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Author Topic: Debbie and the Wolf
Member # 1469

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This piece is entitled "Debbie and the Wolf"


I welcome your comments.

This link now reflects some changes that I have incorporated from suggestions below.

[This message has been edited by okieinexile (edited July 26, 2002).]

Posts: 21 | Registered: Jul 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 462

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While I like your story ideas, and see potential in them---I see the same issues in this story as in the chapters of the Grace one.

You do overuse filler words. Many, many, “hads” in this one as well.

You also repeat info and tell this one in the past as well, after the events have taken place, instead of letting the reader live in the moment.

I had brought my family to visit my mother and my brother. It is a five hour (five hour needs a hyphen) drive home. In the winter when we make it, we start after school lets out at about three thirty. Put in supper along the way, and it is nine when we get there. It was well after dark.

I had brought---change to I brought my family with me when I went to visit my mother and brother. changes it to active voice and brings the reader into the here and now--they will be experiencing it as it happens instead of being told about it afterwards.

Five hour drive--dump this line, you show us in the next few sentences that it is a five hour drive trust that your reader can do math. I see this in other places as well, a tendency to first tell the reader what they should get out of the next sentences and then show the reader the same thing.

In the winter when we make it, we start after school lets out at about three thirty.
Take out the when we make it, it interrupts the flow and it is unneeded. You are talking about the trip so the reader knows this already.
Put in supper along the way, and it is nine when we get there.
add this to the previous sentence separated with a comma otherwise it is a fragment.

It was well after dark.
Hmmm trouble here, I am not sure of the location state wise but the season seems to be summer----9 pm is not well after dark. Also again the reader knows it will be getting dark or dark at that time. Make it more active by saying something abut the surroundings---The trees in the front yard cast long shadows in the street lights by The time we pulled into the driveway. This says the same thing, it is getting dark or is dark but has the advantage of showing the readers something of their surroundings as well.


Posts: 1019 | Registered: Apr 2000  | Report this post to a Moderator
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This reminds me of the other piece with the Firebrand incident (which I did not comment on since others had voiced most of my comments) in that I feel like you’re trying to get across a message. It’s just that when the piece finishes, I don't have clear picture of exactly what that message was.

There is at the ending the words:
…I was reminded that sometimes small things do make a big difference.

This sentence apparently holds the message, but I’m not sure how this point can be pulled out of the story elements. If asked, I could not tell you what small things made a big difference to the narrator out of his story about Debbie.

The story from the past about Debbie appears to be the real story, while the visit to home and seeing the brother is the frame around it from which to examine the implications of the Debbie story. If this is the case, I found the frame to be overdeveloped. It has some neat moments – I loved the part about 6 months of cholesterol – but many of the details are extraneous, such as aspects of the drive, the scenes outside the churches. In the same respect, Debbie’s story seems underdeveloped, and could benefit from a more detailed rendering to really bring the reader into those events.

I like the opening line. It catches my attention. I just feel tired plowing through the frame to get an explanation of it.

Also, your verb tense is wondering about wildly. It’s jarring to go from past to past perfect to present all in the same paragraph when the narrative events are supposedly all happening in the same time period. Find a tense and stick with it. This bit is particularly offsetting:

I am away from there, and it seemed to…

I would also say that from the title, some mention of who the wolf is (Lupus? The Father in his boxers?) needs to be made.

Interesting idea, just needs some prodding into shape.

[This message has been edited by GZ (edited July 26, 2002).]

Posts: 652 | Registered: Feb 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 1469

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I want to thank you both for the time that you took with your comments. I have incorporated many of your suggestions, and have posted it back at the link above.

Posts: 21 | Registered: Jul 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 213

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I'm not sure whether or not...I followed the link...as it stood after the previous comment.

It appears to me that you have attempted to address...the past perfect tense issues without changing the narrative structure of the story, which only makes the problem worse, since given the structure--which seems to be an extended flashback as experienced from the point of view of a person physically present in the Connerville cemetery, "with a dome of blue above me,"--the past perfect tense is actually correct. Removing it makes it impossible to understand the chronology of the action.

You do use a similar structure in the opening part of the other story, "Plumbing as a means of Grace." I couldn't identify a clear artistic purpose in the structure that time...but you did a much better job of it there (or perhaps just hadn't mangled it prior to my reading it). The first thing that you have to do if you use this format to tell the story is set the scene in the present--him standing at the grave. When you are going to use an extended flashback, the reader will have to be well established in the present context within which the reminiscence occurs. Next, you must show some cause for the character to engage in the action of recollection. In this case, the tombstone suffices, but you need to have much more than just, "Thirty-seven years. Not long enough." Then, having entered a flashback, you need to either maintain the POV character's awareness of the present (though not too intrusively, the setting of a graveside is ideal for gentle physical stimuli that can serve to guide a trail of memories) and keep all the memories in past perfect, or you must indicate a cognitive change that would allow the character to experience memories more directly (such as a combat veteran "reliving" a tramatic experience). In this case, the former course seems more appropriate. Finally, to end the flashback, you have to return the focus of the POV character's attention to the present. This doesn't really require much justification, but it does need to be marked somehow.

I would reorganize the story along the following outline.


I. Establishment of Present
A. Waking at Mother's house.
1. Character becomes aware of physical setting (Mother's house).
2. Remember how this situation came about (long drive last night, like always).
3. Experience getting dressed and down for breakfast
(six months worth of cholesterol).
B. Excursion to Cemetery
1. "Want to take a drive" (get ready, go)
2. Driving around (there should be some small reminiscences
associated with this action, along with the scenic elements).
3. Entering the cemetery and proceeding to the gravesite.
This should be a very clear experience, that
ties in the narrative elements and establishes both the
character's motivation for falling into an reverie and the
physical setting in which the flashback occurs.

II. The Flashback
I won't try to lay out a narrative structure for this,
a flashback should be ordered by the mental processes of
the POV character. But you do need to have:
A. A justification for the flashback (have the character actually
think about why he is having the flashback, this is a
conscious process on his part.
B. Continued awareness of the physical setting in which the
flashback occurs.

III. Return to present
Again, 'tis up to you how to structure this. But you should
be sure that you accomplish a few things in returning to the
present. First, the flashback should be completed before the
character emerges from his reverie (unless there is a compelling
reason that you wish to have the flashback interrupted by the
intrusion of the present, such that it is left unfinished).
This means that the character should bring feelings and thoughts
that are in tension at the beginning of the flashback to some
conclusion or resolution. Second, you have to establish a
mental transition from reverie to engagement with the
present. The particulars are up to you as the writer.

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 1469

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Thank you for all of the work that you have done. You are obviously a person who has a calling to teach, and I hope that there are some lucky students who have you as a teacher.

Posts: 21 | Registered: Jul 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 213

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Hah, I should wish that they will consider themselves lucky But of course, being endowed with a complement of my genes, they will have something to be grateful for even if they think me a bad teacher.
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999  | Report this post to a Moderator

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