I'm in! This will be interesting, as I never, ever write in first-person.
Michael Malloy, a homeless man, was murdered by five men in a plot to collect on life insurance policies they had purchased. After surviving multiple poisonings, intentional exposure, and being struck by a car, Malloy succumbed to gassing.
|# ¿ May 31, 2013 13:58|
|# ¿ Mar 25, 2019 22:24|
Countless Different Ways
Word count: 1551
New York, 1933
I’d never cared for hard work, or for Michael Malloy’s face.
Every day for ten years, a dark coal mine and a stiff back. Every evening for ten years, a noisy tavern and that face, gazing at me from across the bar. Smiling. Waiting. Smiling and waiting. I would stand in my spot behind the bar, in the corner, pouring drinks as far away from it—away from that face—as could be, watching how the paint on the walls, with so much passing of time, would stain from white to grey and peel and peel and peel. Sometimes, when it had become all but stripped away, I would arrive for the evening and find a new coat of white paint over the old. Fresh. Less grey. But not white like the teeth in that face. Time passed and the new paint would peel and become grey also. Less white. Better.
A day came in the coal mine when I had to work even harder under the weight of dusty black rocks; on this particular day’s end, the twisty nails that customarily coursed through my spine felt as if they’d grown to twice the gauge, and I moved with a feeble limp. At my evening job in the tavern, the pain of standing for so long a time overwhelmed me for a moment, and as I poured Michael Malloy’s eighth drink of the evening I forgot to look at the paint.
I looked up and his face smiled at me. White teeth. My ears burned and my chest burned. The tavern became an oven and I broiled in it. When I saw that face, that smile, the very gut of me tried to flee. It smiled at no one else but me.
Because of that, I knew it should not ever smile again.
Every day and evening afterward, I began to think of ways to rid myself of both the hard work which had ruined my back and of Michael Malloy’s face which had ruined my eyes. I had heard once that there were countless methods to kill a man, and most easy enough to do. But how to be rid of hard work?
The fool himself soon provided a solution to both my problems. In his drunken stupor on this particular night’s end, he had paid his bill with not only one dollar but also a slip of paper, a certificate, that betrayed a most interesting fact: his life—worthless to me, understand—was valued with insurance. $1,800 dollars. So many dollars, in fact, for a lifetime—mine—of easy living.
With a secret swipe and lash of my pen, I arranged myself as the party soon-bereaved—and in most dire need of recompense. How clever. How glad!
But how to do the thing? It must be appear as an accident. Must! Accidents, insidious demons all, happen frequently, do they not? By a week’s worth of nights, the whole of it was beginning to sound most reasonable. Not so much like hard work at all.
Unknown to me at that time, was the fact that I hadn’t ever before—and would never again—work as hard as I did on the day I killed Michael Malloy.
If truly there were countless different ways to kill a man, I couldn’t give up hope; I’d only tried three so far, and the fourth had just begun its work.
In the dim lamplight of the small storeroom, I watched and I waited and I tried to ignore the lightning bolts in my back. Michael Malloy was sprawled out on the straw cot and his face was still breathing. Snoring, really, and loud enough to wake the dead. Or, God’s mercy, the police. His breath—gasps and snorts through obscene flapping lips—filled the cramped space around me, smothering my nose with the scent of whiskey and arsenic. Or maybe whiskey and arsenic was merely the usual scent of his breath, smelling it as I did from across the bar, over the worst and longest decade ever known to a man.
The cup I’d given him fell from his hand and rolled to my feet, sending a half-dozen curious rats scattering. For that I was thankful; I imagine murder prefers an audience of no kind. Not that I’d found success to that end as yet, but I knew, just knew there’d be no surviving that vile combination of drink and so much poison.
I paced to one side of the room and then the other. The floorboards creaked and popped beneath my feet as I gazed impatiently at his face, flush and maddeningly pink.
Almost rosy. Still healthy.
I pried away my eyes, only to have them fall on the cast, that loving cast on his rightmost leg. Wrapped around his stumpy, stupid, broken leg, the thick gauze was the first of three such reminders of my failings. Reading the newspapers, one might think the horseless carriage to be the most dangerous invention since mustard gas—every day came news of a woman or child or some old codger getting knocked down by the rolling steel on wheels, splitting their heads. To have it happen to you? Or me? Why, it’d be death most certain.
For all, apparently, but Michael Malloy.
His snoring grew louder, surrounding my head as I paced, taunting at me. At least hearing his breath meant I did not have to look at his face, nor its jagged, fresh wound—another reminder of my failings—creasing from his forehead to the side of his cheek. Customarily, no one “fell” out of a third story window and survived with merely an impolite scar.
But Michael Malloy, I had learned, did.
I was fast becoming certain that I had chosen death himself as my target when suddenly it was quiet!
He had let out an agonal wheeze. And then he did nothing.
I rushed to the cot and kneeled down. I pried open an eyelid. Only white. Now the other. White!
I dug my fingers into the soft, clammy flesh of his neck, looking for the bounce of a pulsing heart. Left side of the neck: nothing. His clothes were cold and wet against my arm as I did my work (how embarrassing that leaving him for hours drunk on the street in the freezing rain this morning hadn’t done this job for me).
