View Full Version : Here we go--give me feedback

23-04-2002, 00:20:23
Here. I dug this out of an old file. This was from a dream--I was actually dreaming in text--so I got up and wrote it. It's the first splat on paper and remains untouched as you can readily tell by typos et all.

Question--could this work in first person (from the male character)? At first I think yes, then later I say no--third person best.

Haven't done anything with this but it still catches my attention. If you can catch the crux of it and focus me, that wold be great. What works, what doesn't. Yays or nays--just say why or why not.

I thought it was only fair to post my crap since it takes guts to post something you write, especially when it's in the working stages. And you all have posted stuff, so I'll stick my unedited, unpolished neck out, too.


Tickets came when you didn’t expect them. His came when a muzzle of a .38 pressed against the base of his skull and “Clive” slowly raised his hands. He could be the big man, he could turn around and wrestle with his destiny, kick life in the face, but he knew it only worked in the movies and this would be his sure bet home. He’d buy the ticket.

“Clive” nodded. “All right.”

He heard the click of the gun and did the only thing he could do--he ran. He slid down that wet ice plant and fell on his ass while the guy laughed. He ran like a whipped pup until he reached the bottom of the hill. And then he stopped.

He knew he had to go back. There weren’t any other choices--she was still up there, hovering around the back of the trailer somewhere. They didn’t even know she existed. But they would. She’d try to do the star thing, what he wouldn’t, shouldn’t, didn’t want to do but would because of her . . . because she’d buy it right in the face and they’d laugh at her limp body crumpled on the floor, her face nothing but bits of puzzle smattered on the carpet.

“Clive” planted his hands on his waist, gritted his teeth with each breath, knew he had to go back. And while his mind kept running, he turned around and climbed that hill and listened to his heart pop out his throat, his back against the trailer, their voices humming inside.

“Clive!” She whispered to him from somewhere in the darkness. “I knew you’d come back.”

He had just enough time to glimpse her in the bushes, camouflaged like a frightened deer, before the gun clicked in his ear for the second time, twice more than he cared.

“Hi, Clive. Nice of you to return. I was starting to regret letting you go. Now I see the pleasure’s all mine. . . . Come on outta there!”

Cherie stumbled from the brush and he prayed to God she’d keep on calling him “Clive”--her version of Clyde, her joke, making them Bonnie and Clyde. What, did she have a penchant for predicting their drama?

They sat tied in the kitchen in chairs back to back and he fought crazy thinking muddied by fear. He couldn’t run now even if he wanted to. He couldn’t leave her.

“So this is your home.”

He didn’t have to tell her to shut up. The man did it for him with a gun in her face. For once Cherie cooperated. Ray closed his eyes and clamped his jaw.

“So, this is your home, Clive.”

It was the only thing Ray heard before the butt of the gun laid him open and inch above the eye. Then nothing.

When he came to he was on the floor on his face near a pile of human waste--as it should be. He heard her crying and knew before he saw that they’d gotten to her.

She had a drawn look. Her shirt was torn, her face bruised, her lip cut. She shivered, hollow-eyed. What he thought had been crying, wasn’t. There weren’t any tears. It was worse than he thought.

“Cherie . . . ” His ribs attacked him when he crouched and made breathing as pleasant as swallowing ground glass. He crawled to her. “Did they touch you?”

She nodded and held him and he sat with her, numb. What he suffered meant nothing now.

“Why didn’t you do anything, Ray?”

He closed his eyes. She’d grown up. The hard way. She knew his mortality now; she knew her own. Christ. Why did it have to be like this?

He kissed her head and pulled her closer. “Come here, Cherie.” She cried.

A month later they drove back through Texas, that flat wasteland romanticized by the cowboy image--not the man himself. He struggled against his own fate, quietly, independently, rugged individualist that he was, self-reliant working class stretching time against those who simultaneously hero-fied him while they bought up land and drove the dream far higher in the market than a cowboy could afford. Than Ray could afford.

Cherie sat silent. She never spoke now and Ray feared that what they tended in the hospital had only been the superficial. This wound marked deep and now they understood each other, each having fought and lost their own war. But who could compare stories? There was no comparison.


She looked at him and he reached for her hand. “I’m gonna stop for the night.”

She nodded.

In the motel room, a room lit only by the pale sliver of neon light through the closed curtain and the dull bulb in the bathroom, Ray stood shirtless, wet from the shower, over the chair where she sat. He’d put his jeans on to make it less painful for her. He held out his hand.

“Come on. Let’s go to bed.”

She looked up at him, at his hand. He took hers. “Come on.”

She let him kiss her and laid there with her broken spirit in a broken bed alternating between watching him with vacant eyes and closing him out while he moved.

She made no sound except for the rush of breath when he collapsed on her and he felt more stripped than any fool that ever performed before a live-dead audience. He wondered if she felt the same, then cursed himself for having so little compassion. His intentions had merely boiled down to lust. Maybe he’d only made things worse.

