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Truthweaver

02/19/18 - Truthweaver - The Lonely Traveler - 3050 words (V)

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This is a short story idea I came up with from playing around with the concept of time-travel. I wrote it over two days without outlining first, so it's still in the early draft stage, but hopefully it's a worthy first submission to Reading Excuses!
 
Let me know about anything that's weird or doesn't make sense. This is the first time I've shown my work to people outside my friends and family circle (and they generally don't offer a lot of in-depth critiques) so pick away as you please.
 
V for a brief mugging scene.
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Thanks for posting and for letting us be the first outsiders to see your writing!

I thought this was an interesting slice of life story, even though the plot is familiar. it's sort of like one scene from Groundhog Day spread out into a mini-episode. It's a good first draft.

That said, there isn't a lot new to this. W decides to keep playing out the same thing even though he or L will likely get killed multiple times. In the "surprising yet inevitable" range of endings, this is the second, but not the first. What can you add that hits the "surprising" part? This felt like it could be longer and explore W and L's relationship a bit more.

Notes while reading:
pg 5: I like that L has a slightly different reaction because W is nervous

pg 8: "those drunk, stupid lugs"
--drunken

pg 11: Having the phrase about "playing too good" being the key one grates on me because it's grammatically incorrect. Even if it was "you play too well," it still sounds sort of clunky and awkward. There's probably a better way to say this that still gets the same point across and makes this a more poignant phrase. You also might want to include it at the beginning of the story, if it's going to be their "thing."

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22 hours ago, Mandamon said:

In the "surprising yet inevitable" range of endings, this is the second, but not the first. What can you add that hits the "surprising" part? This felt like it could be longer and explore W and L's relationship a bit more.

That's a good point about the surprising part; I'll definitely think about what I could do there. It's a project for a short stories course and there was a restriction on the length, which is why it's as short as it is. I'm thinking about expanding the concept eventually.

22 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 11: Having the phrase about "playing too good" being the key one grates on me because it's grammatically incorrect. Even if it was "you play too well," it still sounds sort of clunky and awkward. There's probably a better way to say this that still gets the same point across and makes this a more poignant phrase. You also might want to include it at the beginning of the story, if it's going to be their "thing."

Yeah, I see what you mean here. I was trying to go for something casual, but I'll tweak it a bit and see what else I can come up with. Thanks for reading!

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Hello and welcome to RE! Thank you for letting us be the first ones to see your work outside of your friends. I know how tough that can be!

Overall, I liked this story. Yes, I knew where it was going, but I enjoyed getting there. 
 
 
As I go:
 
I'm catching some awkward phrasing here and there but in general the grammar and technical aspects seem quite good to me. I'm not really a fan of present tense, but (awkwardness here and there aside) this flows well and I'm not minding the tense as much.
 
I stumbled over "you play too good" as well. Maybe "You're too good for this place?" Or "You play well?" You're too talented? I don't know. It sticks out as it is right now though. 
 
While it is a pretty stereotypical story, and the ending is not a surprise, I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Tropes done well can be just as enjoyable as a surprise (moreso to me than if the surprise is contrived), and I liked both of the main characters and the tropes being used here. Definitely try a few things out if you want to, but I don't think it's worth worrying over if you end up not changing much.  I'd expect more out of a longer work, but it's not a longer work. It's a good little enjoyable story.  
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This is good writing, especially for an early draft. 

I really like the opening. The first sentence after the dialogue drew me in straight away. You have style and voice in your writing (I guess those two things are the same). That's my first impression and it's what I still think after finishing the piece. I'll launch into my moment by moment reaction now, but more important than that I think, if you don't already, you should have confidence in yourself to write in a compelling way.  

Here we go..

P1

  • What a great paragraph. This guy can write.
  • General intrigue..don't care if the concept is cliche if it's well executed
  • 'Reaction three of ten.' What does that mean? Is he rating how much he likes her reaction? Or labelling it from a possible 10 categories? 

