ASIM pre-slush workshop post #10

Here is the tenth of the submissions, posted here in no particular order. Please remember that this is the opinion of one editor. There will be others who agree, but there will also be those who disagree. In the end, what you do with your story is up to you; it’s your call.

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Original text:

Please Step Aside

The soft sounds of music filtered in through gauzy curtains to the
sunroom of the Cultural Director’s office suite. As far as Rezin was
concerned, it could just filter right on out again, through the
gracefully arched windows and over the soft green lawn to the shimmering
lake in the distance.

He shifted in his chair, tired of the being softened up. He wanted this
over with.

“What exactly do you want from me, Director?” he asked impatiently.

“Call me Artok,” the Director said gently, for the third time in the
past half hour.

Rezin sniffed contemptuously.

“What do you want, Director Artok? You know as well as I do that I’ve
fulfilled all current requirements. Let me go, and we can both get back
to work.”

Artok sighed, thinking back to other difficult meetings with the same
man in the same room.

“Yes, Rezin, I know you’ve met the requirements. I know you don’t want
to be here, that you were assigned to the Attendant program
involuntarily. And you’ve done everything we asked of you.”

“Then let’s go. You want me to work, I’m ready to work. Let’s get on
with it.” Rezin allowed the tone of aggravation in his voice to rise.

“Rezin,…” the Director paused. “The Observatory exists to witness the
birth and death experiences of the galaxy’s cultures. That’s what
Attendants do. They observe, but do not interfere. And even though
most Attendants join us after a thorough psychological evaluation,” a
tone of vexation crept into his voice, “they find death to be a wearing
experience. That’s why we have the ‘two births, one death’ rule.”

“So what are you complaining to me about? I’m helping you out.” Rezin,
full name Rezin Patience Miller, mixed in a little exasperation.

Editor’s comments:

I’m copying this directly as it came from the site (as I have done with all other pieces), and I am sure that there are some problems with the formatting of this piece, namely that all the lines are cut short and don’t wrap. You may want to check your settings, because something inserts hard returns in every line. Hard returns are only for new paragraphs. Whatever inserts hard returns needs to stop doing that, because this will look horrible in a real life submission. Just the pain of having to edit out all hard returns may cause some people to reject it. Don’t allow formatting to detract from the piece. It may well be that software is doing it, but you’ll need to find out why this happens and fix it.

About the piece itself:

This is space opera. Two men are sitting in an office discussing something. They’re either impatient or bored.

As another editor mentioned earlier, there is a danger with starting a story with a character who is bored. You need to engage the reader and boredom is very catching.

A rule I apply to my own fiction: do not—ever—make your characters sigh unless you want them to sound annoying and pedantic. I think sighing and whining are two things that make readers to lose sympathy for characters.

A lot of words are spoken, but the two men not all that specific about what is going on. I’d like to know what the main character’s challenge is.

Who is the main character? The sentence starting with ‘Artok sighed’ is in Artok’s POV, while the rest of the piece is in Rezin’s.

I also think the narrative text is fairly wordy. The story doesn’t start until the characters start speaking. The first paragraph is very, very dense. Too dense, in my opinion. I had some trouble understanding the second sentence. It has too much information and becomes unwieldy.

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