Short Story Prompt #1 - Contrition Genre: UF

I don’t think this is done…and I certainly have words to play with, but it’s good enough, I hope. I’m interested in all feedback but particularly – did I get enough close to using the appreciations correctly/usefully.

The order I went for was Cause Trust Test Effect. This was based on a twenty-five word story challenge, which suggested itself as the effect.

“Hey Dot!”
I turned around and scanned the quad for whoever had called my name.
There was a couple canoodling on the grass and several people walking down the steps of the science building. And…hold the phone…someone waving, not someone, Mitch Lott. Dumb as it was I turned and looked behind me. No one directly in line with me. I felt like a cliche tapping my chest and mouthing “Me?”
He trotted over and I planted my feet, forcing myself not to run. Try as I might I couldn’t imagine a reason he’d want to talk to me.
His smile rivaled the warmth of the sun, adding to his lickableness.
I shifted my weight and stepped onto the grass sans my flip-flops. I pushed a pulse of power through my soles, bleeding off enough of my nervousness to keep my voice normal. “You know my name?”
“Yeah, sure. We have O-Chem together.”
I swallowed. There were fifty people in that class. “Did you want my notes, or something?”
He cocked his head, like he was truly surprised that I thought he needed my notes. “No, but thanks.”
The wind grabbed loose strands of my hair and tickled my nose with them. I scooped the wayward strands behind my ear. “What did you need then?”
“A date.”
“A what?”
“A date,” he repeated. He slowly lifted his hand to my jaw and closed it. “How about Saturday?”

“Earth to Dot, Earth to Dot.” Ruby waved her hand up and down in front of my eyes.
I blinked, owl-like, uncertain what had just happened.
“What did he want?” She gestured after Mitch Lott’s retreating back. “Dot?”
“A date. He…asked me out.” I shuffled over to a nearby bench and sank down, my knees more wobbly than I cared to admit.
“You told him where to step off, I hope.”
“I said, yes.” My mouth was disturbingly dry. “Why did I say yes?”
“Momentary insanity. You’ve come to your senses though. We’ll just chase him down and tell him never mind.” Ruby pulled me to my feet. “Besides, doesn’t he date Belinda Amhearst?”
I barely felt the earth beneath my toes. I reached down again, seeking the familiar hum the earth made, embracing the solidity of my element. “I don’t think so. Maybe. Didn’t they break-up? Geez, Ruby, his smile lit up a part of my brain that made sparks in my toes, I kinda wanna go.”
She reached out and felt my forehead. “You don’t feel like you’ve got a fever, but you gotta be sick. Why? What could possibly induce you to go out with someone like that?
I considered that. Why? I mean lust was fine and all, but I could do that from afar. Then a good enough reason hit me, “Because I don’t want to be a judgy bitch. I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt,” I gestured to the grey kerchiefed-edged top with lace insets on the sleeves and charcoal harem pants that both said bohemian hippy-chick.,“shouldn’t I do the same?” It was a rationalization, but I didn’t care.
“There’s no way, he asked you out on the up and up. You know that, right”
“He seemed sincere to me.”
“Well, duh. narcissists have charming down pat. He’s angling for something or wants something from you or…I don’t know…is going to kidnap you for sex-trafficking or something.”
“Ruby. That’s ridiculous.”
“Well, okay, that’s a little over the top and you’d prolly turn him into a frog or something, but, gods Dot, I don’t want him hurting you. I don’t trust him.
“I don’t trust him either, but I don’t distrust him.”
“Well, maybe you should.”

When the doorbell rang, I was already on the other side of the door and jerked it open.
“Wow, you look, nice. ” Mitch took my hand and twirled me under his arm. “The color is a little off for you though. But damn that style does great things for you.”
I blanched. Dark blue had always suited me…”Thanks, I think.”
“So I figured we’d go to Sky High for drinks and then Griff’s for some food. Sound good.”
“I’m not really much of drinker.” I closed the door.
“Ah just one, it’ll help you loosen up a bit, melt off some of that frost everyone says you have.”
Hold the phone, “You’ve been talking to people about me? Wait, what frost?”
He gave me another smile that made dusk seem like mid-day. “Don’t worry about it. They don’t mean nothing by it.”
I never thought I figured into anyone’s conversations, hearing otherwise made my stomach tip. If he was trying to keep me off balance it was certainly working.
One Grasshopper later, we were waiting for a table at Griff’s when Ruby slipped in and pointed to the restroom.
“Will you excuse me.”
“Sure. But don’t stay gone too long, Beautiful. Someone might try and steal me.”
“You wouldn’t go.” I teased, hoping the comment came off as playful.

