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Robinski

190522 - The Red and The Black (redux) - Robinski - 3763 words - S,D,SV,BF,L

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Posted (edited)

Heh, so sorry about this. I had intended to submit something else, but that has not worked out at all well so far. I've stalled at 1,300 words and it's just not working.

So, I hope you don't mind, but I've submitted an updated version of Il Rosso E Il Nero and crave your indulgence to have another read through (those who have read it already). It's 500 words longer, and I hope that you will find the issues from last time tidied up and stronger in those areas identified.

For those who haven't, I hope you enjoy. Do be aware of the content warnings, please. Here is the spiel from last time:

"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."
Edited by Robinski
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Well..I didn't write anything down as I read!

I think you caught all the little bits and pieces we found last time, and the switch from revenge to horror is still quite shocking, even though I've read it before. I think the texts with her mum are spot on now, and ending with that last one gives the story a weird vibe of hope in the middle of the horror--I really like it!

And, that's pretty much it. I reiterate that this one definitely need to be submitted somewhere. I think it's some of your best work.

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I had a really hard time critiquing this.


Badass opening line.

I had to read the first page or so twice to wrap my head around the opening. It’s very Bonfire of the Vanities. Alone, I actually really like it.

 

But.

 

Coming back after finishing the story I’m not convinced it’s strictly necessary without some sort of thematic follow up.  It makes some of the stuff that comes after it (which is easier to follow) read as redundant and yet doesn’t feel like foreshadowing. It feels like she despises these people and doesn’t hint at her deep desire to get back “in”. It also belies the more simplistic prose of the piece going forward. If this internal dialogue comes back at the end of the story, it might pay off, but it doesn’t.

 

I like how she describes J. You can tell they have that work relationship that’s both intimate and and impersonal. It works. Except Jane ends up being inconsequential which is disappointing.

I don’t think that the sub-chapter cut works very well. The whole section about her mom could be summed up by adding a quick telling line at the beginning of the text message. This in addition to the line, “I’ll bet they’ve never had to care for someone losing their faculties,” should be more than adequate.

 

I like the text messages. They really work.


C’s character isn't concrete enough for such a short piece. My first time through I thought she was all over the place, and I think this works against you as the story progresses. Her reaction to M coming out of the bathroom is jarring. Before this moment I was really connecting with C because I’ve worked in those low level industries my whole life. The interaction works, it’s not clear enough that this is premeditated.

I like her describing people using coffee house terms. It’s unique and perfectly situated to the setting. It tells a lot about C as well.

 

About halfway through the story my mind started drifting. It’s not that the characterization is bad because it’s not, but the story feels like it’s lacking direction.

 

Having now finished the piece I see why you did this. You’re trying to subvert our expectations. The note I wrote as I read was: “I’m assuming at this point that she’s gonna kill or blackmail M and you’re trying to underlay the twist by making C sympathetic.” Sure enough, this ended up being the case, but the “twist” ends up feeling typical rather than inevitable.

 

(To be fair, this was the only note I made on my first read through so that should tell you something.)


I like the secondary twist but it’s so rushed that it feels subversive for the sake of subversion more than anything. I almost strictly read fiction with supernatural elements (mostly epic fantasy but still) and even then it felt like it came out of left field.

 

When he wakes up handcuffed to the radiator (who has a radiator anymore) for the first time in the story I feel actively propelled forward. The bad part about this is that it happens on page 8 of a 12 page story and by page 10 the momentum actually stops. C stops driving the story and instead becomes a passenger.

 

What happened to C’s quick thinking internal dialogue/descriptions/analysis from the beginning? You built this character and make us like her for her mind but then that doesn’t play a part again after page 10. At this point I’m hooked and expecting her character to carry me through, but her character almost vanishes completely.

Anyway, I hope something from all that helps in some way.

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13 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Well..I didn't write anything down as I read!

I think you caught all the little bits and pieces we found last time, and the switch from revenge to horror is still quite shocking, even though I've read it before. I think the texts with her mum are spot on now, and ending with that last one gives the story a weird vibe of hope in the middle of the horror--I really like it!

And, that's pretty much it. I reiterate that this one definitely need to be submitted somewhere. I think it's some of your best work.

Thanks, @mandamon, very much for reading, and I'm so glad that the fixes have fixed the bits that needed it, and that I didn't break anything!!

