Author Topic: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words  (Read 2958 times)

Offline Susan Leitz

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This is part two of three...while it is not my first draft, it is more than obvious that it is not a final draft.  I am in the process of reworking the first part after all of the wonderful suggestions from the critics that made comments...I am thankful for all the help that has thus far been given.
                                                                                               
                                                                                           
***

     The shiny red SUV in the driveway belonged to that woman, therefore she knew she was home. She's probably cooking him dinner. She thought of all the things that she had done in their home on nights such as this and imagined that the woman was playing the part of the ‘little-homemaker’ as best she could. But, she was a whore, not a homemaker, but a homeworker. She could pretend, but it would never change the truth. This woman destroyed homes. She destroyed lives. For so long, this woman put on a good show of being a friend, a confidant, a respected member of the community. It was just a show, and one that many people had seen through. But, Sharon was going to learn what it felt like to have her home, her heart, her life destroyed, in much the same way that which she had destroyed the lives of others. She was going to find out what her deception
could cost her and she was going to make that discovery tonight.
   As her strength and her resolve grew, she became aware of the urgent need for breathe. She tried desperately to fill her lungs, but the harder she tried, the more difficult she found it to get enough air. The attempt to expand her lungs was a challenge, but the struggle to constrict them again seemed to be a hundred times worse. She realized why and along with that sudden realization came the capability to calm herself. Her breaths began to come more easily, breath by breath, until finally there was no effort in the task. He was coming. She felt him even before she saw him. Her skin began to tingle and the hairs on her arms stood at attention as if to say 'it's coming.' By the time he pulled his dirty, rusted, blue work van into the driveway her heart was violently pounding its way through her chest. She felt it vibrate her entire body, heard it in her ears as it tried to escape. But, she was breathing.
   As he carelessly clambered from his van, he must have realized that she had pulled her car up behind his because the shock on his face told her so. He could not escape her. She wanted to talk and he was going to listen. He would listen, whether he wanted to or not, else she would holler it to his neighbors, to the entire world.
   “I thought that you lived in a dingy, old one room apartment in the slums. That's where you told the children you were living. This doesn't look like an apartment in the slums.”
   “It’s none of your business where I live. We aren't together anymore.”
   “It is my business! We are still married,” she said.
   “Thanks, but I don’t need the reminder. The children will understand in a few weeks. They’ll know where I am and what I’m doing when they need to know and not before. Oh, but that's right, you'll tell them. You tell them everything,” Darren replied. “Can you please leave? You don’t belong here.”
   “Why? Because it might upset Sharon? Or is it the neighbors? Do they not know that you’re whoring together? I would really like to knock on your neighbor’s door,” she said, pointing to the quaint little house next door, “and tell them what kind of whores they live next to.”
   “Do you honestly think they care? Hell, they’re probably doing the same thing. Probably half the people in this neighborhood are doing the same thing. They don’t care, nobody cares.”
   “Your children will care. They thought that their father was better than this. I have no way of protecting them from what you are, what you’ve done. What do you think your grandson is going to think of you when he learns that the man he idolizes is such a fool? This effects more lives than just yours and mine. Have you thought about that, or are you so selfish that those lives don’t even matter to you anymore?”
   “It is not your business what I think or how I feel. Just leave. Go away and don’t come back. I’ll talk to the children when
I’m ready,” he screamed.
   It took a moment until she calmed herself. She knew that she needed to leave before she did something that she would regret. She did not want to tell him what she had planned for the evening and thought that if she stayed, she might tip her hand. Her sudden and severe headache was a good indication that her blood-pressure was most likely off the charts. It had happened before when her pressure was up. It typically occurred when she had had a disagreement with him. There were many dissensions over the past few years, she recalled, and instantly saw many of them clearly in her mind.
   Silently, she drew on the strength that she had gathered earlier, and slowly got behind the steering wheel of her car. There was comfort in the knowledge that she would be returning before the night was over. Tonight happened to be their regular night out at the local bars where they would drink themselves into a stupor, then drive home as if it did not matter that they might kill an innocent person with their selfish actions. That, she realized, was the heart of their problem. They were selfish, the two of them. They thought only of themselves and the pleasures that life could bring them, usually at the expense of someone else.
       She was glad to see that the happy couple did not alter their party plans simply because 'the wife' made an unexpected appearance.

LucyLastic

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2014, 07:21:03 AM »
Hi Susan.

I’m not going to do a line by line edit, but I think you need to go through and sort out several problems.

