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Thread: The Magic Story Pill

  1. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by danialworks View Post
    Theme:

    A violent and borderline paranoid crew of a human starship learns how to sacrifice for another species in greater need.



    Story:

    Orbiting an ice planet, the crew of the Earth ship Steelheart jealousy and violently defends the single island chain of pure water against all other ships in need... until a broken down, barely spaceworthy vessel of alien refugees needing water not for stockpiles but because they are dying of thirst touches the hearts of the majority of the crew.
    Danial, your theme is more like a log line, and needs to be something like the one spoken by Spock in one of the later films, and reversed in the recent on. In the older one, it was something like, "The need of the many outweighs the need of the few." I forget the reverse of this used for the recent movie (which I REALLY liked), but you get the idea, I hope.

    Now, to the "moral" parts of your theme. The Earthlings are "jealously and violently" defending the water....so, based on your description, they're not really "sacrificing" anything by giving water to folks who really need it.

    I think you need to rethink the quality of your point and counter-point.

    --Lee



  2. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by danialworks View Post
    I am so tempted to say there's no place like home.

    Little Billy learns that a cute little girl can be the most mind boggling adventure of them all.
    Again, I think this is more of a story log line, rather than a theme.

    And the end doesn't really support this theme...or define it.

    Had I ended the story at the point where the girl walked away, maybe it might have been, "No matter how many things you overcome, there will be something that beats you." (Notice the theme that isn't story specific and more "declarative statement" specific.)

    Now, here's now this, stopped shorter, is different from what you had: it implies success on success on success...then failure. It reflects the actual story.

    But, since I didn't cut the end short, even this theme doesn't quite capture the paragraph.

    I look forward to more thoughts from others.

    --Lee



  3. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    Well, to quote yourself regarding Oz, I'd say, "You won't miss home till after you leave it."
    I think my previous post shows why this doesn't work.

    Remember, Little Billy is having a great time conquering all kinds of foes, before he meets his Waterloo and runs home to hide.

    It's not quite The Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy wondering what happened to Uncle Henry and Auntie Em.

    Here's the thing about short-writing: every word and nuance counts.

    Master this, and you can do practically anything.

    --Lee



  4. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    When Thompson's arm is accidentally caught inside a radioactive printing press machine, maiming is badly, he gains the bizarre superpower to make people believe anything he writes. He gets a job at a premier newspaper, and becomes one of the most well-read and respected journalists in history. But when a rival news agency learns he's been fabricating his sensational stories, and present their evidence to the masses, Thompson's career as a journalist is ruined. Thompson is immediately hired as a public relations coordinator for Big Oil, where he ghost writes press releases that are regurgitated across the mass media.

    Theme: There's always work for a good crook.
    Rain's grade:

    PASS, even though there could be some tweaking.

    It could be something like, "One man's crook is another man's hero."

    But yours works.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    Wasn't happy with my first, so here's attempt No. 2. (With all due respect to Robert E. Howard.)

    Theme: Civilization is often un-civil.

    An unsophisticated barbarian of the wilderness wanders into a bustling city, and immediately begins stealing valuables from the homes of prominent citizens. A fellow thief alerts him to a priceless jewel within the King's supposedly impenetrable castle, with the barbarian making short work of obtaining the prize. Only later does the barbarian learn the other "thief" was a member of the King's court in disguise, seeking to usurp the throne. With the "Jewel of Power" missing, local legend dictates the king is unfit to rule, and must be removed. The barbarian leaves the city behind; a thief dismayed by the deceitfulness of city life and their politicians.
    Rain's second grade:

    PASS, though I think you could broaden this theme to be more appealing.

    For example: Civilized people are the most bloodthirsty.

    Or: The veneer of civilization masks the greater cruelties.

    Or: The most civilized are the most cruel.

    I show these possible alternatives so folks can look at how simple changes may impact the focus of the story...because the story NEEDS TO WORK WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE THEME; it needs to PROVE THE THEME TO BE TRUE.

    The evolving story may also require an evolving theme.

    Just don't lose focus on one or the other.

    Nice work, Rain.

    Two in a row; you get two GOLD STARS.

    --Lee



  5. danialworks Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Danial, your theme is more like a log line, and needs to be something like the one spoken by Spock in one of the later films, and reversed in the recent one. In the older one, it was something like, "The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few." I forget the reverse of this used for the recent movie (which I REALLY liked), but you get the idea, I hope.

    Now, to the "moral" parts of your theme. The Earthlings are "jealously and violently" defending the water....so, based on your description, they're not really "sacrificing" anything by giving water to folks who really need it.

    I think you need to rethink the quality of your point and counter-point.

    --Lee
    There's something entirely subjective about this assignment. No two editors or writers are generally going to agree on the same theme... let alone the readers. So don't we have to be able to do more than just tell someone the theme... don't we have to be able to sell it? No offense to Rain, but subjectively, would his radioatively charged reporter EVER think of himself as a crook?

    (In Star Trek II, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one. But in Star Trek III, the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many. I don't remember the 2009 version of the quote off the top of my head, either.)

    Humans, though, most often choose the needs of the few over the needs of the many. Or the one.