Yes, I'm going to submit the heck out of this. Very excited :D 

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Hey Robinsky,

First off, I really loved the voice. Like, I only wanted to continue reading because I found C to be very interesting and entertaining. :)

The twist caught me off guard. I didn't expect something supernatural this far into the story. It was a great surprise, but I wasn't sure what to make of it. My first suspicion was that he was the devil, and I found that to be very cliché. But I wasn't really able to confirm that, so I'm not sure _what_ he is. And I kind of glazed over the coffee-power-pyramid stuff, because it didn't make any sense to me.
So here I am now, not sure what just happened. The story ended with her being in again, and suddenly being the number 2? Because... why? And... what are they doing again?
Not sure what to make of the ending, and therefore, what to make of the story as a whole. :) The ending kind of gave me a Limitless (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limitless_(film)) feeling.

Cheers,
Helge

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Hi @hawkedup, thank you very much for reading. Straight to the comments.

1 hour ago, hawkedup said:

doesn’t hint at her deep desire to get back “in”

This is a good point, I like it. I don't think it needs a lot, but I can see that something subtle in that first page would help to reinforce where the story ends up.

1 hour ago, hawkedup said:

I like how she describes J... Except Jane ends up being inconsequential which is disappointing.

Fair comment. Obvs there isn't much room in something this short for a third character to play much of a role at all, without probably adding 50% to the size of the piece. I feel that would be a big decision, and might break the story. I will ponder this some more.

1 hour ago, hawkedup said:

The whole section about her mom could be summed up by adding a quick telling line at the beginning of the text message.

True. There are some bits in there that are important to the story, I think (the weight of bills, which is a strong motivation for Cla). I'll dwell on this some.

9 hours ago, hawkedup said:

My first time through I thought she was all over the place, and I think this works against you as the story progresses. Her reaction to M coming out of the bathroom is jarring. Before this moment I was really connecting with C because I’ve worked in those low level industries my whole life. The interaction works, it’s not clear enough that this is premeditated.

Certainly she's supposed to be anxious and wound-up. I would accept the bit about clarity of the moment she decides to act. That is something I will aim to address.

10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I like her describing people using coffee house terms. It’s unique and perfectly situated to the setting. It tells a lot about C as well.

Awesome. I'm glad you liked that, and the texts as you mention earlier :) 

10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

but the story feels like it’s lacking direction

Okay, I'll re-examine that.

10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

(To be fair, this was the only note I made on my first read through so that should tell you something.)

It does, and thanks for noting this. I've got reasonable confidence in my technicals skills, it's the storytelling / plotting I'm usually most focused on improving (and usually it needs it).

10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I like the secondary twist but it’s so rushed that it feels subversive for the sake of subversion more than anything.

Okay, I can look at this again. It very much was the endpoint I always had in mind, so it it's rushed I will seek to give it a bit more room to breath.

10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

C stops driving the story and instead becomes a passenger.

What happened to C’s quick thinking internal dialogue/descriptions/analysis from the beginning?

...but her character almost vanishes completely.

This is most helpful, and it's something I've overlooked when writing. I will have a good go at rectifying this. I think this is important and entirely fixable.

10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

who has a radiator anymore

I do! At home and at work, but I take your point. I'll consider chaining him to something else, as it's a reasonable shout that there would not be a radiator in this situation.

I really appreciate your comments. Thank you kindly.

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Hey Helge, it really is great to have you back. Delighted to have your comments on this.

33 minutes ago, molah said:

First off, I really loved the voice.

Good start. I am pleased.

33 minutes ago, molah said:

I didn't expect something supernatural this far into the story.

Yes, I can understand that. I really don't want to through supernatural in too early, as I'm looking for that shock moment, BUT, I appreciate that the reader needs to know what kind of story they are in. I'm going to challenge myself to find a way to engineer a solution to this. Thank you.

35 minutes ago, molah said:

My first suspicion was that he was the devil, and I found that to be very cliché. But I wasn't really able to confirm that, so I'm not sure _what_ he is.

Okay. Good point. I really didn't want to use the word 'vampire', but there are ways to give a better clue, and basically show the reader, without using the word.

36 minutes ago, molah said:

And I kind of glazed over the coffee-power-pyramid stuff, because it didn't make any sense to me.

Again, I'll try and clarify this. I totally accept that M's revealing here is rather nebulous and unclear. He doesn't feel the need to spell it out, clearly, but that doesn't necessarily help the reader.

38 minutes ago, molah said:

So here I am now, not sure what just happened. The story ended with her being in again, and suddenly being the number 2? Because... why?

This is a good point, because clearly a vamp would either not care about the blackmail, or would kill her or something. There is a bit where M congratulates Cl for being 'clever' and getting herself back in, earning her place when she didn't before. I can still make that work, but I'll aim to make it much clearer how she's earned that place.

