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Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Parson

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Add me to those who were totally lost by "blood book." I had the idea that it was a kind of cage match to the death, no holds barred, warrior thing. I thought the main character was going to move up the rankings in some kind of sports statistics. (Maybe that should have implied gambling to me?) ---- On the whole I felt your work was a little short of being a story, and I was appalled by the picture of someone fighting with a chainsaw. It was a picture I did not want in my head.
 

Plucky Novice

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Add me to those who were totally lost by "blood book." I had the idea that it was a kind of cage match to the death, no holds barred, warrior thing. I thought the main character was going to move up the rankings in some kind of sports statistics. (Maybe that should have implied gambling to me?) ---- On the whole I felt your work was a little short of being a story, and I was appalled by the picture of someone fighting with a chainsaw. It was a picture I did not want in my head.
Thanks for the feedback and I'm sorry to have caused offence, that certainly wasn't my intention.
 

Parson

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I wasn't offended. It's just that my overactive imagination gave this vivid picture that I didn't care for. I've certainly read worse, and will likely read worse again. there is no reason to apologize.
 

M. Robert Gibson

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Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Please indulge me...

In this thread and the 75/100/300 worder discussion threads some people bemoan that the entries are not stories but vignettes, scenes, slices of life etc.

Right, I thought. Challenge accepted!

So, I'll write a story using the classic three act structure (If it was good enough for Aristotle, it's good enough for me)

As we all know a rule of thumb is Act 1 takes up 25% of the story, Act 2 50% and Act 3 25%.
However James Scott Bell in his book Plot and Structure reckons that in a novel Act 1 can be 20%, Act 2 55% with Act 3 remaining at 25%.

So, as a computer programmer always on the lookout for an algorithm to make life easier, I converted these percentages into words resulting in the following structure:
  1. Act 1. The set up = no more than 15 words
  2. Act 2. Rising action/conflict = at least 41 words
  3. Act 3. Resolution = no more than 19 words
So with all this in mind, here's the story again:
Shot studied the dossier. Stabbed had apparently gone rogue. The mission: terminate with extreme prejudice.

In Istanbul, Stabbed's last known sighting, Shot headed for the safe house. Evidence of activity, but no Stabbed. Same story in Casablanca and Moscow.
On entering the Paris hideaway, the intense aroma of Stabbed's favoured Gauloises hit Shot just before the blackjack.

Shot awoke, trussed up, head pounding.
"Sorry partner." Stabbed unsheathed her stiletto. "Seems we have the same mission."
Here's a summary as I wanted to convey:
  1. Act 1 = Agent Shot gets his mission (Setup)
  2. Act 2 = Shot travels around several continents hunting for Agent Stabbed, finishing with the confrontation, where he gets bashed on the head. (Rising action/conflict)
  3. Act 3 = Shot awakes in the enemy's lair, where he learns his erstwhile partner had been ordered to assassinate him and will probably succeed. (Resolution)
So, let's return to my question, Where Did It All Go Wrong?
I felt it fulfilled the "Story" requirement well enough.
Was it not "Spy themed" enough? Probably.
Was I too close to the story? I.e. I knew what it was all about, but perhaps I didn't convey it adequately.
Did I need more conflict in Act 2?

What could/should I have changed to garner more mentions/shortlists/votes?

Next month I'll be attempting 75 words using the Hero's Journey structure. :unsure::eek:

PS
Regardless of the number of mentions and votes and what I should and shouldn't have done, I actually quite enjoyed the challenge of getting a story into the aforementioned structure, and when all's said and done and analysed, isn't that what these challenges are all about - the joy of writing?
 

Venusian Broon

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Where Did It All Go Wrong?



What could/should I have changed to garner more mentions/shortlists/votes?
Personally, as you state at the end, I don't think it went wrong at all :). I think it's best to challenge yourself with these competitions - and if votes and mentions come along, then that's a nice bonus.

The criteria for voting in these competitions, I know from speaking with others that have voted, is as varied and numerous as the number of voters, so the chance of you hitting all the notes and getting a winning majority aboard can be difficult. Plus you probably won't understand why!

