2016 July CWG Comments/Reviews/Thoughts
Having set the theme for this month I was surprised by the diversity of its interpretation (perhaps the intentional use of ‘time displacement’ replacing ‘time travel’ to encourage non sci-fi writer actually worked). I’m especially grateful to Capucin for dissecting the theme so skilfully and incorporating it into a non sci-fi story and Seadams who, with ExpatAngie, Colmore and others, added very non sci-fi themes. It seems that all is fair in love and fiction.
To help me solve the problem of choosing ‘placements’ I created a spread sheet on which I handicap my past placings so (like this month) I’m never quite sure of the order, which often changes at each reading of a story. What I have learned this month is that to be strictly objective I need write the c/r/t before my placing. Sometimes — when I can’t be bothered to do a c/r/t — my placings are extremely subjective
Regarding my spread sheet scoring; 50% are personal views, the other 50% are a cut down version of my research into critiquing (a term I have now dropped as I don’t do critiques in the strictest sense of the meaning), these differentiate between a story’s style, flow, grammar, etc.
My placings may, or may not, reflect my personal order in rating my enjoyment in reading the stories themselves (as happened this month).
Writing the c/r/t has enabled me to develop what I am coming to regard as a good short story and its context. This has influenced my thoughts on writing and while I appreciate the effort that has to be put in to write a short story I would apply the methodology I am learning here to any story.
My post OH NO! Not another blog on blogging! Could well be titled ‘OH NO! Not another blog on writing!’
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” “Strunk & White,”(pdf)
Following the placings for July’s short stories I thank you all (whether or not you voted for my story).
JAMES, AND FRANK, AND JEBB Written by Capucin — This was a very readable story David, although having introduced the character Lila I would have liked to know a bit more about the relationship. Writing any piece is difficult and you have made me think that historical pieces have a lot in common with sci-fi. They each have their followers who look for accuracy, either historical or technical, and in both cases plausible. I agree, you can’t transport your story as a writer through time without ‘displacing yourself in time’. I have talked occasionally about Robert Rankin (always a hard read for me and which I end up ’scan reading’), his stories are a mixture of history and sci-fi but I’m too old to become a cos player dressed in steampunk . Rankin’s themes always border on the implausible (at least in this world and dimension) being part historical, science fiction and science fantasy they may well be unique.
AMIBANU Written by Archie t_p — I found this story very difficult to read Archie. The structure and the inclusion of direct speech dialogue with the thoughts a different character in the same paragraph lost me at the beginning. I also wasn’t sure at which point Zowie took,over from Amibanu the complexity of the story caused me to keep loosing the thread. I had to keep going back to it (as I have to now) to put the characters in their right context. I’ve concluded that Zowie occupied Amibanu’s mind and shared her physical world at the same time as Amibanu. That Zowie and Amibanu returned to the present time in the form of Zowie, having the memory, attributes and knowledge of both. I’m not sure if Amibanu was as aware of Zowie’s presence (in whatever form) as I assume Zowie was of Amibanu’s and suspect the word limit constrained the story.
I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU Written by Colmore — It’s interesting how writers have used quite a number of contrivances to express a displacement in time Colmore and in your case a story deliberately involving ghosts. While I knew your intention the following made me stop to read it a number of times, a Roundhead fighting off two Royalists only to look round to be run through by a third Cavalier soldier who collapsed to his knees. An interesting take on the battle and how it split families. At school I declared myself a Royalist now I would be a Parliamentarian. Nice story Colmore from a period that I have a great interest in.
ECHOES THROUGH THE YEARS Written by ExpatAngie — I wasn’t quite sure whether or not she has ‘the gift’ Angie, that when she heard the shouts of the men working with Michelangelo, she actually did ‘hear them’. I think we were meant to infer from, ‘then she felt a hand caress her cheek and a whisper full of warmth and love and she knew Grandpa Joe was near’ that she has. There was some confusion (for me) by the first three sentences being (in my mind) misplaced. They could be moved to the front of the paragraph beginning, ‘Caterina’s bedroom was in darkness… ‘ Is the time (10am) significant? A nice story Angie and a nice take on time displacement.
