Johnny hunted for some vicious fucking classical music at the vintage LP store in which the same dust had coated most of the records for the twenty-three years the store had been open.

 

“Hey, man, could you point me t’the classical records?”

 

The man standing behind the counter pointed left, then right. “Vivaldi at the bathroom, Bach at the window.”

 

That’s what Johnny’s parents drank wine to on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights, but right now he imagined their lips zipping up as they tried to relax to polyrhythmic drumming and wailing strings—the music he planned to buy them. Right now Johnny vetted the records on the basis of pronounceability and the quantity of accent markings in the name. This made Johnny laugh and lose balance. He was sky-high with the last of the drugs his parents didn’t find.

 

Johnny’s parents had grounded his guitars and his amps and his sound system after he brought home an abysmal grade report. The phrase uncalled for! stayed in Johnny’s head for a while after he went to his bedroom and didn’t find any of his music stuff. And so the purchases at the record store would be the inception of an outright and overt rebellion against his parents.

 

The plan was to buy some music—as a supposedly nice gesture after his potty-mouthed, angry outburst at them—that his parents would mistakenly approve of after glancing at the Classical Music sticker. Johnny imagined his parents pasting on fake smiles as they were subjected to some horribly shitty dissonance. They would say Well, that’s nice honey, thus undeniably proving their incredible spuriousness as parents.

 

A clear May day peeked through the dirty windows, bright enough that Johnny wished he owned sunglasses. But, the record store had relieved his eyes of the fuck-boy squint he had on when he barged into the store 23 minutes ago—the place’s ceiling sported just three flickering incandescent bulbs. So he had forgotten all about the sun. Tasting cold pineapple and marinara sauce from the pizza he had just eaten for lunch—he had also eaten this same pizza the previous night/early morning—Johnny had shouldered through the door so the little fucking bells hanging on the frame would clang obnoxiously. That was the way he liked it.

 

The guy at the register dropped six coins into Johnny’s hand, taking care to avoid even brushing his hand, as the law dictated. Johnny swiped the three records he had bought into the three crooks between the fingers of his strumming hand. The tops of the records poked into his armpit. Johnny hammered out a solo on his belt with his left hand. DUNDUN—did-didou-OUdudud udwangg, a metal melody, accompanied Johnny’s revenge.

 

CLANGclingcldong! He left the record store, started the three-kilometer trek to the rail station.

 

Above Johnny, passengers clicked into headsets and hand-remotes, living in Virtual-Reality, relied on the AI in their hover-vehicle to zoom them up-down, left-right, and forward in the wide aerial lanes, demarcated by red, yellow, green, and white lasers. It was a sterile visual symphony.

 

Whereas a visitor to Ginopeia would give himself a neck crick studying the high-speed spectacle above him, ten years had passed since Johnny had given even three-quarters-of-half-a-fuck about the million pounds of carbon fiber dancing over his barely-there nappy hair.

 

A small ugly scowl gracing his lips, Johnny strode forward on the gray sheet of sidewalk, hands still tapping out his music. He played loudly in his mind, sounding the notes and chords and immersing his body within the prowling crunch of the strums.

           

Johnny’s seven-year-old excitement had faded to an aggressive jadedness over the ten more years it took to be seventeen. Early on, he had recognized the soundless futility that hugged the underside of Ginopeian life’s superficial possibility. Reality came second to the incredible stimulation of the headset/hand remote combination. A citizen could plunge into the virtual world and receive the mythologically advertised Heightened Experience! He could assign all of his obligations—washing the toilets, packing tomorrow’s lunch—to some sort of specialized robot.

 

 And after a few years in school, around the age when he checked in the mirror for new dark curly hair every morning, Johnny had connected a minor historical progression with implications that would sit incomprehensible in the mind of any typical Ginopeian citizen: that, over time, the average person had moved from controlling his technology, to sending electronic inputs to the circuits that carried out the majority of his technology’s operations, to ceding all but the thinnest veneer of power over any of it.

 

Johnny used to try to hold his inchoate memories of life outside Ginopeia in the forefront of his mind. A circle of people sitting on the ground sharing stories and legends in a small grass field while the sun lowered. Playing a game with his mother in which he would ask “why?” after every answer she gave until she chased him outside. Leaning into formidable wind, laughing as it held him up longer than gravity would.

