Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Parson

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@Mr Orange .... Thanks for the thought about writing the story through Nola's eyes. I believe it would have really improved it.

As for your story, in the end I felt it missed on theme part. For me (and I readily admit I might be in a small minority here) cyber punk is about hackers and the society which supports and/or opposes them. A bus as a protagonist was a bridge too far for me to cross. But, it was a highly original story and that counts for a lot in my eyes.
 

Mr Orange

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As for your story, in the end I felt it missed on theme part. For me (and I readily admit I might be in a small minority here) cyber punk is about hackers and the society which supports and/or opposes them. A bus as a protagonist was a bridge too far for me to cross. But, it was a highly original story and that counts for a lot in my eyes
thanks for the comments. that was a worry of mine after I had written the story. the original version was a faceless, sense deprived android jacking into the fibre on a rooftop, which on reflection definitely feels more cyberpunk. but I couldn't get the wordcount and then it morphed into something else.

this is about where I got to on the first version (very rough draft):


Audio-visual sensors translate the world into code. True hearing and sight would make me dangerous. I’m lucky; most live in computational claustrophobia, drip fed data through fibre optic umbilicals. But they can’t hear us either.

A soft touch on my casing. Minute vibrations hum words I have been waiting for. I plug into the exposed fibre, listen to the pulsing cacophony of communication. Excited, expectant.

I relay his message across the city.


It is time
 

Robert Mackay

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@Parson - Looking at my notes (I've started keeping an ultra-brief "what I thought of it" record of challenges), I've got "This is a good idea, but there's not quite enough" - I felt that you'd not got enough impact out of your story, that I wanted more character, more depth. I think you might have burnt some wordcount unnecessarily - for example, the line: "Nulls were nobody. Nola knew that. Money made you somebody. No money made you nobody." is 20% of your whole story, and I think it's not quite worth it.
 

Marvin

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@Parson - Looking at my notes (I've started keeping an ultra-brief "what I thought of it" record of challenges)
I don’t know about anyone else, but now I gotta know what you had for mine. That’s if it was even worthy of a note?

I feel I have mis judged the tone in the last couple. Too dark for the tall story (plus it wasn’t very tall) and to light for the cyberpunk...
 

Parson

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@Parson - Looking at my notes (I've started keeping an ultra-brief "what I thought of it" record of challenges), I've got "This is a good idea, but there's not quite enough" - I felt that you'd not got enough impact out of your story, that I wanted more character, more depth. I think you might have burnt some wordcount unnecessarily - for example, the line: "Nulls were nobody. Nola knew that. Money made you somebody. No money made you nobody." is 20% of your whole story, and I think it's not quite worth it.
Interesting! I loved those sentences. I felt they pretty much the heart of the story since they went to motivation for her actions. This was the idea that I shaped my story around. But indeed 20% of the story is a lot. Adding everything up I guess I would say that my story was under-cooked.
 

Cat's Cradle

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You know, @Parson, I've been thinking about your story. I read it again, after a few days, and I think - as to clarity - that part of the problem was that I read all of the stories one after the other, for voting. That was the first time I read your entry. I think, for me, my mind gets a bit snowblind interpreting 40+ stories/sets of ideas in such a short period of time.

You had a very nice idea, and I'm happy to read Mr Orange say he considered voting for your work.

@Mr Orange, I enjoyed your story. I don't really understand cyberpunk (haven't read that much ... mainly some Gibson in the 80s), but I didn't get quite the cyberpunk vibe from your entry. It seemed almost like straight SF to me, with an AI. But it might be my problem, that I didn't get enough cyberpunk from my reading of your story. I'm not great at critiques, so apologies if this isn't very helpful. CC
 

Mr Orange

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cheers @Cat's Cradle, you've hit on one of the concerns I had about my story not being cyberpunky. do you think the alternative draft above would have worked better?

and don't apologise - everything is helpful and you confirmed what I thought.
 

Cat's Cradle

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Hey, @Mr Orange! I'm no pro critiquer, but I'll gladly give my thoughts.

I like the dark tone of the additional bit you posted above, and I like the writing, but I think it introduces two bits of possible ambiguity (places where the reader might be confused). I think this might be because of word limitations - it's so hard to fulfill an ambitious storyline in 75 words.

The first one is here:
I’m lucky; most live in computational claustrophobia, drip fed data through fibre optic umbilicals. But they can’t hear us either.

The 'most' above must be the MC's 'brothers and sisters' from the first draft. But if we hadn't read the first version -so, if we were coming to the story blind - it's possible a new reader wouldn't known who the 'most' is; or really, that the MC is a bus. I think it's possible that people wouldn't understand that the 'most' is other AIs, rather than, say, humans who have live in a claustrophobic world because of computers (we're so used to the concepts from The Matrix by now, that I'd almost think I would have guessed that's where the new version was going...again, if I'd never read the first story). So, I think the original works better, in that it gives us identities for the folks you're referring to in this new first sentence. But, I also think the new line But they can’t hear us either. could be interpreted two ways - it could mean that it's good the humans can't hear 'us', because the AIs are plotting against them, or that it's a tragedy the humans can't hear the AIs, because the humans don't understand the suffering of the AIs, and that the AIs want the help of humanity, to end their suffering (and also, would a first-time reader be confused if they're not sure it's Ais being referred to). Do you see what I mean? I think the first version gives more clarity.

