Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Short Story: Fea's Tenses

I've written this story for a big-deal writing contest, and I want to get some feedback before I send it off. (That's allowed by the contest, don't worry.) The story is long, but if you have fifteen minutes and would be willing to look it over, please let me know what you think in the comments section below before I send it off. Thanks!

[Update 3/30/12: Thanks to all the folks who've given me feedback, here in the comments, on Facebook, and by email, I've made some significant changes to the story. I want to especially thank Megan Geigner, a PhD candidate at Northwestern (bio here), and Wendy Hart Beckman, owner/president of Beckman Communications, a professional writing service. Both of these friends went above and beyond the call of duty, and I am so grateful for their honesty and thoroughness. I hope they're pleased with the changes. I still have time to make more, so keep those suggestions coming!]

[Update 3/17/13: Though the story didn't win that contest a year ago, I've continued to polish it and get feedback from even more friends and students. The story is now available on Kindle, so I have to remove it from this blog, but if you're so inclined, you can still get a copy (less than a buck!) here:


 Again, thanks to you all!


Jacqui Pitt said...

Asalways, your writing uses a story to reach past the surface levels of your readers to their inner selves, where it wraps around a more metaphorical neck or three, and shakes ala The Simpsons, with the added message of "The resolution of this issue is on all our plates. What do YOU intend to do to help fix it?"


Let me know if you need/want any different kinds of feedback.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing writing. I sped through this story until the end. I wanted to hug this girl and help her. I wanted to stop her as you unfolded her future life.
This was fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Minor typo:

"ads to their numbers" should be "adds to their numbers."

beckcomm said...

I'll leave you a general comment here, Ben, and then I'll send you a message on FB. My comments were too long. ;-) Shocker.

Overall it's a great story with compelling images. You've got some usage, spelling and punctuation errors that need to be cleaned up, especially given that you identify yourself as an English teacher. I'll shoot those comments to you now.


Alicia Karen Brown said...

Hey Gorman,

So, "adds" instead of "ads," and "were," instead of "where." They're pretty close together if I remember correctly. Okay, now that I've got that out of the way.

I wanted Fea to have a happy ending by the second paragraph. I started to halfway believe that the narrator would somehow see that future she is going to have, and try to do something to change that for her. But I know that that's impossible, given the rest of Fea's backstory.

This entire story is like that. The things the reader wants out of it are impossible, just like the things Fea wants become impossible.

What I would suggest is that you make the door just SLAM on those possibilities, for the slam to have a final echo in the reader's mind. I think you could do this by expanding the part where the narrator realizes that Fea doesn't speak good enough Spanish or English, and the narrator doesn't speak Zapotec at all. Does another counselor, a bilingual one?, try to get through to Fea only to have her turn away?

Is Fea ever confronted with someone genuinely trying to help her, and what is her reaction to that? In high school or later in life...?

That's really the part that I'd like to get answered, the rest of this is really hard to deal with but well written. I know you're already entering it in a major writing contest, but if you weren't I would definitely suggest you do it!

Thanks for sharing, Gorman!

Alicia Karen Brown said...

I like this much better. The back and forth between Fea's tenses and the narrator's tenses feels much more natural, and closer to the characters as well. With the fairytale-ish beginning and the "we" ending, it felt a bit distant. Like watching a play from the back row.

This edit, however, brings the reader to sit right next to the narrator as they work through the fact that they really might not be able to help Fea at all. I like it much better than the first draft I read, and even that one was good.

Charlene Good said...

Very gripping story. So incredibly sad, and yet real. I applaud your talent. One thing that just doesn't feel right(well there was lots of "not feel right" parts that are entirely appropriate to your story line) is the very beginning when you said that you were going to tell a story about a little girl named Fea. It's the little part that strikes me as off. I know that she is small size, but from my take the story begins in high school english class. Yes they are all still babies but it would flow better from my mind with stating a girl named Fea. I am no expert but that is what feels/sounds right to me after reading the story. My girls were the ones that were the quiet shy uncomplicated ones too. This story touches the heart. Masterfully done Mr Gorman.

Benjamin Gorman said...

Good call, Charlene. That "little" is wrong. What do you think: "teenage girl," "young woman," "girl," or something else entirely? It's not just a tough age to be. It's also a tough age to describe! Every label also contains connotations that say something about the speaker. What do you think?

Charlene Good said...

Girl seems right to me from where the story starts and then she becomes all of the above and more. I don't think you want to limit her or put her in a box. If you feel like you need an adjective there maybe young girl and see how it feels when you say it. It just made me pause and think one thing and then change my mind in the next paragraph so little is definitely out for me. Hope this small thing is helpful in some small way:)

Charlene Good said...

One last thing since I re-read it one more time. In this section where Fea writes her list. "A list of the ways she’d like to change herself."

Is it really ways she'd like to change herself? or 'A list of the things she'd like to change about herself.'

The ways I'd like to change myself would be to become a better person or to have more self confidence, the things I'd like to change would be to lose weight, or find a way to regrow my missing hair.

Does that make sense at all?? OK I am going to stop torturing you now and best of luck to you truly!

Benjamin Gorman said...

You aren't torturing me at all. Little changes make huge differences. Thanks for the help!