           

But the longer Johnny lived in Ginopeia the more the details faded. A fair amount of invention took place to retain them. Johnny assured himself he only changed little things like angles, glances, and colors. The emotions didn’t require re-mastering but a creeping bitterness at his severance with the setting of these memories infiltrated even the strongest of their emotions. Contrary to his parents, who had won the lottery in Outer Sector II-A to live in the newer housing developments on the outskirts of Ginopeia, Johnny had come to the conclusion that life wasn’t lived as it was supposed to in this new territory.

Instructor Response

Johnny hunted for some vicious fucking classical music at the vintage LP store in which the same dust had coated most of the records for the twenty-three years the store had been open.  What is the time period?  I assume this is futuristic fiction.  Fantasy?

This tells who, where, and what up front.  You have good instincts.  One question though.  Do you want to comment on the dust and the length of store opening in the beginning sentence?  It suggests time has passed, and that is good, but it doesn’t anchor the reader into story time on the human scale of things.    Consider how these two ideas of dust and opening time, without providing us with a year of or at least a decade, invade the purpose of your opening, to get story moving and engage the reader (you do that well).  The dust imagery and the abstract comment about the store opening weaken the effect of the sentence to hold the reader in the story action.  Maybe just stick to who, what, and where and figure out a new way to be more exact on the time. 

 

“Hey, man, could you point me t’the classical records?” 

Good.  You’ve switched from a narrative opening, a telling, to writing in scene.  The reader is with you!

 

The man standing behind the counter pointed left, then right. “Vivaldi at the bathroom, Bach at the window.”  :-))

 

That’s what Johnny’s parents drank wine to on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights, but right now he imagined their lips zipping up as they tried to relax to polyrhythmic drumming and wailing strings—the music he planned to buy them. Right now Johnny vetted the records on the basis of pronounceability and the quantity of accent markings in the name. This made Johnny laugh and lose balance. He was sky-high with the last of the drugs his parents didn’t find.  Story moving along here.  Good.

 

Johnny’s parents had grounded his guitars and his amps and his sound system after he brought home an abysmal grade report. The phrase uncalled for! stayed in Johnny’s head for a while after he went to his bedroom and didn’t find any of his music stuff. And so the purchases at the record store would be the inception of an outright and overt rebellion against his parents.  This is back story.  Important enough to be front story and I think worthy of your considering starting story earlier with this as front story information.  As is, it stops story momentum, disappoints the reader’s intuitive expectations, and impairs your story quality. 

 

The plan was to buy some music—as a supposedly nice gesture after his potty-mouthed, angry outburst at them—that his parents would mistakenly approve of after glancing at the Classical Music sticker. Johnny imagined his parents pasting on fake smiles as they were subjected to some horribly shitty dissonance. They would say Well, that’s nice honey, thus undeniably proving their incredible spuriousness as parents.

 

A clear May day peeked through the dirty windows, bright enough that Johnny wished he owned sunglasses. But, the record store had relieved his eyes of the fuck-boy squint he had on when he barged into the store 23 minutes ago—the place’s ceiling sported just three flickering incandescent bulbs. So he had forgotten all about the sun. Tasting cold pineapple and marinara sauce from the pizza he had just eaten for lunch—he had also eaten this same pizza the previous night/early morning—Johnny had shouldered through the door so the little fucking bells hanging on the frame would clang obnoxiously. That was the way he liked it.  The setting in this paragraph should come earlier.  We need this when he enters store, before all other information delivered.

 

The guy at the register dropped six coins into Johnny’s hand, taking care to avoid even brushing his hand, as the law dictated. Johnny swiped the three records he had bought into the three crooks between the fingers of his strumming hand. The tops of the records poked into his armpit. Johnny hammered out a solo on his belt with his left hand. DUNDUN—did-didou-OUdudud udwangg, a metal melody, accompanied Johnny’s revenge.

 

CLANGclingcldong! He left the record store, started the three-kilometer trek to the rail station.

 

Above Johnny, passengers clicked into headsets and hand-remotes, living in Virtual-Reality, relied on the AI in their hover-vehicle to zoom them up-down, left-right, and forward in the wide aerial lanes, demarcated by red, yellow, green, and white lasers. It was a sterile visual symphony.  This was unclear to me.

