half right

Flash FictionI have a dilemma.

Last week I asked for feedback on this series. To date, only one reader has responded to that request. (No biggie. I know everyone’s busy.) The evaluation was not positive. Mostly, it had to do with the tone of the stories and the focus of the characters. Both Harkins and Carter can be quite crude. That was part of it, but point-of-view was also an issue in this reader’s assessment.

While I’m writing from specific characters’ perspectives, the narrative is all third person limited. I tend to like that approach. The downside, however, is that in cases like this it can be a bit harder to separate my voice from the character’s voice. My test reader felt like perhaps I have taken on an angrier, crasser style, especially given the kinds of things on which Carter and Harkins tend to focus.

That makes sense. Even though the narrative isn’t in first person, I would say I’m speaking on behalf of the character from whose point of view I’m writing. If the exposition is rough around the edges or even offensive, it’s because the characters, themselves, are. I don’t particularly like Carter or Harkins, and I don’t expect the reader to, either.

The line I’m trying to walk is a tough one. I don’t want to lose readers because the characters and/or narrative hold no appeal, but I don’t want to pull a bait-and-switch, either. These are not good people. That’s part of the point. How do I convey that, showcasing their flaws without apology, without pushing the reader away?

I’m open to feedback, either to the general question or in regard to this series, specifically. If you’re reading it, as I know some are, and you don’t like it, tell me. Tell me it’s awful. Tell me it lacks heart. Tell me you’re offended, put off, or just plain bored. Give me your candid opinion. Just do me a favor and also tell me why you feel that way. If the story is broken, I want to fix it, but I can only do that if I know the nature of the malfunction.

Click here if you’d like to read this series from the beginning. The posts will display in order, starting with the first, so you can enjoy them in order. And if you have any feedback, lay it on me in the comments.

half right

“Am I really the only one who smells a set-up?”

She looks to Carter first. She’d pegged her as the smarter of the two. If either is likely to agree, it’s her. It’s hard to tell–the woman has a grade-A poker face–but it looks like she sees the distinct possibility. Then the trainee turns to Harkins. He looks positively scared. Good. They both get it.

“Doesn’t matter,” Carter says. “We have orders, as do you. Keep your mouth shut and stay out of the way.”

Unbelievable.

“She has a point,” Harkins says.

Carter rolls her eyes. “We’re not discussing this. We’re doing it.”

“Hold up.” It’s Masters. He’s eyeing the trainee in the rearview mirror. “The kid may be on to something. And no, I’m not saying we should bail. I’m just saying it bears consideration.”

Carter looks smug, but she takes her hand off the door handle and settles back into her seat. “It’s been considered. Like I told Jefferies, the vamp is just toying with us. He’s arrogant. Cocky. They all are.”

“I get that,” Masters says. “And you’re right. Blood suckers tend to be pretty full of themselves. But you have to admit he’s being fairly brazen, even for one of them. I mean, there’s an alley behind his house. Why come and go through the front door? He’s making a show of it.”

Carter shrugs. “We discussed all of this during mish-prep. It’s not a factor. We have a solid entry point, and we can easily retreat if we run into trouble. The sun is more than enough cover. All three of us are armed. Even if he has friends in there–which is doubtful as the surveillance team never saw anyone else enter or exit–we’ll be fine.”

“So, the surveillance team was watching both entrances?” the trainee asks. All three of the veterans turn toward her. “The front and back doors. They weren’t lulled into a lazy approach by his showmanship? There’s no chance he was intentionally creating a distraction?”

“Huh.” Masters is chewing on that.

“I don’t like this,” Harkins says.

“For fuck’s sake, you never like it, Harkins. We’re going in. I’m not running back to Jefferies with my tail tucked between my legs because our trainee has a paranoid theory.”

“There’s precedent,” Harkins says. “It’s well within protocol to postpone an operation if we acquire new intel.”

Carter twists in her seat, her eyes on fire. She lays into Harkins. “We don’t have new intel! We have an imaginative trainee who doesn’t know how to keep her fucking mouth shut! We already knew everything she’s pointed out. She was in the room when we talked to Jefferies about it. It’s not like she’s even coming up with original stuff. She’s just throwing a wrench in the works, and why wouldn’t she? This is her first mission. She’s probably scared shitless. We’re not putting off the mission because she’s got cold feet.”

The trainee looks at Carter. When she speaks, there’s not a hint of anger or fear in her voice. Quite the opposite. “I’m not scared. I’ve seen worse than you. I can hold my own. I am, however, questioning the logic of knowingly walking into a trap. You keep saying vamps are cocky. With all due respect, which frankly isn’t much, you’re the one who seems to think she’s unstoppable. ‘Pride goeth before destruction,’ Operative Carter.”

Carter’s nostrils flare.

“I’m going in,” she says. “Come with me or answer for insubordination. That goes for you, too, Harkins.” With that, Carter opens the van’s door and steps outside.

If the trainee is nervous, she doesn’t show it. She merely shrugs and follows. Harkins is a little slower, but he joins, as well. They make their way across the asphalt, rounding the side of the house and coming up on their entry point.

“A quick in and out” Jefferies had called it back in mish-prep. He was half right.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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