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PX Feedback: Sizemore's Sardonic Suite of Suicide

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  • PX Feedback: Sizemore's Sardonic Suite of Suicide

    In an attempt to move away from the proposed poll, I'd like to be one of the first contributors to actively seek feedback on my contribution. The goal here is to understand what readers got from it and to get honest and technical review of the pieces.

    Questions that I have of my own work are:

    How could they be improved? Grammatical errors? Spelling errors? Could they have been "denser"? What parts of each story were missing that you filled in and how did you fill them in? Did using a theme to bind them together work and was that "cheating"? Which piece(s) was(were) weakest and strongest? And most importantly, did the pieces actually "raise the bar" or challenge your conceptions of writing or art?

    I'm not looking for a lot of back slapping here, honestly. Let's show our fellow contributors and readers that there is a real interest in producing something superior by stripping this contribution to the bone so that I (we) can produce finer pieces as our writing careers progress. I want my readers to raise my bar, since I'm new to this.

    Thank you.
    The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

  • #2
    Re: PX Feedback: Sizemore's Sardonic Suite of Suicide

    Originally posted by Berry Sizemore
    ...I'd like to be the first contributor to actively seek feedback on my contribution.
    Well, Dee was actually [broken link]the first, and it seems to have gone well so far for him.

    I will be more than happy to spout my opinions on both pieces just as soon as I get a freaking chance to read them. Evidently the postal service here in the Pacific Northwest is not as expedient as other places in the country. I realize we are the furthest from the point of origin, but damn...

    I realize that it just seems like it's taking forever. That knowledge doesn't make the waiting suck any less.
    Last edited by Rothgo; 04-08-2010, 11:19 AM.
    "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
    --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

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    • #3
      Read as a group, I thought they were quite amusing. I don't think they should be separated from one another for that reason, the effect being cumulative.

      One of the problems with something like this I have is, what do you do for an encore performance? Finding another theme and doing a set of variations in a similar manner is one possibility. If you feel comfortable with that approach, it's probably worth a try.

      I'd like to see the story about Hell's Basement (I think it was) that you were contemplating in addition to another round of flash fiction. I understand it can be hard to find the time for such a sustained effort.

      LSN

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      • #4
        Actually, recent developments make that more likely than ever before. I have a couple of things I may find time for, once I've done with THE WAR AMONGST THE ANGELS. I believe for what I'm thinking of for "Toeffel's Kellar" may be just out of reach for me at this time. I felt what I started writing reflected that I needed, well, more reflection on the idea and I intende to return to it. The next piece I have begun to work on is entitled "Black Boxes" with a target of a 1000 word SOC. So, I've been considering the goal of the piece (without planning the content) and feel that I have a solid formula, but I'm waiting until I have a shot at enough time for the 1000 words. Each part of the SOC will be FF-like, thus I'm shooting for FF-within-SOCFF. I think I can pull it off and so I'm carefully analyzing my mood as it syncs up with my free time (a window of opportunity this is likely to sync up with greater frequency). I'm considering a Dent formatted serial, but I'm trying to concieve of a way to do it as far from genre as possible. "Black Luck", its title inspired by the pirate ship in Zakas's pirate triology "Silver Bones", has nothing to do with pirates, but with a geas, pilgrimage, steampunk and some cool twists and a couple of familiar themes taken from modern life. My primary goal at the moment is to devise and produce another suite that raises the bar over the current suite. That means I'll have to assign myself some challenges that take this art beyond the current accomplishment. Perhaps the challenges I select will inform me.

        I just called my wife who says the magazine hasn't arrived today. :-(
        The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Berry Sizemore
          . . .
          My primary goal at the moment is to devise and produce another suite that raises the bar over the current suite. That means I'll have to assign myself some challenges that take this art beyond the current accomplishment. Perhaps the challenges I select will inform me.
          You might want to increase the word limit very slightly in that case. 100 words can be awfully tight, if you try anything really elaborate. The original 100 word limit was more a device than the raison d'أ?tre for the works.

          The limit of one double-spaced page of text (~250 words) per story might be something you could try. If you keep it compressed as you did your earlier batch, you might put something fairly complex into the frame.

          Originally posted by Berry Sizemore

          I just called my wife who says the magazine hasn't arrived today. :-(
          I am perplexed about why it is taking so long to travel to the Seattle area. I got my copies a couple of days ago now. Very curious. I'm sure it'll get there eventually, but the waiting is difficult, I know.

