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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Saturdays with Ellie

   
Author Topic: Saturdays with Ellie
Den.Dotson
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Requesting a review of my entire short story based on these 13 lines:

Elias “Eli” Wells felt the cold thick coffee crawl down his throat. He had left the light brown beverage sitting too long and the heat drained from it. His life felt the same. He had waited too long. He had let himself become preoccupied with things that in the long run turned to dust.

Around him the office was buzzing with his co-workers chatter and rustling. They were preparing to attend a celebration of their mutual success. Their long hours and dedication to the work was about to pay off.

Eli picked up a cheap plastic frame from off his desk. He pulled a tissue from his back pocket and wiped away the dust and grime clouding the image held inside. He had neglected the picture in the same way he had neglected the people pictured in the holograph.


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MrsBrown
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Welcome to Hatrack! I hope you'll post an introduction in the intro forum.

I'm not volunteering to read your story. I crit very few stories (not enough time), so the first 13 better grab me. This doesn't.

Also, you need to let people know how long it is.

Do you want crits on the first 13?


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Den.Dotson
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Thanks for the welcome. I posted an intro a few months back when I first joined but life has gotten in the way of my first submission.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the first 13 and/or the whole story.

It is 2,200 words.

Appreciate your patience with a newbie.


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deebum25
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Hi DenDotson!

I'd have to agree with Mrs. Brown. Nothing really intriguing in those sentences. Too much of the type of information that might be useful later as background. Immediately get your reader interested in the character and their purpose or they'll stop reading. I didn't find myself curious and wanting to read on. I feel your pain but you'll get lots of great suggestions here. Now if only I would take my own advice...


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MrsBrown
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Ah! The "New Member" threw me.

Be aware, I prefer novels and am not a skilled short story writer. That said:

Elias “Eli” Wells felt the cold thick coffee crawl down his throat. [Ew! Quite an image. I’m wondering why he’s willing to do this. I might prefer draining the cup over crawling coffee.] He had left the light brown beverage sitting too long and the heat drained from it. [Doesn’t add anything.] His life felt the same. He had waited too long [for what??]. He had let himself become preoccupied with things that in the long run turned to dust [like what?]. [Too much vague description of a wasted life.]

Around him the office was buzzing with his co-workers[‘] chatter [and rustling <- don’t need]. They were preparing to attend a celebration of their mutual success. Their long hours and dedication [to the work <-don’t need] was [were] about to pay off.

Eli picked up a cheap plastic frame from [off <-cut] his desk. He [pulled a tissue from his back pocket and <-could cut?] wiped away the dust [and grime <-cut, unless there’s a reason why this office is especially grimy] clouding the image [held inside <-cut]. He had neglected the picture in the same way he had neglected the people pictured in the [holograph <- huh?].

Nits: I thought it was a framed photo; I imagine a holograph as a projection in the air. That last sentence is repetitive; we know he neglected the picture. Can you mention who the people are? How about a thought to get into Eli’s head? “ …clouding the image of his daughters. I should call them one of these days.” But watch out for starting every sentence with “He verb…” I do it all the time.

Overall: It sounds literary, not speculative. It sounds like you are trying to work in backstory, which I don’t want to hear too much of up front. It is mildly interesting that Eli is sitting depressed and alone in an energized crowd, but it’s not enough yet to keep my interest. (I’m a tiny bit curious why he isn’t involved; too depressed, socially challenged, or didn’t contribute and so is not invited?) I’m wondering if this is going anywhere. Can you pare it down and include an incident of some kind?

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited November 19, 2008).]


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Den.Dotson
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Thanks Mrs. Brown, the thoughts are much appreciated. I do need to work on "hitting the ground running". Some of my stories take too long to get going. This is one of them.

Off to revise.


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Kee Stone
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Just a thought.

When you write, try to say as much as you can, with as few words possible. Also, only give relevant information. Sometimes we get so caught up in the 'moment' of our stories that we begin adding useless information.

Again, just a thought. You probably know that already.

Good luck with your story!


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annepin
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Yeah, not hooked here. So far, he's mostly just reflecting on his life, and it's the same reflection. Consider cutting out some of the redundancies and introducing some more tantilizing tidbits.

Elias “Eli” Wells If he thinks of himself as "Eli" just stick with thatfelt the cold thick coffee crawl down his throat. He had left the light brown beverage Cut light brown. We all know what coffee looks likesitting too long and the heat drained from it cut--again, we know this. This is how coffee gets cold.. His life felt the same same as what?. He had waited too long Too long for what? This is what could be a hook, but you have to give us more. I'm not interesting in his reflections on how he's wasted his life--I already get that in my own life. I want to know what he plans to do about it. He had let himself become preoccupied with things that in the long run turned to dust This feels repetitive.

Around him the office was buzzing with his co-workers chatter and rustling. They were preparing to attend a celebration of their mutual success Consider using more specific terms. "mutual success" is so abstract that I feel nothing when I read those words.. Their long hours and dedication to the work was about to pay off Again, specifics would help here, unless you are trying to go for the generic office feel (a la Secret Life).

Eli picked up a cheap plastic frame from off his desk. He pulled a tissue from his back pocket and wiped away the dust and grime clouding the image held inside. He had neglected the picture in the same way he had neglected the people pictured in the holograph Okay, good, first indication that this is speculative. But... better to be specific more quickly. Who's in the photo? Also, you've already established that he feels he's neglected his life. Better to move forward with that thought than to repeat it.

The biggest problem I have is that there's no movement in the story. I don't mean action, I mean change. That he's feeling stuck or whatever doesn't interest me. We've all been there, done that. I'd rather know what he's going to do about it. To that end, consider starting with a trigger of some kind. What's prompted him into this reflection? Why this change now, rather than a week ago? What's changed in his life to make him see his life in a new way? Alternatively, how about starting at the moment where he decides to do something about it?

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited November 19, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited November 19, 2008).]


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honu
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hmmmm....sounds a lot like me...lol...no seriously...there's apoint where mundaneness itself can become a hook...you wanna read a bit to see if the mc gets anything happening for him.... and theres just....boring....I think if you can show that you are headed somewhere...amd i know it can be tough to do in 13 lines...it would make for a more interesting read....I would need that to read on....
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ArachneWeave
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Something it appears no one has mentioned is that this inertia and tedium is in the character--obviously to make a story happen you have something not apparent about this guy.

To make a person stick with a story we need a character we want to be with--not necessarily pleasant. A train-wreck of a narcissist has been proven quite fascinating to readers. My personal favorite type is the Trickster. A person who makes decisions we don't approve, especially at first, does things that are wrong, even, but with such panache and humor you melt.

This guy is feeling sorry for himself. Whoops.


Now this is a classic false-start. I think it's pretty common, when trying to have an Ordinary Joe character, but there's a reason there are no true Ordinary Joe stories... It's because people don't want to read them.

I'm sure you've got something I haven't had a chance to see yet, I just want to make sure you're thinking of that angle to the revision, too.


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Den.Dotson
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I really appreciate the feedback. I am soaking it up. Please keep it coming.
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