Chat log for August 02, 2004

System: emptykube joined us. Cheers!
anneliese: Hi Mike!
emptykube: hello!
anneliese: Glad you could make it.
emptykube: thanks. i probably won't be able to stay the whole time, but I'll stay as long as I can.
emptykube: i'll
anneliese: Well, we'll enjoy your company as long as you can stay.
emptykube: trying to keep my son out of trouble, and chat at the same time..
anneliese: That can be a distraction, I'm sure.
emptykube: yes, and alex, being autistic, is a unique situation in and of himself. Right now he's plotting mischief...tongue in cheek, humming, staring at me as I type
System: davek joined us. Cheers!
anneliese: Isn't it awful when you can so plainly see something coming, yet have to wait to see what it will be?
anneliese: Hi Dave!
emptykube: one of the things he's learned is a good impersonation of Nelson from the Simpsons...HAHA...whenever he's up to something! can9;t talk, but he can do Nelson!
davek: HI, guys.
emptykube: Hi Dave
anneliese: Gotta love it, Mike!
davek: I was catching ou on the chat. I got scrolling this time.
emptykube: yes...gotta love it. Alex has a great sense of humor, but its devious.
anneliese: Wow, that's good.
anneliese: If you can steer it into playfulness, then you might have something.
davek: Glad you could make it Mike. And thanks again for the critique.
anneliese: Is CM going to make it tonight?
emptykube: no problem, dave. hope it made sense.
davek: ???
anneliese: Sorry, I probably shouldn't try to carry on more than one conversation at a time, especially since my fingers aren't too coordinated tonight.
davek: All feedback helps. I try to put myself in the mind set that the problems pointed out to me are due to my poor communication.
davek: SO when someone says someting about one of my stories I think - why did they think that?
davek: Usually it is because they coun't read my mind. Bad reader.
emptykube: that's a healthy way to look at critiques. iwasn't always so healthy. used to take everything personally
anneliese: Oh, yes...Bad reader!
davek: That's OK for a few minutes. BUt before you talk back you have to change.
davek: Sometimes you even have to reread your story.
anneliese: It's hard not to take things personally. You pour a lot of yourself into your work.
emptykube: funny you mention mind reading...lately I've been taking the POV that writing is about getting the reader TO read you mind...trying to convey enough information so someone knows where your head was when you wrote it.
anneliese: It's easy to mistake criticism of a story for criticism of the author.
davek: That is easy.
anneliese: I used to feel quite strongly that way, Mike. But then something Amy once said tempered it...
emptykube: hardest thing is seperating criticism of story from critique of self...especially when your ego is telling you the critiquer is a bonehead!
anneliese: Every reader brings to a story something of him/herself. And that something also contributes to the story experience.
System: Elizabeth joined us. Cheers!
davek: HI Elizabeth.
anneliese: Hi Elizabeth!
emptykube: hi elizabeth
anneliese: Recovered from the road trip?
Elizabeth: hi there!
Elizabeth: Almost. At least I know which week it is, and which sub to send out.
davek: We were talking about how to not take criticism personally. Not that I would do that.
anneliese: You're way ahead of me, then.
emptykube: I like that anneliese...maybe writing is less about mind reading and more about transmittng empathy.
emptykube: I like that anneliese...maybe writing is less about mind reading and more about transmittng empathy.
Elizabeth: I'm still working on that. Eye-wink
anneliese: Yes, Mike, I think it might be.
Elizabeth: Both taking criticism and writing so that the reader can fill in the blanks.
emptykube: you got me Herbie's fine.
anneliese: ??
davek: Other than putting a story away for a while how do you put yourself in the readers mind.
Elizabeth: Mike, I sent out the same sub two weeks in a row. Since you had the computer glitch, you didn't notice.
emptykube: sorry...distracted by an Alex hug and a HAHA.
Elizabeth: So you're probably the only person left in SFWW who thinks I';m in my right mind.
anneliese: I don't think you need to put yourself in the reader's mind, except to analyze market-ability maybe.
Elizabeth: whoops, gratuitous use of semi-colon there
emptykube: oh...I see...8/2 and 8/9 were the same! I'm a little slow...
davek: I worked for me. At least I got another critique.
Elizabeth: I need to step back and pretend that I don't know anything about the story.
