Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)


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Post August 09, 2004, 05:20:15 AM

Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

This one, too, suffered a bit from a lack of commas, making some of the sentences slightly ambiguous. However, it was mostly well-written with some good colourful descriptions.<br><br>The incident at the heart of the story- where Bill is tripped and dies- was so hard to believe that it affected my emotional reaction to the aftermath. Who on Earth dies that easily? And although unexpected, Benny's homicidal spree just didn't make sense to me.<br><br>This is a common scenario in horror- four boys (yes, it always seems to be four) getting themselves into trouble, usually where at least one of them dies. And there is always one who's the bully, but they always die in the end.<br><br>Without overstating the cliches, you did a good job of sketching the boys in a short space, and their emotional and physical environment came across as rich and rather dark.<br><br>GG<br>
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Post August 09, 2004, 10:36:54 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

greg;<br><br> The reason for Benny's homocidal spree is in the story, maybe I just buried it. I like to be subtle and have, hopefully just on occasion, sensed I was getting a little fuzzy, a tad psychological at the expense of sound plot.<br>I'm glad you brought up the points you did though, so here's the reason for Benny's actions:<br> The little bastard snapped. LOL<br>As for Bill's accidential death--don't you think stranger things have happened than a boy falling in a junkyard and dying on impact? I thought it made for good narrative considering other forces at work in the story.<br>I do appreciate your comments and , glib jokes aside, will take them into consideration, but it's hard to know just how much to explain in horror and how much to let the reader relate to his own memories. For instance, I was always a little scared in the junkyard where we played and could imagine some kind of revenge for breaking the rules.<br> Rob ( I also had no idea the story line was cliche)
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Post August 09, 2004, 07:57:04 PM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

This story is like a darker "Stand By Me" without the annoying presence of Wil Wheaton.<br><br>I couldn't help wondering if Benny was something more than a crazy kid, perhaps a supernatural denizen, the way he was written. I expected when he was kicking at the floorboards of the shack to have them open, exposing a shaft into the nether regions of the universe. This was the only logic that I could find that the boys would fall under his spell so completely and so quickly. <br><br>I also really HOPE that you can't break someone's neck that way. It is something we all should not know, in case any of us had a nightmare and killed our spouses in our sleep. (Although a homicidal sleepwalker would be an interesting story idea.)<br><br>Nate
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Post August 10, 2004, 12:29:34 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

All right, already! (Note the distinction: 'all right' is two words, 'already' is one word. 'Alright' is no word at all.)<br><br>Yes, the punctuation was on the sparse side. It was a little annoying, but (considering the narrator's age) might even have been deliberate. Run-on sentences are common things -- until teachers pound punctuation into our skulls like those pins studding the head of a Clive Barker Cenobite. Sometimes the commas and semi-colons and such work their way out like splinters only loosely caught under the skin; better that than having them work their way in, causing all manner of havoc.<br><br>Nice use of language here, as in most of Mr. Starr / shado's work; the description of the sound and feel of dragging the body over gravel is particularly vivid.<br><br>As for a boy dying from being tripped while running -- stranger things have happened. If there was a large enough rock where his head happened to land, or he landed so that his neck took his full weight ... Benny's murder of Randy, on the other hand, would have to be attributed to that ol' debbil hysterical / maniacal strength, since Randy was apparently the largest and strongest of the group. Of course, it's always the quiet ones who read up on pressure points and How To Kill With One Blow.<br><br>The story does hint at Benny's obsessive nature, and obsession / depression are closely related. Seeing someone killed because Rules Are Being Broken (you don't trip someone to butt in ahead of them; it simply isn't done) would be the ultimate violation of The Rules and a devastating example (to Benny) of The Consequences. Benny then tries to restore the balance by executing Randy for his transgressions, and then ... loses interest, as shock sets in.<br><br>Nasty. Reminiscent not only of King, but of McCammon. (Not of Koontz, however -- no treacle.)<br><br>Robert M.
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Post August 10, 2004, 08:28:56 PM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

