Author Topic: Her first bouquet of roses  (Read 4662 times)

Offline Spell Chick

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 49353
  • Choose well
    • Little Bits of History
Her first bouquet of roses
« on: December 20, 2010, 05:17:59 PM »
(As many of you know, I don't do much in the line of fiction. Actually, I haven't been doing all that much in the line of anything.

I am not posting this is the Review my work section because I don't want to take anyone's time from real critique. However, if you don't mind telling me in general terms how to improve the thing. I just wrote it for a blog post and it isn't critical, but I would like some general guidelines perhaps on how to make it palatable.)



Samantha sat in front of the window looking out over the hills falling away from the farmhouse she called home. She held a steaming cup of coffee cradled in both hands. Her eyes peered into the distance, hoping to see a trail of dust coming up the long drive.

A delivery truck had snaked its way to her door earlier in the afternoon. Some chipper young man, probably not more than a teenager really, stomped up to her front door and pounded too loudly. It irritated Samantha. The loud noise and the intrusion. She was busy pouting and didn’t want to be disturbed.

But she was too curious to not answer the door. Besides, the kid was pounding for the second time creating even more noise and further irritation. She went to the door and tried to plaster at least a fake smile on her face. It wasn’t working well.

She opened the door and there was a tall, gangly teenager holding a vase full of beautiful pink roses. His clumsy, large hands were partially crushing the pink ribbon tied at the narrow portion of the vase. His smile was real and his eyes were dancing.

“Somebody sure thinks a lot of you,” he said as he handed over the vase.

Samantha blinked rapidly and nearly dropped the heavy glass. Her smile turned real and she buried her face among the dozen blooms and inhaled. “They smell wonderful,” she said so low the kid was straining forward to hear her words.

“Well,” he said as he turned, “have a great day and enjoy your flowers.” He walked quickly back to his still running truck and hopped in. He slammed the door as he popped the gears into reverse and quickly drove out of Samantha’s life.

She stood in the door transfixed. She smelled the flowers again, breathing deeply and sighing out loud. She watched the retreated cloud of dust as the truck disappeared into the wide world out there. Quiet once again descended.

Samantha took the flowers into the house and gently shut the door. She looked around her tiny living room for a spot to set them down. The end table next to Dan’s easy chair was also just to the left of the window. She placed them there.

After setting them down, she took the card from the little plastic holder. She opened it and found written in a feminine hand. “Love always. Happy anniversary. Dan.”

She thought back the fifty-two years and remembered the strong, tall, young man Dan had been. He had been her one true love. The person she could always depend on. The man of her dreams. They had raised three sons and a daughter together. They had nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. They had run this farm and been successful for over fifty years.

She looked out of the window again and searched for the cloud of dust. She waited patiently for her daughter, Darcy, to drive back to the farm. She saw the fine trail of dust coming and set her coffee cup down.

Samantha didn’t know how the flowers were paid for. She didn’t understand how for the first time in fifty-two years she was getting flowers. Now, when everything was so bleak. She plucked one beautiful long-stemmed pink rose from the vase and went to the door.

Darcy hurried up to the door to help her mother to the car. She saw the pink rose and asked, “Where did you get that?”

“Your father sent it to me. I want to show him how beautiful they are.” Mother and daughter walked slowly to the car and Darcy drove to the cemetery so her bereft mother could visit her dad on this special day.
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2010, 05:57:19 PM »
First off - beautiful, gentle story - I really like it and the reveal is very clever.

Okay...a few things IMO sometimes you 'double tell' things
eg: Samantha sat in front of the window looking out over the hills falling away from the farmhouse she called home. She held a steaming cup of coffee cradled in both hands. Her eyes peered into the distance, hoping to see a trail of dust coming up the long drive

Just have her cradling the steaming cup of coffee in both hands - says the same doesn't lose anything except a redundancy.

The first sentence has established the 'distance factor' and where her gaze is directed so the 3rd sentence doesn't need to mention the 'distance' she could simply be peering, hopeful of a dust trail up the long drive.

It irritated Samantha. The loud noise and the intrusion.    Can't be 2 sentences, the second one is a subordinate clause dependent on the first sentence statement. Join them with a semi-colon or a double dash.

Is 'pouting' an American expression like 'huffing/sulking' [in the UK it would probably only refer to the lip shape - either ready for a kiss or the beginning of a frown] It is a good image and shows her mood well so might be better included in the previous sentence about being irritated.

But she was too curious to not answer the door. Besides, the kid was pounding for the second time creating even more noise and further irritation. She went to the door and tried to plaster at least a fake smile on her face. It wasn’t working well.       Don't like this - can't explain why [just typing raw here - the repetition doesn't work   more noise further irritation...she's getting short-tempered so it would be better to keep the sentence short and sharp to reflect that.] Suggest:
He pounded a second time. Curiosity won the battle with her irritation and she opened the door with the best fake smile she could plaster on her face. It wasn't working well.

