Category Archives: Gunther McWilliams

The short boring life of Gunther McWilliams: sci-fi

More on Gunther

I finished my latest short story, and plan to post it onto Zoetrope to see what the “people” think before I send it off to see if anyone would like to publish it. This story will be my first real attempt to reach out into the publishing world to see if they bite. I need a title though, so hopefully the Zoetrope folks can help me out. Speaking of short stories, I posted some annotated notes from people on Zoetrope, and the things they thought were strong and weak in regard to the story Gunther McWilliams. I’ve had a funny reaction to Gunther: I’m over it. The story was created out of a short story challenge contest, so, it isn’t the theme I generally feel driven to write (yes, I plugged my third placement in the first round). It was great practice in writing in a different genre and voice but when it came down to all the extra work to make the story shine, I just didn’t have it in my heart to go deeper. But maybe some other time.

Here are the notes:

The good: non-traditional story–this semi-science fiction story is satirical and funny. Swiftesque feeling. The story flows well. The dialogue captures the nature of the character, authentic in tone. Never once gets in the way of the story you’re telling, and the pace you keep is perfect for a narrative of this sort. The story itself feels familiar interesting twist here a fascinating twist I really like the premise.

Constructive:

Some places for improvement would be more imagery . Not totally original but enjoyable nonetheless. A very few minor typos.  I’ve seen it before.


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Final draft Gunther McWilliams

Final suggestions were taken from these two previous posts.

“I need to speak to the council.” He was looking up at a woman standing behind a towering reception area.

“You think you can just come in here off the streets and talk to the council? Like that?” She snapped her fingers.

“Look. My name is Gunther McWilliams. I’ll make an appointment. I just need to speak to them. Something strange is going on.”

She examined the screen in front of her then shook her head with a tsk, “I’m sorry, you are not Gunther McWilliams.”

“I am I assure you I am.”

“No sir, you cannot be.”

“Are you telling me that on that little screen of records you cannot find a Gunther McWilliams?”

“No sir that is not what I am saying. There is one Gunther McWilliams, only one, but he is two years old.”

Gunther’s knees weakened. “That’s impossible,” he said, “I thought the city council declared that each person has his or her own name, each person has their own unique identity, there are no others with your name. How can there be a mix up, how can that child have my name?”

“Because, it is not yours.”

“Yes. I assure you it is, it has been mine for 32 years.”

“According to our records, sir, Gunther McWilliams is two and you do not look two to me. Therefore you are not Gunther McWilliams.”

I pretty much agreed and took seriously what both CP and the judges said about my short story and I made the changes I think will help to make the world of the story more believable, so it caused me to change a few things in the beginning again:

Gunther McWilliams woke with a dreadful headache. Last night was his 32nd birthday, and he and the guys from work had quite a row. He was surprised to see a few members of the council at the party. He felt he was a solid employee but never considered himself city council worthy. His boss had said, when his birthday came he hoped the council would show up to his 32nd party. Everyone one kept teasing him about being the old guy at the office.

Gunther stood up and felt a throbbing in his head. God, he was old. You play you pay. It was time to pay the piper, and Gunther had to struggle through yet another dull workday worsened by a nauseating hangover.

He stumbled into the kitchen to pull out a bag of cat food then poured it into a ceramic bowl on the floor.

“Rodney,” He called out.  He waited for a few seconds then called out again. “Damn cat,” he mumbled as he walked to the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and stepped into the shower. His mind wandered to Linda Silverston the new receptionist at the office, a real hottie too, big blonde hair, big brown eyes and big boobs. She seemed to have taken a liking to him; she had come to his birthday bash and had had a couple of drinks. He knew he was a nice guy, not the most handsome but not ugly, and he only had a small paunch. He patted his belly fat. He decided he was going to ask her out. He was 32 years old he shouldn’t be afraid to ask a woman out. He would do it today, right after work. He smiled at this. Gunther didn’t take a lot of chances, but he was resolved to start taking some right now.

As he stood in the doorway with his briefcase he glanced around his apartment one last time. He hadn’t noticed it earlier but something felt a little off. He looked at his coat tree it seemed as if it had been moved slightly.  He shrugged the feeling off. He had probably just bumped into the tree when he came home drunk. All part of getting older, you forget things.

“Rodney?”

Part of the problem was that I hadn’t established or hinted to the fact that there is a city council that dictates peoples lives, in fact the council provides all the names for each newborn. I didn’t want to reveal the name information too soon, but the judges and CP were right, I needed to mention something, and that is why I addded the line about council members being at the party. I didn’t want too much attention on them just enough so that the reader could think back, and think to themselves, “oh right the council was at the party and Gunther was surprised.”

one judge said this:

One complaint in the logic department – the missing cat was meant as foreshadowing, but it is specifically stated that the humans are treated at birth to forget others when they turn 32.  The cat should not have been affected.

