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Elynae
December 18th, 2010, 04:34 PM
This is my first text submitted on these boards; thank you for looking!
In this story, I wanted to encourage the reader to identify with the narrator.
To accomplish this, I tried to find a balance between merely telling the plot and describing thoughts and emotions; especially the protagonist's history was left more or less undescribed on purpose.
In the last and most important scene, I saw it as important not to spoonfeed emotions etc., but mostly leave them to the reader's imagination; feedback especially on this would be great.
Furthermore, this is not only the first shortstory I submit here, but I have also not been writing short prose for a very long time; I am aware that the writing style may need great improvement. Anyway, I won't keep you any longer -

Little White Pill

The matchbox lying in the wardrobe, buried deep beneath dust, underwear and old gloves, was his greatest fear. Whenever he sat in the armchair next to it or even passed it fleetingly during a normal day, he could feel the box's presence, paining him like a needle in his body.
No greater than a child's thumb, it weighed him down day and night, clinging to him, dark and unyielding.
When he sat down to eat his dinner at the small kitchen table, he would only force down two or three bites. Fear of what had happened and what would come filled his belly as well as his mind.

Under the kitchen table stood a wastebasket, and among cigarette boxes - he smoked more than usually now - rotting banana skins and other every-day waste, a newspaper cutting lay. It had been unfolded and read, then crumpled and tossed away again many times, leaving it barely readable but screaming the headline out to the viewer, commanding these craving for sensation to grab the paper and devour it. "PREGNANT WOMAN STABBED TO DEATH", it screamed, obscenely valuing the money in the tale over the victim's life.

Over and over again, he had read the words until they painfully danced before his eyes and buzzed around in his head like a cluster of angry hornets. And over and over again, he cursed himself for his rashness, the moment of insane rage and shock that had drove him to this - and, finally, buried his face in his arms and wept, flooded by despair and now-sad memories, overwhelmed by guilt.

It was late at night when he heard the steps on the stairs, slowly stomping upwards until they stopped in front of his new apartment. He had fled after the body had been discovered - but he had known that he had no chance in the long run, and now, with a demanding knock on the flat's door, he knew it was over. The police car stood on the street under his window, barely visible in the twilight.
He stood up and walked over to the cupboard. Groping for the matchbox and opening it with sweaty and shaking fingers was a matter of seconds. He opened it and looked down at the three white tablets, no larger than a penny coin.

A revolting taste spread in his dry mouth as he swallowed one of the pills, almost making him retch.
Slowly, he returned to the armchair and leaned back. The soft leather sagged under his weight. "Open up!", he heard someone shout in front of the door.
He smiled, feeling strangely relieved.

I won't have to open the door.

Gumby
December 18th, 2010, 05:33 PM
I very much enjoyed this little snippet and thought it very good Elynae. You managed to get the important aspects of the story across in few words, and even portrayed his feelings of dread and guilt. I was left wanting more. Good work.

Sync
December 18th, 2010, 06:02 PM
Hello,

welcome to the site and to posting.

I am unsure what sort of critique you wished or if you wanted just a general comment.

to me, this could be tightened, you repeat phrases and where sometimes they help a story, most times they end up being redundant and cloud emotions more than enhance.

for example - the again and again, over and over. - show me this instead, his actions of smoothing out the crinkles, how the ink stains his fingers with that crime.

why slowly stomping? - those cops?

As it stands I lack the empathy for his guilt. I don't even know if I dislike him because I do not know if he committed the crime/bore witness to the crime/or if it is just someone he knew, so it feels narrated.

this is easy enough to fix with a bit of rewording.

thanks for the read
welcome to the site

Sync

garza
December 18th, 2010, 06:23 PM
Elynae - I had no problem feeling his guilt, his remorse, his fear, or his acceptance of what he knew would come. A few minor changes can improve the flow a bit, though they are not essential. This is a good read as it is.

For those for whom horror means zombies and werewolves and things that go bump in the night, take note. This is real horror, the kind that can spring from the rash actions of ordinary living. This is the kind of internal conflict that creates terror and tension.

