HomeWritersLiterary AgentsEditorsPublishersResourcesDiscussion
Forum Login | Join the discussion
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: Final Conflict

  1. #1
    john palmer
    Guest

    Final Conflict

    This is the beginning of a fairly long short story called Final Conflict. Any feedback is welcome.


    "Sometimes I miss the Cold War: things were so much simpler back then."

    Karl Chaffey, the oldest active employee of the Defence Department, and the only one who still indulged himself in such anachronisms as the wire-frame bifocals that were perched halfway down his long, thin, aquiline nose, and the fountain pen, standing ever sentinel in his shirt pocket, missed many things, most of them "simple", and all of them from "back then".

    "Oh, not that simple, Karl."

    And seldom was anything "that simple" to Bill Riley (Chaffey's junior by decades) or any of the other members of the Computer Corps who worked under Riley's direction and felt, with some justification, that they ran the U.S. war room.

    For the typical young man of the Computer Corps, "back then" existed scarcely if at all, a sensibility that found itself reflected in everything about him, from his opinions to his apparel, typically accessorising himself with a personal digital assistant holstered on one side of his belt and a micro-communications device hooked on to the other, embracing, if not craving, novelty and innovation with only a little less ardour than if they had been the sweet young things of summer, gambolling off sunlit beaches from the glossy pages of his late night reading and into the dimly lit chamber that he called his own, on personal missions to fulfill his least sophisticated fantasies.

    Chaffey, a confirmed neophobe among casebook neophiles, scanned the cornucopian array of dials, switches, monitors, and meters before him with something of both involuntary, albeit muted, wonder and forthright revulsion vying for control of his facial expression as he declared, "I remember when all the decisions were made by human beings; there was none of...this," dismissing the clusters of beige plastic shells that housed the computer's disk drives, processors, and communications hubs with a vague backward sweep of his hand. "Back then, it was simple."

    "No, Karl. Back then, it may have looked simple, but no-one could track all the factors, not the way we can now. My God, you could have stumbled into 'final conflict' over even the slightest oversight -- almost did, too! Once, it was some flock of geese migrating on to someone's radar screen at the wrong moment. Blew them out of the sky, didn't we?" Riley shook his head. "There were too many close calls, if you ask me."

    "Ahhh, they may have looked close..." Chaffey retorted, anticipating a reaction, receiving none, and then continuing, undeterred, with, "but, come on, Bill, we're talking about nuclear war here, not some...duck hunt. A nuclear war resulting from some slight oversight: that's what we were talking about. Now, what are the odds on something like that actually happening?"

    Riley shrugged and smiled indulgently. "Let's ask Nancy."

    Nancy was the Defence Department's NC (short for NC3, which was itself short for N.C.C.C. or Nuclear Conflict Control Computer), and Bill Riley was always asking her something. Chaffey had once quipped that Riley should ask her for a date. Chronically lacking meaningful female companionship (like most of the Computer Corps), he had regarded the suggestion almost wistfully.

    Riley swivelled around to input Karl's problem, and an answer appeared almost instantly on the NC's twin display panels. "Nancy fixes the odds against 'final conflict' through misapprehension or misadventure on any given day at about 4.3 x 104. Let's call it 40,000:1 for the sake of...'simplicity'." Riley grinned.

    Chaffey dodged the dig, and pounced on the numbers as if they were fresh prey. "There you go, Bill: horse's mouth! -- no offence, 'Nancy' -- and I rest my case."

    "None taken," a pleasant, female voice assured him from the speakers on the computer console, causing the aging cold warrior to start visibly.

    "When did she start talking?"



  2. #2
    Clayton Lindemuth
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    John--

    You have an excellent sense of language, and your readers will take more from your words than you think. Your dialog is strong, but would be stronger without all the beats and attribution. My personal nit is against adverbs. You have a couple. Other than that, I would read on.

    And by the way, all of this is just what I'm saying as a writer. As a reader, I would keep reading another page or so until something really grabs me. That hasn't happened yet, but the writing is good enough to keep me going a bit longer. Sum total: good prose but for me and me alone, not much bite yet. (Again, for me, you would add a lot of grit to this by removing everything you put in there to make it gritty. Chop up the run ons and thin it out... "embracing if not craving novelty and innovation..." way too much here. Pick a verb. I suspect you put that phrase together because it has a great rhythm in your mind. Problem is, it is thick and slows me down.)

    My two cents.

    Clayton

  3. #3
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    A couple of quick questions for you, John-- Are you British? The word "defence" is spelled "defense" in the U.S. If this about a group in the U.S., I would use the Americanized spelling.

    My second question is, Do you read your work out loud? Your prose is very dense in places, dragging the central idea of the sentence off into a tangent. For example, take a look at the 5th paragraph. That is a SINGLE sentence of...let me see...104 words, give or take 2 or 3?? The main idea of this sentence seems to be that the younger member cannot relate to "back then" due to his fascination with technology, but all of that gets lost in the weighted prose.

    The same thing happens in the dialogue here:

    "Ahhh, they may have looked close..." [Chaffey retorted, anticipating a reaction, receiving none, and then continuing, undeterred, with,] "but, come on, Bill, we're talking about nuclear war here, not some...duck hunt. A nuclear war resulting from some slight oversight: that's what we were talking about. Now, what are the odds on something like that actually happening?"

    If you at the section marked in brackets, you will see that your character replies, expects a response, gets none, continues without concern--all before he says the next part of the sentence. Think about how this works in real time. The emotional/reaction context here is too loaded for the reader to sort through it all.

