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Wisps of Aether

Reading Excuses - 10/23 - Wisps of Aether - The Code that Binds Us All (L) (2688 words)

10 posts in this topic

 

Hello, everyone. I originally wrote this story for a class so that's why the word count is a little weird, but I wanted to see what people thought about this story outside of a school environment and my teacher says it's fine to submit stories we wrote for class to other outlets. 

There's a lot of swearing in this story, and all I can say is that I've been spending too much time around other college students. :) Please do let me know if you feel like the swearing doesn't serve a functional purpose. Also, there's not exactly a tag for this and I don't anticipate it being seen as particularly offensive, but one of the characters is a fond of assigning genders to unborn human babies based on presence or absence of the Y-chromosome/SRY gene, aka "biology".
 
Also, I'd like to know if people are able to follow the story and understand what's going on (especially the ending). In the same vein of clarity, I'd appreciate hearing about whether or not all of the science concepts I used make any sense, or if you know more about genetics than I do, whether or not I'm messing anything up. 
 
Other than that, I'd like to hear anything you have to say. Hearing positive feedback usually motivates me to get back to working on writing, but of course I do need to hear what needs to be fixed in the story. Hopefully your honest opinion involves a bit of both. :)
 
Thanks!
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There's a good core to this, but you're dancing around the answers to questions the reader has. I think if you answer them, this will be a solid story. Right now, I was confused by a lot of it.

Promises you haven't answered/resolved:
1) why is Lisa unfit for a job?
2) what condition/problem does the brother have?
3) why do the girls hate their father?
4) why is a college-age person able to freely mess with genetic code?
5) who/what is the brother? Is he a clone?
6) what does the CAG code tell the sisters?

Notes while reading. As I said above, most of them are in the "confused" category because they deal with one of the unanswered questions.
pg 1: confused with the sudden DNA code and then wanting to smash a random vase?

pg 4: I feel like there's something I'm missing, and I can't put my finger on it. Why does Lyn have her brother's DNA? Why would no occupation work well for the main character?

pg 7: You're getting into a very deep ethical dilemma area by now, talking about gene manipulation, clones, programmed humans, and repeated murder. I need something else before this to qualify these statements.

pg 8: Wait--what has Lyn realized? I'm lost.

pg 9-10: I have no idea what the number of repeated CAGs mean.

pg 11: Wait--what? what happened? Does the brother have Huntingtons? Does Lisa have some disease? I really have no idea what's going on. There needs to be a stronger end to the story.

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Like Mandamon, I'm mostly left confused by this story. The biggest confusion for me is the ending. I get that the results indicate the hypothetical brother will have the disease, but what's that to her? From my quick read of wikipedia, she would still have a 50/50 shot of having the disease, regardless of if a hypothetical brother had the disease or not. If she's still in college or late high school, she's still a good 10 years below the youngest average starting age wiki mentions, and from the story it seems like she's asymptomatic, so I don't know why "people like her" would have issues finding a job....  

I caught a few sentence structure issues and repeated words, but I think this story needs shoring up the way Mandamon suggested and some streamlining to get rid of loose information (do the male dad-clones really matter to this story?) before it gets to the point of being ready for line-level reads. It might be good to put in a bit of info about Huntington's if possible. I had to go out to wiki to even have a clue of what was going on.

It's a solid start, keep at it! 

As I go...

"Just like having a real sister" Hah, great pair of lines there.

All right, slightly confused as to what the random letters have to do with smashing a vase and maids. It seems we're somewhere posh? From the first part I was picturing a lab or an average  bedroom or something

Wait, why can't she get a job? Is she a clone of the other one? Is this one of those "clones aren't really human" things? I'm having some difficulty telling the two of them apart. What does not having a job have to do with being a geneticist? is "geneticist" not a job? Does being a geneticist not require schooling here? I'm so confused. 

The dad's a mad scientist? One of the girls is a clone, right? What do the dad-clones have to do with anything? Are male clones different from female clones?  

I'm still having a bit of trouble telling them apart.

Okay, I know what the letters are now, but I'm still a little unsure why they keep taking over her thoughts? I mean, I'd get it if she was some kind of programmed clone and just discovered her "use by" date, but I don't think that's the story ...? 

I'm confused. Why are inherited diseases a big deal? Shouldn't they know this already? I mean, if they have holo-DNA-games, and it's apparently easy to get DNA from anyone alive or dead, why haven't the girls already looked at their own DNA code? 

