This week’s podcast was released today, Sunday 27th November, the eighth of my episodes dedicated to reading a short story or self-contained novel extract (with synopsis) and then talking about it afterwards.
I run a fortnightly critique group as well as critiquing other authors’ writing which I really enjoy so I thought I’d create podcast episodes doing this. Please remember that it’s only one person’s (my) opinion and you, and the author concerned, are welcome to disagree with my interpretation – I will never be mean for the sake of it, but hope that I’m firm but fair. I also type the critique as I’m reading the story for the first time so by listening to the episode you will have had the advantage of hearing the story in full before hearing my feedback.
Regardless of what genre you write I hope that this helps you think about the way your stories are constructed and that you have enjoyed hearing another author’s work, the copyright of which remains with them.
This episode’s piece was emailed to me by crime author Lae Monie who featured as my second Author Spotlight on 17th August and who’s ‘More Hungry Boys’ extract was red pen session number three.
Lae is a 30-something author and citizen of the world (she’s travelled a lot – I’ve moved four times and 60 miles in my entire life). Lae says “I have been a writer for … well, it feels like forever and I can’t think of anything else I would like to do. My stories reflect the terse, lurid, violent tales about crime and desperation from the point of view of the criminal. They seek to discover the heart of criminality to create compelling reading for those who enjoy crime and are interested in the humanity of even the most unlikely characters.”
To describe the story a little, ‘The Vertigo Shot’ is the story of a pair of siblings going on a rampage in their own home and killing all members of their immediate family. One of them will kill herself and her child and the other will blame the massacre on his mentally deranged sister. Lae explained “The appeal to this story was just that, the brother’s insistence of his innocence and the use of his sister’s mental problem as his scapegoat. It was a fun project to write and taught me a lot about portraying mental behaviours in the best possible and objective way.”
The extract read out was taken from the beginning of Chapter 8, dated 1990 and is in the first-person viewpoint of the brother Darian. I removed some swearing from the original content but kept some mild instances as I felt it fitting to the dialogue. I then read out my comments about the piece and concluded…
There’s a great mixture of description and dialogue and whilst starting the reader thinking that the children were horrible by their actions we soon learn where their main streaks come from but then when the grandfather turns out to be worse our sympathies lie with the children, or at least in my case, one of them. Lae’s very good at choosing unexpected words and ‘The old ferry clenches into motion…’ is a classic example of this.
Written in first person present tense it’s very immediate and very smooth as it was only when I was concentrating on the viewpoint and tense about two thirds of the way through did I remember what they were – the sign of a great story; where we’re being swept along with the action. I even did a search for words ending in ‘ed’ to make sure there were no tense slips and there were none.
It’s important in any piece of writing to include the five senses and we’ve had most of them. Sight and sound we have from description and dialogue. Taste is rarely used and unless they’re actually eating anything (which they’re not in this piece) it’s not going to be appropriate. Smell is easy to add and we could have it with the old ferry or the grass at the beginning or in Stratford. We could also have touch in a few places including these places so plenty of scope for Lae to make the piece even more atmospheric!
Thank you for listening to this ‘red pen’ session. They will now be monthly instead of fortnightly and as yet I don’t have one in for December so if you would like a short story or novel extract, ideally up to 1,000 words, considered you can email me at email@example.com.
You can find more about Lae and her work via her blog, Facebook and Twitter. Thank you again for subscribing, downloading or clicking on this episode and I look forward to bringing you the next episode next Monday, two more pieces of flash fiction.
The podcast is available via iTunes, Google’s Feedburner, Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).