You Never Know Who's Listening

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  1. #1

    You Never Know Who's Listening


    Ken Johnson the resident rep of a large industrial Corporation had been busy preparing the ground for a large tender. He set up functions for influential people, smoothed the way for others, and provided necessary intelligence to his people back at headquarters. There had been some new developments and it had become important that his Corporation should strengthen the negotiating team on the ground, by sending out a senior executive and two technical specialists.

    He waited at the airport by holding up a sign with the corporation name and logo and was eventually approached by a rather tall man and two others.

    "Welcome to Trintovia, I am Ken Johnson," he said to the group.

    He was taken aback when his greeting was answered by “You don’t have to tell the whole world of our arrival.”

    Ken said nothing, knowing the seniority and sensitivity of the man. He ignored the remark and led the three executives to his car. They would be staying in the centre of town, and would get a feel of the place by being free of engagements for a couple of days.

    "Well, Johnson, I expect you know all the places where we can have some fun in this town, and we hope you won't disappoint us," said Cantor with a wry smile.

    That night, Ken took them to a restaurant, and afterwards to a club, that was a well known night spot for entertainment. Very quickly, Derrick Cantor who had an eye for the ladies targeted a blonde girl with a tiger face and with a figure to die for. He invited her, and ordered a bottle of champagne that the girl asked for, and settled in a booth. The rest of the team took the hint and after their drink decided to turn in, leaving Ken on hand for a while in case things didn't work out for Cantor. But things were going Cantor's way and in no time at all Derrick Cantor was feeling the goods, and the girl was smiling at him and complementing him on whatever he chose to tell her. He was out to impress her.

    After a while Ken poked his head into the booth. "I think I’ll be off now Derrick,” he said. He considered that he had done his duty, and it was now two in the morning.

    “Yes ok,” Derrick nodded.

    Ken left the club and made for his car. The fresh morning air had knocked him a little and he had to try to remain straight, but the car was not parked too far away on the main street practically outside the club. At this hour, there were not too many cars, and as he took out his keys he noticed that the door was already open. “That’s odd, I could have sworn I’d locked it,” he said to himself but thought no more about it and got in.
    A couple of hundred yards later, his heart missed a bit. There was a policeman standing in the road with a lantern bidding him to stop. He had to be careful now; it wouldn’t do to get breathalysed. He’d lose his job and more.

    “Good morning Sir. May I see your papers please?” the policeman asked politely.

    “Yes of course,” Ken answered. “Is there something wrong officer?”

    “We don’t know yet; we intercepted a man trying to break into your car. Can you please check that nothing’s missing?”

    Ken was relieved. He looked behind him and pointed to his brief case. “My briefcase! I work for the firm that's hoping to build the nuclear power station,” he said anxiously, putting on an official tone hoping to distract the police officers from any question about alcohol.

    He needn’t have worried though; the police were also relieved by Ken’s response. "You'd better come to the station and make a statement," the officer said. "We need a thorough check to make sure that nothing's missing."

    At the station, he realised that shots had been fired because a youth had ran away when challenged, and now, the officers needed a good reason for having fired a shot at someone trying to open cars parked outside the night club. They'd acted a little too enthusiastically, and needed a good excuse for their action. Ken had provided it without knowing it.

    The official report that ended up being passed to higher authorities said that the police had interrupted an attempt at espionage. This was a win win situation where the police did not have to defend their action, and Ken did not have to be breathalysed. After an interview, Ken was cleared.

    In the following days, the local authorities gave a reception at which Derrick Cantor, the high ranking executive, had been invited. In the course of the evening, Cantor was introduced to a young lady. Forgetting where he was, he made an unwelcome proposal to the girl who dropped him politely and moved on. Little did he know that the girl was the personal assistant and confidante of a high ranking security officer. The lady did not appreciate Cantor’s advances and neither did her boss. He decided to look closely at Cantor and asked for a background check. He was surprised to find that Cantor was the subject of a disturbing report and he saw a way to get rid of this disagreeable individual.

    As a matter of routine, all foreigners would be followed by the security authorities and unbeknown to Cantor and Ken, the very night that they visited the night club, there, in the adjacent booth, a security officer was listening intently to Cantor’s boasting about his position and his mission. As a result of this breach in confidentiality, the security official requested that the authorities contact the Company Head Quarters and discretely have Cantor removed from the negotiations.

    This became highly embarrassing for the senior executives back at the head office who feared that they could be removed from the tender, and it was decided to sacrifice Ken Johnson instead. After all, he was the one who had taken Cantor to the night club and he should have known better than to leave Cantor alone with the hostess.The report from the authorities also mentioned the shooting incident concerning Ken's car. Next day, a call came from head office with disturbing news for Ken.

    "Leave everything and get out of the country. All your personal affairs will be dealt with by a replacement that will be flying out," the message said.No details were given other that he had become persona non grata with the local authorities.

    “They can’t do this to me” Ken told his friend who was his local contact at the ministry.

    “Leave this to me,” his friend told him. “I’ll get to the bottom of this.” Soon after this conversation Ken was asked to appear at the special security department of the ministry where he explained that there was nothing of importance in his car the night he was stopped.

    "You were at the Stars night club with Dereck Cantor a few days ago. We had our agent following you and Cantor, Mr. Cantor was too talkative with the hostess. While we have nothing on you, we advise you to avoid this night club in the future; we suspect that there are agents working there ."

