Six pm Short Story no.1 – Old Water by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Hello everyone. You may have been expecting the writing prompts around now but they’ve moved to 8am every weekday rather than 6pm. This is to make way for the new daily (ish) slot of the ‘Six pm Short Story’. My day job is editing and critique so I don’t read as much for pleasure as I should. I have therefore set my self the challenge (which I first mentioned on Saturday) to read a story (short story or novella) every day… or at least as often as I can. It doesn’t sound like much but I also plan to up my 1,000 words to the 1,667-word average for NaNoWriMo next month. So I figured if I put it in black and white then I’m more likely to achieve it.

Speaking of black and white, I’ve started with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s three-story collection ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper‘, working backwards from the third story: Old Water.

At a mere twelve and a half 1/4 A4 (A7) pages, it starts with a quite ‘dark and stormy night’ description and three exclamation marked words in the first paragraph of dialogue… four !s in the first two paragraphs… seven on the first page and five on page two. Rather than read on, it became a ‘Where’s the !’? and the results were:

Page 1 = 7; 2=5; 3=5 (in the same para); 4=2; 5=3; 6=7; 7=2; 8=2; 9=6; 10=8; 11=3; 12=18!; and on the final half page there were 8!

And yes, it bogged down the writing so I was less enthused to read the story but I did and my, does Charlotte love her adverbs. (Page 1, second para: Slowly across the open gold came a still canoem sent swiftly and smoothly on by well-accustomed arms.)

Although it’s not erotic in the slightest, it did remind me of Fifty Shades and considering how famous The Yellow Wallpaper is, I’m surprised that this gushy story has been chosen for this tiny collection.

From a technical point of view, the story switches (mid-scene) from the inital main character, Mrs Osgood, to her daughter Ellen… and back… several times. I skim read from about page three onwards, not good for a story of around 2,000 words. There were no section breaks (blank line then left-justified first paragraph) when there was a gap in time (there were several). Although the story was first published in 1911, the language is Austenesque, who died almost a century earlier. Far too flowery for my liking, Old Water, may appeal to historical fans but it only gets one star from me.

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