Any Writers able to help? (feedback on a very short story, won't take long!) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 02-11-2011, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I can't post in the mothers writing group, so thought i would try to put this here.  Hope that's okay....

Anyhow, if any of you lovely ladies would help me out, my mum would really appreciate it.  My mum wrote this, and would like feedback from ppl who do not know us or our situation b/c she is not sure if it makes sense to such ppl.  Anyone who does know us it immidiately makes sense to.....but she wants to enter in a contest and so needs to know if it makes sense to others.

All I"m asking is for you to read it, then let us know what you think.  I"m going to send her a link to this thread so she can read the feedback.

Thanks so much in advance!

 

Here's the stroy - it's very short.

 

 

Final Honour Gaurd March

 

My beautiful daughter hovers over her sleeping husband.   She smoothes his forehead -- it doesn’t remove the lines from her own.

            “Just go, honey.  I’ll stay here with him.”

            “Are you sure, Ma?”

            “Yes.  We’ll be fine.”

            Hesitating, she pulls on her coat and leaves.

            Their home seems bright, even for a white, winter’s day.  Bob stirs and opens his eyes.  Awkwardly he pulls back the bedclothes with his left arm, and struggles to rise.  His right arm hangs, deadweight, at his side.  Putting my arm around his waist, we walk down the unusually bright hall.

            “Take, your, hands, off me,” Bob brokenly stammers.  We reach the washroom door.  For his privacy, I pull the door closed behind him. Repeatedly I pray, “Please, God, don’t let him fall….”

He staggers out.  Damn his independence.  I wrap my small, strong arms around his waist. 

I watch his large, bare feet.  One unsteady step with the left foot, drag the right foot; another unsteady step, another drag. 

The pace quickens. Unsteady steps turn to sure steps, then to marching steps.  His knees rise higher  – our firefighter is marching!  Confused, I look up at Bob’s radiant face.  His eyes twinkle playfully as he grins down at me.

“I love you,” I say, through tears, as I hug his waist.  With two strong arms, he hugs me back.

 

            Slowly, I open my eyes to the grey Christmas’ morning light.  Quietly I lay still, savouring my gift; enveloped in peace. 


Living and learning with my four young ones......
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#2 of 6 Old 02-11-2011, 12:30 PM
 
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Hi there! You weren't doing anything wrong. That forum is closed to new posts and our writer mamas have moved to the WAHM Well. I've moved this there so they can see it. They also have a chat thread here if you're interested - http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/1283311/write-at-home-moms-december-january smile.gif


Wife of 1. Mom of 3. Conquering disability challenges, one achievement at a time.
 

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#3 of 6 Old 02-11-2011, 02:50 PM
 
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I like a lot in this piece. (I don't know how to get rid of the underline!) I like the pace, and how sparse and evocative and poignant it is.  She is imagining him getting better, but it is only a dream. This is why the house is brighter than normal (hinting that it is a dream.) and yet she's convinced that her dream can really make him heal.

 

Is my reading correct that she had an affair with the son in law? "Our firefighter," and the emphasis on them touching each other around the waist. I really like this angle, but I'm not sure whether you are aiming for it. This angle elevates the story, makes it more intriguing, especially if only only hint at their connection. Right now, the hinting is too weak, I think.

 

I'm not sure what to think about this being a dream. I usually feel a bit cheated, as a reader, if at the very end I was told it was only a dream. Though here is this interesting angle, that she believes that her dream can cross into the reality and actually affect him. There are some in-text comments below. Mostly, I think you really need to focus on showing vs. telling. It is so important, especially in flash fiction, to draw the reader in, by carefully chosen details.

 

You will be able to show the characters better with just a few details. Intead of just saying 'their home', you can throw in a couple of extra words that would show something about that house. Or the type of coat the daughter is putting on--color? new? old, fashionable or not? And so on.

 

More comments in-text below.

 

 

 

 

Final Honour Gaurd March [ sp. Guard]

 

My beautiful daughter hovers over her sleeping husband.  [In general you'd like to show more, rather than 'tell', especially in the first paragraph. How would you show 'beautiful'? There are many ways, but they might complicate this first sentence. My suggestion would be to just cut it, and then show in the following paragraph]  She smoothes his forehead -- it doesn’t remove the lines from her own.[great, evocative line.]

            “Just go, honey.  I’ll stay here [cut] with him.”

            “Are you sure, Ma?”

            “Yes. [cut]--the reason for cutting is that dialogue sounds most realistic when it is not verbatim. Verbatim dialogue feels too slow in fiction. You'd want to maintain a good pace in dialogues. When you say 'we'll be fine', the 'yes' is implied, and the pace is better] We’ll be fine.”

            Hesitating, she pulls on her coat and leaves. [this is a great place to show things and draw the reader into the story. Instead of saying 'hesitating', show her fumble with her keys, checking her hair too many times in the mirror, being distracted--any number of things. This is a good place to show how she looks like, as the mother gazes at her]

            Their home seems bright, even for a white, winter’s day. Bob stirs and opens his eyes.  Awkwardly [show, rather than tell. Show his hand slipping, his jerky movement. Especially in such a short story  / flash fiction, you need to show a lot, there's hardly ever any space for 'telling'.] he pulls back the bedclothes with his left arm, and struggles to rise.  His right arm hangs, deadweight, at his side.  Putting my arm around his waist, we walk down the unusually bright hall. [the way the sentence reads, it seems like "we" where the ones who "put my arm around..." With my arm around his waist is an alternative.]