Ah, yes, I've seen Limitless. Interesting comparison.

Thanks again, @molah. Very helpful comments.

:) 

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15 hours ago, Robinski said:

Okay. Good point. I really didn't want to use the word 'vampire', but there are ways to give a better clue, and basically show the reader, without using the word.

Again, I'll try and clarify this. I totally accept that M's revealing here is rather nebulous and unclear. He doesn't feel the need to spell it out, clearly, but that doesn't necessarily help the reader.

Wow, that completely went over my head. :D I dismissed the vampire possibility because of several reasons: survives daylight, lets himself get bitten instead of biting her for conversion and the stuff about caffeine for power. 

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59 minutes ago, molah said:

Wow, that completely went over my head. :D I dismissed the vampire possibility because of several reasons: survives daylight, lets himself get bitten instead of biting her for conversion and the stuff about caffeine for power. 

Yeah, this bit is muddled. In JB's Dresden books, which I trust in such matters, Susan Rodriquez's conversion is not complete until she drinks blood, although as you say, that doesn't mean drinking vamps blood, and indeed in some version vamps don't have blood themselves anymore, I think.

The caffeine is supposed to aid feeding by increasing the object's blood pressure. 

The daylight thing...

I think you've hit on another weakness certainly, which is that the vamp side of things is not very rigorous. I will go back to change this. Maybe I will have a new type of vampire. Or maybe they're not vamps at all, but something else more closely linked to caffeine, or maybe they are just common-or-garden cannibals.

Lots to think about, but this will make the story better, I think.

:) 

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Now that I have the explanation, I like the idea of the caffeine. :D  However, it sounded to me like the vampires needed the caffeine, not their victims for better blood-sucking. 

Regarding the vampire itself: I think it's alright to create a new type of vampire, but you need to make sure the reader understands that. There's so much history around vampires that we all have a preconceived idea of what a vampire is and what not.

And actually, I don't think it matters whether M is a vampire or not. I think it's more important that the readers understands that C is now a powerful being as well, that they drink blood and that the caffeine helps with the drinking.

 

By the way, to me it was quite clear that C still wanted to belong to the in-crowd and was still quite hurt of having been ousted. 

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2 hours ago, Robinski said:

I think you've hit on another weakness certainly, which is that the vamp side of things is not very rigorous. I will go back to change this. Maybe I will have a new type of vampire. Or maybe they're not vamps at all, but something else more closely linked to caffeine, or maybe they are just common-or-garden cannibals.

I didn't have a problem with this, for precisely that reason. I've read so many takes on vampires that I recognized what they were by the signs, but didn't really care about the specific strengths and weaknesses. Traditional vampires can't eat human food, Twilight has sparkly vampires, Dresden has 3-4 different branches of vampires, some that can come out in day, some that feed on different things, etc. I'd just be careful about watering the story down with too many extra bits of info that aren't needed.

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3 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

I didn't have a problem with this, for precisely that reason. I've read so many takes on vampires that I recognized what they were by the signs, but didn't really care about the specific strengths and weaknesses. Traditional vampires can't eat human food, Twilight has sparkly vampires, Dresden has 3-4 different branches of vampires, some that can come out in day, some that feed on different things, etc. I'd just be careful about watering the story down with too many extra bits of info that aren't needed.

Excellent comments. I am conscious of not breaking the pace. I just think maybe I can tighten up this aspect with just a few well chosen words here and there. Also, I feel like if I know better in my head what's happening, I can tweak without putting that back-knowledge(?) on the page.

Thank you for the counterbalancing comment thought, very valuable!! :) 

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I'm so excited to see the edit of this!

Overall

Love. The pacing was perfect, the characters perfect (noting the length), and the twists remain surprising but not too weird. Please submit it somewhere immediately. I think you fixed 98% of the issues, and the first version barely had any issues at all. Nicely done! I would read this as a vampire book series for sure, and I generally hate vampire books.

On 5/24/2019 at 5:20 AM, Mandamon said:

I didn't have a problem with this, for precisely that reason. I've read so many takes on vampires that I recognized what they were by the signs, but didn't really care about the specific strengths and weaknesses. Traditional vampires can't eat human food, Twilight has sparkly vampires, Dresden has 3-4 different branches of vampires, some that can come out in day, some that feed on different things, etc. I'd just be careful about watering the story down with too many extra bits of info that aren't needed.

I agree with @Mandamon. It's a great twist because you have so deeply subverted vampire tropes. Please don't water it down. It's perfectly delightfully creepy as is.

 

As I go

- pg 4: I love that she is still randomly vulgar in her thoughts. 

