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Old 03-07-2014, 01:45 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Could you elaborate a bit here? I'm not sure I see both problems. "He is not yet ready..." should probably be "He was not yet ready...". Otherwise the only mix is inside Gavin's dialogue and that seems appropriate to me.
It happens again in the next paragraph, but again it's him thinking. If it's deliberate then at least it's consistent.

Spoiler:
It must not be clear. She only gets the itch when the apartment becomes vacant (sometimes after just one night, sometimes it takes longer). Then she gets the itch which allows her to seek out a new man spend the first night. The itch doesn't happen while the apartment is still occupied. Hence Cooper had to be away for a night (at least), prior to the one being told, so that Vera could get her itch and seek out a new victim.

I did wonder if I should expand on the events of her becoming a ghost, giving a bit more weight to the "first night" aspect of the story. But, of course, this is all being explained as Gavin is falling under the influence so I didn't want to drag it out more than necessary either.


Spoiler:
So she discovered the effect on the old man's first night, and after that she can do it when she gets the itch, but she didn't get the itch before the old man. I think I'd better turn in.-)
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Old 03-07-2014, 06:00 AM   #17
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Vera's Itch

Very readable, with nicely paced twists which I didn’t see coming. The revalations worked for me:

Spoiler:
I understood how the first night effect of the Itch worked as written, so if you are tweaking to support arjaybe's comments, I don't think it needs to be by much.


The only thing that I did wonder was whether Gavin needed to come across as such a jerk in the opening few paragraphs.

Spoiler:
I can’t make my mind up whether having Gavin being so unpleasant for the first few paragraphs is necessary for the plot to work or whether the potential for turning some readers off the story early might be worth toning it down a little.


I think you're down to the line editing on this one; the structure and feel are good. Do you want to do another pass before we weigh in too heavily on line edit comments or would these be helpful now?

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Old 03-07-2014, 06:20 AM   #18
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When My Father 'Died'

The overall shape is fine, but like arjaybe I think you need a new ending.

Spoiler:
The 'it was just a dream' has become very hackneyed and as a reader I feel cheated by it. Given that you’re putting 'Died' in quotes in the title, we're already expecting a twist, and the most obvious outside of science fiction is that this will be a dream.

Also, I was primed to expect a twist to the death by the quotes around 'Died' so when you used the word 'process' in the very first sentence my immediate thought was that this was some peculiar death procedure rather than a straightforward cremation or burial, and that this would become significant. I assume this is a cremation, and I think saying 'cremation' instead of 'process' would help.


The parts of the story that work best for me are the insights into life in India and the Brahmin culture. However, you don't realise that this is set in India, or even that the protagonists are Hindu until a third of the way through the story. I would really enjoy this being clear from the outset. I'd also want to know if this is set amidst the dust and bustle of a big city like Delhi or in somewhere more suburban. Either way, for a Western reader, you've got an exotic setting to exploit more here.

Spoiler:
... which will also help to make the supernatural aspects more plausible.


I found the parenthetical asides that explain Hindi words jarring, even though they were welcome, so please consider either casting the story as told to someone outside the culture (so that the use of parentheses makes sense in context) or reworking those parts so that the explanation appears more naturally.

I agree with arjaybe about the clattering of utensils and also noted the reference earlier to the father helping lots of people. A little more detail to explain what he used to do would be great.

There are some useful things you could do to tighten up the writing, like removing some unnecessary phrases and repetition, but we can leave that for now. I hope these thoughts on structure are helpful!

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Old 03-07-2014, 09:52 AM   #19
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When My Father 'Died'

Spoiler:
My first problem with this story came with the title. It seems to me that the quotes around "died" are an immediate spoiler.


I think there is a potentially interesting story in here. Shradh (elsewhere I've seen it written as sraddha, shraaddha or shraddha - I am assuming you mean the same thing), is not something I know much about, and that was enough to intrigue me.