She made no effort to hold him, but he held her certain he wasn’t going to be categorized like those other men. And when he slept he dreamt of his impotence--the crime played over and over--there was no undoing it. He woke that morning in an empty bed full of regret.

He showered, did his best to shave, and found Cherie outside sitting with a Styrofoam cup of coffee. The ends of her damp hair stuck to her chin. He met her gaze, the studied the gray morning’s effect on the sleepy, little, run down motel, the best he could afford. The worst place to heal.

“We ought to just make it to California today.”

She smiled at that, a vague, simple expression his mama used when he’d said something he thought entirely profound and she knew better. Ray knew they’d make it to California that evening and guessed the smile referred to the night before. She wasn’t blaming him for his poor effort and that’s all he had to be thankful for.

They said little to each other until they crossed the Arizona-California border. Then, in the last place Ray could afford to keep them until he finally delivered Cherie to her parents the next day, she changed into a soft cotton shift he’d bought for her in Amarillo, another gesture of his that he’d pondered all 700 miles that day. Must have been like lemon on a cut. Cherie curled up in his arms and whispered good-night.

23-04-2002, 00:21:23
“I don’t want to go home.”

He wouldn’t argue with her even though he thought her mother would be the best cure and her father could serve him the penalty he deserved.

“You don’t want to stay with me, Cherie.”

He was going to tell her one more time what he thought of her living in the run-down single wide on an overgrown fifteen acre spread. What the land valued in dollars didn’t compare to the despair it represented in a town that clinged to its dreams for life.

Probably, even with his experience as a bullfighter, even with a somewhat successful bullriding school, that would be all the life he could offer her--one that clinged to substance-less dreams while the belly ached and the heart thirsted. There would be children, he knew. And then regret? Would he have to face her everyday and see regret in her eyes?

She clarified the depth of her pain for him. “You don’t know what I want, Ray.”

So he took her home.

“This is Cherie!”

His mama made him feel like things would work out, but Jem’s dubious expression, always the doubting Thomas, the cursor of reality, the practical-meter in Ray’s life, punctuated the atmosphere of the home-coming and left Ray wistful. Maybe Cherie had been right. Maybe he wasn’t retiring, but running.

Later that night when darkness and the chirrup of crickets silenced them, Ray sat on the porch steps with Cherie and listened to her breathe while he watched for roaches in the sand.

“Marry me, Ray.”

He looked at her without surprise. He knew it would come to that and it fit that she proposed. He smiled. The old Cherie would have asked--demanded the arrangement. Then, he saw the fear in her features and considered it. No, the old Cherie would have been content to live with him despite her parents. He’d have swallowed the guilt to please her.

She didn’t breathe.

“‘Course I’ll marry you, Cherie.”

They didn’t honeymoon, they stayed on the ranch. She didn’t call her parents, didn’t wear a dress, insisted that he consummate their marriage. That he consummate their marriage.

He raped her again, made himself sick while she lay there because he had to pretend she was someone else so he could perform and each time he was reluctant to do it, but gave in because she demanded as if his refusal would be a blanket rejection.

Ray lived in a dark world. She was trying to turn him into her attackers and he took it out on the stakes he drove for the fence line. She came to him one afternoon with lunch.

“You forgot to come home to eat.” She unbuttoned her blouse and he watched her.

“I don’t want to do this anymore, Cherie.”

She stopped, angry eyes suddenly empty, merciless. “If you don’t want me anymore, I’ll leave.”

He took the basket from her, felt himself ripe for, knew it wouldn’t matter that he ached because he wanted her, she wanted justice and punished him for not rescuing her.

He bed her in the tall dry grass quickly, with fervor, angst, anger, unrequited passion and was rewarded by her panic. The decent part of him transformed it into his arousal. He pretended she wanted him, but she cried when he finished and he saw how she laid in the broken grass. She wouldn’t let him touch her and it broke him.

He cried. “Cherie, I can’t do this anymore. You won’t let me love you.”

“I can’t! I’m not the same.” She fought what he could not protect her from. “I’m dead, Ray, and I can’t stop breathing.”

“Jesus, Cherie, let me help you.” He meant to help her out of the bugs and grass, but she screamed at him.

“You can’t help me! Nobody can!”

He couldn’t leave her, she would run, so he stood there and watched over her. Cherie, beaten and chained to her broken body.

When she finally stood, she said, “I won’t be home when you get back, Ray. I’m leaving you.”

He said the only thing he could and meant it. “I’ll come after you.”

He spent six months lining fence, building corrals, chutes, stalls, pens, a barn, even a set of small bleachers and a bunkhouse. He could see it work.

Then he did what Jem said any fool could predict. He hung up the hammer and went after Cherie.