Sync
December 18th, 2010, 06:29 PM
Horror can be many things, for me, it does not include vampires or werewolves or anything that goes bump in the night. The thing about offering a comment and/or critique, is that it is one person's perspective on the piece. What I see, is just that, what I see.

As a writer, I can either pad my comments on the piece, or tell it like I see. But it is up to the writer to decide why they posted their piece. As I mentioned prior. It is not known whether this was just for the read or to improve on its wording.

Elynae
December 18th, 2010, 07:50 PM
Thanks to all for the kind words and good critique. I will try to improve it and post the new version soon.
Sync - the narrator committed the crime; I left the description of the crime out on purpose to leave more to the reader's own thoughts. However, it should be clear that he committed the crime, and the hint why he did this (because of his girlfriend's pregnancy) should have been clearer as well. I will see that this is changed.

Sync
December 18th, 2010, 08:32 PM
Hello, Elynae :)

don't rush off to change anything just because of my interpretations, you have two who say its fine as it stands.

garza
December 18th, 2010, 08:40 PM
Sync - If you thought I was addressing you, I was not. I normally do not read the comments of others before commenting myself. I did not read your first comment until after you had posted your second. Sorry for the confusion.

Sync
December 18th, 2010, 10:41 PM
my apologies, Garza for reading that wrong. Too often I had to stand up for my words.

Eynae, as to describing the murder I think you did well in how you showed just what you did. There would be no need to draw in such a murder as then that would be the strongest image where the story lays in his guilt.

Please don't get me wrong, by the words I said prior, I do like this story, it just felt that it could be tightened. I will give an example of what I meant.


Under the kitchen table stood a wastebasket, and among cigarette boxes - he smoked more than usually now - rotting banana skins and other every-day waste, a newspaper cutting lay. It had been unfolded and read, then crumpled and tossed away again many times, leaving it barely readable but screaming the headline out to the viewer, commanding these craving for sensation to grab the paper and devour it. "PREGNANT WOMAN STABBED TO DEATH", it screamed, obscenely valuing the money in the tale over the victim's life.but if you focus on his emotional state, you want to keep the reader there, not distract it to a rotting banana skin and other waste, because his eyes only see that headline, so you want the reader to only 'focus' on that too. That the tale drew an income is not important at this time. It might have been if he didn't murder her, if she was a victim, but not his, .

Still, you have to ask, what is more important...him or the greed of others. which story do you want to tell. You only have so many words.

So by removing a few words and reworking a sentence, trying to keep your voice true, I was originally going to suggested this.


Under the kitchen table stood a wastebasket, and among cigarette boxes - he smoked more than usual now - a newspaper cutting lay. It had been unfolded, read and then crumpled many times but still the headlines screamed "PREGNANT WOMAN STABBED TO DEATH".


eh, it could be just my minimalistic tendencies too :), so as always feel free to ignore

shadows
December 19th, 2010, 01:19 AM
Hi Elynae

Welcome to the site from another newbie.

For me it was clear that he killed the pregnant girl and how doesn't matter.

You start off creating an atmosphere of fear around the matchbox, which is good and draws the reader in. But that fear disappears too quickly when he uses the tablets as an escape from the police. What was he afraid of?

You have a good story and have got much in in few words. But with flash fiction every word or phrase has to have a purpose, needs to move the story on and I think this could be tightened to heighten the impact, tension and shock.

Sync has given one example another is:


The matchbox lying in the wardrobe, buried deep beneath dust, underwear and old gloves, was his greatest fear. Whenever he sat in the armchair next to it or even passed it fleetingly during a normal day, he could feel the box's presence, paining him like a needle in his body.

The matchbox, buried deep in the wardrobe beneath dust, underwear and old gloves, was his greatest fear. Whenever he sat in the armchair or passed it, the box's presence pained him like a needle in his body.


Over and over again, he had read the words until they painfully danced before his eyes and buzzed around in his head like a cluster of angry hornets. And over and over again, he cursed himself for his rashness, the moment of insane rage and shock that had drove him to this - and, finally, buried his face in his arms and wept, flooded by despair and now-sad memories, overwhelmed by guilt.

