December 11, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #8 “Unfair Trade” (Submitted 6 Times Since 2011, Revised Twice)

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver. In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line: The old adage "You can't get something for nothing" is true -- and will likely remain true even with futuristic technologies.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?): Matter transmission may be a great way for us to cheat each other -- or for aliens to cheat us. What if an old man who ran a convenience store his whole life figures it out?

Opening Line: (Two lines) “The city hadn’t changed in forty-five years. The asphalt in the street was still cracked, the warehouse bricks were still red, and winter bare oaks in corner parks remembered occupation but still reached for the sky like transposed lightning.”

Onward: In the late 21st Century, First Contact has been made with the Dzhinbazh, an advanced alien race who have perfected the translation of energy into matter. They don’t tell Humanity this, but rather buy out convenience store contracts and become suppliers. When long-time Mom & Pop store owner’s son takes a contract with the aliens – eschewing decades of independence – Khaliq Khan becomes suspicious of the “freshness” of the alien merchandise, he checks it out for himself and discovers that given a long-period of time, the matter reverts back to energy – and the stock disappears!

What Was I Trying To Say? I wanted to look at an aspect of “matter transmission” that might be used to cheat people – beaming something that’s inanimate, then reassembling it using reduced energy (lowering the cost) at a lower density or with limited stability. Given that Humans (and probably other aliens) will figure out ways to cheat each other no matter how many of them put on a benevolent face, what are some novel ways of cheating people?

The Rest of the Story: Khaliq and his neighbor, Brooke are old friends, he a widower, she a widow, who live solitary lives but often talk. Khaliq inherited a convenience store from his father, ran it, then passed it on to his son, retiring to the apartment over the store. The alien Dzhinbazh pretty much take over supplying every kind of convenience store on the planet and Khaliq has been angry ever since his son dropped his Human suppliers and became part of the alien’s network.

The years he has left to live are getting smaller and he wants to reconcile with his son – so he can see his daughter-in-law and four granddaughters. But he’s stubborn. How can he prove to his son that the aliens are cheating Humans?

A late-night visit to his old store lets him witness that once the aliens park their delivery trucks – which are empty – they actually stock the stores using a sort of matter-transmission screen. He figures they’re not beaming stuff in from far away; but they can’t be beaming it from locally, either – because no one, not even the tabloids – have reported on something like that. He figures something’s fishy and buys a bunch of the newly delivered product, setting it on his table to watch it. Three weeks later, it begins to fade away. After a month, there’s nothing there; not even a residue.

He tells Brooke, and having participated in one of the Occupy Wall Street events of the early Twenty-teens, the organize a protest with a pallet of recently purchased goods. They use several pretenses, but in the long-run, the stuff on the pallet begins to fade and time-lapse images show it happening.

Finished with their protest, the go for a walk, holding hands.

End Analysis: I STILL like this story. The idea is smart but I lose the thread somewhere in the middle then pick it up at the end. I could probably simplify it some as well – and I need to put his missing his grandkids at the very beginning. It does a good job of building the relationship between Khaliq and Brooke – but like I said, gets fuzzy in the middle.

Two MAJOR problems: first I say that there are NO pictures of the aliens. Then I say that there are. I am totally unclear that he lives above the store. When he goes down the back stairs I have NO IDEA WHAT HE’S DOING! I get yanked out of the story. There were also typos all the heck over the place, too.

Can This Story Be Saved? Absolutely! The beginning (with the addition noted above) and the end are clear, and I like the set up and execution. I can lose some of the obscure references and small talk as well as tighten the whole thing up to maybe, 3000-4000 words. It’s too hefty as it is – the idea’s a small one, though too BIG for a Probability Zero story – and it would be much better slimmed down. So, I’ll get to work on this one soon…

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