This was me ineffectively conveying that the cat was taken away. Animals are unaffected but they can be physically taken away. That was why I added the new part of Gunther noticing that his coat rack looked as if it had been moved. His thought is that he must have bumped into it drunk and I hope that this being his first thought also shows that there is no crime and that is why Gunther would never suspect that someone would break into his house and certainly no one would sneak in and take his cat.

When you stated this important fact yourself, you misphrased it so that it reads as if humans forget all OTHERS when they, themselves, turn 32:  “…is the message to forget people at the age of 32.”………….

This comment i had to give up on because I wasn’t sure what the judge was talking about, I re-read the scene but I still have not been able to figure out how I miss-phrased the sentence. I could be wrong but I don’t think this particular comment is very clear as to what the judge wants to see changed. So I dropped it.

Lastly, I changed up some of the ending and I filled it out a little then I also stated rather bluntly what does happen to Gunther. I like it but some my think its a cliche. If you watch sci-fi films it is not an unusual story, I can name at least three movies that I think of when i read this. Not that I had decided, I was going to write like those movies, I just noticed the similarities after I re-read it, this is a normal thing in writing after all much has been written before me it would be near impossible for me to be 100% original, but still there is a uniqueness in how I tell the story.

The End.

ShrtStry1-using the feedback-Gunther McWilliams prt1

Its been awhile since I’ve been to this post but I’m back.

I’ve taken Catherine’s (CP) advice from the first part of feedback, you can check out the specific of what she wrote here but this is the story using her advice.

Gunther McWilliams woke with a dreadful headache. Last night was his 32nd birthday, and he and the guys from work had quite a row. Now it was time to pay the piper, and Gunther had to struggle through yet another dull workday worsened by a nauseating hangover.

He stumbled into the kitchen to pull out a bag of cat food then poured it into a ceramic bowl on the floor.

“Rodney,” He called out. He waited for a few seconds then called out again. “Damn cat,” he mumbled as he walked to the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and stepped into the shower. His mind wandered to Linda Silverston the new receptionist at the office, a real hottie too, big blonde hair, big brown eyes and big boobs. She seemed to have taken a liking to him; she had come to his birthday bash and had had a couple of drinks. He knew he was a nice guy, not the most handsome but not ugly, and he only had a small paunch. He patted his belly fat. He decided he was going to ask her out. He was 32 years old he shouldn’t be afraid to ask a woman out. He would do it today, right after work. He smiled at this. Gunther didn’t take a lot of chances, but he was resolved to start taking some right now.

As he stood in the doorway with his briefcase he glanced around his apartment one last time.

“Rodney?”

***

Gunther liked routines. He took the same route to work, stopped in the same coffee shop, got the same type of coffee, and the same croissant with ham and cheese, all to go, all paid with his bank card every work day. He had been doing it so long that he didn’t even have to say the order. He’d just walk up to the counter hold out his card, and the cute red headed barista would say, “Hi Gunther, the usual?” And he liked that.

He entered the coffee shop, the red head smiled at him as he approached. He stopped at the counter and handed her his card. She looked down at it.

“What can I get you?” She asked.

He was taken a little aback, but then thought she was being cute with him, flirting even.

“Cute.” He said. “I’ll have my usual.”

She stared at him. In fact, she stared at him as if she had never seen him before.

“Are you an actress?” He asked her with a smile, “is that what you do other than work here? Cause you are doing a great job.”

“I’m sorry sir I don’t know what you mean.”

“Okay, okay,” he was getting annoyed, “good job, now just get my usual.”

“I’m sorry sir but I don’t know what your usual is.”

He furrowed his eyebrows. “All right, maybe this is some acting class assignment so I’ll play along this once, but that’s it. I’ll have the ham and cheese croissant, and a medium Americano double shot no room for cream.”

“Okay sir that will be-“

“I know what it is, just run the card.”

She swiped his card. “I’m sorry it’s been declined.”

“What do you mean it’s been declined? Something must be wrong with the machine.”

“No, I don’t think so, I just used it with a customer before you. The machine is working.”

He huffed and pulled the card from her hand, “here use this one.”

She swiped the new card. “I’m sorry this card has been declined too.”

“What? There is something wrong with your machine I tell you.”

“No sir, its your card. I used the machine right before you. In fact I have been using it all morning. You are not the only customer in the café you know.”

“I don’t know what is up your butt this morning girl but you need to take it out before it gets stuck.”

Excuse me?”

He felt a push at his shoulder, “You don’t talk to her like that.”

He turned to face the broad chest of an incredibly fit man.