Like arjaybe, I found the writing and flow of the story rather disjointed, and that made it a difficult to follow at times. Examples: it wasn't clear to me exactly what the sleeping arrangements were (all in one room?); you make a issue of the lighting and yet it wasn't clear that this really mattered (until it comes to not wanting to sleep in the dark); the paragraph with the tobacco pot left me puzzled.

The unfamiliarity of the setting was a problem for me. I didn't know where I was starting from, and it took me a long time to form any sort of feel for the setting, and - to be honest - I came away with only a very hazy idea.

The opening suggests some ambivalence to the father, and yet that aspect doesn't really show itself again in the story. If it's not important I think it should be dropped.

For my taste, there was too much recited to me as facts, rather than revealed as part of the story. There is a lot of detail in there that is needed (and more, if you hope to educate someone like myself who is so unfamiliar with any of this), so it is going to be difficult to do well in a short story.

Like Graham, I tend to think this might be better (for an audience like myself) told from the perspective of someone outside the culture. It is possible that telling it in the third person may give you the flexibility needed to make things clearer.

Spoiler:
As noted by others, the "it was just a dream" ending doesn't work, or not as it is. You might be able to force it to work by not having it as a "surprise ending", but by telling the whole story as someone's dream.


I also agree with Graham that while the writing itself needs some tightening, that should not be the first priority. The first thing will be to organise the story to make it more accessible to readers.


Note: There is an element of unfairness in some of these comments. When I write a contemporary story I tend to assume my readers will be in a culture recognisably similar to my own - and this lets me get away with a lot. My own story opens in a bar that I do very little to describe, I expect my readers to fill in many of the details. It's a cheat, but one that works when the readers already carry a reasonably common and predictable set of images about what a "bar" is. It wouldn't work at all if the story was handed to some other cultures. Your story doesn't have that advantage if you want your story to work for an audience like myself.
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Old 03-07-2014, 10:14 AM   #20
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Vera's Itch

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
It happens again in the next paragraph, but again it's him thinking. If it's deliberate then at least it's consistent.
I will try to keep a careful eye out for tense conflicts as I edit it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
Spoiler:
So she discovered the effect on the old man's first night, and after that she can do it when she gets the itch, but she didn't get the itch before the old man. I think I'd better turn in.-)
Spoiler:
I see what you mean, although I don't see it as a conflict. The first time has an inbuilt reason to be different - it's the first time. There are also seemingly reasonable explanations that I don't think I should spend time explaining inside the story: the story doesn't say there was no itch, there may have been, but its occurrence has no real consequence to this story; the old man moved in without being invited by Vera, so the itch wasn't necessary - it may be that the mysterious effect or knowledge that governs the itch already "knew" the man was arriving; or his arrival coincided with when the itch would have started. In short, I don't think it really matters to the story being told.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham View Post
[...]The only thing that I did wonder was whether Gavin needed to come across as such a jerk in the opening few paragraphs.

Spoiler:
I can’t make my mind up whether having Gavin being so unpleasant for the first few paragraphs is necessary for the plot to work or whether the potential for turning some readers off the story early might be worth toning it down a little.
I may be wrong, but I feel as though Gavin's nature is part of the "spark" to the opening of the story. A more - I'd like to say "ordinary" but not sure that's accurate, so let's try - likable character would make the opening feel more sedate and may confuse the reader's reaction at the end of the story. (Or the reaction I was looking for.)

I suppose some readers may get turned off ... but I think I'll chance it as it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham View Post
I think you're down to the line editing on this one; the structure and feel are good. Do you want to do another pass before we weigh in too heavily on line edit comments or would these be helpful now?
I definitely want to do my own editing pass before I ask for line edit comments. There are several paragraphs in there that I know I want to smooth out.

