Detective Blues

This city. This cold, damned city. They say the bite goes away after a while, but to me, its fangs just dig deeper. The wind from the sea sends waves of icy needles through my face. The salty air, the reflection of the city on the water, the nostalgia it brings. My first bust was here. Whose wasn’t? The docks were a breeding ground of drug trafficking. The poor guards were easily payed off, any new detective would only have to sit and watch to get the drop. Now the docks were abandoned…


“I’ll take point, unit 1 take the left flank, and 2 will go for the right. Floz, you’re coming with me.” -Morris

The shipyard was black, I couldn’t tell if we would be safer that way, or if we shouldn’t have cut the power. I followed Captain Morris through the darkness. We made it to the ship without incident.

“If your intell is correct, we should be able to cut in right here.” -Morris

“I can’t imagine them switching a cargo shit without us knowing.”

Some amount of time passed.

“Hurry up, that torch is lighting this place up like new years.” -Morris

“We’re in.”

I let the T.V. sized piece of metal fall into the water. The small 10x10 storage room was filled with a dim, sea-green light. Empty, just as it should be. We made our way over to the door. Through a small circular window we could see a hallway, illuminated by rows of red lights.

“Hell’s hallway, it always looks the same.” -Morris

“If we split up, you can nab Galen, while I plant the charges.”

“You’re not a one man army, Floz! That is why we lose so many rookies. We will plant the charges first, that way if we fail to catch Galen, the ship still explodes.”

We made our way down the hall to a stairway… Footsteps behind us…Three quick hisses from Morris’ pistol and the man was on the ground. I hadn’t even turned around yet. Morris stood there, still as a rock, clutching his pistol.

“What do we do with the body?”

“That storage room we came in through should do fine. If they go in there, they will see the hole anyway.” -Morris

The blood was hardly visible in the red light. He wasn’t a tall man, but he weighed a ton. His baggy camouflage made him that much harder to move. We carried him back, it wasn’t far. With that done, we made our way back down the stairs, to the entrance of the storage room.

“Is it locked?”

“No, I am just watching for movement.” -Morris

The window on the door was nothing but a black circle to me.

“Lets go.” -Morris

He eased the door open. Inside, we couldn’t see a thing. The red light from the hallway crept into the room just enough to disprove any notion that it might be an abyss. Carefully, we made our way into the sea of black. My lighter, I won it at a fair when I was 16. I used it to illuminate our surroundings. There they were, crates. Lots of them.

“Help me crack this one open” -Morris

I used my gun to pry it open, it barely worked. Inside the crate was something I hadn’t expected. Assault rifles, this wasn’t a drug trafficking operation. Galen was notorious for smuggling in large shipments of weapons like this. To be honest, I wasn’t all that surprised. We began setting up the charges on as many of the crates as we could.

“Will this sink the ship?”

“Why do you ask, you know the answer.” -Morris

“If the ship sinks, this harbor will be shut down until they can get it out of here.”

“Thats just tough justice, kid. These docks are one of the biggest holes in our city’s security net; if we can shut them down, it will be a big win for us, even if it means cutting legal imports for a while.” -Morris

“We’re done, that was the last charge.”

Switches being thrown. The light filled my eyes with a warm pain. Shielding my eyes I tried to look up. Weapons being aimed. Lots of them.

Well that is all I have so far. Its not much, but I plan on finishing it. Hope I figure out where I am going with this some time soon. I look forward to your words of criticism.

Not bad, Guns. I like the descriptive detail at the start, so typical of Crime stories. The story flows well; even with little exposition it’s easy to get what is going on.

I would only make two changes: first, don’t use “-Morris” because that’s usually used for quoting people, it makes it sound like Floz is reading it rather than hearing it. Use “Morris said” (or, after the first use, “he said”, “my partner said” etc. to avoid sounding repetitive.)

Also, a little more exposition at the start to make clear when and where this is happening could help. Detective stories can range from the turn of the century to cyberpunk futures. The rest can be inferred from the dialog, though.

All in all, a pretty good start. :slight_smile:

Yeah, the “-Morris” thing isn’t working out too well. Wil’s advice is pretty good on this matter, though they taught us in our fiction classes that “he said” and “she said” are just about invisible. As long as you don’t absolutely flood the page with them, they’re fine.