P2 

  • Dialogue pretty well written. Like this bit: Another taste of coffee. It’s good, this stuff.
  • Lily gapes at him... this paragraph seems to drift from the traveler's pov, third limited into somewhere between omniscient and distant third limited. Pulled me out a little. 
  • Same thing again on final para... I feel the author's voice is more present the character's

P3

  • It's the last thing..etc Redundant / obvious from previous lines
  • begins a new song with a passion - Feel free to elaborate. 'Passion' felt a bit lazy/on the nose in terms of description
  • Will watches in dismay, his coffee growing cold. A thought flickers at the back of his mind: should he reverse time for this?  At this point I’m reaching for Will’s internal life…his desire…  I want to know his heart… why he’s here, and why I’m in the coffee shop with him? If I can't connect with the character emotionally soon, then you might lose me as a reader

P4

  • Lily winces, then glares at the keys. I feel sympathy for her. Hm.. that she glares at the keys can be interpreted in different ways, My reaction was…she’s trying harder at the piano…trying to be better / mixed with anger at the drunk guy and a feeling that she can't really defend herself, since this is her job. Empathy for her.
  • I'll bring her back, sir. This felt odd to me. 
  • See that you do. Does the bar tender not think this odd too? Some guy just stands up, takes the blame and volunteers himself to fetch her back. If that happened in my bar I'd look at them thinking 'What's going on here?'
  • The murder feels extremely abrupt. Rushed. Odd. Like it comes out of no where - a sudden change of story tone.

P5

  • Love how he has to let himself fall backwards. Great touch. 
  • When he returns to the bar, rattled... I like this reaction. It's great. Feels realistic. Compelling. 
  • Last line of this page - How many times has he done this? It can’t be that hard to not screw this up… if this is his second try that’s ok, I forgive him. if it's his fifth try and then I consider him a bit incompetent. 

 

P6

  • A flickering green? Is that accurate? Feels like a fall back on the word flicker (which, by the way, is well used when he travels back in time)
  • Haltingly at first, but soon the whole story is pouring out. Feels rushed. 
  • Last sentence - Not convinced he ruined it. And why is this important? Why should I care? Show me the heart of the character! Let me feel his loneliness. I'm reaching to connect with him but there's little to grasp on to

P7

  • What kind of insane he is.  Nice phrasing - I like it 
  • “I don’t pay you to talk. I pay you to play." - Cliche. It's an early draft so no worries. I'm confident you can do better than this. 
  • She seems surprised to see him. 'Oh, you? Hello.'  I love  this phrasing. Concise yet this characterful. This way of putting it wouldn't occur to a lot of writers.
  • Is it this way? - Bit stupid to ask that isn't it? He'll freak her out! 

P8

  • Same as above when he warns her they'll slit her throat.
  • Odd when he calls himself a time traveller. Peculiar in an unrealistic way 
  • Consequently, it feels unrealistic that she lets him come with her
  • "Are you sure you want to head home?" - At this point I question his sanity. Before this, I believed he was a time traveller. Now not so sure. Is he a nutcase?

P9

  • If I were her I’d think he was in on it. Can’t they go a different way back?
  • It's quite useful. - Feels on the nose to me. Whimsical in a way that pulls me out the story. 
  • Similar reaction to 'Would you like me to time-travel now?'

P10

  • I really like how he has to find the concentration to go back in time whilst being stabbed to death. Brilliant. 
  • ..knives entered his back and stomach. Some acknowledgement of his own stupidity would be good about now. 
  •  he might have someone who believes him, who might ease the loneliness he had no idea until tonight that he felt so acutely. I wonder if there’s a more effective way of communicating this…more indirect / subtle. Like when Vincent sees that wolf in the film Collateral. 

P11

  • Is that it? Ending leaves me a little unsatisfied, and I think this is partly related to the above comment.

 

One last bonus tip - I think that 'flicker' is a word you like, and it's a good one - but be aware that you might have a tendency to overuse it. 

Great work, please keep writing.

