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Postby startrekkie96 on Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:56 pm

This is a start to a story that I'm writing. Any feedback on my writing skills or lack thereof would be appreciated. I know it hits some hot political stuff, but I just want literary feedback, not political. Thanks.

The protest was massive. Thousands upon thousand of people had gathered out on the National Mall, in front of the White House, to protest a variety of issues. Angry demonstrators waved signs filled with grievances about the environment, health care, the war in Iraq, and the continuing consolidation of executive power. Capital Police looked about anxiously, dressed in full riot gear. This protest had continued for 4 days, and no end was in sight. Marine troops and armored personnel carriers blocked the way between the protest and the White House. The safety of the president was no joking matter. Their guns were loaded with real bullets.

Mitch Garson pushed the wide mop along the polished marble floors. Reaching the end of the hallway, he gathered up the debris and prepared to head towards the Oval Office. Oh, Lord how he hated this job. 55, balding, unmarried, and employed at the White House as “sanitary specialist.â€￾ He was the janitor of the most powerful man in the world. And it just so happened, that the most powerful man in the world and his staff were the messiest administration he'd seen in 27 years of sweeping these halls. At first he's been eager to take the job. Who wouldn't want to work in the White House, even as a janitor. He had been having trouble finding work anyway. But after 10 years of distinguished military service, you'd think the government could've done better. He emptied the Presidents trash can, then moved on to the Cabinet Room. They always left a tremendous mess. He paused to look out the window. The protest was still going on. In 27 years of work at the White House, this had to be one of the larger ones he's seen. It had been going on for a while; 4, maybe 5 days? He wasn't certain. He supposed they had something to complain about. A war that had dragged on 14 years for no apparent reason, massive cuts in domestic spending, an economy gone down the tubes. After the bombings at the Space Needle in Seattle by domestic terrorists, the Domestic Defense Service had been established. He had heard things about them. Secret prisons, torture. One journalist had come forward to talk about harassment after publishing an anarchist editorial, but died in a car crash soon after. The DDS listened to phone calls, read emails, and monitored Internet legal violations. At least, that's what some people said. Good data was hard to find these days, as most of the major news services had conglomerated into the New Media Corporation, or NMC. And while once anyone could publish to the Internet, nowadays it was nearly impossible to get any attention without paying thousands of dollars in fees to several different service providers. But making policy wasn't his job. He just swept the place.

“Mr. Hatheson, I'm with NMC, could I interview you about this protest?â€￾
The reporter was shorter than he was, maybe 5'11''. The sign on her mike read in big block print: “NMCâ€￾
“About the protest?â€￾
He's come to Washington two days ago, after hearing about the protest from friends who had been visiting the nation's capitol. Over the last 6 years, he'd systematically lost everything. His home, to the foreclosure crisis. His job, to massive out sourcing. He had nothing, no health coverage, he lived in an apartment on rent, and made his living serving at a local diner. Once he'd heard about the protest, he'd decided to go, on impulse. He was tired of toiling for nothing while the government looked out for big companies interests. He was tired of being treated like a potential terrorist 24/7. Tired of having phone calls monitored, emails read. So he came. And he didn't intend to leave until something changed.
“Yes, about the protest.â€￾
“What about it?â€￾
“Why are you here?â€￾
“Everyone here has their own reasons for protesting. The war, environment, but I think civil liberties and the gross inequality of the economy are the two big ones. But like I said, everyone has their own reasons.â€￾
“What about allegations of violence, drug use, and vandalism that have been stated?â€￾
“Of course they'd like to say we're violent, we're stoned , that we're just radicals. But we really just want to force the government to pay attention to the people again. They can't ignore us forever. Now perhaps some radicals have been violent, or vandalized something, but by far the majority here are peaceful people.â€￾
“So some of these allegations are true, then?â€￾
“Yes, but most are not.â€￾
“Thank you for your time.â€￾
“You bet.â€￾

“Tonight, on NMC Nightwatch, our own Jane Evelyn interviews protesters obstructing progress in the nation's capital. Why are they really there? Over to you, Janeâ€￾
“Thank you Frank. I spoke with one of the protesters, a Mr. James Hatheson, in order to get a sense of what this is all about. “ A video clip ran:
“Why are you here?â€￾
“Everyone here has their own reasons for protesting.â€￾
“What about allegations of violence, drug use, and vandalism that have been stated?â€￾
We're violent, we're stoned ... we're radicals. They can't ignore us forever.
“So some of these allegations are true, then?â€￾
“Yes.â€￾
The clip ended, and the host spoke to one of the nearby experts.
“With people like this leading the protests, should we expect the government to respond seriously?â€￾
“Obviously not. These people are simply professional troublemakersâ€￾
The coverage continued for 5 minutes before moving on to Paris Hilton's latest boyfriend.

