Send your work at at gaia.b.amman at gmail dot com with subject “200 words”. Today we have the beginning of a short story. This is the text as I received it:
“I had more nightmares today.” Howard said, as he took a bite at his sandwich. He was between another boy and a girl, but he only gazed forward, as if ignoring them.
“I thought they had stopped.” The girl responded. She quickly glanced at the boy at the other end of the bench, who answered her look with eyes just as worried.
“Well, clearly they didn't.” He continued, and looked at his friend, who was now looking at the sandwich with a face of disgust. “How were they today, Howie-boy?”
Howard scanned the park they were in, looking for something. He then got up, ignoring his friends’ looks, and walked awkwardly towards a trash bin close by. With tight shoulders and his eyes never looking away from the floor, he threw the sandwich in the bin and quickly came back, sitting between them again.
“They were…” He started, looking for words. “I think they were different.”
“That's good” The boy commented, and he looked relieved. They girl was still tense, and never looked away from Howard.
“Do you remember the details?” She asked.
“Some of them,” He answered, “but it's a bit fuzzy. You know, like any dream.”
“Sometimes dreams can be as memorable as real life.” The girl said. “It's always helpful to try and remember them, otherwise you won't know when you're dreaming or not.”
After a small silence, Howie said:
“I remember a beautiful girl.”
- Work on your descriptions. You don’t need much, but set the stage for the reader. Use all five senses when possible. Here is a post about descriptions that will help you :)
- I don’t understand why the friend looks disgusted at the sandwich and then Howard throws it away. Is this important to the plot? If yes, clarify. If not, take it out. Keep reading. I now understand what you meant, but I think we do have a problem here, since I could not follow who was doing what ;)
- Your dialogue is formatted wrong. When dialogue is preceded/followed by verbs that imply uttering the words (say, yell, whisper, utter, etc...) you need commas. E.g. “I had more nightmares today,” Howard said.
- Can Howard really say anything at the same time as he’s biting a sandwich? I know, I’m annoying. Just sayin’ ;)
- I am confused. "Some of them,” he answered. Who? There are two boys in this scene. Now, it’s obvious that Howard will answer, since he’s having the nightmares, which means you don’t need “he said”. But in the case of “he continued” I have no idea which boy is talking. It seems like it’s Howard since he was speaking before, but that’s not the case. “Looked at his friend” which one? Check this post on writing dialogue ;) Now I understand that Howard is disgusted about the sandwich, but at first I thought it was the boy
- Limit adverbs. “Glanced” is a great verb, because it already tells me it’s a quick look. Remove “quickly”
- Simplify. “ She quickly glanced at the boy at the other end of the bench, who answered her look with eyes just as worried.” That’s okay, but how about “The boy beside Howard returned her worried glance.”
- “How were they today, Howie-boy?” Great voice! This line tells me a lot about the boy :)
- “Walking awkwardly” how? Is he limping? Embarrassed? Nauseous?
- Did his eyes leave the ground when he was scanning the park? “Never” is a big word ;)
- Show don’t tell! “The boy looked relieved” how?
- Watch for repetitions. In two-hundred words, you say “look” nine times :o I cut eight out ;)
- You can get rid of some he said/she said by having dialogue following a statement about the character who’s speaking ;)
- I don’t understand the comment the girl makes about dreams. Sorry :(
- Your dialogue is really good! I just clipped it a bit to move the story forward faster.
“I had more nightmares today,” Howard said. He took a bite of his sandwich, sitting on a hard wooden bench between a boy and a girl. The small park smelled like mown grass, but the cheer of the birds around them didn’t get to him. A bee buzzed beside him and he ignored it, chewing and staring blankly ahead.
“I thought they had stopped,” the girl said.
The boy beside Howard returned her worried glance.“Well, clearly they didn't.” He took in Howard’s face, now turning greenish, mouth bending down at the corners. “How were they today, Howie-boy?”
Howard scanned the park and got up to throw the sandwich in a trash bin, holding a hand over his stomach. Eyes on the ground, he turned around and plopped back in between his friends. “They were…different.”
“That's good,” the boy commented, his shoulders relaxing.
They girl was still frowning, her eyes never leaving Howard. “Do you remember the details?”
“It's a bit fuzzy, like any dream, but…” After a small silence, Howie added, “I remember a beautiful girl.”
A lot. With four books under my belt, it still takes me forever to produce a level of writing that I consider acceptable. Never look at one of my edits of somebody else’s work and think it was “bad” because of all the changes I made. First of all, edits can be subjective. Second, all the work I receive is pretty great. I commend you all for pursuing the magic art of playing movies in other people’s heads, aka writing. <3
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