Her father met him at the door and stared at him over his glasses. He shut the door behind him.

“I don’t know what you did to my daughter and I have half a mind to kill you before you can tell me.”

“I married her.”

Cherie hadn’t told them. He could see the unexpected verbal punch he’d thrown and followed through, not for maliciousness, but for his own safety. “I’m taking her home.”

“Is she pregnant?”


“Then, get the hell off my property.”

Ray stood his ground. He hadn’t done anything but protect Cherie, except for the incident. But she hadn’t told them and he wouldn’t. He’d just take this punishment like a man.

The right cross surprised him--not because it happened, but because the wiry man of six feet threw Ray’s 195 pounds, and three inches taller, off the front porch. But, then, what had he expected? He was her father.

Ray crashed through the porch rail and geraniums and landed on his bruised ego. He rubbed his jaw.

Mother and daughter flew out of the house and were stopped on the porch.

“Go back inside,” the father said. They remained.

Ray dusted himself off. “It’s time to go home, Cherie.”

She stared with her mouth open, then nodded and went quickly into the house.

Her father came barreling down the stairs more fierce than any bull. He pointed at Ray, compacting for a battle. “You keep away from my daughter or so help me . . . ”

Ray held his hat. “She’s my wife, sir.”

He heard the gasp from the mother, knew her hand went to her cheek, and Cherie hurried out of the house with her suitcase.

“Young lady.” Her father held her by her shoulders. “You do not have to go with him. Just say the word.”

“He’s my husband, Daddy. I love him.”

Her father’s shoulder’s drooped. She hugged him. “I mean it, Cherie.”

“I mean it, too, Daddy. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

From the porch, “Cherie. What happened?”

Cherie blinked back tears. “I can’t tell you now, Momma.” She went and kissed her mother’s worried frown. “But I will later.” She looked at both her parents, then between them at Ray standing in a dead yard.

“I know you don’t like Ray much right now, Daddy, but believe me, you’d be real proud of him. It’s my fault.”

She hugged her father and went to the truck. Ray opened the door for Cherie and put her suitcase in the bed. Cherie’s father eyed him evenly.

“I’ll take good care of her.”

“For your sake, I hope you do.”

23-04-2002, 00:22:02
After the silent five hour trek, Cherie marveled at the ranch. Ray suspected her of nervousness, but it hardly put a barrier between them in the bedroom.

“I missed you, Cherie,” he said between sweaty kisses in the hot trailer. She was almost as fervent as he’d hoped, but she still escaped him between the sheets and left her empty body there for him.

“I can’t help it, Ray.”

He stroked her cheek and nodded. “Okay.” If that was the way it had to be, so be it. One of them had to stay and maintain love. He wouldn’t hide anymore in his cowardice. He prove to her he was a man. He’d be tender and patient and love only her. He’d find away to protect her again.

At breakfast late that afternoon he told her, “I’m gonna put off the school for a little while. I’m gonna get Jem to run the ranch. I know he’s dying to get out of the office.”

“What are you going to do?”

He met her gaze directly. “I’m gonna ride again.”

* * * * *

“That’s absolutely the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you plan, Ray! Did she put that idea in your head?”

Ray stared out the window tight-lipped. “You could have the run of the place, Jem. It’s what you’ve always wanted. We could be partners.”

Jem left his desk and stepped over to window. “No, brother. It’s what you’ve always’ wanted.”

Ray looked closely at him and Jem leaned against the wall and sighed. “I used to want it, but now I want my wife and kids, my house, my job. . . . Ray, what have you got? What are you going to have with a life like that? A bunch of kids destined to be losers going to your place to learn how to commit suicide.”
“You could have been a world class champ.”

Jem bit back a sneer. “You don’t know that. It never happened. It’s all a gamble.”

“And you quit. You didn’t bet. Besides, you know it’s more than that.”

“Well, you don’t have either, Ray. In case you forgot, you almost bought your ticket once and you blew your savings setting up the ranch. Now you’re going in debt for the bulls-- “

“It’ll pay off.”

“You’re at ground zero again. No, you’re below it. You’re broke. And you’ll be crippled or dead before you’re forty.”

Ray turned on his brother. “It’s your choice. It’s your dream. I know what I’ve got to do.”

Jem stopped him at the door. “That’s her talking, Ray. You let a woman get to you.”

Ray narrowed his eyes and poked Jem’s chest, hard. “No. This is me talking. I’m gonna ride again. I’m gonna run a ranch and you have a chance to be a part of it.”

“I can’t, Ray. I’ve got to be responsible. I grew up.”
Ray regarded his brother, aloofly. But he said nothing and left with the dream his alone to pursue.

Cherie sat perched on the fence of the coral. While the trainer coached Ray on the platform of the mechanical bull. It was humiliating, the steps he had to go through, but the danger warranted it. Ray hadn’t forgotten the last ride and he’d suffer his pride, biting the dust on mechanical stock until he limbered up.

