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Michael J. Riser's picture

The Pursuit of Love and Labor

By Michael J. Riser in Scare Us

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.

Description

Horror, 2,145 words -

I adapted the monstrous concepts in the story from a novel I wrote 3/4 of before abandoning several years ago. I wrote, pared down, and edited this in about 4 hours, so it was a bit of a quick deal, but I hope that some of the underlying themes will jump out at people.

Any feedback at all is helpful, though as with most of my horror stuff, my main question is always: was this just a gruesome tale, or did you carry something else away with you?

Thanks for reading!

Comments

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 5, 2012 - 2:24pm

What a vision of Hell! It's very evocative and compelling. I gave up trying to make logical sense out if it and just began taking it on its own surrealistic terms.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 5, 2012 - 5:30pm

Thank you! I appreciate the compliments and comments.

Andrew Kelly's picture
Andrew Kelly from Florida is reading Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton July 5, 2012 - 10:20pm

What Jane said. Other than that, nearing the end, I was getting concerned that this may be a zombie story.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 6, 2012 - 12:40am

Yeah, I realized after submitting that I didn't really detail things so much despite the original idea being pretty fleshed out, but I hoped that the fact that this guy is clearly capable of thought (and the suggestion that he's being manipulated and used for spare parts) negated that.

Thanks much for reading!

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 7, 2012 - 6:45am

Michael,

Like others have said, I had a bit of a hard time knowing what exactly was going on, but damn if your writing wasn't good enough to keep me interested all the way through. Some of the description is really tremendous-I especially liked the description of the lips early on.


What really ties the story together though is the narrator's tone of voice. You manage to capture his confusion and the repetition of trying to remember his name without it ever becoming boring-I also liked the different things that remind him of his name.

I can sort of see a bit of world building right at the edge of the story, and if you haven't done so, I urge you to go back and take another stab at the novel-or at the very least turn this into a longer piece of work that tells us more about what happened/where he Jason is at.

No LBL, as I honestly wasn't able to find much that I would have changed structure or writing wise.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 7, 2012 - 8:17am

Thanks man, I appreciate the feedback.

The novel had extensive world-building, but Jason here wasn't the main character. His monster design was part of the world, the novel being sort of religious urban horror/sci-fi, and I think I've really moved away from wanting to write that stuff so much... though I might consider going back to it at some point under a pseudonym, if I could standing rewriting from the ground up.

I did want to capture the character's confusion here, though I may have done that a little too much. This is also a little bit metaphorical, but I buried that pretty heavily, too. Another draft I might try to show Jason's mind and the underlying themes a little more clearly.

Thanks again for reading!

CatTrip's picture
CatTrip from Australia is reading nothing July 8, 2012 - 2:49am

New here; a writer friend introduced me. I too liked this. I definately got his confusion and as the other's did, I liked the way he tried to remember his name. I think you did bury some aspects too deeply, for instance that he is being used for spare parts. I actually thought the other way around.

However, I enjoyed the reading. Thank you for posting.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 8, 2012 - 8:31am

Yeah, I think this will need another go or two with some of those things in mind. Thanks much for taking the time to read, and welcome to LR!

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff July 8, 2012 - 4:37am

Hi Michael,

the parallel you set between dead meat and a dead relationship is clear. It's also well described. Desolation shows off like a painting and you can definitely use words beautifully.

Most of my observations in the LBL are about authority, I guess. LOL.
Some of your images lack strength because they are not latched with cause and effect, or with the physicality of the plot. It is not too bad in this story, cause the setting is rather dreamy in any case, but your prose can be stronger, and really shine, if you work on these details.

The theme of merchandised sexuality is constant along the narration, and this is excellent. You illustrate effectively what's going on inside the mind of the protagonist through images of falling dildos and gushing flesh. Also Big Voice and Little Voice alternate well.

Please take my comments with a grain of salt. Like our Defender Utah says: "Due to the cataclysmic case of the feelings that seems to live within the workshop lately:  my critique is my opinion."