    If you had control of the water planet, you'd tell yourself any water you give up is a sacrifice. That's subjective. Objectively, you'd share, even give the most unfortunate the most water. If this were STAR TREK, you'd be guarding the planet so EVERYONE can have their share of the water. I didn't say this was Star Trek.

    If these are good people, who have simply lived in a too-rough universe for a little too long, maybe it's not a sacrifice. Maybe their hearts just grow ten times that day. I didn't say these were good people.

    Ah well. I think I may have gone too dark on you again, Lee, and this time unexpectedly without the happy place sneaking in somewhere.

    As for the assignment... let's try a similar line.

    Story:

    Albert Stover is the stingiest, most hated food critic in New York. He needs the whole restraunt all to himself or you won't get a 5 star review. But walking home one night, bundles of doggy bags held lovingly in his arms, he encounters street urchin Molly, thinner than a pencil, and paler than a ghost. Molly crawls into a dingy stairwell to sleep, turns over, and is surprised to find some of the food has been left just for her.


    theme:

    Anyone can feel moved to share.

    And it works for the spaceship story, too.

    Ah well. At least the log lines were good.



  6. harryd Guest

    Theme: You can't judge a book by its cover.

    A priest is amazed when he finds what appears to be an unconscious angel on his doorstep. When his parishioners discover the creature, they are all anxious to please it. While the priest is initially happy at the increased attendance at his church, he soon becomes concerned when it appears that the creature is taking advantage of the townsfolk. When he confronts the being, it reveals that it is indeed taking advantage of the people, using their beliefs for personal gain, threatening to decry him as a disbeliever if he tries to cause trouble, but offering to cut him in if he plays along.

    I was initially thinking of just summarizing The Truman Show under the theme: No matter how gilded the cage, the heart yearns to be free. But, instead I decided to try to do something a little more original.



  7. Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Think less, write more, at least about your paragraph.

    Again, this isn't supposed to be a "good" story; it just needs to have a beginning, middle, and end...that pays off on the set-up.

    For example:

    Little Billy rushes out of his boring old house in search of summer adventure, and at first, his encounters with men from the future, genetic monsters, and aliens is kind of fun, and he manages to successfully defeat all of them through sheer determination and boundless energy, until he runs into Little Lily, the cutest seven-year old on the planet, and suddenly his brain turns to mush, he can barely move or speak, until she takes pity on him and leaves. Feeling lucky to have survived the encounter, Little Billy rushes home to his safe, boring house, and he never plans to come out again, at least not till tomorrow.

    Okay, that was written on the fly...without a lot of thought, except to have Little Billy search for adventure, find it and succeed in his efforts against a series of antagonists...until he meets the one creature he's powerless against, a cute little girl, and at this point, it's too much adventure for him, so he retreats to the one place he knows he's safe: his boring old home.

    What's the theme to this story?

    --Lee
    Facing imagined horrors is easier than facing real emotion.

    Am I in the ball-park?
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  8. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by danialworks View Post
    There's something entirely subjective about this assignment. No two editors or writers are generally going to agree on the same theme... let alone the readers.
    It's all subjective, Danial, especially in the arts.

    Any creative writing class is subjective, but I feel I go to extra lengths to explain my assessment, which you and others are free to disagree with...as far as it relates to the assignment.

    Personally, I don't care about Rain's story or yours or mine.

    I don't care about the radioactive journalist, except that it created some reason (good or bad) for how the journalist was able to do what he was able to do.

    In fact, if this were a story logic discussion, I'd question whether he even needed a power, and that it might be better if he didn't...

    ...but that wasn't the assignment, and I practically begged people to abandon quality of story for fidelity to the assignment.

    Rain did that, and so did you. You both jumped right in, and it wouldn't be fair for me to turn around and criticize the quality of the idea when it wasn't at issue.

    The only thing at issue is whether or not folks can write a theme and a story paragraph that proves that theme.

    In Rain's case, I did look at each aspect of the theme and paragraph to see if the story proved the theme.

    --Lee



  9. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by SebastianPiccione View Post
    Facing imagined horrors is easier than facing real emotion.

    Am I in the ball-park?
    Nope. The horrors in my story were real, not imagined.

    Had this been Calvin in Spaceman Spiff mode, I'd have noted that.

    Keep trying, folks.

    --Lee



  10. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by danialworks View Post
    If you had control of the water planet, you'd tell yourself any water you give up is a sacrifice. That's subjective. Objectively, you'd share, even give the most unfortunate the most water.
    Maybe to you, but not to me, the reader.

    This isn't about you being right in your head; it's about you making your moral argument/theme absolutely crystal clear to me (us).

    With less words, the ones you use need to do the job, and I don't believe you set up the "sacrificial" aspects in your paragraph.

    Subjective?

    Sure.

    But do I believe that Scrooge McDuck for instance, is REALLY sacrificing by giving a nickel to the poor?

    Only in HIS own mind, not ours, and that difference of points wasn't made.

    I'm just saying (writing, actually) that we all need to be careful about the scenarios we craft and present.

    Poor or weak word choices affect how our work is perceived, and I feel you had a huge disconnect between what you described in your paragraph and your use of the term "sacrifice" in your theme.

    If others want to offer opinions about whether they think the Earthlings ARE sacrificing, as it's currently written, please join in.

    Thanks.

    --Lee



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