All the “she”s are a bit confusing. “she knew she was home. She's probably cooking him dinner. She thought of all the things that she had done”  I can’t help thinking it would be clearer if one of the “she”s was referred to by name.

‘little-homemaker’ doesn’t need the hyphen. And is homeworker meant to be home-wrecker?

“in much the same way that which she had destroyed…” This doesn’t make sense and needs to be adjusted.

“urgent need for breathe” Either urgent need to breathe, or urgent need for breath.

I also think you overuse “that”. Just a couple of examples: “She knew that she needed to leave…” – “she drew on the strength that she had gathered earlier” These would work just as well as: She knew she needed to leave – she drew on the strength she had gathered earlier

I’ve listed just a few as examples, which I hope will help. No doubt others will come in with further suggestions.

Offline Susan Leitz

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2014, 09:27:46 AM »
     Thank you pale and LucyLastic...I do see the improvements that you have pointed out, and I do agree with them for the most part.  I have been told several times that my use of 'that' should be cut back.  I have this problem of forgetting that piece of advice and type it out as I would say it.  I know it's wrong, and I am working on it.
     As for the character names-the main character will not have a name throughout the piece and the original does have the secondary character 'she' italicized, which did not copy over. With that said, I do understand the need to try to clarify that a bit.
     Thank you for these suggestions and I look forward to your comments on the next draft, the one after I apply your suggestions where appropriate.

Offline bri h

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2014, 09:43:58 AM »
Hiya Susan. Go over to The Bar, or Last Person to Post, or Limericks and the like. These are fast moving threads. You'll quickly generate 50 posts, then you can re-edit anything you post. You only need 28 or so. Hope that helps. Bri.
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline Susan Leitz

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2014, 10:00:07 AM »
Thanks bri! I will do this now, perhaps it will actually work for me...I don't have much luck with the computer stuff.  I'm not sure that I want to edit what I've posted her, except maybe by putting in the italicized words because I need to know where I need to improve.   Thanks for the help though, I appreciate it! AND that is my next stop...

Offline bri h

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2014, 10:11:17 AM »
No probs. We LIKE the serious posters who look like they're staying, so of course we go out of our way to be supportive. Hell! They were ALL like that when I first came here. They still are. Bri.
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline 510bhan

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2014, 10:13:49 AM »
Hiya -- 'she' confusion here for me also it might evoke more empathy if the character had a name, make her more personal rather than anonymous pronoun.

An example below of too much and taking away from the moment. Apart from being basically a repeat of the previous sentence you take the reader out of the mc's experience by standing back and saying 'she felt it . . . ' If you wanted to keep the image it would be stronger if it retained the immediacy of a completed action. EG It vibrated through her entire body. By the time he pulled his dirty, rusted, blue work van into the driveway her heart was violently pounding its way through her chest. She felt it vibrate her entire body, heard it in her ears as it tried to escape. But, she was breathing.

 :) :) :)

hillwalker3000

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2014, 10:33:56 AM »
I'm curious why you wrote this:

Quote
As for the character names-the main character will not have a name throughout the piece and the original does have the secondary character 'she' italicized, which did not copy over. With that said, I do understand the need to try to clarify that a bit.

By keeping two characters anonymous for much of the story you're making it difficult for your readers to engage or empathise with either of them.
Most would advise you to introduce your MC's name as early in the story as possible. Choosing to stick with 'she' and 'her' makes it so hard at times to figure out what's going on:

She was going to find out what her deception could cost her and she was going to make that discovery tonight.
   As her strength and her resolve grew, she became aware of the urgent need for breath.


See what I mean?
     
As for the word 'that' - simply do a search each time you finish typing your latest draft and if you're using Microsoft Word select  'Highlight All'. This then gives you a count of how many times you use it (29 in this extract).

The main problem I have with this is the style in which it's written. It's mostly internalised dialogue: self-pitying, whiney and at times repetitive.

Paragraph 1 is a melodramatic rant. You throw in a lot of vague accusations, but since I don't know either character enough to care about them it's not creating the tension you're aiming for. Maybe you want your MC to come across as unhinged, but there are more subtle ways to do this. We get no indication why she's acting in such an irrational manner so she's not a believable character displaying realistic behaviour.
My advice - have your narrator do something. Break up the scene so we get to watch her thoughts develop as she approaches the house and considers what she's about to do.

Paragraph 2 is over-written. She's getting breathless and needs to regain control. It shouldn't take almost 100 words to establish something so simple. All we need is a sentence or two to show us she's beginning to panic. It might then make sense to begin a new paragraph with 'He was coming' since this is when the action supposedly starts.