Right side of the neck: nothing! I held my breath like a young maiden awaiting a marriage proposal.
Could it really be that I’d never have to see the face again? That smile? That I’d never again be subject to the burning gaze and the blazing fire in my chest?
It could not be; he grunted and coughed phlegm onto my face and snored again.
gently caress you, ever so, Mike Malloy.
After three hours the lamp’s oil waned and I began to wish I’d brought a chair.
One hour after that I had nearly brought myself to hysterics at his persistent and tortuous existence. But there, the pipe in the corner had caught my eye. Now both eyes! The hissing copper carried gas to the lights of the tavern and could be disconnected in just such a way as to feed into his gaping face. Quickly I did it, cursing myself for not having tried it before.
Within five minutes there was no more breath and the thing was done. Fully done!
I eagerly paced the room again, wondering what to do with the output of my last, greatest, hard work. Leave it here? Notify the alderman? No, none of these. I did not want to be associated any more than collecting payment for my sorrow. More importantly, I did not want to wait to begin my new life! At the thought of it my back had calmed and soothed, overjoyed at no more days in the mines. I stood proudly and snapped my fingers. I had it. I would drag the body to the doorway of the tavern. He’d be found by some passerby!
I turned him—face down—and grabbed his ankles. You may think it difficult, but this was no corpse I dragged! This was to my mind’s eye, a train ticket, a bag of gold, a new pair of polished black boots. In all the world, could there be a lighter load than these? It should not surprise to hear me say I was enjoying the thing, though perhaps growing restless with the morning hour.
As I pulled and dragged, his fat posterior wedged in the storeroom doorway, abruptly impeding my progress. I hadn’t considered this to happen, and thus had not been braced for the sudden stop which seized upon my back as though a railroad spike had been driven through the whole of me.
Gasping in a painful and twisted state like I'd never felt before, I fell. Laying together on the floor, Michael Malloy’s face—that face—stared through vacant eyes at me. The familiar fire in my chest began to well, and to my horror I found that not only could I not stand up, I could not roll over nor much bend my neck. There was nothing else to do now, I supposed, other than await the police.
So we lay there together, me and Michael Malloy.
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2013 00:09|
Is it ok to give feedback/crits before the deadline?
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2013 15:39|
disclaimer: i was often called a harsh critiquer, though I do try to keep my own frustrations as a writer away from my criticisms. i also try to avoid strictly stylistic suggestions/revisions.
Thirst and Justice
Overall I was impressed with the efficiency and cleanness of the prose and mostly the voice of the narrator. There were a few tics here and there that threw me out of it, and I would have much preferred a more clear sense of why our narrator's actions made him to be executed.
I also think just splitting up that last leviathan of a paragraph would go a long way towards some of that being clear; the reveal that the narrator told them (falsely?) that he was on the municipal council gets absolutely buried under all that other stuff.
Also you have a clear command of believable dialogue which is incredibly difficult for most writers to do, so well-done on that.
I'll try to do a few more of these before the day's out!
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 2, 2013 around 16:31
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2013 16:28|
Got inspired, and put this together pretty quickly. Here's to a first time in Thunderdome.
I think, I think I may understand what you were going for here, but you did not make it easy on me. The number one, bottom-line suggestion I have for you is to read more of your favorite books and observe the rhythm and structure of prose. You write exactly like you talk; it's very obvious and also very difficult for your reader to digest and tolerate. Clean up your usage of cliches and cut back on your conversational tics and you could produce some pretty decent stuff in a hurry.
Last comment: changes in POV mid-story are confusing and best never done. Unless of course you're going for a specific effect. But my impression from reading this was that you became more emotional/angry as it progressed and so you began talking/writing to yourself. It happens, it's not a huge deal, but you ought to be able to catch and remove that stuff on revision.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 2, 2013 around 17:04
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2013 17:01|
Hey, do you mind doing mine? I'm curious what people thought of it and you critiqued that last one pretty well. It's at the bottom of page 75.
I don't know the original myth of this story, and maybe that would've helped, but i was really let down by how this progressed. It felt to me as though you spent a lot of time on the first few paragraphs and then got into a big ol' hurry to finish.
Nothing happens. The story doesn't go anywhere. At the end pretty much everything is the same as it was at the beginning. That's my single biggest complaint other than the dialogue. And speaking of which:
Oh, man. This dialogue. It's really bad, my friend. You write excellent prose so I know there's hope for you, but you really need to rethink your approach to writing effective dialogue, if indeed you even have a deliberate approach at all. Right now it seems that you just throw some stuff out there--maybe the first thing in your head--and then don't bother to revise later. Read your favorite books, watch your favorite movies and TV shows, and pay careful attention as to how dialogue is used. Dialogue should always reveal character and/or plot. There's literally no other reason on earth for it to ever do anything else.
Because using it for anything else is just wasting your reader's time. Work on that, and work on ensuring that your stories mean something. Things should be different at the end than they were from the beginning. And if you want to break that rule, you're of course always able to do that, but it should be for a very deliberate, specific reason.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 2, 2013 around 17:43
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2013 17:37|
Guess I should tackle this one as well, given the shitstorm I started.
