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Robinski

190508 - The Red and The Black - Robinski - 3234 words - S,D,SV,BF,L

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Heh, so, here's a short story what I've wrotten. It may be a crime against humanity, or it may be just more of my foul-mouthed ramblings, but I'd really appreciate your comments on it. I put on S for sexual content because it felt wrong not to. D is for implied drug use. SV of for sexual violence although again, it's maybe more coercion, or something like that. BF is for bodily functions, and L is for choice language. Obviously, I'm hoping to sell it to the D1sney Channel.
 
As ever, your forbearance and comments would be greatly appreciated. If you decide it's too much, please feel free to stop reading and castigate me soundly on this thread.
 
<R> 
 
p.s. Background: This came about as a result of a discussion on the GSFWC forum, an unused (or unfinished) story by one of the other guys from a discussion in the pub. He hasn't seen it yet. I'm thinking it might be my first submission there, but then again, that might be a bad idea. Anyway, it comes from a two word prompt, which I will share with you later. I started it on 2nd May, and I expect that shows!! Thanks again :) 
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Posted (edited)

First things first: I liked it.

Next, a little issue with the title: The Red and the Black already exists, which you might already know (in which case it could be intentional).
If you weren't already familiar with the title (and if it matters to you that it's already been used), you could just switch it to "The Black and the Red", since the coffee comes first in your story and the ... other thing (spoilers) comes later.

Possible plot-hole: if M.'s compatriots avoid caffeine, why is he/are they (and his/their employees/prey) regulars at a coffee shop? Why did he accept C.'s offer?

Why did M. introduce himself? If he was the one that fired C., I'd expect she'd at least know his name.

M.'s true nature took me completely by surprise, which I consider a good thing in a short story.

C.'s personality change in the penultimate paragraph sent shivers down my spine. You manage to have a bad ending with a happy protagonist, though it takes the last paragraph to really drive that home.

I like the word play you did with J.'s text message and C.'s reaction to it. Whatever you do, don't edit that out, please.

 

It could maybe use some polish here and there, but as a whole it holds up quite well, I think.

Edited by Eagle of the Forest Path
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Hi Eagle,

Thank you so much for reading. Really pleased to see you back on, and delighted to have your comments, which are very helpful.

24 minutes ago, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

a little issue with the title

Ha-ha. That's interesting. There are several examples in existence. My touchpoint, other than the theme of the story, comes from here (VVVV). It's partly why I went with the Italian translation, but that also links back into the story, because I wrote the story over several mornings in my coffee haunt, Caffe Nero. Thus, the circle is closed :)  P.S. I really like how it's a French story, and therefore is in another language again.

 

28 minutes ago, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

if M.'s compatriots avoid caffeine, why is he/are they (and his/their employees/prey) regulars at a coffee shop? Why did he accept C.'s offer?

Excellent point. That anti-caffeine thing I dropped in an the spur of the moment, for no particular reason other than I liked the line. As you say, it tends to cause a logic issue. I tried to paste over it by saying 'too much caffeine', but that's kind of lazy, so I will reevaluate this aspect. It don't think it's critical.

31 minutes ago, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

Why did M. introduce himself? If he was the one that fired C., I'd expect she'd at least know his name.

Fair comment. I'll take a look at that in the edit.

32 minutes ago, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

M.'s true nature took me completely by surprise, which I consider a good thing in a short story.

Excellent.

32 minutes ago, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

C.'s personality change in the penultimate paragraph sent shivers down my spine. You manage to have a bad ending with a happy protagonist, though it takes the last paragraph to really drive that home.

That's great. I was totally pantsing this, other than the inciting notion, which was 'vampire barista'.

33 minutes ago, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

I like the word play you did with J.'s text message and C.'s reaction to it. Whatever you do, don't edit that out, please.

Lol, yes, that's a darling that will be staying right where I put it :) 

As you say, a bit rough. It's a first draft hot off the press. I did a quick scan through for basic grammar, but otherwise it's warts and all, so your comments are super helpful. Thank you so much 5cd3cba4265b5_thumbs-upsmall.jpg.36737ec217c5be959c1ef6e44fe8a8e9.jpg

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Well, that was different!

