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Dumah
11-02-2012, 08:14 PM
I started writing a narrative on the election. This chapter is setting up the protagonist, but the girlfriend said I needed more imagery. Nothing really on the meat of the story yet:


“Alarms… I HATE waking up to this goddamn alarm, especially on account of this asinine rat race,” Marcus grumbled as he rolled out of bed, almost stepping on his black and brown calico cat as she stuck her stringy butt up for him to scratch. The man spent years putting himself through community college so that he might one day be in charge of an elite squad like the Dirty Dozen (with fewer minorities and Charles Bronson still alive in his dream life), but the only so-called subordinate he’d ever known was teasing him with a waving, furry behind centered by what resembled a clenched index finger, only to run away when he bent down to pet her. Ten straight years of holding full time jobs meant only to support the egos of his superiors took a toll on the 25 year old. The very thought of how much he’s lost in taxes was enough to kill his mood for an entire day, but in a couple months, he would at least have the opportunity to see where that money was about to go and cast his vote for the people who would best represent him.

Marcus was a working man, and that was all he’d ever known. From a young age, he was taught to make his own way through life and never let himself fall into a circumstance where accepting charity was his only option. Although being an IT specialist at a celebrity public image consulting firm wasn’t the most glamorous or noble of professions, it was an indication of this tame era, and at least he was a productive contributor to society. At least he wasn’t a bathroom attendant.

He stumbled across the room, shuffling carefully along the unkempt carpet as to not step on the cat (who changed her mind about receiving affection yet again), and more importantly not to trip over his scuffed office shoes that he was too cheap to replace. As he silenced the incessantly squawking alarm that had no doubt been slowly manifesting a malignant tumor into his brain over the years, he glanced back over at the warm embrace of his bed. There was a time that he might have considered calling in sick and going back, but now he was guilted into feeling lucky for his career – he was indoctrinated. It wasn’t so much the job itself that he dreaded each morning as much as it was the whole having to be there part. His windows were open on the brisk morning, but once the oppressive sun kicked into full swing, the air conditioning unit near his cubicle would occasionally nag him how much better off he was than the generations before him. The morbidly obese blue jay that had set up shop at the patio of his rickety townhouse began his daily routine too - make enough noise to claim a monopoly on the elderly neighbor's birdfeeder to strong-arm any would-be competitors away from the seeds for this coming winter. How that thing managed to deftly hoist its fat ass off each time Marcus threw something at it, only to return two minutes later and continue its shrill screeching was a mystery. At least it was quiet during working hours - probably too busy shoveling free seeds and suet down its gullet to care about shouting from the porch.

After a childhood inundated with starry-eyed encouragement that he could do anything if he applied himself, capped off by a graduation speech given by a valedictorian whom he was too busy fantasizing about shamelessly ravaging to actually pay attention to anything she was saying (who, last he heard, was 270 pounds and just shat out her third kid as the ink on the divorce papers dried), asking people if they’ve rebooted their machine fifty times a day seemed a smidge disappointing.

The initial whiff of coffee was the first thing he looked forward to each day - the sedating stimulant that not only helped him maintain a semblance of consciousness in the mornings, but staved off the withdrawal headaches that probably wouldn’t hold up as a legal defense in the event of a coworker or fellow motorist’s wrongful death. He sat down eagerly with his cup from a designer dish set chosen by his mother when he moved out a year prior, and began to shuffle through a stack of papers with facts and figures about a few people that he’ll never meet – the Assembly election was coming soon, and it was time to research the candidates’ profiles so he wouldn’t look like a complete moron when it came time to vote. He thumbed through as the morning went on; some tax proposals made him cringe and some voting histories seemed spot on, until he took too big a sip and burned the hell out of his mouth when he saw the stove clock with red, angry numbers. It was 7:20 in the morning, which was normally early enough to get to work on schedule, except it was the time of year where construction was winding down and school traffic was starting up. It was going to be a cutthroat drive in.

Esfires
11-03-2012, 07:12 PM
You know what you need? An Enter key.

Dumah
11-04-2012, 10:24 AM
Fair enough - I copypasta'd from a rich text document that had separated block paragraphs, but didn't transcribe onto the forum. I'll acquiesce to your response.

