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And That Will Be Enough · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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#1 ·
· on Made It This Far · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>GroaningGreyAgony
Where's this photo from? Is it a lizard with its hips missing, or a missing link?
#2 ·
· on Made It This Far
>>Bad Horse

I have no particular reason to shield my anonymity under the circumstances; still, I prefer to hold my retrospective comments until after the voting phase is ended. I will say that it's a real photo that I took. Other than cropping and color correction, it is unedited.
#3 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>Griseus
I thought "15 Mar" meant submissions were due at the end of March 15, but submissions are already closed. Damn.
#4 · 2
· on The Philatelist · >>Pascoite >>Heavy_Mole
"I thought about the big black ocean of the south pole, how looking over it would be like looking into outer space." -- That's breathtaking.

I love 95% of this story. There are some little speedbumps in the first half, mostly the result of beginning in media res and relying on the reader figure out what new references mean. This can go wrong for various reasons:

- throwing out too many different tidbits in the same paragraph, so that the reader runs into a new one before figuring out the previous one

- introducing mystery references in a context in which they're ambiguous

- saying something that's unexpected enough to make the reader think it's another in-media-res puzzle to work out, when it isn't

- relying on clues that aren't given until later in the story, so the reader has to keep a large inventory of loose ends. My blog post "Keeping all the puzzle pieces in play" is about not blowing the stack of the reader's short-term memory, which can only track about 4 things at a time, including everything from trivial but highlighted details to major plot questions. I think this story blows that stack, with questions the story raises that aren't really important to where it's going, like "Is the speaker a man? Where does he/she work? Is he/she flirting with her? Why does he serve customers but have a computer monitor? What is Joann's stature in town? What's a tech bar?"

For instance:

“I should say,” I went on, “that it would be very convenient for customers. What if they want to know more about you? I get clients all the time who come in and ask, ‘Who is that Joann, that marvelous woman?’”

"Customers" triggers a search for what the speaker's job is. Because we're in a place of business (some restaurant), that raises itself as a candidate, and leads to reviewing the text to see if they might both be employees there, or the speaker might for some reason be eating with a customer. Then it leads to wondering about what kind of clients would ask about Joann and why. Is she famous in town?

Later, when I learn they work together, I was puzzled as to how he could get questions all the time asking about her, without her knowing, and had to reread part of the story to make sure I hadn't mis-read something.

If someone wanted to know about your stature in town

"Stature" is such an odd word to use here that it sent me down a maze of possibilities for what it might mean. Are we in a scifi world where the town keeps track of some official measure of each person's stature? Is she unusually tall? Is she running for political office?

I could simply spin the monitor around and save myself the trouble

I still don't know where he? she? works. If I knew (as I learn later) that he works at a tech bar (whatever that is), it might be easy to infer that "the monitor" is a computer monitor, on which he could display a Wikipedia page. But I initially imagined "the monitor" as being one of the kinds of monitors people who work at a counter are likely to have: a security monitor, a monitor attached to a cash register, a video monitor of some other type. I was more puzzled by this line than I feel like I should have been, possibly because I was still trying to figure out where he worked, who Joann was, what was special about her, and why people wanted to know about her "stature".

Your ‘friend’ needs to know when to stop.

My first guess was that "friend" was in quotes because the friend was actually the narrator himself (herself?), and Joann was really saying "you need to stop flirting with me." I re-read several paragraphs trying to find a way to make that work.

Coming in here, bugging you to do his projects.

Wait, they're eating lunch together. That must mean he works at the restaurant. That makes me go back and re-read the story again to see what I missed. But surely he couldn't show a customer a Wikipedia page at a restaurant. So now I'm puzzled over whether "friend" means him or someone else, whether he works at the restaurant, and whether "spin the monitor around" does in fact refer to a cash register monitor, so there's something I'm misunderstanding about Wikipedia, Joan's stature, etc. There are so many unresolved and inter-dependent references at this point that I've forgotten half of them and the whole story is in a state of indeterminacy. I no longer know what I'm reading or what all the possible interpretations are.