A Fool’s Grin. 718 words
My overall impression is that you've almost over polished it. By that I mean it's very cleanly written and easy to follow, but the description and action is almost too sparsely written. Granted, this is just a stylistic preference of mine, but I just found it a little hard to 'see' some of the events, in particular the action you described.
There was definitely a clear progression of events which is good. Since you've got the pacing and sequence down, work more on elaborating on your description. Use strong, specific verbs and adjectives.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 3, 2013 around 01:22
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2013 00:48|
Not everyone needs full line-edits. For them I'll pick out specific lines that stood out to me one way or the other, and then give an overall critique.
Appreciate the feedback. For whatever it's worth, I legitimately had not seen the word limit. Obviously it was right there and dumb of me not to notice, but well. drat thing was already cut down from 2k words so I'd chopped absolutely everything out of it that I thought I could.
Some more emotional attachment and reason for the hatred would have made this story better.
Last comment: the narrator is a closeted homosexual, and hates Mr. Malloy so much because he thinks he knows this secret and is also gay and wants to, well, you know. More of that subtext was available in the earlier draft but i cut it for economy and because I thought it worked a little more strongly when left more ambiguous. Your point is certainly well-taken, though.
Thanks Chillmatic for the crits. I appreciate your input.
I completely forgot to mention: what you wrote was a massive improvement over your previous writing. The best thing any of us can hope for is to continuously improve our craft; your latest output shows you're doing that. Keep at it, and don't let anyone crush your love of your own ideas. What's most important is to learn how to tell, before anyone else is subject to them, which ones are good and which ones are poo poo. Hard to do but always worth the effort.
This is terrible and I am terrible. I shouldn't pick deathprompts when I'm in a deeply terrible mood. Do not read
Goddrat. At first I was all like
and then I was all like
You have a clear knack for setting tone, which, really, is the entire point of stories like this, isn't it?
My biggest gripe was the narrator's insistence on using some oddly cutesy words for genitalia and other stuff. In keeping with her character (she wanted this guy to strangle her), I figured she'd use far more 'adult' words and phrases. I couldn't figure out if that was some deliberate decision to make her more removed/distant from the action, but it felt like an affectation to me.
Other than that I'll reiterate that you'll always want to be specific with description. I know I beat that drum a lot but this makes the difference between engaging the reader vs. leaving them cold or feeling like they're 'outside' the scene rather than right in the disgusting, musty thick of it.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 3, 2013 around 16:08
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2013 16:06|
Feathers 453 words
Argh. This one is frustrating because I felt like the prose itself was--except for a few grammatical quirks--very well-written and, more importantly, felt genuine. I really felt like I was reading the words of some ancient Greek or Roman guy.
But oh man. I've read it three times and I still cannot get a sense of progression or actual story. So he gets killed for some reason? Before a crowd of people? Why? Do they want him to die? Is he a martyr? Demon? Saint? What's the theme, here?
I get the feeling that two things happened here:
1. you focused very hard on reproducing an authentic-sounding story to this period(and succeeded very, very well), but focused so much on doing so that you failed to tell an actual, logical narrative.
2. You were trying to do a vignette/slice-of-life type thing. And it fell flat because the setting was so foreign and you didn't give me anything to go off of, to help get me up to necessary speed. (or maybe you assumed the reader knew the story already?)
Again, I really enjoyed reading the actual prose (barring some description which could've been done with stronger/more effective language) so you're really good to go there, for sure.
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2013 17:09|
I'd be interested in your thoughts on mine if you're not critted out.
Go crit yourself.
Rules of Combustion
I’m actually going to show how much better I think that last paragraph looks edited the way I suggested.
I nod, laugh. The jet vapor has become a cloud and there is a whine coming from the rocket, this pillar, this sculpture of metal and willpower. It is splendid. We are splendid.
See how, this way, so much more attention is called to that awesome loving line?
I didn’t comment specifically on my next gripe because it’s hard for me to put into words, but: the dialogue felt, in a few places, a bit stilted. Not enough to really kill it for me, but I almost got the sense that you were going for a Russian-accent type of feel. If so, I think you succeeded more than you failed, but sometimes it just distracted me a bit.
So far I think I’ve enjoyed your story the most. You did a lot with very little, and I really, really liked the motif of the childhood flashback juxtaposed onto the current action. I would have preferred more vivid description of that, but that’s honestly my biggest complaint. I felt like yours was one of the few stories that had some sort of subtext going on, which is a must for me to really enjoy reading anything. Good work.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 4, 2013 around 03:37
|# ¿ Jun 4, 2013 03:34|
Also, re: the em dash suggestion for the "one- and two-footed varieties," those are two phrasal adjectives, each taking a hyphen.
I had to stare at that paragraph for nearly three minutes until I figured out why I'd written that. I think it's because the break came at one of the hyphens and the way it read made me think you were trying to do a dash-break (like a parenthetical) and then go for the phrasal--hence why I didn't "correct" the second hyphen.
Best I can figure out, anyway, as to what I was thinking. Thanks for pointing that out!
|# ¿ Jun 5, 2013 15:07|
Got a couple messages asking for crits, which I'm happy to do when available. I'll start with sebmojo. But to the other person who messaged me: I'm afraid that, like an idiot, I deleted your PM in a crazed attempt to clean up my inbox. Send it again and I'll get to it.
