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Thread: A REALLY short story (78 words)

  1. #16
    Delta40- I think I will write a bigger piece on this premise. 20 cigarettes to a pack right?

    Trever- Harsh, but I see your point. My original goal was to describe an interesting character, and I think I nailed that, but the purpose of the contest is to tell a story. There isn't so much a conclusion as a cliffhanger in that first one. Now, I like tension, and I'd love to hook someone right, but my last contest entry was enough of both for me to want this to have a happy ending (without being saccharine) instead of my usual tricks. The version below feels like the best yet, but I'm still feedback crazed, so please no one pull any punches.

    ---

    Esperanza takes a ballpoint to every cigarette. She writes prayers. She jots cheesy jokes. She draws dynamite so the fuse ashes shorter with each puff. Some become wishes on her boyfriend's behalf.

    When Esperanza wants more canvas, she rolls her own. When she wants revenge, she makes voodoo caricatures.

    Esperanza recently began sharing these fortune cookie cancer sticks with her steady boyfriend. Soon after, he proposed marriage but with the condition that instead of smoking, she confide in him.
    Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

  2. #17
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    Ooh-err..

    I know you're not going to want to hear this but personally I don't like this last one - the concluding paragraph comes across as if an impartial observer is reporting the progress of their relationship some time later rather than a natural continuation of the story. It sounds too neat and tidy - and too impersonal.

    You can end on that same note but I think you need to maintain the style of what has gone before. The final bit is 100% telling rather than showing - I guess you know what I mean.

    H

  3. #18
    I see what you mean. It's less of a knock out punch than a swift summary of the future to come. Maybe the below version is the solution?
    ---
    Esperanza takes a ballpoint to every cigarette. She writes prayers. She jots cheesy jokes. She draws dynamite so the fuse ashes shorter with each puff. Some become wishes on her boyfriend's behalf.

    When Esperanza wants more canvas, she rolls her own. When she wants revenge, she makes voodoo caricatures.

    Esperanza recently began sharing these fortune cookie cancer sticks with her steady boyfriend. They smoke together, trade cigarettes, and dream the future over a slow filling vase of ashes.

    ---

    No demands, just give and take meshed with burnt out dreams. Sounds like a hopeful ending to me (mas esperanza por favor?) without being a life changing deus ex out of left field. I especially like the vase as a parting image of the future, but with more love involved than an urn. Like a happy version of this song: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgViGtBxoZk).
    Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

  4. #19
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    Better - perhaps 'trade messages of love/lust' (or something similar) rather than 'trade cigarettes'??

    H

  5. #20
    My only enemy is time Trever J Bennett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krymsonkyng View Post
    Delta40- I think I will write a bigger piece on this premise. 20 cigarettes to a pack right?

    Trever- Harsh, but I see your point. My original goal was to describe an interesting character, and I think I nailed that, but the purpose of the contest is to tell a story. There isn't so much a conclusion as a cliffhanger in that first one. Now, I like tension, and I'd love to hook someone right, but my last contest entry was enough of both for me to want this to have a happy ending (without being saccharine) instead of my usual tricks. The version below feels like the best yet, but I'm still feedback crazed, so please no one pull any punches.
    Yeah because you've never read a good story that ends with a cliffhanger.

    Esperanza takes a ballpoint to every cigarette. She writes prayers. She jots cheesy jokes. She draws dynamite so the fuse ashes shorter with each puff. Some become wishes on her boyfriend's behalf.

    When Esperanza wants more canvas, she rolls her own. When she wants revenge, she makes voodoo caricatures.

    Esperanza recently began sharing these fortune cookie cancer sticks with her steady boyfriend. They smoke together, trade cigarettes, and dream the future over a slow filling vase of ashes.
    You took all the drama and mystery out. All of hillwalker's suggestions were for you to add things that he probably could have imagined himself from the first reading. All this is is exposition. You are telling me exactly what is happening and what has happened. This makes it even less of a story and more of an introduction.

