Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the nineteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of short story ‘Near Death Experience’ by fantasy / thriller writer and recent interviewee Tracey Alley. The story is available to read on http://traceyalley.weebly.com/near-death-experience.html.
A title should represent the story so from this one we have an idea what to expect, or do we?
A story should invariably start with action, introduce our character (in this case a first-person, I) and at least hint at the dilemma, and this story has all three.
It’s very easy to start sentences with a pronoun (I, He, She, The woman etc – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronoun). Have too many and they stick out, and whilst there are quite a few in this piece they are interspersed with alternately-structured sentences so unless you look for them, the pronouned sentences blend in.
I’m not usually a fan of repetition and in the first paragraph we have two ‘draining’ close together but in this case Tracey has used them to compare to one another and it works well, although there’s a later reference to it which I would have left out, ditto two ‘perhaps’ which did jar with me, but then as I said, I’m a repetition nut.
Clichés are best avoided and the protagonist describes the woman he/she is looking as ‘a shadow of her former self’ and whilst you can get away with it in dialogue, slightly less so in first person narrative (because you’re being narrated to) – I would try and pick an alternative.
About half-way through we get an insight into the woman’s history and the comparison between then and now, a great tactic for pulling at a reader’s emotions. It’s intriguing how the narrator knows the woman yet remains detached from her for most of the piece. My brain went into vampire mode slightly with ‘the blood entered her veins and disappeared as though it had never been’ but when I realised she wasn’t, it made it all the more realistic; a reader should be able to imagine themselves as either character.
The description is strong; I especially liked the woman’s dark circles. I’m usually a fan of dialogue and here we have just six words of it but I enjoyed the story mainly being from one person’s point of view as it was a very intimate setting.
This is a very short piece (590 words) but is all the more powerful for it, especially given it’s twist near the end. :)
Thank you Tracey for inviting me to 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 centre 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 centre 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.
Next up is the one hundred and forty-ninth author spotlight, of Carla Herrera, then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with suspense mystery novelist and spotlightee Deb Borys – the five hundred and ninety-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, 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.
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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 a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words (and post stories of up to 3,000 words). 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 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.