You like archaeology, right? Well now, you’re an archaeologist. And an ornithologist. And a biographer of Henry Fielding. It’s really interesting stuff. And they’re real references, they may as well be, right?

This really confused me. Is Mr. Watts an ornithologist now because the narrator has been editing Wikipedia articles about ornithology in Mr. Watts' name? (Probably yes.) If so, why, since that wasn't the point of the task? If the references may as well be real, does that mean they're not real? Is the narrator just making stuff up to gain Wikipedia cred? (Probably not.)

She burst into a laugh put her hand on my bicep.

Whoa, now she's flirting back. Why? What does this mean? Where is the speaker going to take this? I was still trying to figure this out when the story ran out.

He picked up the phone with, “Mhm.” When he recognized me he saluted me and said, “I’m not going to come in today.

So, they must be on a videophone, right? But he answered the phone by picking it up, and you can't answer a call on any device that makes videophone calls by picking it up. What's going on? Is this science fiction?

That's all a swarm of little, niggling, easy-to-fix problems that are individually trivial, but which ganged up on me all at once because each in media res mystery depends on me solving most of the others.

There's an entirely different, much bigger problem at the end: Is it an ending?

I think what you've got contains the "essence" of the ending--the narrator's ambiguous feelings about this strange and compelling project, and Mr. Watts' desire to cheat death just a little. But the story doesn't bring it into focus, and I have no idea what the last 2 lines mean:

I see him in a still moment, without throwing anything onto him. It’s hard to be serious about these things sometimes.

More importantly, this story is too much like real life. Too many loose ends; too little focus. You can't stick the landing at the end when you've left unresolved questions which the reader cares about more than he cares about your ending. This story drew me in using the relationship between mystery-narrator and Joan as its hook. The ending throws all that away. Why did the story jerk me around like that? I don't care about you seeing him in a still moment, or not throwing anything onto him, whatever that means. I want to know about Joan and the narrator! I want to know if and when Mr. Watts died, whether he ever found out that the Wikipedia page went live, what his reaction was, and whether it was enough in the end. What I don't care about is what the narrator feels at the end, because the story made me care about all those other things instead.
#5 ·
>>Bad Horse
Argh. For future reference, the submissions page has a countdown timer.
If you did compose anything related to one of my entries, I'd be interested to see it.
#6 ·
>>Bad Horse
Would be interested as well to read what you got.
#7 ·
· on The Beast of the Fog
The beginning feels a little unfocused. There's talk of "an issue," but then it goes on to talk about multiple things going wrong. The singular tends to mean there's one major problem, but I can't sort out from your list which would be the predominant one. By the end of the first page, I'm seeing some formatting and editing errors. You go back and forth making it sound like the dog eats its fill at each house and that it takes all the houses together, so be careful how you word it. And speaking of word choice, pay attention to how often/close together you repeat words. For instance, you use "seemed" a lot.

This is a bit of an advanced topic, but also take care with who the narration seems to represent. If you're having the narrator express a character's internal thoughts, not as a quote but as direct narration, that means the narrator is taking on the character's identity. But then that means you're restricted to that character and can't tell me things he wouldn't know. So you go from the narrator seeming to be in Michael's POV, but then tells me what other townspeople are thinking (which he couldn't know).

I presume from "the losing side" that Christopher is from this town, and so it'd make sense he knows who Maya is, but that may be a bit too subtle. If that's not what you intended, then I'm not sure how he would have heard of her.

There are a lot of little ironies, and can't tell whether I'm supposed to take them as humorous.

I'm not even sure what happened. There's not really a progression of things being learned from one part of the story to the next, so it didn't feel like it was leading anywhere. And then the last line feels like it's supposed to be ominous, yet I don't see why it would be. I'm more confused than anything.
#8 · 2
· on The Philatelist
I pretty much hit all the speed bumps that >>Bad Horse did, so it's not going to be productive to rehash it all. I will add that I agree the ending doesn't feel like an ending, in that there's nothing to tell me there was a purpose to telling me this story. I like the characters and their interactions, but afterward, I'm stuck with the question I always ask at the end of a story: so what? If I can answer that myself, why it matters that the story happened, because of the permanent change it made in the world or some small piece of it, then I'm good. But I don't see the answer here.
#9 ·
· on The Philatelist
>>Bad Horse
Thank you for this detailed overview and for being so thorough in your reading habit.

