“Floating City and the Nowhere Man” – Short Story First Draft (with edits!)


Eric Seal

Eric Carr

My Edits


“Sui Essey Wei,” Khaz whooped halfway between a whistle and a scream, a siren’s call of White Fire Slum.

-”the siren’s call”

The saying -(wc) chirped up and down the causeway as laborers and guards flooded the street at 8 o’clock. A time when shifts changed and beats ended.

-I’d combine these into a single opening paragraph. The breaks create a pause when you’re reading, and you don’t want to lose the reader when you’re just getting started.


-The first edit to my piece and I think it’s a big one. Creating a solid hook is not only critical to catching potential readers but it is one of the hardest things to do. To be honest I didn’t give much mind to the structure of this particular section and I am glad Carr pointed this out.


It was a call to arms, a signal that it was time to drink, gamble, and smoke, in celebration of another day spent surviving.  The crowd of workers swarmed in the direction of the train station. Like a murder of crows on the battlefield, their blood buzzed with the anticipation of the feast.-(awk, although I like the metaphor) From the Flat Top it was only two short stations to Floating City, the Capital’s famous pleasure ward.


-I like this metaphor as well, I am going to try and see if I can tweak it in a way that lets me keep it.

Walking next to Khaz, Church couldn’t help but close his eyes and let out a sigh that took the tension from his back and shoulders. “Another day my friend, and I need a drink.”


Khaz’s face brightened with a smile that would have been handsome except a -”for” ragged pink scar on the left side of his mouth. The wound pulled his skin taut and gave him the look of a predator.  “Two stops to heaven, to our kingdom in the clouds?”


Church caught the veiled question in Khaz’s tone and smiled. Everyday they did this dance and everyday Church followed Khaz into the crowd. (I think you can delete this previous sentence and just leave the “tonight was different,” simply because most stories start out with some routine changing. Also, I’m more intrigued with seeing only the second sentence.) Tonight was going to be different. Church put on a lazy lopsided smile and breathed out a, “-a,” “Why not?”


-Solid catch by Seal, these are the kind of things good editors catch. Edits like these make stories flow better and they are hard to catch without a second set of eyes.


The Great Nordic Rail was The Imperial Family’s claim to fame and fortune. The train system stretched from the True Metal Mines in the north clear through the Capital Greed and all three west coast harbors, The Sisters Shu, Tain, and Morpak. Any desire that exists -”existed” in the western world can -”could” be found by rail and “the” Church had long ago learned to exploit that convenient fact.

-tenses. Also, I like this minor throwaway paragraph. It’s doing some world building, even though you’re running a limited word count. Me too, big time.

The Floating City was the second largest ward in the city. Dividing it from east to west was a great double wide cobblestone street that’s lined with pubs and taverns. There were dozens that stood like soldiers in formation. They were the bottom rung, the first line of defense against the unending tide of the chemically dependent. Beyond them lay the Color’s dens where people bathed in smoke and even further up, far past where the common men can reach, lay the harems.

-this mention of harems is cute, but doesn’t go anywhere. So it’s almost distracting, like a Chekov’s Gun that doesn’t play out.

-Ultimately I think Carr is right about this but my initial inspiration for The Floating City was a kind of “Cloud 9” pleasure ward. And the main draw of any pleasure ward is prostitution, drugs, and drink. I think Harem is just the wrong word here and needs a name change. I still want sex to be a thematic part of the Floating City though.


Church always followed Khaz when it came to choosing where they drank and played. For every pleasure offered in the ward there was a danger thinly veiled. One missed step, one accidental fight or interaction and you might lose something, the least of which could be your life. In The Floating City there were always fates worse than death.


Eventually Khaz pointed to a smaller joint called Madam Shi. It was retro in a worn out and tacky way. The old drawings of nude men and women on the wall lost any and all of their potential artistic value under the thick translucent glaze of blood, vomit, and various other undefined liquids that now coated it. -(Eww.)All in all it was exactly the kind of place Khaz liked and Church could never find it in him to argue or protest.


Church tried not to think about that fact too much and paid most of his attention to the bottom of his glass. His beer slushed about due to a tremor in his hand and his stomach didn’t want to take the liquid. For the first time since the death of his wife he was distressed and confused about what he had to do.


Khaz had been his friend for the better part of a decade. They were bunkmates in training for the guard and block brothers on the job. Together they managed 37 inmates and in twelve years the worst thing to come out of it was the blade mark on Khaz’s face; a minor upgrade in Church’s humble opinion.


But that was then and this is “was” now, he couldn’t continue to lead the life he lived. With his wife Lowe gone, he had kids to feed and care for. The Floating City was a world for those lost or seeking cause and The Flat was just too dangerous. He had to think long term, something painful and unfamiliar. (The ending of this sentence is a bit too vague for me.)

I am pretty sure my thought process when writing this was nonexistent. By nature my writing style is discovery oriented and this was simply me starting to understand how Church is feeling in the story. I definitely agree with Seal here.

Khaz had known something was wrong. For a drunkard he had a hell of a sense for when things weren’t right. It was part of why they had survived the beat for as long as they had. Pair’s “Pairs” didn’t often last as long as them. He had a knack for taking charge when the time came. Something that Church would always be grateful for.

