Author Topic: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction  (Read 365 times)

Offline ireneconter

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I am looking for high-level feedback on this story.
1. Are there unclear sentences?
2. Are there paragraphs where you want to read more?

When Laura Quit Her Job

Laura liked to quit things: jobs, relationships, hobbies. Quitting was her way to declutter her mind and restart from scratch.
Every time she had started a new thing, she had thought it would have been better than the previous time. On each first day, she had felt that everything was under control.
However, every time, within a couple of years, the power of mess had invaded her tidy mind, like Barbarians invaded the civilized Roman Empire.

This had happened to her first job too.
Mountains of tasks had accumulated in her to-do list, like a snow avalanche that gathers more snow while rolling towards the valley. Her brain connections had become a traffic jam in which her consciousness was stuck. She had come to a point where work was her only thought, like drugs for a drug-addicted person. Even when she wasn’t working, she couldn’t stop thinking about the next review or deadline.

Quitting was the only possible way to clean up her mental mess.
The day she quit, she was standing in front of the company's logo at the entrance of her office’s building. She remembered the excitement of her first day, an enthusiasm that had gradually diminished over time until she had realized that this was a job like many others.

Confident about her decision, because she had signed a contract with a competitor, she replayed in her mind the words she was going to say to her manager. She had a couple of highly effective sentences that would have made him miss her and regret all the situations when he hadn’t gratified her for her efforts.
She entered the lobby, said good morning to the receptionist, grabbed a mini Snickers from the bowl on the counter, and climbed the stairs to reach her desk.

At her desk, she opened her laptop and pretended to work for one hour. She was struggling to find the courage to talk to her manager. She typed and deleted the same sentence on a fake email for thirty times.
“You have to go now.” She told herself before typing the sentence for the thirty-first time.
She walked to her manager’s desk.
“Can we chat for five minutes?” She asked and blushed like she used to do when she was a teenager approaching a cute guy at school.
“Sure, what’s up?” he replied, taking a sip of the dark coffee that he was keeping on his desk. He continued to type on the keyboard, without understanding that Laura’s request was urgent.
“Can we go somewhere else?” Laura asked, biting the skin around her nails. He nodded.

They walked to a phone room. Laura didn’t dare to talk: she was focused on the sound of her steps on the floor.
She hesitated even when they were alone. Her sight was examining the star pattern of her boss’s shirt to avoid eye contact. She took a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance of the coffee that her manager carried with him.
“I am leaving,” she said and imagined a piano playing “Back to Life” from the Italian composer Giovanni Allevi. She didn’t pronounce any of the dramatic sentences that she figured in her mind one hour before.
She felt liberated and didn’t even pay attention to what her manager said in the following thirty minutes. She just looked at his mouth opening and closing on his tanned face and caught some buzzwords like “growth,” “achieving,” “fast learner,” probably stuck together into a pre-cooked farewell speech.

Back to her desk, she put her personal belongings in her backpack: a mint-green notebook, two Bic pens without a cap, and a rose gold water bottle. She left everything else in the drawers. She had seen some people carrying a suitcase on their last days, to gather all their goodies. It wasn’t the case for her: she didn’t want to see that mess anymore.
When she walked out of the building, her mind was empty again after three years.
She bought a bottle of Rosé wine at Safeway to celebrate her rediscovered freedom. She drove to the bay shore because she wanted to stay by herself. Laura sat on a bench with a view on the stagnant water, which emanated a stench of a culvert. Despite the location, she was happy. She drank the beverage directly from the bottle, like an alcoholic beggar.
In her mind, only the croak of the seagulls.

Offline Success Kunda

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2019, 07:13:22 AM »
The first paragraph is by standard very clear and elucidative. It however lacks the potential to capture the reader's attention as the format used is more passive than active. It being the first paragraph, one would expect it to be active. Since the paragraph indicates that Laura was up to the present time in the habit of quitting things, present continuous tense would be more appropriate if the story was to maintain it's active form.
Woow! The second paragraph is near perfect as it brings out the idiomatic connotation that is attractive and has the capacity to keep reader's glued to the text. The fact that you have maintained the gist is good enough to consumate the reader's. The third paragraph is equally good but my concern is the first sentence in the fourth paragraph. Going by syntactical standard, the sentence is by far too long to be considered right. I would rather you divided it into two.
Generally, the story is very interesting and almost all the sentences are very clear. Paragraphs are good and greatly lucid. However, the highlighted concerns are the only inadequacies that if worked on can make the story near perfect.

Offline ireneconter

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2019, 11:54:26 AM »
Thank you for your awesome feedback!

Online PIJ1951

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2019, 12:05:53 PM »
Are there unclear sentences?

There are several ambiguous paragraphs.

However, every time, within a couple of years, the power of mess had invaded her tidy mind, like Barbarians invaded the civilized Roman Empire.
What is 'the power of mess'? It's a phrase I've never come across before.

Mountains of tasks had accumulated in her to-do list, like a snow avalanche that gathers more snow while rolling towards the valley.
A 'mountain' is nothing like an 'avalanche' - almost the opposite, in fact - so the comparison doesn't work here.

 The day she quit, she was standing in front of the company's logo at the entrance of her office’s building. She remembered the excitement of her first day, an enthusiasm that had gradually diminished over time until she had realized that this was a job like many others.
You tell us she quits on a regular basis - yet this reads as if it's the only time she has quit (a one-off). And in the sentence that follows you switch focus from her last day in her job to her first. It makes no narrative sense.

