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Review by TowardTheFear
Rated: GC | (4.0)
This is wonderful! I adore this revision. You've really taken the previous version, which was pastoral and romantic, and given it some tangible and identifiable grit.

I love the addition of he mysterious ailment. Give this chapter, which just being about Mom could be a solitary piece of it's own, and strongly hints at what this story is really going to be about.

As I was reading, I kept thinking about this piece I read in the New York Times. Here's the link. I think you might like it. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/opinion/sunday/o...

Here's my moment by moment thoughts:

“A groan escapes my lips as step in something sticky. A purple puddle that, at one time, was probably a popsicle, judging by the flat wooden stick adhered to the middle of it.”

What would you think about feeling something sticky and seeing the purple puddle before groaning. That way the reader experiences with Mom and groans with her. Also, is she barefoot? I’m getting that impression but am unsure.

“laving lying on the floor.” = leaving it lying on the floor?

It only lasts a second and then is gone. <i>Weird,</i>I think, wondering if I pinched a nerve last night while sleeping in an unusual position. <i>The strange things our bodies do as we get older</i>.

I think you can cut everything after, Weird. I think you do a great job of making each instance bigger than the last. I think you can afford for this first instance to not explain to much to soon.

(for whatever reason, I get a <i> around words that you’ve italicized)

I notice that Cole serves himself cereal first then Mom feeds him second. Don’t have a problem with it, but it did pop out at me. One question I had as a reader is Cole still not old enough to start doing some things himself, or is he old enough but Mom does everything for him because it’s quicker and easier that way?

"I want cereal," Cole says a little too loudly and pulls a red bag of a generic marshmallow cereal out of the pantry. Bowl. Spoon. Dump. Milk. Pour. Sit. Eat. As he is eating, I work on emptying the dishwasher. The dishes clang, the glasses clank, the plastic kid-cups thump, and the pots crash as I get everything put away in its proper almost-organized place. This morning routine is automatic, thoughtless, incredibly mundane. I'm sick of mundane!

I think you have a great opportunity to use the rhythm of lists to demonstrate Mom’s frustration with mundane.

Bowl. Spoon. Dump. Milk. Pour. Sit. Eat.
Clang. Clank. Thump. Crash.
Routine. Automatic. Thoughtless. Mundane.

If you do re-write this paragraph, I think you can punctuate it by making “I’m sick of mundane!” It’s own single sentence paragraph. It seems to be the main theme an undercurrent to this first chapter. (Which also makes me think how un-mundane it’s going to get when whatever happens with the ailment happens.)

Springtime in Phoenix is an enjoyable season. I'm certainly not looking forward to summer here in Phoenix:

Cut the second Phoenix

We finish eating

What was she eating?

wagging his tail furiously

What kind of dog? A wagging Labrador tail or a tiny terrier tail? Is the dog old or young, like another child she has to take care of?

I love the word “Snarfing.”

I check on Cole in the living room, hearing the car "vroom" and tire "squeal" sounds getting louder as I approach. I'm content to watch him play for a minute.

This feels clunky. I think you can expand this slightly to give Mom and the reader a better glimpse of this moment of contentment. It’s like a welcome breath in a morning so far filled with frustration. It also will set up the contrast better with the next moment involving the ailment.

As I stand observing him, I get the strangest feeling of being watched myself.

I feel like this should be a new paragraph.

"We need to get you dressed so we can go do our errands," I tell him.

I’ve really done a great job editing out unnecessary dialogue tags. There are still a couple hanging on like this one. I think it’s clear it’s Mom talking to Cole, so you don’t need this tag.

"I'll do this later" I actually say out loud.

“Actually” popped out at me only because of our earlier conversation. *grin* I don’t think you need it but I’m unsure since it’s a buzz word for me at the moment.

Love the revision of the “hair” paragraph.

