Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the seventeenth review in this series. This week’s review is of ‘Fireflies’ by Sullivan Leigh.
All stories should have strong hooks and make the reader want to know more and Sullivan’s is no exception. We immediately have the dilemma, the character is nervous going to the house and we want to know why.
The sign of good writing is that we feel the emotion the character is feeling and as Kyla was hiding behind her mother’s legs, so was I, and then later when her parents are righting and we find out it’s a regular occurrence.
There is more description than dialogue in this piece but when the dialogue comes it’s very authentic, entertaining and spare.
A first person story is great at getting inside your character’s head and I could hear Kyla saying, “blah blah blah”. Sullivan has her tone spot on.
The dilemma continues as we go from her backstory to present day and find she has a rival for her love’s affection and I love her being labeled with a nickname (no spoilers here).
I know that Sullivan has not been writing for long but the writing is already well-crafted which phrases such as ‘crawling the walls her hands made’ and ‘the swing made the moonlight dance across the porch’.
If I had to pick at the story (which I do because this is an unbiased review), I would suggest she looks out for the tells vs shows. For example, “I was intrigued by her”, “She was gorgeous to me”, “Naturally, this delighted me to no end.” are tells, whereas “…my knees kept shaking and my tummy felt weird”, says it all and would take us quicker into the action. If you find you do the same thing where you show us what’s happening and tell us then you can most likely take out the ‘tells’. If the story still stands up without them, then you’ve done the right thing. I mention show vs tell on my
While I’m on a pick, and I hadn’t intended this as a red pen session but another of my bug-bears is repetition and this may help other writers reading this. One line reads, ‘A loud noise in the hallway startled me. I ran to the hallway.’ If you can avoid using the same word twice then do, unless it’s to emphasise the first. In this instance, Sullivan could change it to ‘A loud noise outside my door (or ‘on the landing’) startled me. I ran to the hallway.’ Because she’s just been talking outside the house I’d recommend not using ‘outside’ as it would confuse the reader as to where ‘outside’ refers to.
The mark of a great story is where you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster and this did not disappoint. A writer should make their reader turn the page, wanting to know what’s going to happen next and most importantly how it’s going to be resolved. In a romance you can presume the two main characters are going to get together and whether they do or, for whatever reason, they don’t (I’m not going to say which here) by the time you read the end you should have been entertained and this story ticked that box.
Thank you Sullivan for inviting me to read your story.
Kyla is moving in with a family friend, Marie, for her first semester of college. The two of them carry a special bond – they’ve known each other since Kyla was eleven. The chaos in her life was only balanced out by the safety she felt with Marie.
So moving away to college is the first shred of normalcy her life has ever really taken on.
However, her heart carries the secret that after all this time, she is still in love with Marie.
If Kyla chooses to confess her love, her life will be anything but normal.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and I also review stories (and post others in their entirety) of up to 3,000 words on Short Story Saturdays. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 3,000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.