She had a couple of highly effective sentences that would have made him miss her and regret all the situations when he hadn’t gratified her for her efforts.
She entered the lobby, said good morning to the receptionist, grabbed a mini Snickers from the bowl on the counter, and climbed the stairs to reach her desk.

Would he really miss her because of her effective sentences? And climbing stairs to reach her desk makes it read as if her desk is perched on a high pedestal that she wouldn't be able to reach by normal means.
 
Her sight was examining the star pattern of her boss’s shirt to avoid eye contact.
Maybe you mean her gaze was fixed on the pattern.

You've also switched to past perfect tense after the first two sentences for no apparent reason.
Every time she had started a new thing, she had thought it would have been be better than the previous time. On each first day, she had felt that everything was under control.
If what you're writing about has already happened it's more difficult for the reader to care because nothing your characters do can alter the past. It makes the story less immediate and can subconsciously create a credibility gap. This may seem a minor grammatical point, but the way you record what happens can have a significant effect on your readers' ability or indeed desire to engage with your characters.

Are there paragraphs where you'd like to read more?

Not really. There's a lot of trivial detail that stretches out a rather flimsy story. A fair start, and an interesting premise, but you don't explore it as much as I would expect.

Offline ireneconter

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2019, 12:57:13 PM »
Thank you for your feedback! What are the points I should explore more?

Online PIJ1951

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2019, 01:01:57 PM »
Thank you for your feedback! What are the points I should explore more?

Your character's development seems unrealistic because you tend to gloss over her motivation. You tell us she keeps quitting jobs but nothing about the way she's portrayed makes this believable. Did something trigger the first occasion she left a job that has affected the way she views her career path? And how come she's able to get a new job so easily if she has a history of quitting?

Offline ireneconter

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2019, 01:06:18 PM »
It's actually a very common thing in Silicon Valley to change job every year. How about I set the story in Silicon Valley and I describe this situation?

Offline Jemacush

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2019, 04:19:31 PM »
I wasn’t engaged with Laura, whom I believe is your main character, at all. She actually came across to me as quite annoying. In order to want to read more, I need to care about her and I just didn’t get that from the bit I read. Maybe if I knew why she quits stuff - outside of ‘the power of mess’ - I might be a little more interested in what’s going to happen next.
There are also a lot of odd phrases, such as ‘restart from scratch’. I think restart or start from scratch would read better. In the phrase ‘like barbarians invaded the civilized Roman Empire’ you could leave out civilized. In the phrase ‘like a snow avalanche that gathers more snow while rolling towards the valley’ you could leave out the first snow, remove that and more and it would be better. I won’t go through the whole piece, but there are several other places you can trim. To the average reader, less is more. We want the largest amount of information and emotion in the fewest words. Hope this helps.
JCush

Offline ireneconter

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2019, 04:28:10 PM »
Thanks for your feedback! Can you be more specific to the reason why she is annoying? I would like to make her relatable for people who have been in her situation.

Offline Jemacush

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2019, 04:52:41 PM »
Her attitude towards quitting things – jobs, relationships, hobbies – is relayed in such a way that she comes off as ditzy. Yeah, she knows she a quitter, but she doesn’t really care. I’m picturing Paris Hilton in The Simple Life.

This line ‘she had a couple of highly effective sentences that would have made him miss her and regret all the situations when he hadn’t gratified her for her efforts’, is the kicker for me.

First, there’s a lot wrong with the sentence itself but just as it relates to characterization, it makes her seem pompous and spoiled. At this point, we the reader, don’t know if she’s a good employee or not. We haven’t been given any samples of how (or if!) she’s been mistreated by her boss or the company. And since she’s in the habit of quitting jobs, my first thought is that she is not a good employee, so her arrogance is misplaced.

Again, in the sentence ‘she didn’t even pay attention to what her manager said in the following thirty minutes’, she comes off as disrespectful and cocky. The reader has to be given reasons why she deserves to act like this in order to appreciate it.
 
Show us why she’s giving them the invisible middle finger and we’ll all applaud as she walks out the door.
JCush

Online PIJ1951

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2019, 07:58:16 AM »
Thanks for your feedback! Can you be more specific to the reason why she is annoying? I would like to make her relatable for people who have been in her situation.

She's not so much annoying as shallow and one-dimensional. To add flesh to her bones you have to allow us to get to know her better - not by adding a list of her physical attributes but inserting a hint or two regarding her motivation. As it stands, I don't believe in the logic behind her actions. It's almost as if she hates the very idea of quitting her job, but she has to because your story requires her to.

Offline Eversfiction

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Re: Looking for feedback for Flash Story - 750 words - contemporary fiction
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2019, 07:15:55 PM »
Thank you for sharing this. My initial take-away is that I felt tuned to her sense of release and relief at leaving this job. I know that she wants to be free, that responsibility - clutter and I'm curious to know what, eventually, will make her happy.

I think, as next pass for this draft, look to reduce it be 25 - 30%. To do that, allow yourself to move more closely to Laura's POV

"Her brain connections had become a traffic jam in which her consciousness was stuck."
to
"Her thoughts became a traffic jam"

"Her sight was examining the star pattern of her boss’s shirt to avoid eye contact."
to
"She studied the pattern of his shirt, afraid to meet his eyes."

"She felt liberated and didn’t even pay attention to what her manager said in the following thirty minutes"
to
"It was liberating. What her manager said next she didn't hear."

Have fun and keep writing!