“Well,” he said as he turned, “have a great day and enjoy your flowers.” He walked quickly back to his still running truck and hopped in. He slammed the door as he popped the gears into reverse and quickly drove out of Samantha’s life.         Not sure about the 2nd sentence here [again, can't explain, sorry
...maybe: "Well," he began with a slight shrug, "have a great day and enjoy your flowers," he added as he turned on his heels and returned to the truck. The engine was still running and he slammed the door, popped the gears into reverse and left, quickly driving out of Samantha's life.

Too many she did somethings
She stood in the door transfixed. She smelled the flowers again, breathing deeply and sighing out loud. She watched the retreated cloud of dust as the truck disappeared into the wide world out there. Quiet once again descended.
Suggest: Standing in the door transfixed, she smelled the flowers again, breathing deeply and sighing aloud while the truck disappeared in a retreating cloud of dust. Quiet once again descended.

Same thing in the following paragraphs - too many she dids

She didn’t understand how for the first time in fifty-two years she was getting flowers. Now, when everything was so bleak.     Second sentence is dependent on the first, needs to be joined to it or ti have a subject of its own.

Hope some of this might be of some use - just what another set of eyes sees. Bin what makes you puke. ;D ;D ;D ;D

Offline Spell Chick

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 49353
  • Choose well
    • Little Bits of History
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2010, 06:22:30 PM »
Thanks so much.

I do have a problem with writing incomplete sentences, especially when I'm typing staccato.

Pouting is an Americanism meaning sulking which is a term we rarely use. At least, I have rarely heard it used here.

I appreciate the time. And hopefully, my next endeavor will be improved.  (See, incomplete sentence)
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2010, 10:18:08 PM »
just oral shorthand..wow does that even exist?

Offline Tina

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 347
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2010, 11:36:02 PM »
Well, I thought this read better than some of the romantic stories in the ladies magazines you find at the grocery store right at the check out.

The surprise at the end of learning her dead husband sent her roses for their anniversary .......I thought quite clever.  Good for you.

Some nice imagery of sound and sight.......I did get a sense of maybe too much telling,  but the excellent advice you got above would probably take care of that.

I thought the opening sentence rather typical....but definitely not bad.  You could play around with it and start with the pounding on the door from the delivery man and the annoyance......just one possibility....might help grab the reader's attention.  But I do understand your main character is in a state of grief so perhaps a gentle opening is indeed the wiser choice.

Anyways.....glad I stopped in tonight on MWC.

Enjoyed very much your sweet sad story.


Offline Spell Chick

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 49353
  • Choose well
    • Little Bits of History
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2010, 06:37:08 AM »
Thanks Tina,

I appreciate your taking the time to read this. I need to polish my fiction writing since I usually do non-fiction and the main idea is that I tell something about the past.

My biggest problem is I don't edit enough. Le sigh.
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.

Offline Mark H

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19722
  • Middleclass Machismo now available.
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2010, 07:02:10 AM »
It's flash. Trim it to 450 words and it will be excellent.

I agree with Siobhan and, to be honest, would have expected you to pick up on those same things if it was someone else's story and you were doing the crit.  :)

M
Buy Bristle Side Down, The Man Who Wore Brown Shoes and Middleclass Machismo here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=570142

If poetry is not your thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PueM04F0Qz8 or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Zm8cj9MGg

Offline Spell Chick

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 49353
  • Choose well
    • Little Bits of History
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2010, 07:10:32 AM »
Mark,

I love the sound of my own voice and the look of my own words. I'm absolutely terrible at critiquing my own writing.

I'm really not much good at critique for others as well since I can tell I don't like something but rarely know how to fix it. I guess it is a good thing I didn't follow my first pursuit and become a high school English teacher. Can you imagine?
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.

Offline nikolo

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2010, 05:15:07 AM »
nice story :)

Offline tradecraft

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 70
  • Everyday Writer
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2010, 05:35:12 AM »
A nice story. You write very well.  :)  Just a couple of things already mentioned and a couple of word shufflings (below).

A delivery truck had snaked its way to her door earlier in the afternoon. Some chipper young man, probably not more than a teenager really, stomped up to her front door and pounded too loudly. It irritated Samantha. The loud noise and the intrusion. She was busy pouting and didn’t want to be disturbed.

"Pounded too loudly" - pounded already suggests loudness, and I think "too" is redundant here. I would also drop the "really" in "probably not more than a teenager." Also, how did she know he stomped? Perhaps she could peer out the window.

But she was too curious to not answer the door. Besides, the kid was pounding for the second time creating even more noise and further irritation. She went to the door and tried to plaster at least a fake smile on her face. It wasn’t working well.

She opened the door and there was a tall, gangly teenager holding a vase full of beautiful pink roses. His clumsy, large hands were partially crushing the pink ribbon tied at the narrow portion of the vase. His smile was real and his eyes were dancing.

I would switch the words "to not" to "not to" in the first sentence. "At least" could be dropped I think, but it works nicely.

“Somebody sure thinks a lot of you,” he said as he handed over the vase.

Samantha blinked rapidly and nearly dropped the heavy glass. Her smile turned real and she buried her face among the dozen blooms and inhaled. “They smell wonderful,” she said so low the kid was straining forward to hear her words.

