Sunday, November 6, 2011

Spookymilk Survivor X: Half the Conversation

Last any of us had heard, the Vogons were killin' it. I mean killin' it. Not to spoil everything, but that's still the case.

On the other hand, how did I do? The team still has my name weirdly attached to it, after all. I have to keep up the high standards associated with the "Nibbish and His Vogons" name. Read on for the answer.

This week's challenge was "Half the Conversation". Spooky provided us with half a conversation, and tasked us with filling in the holes (thereby providing the other half of the conversation). Here's what I came up with...

The phone rings at 5pm. It wasn’t supposed to ring until 7pm. There is no way that this call has any kind of good news. I pick up the phone.

Coleen’s voice comes to life on the other end of the line. “You missed a call.”
That doesn’t sound right at all. She knows I’d never ignore a call – not with the project nearing completion.

“Sorry about that. Bert must be furious. Should I stop by the office later to patch things up?”

“Yeah. There’s no reason not to.” comes the even-voiced reply.
Something’s up. Bert is an untrustworthy rat – one whom Coleen despises. Someone’s listening – someone that she’s afraid of. I need got to know what I’m dealing with.

“Did Charlotte ever pick up those test results yesterday?”

“No. She never did. Neither did I, for that matter.”
Shit. That means I have a stop to make en route to the safehouse. It also means that this is probably the last conversation Coleen and I will ever have, and I have to fill half of it with code words to try to shake down the poor woman for information.

“I’ll pick them up on the way to the office. By the way, are we still on for Sunday?”

“At the Fall Festival?”
Things get worse. Coleen’s doomed, and unless I get moving, I’m next. The line is tapped, and the spooks must be with her. No need to keep up appearances.

“Can you imagine if they’d gotten anything out of that poor bastard from the survey team?”

“Yeah, that would have been a disaster.”
It already is. There’s nothing left to do but say goodbye and make my preparations.

“Tell those bastards that we haven’t forgotten Franconia. No matter how many they brain-fry in those machines, it won’t stop us.”

“It wasn’t personal. They don’t see things the same way you do.”
That gets a bitter chuckle from me. Even in the face of the mind-raping she’s about to receive, she’s still got that glorious black sense of humor.

“I’m sorry for dragging you into this.”

“You’re not the only one.”

“You don’t blame me?

“Absolutely not.”

“It isn’t right, what’s about to happen to you.”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

“Same thing you’d do… I’m going to run. Goodbye, Coleen.”
With that, I hang up the phone and press the little black button underneath the second shelf in the kitchen twice. The next person through the front door gets immolated, and when the time is right, the rest of Coleen’s killers will wish they’d gotten off that easily.

Here's the judges' critiques:
K: Wow. This is a great dark tale, and it reads seamlessly, going from heavy narration to a quick back-and-forth and never losing steam. This was a lot of story in a small space, which is really all I ever ask. 5

DK: Nicely done. Great premise, lots of tension building up, and the conversation fits together well too. 4

The nice thing about working tons of overtime on overnight shift if that you get a lot of time to yourself to think (the down side, if you were wondering, is literally every other thing). When I first saw this challenge, it seemed intimidating, but because of my interesting work schedule, I had the time to come up with (and cruelly reject) well over a dozen different scenarios. Eventually, I decided to pay the story I had made for the create-a-challenge in season eight (the one with the three pictures that takes place in the dude's mind). The characters are all different, and only minor allusions exist (the original draft was a lot more explicit about the continuity, which I decided was stupid, since I wasn't exactly working with Star Wars canon, or anything. The protagonist alludes to "brain frying" machines, and "that poor bastard from the survey team" - not particularly direct (in fact, I'd be shocked if Spooky even realized it, since I wasn't really going for "sequel" so much as "basic story framework").

I sort of dislike writing in the present tense. It's hard to keep track of (I had to scan this one three times to make sure I didn't put any past tense narration. More importantly, it always feels put on and false when I write it. There were a couple of transitions that I initially felt didn't flow well with it, and I almost trashed the whole thing about halfway through. Eventually, I decided to just tough it out. I alternated wildly from "way too over-descriptive" (the first draft was 700 words) to "way too under-descriptive" (which resulted in a story about as bland as a story about kidnapping, mental torture, and murder could possibly be).

I wasn't sure how what I came up with would be received. I felt like I'd made something that at the very least wasn't embarrassing, but I was worried over whether or not the implied previous content locked people out of the story (and also whether or not I was being overly vague). I guess it worked, but I still feel like it could have flowed better.

In the end, the Vogons rolled to a third consecutive victorious week, and that's what matters.

On an only partially related note, I'd like to share my condolences with fellow contestant Jake Elliott, who lost his uncle in an accident over the week. Stay strong.

1 comment:

  1. We're killin' it only because of the inspiration provided by our fearless leader.