Over and over he had read the words until they buzzed in his head like a cluster of angry hornets. He cursed his rashness, the moment of insane rage and shock that had driven him - and, finally buried his face in his arms and wept.

The rest could be left out as it tells what you have shown. I like the image of the words buzzing like angry hornets. It captures the feeling very well but I feel it is stronger without the dancing before his eyes. Too many images dilutes the impact for me as a reader.

Good luck with the story, it is worth working on.

stonefly
December 19th, 2010, 02:17 AM
I enjoyed this from the first two words. Excellent job of hooking me right from the beginning of the story.

I can echo Sync's original comments, but also I have to say that I'm just as inclined to recommend leaving it like it is. It's up to you.

There were a few places where words appeared awkward, but not wrong.

I think you're a good story teller. As someone in the position of offering a critique, I have a question which would affect my critique. Did you write this spontaneously, or was it reworked considerably before its posting? I think you did a good job of achieving the goals you described in your forward. Therefore, I'd say that a reasonable concern of yours at this point is to be careful about rewriting your work.

If you can set yourself the goals you did, and achieve them on first try as well as you did, then you have true talent. Be aware of your ability. Don't sell yourself short. That is not to say that one shouldn't always review ones own work in order to polish and strengthen, but when one does so, especially one with your ability, one should be careful not to remove any elements which constitute the appeal of the story.

That is my critique and my advice to you.

Elynae
December 26th, 2010, 10:17 AM
stonefly - to answer your question, the original version of this was written spontaneously. However, it was not in English, and though I speak English as a mother-tongue, translating seemed different to "normal" writing and I think that it might have affected the quality, especially as I found that I often tried to translate sentence by sentence instead of looking at the whole paragraph and see how it sounds it English. If I should ever do this again, I'll try and do better.
Thanks again for all feedback I received - almost all of it seemed reasonable to me, and therefore I have edited the story according to it (and some parts I found to be not that great myself). In some pieces, I rather took out parts than added new ones; if anyone wishes to comment on the new version, please tell me what you think of the third paragraph, as I think it has improved but might still be unclear and too flowery and laden.


Little White Pill

The matchbox lying in the wardrobe, buried deep beneath dust, underwear and old gloves, was his greatest fear. No greater than a child's thumb, it weighed him down day and night, clinging to him, dark and unyielding.
When he sat down to eat his dinner at the small kitchen table, he would only force down two or three bites. Fear of what had happened and what would come filled his belly as well as his mind.

Under the kitchen table stood a wastebasket, and among the every-day waste that filled it, a newspaper cutting lay. It had been unfolded and read, then crumpled and tossed away again many times, leaving it barely readable but screaming the headline out to the viewer, commanding these craving for sensation to grab the paper and devour it. "PREGNANT WOMAN STABBED TO DEATH", it read.

The words were smudged and barely readable when he drew the crumpled cutting out once again, smoothed the crinkles and stared at the print, subconsiously hoping that the lines would say something different than the last time he had read them.
But they remained stubborn, still telling their tale of murder and accusation, till his eyes swam with tears and violent sobs shook him. Crushing the paper to a ball and tossing it back into the bin, he buried his face in his arms, cursed his rashness, the moment of insane rage and shock that had driven him. Long ago had he given up searching his mind for a last spark of hope.
They always find them in the end, he told himself.

It was late at night when he heard the steps on the stairs. He had fled after the body had been discovered - but he had known that he had no chance in the long run, and now, with a demanding knock on the flat's door, it was over. The police car stood on the street under his window, barely visible in the twilight.
He stood up and walked over to the cupboard. Groping for the matchbox and opening it with sweaty and shaking fingers was a matter of seconds. He opened it and looked down at the three white tablets, no larger than a penny coin.

A revolting taste spread in his dry mouth as he swallowed one of the pills, almost making him retch.
Slowly, he returned to the armchair and leaned back. The soft leather sagged under his weight. "Open up!", he heard someone shout in front of the door.
He smiled, feeling strangely relieved.

I won't have to open the door.