I also enjoyed this. For being written on the fly, it's quite good. I also noted the caffeine paradox @Eagle of the Forest Path found, but that's an easy fix.

There are a few rough edges, especially near the beginning, but after the first page or two, I was sucked in. It read very easily.

The ending is very good. The switch is surprising,yet inevitable, and I also really like the change in C's texting tone. However her last text to her mom was very poignant, showing that she's still in there.Very well done.

You might be able to seed a couple more hints that the salespeople aren't exactly what they seem, just to land the ending a little more solidly, But not too much. The surprise is very good.

I really don't have much else to say! Definitely submit it somewhere when you've cleaned it up.


Notes while reading
pg 2: "Who’s the daddy? Who’s your daddy?”
--Probably just the second one. The first one sounds like they're asking who the father of a baby is.

pg 7: “Come back to five"
--at five?

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2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

You might be able to seed a couple more hints that the salespeople aren't exactly what they seem, just to land the ending a little more solidly, But not too much. The surprise is very good.

I was thinking this too. 

2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I also noted the caffeine paradox @Eagle of the Forest Path found, but that's an easy fix.

Same. And while Lapsang Souchong is lower in caffeine than other teas, it still has some caffeine in it. Maybe instead they could be drinking rooibos? I guess you did say  "too much caffeine" but then in the next paragraph you said "It’s a caffeine-free." And having the people frequent the coffee shop shouldn't be a problem with this. Plenty of coffee shops carry large selections of teas, so maybe just show them ordering tea? 

That aside, I didn't realize this was a first draft until I went back and read your original post after I read the piece. 

I wasn't bothered by the content, though I think I should've been. I would have been if a man chained a woman up and took a picture of her naked like that. However, because it was a guy who seemed like one the jerks, one who thought he was going to randomly hook up with this barista even though his ring hinted he was a allegedly married, maybe especially because of the line where she thought he was going to grab her rear end, I kept thinking yeah, get revenge on that <insert word the forum probably wouldn't allow>. I know that kind of thinking isn't really good on my part, but it's there. I also like reading from the POV of characters who do bad things. 

However, you could consider a way for this to happen without the naked pictures? Maybe the revenge doesn't have to involve some kind of sexual violence? What if while he was out, she set him up to look like he was doing some kind of hard drugs? I'm on the fence about this because that guy seems like the type that might commit an act of sexual violence, so I'm not as bothered as I maybe should be about what C does to him.

Other than, I thought the voice was fantastic. The pacing worked. I was surprised by the end in a satisfying way. 

Here are some as I read notes:

p. 3

"Maybe you’d like to ... back with the emergency call handle?" This seemed out of nowhere. 

p. 6

"“Let me make you one of those coffees then, okay?" If you do go with the not drinking coffee thing, then maybe she's offering some kind of tea latte ?

I think she left with out ever cleaning the men's room? 

p. 7

"...coffee of the soul..." I didn't get this line.

p. 12

"dismissing the interim from his office"  Was this supposed to be "intern" ?

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3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Well, that was different!

Excellent!

3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I also noted the caffeine paradox

Yeah, been thinking on that during the day. I realise now how it fits. I need to check the medical aspects, I've got a plan on how to turn that around.

3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I was sucked in. It read very easily.

Sucked in :lol:  That's great. Very pleased.

3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

You might be able to seed a couple more hints that the salespeople aren't exactly what they seem, just to land the ending a little more solidly, But not too much.

I will attend to that.

3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

really don't have much else to say! Definitely submit it somewhere when you've cleaned it up.

5cd465b53a270_thumbs-upsmall.jpg.a173a5653011137b39b6484a32c8c031.jpg

Thanks so much for the comments. Much appreciated. Some good fixes there, and some great encouragement :) 

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I only have a cool and an unclear.

Cool: I liked how you foreshadowed there's going to be something in the coffee. I was able to tell that something's about to happen when you mentioned the special ingredient.

