Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the fourteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of the 1,009-word short story ‘Torn’ by fantasy and thriller writer Tracey Alley, taken from her short story collection The Kaynos History Tales.
They say to start any writing with action, and although the first half of this story is slow, it is very intense with highly descriptive detail of our protagonist’s surroundings and situation. This gave it more of the feel of a chapter beginning which allows for an elaborate unwinding, but there’s no doubt that we have empathy with the character, who until the second half is nameless. Some months ago a beta reader critiqued one of my short stories (which went on to be Aprils’ Fool) and said that I hadn’t named April until half-way through the story, and therefore felt more engaged with the character once she knew her name. I agreed and brought her name in at the beginning (also to connect with the title quicker). Whether a writer should do that or not may be a matter of opinion but something I probably notice more now than I would have done and something for authors to think about.
I mentioned titles (and I’m a big fan of them), short snappy titles work well (anything short and snappy should attract the reader’s attention) and ‘Torn’ is very apt for this story.
Knowing nothing about this piece before I started reading it I admit to being a little disappointed (especially after such a long build up) when the true nature of her predicament was revealed but then I’m mainly a crime writer (and reader), and clearly have a dark side, and it felt to me like the beginning of a crime novel until I read on into the second half and realised it had a fantasy element. The character here did seem to recover very quickly, given how much pain she had been in during the first half of the story which left me wondering whether she had imagined it. We’re not given an indication of her age but she felt immature which would fit with her actions and thoughts.
The dialogue is convincing and although I’m not a fantasy expert (far from it), the writing felt realistic.
Stories should have dilemma and there’s plenty of it here. As I mentioned earlier, it felt like a chapter rather than short story and I wanted the story to continue, which is the sign of good writing. If the other stories in Tracey’s collection are of a similar vein, fantasy fans shouldn’t be disappointed.
Thank you Tracey for letting me read your story.
Tracey Alley was born and raised in QLD, Australia but caught the travel bug quite early and lived in Melbourne and Christchurch, New Zealand for a while. She considers herself a Christian, albeit a slightly esoteric, left of center one who also has a great amount of respect for Buddhist tradition and philosophy.
She’s infinitely curious about the world and her friends describe her as an intellectual butterfly as she flits from one topic to the next. She’s a pacifist, a little bit left of center and can, like most people, be very complex. She’s passionate about the things she believes in and believes firmly that you have to keep learning as you grow. So far she has two degrees and will likely do more study.
She believes she was born to be a writer and feels blessed that circumstances allow her to write full-time and still survive [although not on royalties yet ]. She fell in love with words at a very young age and is a voracious reader, often with two or three books on the go at the same time.
One little-known but rather interesting fact about Tracey is that on the paternal side her great-grandfather owned a circus. He was a lion tamer and worked with all the big cats and her great-grandmother was a trapeze artist and of Romany Gypsy blood. On her mother’s side of the family she was born into Scottish aristocracy.
Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.
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