 

Whereas a visitor to Ginopeia would give himself a neck crick studying the high-speed spectacle above him, ten years had passed since Johnny had given even three-quarters-of-half-a-fuck about the million pounds of carbon fiber dancing over his barely-there nappy hair.  This is narrator comment on Johnny’s not caring; it’s awkwardly expressed and seems not related to story, only to character, when you may need story momentum.

 

A small ugly scowl gracing his lips, Johnny strode forward on the gray sheet of sidewalk, hands still tapping out his music. He played loudly in his mind, sounding the notes and chords and immersing his body within the prowling crunch of the strums.

           

Johnny’s seven-year-old excitement had faded to an aggressive jadedness over the ten more years it took to be seventeen. Early on, he had recognized the soundless futility that hugged the underside of Ginopeian life’s superficial possibility. Reality came second to the incredible stimulation of the headset/hand remote combination. A citizen could plunge into the virtual world and receive the mythologically advertised Heightened Experience! He could assign all of his obligations—washing the toilets, packing tomorrow’s lunch—to some sort of specialized robot.  We’ve leapt forward here.  We’ve left parental conflict and irritating music purchase.  We don’t know what happened.

 

 And after a few years in school, around the age when he checked in the mirror for new dark curly hair every morning, Johnny had connected a minor historical progression with implications that would sit incomprehensible in the mind of any typical Ginopeian citizen: that, over time, the average person had moved from controlling his technology, to sending electronic inputs to the circuits that carried out the majority of his technology’s operations, to ceding all but the thinnest veneer of power over any of it.  This is description of the new world order.

 

Johnny used to try to hold his inchoate memories of life outside Ginopeia in the forefront of his mind. A circle of people sitting on the ground sharing stories and legends in a small grass field while the sun lowered. Playing a game with his mother in which he would ask “why?” after every answer she gave until she chased him outside. Leaning into formidable wind, laughing as it held him up longer than gravity would.

           

But the longer Johnny lived in Ginopeia the more the details faded. A fair amount of invention took place to retain them. Johnny assured himself he only changed little things like angles, glances, and colors. The emotions didn’t require re-mastering but a creeping bitterness at his severance with the setting of these memories infiltrated even the strongest of their emotions. Contrary to his parents, who had won the lottery in Outer Sector II-A to live in the newer housing developments on the outskirts of Ginopeia, Johnny had come to the conclusion that life wasn’t lived as it was supposed to in this new territory.

Good.  I assume this is the beginning of a long story story.  You’ve introduced a lot of interesting ideas.  This last sentence is great for keeping reader wondering what is next.

 

You write well and have a lot of good ideas.  Now think about what you write, the purpose for your story, and then structure your story the way you do a paragraph—a topic sentence, supporting ideas, a conclusion or a transition.  In your story, it hard for the reader to follow the relation ships of the ideas on the page.  I’ll summarize: 

Enter music store.

Imagining parents reactions.

Back story about grounding.

Setting description.

Internal reflection about sound.

Johnny not caring about carbon.

Stomach ailment from pizza.

In vehicle.

On street.

Back story and reflection—Ginopeia

Back story (way back years) mother

Retaining memories, and back story about parents and lottery

 

The idea is that a lot is delivered with almost random disconnection so the impact of what you’re trying to do is weakened.  Do you want to interest reader in Johnny and his parents?  Is this a coming of age story?  Do you want to create a world unfamiliar to the reader, and give opinions about the world?  Do you want to reveal how music can affect people?  Etc.  I would suggest you chose one thing for this short piece and develop.  Once you have purpose established and are building you story around it, be it parental conflict, narrative description of a new world, how Johnny changes in his new environment, you can begin to weave other topics into the major purpose and theme. 

It may be unclear and you probably are satisfied with what’s been done, but I suggest you think about it.  Stories have a beginning, middle, and end, no matter the length.  Conflict provides drama, and every story needs drama.  In scene development in general should be more prominent than narrative.  Keep your prose clear and informative.

All the best in your writing.  And thanks for the submission. 

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

© 2018 Literary Fiction Workshop