“Well,” he said as he turned, “have a great day and enjoy your flowers.” He walked quickly back to his still running truck and hopped in. He slammed the door as he popped the gears into reverse and quickly drove out of Samantha’s life.

It would be difficult to slam the door while simultaneously popping the gears into reverse. Perhaps "He slammed the door closed, popped the gears into reverse and quickly drove out of Samantha's life."

She stood in the door transfixed. She smelled the flowers again, breathing deeply and sighing out loud. She watched the retreated cloud of dust as the truck disappeared into the wide world out there. Quiet once again descended.

"The retreated cloud of dust" doesn't sound right to me. Also above he drove out of Samantha's life so here this sentence is saying the same thing.

Samantha took the flowers into the house and gently shut the door. She looked around her tiny living room for a spot to set them down. The end table next to Dan’s easy chair was also just to the left of the window. She placed them there.

After setting them down, she took the card from the little plastic holder. She opened it and found written in a feminine hand. “Love always. Happy anniversary. Dan.”

She thought back the fifty-two years and remembered the strong, tall, young man Dan had been. He had been her one true love. The person she could always depend on. The man of her dreams. They had raised three sons and a daughter together. They had nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. They had run this farm and been successful for over fifty years.

She looked out of the window again and searched for the cloud of dust. She waited patiently for her daughter, Darcy, to drive back to the farm. She saw the fine trail of dust coming and set her coffee cup down.

Samantha didn’t know how the flowers were paid for. She didn’t understand how for the first time in fifty-two years she was getting flowers. Now, when everything was so bleak. She plucked one beautiful long-stemmed pink rose from the vase and went to the door.

Darcy hurried up to the door to help her mother to the car. She saw the pink rose and asked, “Where did you get that?”

“Your father sent it to me. I want to show him how beautiful they are.” Mother and daughter walked slowly to the car and Darcy drove to the cemetery so her bereft mother could visit her dad on this special day.

Overall, a nice and pleasant story. Thumbs up.

Offline Spell Chick

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 49353
  • Choose well
    • Little Bits of History
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2010, 05:53:54 AM »
Thanks for reading
    and for commenting.

I appreciate the help. I know I over-tell, but I'm not always sure exactly how to fix that. (or else I would)
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.

Offline tradecraft

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 70
  • Everyday Writer
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2010, 06:01:35 AM »
Thanks for reading
    and for commenting.

I appreciate the help. I know I over-tell, but I'm not always sure exactly how to fix that. (or else I would)

I don't think you over-tell, it's still a good story as-is. About the fixing, if you feel the need for it, post on MWC. :D I was just being my usual picky self.  :)  My own work goes through the wringers like that too, in the second draft.

Offline Hugh

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1693
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2010, 02:36:05 PM »
Patti, you say you don’t venture much into the realms of fiction. Maybe you should. You have a talent for creating believable characters and settings, in a style that is evocative yet easy to read.

You didn’t put it up for review, so I won’t attempt to offer a critique, but merely comment on the problems of getting short stories published. My only experience is in print publication, so I’ll focus on that.

The main problem, assuming it has all the right ingredients for a short story, is that of length. A story finds its own ideal length. Prune it too much and it loses its natural pace. Pad it out to a longer length to fit a particular magazine’s requirements, and all you do is add padding, which also ruins it.

Your story is 620 words. There are magazines in UK that take short-shorts — e.g. The People’s Friend takes some stories of between 500 and 1,000 words, although the majority are 1,000 to 4,000 — but most magazines are more exact about word length, many wanting “coffee break” shorts of 1,000. Send them one of 1,200 and they won’t even consider it, however good it is. If it doesn’t fit the space allocated for their fiction slot, it’s no use to them.

Add the fact that a popular women’s mag may receive a couple of hundred unsolicited scripts a week, and they only use one, and we hopeful short story writers are really up against it. That’s why I’ve tended to stick to factual articles, which are always in demand.

But there’s nothing quite like seeing your name under the title of a piece of fiction. Makes you feel like a real writer.   

Anyway. I enjoyed your story, and hope to see some more when you get the urge.

Hugh

Offline Spell Chick

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 49353
  • Choose well
    • Little Bits of History
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2010, 03:00:13 PM »
Hugh, thanks and I had no idea about the word restrictions. That is useful information, just in case I ever get brave enough to try and get money for my writing. Well, money for fiction. :D
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.

Offline Skip Slocum

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12384
  • Writers are dreamers with pens
Re: Her first bouquet of roses
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2010, 07:53:35 PM »
Hey Miss Patti. Nice twist. I didn't read all the comments yet but if you're looking to trim word count, I'm wondering if after the delivery boy steps away if you switched focus back to her and her pondering. I mean, if the boy is only in the story to deliver the flowers, as soon as he says "Have a nice day" I would dismiss him from the story, cutting him driving away or grinding gears etc.

ooh wait, if she follows his dust trail away with her gaze and sees a second dust trail coming, this would make for a good visual and prep us for her next guest. Just a thought.  ;D

Skip