RedBeardRaven

Reading Excuses 10/04/2011 -RedBeardRaven - Writer [L, G]

8 posts in this topic

This is a short story that I typed up after getting the idea. I partially wanted to go further with this idea and this could potentially be a narrow view of the whole story. Contains Language and Mild Gore.

[Edit] Changing the title of this thread.

Edited by RedBeardRaven
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This could be a strong opening scene, but it was slightly undermined the whole time by me wondering, "what did he say?" I think it's an important detail in this situation. If the words really are bad enough, they'll enhance the beginning and let the reader have a fleeting moment of "he's so screwed" before they read David's realization of the same thing.

It's a minor structural thing, but I would take the sentences of the second paragraph (Margeret storming out) and put them into many small paragraphs. Maybe save the clothing description for when she's walking away, or near it, and lead with her response. Another paragraph has his response (pain across his jaw), then a paragraph for her next move (one or two sentences about her not being a slave), then his next move of noticing her vein, then her next move of another verbal assault, and his next move, etc. I think it would do two things; first, it would speed the reader through that section, similar to ripping through an argument (things spaced like back-and-forth dialog tend to do that to me, anyway), and second, it would really emphasize how his response is about seeing and describing the impressions from the fight, and not fighting back. To me, that's gold for showing who and what the character is, and you can get it well established in the reader's mind before he ever thinks to himself about how he might use it and starts scribbling notes.

I thought the descriptions of his surroundings were a little long and drawn out, myself, but if you reframed it as him trying to find different ways to describe them, it might work.

The transition from the pantings to the screen saver was a little jarring. The transition from the history of his kids to him suddenly being mad at them was very jarring for me. There was now buildup to them screaming or anything, and in fact I missed any reason why he would be mad on first read through. I thought he was still being nostalgic, and totally didn't understand why they were scared of him, if he was just watching nostalgically.

In fact, I just re-read it again, and finally understood that this was a flashback to when they were young. I was just about to point out that the time of day had jumped from dinner to morning sun illuminating the hair to getting lost writing at night.

I don't know if you were trying to show the reader that the novel world wasn't very original and David thought it was, but that was the impression I got. It appeared to me like he was obsessed and naive, thinking that his was different and it would upend the genre as it exists, while the words used to actually describe it were very common-place and generic.

The description of the action in the final scene was also confusing to me. I get the gist of it, I think, but from about where she starts obliging in making him angry is when I start getting lost. She does some stuff to him, anyway (hits him some more?), and he triggers the magic, and it goes horribly wrong. I didn't understand what went wrong, especially. At first I thought he was burning her up, then I thought he was burning himself because his arms were blistering and smoking. Then I thought she was being killed somehow because of the blood and her having last words.

Finally, the end wasn't particularly satisfying for me, and I think it was the last words. Why would she be sorry? He was the one who just killed her, after he'd ruined a chunk of her life. If anything, she should die calling him names, and then he slowly starves while typing away oblivious at his computer as nobody feeds him. Or something even better and more poetic that you come up with... I'm not sure what, but I'll leave it at the ending feeling incomplete or unsatisfying.

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Hmm... I really only have two things to say about this piece. First, there were parts in this where I was confused as to whether the MC was experiencing reality or fantasy. This occurred when he heard his kids screaming. At the time I wasn't sure if he was flashing back to old times or if he was in reality. Eventually I settled on reality, but this drew me out of the story.

My second point comes from the main character's anger issues. They never seem to disipate, even when he's in his fantasy world. In my personal experience, which is limited to me of course, being off in another world mellows me out, but it doesn't seem to do the same for this character. I found that strange, but then again, that's just me.

Other than that, cjhuitt had soem good points. I appreciated your minimalist style with the action, but at times it did confuse me as to what exactly was happening. I got the gist of it, but not the entirety, which may be enough for some readers, but not all. Also, cjhuitt was right about the fantasy world being generic and overused, but that's okay if that's what you were going for.