    Dialogue has beats in it, natural pauses that allow the character to respond and react and the reader to comprehend the layered meaning of the conversation. This lengthy discourse on his reaction pushes the reader through the process too quickly and shuts down the beats.

    Try reading these two paragraphs out loud. See if you can finish that 104 +/- word sentence out loud without running out of breath.

    In other words, slow it down a bit, so the reader can take everything in.

    Just my thoughts. Others may disagree.

    Jeanne

  4. #4
    john palmer
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    Clayton,

    Thanks for the crit. It was very useful.

    As a reader, I would keep reading another page or so until something really grabs me....

    I structured the story to cuild slowly and end in something like a punch line. I hope the curve would keep you or the reader in general going.

    Chop up the run ons and thin it out... "embracing if not craving novelty and innovation..." way too much here. Pick a verb.

    Indeed. And it should be "embrace" because the sexual connatation fits with the "girls of summer" thing that comes upshortly thereafter.

    I suspect you put that phrase together because it has a great rhythm in your mind. Problem is, it is thick and slows me down.)

    Yes, you're absolutely right. I think it comes from my background as a musician, which sometimes serves me well and sometimes acts as an impediment. I think that sometimes, when I am writing, I keep revising a sentence in the manner that one practises a piece of music -- until they get it. I need to put myself more into the frame of someone reading it for the first time.

    Thanks.

  5. #5
    mar quesa
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    John,


    At first, I wasn't sure who was saying what.

    I suggest you try to intersperse dialogue and action a bit more so that the reader knows who's talking and what he/she/it is doing, e.g. Karl sat down and sighed, "Sometimes I miss the Cold War. Things were so much simpler back then.

    Also, I suggest you make the dialogue move faster by not briefing us about the characters in between. Show us the characters through speech, their looks, the things they’re doing whilst talking…

    I'm not sure about the POV either. Third Person Limited might be better here...


    Mar

  6. #6
    john palmer
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    A couple of quick questions for you, John-- Are you British? The word "defence" is spelled "defense" in the U.S. If this about a group in the U.S., I would use the Americanized spelling.

    Good point. I'm from Canada where we "officially" use British spellings. I'm trying to switch to American spellings because I will be aiming primarily for that market.

    My second question is, Do you read your work out loud? Your prose is very dense in places, dragging the central idea of the sentence off into a tangent.

    No, I don't, but I really should, and will try to develop the habit. Also, I think I read too much Dickens, etc. when I was younger. I keep finding myself using semi-colons and colons, and going on and on. This is a different age, yes? Also, the comments that I made to Clayton apply here. Since I "practise" the sentence as I revise, it causes me no problem, and is even pleasant, and definitely clear, but my potential reader is in an entirely different position. I need to make an adjustment.

    (Did I get "practise" right, by the way? Up here, "practice" is a noun and "practise" is a verb.)

    The same thing happens in the dialogue here:

    Hang on, shouldn't it be "dialog"? Or am I trying too hard. :-)

    You are absolutely right there, too. Time to put away my guitar. :-)

    Dialogue has beats in it, natural pauses that allow the character to respond and react and the reader to comprehend the layered meaning of the conversation. This lengthy discourse on his reaction pushes the reader through the process too quickly and shuts down the beats.

    That is so smart!

    I'm going to start watching for that.

    Just my thoughts. Others may disagree.


    Not me!

    Thanks.

  7. #7
    Ray Veen
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    Hey John, I have no sage advice but I wanted to pipe in and say that I really liked your excerpt.

    It's funny, except for the long sentence, I really couldn't put my finger on anything you were doing wrong until these other guys started commenting. Then its like, "ahhhh..."

    Ain't this place grand?

  8. #8
    nom de plume
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    The first sentence grabbed me immediately because it reflected my own sentiments (and probably of most who lived through the cold war).

    Nitpick. I wonder whether the : has a place in a line of dialog. You might consider breaking it up into two short sentence. I think when you talk that line, you'll stop for a moment after saying War.

    Long, thin, aquiline nose. Why not just aquiline nose?

    For the "typical" young man. I don't understand why you use typical. Imho it only confuses.

    existed scarcely if at all. Just say existed scarcely.

    This paragraph is one long sentence. I tried to read it about four times and each time i lost interest. I suggest you break it up into short sentences and then combine whatever pieces fit together.
    "Typically accessoring himself". I don't know where the accessoring, i.e. the tense, refers to. There's another typical in the same sentence. Neither "typical" tells me a thing.

    I didn't read more of this excerpt (lack of time). John, you write well but the style is a bit wordy and heavy. In a short story (even a long one) every word needs to count. In a novel you can get away with a few slow pages here and there but never in a short story.

    I haven't read the previous posts. Hope i'm not repeating what has already been said.

  9. #9
    zeplin 44
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    I enjoyed it.

    It contains many descriptive words I think could be cut, such as "confirmed" neophobe as opposed to a (plain or regular) neophobe (neophyte?)

    Good storyline.

    No, I'm not from NY.

  10. #10
    Chuck Shaw
    Guest

    Re: Final Conflict

    Smooth, in spite of the politically incorrect long sentences and (Oh My God!) adverbs. I find it a readable whole that flows well. I think it could loose a few of the larger words in the narrative, but not in the dialog (start of para 6 for example).

    Don't knock putting a little rhythm in prose. Alliteration works as long as it's not too heavy handed.

    Looking good-always can do better.

    CS

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts