Relieving Stress!! Short story - would love some feedback.

Mon, Apr 9 2018 04:47pm IST 1
Leon
Leon
15 Posts

This is the first piece of writing i've ever submitted to anywhere. I'm very new to writing and have spent the last couple of years trying to write a novel.

This piece is taken from a much larger work. It might not be the strongest thing i've written, but i just wanted to put it up to get me started.

Any tips or pointers. The flow, the content, the structure. The overall feel?

Any feedback would be great.


Frank and Lisa.

He just wants an easy life.

She just wants something better.

Frank is sitting, cross legged on the floor, staring into Lisa eyes. Lisa is sitting opposite him, in exactly the same position. She is the mirror image of Frank and she's staring back into his eyes.

He's talking to her, telling her that she needs to relax a bit and she should start by calming her nerves. Then they can begin.

She's constantly refused his advise up until now, and now they're here re-aligning their chakras as Frank puts it.

He can tell that she's sceptical. He can see that she isn't taking this seriously. But he's keeping calm. It's taken him ages to get her this far, he needs to follow this through. To do this, he needs to keep her thoughts out of his mind. It's too confusing.

But he can't help noticing her head, shaking the way it is. Like when she disapproves of something, a sort of mocking gesture.

Ok, he's calm.

Quite rightly, she thinks that he’s gone mad. He seems to be getting progressively weirder as the years go by. Recently, she's even started to tell her friends. She says things like, 'he never used to be like this', she tells them, 'he used to be normal'.

He thinks that she's become a snob. She thinks that he's turned into some else.

But, deep down, he knows that she's not that bad really and course, she knows that he's actually ok. They do love each other and they do agree on some things. They want kids, eventually. They share friends now. They even have his and hers matching jackets.

She just needs to calm down a bit. Well, a bit more than a bit, but he's ok with that.

It annoys her, the fact that he doesn't care to listen to her when she feels like expressing an opinion about something. Littles things, like that time when she tried to bring up a conversation about an Agatha Christie novel that she'd just read. He'd showed zero interest. He said he'll just watch the movie. Which they both did and they both thought that it was really good, but that's not the point.

When it comes to listening to music, they eventually decide to listen to nothing at all.

She thinks that he's changed so much. He started to become weird about 3 years ago. It was brought swiftly to Lisa's attention one day when he'd mentioned that the world wasn’t quite as new as certain people would have her believe. She didn't understand him at first, but as the days went on, she became more and more freaked out and even more so as the weeks and months progressed, until it got to the point where she'd almost begun to believe that the world could come to an end at any minute.

He really should've read that one better. He should've known when to keep his mouth shut.

But that was ages ago, water under the bridge. That was then and this is now and now is all that matters. He'd learned all he need to know, for now.

She believed him to be crazy, but he believed that he'd found the answer. It was all to do with living in the present moment. The felt presence of the direct experience, he'd found, is the closest you can get to really being alive. The nearest portal to reality is tapped into the human experience by the present moment, and now for Lisa and Frank, here it is.

Can people change? Frank thinks that its possible. Only because of the evidence that had presented itself to him, in the fact that he's changed, and for the better. So some people can change, but only those that accept the responsibilities that come with it.

Some people on the other hand only believe that they've changed when actually, they haven't changed at all.

In order to change, you need to hone in on the experience of the present moment and just like Frank, you can find an answer to your problems.

He's decided to break the routine that he and his wife have been living in for longer than he remembers. And right now, this is where the cycle is about to spin out of sync for the first time in a very long time.

Frank has been preparing for this.

Lisa thinks that he's gone mad and he thinks that maybe he has, but better to be mad than just another slave to the same old routine year after year. He's managed to convince her that this is some form of exercise, a keep fit regime that's also designed to help relive stress.

Will it work?

He focuses all of his attention at the centre of her forehead. She has her eyes closed and she still has that goofey look on her face. But that doesn't matter anymore. All that matters right now, is that he's fully focused.

Her lips are moving, her tongue is wagging, but Frank is just concentrating on the centre of her forehead, and then, suddenly her head explodes.

Frank is now sitting crossed legged on the floor in front of the headless corpse of his wife. He's covered in fragments of her skull and brain tissue and all he ever wanted was an easy life, but this wasn't what he had in mind.

