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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Death Takes a Day Off

   
Author Topic: Death Takes a Day Off
EVOC
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So I had this idea for a flash piece it is just over 1000 words, but in editing I am sure it will be cut down. Here is the opening I have now:

FIRST VERSION

Death came across a bar he was quite familiar with. He had picked up many souls in the back alleys here. He never drank. No one wanted a drunk escorting them to their maker. But, he was curious why so many people chose to drink the stuff, and he had the night off, so he went inside.
It was the typically under lit bar. It was the middle of the week, and there were plenty of open seats. But, Death rarely got to talk to anyone so he scanned the room looking for someone alone. At the bar sat an attractive looking blonde woman, staring into her half empty class, paying no attention to the world around her. He took the seat next to her.
She looked up at him, and back to her glass. “I’m married and I don’t want to meet anyone new.”

REVISED
The restaurant was filled with the sound of conversations, clattering dishes, and the occasional kid yelling. Death wasn’t here for business. He finally had a day off and he wasn’t about to spend it eating ramen noodles alone. He wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t dead.
He spotted a young woman sitting at the bar, focused on her half empty glass and oblivious to the world around her. He took a seat next to her.
She looked up at him, rolled her eyes, and back to her glass. “I’m married and I don’t want to meet anyone new.”

[ November 13, 2011, 06:35 PM: Message edited by: EVOC ]

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babooher
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I'm sorry, EVOC, but this so sounds like the set up to a joke. "So one night, Death walks into a bar..."
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micmcd
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I concur that it sounds sort of like the setup to a joke, but the one and only place where that's okay is in flash fiction, IMHO. In the context of FF, I'm hooked enough. It's hard to judge a hook, though, when it's a little over 1/10 the story length.
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EVOC
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Any tips on how I might avoid the joke sound to it. The story taking place in a bar is kind of hard to remove, the location is rather tied into the story.

The joke sound in the beginning would be giving my readers a false promise as it certainly isn't a humor piece.

What about the rest of the opening? Is it just the first line that give is the "walked into a bar" joke, or does the whole opening imply joke?

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Dame
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"It was the typically under lit bar. It was the middle of the week, and there were plenty of open seats." So many wases and weres- - I think you should perhaps try to cut them out of the first 13 lines. Being isn't a very vibrant verb.

But, he was curious... No comma.

Staring into her half empty class - Glass?

I would not read on, due to the points I mentioned and the fact that it seems bound to be shallow. I'm sure it isn't, but the fact we don't get really close POV for Death or any specific details - typical bar, attractive blonde, don't promise me anything new.

I think we might need to be drawn into Death's POV before we realise it is Death, but that may not be the case. If so, maybe use more smells, desires, and sensory details to pull us into what he wants.

His goal isn't very, sorry, life or death, either. It is curiosity, rather than anything specific and driving. Perhaps if you push his reasons for wanting to find out what happens in bars, make them more extreme, the story will have more of a hook.

Hope some of this is helpful. Ignore that that is not. [Smile]

Damon

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pdblake
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I agree that it sounds like you're setting up a joke. I'm waiting for him to ask the barmaid for a double entendre.

To try and make it more serious now about starting with him already in the bar, eying the woman up, remenisicing on the souls he's already collected from there?

E.T.A:

Just thought I'd highlight the rotten typo for all those who missed it:D

[ November 08, 2011, 04:37 PM: Message edited by: pdblake ]

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babooher
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I agree with pdblake, starting in the bar as opposed to walking in the bar might work. Or, maybe not letting us know immediately that he's Death.
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annepin
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There's a lighthearted quality to the writing (ie Death being curious about human behavior, wanting to speak to someone) that makes it seem to me like it's going to be funny, or at least whimsical. You may need to choose words that are a bit more ominous and set a darker tone.

Over all, I think there are a lot of words here that don't do a whole lot. The suggestion to start with him already in the bar seems like a good one to me. Your hook could simply be that Death is wanting to speak to someone or is trying to strike up a conversation with a blonde--that would probably keep me reading for a little longer. The rest of the stuff you can tease out later or might not even be necessary. Also, you might try keeping it more tightly grounded in Death's persona. Maybe he can smell people who are close to dying, or maybe he sees auras or something, I dunno.

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EVOC
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Thanks everyone. I am going to rework this and I will update my first 13 when I do.
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EVOC
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At the top you will see I revised my intro. I think it get rid of the joke sound to it. Let me know what you think.

Still looking for full readers and I am willing to trade.

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C@R3Y
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I think it got rid of the "joke" sound. It sounds pretty interesting.
I know it didn't intend to sound this way, but I immediately thought of Supernatural, season 6, when Dean Winchester is death for a day. You may or may not know about that show. Really good show. One of my favorites. You should check it out. It's on its seventh season, maybe even last. Anyway, the title alone got my attention.

Other than that, I like the new intro. Couldn't really find anything wrong. Someone else will probably run across these thirteen lines and be more helpful.

I will trade stories with you if you want and give you more of an in depth critique.

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Architectus
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"He spotted a young woman sitting at the bar, focused on her half empty glass and oblivious to the world around her."

This sentence makes no sense as written. Simply remove the word "and" and place a comma after glass.

Half empty glass, oblivious to the world ...

The revised version is better because it more quickly gets to the story.

The woman's line feels odd to me. I just don't see someone responding like that.

Perhaps just have her hold her wedding ring to Death's face. "Not interested."

Heck, she could just hold the wedding ring to his face and say nothing.

You can message me for an exchange of stories if you wish.

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philocinemas
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Hey, EVOC, you have some grammar problems here:

- Ramen Noodles should be capitalized.
quote:
He spotted a young woman sitting at the bar [who was] focused on her half-empty glass and oblivious to the world around her.
You need the "who was" or else "focused" becomes misplaced.
quote:
She looked up at him, rolled her eyes, and [stared] back into her glass.
You were missing a verb in the last part of this sentence.

I assume you've heard of Death Takes a Holiday.

[ November 14, 2011, 12:28 AM: Message edited by: philocinemas ]

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EVOC
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Thanks guys.

C@r3y I will email it in the morning. I've never watched Supernatural.

Architectus I will mail it in the morning.

Philocinemas. I always miss grammar in these early drafts so thanks for the catch. I haven't heard of Death takes a Holiday.

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annepin
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Frankly, I’m tickled pink by this, which to me is a good thing—I like funny—but I realize that’s not what you are going for. The idea of Death taking a day off of wirk, that he’s not just gonna ist around and eat ramen noodles is pretty delightful. The problem is that these are incongruous details, which can be either scary or humorous, but because the details are rather whimsical, the whole effect on me is one of humor.
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