 

 

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@Majestic Fox Thanks so much for your comments! You basically touched on everything I wasn't sure about--like the murder being too unexpected, the part where Will offers to get Lily back, etc. So I guess now I'm thinking about changing the murder part completely and reworking some other things to fit the story better. Thanks for confirming my suspicions about them.

1 hour ago, Majestic Fox said:

Show me the heart of the character! Let me feel his loneliness. I'm reaching to connect with him but there's little to grasp on to

I get what you mean here. I struggle to write character emotion in a way that doesn't feel too melodramatic or on-the-nose, so then I go to the opposite side and end up using emotion too sparingly. I'm still searching for a good middle ground.

1 hour ago, Majestic Fox said:

he might have someone who believes him, who might ease the loneliness he had no idea until tonight that he felt so acutely. I wonder if there’s a more effective way of communicating this…more indirect / subtle

Yeah, I will work on that. Getting character intention across in a subtle way is something I also struggle with.

1 hour ago, Majestic Fox said:

One last bonus tip - I think that 'flicker' is a word you like, and it's a good one - but be aware that you might have a tendency to overuse it

Ah you noticed that, did you? :P Yes, 'flicker' is one of my pet words. I'll watch out for it.

1 hour ago, Majestic Fox said:

What a great paragraph. This guy can write.

Thank you ^_^ That's always awesome to hear.

 

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Hi! Welcome to RE! Way to take that first step!

Overall

Strong start and middle. The end unwound, I thought, and needs some tightening. I wasn't a fan of of the almost-fridge trope at all, and I think that soured the rest of the story for me. But your writing is generally very easy to read and enjoyable. It's great to have you on the board!

On 2/19/2018 at 7:58 AM, Mandamon said:

being the key one grates on me because it's grammatically incorrect.

I also had this issue

 

As I go

- page three: very smooth and I was completely engaged until L asks the man to teach her to time travel. I can't believe he's never been asked that before. Might need better lead up to this, because I have a hard time suspending disbelief here

- page four: oh no. My fridge sense is tingling

- Skirted the trope, but just barely. For more information on Women in Refrigerators, click here.

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Hello and welcome to submitting. I hope you have as much fun here as I do.

I LOVE time travel stories, and it’s nice to get a short to critique, as mostly we seem to have novel chapters. I hope these comments are useful; sorry they are so late in the week.

  • I like the idea of the piano music being seasoning for the conversation. ‘melting pot’ tripped me up at first, but on second reading, I guess so.
  • I’m not quite sure how to picture what the pianist is wearing. ‘muslin’, to me, is just a big cloth, mostly sheer, but not all that thick. But, is it a dress, a wrap?
  • I’m a page in: I like to take stock at that point. I find your writing easy to read and quietly engaging. This doesn’t strike me as a story full of fireworks, and seems to aim fort subtlety to engage the reader; mood and character, which I can get on board with for sure.
  • I like the fact that the setting is very simple (so far), and there are only two characters (so far). Similarly, the ideas are simple, so far, giving the reader time to ease into the story and what are some big concepts once you start to bat them around. Good job so far.
  • The POV is drifting, it seems.
  • But you can do it and know?” – This line wasn’t clear, for me.
  • I’m assuming a contemporary setting, approximately. I found the mocking formality of this line “I’m afraid you jest with me, sir” rather off-putting. The dialogue has been largely without ‘ticks’ so far. This line didn’t hit the mark for me…
  • The heckler using the word ‘pleasant’ seemed off to me.
  • …then with “common room to the tavern’s door” suddenly I'm not sure what kind of setting I'm in. If it was contemporary I'd expect to hear about a pub or bar.
  • the only person on earth” – Earth, as it’s the name of the planet.
  • He imagines it as clear as he possibly can” – grammar: ‘clearly’
  • Flicker” – aw, yes; I love how time travel works, that is excellent.
  • Yes; POV is moving again. You talk about W seeming nervous, which is not in his POV, and yet the rest is.
  •  “How he discovered what he could do, his theory behind it, his search for others like himself.” I like how you just lay this all out an essential tell the reader to accept it. I think that’s fine in a short story like this.
  • Certainty and accuracy: to me, words like ‘reddish’ are weak, especially in a short. Compare this to saying ‘auburn’ and moving past it. I don’t think you want the reader mulling on what colour her hair is.
  • The exchange on Page 8, when W tells her about the mugging, felt off to me. I thought the dialogue was cumbersome. W turning away seems out of character, considering he’s trying to save her.
  • You play too good for this place” – Gah: grammar. W strikes me as being fairly well educated. So, I think he would know that she plays too ‘well’, or is too ‘skilled’ for the inn. Also, ‘this place’ clashed for me, because they are not in the place anymore.
  • Do you have a plan?” – my first reaction was that this line is horribly clichéd; then it did occur to me that, having believe his time travel story, she reasonably could expect that he might, and therefore the question becomes legitimate. I think you might find a more interesting and entertaining way to phrase the question. I don’t mean in a snarky ‘Hollywood’ way, just something a bit more interesting.
  • I like the pacing of the story, the ramping up of the violence and the stakes as we near the end. I’m on Page 10 when W shifts back again, and this time the stakes are increased. I’m very much engaged in finding out how this ends.
  • looks around herself wearily” – I know, it’s wordsmithing, and this is a first draft, but I just can’t read past some things; sorry.
  • It’s more than danger, it seems to me, it’s death.

