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Reading Excuses - 8-25-14 - CommandanteLemming - Millenial Reign Chs 2-3 (L)


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Previously on "Millenial Reign" - we've seen a young journalist named Prissy Davis freak out for no good reason at a baptism in 2014 Washington, DC. Then we fast-forwarded 19 years to December 2033 in Wisconsin, where a young local news reporter named Nina Constantinos has just been offered the promotion of her life by Priscilla Davis, the powerful Editor in Chief of WorldWide News network (WWN).

This week we finish up Nina's time in Wisconsin and follow her to Washington for a somewhat shocking first day as a WWN National Correspondent. 
I'll offer my standard "this is not a sci-fi story" disclaimer inasmuch as it's meant to be a newsroom drama that just happens to be in the future, and the technology takes a back seat to the characters and social movements. This has not gotten as much revision as I would like, and honestly I wrote some new material here just today, but these chapters are ones I really wanted shopped.
The first of the two is a bit more of the unmitigated sappiness that pervaded the first submission - although I'd like to think it's a bit better-written than it's predecessor. 
The second is when Nina finally gets dumped into the wild world of 2034 Washington DC. This was originally my beginning, and this is the third version of it, but it's still going to need work. I'm interested in feedback on the blocking of the scene on the Metro - what helps, what doesn't. This is my town and my neighborhood, and I'm very familiar with this particular Metro stop's odd layout. I don't want to bog down in detail, but I also want it to make sense. 
Also, tips on foreshadowing and worldbuilding without being ham-handed - the blonde on the train is important, just like the Indian family last week really needed to be there for reasons you'll find out next week, but adding people to the scenery without slowing things down is something I'm still working on. I'm trying to take a softer touch on painting the culture (it used to open with a long description of the people waiting for the train), so let me know how that goes for you. 
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I have my comments as I read below.  To answer your question on worldbuilding, there was a little too much of just dropping things in because.  I felt like you were showing me the watch to say, "look, it's the future!"  You drop the date a couple times, which is fine, but you may want to put some more time into the worldbuilding and conceptualizing what technologies are around.  The details on the car are ok, but it's as an infodump, so I ended up tuning it out.  You might think about how the world worked back in 1994.  You can assume the tech that has progressed from then until now might continue to progress in the same fashion, barring some world-changing event (of which there will certainly be at least one).

I guess the main question is, WHY is this set in 2034?  Is there some part of the story that needs to be here?  if not, just make it the present, or near future, and be done with it.  Otherwise the reader is left wondering if there is some other context.  You may be addressing this soon, but I would make sure to have some sort of "thesis" (for lack of better word) as to why you chose this setting/time.  Otherwise the reader will start looking for hidden meanings.




pg 1: "Nina was anxious to get on the road, but sad to leave the only hometown she’d ever known. Her parents, on the other hand, were more melancholy than anything else, with her mother cradling a stuffed frog that Nina had kept since childhood."

--lots of telling in this paragraph.  You could cut out telling her parents were melancholy and just show the mother cradling the frog.
pg1: "Her father said, trying to find something to say that wasn’t wouldn’t sound overly sentimental."
--and this is sort of a cheat in POV--Nina doesn't know what her father is thinking (and there's an extra word in there)
pg 1: "“It’s open.” Gus bellowed."
--Who's Gus again?  Her brother?  He suddenly appears in the room.  I thought it was just her and her parents.
Pg 3: I really don't need to know that much about the car.
Chapter 2 as a whole is almost melodramatic.  We don't really know or empathize with the characters enough to make the parting meaningful, so it just sounds sappy.  I think you could easily start with Nina in Washington, looking back on her family, or having her mom call or something.
Chapter 3 starts to get into some action, but it's mostly still Nina traveling toward her new job, not actually landing in it.  The end promises some action, but I'm hoping it doesn't involve the description of her flight overseas.
I didn't have a problem with the way the blondes were introduced on the subway.  There was less time devoted to them than the family and Nina interacted with them, so I was satisfied.
You seem to have some concerns about editing and description, so I would suggest (in revision) looking at your sentences and seeing if they move the story along.  Unless it adds something to character, plot, or setting, take it out.
I'm interested to see what the deal is surrounding the Pope and how Nina handles the story...
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I'll wait for others to chime in before responding or asking anything in detail - but I did want to answer the "why 2034" question up front. The idea behind the story is to check in on the Millennial Generation at age 50 (hence the working title), and as a corollary to check in on "Generation Z" (today's toddlers) as they come of age. Basically the idea is to look at what I see happening if my own generation chooses to act based on their generational flaws rather than their generational strengths.


Also...suddenly re-thinking my already-written airport scene.   :P

Edited by CommandanteLemming
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In the first two paragraphs you've got a 'probably', a 'most of' and a 'mostly', all weakening the sentences they're in. Those kind of words that mitigate the strength of what you're saying usually feel unnecessary to me.


I think there's mostly a good balance of event, dialogue and description, though you do sometimes go overboard on reinforcing the date and future setting - some of the references to years felt glaring to me. Explaining Misha and the type of car it is is a good touch and helps remind us of the future setting, but it's definitely the point at which this is most overdone - you could make the paragraph a third of the length and still show the main messages - that Nina has a characterful car, and that the world has moved on.