    Look, I know I'm wry and harsh but I know what I'm talking about and your first entry is far more likely to win anything than any of your other, muddied edits. Yes it's good to edit and revise, but know that you are doing it based only on some random person online's opinion. And here's an equally random opinion, and it can't stress enough that you're making the wrong decision.

    Put the original next to the new one and read them both.
    Last edited by Trever J Bennett; 10-09-2011 at 10:31 AM.
    All works copyright © 2011 Trever Bennett

  6. #21
    Employee of the Month blank|verse's Avatar
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    I'm a bit late to this one, krymson, but as someone who writes more poetry than prose, the concision of this piece has a certain appeal.

    For what it's worth, I feel you need more specific details that ground the story in time and place. For example, why not have her steal her boyfriend's cigarettes each night, so when he wakes and has the first smoke of the day, there's a message waiting for him?

    As it stands, (and like Delta) I think you're wasting too many words with repetition of the first paragraph 'She…. She….' etc. Commas (or semi-colons, but they're a bit fussy here, I think) will do the job more succinctly. 'She writes prayers, jots cheesy jokes….' Or even something like: 'Esperanza takes a ballpoint to every cigarette. Prayers. Jokes. A stick of dynamite like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon' or whatever. Cut, cut, cut!

    I'm also not keen on the name 'Esperanza' – at four syllables, it's too long; in fact is the joint-longest word in the whole story. A quick bit of Wiki-ing suggests some reasons why you've chosen it, but does it have to be 'Esperanza'?

    I would also like to see more engagement with form as the piece is so short. For example, as the story is about a cigarette slowing burning to the stub, maybe you could consider making the story one long sentence, to reflect this. You'd have to be pretty clever with the syntax, but it's that kind of additional skill that would put you above other writers.

    Maybe you could switch perspective to the boyfriend (third- or first-person) and set the scene of how his girlfriend scribbles on his ciggies, before he finally unveils the latest one, which has a special message – but just what that is… well, good luck tiptoeing through the minefield of clichés! She's pregnant? She's leaving him? She's found out he's screwing someone else? Boom! Sorry, think I just lost a leg there….

    I think not having such a 'punchline' ending would be a good thing, but you have to choose very carefully. Either way - good luck!

  7. #22
    Esperanza takes a ballpoint to every cigarette. She writes prayers. She jots cheesy jokes. She draws dynamite so the fuse ashes shorter with each puff.

    When Esperanza wants revenge, she makes voodoo caricatures. When she wants more canvas, she rolls her own. If she's out of ideas, Esperanza scrawls nonsensical patterns until each smoke carries a surprise: each pack, a shuffled visual playlist.

    She only recently began sharing these personal fortune cookie cancer sticks with her steady boyfriend.
    VS.

    Esperanza takes a ballpoint to every cigarette. She writes prayers. She jots cheesy jokes. She draws dynamite so the fuse ashes shorter with each puff. Some become wishes on her boyfriend's behalf.

    When Esperanza wants more canvas, she rolls her own. When she wants revenge, she makes voodoo caricatures.

    Esperanza recently began sharing these fortune cookie cancer sticks with her steady boyfriend. They smoke together, trade cigarettes, and dream the future over a slow filling vase of ashes.
    Unless you absolutely love colons, the only real difference is that the boyfriend makes more of an appearance in the second than the first. Their relationship gets 3 lines out of 9, versus the original 1/9. Also, I dropped the "nonsensical" patterns in favor of more concrete examples, more solid images (the vase). It gives the main character context, and presents several possible futures. They're together now, and happy (or at least trusting), but will that remain so? I think there's enough ambiguity in the latest version for an imaginative reader to bring their own spin to Esperanza within the provided context of the story. I took some of your advice and went for a feel that's closer to the original, but I'm not about to return to what I feel is an inferior version.

