Hey, I know it's been a good while since my last post and I have 1001 excuses. Would you believe....? Nope, I don't either so let's just move past that, shall we.
Today I submitted my fifth attempt to grab the golden ring at mashstories.com. You might remember my first two were shortlisted, "Begin the Countdown" aka "The First Cosmonaut" and "My Big Fat Mythical Greek Wedding". If you haven't read them, and may I say I am very disappointed in you, check them out at mashstories.com or look for the past posts here. I still laugh when I think about the audio reading they did for "MBFMGW". It is hysterical.
To celebrate my latest endeavor I am posting my last attempt. The words we had to use exactly as shown were: OXIDATION LOVE ALPHABET. Immediately following I'll post the judges's comments.
That is one of the best things about this contest (other than it's free and they do such a great job if you get shortlisted and that they are all really nice people and care about helping you better your talents) is the honest feedback. I gathered split the judges on this one. That's okay. Sometimes a judge may miss the point I am trying to make but that is my fault. I read what they say and take it to heart. And then make it better next time. (Oh, wait until you read the newest one. It just clicked. It feels so perfect. Hopefully I'll be directing you to their website for viewing.)
So without furthering the boring preamble I present to you....
by Bill Bibo Jr
"You understand, Eli, it's not my fault. It's the alphabet's."
I watched him walk across the room, direct and with purpose. He threw open the closet door with a force that cracked the wall. Great, not only do I have a broken heart but now I have to fix the wall. I got off the floor and went to the kitchen. A can of gypsum putty was under the sink. Taking a butter knife from the drawer I returned to the wall. I'll fix what I can. Best not let it wait.
"I warned you. Thirty-one days is all we'd have together. Then I had to move on. It's more than a rule, it's a promise I made to myself. It can't be broken."
I looked over at him through tearing eyes as he grabbed a handful of shirts and shoved them carelessly into his suitcase. The bitter salt stung the cut on my face. It didn't have to be this way. We belonged together. I turned to the wall and stabbed the butter knife into the putty.
"Life is too short. And it is filled with too many beautiful women. I can't limit myself. It wouldn't be fair to them or to me."
There was too much of the creamy paste on the knife and a glob slipped to the floor mixing into the carpet. Wonderful. This couldn't be going better. I set the can down and went for a paper towel. The last thing I needed was a ruined carpet too.
"Love is like an apple. When you first see it at the store it's shiny, beautiful, perfect. You hold it up and admire it. You want it, you have to have it."
He took t-shirts and underwear from a drawer and stuffed them deep into the suitcase as well.
"But that shine comes from a waxy coating protecting the apple from oxidation. When you take a bite, when you taste it, that coating is broken exposing the delicate flesh to the air."
The paper towel, dampened by my tears, worked well on the carpet. Most of the putty cleaned up except for a slight white residue.
"Now you have two choices. You eat the apple entirely leaving only the core which is of no good use to anyone, or you save it only to watch it turn brown with decay."
He zipped the suitcase shut.
"After 31 days I move on before that love starts to rot. The alphabet is the only way to be fair. It's too hard to choose. So I find a girl whose name begins with the next letter and move on. You see that, don't you, Eli? It's the only fair way."
I wiped my face.
"I guess when I get to the end I'll decide what to do then."
My hand tightened on the butter knife. Maybe I should tell him my full name is Elisheva but my family has always called me Ziva. Maybe I should decide for him.So what did you think? Here's what the judges said....
Here are some of their comments - you'll see you've produced quite some polarized views from them!
- The strongest element of this story is its characters. We learn much about Eli's personality through her internal dialogue (and are left to wonder why she never says anything aloud). Eli's observations and the lover's own dialogue give us a sense of his personality, too.
- While I liked that the story begins at the end of a relationship, I felt Eli's reaction didn't make sense. If he had warned her in advance that they would only have 31 days together, why was she so upset? Had something happened to make Eli think she was different? If so, a reader needs to see it in the story to understand her reaction.
- It's not often that I feel like a male writer accurately captures the interiority of a female narrator, but this conflict feels very realistic. I like how she focuses on fixing the wall, instead of addressing the more pressing issue of this man leaving.
- I think there are a few moments where the action falls a bit flat. "I set the can down and went for a paper towel," doesn't really leap off the page. As opposed to "He zipped the suitcase shut." In zipping the suitcase, we're getting action and sound. Less setting, more zipping?
- I think this has a good idea behind it, but the characterization is all over the place. I think that the bits of character action that Eli does while having the argument are interesting, however, and I think that's the strongest writing in the piece.
- You may want to work on your dialog, try reading aloud when you write it as it can help you create natural-sounding speech.
- I am a Bibo fan, and there is some great stuff in this story. The detail of the paper towel helping the carpet, awesome.
- This has a huge plot hole. Why is she so surprised and angry when he "warned" her that it would only be 31 days? I get her outrage at his ego as he makes himself look more and more like an ass and less like the Adonis he claims to be, but come on, woman. Her glib tone seems at odds with her tears as well.
- I look forward to reading this author again next quarter.
- Very difficult to write about love in the face of such misogyny; even more difficult to justify why the girl must be weak and pathetic.
- I liked the way a terrible event was interspersed with focus on a menial task - but it's not a new device, by any means.
- Otherwise, the narrative wasn't varied enough in terms of sentence structure or length to keep me interested.
Now it's your turn. Please post your comments below. I'd love to know what you thought of it.
My newest story "The Invasion of Summerview Lane" had to use the words BLOW-DRYER, HONESTY, COCKPIT. I think you might be surprised what I came up with. Fingers crossed that the polarization is lessened.
If you want to read see what the winners came up with head over to mashstories.com. It's a great variety and always a great read. Here's a little secret too. 500 words takes a hell of a longer to write than to read. Enjoy yourself. The writers did.
That's it for now
As always thank you for reading me.