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Thanks for the responses. :) A lot of the short stories I've been reading recently are a little ambiguous, so I decided to try something similar. And this being my first attempt.... well, I'm not entirely surprised by the outcome.  

5 hours ago, Mandamon said:

2) what condition/problem does the brother have?

Hmm, I am surprised by this one. The brother does have Huntington's disease, and I'll try to find a way to make it more clear.

5 hours ago, Mandamon said:

3) why do the girls hate their father?

Yeah, I should probably take this one out. I was intending for it to explain why Lisa's more worried about her unborn sibling than her dying father, but it doesn't explain much of anything.

5 hours ago, Mandamon said:

4) why is a college-age person able to freely mess with genetic code?

I tried to prop up the setting to imply that Lisa's father is very rich and very powerful, and that Lyn's access to DNA comes from him. I might add in a few more details about this.

5 hours ago, Mandamon said:

5) who/what is the brother? Is he a clone?

I do think I added some cues that the brother means more to Lisa than her father's clones, which was meant to imply that he's not a clone. I can look into making this more clear.

5 hours ago, Mandamon said:

6) what does the CAG code tell the sisters?

I think I established that Lisa finding more than 40ish repeating CAG units at the gene is clearly a bad thing. I might just need to make it more clear that the sisters are specifically looking for Huntington's disease, which I think would indicate that Lisa being crushed means that the sibling does in fact have Huntington's. I think I went overboard on trying to avoid "telling," and may have left their motivations ambiguous since it's so obvious to the sisters that their sibling has a high chance of inheriting the disease even if it isn't to the reader.

1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

f she's still in college or late high school, she's still a good 10 years below the youngest average starting age wiki mentions, and from the story it seems like she's asymptomatic, so I don't know why "people like her" would have issues finding a job....  

Ah, I might need more explanation on this one. Being a real "scientist" that gets paid for practicing science can require a lot of post-graduate education and practice, and if Lisa wanted to be a research professor at a university for example she would probably be well into her thirties by the time she got a position. At that point, she might not have a lot of time left. :( 

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

All right, slightly confused as to what the random letters have to do with smashing a vase and maids. It seems we're somewhere posh? From the first part I was picturing a lab or an average  bedroom or something

The random letters aren't supposed to be clear yet, and the vase and the maids are supposed to indicate that Lisa's really angry and that she does live in a posh place. I'll try to set up the "rich and powerful family" idea earlier on.

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

The dad's a mad scientist? One of the girls is a clone, right? What do the dad-clones have to do with anything? Are male clones different from female clones? 

Dad's sort of a mad scientist. I mentioned that the girls were step-sisters, and I didn't intend for either of them to be seen as clones. Is there anything in particular that makes it come off that way? Because I should definitely fix that point of confusion now. 

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

It might be good to put in a bit of info about Huntington's if possible

Yeah, I was wondering if this would be confusing. The part that's the most important is as Lyn says "it’s caused by a dominant allele in a single gene." Does that statement make sense?

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Okay, I know what the letters are now, but I'm still a little unsure why they keep taking over her thoughts? I mean, I'd get it if she was some kind of programmed clone and just discovered her "use by" date, but I don't think that's the story ...?

The first time they do take over her thoughts, but later in the story she's reading holographic projections of the letters. I do mention multiple times that she's "counting" the letters in her sibling's DNA, so unfortunately I'm not entirely clear where the confusion around the letters taking over her thoughts is coming from. :( And you're right, that's not the story. :) 

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I'm confused. Why are inherited diseases a big deal? Shouldn't they know this already? I mean, if they have holo-DNA-games, and it's apparently easy to get DNA from anyone alive or dead, why haven't the girls already looked at their own DNA code? 

This one might require a bit more background. Most inherited diseases are only a problem if one parent has it and the other is a carrier (which is rare), but because the mutation in Huntington's is dominant, only one parent needs to have the disease for the children to have a  50/50 chance of inheriting the disease. Lyn doesn't need to look at her own DNA since she's not related to Lisa's father, and as for Lisa... well, that's one matter that I should try to clear up.

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

(do the male dad-clones really matter to this story?)

The clones themselves don't matter, but I like how Lyn uses them to portray Lisa's compassion for her unborn sibling as largely hypocritical. For now I think I'm going to keep them. Lisa's emotional investment in her brother's Huntington's disease is one of the key parts of the story, and I think it's important to imply that her feelings aren't always perfectly rational.