A thought: Can there be unused objects in view that she can see, like curling irons or makeup. I think that may amplify her feelings about how much time she used to spend on her appearance vs now.

Love the Sisyphus reference.

grabbing the foods we need for the week. = food? (no ‘s’)

car cart back to the cart corral.

The alliteration of this phrase really popped out at me. I don’t have a problem with it. I just wonder if you meant it, and if so, why?

I feel my stomach rumble with a loud groan.

Can you feel a groan? It makes sense but the phrase did stop me for a moment.

I love the description of the restaurant. One thing, you call the art on the walls Modern Art, which conjures up for me abstract shapes, Picasso, blocky images with weird perspectives, but the art you describe sounds pastoral, country, and folk-like.

While we are waiting, we talk. We are always talking about something. You'd think we'd run out of things to talk about since we see each other nearly every day. We don't. As adults, we have become very good friends. I remember my teen years as being a lot more tumultuous, but since my early twenties, since graduating from college and moving out on my own, we've formed a much more even-keeled relationship.

The dialogue that follows this doesn’t seem to be that of “very good friends.” I definitely get the mother daughter relationship with the conversation about the dog, and most definitely with. "YOU chose to have three kids," she says, her voice tasting both sweet and sour to my ears.” But I’m not hearing the moment of friendship. I think there is an opportunity for it after the moment with the fork where Mom feels she’s being judged others in the restaurant. This could be a great moment for Grandma to reach for her, maybe gabbing her hand, and giving another woman and mother some form of encouragement she seems to need in that moment. Then I think we would see that friendship.
I also think you can move the narration about the change in relationship to here to punctuate it.

Re your question about verb tense: as far as I can tell (though I’m clearly not the best judge of it) you’ve stayed consistently in present tense so present tense should work here as well.

Side note – it was about 11am when I started reading the lunch section and it made me very hungry. *grin*

I notice that we don’t learn Mom’s name is Tessa till halfway through the chapter. Can we get t sooner? Perhaps from her husband leaving in the morning?

It really does take a village to raise children.

A thought: Since you’re using such a well known phrase, you may want to set it off. “To raise children, It really does take a village.” Because it is a known phrase, if the sentence doesn’t end as expected with the word “village,” it might be slightly jarring.

Another thought: what if Tesse shared her remembering about the plumber with her mother as an example of the point she’s trying to make.

He's asleep before I pull out of the parking lot. Once home, I successfully transfer him to his bed and, while he's napping, I take the opportunity to pay a few bills online. Not fun, but it's a relief to pay everything and still have money left over. There was a time when we couldn't even pay all the bills with what we made each month.

I feel like this wants to be flipped, starting with remembering the time when they couldn’t pay the bills followed by the comfort of now being able to pay the bills and have a little left over (I’m still waiting to know what that’s like *grin*) Then that will lead well into the next paragraph of “Life has gotten less stressful now.”

Re the section of the kids talking over each other:
I’m not saying you should do this, but there is something that happens in play scripts when dialogue happens on top of each other. Specifically in the play August: Osage County, There is a dinner scene with a large family. In the Scrip there is literally three separate columns of dialogue showing who overlaps with who, and it goes on for a good three pages. I’m curious how you or I could get the same effect without it looking like a script. (It’s a really great play to read and just came out his past year as a movie with Meryl Streep.)

"ENOUGH!" I yell.

This sill pops more than I think you want it to.

We drive in verbal silence for a while, made possible by me turning the music up a bit too loudly to make it difficult for any conversation.

I think you can cut, “to make it difficult for any conversation.”

Since he's the last at the table, Cole decides he's done. Sure enough, he leaves half of his cheese on the table. It looks alright, so I eat it myself and do a quick clean of the kitchen. Suddenly the room starts to tilt…

I think the ailment should be a new paragraph. Also, I think you can suddenness by making the line, “The room tilts, slowly at first…”

His answer is characteristically short, "Work. Nothing exciting. We just got a new client that we're starting an ad campaign for. He's not sure what he wants yet....I can tell he's going to be difficult to please. My team started brainstorming today. We hope to have a few mock-ups ready by next week to present to him."

