Fantasy Short Story 3400 words - complete Asking for feedback of any kind and volunteers to read the entire story.
Fred sadly watched Sister Bea wheel her chair through the obstacle course of the soup kitchen, mindless of her lost legs. She stopped in front of him at the dish washing station and held up a five dollar bill. Her fresh young smile blamed no one, least of all the homeless man in front of her.
“No,” Fred said, “never five.” The previous spring he’d accepted her five and then watched in horror as a car skipped the curb and destroyed her legs.
“Fred, you worked for four hours,” she’d said sternly. “Our Lord doesn’t approve of your superstition.”
“Our Lord doesn’t stop runaway cars.” Fred hurt at his own words, but he couldn’t let Sister Bea become his friend again. The curse was always hungry.
A strong pathos appeal for an opening. Sister Bea lost her legs to a car. One hint of a fantastical motif from the curse that may be intrinsic to the plot. The curse is also a point of clash between Fred and Sister Bea. Fantastical fiction screening readers report a fantastical motif is important on a first page. Too many non-fantastical submissions come in at houses that only publish fantastical fiction. So they look for one on a first page. That hint is artfully done.
The mechanical style is above average. Several minor glitches mar an otherwise flawless style. One glitch is use of the preposition "at." "Fred hurt at his own words." Use of "at" as a colloquial term to connect to a state of mind object is a grammar fault. The next clause is a faulty coordinated conjunction. "But" is a contrast conjunction. The word adds no meaning. Omitting it doesn't change the meaning. The two clauses are not related anyway. Separate sentences are indicated.
Less nondiscretionary are the two -ly adverbs: "sadly watched" and "said sternly." The first is problematic from adding vague emotional emphasis to an already static action. "Watched" mediates Fred's action from a remote narrative distance and is a static verb. Neither Fred nor Bea can observe Fred watching Bea. The sentence is also a narrator's summary of an action, static, a tell, rather than an imitation (show) from Fred's viewpoint. A stronger development would show how Fred emotionally feels sad about Bea through his viewpoint reflected by his perceptions of her navigating the kitchen.
The other adverb, "sternly," is what's known as a "Tom Swifty," an adverb in a dialogue or thought attribution tag that summarizes or explains (narrator tell) the discourse line's context and texture. (Turkey City Lexicon "Tom Swifty")
All of the first paragraph is narrator viewpoint summary and explanation. The dialogue lines of the next two paragraphs are character viewpoint, the rest of their contents are summary and explanation tell. The "Fred said" tag is mostly invisible narrator viewpoint.
The dialogue tag "She'd said sternly" is an unnecessary tense shift, implying Bea said the line at the prior time before the car ran over her legs.
"For four" is a homophone conflict.
"Skipped the curb" implies the car missed the curb. I infer the car jumped the curb.
"And then watched," "and then" joins a non-simultaneous action to a separate action. The two non-connected ideas join in a run-on sentence. "Then" somewhat diffuses the non-simultaneous actions; however, less wordiness is indicated. In the alternative, Fred "watched" is again a narrator mediation. I infer the intent is to portray this scene from Fred's viewpoint.
The craft of this fragment is somewhat hampered by a few style glitches and unsettled viewpoint. This scene is a routine a year after Bea lost her legs. Though Fred seems to be the intended viewpoint character, Bea's situation and emotional appeal is stronger in this part. However, the routine interrupted happened to her a year prior. A writing principle suggests Three hundred sixty-five days in a year, the one that's different is where a story begins.
The voice is on the lackluster side. A stronger voice could come from settling the viewpoint and expressing Fred's emotional attitude stronger from his viewpoint.
Some appeals from Fred's curse. This fragment's appeals more closely align with Bea, though.
Thank you very much for the feedback. I agree with your assessment and have rewritten, establishing Fred's POV more firmly. Removed the Tom Swiftly in favor of stronger dialog. Removed the narrative about the car (no skipping or jumping) to allow Fred's dialog to imply she is in the wheelchair due to a car wreck caused by the curse. Separated sentences where indicated.
I understand, based on this small section, your concerns about the timing of Sister Sue's injuries. I don't agree, but I changed it anyway. It is my policy to defer to my reader wherever confusion exists. I will not improve if I insist on my own way.
Thank you, again, for the tremendous input. Kent
Posts: 133 | Registered: Mar 2014
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I don't intend that substantive changes ought be made. I pointed out that the Sister's injury took away from Fred's emerging dramatic complication, his problem with the curse and want to avoid the curse causing further harm.
I feel that the Sister's injury is backstory that could be interleaved later so that Fred's pivotal dramatic complication is in the foreground. That he believes his curse is the direct cause of the injury, coming up later, would build up additional, timely dramatic detail. A hint from this opening fragment that he blames himself for her injury feels to me ample for the moment.
That would be enough for my curiosity and empathy to start tension rising, and the curse causal to start the plot moving. That leaves antagonism, which, Fred being unsettled around the paraplegic Sister, is appropos for the moment. A small mystery is also essential for arousing curiosity.
Posts: 4117 | Registered: Jun 2008
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I believe that this is a good inciting event, and reveals enough to get a story started. However, I agree with extrinsic that the line of back story could be saved for a later part in the work. I would try to avoid direct exposition for the opening of a story.
Posts: 11 | Registered: Feb 2014
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