Mitch ambled down the hall, pushing his mop ahead of him. Now he had to sweep out the War Room. He hated that. The Secretary of State always left a tremendous mess, and no one else cared to pick up, they were above that. Looking down the hall, he saw a dark liquid oozing into the hall. Great. Now they've spilled something too, he thought to himself. He walked pack and got his cart, and pushed it up to the door. He grabbed his mop and prepared to start, when he noticed what the spill was. Blood. A knife pressed against his back, a hand went over his mouth, and someone whispered into his ear. “Clean it up.â€￾ Trembling, he slowly mopped the blood up, then wrung out his mop into a bucket. He finished, leaving a faint red slime on the floor. No one would notice it unless they looked closely. He glanced at the dead man. A Secret Service agent was propped against the wall, bleeding out from a knife wound to the stomach. His unseen assailant whispered, “Thanksâ€￾. Then a sharp pain in the back of his head, and everything went dark.

The man looked at the janitor unconscious on the floor. He wore sunglasses, a Secret Service outfit, suit and tie, and radio so he would know if they were onto him. Now what? He'd come here to kill them all, hadn't he? To cleanse the country of corruption. That was what was necessary. But was it his choice? Could he decide what was really best for this man, a normal citizen? How could any of them know for sure? They couldn't. He decided. He reached into his pocked and pulled out the detonator. It was labeled with two buttons. He took a pen from his pocket, and scrawled “detonateâ€￾ under one button and “disarmâ€￾ under the other. He took a pad from the War Room and hastily explained the choice in a short note. He slipped the note and detonator into the janitor's pocket. He stuffed the Secret Service agent into a corner, the propped the janitor up into a chair, with his head down on the table. He could be sleeping peacefully. He hid his knife in his belt, rearranged the room, rolled the janitors cart inside, closed the door, and calmly walked down the hall.

Mitch awoke to a sore nose. He was sitting, face down on the War Room table. What am I doing? Then he remembered. The man, the blood, that dead agent and the knife- he had to tell somebody! Then he felt something in his pocket. He pulled it out. It was a note, and a small black radio-like thing. A detonator he realized with shock. Shaking, he unfolded the note. He read:
Sorry, I didn't mean to hit you that hard. I suspect you know what that device in your hand is. It's a detonator, and it will destroy the White House. And it now belongs to you. But before you run to the agents and give it away, consider your position. The executive branch you work for has overstepped it's boundaries. Congress is a rubber stamp. Supreme court justices can be replaced at will. Either directly or indirectly, the government controls all media. Dissenters are derided and ignored. People live in constant fear of terrorist attack, and the government feeds this fear and uses it to gain even more control. You see this. You know this. But you do nothing. Now you have a chance to determine how history will read. You know what to do. Make the right choice.
Mitch carefully refolded the note and placed it in his pocket. He a strange sensation over took him. He felt as though someone had snapped a line, cut him loose, snapped him out of his comfort zone. The world seemed surreal. He felt the smooth plastic of the detonator as he slipped it into his pocket and ,as if in a dream, walked through the door. He strode seemingly aimlessly through the polished marble halls. He strode toward the front entrance. An extra detail of Secret Service agents guarded the door. The protesters out side continued to chant and yell. He opened the door, and was supplied with a hard gaze by one of the agents. But the agent said nothing. Mitch calmly walked outside.
The weather was horrendous. The evening sky was obscured but a preponderance of angry thunder clouds. Sheets of rain fell from thick clouds. Lighting flashed across the sky, as if to symbolize the tensions building in the air. Mitch had no coat, and was instantly drenched. The agents were looking at him with an odd gaze. What was the janitor doing on the lawn? One began to walk forward. Mitch took the detonator out of his pocket and examined his options. Detonate or disarm. Revolution or suppression. Security or terror. “HE'S GOT A DETONATOR!â€￾ The agent screamed. Mitch held it up for them to see. The agents panicked. Weapons were drawn, and shouting began. “Get back, or I blow it!â€￾ The agents scattered.