This doesn’t read as a characteristically short answer. It’s fairly detailed in fact. I say this because my husband does give a characteristically short answer. When I ask, “How was work,” usually his answer is no more than, “It was work.”

I would love to know what Tim looks like.

One thing I notice, except for Tim typing something into his phone, is no devises. No smart phones, no video games. The TV doesn’t even go on when the kids are home from school. I really love this. This lack of what can be an expected detail of daily life for any family of today really tells me that, despite all the stress and frustration, there is real thoughtful parenting going on. Its interesting how sometimes the lack of a detail tells us as much as the inclusion of one. *grin*

Well that’s what I have for you. Thank so much for sharing your revision with me. I am finding all of this invaluable.

Review by TowardTheFear
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
A very interesting look into a very dark story.

I notice and appreciate how strong the narrative voice is. From nearly the beginning, I get that this is a person talking before the narrator takes any action. Almost like a sadistic doctor presenting a specimen to a class.

If you thought about expanding this piece, I really wonder what you could do with another person making it more of a dialogue, adding another character, a student perhaps, who's able to ask questions and through which we can find out even more about the narrator. (Is she a man or a woman?)

Keep going with the dark stuff.

Review by TowardTheFear
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hey there, just read your piece and really enjoyed it. You've got a really good start of something here.

Of things I noticed:
There are a few places that read slightly awkward. For example, "Heather offered a swim but I declined because I've never done that before." I'm not sure how a swim can be offered. Also you hint at her phobia of the water which seems to predate the event with Cassie. Is the phobia the reason she doesn't like the beach or the event with Cassie?

I noticed, when describing Cassie's eyes, you used "very pale" and "pale pale." What other way can you use to describe her eyes other than "very"? Is there a metaphor or simile that would work? Were her eyes alive at all different then as a ghost?

If you were only allowed one "!", where would you use it?

I noticed you use a lot of dialogue tags saying how a person said something. A number of times I think your dialogue was strong enough where it was clear how the character said it without the need for the dialogue tags.

Really good work. I hope my feedback is helpful. I'd love to read a future revision. *Smile*
Review of Pork & Beans  
Review by TowardTheFear
Rated: E | (4.0)
I very much enjoyed this. I really get a feel for the world with the bare bones style. Something I need to strive for more often in my own writing.

"I strain. Count the days since he’s been here."

Since there isn't another incomplete sentence in the piece, the second sentence here not having a subject pops out at me.

"I lie down against the cool cement and smiled."

Tense question: Lied/smiled or lie/smile?"

Can the last sentence work without the "And"?

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review by TowardTheFear
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
I think this is a great intro. I really enjoy the tone of the first section. "I was naked with possessions and lost without nothing." This line struck me in a good way. Like the core of the first section's poetry that wanted to be considered for a moment before moving on.

In the short second paragraph, I find myself wondering if Dalton can give even a hint of something more specific about what the reader is in for.

In the third section, there were moments of rhymes and alliteration that popped out at me. The whole section, in fact seems to have a heightened tone that seems to clash with the action.

"Her ultimate goal now was to listen for the slightest movement or sound."
Why not:
"She listened for the slightest sound."

Which is another way to say,I think, that when you make the character's action the predicate of the sentence instead of the verb, you put distance between the reader and the character.

"The parched flaky blood remnants still showed its place on her wrists and ankles."
Why not:
"Blood still showed on her wrists and ankles."

Try going through the piece and removing all adjectives and adverbs and see which ones you absolutely can't live without, which may very well be all of them. My thought is adv and adj should provide information to the read he/she otherwise wouldn't get. Parched or flaky both tell us the blood is dried, so it might be redundant to use both.

I would enjoy reading future revisions!

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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