Friday, September 02, 2011

New Beginning 880 (Short Story)

As humans, we make promises to one another all the time. We make promises to be somewhere, then don’t show up, we make promises to call, then forget, we promise that “we will never do that again” only to repeat “that” over and over again; most of the time we make promises without considering that one day we may actually be called upon to uphold these promises. This is the story of one such promise.

I'd made the promise only a few years earlier, jokingly, now, I am standing here, my unfulfilled promise on the other side of this door, awaiting me.

I'm still finding it difficult to cope with. My mind keeps drifting back and forth between the present and the past making me feel very emotional and somewhat numb. I keep thinking that maybe this is really just some sick joke, maybe they've made a mistake, just some stupid mistake. People make mistakes all the time, right? I'm sure there's a room full of experts in white coats somewhere ready and waiting to tell me that I'm in the denial stage and give me a pamphlet on the subject, but what the hell do they know? Part of me knows that there's no use trying to make sense of it all, it will never make any sense, but trying to explain that to the other part of me is another matter entirely.

I find myself recalling a more innocent time, a sunshine-filled day when I had nothing to do but play with blocks and pull the dog's tail. But now the weight of my responsibilities presses upon me like a toppling marble statue of some Greek athlete--

"Oh for Pete's sake!" The door jerks open. My mother stands there in housecoat and curlers, cigarette dangling from her lips. "Are you gonna get started cleaning those gutters, Leroy, or are you just gonna lollygag on the porch all day?"

Opening: Brenda Delaney.....Continuation: Sarah Hawthorne


Evil Editor said...

P1: Drop the whole thing.

P2: Period after "jokingly."

"Unfulfilled promise" describes Evil Editor's writing career. You want something like unkept, neglected, forgotten.

Drop "awaiting me."

P3: I don't mind a little something before you open the door, but this huge paragraph isn't it. A couple sentences, maybe like the first paragraph of the continuation, and then the big reveal.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm gonna go farther than EE. Drop everything.

This is way too slow an opening for a novel, let alone a short story. It's over 200 words and all that's happened is your character is standing in front of a door.

Cut to the chase!

150 said...

You need to cut to the chase by that third paragraph. Waiting any longer is creating false mystery (the protagonist knows, why shouldn't the reader?) and a lot of people who read a lot of short stories get impatient with that. Trust me, watching a guy squirm before his kidney donation is equally as tense as watching a guy squirm for no reason we know of, and much less annoying.

I wonder if "I'd" shouldn't be just "I", since the rest of the paragraph is in present tense.

I liked the opening and I'd keep reading, but only if the reveal happens immediately after these paragraphs.

Dave Fragments said...

I"m with EE. I've said many times cut by half and then more if you can. The reader needs to see a hook to keep them reading. This needs to get to it adn not keep putting it off.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

If you tell us what is behind door number 1 in para 3 okay, I can live with and have enough patience for para 1 and 2.

If you can't start over.

Too slow breaking from the gate.

This is a fast paced world. Liked the writing but you've got to move it on.

I hope the ms doesn't meander along taking its time.

vkw said...

Get to the point.

I'm not saying I don't like this reflective narration but the trend tends to be: get to the point and quickly. You have 30 seconds to catch my intention or I'm clicking to the next story in my Kindle.

We all make promises that we don't intend on keeping. Sometimes, we make promises we never intend on keeping. This is my story of such a promise I made. It's behind the door.

That's all you need. Now tell me what the heck your talking about.

Evil Editor said...

Actually that's both more and less than she needs. The first two sentences say the same thing, the third says Here's my story, which the reader already knows, and the fourth doesn't say what door you're talking about.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

For comparison, here's the first sentence from the short story "Home" by George Saunders, in the June 13 & 20, 2011 issue of The New Yorker:

Like in the old days, I came out of the dry creek behind the house and did my litte tap on the kitchen window.

We have the same sitch: a protag approaching a door (okay, a window). But he does it in the very first line, sans philosophy, and we already know

1. that it's not the first time he's been there

2. that he's been away for a long time-- since "the old days"

3. that for whatever reason, he does not approach the house directly-- why, we wonder? Perhaps if we read on, we'll find out.

Anonymous said...

Another paring:

We make promises all the time. To be somewhere, to call, to never do that again. I made mine only a few years earlier, jokingly. I never thought that one day I'd be standing here, my unkept promise on the other side of this door. It's waiting.

none said...

Hmm, well, now you know what doesn't work, start again! XD

Anonymous said...

Oh Anon, I would so read on. Very wonderful. Anon 2