WHAT THEN IS TIME? Written by Araminta  — Why did it take so long for me to become captured by this story I wonder (it did). At first I concluded that it was the font/presentation/style (I’m not sure which) and my need for glasses but there were other stories presented in a similar format. Ultimately I concluded that I’m still trying to come to terms with an enjoyment of the short story format Araminta and its compatibility with my short attention span (I scan read a lot of stuff first).
I believe I understood the inferences in the restaurant Araminta but found it hard to accept that the uncontrolled force of the response, which succeeding in emptying the restaurant and shattered a rather fine glass of vintage port, would be followed by a waiter, apparently, being unaffected when asked to bring the bill and order a taxi. The paragraph beginning ‘The caption in pencil… ‘ could be clearer in what was, or maybe not, in Latin. Nevertheless, this denouement was really clever, I’m assuming that Julia is aware of her antecedents and knows that their daughter (in Scotland) is safe — perhaps she can even ‘keep an eye on her’?
BEATHAG Written by Seadams  — I really enjoyed this story Seadams but two words really jarred with me; ‘intel’ and ‘presentiment’, would Beathag use both of these in the context presented? I find it difficult to conclude the ‘nature’ of the narrator. Having read the story again I have presumed that Beathag is an adult recalling an event whilst Beth was carrying her and had a shared recollection of it. I was initially confused over Beth and Marlene (her mother) both being present at the meeting. On my first reading I had assumed an actual family gathering. Now I think that either a mature Beathag (Born February 2017) has the gift to ‘see’ past events, to ‘bring people’ (dead or alive) together and to read their thoughts and know what they may have said. Alternatively Beathag is aware of her mothers thoughts and emotions, I’m not sure if the meeting itself was not a reflection of her mother’s thoughts and the meeting was that recollection narrated by Beathag (given that Beth may not have been aware of the dead departing and her thoughts may have only been known to Beathag). The Gaelic and anecdotes about Barra were a bonus!
ANNE’S AND GEORGE’S LITTLE NON-ADVENTURE Written by Furryfeatures (Charles Stuart) — I really do like the genre of sci-fi you write Charles but I’m always left thinking that you have wasted a good story-line. The concept of a couple awaking from a long spell of sleep was really clever but I think the reality of what they would find at their awakening would be somewhat different. Much of this was explained away (unpaid bills and the consequences, food in the refrigerator, junk mail, etc) but there was a lot unexplained. Perhaps I’m trying to read too much into a short story. Yet I thought that it was a good story cut too short. The expiry of the credit card was neat and the chat shows was a good ending. Having just read it again Charles I would have liked to read more of Anne’s and George’s little non-adventure.
THROUGH THE WORMHOLE Written by Atiller  — My first question really has to be, “Are you a Pokemon addict Atiller?”. What an inspired take on a modern phenomenon, I have spoken about this with my son, I have no idea if my grandchildren play it. You must have researched (or know of) the concepts of time travel like meeting yourself and of ignoring the consequences of violating Star Fleet’s ‘non interference’ command. That smartphone could be the link to many more sci-fi stories. Who knows you could even meet some Eloi. An amusing story!
DEMERARA SUGAR Written by Peter Barnett — This was not my original thoughts on a story line. This one came to me in a supermarket that I rarely frequent (Jeremy Kyle country — at least in my town). I watched a security guard tracking some suspicious characters who had just entered the store, he tracked them on his monitor and fed the information to his colleagues.
A Postscript: On Facebook last night I had a brief exchange with Chester on the format of script writing. Essentially I didn’t like the format but Chester pointed out the error of my thinking. I still have a tendency to think in hardcopy styles and of course information is rarely exchanged that way. Although this group does, I suspect, largely think that way (we have not come around to producing e-books yet). In my — very cursory — research on script formats I thought that the BBC Writersroom was interesting and an article from it may interest some of you.
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