    After this interview, Ken contacted his head office who by now had been told that Cantor was the problem. The local people had worked with, and knew Ken over many years and could trust him.

    The end result was that Cantor was recalled and lost his privileged position; while Ken was promoted to avoid a scandal in the way his Company had tried to use him as the fall guy.
    Last edited by Ian; June 15th, 2018 at 05:24 PM.

  2. #2
    H Ian. Just going to jump in here and I hope it helps.

    Ken Johnson the resident rep of a large industrial Corporation had been busy preparing the ground for a large tender. He set up functions for influential people, smoothed the way for others, and provided necessary intelligence to his people back at headquarters. There had been some new developments and it had become important that his Corporation should strengthen the negotiating team on the ground, by sending out a senior executive and two technical specialists.
    This paragraph, as a beginning, did not in any way draw me in. I have never been a fan of acronyms, and while the terms "a large tender," "necessary intelligence" or "strengthen the negotiating team" are NOT acronyms, they had the same effect on me. I have no idea what is going on. I think there must be a way to convey this information, if necessary, in a way that compels the reader to go on with the story.

    I was trying to pick out more examples of areas that I saw as problematic, but decided to just give you what my impression is. Some of the sentences are way too long and incorporate a variety of elements, such as the following:

    Ken left the club and made for his car. The fresh morning air had knocked him a little and he had to try to remain straight, but the car was not parked too far away on the main street practically outside the club.
    It's been a while since I was out drinking, but I don't really get what "the fresh morning air had knocked him a little" means. So then - in the same sentence - you have him trying to remain straight (?) and then references to where the car was parked; of course it was "outside the club."

    I don't mean to knitpick, but I think it might be a good idea to read your work out loud and you might be able to better pick up on the lengthy sentences that seem to contain more than one thought, or be confusing.

    On the other hand, I think this could be interesting and I like the general idea of how things worked out for him. Can you try again. I think this has possibilities and thanks for sharing.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  3. #3
    Hi Ian,

    There are three major pitfalls for new writers (which I don't know if you are or not): the first is cliche, the second is "on-the-nose" writing, and the third is exposition.

    I found all three in this example, I think what you are going for is a tale of intrigue in the same vein as a neo-noir, and I personally love that idea, but your concept needs a fair amount of work.

    Cliche
    A lot of the characters are zero-depth, that is to say they are archetypes. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, plenty of great stories are filled with archetypes (think Star Wars or Lord of the Rings), however in those stories, you find that the prose and the story structure is strong enough to carry their paper thin characters (and in this instance it isn't). Another cliche is writing women like they're objects, which you've done in several places. This might just be a pet-peeve of mine, but writing women in such a fashion offer nothing to the story, and if something adds no value to your story it needs to be cut.

    On-the-Nose Writing
    So, when I read your story, it feels very much like someone is telling me the story, like I'm reading it off a news site. This is bad for a couple reasons, the main one being that it doesn't let your reader infer any knowledge of the story themselves, and if you don't give them an opportunity to invest in your story, they never will. Instead of telling your reader what's happened, line by line, event by event, try showing your reader what's happened, build half of the bridge and trust that your premise and your hook will be interesting enough for the reader to want to build the other half.

    (ex. “They can’t do this to me” Ken told his friend who was his local contact at the ministry.

    “Leave this to me,” his friend told him. “I’ll get to the bottom of this.” Soon after this conversation Ken was asked to appear at the special security department of the ministry where he explained that there was nothing of importance in his car the night he was stopped.

    "You were at the Stars night club with Dereck Cantor a few days ago. We had our agent following you and Cantor, Mr. Cantor was too talkative with the hostess. While we have nothing on you, we advise you to avoid this night club in the future; we suspect that there are agents working there .")

    It would seem that Ken's friend exists solely for the purpose of "getting to the bottom" of whatever is going on. But since the reader has no idea who he is or what his reason was for being there, aside from plot convenience, there's no emotional impact behind it, the problem is further compounded by the fact that it is resolved in the very next line.

    Exposition
    This is similar to on-the-nose writing, but where on-the-nose writing deals with a lack of subtext, exposition deals with verbosity and a lack of context. There's several instances where you mention something and there's no context given, whether that was intentional or not I do not know.

    (ex. “My briefcase! I work for the firm that's hoping to build the nuclear power station,”)

    Surely you must know that there is no way for the reader to know what the briefcase is, what the firm is, what the nuclear power station has to do with anything, furthermore, your character must also know that the police will have no idea what he's talking about. So that line exists only to exposit that the nuclear power station is of some importance. This is a bad way to
    introduce an important theme to your reader. Many, many lines in your piece could have been deleted and they wouldn't have impacted the story at all, this is unnecessary exposition. Treat your words like southern Californian real estate, very, very valuably.

  4. #4
    Thanks for taking the time to read this. Your comments were very helpful. I have a tendency to write piece aand then let it go too quickly. One of the reasons that the beginning is so bland it's because the story is much more involved and nothing to do with a power station which has not helped in providing the right background with some depth. I'm going to have to do a re write and see what comes out, so thanks again for your comments

  5. #5
    Thank you for taking the time storiesandpages.

    You are very perceptive because on reading it, I also find that there's little background in adding depth. As I have said to another commenter, it's as you say just telling a story, as if it were a newspaper article. The problem with my writing is that once I put something together I want to get it out, and I don't spend time in going back over it. The end result is that it leads to the three pitflls you've identified. I'll now have to go back and do the whole thing again which will take longer than if I had spent a little more time at the start.

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