____ trained the whole cowboy. He didn’t teach slick moves because there weren’t any. When it came to eight seconds, no style counted accept staying on the bull. Knowledge of the animal helped--experience and ability to predict were assets, too--but even the best were thrown and not excluded from death either.

He mounted the leather padded machine, cinched his right arm and gave the signal.

1-2-3-4-5 seconds. He was thrown.

“Ray, you’ve got to conquer the fear before you can expect to conquer a few rides. You’ll never conquer the bull.”

Ray nodded and tugged off his gloves. Two bulls and a trainer--not the best, but damned good--and a small fortune . . . a lifetime chasing bulls . . . and he couldn’t even stay on a thrill ride. “Let’s take a break.”

A slow, deliberate applause sounded behind Ray and he turned to see Jem at the fence beside Cherie. “Learn your lesson yet, bro?”

Ray strolled over. “And which one is that?”

“You’re a fool, Ray. You’re never going to make it.” Jem eyed Cherie anticipating her defense, but she said nothing. “What do you have o prove anyway, Ray? What changed your mind about retiring?”

Ray gazed up at Cherie, solidifying his commitment. “It’s just something I’ve got to do, Jem.” He knew she smiled though it didn’t show.

Jem scowled up at Cherie. “You know it’ll be your fault if he gets killed. You’re the only one who can talk him out of it.”

Ray moved fast and caught his brother by the throat over the fence. “You’re not welcome here anymore, Jem. Get out of here and take your dark cloud with you.” He dropped him and Jem pulled at his collar, disbelief surging in his eyes and betrayal. He threw a hot glance full of blame at Cherie and retreated to his car. She climbed down the fence, but Ray caught her and pulled her right up to face him.

“Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking I don’t know my own mind and the consequences of my actions, Cherie. There’s nothing you or anyone else is going to do to change my mind.” She stared down though he held her chin. “Not even if you leave.”

She met his eyes and he was surprised by the spark behind her unspilled tears.

Ray rubbed a dirty thumb across her chin and grinned. “That’s my girl.” He kissed her quickly and walked away.

“Let’s do the bull.”

“You’re ready for that, ray?”

“Sure.” He called the two hands over. They’d run the place while he was gone, he’d leave them with a few more bulls, some horses and a stake in the ranch--the only thing he had to pay them with. Ray felt cocky.

Cocky was a good thing--it put fear in its place. Too much cockiness and you got yourself killed; too little meant the same.

Ray pulled himself up on the narrow platform, behind the chute . . .

(add in scene from the note book)

He was thrown.

He stands up and grins at Cherie and he sees the relief and more. He sees respect. The rest of the afternoon was pure business. Ride, throw, bite the dust. Ray hardly noticed Cherie at all.

“I’m going to be straight with you, Cherie. There’s a good chance I get hurt out there. It happens. It’s rare that it doesn’t. And I’ll do my best not to get killed.”

He paused to have her full gaze. “And it won’t be anyone’s fault at all--that’s the game and you accept the rules if you want to play. I accept them.”

But the hard part that he had to be honest with her about came next. “We’re broke. We’re in debt. I mortgaged the place to set up the ranch and I cut Randy and Ty in to pay. I plan to buy it all back, but . . . “ Ray leaned on the table. “There’s no guarantees, no set salary. We could lose everything on top of me being disabled.” He stared at her for a long moment. “I wanted you to know.”

Cherie pushed the peas on her plate before she spoke. “If you do this and lose everything you own and you can’t walk anymore, you’ll be able to live with yourself.” Her eyes found his. “And you’ll still have me.”

There would never be a purse to make him richer than she just had. Ray reached across the table and took her hands. “I love you.”

He saw the ghost in her eyes. “Don’t hide anything from me, Cherie.”

She studied the table and took a deep breath. “I know what’s at stake, Ray. You should, too.”

He caressed her hands.

“I think I’m pregnant.”

He worked fiercely. He couldn’t stay on a bull for beans, the weight of the news was heavy on him like a lead pack strapped to his side to disturb his balance. How could he stay on a bull when he was going to be a father? No adrenaline completely obliterated the effects of last night’s celebration, either.

____ finally called it a day before noon. Ray only regretted it a second. He could spare one day for unclear thinking.

He found Cherie in the field above the property line and strode to her with purpose.


He met her, kissed her, proposed in her ear. “I want you.”

She studied his eyes.

“Now, Cherie.”

He didn’t beg with his eyes or compromise his desire.
She turned in his arms, swallowed, scanned his features. It took effort for her to say it, but her eyes matched her words even if her voice trembled. :”I want you, too.”

His shirt was little protection for her back against the ground. She cried out while her eyes streamed. She smothered herself against him, his her face in his shoulder, clinged to him. He held her face and cut his elbows, sprinkling her with kisses, while they coupled and he professed his love, losing his voice to passion, kisses lingering to panting, tears mingling with hers.