The POV shifting kind of spoiled this for me, but it’s easy enough to fix, I don’t think there’s any instance of it that cannot firmly be put back in W’s POV. I found the style easy to read, perhaps a bit functional, but that’s not necessary a bad thing in a short which is an idea story. And it’s a first draft, so really good for being that, when you have ‘all’ those later drafts to insert craft and wordsmithing, etc.

For a time travel story, the plot here is simple, but I think that makes it more effective. Some t/t stories get weighed down with paradox and theory, and can end up becoming cluttered. I like that you concentrate on character. I think the story would benefit from developing those main characters some more, not in terms of background, but depth of reaction. And I don’t mean adding adjectives; but more refining the consistency of reaction.

The ending: it’s fine, and I get how you end up there, but I'm not sure you’ve sold it to me. In part, I think this is down to the characters needing to be a bit more compelling. I don’t really know what their hopes and dreams are, apart from the one of W’s that features in the story. I’d like to feel more emotion in it, I don’t think the payoff quite hits the spot.

Summing up though, I think you have a really decent first draft here, and that it deserves few edits to see how good it can be. Nice job.

<R>

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On ‎2018‎-‎02‎-‎23 at 10:26 PM, kais said:

- page four: oh no. My fridge sense is tingling

- Skirted the trope, but just barely. For more information on Women in Refrigerators, click here.

Thanks for the information! I actually wasn't aware of what fridging was until I joined RE and saw your comments about it elsewhere. (Before submitting I literally thought, "Will kais call me out on this?") I'm thinking about changing the whole murder plot anyway, so I'll fix the near-fridging while I'm at it.

On ‎2018‎-‎02‎-‎24 at 4:26 AM, Robinski said:

I LOVE time travel stories, and it’s nice to get a short to critique, as mostly we seem to have novel chapters. I hope these comments are useful; sorry they are so late in the week.

Your comments were very useful! Thanks for taking the time to write them. I also love time-travel stories; one of my favorite books about this is 23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde. It's my goal to write a full-length novel and/or series about a time-travel society eventually. I have a few ideas, but I'm still in the process of fleshing them out. Anyway, thanks for reading! :)

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31 minutes ago, Truthweaver said:

It's my goal to write a full-length novel and/or series about a time-travel society eventually.

I'll read that!

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I really enjoyed reading your work. I wished I had gotten to understand the mechanics of the time travel a little more. But for a short piece it had the right amount of detail. Same goes for W-'s backstory, it left me wanting more and yet satisfied at the same time. 

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