Marou
11-04-2012, 01:03 PM
I was entertained.

Esfires
11-04-2012, 01:40 PM
This actually wasn't bad. The writing needs plenty of work, but I think you've actually got something to work with. The tone and flow of it has potential. It is a little purple, though. You have too many metaphors and analogous phrases. It's almost reads like Dennis Miller's standup routine.

One little thing that really jumped out at me: In the first line you have "Marcus grumbled." This is one of those show vs. tell moments. We can already see by the text of the dialogue itself that Marcus is grumbling, so you don't need to tell us that's what he's doing. There are some people that say you should never use anything other than "he said" as a dialogue tag, but I don't quite hold to that. Still, anything other than "he said" should be used very carefully and deliberately.

Marou
11-04-2012, 01:47 PM
This actually wasn't bad. The writing needs plenty of work, but I think you've actually got something to work with. The tone and flow of it has potential. It is a little purple, though. You have too many metaphors and analogous phrases. It's almost reads like Dennis Miller's standup routine.

One little thing that really jumped out at me: In the first line you have "Marcus grumbled." This is one of those show vs. tell moments. We can already see by the text of the dialogue itself that Marcus is grumbling, so you don't need to tell us that's what he's doing. There are some people that say you should never use anything other than "he said" as a dialogue tag, but I don't quite hold to that. Still, anything other than "he said" should be used very carefully and deliberately.

Disagree, try reading Richard Kadrey, who writes in the type of colorful metaphors and analogues Dumah is apt to use. It's entertaining, and pulp. The character grumbling adds a layer of information about their personality them "saying" something wouldn't convey.

Dumah
11-04-2012, 03:05 PM
Thanks for taking the time to respond guys. I think both of you have a valid point - this has been a fun way to mix my scathing cynicism and humor, but I also need to be cautious as to not allow it to be the focus of the work either - almost like I'm trying to make it that way for the sake of.

I've never heard of the rule for sole usage of "said" though. Wouldn't modified speech verbs help paint the picture a little more (without overuse of course)?

Aeinna
11-04-2012, 05:06 PM
I think the grumble is appropriate. It gives tone and if you had left that out, it would sound more like an observation, not a grumpy guy.

Esfires
11-04-2012, 07:12 PM
I've never heard of the rule for sole usage of "said" though. Wouldn't modified speech verbs help paint the picture a little more (without overuse of course)?


"Without overuse" is the key. Prolific use of tags other than "said" is usually taken as a sign of an immature writer. You shouldn't have to tell us that a character is grumbling, exclaiming, questioning, etc. We should get all the intent and color from what the character says and what they're doing. Keep in mind that a reader is not supposed to feel like the writer is telling them what's happening. It should feel like they're watching it happen for themselves, as if the writer isn't there at all.

Marou
11-04-2012, 07:29 PM
"Without overuse" is the key. Prolific use of tags other than "said" is usually taken as a sign of an immature writer. You shouldn't have to tell us that a character is grumbling, exclaiming, questioning, etc. We should get all the intent and color from what the character says and what they're doing. Keep in mind that a reader is not supposed to feel like the writer is telling them what's happening. It should feel like they're watching it happen for themselves, as if the writer isn't there at all.

There is a parallel between software development and speculative writing. Professional software developers don't get hung up on which language is used, or the structure of a program. Instead, they get the job done, and once the job is done they re-factor into something maintainable. By the same token people who actually /can/ write professionally have stories to tell. They get those stories out and then they worry about editing them. If you get caught up in the "best way" to do something while programming or fixated upon some "design pattern" you'll never get anything done. That a program exists and functions is the end goal. The end goal of speculative fiction is to tell an entertaining story through to completion. If the story is incomplete or it's not fundamentally entertaining no amount of linguistic flair or technique will salvage it.

Some of the most commercially successful books of today are literary garbage; Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey. However, the authors knew their audience and told stories people wanted to read. Poor technique, repetitive description, and lack of critical editing impacted their success not at all. Story and characterization trump technique every time. My measurement of whether something is "good" is if I finished it through to completion, or my gnat-like attention span led me to greener entertainment pastures before that.

