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Monday, July 12, 2010

And the winner of the July 4, 2050, greater challenge is finally revealed...

We apologize for the delay in posting this.

Kersley says: There were some easily fixable writing issues I’d love to get my hands on, but the current format doesn’t really allow. Very Clint-Eastwood-Grand-Torino. My biggest problem is the massive info-dump in the center of the story. Like a certain Jack in the Beanstalk story I loved, I think it could be fixed by having him observe things during his walk that remind him of the past. Other than that, I wonder why he would have ammunition if the AK-47 made him so nervous in the first place.

Cool/depressing concept. Chilling, poignant story. Welcome to the Friday Challenge!

Henry says: That's a pretty depressing first entry, though that's not a bad thing. The writing has some rough edges here and there, but nothing that should be too hard to fix. The biggest problem is the history lesson we get in the fifth paragraph. You do as good a job preparing for it as possible, but this is the situation where you need someone else, say a child or teenager who doesn't know the stuff, so Dennis can explain it to him. Welcome to the Friday Challenge. I look forward to more entries from you!

Bruce says: Welcome to the Friday Challenge. You've clearly got some good chops, and I'd like to see you stick around here and develop them. As the others have pointed out, this story has a clear "Gran Torino" vibe to it, although the ending turns into "Death Wish," and I don't know that that's an improvement. There are also some micro-writing things that could easily be fixed with a little more attention to developing your craft skills. This story does hit me where I live, in a strange sort of way, but explaining the hows and whys of this impact is something I do not feel comfortable putting in a post on a public blog. Perhaps in the comments.

The biggest single problem with this one is the massive information dump in the middle of the story. Suddenly we've gone from being inside Dennis's head to some external narrative voice speaking ex cathedra, and this waffling point of view begins to feel more like a PBS voice-over narrator's history lecture about Dennis and his world than his story. Pay attention to Kersley and Henry's comments. You need to find a way to bring this backstory into the flow of the story. (Or, here's a radical thought: do you really need it at all? For an exercise, try leaving out every bit of backstory that isn't absolutely critical, and then seeing if some reader who hasn't seen the story before still gets it.)

Anyway, good story -- a bit on the bleak side, but a decent little drama nonetheless -- and a good first entry. Keep it up.

(P.S. And if you can find a copy, go watch the movie, "Falling Down." Studying Michael Douglas' character in that movie might give you some new insights into Dennis.)

Kersley says: In the info dump, you apparently have Col Dux questioning LtCol Tucker, and either Tucker thinking about the motivation behind his answers, or the omniscient narrator explaining—telling. I think you could really do with a dumb-puppet, here. Get someone, perhaps a lieutenant, who looks up to Tucker but has a slightly different take on things—more in line with the state—enough for him to push Tucker into giving detail as he struggles his way into a more balanced view. Then Tucker can speak the history and philosophy without the choppiness or the telling.

“The strong Texas sun wasn’t coy about its intention to make this day a scorcher.” – Nice.

The background of the flashmobs would have been better served by an actual encounter.

The stuff about “Little Tuck” is neither flashback nor action—it’s telling. Stick it in the beginning as an intense argument. Perhaps with that lieutenant inadvertently listening in as he's trying to give Tucker a message. Then Tucker has a reason to explain both his philosophy and the beliefs of his son that didn’t come out during the argument. Keep the colonel after the discussion with the LT. Perhaps with some quiet comments or knowing glances between Tucker and the LT that show Tucker’s continued progression into sanity.

The last section is good. POV is tight; good interaction with environment (“With the sun beaming into the DIV through a narrow port, he caught a glimpse of his reflection and did a double take…”).

Henry says: Interesting setup, up to and including the wall around DC. There have been times I've wanted one of those, too, but aimed at protecting us from the all idiots inside the beltway! I liked how you parceled out the information about Little Tuck, slowly letting us see the conflict between him and his father. Having a rep from inside the wall gave you some latitude to explain things. That worked most of the time, but there was a lot of exposition necessary to bring the reader up to speed on the political situation. I'm not sure how to get around that, but it drags down the story. I'd be interested in seeing you find a way around that as I like the story.

Bruce says: What I have to say is mostly a repeat of what Kersley said. There is a *really* good story in here, but it's one aggressive rewrite away from coming out. I'd really like to see you stretch out and take this one longer. There are preachy bits and interior monologues in the middle that would work much better if they could be turned into interactions between characters. Sometimes "show, not tell," is not an ironclad dictum and it's better to just tell and get it over with, but this is not one of those times when telling is better than showing. I like the Tucks. I want to learn more about them. You can afford to take the time to show us more.

(P.S. And again, I'll have to defer to Kersley on this, but I don't believe I've ever seen a full-bird colonel who would waste this much time arguing over politics and morality with a subordinate officer, except in a Hollywood movie. Colonel Dux needs some work. Maybe he was a reservist and a high school principal before he got called up.)


Kersley says: *sniff*

Henry: You found a way to do in-story what both Triton and Miko struggled to do; give us the background we needed without overt exposition or the dreaded "As you know..." bit that never works. Despite the lack of action, the story doesn't drag. The people are real and conversation realistic. You nailed this one big time.

Bruce: I wish I had something more critical to say, and it's not entirely fair to the others who are coming in with fresh and new entries, but I loved last year's, "Hillside History Lesson." So seeing you pick up this story and continue to carry it forward just totally works for me. I suppose if I worked at it I could find some nits to pick, but that wouldn't change the outcome. This story is the best-written and most-complete of the three entries submitted, and it gets my vote.

Kersley: I vote for Bandit.

Henry: My vote goes for The Bandit

Bruce: Oh yeah, he already voted.

So, Bandit is the winner of the July 4, 2050 greater challenge! Come on down and select your prize from behind Door #3.

Check back at 4:00 PM CDT for the announcement of the winners for the Road Trip lesser challenge.
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