She surrendered herself and mourned her loss while he moved with her to celebration and new life--the life within her that was theirs.

She stole his breath and mind from him.

He worshipped her neck, fell in place beside her, suffered his departure while she reveled in it, grounded by their love-making, strengthened by it, alive again beside him.

He studied her, forced air in his lungs, combed her hair back.

She smiled.

“Oh, Cherie . . . “ He could feel it--already?

“Please, honey . . . “

She paused to look at him.

He gave a weak grin. “Don’t stop.”

23-04-2002, 19:27:29
First, the obligatory moan about grammar: 'clung' not 'clinged'!

Then, the surprising revelation that I read it through to the end: I don't usually manage that with fiction posted here, so that's a big plus! I don't know what it was that kept me reading ... which is probably the most important thing for you to know, so I'll think about it some more.

It's very sparse, with each vignette providing a surprising amount of information. I still found it too skeletal - as if it needs a bit more flesh on the bones - but correcting that may have bloated it out and put obstacles in the way of me getting to the end. Still, thinking about it after a couple of hours gap I can still reconstruct the story quite clearly without review.

I did miss some exposition - all the paragraphs are very short, and I could have done with a few longer passages that painted some background ... probably of stuff unrelated to the people, e.g. countryside descriptions.

You used asterisks to break the continuity at one point: I thought they were needed at a couple of other points as well.

As to the point of view (which was the main question you posed), I found the stance taken was fine, and allowed us to remain detatched from the emotions of the characters (to some extent). This - for me - was good, as I couldn't have related to the characters as well if the story was talking in the first person about emotions that I myself can't empathise with from personal experience.

The subject matter is not my scene at all, so - once again - I'm impressed that you carried me right through to the end.

23-04-2002, 20:23:02
Is there no option to print this page? I can’t read long texts on-screen, not in this font :(.

Do you have this in, for instance, Word format, Dona?

23-04-2002, 20:34:43
Thank you, Noisy. :)

If you happen to think what it was that kept you reading, that would be good to know! Something hooks me. I think I know what it is.

You're right, it needs a bit of fleshing and connecting, but what you said about the vignettes having a lot of info but lacking in description of scenery/environment may help guide me.

I'm thinking this has to do with male/female roles, particularly Ray's role as a man. They get into a bad situation and it gets worse because of her, he also hasn't followed his dream or found his voice and until he does, he's not strong enough or complete, but he can't do anything simply because she forces the issue. He has to be a man his own way. He has to define his own role in the world and in their relationship.

(After thoughts like that I always go--Great. what the hell do I do with that?) :hmm:

23-04-2002, 20:35:59
Yep--I have it in Word.

Curious--what font is showing?

24-04-2002, 13:56:04
Thinking about it, I think the thing that intrigued me directly contradicts one of my other comments, in that there is no background detail. The reader, therefore, has to create his own details, and doesn't have to try and interpret anything other than the actions and emotions. I have no idea if this approach is sustainable for a longer piece of work, or if it just works in this condensed format.

24-04-2002, 14:57:04
Not bad, there's definitely a lot of potential here. I love the characters, a lot of good stuff there. Keep the third person, first would pull you too far into Ray and smother the story. We're getting plenty of detail already on his thoughts and third person lets you keep a little distance, kind of like rubbernecking while driving by the scene of an accident. You can be fascinated without having to get bloody yourself. I think that's most of the appeal for myself, the "train wreck in slow motion" fascination of watching someone else go to hell (and back, if the end is some indication).

I like the episodic nature, though it gets a bit jumbled at times. The beginning is rough, it's not very clear what's happening or who it's happening to for the first few sentences. A bit more introduction to the characters is in order, I think. When Jem is first mentioned, I thought it was Cherie's father, that homecoming paragraph needs a bit more context to it. Show us a bit of what exactly happened there. Not much, just a snippet of conversation from Jem and Ray's mother to show each's disposition and attitude would be enough. Keeping things short, like snapshots put together into a flip book animation, is a very good approach for this story. It lets us follow along without becoming too oppressive the way a more detailed and in depth story might. Watching the depression is a lot more interesting than sharing it.

The only other initial thought I have is that we could use a little flashback to what put these two together in the first place. Again, not too much, just bits and pieces, but something more substantial to show us why these two are bound together. It seems obvious that neither of them really chose to be where they are, but are mostly just resigning themselves to where their lives went and trying to do their best with it instead of fighting their disappointment too much. This sense of being bound and stuck and willing to work through it would seem to me to be the best focus for the story. The bull riding seems a bit superfulous at the moment, but could be a strong hook if you can include little details about how the business works, show us some of the reality of a bull rider's life and why someone would be willing to do something so seemingly stupid.