Seb, dialogue is an area of particular interest to me; since your piece has a lot, I'm going to dig into it and see what I might be able to help with.
I feel that you missed some opportunities to play around with a theme of color fading, like the relationship between a father and son. The last description of the vivarium and the blue was really great, and it would have been a nice emotional payoff if you'd described the setting while they were drinking as drab and grey and blah, only to have it end with that beautiful color as he and his father reconnect amongst the butterflies. I also felt that there was so much attention paid to the act of rolling cigarettes, smoking, and cigarettes themselves that there would have been some kind of connection there, and there really wasn't.
The dialogue was voiced well-enough, but fell far short of being engaging--mostly because neither character really says anything of much consequence. Surely there would be more there between father and son that you could show and engage the reader with. Use specific, character-revealing dialogue that actually tells me something.
|# ¿ Jul 31, 2013 01:32|
Far be it from me to crit a crit, but:
you either need a comma after scanner, or an attribution for the speech
Ack. No, he didn't! In fact, he employed one of the more clever ways of avoiding the Sophie's Choice of either unmarked dialogue or endless, repetitive tags.
So, just to be clear, this:
Florice checked her scanner. “They’re on the roof.”
...is a perfectly acceptable way to convey dialogue and action; I'd go as far as to say it's a device that should be used more often. When you include an action immediately before an unattributed piece of dialogue, the reader will naturally assume the person doing the action was the one who spoke.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled *~ironicfartzone~*
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Aug 7, 2013 around 14:34
|# ¿ Aug 7, 2013 14:32|
I feel bad for speaking ill of Thunderdome in the fiction writing thread, so I've come to seek penance by way of submitting a story. Or because, you know, I just started work on a new book using a very different voice than I've done before and want to be sure as possible that I've ironed out all the kinks! Also it's in first person, which I've always hated using but which this particular story requires. So I'm forcing myself to write whatever I can in that particular style/voice.
And thus I humbly submit:
Madam Charlotte's School For Aberrant Girls
...in which a violent young girl learns to be a violent young lady.
edit: oh, and I'll also do another critzkrieg! The last one was fun.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Aug 21, 2013 around 12:42
|# ¿ Aug 21, 2013 12:28|
Aberrant, in this context, is a period-appropriate and polite way of saying insane/deviant. The "trade" of the place is learning to reintegrate into society. Hopefully that's clear enough!
|# ¿ Aug 22, 2013 03:48|
Madam Charlotte’s School For Aberrant Girls
Though the stiff grey cots in our dorms weren’t by any means fit for whoring, I’d been here long enough to be accused of it.
Knowing smirks, snide comments, fake dollar bills left on my pillow--suggestions of loose legs bandied about by loose lips. How typical. But more to the matter, how simple the slander. How lazy! They say, and they are right, that the girls of Madam Charlotte’s compete for high-reaching marks every bit as feverishly as they do for low-hanging fruit.
So in my defense I’ll say that I have never in my life charged any lover a nickel. And not only that, but I make far too much ruckus to favor a tryst in any so public a spot, though I could perhaps be compelled to test walls of the the fifth floor maintenance closet. It would be best, if you were wondering and in need of it, to wait until the clattering water boiler in that closet fires up in the early afternoon, just before Society Classes. But be sure to check first for a knot of chewing gum--strawberry flavored--pressed against the doorknob before you enter, lest you and I make a most awkwardly-intimate acquaintance.
The morning announcements began to crackle over the intercom as I favored my face with a brush of powder, blindly, as I owned no mirror. In just two weeks’ time I’d learned the contents of the days’ insufferable recorded greeting, as well as the cadence in which it was read. I began to work my hair into a single, thick braid while mouthing along with the dreadful words--a fierce, if mute, mockery:
To all girls good morning. Remember why you are here. Remember why no one comes to visit you. Remember why you have failed to achieve marks high enough to earn your place outside these walls. Remember that you entered as deviants but shall leave only as debutantes…
And so on.
I wasn’t sure why I was here, whether it was the mansion I’d burned down, the Oldsmobile Convertable I’d stolen, the bank safe I’d helped get unstuck, or the third of any such incident. Inquire, if you must, with the district attorney of Chicago for the particulars as to my holding.
There was another girl, boyish and quite pretty, sitting two beds over from mine, also in the middle of beating her face with a brush. She must have noticed my re-enactment of the morning announcements. “Don’t let ‘em catch you doing that,” she said, clipping back sandy blonde hair with bent, mismatched barrettes. “Or anything else, for that matter.”
At least she hadn’t thought to call me a ha'penny harlot. “Getting caught is an exception for me,” I replied, frowning with concentration and cursing the fact that I didn’t own a compact with a mirror.
She laughed. “Everyone in here says that. Need a mirror? I’ll loan you mine. For a cigarette.”
“I don’t smoke.”
“I know, but I saw you steal a pack right out from under Millie, yesterday.”
She seemed to note the concern lining my face and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. I can hardly stand the sight of her.”
