Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the third in this new series. This week’s review is of 1498-worder ‘A Fine Day’ by interviewee and multi-genre author Jim Sellers. Whilst I try not to make it a critique piece, the editor within me sometimes just has to come out and say something, which I’m hoping will be of use to the writers reading this, so here goes…
It’s said that you shouldn’t start a story with the weather, “It was a dark and stormy night” being a classic example. Jim sets the scene this way but it’s punchy; just five words (and two of those repeated!) and, without giving the (fabulous) ending away, culminates with mention of the weather – very fitting in both instances.
Often the beginnings of a piece are info. dumps full of backstory whereas here we have the setting, introduction to our main character, George, by his actions and we already have a feel for him before we learn more about his backstory then the action kicks in.
The tight prose is littered with clever similes and metaphors and nothing about the story is clichéd. In classic short story fashion we have a protagonist (George) and antagonist (woman in black VW, although the weather is also in its own way).
From what we’re given early on, George is a hard person to warm to (that’s not a bad thing, by the way) but when his limited patience is tested we do start to feel sorry for him so that’s a nice shift, although even when he’s angry he remains very starchy which I liked. Then we learn that even his family is disconnected and, in his view, a disappointment – all great stuff.
We then have another, major and very descriptive, yet compassionate, shift in the plot, the aftermath of which is skilfully handled by the writer.
George reminds me of the character Harold Crick in the film (that no-one’s ever heard of, certainly in the UK, but is by far my favourite) ‘Stranger than Fiction’ although with grown up children, George is somewhat older.
I’m a big fan of negatives and I loved the instances here where we learn what George doesn’t remember so the reader has an upper hand, which is quite sad. Certainly a roller coaster of emotions for readers of this story.
The description throughout is illustrative without being overdone and a reader would have no trouble imagining themselves in any of the characters’ situations. I especially loved (as a fan) the David Lee Roth reference.
If I had to be picky – this is a review after all – there are a couple of ‘tells’ (‘George was starting to sweat’ being one) but these snuggle in amongst so much show that only the keenest of eyes (mine, because it was my ‘job’ :)) would spot them. ‘George’s head spun as his heart rate rose’ made me picture a scene from The Exorcist but I know what Jim means.
Really minor but in the first half of the story there are two quotes; one is in speech marks (“ ”) and the other in quotation marks (‘ ’) so they would need to be one or the other. Because there is actual speech later using speech marks, I’d say to use quotation marks earlier.
Finally there was a word missing about a third of the way through – see if you can spot it before Jim finds it and corrects it.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable tale. Being somewhat gloomy, it appeals to my dark side but with an uplifting ending (despite events) you can’t help but say “aah”.
Thank you, Jim, for letting me read your story.
Here’s a little from the author himself:
I am a writer and communicator (professional) and guitar player (not-professional). I am happily married to an actual professional musician and enjoying a mid-life crisis with my dog.
A few months ago a friend asked me to send the link for my website so he could include it on his list of referrals. I realized that, after years of saying I don’t need or want a website, this was not what an aspiring writer of fiction, musician or composer says in the social media world. In fact, a website is your public persona and not having a site does not keep you out of the public eye, as any Google search on your own name will show.
I work in communications professionally and have 20 years experience working in all areas of film and television production including writing screenplays and documentaries. That has nothing to do with the fact that I like to write but I like to milk everything I can from the credibility of being a professional. That actually was the reason I took on and completed a university degree; the need for credibility that 20 years of experience didn’t give me. Ironic, eh?
I have currently four YA books finished and anxious for publication. I also have a 400-page novel that is completed and in editing. While I was busy rewriting that novel I started another called “And then What” which I posted as a serial online for 15 chapters and had some positive feedback. I have taken it down so I can start rewriting it, just as soon as I finish my university course – on writing. Obsessive? I think so.
Jim lives in Canada and his website is http://playandscribe.com which includes his blog and this short story ‘A Fine Day’. Apart from writing and dogs, we share one thing in common… we’re both obsessed with our craft.
If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime writer William R Bell – the two hundred and ninety-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.