"The Big Red Button" 2.0

Guttersnipe

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@Joshua Jones @BT Jones @MatthewKonerth @sule @TheEndIsNigh @msstice
I have finished the redraft. This is no longer the same story. I am breaking it down into parts because typing on a PS4 taxes me.

2122 A.D.

"Dad," the young girl asked, "What's a Capricorn?"

The man put his arm around her as they rocked slowly on the swinging bench.

"There's only one Capricorn, dear," he answered, "and he's a sea goat. And therein lies a tale from Greek mythology."

For a while, they rocked in silence.

"Tell me the story, please," she said, "Greeks worshipped Zeus, right?"

Her father feigned astonishment.

"You're a smart girl, Lora. Only in second grade and you know about Hellenismos!"

"Huh?" The girl cocked her head. Her father chuckled.

"Well, maybe not too much. Capricorn--let's see. There once was, according to the Greeks, a god named Cronos. He was the god of time. He
made a sea goat, the first one, and his name was Pricus. Now Pricus could rewind time, just like his creator. He had children. These children were
smart, too--just like you. But they wanted to go on land."

"Why?" Lora asked. Her father shrugged.

"Why do cats like to sit at windows? So, the little sea goats crawled onto land. When they were on land, they became regular goats. They were no
longer smart, and could no longer speak. So Pricus rewinded time. But even when he did this, his children would choose land over sea. Pricus was
lonely. He was also immortal. He couldn't bear to spend eternity without his children. So Cronos took him and threw him up into the stars. Now he
can see his children no matter where they are. That's who Capricorn is."

Lora smiled to herself and watched the stars with her father in pleasant silence.

"Rewind time," she thought...
 

Guttersnipe

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2144 A.D.

"John Harper, Prisoner Number 236-B. Please step into the center so we may instruct you."

Harper, a nervous, wild sort of man obliged the hoarse, hissing voice. Before him were three ten-foot podiums, and behind each one
stood a large-headed mutant from an alternate future. They were the Time Tribunal, and their commandments were law, their influence
second only to the President. In a world where brief time travel abounded, they ruled over matters involving Deeper time; that is, travel
back in time over the two-year limit.

"What do you want from me?" the criminal asked a bit too flippantly.

"Silence!" roared the mutant in the middle. He pressed a button, and Harper momentarily felt a web of electricity shoot through him.
Following this, he decided to act a bit more docile, enraged though he was.

"It is true," said the judge, "that you have killed a former friend and wife in an act of passion, five years Deeper. You were sentenced to
a lifetime in prison without parole. But we have use for killers, for they make useful soldiers. You have been selected for a task that you've
once performed quite well. You will murder for the benefit of the greater good. You will go Deeper now to kill again, and be returned to
the present time to collect a great reward--a monthly earning of $8, 000. Refuse and you will be sent back to complete your life in
captivity. The choice is yours. Questions." This last word was a demand rather than an offering.

"Who do I kill?" the murderer asked warily.

The mutant judge responded, "A woman named Lora Rodriguez has gone off the Grid following the death of her father. She has created
a device that allows the user to go Deeper in time to the point of illegality. Her mother is to be killed. The device you will use is one of hers.
The President warrants our usage of it only. On it are two buttons: a red one to send you Deeper, and a blue one to bring you back to your
starting time and position. We have pre-selected the hospital of Lora's birth as a destination. Press the red button and kill Lora's mother.
Questions."

Harper's head was racing. These eggheads aren't speaking my language, he thought. Logic and science had never been his strong suits.
But a question did form in his mind.

"Why not back more? Y'know, before the hospital?"

"Thirty years Deep is the limit of its power," answered one on his left, "Have you made your decision?"

Harper fleetingly weighed the options in his mind, taking his time to respond to seem wise.

"All right. But how do I know it'll work?"

"You must trust us," said the judge to his right, whom he now realized was female.

The device materialized and dropped slowly into his hands. A laser pistol followed.

"You will leave now. The red button."

The criminal smirked and pressed it.
 

Guttersnipe

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2114 A.D.

He was in a white room. A woman was screaming. There was Mrs. Rodriguez, her face red and her eyes bulging. Someone came up behind him and grabbed him. He easily shook off his weak assailant and fired at the woman. She and her unborn infant burst into dust. He reached for
the time remote. Gone. He searched himself frantically. There was a crushing sound. He turned.

It was Dr. Rodriguez, the true inventor of the time remote, who had attacked him. It was also he who had crushed the device with his boot (Why so fragile? he wondered). Harper screamed and pointed his gun at the man who'd ruin his dreams. He was promptly tackled, the laser shooting through the ceiling. Only when he was manacled did he realize that his existence could and did become even more nightmarish. He let out a shrieking string of profanities as he was carried off.