Begrudgingly I grabbed my lilly-white pillow and felt around in it before finding the rumpled pack of Lucky’s and tossing them to her.
When I held her mirror up to my face, I couldn’t believe how tired I looked.
The Role Of Good, Honest, and Strong WOMEN In A Very Foul, Indecent World / Or, Roots And Consaquenses Of This Our Modern Gender Confusion
Understand that I would much sooner part my own veins than I would sit through a speech with a title so hideously edited. But because this was a mandatory symposium, and because Madam Charlotte herself was due to tour the grounds sometime today, I found myself sitting in the Great Hall amongst two hundred other badly-behaved girls, doing all I could do to stay awake.
After five excruciating minutes of machine-gun adverbs mixed with unsettled disagreements between moody subjects and hapless verbs, I excused myself under the guise of a most-convenient arrival of the Lady’s Calendar.
Besides, I was an expert on the subject being discussed: I knew enough of Goodness and Honesty and Strength to know that a proper lady was only allowed to demonstrate two of the three at any one time.
I had taken a small handful of steps out into the hall when none other than Madam Charlotte, a giantess if ever there were, appeared behind me, latching hold of my thick, raven-braid and pulling my wiry frame--kicking but not screaming--back inside.
Her office would have made a dentist quite uncomfortable.
Sitting behind a substantial brown desk, The Madam, an aged woman in an impossibly conservative black jumper dress, was quietly thumbing through the numerous court orders, character statements, police reports, and mug shots that had accompanied me here. For my part, I was slouching in a chair twice my size, chewing gum defiantly and sucking my tongue, all to look as disinterested as could be.
“Such a resume for a girl of sixteen, and from such a wealthy--if not happy--family, too!” was Madam Charlotte’s appraisal. “It just won’t do.”
I shrugged. “It’s rather the only resume I’ve got. And as for family, the dead are most often unhappy,” I said, quite helpfully.
“It was only three months ago that your parents took their own lives, so I’ll not allow you to blame the lot on that!”
‘Took their own lives’. A more sanitary description, than, say, the actual way of the thing. I’ll spare your nerve and say only that my parents had set out on a cool Thursday morning to repaint our summer veranda, my favored reading spot, to a lovely chestnut brown; when came the heat of the afternoon they had traded their good intentions for arguments, then their brushes for a 12-gauge scattergun, and then, finally, lovely chestnut brown for slimy splattered grey and red.
Mutual suicide; their final, desperate attempt to one-up each other. Congratulations.
“You attended the finest parochials,” Madam Charlotte continued, “studied the classics, earned the highest marks amongst your peers, and stood perennially for commendation. Such a fall you’ve had: Crime, vagrancy, deviancy! Do you wonder why this is?”
I didn’t, really.
“You’ve clearly, from this report, developed an addiction to relations. Sexual!”
Oh, that. Indeed!
She continued, “...to boys, men...”
“...of all ages, and, if these ghastly reports are to be believed, of all descriptions, too.”
I smacked my gum, started smiling. I had to wonder if the true extent of my proclivities was either absent from the file, or if in a fit of squeamishness she’d skimmed too quickly, only saw “SEX”, and thus had overlooked. Also: official reports dealing with a girl of my preference sometimes left out details too embarrassing for their author to bear the thought of writing.
She studied my face, her worn-out eyes narrowing. “No doubt, you’ve been led by men to delinquency. And what’s more I think you enjoy it,” she muttered. “Being caught delinquent, I mean.”
I blew and popped a bubble, the scent of stale strawberry filling the dusty room. She was right--about being caught anyway. So I said, “No. You’re wrong.”
“I’m sure I’m not,” she said, sitting back in her chair, as pleased with herself as if she’d just cracked the electrical telegraph. “So,” she continued, triumphantly, “I can assure you that our security here is top-notch, and given that my formal diagnoses of your hysteria includes an unhealthy appetite for the company of men, I am glad to say that none are allowed inside my walls. And since you cannot leave, we are quite sure to cure you, eventually and fully, of your carnality.”
Whether a life in thrall would have otherwise cured or wounded me, I cannot say; over the next six months, Heather--my sandy-haired confederate with the mirror and smoking habit--would prove a balm to my restlessness. With time we’d grown quite close, talking every waking minute--and as the chill of winter began to creep through the walls, we started squeezing ourselves onto a single grey cot each night, laughing together under a blanket at such a brazen possibility as Us.
Now it was a late afternoon, Heather and I had dutifully volunteered for trash pickup on the fifth floor. As we chatted and lazily scooped up scraps of paper and sanitary wrappers, I heard, from down at the far end of the hall and inside the maintenance closet, the water-heater start to hiss and rattle.
I dropped my bag. Grinning at Heather, I reached for her hand and said, “Let’s go!”
Without a soul around, we moved gracefully and quietly, two eager wraiths sashaying down an endless hallway. At the closet I jimmied open the door with a wayward bobby pin, and when I took her arm and pulled her inside, she asked me, the both of us laughing, “You sure? We were almost caught last time!”
Before I kissed her, I pulled the wad of gum from my mouth and mashed it against the doorknob--then pushed the door shut behind us.
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2013 01:07|
Because gently caress sleep, that's why.
