Some of you know me on my main account, Shanna11. I've decided to keep my old, evergreen articles there and put my creative writing on this account. I really enjoy creative writing the most and I dug out an old short story I wrote for an English class a year or two ago and put it up.
Mind reading it and giving me honest feedback? My personal opinion is that it's too dramatic and too overdone, and very rough around the edges. Generally, I think it's kind of crappy but I have a soft spot for it for some odd reason. Maybe it's my voice or just the topic or style. I dunno. I'm curious to see what other people think. Thoughts?
It's beautiful. Inspirational! Creative! Gorgeous! I would marry you and have your babies in a heartbeat!
Please tell me that your writing talent is genetic and can be passed on to the plethora of children I hope to have with you.
Meh. I have an unusual need to be obnoxious, it would seem.
What a lovely story. My feedback would be that it's good, but it has the potential to be exceptional if you developed it more. It could be a real short story, not just a one-pager, and could be absolutely mesmerizing if you immersed yourself in the character more and showed us the story as it unfolded, rather than telling. By telling the story, you're forced to use a lot of pluperfect, which places more of a distance between the reader and the action.
Thank you! I had to look up what pluperfect means and I'm still a little fuzzy on it, but I see what you mean. I think I got lazy with the story and wasn't sure what to flesh out without being repetitive. I think of hospitals as very boring places, so I kept it short. Thank you again. I think I will return my attention to this and do as you suggest.
I wrote a Hub about back story which explains it better. I won't post a live link as that's not allowed, but here it is:
I don't think so as you have mentioned as like it's too much dramatic and over written. It's the nice piece of writing by you. It seems you inherits excellent creative writing skills. i am really inspired. Thanks for initializing the topic
I think you have an idea here, but not a story yet. Marisa's advice about showing rather than telling is good. Think of story telling as shining a camera on the scenes that unfold. You have lots of potential scenes in your story, but you sum them up real quick, "telling" us what happened: he carried her in, "I" looked through him to the ceiling, etc.
Slow that all way down. Think of writing as a camera rather than a reporter. A camera doesn't "tell" anything, it unfurls a sequence of images. Writing is the description of those images. Hopefully I can illustrate this. So, as an example, rather than "looking through him to the ceiling" something much slower...
He leaned over me, his unkempt bangs falling into his face again. He stared at me in this odd, slow way, the tilt of his head, the watery shimmer in his eyes apparent, and yet, it didn't matter. All I could see was that water stain up there, the same water stain I'd been looking at for weeks, its brown borders carving out a space of ugliness on the otherwise pristine white roof tiles like a great diseased amoeba, something grotesque and misshapen, just like I was becoming with each successive round of therapy. ... blah blah.
The point is, look how much slower that is than just "telling" that the narrator looked past the guy at the ceiling. Don't just say it, show it. Go through that piece of yours, find the declarative statements that tell, and figure out how to make the reader see what you sum up with those concept sentences.
I'm not bagging on it either, it really is a great idea. It's just sort of like an outline, or a skeleton, and now you need to go put flesh on its bones.
And to help clarify, "pluperfect" is a fancy way (that I've only seen used twice in my entire life) to say past perfect verb tense, which you may be more familiar with. It's simply an emphasis on the fact that not only did something happen in the past, it was successfully completed. It has a finality that is useful in writing. Example:
The law changed. (Past tense: So, pretty basic, you can see that the law got changed.)
The law has been changed. (Past Perfect: Notice how totally final that sounds compared to the first one?)
Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your story. It's a powerful idea with some great thematic elements to work with.
So instead of overdone, it's underdone? D:
Dang it. I see exactly what you mean when you call it an outline. Thanks for the detailed input. It really is very helpful.
I get frustratingly conflicting advice though. My writing professor now constantly harps on me for being too wordy and too descriptive. He says good writing allows the reader to create an image on their own. They don't need (or want) to be force fed every little detail. But I like being descriptive and wordier. I like your example paragraph wayyyy better than my own.
I guess there's a balance between too descriptive and too quick and I just need to find it.
I'm actually doing very poorly in my advanced writing class right now, which is extremely frustrating. She'll tell me I did one thing wrong and then offer a suggestion to improve it, and I'll completely rewrite it to match her suggestion and she'll still bag on it. Makes me want to just stop writing.
Descriptive and wordy ARE something you want to avoid. But there is a difference between descriptive and wordy and using the right words. One thing to work on when you are developing your writing skills is to look at what words you are using. Slow down and analyze each sentence. Generally speaking, adjectives and adverbs are what people use to be "descriptive" and what happens is wordiness. What you really want is a good set of nouns and verbs for what is called a "base clause." Focus on those, and try not to use ANY adjectives or adverbs if you can help it, at least at first. Here's a little example of how that works.
The big scary black dogs barked loudly.
Now that doesn't seem bad, but it's actually "descriptive and wordy." While it makes perfect sense, it's got four modifiers (the, big, scary, black) for the noun, and it's got another one for the verb (loudly). Since you only really need a noun and a verb to write a sentence (Dogs barked.) you can see in my example that in a seven word sentence, five words are in there that aren't necessary. Literally 5/7 or about 72% of that sentence is bad writing.
But why? It doesn't seem bad, it's important to know that the dogs were big, right? And for the scene, we need to know that they were scary, and pointing out what color they were adds to the image doesn't it? Plus, it wasn't just a normal barking they were doing, it was loud, so at least that, right?