Esfires
11-04-2012, 09:23 PM
It's true that you can still be successful while being a poor writer. But you have to always remember that the remember that the exception proves the rule.

Bragi
11-06-2012, 03:47 PM
I was entertained, D. Obviously needs some work--but for the past umpteen years the majority of my reading and all of my writing has been very technical and academic, so I don't have any criticisms that would be constructive (the only contemporary author of fiction I've enjoyed recently is Neil Gaiman--but I'm not sure how well y'alls styles would mesh).

So at any rate, keep it up!

Moonspell
12-31-2012, 12:40 PM
Incidentally, Dumah's writing style reminds me of one of my favorite comic book writers turned novelist - Warren Ellis.

Dumah, check out a book called Crooked Little Vein for some inspiration. And keep on trucking!

Dumah
12-31-2012, 01:35 PM
Start of the following chapter:

The drive into work would have been just as bad as Marcus anticipated had the traffic lights on the main road of his Podunk town not shorted out, adding 15 minutes to his commute. Really it was just more of the same, on and off the brakes, cursing at and pounding on his poor, unassuming steering wheel while imagining getting the stink eye from coworkers and superiors alike during the walk of shame – all the more reason for the details of the transit to be suppressed into his memory to the point where he’d have sufficient cause to name his first ulcer “state route 94.” While the rural town in the opposite side of his routine journey was steadily developing to the point of sprouting a Chipotle (but not quite a Starbucks), things were obviously still slow enough out there to keep traffic in that direction flowing mockingly light. Marcus considered getting a job as the guy holding an ice cream scoop along the burrito production line who says “guacamole estra?” to each passing customer.

Marcus tore through the parking lot of Shining Star Image Consultation with surgical precision, quietly praying that none of the janitorial staff would pop out from behind the roach coach on their way from breakfast to the building entrance. Each SUV or pristine wide-bed pickup truck (that obviously wasn’t used for any actual manual labor) obscured the space behind it, so when a compact car or douchebag’s motorcycle was found sitting in it instead of a bike space, it was killing his chances for a perfect day, one crooked double park job at a time. He reluctantly pulled into the space next to the smoker’s pad, knowing full well that his '89 Chevy Celebrity had enough flat surfaces to effectively serve as a nice table for their coffee or as a butt rest when standing for five minutes became too taxing to their levels of athleticism. The clock on his dashboard said 8:06, which was always four minutes fast; now he just had to briskly walk through the parking lot, and pray that his favorite technologically un-savvy repeat customer, Pammy Lyon couldn’t find him to flap her jowls for ten minutes – which would be a challenge, given as much as she boasted about finding Jesus. He swiftly blended through the lobby while Doris the receptionist kept her smile plastered to her face pretending to listen to two clients prattle on loudly as if to an audience about the first-world problems they had to endure with their previous company.

The halls were unusually quiet as he slipped into the IT office, just as his coworker, Danny Franks nearly collided with him, giving him a dirty look, “welcome to work!” and stormed out through door on a mission. Danny was a short, stocky man in his mid-40s with a type A personality bigger than his silly push-broom moustache. He technically wasn’t in charge of Marcus, but he talked louder and had more visibility with the talking heads of the company, so it became a common misconception; one that even Danny started believing. Marcus sat down at his desk at exactly 8:03 to find a copy of the company’s tardiness policy from the employee handbook sitting on his keyboard - left by Danny, as usual. Just for laughs, he dated and filed it in a manila folder along with about 30 other copies accrued over the last few years, and switched on his computer.
The company computer took its usual ten minutes to fire up, so he let it do its thing while he grabbed a cup of coffee from the break room to help prepare himself for the typical slew of emails that were sent directly to him instead of the IT distribution list – the price he paid for being a no-frills efficient worker. The last thing the office staff wanted was for Danny to crowd their desks in a huff and wind up assigning the work to Marcus while taking full credit, or for Britney the database “specialist” to ask them a hundred unrelated questions about their problem when all they wanted was a no-hassle fix for their machines. While his job yielded only a modest income, nobody was interested in taking the time to learn the finer points of computer issues, so his job would always be secure. His crappy office machine was finally up and running as it made the same churning sound as a Mr. Coffee desperately gurgling out the last few drops of a brewing cycle as opposed to his custom-built home PC that had a soothing whirr of a quiet breeze, and of course, his first email of the day was from Pammy regarding a slow-running computer - as always, every time they installed an update.