I think you're right about this being about each of their roles and finding how they fit, but I would keep the focus on how they learn to give up a bit of what they thought they ought to be in exchange for accepting what they've actually got to work with. It seems clear (from the little I do know about bull riding) that Ray's never going to be able to be a star rider, he's already missed his chance at that, but he's got to prove that to himself in his own way and come to terms with it.

Sorry for the stream of conciousness criticism, but I wanted to give you something after your help on my piece. There's a lot of potential in this story, but you've got to pick your focus and then build up everything else around it as support. Hope that's somewhat helpful (or at least coherent) and I'll add more later if I can get time to think on it some more.

24-04-2002, 21:25:48
Thanks, Guy. That helped me focus a bit more.

I liked the insight--always interesting to see the frame of mind of the characters through someone else's eyes, but no less accurate. :)

I like the focus you gave (not on the roles but on how they work it out.). I think I had a sense that to get further into their mood would muck it up. I think this other focus will help pull it around.

As for the loose connections and snippets needed here and there, I agree...could see it from the start, but wanted to focus first before doing anything with that.

Has anyone else got this problem? You write the first draft, feels good, you know it can work, but in revising it you bogged in the mood or characters as if they become a part of you. For me, it can be hard to detach.

Thanks for the second set of eyes. This will help. Maybe I will have this ready for one of the short story contests I keep pestering with my entries. *lol*

25-04-2002, 04:47:07
This is a story I'd I've skipped reading after reading a bit. But since this is yours, Dona...

The shortness of the piece works very well overall. But it does need a bit of polishing with clearing up who is talking to whom in several places. I got lost between what the brother was supposed to be saying.

A good bit to add at the start would be WHY the guys are bothering the male protagonists. Is it his champion gold riding belt he liked to flash about? That one touch of evil at the start seems out of place with everything else being on a rail. He doesn't have to be right about what they are after... just a reason why they are after him, if that touch really comes down on him suddenly.

It's nice to see the gal suddenly warms up cause her guy is running off to die in the ring from his personal guilt/need to prove he's a real man. Unrealistic, but nice. So when is he going to go out and get his butt kicked a lot in fights as well?

I think that's the hook... seeing the relationship between the two. The 'discovering as you go' approach.

25-04-2002, 16:25:45
Thank you, Darkstar. :)

It's interesting to see what can be spit out without editing. Clarity and sweeping up the bits and pieces--also fleshing it out--are usually the things I do before I share, but I wanted to try an experiment.

I put this piece out here as is...because I wanted to see through you guys where the guts are.

All the mechanics aside, I am stuck in a theme (I think) when I write and this one is just as good as any as an example. I wanted to identify that theme or 'spark' through everyone else's eyes...because I am ready for something new, but find it easier to know where to go once I know where I've been and where I am now.

Thank you for taking the time and for the insight.

I'm going to try a few new things and see if I can break out into something else. :)

I feel like a little ship that has been through a huge battle. This piece is ...six years old(?)...but writing new things is shakey. Not sure where to set course. :)

I need a new direction!

I need a good kick in the pants.

I think I've got it. Why am I such a chicken shit????????? :p

25-04-2002, 18:07:29
No problem, Dona.

I know what you mean about getting stuck in a theme, also what you said about your characters. My characters are the most stubborn bunch of you-know-what's I've ever come across. It never matters what kind of plot I've laid out or how detailed my plans are for them, they constantly take flight and go off in their own direction. Sometimes they come up with far better stuff than I ever could, but it can be highly annoying when I've got a specific point I want to get across. (Hey! You're supposed to break down and cry here, why are you getting angry? What? No, the gun's for later! Stop that! No, not the car, too! What's wrong with you?). I think it's like you said, I'm very good at getting in and understanding the motivations and principles of my characters, so they take on a life of their own and react true to themselves rather than the plot I may have picked out. Fun but frustrating (and scary if I think too long on the implications for how my mind is working to make that happen).

Way too often, I get stuck on an idea and keep dragging the story around to it when it's trying very hard to go in a more natural path. A lot of my earlier stories, you could almost hear the tires screeching as I forced the plot around hairpin turns to include stuff I wanted but which didn't fit the true flow.

25-04-2002, 21:26:50
:D Spoken like a true writer!

Yeah, Qaj is getting used to it. He knows some of my characters better than I do sometimes. And I bet the kids think they have relatives they've never even met--because the characters come up in conversations around the house, because I'm still working them out. :)

Ha--thanks to one character I developed the habit of rubbing my chin (as guys do) and sitting a certain way...had to break that.

Like you said--better to not analyze too much, there is a fine line between creativity and insanity.

Pbbbbft. I even have characters for myself--my AEs. Somedays I am Donapata (charge!), other days Lady of Chicken (somewhat retired), most days just a plain old Chook (very shy and meek).