The agents moved quickly. The had practiced for this countless times. Their activities were automatic. Robert Wallace headed the detail assigned to the White House. He was doing paperwork when the call came in. “Code six, we have a code six on the lawnâ€￾ Wallace's heart skipped a beat. A code six was a bomb threat. His face betrayed nothing, however, as he strapped on his bulletproof vest and checked his service pistol. He could hear the radio chatter as the President was evacuated to his helicopter. He hoped they would make it. A voice came over the radio: “Command, this is sniper team 3, we have a shot, should we take it?â€￾ His response was instant: “Negative, do not fire. If he manages to detonate and the president is not evacuated...â€￾ His voice trailed off at the thought. The first president in decades to be assassinated, on my watch. Not happening. Wallace walked onto the lawn. The suspect was surrounded by agents, but they were keeping their distance. The janitor. Figured. He'd always suspected the man of emptying his garbage can only now and then. Wallace moved toward the man. “Stay back!â€￾ The man shouted, and waved the palm sized transmitter. “Where are the bomb teams!?!â€￾ Wallace hollered into his radio. “Sir, they're working, but they haven't got anything yet.â€￾ The janitor looked unsure of what to do. The agents stood behind cover, guns drawn.

Mitch ignored the agents, lost in his own thoughts. Some part of his brain registered their presence, but he ignored. What do I do now? He agonized over his choices. Then he saw Marine One lift off. The president had been evacuated. Detonate or disarm? He wondered. Then he saw the agents. They were moving in. What was he supposed to do? I don't have the right to decide what is best for the people who live in the world of tomorrow. I can't know what they need, only they know that I can't do this. I can't. No one has that right. He gazed at the device in his hand, and made his choice.
He pressed disarm.

Wallace saw the man press a button on the detonator. At least the president made it out. Was all he could think as his service pistol jerked, again and again, in his hand. Bullet after bullet left his gun, on it's way to the target. He heard the blast, and felt the pressure wave before he saw it. A hammer slammed against his back. The the world went dark.

Mitch saw the fireball, heard the blast felt the bullets tear into his body, and realized he'd been tricked. Tricked. There was no “disarmâ€￾. He was a fool for believing the man. And now he was going to die.
The explosion was fantastic. The citizens of Washington D.C. were witness to a massive fireball consuming the very heart of American government. The White House exploded into a tremendous fireball, drowning out the sounds of sirens and gunfire. The blast blew straight through the roof, collapsing the ceiling of the building, even as the walls blew outward, shattering the massive marble pillars, annihilating the beautiful fountain on the perfectly manicured lawn. The dust would fill the air for days to come. When the blast wave had finished resounding through the city, the cries of the wounded and dying would proceed fill it. And on what used to be the lawn of the home of the most powerful man in the world, a janitor had been shot 27 times. His name would join the list of the dead.

Wallace stumbled to his feet a surveyed the scene. His agents lay dead or dying around him. His workplace burned behind him, destroyed. The protesters ran for their lives. Cries of the dying filled the air, as what must've been a record number of sirens rang in his ears. I will find who did this, he thought, and when I do, I will kill them.

The protesters scattered when the bomb detonated. James Hatheson surveyed the crowd and realized instantly what was about to happen. They're going to think we're responsible. They're going to kill us all. The shooting started. People screamed as Marines turned their weapons toward the crowd and opened fire. Armored vehicles race for the gate of what had once been the White House, crushing anyone who stood in their way. The demonstrators scattered in a panic. Blood mixed with rain. Lighting flashed over head, and thunder boomed out the beginning of a new, terrible era.