Elizabeth: Which is especially tricky for the novels...I've been in that world for so long that nothing is strange to me.
Elizabeth: I tend to forget how confusing some aspects can be to a new reader.
anneliese: That's why workshopping a story is so beneficial.
davek: In this case, I expect Jack to be in several shorts so I get a lot of confusion as to what the reader knows.
davek: What do you mean by workshopping?
anneliese: Sending stories out to critique groups like this one.
Elizabeth: Having other people read and review it, Dave.
davek: I wonder if person to person or e-mail works better for that?
emptykube: have you written other Jack stories, or just mental plotting?
Elizabeth: I routinely get "what the heck is going on?" critiques when I send novel chapters to a new audience.
anneliese: And you even send out great synopses
Elizabeth: Both have their good and bad points, Dave.
davek: Mostly mental, but a few ideas written down.
emptykube: I think the only differnce between person to person and email is that you get to see someone's expression when they read the story, and that could be either very enlightening, or very devistating depending on the look.
anneliese: I think chats help also, especially if afterward you can take a look at the discussion...
Elizabeth: One of the things I like about e-mail critiques is that I can walk away from the critique and cool off if necessary. Eye-wink
anneliese: ...how much backstory did you fill in, etc.
Elizabeth: The chats are very helpful...getting the comments in real time.
Elizabeth: And this group's a great idea generator.
emptykube: yeah elizabeth...being able to walk away and think about a critique is much better.
anneliese: My face-to-face critique group experience was pretty awful.
davek: I would love to find a local group but I haven't really spent the time.
anneliese: Think we otta tear up your story, Dave?
davek: GO for it. We can start with Mike's critique. One of his points is that I don't give a reason to like Jack.
anneliese: That is a valid point...why should I like Jack? I certainly don't like the pod's intended passenger.
emptykube: yeah...for me, there isn't enough info for me to decide why I should care if he lives or the technology falls into enemy hands. i just don't know Jack.
davek: How important is that in a short story? Or how much space should be given to it?
anneliese: That's a hard question. The first one to ask...what were your intentions with the story? What did you plan to accomplish?
davek: To sell it.
emptykube: lOL...isn't that what we all want??
anneliese: Well, to sell a story, you need a strong, like-able, or otherwise identifyable character.
davek: Seriously, it is about man vs. computer.
anneliese: ...one in which the reader can identify, in some way.
anneliese: I think, then, if the computer were nastier, or something, we might empathize more with Jack.
emptykube: I didn't get a sense of it being man vs. computer. there isn';t enough detail to draw that conflict out.
Elizabeth: IMO, a strong character is even more important in a short story, since you have less time to grab the reader.
davek: Jack is supposed to be a computer expert that always ends up fighting the computers he is supposed to maintian.
Elizabeth: Or at the very least a strong conflict, one with high stakes.
davek: I was going for the conflict idea.
anneliese: But, while he is fighting the computer, it was the pilot's error that got him into the mess...make it more of computer problem?
Elizabeth: So why does he end up fighting the computers? Not enough technical expertise?
Elizabeth: Is there something wrong with how these machines are programmed, and only Jack knows enough about them to realize it?
davek: No, he is at the leading edge.
emptykube: At the very least Jack should have some sort of internal dialogue about man vs computer.
Elizabeth: Does he, deep down, not trust the computers? Not trust his own ability to work with them?
Elizabeth: Or is he just such an arrogant, argumentative sob that he even picks fights with computers?
davek: He trusts his ability. Not the computers. It is like he is always involved with the 0.5 release.
emptykube: I think I know a few of those, elizabeth!
Elizabeth: I didn't get any feel for Jack's personality, how he had gotten into this situation, even what he's thinking and feeling.
anneliese: Any of Elizabeth's notions would make Jack more 'real' or personable to us.
Elizabeth: That could be a strong motivator/key to Jack's personality, Dave. He's always the guy sent out there with the beta version.
davek: That brings up the "When to start a story" question. ANd how much backstory to put in.
Elizabeth: Does he take a macho pride in his work? Has he been railroaded into it, or bribed with the promise of a better job if he does this one last quick fix?
emptykube: Dave this is what I meant when I asked who is Jack? How does he tie his shoes? I didn't get a feel for him as a person. I couldn't relate to his plight except at a very basic "he will likely die" level. You need ot draw the reader into Jack's soul and let them see through his eyes/thoughts/feelings.
