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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Tattoo - short story -fantasy

   
Author Topic: Tattoo - short story -fantasy
SavantIdiot
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I'm trying a hand at short stories. I keep having these great ideas for a story while I am working on other stories. So I am thinking maybe containing the kernel of it in a short story is a good way to keep it? Anyway, this is thirteen lines of a just-over-3K word story. Short stories always seem incomplete to me. So I really can't tell if this does what it is supposed to. Having said that, I am willing to exchange stories with anyone if you don't mind that I am almost certainly going to look at yours the same way! I always want a novel.

New Version: “Tell us when you think things went bad for you, Bell.” Ms. Wyman says, just like we haven’t gone over this fifty times outside of court.
Me sitting on the floor with my arm wrenched up higher than my head and Chelsea Sanderson staring down at us from the top bunk like she’d never seen me before. Chelsea wasn’t my friend exactly, I hadn’t been with the Sandersons long enough for that, but she’d stood up for me before when her mom got on a tear about something. She had nothing to say that morning.
“Um. Mrs. Sanderson pulling me out of bed. I thought there was a fire or something but it was only her coming in to wake us up for school. She was the first to see the tattoo. She figured it meant I was doing drugs.”

“Tell us when you think things went bad for you, Ms. Carver.”
“Mrs. Sanderson pulling me out of bed two years ago. I woke up when I hit the floor. I was scared. Was there a fire? An earthquake? It was only her, though.
‘I knew you was no good!’ she told me, ‘I knew it! You got drugs in here? I won’t have it around my daughter!’”
I was sitting on the floor, one sock on and one off, and Mrs. Sanderson clamped onto my left arm so hard it left a bruise. Chelsea, that’s her daughter, was staring down from the top bunk like she’s never seen me before. She wasn’t my friend exactly, I hadn’t been with the Sandersons long enough for that, but she’d stood up for me before when her mom got on a rant about something.”


[This message has been edited by SavantIdiot (edited April 10, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by SavantIdiot (edited April 12, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by SavantIdiot (edited April 12, 2010).]


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TrishaH24
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I like the voice that comes through here. It's strong and I could happily spend a short story with it. But I don't know if this is the right way to start. I think I'm getting hung up on the "Ms." and "Mrs." I feel like I'm readin Jane Austin. That isn't a bad thing, until you start talking about drugs and bunk beds.

I wasn't a fan of the character missing a sock. The way it's written, I can't help but think "One sock off and one sock on, diddle diddle dumpling, my son John." I'm pretty sure that's not what you were going for.

I do like the imagery otherwise. Obviously this girl had no idea what was going on when she was brutally yanked out of bed. I get the sense that there are no drugs. That this Mrs. Sanderson is out of control (or out of her mind). I think you are on the right track.

I hope this helps, and good luck!


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billawaboy
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Well, there are some initial problems I faced:

1) I got confused with the double quotes - it's better to remove them or people will think your narrative is dialogue. try wrapping it with [quote] your first 13 [forward-slash quote].
2) i think there are some tense change problems - 'pulling' followed by 'woke' in the next sentence. EDIT: don't hold me to this - I'm terible at grammar.
3) I'm not hooked yet - this might be cuz i'm inclined to more fantastical stories, so take this one lightly. When I see buzz words like 'drugs' and a situation of abuse - well, not to discourage, but with a hundred cop shows + most movies - it's hard to find a story without drugs/abuse! I'm just saying, in the first 13, it's already feeling cliche - even if it isn't. Blame it on the media! Maybe start of fantastical. What about harry potter you say? that's abuse, innit? yeah - but it started off with a wizard plucking light blubs with a lighter! Fantastical!

Not sure if i was much help.

anyways, happy writing!

[This message has been edited by billawaboy (edited April 10, 2010).]


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NoTimeToThink
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I like the flow of your writing, and I think I get the gist of what's happening: Ms. Carver, probably still a teen is telling her psychiatrist about 2 years ago, when things went bad. I'm assuming she was some sort of foster child in the Sanderson home.
You say this is fantasy, but I see no fantasy yet.
Also, I wonder why we are immediately going into a 2 year old flashback. Maybe the story shouldn't start 2 years later in the psych office? If it happens back then, show it as it happens.

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SavantIdiot
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Is it important in a short story (fantasy) to show the fantastical bit right up front?

This girl (teen, yes) is in a courtroom because she admits to killing two people. HOW she killed them is the fantasy portion. She is old enough to be tried as an adult however given what she has to say they are going to keep her under observation.

In writing a short story, how short should they be? This seems pretty short but way too long to be flash fiction.


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Jonsul
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I agree with TrishaH24, I don't get a sense that there are drugs present. Might be interesting if it
told the story through her blurred perception from the drugs.
I think what's causing it to be a bit confusing is that it's a little cluttered. There's too much happening with too small an area.

But other then that I think it's awesome. I definitely like the voice being portrayed through it. Almost can hear the punk-chick tone of it. Would really follow through the story for the voice and love it, especially if things were spaced a bit more better.

Can't wait to see more^-^

[This message has been edited by Jonsul (edited April 11, 2010).]


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Teraen
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"This girl (teen, yes) is in a courtroom because she admits to killing two people."

In that case, you may need to step back from the dialogue and establish a setting. Use the first few lines to show the courtroom scene, describe the prosecuting attorney, a juror drawing his finger across his throat and winking, her pounding pulse, whatever. Then, close your intro with the line that is your hook.
ie, after drawing your scene:

setting setting setting blah blah...The prosecutor leaned forward. She could smell the malt scotch on his breath that he must have snuck during the last recess.
"“Tell us," he grinned, "when you think things went bad for you, Ms. Carver.”