"Thank you, Officer Brown," Rodriguez said to an observing policeman. The former's eyes watered, but his voice did not waver.

"I'm sorry it had to happen that way," said Officer Brown. He patted the doctor's arm.

"She was in pain," the doctor said, his breathing returning to normal, "It was going to kill her. It was euthanasia, though the intentions behind that gun may have been evil. I will reunite with her someday, in some fashion."

He walked over to the closet and opened the door. He took out of it a crying infant.

"Lora," he said, "I'll always have my Lora."

Dr. Rodriguez took out another device--the time scope. With this he had foreseen his family's destiny. The Time Tribunal were cowards, he thought, not for the last time, forcing misguided souls to travel blind and do their dirty work. Misguided souls.

2144 A.D.

In a secret steel shelter, far below the Grid, Lora sat facing a wall-sized screen.

"So much for that hitman," she said after hearing her father's story, "I wonder what he'll do now that the Time Tribunal went into a different timeline? Oh, I wish you hadn't destroyed that time scope!"

"I destroyed that time scope," her father said from the screen, "because I feel a man should make his own destiny, unfettered by vanity."

"When do I get to go digital?"

"When the time is right. You've a long life ahead of you have lots to learn. You're lucky to have friends down here, you know."

"Yeah," she said, rolling her eyes, "beyond several locked doors and complicated entry codes."

"Count your blessings. By the way, you're looking awfully overworked. One invention at a time, now. You should get to bed."

"You're right. Good night, Dad." She powered off the computers, then retired to her bed. She looked at the other walls, covered top to bottom with images of her mother, young and old.

"Someday," Lora said, "Good night, Mom." She slept.



THE END
 

BT Jones

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Well, it's a total departure from the previous story, I'll give you that. Maybe you should make an anthology series - different stories, all centering about a big red button.

There was certainly more stuffing on this one than the last, but it perhaps seems like you maybe spent longer on it. I'm not a huge fan of time travel as it gets messy and a little meaningless if X can just go back a bit further and stop Y from doing Z. Also the 'paradox' is a bit rote - Doctor Who, I'm looking at you!

Part 1 was cute, but I could have done with some more atmosphere and scene setting, perhaps. Part 2 was curious. The dialogue was a bit expositionary (not a legit word, apparently), but it served the purpose of carrying the narrative. I have to say Part 3 totally threw me. I think I have missed the point here. The Doctor arranged in the future to have a criminal come back in time and kill his wife and unborn child (or fake unborn child, because Lora is already born and in a cupboard) because she was suffering? So, they hadn't invented the device at that point? Ergo, he lived in a world where she suffered greatly. But how could the he of then know that? Oh, but is that the timescope thing to see the future and see her suffering?

Part 4 didn't do anything for me, I'm sorry to say. I'm not getting any feel for these characters. I'm not getting any emotional connection between the daughter and her mum because - evidently - she never knew her.

I guess my overall feeling is it is a little complicated. The scene hopping (added to, perhaps, the need for brevity in the critique section) doesn't give us the chance to feel the scene, or the time, or each of these worlds. I find time travel stories are best when what is at stake is relatively simple, with strong emotional connectivity. I think if you could get Lora and her father to have stronger motives and a more solid bond, then there is the heart of a good story here. Alternatively, the time judiciary thing is a direction you could take the story in, with the Lora aspect relegated to a secondary thread.
 

Guttersnipe

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Well, it's a total departure from the previous story, I'll give you that. Maybe you should make an anthology series - different stories, all centering about a big red button.

There was certainly more stuffing on this one than the last, but it perhaps seems like you maybe spent longer on it. I'm not a huge fan of time travel as it gets messy and a little meaningless if X can just go back a bit further and stop Y from doing Z. Also the 'paradox' is a bit rote - Doctor Who, I'm looking at you!

Part 1 was cute, but I could have done with some more atmosphere and scene setting, perhaps. Part 2 was curious. The dialogue was a bit expositionary (not a legit word, apparently), but it served the purpose of carrying the narrative. I have to say Part 3 totally threw me. I think I have missed the point here. The Doctor arranged in the future to have a criminal come back in time and kill his wife and unborn child (or fake unborn child, because Lora is already born and in a cupboard) because she was suffering? So, they hadn't invented the device at that point? Ergo, he lived in a world where she suffered greatly. But how could the he of then know that? Oh, but is that the timescope thing to see the future and see her suffering?

Part 4 didn't do anything for me, I'm sorry to say. I'm not getting any feel for these characters. I'm not getting any emotional connection between the daughter and her mum because - evidently - she never knew her.