Yes, the punctuation was on the sparse side.  It was a little annoying, but (considering the narrator's age) might even have been deliberate.
<br><br>Perhaps, and giving the narrator a voice that suits their age and personality is necessary, but I wouldn't agree that this excuses deliberately using bad grammar (not saying this was the case here). After all, people still have to be able to read it, and the mechanics of writing have to allow that. It should be possible to give the 1st-person narrator a unique voice and still write well.<br><br>
As for a boy dying from being tripped while running -- stranger things have happened.  If there was a large enough rock where his head happened to land...
<br><br>I suppose you could look at it that way, but to make it plausible, the narrator would have to describe these unusual circumstances. Leaving it to the reader to imagine a way isn't enough. However, as you say, the narrator is a young boy, and perhaps doesn't look at the situation in the analytical fashion of an adult.<br><br>The explanation for Benny's reaction is okay, but it came out of the blue. Maybe I would have been more satisfied had we learnt more of his thoughts- of course that is not easy, given the narrator does not know what he is thinking!
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Post August 11, 2004, 06:56:00 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)


Perhaps, and giving the narrator a voice that suits their age and personality is necessary, but I wouldn't agree that this excuses deliberately using bad grammar (not saying this was the case here). After all, people still have to be able to read it, and the mechanics of writing have to allow that. It should be possible to give the 1st-person narrator a unique voice and still write well.
<br><br>I find even properly-punctuated dialogue or narration more annoying than this dearth of punctuation, when it's done in dialect (droppin' yer 'g' and such-like) ... but maybe that's just me.<br><br>
The explanation for Benny's reaction is okay, but it came out of the blue. Maybe I would have been more satisfied had we learnt more of his thoughts- of course that is not easy, given the narrator does not know what he is thinking!
<br><br>The only way around this would be to have Benny say more about his reasoning (or lack thereof). This might detract from the overall creepiness of the scenario, however. (Imagine Benny giving a speech where he explains that "I had to do it because ...")<br><br>Robert M.<br>
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Post August 11, 2004, 08:33:38 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

Robert<br><br> You must find Faulkner a horror.

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Post August 11, 2004, 09:00:10 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

Please dont take the last post the wrong way--maybe we're coming at this whole thing from different influences , or maybe it's just a matter of taste. I enjoy the conjecture about Benny's motives because most of the stories /novels I enjoy have an element of ambiguity. (although I still feel the reason for Benny's spree is clearly in the piece) <br> Not meaningless ambiguity for its own sake, but a vision about where the story should be going or what it's really saying. I don't like to explain when the motives are clear to me. I'd rather let the reader draw his/her own inferences from a common starting point.<br> As for taste, which is clearly subjective. I'm guessing some of the comments come from those who enjoy science fiction and part of the lure of that genre is analytical fact. ( Correct me if I'm wrong) So some of the fine readers of Aphelion might be coming to my stuff from a different angle then the one I write it from or maybe I am rationalizing bad grammer but I've been through the story looking for it and can't find any. SEE! That last sentence reads in my head fine, but others might think it's run on.<br> As for long sentences and the use of dialect, semicolons and such, The Turn of The Screw and other masterpieces wouldn't be nearly as effective without them.<br>Rob
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Post August 11, 2004, 09:16:21 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

Robert

  You must find Faulkner a horror.
<br>Perhaps I should say I find excessive use of dialect annoying when it sounds wrong, or fake, or just unnecessary.  (I must confess I haven't read as much Faulkner as I should have.)<br><br>As for punctuation, I tend to do it 'by ear' as much as by grammatical rules.  Fortunately, the two seem to coincide most of the time.  (I do use "--" and "..." more than I probably should, particularly in dialogue, but I think people actually talk that way -- (damn, did it again) -- interrupting each other, trailing off when they don't really know what to say next.)  Your (shado's) 'ear' is tuned a bit differently, I guess.<br><br>Robert M.<br>
Last edited by Robert_Moriyama on August 11, 2004, 09:20:11 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post August 11, 2004, 12:22:30 PM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

Maybe our ears aren't so different--I read your story and was quite impressed with yours. Nice style. My radar works like this: I'm willing to believe almost anything if the prose sings in my noggin; the lyricism of great writing triggers my emotional response and suspends my disbelief.<br><br> Anyway Robert, my 'ears' just heard the NHL/NHLPA talks broke off again. I'm sure we both won't feel lyrical with no hockey next year, eh?<br>
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Post August 11, 2004, 01:41:09 PM

(Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

  Maybe our ears aren't so different--I read your story and was quite impressed with yours. Nice style. My radar works like this: I'm willing to believe almost anything if the prose sings in my noggin; the lyricism of great writing triggers my emotional response and suspends my disbelief.