Getting in character helps deal with circumstances, especially if I have to chew somebody out and hold them accountable and I feel like Chook. Enter Donapata....

I bet writing is introverted acting. :P

25-04-2002, 21:35:44
You know what, Guy, that's the thing!

Youwere talking about plot/concept and the characters coming alive--what a conflict that can create.

Like plot driven story versus character driven.

My best writing is character driven, but I have been trying to write for genres--any genre.

Okay, I get the idea all right. But then my writing is real cheap. And I get bored writing it. When it's all plotted out, I know what will happen. It's real hard to be creative.

Yet, if I just let the characters go, I can make it through (short stories pretty well--novels okay, but the middle sags or gets repetitive)--so that shows a weakness in plotting. How to combine the two...

If you or anybody else have a gripe or advice about this, some feedback would be great!

I'd like to try genre writing, for the discipline and the actual payoff: a finished product WITH a definite market.

My trouble is going the distance.

I can write 300 pages if I let the characters drive, but then we get midlist fiction. With a genre, I go 100 pages and run out of gas. And the writing is stale with only sparks here and there. Well, the writing makes the first draft short story I just posted look like the greatest thing ever--that's how bad my genre writing is.


26-04-2002, 04:19:55
Ok... I'm not a professional, so I have an odd viewpoint...

A story is best when it's character driven. The characters should seem alive... like real people. Otherwise, you get that NYPD Blue problem... they are all carbon copy cut outs (everyone, no matter their background, always talks the same, always reacts the same, whether they are 16 year old hookers or 68 year old retired police detectives).

In a real story, your characters are going to jump off your plot... if you come up with the plot *before* you finish out your characters. The trick is to adjust the plot subtly so that you carry on with your main plot... it either is just a red herring for that misdirect, or part of the plan. If the characters are just too out there to follow the plot... then you got the wrong plot for that character.

It's not easy, of course, to match the plot with the characters... but you can learn to easily adjust your plot to 'alive' characters, so that you still have a great story, and it looks to the reader that was always what you had for-planned. To get experience in that... Game. Join a Table Top or Live Action Role Playing Group.

If you can find a decent ref, you can observe first hand, all you like, how that ref constantly adjusts the Master Plot of the story to the live characters, who naturally don't KNOW the Master Plot and constantly go off to do what they would naturally do.

Reffing a good group of players is very good practice for learning to take stubborn characters, and putting them back on the Master Plot (or Sub-Plot of the Moment), naturally, most of the time, anyways. ;)

Now, for genre writing... what genre's are you looking at? They are all pretty cut and dried formulas, aren't they?

26-04-2002, 12:18:26
I disagree with genres being cut and dried formulas, but that's another debate.

Darkstar's pretty much right on with his advice, I think. LET the characters take over the story, that's what makes a story interesting. You do need a coherent plot, you do need a direction for everything to be going, but that can evolve with the characters. Maybe like you were suggesting with my story, you should just write, let the characters do whatever, and possibly they will suggest a plot to you. Or, if you have something in mind already, keep trying the same setup and events, but switching out different characters to see how they react.

What I've typically done is decide on a setting and a few big events that I want and then leave it up to my characters to figure out a way to get from one to the other. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don't, but the results are always interesting and -like Darkstar said- sometimes I change the plot to suit where they ended up. Usually, I end up doing several versions of a scene where the characters react different ways to the same thing to see what works best and feels most natural. It can take awhile to write this way, but can give some good results. The key is staying flexible, don't get too locked into one set of characters or events. Remember, when you're the writer, you're omnipotent. You've got the power to recreate your characters and their world at a whim, and that's a power you should use from time to time.

26-04-2002, 17:03:39
Dona: it is in Adobe Helvetica, a lovely font, but I refuse to read large chunks of text on-screen if they use light text on a dark background.

If you can save that in Rich Text Format and attach it here that would be great. If it is this evening I can print it out tomorrow.

And, for the record, when I write (which at the moment is never), I use it as an excuse to throw out any characters I have thought of into whatever setting suits them. Then, once I am past the initial excitement, I find that they turn into normal people living normal lives.

DS: why do you say that is an odd viewpoint? I think world + dog has been told that writing is supposed to be character driven, that Hemingway and Faulkner and Shakespeare used it to make their writing so good (even if, out of those, I only like Faulkner. And even then not much), and it is just the pulp genre novels—the westerns, the private eye novels, the romances, the sci-fi novels—that do not adhere to this.

26-04-2002, 17:20:58
Sean, why don't you just highlight the text and copy and paste it into a text editor? Then you can do whatever you want with it to make it readable without Dona having to do anything. Seems the easiest approach to me.

26-04-2002, 17:46:38
Guy, I was just asking if she had it already. I don’t have any text editor capable of reading or creating Word documents on this machine, which was why I asked.

I suppose I could convert it to PostScript, though :gotit:.

