Tag Archives: Perfect Justice

I can see it, but I can’t touch it.

I wasn’t simply trying to wallow in self-pity and defeat. (Though that’s fun, too.)

I’m genuinely frustrated. Because I can write.

Or to be more precise, I can articulate. Whether speaking or writing, even arbitrating between two opposed parties, I can clarify what is meant, distinguish the particulars of intricate concepts, et cetera.

How does that skill translate into becoming, through and through, a storyteller? How does one go from brickmason to architect?

Also, I’m a critic foremost. When my family went to see a movie, the first thing we’d do afterwards is pick it apart on the car ride home; love it or hate it. I was telling my buddy at work all the flaws in a particular arc of Battlestar Galactica, and he said, “Wow, I’m sorry you didn’t like it.”

Didn’t like it? Are you crazy? I loved it. But it still has gaping plot holes, continuity errors, and worse. So does Star Wars, and LOTR, and the Matrix.

But I cannot permit those imperfections to exist in my work. They must be purged with divine fire from on high.

I can identify even more subtle problems in my own work, like those mentioned in the last post. I really think Perfect Justice doesn’t work that well as a story because it’s very cold and dark without any warmth. How do I get the warmth and keep the story? I don’t know.

Woman’s Best Friend is a nice little campfire ghost story. But it has no depth. You’ll never describe it as a story that really made you think about the larger universe, examine your own life and goals. It doesn’t have that.

Fragile Gods is the worst for me right now. I can see the whole story unfolding in my head; epic battles, broken hearts, unexpected victories, the whole deal.

I can see it, but I can’t touch it. It’s ethereal, or maybe it’s just behind glass.

How do I shatter the glass?

They weren’t interested in this story.

Another rejection slip for Perfect Justice.

I must work harder to become a better writer.

How ready is ready?

I’m really satisfied with the new opening of Perfect Justice.

If I were any more satisfied, I’d need a cigarette.

I think… I think tonight I’m going to format it for submission and send it out.

It is difficult for me to convey to you the cyclical process of excited submission; it’s really quite exquisite. It goes something like this.

1. Project is conceived.
2. Work is produced.
3. Work is painstakingly revamped.
4. Repeat 3 indefinitely.
5. Work is so good in writer’s eyes, writer thinks, How could anyone NOT love this?
6. Work is submitted for publication.
7. Writer remembers how crappy his earlier works were, even when he thought they were amazing.

I mean, I really think Perfect Justice is ready for publication. It was the first manuscript to earn a “send us more” note, and as much improvement as it’s seen since then, I can’t help but think that it’s going to published — if not by the first magazine, then by the second. Or the third.

So my brain goes into performance mode. This is IT, my brain tells me, what we’ve been waiting for!

I’ve thought this before. I think it with EVERY SUBMISSION I MAKE.

If I didn’t think the work was worth publishing, I wouldn’t send it out.

But no matter how good a work is, I can’t help remembering older works I thought were just phenomenal that now I can’t even stand.

It’s emotionally exhausting.

Writing is rewriting

justice_scaleSo, more people have read Perfect Justice now. Feedback is still rolling in.

The cool thing about hearing from multiple people, and why I push so hard to distribute my work, is that although everybody has one or two ideas unique to their personalities, there’s some advice which is the same from person to person.

That is the advice I latch onto, because it most likely represents a common element lacking in a story. And that’s why it’s important that as many people read and respond as possible.

Although I haven’t acted on most of his comments (as is my prerogative given that this is still ultimately my work), my co-worker Ted had possibly the single most brilliant insight about the opening of Perfect Justice. He pointed out that although I mention, briefly, that Replay technology is available commercially, I don’t expand on any of the possibilities. That’s a missed opportunity to draw the reader in to what a wonderful invention such a program might be. My shout-out to Ted is including baseball as one of the examples, even though I was tempted (from personal preference alone) to use an example from football instead.

As you know, I’ve been devouring podcasts about writing — more on my favorite podcast and the massive injustice to me in it in a future post. But for now, I’ll say that one episode about writing openings really opened my eyes to a simple but effective technique: mentioning objects as a form of quick and dirty, but very tangible description.

Perfect Justice has very little in the way of “here’s what things look like”, so that of course made me consider adding a little here and there.

The advice from the podcast is to use little lists of objects; especially adding one at the end that doesn’t fit with the others quite right to generate suspense. I’ll try an original example and see if I can convey how it works:

Mugs half filled with beer. A stain on the floor. A washcloth left on one table. And a flawlessly folded white kimono.

Did I succeed? You tell me. But the intent is obvious; I’m describing a bar. The kimono at the end is supposed to pull the reader in with a: What, what? Kimono? One of these things is not like the others… What’s going on? Who left a kimono in a bar scene? Why is it neatly folded in a place that’s still really messy?
Even though I may not have executed it correctly (it’s late and as always, I’m too close to the work anyway), it certainly was an effective technique when demonstrated in the podcast. The simplest of objects has a way of grabbing your attention when it’s mentally out of place.