Unclear: the conversation with the guy in the bathroom. The guy is shifting in-between two consecutive replies from insulting her to flirting with her. This made me confused about his motivations so I had to read the whole passage twice.

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Hey @shatteredsmooth, thank you so much for reading.

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Maybe instead they could be drinking rooibos?

Lol :lol:, of course! Should have thought of that, however I'm thinking of retconning the caffeine thing to the effect that it's a benefit, which I think makes more sense.

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I didn't realize this was a first draft

5cd46b2b9bf18_thumbs-upsmall.jpg.b3a9a2dde7ba2e9aa4b951919e0f3378.jpg Awesome.

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

though I think I should've been

Heh, yes. I was nervous about potential reactions. And the jury's not all in yet... :unsure: 

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I kept thinking yeah, get revenge on that <insert word...>

I figured that was the only way I would get away with it, although it felt a bit heavy handed. As you say, there seems to be some basic human revenge response that always feels 'somewhat off-colour'. It's not really what the story is about, but I think it's interesting that it's in there.

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

like reading from the POV of characters who do bad things

Hee-hee. Mission accomplished :D 

3 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

you could consider a way for this to happen without the naked pictures? Maybe the revenge doesn't have to involve some kind of sexual violence?

I'll think seriously about this. As you've gathered by now (I think everyone picked up on it in some form) this very much was a stream-of-consciousness (yikes, I'm not even going to try and analyse that) sort of thing, so certain element popped up with no particular rhyme or reason. At least that permits a thorough review.

4 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm not as bothered as I maybe should be about what C does to him.

At that end of the day, it was blackmail. Would she actually have posted the pictures? I guess we'll never know.

4 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I thought the voice was fantastic. The pacing worked. I was surprised by the end in a satisfying way.

I could not be more delighted. Again, thank you so much for reading.

4 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

"Maybe you’d like to ... back with the emergency call handle?" This seemed out of nowhere.

Ahem, yes - see above. I feel that there's a way to lead into this better, to show her stress in the workplace more, which I think would be a believable trail into this OTT internal outburst (if that's a thing).

4 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I think she left with out ever cleaning the men's room?

Wow! Now that is what I call attention to detail. Top marks! :o 

"long, dark afternoon coffee of the soul" - This is a reference to a Catholic thing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Night_of_the_Soul). I'm not Catholic, but Cl almost certainly is. So, it's an offhand kind of antiestablishment thing, sort of.

4 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

"dismissing the interim from his office"

Oopsee, thanks for that one.

Great comments. Really, really helpful. Thank you :) 

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26 minutes ago, Lightbearer said:

I only have a cool and an unclear.

Cool: I liked how you foreshadowed there's going to be something in the coffee. I was able to tell that something's about to happen when you mentioned the special ingredient.

Unclear: the conversation with the guy in the bathroom. The guy is shifting in-between two consecutive replies from insulting her to flirting with her. This made me confused about his motivations so I had to read the whole passage twice.

Thank you so much for reading, @Lightbearer. I hope it was not too arduous.

I'm glad that foreshadowing worked for you. I had two or three different phrasings of that part, but one was outright telling, and another was too obscure. I guess maybe the balance is about right :) 

Confusion in the bathroom: got it. I'll take a careful look at that when I do another edit tomorrow.

Thanks again! 5cd499c6018f3_thumbs-upsmall.jpg.cbfc70e2ca6857cd2f577db561a0f12b.jpg

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1 hour ago, Robinski said:

"long, dark afternoon coffee of the soul" - This is a reference to a Catholic thing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Night_of_the_Soul). I'm not Catholic, but Cl almost certainly is. So, it's an offhand kind of antiestablishment thing, sort of.

I've heard of Dark Night of the Soul, but I didn't make the connection until you explained it. It does make sense now.  

I'm glad my comments were helpful! 