[This message has been edited by Teraen (edited April 11, 2010).]


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SavantIdiot
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ha ha ha! This is a sixteen year old and this is not a trial per se, this is - I don't know what to call it - this is a very preliminary procedure. The law and the child protective services people are taking a look to see where things should go from here.

So, okay, what I am hearing is the hook is not really there. Let me think on this. Maybe the fantasy portion needs to go in first.


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MistWolf
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A short story has a beginning, middle and an end. It starts as close as possible to the conflict.

To establish a courtroom setting, have Carver squirm/hunch down or show some kind of nervous reaction in the witness chair. Or have her glance up at the stern/compassionate/detached face of the judge. Make that part quick & short and before Carver speaks.

Carver's testimony should be something like "Mrs. Sanderson pulling me out of bed two years ago. I woke up up on the floor scared with her yelling at me..."

You can reveal bit by bit as the story unfolds that magic is real instead of establishing that fact right away. Let it come to the reader as a discovery as the truth in court unfolds.

I like how this story opens


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TrishaH24
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You might consider calling this an urban fantasy rather than a fantasy. That way the reader is expecting a modern setting. Whenever I hear "fantasy" I think Robert Jordan or Tolkien. I do agree that in a short story you need to get elements of the fantastic in there asap, but I don't have any specific advice on how to do that. Sorry!

I get what you're saying about this being a preliminary interview. I figured it was an interview of some sort. (I read it as a cop taking a statement.)

This is what I've read about story length (http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/wordcount.html):

Micro Fiction: up ot 100 words

Flash Fiction: 100-1,000 words

Short Story: 1,000-7,500 words

Novellette: 7,500-20,000 words

Novella: 20,000-50,000 words

Novel: 50,000-110,000

Epics and Sequels: Over 110,000 words


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SavantIdiot
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Well, I don't know if that's better or not. I like the slow reveal here, I think. Thanks to everyone for your comments! I am at 3400 words now I think. So, definitely short story.
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TrishaH24
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I like this better. The setting is clear, the voice is still there and the first line still hooks enough that a reader will want to keep going. Right away you know not only did something go wrong, but it must have gone very wrong or there would be no mention of court.

And I like that you give us her first name. Legally able to be tried as an adult or not, in a situation like this it's a good way to show she's not old enough to be on her own.

Good job! Let me know if you need someone to look over part (or all) of this. I've got a lot of time on my hands and I'm having trouble motivating myself to work on my own stuff. You can email me from my proile page if you would like.

Good luck finishing up!


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Jonsul
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Yeah I like the new one much better.
Let us know when you need test readers.

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SavantIdiot
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You guys have been enormously helpful. Trisha helped me realize that part of my 'voice' is my youthful dialect sneaking through. Among other things. Sometimes it reads like "SCOUT" in to Kill a Mockingbird which is about how I sounded when I was pre-pubescent. Or if I get riled up today!

Which to the Northern half of the United States sounds uneducated, I think. Gotta watch that!

Anyway, I can share the whole thing.


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TrishaH24
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I don't think she sounds uneducated, just very young. And since I know she's 16, it doesn't fit very well.

Oh, and my dad's from Indiana. Any time I go back for a family reunion, I start to slip into a mid-western accent. It takes a few days to get back to normal, so I understand. All my uncles and cousins make fun of me for it, but hey, you can't change where you're from. And as my dad would say, "I ain't gonna try!"


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Welsh Hammer
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Svantldiot, I know I'm new at this, (this is my first time) but I like both versions; however, the use of the first name "Bell" in the New Version does helps us more quickly determine that the girl is young. And identifying Ms. Wyman as a part of the legal system helps establish the setting.

I don't know if you meant to put the last quotation mark at the end of your first version. It doesn't read that way. The "one sock on and one off" would work fine if you made it clear that this wasn't Bell still answering the question. For some reason, that image helps me better feel her vulnerability, her aloneness.


"Tell us when you think things went bad for you, Bell.” Ms. Wyman says, just like we haven’t gone over this fifty times outside of court.

“Um. Mrs. Sanderson pulling me out of bed. I thought there was a fire or something but it was only her coming in to wake us up for school. She was the first to see the tattoo. She figured it meant I was doing drugs.”

I was sitting on the floor, one sock on and one off, and Mrs. Sanderson clamped onto my left arm so hard it left a bruise. Chelsea, that’s her daughter, was staring down from the top bunk like she’s never seen me before. She wasn’t my friend exactly, I hadn’t been with the Sandersons long enough for that, but she’d stood up for me before when her mom got on a rant about something. She had nothing to say that morning.


I hope tinkering with the story like this isn't against the rules. I didn't change any words, just rearranged a little.

You've got something. I can see it all there inside you. For what it's worth, I think you're doing fine. And don't worry about regional differences. When everyone starts writing exactly alike, that will mean the death of real literature. Plus, you would be doing disservice to the long tradition of wonderful Southern writers. Please keep writing as yourself, whatever that happens to be. Be honest. You can't fake authenticity.


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SavantIdiot
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Thanks so much to all. It makes a world of difference being able to take this stuff places. If you ever have stuff you want me to look at please email me directly. I'd rather intervene on request! I get on here and there and scattershot remarks whenever I can which due to work has been less often lately.
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