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Old 03-06-2014, 02:32 AM   #1
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MobileRead Short Story Anthology - [DISCUSSION & REVIEW]

Hi,

Welcome to the discussion thread

Over here, the short stories can be discussed and reviewed, so the other thread can be used for organizational purposes.
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Old 03-06-2014, 07:22 AM   #2
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Now stickied. Title made a bit more prominent.


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Old 03-06-2014, 10:20 AM   #3
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arjaybe's story

Annie the Dreamer is a rather disturbing tale. I did like that you managed to convey that feeling without needing to be too explicit. I liked the jazz, and the raven, I think these worked well with the scenes. But (there's always a but ) ...

I found myself floundering a bit through the early paragraphs. It got a bit better when I reached the jazz, but my interest was really only raised when the raven landed.

So I think the first third/half of it needs to be smoothed out - and maybe re-ordered a bit. I wonder, if you're going to open with hanging up the telephone, whether you can make more of that as a way of providing the background information - rather than as a direct recital.

Touching the rings on her fingers was a potentially good element, but I think your story may need a bit more room (be a bit longer) for the effect to come through. It could just be that I like stories to be a bit longer.

The confrontation scene felt a little forced, but not too bad. But it did feel a bit sudden (I guess it was supposed to be), and too short. I think there is room here to increase the tension by expanding the scene - not necessarily with more action/violence, but with more lead in (scene and tension building) to the actual confrontation.

I did like the way you concluded the story, though - again - I wonder if a bit more meat on what came earlier may give the ending some added depth.

Spoiler:
There are some elements of mystery with regard to the raven and Annie's memory, I am presuming these are intended to remain mysterious. I sort of like them, but I felt as if a few more hints about what you meant might have been a good thing ... but that's really hard to say for certain.


This should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: The above is all just my personal reaction to the story, offered because that's what we're here for. Take whatever parts of it seem useful to you, and ignore the rest.
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Old 03-06-2014, 10:35 AM   #4
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Annie the Dreamer

I also read Annie the Dreamer this morning; as you say, quite a disturbing tale, but I was drawn through the story nicely and it's memorable. I was thinking about it for quite a while after reading it as with a little rework I think it could pack even more 'punch'.

I'll put my comments in spoiler tags as they're specific to plot elements. I recommend that if you've not read the story yet, please do so before opening this spoiler:

Spoiler:
It jarred that Annie would leave the younger children behind and go off at the end. I had to come 'out' of the story to justify it to myself: i.e. something along the lines of, 'she’s mirroring what Sissy did', or 'she's running away to try to escape being done for murder'. I think you could plant a justification more clearly here.

Two things made me hesitate in the first two paragraphs, which was a little obstacle to reading the story, so you might want to consider recasting these slightly.

First, I wasn't immediately sure who was making the phone call, i.e. whether the opening sentence was spoken by the person on the other end of the call or the person putting down the phone. We don't find that out until the third paragraph.

Secondly, I didn’t know what 'kraft pulp' was, so again I took a beat out of reading the story. Do you need to mention that the cargo is kraft pulp? Would Annie necessarily know? Could you just say 'a ship that was taking on cargo'?

Annie's silver rings are mentioned in the very first paragraph, and again later on. As a reader, I immediately assumed that the rings were going to be important to the story, perhaps bound up with her dreams in some way. I felt that this was a loose end in the story, not really resolved by her seeing the rings along the side of the ship at the end. Consider making the rings have more impact later on: for example, could they be sharp enough to hurt her assailant? Do you actually need the vegetable knife (which appears a bit conveniently)?

Or does her mother give her the rings for 'being good'?

Is the window open or closed? As it's night and you don’t mention the noise of the pulp mill or the rattle and crash of the ship being loaded I naturally assumed it was shut. But then we hear the raven croak and the beat of its wings. I think you need to state that it's open, and maybe have Annie celebrate the noise or the fresh air. This could give you an opportunity to suggest further that this is a young woman who is on the edge.