Overall this wasn't bad. My biggest complaint is that it looks as though you struggled with the dialogue in certain places and so left cliches and filler sprinkled throughout the entire piece. This kills any attempt you have at voice or drama, as the lines being said could have been said by anyone at any given time or place. That's what makes for good voice and for good dialogue--a given line that could have only ever been said by that particular character in that particular situation.
Every story has a few lines of filler, but when your writing has a lot of lines like this: "you've done good work here. But are you sure this place is the right fit for you?" and "We've got business we need to settle" and "Not in your wildest fantasies" and "I was wrong about you" are all lines that could come from literally countless different pieces of writing. I think it's important to try and add voice to everything you do--otherwise it will come off as flat and forgettable.
re: thesaurus words--every editor I've ever spoken to hates these with a passion, and I've learned to hate them too. Sometimes you really need to reach for a fancy word because you're going for a specific effect or because no other word, flat out, will do. Most often though, writers use these to spruce up otherwise bland language, so it just looks badly out of place and lazy.
Also: watch the head-hopping.
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2013 09:21|
gently caress Sleep--Redux
gently caress, man. I had to re-read the last couple of paragraphs a few times to really understand what was happening--but not because it was confusing, or bad, or anything like that. It was just...drat thought-provoking. And really so. Originally I thought it was bullshit that she just randomly gets shot at the end, and then I thought about what she'd been saying, and it was just... (part of what tipped me off was the fuckin awesome usage of capital S there in your last sentence)
This piece is at the point where I can't really think of anything I could say about it because it's so well-polished and, while a bit dense, it's rewardingly so--to where I'd easily read this were it a longer short-story or even a whole book. Great fuckin' job, seriously.
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2013 09:52|
Sleep joke goes here:
I'm not really sure what to make of this. Has a bit of a Brave New World kind of feel, but without the commentary. There was a lot of sterile detail (which perhaps you were going for) that kept me from really relating to the characters or their situation. I feel like a lot of the robotic dialogue could have been reworked to provide at least a somewhat more human connection to the characters. I know you were going for a certain effect, but you still want the reader to relate to your characters, at least on some level.
I'll say this, though: the bit about her aiming the gun at him and him telling her his name and him saying "find out", was really great. That tiny bit was enough to make me at least a little disappointed that the story ended when it did.
|# ¿ Aug 26, 2013 10:22|
Will try and do a few more of these through the evening.
Overall I liked this piece and wished it was longer. (I know you had a low-ish word limit) We only get to see the results of Colin's enlightenment but no glimpse of his getting there, which I think I'd have liked. I especially liked the dialogue and thought it clipped along nicely until that line there at the end I already pointed out. Definitely a solid job, though.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2013 01:07|
Skyrim fanfic or Game of Thrones tribute? One way to find out:
School: St. George's School For Monster-slaying and People-saving
I'm trying to stay positive but this story was a bit tough to get through. It doesn't seem to go anywhere or have much of a theme. I understand it's these (teenagers?) going through dragon-slaying school or whatever, but it really felt like it wasn't a real place and the characters weren't real characters--mostly because of the flat dialogue and filler action sequences. It might help to visualize not only the scene in your mind before you try to write it, but also to think about your characters more and find out what they, and only they, would say at any given time. This will hopefully help you avoid that kind of placeholder dialogue in the future.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2013 07:05|
Mimes are people too. no, they really aren't.
The International Academy Of Practical Mime
I'll admit that I have no idea what is happening there at the end. Marc prefers silence? He joined mime school to get away from people who talk too much? I don't know! What about his love interest? That didn't go anywhere. Did the teacher approve? Did he pass? You ended the story at a very awkward point, leaving no questions answered at all, which more or less makes this a sort of 'slice of life' exercise.
Something like that is hard enough to pull off without dialogue, and so I think excluding it altogether might have handicapped you significantly. I think it's a cool idea to try something like this, and a mime school has a lot of interesting potential, but I feel like you tried to cover a little bit too much ground with too little space. That's a temptation I fully relate to and am often guilty of, but in something like this, I never even had a chance to attach myself or even know one single compelling character.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2013 12:20|
You know, I wasn't able to catch those problems with voice. Thanks for pointing that out.
Believe me, I feel your pain. Voice is one of the most difficult things in all of writing to get 'right' (not that there's much objective truth to it--another reason it's so tricky). Every writer I know is constantly tweaking his/hers as they go, and especially as they progress to different stories. I know that I couldn't even imagine what it would feel like to think I'd gotten it exactly as I wanted it, forever.
It bears repeating that the only thing I've found to be consistently true when talking about voice is that it absolutely must belong solely to those characters and to that story. Generic filler-phrases are story killers. And I've found that when I just can't get engaged in what I'm reading, this is often the reason why. A solid voice gives the reader a tangible reason to read your writing, specifically.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2013 17:15|
Psh, there was nary a mention of chuff. Rest assured, 'Domers, I may be a pompous rear end, but I wouldn't ever let a personal opinion as to the author's character get in the way of critiquing the actual words on the actual page.