 

 

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So, this was really good! I enjoyed it from the beginning all the way through to the end. It's tightly written, to the point, with great voice and personality. The present tense didn't bother me, and even though I had an idea of what was going to happen, it was still enjoyable and I liked the double-twist at the end.I got hung up on the caffeine thing as well, and one or two other parts, but they're not super big things. I was actually expecting a little more gore and sex with all those warnings. The blackmail thing didn't bother me at all, though i suppose now that i'm thinking back on it, it's a little bit out of nowhere... but the internal monologue -- I've definitely had days where I've been thinking angry thoughts like that, if not ones quite as sex-themed.  :) But all-in-all, this was pretty great! 

 
As I go:
 
"Yayyyy!! Who’s the daddy? Who’s your daddy?” -- Is this someone talking to a pet? That's what it sounds like to me in my head. I think it's the repetition, maybe?  
 
"that we are mindful to respect those who come after us" -- Sooo ladies restrooms... yeah. This is a fun couple of sentences, but it's absolutely not a thing. Ladies are just as gross as guys in the bathroom, there're just more doors to hide the grossness behind in the ladies' room. 
 
So, decaf still has caffeine, just less of it. And lapsang souchong (is not capitalized and) is a black tea, and black teas have some of the highest amounts of caffeine of all the types of teas. A decaffeinated tea generally has slightly less caffeine than decaffeinated coffee (depending on methods and types of course) but it's still there. Caffeine-free teas are all herbals. "Coffee replacement" herbs like rooibos, honeybush, and chicory are all caffeine-free but taste like butt (at least in my opinion). Caffeine and I are not friends, and so I do not have any resistances to it. I've gotten buzzed off decaf tea, and really high quality dark chocolate. If you want "no caffeine," you're not drinking anything with actual tea leaves in it (or yerba mate, for that matter) ;) 
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7 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I've heard of Dark Night of the Soul, but I didn't make the connection until you explained it. It does make sense now.

Right, I'll look to tweak the phrasing, try and have it pop out a bit more.

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1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

So, this was really good!

<punches the air>

1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

I was actually expecting a little more gore and sex with all those warnings

Yeah, I wonder if it sounds worse than it is. I was talking about the story in my non-virtual reality writers group on Tuesday and trying to describe it (in general terms), but couldn't bring myself to use the word 'horror', because it's really not.

1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

The blackmail thing didn't bother me at all, though i suppose now that i'm thinking back on it, it's a little bit out of nowhere

I wonder if I might make it less specific, like 'Who know's where these pictures will end up.' I'll mull on that.

1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

Is this someone talking to a pet? That's what it sounds like to me in my head. I think it's the repetition, maybe?

It's supposed to be a team motivation chant, like on hitting a target. A group psychology sort of thing. I'll work on that. Everyone's calling it out.

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Ladies are just as gross as guys in the bathroom, there're just more doors to hide the grossness behind in the ladies' room.

:o You've shattered the illusion of a lifetime. Not sure what to do about that bit.

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

So, decaf still has caffeine

Yeah, the whole caffeine thing is clearly the biggest hole. I actually know a lot of that so it's just lazy writing. I'm going to turn it around so that the caffeine is something they use to their benefit, which clearly much, much more sense with them hanging around the coffee shop. The actual caffeine thing is only there on the last page in this first draft to leverage the 'F**k decaf' line. What I forgot was (a) don't introduce new stuff at the end; and (b) think first; write second (or possibly third).

Rooibos does indeed taste like butt.

Thank you so much for reading, and for these excellent comments. Very helpful indeed :) 

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3 hours ago, Robinski said:

Rooibos does indeed taste like butt.

 

I love Roobios, especially when it is blended with little bits of dried fruit.

I don't need to avoid caffeine. I just like Roobios. 

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5 hours ago, Robinski said:

You've shattered the illusion of a lifetime.

So like, in the dude's restroom, our most common complaint is a urinal that never stops running and gets the floor all wet. The ladies' room? Probably the most common is that all 3 stalls are completely out of toilet paper for various reasons including that 2/3 of the toilets are stuffed to the top with wadded up paper (thankfully clean paper, but this is a not-rare occurrence). The bathroom that had the sink pulled off the wall? Pretty sure it was the ladies' room. When the handicap stall door "fell" off? The ladies' room.  Hairspray fug so thick you can feel it freeze your nosehairs in place with "all-day hold" as you breathe? Well, it's not the guy's restroom...

