ASIM pre-slush workshop post #11

Here is the eleventh 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:

Shuffles and Liars

If I were to list the three places I’d least like to be on earth, Kanti Advancement Nanopharmaceuticals would’ve been first and third with a black hole in second for variety’s sake. But I was broke, and we don’t always get what we want.

A shuffle led me to the director’s office. I hate shuffles. The brainless creep me out.

Across a monolithic desk, the director sat in a leather throne. He was old, bald and lined like squeezed clay, but still fit as a marathon runner. “I’m glad you could come,” he said. “I’m the director of KAN. And you are, I presume, the detective?”

“Mr. Maury,” I said. We didn’t shake hands. A quick probe of the place’s electronics showed me that, if the director didn’t feel like letting me go, I wasn’t getting out of here. This stuff was state of the art, and that’s not an easy confession coming from a guy with a spacer-given implant. Then again, this was KAN. Word on the street was that they were developing everything from poison gasses to immortality. “What did you want to talk about?” I asked.

“KAN has a new product coming out. It’s going to change the world.”

“You already used that in an ad,” I said. “Maybe you could make it a series and do: It Will Change the World – Again.”

“Very funny,” the director said in the manner of a patriot at a flag burning. He took a yellow pill out of a bottle labeled ONE FOR LIFE and chewed it. “One of the project’s lead men was a Mr. Lindle,” he said after swallowing. “He vanished two days ago.”

“And you want me to find out where he ran off to?”

“Not quite. Mr. Lindle didn’t run. You have an implant, correct? Open the file.”

Editor’s comment:

Judging by this section, I would think that this is the introduction to a detective story.

There is a standard situation: a detective meets a client in an office. Cliché, maybe, but I honestly can’t see how a detective story will work without it.

He finds out that the company is working on a big project, and that the person responsible for the project has gone missing. All good things.

This, for me, falls in the category of ‘almost there’ story starts.

I dislike the first paragraph. The first sentence is horribly long and convoluted. It makes an attempt at being funny but falls flat towards the end. The second sentence doesn’t flow from the first. And what detective doesn’t need money? Doesn’t that go with the meeting client in office cliché? I’d delete the entire paragraph. It’s doing the story a disservice, exposed as it is.

The shuffle is interesting, but I’d move him elsewhere in the story. Perhaps he can lead the character away from the room instead of into it. He really needs more elaboration and description than this one line gives him, and at the very beginning, you want to get to the problem as soon as possible (unless shuffles are part of the problem or resolution in which case I’d have the full-on creepy red-eyed zombie glaring scene right here).

If not, I’d start the story in paragraph three. All the tech detail in the fourth paragraph is a bit unfocused. I feel this paragraph squeezes in a lot of different concepts without giving the reader the chance to comprehend. I’d focus on one tech aspect, implants probably. The gossip about the company, too, feels too broad. This is a chance to clue the reader in on what sort of company this is. Poison gases to immortality doesn’t so that for me. Is it a pharmaceuticals company? A bio-computer company?

Similarly, I’d give the project the missing person works for at least a name, and hint at what it does. Being specific is your friend in cases like this, because it convinces the reader that the author knows his or her stuff.

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4 comments on “ASIM pre-slush workshop post #11

  1. Of the 11 story beginnings posted so far, this is actually the one I’d be interested to continue reading the most.

    While it does definitely need a bit more work, I really like the easy, somewhat sarcastic language the author is using. Reminds me of Simon R. Green a little bit.

    Of course, I am not an editor of any kind, and do not presume to judge quality. Just saying that, in my case, the opening captured my interest.

    • The most important thing I think this whole process stresses is that there is no such thing as a standard editor or standard reader.

      The second-most important thing I hope people will see is how incredibly important fluid prose is in those first few paragraphs. For example, if I found this in the slush, and it was one of twenty stories awaiting consideration, and I’d read that first paragraph, I might just go “urgh–next!’, while the rest of the story looks like it might be interesting.

  2. Thank you for the critique. I think I learned a lot, both from my story’s and from the others’. Oh, and I’ll be reading some ASIM this weekend.

    • Cool!

      One thing that’s really important to realise is once your writing has a certain flow and ease of reading, no two editors, or readers for that matter, will think the same about any one story. One will go ‘I hatessss it’ and the other will love it. That’s the ideal situation, really, where your story evokes strong emotional responses based on content.

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