Elizabeth: Is he a malcontent who gets this stuff because nobody else wants it, and complains the whole way?
anneliese: Your starting point worked for me. Some back story to build the character and conflict better would have helped me.
Elizabeth: How does he react to the computer, once again, malfunctioning?
davek: He is one of the best, not vry agressive which is why he is a low ranked military . Because he is good he gets the tough assignments.
Elizabeth: Is he stoic, boastful, complaining about how he gets all the crap assignments?
anneliese: Does he want to add a few lines of code to the admin computers doling out the duty assignments?
davek: His reaction is - here we go again.
Elizabeth: Seeing his reaction to this latest snafu (or just seeing that he's used to things going very, very wrong) gives us more insight into his character.
emptykube: ???
Elizabeth: Ah. Here we go again. That sums up the problem for me, at least if you're going to keep this as a short story. It feels like an episode, not a story. The same thing happens to him every week and somehow he finagles his way out. But he isn't changed by what happens to him.
anneliese: 'Here we go again' is good. But how do you show us that?
davek: He is stoic, and easily bored so he likes the tough assignments.
davek: I write more stories???
Elizabeth: I'm about to get all writery on you...
anneliese: One thing that confused me...it seems that most of what they were doing should have been done before they left the ground. Why now?
davek: He is not nearly as much a smart a** as me.
anneliese: You???
emptykube: Each story should be able to stand on its own, Dave. Think about Niven's Beowolf Schafer stories. Each one allowed niven to adress a problem, but they also couldn't ahve worked without showing Schafer's unique personality
davek: It was done on the ground. This is just another check.
Elizabeth: In a short story there has to be a change in the main character. He has to reach some decision, some realization or action that makes him different at the end of the story than he was at the beginning. In this story Jack doesn't seem to change (or maybe you didn't show us how he changed).
anneliese: You should say that at the outset...checking *again*...helps to show character.
anneliese: Sorry, that was not meant to sound like a command, only a mild suggestion.
Elizabeth: And how he's checking will show his personality as well...perhaps he's looking for the details the rest of the crew missed, or paranoid about anything else going wrong, or a bored clipboard note-taker.
davek: I'll have to digest all this. What about my made up language and the count down at the end.
anneliese: I liked the way that you handled the count down.
davek: Thanks I needed that.
Elizabeth: Those details were good. I liked the count down too--a good way to show how Jack approaches the situation.
davek: So all I need is more character development. Maybe not all.
anneliese: We readers will enjoy the story more if there is a strong character to grasp and follow through his trials.
emptykube: sorry...escaped for a second to skim the ending again. I think the countdown and the language are fine. Focus on who these characters are.
anneliese: (any story, that is...this is my worst fault, too)
davek: I don't want to start on the ground before takeoff. Too early in my opinion.
emptykube: What is his relationship with the pilot? Do they fly together often? How well do they like each other? Do they joke? is there attraction? do they drop meaningless inuendos at each other?
davek: Flashbacks during the fall?
anneliese: Where you start it is good, IMO, last minute glitches before dropping the box.
anneliese: I'd do them sooner...keep the fall mostly brief and tense. Flashbacks there my distract from the momentum.
Elizabeth: The starting point is good. I'd personally like to see more of Jack's personality. What he's thinking, how he acts and reacts.
Elizabeth: <===agrees w/Anneliese about the flashbacks
davek: It is supposed to be a very military business like environment. Not much for chit chat. But I suppose they could.
emptykube: I don't know if its a question of flashbacks or not. Maybe just let Jack act like a real person...try to make the three people aboard the plane seem as real as possible.
Elizabeth: I liked how you set up the "drop" and Jack's opinion (or professional lack of opinion) about the guy they're about to drop.
anneliese: They don't have to talk, they can gesture, etc.
Elizabeth: That was a nice bit of characterization, IMO.
anneliese: Yea, the intended dropee was the most vivid of the three characters to me.
Elizabeth: brb...the dog's getting restless.
emptykube: agrees with elizabeth...more along those lines maybe?
anneliese: Some feelings about the pilot, would flesh out her character as well as give us insight into Jack.
davek: Did you expect the dropee to be the main character?
anneliese: Nope, not at all.
anneliese: Jack is the main character, and most appropriately so, IMO.
anneliese: Did I expect Jack to be dropped? Of course!