You are right that the end is a cop-out. The day on which it was put to paper was one that began at 5 AM, and which concluded very, very late. Of course, this is only an excuse.

But I will give you two criteria I have for an ending, as I go further with the drafting process, and perhaps you will sympathize with my difficulty:

1) Mr. Watts must survive; he must persist with a catheter in his dick. The "point" of the story (if you like), is that Mr. Watts has traveled all over the world, to every exotic place (even Antarctica), but has never taken anything seriously in his life. His goal is to enter himself into the encyclopedia before he dies. The speaker (a wistful bachelor) discovers himself reflected in Mr. Watts, and his (Watts's) mortality as an extension of his own. Watts's death would be didactic, a "close call" and invitation for the speaker to get something right. It would be the wrong kind of intervention.

2) No romance. Joann and the speaker flirt with each other, uselessly. She lives in a different world than him. She is a kind of sexual day-dream; she does not represent a real direction for him to go. She is like the picture of a tunnel painted on a rock that the roadrunner goes through and Wile E. Coyote slams into, and he is Wile E. Coyote. The speaker's resolution does not lie in satisfying his appetite.

My sense is that, for a satisfactory ending to come about, there would need to be an additional component to the story, something which makes it a bit longer than it is. But I am at least interested in the germ that is here.

As far as "speedbumps" go, it is good to have input on that. It is something I tend to struggle with. Some of them are context issues. There are, however, a couple important details which I forgot to include:

You like archaeology, right? Well now, you’re an archaeologist. And an ornithologist. And a biographer of Henry Fielding. It’s really interesting stuff. And they’re real references, they may as well be, right?”

The speaker is performing the edits using Watts's account, so that Watts's can make changes to his own page in the future.

Another rather glaring omission is that Watts is a postcard collector (from the places he's gone to), hence 'The Philatelist'.
#10 ·
· on The Beast of the Fog
This story reads a little bit like Native American folklore. There isn't very much emphasis on irony but for progression it relies instead on a certain sense of wonder associated with natural phenomena. Its central mythic creature has personal characteristics while the actual people are more transient, in effect pointing to an abundant presence v. a concern with history or even 'intra-historia'.

The prose blows by me a bit; almost everything is summary. It's as though the objective of the speaker is to "get it over with". The relationship between the people and Maya is ambiguous; from a narrative perspective, this is probably my biggest issue with the story. The use of multiple episodes is to provide parallel instances of a thing; in one episode, they are afraid of her, then in another she is a sort of national mascot. But it's not clear how the change develops, or what it signifies.
#11 ·
· on Made It This Far · >>Anonymous Potato
>>Bad Horse

Made It This Far

Thanks to all for gilding this entry.

This photo comes from a house in St. Augustine, FL. The lizard perished in the driveway at some point in the past, and I assume it lost its rear legs in some manner while being skeletonized.

We all seem to reach one point in our lives where we have utterly left our troubles behind. God speed you, little critter.
#12 ·
· on The Last of Sight
The Last of Sight

Taken in NJ a few years back, probably after noting that the radiant gap in the clouds somewhat resembled a half skull.
#13 ·
· on No Further
No Further

Taken last month in a morning walk around the neighborhood; the little valley is in a vacant lot a block from where I will soon live.
#14 ·
· on A New Dream
A New Dream

Taken at the same house in St. Augustine as the lizard photo. This is the butterfly that I mentioned in this comment.
#15 ·
· on No More, No More
No More, No More

St. Joseph's RC Church in Newton, NJ, has some pleasant landscaping surrounding it, some visible in the background in this photo. In the foreground is a tableau of St. Francis facing a number of his charges while holding an empty birdbath.
#16 ·
· on Made It This Far
Roadkill, huh? Poor gecko. He was just trying to make ends meet, talking to drivers about their cars' extended warranty.