    Also, I'm not making changes solely based on advice from the forums. I've shown this to a few of my peers (who I respect and whose work I enjoy) and received feedback in the same vein: The first is a great image but more of a singular image than a series or a story. It was pure characterization, with only the barest thread of context. I'm glad you brought an open imagination to it, but the contest is about presenting a memorable story, not demanding a reader (especially a judge who reads maybe 100+ of these flash pieces a day) construct one surrounding a lone character.

    Either way, the die is cast. I submitted a modified version of the latest on the 7th. Luckily this contest has a pretty quick turn around: results come out the 15th. Thanks to everyone who helped me bang out the kinks. Wish me luck!

    Edit: Blank, You ninja! Let me read your post and see if I need to edit my latest.

    Quote Originally Posted by blank|verse View Post
    I'm a bit late to this one, krymson, but as someone who writes more poetry than prose, the concision of this piece has a certain appeal.

    For what it's worth, I feel you need more specific details that ground the story in time and place. For example, why not have her steal her boyfriend's cigarettes each night, so when he wakes and has the first smoke of the day, there's a message waiting for him?

    As it stands, (and like Delta) I think you're wasting too many words with repetition of the first paragraph 'She…. She….' etc. Commas (or semi-colons, but they're a bit fussy here, I think) will do the job more succinctly. 'She writes prayers, jots cheesy jokes….' Or even something like: 'Esperanza takes a ballpoint to every cigarette. Prayers. Jokes. A stick of dynamite like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon' or whatever. Cut, cut, cut!

    I'm also not keen on the name 'Esperanza' – at four syllables, it's too long; in fact is the joint-longest word in the whole story. A quick bit of Wiki-ing suggests some reasons why you've chosen it, but does it have to be 'Esperanza'?

    I would also like to see more engagement with form as the piece is so short. For example, as the story is about a cigarette slowing burning to the stub, maybe you could consider making the story one long sentence, to reflect this. You'd have to be pretty clever with the syntax, but it's that kind of additional skill that would put you above other writers.

    Maybe you could switch perspective to the boyfriend (third- or first-person) and set the scene of how his girlfriend scribbles on his ciggies, before he finally unveils the latest one, which has a special message – but just what that is… well, good luck tiptoeing through the minefield of clichés! She's pregnant? She's leaving him? She's found out he's screwing someone else? Boom! Sorry, think I just lost a leg there….

    I think not having such a 'punchline' ending would be a good thing, but you have to choose very carefully. Either way - good luck!
    I really wish I'd read this sooner. The repetition was originally meant to show how personal the habit is to Espy (and yes, I chose the name in an attempt to duck an explicit cliche in favor of a slightly more subtle one. I toyed with naming her Whiskey, Em, or Cecily but opted for a latina in the hopes that it'd double as description), but with the introduction of a second character those words could have been better spent elsewhere, like in grounding details surrounding the trading of cigarettes. The trade's the key point to the whole story and it gets little more than aside in favor of the vase's image. It's open exchange (of ideas and habits) where she used to keep her personal hopes to herself.

    As for the form, had I read your suggestion way earlier I would have gone for a short opener, a longer middle, and an embersome closer: like a cigarette. As it is now I think it's top heavy, and that's a little disappointing, but not disheartening. I think I'll revise it further (using your suggestions) and submit it to a flash fic mag if It doesn't make the contest's cut.
    Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

  8. #23
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    krymsonkyng, I have to say I like the first one best of all. Filling out the end gives too much away, especially when 78 words are all you have.

    I wrote one for Esquire as well. My attempt:

    September

    Fat tick on a skinny dog. Bourbon and ice lay exhausted in a sweating glass, pulverized concrete waiting in the air. A slight quarter ring of water where the glass once was mirrors a crescent moon. Flesh pale, the moon mimics finger tips gripping the rounded edge of a paint worn chair, a not quite closed eye that can do nothing but watch. The tv, on all day, is muted behind sliding glass doors. Not nearly quiet enough.

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