A 'normal' competition would probably have a group of judges that would be able to discuss and develop a consensus as well as upholding the rules...this just doesn't happen here. So continue to embrace and enjoy the challenge.
 

The Judge

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Well, it's a clever way to plan a story, but the pantser in me thinks it's a damn sight easier just to write the bloody thing... :p

Anyhow, I can confirm that for me the 3 act structure passed muster, though I can't help thinking you've wasted a lot of words in the middle, and you'd have been better off using more for the set-up. I understood what was going on, so no problem there, either. However...

For me there were four main problems:
  • I really didn't like "Shot" and "Stabbed" as names for the characters; even as code names they fell short for me -- something like "Glock" and "Stiletto" would surely make more sense if they were named for their favourite weapons. So it appeared to me you were using the name "Shot" simply to ensure you came within the theme, which put me off.
  • if we eliminate the name "Shot" then I can't see the theme there at all, so for me that needed to be brought out a lot more eg shooting, or taking photographs
  • as I said in the Discussion thread, I don't equate non-spying assassins with a spy story, so even with a change of name and other kinds of "shot" in there, it would have failed for me. You could have got around that if he'd used spying techniques to find her, eg dead letter drops from informants, microfilming documents regarding her travels for the company, physically spying on her while dressed as a street cleaner.
  • lastly, as far as the plot is concerned, since she is ordered to kill him, why does she blackjack him and truss him up first instead of killing him at once? She'd have to be close to stun him, so she could have knifed him then. And as an aside, it didn't worry me but his knowing about the blackjack could be seen as unsettling/a breach of POV, since it's not obvious it's omniscient narration before that.
Not sure if any of that helps, but you're right. The point of taking part is to have fun. So if you enjoyed writing the story, that's all that matters!
 

M. Robert Gibson

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Thanks for the quick replies @Venusian Broon and @The Judge

I really didn't like "Shot" and "Stabbed" as names for the characters...So it appeared to me you were using the name "Shot" simply to ensure you came within the theme
Curses! You sussed me out. I confess it.

why does she blackjack him and truss him up first instead of killing him at once?
That did occur to me, but I went with it anyway because of the cliche that all good Bond villains always explain their motives first when it would be so much easier to kill him straightaway.

With hindsight and The Judges points, I think what happened was I got too involved with my story and I didn't want to "kill the little darling" so I lost sight of the theme and genre.

Everyday's a school day. Bring on October
 

TheDustyZebra

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  • I really didn't like "Shot" and "Stabbed" as names for the characters; even as code names they fell short for me -- something like "Glock" and "Stiletto" would surely make more sense if they were named for their favourite weapons. So it appeared to me you were using the name "Shot" simply to ensure you came within the theme, which put me off.
  • if we eliminate the name "Shot" then I can't see the theme there at all, so for me that needed to be brought out a lot more eg shooting, or taking photographs.
These two things, for me. The names annoyed me, and there wasn't any of the theme without them. Otherwise, yes, the story structure was great!
 

Stable

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@M. Robert Gibson That's genius! I love that you used three act structure.

Unfortunately I don't think you tied the acts together enough. For me the separate sections were too discrete and the jumps jarring. It's hard to fade with 75 words though. It was a solid story.

Looking forwards to your Hero's Journey.
 

Parson

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@M. Robert Gibson .... I very much liked structure. Whether you are a pantser or not a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. With only 75 words to work with it is easy to miss one or two of these. I agree with @The Judge about the first thing. Those names did not work for me. Also, for me, it seemed a little tongue in cheek. A kind of "Spy vs. Spy" thing (remember Mad?). It was certainly serious but it felt tongue in cheek. Not logical, I know, but that was how I felt about it.
 

M. Robert Gibson

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A kind of "Spy vs. Spy" thing (remember Mad?)
I remember reading my Dad's copies. As it happens I was back home recently and they're still there, mainly from the 1960s. Must get them valued.

Maybe I should have called my protagonists Agent Black and Agent White
 

TheDustyZebra

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I remember reading my Dad's copies. As it happens I was back home recently and they're still there, mainly from the 1960s. Must get them valued.