“How’s it going?”
“Ruby, what are you doing here?”
“I just came to make sure everything was going okay.” She primped in the mirror, avoiding my gaze. “So, is it?”
“How’d you know where we were?”
“I might have done a locator spell.”
“What are you really doing here?”
“You’ve got to believe me, he’s up to no good. Test him.”
“What? No.”
“Why not? If, he’s five by five, no harm, no foul. I’m just looking out for you.”

Glamoured as Belinda, I sauntered past the table he’d been seated at.
A low whistle followed me. “Belinda?”
“Oh hey, Mitch.” I walked into his space bubble, and teased his ribs with my boobs, with a were they, weren’t they touching him brush. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m a—on a date.” Yay, one point for you Mitch.
“Really? Anyone a I know?”
“Nah, just a nobody.” Ow.
No use wasting time.
“Ditch her.” I quirked up a suggestive eyebrow, promising everything and nothing.

Limerick chanted, spell cast, Ruby and I watched the warty repercussion take over Mitch’s body. “Never,” she admonished, “dis a witch.”

Mitch ribbeted his contrite agreement.


I enjoyed this.
It rumbles along at a fair clip, and the heavy-dialogue focus helps in that regard.

I have no comments about your encodings, except to say that I saw them, and thought they worked. As an exercise, this is interesting for me, because I think I have a tendency to be more oblique with (some not all of), my encodings than the direct appreciations you have in here. (EDIT : That’s not a veiled criticism!)

About the prose; I enjoyed the MC, found the friend to be a bit annoying and naggy (which I think was your point!), and I enjoyed the Mitch ‘were they weren’t they / everything and nothing’ scene.

Only things that lifted me out of your narrative were a few little cliches. (although I could see an argument that your tone and humour means they carry fine, so you can fully ignore that). Also, I had to reread the Glammer scene at the end, as I didn’t pick up who had turned into who right away. The info was all there, and a more diligent reader would have had no bother, but I suppose there were quite a few character names for the word-count and I found myself having to join the dots on on them a little bit, so to speak.

Thanks for sharing!

Nice job. It took me a couple of read throughs (because of my analytical abilities, not your storytelling) to get an idea of how the conflict was coming into play. I think I kept looking for Dot to be conflicted, and i think maybe you’re going for her to be conflicted toward the beginning, but then most of the conflict happens through Ruby. She’s the one who doesn’t like Mitch, doesn’t want Dot to go out with him, doesn’t trust him and gets Dot to test him. But can you discuss Cause in this story? There were a couple of ways I thought that you might be looking at it, but not i’m not sure.

[quote=“DeeKay, post:2, topic:1686”]
more oblique with (some not all of), my encodings than the direct appreciations you have in here. (EDIT : That’s not a veiled criticism!)
[/quote] No offense taken, trust me I’ve said worse when giving feedback…and truly even the first time I read it, I took it as an internal comparison of your own process, not a denigration of mine. So as Ruby would say, No harm, No foul. I wasn’t trying for subtlety with my encodings, not even a bit. Subtlety is for people much more advanced with Dramatica than me. I’m pleased you think they were in there.

[quote=“DeeKay, post:2, topic:1686”]
Also, I had to reread the Glammer scene at the end, as I didn’t pick up who had turned into who right away.
[/quote]Hmmm. I thought it was clear because of the POV consistency (1st person, past) and no other POV introduced.

Thank you, Dee for reading and for giving me your take on it.

So, what I tried to do was pair it with the effect. My original 25 word story was this:

The question became what was the inciting incident of being turned into a frog—what was the cause. Which turned out two-fold. One, asking her out, and two, ditching her.

Truly, I wasn’t trying for any kind of subtlety in this. Just trying to recognize if I understand the concepts well enough to use them in this fashion.
An interesting thing happened while I was writing this. I had intended for Dot to be the MC/Protag, but honestly as the story spun out in my head past this point, it became clear that Ruby was IC/Protag. And I have NO idea what that means for the appreciations or how I tried to present them.

Greg, thank you for reading and your thoughts.

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Loved it! The tone is light and very fun. It did seem a bit rough (three or four places where you have commas that should be periods – do you want those feedbacks or will you just tackle that stuff yourself?) but I love how the story moved and came together.