And our opinion is not only correct, but revealed by beardy God through Our Keyboards.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 8, 2012 - 8:35am

Thanks much for reading, flaminia, and that was an awesome LBL. So double thanks! A number of those things I'd already realized upon my last read, but you also caught me on a bunch of stuff that slipped through the cracks. Super helpful. So thank you again for taking the time to read and critique, it's much appreciated!

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff July 8, 2012 - 5:10pm

Glad you find it helpful. I think there's at least as much potential for improving technique when giving feedback as there is when receiving it. Too bad I ain't got much time lately, or I'd be workshopping my ass off. I just love the exchange.

Good luck!

SoulBoulder's picture
SoulBoulder from Chicago is reading The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotions July 9, 2012 - 3:45pm

Im sorry but this wasn't working for me. I had no idea what was going on. It's a compelling stream of consciousness with evocative thoughts, but I think this story is too buried. And it switches from first to second person so often it left the narration just as confusing. There are connections, but I felt like trying to connect them diminished all the horror that your writing style potentially has. Maybe glue some of the cracks a little tighter to give the reader at least some concrete to stand on.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 9, 2012 - 4:28pm

Fair points. The nature of the tale makes it impossible to leave everything up front, but I do think, as you say, there are a number of cracks that can be glued to provide some firmer ground. Thanks for reading!

Dr. Guillotine's picture
Dr. Guillotine from Phoenix, AZ is reading Kurt Vonnegut Slaughter House-Five July 10, 2012 - 8:48am

This was a cool horror story.  The hopeless setting, the maimed characters and the sex motif really pushed a dark atmosphere.  Very cool stuff.

I liked the structure and how it was written but I think the plot takes a little while to get going.

There's more detail in the line by line, so if you have any questions, let me know.

Thanks for letting me read your work.

 

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 10, 2012 - 9:53am

Awesome LBL, thanks very much. You certainly made some good points, and seeing so deeply how you read the story and which parts you liked, what you wanted more of was illuminating. So thanks! I'll definitely reciprocate with a review of your workshop piece as soon as I can. Working on kind of a crappy schedule here, but hopefully I'll manage to do that tonight.

Thanks again mate, very helpful stuff.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 2, 2012 - 12:06am

Thematically speaking... This is the most challenging submission I've read. What choices do we make to survive? What does it mean to survive? What are the repercussions of those choices? What if you choose one thing (body parts) and end up losing something else entirely? Technology, fear of death, haves versus have-nots, and on and on and on... Then take all of that and marry it with love. The need for love. The interplay between physical attraction and love. The frustrating reality that one usually begets the other. The desperation, and the behavior resulting from that desperation, that comes from a lack of love. I realize I may be reading a lot into your story, but I legitimately see all of this here even if implicit. Good grief, man. Tons of great stuff here.

I also loved your setting and the way you handled it. Based on the other comments, I think I'm in the minority, but I believe a reader could make any number of arguments about where and when this is set. Is it hell? Is it some dystopian future? Is it all a metaphor? Is it a combination of the three? Doesn't matter. Still works. Wonderful job.

And then there's the imagery. Violent, disgusting, bleak, visceral, and sad. Also well done.

A lot of the criticism I would give has already been provided so I'll leave most of that alone. I will confess that I did have to stop in the middle of reading and jump back to earlier scenes to make things fall into place. Again, that's been addressed above. No need to rehash it.

I'm sad to read you've abandoned this genre. You do really well with it. I just wish you'd cranked out another eighteen-hundred words. I suspect I would have enjoyed every one of them.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne August 2, 2012 - 12:47am

Thanks so much, I appreciate your comments a lot. A lot of those elements were things I was trying to include in one way or another, though it certainly ended up going off on its own tangents and was a bit of a jumble. I was actually just sitting here considering grabbing all the feedback and going over it again despite having a billion other things to work on, thinking about a rewrite, but then I realized it's nearly 3 in the morning. Not quite sure how that happened. I'd probably do better to wait until tomorrow...

But really, thank you, your positive comments mean a lot. This one does have its issues, but I do hope I can tighten it up and fix a few of them.