Maybe I should have called my protagonists Agent Black and Agent White
No, that would be fan fiction from Men in Black. :p

If those Spy vs Spy books were read anything like mine were, the value is approximately 37 cents.

* Note to self. In future stick to Smith and Jones
No need to be generic -- most any names will do, but they sort of need to be ...well... names. If you see what I mean. This was like naming chefs Avocado and Mushroom or something. Placeholder-ish.
 

Parson

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I remember reading my Dad's copies. As it happens I was back home recently and they're still there, mainly from the 1960s. Must get them valued.
I would agree, there could be some value there. A lot of us found them to be hilarious back in the day.

If those Spy vs Spy books were read anything like mine were, the value is approximately 37 cents.
My, aren't we testy? Actually back then they probably sold for $.50 or a $1.00. I don't know, I never bought any, but I did ream them in the rooms of my dorm mates. (Yes, I am older than dirt!)
 

TheDustyZebra

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My, aren't we testy? Actually back then they probably sold for $.50 or a $1.00. I don't know, I never bought any, but I did ream them in the rooms of my dorm mates. (Yes, I am older than dirt!)
Err... testy? I meant that my brothers and I read ours to death, just like all the comic books, so they're too worn out to be worth anything to a collector. Alas for the #6 Spider-Man comic book and its compatriots, and all the Peanuts books. We loved them too well.
 

Parson

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I thought that you meant that they were only worth $.39. But now I understand.
 

Joshua Jones

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Ok, I got a few mentions, and I didn't expect much being I banged this thing out in a morning while pressed for time, but I thought I would get at least one vote... I feel like I must have missed something here or botched the execution. So, what did you think this story was about/what could I do to improve it?

2157

“02952819, please return to your lane. He is an Obsolete.”

Carl froze, but couldn't turn away from the pleas for help, the Obsolete bandits, and spilt blood.

“I can't leave him to die!”

The robotic guide’s weapon engaged. “02952819, return to your lane now.”

Carl stepped off the lane and said, “Guide, my brother’s dying. I'm helping.”

“Ilegal thought pattern detected. Purging 02952819,” it said, firing its weapon system and reducing Carl and three nearby Obsoletes to red mist.

“50947181, please return to your lane.”
2157

“02952819, please return to your lane. He is an Obsolete.”

Carl froze, but couldn't turn away from the pleas for help, the Obsolete bandits, and spilt blood.

“I can't leave him to die!”

The robotic guide’s weapon engaged. “02952819, return to your lane now.”

Carl stepped off the lane and said, “Guide, my brother’s dying. I'm helping.”

“Ilegal thought pattern detected. Purging 02952819,” it said, firing its weapon system and reducing Carl and three nearby Obsoletes to red mist.

“50947181, please return to your lane.”
 

Parson

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@Joshua Jones --- as you said; your story did get several mentions and in my book that's a pretty good month. Votes are hard to come by especially when one story gets nearly a third of them.

I found your story hard to follow. First the title put me off. I don't know what I was dreaming about but it was not until I tried to understand what did not put your story up there for me that I realized 2157 was probably a date. I had it in my mind that it was somehow related to your story and could not imagine what that relation was. My bad! --- Second, I was confused by the terminology of "Obsolete." I first thought that it was a statement of being out of date, but then we came to the "Obsolete bandits" which might be a group name and so the term might be group designation. --- Third, this sentence didn't make sense to me. "Carl froze, but couldn't turn away from the pleas for help, the Osolete bandits, and spilt blood." What is "Obsolete bandits" doing in this sentence? Did Carl spill his own blood? That does not seem to make sense in the story, but that is the obvious way to read the sentence. Fourth, "illegal thought pattern" does not obviously make sense to me if we are talking about something that is "obsolete" now if the "Obsolete bandits" is some kind of gang, then it does. But since bandits is not capitalized I was not at all sure that it was a group. Finally, and perhaps as an overarching concern, I did not understand the context. Is everyone on a slideway (this was my thought)? Why is Obsolete a death offense? Where are the people going? What are they doing? I did not understand an answer to any of those questions.

Now that I've really concentrated on this story, I'm coming to the opinion that you attempted too much in this story to be able to carry it out in 85 words.
 
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