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Reading Excuses 091216 rdpulfer The Big L (Revised) L


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Hello all,

This is the revised version of "The Big L". I've rewritten it as present tense (by popular demand). Specifically I'd like to know any places you seen past/present tense confusion. This is my first time writing something present tense, much less rewriting something as present tense.
Of course, I'd welcome any other comments to strengthen this piece.
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It was nice to read this again. I thought it flowed much more smoothly and had clearer hinting. Still a few bumps, noted below. I didn't notice tense changes but I often don't, so hopefully others will find any that exist. My only other comment is that this does not pass the Bechdel Test, and you have plenty of characters to work with, so you might consider swapping genders on a few orderlies and working in a quip unrelated to the MC. Other than that, nice work!

As I go (my numbering is based on reformatting, so the page numbers might not line up with yours)

- second sentence in is too adjective heavy

- page one, second paragraph: redundancy with 'calendar'

- page 2: 'runn' should be 'run

- page five: ah, the layout is coming through well this time around. Very nice!

- page ten: the hypnosis thing hits kind of sudden. It jars me from the narrative and seems out of place for what I know of Matthew's character


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@ kaisa - Thanks a lot! I appreciate the typos - that's what I really need to clear up. I'm thinking about adding some more female characters, if I can make it fit into the overall narrative.

@ Ernnei - Thanks for your opinion all the same. Was there anything in the main character's personality or actions that made him hard to emphasize with?


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13 hours ago, kaisa said:

There were some I didn't bother to point out. You want a Track Changes LBL?

If you wouldn't mind. I'm trying to get it all polished for submissions.

7 hours ago, Ernei said:

Not really; it was mostly the matter of age, I'm afraid. I had to get accustomed to the idea, and before I finally did, it was the end of the story. At first I couldn't help imagining him as a middle-aged veteran, even though there were hints that it's not correct.

Well, thanks for reading regardless!

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What a cool story!  Present tense definitely worked for me.  I loved the voice of the MC - he reminds me of my grandpa-in-law who is ex-military.  I was a little confused by his age at the start, I think because he seems to expect he will get out of the nursing home.  I know people often go to nursing homes just to recover from a surgery, but it's not my first thought when I think of nursing homes.  And the paragraph about getting a kitten calendar for a housewarming present made me think this was going to be a permanent thing, like he can't take care of himself anymore.  But once I had a better idea of what was going on, I was really able to connect with him.

My only other suggestion story telling-wise is that I was never quite sure if Frank really didn't remember anything else about his accident, or if he was faking a lack of memory whenever he talked about it.  I think he really didn't remember until he underwent the hypnosis, but still don't know for sure.

Overall I thought it was very compelling and enjoyable.

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I was late getting around to this story but I'm really glad I picked it up anyway. I really enjoyed this! The first line hooked me and I was hooked all the way through--even blowing well past the end of my lunch break in order to finish it. I thought the writing was very good--very tight. For some reason the writing kept reminding me of classic science fiction of the '50s and '60s. You did a great job of gradually feeding the reader clues/information, and working these naturally into the narrative. Did you leave too many clues? Do other readers guess your reveal? You left some pretty big clues--particularly the 30-day cycle--and I've been telling myself "I'm just having an off day" as a way of consoling myself for not guessing the big mystery. :) Honestly, it was a minor disappointment that it was "another werewolf" story, but I don't think that took much away from my enjoyment of it, and I don't know that there is a better way to do it. The part with the mirror and the transition of his thoughts from human to animal was excellent.

page 4: "pushes his cart" instead of "pushed"

Great dialogue.

I loved some of your little touches, like the line "Siodmak tells me." instead of writing, "You're a werewolf," or whatever.

Thanks for the great read!

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the interests of freeing up time for writing, I'm going to try a more summarised commenting style on some submissions. Apologies if this seems briefer than usual, but hopefully there is still something useful in here! I’ll summarise here, details below the line, and the separate LBL’s I’ve emailed.

My biggest issue, I was disappointed by the short section in the thing’s POV. I think that has to have way more impact. The switch is disorienting, but the reactions and the description of the action, I think, is not ‘other’ enough. Put in terms of movie SFX, it reads like a man-in-a-hairy-suit, when I wanted it to read like the bear attack in The Revenant, if you see what I mean.

I enjoyed the story again. The present tense gives it more immediacy, as you would expect, but I think you could dial that up a bit more with a judicious edit. Some of the phrasing is quite indirect, with more words that necessary and stating the obvious in places where the reader would be more satisfied by making connection for their self and not being told.

Oh, and I think you need to mention his Cancer and his Heart problems much earlier. They seem like an after though appearing midway through the story, imho. But yes, still enjoy this. Good to read your work again. LBLs in the mail.



  • I keep my distance from the marker” – LOL
  • I lock eyes with the calendar like it’s a loaded gun pointing at my head” – This reads a bit like a cat fight between a metaphor and a simile. The calendar has eyes, but it’s a gun?
  • At this point, I decided that tracking the minor comments would be the best plan. I’ll email you LBL’s separately.
  • You've got a habit of describing things twice in the same phrase. By the time I get to “grunts under his breath” there have been several examples. Here, I feel you can say grunt and drop the rest. If nothing else, some judicious pruning would make the whole thing snappier.
  • more than I make in a month” – I have grave doubts that a senior staffer would share with an orderly how much more he earned in a month. I’ve worked at (almost) every level of my company (now a director) and I cannot convince myself that this would happen.
  • Nam” – Do real vets call it that? I feel like this is a cliché now. Imho, calling it Vietnam would resonate better. Sorry, editorialising, but wait till you see the LBL’s  :|   You know by now that I can’t help myself (like you’ve forgotten Scholomancer, right...)
  • Ahem, in the LBLs, I started suggestion deletions of the word ‘but’ on the third page. You use the word ‘but’ 54 times by my count. 1% of the words in this story are ‘but’. I figure if I notice the preponderance of one word, it’s a real problem.
  • There are some inconsistencies in the present tense – see LBLs.
  • but I know the sound of a camera when I hear one” – problem: it really dates the story if cameras are making a shutter noise. No need for this with today’s tech.
  • only made it twenty-nine days” – I feel that using this phrase twice on Page 10 telegraphs the issue too much. It’s a taste thing, I suppose, so I know you'll ignore this as required, but saying ‘about the same time’ instead of the second instance of 29 would be less obvious, although the information is still there. Maybe?
  • I survived cancer, a heart attack” - I think we got mention of these things much earlier in the first version - did we not? I think Page 11 is awful late to mention these, it feels like they drop in from nowhere, when we've been with the guy for nearly half the story.
  • It tears through the bounds which once kept it flat against the soft slab” – Roundabout here I get confused by the POV, because we seem to be in the thing’s POV, but it thinks of itself as ‘it’ – weird and disorienting.
  • happening near Matthews, Siodmak, or worse, Diana” – Why does he think of those two before his daughter? No way, a father thinks of Diana first.
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  • 1 month later...

Hey @rdpulfer,

I know I'm late to the game, but I just wanted to let you know I reread the polished up version, and I liked it just as much as the first time, and a lot of things that tripped me up then didn't trip me this time. I really buy the MC as a real person and love the setting and the colorful but not overwhelming side characters. My interest dropped a little on the last few pages, but I think that's mostly because I knew what the pay-off was. I didn't have that problem at all the first time. :)

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