A Person Who Made Me Happy
Adrian Thompson is, in my estimation, the best writer in our fiction class, coming in two slots above me. I was disappointed by his absence on the day that my first story was workshopped, but he sent me a message via Canvas, the website that USU uses for various stuff. Because I had not been in school for a year and a half prior to this semester, I forgot all about checking for Canvas messages and didn't notice it until about a week ago. I want to reproduce his message in its entirety here because it made me smile so hard.
"Hello Chris, since I sadly could not make it to class today I am sending my comments on your story over this email. Hopefully they will assist you with revision.
What works well:
--I honestly love this story. The first sentence is masterful in my opinion, perfectly setting up the amazing setting and interesting characters. The allusions to space-related things throughout (the Jetsons, Ernie's moon song) are just amazing and work really well to create a specific tone and mood for the surface of the moon itself.
--Jane and Chantelle's characters are examined well through what they enjoy (for Chantelle, pointing out Jane's abnormalities and for Jane, "living the experience," and we get some great interiority from Jane through all her instances similar to "but she saw no reason to tell her" or "she couldn't care less." The image of Chantelle's bright green eyes hidden behind blood-red bangs is just phenomenal. Figurative language works very well when it occurs, especially when it connects us to character, such as the "dead human skull Jane had seen once" and her beautiful meta-descriptions of earth.
--By far the strongest aspect of the story, however, is the dialogue and interaction between the characters. Every single line from each of them chastising the other is just drop-dead funny, and their familiar relationship of bully and victim is made fresh and new through the specific, unique things they say to one another. The LEVELS which each go to to in terms of criticism are just astounding, from inventing "lunar wolves" to snapping directly back at every chastisement each offers the other with a perfect response. And, oh my God, the PUNS--even down to the friggin title! So awesome. Their extended interaction is honestly so interesting that it carries the whole story by itself.
What needs improvement:
--I didn't get that they were on the moon, and not an alien planet, until page four. Mention it immediately to help the audience withhold one specific image of the setting throughout.
--In terms of worldbuilding, some things you use are working very well, like subtle mentions of slang like "stragging," "Philistines," and "space spit," all of which I just adore, and the fact that some channels on the moon's radio waves play music. Other mentions of things such as Jane's birth on Mars or descriptions of the system-wide space travel program that got them out there in the first place, however, work less well since they are mentioned briefly and without connection to the plot. Other descriptive phrases feel much too, er, "on the nose" and expected in terms of the genre, such as "the last person in the galaxy" or "like a disabled ship in a meteor storm." Just watch for moments like these which feel too basic, like something the reader him/herself would think to use given the setting, and focus on your interesting invented phrases and obscure, quirky references.
--Even though the character interaction is strong enough to carry the story in general, I do think that the narrative should be more condensed in terms of plot. While each conversation is golden in its own right, you should probably pick out the best ones and move quicker so that you have room to elaborate on other areas--such as a more lengthy description of the tussle that rips Chantelle's suit. Interaction w/ teachers and the other bullies at the end also felt sudden since we had not seen them before, so maybe switch back and forth from the main action to flashbacks that reveal Jane's relationship with all of them at the start of the trip to better establish tension throughout.
--I find it interesting that BOTH girls are unlikable/not entirely innocent in different ways, instead of just acting as an evil bully and innocent victim, but in Jane's case--as the main character--I think these aspects of her could see further exploration. She seems to feel NO guilt whatsoever to BREAKING Chantelle's space suit, but why? Would it serve the story better for her to find that she does, even though Chantelle remains so cruel to her? Take things a step farther based on what the audience knows about them by the end to expand upon each of their characters.
--The ending is great in terms of subverting expectations at first (I LOVE the fact that Jane makes a bomb instead of just giving her oxygen to Chantelle, as one may expect, but Chantelle's later reaction feels a bit wanting. For Jane to save her life and Chantelle to do NOTHING to change her attitude towards her felt jarring--she doesn't need to run over and hug her as her new best friend, but even a small mention to her cronies of "hey, maybe lets let her off the hook for today" or something like that would work great. Jane ends her character arc in a good place regardless, but for Chantelle to do NOTHING felt disappointing, as if the whole plot of the story did not accomplish anything between them.
--The mention of the nanobots feels somewhat like a cop-out--as if the characters were never in any real danger if recuperation occurs so quickly and painlessly.
Like I said, Christopher, AMAZING story, and I am truly saddened by the fact I could not take part in the discussion of the first sci-fi story I've seen in Charles' class during the past three years.
"A space hero. Like a regular hero, but in space."
A Person Who Did Not Make Me Happy
Returning home with a bag of laundry last Saturday, I was walking by the church on the boulevard when a vehicle pulled up near me and the passenger tossed a burning cigarette butt at my feet. I stood behind the vehicle and positioned my phone to take a picture of the license plate, but before I could, both of the guys inside got out. One stayed in the shadows while the other walked over to me. He had a shaved head, a tank top, and tattoos all down his muscular arms - in other words, he was yet another example of the fact that most stereotypes exist because they're true. "You got a problem?" he sputtered. "You got something to say?" He threw in a few swear words. I guess I was supposed to be intimidated. But I'm never afraid to die, and this night I was in such a dark place that my normal aversion to most physical pain was gone and I didn't care if he broke all my limbs. I had just spent stake conference hiding from my ex-crush, but this jackass with the maturity of a twelve year old did not instill me with one iota of fear.
"You dropped something," I said, pointing at it. I resumed taking the picture. Realizing that he had failed to intimidate me, he swore a few more times and went back to his buddy. I sent the picture to the police, and I don't know if they can actually do anything about it but it gave me a certain satisfaction.
I deeply regret that I didn't just pick the thing up and toss it back in at them. Dear smokers: if you want to poison yourself, that's fine with me, Darwin approves, but keep it away from me and dispose of your cigarette butts like an adult.
We had Star Wars day recently. Bracelets referred to it as "such a revered reminder of our fandom" and that was when I knew her conversion was complete. I'm so proud of her. Anyway, this John Williams masterpiece that in 1997 replaced the cute but lackluster "Yub Nub" pretty well encapsulates how I feel about this hellish semester being over, not counting the first 37 seconds because there is absolutely nothing bittersweet about it.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.