Pammy Lyon was your typical spinster; a man hating, grossly overweight 48 year-old divorcee obsessed with reality TV. Ever since her husband left her ten years prior for a 20 year-old (male) intern, the only romantically natured contact she had was with a man she’d only met online and spent $10,000 on to bail him out of jail, only to never hear from him again. After that embarrassing event and the hours of Lifetime movies and Dr. Phil she mindlessly nodded along with, the only guy she decided she needed was Jesus (and occasionally Marcus). When she wasn’t in the break room sustaining her mass with saltines and a bucket of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Stopping Your Arteries,” she was working hard at her cubicle reading People magazine and hanging up inspirational platitudes reminding herself of both her inner strength and her empowerment from God, or thought terminating clichés anywhere on the spectrum between the power of choice or how everything happens for a reason.

Marcus took a painful swig of coffee as he forgot about the roof of his mouth, which had bubbled out from the burn of his first cup that morning, and began his trip towards the call center with the hope that more people wouldn’t stop him along the way. As he passed by the ______'s office, he saw Danny in the window listening intently, probably swapping war stories just to increase his visibility with management, and proudly presenting the department's metrics as if he was responsible for them. It pained Marcus that he was only working so hard to make Danny look better, but a saving grace was that he couldn't ruminate on it for very long until another work order made it to his desk to distract his thoughts from going into very bad places. Getting laughed out of three promotion job interviews didn't help matters either, each one citing lack of "life experience," which didn't add up, given how many pretty young interns and paralegals were given flashy made-up titles and raises before the job openings were even made available to everyone else. As he closed in on Pammy's desk, the odor of cheap perfume, stale cigarettes and maple syrup rapaciously wafted into his nostrils. He hoped that this visit would be quick enough to finish within his current lung capacity so he could hide the fact that he was holding his breath. Begrudgingly, department policy was to physically visit each employee with a technical issue to "deliver the personal touch and improve our image" as Danny so put it.

Marou
12-31-2012, 01:45 PM
Start of the following chapter:

The drive into work would have been just as bad as Marcus anticipated had the traffic lights on the main road of his Podunk town not shorted out, adding 15 minutes to his commute. Really it was just more of the same, on and off the brakes, cursing at and pounding on his poor, unassuming steering wheel while imagining getting the stink eye from coworkers and superiors alike during the walk of shame – all the more reason for the details of the transit to be suppressed into his memory to the point where he’d have sufficient cause to name his first ulcer “state route 94.” While the rural town in the opposite side of his routine journey was steadily developing to the point of sprouting a Chipotle (but not quite a Starbucks), things were obviously still slow enough out there to keep traffic in that direction flowing mockingly light. Marcus considered getting a job as the guy holding an ice cream scoop along the burrito production line who says “guacamole estra?” to each passing customer.

Marcus tore through the parking lot of Shining Star Image Consultation with surgical precision, quietly praying that none of the janitorial staff would pop out from behind the roach coach on their way from breakfast to the building entrance. Each SUV or pristine wide-bed pickup truck (that obviously wasn’t used for any actual manual labor) obscured the space behind it, so when a compact car or douchebag’s motorcycle was found sitting in it instead of a bike space, it was killing his chances for a perfect day, one crooked double park job at a time. He reluctantly pulled into the space next to the smoker’s pad, knowing full well that his '89 Chevy Celebrity had enough flat surfaces to effectively serve as a nice table for their coffee or as a butt rest when standing for five minutes became too taxing to their levels of athleticism. The clock on his dashboard said 8:06, which was always four minutes fast; now he just had to briskly walk through the parking lot, and pray that his favorite technologically un-savvy repeat customer, Pammy Lyon couldn’t find him to flap her jowls for ten minutes – which would be a challenge, given as much as she boasted about finding Jesus. He swiftly blended through the lobby while Doris the receptionist kept her smile plastered to her face pretending to listen to two clients prattle on loudly as if to an audience about the first-world problems they had to endure with their previous company.