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2013 02:24|
I'm up for it, assuming the topic isn't an ironic wacky one. (cyberblaxploitation et al) I'll understand completely if that disqualifies me. I'm not dissing those kinds of prompts at all, and certainly enjoy reading the stories that result from them--it's just that I can't justify devoting that kind of time for the sake of producing something that I can't use outside of the internet.
Speaking of topics, this week's is loving awesome and while I'm going to zero in on the stuff Sitting Here talked about, I'm particularly interested in these:
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story.
*Dialog. Make it meaningful.
I feel like those are two of the most persistent areas of opportunity for all writers, so I think it'd be great for folks to step it up a bit in that regard. No detached wackiness; say some poo poo that's meaningful to you, and say it interestingly.
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2013 05:57|
gently caress yeah that strangely-worded quote owns, I'm in. Is that this Friday or next?
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2013 07:11|
Ughhhh, I was handed 4,000 words for revision today which means I'm almost certainly not going to have time to finish the thunderbrawl entry, or even the rest of the crits by tomorrow. I'll do my best, but it isn't looking good.
Here's what I've got so far for the critiques:
M. Propagandalf posted:
Early bird for the worm? Or underdeveloped embryo?
Overall I found the premise/idea engaging, but the execution flat and dull. I never got a sense for either characters’ motivations beyond creepy guy and nutty ghost-girl. The dialogue was flat and displayed no character other than exactly what you’d expect to see; there were no surprises, no reveals, nothing to engage my interest or make me think.
I’m honestly not sure of the meaning here. That it sucks to be a creepy guy who stares at girls on the subway? I’m sure it does suck, but that by itself in no way compelled me to sympathy for Stephen. A creepy staring guy is a common trope and you didn’t play with it at all in any ways that would bring new meaning to the table.
Dida Redo posted:
Portraits (525 words)
Ok, holy crap. It’s rare that I see so much being done with so few words. You have a good command of prose and voice which are make or break things for me (and, I suspect, most other readers as well.) Obviously I was effectively creeped out by Geoff, but there are few things that bug me the more that I think about the story: First, why/how do Geoff and Tom know each other? Tom seems to talk to and treat Geoff like a normal person; doesn’t he know how creepy he is? Second, who is Stacy and why does he call her sweetie if she’s a girl that “could have been his.” Tell me it’s not his daughter. TELL ME IT’S NOT.
Anyway, excellent job; this one is an early favorite of mine. I got the vibe this guy was some kind of weirdo serial killer, but I like that it's open to interpretation.
Lord Windy posted:
This honestly just read like a transcript of someone’s day at a boring, soul-crushing job--but without the voice to make it interesting enough to sit through. I had to really push myself to finish it. Amy is a wasted character as there’s no real progression or sense of how he feels about her or her about him. Why was he in the hospital? Mental breakdown? I’m assuming so, because he had/has a therapist, but you don’t make it clear enough to be compelling in any way.
As a story this left me fairly unsatisfied. Why was he in the bar by himself in the first place if he doesn’t drink? Why would he just start drinking again at the end when he went to so much trouble to sober up in the first place and also had the bartender pour a fake shot? You didn’t give me any information on why he was here in the first place or very much about the condition his life was in; this gives me very little to reference when thinking about what he wants or is doing. You have issues, as outlined in the piece, with writing half-good sentences, one of which has a nice, strong verb and good description, while the other half is boring filler. Cut away the redundant chaff and see how much stronger your sentences become.
You did, at least, infuse an understanding of people, and the idea of feeling old/alien in a place where you once felt perfectly fine.
Anathema Device posted:
Hank's Used Books
My biggest gripe with this is that there are no real surprises. Yes his mom’s an rear end in a top hat and doesn’t get him and treats him like crap, but it just came off as unremarkable because it’s such a common idea/concept. The mother’s lines were almost all fairly underwhelming and expected. It would have been more effective to me if she’d said things that actually unnerved Alvin or at least let him be blase about it in an interesting way. I also feel like you could have done more with the book and bookstore theme, but as it is it felt just a tad underdeveloped. It was good that we got to see where Alvin’s love of books comes from, but it didn’t feel as infused into the rest of the story as I was hoping it’d be.
I guess the meaning is that family is lovely sometimes? Be grateful for the good people who help raise us? Books are awesome? I’m not entirely sure what the deeper meaning of this was.
Nice Old Lady
So he stole something and thus proved her bigotry correct? I’m a little confused as to why he would do something like that. Won’t she realize something is missing and further reinforce her stereotypical/racist views of brown people? Also I felt like it’s a bit unrealistic that she wouldn’t recognize him from only a week ago. I do get that she’s doing the “all colored people look alike” thing, but why does she think he’s well-showered this week but didn’t last week? Why did he look suspicious last week but not this week? It seems like the guy’s characterization is a bit off because on the one hand he sounds incredibly OCD, but on the other hand he’s willing to drink dirty water and takes the woman’s lumps quite well even though he’s apparently brimming with rage on the inside. Also, how offended/surprised could he really be at her behavior if he’s already been there several times and she’d already accused him of stealing? The woman came off a bit flat as well, as we all know the racist, nutty old woman who accuses every poor liveried bastard who walks through her door of stealing all her poo poo. It would have been cool to see her tweaked a bit, even within the small space you had to work in. In any case you wrote something lucid enough that it invoked strong opinions from me, so that’s a step up from a lot of the other entries.