I guess my overall feeling is it is a little complicated. The scene hopping (added to, perhaps, the need for brevity in the critique section) doesn't give us the chance to feel the scene, or the time, or each of these worlds. I find time travel stories are best when what is at stake is relatively simple, with strong emotional connectivity. I think if you could get Lora and her father to have stronger motives and a more solid bond, then there is the heart of a good story here. Alternatively, the time judiciary thing is a direction you could take the story in, with the Lora aspect relegated to a secondary thread.
I appreciate your honesty. I'm second-guessing my potential as a writer.
 

Joshua Jones

When all is said and done, all's quiet and boring.
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I appreciate your honesty. I'm second-guessing my potential as a writer.
You may or may not like me so much after this post...

You said you're second guessing your potential. Good. My experience is that when one is convinced of their potential as a writer, they get lazy and complacent. Also, the fact that you're second guessing your potential means that you have a better understanding of just how difficult it is to write and write well. Good. It was going to happen one day or another, and it's better that it happened here than after 87 publisher rejections.

What this tells me is that you're at one of the key moments where many young writers wash out; receiving criticism. You've discovered that you aren't Amadeus and blessed with a preternatural ability to defecate award winning prose. Welcome to the world of 99.99999999999999999999% of published authors throughout history. The good part is that you are in the midst of a group that genuinely cares about your development as a writer, so we can ease you into developing the armor-like scales needed to survive as a writer.

The real question is what are you going to do with the criticism. Does it make you turn in on yourself and stop writing, or does it motivate you to improve? Only you can decide that one.

I will give you one of the dirty little secrets about writing, though. Editing is the real art of writing. First, second, even third drafts are rarely suitable for public consumption. Once you've hastily jotted down your prose with bated breath and excitement... then the real work begins. And there just isn't an easy way around that.

So do you have the chops to be a writer? Depends on if you have the chops to be a ruthless self-editor, and the willingness to develop. Only a future you can answer that question. But, seeing as you have votes in the writing challenges, I rather suspect you do.

I'll give my critique of this story in a bit... my battery is about to die.
 

Guttersnipe

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You may or may not like me so much after this post...

You said you're second guessing your potential. Good. My experience is that when one is convinced of their potential as a writer, they get lazy and complacent. Also, the fact that you're second guessing your potential means that you have a better understanding of just how difficult it is to write and write well. Good. It was going to happen one day or another, and it's better that it happened here than after 87 publisher rejections.

What this tells me is that you're at one of the key moments where many young writers wash out; receiving criticism. You've discovered that you aren't Amadeus and blessed with a preternatural ability to defecate award winning prose. Welcome to the world of 99.99999999999999999999% of published authors throughout history. The good part is that you are in the midst of a group that genuinely cares about your development as a writer, so we can ease you into developing the armor-like scales needed to survive as a writer.

The real question is what are you going to do with the criticism. Does it make you turn in on yourself and stop writing, or does it motivate you to improve? Only you can decide that one.

I will give you one of the dirty little secrets about writing, though. Editing is the real art of writing. First, second, even third drafts are rarely suitable for public consumption. Once you've hastily jotted down your prose with bated breath and excitement... then the real work begins. And there just isn't an easy way around that.

So do you have the chops to be a writer? Depends on if you have the chops to be a ruthless self-editor, and the willingness to develop. Only a future you can answer that question. But, seeing as you have votes in the writing challenges, I rather suspect you do.

I'll give my critique of this story in a bit... my battery is about to die.
Thank you. I realize that writing is hard work. I was making it harder on myself by writing a time travel story, which I've come to realize is NOT my forte. Maybe I was being a bit dramatic. I know I have some potential. I think I just wrote this story and the one before it to challenge myself. I will always write, even if I never see any of my stories in print. It is my passion. Hopefully I will someday find my strengths, my niche.

And I'll never dislike anyone for criticizing my writing, especially when I agree with them (which is the case here with BT); I'd rather be criticized than lied to, however tempting the lie might be.

Someday, when I've further honed my skills and acquired more patience, I might try to rework this story, but not in the forseeable future.
 
Last edited:

BT Jones

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Thank you. I realize that writing is hard work. I was making it harder on myself by writing a time travel story, which I've come to realize is NOT my forte. Maybe I was being a bit dramatic. I know I have some potential. I think I just wrote this story and the one before it to challenge myself. I will always write, even if I never see any of my stories in print. It is my passion. Hopefully I will someday find my strengths, my niche.

And I'll never dislike anyone for criticizing my writing, especially when I agree with them (which is the case here with BT); I'd rather be criticized than lied to, however tempting the lie might be.