- vitamin pyramid scheme. Love

- pg 6: YES SEDUCE HIM AND DRUG HIM DO IT

Heavy-lidded customers clutching their pastries become phone-mugging, clock-watching, sandwich snatchers of noon.  This line is hands down amazing

- pg 13: this warm glow that runs down her legs... is she urinating? Is this an orgasm metaphor? I'm unclear. 

- confused about her presenting herself to him. What is that about?

- solid ending!

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Posted (edited)

On 25/05/2019 at 11:46 PM, kais said:

I'm so excited to see the edit of this!

I'm excited you're excited! :D 

Quote

Please submit it somewhere immediately.

I'm on that. I just need to:

- Get TMM Chp 1-3 edited then off to A/R before Friday;

- Write an SF short, submit, edit, re-read, edit, and submit to James White Award by 28 June;

- Do my reading for the next GSFWC meeting next Tuesday, while also reading the whole novel submitted for the session 3 weeks hence;

- Do all my Hugo reading in time to vote before August;

- Do my Reading Excuses critiques (obviously!! ;) )

- Oh, and go to work, I still need to do that (damnation it).

Seriously though, I can't think you enough for the encouragement. I think I'll sub it to the Glasgow Circle (GSFWC) when my slot comes up on 2nd July, but I might send out out before then. Not really familiar with horror/supernatural markets, so I'll be onto Submission Grinder, but I was thinking of Fireside as one possibility.

Quote

I think you fixed 98% of the issues, and the first version barely had any issues at all. Nicely done! I would read this as a vampire book series for sure, and I generally hate vampire books.

Ooh, now there's an idea. Arrgghh. The last thing I need is another novel series. I'm desperate to get back to W-a-i-f-s & S-t-r-a-y-s too, and I've got many notes for Q-&-M Book 3.

Quote

I agree with @Mandamon. It's a great twist because you have so deeply subverted vampire tropes. Please don't water it down. It's perfectly delightfully creepy as is.

Yeah, I'm just literally going to drop a word or two in, I think, here and there for a little emphasis, maybe.

Quote

- pg 4: I love that she is still randomly vulgar in her thoughts.

I fear that you can rely on my for this. I guess W-&-S wasn't in that style. I'm not totally beyond redemption.

Quote

- vitamin pyramid scheme. Love

:) 

Quote

Heavy-lidded customers clutching their pastries become phone-mugging, clock-watching, sandwich snatchers of noon.

Delighted you liked it, but also interestingly, @Majestic Fox explained to me about writing for the ear. It's not something I think about, but I think it happens sometimes by accident/osmosis. I do think it's important to think about the rhythm of the words, which goes a long way to achieving clarity (I think). You just can't beat reading stuff out loud, which is the next edit stage for me on this story. I'm so pleased this line made a splash; I was concerned it was a bit purple.

Quote

- pg 13: this warm glow that runs down her legs... is she urinating? Is this an orgasm metaphor? I'm unclear.

That was the idea. I wanted to convey a complete loss of control, but I've shied away from the idea, I think, and therefore perhaps not landed it. This is an area I will scrutinise carefully.

Quote

- confused about her presenting herself to him. What is that about?

That's about him feeding. This ties back into the are they / aren't they v'pires discussion. There's something needed there, I'm sure of it, just to understand what it actually happening.

Really grateful for your comments, @kais, thank you so much :) 

Edited by Robinski
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Clearing out backlog, slowly gaining stamina... If I could tolerate caffeine, I'd definitely be using it this week, but I can't so please forgive the increased lack of coherence. 

I don't have very much to add to this, other than to note I read it, and I still love it. It's more refined, and while it's missing a tad bit of the energy of the original, the smoother nature of the story over all makes up for it. I never had a problem with the vampires thing, it seemed clear in v1 and it feels very well telegraphed here in v2.

My as-I-go comments:
 

I like the added info in the beginning, but the "who's your daddy" line is still a bit odd to me. I think that might just be how much more I assume guys like that would be using (american) football chants than anything else, though. With the added description above, it's more understandable as a morale boost chant thing so i don't think it really needs changing, maybe?
 
The disabled toilet is upstairs? Wait, then how do the people who can't use stairs use it... or wait, is that the joke? It's clean because it's unused? Is this an old-building thing that my "no building I live near is old enough to rent cars" suburban surroundings have left me unprepared to parse? 
 
"(or is that just me)" -- hah, love it! Superb lampshade. 

 

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You fixed the few problems I'd found with the original submission. 

I feel bad, but I don't really have any critiques. This story is fantastic as it is. The voice is incredible. I meant to say something more specific about why, but it's not quite coming to me. 