This next bit is awkward for several reasons:
   As he carelessly clambered from his van, he must have realized that she had pulled her car up behind his because the shock on his face told her so.
Would he not have seen her car?? If she's just pulled up behind him how can she see the shock on his face?
And again you tend to push the hysteria button too hard. Their argument isn't particularly intriguing reading material. It makes your MC a difficult person to relate to or even care about, though maybe that's because I'm a guy.   ;)

I'm guessing 'she' is plotting some act of revenge, but then you reveal your hand quite unnecessarily (again by using much too much internalised dialogue). With this in mind why do I need to read part 3?

A separate thought - maybe this would work better written as a first-person narrative since you spend so much time inside your MC's head. At least that way the narrator would be easier to engage with.

H3K

Offline Susan Leitz

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2014, 10:59:02 AM »
     Thank you, hillwalker300, for the suggestions.  I have thought about doing the rewrite in first person, and I am still considering it. I would like to get as much feedback on what I have written so far before I do any major changes. That sort of change would make the piece something else altogether, and while I am willing to do that, I do not want to lose the meaning and the message. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions!


     Thank you also, 510bhan, for your input. My main character cannot have a name, but I do realize that something must be changed so that this story can work.  It is something that will take a great deal of consideration.  Thank you for your help and I look forward to your comments with the next draft.

Offline Susan Leitz

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2014, 01:13:00 PM »
Alright, as I've said before, I am not good at this computer stuff...I have looked for: the Bar, or Last Person to Post, or Limericks and the like...but have not been successful in my search. I'm sure I'm missing something really simple here, but if anyone has advise on how to find these things (that bri suggested to me) I would appreciate it much!

Offline bri h

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2014, 01:15:45 PM »
Go to the top of the page, click on Mywriterscircle, scroll down to The Coffee Shop. Or Games and Challenges. Once you've posted in em you'll be taken back to them whenever anyone posts in em. Easy. Bri.
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline 510bhan

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2014, 01:19:35 PM »
On the home page/front page there are different boards. You are currently in the Workshop . . . Review My Work and your post A Complicated Life.

If you scroll down on the Workshop Board you'll find:

Review My Work
  
The Prose Workshop

Review My Script
  
Writing Games & Challenges <--- this is where you'll find all sorts of word games and our regular challenges/contests. http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?board=12.0

Further down the front page board there is The Coffee Shop and is you click on that you will see somewhere, depending on the last post, the MWC Bar/Red Barren Bar http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=5732.110100 where all sorts of shenanigans go on. :D


Offline Susan Leitz

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2014, 03:19:14 PM »
Thank you Bri and 510bhan!  Heading over there now!

Offline Clarius

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2014, 04:09:58 PM »
First impressions are that this is a dense, block narrative; a challenging read that may put some off even starting.

The shiny red SUV in the driveway belonged to that woman, therefore she knew she was home. She's probably cooking him dinner. She thought of all the things that she had done in their home on nights such as this and imagined that the woman was playing the part of the ‘little-homemaker’ as best she could. But, she was a whore, not a homemaker, but a homeworker. She could pretend, but it would never change the truth. This woman destroyed homes. She destroyed lives.
For so long, this woman put on a good show of being a friend, a confidant, a respected member of the community. It was just a show, and one that many people had seen through. But, Sharon was going to learn what it felt like to have her home, her heart, her life destroyed, in much the same way that which she had destroyed the lives of others. She was going to find out what her deception could cost her and she was going to make that discovery tonight.


This first paragraph is a bit of a rant, bordering on a stream of consciousness. If you were watching this on a screen how would this be shown, it would be very difficult so you rely upon telling. What if the first paragraph showed us a woman sitting parked across the street, watching through the window the lighted interior of a home: this would help intrigue the user, give them a reason to read on.

  As her strength and her resolve grew, she became aware of the urgent need for breathe. She tried desperately to fill her lungs, but the harder she tried, the more difficult she found it to get enough air. The attempt to expand her lungs was a challenge, but the struggle to constrict them again seemed to be a hundred times worse. She realized why and along with that sudden realization came the capability to calm herself. Her breaths began to come more easily, breath by breath, until finally there was no effort in the task. He was coming. She felt him even before she saw him. Her skin began to tingle and the hairs on her arms stood at attention as if to say 'it's coming.' By the time he pulled his dirty, rusted, blue work van into the driveway her heart was violently pounding its way through her chest. She felt it vibrate her entire body, heard it in her ears as it tried to escape. But, she was breathing.