Elizabeth: bak
anneliese: That is one stupid design for a pod.
Elizabeth: lol! I wondered why Jack wasn't thinking the same thing!
davek: What is stupid?
anneliese: Which is something else Jack could be commenting on...having to get inside to fix the wiring...really!
Elizabeth: Or "where's the stupid backup system when I need it?"
System: emptykube joined us. Cheers!
Elizabeth: welcome back Mike!
anneliese: Hey Mike, you have a doppleganger!
davek: Well the outside is all radar absorbing material. You don't want to cut it.
emptykube:
Elizabeth: lol!
emptykube: just call me clutsy...I was multitasking and closed the wrong windows..
anneliese: Why wouldn't the access panels just be sealed with radar absorbing duct tape?
anneliese: That would be Jack's idea, anyway.
davek: But then you would have to test the joints to see if they good.
Elizabeth: I'd expect a piece of military hardware to have some redundant systems. Some way of completing the mission, or aborting it, if things went wrong.
anneliese: Keeps him from having to be in the space soon to be occupied by that fat stinking ex-dictator.
davek: I should add some thoughts as to the design of the box. BTW, is "box" OK?
Elizabeth: Not that Murphy's Law doesn't apply in these situations... Sticking out tongue
anneliese: Box is ok if it is used to show more of Jack's character...of course, it is really called a pod!
Elizabeth: "Box" is the kind of slang I'd expect a military guy to come up with. Look at the nicknames they've given aircraft. "Warthog", "BUFF"...
emptykube: "Box " is fine. I liked the punnish title...
davek: Maybe make a bigger dealabout the mods to the box. That is why Jack, the "expert" is there.
anneliese: Or has some military-sounding acronym.
davek: HOw about - Jack in the Box. ??
Elizabeth: Ah, yes, product enhancements. Sounds good to me.
Elizabeth: roflmao!
emptykube: If Jack is the expert...might he not have been in on the modifications, and therefore knew what to expect?
anneliese: (dog better not still be around)
Elizabeth: brb
davek: What is roflmao ?
emptykube: rolling on floor laughing my a-- off
davek: I had to ask what LOL was.
davek: SO you like Jack in the Box?
anneliese: Or is Jack around because he has a knack of getting faulty prototypes to work when the engineers can't?
davek: Yes, Anneliese got it. This is a bit like charades.
emptykube: also, if he is alyas having problems with faulty machines and knows the way these computers think, might he not have figured out a backdoor around their code and that's why is so useful??
emptykube: always not alyas
davek: I wrote this a few months back. Then I got the I,Robot book and realized that Jack is a bit like the two troubleshooters in those stories.
anneliese: Another thought re: forshadowing your ending...Jack's thoughts on the war???
emptykube: haven't read I Robot in centuries...
davek: Ut the engineers are always writing new code.
davek: Bones says that in the Star Trek movie.
emptykube: see this is why you need AI's...so humans cn't muck up decent code!
anneliese: lol
davek: We'll fix that in 0.6
Elizabeth: lol!
anneliese: Be careful here...both your hosts are programmers.
anneliese:
Elizabeth: Husband has returned from business trip and needs help unloading the car. Dave, I hope I've been of some help to you.
davek: I've done my share.
anneliese: Glad you could make it, Elizabeth.
davek: Yes, thanks for your input. Til next time.
anneliese: And, Dave, since you have another week, we can carry this discussion onto AOL next week.
Elizabeth: I don't have a problem with your line of thought. I've been fixing "it's not great and I didn't have time to document it, but it'll work for now" code for years now.
emptykube: ...well before I offend the hosts...I need to get going also..vacation ends tonight and its back to work tomorrow. need to get some rest so I can handle the heart crunching stress
Elizabeth: Good night all!
davek: Wow, after 9 MDT. TIme goes fast when your having fun. Hope you can stick around until I get this rewritten.
Elizabeth: get some sleep, Mike!
System: Elizabeth left us (snif).
anneliese: Yes, hope the stress won't be too bad for you, Mike.
davek: If some new people show up. I wouldn't want to bore you guys again.
anneliese: Bore us? How could you possibly do that?
davek: Bye Mike. Thanks again.
davek: I could write.
anneliese: Niters, Mike.