are often unneeded anyhow. A couple of adverbs here and there don't hurt anything of course but they're one of those things that can pile up without you realizing it and clutter up the whole. There's a reason most editing passes wind up stripping out words more often than adding them.