Well, thank you for your feedback and sorry for the monster response. :) I'm feeling a bit more motivated about this one, since confusing ideas are easier to fix than bad writing. Please don't feel obligated to answer all of the questions I asked back; specific feedback around a few confusing points I mentioned would be ideal but I know that you're busy people. 

Have a great day! :) 

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8 hours ago, Wisps of Aether said:

A lot of the short stories I've been reading recently are a little ambiguous, so I decided to try something similar.

I think learning to write this way is really valuable, so writing this story should be seen as time well spent. I quickly warm to stories that don't spoon feed me information, and scowl at ones that explain the obvious. Was I confused reading your story? Yes, but I'd rather be confused (at least initially) than be spoon fed all the key exposition as quickly as possible. 

Here's my honest, moment by moment reaction...

  • Ah, first person. I like first person. 
  • The word door repeats a lot in first paragraph...a little jarring
  • CAGAGAGAGAG.... What's going on? What does that mean? 
  • The characters sigh a lot
  • Hmm..this distinction between gaming computers and modelling computers is strange. Gaming computers are often powerful enough to run modelling software, so it doesn't really make sense, but then this is a sci-fi world isn't it? So maybe things have changed..hmm..
  • The way she's interfacing with the protein is cool. I'm intrigued now.
  • Lyn not wanting her to come into her room but Lisa wanting to be in her room... this is starting to feel a little tedious
  • Wondering why 'White man' is capitalised
  • Confused about this... "tiger pelt beneath my feet and then back at Lyn’s tense body posture" – did she kill the tiger with her bare hands?
  • Finding this interlude a bit jarring: "Well, at this point going into comedy might work better than my life plan a couple days ago. No occupation really works well for someone like me, but there’s no point in becoming a geneticist if I’m just going to whittle my life away in school."  Could work for me if it was super interesting or witty perhaps..
  • Why has their dad given them DNA? I might be told later, but right now I'm not on the same page as these characters at all
  • Why are they happy about their dad dying?
  • I like this imaginative description. "I take a deep breath and count my heartbeats, trying to create a monsoon in my brain to wash those two words."  ...but this next bit is a bit overkill for me: "But while the words Huntington’s disease become slippery, my mind manages to keep its grip on the concept with bloodied fingers."
  • Hm, what? They talking about clones now? I feel like there's a lot of high concept stuff being exposed through this dialogue. Show don’t tell comes to mind. 
  • "How many babies and toddlers do you think he’s killed?” - I'm confused here. How has their dad been killing babies? Might become clear later so I'll read on, but feeling slightly baffled

The last point carried through until the end of the story...I didn't fully understand what was going on, but as I said at the beginning, I think it's great your experimenting with ambiguity / delivery of exposition. 

Looking back, I feel like I could have enjoyed the story more if Lisa and Lyn's personalities and ways of speaking were more distinct from each other. 

Toward the end of the story I felt like there was a lot of backstory and high concept stuff being thrown at us through the dialogue in a way that made the story feel a bit cloudy and pushed down under the weight of all the information that it's being forced to carry.

I like seeing them navigate the proteins and would have liked more of that stuff - the characters in action, doing interesting things unique to this future world. I would have liked to have seen the sci-fi elements of the setting pushed further and elucidated with more depth - not just the central things like the holographic interface, but smaller things...the smells and the sounds from outside, the texture of the materials and the particular atmosphere of this sci-fi student's room. 

Good work, keep writing! More bold experiments please  : ) 

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, Majestic Fox said:

I think learning to write this way is really valuable, so writing this story should be seen as time well spent. I quickly warm to stories that don't spoon feed me information, and scowl at ones that explain the obvious. Was I confused reading your story? Yes, but I'd rather be confused (at least initially) than be spoon fed all the key exposition as quickly as possible. 

Ah, thanks! :) I've definitely been called out for spoon-feeding exposition before, so I went to the other extreme here. Hopefully I can keep refining the ambiguous points so that they don't feel frustrating.

16 hours ago, Majestic Fox said:

The characters sigh a lot

Four times in the story... is that too much?

16 hours ago, Majestic Fox said:

Wondering why 'White man' is capitalised

Ah, that's because the academic guidelines for essays I write want me to do that and now I do it without thinking. Fixed. 

16 hours ago, Majestic Fox said:

Why has their dad given them DNA? I might be told later, but right now I'm not on the same page as these characters at all

The key clue I tried to include was when Lisa called the DNA a "toy." For Lyn, analyzing DNA is just something that she plays with like a toy. 