Now let’s get to the actual content of the piece. How much have you read in the detective novel format? Have you read any Raymond Chandler, for instance? In fact, if you haven’t read any Chandler, you should stop writing and go read him right now so you can at least get the basics down. Have we done that? Okay, good. Excellent. Now that you’ve read the master of the hard boiled detective novel, we can examine a few other things here (that are non-genre specific):

I. The main character and Morris are indistinguishable in both speech patterns and character. If you’re going to write good fiction, you need to write unique characters.

II. The dialogue is stilted. The two characters might as well be reading furniture assembly instructions. It’s dry. Also, they don’t talk like cops/PIs/whatever.

III. Though the writing isn’t terribly unskilled, it is also a mish-mash of clichés. That’s why I strongly suggest reading other detective fiction, so that you know what the clichés are and you can work around them. When it isn’t a cliché, the phrase is nonspecific. “Weapons being aimed. Lots of them.” Tommy guns? Lasers? Crossbows? Automatic dildos? It’s probably some sort of gun, but I have no idea WHAT kind from your description.

Work on that. Or become a performance artist.

My cliché sense is tingling! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use that -name thing, but I kept going with to see how it would work out. I think I will read the Chandler stuff, probably 'The Big Sleep".

One man’s cliche is another’s classic literary element (and vice versa.) :wink:

It all depends: are you writing a fanfic? Then anything goes. Are you trying to write like a pro? Then you need to do research and respect the literary rules. There’s a lot of middle ground, too.

My advice? Just let things fall where it’s more pleasant to you. Always let the audience know what to expect, tho. If you start seriously don’t suddenly turn it into a comedy, for example.

The ONLY two things every story needs:
-To make sense
-To be understandable (ie. good grammar.)

Otherwise, have Hello Kitty beat up Ctulhu if you want! :slight_smile:

I say even if you’re writing fanfiction, you should try your absolute best. Writing isn’t so much about talent as it is about hard work and persistance. Furthermore, writing is meant to entertain people. Clichés aren’t entertaining. They’re boring. If you’ve seen something fifty million times before, then there’s no reason to read it again in sEpHiRoThD00dZ’ work on Cloud and Red XIII’s forbidden love.

Also, don’t discourage him from reading the greats! I think he should read some Dashiel Hammett for good measure. If you like fantasy, the Dresden Files are a suprisingly good fantasy/hardboiled detective mix. I highly recommend them (start with Storm Front).

I would argue that a story doesn’t need to be understandable to be good, and that it doesn’t necessarily need good grammar. But you need to have a good grasp of grammar and story structure in order to pull that off elegantly. But I guess I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I’d say the only things a story needs are a beginning, middle, and end.

If you’re serious about writing, I’d look through this site here. It’s about science fiction, but it translates well to other genre fiction. It’s written mostly with teenage/young adult audiences in mind (though it’s easily used by adults as well), but a lot of the stuff still holds true. <—Seriously, check it out.

For more general writing, Stephen King’s On Writing is an entertaining book in its own right, and you learn a lot about his life as well. Don’t like horror? That’s fine. The book doesn’t have anything to do with horror. It’s also part memoir, and his life is pretty fascinating.

In any case: KEEP WRITING. It’s the only way you’re going to improve. I’m not trying to discourage you in the least. Nobody starts out as a naturally talented writer (unless you believe Heinlein).

I have to address this, though:

“One man’s cliche is another’s classic literary element (and vice versa.) ;)”

Not really. There’s a huge difference between tropes/archetypes/literary elements and clichés. Literary elements are generally unobtrusive and often unavoidable. There’s a difference between having a king that travels disguised as a common man and copy/pasting Aragorn. :expressionless:

I think GAP suffers from the same problem that (granted, most of us) suffer: assuming that because something is posted in the Net, it MUST be meant for everybody and therefore MUST follow the classic writing rules. Not so.