Maybe. But how about this instead:
The Rottweilers roared.
We still have big, scary black dogs, but we cut out modifiers by eliminating a WEAK noun (dog) and choosing the RIGHT noun, Rottweilers. We cut "loudly" because we didn't want the weak verb (barked) either. We really wanted roared. And just to take this a step further to make my point. I can even cut the the modifier:
Now I have a rock solid base clause that has all it's own imagery built in WITHOUT having to add tons of adjective and adverbs. My noun is so precise, it doesn't even need an article to modify it. NOW, if I DO want to add more to that sentence, I can and it won't be wordy. An example is called a "cumulative sentence." It's a style that starts with a short well made base and grows outward:
Cerberus roared, driving Perseus back.
We've added one modifying phrase: another verb, another precise noun, and only ONE adverb. Still only 5 words in that whole sentence, so, with two less words than our first sentence, we've got a lot more story in those 5. And, for all of that, it's mostly verbs and nouns. The right ones. Work on your verbs and nouns. If you find yourself using an adjective, ask yourself if there isn't a better noun. If not, okay. If so, fix it. If you find yourself using TWO or more adjectives on a noun, you probably, almost definitely have not selected your noun right. Verbs/adverbs work the same.
And before you say, "Hey, all the great writers use adverbs and adjectives," I know they do. But they use them really well. I always use the example from Fernando Pessoa when this comes up. Where normal writers would write a predictable and even essentially unnecessary adjective like, "The clerk worked in lonely silence," Pessoa writes, "The clerk worked in dusty silence."
Hopefully you can see how much more Pessoa's choice adds. When your silence becomes dusty, you can start using adjectives as much as you want too.
Hi, Shanna11-12, I thought I would drop in to add a little different perspective here, after reading your comments in this thread and your story.
[After writing one really long post, I decided to break it into several shorter posts. It's kind of funny that I'm doing that, because a lot of what I have to say regards using fewer words. Shame on me!]
First, in every creative endeavor - every single one - we can see a broad range of different styles that appeal to different esthetics: in interior decorating, Victorian fussiness vs. Scandinavian sparseness; in music, Baroque melismas vs. late 20th-century minimalism; in cuisine, extremely spicy recipes to surprisingly bland foods. We could probably spend all day continuing this list of examples, and it could actually be a lot of fun, but I hope you get the point.
Some of the conflicting advice you hear from various sources may relate to personal taste. (For example, one teacher might prefer fewer words, another might prefer more.) Or the advice might refer to a mixing of styles that the teacher finds to be jarring or ineffective.
But I think the most likely reason for what feels like contradictory advice is a cybernetic sort of learning process. A student tries one thing, the teacher says "Too much!" The student swings too far in the opposite direction and the teacher says "Too little!" As students move back and forth between extremes, narrowing the gap, eventually they will find the right and best path for their own personal expression.
But it can be highly frustrating, when you feel you've given your all at each stage. With my music students, I talk about the Baby Bear principle as a goal: not too much, not too little, but "just right" - that is, "just right" for whatever fits the specific style.
I like Shadesbreath's comment about finding the right words, not simply fewer or more words. In his examples, he has given some great suggestions that can work well - but they may not suit your voice or your story. As I read your short story, I got the feeling that it was written in something of a minimalist style, one in which Shades' beautifully descriptive, slow version of looking at the ceiling might not quite fit. But keep in mind that that is merely my opinion; and he is the one who has published works of fiction, while I have not.
I have a couple of personal, slightly silly exercises that I use to try to trim my writing. One derives from cell phone texting. I like to say everything I want to say, but I dislike sending messages that overflow into two separate texts. So, when I see that my text is too long, I spend time rewriting to fit one screen before I send. I find ways to consolidate a phrase into one word. I cut out filler words. I rarely use textspeak - that is a different issue, and it doesn't apply to this exercise. But I use the process of trimming down my texts to pay attention to those places where I add words that don't add meaning.
The other exercise comes from forum posts like this one. I have noticed that I often use many more words than others do to say something. (Gasp.) Often, shorter posts are more effective. Of course, sometimes posts that are too short omit something important or, possibly, sound a bit rude. But I do generally try to use my forum posts as an exercise to see whether I can use fewer words to say more - by choosing the right words.
In your short story, I found a few minor typos: at least one omitted word, at least two places where plurals were spelled incorrectly with an apostrophe. All easy to correct. In a few spots, I found myself wishing for a little more - a little more use of the racetrack imagery; a little more insight into the character and motivation of the nurse; a little more understanding of the protagonist before the overwhelming health issue (or does that really matter?).
For the most part, though, I felt that you had already achieved "just right" and that the bare-bones style was either a form of minimalism that you had consciously chosen or that a teacher had chosen for you. Personally, I would not suggest making any radical changes. - Again, that's just my opinion. - Make some changes and ask for more feedback, then make some more changes, if you wish, and continue doing this until you feel satisfied. But keep in mind that some feedback will carry tinges of another writer's own preferences, including mine.
Don't hesitate to keep what you want to keep, since you are not being graded here! It is your story.
Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to comment Aficionada-- I really, really appreciate it (I appreciate all the commentors from everyone).
I see more clearly the difference between being wordy and using the right words and I love the textspeak way of writing. I think I add too many words to nearly everything I write.
Going back and re-reading my story, I think I wrote it with the idea that it would be minimalist and I like it the way it is, but I also think I could flesh out a second version into a pretty decent, longer story.
Thank you again!
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