Anyway Robert, my 'ears' just heard the NHL/NHLPA talks broke off again. I'm sure we both won't feel lyrical with no hockey next year, eh?
<br>(a) Thanks for the positive comments -- with my slowly-growing 'pile' of rejections (many are e-mail, so it's hard to actually make a pile of them), I'll take any ego-stroking I can get. As my comments indicate, I do like your stuff; in fact, I was defending your punctuation in Our Timid Friend as being insignificant in light of the quality of the writing and impact of the story when I first got into this kerfuffle.<br>(b) viz. Nate Kailhoffer's story this month. Followers of Toronto sports teams could probably qualify to work in that factory ...<br><br>Robert M.
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Post August 11, 2004, 05:50:54 PM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

Interesting story. I liked it. Just a few comments on my part.<br><br>I liked the premise, although I might have made the tripping of Randy a bit more prominent. This is the pivotal moment in the story, it should be emphasized in some manner. The number of ways to do this are endless. One way is to focus on Randy being alive, full of youthful energy, the sudden grunt as he crashes headlong and the dead silence that ensues (no pun intended). Shock value is what you want here.<br><br>You also used a few passive sentences. I'm not a big stickler on this, but it does tighten up the narrative when you use active verbs. A tighter story tends to increase the tension, which might assist in a horror story.<br><br>Also, any reason you used first person? Don't get me wrong. Some of the best passages in the story, in my opinion, are when the narrator expresses himself, e.g., " It was hot in there and as I stood with my eyes closed I could feel the air enveloping me like a warm clammy blanket." However, a good portion of the narrative felt like third person. Did you switch from one to the other when you wrote the story?<br><br>Keep up the good work!<br><br>-jaimie
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Post August 19, 2004, 05:45:54 AM

Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

<br>of course everyone noticed Shado's homage to King's It. Remember the Gravel Pit (or quarry)?<br>Also, there was nothing illogical or inexplicable about Bill's untimely demise. In fact, the way he expired foreshadows Randy's ultimately frazzled neck. <br>What i missed the most was, again, a supernatural explanation. Why was Benny so demented? Shado had something going with the chicken coop...maybe Benny ought to have been raised by rabid chickens. for real!<br><br>All in all, a good read, combining King and the Matrix quite neatly.<br><br>Lee
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Post August 19, 2004, 11:44:43 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

All in all, a good read, combining King and the Matrix quite neatly.

Lee
<br>The Matrix?  More like Lord of the Flies ...<br><br>Robert M.<br><br>PS Lee! Only one more post to reach the next Star rating!
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Post August 19, 2004, 12:09:30 PM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

The Matrix? More like Lord of the Flies ...

Robert M.

PS Lee! Only one more post to reach the next Star rating!
<br><br>I was thinking more The Omen II.<br><br>Damien: Please come with me, Mark.<br>
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Post August 21, 2004, 08:41:30 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

This story is like a darker "Stand By Me" without the annoying presence of Wil Wheaton.
<br><br>Hey, I liked Wil Wheaton, even as Weasely, er Wheezly, um the brainy kid :)<br><br>Kevin

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Post August 21, 2004, 09:09:18 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

I quite liked the story. When I started reading, I thought of "Stand by Me" as well. <br><br>I get the impression from reading the story, that Benny does not have a happy home life. His father's a drunk. They have a "No Trespassing" sign on their front porch. The desolate chicken coop. <br><br>Then later in the story, we have the narrator saying; <br><br>"Right there I saw my answer in his eyes and the chicken coop in his backyard jumped into my mind like I’d opened an album randomly to a photograph of it. That was the birth of suspicion for me, of always wondering what dark acts were being committed behind closed doors and in backyards"<br><br>What dark acts indeed, that could cause a boy to become obsessive compulsive about rules, and then cause his mind to snap, when the cardinal rule, "thou shalt not kill", is broken, while in the process of breaking the "No Trespassing" rule.<br><br>Kevin<br><br>