Gunther wasn’t much of a confrontationalist. He took in the size of the gentleman behind him, and decided to deal with it later. “Fine,” he said to the girl “but I’m never coming back in here again.”

“Good.” she said.

He stormed out of the shop. He could not believe the indignity, the nerve the absolute nerve of that girl. He would stop in after work and make a formal complaint, how dare she act like she had never seen him before. He walked past an ATM. He paused then put his card in the machine and punched in his number. The screen popped up a message that said, invalid pin code. He typed his code again.

Invalid.

“Impossible,” he said to himself, “I’ve used the same code for years.” He typed it again pressing firmly onto the keypads.

Invalid. It swallowed his card.

“God damnit.” He yelled. This had to be taken care of now. He pulled out his cell phone to call the office, but there was no signal. “What the hell,” he screamed.

In the bank he requested to use one of their phones in order to contact his work.

“Good morning, Seagul and Blu insurance-“

“Hello Linda?“

“Yes?”

“This is Gunther McWilliams, I’m having some problems with my bank and I’m running a bit late. I’ll be in as soon as I clear up this fiasco. Thanks, bye.”

“I’m sorry who did you say you were?”

“Gunther, damn it Linda, I don’t have time to fool around here, just give them the message.”

“I’m sorry sir—“ she started to speak but Gunther hung up.

Gunther McWilliams- more feedback

NYC Short Story Challenge judges sent me some feedback on my story. It’s great that they do this, it is my understanding that it is not often you will ever get feedback when you submit to contests or publications. If you do get this opportunity be sure to soak it up. Here are their views:

The Good:

”Gunther McWilliams”- WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT – …………The plot of this piece is amazing. I think the writer does an excellent job making this scenario seem that much more realistic. Given the story, the title of the piece does a nice job of alluding to what’s to come. I like that once the story is over, the title takes on a new meaning, a darker one. Additionally, I enjoy the pace of the piece: The writer nails each scene. …………………………The piece is propelled by a well-staged sense of mystery.  Gunther’s panic is effective and disturbing………….Interesting, creative premise.  Well-drawn main character.  Lively, realistic dialogue………………….

With the bad (or what needs work):

…………I think more about this world could be made slightly different or off. I wonder if you could allude to the people this man knows and how old they are. Additionally, do people value youth? It seems this is the case. Thus, I wonder if you could bring this into the story early on: an obsession with youth or maybe just hints or mention of how few have aged around this man. …………………………The last section of your piece is awkward in the desire to “unveil” the master plan.  The “Logan’s Run” arguments are interesting, but the exposition stalls the piece and sets it in a less interesting convention.  It might be more effective to have Gunther’s inquisitiveness lead him to answers in a more active fashion.  Avoid the desire to explain everything.   …………Many grammatical errors.  One complaint in the logic department – the missing cat was meant as foreshadowing, but it is specifically stated that the humans are treated at birth to forget others when they turn 32.  The cat should not have been affected.  When you stated this important fact yourself, you misphrased it so that it reads as if humans forget all OTHERS when they, themselves, turn 32:  “…is the message to forget people at the age of 32.”………….

Many grammatical errors? CP said few.

So many thanks to the judges and CP and now I want to boil this information for a bit and see how or if I want to apply it too the next (and hopefully) final draft.

Shstry1- Gunther McWilliams prt 2

Continuing on from part 1…

Gunther’s knees weakened. “That’s impossible,” he said, “I thought the city council declared that each person has his or her own name, each person has their own unique identity, there are no others with your name. How can there be a mix up, how can that child have my name?”

(in regard to the council being all seeing all knowing) It might be useful to let the reader know somehow subtly that this is a council type thing that is a bit stringent in this way. I know you had limited words to contend with, but it might be able to be done quickly like gunther’s on his way out the door and has forgotten to take the garbage out. ‘The council will have my ass!’ or something. Because I remember being surprised that he was aware of the council’s level of control.

“Look at me do you not see me standing here. Huh? Are you blind? I am Gunther McWilliams, I work at Seagul and Blu’s insurance company. I have a black cat named Rodney and I graduated from Chester College seven years ago in business. I am Gunther McWilliams.”

                 He felt at tap his shoulder, “The council will see you now.”

* This transition was jarring: He felt at tap his shoulder, “The council will see you now.” He’s arguing with the woman but gets called suddenly. I’m thinking that he was loud and the people in the know were all, ‘okay, we have to do this now. he’s screaming.’ But wait. Thinking about it more, I like that even the employee doesn’t have any idea of who he is and what has happened, so it increases the intrigue. Maybe have the employee look shocked. Maybe have gunther turn back around at her and look smug and she return the smugness. He thinks he’s getting preferential treatment, but we soon find out…nuh-uh.

