View Full Version : An Empty House

February 16th, 2012, 06:25 AM
Things I really need help on: suggestions for clarity, either actual suggestions or revisions. Whatever you feel like (want to make those images stand out and not muddy). Feel free to post below!

There were two croissants left for the children on the table; but they were stale, cold, and looked deprived of love. They looked like they hadn’t been touched in weeks--nibbled a little bit--by rats and critters who had snuck in during the cold front in the last few days, and had a sudden hunger. And at the other end of the table, a napkin lay folded, with a fork on top. The air was sweet with the perfume of home, but with a bitter sharpness from the cold sinking in from all sides. A coffee mug lay on the table, its contents frozen inside.

The door jam rattled. Outside, some fiddling and jingling fit into the key slot. The only sounds were shuffling footsteps that paced and stopped, then paced and stopped again--until finally a woman entered. Stepping over the threshold, she approached the table. Quite deliberately, she picked up the coffee mug, the croissants, and the fork, and placed them onto the tray. A tremble, very much like a shiver, ran down her arm. She shuddered quietly. Both hands that were on the tray appeared to grow faint, weakening at the wrists. But suddenly she regained composure and held the tray tightly. Again, her competence was deliberate as she placed each item from the tray into the sink, turning the faucet. Steam boiled up.
A telephone started ringing. She picked it up before the first ring finished.
“Hi. I wasn’t expecting you.”
She looked out the window.
“It’s cold out here. No. I tried the other key and got in. The one I’m using, now, works. No. Mom doesn’t know that the other one is broken, so she’ll probably try and use it until somebody tells her. Poor mom.”

February 16th, 2012, 07:10 AM
Some good description here... possibly a little too much of it though? For instance there are five uses of description to tell the reader how unappetising the croissants were looking.

“and had a sudden hunger.”

This line strikes an image of a rat walking a long, minding its own business then thinking 'You know what, I could really do with a croissant right now!'. I don't think it is necessary to tell the reader that a rodent felt a bit hungry as it is evident by the fact the food had been nibbled... and also that is just a rodents constant state of being (hungry).

“And at the other end of the table, a napkin lay folded, with a fork on top.”

I might be tempted to change this just a little so it flows a little better... An example might be:

At the opposite end of the table a napkin lay neatly folded, a lone fork nestled on top.

“perfume of home”

Obviously I need to hire some staff because my home does not smell like perfume! It smells like shoes that have been worn all day, last nights takeaway and the ever present waft of dog farts. Could perfume be an unlikely description or am I just a minger?

It would be very hard to get a house cold enough to freeze water in a mug. It could get cold enough to form frost on the inside of the windows, but not to freeze a mug of liquid. Maybe I'm wrong? Or maybe the country is a very cold one...

“some fiddling and jingling fit into the key slot.”
This is a bit jarring. You're trying to paint a picture of keys being turned in a lock right? Maybe: 'There is a jingle of keys from outside, the lock turns.' Just an example, its probably a bit bland for your tastes.

Why was the woman pacing? Was she nervous about entering the property?

“Quite deliberately” I would be tempted to loose this, it's unnecessary. I doubt she would accidentally pick up the plate.

“and the fork, and placed them” too many ands.

“A tremble, very much like a shiver” Which is it? Both are different. A replacement might be a quiver? Or just simply “Her arm shook.”

“Appeared to grow faint.” You mean go limp? Or is she actually turning invisible?

“A telephone started ringing.” “A telephone rang.” More punchy.

Overall some good imagery here. You asked to check for clarity and honestly it seemed pretty clear to me. I understood what was going on. Just a little unnecessary prose for my own tastes. Feel free to disagree with my feedback! Only how I felt.

I will admit that it has given me inspiration for a short story of my own (Don't worry I wont be stealing anything! Just given me a plot idea) and I don't normally find my ideas while reading other work. So it must be good!

February 17th, 2012, 06:30 PM
Nice critique. I appreciated that you mentioned how the subject is sort of missing, so the mysteriousness suddenly applies to the croissants. Lol. No, not what I intended. I'm going to see what it looks like using a definitive subject. I appreciate the feedback. Thanks Potty!

February 17th, 2012, 07:27 PM
I'm assuming that no children are going to show up and this is already known by the woman in question; because if not, than her actions make zero sense.

Nemo Neem
February 20th, 2012, 02:33 PM
Can a croissant love? I doubt it. You can't say that a croissant is deprived of love. That's stretching it.

February 21st, 2012, 06:48 PM
Try this... change the POV. You're using an omniscient POV, like a narrator. Instead, write it third person (or first person) from the POV of the woman that walks in. You can describe all that stuff and give a little depth from the character. It will make it more personal and easier to read.

Cut as many adverbs as possible.

March 15th, 2012, 07:22 AM
I would love to see what corrections make it into this piece! It's a very descriptive set of paragraphs with lots of emotionally charged parts which I love!
I can definitely understand about the writer's need for clarity, but I can't really put my finger on how to do that.

June 29th, 2012, 10:34 PM
I thought you might benefit from changing passive sentences into active sentences -- the prose itself works, and it looks like the story can go somewhere if you set up dramatic tension (bringing in the mother, what her relationship is to the speaker and house, etc. -- is she living there? Is she neglected? These are interesting questions that make the reader want to go on).*