And yet, that myth persists. ;) A convention I attend regularly turns one set of gendered bathrooms into all-gender bathrooms for the duration of the con, and like, it's ALL GUYS suddenly crowding the former ladies' room. As if it's any different from theirs? But they're like ooh-ing and ahh-ing and it's pretty funny.  So yeah, different grossness maybe, but still. People of any gender can just be gross. 

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

Not sure what to do about that bit.

Maybe hang a lampshade on it? Like, "I wish blah-dee-blah sisterhood, but blah blah grossness knows no gender blah blah people are dumb?" 

 

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

the caffeine is something they use to their benefit,

I like this much better! 

 

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

It's supposed to be a team motivation chant,

Maybe make it more like a sports chant? I feel like these bro-guys would also be big on the sports metaphors, but that might just be a US thing. Either sports, or I could see something in super-business speak like a call-and-response? 

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SO MANY warning tags and now I am so excited

Overall

Overall the thing was damnation near perfect. Flow was great, pacing was great, voice was through the roof awesome. My only lingering confusion is what is actually going on at the coffee shop at the beginning. Is C just describing usual coffee shop stuff, or is someone running a business in there? I kept expecting to get more info on this pyramid scheme front but couldn't piece together what it was. I think I need something just a tad more concrete on that.

Did not expect the paranormal right turn. Pretty much perfect. Please never change that. 

Basically, this was magical.

10 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

The blackmail thing didn't bother me at all,

Same here. The whole story was set up for that kind of violence, so I thought it fit well.

 

As I go

- pg 3: there's so much wonderful voice in this I am completely immersed, even when suggestions are being made of whipping someone over oral in a bathroom

- page five: I'd almost suggest putting 'ladies' in actual quotes in the: since we ladies spend too much of our lives part. I don't know too many women who would have this mental dialogue and still refer to themselves as ladies, but with the 'ladies' the sort of gentle sarcasm would shine through better

- pg 11: well that was not where I thought this was going

 

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5 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Maybe make it more like a sports chant?

Good call. In actual fact, this story is fairly strongly based on true events (:blink:).

The coffee shop I write in most mornings is indeed inundated with sharply dressed salespeople, en masse, up until 0750 or thereby. I have been in the street when I've heard them through an open first floor window all shouting out something at their daily briefing / team building whatever. I guess I could approach one of them. "Excuse me, I'm using you as a template for a coven of vampires in sex and violence-laden short story I'm writing, could you give me a list of your chants, please?" :lol: 

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4 minutes ago, Robinski said:

"Excuse me, I'm using you as a template for a coven of vampires in sex and violence-laden short story I'm writing, could you give me a list of your chants, please?"

If you do this, I need to see the video...

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3 hours ago, kais said:

SO MANY warning tags and now I am so excited

I know you like a good tag ;) 

3 hours ago, kais said:

Overall the thing was damnation near perfect.

I think I have a tear in my eye.

3 hours ago, kais said:

Is C just describing usual coffee shop stuff, or is someone running a business in there?

Running a business upstairs. I will clarify that.

3 hours ago, kais said:

Did not expect the paranormal right turn. Pretty much perfect. Please never change that.

5cd5c830b599c_thumbs-upsmall.jpg.96d86fcfbcfc61bcc1085e2432cc38b4.jpg

3 hours ago, kais said:

I'd almost suggest putting 'ladies' in actual quotes

I will do that!

`Thank you so much for reading :) 

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7 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

If you do this, I need to see the video...

:lol: 

Well, as it happens I'm meeting up with MajesticFox tomorrow (who is in Glasgow for a seminar/conference thing) for a coffee, so I suppose I could get him to hold the handset :lol:  

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2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

If you do this, I need to see the video...

Please, please do this.

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5 minutes ago, kais said:

Please, please do this.

Errr... I'll run it past @Majestic Fox :unsure: 

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