“It is gratifying to meet those with inquisitive minds, regardless if it is too late”

The council mumbled with agreement.

“Too late? What do you mean?”

“Mr. McWilliams,” the woman on the right spoke, “We are an over populated culture ….. (I don’t want to give away the end!)

*I like the dialogue with the council. That’s where you really bring your theme (in my opinion what your theme is) home. it made me want to go learn something. It could definitely be expanded, such as how does the old gunther’s enlightenment help the new gunther. what happens to the old gunther? maybe they don’t die but are sent out to pasture. There is definitely a lot in just this exchange. But again, I know you were constrained by word limits.

*the only other things I can think of is there are a few punctuation errors.

Only a few? Hell, that’s really good for me.

ShStry1 Feedback- Gunther McWilliams Prt. 1

As I had mentioned, I have already submitted this story to the NYC Short Story challenge and received my results. I came in 3rd in my heat, not bad for a first contest submission, I think. (Never miss an opportunity to pat your own back.)

Even so, I sent the work off to my friend Catherine and she gave me some excellent feedback. Since she gave me a good chunk of work I’d like to break this post into two parts.

I’ll begin with the scene of writing and then follow with Catherine’s comments.

“Rodney,” He called out. He waited for a few seconds then called out again. “Damn cat,” he mumbled as he walked to the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and stepped into the shower. [ …  ] As he stood in the doorway with his briefcase he glanced around his apartment one last time.

“Rodney?”

There was no sound of a meow, or the sound of the dish scraping across the floor. Rodney tended to nudge his dish with his head, moving it around the room as he ate. It was strange, Rodney not coming to eat.

Catherine’s notes:

* That last graf before you leave rodney i believe is unnecessary. i think it’s the lit equivalent of beating a dead horse. i definitely knew something was sort of up and thought maybe we’d return to rodney. in the end of course, that’s unnecessary. but i think leaving it at ‘Rodney?’ is sufficient.

Gunther was a routine man. He took the same route to work, stopped in the same coffee shop, got the same type of coffee, and the same croissant with ham and cheese, all to go, all paid with his bank card every work day. He had been doing it so long that he didn’t even have to say the order. He’d just walk up to the counter hold out his card, and the cute red headed barista would say, “Hi Gunther, the usual?” And he liked that. Gunther liked routines.

* The paragraph beginning ‘Gunther was a routine man’: i don’t think you need the last ‘Gunther liked routines.’ I feel i know a bit why you put that there. but it’s repetitive. you could even move that sentence to the front and begin the graf: Gunther liked routines. It’s active and better than the passive ‘was a routine man.’

In the bank he requested to use one of their phones in order to contact his work.

“Good morning, Seagul and Blu insurance-“

“Hello Linda?“

“Yes?”

“This is Gunther McWilliams, I’m having some problems with my bank and I’m running a bit late. I’ll be in as soon as I clear up this fiasco. Thanks, bye.” He hung up. If he had remained on the phone he would have heard Linda ask, “Who is this?”

* The exchange with his work. Consider doing something like this in order to keep the narrator out of it, as well as keeping the perspective with gunther:

I’ll be in as soon as I clear up this fiasco. Thanks, bye.” He hung up. If he had remained on the phone he would have heard Linda ask, “Who is this?”

“I’ll be in as soon as I clear up this fiasco,” he said running his hand alongside the top of the phone and wondering why it was so clean.

“Who is–?”

“Thanks, bye!”

(I mean, okay the phone box thing was a stretch but i used it for construction purposes, and you might hate this but it’s a thought.)

This is the type of constructive criticism that is so, SO helpful. It shows that the reader put a lot of thought into your work, and wanted to give the best feedback that would help your writing come out stronger. And, in writing is all take it or leave it, I don’t have to follow Cathi’s advice but after reading over what she wrote me I happen to agree with her.

To be continued ….

Short Story 1- Inspiration

New York City Short Story Challenge had a contest. It was broken down into heats. From each heat a person was given a genre and a subject. 

My genre was open and my subject was identity theft.

This story has already been written and completed but I’ve decided to use this as my first short story posting.

I had a hard time coming up with an idea for this particular story. I didn’t want to do a usual, true stolen identity story in the crime genre. The visual image of a face came to me as I was brushing my teeth. It was the face of a man, with thick rimmed glasses and a sweaty comb-over. Then the name Gunther came to my head. Gunther, Gunther, Gunther McWilliams.

Here is the first paragraph:

Gunther McWilliams woke with a dreadful headache. Last night was his 32nd birthday, and he and the guys from work had quite a row. Now it was time to pay the piper, and Gunther had to struggle through yet another dull workday worsened by a nauseating hangover.