16 hours ago, Majestic Fox said:
  • Hm, what? They talking about clones now? I feel like there's a lot of high concept stuff being exposed through this dialogue. Show don’t tell comes to mind. 
  • "How many babies and toddlers do you think he’s killed?” - I'm confused here. How has their dad been killing babies? Might become clear later so I'll read on, but feeling slightly baffled

Yeah, that's why I tried to make the focus of those lines about "How many?" and "Why?" The key point that I wanted to get across is that Lyn is demanding answers about a morally ambiguous issue and Lisa doesn't really have any. Maybe I can trim down the details. 

As for the killing babies, I guess that wouldn't be clear to a lot of people. I stated that the babies killed are clones that the father treats as experimental units (also a stats term for a non-human test subject yikes). In science, animal test subjects are quite frequently... disposed of once experiments have run their course, and the I was trying to convey that this process hasn't stopped with human testing. Which, in turn, reveals Lisa's desire to analyze her bother's DNA for Huntington's as being sentimental rather than an act of pure goodwill (she doesn't do anything to help the clones who are just as human, are more related to her, and are in more danger than her brother). And that sentimentality and obsession around Huntington's is necessary to suggest that Lisa herself has the genotype for Huntington's and is due to develop the disease later in life. Now I'm seeing that if any point along the chain breaks, the whole story kind of falls apart. Ughhh this is tough. :( 

Thanks for the feedback! :) I'm glad that you at least appreciated the effort haha. 

Edited by Wisps of Aether
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Better late than never? Maybe? I dunno, my brain is lost in the bajillion cons I've been at this autumn. TO THE CRITIQUE!

 

Overall

I liked it! I'm a bit confused as to why this zygote having Huntington's matters so much to our MC, but I can suspend that disbelief. I liked the ramping of the tension and the issues at hand. Compelling, and well done! I had no problem understanding any of it, but I'm also a scientist so, take that with a grain of salt.

On 10/24/2017 at 2:45 PM, industrialistDragon said:

(do the male dad-clones really matter to this story?

This. I think I understand why they're there, but its muddled. This contrast between how our MC values life, in order to give more weight to her feelings for her brother, needs to be better defined.

 

As I go

- redundancy on door in the first sentence, and again in second sentence

- and then door again next paragraph. I'm cutting you off. No more door usage in this sub

- page 1: LOL at sister problems

- you have a few minor typos on page 2

- page three: white is not a proper noun

- page five: I'm definitely invested in this story now

 

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Glad to be reading another one of your submissions, and please excuse the delay in responding, totally Nanowrimo’s fault…

  • Repetition of ‘door’.
  • “along with the motion” – do you mean along with the sound, as I presume she’s rolling her eyes along with the sigh.
  • “drilling through the doors” – did you mean ‘door’ singular? I think there only was one before.
  • At first, I thought that Lisa had come to her sister’s apartment to visit, then the vase threw me, but it was only when Lisa walked into the room that I twigged they were at home (I presume?). Something at the start made me thing of the sisters being older, i.e. having their own places.
  • The laptop on the rug makes me nervous. I'm concerned that the air intake/outlet is blocked.
  • the same kind I would see on a computer modeling system” – I presume this is a computer modelling system.
  • I think ‘wireframe’ would be one word in this case.
  • but he also gave me the DNA of Kim Il-Sung’s” – Grammar. Some of Kim’s DNA.
  • Please do tell me if you find out what something in his code that made him ruin millions of lives” – grammar / typos.
  • The bit about ancestors is not clear. I don’t know what she’s trying to say/imply.
  • But she’s not trapped alone. She’s trapped with Lyn.
  • while he’s still a single cell in the lab” – I know very little about genetics, but I'm willing to bet that their brother is not a single cell in a lab, or he wouldn’t be their brother. I mean, how quickly do human cells divide? Pretty quickly, surely.
  • You should drop your biology major and become a comedian.” – LOL. Funny line.
  • No occupation really works well for someone like me” – I find this line obscure. I don’t know what Lisa is like, so I can’t evaluate it. Not sure about ‘whittle’ either.
  • little early to be assigning a gender to a single cell” – I don’t know, but again. Not a single cell, surely.
  • At this point, there’s some good snappy byplay between the sisters, but I find myself not really caring about what their talking about.
  • I keep forgetting that people are storming stupid” – LOL. Good line.
  • Lyn, please don’t tell” – Don’t tell what? I don’t follow.
  • clicking a dozen letters per second” – not possible.
  • zooms in on Chromosome Four” – I think. It’s a name, after all.
  • I don’t understand the ending.