I’ve said this here before, but it bears repeating: Fanfics are meant to please the person who writes it. After all, you’re not getting paid to write them, unlike professional writing, so your main reason to do it is your own interest. Of course, you CAN have other goals besides that- you might want a (certain) audience -say, the RPGC regulars- to enjoy it; but that’s something YOU decide, so it also falls in the “doing it for your own interests” label. Even if you say, “OK, I’m going to try to write this as pro-quality as I can” it is still a personal choice. It cannot be demanded of fan writers. Which is not to say I would ever care to read a (urgk) Cloud/Red XIII porn fic, but if that exists, then obviously someone (its writer) wanted to do it, and that’s enough justification. If it pleases SOME people, even better, but ts not necessary. Some people just want to see their stories posted even if no one ever reads them.

(I like to remind people of this precisely because PROFESSIONAL writing is not like that- you have both publishers and an audience to satisfy then, it’s your job so you’d BETTER deliver! This is why even some pros do personal projects or fanfics on the side.)

That said, IF you want others to enjoy what you write, then you should make an effort at good writing, and the two elements I noted above are the minimum you should strive for.

Oh, and I wasn’t discouraging him from reading anything! Reading is the BEST way to learn how to handle all those literary elements/cliches you’re going to use. The more you read from, the bigger your bag of tricks (and the smaller the chance of copying someone wholesale.)

Sure you write for yourself, but if you post it up on the net you mean for other people to read it too, and hopefully get some good comments. If it’s not interesting or well written, people are going to say that too. Point being that if you’re going to show people, especially anybody who walks on by, your creations you ought to put effort into them or you’ll end up getting grief for it. That’s just the way it is.

On the other hand, you may also post things on the net because you want critique in order to improve, and getting comments on what you can do better, as well as practicing, is the only way to improve. And if you don’t get pointers at your weak points, practicing might not do much good either.

I have important things to do, and so I’m not going to linger long. I just wanted to say one thing: There ARE no “classic writing rules.” You’re not going to fine a stone tablet with a list of Exactly What Every Writer Should Do.

And Weiila said was I was going to say about posting it on the net. I always forget there was another person that majored in writing (or whatever the equivalent is in Sweden). <_< So uh… thanks (in the eye, and in the pants).

Didn’t we get over this with modernism? Or at least postmodernism?

If you don’t understand how to construct a traditional story, a postmodern story will fail spectacularly. Always begin with the basics. I realized that I was oversimplifying.

Of course, you could argue that many postmodernist stories DO have beginnings, middles, and ends, but they are either not within the story or out of order. Some postmodernist tales have traditional beginnings, middles, and ends but subvert stories in other manners (such as constant fourth wall breaking, et cetera).

Also, you’re talking to a formalist when you say that, so…

Ah, I come from a critical theory/continental philosophy perspective.

Stick us in an apartment and that’d make a good sitcom! It’d be canceled in less than a season, though.

“Look at this, one of my students used ‘glistening’ improperly. Really!”
“Whatever, signifiers are all arbitrary, anyway.”

I’ll agree with GAP that your two elements aren’t necessarily required, particularly the good grammar. However, I will also agree with GAP that you need to personally have a good, if not great, grasp of grammar, syntax, diction if you are going to break the rules. Oftentimes, breaking the rules consistently without sounding like a retard is harder than following traditional high school grammar. Look at Faulkner. He constantly ignored quotation marks, and proper punctuation is often a hallmark of “good” grammar. However, he had such a great understanding of how proper punctuation is used that he was able to intentionally break the rules n a consistent manner. See As I Lay Dying, for instance. James Joyce too, I believe, is also a hallmark of breaking traditional rules, but doing it in a consistent way. I guess both fall under the more general rule of “be understandable,” but good grammar in the actual writing is not necessary for a work to be understandable.

As for the work needs to make sense, making sense is somewhat of a loose guideline. I don’t really see what differentiates “makes sense” from “be understandable.”