The second thing is the new closing line: I relay his message across the city. It's a good line, and has a nice, ominous feeling, but if I'd encountered this version of the story, I'd finish the story asking myself who 'his' refers to. This is the first an overseeing presence (a leader) is mentioned in the piece. I just think as a closing line, it doesn't bring closure well enough. And that might be word limit, again. 75 words is so few. So, my opinion is that the first version works better. Okay, I'll stop going on, now. :)
 

Mr Orange

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thanks for the review @Cat's Cradle. again you have hit on a lot of stuff that I was also thinking as I wrote the story. the "first version" above did originally have "brothers and sisters" in it, but it got cut. I reintroduced it to the final story for the exact reason you stated. the "but they can't hear us either" worked better in the original uncut draft where the MC was not given hearing at all due to the humans' fear. oh, and the original MC was a faceless android, not a bus. and "he" was another android that was on the roof top as well and he was framed as more of a leader. the humming of his touch was meant to represent a new way the AI's had found to speak to each other. all things that got savagely cut and then I lost faith in what I had left and switched the MC to an unwitting bus...
 

Cat's Cradle

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It's just sooo hard to properly convey the ideas of a fully developed story in 75 words! So much has to be cut...often you have to choose between characterization, and worldbuilding, and plotting and clarity. Ay-yi-yi.

Maybe more of our Challenge entries should be expanded into full-lengthers. Cool thing - the thing I love about the Challenges - is that just a few days after one ends, we have another chance to try and get it right. :)
 

Mr Orange

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yeah too many times I've cut down what I thought was a great story, posted it thinking this is my month, ended up with no votes and then gone back to reread it and realized that without my previous knowledge of the original story it made no sense!

maybe we need a thread for posting our original drafts before applying the knife.
 

Parson

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yeah too many times I've cut down what I thought was a great story, posted it thinking this is my month, ended up with no votes and then gone back to reread it and realized that without my previous knowledge of the original story it made no sense!

maybe we need a thread for posting our original drafts before applying the knife.
Trying to think of a name for the above thread:
Hall of Shame?
Hall of Regrets?
Hall of Lost Opportunity?
Hall of Great Intentions?
Hall Of Would've, Could've, Should've?
 

scarpelius

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My first time asking for reviews here. I'd am curious to know why this didn't get at least a mention. I thought it touched the genre, forming planets to support life is SF for me and the fact that one team member disregards procedures to express himself artistically, should have been enough to satisfy the theme.


It ain't just engineering

"Dave, planet forming requires strict procedures."
"Stop bugging me Hal... do you like my continent? I call it Pangea."
"No! It is breaking the rule of diversity. You need more continents to ensure variation."
"I'm an artist, I don't play by your rules Hal."
"Riiight... the planet is still hot, your continent is going to shatter. Creatures will be under standard, struggling to live.
They'll reach no EQUILIBRIUM Dave."
"I sure hope so, buddy!"
 

Hugh

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I definitely noticed your story and liked it. The problem was it was a good month and I liked others that little bit more.
 

The Judge

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As far as I was concerned it definitely met the genre, so no problem there, but I wasn't so sure it met the theme. He says he's an artist, but simply disregarding protocol/procedures doesn't equal art, especially not when he seems to be making a complete horlicks of things. There's no evidence that he's actually being artistic in his creation, and to me he's coming over as a bit of a prat. (Mind, I feel like that with regard to a great deal of modern art, especially performance art, so it may simply be I'm too old-fashioned to appreciate it!)

Anyhow, even setting aside the theme issue, I didn't understand the relevance of "EQUILIBRIUM" especially written like that in caps, nor the point of the last line. For me as a whole, it felt lacking as a story, with a point, other than a kind of Art Is What I Say It Is.

For me, too, using the names Hal and Dave was an irritation as there seemed no good reason for the allusion.

Sorry I couldn't be more enthusiastic, but as I say it's probably linked to my failure to appreciate the arty element in it.
 

Parson

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@scarpelius --- I see no glaring error in your story. I think everyone will say that some of the stories that they were least happy with exceeded their expectations by far and then like you describe they had a story they loved but no one seemed to notice. Always remember there is no accounting for taste.

To prove my point: I've lately stopped reading a book when the main character was one who was snarky. (Just me, but hey) and the snark thing in your story undid me.
 

scarpelius

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Thanks @Hugh, @The Judge, @Parson for taking the time to answer.

None of the things mentioned, were my intention. I named the characters Hal and Dave, simply to point out that Hal is an AI. They are explorers with the mission to kick off life through the Universe. A long mission where Hall will retain its original programming and a bored Dave will try new approaches. The EQUILIBRIUM demanded by Hal is part of the original planet forming specs. Dave on the other hand, wants to create original imbalanced worlds, where creatures struggle for their life and the evolution will produce winners. Dave is not snarky, but dreams of a dynamic world where equilibrium is but a dream.
As for Art, I've always considered that every craft turns to art at some point. A planet modeled by its creator vision and desire is a work of art.
 
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