Summary: I think you have some very nice byplay and dialogue between the sisters. I thought you handled the characters well, although I did feel that their positions throughout the story were not entirely consistent. In terms of the science, well, I don’t know anything about it, so it need to take your word for it, which is fair enough. I thought you handled the viewing of the DNA sequence well. My big issue was that the stakes felt remote. I couldn’t get invested in the outcome of the story and so, while the mechanics were good, the ending didn’t really hit me. I could see Lisa had a strong reaction, and that was good, as was seeing some sort of connection between the sisters, but it didn’t follow the outcome and I didn’t really care about the consequences, because I didn’t have enough connection with the characters in such a short space of time, I think.

Bottom line, I think a story about a disease, especially a real, live human one, is going to be a very tough sell. I read to be entertained, so I'm left on a downer. Don’t know it that helps or not. I liked spending some time with the sisters, and I'm sure the narrative can be tidied up / clarified but, in the end, I just feel bad.

<R>

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On 23/10/2017 at 4:08 PM, Wisps of Aether said:

Please do let me know if you feel like the swearing doesn't serve a functional purpose.

Didn't notice it. I see there are 9 x Fs and 1 x Sh. No biggy for me, but then I am now immune to swearing, since TMM has 85 Sh, 110 Fs, 21 Bs, 1 W, 1 P and 5 As. No, it's not really mainstream-targetted :lol: 

On 24/10/2017 at 7:08 PM, Mandamon said:

but you're dancing around the answers to questions the reader has.

On 24/10/2017 at 7:08 PM, Mandamon said:

Promises you haven't answered/resolved:

I. Agree. With. @Mandamon

On 24/10/2017 at 10:45 PM, industrialistDragon said:

The biggest confusion for me is the ending.

I'm reassured that it wasn't just me.

On 25/10/2017 at 1:23 AM, Wisps of Aether said:

The brother does have Huntington's disease, and I'll try to find a way to make it more clear.

That I did find clear enough, when Lisa was counting the CAGs.

On 25/10/2017 at 1:23 AM, Wisps of Aether said:

I do think I added some cues that the brother means more to Lisa than her father's clones, which was meant to imply that he's not a clone.

I was okay with that bit.

On 25/10/2017 at 1:23 AM, Wisps of Aether said:

I think I established that Lisa finding more than 40ish repeating CAG units at the gene is clearly a bad thing.

I thought that was clear, for what it's worth. I felt I knew what Lisa was looking for, and her reaction to the high count was clearly to become upset.

On 26/10/2017 at 2:17 AM, Wisps of Aether said:

to suggest that Lisa herself has the genotype for Huntington's and is due to develop the disease later in life.

I didn't really get that. I thought that it what the ending was implying, but I didn't think it was clear, so I was left in doubt.

On 21/11/2017 at 4:43 AM, kais said:

Better late than never?

Better late than as late as Robinski!!

On 21/11/2017 at 4:43 AM, kais said:

This contrast between how our MC values life, in order to give more weight to her feelings for her brother, needs to be better defined.

Yes. I was having a bit of trouble seeing the different positions of each sister.

I agree that you've made a good effort at this. Is it first draft? I think you can improve it with some easy wins. The ending definitely was a downer for me, so how about giving us a positive take-away by having the two sisters connect? Like maybe Lyn actually physical reaching out to Lisa at the end of the story. I just wanted to feel better at the end.

It was a brave move though, and you've made a good start. Well done.

:) 

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On 12/3/2017 at 11:13 AM, Robinski said:

Better late than as late as Robinski!!

And better than late as Wisps of Aether! :) Sorry for taking so long to reply; I've been away from this site as a whole for a while and didn't see this critique.

On 12/3/2017 at 11:13 AM, Robinski said:

Yes. I was having a bit of trouble seeing the different positions of each sister.

I agree that you've made a good effort at this. Is it first draft? I think you can improve it with some easy wins. The ending definitely was a downer for me, so how about giving us a positive take-away by having the two sisters connect? Like maybe Lyn actually physical reaching out to Lisa at the end of the story. I just wanted to feel better at the end.

It was a brave move though, and you've made a good start. Well done.

Oh yeah, I can definitely look into this. Thanks for the feedback! :D 

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