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Old 03-06-2014, 10:39 AM   #5
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Annie the Dreamer - POV character

In Annie the Dreamer, there is one paragraph where the point of view shifts from being in Annie's head to being inside someone else's:

Spoiler:
It switches to her mother in the paragraph:

She saw the way her man looked at her daughter, and she didn't want to lose him. Bringing these men home was the only thing in her life that made her feel worth something. If she had to let them molest her children a little bit, that was too bad. But she felt betrayed when they fell asleep in her daughter's bed.


Did this bother anyone else? How do you feel about point of view switches like this, generally?

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Old 03-06-2014, 01:11 PM   #6
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Nice going guys. Pls don't forget about me though.

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Old 03-06-2014, 03:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmarlowe View Post
Nice going guys. Pls don't forget about me though.
I think we're trying to be respectful and not talk about things until we have a definite go ahead. I see your story is v1.0, so it should be free to discuss, but I think we're just being careful. I've read it, but I'm hesitating. I've also read Graham's story, but he's requested no comments until v1.0.

Am I being too cautious?

Jim
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Old 03-06-2014, 03:35 PM   #8
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Annie the Dreamer

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I'm going to digest them before making any changes. Both reviewers so far have mentioned the first few paragraphs being confusing, and the rings being underexposed.

As I told Graham in a PM, I think of this story as being like a quick slash of a knife, so I'm reluctant to expand it too much. Expect me to chisel away at the points you mentioned, though.-)

Jim
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Old 03-06-2014, 03:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
Am I being too cautious?
No, I think you're doing fine. I've posted version 0.1 myself, but the story is not even finished. It's at (I estimate) 40%. I planned four acts; there are two now, and still have two more to go. (One very short act crept in between the two longer ones )

You could read it, but you might be surprised to see some names changing. For this story I'm using names derived from Greek ones, but a name I thought to be Greek, suddenly turned out to be Gaelic. (I shelved it for possible use in another story, that would be in the same world, but not in the same country; that story will indeed have Gaelic names.)

If there is one thing I don't like in many fantasy stories, then it's inconsistent names. (I'm looking at YOU, Terry Brooks.) If you can have an Elf and a Gnome switch names without seeing anything out of place, then you're not doing it right. (IMHO.)

Tonight I'll read the posted stories, and comment on the 1.0's tomorrow.

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Old 03-06-2014, 05:19 PM   #10
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When My Father Died

@mrmarlowe

Since you've updated to v1.1, I'll assume you're open for comments.-)

I see a story here, but I had trouble getting into it. The story feels disjointed. I get the feeling that you wanted to make sure to get the ideas down, but the result is a bit scattered.

In one sentence I first thought you were living in one room, before learning that there was at least one other room, where a light was left on.

Some questions:

1. What contracts? You mentioned contracts and never got back to them.
2. Why was he clattering utensils? Was he a cook?

I think this story can work, with work.

Jim

Spoiler:
3. It was just a dream? People tend to feel let down when they learn that.
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Old 03-06-2014, 07:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmarlowe View Post
Nice going guys. Pls don't forget about me though.
You're not forgotten, but I only have limited time, so I expect I will only be reviewing only one story each night.
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Old 03-06-2014, 07:43 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham View Post
I also read Annie the Dreamer this morning; as you say, quite a disturbing tale, but I was drawn through the story nicely and it's memorable. I was thinking about it for quite a while after reading it as with a little rework I think it could pack even more 'punch'.[...]
This gets a little awkward to do neatly, but I thought I'd add some comments to your comments...

Spoiler:
Graham said: "It jarred that Annie would leave the younger children behind and go off at the end.[...]"

I didn't have too much trouble with that. A combination of things. While the story is not explicit about Annie's age, my assumption is that she is still quite young, so this sort of reaction didn't seem unreasonable given the violence that had just happened.


Graham said: "First, I wasn't immediately sure who was making the phone call, i.e. whether the opening sentence was spoken by the person on the other end of the call or the person putting down the phone. We don't find that out until the third paragraph."

I did have trouble with the early paragraphs, but for me it wasn't so much the "who" and much as the way the sentences flowed (or didn't).