Davis's re-introduction is good. There are enough signs that she's not all nice without overdoing it. But as Mandamon said, these first few chapters seem to be a lot of moving towards somewhere rather than getting to the events. I suspect that when you've written further into the story you may find that you can lose a lot of what's in these first few chapters and so get into the story quicker.

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damnation it andy, you keep putting down my opinion, but earlier and more concisely than I can.


This chapter worked a lot better for me, but was still pretty rough. As previously mentioned, throwing the date around can be effective, but came off flashy and cheap. Not to mention that it dates the story pretty heavily. If you're wrong, you suddenly go from being a neat story to a quaint little thing, not unlike early depictions of the year 2000 (or even Back to the Future and 2015). It's bad news bears and should minimize that sort of thing, unless you want to do Herbert-level worldbuilding. 


The blocking on the train was okay. I imagine a typically-crowded DC train, with the two teenagers crammed slightly fore of Nina. And frankly, you could probably afford to cut a little of their interaction--the bit with Davis' book seemed overmuch--and still have it suffice for foreshadowing. We see enough for the gun to be on the mantle.


As far as an opening shot, describing the waiting passengers, that could really work. Sergio Leone made it work really well. A lineup of people doing various things and then a rushing Nina barely climbing aboard the train could set the tone (provided that's the tone you want to set--a small town girl utterly out of place).


Also, a lot of the office scene did very little for me. I love the attitude folks have about her being late--I know out here in the Midwest we don't care that much, but folks from the Seaboard seem to care quite a bit--but the characters seem like cardboard cutouts. Especially since the photocopier is given equal exposition. The fact that Davis isn't described either, whether being or doing, makes me think she might be a disembodied voice. That's one of the little tricks of dialogue that I know I am less than great at.

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Thanks everyone for the input - good stuff as usual. Obviously digesting the whole thing takes some time, but here are my randome comments and questions.


1) On the date stamps - would appreciate input on fixing that if people find them jarring - the reason they are there is that, as the narrative progresses, the time jumps are not going to be uniform. I could jump two hours between chapters, or two months. Some chapters have internal time-stamps within a given day as well. So I need to be able to clarify passage of time, but without breaking the narrative.  


2) How did people take the cultural references to "hepkits" and such? A big challenge in previous drafts has been building this weird future moment where part of the pop-culture is fleetingly obsessed with the 50s/early 60s retro themes. 


3) Glad the subway scene mostly worked - will think a bit more on that moment where Nina bumps into Sophie. The fact that Sophie is reading Davis' book was half the point of the interaction, but maybe you'll see that later (I won't spoil Sophie's relevance if you haven't spotted it yet, but she's going to become a very minor character with some major implications).

 3a) Speaking of which - do you guys prefer to throw around spoilers to work with foreshadowing, or would you rather be surprised?


4) I'll work on giving the characters more time than the photocopier - but the photocopier itself is ok, right? That's a big gun on the wall.




Dating the story heavily is actually my intention. I plan on having one heck of a laugh at this thing in 2034, and Back to the Future's 2015 is a major influence. I loved reading old Heinlein novels about the swamps of Venus and skating on the Martian canals - the stories were timeless and the fact that science had passed the narrative was part of the fun.


Definitely agree the car thing needs cut down - originally the car had some pretty advanced artificial intelligence and actually had dialogue, but having cut that I should be less info-dumpy for sure.


Will fix the Gus reference - that's Nina's dad but I need to either use his name more or not at all.


Actually the reason for the watch was that I knew I would get in trouble for having her look at her watch instead of her phone - but the proliferation of smartwatches and smartglesses is something I work a lot with later. 


The characters will be less cardboard next week - I promise (the fun people are coming - problem being my protagonist and antagonist are the hardest people to write well.)

Edited by CommandanteLemming
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2) How did people take the cultural references to "hepkits" and such? A big challenge in previous drafts has been building this weird future moment where the parts of the pop-culture is fleetingly obsessed with the 50s/early 60s retro themes. 


I thought this was one of the best parts of your worldbuilding.  I immediately got the Cats/Kits reference and the retro 50's vibe.  More along these lines is what you need to create the 2034 atmosphere.  General societal uniqueness is what will make this memorable rather than smart watches and talking cars.

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The others have definitely snagged the points that I would have spent event longer expressing (sorry this is so late!).


I find your style easily readable, it flows nicely but, for me, there is any awful lot of detail that isn't relevant to the the plot. It's nice an colourful, but it seems to me that there are a few darlings that could and probably should be killed. I end up thinking is this at all relevant, or just colour that is slowing down the progress towards some conflict. The Skoda, for example, and bumping into the girl on the train. Maybe it's me expecting this to be something it's not, but I feel like I'm waiting for something exciting and intriguing to happen.


I'm also waiting for an SFF element, although I know you say that the story was quite light on that, and it is certainly a very light touch on any futuristic or unusual, probably too light for my taste as a reader. I just don't really get much sense of the future, I mean Apple is big, really?


Any-who, I'm still interested to see where this is going but, as not, I'm just hoping we hit some conflict, excitement, intrigue soon.


I'll email you my tracked comments / suggestions.

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I'll definitely work on the excessive detail. It's funny to me because a lot of my earlier submissions to my in person group got tagged as too much dialogue, not enough description. Guess I'll go back to being more dialogue heavy, I tend to do better there. And maybe I'll skip ahead to action next go round. I wrote a lot of my exciting later stuff first and then went back and tried to write the beginning to set it up...and now the beginning is dragging. Oh well, onward and upward.

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