The feedback on Perfect Justice which coincided with this is that a couple/three people have told me already (in their own various terminologies) that the story lacks imagery. And as a result, it’s hard to picture. So while it’s intellectually engaging (so I hope), it doesn’t hijack the reader’s imagination the way a truly well-crafted tale ought.

So I have been tinkering away at a new version. It follows here.

_______________________________________________________________

Aiden struggled against the urge to speak out as they strapped him down. The bench was cold, even through his orange jumpsuit. He was self-conscious, almost shameful, of the touch of handcuffs and leg irons. The light from dozens of computers cast a pale glow across the lab. He ached to tell them how so very wrong they were, but it would have been futile; his protests would be ignored. What could he say that other prisoners hadn’t said?

The System was perfect. The System didn’t make mistakes.

Inevitably, they would discover their error, but this was little consolation. By then it would be too late. Still, Aiden had to try one more time. He couldn’t simply give up and let them win.

“I’m innocent,” he said flatly.

Nobody cared. In the background, someone even chuckled. Jackass, Aiden thought. But that was all the acknowledgment he got; no one else even glanced at him.

Aiden wondered what his lawyer was doing right now. Sipping sherry in a luxury condo? Providing legal advice to a gang leader who would probably walk?

The most worthless people on earth are the ones who bill for hundreds of dollars an hour, he thought, savoring the irony.

Aiden’s handlers plugged him into the latest hardware, the victim’s record already queued.

Full of nervous energy, Aiden’s mind began to play word games: Victim’s vision! Vicious vision! Vive la vision! Recognizing this might border hysteria, Aiden forced himself to breathe calmly. Beneath his apprehension lay an undercurrent of curiosity. Whatever horrors awaited, this would be his first experience with Replay, also available for commercial and entertainment use.

For normal people, Replay was a miracle come to life. The average Joe could feel – for a reasonable price – what it was like to throw the last pitch of a seven-game World Series. Or to ponder the first move against a grand master at a chess tournament. There were even rumors of black market recordings of sex with delicious Hollywood starlets.

Under other circumstances, this would be downright adventurous.

“Is he ready?” someone asked.

“Who cares? Do it,” one technician replied.

“Sweet dreams,” the first added cruelly.

Someone across the room typed a command, and the keyboard’s clacking was the last sound Aiden heard. His world vanished as abruptly as an extinguished light.

Medical Maintenance

cartmanwithglassesI had an eye exam today and my eyes are dilated. Navigating anything with text is pretty hard to see, so I’ll make this short.

ALL the people who requested Perfect Justice (both of them) will have to wait at least a couple of hours before I can get those out. (Fortunatly, the doctor didn’t staple glasses to my head.)

From short story to novel

messydeskThere haven’t been any comments in days and I’m beginning to feel I’m playing to an empty room — exactly the kind of feeling I was trying to avoid by creating a website.

Nor has anyone yet requested a single copy of Perfect Justice since its completion.

Ah, well…the show must go on, right? Even if the only person left in the auditorium is the director.

I am giving some thought to expanding Perfect Justice to novel form. The novel would open with Aiden’s trial and the events leading up to the portion in the short story, and also weave together the lives of Dr. Stevenson, Marcus, and the various litigators involved in a way which makes the ending even more meaningful.

This would be my first short-story-turned-novel project, and it’s exciting because it’s the first time I thought a short story had enough to it that it was worth expanding. It’s also exciting to get a glimpse behind the curtain of that process as I begin to see what other writers did when converting a short story to book, how the foundation of having a climax already written can help shape whole chapters with ease.

It worked…

addictedRather than quitting World of Warcraft cold turkey (which I have done before, but it didn’t stick in the long run), I have instead tried the the route of discipline:

Simply playing less.

It worked. When I feel the urge to game, I will attempt to scratch the itch by playing much more cyclical one-player games instead. I don’t know how others feel, but for me single player games don’t cut it anymore; I just get bored with seeing the same content over and over. Cheats, mods, savefile editors and such can add a certain additional replay value, but those grow stale even┬ámore quickly than the original game.

So then I pace the apartment. I check chess.com compulsively every five minutes. I watch *gasp* television. (Streaming with no commercials, still, though.)

And then eventually…I get bored enough to write.

Success!

I wrote for some 7 or 8 hours Saturday and another 4 on Sunday. Furthermore, I managed a personal first: Diving directly into another story while the ink from my last project is still drying.

I considered putting up another poll to ask what you want to read next, having now (re)finished Perfect Justice. But then I’d want to give the poll time to gather enough info — the last one took about ten days before all votes were in, and even then I only garnered nine votes in total.

Instead, I decided merely to write the next story.

For those who are keeping up with me, I’ll go ahead and tell you the next one is going to be Second Chances; you can read the synopsis over on the sidebar.

I will also introduce you to a new project on my idea board:

Road Rage is about a guy so frustrated and angered by the idiotic and dangerous ways of rude drivers that he finally decides to do something about it. But he isn’t content with merely taking your license. Violate his rules, and he’ll be taking your life.