The halls were unusually quiet as he slipped into the IT office, just as his coworker, Danny Franks nearly collided with him, giving him a dirty look, “welcome to work!” and stormed out through door on a mission. Danny was a short, stocky man in his mid-40s with a type A personality bigger than his silly push-broom moustache. He technically wasn’t in charge of Marcus, but he talked louder and had more visibility with the talking heads of the company, so it became a common misconception; one that even Danny started believing. Marcus sat down at his desk at exactly 8:03 to find a copy of the company’s tardiness policy from the employee handbook sitting on his keyboard - left by Danny, as usual. Just for laughs, he dated and filed it in a manila folder along with about 30 other copies accrued over the last few years, and switched on his computer.
The company computer took its usual ten minutes to fire up, so he let it do its thing while he grabbed a cup of coffee from the break room to help prepare himself for the typical slew of emails that were sent directly to him instead of the IT distribution list – the price he paid for being a no-frills efficient worker. The last thing the office staff wanted was for Danny to crowd their desks in a huff and wind up assigning the work to Marcus while taking full credit, or for Britney the database “specialist” to ask them a hundred unrelated questions about their problem when all they wanted was a no-hassle fix for their machines. While his job yielded only a modest income, nobody was interested in taking the time to learn the finer points of computer issues, so his job would always be secure. His crappy office machine was finally up and running as it made the same churning sound as a Mr. Coffee desperately gurgling out the last few drops of a brewing cycle as opposed to his custom-built home PC that had a soothing whirr of a quiet breeze, and of course, his first email of the day was from Pammy regarding a slow-running computer - as always, every time they installed an update.

Pammy Lyon was your typical spinster; a man hating, grossly overweight 48 year-old divorcee obsessed with reality TV. Ever since her husband left her ten years prior for a 20 year-old (male) intern, the only romantically natured contact she had was with a man she’d only met online and spent $10,000 on to bail him out of jail, only to never hear from him again. After that embarrassing event and the hours of Lifetime movies and Dr. Phil she mindlessly nodded along with, the only guy she decided she needed was Jesus (and occasionally Marcus). When she wasn’t in the break room sustaining her mass with saltines and a bucket of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Stopping Your Arteries,” she was working hard at her cubicle reading People magazine and hanging up inspirational platitudes reminding herself of both her inner strength and her empowerment from God, or thought terminating clichés anywhere on the spectrum between the power of choice or how everything happens for a reason.

Marcus took a painful swig of coffee as he forgot about the roof of his mouth, which had bubbled out from the burn of his first cup that morning, and began his trip towards the call center with the hope that more people wouldn’t stop him along the way. As he passed by the ______'s office, he saw Danny in the window listening intently, probably swapping war stories just to increase his visibility with management, and proudly presenting the department's metrics as if he was responsible for them. It pained Marcus that he was only working so hard to make Danny look better, but a saving grace was that he couldn't ruminate on it for very long until another work order made it to his desk to distract his thoughts from going into very bad places. Getting laughed out of three promotion job interviews didn't help matters either, each one citing lack of "life experience," which didn't add up, given how many pretty young interns and paralegals were given flashy made-up titles and raises before the job openings were even made available to everyone else. As he closed in on Pammy's desk, the odor of cheap perfume, stale cigarettes and maple syrup rapaciously wafted into his nostrils. He hoped that this visit would be quick enough to finish within his current lung capacity so he could hide the fact that he was holding his breath. Begrudgingly, department policy was to physically visit each employee with a technical issue to "deliver the personal touch and improve our image" as Danny so put it.

The sales office? You have a good cadence to what you're writing and the rare gift of distilling personality archetypes down to a few sentences. Write more.

Dumah
12-31-2012, 02:11 PM
Yeah, each one of the characters were mixes of folks that I know in person, so what I may lack in creativity, I make up for in scathing cynicism against the people I've been stuck working with over the years. I have good people I plan to include as well, but they just make for less interesting writing.

Thanks for the encouragement. I thought our computer folks might get a kick out of some of that.