Someday, when I've further honed my skills and acquired more patience, I might try to rework this story, but not in the foreseeable future.
@Guttersnipe, it's heartening to hear your reactions to both mine and Joshua's (wonderful) comments. He is absolutely right. Not wanting to steal your own thread from you, but I am currently on the 4th draft of my first story. I started seriously in 2014. I've had these stories in my head for eons. I've had just 6 agent rejections. In my mind, what write is gold dust. Then, a year later, following Beta reading comments, I re-read the previous draft... and found it sorely wanting. Everything the beta readers said was true. Information dump here, too much exposition there, too much dialogue, not enough, too tight, too loose... Just today, I finally found the perfect voice for one of my characters - based on a real man I almost came to blows with back in my construction site days. Why wasn't it there the day before, or the day before that? Friday, I came away happy that the info and content was down, but that it was too flabby. Saturday, I got up. And I just found the voice. Curt, blunt, sinuous, hyper-sexualised. It was just there, done. I finished the section this morning, but I will give it another readthrough and trim when I finish the chapter - then again if I put it on critiques.

There's no right or wrong answer, as @Joshua Jones implies. But your openness to criticism, your ability to be self-depricating, and your determination to keep pushing will see you be the best writer you can be (this, coming from one who is probably 10 years away from being that himself).

Think about it at night. Make a voice memo in the car. Write down ALL of your ideas, and keep plugging away. When you find the characters - when you find the story you REALLY want to tell - then the rest will flow.

Don't be afraid to challenge yourself. But, also, don't be afraid to keep the story simple. Some of the best stories are just about ordinary people trying to do all they can just to succeed in life. Find that character motivation, a setting / locale you enjoy writing about, and a core morality that fits with your own, and will help the juices flow that much more.

Whatever you post here next, I will happily read it. Keep going!
 

BT Jones

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Messages
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@BT Jones Would you say you liked the original setup better?
I think I was busy replying to what Joshua said when you posted this. Honestly, I preferred the 2nd version. The first felt like a writing challenge - just something you came up with on the fly. The 2nd felt like the beginnings of a world. I was definitely more drawn to the world. A quickfire, quirky story is maybe something to save for the writing challenges. Which reminds me... It's late, I'm full of wine and a little bit angry, so i am going to write something. I think it will be dark. It might be rubbish, but what the hay!
 

Joshua Jones

When all is said and done, all's quiet and boring.
Joined
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Thank you. I realize that writing is hard work. I was making it harder on myself by writing a time travel story, which I've come to realize is NOT my forte. Maybe I was being a bit dramatic. I know I have some potential. I think I just wrote this story and the one before it to challenge myself. I will always write, even if I never see any of my stories in print. It is my passion. Hopefully I will someday find my strengths, my niche.

And I'll never dislike anyone for criticizing my writing, especially when I agree with them (which is the case here with BT); I'd rather be criticized than lied to, however tempting the lie might be.

Someday, when I've further honed my skills and acquired more patience, I might try to rework this story, but not in the forseeable future.
Good to hear. Now that I'm not at 3%, on to the critique!

Structurally, I think this works better than the original version. Not that the first one was bad, but it felt more like a scene from something larger than a complete story. This has more of a plot arc. That said, I think this is too short to execute the current arc. What I mean is, I feel like it needs another scene or two to link the characters together (I think it would be a really interesting plot twist if John Harper were related somehow, especially if his actions unknowingly caused his own demise. Feel free to ignore or use at your discretion), and either break part 2 into two parts or convert the scene to his prison cell. TBH, I think the concept you have here should be converted into a novella. Short story, while possible, typically explores 1 character, and there are at least 3 potentially interesting characters here. But, I'm not sure the arc could support a full novel without significant filler (or a parallel arc perhaps). So, yeah, I think novella length is probably about right for this, although I certainly could be wrong.

I do agree with my fellow Jones that the second part was a bit exposition heavy, and part three went by so fast, it was a little hard to follow. That said, if the length here is expanded, I think the issues may resolve themselves. What I mean is, you'll have the needed time to work the exposition into the action, draw out the character's voices more, show more emotional response...

There's definitely potential in the characters and storyline. My recommendation is, rather than abandon it for a bit, dive in headlong and expand it to a novella.
 