          LSN

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          • #6
            Re: PX Feedback: Sizemore's Sardonic Suite of Suicide

            How could they be improved?
            Some of them I found to be more emotionally intense than others, but that may be just me. So IMHO the are uneven but some of them are perfect.
            Could they have been "denser"?
            I don't think so. Not without losing something, in style if not in meaning.
            Did using a theme to bind them together work and was that "cheating"?
            yes and no. If you make another series, you could try another way to link your stories. Maybe a place where they would all happen? Or a character? Or a stray cat? Tight PVC overalls? gggggaaaaaahhh... er, sorry. you see my drift.
            Which piece(s) was(were) weakest and strongest?
            My favourite is "the seamstress". Overall, I find those on the first page to appeal more to (my) emotions, while the others, though maybe more funny, are less my cup of tea. Probably just me, though. I like my dark humour very dark.
            And most importantly, did the pieces actually "raise the bar" or challenge your conceptions of writing or art?
            They show that you know how to tell a story, and do it with a distinctive style. A style that I, for one, find definitely to my taste.

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            • #7
              Re: PX Feedback: Sizemore's Sardonic Suite of Suicide

              Originally posted by mordenkainen
              Which piece(s) was(were) weakest and strongest?
              My favourite is "the seamstress". Overall, I find those on the first page to appeal more to (my) emotions, while the others, though maybe more funny, are less my cup of tea. Probably just me, though. I like my dark humour very dark.
              Since I don't know which pieces appear on which page, I don't know which four you are referring to. This points out something that was out of my control, as our editor could reorder those to his specification, an aspect of the suite I hadn't considered. A more technically functional suite would withstand a reordering, that is to say, their order shouldn't matter. I suspect that Perdix ordered those pieces as they were sent, and the last two pieces are the last I wrote and I suspect I was out of steam, so the humour became cheaper, less complex. I'm in total agreement with you mordenkainen.

              Why is "The Seamstress" your favorite? Does appealing to your emotions mean that the pieces lean toward sentimentalism or have I nailed something?

              Thanks for the feedback. I'm very pleased that you enjoyed them. Would you be surprised that I am sometimes unaware of my own dark humour?

              Cheers
              The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

              Comment


              • #8
                The pieces seem to me a species of the "tall tale." Fredric Brown did something similar in his book called Nightmares and Geezenstacks: tall tales, very compressed, told in less than a page. They seem best adapted to provoking humor or mild frisson of horror, although straight irony works sometimes. (Hemingway did something similar in the intra-story pieces in In Our Time.)

                The form is very hard to pull off. The biggest danger is a monotony of tone -- something that you managed to avoid pretty well.

                You might consider spinning some things like this out to 1000 - 2000 words, rather like Ambroise Bierce did in his tall-tales called "The Parricide Club." I'd particularly recommend "An Imperfect Conflagration" and "Oil of Dog."

                I recommend Bierce as possible inspiration because his approach an irony seem related to what you did. Are you sure you aren't descended from Bierce, somehow? :lol:

                LSN

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                • #9
                  My comments about tall-tales and Bierce are mostly, by the way, a suggestion for future directions. They don't really constitute much in the way of comment on your recent flash fiction sequence.

                  LSN

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                  • #10
                    Re: PX Feedback: Sizemore's Sardonic Suite of Suicide

                    Originally posted by Berry Sizemore
                    Why is "The Seamstress" your favorite? Does appealing to your emotions mean that the pieces lean toward sentimentalism or have I nailed something?
                    You managed to make me feel the atmosphere and the character's pain. It's more...real. By emotions I mean this empathy, which is inseparable from the aesthetic emotion I get from it. That is very subjective. Just means I find the stories poetic or meaningful. certainly not sentimental

                    Thanks for the feedback. I'm very pleased that you enjoyed them. Would you be surprised that I am sometimes unaware of my own dark humour?
                    You know, I find all sorts of things funny that others don't. Don't take my word for granted :lol:

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                    • #11
                      At the risk of adding nothing...

                      I read them as a word file and then in print. I find that the placement in "blocks" over two pages and the different fonts make them more effective as a suite.

                      One of the things I've always liked about effective series is the manner in which they find their own sense of cohesion, often in different ways with repeated readings. I found it differently with each reading of your suite.

                      And, of course, it is sardonic. :)

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                      • #12
                        I thought Berry's bite-size stories were quite good. He really packs a lot of content into 100 words. My favorite example is The Cadet, although The Restauranteur is the one I'm going to cite as an example here.

                        Upon my first read of The Restauranteur, this is what I got from it:

                        Woman pours her heart and soul into her one dream: to be a restaurant owner and feed people with her fabulous cooking. One lousy NYT critic slam-blasts her restaurant, killing her business and her dream. She kills herself with her own recipes, which have acquired some new "ingredients."

                        In chatting with Berry, I've come to learn that there was a bit more detail in there than I at first picked up on.