We’re totally the only people that find this funny. Anyway:

You catch me in bed with your girlfriend

“Uh… this isn’t what it looks like! I couldn’t take any other sources into account. To understand a text you have to be inside her! Wait, I mean…”

Sorry Weii, but that’s just wrong. Hey, I can’t blame you, I used to think that way myself. But, I’ve gotten more open-minded with the years, and I’ve come to accept the fact that, if a person really enjoys making crappy stories with poor grammar and posting them online even if everybody tells him or her how much they suck, he has all the right in the world to do it. WE the readers are the ones who are getting too uppity with our demands; not only cannot everybody be a good writer, but we don’t have the right to demand that everything fits our standards of quality. It’s like telling children they can’t break the rules of a game when they’re having fun playing it their way. Besides, obviously there ARE fans for that kind of junk- not all comments posted on those stories are “this sucks”. We gotta respect that; there’s more than enough people like us who like to read and write quality stories to fill our desires. If you don’t like a posted story, just avoid it.

On the other hand, you may also post things on the net because you want critique in order to improve, and getting comments on what you can do better, as well as practicing, is the only way to improve. And if you don’t get pointers at your weak points, practicing might not do much good either.
This is of course true, for those people who want to improve their writing skills. Just remember that not everybody cares.

I know that one! A Boy and His Dog, right?

Of course it’s wrong to grief people just for the sake of griefing. But again, when you put a piece of fanfiction or anything created by yourself up on the internet, it’s no longer a piece for only yourself and your enjoyment - you’re looking for an audience, and the “payment” you hope to recieve for your effort is comments, preferably good.

It’s everyone’s right to publish something on the internet, because that’s included in the right of free speech (using that term even if it’s relative, because the net is not the US). But in the same vein, it’s also everyone’s right to comment and speak their mind about what they see posted. If somebody posts something that’s simply bad, people are going to say so.

Of course there are different levels to how one can say something. The problem is that most people in the Western world are raised to think that they are special snowflakes and deserve only praise, reading even constructive criticism as flames. Challenging those who unfavorably comment on the story with such things as “don’t like, don’t read!” or “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” which is what you seem to argue for, is just a form of attempting to censor critics simply because they disagree.

Let’s go to extremes just for the fun of it. If somebody posts a story entitled, and with the plot, Raping Amanda Bynes and Avril Lavigne, or The Angel of Death (jewish Mary Sue in concentration camp dates Josef Mengele and has sex with him outside a freshly used gas chamber “after the screams died out”), people are generally not going to react favorably to that. In at least the second case, the author was (or at least appeared to be) genuinely baffled and offended when she got flamed for her story. I haven’t read it, but the excerpts show that it had good grammar and structure at least. Not touching that first one with a twenty-foot pole (Avril Lavigne’s lawyers chased that one off the net for at least a while, if I recall correctly). So yeah, the authors are free to post it, but a lot of people are morally, you have to agree, in their full right to say that they’re sickos.

And to end of a less morbid but still relevant note, if somebody posts a Naruto/Warcraft crossover with the father of all Naruto Gary Stus as the main character and no understanding for why people would think a romance story with a Forsaken might be a rather strange idea (if there’s no hint of irony or comedy), not to mention rather loose grip of storytelling and grammar, I’m personally going to say “this is a godawful piece of crap and here’s why.”

“don’t like, don’t read!” or “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” which is what you seem to argue for, is just a form of attempting to censor critics simply because they disagree.

That’s not what I’m arguing for. What I am saying is that in these cases, the blame almost always goes to the author, with many readers acting as if, just because something is posted online, it HAS to be of at least good quality or they lambast it. That’s not always true and we need to acknowledge it.

I would be much happier if there were no crappy stories online, and if everyone would heed constructive criticism; but that’s just not the case, and we must accept it- specially in the cases where the author is perfectly aware of his or her shortcomings but doesn’t care or even likes it that way- look at; it’s full of crap, true, but obviously SOME people like that stuff or it wouldn’t be allowed in the first place!

If a particular forum doesn’t have specific rules regarding the type of stories published there or their quality, we can’t complain about it. On the other hand, it IS true that if said forum has no rules about the criticism allowed then the author has no call on getting pissed by the comments put there. I just wish that people in general (authors and writers both) would learn to just ignore what they don’t like.

(Oh, and by the way, WHY would you even read a story that has “Raping” in its very title? “The Angel of Death” maybe, because that can have other meanings, but with the first example, you’re just asking to be offended. And in the second case, you can stop the moment you realize what it’s about.)