Joshua Jones

When all is said and done, all's quiet and boring.
Joined
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Messages
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@Guttersnipe, it's heartening to hear your reactions to both mine and Joshua's (wonderful) comments. He is absolutely right. Not wanting to steal your own thread from you, but I am currently on the 4th draft of my first story. I started seriously in 2014. I've had these stories in my head for eons. I've had just 6 agent rejections. In my mind, what write is gold dust. Then, a year later, following Beta reading comments, I re-read the previous draft... and found it sorely wanting. Everything the beta readers said was true. Information dump here, too much exposition there, too much dialogue, not enough, too tight, too loose... Just today, I finally found the perfect voice for one of my characters - based on a real man I almost came to blows with back in my construction site days. Why wasn't it there the day before, or the day before that? Friday, I came away happy that the info and content was down, but that it was too flabby. Saturday, I got up. And I just found the voice. Curt, blunt, sinuous, hyper-sexualised. It was just there, done. I finished the section this morning, but I will give it another readthrough and trim when I finish the chapter - then again if I put it on critiques.

There's no right or wrong answer, as @Joshua Jones implies. But your openness to criticism, your ability to be self-depricating, and your determination to keep pushing will see you be the best writer you can be (this, coming from one who is probably 10 years away from being that himself).

Think about it at night. Make a voice memo in the car. Write down ALL of your ideas, and keep plugging away. When you find the characters - when you find the story you REALLY want to tell - then the rest will flow.

Don't be afraid to challenge yourself. But, also, don't be afraid to keep the story simple. Some of the best stories are just about ordinary people trying to do all they can just to succeed in life. Find that character motivation, a setting / locale you enjoy writing about, and a core morality that fits with your own, and will help the juices flow that much more.

Whatever you post here next, I will happily read it. Keep going!
Thank you for your kind words regarding my comments, and you summed up my experience as well. I can't tell you how many times I've felt like a fish post-filet after a thorough critique! But, yeah, with a handful of exceptions, I found the beta responses and critiques are usually right.

If either of you is looking for a beta reader, please don't hesitate to ask. Fair warning, I don't pull punches, but I also try not to be mean about it...
 

Guttersnipe

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Good to hear. Now that I'm not at 3%, on to the critique!

Structurally, I think this works better than the original version. Not that the first one was bad, but it felt more like a scene from something larger than a complete story. This has more of a plot arc. That said, I think this is too short to execute the current arc. What I mean is, I feel like it needs another scene or two to link the characters together (I think it would be a really interesting plot twist if John Harper were related somehow, especially if his actions unknowingly caused his own demise. Feel free to ignore or use at your discretion), and either break part 2 into two parts or convert the scene to his prison cell. TBH, I think the concept you have here should be converted into a novella. Short story, while possible, typically explores 1 character, and there are at least 3 potentially interesting characters here. But, I'm not sure the arc could support a full novel without significant filler (or a parallel arc perhaps). So, yeah, I think novella length is probably about right for this, although I certainly could be wrong.

I do agree with my fellow Jones that the second part was a bit exposition heavy, and part three went by so fast, it was a little hard to follow. That said, if the length here is expanded, I think the issues may resolve themselves. What I mean is, you'll have the needed time to work the exposition into the action, draw out the character's voices more, show more emotional response...

There's definitely potential in the characters and storyline. My recommendation is, rather than abandon it for a bit, dive in headlong and expand it to a novella.
Thanks! Your idea about Harper being somehow related to the characters is fantastic, but I can't use it. I really do want to set the story aside for now though, because I'm feeling more interesting stories cropping up. And only until I've mastered the short story will I feel ready to write anything longer. I do appreciate your support, though!:)
 

Joshua Jones

When all is said and done, all's quiet and boring.
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Thanks! Your idea about Harper being somehow related to the characters is fantastic, but I can't use it. I really do want to set the story aside for now though, because I'm feeling more interesting stories cropping up. And only until I've mastered the short story will I feel ready to write anything longer. I do appreciate your support, though!:)
Sounds like a plan. Feel free to let me know if I can be of assistance.
 

TheEndIsNigh

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@Guttersnipe

No critique. Others have said enough.

Kick the PS4. Get a keyboard for your tablet or even a real PC/Labtop. It doesn't have to cost the Earth if you're just writing stories.

Even a second hand, old machine will give you a better experience and less pain than a PS4.

You're going to give yourself headaches.
 

Joshua Jones

When all is said and done, all's quiet and boring.
Joined
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@Guttersnipe

No critique. Others have said enough.

Kick the PS4. Get a keyboard for your tablet or even a real PC/Labtop. It doesn't have to cost the Earth if you're just writing stories.

Even a second hand, old machine will give you a better experience and less pain than a PS4.

You're going to give yourself headaches.
For that matter, Google Docs on a phone is better than trying to write on a PS4... I hate digital keyboards but the thought of writing with a controller sounds like the newly formed 8th circle of Hell...
 
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