Thursday, September 8, 2011

Talking Heads: Beta Test #10

TITLE: Jumper
GENRE: Mystery/Satire

The Crisis Evaluation Committee, convened to investigate the alleged suicide of Professor Alejandro De la Torre, meets for the first time. Provost Lawrence Rathman briefs the faculty members on their responsibilities.

“The full report will be delivered directly to the President of the College,” the Provost continued. “We’ll offer our recommendations to a wider campus audience, of course, but our specific findings must remain confidential.”

Santiago turned to the others. “To protect the privacy of Professor De la Torre,” he explained.

The Provost pursed his lips and nodded. “Exactly. We’re going to be treading in some treacherous waters here, with respect to issues of privacy.”

“You mean sailing,” said Iris.

“Pardon?” Rathman raised an eyebrow.

“Well, it’s just that you can’t tread in water. You can sail, or swim, I suppose, but you definitely can’t tread in water. You can only tread water. You’re mixing metaphors. It’s not a big deal. Just a pet peeve of mine.”

“Jesus could,” Quan pointed out. “Walk on water, I mean. If that’s how you’re using the word ‘tread.’ Which I think you are, since a tire tread in - what was it, treacherous waters? – makes even less sense. And I’m not even a native speaker.”

“Oh, but your vocabulary and syntax are head and shoulders above many of my students,” Irish gushed. “And I just love your accent.”

Quan smiled and bowed.

“That story about Jesus is debatable, by the way,” said Santiago. “It depends on whether you think a literal or figurative reading of the Bible is more appropriate.”

Iris opened her mouth, but the Provost held up a hand. “Marjorie, ” he said sharply, “perhaps we should distribute the binder.”

15 comments:

Holly Bodger said...

Wow. There are a lot of characters here and I can't figure out whose POV this is in. Whoever the main character is, he or she needs to pause to react occasionally. At the very least, he/she should personalize what is going on. For example, something like, "Quan smiled and bowed in that way he always did when he was pretending he agreed with someone." Something like this would show us not just the dialogue but how the main character is interpreting or reacting to the dialogue.

Good luck!

Merliniana said...

The poor Provost! He wants to investigate a suicide and no one is cooperating. This is well done if you're trying to show the ineptitude and futility of this committee. The asides went on a bit too long for me. IMHO I would have liked the Provost to call them to order sooner. But I might not feel that way if I were reading it in context.

Designs by JoLea said...

This was the only one so far that hooked me. As a satire, it is absolutely effective. The conversation dissolves into pointless debate in perfect rhythym.
Each character was given their own tone, so I didn't have trouble 'hearing' individuals.
Sounds fun!

Sonja said...

I love it. I think it's funny and clever. I assume by this point we are familiar with all of these characters and their quirks--like Iris being a stickler for proper use of language. So this exchange, I expect, is very 'in character'? Nicely done.

tarak said...

I really liked this one. Just from this small bit makes me think that the Provost would have the same demeanor if they were discussing a suicide or if the same professor were caught in a coat closet with a student.

I had one small nit, which was the use of tread and treacherous in the same sentence. Then I thought it was more indicative of the character's choice of words, rather than author's. If that makes any sense.

Escape Artist said...

I actually thought it was well done! I got a sense of the characters, and because we're not talking first 250 and I've been thrown in the middle - I'd have to just say 'good job'. : )

samsevern said...

This is FANTASTIC!! The rapid-fire delivery of the characters is hypnotic, and absolutely movie-like. (And I mean this in the best sense, it reads like a classic movie scene brought to life.) I adore the way the characters yank the story off in their own directions, then have it yanked back to what they are here to discuss.....I loved it, just freaking MARVELOUS!!!

Adam Heine said...

It's hard to get my head in satire, tossed in the middle like this, but overall I think this works well.

I thought some of the dialog went a little longer than it needed to. For example, you could cut "It’s not a big deal. Just a pet peeve of mine." and Iris' line would be funnier. Brevity and wit and all that.

Barbara said...

Loved it! I thought everyone's aside went on just long enough, so it wasn't overdone. The only thing I thought it could have used was a silent reaction from Rathmore, if at some point during all the asides - maybe after Quan bows - we could see the look on his face. Although that might mess up the pacing which is really good as is. Or maybe you could add it as he holds up his hand at the end, although I don't think it would be as effective there. Or maybe you should just leave it as is.

Nicely done!

David Barry DeLozier said...

Fun scene. Nice pace to dialog. Only thing that confused me was Provost/Rathman attributes, but you explained that in your setup. I trip sometimes over using different attributes for the same character in a stretch of dialog. Great job.

Robbin said...

Thought you handled the satire nicely. I would have like the plot to move forward - the meeting dragged, like most meeting do. So, maybe, that's the point. Not sure what the scene was uncovering. The writing is great - I could totally be a fly on the wall. Nicely done!

Heather said...

very believable dialogue and action going on here!

Anonymous said...

OK, I found this excerpt a bit too academic. I realize that the milieu is academia, and that we are parachuted into this excerpt wthout knowing the characters, but perhaps the writer could add a little more bite to the satire?


I've added a few minor editing thoughts inside square brackets [...]

“The full report will be delivered directly to the [maybe use College] President [DELETE: of the College],” the Provost continued. “We’ll offer our recommendations to a wider campus audience, of course, but our specific findings must remain confidential.”

Santiago turned to the others. “To protect the privacy of Professor De la Torre,” he explained.

The Provost pursed his lips and nodded. “Exactly. We’re [maybe DELETE: going to be] treading in some treacherous waters here, with respect to issues of privacy.”

“You mean sailing,” [NICE] said Iris.

“Pardon?” Rathman raised an eyebrow.

“Well, it’s just that you can’t tread in water. [NICE] You can sail, or swim, I suppose, but you definitely can’t tread in water. You can only tread water. [You’re mixing metaphors. - Hmm, maybe DELETE this sentence: sounds overly academic, esp given that Iris is a foil to the Provost's bs] It’s not a big deal. Just a pet peeve of mine.”

“Jesus could,” Quan pointed out. “Walk on water, I mean. If that’s how you’re using the word ‘tread.’ Which I think you are, since a tire tread in - what was it, treacherous waters? – makes even less sense. And I’m not even a native speaker.”

“Oh, but your vocabulary and syntax are head and shoulders above many of my students,” Irish gushed. “And I just love your accent.”

Quan smiled and bowed.

“That story about Jesus is debatable, by the way,” said Santiago. “It depends on whether you think a literal or figurative reading of the Bible is more appropriate.”

Iris opened her mouth, but the Provost held up a hand. “Marjorie, ” he said sharply, “perhaps we should distribute the binder.”

Brenda Drake said...

A very nice exchange between characters. I agree with Anonymous, I think you could tighten it up here and there to have it move a bit quicker. Other than that, great scene! :D

Mary said...

The only thing I noticed is using adverbs (sharply) and tags like - she gushed, exclaimed, etc. I've always read adverb use and using tags other than said are frowned upon. Maybe someone can enlighten me in this - is using said and cutting adverbs a must? I know I be seen plenty of adverbs used in books I've read!

Thank you for sharing and the meeting, dialogue, and seeding ring true.