Graham said: "Secondly, I didn’t know what 'kraft pulp' was, so again I took a beat out of reading the story. Do you need to mention that the cargo is kraft pulp? Would Annie necessarily know? Could you just say 'a ship that was taking on cargo'?"

"kraft pulp" made me pause too, but (this is going to sound silly) for me it was cheese. In my head, Kraft make cheese (in my family we call Kraft cheese "plastic cheese"). It took my mind a moment to review the sentence and realise we definitely weren't talking about cheese.


Graham said: "Annie's silver rings are mentioned in the very first paragraph, and again later on. As a reader, I immediately assumed that the rings were going to be important to the story, [...]"

I was mostly happy with them as a character defining element. This story is something I would probably call a "mood piece", and I thought the rings were part of that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham View Post
In Annie the Dreamer, there is one paragraph where the point of view shifts from being in Annie's head to being inside someone else's:[...]
Did this bother anyone else? How do you feel about point of view switches like this, generally?
Third person omniscient is allowed to switch points of view, it's allowed to peek into different characters heads and see what they're thinking. Where you run into difficulty is something like this story were we've been with just one character, carefully reviewing who she is and what she's thinking, for long enough that the reader feels as if the character is the only point of view. In which case the introduction of another character makes the switch feel inappropriate.

I think this story perhaps exaggerates the problem because only the first two paragraphs feel omniscient, after that it does seem that Annie is the only POV for a long time. In such a short story it will probably be better to either keep Annie as the only POV, or to give the reader more regular reminders that the narrator is omniscient.
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Old 03-06-2014, 08:00 PM   #13
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Vera's Itch

@gmw

I already said how the story felt cohesive to me. Now some specifics.

In the third paragraph the phrase containing, "first of the evening" should go with the first sentence, rather than the second. I noticed a few sentences containing two topics. Knocks me out of the story.

You changed tense in the paragraph beginning, "I got a thing for the fifties." Twice. There's more tense switching elsewhere, too.

The reference to doormen is appropriate, given the fifties mood, but it seems out of place the way it's done.

"presumptive" should be "presumptuous."

You paced the drinking of the whiskey and its effects well.

She discovers (we discover) about the first night effect too easily. It makes it look as if you're just telling us that.

Jim

Spoiler:
Conflict: We're told that the first night effect allows her to be physically present, then we learn that it can happen when she gets her itch.
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:06 AM   #14
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[...]In the third paragraph the phrase containing, "first of the evening" should go with the first sentence, rather than the second. I noticed a few sentences containing two topics. Knocks me out of the story.
Thanks, I'll keep an eye out as I edit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
You changed tense in the paragraph beginning, "I got a thing for the fifties." Twice. There's more tense switching elsewhere, too.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
The reference to doormen is appropriate, given the fifties mood, but it seems out of place the way it's done.

"presumptive" should be "presumptuous."

You paced the drinking of the whiskey and its effects well.

She discovers (we discover) about the first night effect too easily. It makes it look as if you're just telling us that.
Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
Spoiler:
Conflict: We're told that the first night effect allows her to be physically present, then we learn that it can happen when she gets her itch.
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.

Last edited by gmw; 03-07-2014 at 01:09 AM.
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:42 AM   #15
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@mrmarlowe

Since you've updated to v1.1, I'll assume you're open for comments.-)

I see a story here, but I had trouble getting into it. The story feels disjointed. I get the feeling that you wanted to make sure to get the ideas down, but the result is a bit scattered.

In one sentence I first thought you were living in one room, before learning that there was at least one other room, where a light was left on.

Some questions:

1. What contracts? You mentioned contracts and never got back to them.
2. Why was he clattering utensils? Was he a cook?

I think this story can work, with work.

Jim

Spoiler:
3. It was just a dream? People tend to feel let down when they learn that.
Yeah, I deliberately left the #1 out of the story coz I wanted to work with one straight plot and not also insert an unnecessary subplot. The contracts are not important to the story; something else is. So I thought that making a passing reference would be ok. You are right about #2: I have to think up something about it.

Looking forward to others' feedback here, and YES, I am open to comments.
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