One thing that was really cool, I read your intro first and then the actual story a few hours later (got called away by kids). So I couldn’t remember what order the elements were gonna be in, but reading I pegged them all right away. I actually thought only Test was really blatant but I kind of liked that – sort of like how Spock talks about Logic, it’s like a real problem-solving moment. “This is how we solve this problem: test him!”

Anyway I think you used the Dramatica appreciations (i.e. the quad elements) perfectly.

The other thing I loved is that I could see both perspectives – that Mitch deserved the punishment, versus maybe Dot & Ruby were a little harsh with their test. (I mean geez, maybe the poor guy was really into Belinda when she dumped him… can you really blame him for being lured back?) I love that, because it makes you wonder if Dot kind of screwed herself with this test. Though maybe she and the frog still have a future anyway, who knows? :slight_smile:

Wonderful story. I really enjoyed it. Please don’t take my comments here as anything but musings by an amateur. I reserve the right to say things that make no sense and are completely incorrect.

I never really cared about Mitch. Even a little. He just felt like he was completely in the realm of archetype. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure that I cared for anyone. I was able to relate to Dot due to some familiar situations (who me?).

There’s always another side of the story, and I didn’t get even a glimpse. I wonder if I would have fallen into the story even more with that complexity. He just comes off as a douche that everybody, minus the MC, can see through but… I saw the douchiness. And it is fine that the MC didn’t… but I never fell into her. I guess I want you to trick me too. Especially in first person POV.

There were moments where I was kind of told to like him, but I never did. I think your MC wanted to like him as well. But I never got to that point, and I never felt disappointment. Nor did she. She never seems to feel much at all.

I’m going through now for a second read, and I notice the pulse of power and other hints that she is a spellcaster before the end. On the first read, I didn’t even notice this. I wonder if a little more descriptive sensation might have established the rules of the setting for me earlier. As it stands, I didn’t catch on until the end when she toad him off. :wink: I read hippy in all of this on the first read. The second read shows me that you subtly hint to me that she’s a Wiccan or whatever.

I’m not sure I know how to read anymore. Or that I ever could (even before the internet arrived). That’s not to say I didn’t read. I read hundreds of books. But, you see, I read fast. And sometimes subtleties are lost on me so maybe I’m the type of reader you could lose. I’ve been trying so hard to slow myself down lately so I can notice the craft… but I’m not sure the craft isn’t about letting me jet along and still get most of it.

As mentioned before, she says that she wants to trust him. And that is when we are most vulnerable, but I don’t feel her vulnerability. He keeps negging her, but I never quite feel the pain of the neg beyond a little internalization. Maybe we could spend some more time deep in emotional POV. Yeah, I know that it is a short story, but there’s a little wiggle room there and you came in with a word count in the 1300s.

Ruby could have been more than an archetype as well. Imagine if she was in love with Dot or jealous. She could have glamoured herself and played the part of his ex in front of Dot. That could have been more painful and more conflict-full I think.

Those were my instinctual impressions. And maybe they are a result of word limits and time constraints. The end felt a little tacked on as well. I wonder if some of story could use a bit more summarization and connective tissue.

100000000000000000000000000 times beyond what I can do. Please know that my nitpicking is completely because I like you and that makes me want to try to help you no matter how clumsy that help might be.

And, as for Dramatica. Spot on I think.

You aren’t supposed to care for Mitch; he was crafted (not sure how carefully) as a Narcissit looking for his next conquest victim. And his negging, as you call it, isn’t supposed to slip by the reader or Dot unnoticed.

I’m glad you saw it.

Ruby is most definitely in love with Dot, and if ANY hint of that came through (enough to make you consider it, then I’m gonna count that as a win.

This story is way incomplete, characterization is weak, my protag switched places on me which means the plot is obscured, I ended each and every seen the instant I thought the reader had enough to fill in the blanks with whatever they imagined went next, the setting is vague. I think to do this actual justice it would run around 7-8k.

I seriously doubt, scratch that, I KNOW I am not 100 septillion x better than anybody at anything. I like you too and there were no nits here, just graceful feedback on honest weaknesses in the storytelling. All feedback is a gift, and I do not have my ego tied up in what I write.