I guess this piece felt like you were mixing post-modernism with urban fantasy. It's an interesting literary concept that should appeal to the more literary minded readers. The problem is, (IMO) you will have narrowed your audience by quite a bit by mixing both genres. Still, the mixing might appeal to contest judges and help the story be successful as far as winning prizes, but I'm not so sure it will have a wide appeal.

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Thanks for the feed back! I am glad some things came through but disappointed that others fell flat.

It's all a learning experience. (And for Science!)

Thanks again guys!

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So I liked this piece. The twist at the end - where he discovers he's made magic the first time - was nice, followed by his realization that he's created something he cannot control. Both pretty good twists.

As for the improvements, I agree with Cynic. At the beginning, I wasn't sure whether I was reading flashback or current. Especially when he looks in on his girls. Why are these lines of dialogue italicized? I honestly thought he was imagining them playing in the room. As if his wife had taken them away with her already. I think the line "Back before they were taken from him." threw me off. Looking back, I don't know what that means, what it's referring to.

When his wife comes home, you say his anger had subsided somewhat. That's fine, but then he notices she's been drinking vodka. If I read it right, she's pregnant (based on apron). I don't have children or a pregnant wife, but I would think her drinking while pregnant would piss him off substantially. But he first needs her to hit him and stuff, which is fine, you're trying to build tension, I get that, but I think you could do it more efficiently and effectively with just the alcohol.

The action at the end about bubbling skin and blood and his and her face is also rather confusing. I can't tell most of the time if he's the one getting burned, or if she is, or if they both are. Consider tightening up the prose there for clarity' sake.

I enjoyed it, thanks! Cheers!

Rick

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Ah, well, I suppose I will explain the piece but not defend it as the writing obviously couldn't get it across, sadly. :(

The premise is that he is a bad father to his two girls and is abusive. His wife has the kids taken for their protection and she is attempting to keep their marriage progressive. Which is why she is there having dinner with him. David is a self centered fool that has his pipe dream of becoming the next best fantasy author. Which is why his story is so grand to him but so generic to us. He does have a flash back to one of the times when he realizes what kind of father he has become by the reaction that his daughters have toward his presence. In the end he discovers a magic that is real and is fueled by his emotions. When he hears Margaret enter the apartment he rushes to explain and try to "fix" everything by showing her his "golden ticket" to a better future. Although, he hasn't truly learned the magic and doesn't understand it (as we wouldn't understand magic if we didn't have a mentor to guide is slowly through the process) he ends up feeding the wrong emotions through magic and winds up killing her. (The magic does not effect the caster.)

P.S. Margaret is not pregnant, that was just the apron. Haha, I should have stuck with "Kiss the Chef" apron... :P

I understand I could have explained a lot of things much better to get all of this across. But that is what this reading group is for. I need an extra set of eyes on my work to show me my failings.

Thanks guys. :D

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First, I'm not a short story fan, so take what I'm going to say with a grain of salt.

The piece feels... disjointed. Things didn't seem to follow a clear path, like they were a stream of thoughts going in no particular direction. Maybe this is me not being used to short stories.

I liked the opening (Nice "In late, out early" at work here), but Margaret is a little too abusive, which doesn't make her a very relatable character, which brings me to my central argument : the main character is an utter jerk.

He's standing there in his apartment and notices the paintings on his walls while his wife is about to leave him. Who behaves like this really? And this went on and on, like nothing happened.

Then, he found his magic, and thought "hey, that will solve all my problems", as if he wasn't the source of most of his own problems, then, it's "look honey, I can do magic". Uh, she's leaving him, and he wants to show her a new trick? This is likely to antagonize her some more.

At the ending, all I could think about was "He had it coming". I didn't mourn for Margaret because I didn't like her either.

Nope, didn't like the characters.

That being said, the prose was fine (if a little too flowery for my taste). I worry a little that some words are understandable only by writers and not the general population, but that's a minor problem.

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Akoebel. Thank you for your input. I appreciate any criticism thrown my way. A large part of me is glad that you didn't like David. That was what I was going for. I did not put much effort into Margaret's character so your feelings are justified. I have gone back and read this piece and I also agree that it is disjointed. A part of that is that it is my first ever (completed) short story.

Thank you again for your input!

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