In a dark room, a man takes a phone call. “What is necessary, is now doneâ€￾, says a voice. The man smiles and hangs up the phone.
"Jesus put DNA inside all of us - Right after he buried the dinosaur bones" - Stephen Colbert
"No one should be protected from the effects of his own stupidity." - Anton LaVey, founder, Church of Satan
"No society in human history has suffered from being too reasonable" - Sam Harris
"We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution" - Capitol Visitor's Center
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Postby Mad Willyum Bonney on Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:49 pm

ARGH! A long winded tale !...I'll give it a go when Oi sober up matey .
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Postby lordpunkmonk on Tue Apr 01, 2008 7:26 pm

what do you expect its the begining of a book
--LPM lord of the apocalypse
"The man with a clear conscience probably has a poor memory." --Lawrence J. Peter
111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321
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Postby thelastpirate on Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:59 am

The secret service mole should use a silenced gun not a knife to kill people IMO. The writing's good, i want to know who the phone man is and what his motive is :(
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Postby Cryofdragon on Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:49 am

OK then, constructive criticism time.

First, I notice that most of your sentences are short and follow roughly the same form. Try varying your sentence length and structure. That will help the flow of the writing.

Secondly, try to reduce repetitions. After "the messiest administration he'd seen in 27 years of sweeping these halls," I don't need to be told that he's worked here for 27 years again, so the sentance, "In 27 years of work at the White House, this had to be one of the larger ones he's seen" irked me a little. Try "In all the time he's worked here" or something like that. Also, we don't need to be told over and over that the administration is messy. We got it the first time.

Now for the bigger issues.

The news coverage scene took me two times through it before I really got what was going on. The transitions were just too jumpy. Try introducing each bit, instead of just jumping there.

I personally would put the first interveiw after the first paragraph, so that you talk about the protest, then move to a scene inside the protest. Then the opening of the next paragraph ("Mitch Garson pushed the wide mop...) gives you a good clue that you're not in the protest anymore, you're somewhere else. Also, instead of cutting from the interview in person to the interview on TV, try changing it up a little. Maybe there's a TV on where Mitch is cleaning and it's playing the coverage. That would give a good indication that what we herd before was the actual interview, and this is the news media's edition of it. Of course, these are just suggestions, but you should use something so that we know more of what's going on.

On that topic, the biggest thing that I noticed was that just into the interveiw, we suddenly jump. Who's "he", what's going on? I had to pause for a few seconds before I figured it out. When your readers have to pause, it throws off the suspension of disbelief, and they fall out of the story a little. Also, remember the old maxim of show, don't tell. You told us that he was pissed off about the wire taping. You told us that he lost his house and his job, but you have an excellent opportunity to show us those things. I would say, skip the awkward paragraph and have Mr. Hatheson say why he's here. He's pissed off. He lost his house and his job, he has his phone calls and emails monitored. He has no health coverage, and he can't get a job better than a waiter. Instead of just telling us those things, have him say them. SHOW us that he's pissed and his life now sucks, don't just tell us. You pass up a great opportunity to do so when the reporter asks him why he's there, but instead, he just gives a bland answer. That's confusing in and of itself. We've just been told about his life, and that he doesn't intend to leave until something is changed. He sounds pretty serious, but the best he can come up with is "everyone has their own reasons?"

Lastly, a bit of a bug with the storyline itself. Why does the bomber hand over his important mission to some guy he doesn't even know? The reason is because he "can't decide what is right for this guy," but he's in the white house with a detonator, clearly he's already made up his mind. Furthermore, if both buttons are to detonate, why even do that? He's giving the choice to a normal guy, but the normal guy isn't even given a choice. In the worst case (for the bomber), Mitch could have handed over the detonator to the authorities, who would know better than to touch any of the buttons until the bombs had been removed and detonated by a bomb squad. His choice to give the detonator to some random guy just doesn't make any sense.

I do think you've got a decent story on your hands. With some reworking, it could be really good. I'd love to see your next version of this, hopefully with the things I mentioned in mind.

Lastly, if you've never heard of Megatokyo, it's a pretty decent webcomic, but the best part about the site (http://www.megatokyo.com) is that on the fourms is a wonderful little section called CW (creative writing). It specializes in writing critiques, and many of the people over there are very good at what they do. After you have a re-worked version, I'd strongly suggest you post it over there. The specific board I'm talking about is here.
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