This is topic The End of the World in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by AWSullivan (Member # 8059) on :
Thanks for reading. I'm looking for comments on the first 13 as well as full readers. If you are interested in reading the full piece, understand that this story has some adult themes to it.

Elizabeth heaved the bucket of feed over the lip of the trough. The old mare nuzzled her before dipping its head to eat. She patted the horse's neck and headed back toward the barn.

A familiar voice called out to her as Elizabeth stepped through the wide barn doors. Brad barreled down the gravel road on his beat up old bicycle.

Elizabeth turned and entered the barn, pretending not to see him.

"Hey Liz," he said as he dropped his bike to the ground. "You hear the news?"

"What news is that, Brad?" Elizabeth made a show of putting away a saddle and not looking at him.

"It's the end of the world." He said as though this was perfectly normal.



[This message has been edited by AWSullivan (edited November 26, 2008).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
A solid prose and nice hook.
Posted by Fox (Member # 3871) on :

1. I don't like the, "As <pronoun> <verb> bit. I'm severely biased in this, as one of the writers in my CWFiction class uses that set up... every other sentence, at least. Yeah, so, ignore this bit.

2. Shouldn't the mare be "he" instead of "it?"

3. It's a nice, solid beginning. It certainly makes me want to read more. I'd love to read the whole thing, my curiosity is so-piqued, but if I did, I don't really have the time to be super in-depth about it. If you don't mind that, go ahead and send it to me.

[This message has been edited by Fox (edited November 26, 2008).]

Posted by AWSullivan (Member # 8059) on :
Thanks both of you for your comments. Good catch on the pronoun for the horse. I might tweak it a bit based on your first comment, Fox. But I'll wait until you've read the whole thing.

I'll send it on.


Posted by annepin (Member # 5952) on :
mares are females!
Posted by Fox (Member # 3871) on :
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
A few comments on fox's comments. I can see if you wouldn't like the as <pronoun> <verb> bit but I think it is a great way to tie in dialog/action together. Way too many authors like to tell instead of show and its a good way to avoid the 'was verbing' passive writing that is done all the time. For example this sentence

A familiar voice called out to her as Elizabeth stepped through the wide barn doors.

You have no idea how many people would write this like

Elizabeth was stepping through the wide barn doors when a familiar voice called out to her.

I prefer example one over two. It's the familiar voice that is the catalyst in this action, Elizabeth going through the wide barn doors is a description of what she is doing when the voice called to her. The voice is the important part, so therefore should be first. I believe Anthony got it right.

Also calling the mare it rather than 'she' is preferable. The horse is just a tool in this piece, It really doesn't additional character. Anthony called it 'the horse' which is neutral. It would be like calling her 57 chevy an 'it' rather than a 'she'. If the horse was part of the plot, than calling it a more personable 'he' or 'she' would be in order. But since it is just part of the scenery I believe calling it an 'it' is correct.

Posted by Fox (Member # 3871) on :
Passive voice is the mind-killer.

As for the horse/pronoun thing... is that really a matter of choice at all? Doesn't the language require that the horse be either a "he" or a "she?" Nouns (we're talking nouns, right?--I'm an intuitive grammaticist) in germanic can be masculine, feminine, or neutral.

Sort of like how ships are always "she," god is always, "Him," and why Russia is a "Mother"land, while Germany is a "Father"land.

@Sullivan: I got your Email and started reading. I'm not very far, but I'm liking what I'm seeing. I'm also impressed with the word count... far too many writers, myself included, know nothing of brevity.

Posted by AWSullivan (Member # 8059) on :
Thanks for the additional comments guys. I'm with snapper on the prose. I think its tighter and strong as it is in respect to the sentence structure. I could really take of leave the pronoun on the horse. I think I'll leave it as it is. Snapper is right, the horse isn't mentioned beyond this point and hardly counts as a character.

@Fox: It's funny you say that. This story is certainly brief and that has been the trend lately in my writing but my first story ever clocked in at a whopping 9500 words. Now this would be fine if the content warranted it but I recently (few months ago) reworked it and cut 3000 words from it without really even trying and didn't cut a single scene. Reviewers still thinks its too wordy. I guess I've come a long way in that regard. atleast I'm learning something. I'm glad you are enjoying it.


Posted by annepin (Member # 5952) on :
As fox pointed out, it would be incorrect to call the mare "it"--it's simply bad grammar, it has nothing to do with how important the horse is to the story. Just like you can't use "it" for "girl". If you merely called the beast "horse" and kept it gender neutral you might get away with it, since then the reader doesn't know whether it's male or female.
Posted by Fox (Member # 3871) on :
True, but if you call the mare, "her," then the sentence sort of falls apart, because then both pronoun references are unclear.

Anyway, Sullivan (Can I call you "Sully"--that'd be an awesome name! I'm gonna have to write something now with a character named Sully--or, simply, "Sullen." I've done it before. I wrote a 8000er just because I wanted to call a guy, "Nines." Yeah... I'm weird.

