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Phillip McCollum's picture

Higher Minds

By Phillip McCollum in Teleport 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

Brady is a 14-year old girl whose life is about to change. A bright kid with an artistic flair, she's been chosen for admission into Higher Minds, a prestigious government program that handpicks the world's most promising young thinkers. Brady's apprehensive about losing the freedom to determine her own future, but should that be her greatest concern?

Comments

reverend's picture
reverend February 25, 2013 - 2:43pm

Wow. Awesome. Fun to read! I would love to see more of this society of "depressed & angry artists".

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks February 25, 2013 - 8:53pm

Thanks reverend! Really appreciate the review and most especially the sequel idea. :)

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 26, 2013 - 12:42pm

Interesting idea, sort of Ender's Game meets The Giver.

A few notes:

Show, don't tell. "Brady stifled a chuckle as her mother tried to hold her composure" is telling us that the mother tried to hold her composure. You could show it by saying, "as her mother squirmed in discomfort" or "as her mother's face flushed." It makes for more interesting reading. There are several areas where you could definitely spice things up by not telling us backstory, but rather introducing the ideas more organically through implication and dialogue.

I felt the opening was a little slow, mainly related to the amount of backstory you tried to convey at the beginning. You can trust your reader to fill in some of the blanks. IE, I personally couldn't care less about the government's odd desire to regulate volume controls, and I'd rather get into the action than have you try to slam in the idea of government dystopia so early on. I'll figure it out, especially by the end.

Just an FYI: Left-brained people are theorized to be more logical, right-brained more artistic.

This is all technical stuff, though. The story overall was interesting, as was the setting. My overall suggestion would be to take all the space you used to tell us about the environment, and actually bring Brady through the environnment. Let us see it for ourselves.

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks February 26, 2013 - 8:11pm

Hi Nathan,

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my story and provide such a thorough critique. I'm constantly working on the 'show vs. tell' thing, so I appreciate you pointing out areas where I could apply it better.

Good catch on the left-brain vs. right-brain. Can't believe I botched that part! I'll update the story.

Thanks again,

Phillip

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 27, 2013 - 5:55pm

No problem. It took me until a couple of weeks ago to really nail down what "show, don't tell" actually means, but once I did, it improved my work by magnitudes.

I agree with the reverand, by the way, that this seems like a nice set-up for a longer story. A first chapter, really.

Just a thought.

Steve Smy's picture
Steve Smy from Ipswich, England February 28, 2013 - 7:26am

I apologise for the delay in reading this, Phillip.

What can I say?  You succeed in every respect, as far as I'm concerned.  Your characters make an instant impact, when necessary, and the story trips along at just the right pace.  There is no doubting that the story is complete , but it also leaves the reader wanting more!  The story itself is, sadly, not entirely unbelievable - quite the opposite.  It's all too easy to accept the idea. ANd a nice twist at the end!

Thanks for sharing such an excellent piece.

 

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks February 28, 2013 - 7:39am

Thank you for reading and commenting Steve! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 9, 2013 - 5:31pm

Very nicely done!  No grammar issues, spelling issues, or formatting issues that I could spot.  I'm sure if I went through the document with a find tooth comb I could find something, only because there's always something that could be fixed.

I can honestly say that this story was a joy to read.  The flow of the story pulled me in immediately and had me submerged in your world from the start.  I especially liked the analysis with Doctor.  He reminds me of Analyst from my own story.  Your ending turned out amazing as well.  I couldn't help but think what a waste it was to lock her up like that.  Then again, they didn't "eliminate" her or the others.

Excellent work!

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks March 10, 2013 - 7:12am

Thanks for the kind words Arlane! Yes, the story definitely seems ripe for continuation as others have mentioned. :)

Heading over to read Implant right now!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 10, 2013 - 5:07am

This a good story, and as pointed out already, feels like it could generate a much bigger story.  I did find myself waiting for the twist right from the point the doctor said she'd be going to art school.  That's likely more from the number of stories I've read recently with twist endings though, rather than any deficiency on the part of the writing.  This is well written, engaging, and fun to read.  I'd love to see what chaos a group of disgruntled artists could cause.

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks March 10, 2013 - 7:15am

Thank you for taking the time to read and review Adam! BTW, I recently finished Red Seas Under Red Skies. What do you think so far?

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 10, 2013 - 7:33am

Not bad... comparable with Lies.  Locke isn't as engaging a character this time round, but it's nice to see Jean with a bit more flesh on him this time round.  It's good enough to keep me turning the pages, and I always want to read more.  I'm new to the series, and I'm glad that I shouldn't have too long to wait for the next one.  Did you like it?

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks March 10, 2013 - 8:26am

I felt this one was a bit drawn out in parts (*cough* nautical overdose *cough*) and too quickly resolved in the end, but I still enjoyed the story. Scott Lynch spins a good yarn.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 11, 2013 - 12:31am

The first one suffered a little from that as well.  It lingers when it should move on at times.  He obviously loves his characters though, and that's what keeps me reading.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 18, 2013 - 12:03pm

Very cool story. When you delivered the end line it was very rewarding. I do think you might have arrived at it a little sooner. But the way there was just so enjoyable.

Well done!

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks March 18, 2013 - 8:32pm

Thanks for the kind words klahol! Glad you enjoyed the story and thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 18, 2013 - 3:33pm

Good work! A proper little dystopia, and not so far advanced to make it feel too far-fetched. Liking your work.