“What’s been riding you”,” Ge. You haven’t been yourself lately.”

Church took a deep breath and the words fell out like lead. “You ever feel like there’s something wrong with the way we livin’? All the drink and drugs, always looking over our shoulder, feeling the whisper of death at our back; we’ve been damn lucky Khaz, damn lucky.”

-This happens quickly. Maybe slow this up and add a little drama.

“That’s the way life is on the beat. We need it to be that way. Men like us. That’s how we live and die. There’s a certain kind of honor to that.”

– I see what you’re going for, but this seems almost cliche. There’s got to be another way of saying this and fleshing out Khaz’ character.


-So Carr is picking up on one of the main problems I had when writing this story which is space. I wanted to write something short and concise but the characters and their issues are bigger than the length I afforded them. Which lead to a kind of drama crunch. Where I squeezed a lot of things together and hoped they worked. It obviously didn’t and I needed to go back and pull these events apart a bit and flesh them out. Also, I could have worked out something better for the dialogue, its pretty cheesy.

“I always thought the same. I took pride in our work and whatever we did after I saw as hard earned. But after the Pox came and took Lowe…” Church’s voice shuddered (I <3 this phrase)on his wife’s name. He felt like he needed to get his next words in order or else they might fall out broken and jumbled. “When Lowe passed things changed. For my entire life I needed this job to survive. The city being what it is, the state of peace and calm. That had me restless; the beat is what kept me going. But now I have to take care of the kids. See that they eat and have someone. Truth be told Khaz, I am quitting the beat. Been saving up for a while now and I am thinking about buying into an apprenticeship at the Smithy. I put my paperwork in last week.” (I feel like this explains Church’s situation much better than the paragraph of exposition a few paragraphs ago. I’d say cut that one and let Church explain his wife’s passing and having to care for the kids right here.”

-I agree with seal here. I am notorious for telling more than showing and the summary up top is a prime example. That said, I think it was critical that I wrote it, it helped me figure the character out, but it shouldn’t have made it into the story.

At the end of his words Church saw the wind go out of Khaz. He had put the final stone on his back and the weight of it all was too much.

Khaz looked at him with a pair of quiet vacant eyes and said, “I’ll die without you. There ain’t no one to replace you Church. Without you I am as good as dead.”

-why’s that? You can spare a few more words here.

-I think this was just a pure space issue. I wanted to keep talking but I also knew my word count was climbing. In my redraft I will probably just release the kraken and see where that takes me.

“Come with me Khaz, lets “let’s” stop all of this and work towards something real. What about that girl you always talk about.”

“You know I can’t quit. It’s not in me to choose. And Kris will never choose me, not a man like me.”


-This was the name of the girl Khaz is currently seeing. I thought that since I mentioned her presence above I could transition to first name basis. I was wrong.

“There’s always a choice Khaz. You can be a different man” (Needs a period.)

“Naw, it’s us against them, against the system and all the rat fucks in it. We live it and die by it Ge. If you walk away you’re nothing but a coward fuck. Twelve years wasted on nothin’.”

During their conversation the tremor had gone from his wrist into his legs and Church almost stumbled as he stood. Things never took a turn for the better when Khaz got mad. It was time to go, “Think about what I said”,” Khaz. If you decide anything, you know where to find me.”

Khaz didn’t answer. He too had found something interesting in the bottom of his glass and refused to look up after him.

Church let out a sigh that stole something. A piece of him, of his past, and of his friend, came out with his quiet submission. And he didn’t know if he would ever be able to retrieve it. After looking back one last time at his friend and at the dirty walls of Madam Shi Church”, he” turned and left.   

I like this. You accomplished a surprising amount of worldbuilding in such a short space, and you placed them in what I feel are the right spots (which is something I often have trouble with). Aside from the few areas Carr and I noted, I think this piece is succinct and doing what you want. Nice snapshot from what feels like a larger story to tell.

There’s a lot going on here. From a worldbuilding perspective this is working. The small details that you use in particular I like.

What I’d like to see more of is characterization of the Khaz character. He’s a bit of a cipher with a scar, but he’s not as fleshed out as Church, and that’s killing a lot of the drama for me. If we saw more of the 2 characters together outside of the conversation you could build that relationship, and make the conflict more interesting. As it is, I don’t get why Church didn’t leave earlier. There are parts of Khaz that seem to annoy Church. If you could get that part working the rest will fall into line.


-So after reading through the edits and giving things a few days to simmer, I think my main issues are as follows:

I let the word requirement dictate the content of my story. For a first draft that was a mistake. Like carpenters always say when cutting wood, you can always cut something more but adding is a different story. I should have carried my idea to its natural end and then worked backwards to reign it in.

  1. The other issue is actually one not mentioned directly by either Eric but it’s something many of their comments indirectly stab at which is Khaz’s character. I don’t think his reaction to Church leaving plays like I wanted it to and in hindsight, I dont think its very believable. A real friendship is stronger than the issues I presented and having it end like I did, with little lead up and a lot of anger, isn’t how real life friendships end. That bit of dishonestly is causing a lot of the problems mentioned. I will look at giving Khaz a bit more dimension and will be changing the final scene between Khaz and Church to something a bit more true to real life.

Jordan Feil

A writer, a whiskey drinker, a lover of words and games.

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