Nobody snatches up a novel after work hoping to be immediately transported back to the worst parts of the day they’ve just been paid to live through. A reader ends up in Cube Farm Purgatory in any workplace scene that amounts to colleagues, bosses and rivals gnashing through their professional relationships, pushing paper, attending meetings, or dealing with bureaucratic minutiae.
Fictional depictions of work and workplaces, whether those workplaces are realistic or speculative in nature, need to be heightened. If your characters have a hell job, the workplace scenes must be cringingly, agonizingly hellish. If they are getting something interesting done, that something better be so cool it reaches out and grabs us by the throat. If they’re just trying to get the zoning changed on the building across the street, somebody better be getting killed or laid. Otherwise you’re just inflicting unpaid overtime on an audience that could be playing Angry Birds.
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