            “Take, your, hands, off me,” Bob brokenly [stummering is already 'broken speech'. I'd cut 'brokenly'. in addition to being redundant, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives weaken your prose ]stammers.  We reach the washroom door.  For his privacy, [you can also cut ' for his privacy', as it is also pretty evident ]I pull the door closed behind him. Repeatedly I pray, “Please, God, don’t let him fall….”  [this is a good spot to show the excrutiating passage of time. I'd cut ' repeatedly', and instead have her pray, then do something else, something to numb her mind as she waits--she might count something, observe something...This can also be a window into her state of mind and into her personality. One woman would imagine a rosary in her hands and count the beads; another could focus on a plant in the hallway, or on her own reflection in the mirror...Then she would pray again.]

He staggers out.  Damn his independence.  I wrap my small, strong arms around his waist.  [to me it sounds a bit like a POV slippage--to refer to one's arms as 'strong and small'. Just sounds  a bit awkward to me. But I could be wrong.]

I watch his large, bare feet.  [this is really nice! you could get a detail or two as well, to draw the reader in, to help the reader see it better. fingernails trimmed short? too white (because he hasn't been out in ages?) and let the reader infer this] One unsteady step with the left foot, drag the right foot; another unsteady step, another drag. 

The pace quickens. Unsteady steps turn to sure steps, [then to marching steps.--cut, especially as you show the marching in the next sentence, with his knees rising]  His knees rise higher  – our firefighter is marching!  Confused, I look up at Bob’s radiant face.  His eyes twinkle [ playfully--cut, because you already show 'playfully' by saying that his eyes twinkle and that he grins] as he grins down at me.

“I love you,” I say, through tears, as I hug his waist.  With two strong arms, he hugs me back.

 

            Slowly, I open my eyes to the grey Christmas’ morning light.  Quietly I lay still, savouring my gift; enveloped in peace. [I'd cut both 'slowly' and 'quietly' as unnecessary adverbs, but if you are attached to them, cut at least one.]


My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#4 of 6 Old 02-12-2011, 04:16 PM
 
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 Hello MidnightWriter:

First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my postcard story and commenting in such detail.  I had been concerned that the story would be unclear to readers who did not know our family and situation.  Before my daughter had posted it, I had made some changes to the story to, hopefully, make it clearer.  I am attaching it again and, if you could just take a moment and tell me if you get a different take on it, I would greatly appreciate it.  I am taking to heart many of your valuable criticisms and will, likely, rewrite the story in a longer form.

 

 

Final Honour Guard March

            My beautiful daughter hovers over her sleeping husband.   She smoothes his forehead -- it doesn’t remove the lines from her own.

            “Just go, honey.  I’ll stay with him.”

            “Are you sure, Ma?”

            “Go.  We’ll be fine.”

            Their home seems unearthly bright, even for a white, winter’s day.  Bob awakens and looks at me, showing no emotion.  Awkwardly he pulls back the bedclothes with his left arm, and struggles to rise.  His right arm hangs, deadweight, at his side.  Putting my arm around his waist, we walk down the unusually bright hall.

            “Take, your, hands, off me,” he brokenly stammers.  Reluctantly, I do.  We reach the washroom.  For his privacy, I pull the door closed behind him. Repeatedly I pray, “Please, God, don’t let him fall.”

Bob staggers out.  Damn the brain cancer.  Damn his independence.  I wrap my small arms around him. 

I watch his large, bare feet.  One unsteady, faltering step with the left foot, drag the right foot, another unsteady step, another drag. 

The pace quickens. Unsteady steps become sure steps, then marching steps.  His knees rise higher  – our brave firefighter is once again marching!  Confused, I look up into Bob’s radiant face.  His eyes twinkle playfully as he grins down at me.

“I love you,” I say, through tears, as I hug his waist.  With two strong arms, he hugs me back.

 

            Slowly, I open my misty eyes to the cold, grey Christmas’ morning light.  I lay still, savouring my gift; enveloped in perfect peace.

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#5 of 6 Old 02-12-2011, 04:28 PM
 
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Well, DawnsLight, I'm crying! I think it's beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

 
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#6 of 6 Old 02-12-2011, 04:38 PM
 
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You're welcome. I love critiquing!

 

My deep condolences if the story is based on a real life situation in your family ( I missed the explanatory note the first time around and treated it as fiction). I have a close family member who died of brain cancer. It is a brutal disease.

 

The story is not more clear to me now. The only difference I see is the brain cancer, but I assumed something like that anyway.

 

Btw, my comments were not meant to indicate that I think it should be a longer story. I think it works perfectly as a flash / postcard story (my favorite form!). You'd end up with about the same word count, if you were to cut the redundancies, and replace them with 'show' / details. Good luck with it! Let me know if you have any questions. (and everything I said applies to creative non-fiction as well, in terms of Show vs. Tell. even more so)

 

Maybe if you tell me what you did mean by the ending, I could offer some ideas on how to clarify it. PM me, if you feel like it. (hugs)


My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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