Tue, Apr 10 2018 07:09am IST 2
Seagreen
Seagreen
2389 Posts
*
Tue, Apr 10 2018 07:28am IST 3
Leon
Leon
15 Posts
Is it that bad?

I’ve been trying to get to grips with writing and I’m struggling to see if I’m doing the right thing, is the structure ok, is the story pointless or boring?
This piece is just a tiny section of something that is much larger, I’m not sure it was the best thing to put up.

Is there any criticism you can give? I can take it, promise!!
Tue, Apr 10 2018 07:46am IST 4
Seagreen
Seagreen
2389 Posts
Sorry, Leon. I bumped it back up so people could see it. I don't have time to read it properly just now, but I'll come back to it later. Smile
Tue, Apr 10 2018 07:54am IST 5
Leon
Leon
15 Posts
oh phew!! I thought you'd given me one star! I'm extremely new here, i don't know how it works yet.

But i would be very pleased to know what you think.
Tue, Apr 10 2018 09:13am IST 6
L.
L.
238 Posts
Hello Leon and welcome to the forum.

It's an intriguing story you've written and the end definitely packs a punch. It is well written but for me it reads a little flat and I can see two main reasons for that:

1. A story is a combination of show and tell, however this story is pretty much all about telling the reader, which put a distance as we are never in the action, or in the head of the main character. For example:He's talking to her, telling her that she needs to relax a bit and she should start by calming her nerves. Then they can begin.
Don't tell us there are talking, instead give us the dialogue
Another example: He can tell that she's sceptical.
How does he know, how does sceptical manifest in her? Is she pursing her lips, are her arms tighly crossed on her chest? Is it more powerful to show how characters feel instead of telling the readers. It will also help with the next point.

2. There are a lot of filtering words in the story, which puts another distance between the character and the reader. Words like think, notice, see, wonder, need, want, believe, feel, etc... I'm not saying that you have to get rid of all of them but they need to be the exception and not the rule.

Finally there seems to be some head-hopping. We seem to be mainly following Frank and his POV but there are a couple of instances when we are heap hopping into Lisa's head, unless you were trying for an omniscient POV.

I hope this information helps and as usual feel free to use or ignore as you see fit.
Tue, Apr 10 2018 09:33am IST 7
Leon
Leon
15 Posts
This is great. Thank you.
I see exactly what you mean. There's way too much distance between the charcters and the reader.
I think i was trying to make the narrative seperate from the 2 characters, but to dip inside their heads every now and then, if that makes sense? I wasn't sure if that was going to work and now i know, it probably doesn't. I'll have to re-evaluate that idea.
Thanks for the feedback.
Tue, Apr 10 2018 12:05pm IST 8
Seagreen
Seagreen
2389 Posts
Apologies, Leo. It never occurred to me that you would think I was rating your story. I'll think twice the next time.

I feel L. has done most of the work for me, since I agree with her take on the distance and the head-hopping. The style is easy to read but, if I'm honest, I didn't really get what Frank was trying to achieve nor did I understand why Lisa had stayed with him all these years when she thought he was losing the plot.

You say it's part of a much longer piece - is Frank the main character? What's your novel about?
Tue, Apr 10 2018 01:08pm IST 9
Leon
Leon
15 Posts
Hey, thanks Seagreen. Appreciate you taking the time.

To be honest, this piece is a very small section and In fact, i was wondering whether or not to include it at all. The only point this piece has in the overall story is just to raise the awareness of the exploding heads. (There are a few unexplained exploding heads throughout the story). So, no, Frank isn't a main charcter in the grand sceme of things. He is in fact, not that important at all. I just wanted some feedback on my style of writing, so as to get my first ever piece of criticism. The fact that you said it was easy to read actually means a great deal.

The story is based in Apoclyptic London, 1999. An unknown barricade has formed around the outskirts of the city, a serial killer is on the loose, heads are exploding and no one knows why. We follow a sequence of events, happening simultaneously in the present moment. Each of these events follow different plots, characters and so on.

I don't want to go on to much on here, i don't want to take up to much of your time. Any futher discource, hints, help or advice you could offer, would be amazing.
Again, thank you for your time.