This second paragraph tells us that he pulls up, and she braces herself for the coming confrontation. It strays into the supernatural, with her feeling him before she even sees him. This same narrative objective could be accomplished with fewer words, falling back upon the visualisation of the scene. He pulls up and she braces herself: grasps the steering wheel and takes a deep breath before getting out of the car. Ending the paragraph here keeps us hooked, we know that something is coming, but exactly what we don't know. So we read on.

  As he carelessly clambered from his van, he must have realized that she had pulled her car up behind his because the shock on his face told her so. He could not escape her. She wanted to talk and he was going to listen. He would listen, whether he wanted to or not, else she would holler it to his neighbours, to the entire world.


This second paragraph is much better, we have some action at last. The use of the adjective to describe how he climbs out of his vehicle suggest, as the use of adjectives usually does, that the verb is insufficient to describe the action. Unfortunately the second paragraph is spoilt be more of that telling narrative.

  “I thought that you lived in a dingy, old one room apartment in the slums. That's where you told the children you were living. This doesn't look like an apartment in the slums.”

   “It’s none of your business where I live. We aren't together anymore.”

   “It is my business! We are still married,” she said.

   “Thanks, but I don’t need the reminder. The children will understand in a few weeks. They’ll know where I am and what I’m doing when they need to know and not before. Oh, but that's right, you'll tell them. You tell them everything,” Darren replied. “Can you please leave? You don’t belong here.”

   “Why? Because it might upset Sharon? Or is it the neighbors? Do they not know that you’re whoring together? I would really like to knock on your neighbor’s door,” she said, pointing to the quaint little house next door, “and tell them what kind of whores they live next to.”

   “Do you honestly think they care? Hell, they’re probably doing the same thing. Probably half the people in this neighborhood are doing the same thing. They don’t care, nobody cares.”

   “Your children will care. They thought that their father was better than this. I have no way of protecting them from what you are, what you’ve done. What do you think your grandson is going to think of you when he learns that the man he idolizes is such a fool? This effects more lives than just yours and mine. Have you thought about that, or are you so selfish that those lives don’t even matter to you anymore?”

   “It is not your business what I think or how I feel. Just leave. Go away and don’t come back. I’ll talk to the children when
I’m ready,” he screamed.


Dialogue is always good, but always read it back: does it sound like something someone would actually say, does the conservation flow as you think it should?

  It took a moment until she calmed herself. She knew that she needed to leave before she did something that she would regret. She did not want to tell him what she had planned for the evening and thought that if she stayed, she might tip her hand. Her sudden and severe headache was a good indication that her blood-pressure was most likely off the charts. It had happened before when her pressure was up. It typically occurred when she had had a disagreement with him. There were many dissensions over the past few years, she recalled, and instantly saw many of them clearly in her mind.


She knew that she needed to leave before she did something that she would regret. How does this lookhow do we show this? Do you know that gesture that people make during an argument, when they're reached the limits of their endurance: they raise their hands to their head, fingers splayed and stiffened, putting a barrier between themselves and the world, getting themselves a little breathing space? That's how I'd show this.

   Silently, she drew on the strength that she had gathered earlier, and slowly got behind the steering wheel of her car. There was comfort in the knowledge that she would be returning before the night was over. Tonight happened to be their regular night out at the local bars where they would drink themselves into a stupor, then drive home as if it did not matter that they might kill an innocent person with their selfish actions. That, she realized, was the heart of their problem. They were selfish, the two of them. They thought only of themselves and the pleasures that life could bring them, usually at the expense of someone else.

Again how do we show this. The dramatic tension in the previous scene is dissipating: she's left their house and got into her car. We need a hook to keep the reader's attention. Does she open the glove compartment and look at the gun lying inside, does she ring somebody on her phone and say something that hints at her intentions?

      She was glad to see that the happy couple did not alter their party plans simply because 'the wife' made an unexpected appearance.
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

 - Robert Burns

Offline Susan Leitz

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Re: "A Complicated Life"--part two of a three part story, about 950 words
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2014, 07:15:37 PM »
Thank you, Cairus...The insight that you offer is extremely helpful. The next draft will have a better flow and will capture the readers attention, thanks to all of the insight from these helpful critiques. Part three, which is the final part, will be posted in a few days and I look forward to the suggestions that other writers may have.  Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment on this for me.