Anyway (again) I'll try to email you back sometime today, depending on how well I can avoid family, but I thought I'd mention something I just thought of before I forget, in case I omit it from the file. (What I'm doing is reading, carefully, each sentence, making small additions/cuts--additions bolded, cut material shrunk to pt.8 font) and inserting my own comments/reactions to what I'm reading, as I read it.

With that in mind, I'm not yet done with the story. I like what I'm reading, but I have an idea--what's the setting? Is it Kentucky? It's probably Kentucky. It feels like America. Russia being the bad guy is kind of cliched--and Russia launching nukes is even moreso.

I was thinking, one thing you could do to really make the story stand out is just tweak the setting a little bit. You could shift the setting to rural Ukraine, and you'd scarcely have to change a thing (so far). The biggest change would be the names. If you do that, it sort of casts the whole story in a different light. Like I said, I'm not done reading through it yet, and I don't have the time now to fully epxlain, but thinking about it, I think that's the kind of minor alteration that would make the short story much more unique and interesting and, therefore, memorable. The set-up with the characters and that scene is great--it's not what we're accustomed to with these Nuke-war kinds of stories, but the setting is.

Anyway, I'm hoping nothing further down the .doc utterly voids everything I've just said and makes me look like an idiot. I just wanted to put it out there before I forgot.


[EDIT:] Cool. I'm all done, email'd ya' my response. On second thought, I won't post it here so as not to spoil anyone else that may read it. I will say that I rather liked it, and if you ever want me to read a revision of it, I'd be more than glad to.

[This message has been edited by Fox (edited November 27, 2008).]

Posted by annepin (Member # 5952) on :
True, but if you call the mare, "her," then the sentence sort of falls apart, because then both pronoun references are unclear.

Well, maybe, but that's just awkward writing. The point is, grammatically, if you use "mare" you must use "she". To do otherwise would suggest an inferior command of the English language. As I said, using "horse" would solve this issue.


Posted by Crystal Stevens (Member # 8006) on :
The use of "it" over "she" depends on how the POV character feels about the mare. It's been my experience that people who think of animals as objects of possession commonly refer to them as "it", where people who care about these animals as companions or a member of the family will use "he" or "she".

Since I'm someone who cares very much about animals; when someone I'm talking to about horses, dogs, cats, etc. refer to them as "it", that just grates on my nerves something terrible. It comes across like the animal in question isn't any different than a car or a piece of furniture instead of a living, breathing creature.

So, I have seen it both ways in literature, and I do think it's the author's choice, but I, personally, would never use "it" when referring to an animal either in my writing or in my speech. I just find it totally unacceptable. JMHO

Try this:

The old mare nuzzled the girl before dipping her head to eat.

Oh my, that's not the greatest either, but it might give you something to work with .


A familiar voice called out to her as Elizabeth stepped through the wide barn doors.

You have no idea how many people would write this like

Elizabeth was stepping through the wide barn doors when a familiar voice called out to her.


I can agree with this but wouldn't use either example. I would write it something like this:

Elizabeth stepped through the wide barns doors when a familiar voice called out to her.

This way "was" no longer exists and neither does "as".

[This message has been edited by Crystal Stevens (edited November 29, 2008).]

Posted by AWSullivan (Member # 8059) on :
Thanks for the reply, Crystal.

I thought the same thing. It is all about the perspective of the narrative when deciding if this horse is a he, a she or an it. I didn't intend for this horse to be her horse but is intended to represent the 'chore' that she shirks just after the first 13.

I do realize however that if I paint her as someone who cares for this animal it might generate more sympathy for her. In the end I went with my original thoughts and left it as an it. The conflict of pronouns does exist though and I think in the end I'll probably make it 'horse' rather than 'mare'.

I also like your suggestion on the sentence structure. I think I'll change that.

Thanks again for reading.


Posted by kings_falcon (Member # 3261) on :

Calling the mare an "it" bothered me. Mares and fillies are females. Stallions, geldings and colts are males. Horse or foal are generic. Use the terms correctly if you use them at all.

The MC doesn't seem the kind refer to the horse as an "it" she's patting the mare's neck. If the MC is going to think of the horse as a her, then the pronoun needs to reflect that.
You could use the horse's name. I rarely think of my mare as the "horse", the "mare", I think of her as "Taffy". It's a horse person issue that will turn horse people away from the story. The horse people here reacted to it. So, you probably want to find a way not to alienate us.

Why not just say:

Elizabeth stepped through the wide barn doors just as Brad, on his beat up bike, barreled down the gravel driveway. She turned and pretended not to see him.
"Did you hear the news?" he said.

Or he can talk, she can ignore them and he can drag her attention back to him.

I really dislike when a story says "A familar voice called out . . " without telling me right then and there what was said.

I'm not overly hooked but if the horse thing were cleaned up, I'd probably give you another line or two based on the writing to hook me. With the horse reference as it is, I stop reading because I don't trust the writing.

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