Critique Request: Stuck Station

Hey folks!


I wanted to ask if any of you would give me your thoughts on my story at www.stuckstation.com.


If you could send me your comments in an email ([email protected]) that'd be great, but if you don't want to email me and want to put criticism in this forum post that's good too.


I have thick skin, so don't pull any punches.


However, I do ask that any criticism be constructive rather than "This chapter sucks" :-P


Thanks in advance.


John


I'm going to make an effort to go through a bunch of it and give some meaningful feedback, but I can't say when I'll be able to get around to it.


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Thanks man. That means a lot :)


I don't know if I'm going to be able to come up with enough time to really read through everything to get a solid feel for it, but here are a few basic impressions:


There seem to be some really interesting ideas and imaginative concepts in the story, and the setting is intriguing. The writing itself, though, can be kind of hard to follow. The sentences and paragraphs tend to be really choppy. When there's only one or two sentences per paragraph, it's hard to develop flow, as a reader, I think.


In my opinion, you'd be well served by filling in more details as you write. There's a lot of, "X happened, then Y happened, and Z said J to K, so K went to P, where he Qed." That kind of writing is hard to connect to. The classic "Show, don't tell" advice applies here, I think.


I'm sorry I can't be more specific than that... Too many things vying for my attention!


I'm going to disagree with Tim... though I do think the reasons he lists are legitimately barriers to his enjoyment of the work, I think the kind of humor John's writing might just not be his bag. As a representation of that sub-genre, though, I think it's (mostly) brilliantly executed.


Writing humor is a different beast from writing serious fiction. The rhythm is different and the tools you use are different. When writing humor, exposition -- that is, telling rather than showing -- is a lot more important, because humor lives or dies by how quickly and efficiently you can set up and deliver the joke. The longer you delay a punchline the bigger a payoff the reader expects to get from it, and it can reach a point where the expectation has grown too large for the author to meet.


If you look at the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (a book that is definitely an influence of Stuck Station) you'll find that a large number of the jokes are in the exposition, when the narrator (or the Guide) is telling you a bunch of facts about the universe, only doing it in a way that makes you laugh instead of glaze over. But it's still telling you, and it does that because the reader needs to know the setup quickly and efficiently, and the payoff is the joke.


Stuck Station does that. If John were writing a serious story -- say a horror, where a small group is trapped in an extradimensional prison with an unimaginably powerful and malevolent force -- then his goal would be to suck the readers into the paranoia and fear of the characters, and in that case, you want more "showing."


But humor often requires a little distance between the reader and the subject. Stuck Station opens with a simple explanation that an all-devouring intelligence was planning to murder one of the other station inhabitants by, essentially, cheating at cards. That's the "an alien, a robot and a hyperdimensional intellect walk into a bar" setup, and the rhythm of the story is established from there out.


I reckon that probably doesn't appeal to everyone, but it worked in spades for me.