One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan


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Post November 19, 2014, 12:23:51 AM

One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

A grieving father, an avenging goddess, and a malfunctioning avatar—here is a virtual reality story worth reading. Mr. Sullivan continues his August story, “Silence the Crows,” with a second session through the simulation laboratory.

The story employs the traditional medical setting dating back to “Frankenstein.” Action unfolds like a log entry on the patient’s chart: we read display screens and hear the avatar speak. A computer simulation, naturally it speaks like a vending machine. The father believes that the avatar is the mind of his injured child. He speaks to the avatar as a client implores a medium. However, this time, the simulation changes direction.

Black birds are intriguing symbols of death and doom. Drawing on Irish legend, Mr. Sullivan places the Morrigan in the simulation. (Morrigan, a goddess comparable to the Valkyries, was a mythological queen who accosted warriors on the battlefield. Legend identifies her with the crow.)

In his earlier story, the author uses “penance” to describe Morrigan’s interaction with the father. I think guilt motivates the father to undertake his trip through the VR machine, and denial carries him through repeated sessions. Even as the story resolves, the father seems not to understand who controls the simulation. In “Night Crow,” Theodore Roethke writes, “A shape in the mind rose up: / Over the gulfs of dream.” The dream arises from the dreamer.

It might be smoother reading if the author consistently punctuated direct address in the dialogue, where I think several commas went missing. In addition, "You are aware that everything here is in your control?” seems to want an attribute tag. I’m confused who is speaking.

I enjoyed both of these stories--“One For Sorrow” makes a satisfying sequel to “Silence the Crows.”

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Post December 04, 2014, 11:16:07 PM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

I'm putting in a second vote for more attribute tags on this story; I got pretty confused once, and not quite as much later. It doesn't help that both parties in the dialog sound machine-like; you still need to work on that. Use contractions when normal humans are speaking. I noticed also that the girl's name isn't used in this story.

Otherwise, this worked well as a continuation in this series of shorts, and I can't help wondering if we'll see what this new entity does.
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Post December 05, 2014, 11:57:53 AM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

I do not use lots of contractions personally. I speak without them more than anyone I know and write almost entriely without them. (Catholic school maybe?) I will work on it more. It is one of the things on my list. Oddly that makes me have more in common with the AI than the man in my story. Kind of wierd is it not? (OK I admit that last one was forced!)
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Post December 05, 2014, 01:35:29 PM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

Also it is a slippery slope cheat. I conserve words without attributions but risk confusing the reader. As for the contraction problem I desperately want to conquer it as it will conserve words, you have to believe me there!
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Post December 07, 2014, 01:00:14 AM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

EddieSullivan wrote:Also it is a slippery slope cheat. I conserve words without attributions but risk confusing the reader. As for the contraction problem I desperately want to conquer it as it will conserve words, you have to believe me there!

Yeah, the attribution boogey. Too few and the reader gets lost; too many and they get agitated.
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Post December 07, 2014, 12:14:57 PM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

I always want to minimize them. I try to write so the reader can tell who is speaking through context and pattern. Sometimes I succeed. Others not as much.
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Post December 07, 2014, 12:45:44 PM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

EddieSullivan wrote:I always want to minimize them. I try to write so the reader can tell who is speaking through context and pattern. Sometimes I succeed. Others not as much.

Your intention is good, especially in a dialog with a quick succession of short statements. That's an easy situation to get lost in, though, even though you'd think it wouldn't be. A standard trick is to throw in a beat now and then: have one of the characters perform some little action. This gives you a way to include an attribute without using "he said" or whatever, and you get the added bonus of some visual description of the exchange. Like so:

Marsha glared across the table. "Is that all you've got to say?"

"Pretty much."

"I think you're lying to me again."

"No." John looked down at his unfinished dinner.


Not an award-winning example, but you get the idea.
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Post December 07, 2014, 12:45:44 PM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

EddieSullivan wrote:I always want to minimize them. I try to write so the reader can tell who is speaking through context and pattern. Sometimes I succeed. Others not as much.

Your intention is good, especially in a dialog with a quick succession of short statements. That's an easy situation to get lost in, though, even though you'd think it wouldn't be. A standard trick is to throw in a beat now and then: have one of the characters perform some little action. This gives you a way to include an attribute without using "he said" or whatever, and you get the added bonus of some visual description of the exchange. Like so:

Marsha glared across the table. "Is that all you've got to say?"

"Pretty much."

"I think you're lying to me again."

"No." John looked down at his unfinished dinner.


Not an award-winning example, but you get the idea.
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Post December 07, 2014, 01:47:44 PM

Re: One For Sorrow by Ed Sullivan

Good instructional example though.
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman

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