26-04-2002, 22:06:41
Darkstar and Guy,

I liked your input and agree...and that's usually how I write. Just getting so tired of not fitting in! :P I want to write something I can sell and thought (have learned) that the usual way is to write for a line and then break out on my own.

DS, don't laugh, I'm trying to write romances. *SIGH* The trouble is my characters have minds of their own and won't necessarily follow the flow. They get too complicated (not over-complicated) for the kind of story I am trying to write. Basically I need to stick to a man vs man (woman) conflict and I keep getting man vs himself in addition. (For example, in my boy meets girl, falls in love, breaks up, gets together breaks up, marries story I find that I can't stick to that--there's this and that about his past and why he acts like he acts and what that all means. No dawdling prose because I am immersed in dialog and stream of consciousness, but they just wander out of their roles and get bigger than them.) Also, I'm having trouble caring about what my characters wear. I know my description needs a lift so my reader can get into the story, but I cringe when I read other stories that go on and on about the material of the dress she's wearing. Maybe I need to still shop for a genre.

So on one hand I have trouble keeping a good reign on things on the other hand, if I let the characters go, then my other weakness sits up and waves at me like a corpse in a morgue (too hard to dismiss) and that's depth. In the first case I have too much depth and when I try to back off and stick to a 'script' I get stilted writing. In the second case, if I just let them go, it's like a light read that goes on way too long.

This isn't a problem when I write short stories. I can let them go and it works. But then, I'm not trying to sell short stories and they don't seem to have to be cast one way or the other. They are just stories.

The problem is the novel. And that bugs me. Because what I end up writing when I let them go doesn't fit with an identifiable market. I can't approach a romance line and submit my story because it doesn't work.


I am keeping my eye open for other genres. I like the fast pace of thrillers and suspense. Books I enjoyed were things like Air Force One, Jurassic Park, I just picked up Cocoon. Also like Jaws, Great White and that one we were all talking about a while back. Not bad. Also like Stephen King's early stuff like The Shining, Cujo, Carrie, Salem's Lot, etc. What is all that (besides stuff that made it as a movie)?

The idea of writing in that vein is appealing because I can disengage. I am very tired of writing stuff I have to lug around emotionally. I find I can have fun with this other stuff--no internalized thinking.

I think I enjoyed that Hero's Quest we had fun with but never took it seriously enough to write intentionally and no idea how to set the character on a new path, the way everyone else's addition did. Left to me, the story would have dragged and gotten bogged down in introspection. I have had enough of that!!

I mean, here and there is fine. Maybe I need to play God and shake up my characters some more. Which was nice shaking up that character in Hero's Quest. But I see he needed constant action to keep from bogging down.

I even started reading youth books and found some interesting reads. Goosebumps. Ha. :) And this one called: Searching for Dragons by Patricia Wrede (Fantasy)

Just picked that one up along with Play It Again, Spam (Murder Mystery with humor) by Tamar Myers, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou and Cocoon.

All these appeal to me. Way to pin myself down.

26-04-2002, 23:53:00
Sean, I wasn't passing judgement on the thought or opinion I expressed. I was pointing out that I am an odd person, and nothing but a consumer of what we were talking about. ;)

Dona... I've said it before, and I'll say it again... GAME! Or at least go watch a good ref in action for a few adventures.

And I figured you were thinking romance. That is the most stable/profitable/open professional writing out there. (Easiest to get published in, easiest to make a living at writing wise.)

Here's an idea for you Dona... Instead of one master NOVEL... how about a compilation of short stories? You say you do short stories fine... then how about the an anthology (or whatever a connected series of short stories is called). Each short story is just that... a short story. Have a series of shorts, in which it's a love triangle situation. Boy meets Girl, their getting together, falling in love, misunderstanding, split apart... (Say... High School/First Love). Next, She's off at college, meets a new boy, repeat classic genre pattern. Theme it with her wishing she had her first love, over the first summer split (where they had a fight and she storms off to a relatives rather then go on a school oceonagraphic cruise with her college boy or whatever) she realizes how much she misses him... so when they can FINALLY get back together, kiss kiss, love forever... she goes to class... and BAM! Her First Love is sitting there in class. Transfered over (cause he finally got a internship/scholarship/whateber). {Theme: Careful what you wish for}. Next story... She's trying to juggle both at once, of course...

You can repeat the classic Genre pattern of romance without outright killing yourself by splitting it up into short stories that are more interesting to you. As long as you have the main characters throughout the stories, and stay focused on them, you can end up with a Romance Novel... done in Dona Short Stories, can't you?

I might just be crazy, but it sounds like what you are looking for... how to do what interests you in a way that would meet your goals. What's the difference between 4 short stories with the same characters, and put end to end showing their growth and life, and a novel?

Think about it...

Excuse me while I now get into my protective armor for the shelling I expect to take on this post. ;)