Hi ANN Counselor, Lesbian & Happy -
I had a chance to read your item today, and have enclosed the following review on behalf of "RAOK Upgrade Brigade Group" for your consideration. Please keep in mind that these comments are only the opinion of one person.
As with your other work, I really love that fact that so many of your items deal with the tough issues surrounding the LGBT community and are designed to show the people in that community as human beings with real feelings and struggles related to their identity, especially when it comes to their treatment by close-minded people who can't accept who they are.
While reading this item, a couple things stuck out to me:
The story takes place in Portland and involves the characters going to baseball games... and yet, Portland doesn't have a widely-recognized baseball team, per se. I know this item was originally written back in 2006 when the Triple-A Padres affiliate (the Portland Beavers) were still in the city... and the suburb of Hillsboro now has the Hillsboro Hops, a Short-Season A affiliate of the Diamondbacks... but I don't think that's information the average reader would immediately recognize. I think most readers would probably have my initial reaction, which is, "Wait, Portland doesn't have a baseball team!" To address that issue, I would probably either change the sport they attend to something more recognizable like the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball team, or I would clarify somewhere in the story that the game they're attending is a professional farm team to alleviate the confusion. I grew up in a town with a Triple-A affiliate baseball team and even though that team was only one step below the majors, I used to spend so much time trying to explain to people when they would say, "There's no baseball team there!" I found it much less confusing and much easier to just clarify that it was not a major-league team than to leave the ambiguity in there and potentially confuse your audience.
The other issue I had was a more writing-specific suggestion, which is to pare down the dialogue at the baseball game a little and spend less time emphasizing the point you're trying to make. I know that might seem counter-intuitive when you're specifically trying to get a point across, but when every line of dialogue is laden with your message, it can be overpowering, redundant, come off as unrealistic dialogue from your characters. In the first part of your story (the baseball game), Paul and Sam have fifteen sixteen spoken parts between them, thirteen of which (the three exceptions being when Sam buys the hot dogs, when Sam indicates where they're seated, and when Sam calls Paul a "classy dame") specifically discuss Paul's state of mind, his appreciation for Sam's support, Sam's friendship, etc. Paul thanks Sam for being his friend and sticking with him while he dresses like a woman when they give their tickets to the staffer at the front gate... and again after the Star-Spangled Banner... and again when Sam passes Paul a hot dog... and again after the bully calls Paul a "girlie man." Repetition can be a powerful and effective tool in writing, but when it's overused (as it tended to feel in this piece), it can sometimes have an adverse effect of making the dialogue feel forced, unrealistic, and tedious to read. I would suggest paring down the dialogue and having a more naturalistic conversation between the two. Only mention each salient point (how good a friend Sam is, how long they've been friends, how Paul feels like a woman inside, etc.) once and fill the conversation space in between with dialogue that doesn't specifically push your agenda forward. I think you'll find that even without hammering the point home with every line of dialogue, the audience will still understand and appreciate the point you're making, while also being able to appreciate the lively and realistic dialogue exchange between engaging characters.
I hope that you've found my comments useful. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review your material; keep up the good work and keep writing!
Please check out these items:
"Unofficial Erotica Newsletter Group"
"The Dark Society"
"The Book of Jeff"