Nikaer Drekin posted:
Uh, ok? What the heck was this...three-piece suit batman? It was decently written but it stops abruptly and was filled with a bunch of description of meaningless action and throwaway lines. Most of the dialogue, or him telling the story, wasn’t believable, to me; just find it hard to believe a couple of dudes would really sit down and have this conversation and that the other guy would actually listen as rapt as he was.
Ultimately, I have no idea what you were trying to say with this story.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Sep 5, 2013 around 22:03
|# ¿ Sep 5, 2013 21:51|
Previous post was too long to make, so here's the second part:
This was so bad that I had to quit reading. It’s clearly something that you were inspired to write for some personal reasons, and was little more than you taking out your workplace frustrations via fictional proxy. That sucks for a reader to have to sit through, and I couldn’t make it, sorry. This was very nearly the worst story, if for no other reason than how inoffensively bland it is.
|# ¿ Sep 5, 2013 21:52|
Thunderbawls Chillmatic vs. Crabrock or Ike Vs. Tina or some poo poo.
Follow me around for ten minutes, and I’d be lost for nine. My friends say that, and, in fairness, that had been true until a year ago--the day I met Evelyn.
I had taken a new job in Chicago, and even as I stepped off the train, I was hopelessly disoriented and fumbling in my backpack for the paper map I’d packed. The first time I saw her was in front of the train depot; she was in her car, rolling slowly past me as I stood fighting the wind to keep the map from blowing out of my hands. I heard a laugh and looked up.
She was brushing aside her dark bangs and taking off a large pair of sunglasses. She looked at me, and right then I learned that it was impossible to appear sophisticated while wrangling a flimsy paper map in front of a beautiful woman.
She called out, “You look lost.”
“I am!” I said, having to shout over a departing train.
She smiled, put on her hazard lights, and summoned me over.
She asked why didn’t I carry a smartphone. I told her, three seconds before the map blew out of my hands and onto the roof of the train depot, that cellphones weren’t always reliable and that I could, at least, count on this.
Then it was gone and we both laughed.
And for the next 359 days, we would laugh together--for 359 days, she tolerated my wandering indecisions. With her to guide me, I didn't get lost. Not even once.
On the 360th day, our apartment had once again become her apartment. Our things had divided, becoming either hers, or mine. Mostly hers.
What little there was of mine was packed into a small U-Haul sitting in the potholed parking lot of a downtown diner.
What little there was of us was packed into a small booth, sitting on opposite sides, neither of us touching our food. I’d arrived late. We’d been here dozens of times before, but she had always driven; I could have sworn it was on the other side of the highway.
Last night I dreamed of a man on a ship, lost at sea in a storm.
“The mail key,” she mumbled, twisting the paper wrapping of her straw into a rumpled spine. Last week, sitting in that same seat, she’d grinned and blown the wrapper at my cheek.
“The mail key,” she gestured to the envelope on the table. “Did you remember to leave it? With the key to the front door?”
I hadn’t. I pulled out my keys, and she watched me fumble unsuccessfully with the ring. After a minute I said, "I don't think I can get it. Can I mail it to you?”
“This was the only copy,” she said, flatly.
The god Poseidon took pity on the man, and gifted him his most beautiful, detailed nautical map.
Our voices were tired. Yesterday morning we would have laughed, together, at the irony of one’s only mail key sitting inside a locked mailbox.
I wanted to go home. To our home.
But, so the man could prove himself worthy of a god’s intervention, Poseidon sent also a tremendous wave to crash against the man’s ship.
I’d experienced Chicago like I’d experienced Evelyn: I had failed to learn the shape of the city as well as the shape of her mind, never quite knowing which dark alleys, which arguments, to avoid. But even still she’d helped guide me as I’d fumbled through my choices and my life, and she’d done it with grace.
I'd lost it all in nine minutes. One decision. One wrong turn.
The man’s grip was weak, his spirit unworthy.
Finally I removed the key and put it in the envelope, and Evelyn said, “I guess that’s everything.” She started to stand.
The roaring, blistering water tore the map from the man’s hands.
Her sigh was a mother’s frustration at a toddler with a full diaper. “You can’t ask me to be there, Alex, to take care of you anymore. Not after yesterday. I need to do this while I’m still angry enough to go through with it.”
She grabbed the envelope and turned to leave and I never heard her voice again.
Soon after, the man sailed off the far edge of the earth.
Outside the diner I unfolded and stared at the new map I had bought.
It began to rain.
|# ¿ Sep 10, 2013 01:03|
|# ¿ Mar 25, 2019 22:24|
Fair trial, town, can't get, etc.
Nah but really, good game, crabrock. I had a blast both writing mine and reading yours. I really liked the voice in your story (big sticking point with me) and thought it matched nicely with that of the prompt.
should have started the mythic stuff earlier
Yuuuup. About two minutes after I posted it I looked at it again and said 'poo poo, I really should have put the first italicized bit at the beginning of the scene break.'
Live and learn! And much thanks to you and Rhino for the crits/feedback.
Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Sep 12, 2013 around 02:23
|# ¿ Sep 12, 2013 02:12|