                        Berry, you wanna explain what I'm talking about?
                        "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                        --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Here is an email I sent Doc after I had finished the last piece:

                          Thanks for the kind words. I feel like I'm cheating with the flash-fiction. It feels like haiku. :-) So I really concentrated on density. And the suicide stuff has a definite begin, middle and, well, end. I cheated there by letting the reader infer the actual end (I award myself 1 density bonus point). I felt there was enough room to lead people down the path and then change the outcome unexpectedly (1 density point awarded there). Did I achieve this? Also, I wanted to do what Mike says works for comics. Something is happening in the first sentence (1 density bonus point),
                          *and there a woman with a purple chicken depicted best by Berry in a Microsoft computer lab (the why? factor: 1 bonus point). I eventually realized that a good story would have a little dialog. The Cadet and The Vet reflects my tendency to be pessimistic, and the pieces were of the quality I was trying to achieve that I decided to take a chance and put myself "out there".

                          Sizemore's Sardonic Suite of Suicide is a play on words, I'm sure you caught. But in case you hadn't, "Sardonic Suite" is gallows humor for sure. One might read it as "bitter sweet", and as we know real suicide isn't sweet for anyone. I deliberately avoided the terminal patient idea as to avoid offending people. I cannot oppose suicide, as I feel killing yourself is within your rights. I agree that killing yourself over stupid shit is a waste, so I tried to satirize suicide over trivial nonsense.

                          You guys get the Director's Cut. :-)

                          The Lover was the very first story that leapt to mind and took about 10 minutes to get right. I hope it's obvious that he gets nailed by the train he didn't know was coming.

                          The Seamstress draws on my recollections of the factories my father and I used to deliver uniforms to in the industrial area of Los Angeles. The strongest recollection at work there is the pounding of various machines. There is also an amalgam of the church women I have known. I also suggest that she was a craftsperson relegated to working in a textile factory cranking out clothes for the people that the clothing actually represent and how she lost her identity and became just like everyone else.

                          The Vet is actually influenced by a, and I'm sorry for this, hilarious mistake I read in the Darwin Awards. A guy electrified his fence to keep his neighbors out of his prize garden and while tending the garden weeks later, he lost his balance and reached to the fence instinctively to balance himself.

                          The Cadet is based on a true experience. A police cadet in one of the churches in our association left his gun unsecured with bullets in. The cadet's brother blew himself away in front of a couple of his playmates. I didn't like the cadet very much as I'd had trouble with he and his brother at a church camp one summer. I remember as a child being gratified at the event. As an adult, I find it to be a powerful memory and it signals great caution and of course some sadness. It's one of the main factors for me not owning a weapon.

                          The Signalman is me. I was a radio guy in the Army stationed in a radio complex near Ansbach Germany. We worked on a hill where there was a concentration of radio antennae. German radio and television, German and Allied military and other antennae were at the top of the hill and Tank Killers used the hill as a turning point for maneuvers. Another strong memory for me. We used to climb our red and white tower at times to smoke some hash. Climbing down stoned was a challenge for a paranoid mind. I would be absorbed by the motion of the tower swaying and the whistling and vibrating of the guy wires. I've been in the tower one time during a wind storm at night. At that time I was love sick.

                          The Restaurateur is filled with the facts of my recent house. We had huckleberry bushes everywhere. The neighbor on the other side of the fence housed roosters that would competitively crow all morning long and that made our mornings hell because of the new baby and lack of sleep. We toyed with the idea of poisoning the birds, but I was afraid that the chickens would lay poisonous eggs before they died. I couldn't have gone through with it anyway. It was a pest-kill fantasy. I also wanted to do a Drano suicide (I don't know why) and so I conducted some research. As it happens, only about 40% of Drano suicides succeed. You have a tendency to live in misery for months before secondary infections take you down. Thus the double poisoning of the cook drinking Drano and the Rid-A-Bird (fed to her chickens by her neighbor), which would give the birds enough time to lay eggs. The critic hated the crepes because of the Rid-A-Bird, which wasn't strong enough to kill him.

                          The Imperialist is a cheap one for sure. You have to suspend your belief on that one with some effort. I'm trying to be a little funny there and my creativity was waning.

                          The Linux Guy is a nod to all the regulars at the site who will appreciate so many pieces they recognize. Again, trying to be funny.

                          *I have no friggin clue what I was talking about here.
                          The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

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                          • #14
                            Do the back stories affect your perception of the pieces?
                            The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by PsychicWarVeteran
                              In chatting with Berry, I've come to learn that there was a bit more detail in there than I at first picked up on.

                              Berry, you wanna explain what I'm talking about?
                              Originally posted by Berry Sizemore
                              ...the Rid-A-Bird (fed to her chickens by her neighbor), which would give the birds enough time to lay eggs. The critic hated the crepes because of the Rid-A-Bird, which wasn't strong enough to kill him.
                              Yeah, that's what I was talking about. Knowing this aspect definitely gave the story more depth for me.

                              That said, I don't think it loses anything without the background info, really. It's different, but not lessened as far as I'm concerned.
                              "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                              --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

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