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i wrote a thing, please opine!
  • i don’t know whether you’d call it a three part story, or three related stories, but i’d be keen for some feedback, if you’re willing to give it. thread can also be used to post your own, but i didn’t want interrupt the ‘what are you writing’ thread, which seemed more for general discussion. here it is:

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

  • Okay, I want to preface this by saying that I recently almost had a falling out with my brother because he asked for feedback on something he’d written and I just sent him a bunch of notes on things I thought he could think about changing, or consider when he’s next writing, and he was a bit taken aback because he felt like I was being critical. So I’m possibly going to make the same mistake here of spending most of the time I have focusing on the stuff I think you can improve rather than picking out bits that I liked. That doesn’t mean I hate your writing or that everything is wrong!

    Also by saying that obviously these are notes for things I’d like you to consider, not instructions for writing perfect stories. You’re the only person who can decide what is or isn’t good advice for your own writing.

    For me, I like that the first two aren’t directly related, and I like that the third encourages me to draw the threads together a little, but I think I’d like the third to have just another couple of words working to tie things together somewhere. It’s nearly right, just not quite. But then maybe that’s just my reading, or maybe I didn’t read closely enough, in which case this might be bad advice, so maybe just think about it and see how you feel yourself?

    I enjoyed reading the piece, anyway. The first and third sections have the strongest voices - the second I was less sure about.

    I feel like in the second section you’re aiming for the voice of a grown up relative trying to speak like a grown up, but I’m not sure it worked for me in the same way as the third piece did with the younger man’s voice. While I was thinking about this, I wondered if this was because I think you’ve written it with the voice that you can imagine hearing a middle-aged person using when describing this event, and I can definitely imagine my mum saying stuff like that when describing those events to a friend, but I still imagine that her own internal voice would be different, less populated by the social niceties that you’ve used. But obviously those elements of the speech are a large part of what draws the character in that section. Does that make sense? I wondered if it might be worth experimenting with writing that section as a dialogue with some silent, understanding friend or family member. Heck, maybe even just putting the whole thing in quotation marks might do the trick - just enforce for the reader that this is the voice of a person speaking, in contrast with the other two pieces which are the voices of people thinking.

    I really hope that makes sense.

    A couple of other specific things I want to note:

    • in the third story, the line “I think what the dream is saying, is I’d do anything for you.” It just feels unnecessary to me.
    • in the first story, I’d drop the reference to the match being a semi-final, because you’re giving the reader the chance to get lost in an unnecessary question about how a semi-final can be a comeback match. Either ditch that reference or explain how it can be both a comeback and the penultimate game in a tournament.
    • in the first story’s third paragraph, change “The tennis player taps his racket” to “He taps his racket”. There’s no ambiguity, and you repeat it enough to make the point without including it here as well. Switching to “He…” adds a little variation to the prose.

    Hope that helps, happy to talk about stuff if you’d find it useful or to be ignored if you’d find that useful.

  • holy wow. alistarr, thank you. all of that is insanely helpful!

  • i will keep working on it!

  • it’s interesting what you say about part 2 - it was originally written as a letter from the mother to some unknown person, and included a brief piece about how she was sorry they couldn’t make it. i changed that late in the game, but left the formal voice. i can see how that would grate.

  • Haha, that makes sense!

    I guess another thing you could try if you do want to rework it is have it be her telling him how his funeral went, either with something movie-ish like having her taking flowers to his grave for the first time and talking to him, or just have her sitting around at home. Or just don’t even explain where she is or why she’s talking to him, just change it to “your boss came”, etc and leave the rest open. I think that might work. It also accounts for the slight shift in tone near the end when she drops the pleasantries and speaks more emotively.

    Hmmm.

  • interesting! that idea might render the second-person in part 3 repetitive, but I’ll see how it sounds :) thanks again

  • adam, just got a chance to read this, and I liked it twenty times more than goon squad. this bit right here is a better use of music for character dev than anything egan pulls off:

    After this, the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses was played, which I wasn’t thrilled about but Katie had insisted, because it was his favourite song, and how could I not know that?

    haven’t read alistarr’s comments yet, but it sounds like you got some ideas from it, and that you’re eager & willing to try them out. that’s ideally how feedback should work. too much feedback and it’s like too much feedback on an amp. so i’ll hold off giving much more, except to say

    1) your stories remind me of me own attempts at fiction in my late teens & early 20s, except you’ve got a way with character, which i never had (hence my poetry habit)

    2) the 1st story seems to need the most work IMHO. it feels like the tennis player isn’t really a character there but a mouthpiece for your own sketches of his backstory, motivations, goals, and so on. maybe think about ways to make him more of a real person who reveals his complexity through action, like in that exchange about Wild Horses which reveals quite a bit about both Katie and the speaker in that story.

    write on, man!