Salvaged comments on A Fluff Piece
In general: a lot of what I wrote about “Story #1” applies here, too. Initially, try fleshing out your dialogue a bit with quick narrative accounts of people’s reactions.
For example, you could restate your first three lines with something like:
“It was ‘Cultural Day’ at the lower age grouping class at Deep Space 23’s school. The students there had been encouraged to bring in foods from their home cultures. So far it had been a success: the table in the corner was heavy with dishes of Vulcan, Human, and even Bajoran origins.” Then go on to describe a dish or two. Think of the fun you can have in making them totally bizarre. Remember, food is a relative concept.
Who is it that greets T’Jok? As to the remark “Ooooh...What is it?" Does this indicate curiosity, or disgust, or what? Perhaps have that person poke at the worms and jerk his/her hand back when they move. An off-the-top-of-my-head example:
“T’Jok! You brought food!” Taryn greeted him with a smile from where she was examining the dishes on the table. She bounded across the classroom to where he and his parents stood by the door. Barely remembering her manners she gave his parents a perfunctory greeting before looking closely at the contents of the the bowl in T’Jok’s hands. She could have sworn she saw something move. Manners were quickly forgotten as she poked a finger into the bowl. “Eww! It *moved*!” She jerked her hand back and wiped blood and sauce off on her shirt, then looked back and forth between T’Jok and his mother and father. “What is it? Is it supposed to do that?”
Mind you, this is just one way to go about it. Some might say that adds too much detail and makes the piece drag. Use your own judgement to develop your own style.
You write that “T'Jok's parents hesitated as the outspoken young girl pulled their son away.” In general, Klingons do not hesitate easily. What are their specific reservations? And why is their child shy? Personally I think Klingons come in more sizes and flavors than fans or TIIC give them credit for, but I would think that a shy Klingon would demonstrate unease by getting defensive or aggressive.
In commenting to “Story #1” I mentioned that I personally thought it would be odd to hear Klingons casually using the word “okay”. Along those lines, it seems odd to hear a little Klingon boy say “cool”, “mom”, and “dad”, though he could well have picked that up from his classmates. Little kids *are* noticiably more adaptive than their elders.
I like Taryn’s response to the gagh: “They tickle!” She’s right, you know. Food should be *fun*!
Meanwhile, I have this image in my head of a teacher’s assistant discreetly rearranging the serving dishes on the back table because the gagh is trying to get out of its bowl to eat the steak tartare brought by another child...
There’s one line in particular towards the end: "Grandma. Look at what me and T'Jok did. We made something that's both Human and Klingon. Isn't it cool? These are T'Jok's parents. The girl is his mommy and the boy is his daddy. This is my grandma. She watches me when Mom is busy." Here you’re using the dialogue to good effect by indicating that Taryn is kind of a “bouncing off the walls” kind of kid who is talking a mile a minute. But she starts by addressing her grandma, then ends up talking about her (‘This is my grandma.’), presumably to T’jok’s parents -- all in one unbroken block of dialogue.
This is confusing and would be much less so if you broke it up with a little bit of action narration, or even just a dialogue tag. For example (added bits are in bold type):
“Grandma! Look at what me and T’Jok did! We made someting that’s both Human and Klingon! Isn’t it cool? The girl is his mommy and the boy is his daddy.” She turned to the Klingons who towered over her and grabbed her grandmother’s arm in excitement. “
This is my grandma. She watches me when Mom is busy.”
Here you may also want to have the teacher introduce the adults to one another by name. (I figure that the kids won’t know
the adults’ names.) This is if for no other reason than to have dialogue tags with which to recognize the speaker. At the end in particular it gets confusing as to who is speaking.
In the last bit between Taryn’s grandmother and T’Jok’s parents, it’s unclear as to who is saying what to whom. At the very least dialogue tags would help here. They will serve to clarify yet fade into the background.
"Hello. So you are T'Jok's parents. Your son is welcome to come
over whenever he wants. Taryn has been talking about him almost
nonstop." The grandmother.
"We will send him over one time." Which of T’Jok’s parents is saying this?
"I hope you send him over more than one time. I mean one time is so
few. It's not even two. Please?" Is this Taryn? It sounds like an enthusiastic child speaking, though it could also be the grandmother if she is a particularly gracious hostess.
"You can all come over for dinner tonight. If you want to bring some
of that fishing bait." Definitely the grandmother.
"It's not bait, Grandma, it's gagh. You'll like it.” Taryn looked up at her friend’s parents. “
Can you come? Please?"
"Yes. We'll come at seven." Again, which parent?
Though you call this a “fluff” piece, it still has a point about Humans and Klingons breaking new ground. If you wanted to develop this further you could add something in which the parents discuss the matter between themselves before answering the invitation. Maybe they are skeptical over accepting a dinner invitation from some loopy Human who doesn’t know good eats when she sees them (“fishing bait?!
”). Maybe one parent doesn’t want Taryn around T’Jok because anyone raised by such a woman would be a bad influence on their child, and the other has to convince them to accept the invitation in order to show the Human child how civilized
people dine while she is still young enough to learn. Sort of an “I know it is distasteful, but we must do it for the sake of the children”-type of thing. This also sets you up for a sequel if you later decide to tackle the specifics of the dinner itself.
From the extreme sparseness of narrative and heavy dependence on dialogue used to get your story out, it seems like you are thinking in directorial/script form but writing in prose. Would it be easier for you to initially write in script format, then flesh out your stage directions with descriptions and narrative actions and whatnot and translate that into prose? Breaking it down into such steps may make it “flow” better, as well as give you readers more visual and sensory details in order to make the story more vivid and stand out in their minds.
Earlier you said that you had difficulties in coming up with titles. If you change T’Jok’s parent’s last line of “Yes. We’ll come at seven.” to “eight,” you can steal the title “Dinner at Eight” from the George Cukor movie. Your story won’t be as complicated as his in terms of plot and character interaction, but you know that with Klingons and Humans who are unfamiliar with each others’ cultures, table mannners, etc that the potential is certainly there for both comedy and melodrama. (Then, if you write a sequel, there’s always “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”
Even the little dialogue tags make this version a lot easier to follow.
The increased presence of T'Jok's parents helps give the piece more context. If you decide to revise this piece further, you may want to include more "reaction shots" of them watching the children interact and discussing what they see.
The ending is especially nice where we see the game of "tag" through T'Jok's parents eyes.
Now that you've got a developed working draft, it would be a good time to proof read for grammar, spelling, format, etc. That will make it easier to read so that you can concentrate on the content and refining the story. I don't know of any grammar checkers (which doesn't mean there aren't any out there), but most word processing programs come with a half-a$$ed spell-check option.