Possibly a stylistic thing, but for max impact, make sure you leave a gap between title and start. Also :

Being a fourteen year old girl was hard enough, she thought. Why did the teachers feel the need to embarrass me like that?

Is that actually what she thought? The exact words? If not, then don't indicate it as speech, and consider changing the "me" to "her". It feels a bit clunky, and again, so near the start!

I dwell on this for a moment only because you want your beginning to be as strong as possible - don't want anyone cranking up the volume of their implants to drown it out...;)

Could you avoid the tell on the implants altogether? The fact that her mother overrides it is enough to tell us she has that control, the fact that it's internal and limited, could be worked in naturally? And - ultimately - the implants are not integral to the story, so you could drop them altogether?

I know you're hard against the word limit, but as Brady passes through past the employees, we want her impressions. Otherwise take her a different path!

The Doctor is the best AI personality I have read so far in this challenge - and there have been a few! You do well to show him only through Brady, avoiding "inner thoughts of hyper intelligent being". And still coming across as realistically an expert, and an "alien".

Such criticisms I have are the, minor. But you probably need to exagerate the blandness of everyone else more - when we get to the end, we want to agree that she is special, even if we disagree with what is done to her! 

Interestingly, if Doctor is the direction this civ is going in, and there's equivalents in planning , and science, and even art, then progress is not the problem this dystopia is trying to control - it's unplanned progress that is!

Liam

 

 

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks March 18, 2013 - 8:37pm

Wow! Thank you for the amazing critique, Liam. I appreciate you taking the time to read the story and provide such insightful thoughts. I agree with much of what you have to say and will take the suggestions to heart, possibly rewriting the piece for another venue.

Thanks again!
Phillip

Brent Smith's picture
Brent Smith March 29, 2013 - 10:47am

Phillip,

Nice read. Solidly written. I had a number of thoughts as I was reading this, but this isn't really a good format for communicating a critique. I'll touch on a few points, and you're welcome to follow up with me if you'd like more detail.

There's two large issues, I think. First, your protagonist never really sets a goal. She's passive to the events happening to her. I believe I made this comment on your previous story that I critiqued as well. For this story to really stand out, in my opinion, Brady needs to have a goal and strive to achieve it.

Secondly, the piece, especially the first half, is very heavy with exposition. You do a lot of world-building, and I don't think much of it is necessary. The audio implants are an example--you spend quite a bit of real estate on these and it's not important to the story other than to show this is in the future, something which could have been shown much less intrusively. As a result of all the exposition, the first half of the story, while they're sitting in the waiting room, drags a bit. Once you get past this, the story moves along nicely.

A couple of smaller things: The opening is problematic in that it starts by talking about Brady's school and classmates, so that's what I expected the story to be about. When they are described as being in a waiting room, I assume it's in a school, probably outside the principal's office. I was jarred out of the story when I came to realize that they weren't in a school and had to reassess my ideas of what was going on.

Likewise, your protagonist's name jarred me out of the story early on. The moment I saw 'Brady,' I envisioned a boy. I had to stop, start over, and create a new mental image after a couple of paragraphs once I realized Brady was a girl.

I also think the dialogue, especially of the receptionist and the Doctor, could be worked to sound a little more realistic, consistent, and beleivable.

Thanks for putting this out here. Enjoyed the read.

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks March 29, 2013 - 6:27pm

Brent! As always, thank you so much for your time and feedback. You mention a lot of the things that I realized after submitting this piece, so I'm glad to know we're on the same page. :)

Interesting that you thought of Brady as a boy's name. I've never thought of it as anything other than a girl's name. Funny how stuff like that happens.

Thanks again and I hope you're doing well.

Phillip

Dana Fredsti's picture
Dana Fredsti April 22, 2013 - 11:34am

At the risk of being lazy, I have to say that Liam's critique (and praise) pretty much nailed my thoughts on the story, including this:  Being a fourteen year old girl was hard enough, she thought. Why did the teachers feel the need to embarrass me like that?

If those were her exact words, they seem a bit unrealistic for a fourteen year old. I like the suggestion of changing "me" to "her."

And as interesting as I found your updated iPods by way of the audio implants, I also agree the amount of detail isn't necessary considering the word count constraints.  That being said, I think you did a really nice job painting your dystopia in such a short story!

I'd like to have more of the world building presented via Brady's reactions, as well as seeing a bit more of her personality than we were shown in the story. More of her hopes and dreams as she's off to "Madrid" (and less up at the front end of  the story would give you more room to layer that in). It would have given what was a very cool ending (and mean! So mean!) that much more impact if I'd been able to develop more empathy for her as a character.

THAT all being said, I really enjoyed the story and look forward to seeing more of your work!

Phillip McCollum's picture
Phillip McCollum from Southern California is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks April 23, 2013 - 8:17pm

Thanks so much for your (Liam's :) ) critique Dana!

Lots of good advice. I really wanted to rewrite this story for a third time. It got better with each rewrite, but, well, deadlines and all.

I realize that I need to work on using my focal character as more than a sounding board. Make her more proactive.

Thank you again for your time!

Dana Fredsti's picture
Dana Fredsti April 25, 2013 - 2:33pm

LOL!  I figure when someone else voices my feelings, but does so much more coherently than I can (Yeah, Me a writer!), I should give them credit.  Best of luck with your writing career! You've already got the talent portion of it. :-)