For me this exercise was ONLY about whether or not I hit the Dramatica elements that (hopefully) created a story that felt complete. And that I didn’t embarrass myself. The feedback I’ve gotten so far lets me know I reached my goal and if I wanted I could build this out further and create something viable. That makes me happy.

So let me thank you, sincerely, for your feelings, intuitions and expanding story eye. Thank you.

Oops! I missed Mitch’s douchiness (I figured what seemed like douche-bag behaviour was maybe just preconceptions on the part of Dot & Ruby…). But I think I enjoyed the story more because of it. Team Mitch all the way!! :stuck_out_tongue:

One thing I forgot to mention above, I’ve always hated the term “locator spell”. I remember cringing watching Vampire Diaries whenever they’d say that … for me it makes magic into a Wal-mart special: “I’ll take three swords+1, a potion of fire resistance, and four locator spell maps please. Oh, here’s my frequent cauldron card”.

In your story I actually didn’t mind it so much because of your light tone, and maybe it fits the genre, but i just thought you’d want to know my take.

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See, it’s totally okay with me that you missed it. And that you are on team Mitch. When I read this story to my critique group last week, more people caught it than not, but there were definitely a few who just thought Mitch was clueless. So for the ones that saw it, Mitch deserved what he got, and for those that didn’t they wanted to know how poor Mitch was going to get out of this. Either way whatever they brought to the story made it satisfying.

I agree about “locator spell” by the by. But honestly, creativity wasn’t my top priority.

A thought keeps occurring to me. There was a movie when I was a kid called International Velvet, with Tatum O’neal and Sir Anthony Hopkins. And he loans out her horse to one of the other riders and tells her it’s because he’ll get round on the course (3 day jumping event). That’s how I felt about this. I just needed to “get round”.

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I was trying to figure out the PRCO for this story. See if you agree with me:

  • Potential: Trust (the main drive of this story is whether or not they can trust Mitch’s intentions for Dot)
  • Resistance: Cause (what makes things worse is their inability to fathom why Mitch would want to date Dot, i.e. what caused him to ask her out)
  • Current: Test (the interaction between potential and resistance brings about the need to test Mitch)
  • Outcome: Effect (he’s now a frog – and notice too the other important effect: Dot is no longer under Mitch’s toe-sparking spell)

I’ve been thinking about PRCO a lot. And I feel as though a scene could have a number of subjective PRCOs.

PRCO from Dot’s POV:

  • Potential: No boyfriend.

  • Resistance: Ruby’s skepticism. Mitch’s game.

  • Current: Dot’s open-mindedness.

  • Outcome: Boyfriend.

Subjective Evaluation of End Result: Failure/Good

PRCO from Ruby’s POV:

  • Potential: Dot is confused about who Mitch really is.

  • Resistance: Dot is open-minded. Mitch’s game.

  • Current: Ruby’s skepticism.

  • Outcome: Dot understands who Mitch really is.

Subjective Evaluation of End Result: Success/Good

PRCO from Mitch’s POV:

  • Potential: No sex.

  • Resistance: Ruby’s skepticism. Mitch’s true nature. Dot’s open-mindedness.

  • Current: Mitch’s game.

  • Outcome: Sex.

Subjective Evaluation of End Result: Failure/Bad

The only PRCO not represented by a character is Success/Bad. That could be called the audience’s PRCO. The tension that the audience feels throughout the scene (for me anyway) was… what if Dot gets what she wants? Oh, no!!! Because the audience knows more than the MC.

And perhaps the objective PRCO is what the author intends to effectively argue as the most desirable PRCO to make the argument that they want to make. Which, by the way, matches Ruby’s PRCO in this case.

I was trying to assign the different elements based on which POV was inhabited. What do you think about this concept?

I don’t think that works. I would stick to the more objective way of doing it: what is driving the scene or story? The characters are just pieces on the board. Have you read Jim’s Piper article? (Diane @jassnip linked it in the Short Story #1 Prompt thread I believe)

Well, I think my Ruby POV, which I suggest is the POV that is closest to the authorial/objective POV, is quite similar to yours:

And yours:

Right, so wouldn’t it be best to just start from the authorial, objective perspective?

I don’t know. I just think looking at it this way could help define specific points of conflict. It could clarify character motivations. It could help create believable characters.

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Ah! I see where your’e coming from now. I didn’t realize that was your intent.

That’s actually an interesting idea – it’s almost like how the PSR (for which each Variation quad does have PRCO, by the way) is more from the character’s subjective point of view. Cool.