You definitely need to submit this somewhere. 

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I had quite a lot of critiques for this. Have sent them by email, as comments in word. 

The story has some good things going for it - the voice is strong and it made me laugh, but I think it has some issues.

Robo-san, feel free to post the doc I sent here, if others want to see those comments. I'll leave it up to you. 

 

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Thank you so much for reading again, ID, and in your weakened state and all. Top effort in catching up like that. Not sure I could manage it in full fitness.

On 04/06/2019 at 0:14 AM, industrialistDragon said:

but the "who's your daddy" line is still a bit odd to me

I'll try a version with this modified. As I think on it now, this  version is more like 'I own you' sort of thing. That might be right for the actual situation in that company, but 'Who's the daddy?' is probably more logical for the context. I don't think that works quite as well for C's response, but I can tweak the response.

On 04/06/2019 at 0:14 AM, industrialistDragon said:

The disabled toilet is upstairs?

Yes, but the stairs go down to the basement. C is down in the basement when she bumps into M, so, they go upstairs back to the ground floor, which is where the disabled toilets are. I'm going to put this one down to your present decaffeinated state ;) 

Thanks again 5cfd4b508e801_thumbs-upsmall.jpg.a44075612d2972cf3b348f39cc08187c.jpg

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On 06/06/2019 at 11:34 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

You definitely need to submit this somewhere.

Really appreciate you reading it again, SSmooth. No 'criticism' is fine by me. I'm on the case. :) 

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On 07/06/2019 at 5:38 PM, Majestic Fox said:

I had quite a lot of critiques for this. Have sent them by email, as comments in word. 

Thank you, Mr. Fox, that's great. Sorry to only be replying now. As you can tell, I don't really check that account as much as I should!! Just had eyes on other things.

I'm intrigued to discover the issue that you encountered, and may well post them up here just for my ease of reference, if nothing else.

(p.s. Hope you had a great trip to the even more 'frozen' North. Sorry the timing didn't work out.)

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On 07/06/2019 at 5:38 PM, Majestic Fox said:

I had quite a lot of critiques for this. Have sent them by email, as comments in word. 

The story has some good things going for it - the voice is strong and it made me laugh, but I think it has some issues.

Robo-san, feel free to post the doc I sent here, if others want to see those comments. I'll leave it up to you. 

Thanks again for those inline comments, Mr. Fox. Very helpful stuff. I'm glad that you challenged me on a lot of things, and I have tidied up various details.

Foreshadowing, probably, is the most substantive thing, I think. I'm going to think carefully about that. I think I will put some hints in, but nothing overly overt, I'm thinking.

Many thanks again. :) 

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No problem. Thanks for writing a story with attitude! Was a refreshing read.

Good luck with the James White submission!

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6 hours ago, Majestic Fox said:

Good luck with the James White submission!

Thank you! I'd love to say I was putting the finishing touches on it, but I'm actually trying to revise Il Rosso and submit to GSFWC tomorrow.

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You may be interested to know that I had my Glasgow SF Writers Circle baptism (of fire) last night with this story.

Eleven people in the room and, let's say that I was fairly consistently eviscerated! People fairly consistently liked/loved the strong voice and bold style, but had various issues. It was really interesting how lines didn't work for some, but did work for others, so that didn't bother me. Definitely some issues with lack of clarity in places, and uneven tone and voice (what age is C? Eh... undetermined).

Halfway through I was ready to burn my laptop, but by the end I was on an even keel and ready to forge ahead with this (once edited). One of two people tried to re-write the story for me. One guy said make the mother the main character :huh: Another person said the M/C could/should be male, because of some of C's voice - I mean how in the name of the wee man could that character ever by male with some of the things she does? Unless it was two blokes, of course...

Anyway, I held onto (clung? clung's a strong word, but yes) the fact that you guys liked the story. I will let it sit till post WorldCon and pick it up again for edit and then scout for a market. Thank yous all again for your super helpful comments on the story 5d2ec3e4be743_thumbs-upsmall.jpg.1c7a68d8ee09a69c5ce52abbff501e9f.jpg

Edited by Robinski
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5 hours ago, Robinski said:

Halfway through I was ready to burn my laptop, but by the end I was on an even keel and ready to forge ahead with this (once edited). One of two people tried to re-write the story for me. One guy said make the mother the main character :huh: Another person said the M/C could/should be male, because of some of C's voice - I mean how in the name of the wee man could that character ever by male with some of the things she does? Unless it was two blokes, of course..

Wow--that sounds rough, and...prescriptive!

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