Last edited by gmw; 03-07-2014 at 10:19 AM. Reason: Added title for clarity
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Old 03-07-2014, 10:15 AM   #21
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When My Father 'Died'

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Note: There is an element of unfairness in some of these comments. When I write a contemporary story I tend to assume my readers will be in a culture recognisably similar to my own - and this lets me get away with a lot. My own story opens in a bar that I do very little to describe, I expect my readers to fill in many of the details. It's a cheat, but one that works when the readers already carry a reasonably common and predictable set of images about what a "bar" is. It wouldn't work at all if the story was handed to some other cultures. Your story doesn't have that advantage if you want your story to work for an audience like myself.
On the other hand, that very element of unfairness is what gives this story the potential to be one of the most fascinating in the anthology for a Western audience. I'm really looking forward to seeing the setting brought out more and reading it again.

Spoiler:
I like gmw's suggestion that it could be understood from the outset that this was an unsettling dream, particularly if the protagonist is trying to explore why he's having the dream - what does it resolve?

If nothing else, that's a good fallback position if an alternate ending doesn't suggest itself.


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Old 03-07-2014, 10:21 AM   #22
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Vera's Itch

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I may be wrong, but I feel as though Gavin's nature is part of the "spark" to the opening of the story. A more - I'd like to say "ordinary" but not sure that's accurate, so let's try - likable character would make the opening feel more sedate and may confuse the reader's reaction at the end of the story. (Or the reaction I was looking for.)

I suppose some readers may get turned off ... but I think I'll chance it as it is.
Yes, I think you're right.

Spoiler:
The fact that he starts off as such a jerk did mean that I was itching (as it were) for him to get his comeuppance. It also gave me some expectations about what would happen to him which set up the twist nicely.


Graham

Last edited by Graham; 03-07-2014 at 10:25 AM. Reason: Removing incorrect hyphen.
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Old 03-07-2014, 11:20 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham View Post
Spoiler:
I like gmw's suggestion that it could be understood from the outset that this was an unsettling dream, particularly if the protagonist is trying to explore why he's having the dream - what does it resolve?


Graham

THAT is the toughest thing for me to execute. Let me try and see how well I can do it.

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Old 03-07-2014, 02:22 PM   #24
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Am I the only person at this point who actually started out from scratch, or do you all write stories so much quicker than me? I'm now writing the second part of my story...

I feel as if my input on the other stories could be irrelevant :X (I planned to read them as soon as I post my own Version 1.0.)
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Old 03-07-2014, 02:33 PM   #25
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Am I the only person at this point who actually started out from scratch, or do you all write stories so much quicker than me? I'm now writing the second part of my story...

I feel as if my input on the other stories could be irrelevant :X (I planned to read them as soon as I post my own Version 1.0.)

I think we're in the same boat now. Although I had written the story much before this contest started, it doesn't matter much now. I just realized it is not good enough so I am re-writing it. You're welcome to read it once I upload version 1-3. All types of feedback are important; after all we are here to make ourselves better story writers ain't it so?

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Old 03-07-2014, 02:41 PM   #26
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Am I the only person at this point who actually started out from scratch[?]
Yup.

What I have so far of mine was only written at the end of February though. And I didn't reread it until today...

Hopefully I'll get it to a v1 draft in the next couple of days.

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Old 03-07-2014, 02:41 PM   #27
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Fair point. Just leave the older versions in the Dropbox as well; I'd still like to compare
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Old 03-07-2014, 02:48 PM   #28
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Yup.

What I have so far of mine was only written at the end of February though. And I didn't reread it until today...

Hopefully I'll get it to a v1 draft in the next couple of days.

Graham

Do it fast coz you would have to re-read mine again which is only getting longer (4k words as of now; this way I can get away with writing just two stories instead of three LOL).
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Old 03-07-2014, 02:54 PM   #29
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Do it fast coz you would have to re-read mine again which is only getting longer (4k words as of now; this way I can get away with writing just two stories instead of three LOL).
I seem to have spent a couple of hours earlier basically 'rearranging the deckchairs'. You're right. Must write faster!

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Old 03-07-2014, 02:59 PM   #30
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I seem to have spent a couple of hours earlier basically 'rearranging the deckchairs'. You're right. Must write faster!

Graham
Your stuff is intriguing though. A little techy but I look forward to reading it tomorrow.
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