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Post August 21, 2004, 09:49:26 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

The answer to Benny's erratic behaviour has always been in the story--hiding in plain view and psychological in nature. It's always a great feeling when someone finds it and shares your vision about what the story is really about. I threw the chicken coop in as a red flag to tip the reader off, and then threw the reference to it in the end to highlight the sinister, loss of innocence theme I saw in the story. Thanks again.<br> As for the parallel to Stand by Me and Steven King in general, I'm suprised I've somehow copycatted something I've never read and a writer I don't read. Don't get me wrong, I know King stands on the pinnacle of the genre, but, for me, I would've been much more impressed if someone had compared Our Timid Friend to Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates. ( A shameless plug for one of the great psychological horror stories...Oates, I mean.)
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Post August 21, 2004, 10:22:57 AM

Re: Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

Hey, I liked Wil Wheaton, even as Weasely, er Wheezly, um the brainy kid :)
<br>I was at a convention to hear Jonathan Frakes speak and I'll never forget the huge "Boo" that went out from the crowd whenever Wesley's character was mentioned. It was as if the audience knew something...<br><br>Anyway, Ashley Judd was way out of his character's league.<br><br>Nate
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Post August 23, 2004, 05:11:33 PM

Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

<br>Robert: sorry again for neglecting my duties and taking forever. it feels great to be a junior critic!!<br>will everyone get off wil wheaton's case? he wasn't half bad, and gates mcfadden (dr. crusher) ruled-she preceded all the later trek babes.<br>our timid friend had a lot of matrix feel for me, somehow. the desolate vibe, nothing is what it seems etc. maybe i'm just weird, though.<br>Lee
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Post August 23, 2004, 06:52:45 PM

Re:  Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILE

Robert: sorry again for neglecting my duties and taking forever. it feels great to be a junior critic!!
will everyone get off wil wheaton's case? he wasn't half bad, and gates mcfadden (dr. crusher) ruled-she preceded all the later trek babes.
our timid friend had a lot of matrix feel for me, somehow. the desolate vibe, nothing is what it seems etc. maybe i'm just weird, though.
Lee
<br><br>The problem with Wesley Crusher was that he was essentially an older Will Robinson -- boy genius, deus ex teenager, etc., on a show that was in most other respects more "adult" (as in grown up, not pornographic) than the Original Trek. The very existence of his character was annoying to many as a blatant attempt to appeal to Geeks of A Certain Age and to give Patrick Stewart (or rather Picard) someone who would make him uncomfortable (as Picard noted that he really had no idea how to deal with children).<br><br>Anyway, Tasha Yar was sexier than Dr. Crusher, and Deanna Troi could counsel me anytime ...<br><br>Robert M.
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Post August 23, 2004, 08:38:54 PM

Re:  Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILE

will everyone get off wil wheaton's case?
<br><br>I wasn't kidding when I said I liked Wil Wheaton. I actually enjoyed some of teh episodes tha tcentered around Wesley, especially the Traveller ones.<br> <br> Gene has said that Wesley was supposed to be him, as he would have liked to have been.<br><br>Kevin<br>
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Post August 23, 2004, 10:43:36 PM

Re:  Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILE


I wasn't kidding when I said I liked Wil Wheaton. I actually enjoyed some of teh episodes tha tcentered around Wesley, especially the Traveller ones.

Gene has said that Wesley was supposed to be him, as he would have liked to have been.

Kevin
<br><br>I don't confess to be a Star Trek fan, so I'm going to give my outsider's view on Wesley. He had a grating personality that really got on a person's nerves. <br><br>Sorry Gene... :-(<br>
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Post August 24, 2004, 02:18:26 PM

Our Timid Friend by Robert Starr (SPOILERS)

<br>grating personality..heh. what's wheaton up to these days anyway? regardless, i stand by therio's assertion: the kid was innocent enough. i don't recall ever resenting him. and dr. crusher had me way before the perpetually congested troi even registered on my radar screen, and i was a teenager back then, mind you.<br><br>Lee

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