Sun, Apr 15 2018 11:23am IST 10
Newbie
Newbie
3685 Posts
Hi Leon, this is an interesting theme. Have you read The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell? He writes about characters and their situations, which at first seem to have no links, but they do and it all comes together at a certain point. Your story reminded me of that book.

I agree with L and Sea. It does need fleshing out. We need to feel what they do and know what they're doing and why, if you see what I mean.

You say Frank isn't a main character and not important, which begs questions such as : Is it coincidence that his wife's head exploded when he concentrated on it? Has he acquired an enhanced power since the barricade around London?
Wed, Apr 18 2018 03:14pm IST 11
Leon
Leon
15 Posts

I'm sorry for the late reply, i've been away from my laptop for about week.

I've only heard of David Mitchell for Cloud Atlas and embarrassingly I haven't even read that book yet, i've only seen the movie, which if my memory serves well, did have an interesting theme. Some sort of domino affect, that begins in the past and ripples through the years way into the future. I think that was the idea? I will check out The Bone Clocks (maybe read Cloud Atlas first? What would you recommend?)

First of all, thanks for replying.

Frank's wife's head exploding when Frank stares at it is a coincidence. And also, the detachment from the characters that you feel when reading this story is kind of intended. They're not main characters. In fact the only other time we'll hear Frank's name mentioned is during a brief segment in a news story that one of the main characters watches on television. What is great about all of the feedback that i've received is that it has made me question whether or not the attachment(or lack thereof) the reader feels towards these 2 characters is important or not. In the grand scheme of things, it's probably better off that we don't get too attached, because there's quite a lot going on. Frank and Lisa work, merely to prop up the story with evidence that the exploding head of one of the main characters isn't just a lone, freak occurrence, in fact it happens a few times over the course or the story and saying that, there might be a need for a few more short stories. But then again, I don't want to overcrowd it.

Without giving too much away, the barricade is formed by a mixture of things that i am still trying to work out myself. It represents something of a metaphor for a time period just before the internet became what it is now(1999). I can tell you that paranoia and anti-social behaviour both play a part.

I'm in the process of preparing a beginning/introduction style piece to help set-up the premise for the story. I'll hopefully post it soon.

Sorry for making you read this much, that's if you make it this far.

Wed, Apr 18 2018 04:01pm IST 12
Newbie
Newbie
3685 Posts
Hi, Leon, yes, I did make it this far...

I read The Bone Clocks without having read Cloud Atlas which is still on my kindle waiting to be read. Like you I've seen the film which I'm hoping will help when I do get to the book. I'm sure it won't matter which one you read first, but the BC is several stories about unrelated people but related circumstances which come to fruition a lot further down the line.

I'm intrigued by the barricade. Is it physical or metaphysical? I can imagine how pararanoia and anti-social behaviour play a part as both are real to the people involved and those who are/will be affected by the fall-out.

Thank you for explaining more about Frank and Lisa. Good luck with your book.
Wed, Apr 18 2018 04:25pm IST 13
Leon
Leon
15 Posts
Thanks again for your time.
Just by having to think about what to reply with helps me so much.
I really appreciate it!
Thu, Apr 19 2018 12:41pm IST 14
Autonomous
Autonomous
4 Posts

Hi Leon,

I'm completely new here by the way so finding my way (and I don't have loads of experience to heap on you, sorry).. I like the genre of your story and like to write a similar type of thing. Have to agree with the comments so far but your sample left me wanting to read more. It was perhaps a little confusing because it was a random section of your story, maybe the opening chapter would have been better? I don't know.

In my writing I constantly fall foul of the first person/3rd person type thing, but I guess we're all learning! So good luck with it all and hope to read some more.

Fri, Apr 20 2018 08:57am IST 15
Leon
Leon
15 Posts
Hey there, thanks for your feedback.

I'm new on here too, so good luck to us both!! Wink

This is a completely random section of the story, it's in a style that i've been toying with. I wanted some feedback on how it worked (if it worked) and how it made people feel. By the sounds of it, it made most people feel disconnected. Which i kind of think i was setting out to achive, i just wanted to gauge how/why people might be put off by it. You mentioned that you like the genre and write in a similar way? It would be great to see something you've written.
Thanks again, it means a lot. Look forward to seeing some of your work in the future.
Fri, Apr 20 2018 09:31am IST 16
Autonomous
Autonomous
4 Posts

Hi,

I'm trying to get a collection of short stories togther for an e-book and I suppose I meant that I like to write unusual stories, with a strange twist, or just a bit weird. This is a first page snippet from one of them, my trouble is that every time I look at them I see something that's wrong and it gets frustrating, but I'd love to know what you think. Cheers.

Run For Your Life..

To say this was Paul Robinson’s last chance was a bit of an under-statement. His marriage with Amelia was near breaking point and this move to a nicer house, and crucially near to her new church, was an attempt at a new start. Paul knew this of course, but still he had so much more on his mind. He was however, quite determined to make it work.

Life with Paul had always been hard for Amelia. She had always know about his body issues and his OCD, but the worst thing to her mind at least, was his inability to show genuine emotional attachment to her. In fact even to show her that he cared for her above all else, something that was so vital to her in her idea of a marriage in the eyes of God. She found a great comfort in St Barnabas with its relaxed feel and friendly vicar, much better than her parent’s old church that was cold and austere. Here, in the new house only a mile from St Barnabas, Amelia had hope that things might improve. Paul had a new job, and of course, a whole new routine to go with it. The every-other day running, the exact route to work along with precise timings, but Amelia was used to that. Paul’s eating habits had vastly improved, and dare she say it, he seemed a little happier himself too so yes, Amelia had hope.

Paul on the other hand, had no time for St Barnabas, or any other church for that matter. He had tried to accompany Amelia at the old church, but the whispering of old ladies and accusing looks from the vicar almost drove him insane rather than help him. This was besides their view, as Paul perceived it, that anything on the autism spectrum equated with homosexuality. However, Paul was ready for this new start and was happy to try to save his marriage.

Yes Paul was ready. Paul’s life took a lot of planning, not that many people appreciated that, and most in fact, just plain got in the way of it. He was prepared with all of his outfits set out for the week, he had his route carefully planned and timed, the shortest one of course, and it all started the very next day. That night however, was an actual nightmare for Paul. Sleep didn’t really happen, and not because of all the new sights and sounds that there were. People think that the night is quieter than the day, but not for people like Paul. People like Paul are bombarded with sensory overload, and the night brings its own kind of noises, movement and smells. Indeed it has its own kind of feeling to it altogether. But that was not the problem Paul was almost used to it, the problem was the thing that had followed Paul since childhood. Since as young as he could remember, the thing that was always there in some way but took different forms at different stages of his life. Most of Paul’s problems were in his head and he kind of knew that, but this problem wasn’t in his head. This problem was the monster, the actual limping drooling hideous monster. And it was after him.

Fri, Apr 20 2018 09:37am IST 17
Autonomous
Autonomous
4 Posts

Leon,

Sorry in hindsight I shouldn't have put this here - don't want to hijack your thread. I'll put a larger piece up for critique in a new thread soon..

John

Fri, Apr 20 2018 10:43am IST 18
Leon
Leon
15 Posts

Hey John, i'll give this a read at some point today and hopefully i can give you something in the way of useful feedback. But also, post it up in the Critique section, it really does help. Make sure you let people know what kind of feedback you want, ie, the overall feel of the story, a detailed description, etc.

Thanks again for your feedback.

Fri, Apr 20 2018 11:51am IST 19
John Alty
John Alty
41 Posts
Hi John,
Before you put it up on it's own thread you might want to look at some of the grammar and structure. I found the random use of commas distracting. Also, the overuse of "however", which also brings its own difficulties with punctuation.
I think if you get these grammatical points sorted you'll get better critique on the storyline, characters, point-of-view; the important stuff.
Sorry if this sounds pendatic; please ignore it if it doesn't seem right to you.

Fri, Apr 20 2018 11:52am IST 20
John Alty
John Alty
41 Posts
Or pedantic, even. Embarassed
Fri, Apr 20 2018 12:19pm IST 21
Autonomous
Autonomous
4 Posts

Hi John,

Thans for looking at this. I do see corrections that need to be made and will edit it before re-posting. Appreciate the comment and it's not pedantic at all. I only wish I'd listened to my English teacher more... and Maths... and History...Laughing

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