Grounding the fantastic
Thank you Gale. The more of Chuck’s deconstructions I read, the more I think, “maybe I’ll actually be able to write something good someday.”
Respect to the writer for the work. Personally this story was tough for me to stay with. The feedback struck me as a great example of how to give notes when the instinct to check out rears its head. Chuck, it felt like you're always looking for the good and never giving up on the story. That generosity of input is awesome to see demo'd. xo
“Consider how print journalism never delivers the fact via quotes. Instead it states the who/what/where/when/why, and then uses qoutes to depict emotional response and emotional language.”
Every time I read a Gloves Off post, there’s always at least one lesson that speaks to exactly what I need to work on.
It’s like I’m being omnipotently watched.
Anyone remember those beautiful responses Maegan Heil used to put for the Gloves Off? I haven't seen one in a while, I miss them. They must have been taxing. If you read this, just know your Gloves Off comments were an absolute delight and one of the best parts of the comment section!
Thank you for taking the time to read and critique my story. This is helpful, and I see how your comments will make it stronger.
Enjoyed this read Gale! Chuck, thanks for providing some of the examples on how to better frame and use physical verbs instead of thought verbs. This is something I struggled with early on. However, there are also times that I still use thought verbs, but I try to do it rarely. Mainly I use them if I feel it better fits the writer’s voice in the moment and especially if it is bland that I’m trying to get a point across, but want to bridge to the next point that is more physical and more important. Must it always be physical verbs (I understand that the idea is to reveal more of the character -- who they are, how they think, past experiences that have shaped them), but is it ok to still use them in say 5-10% of the writing of anything just to change things up and not always feel like you’re following a predictable formula?
Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am reading/writing this right before bedtime, and sincerely hoping I do not have nightmares about eyeballs, tonight lol!
I like how you start the story with the camera crew setting up for an interview with Marnie. What I like about it is that it does ground me, the reader, into a setting that I don't have to work too hard to imagine.
One thing about the setup I'm unsure about is the tone. The camera scene in the beginning, my first gauge on it was a somber tone, but then you mentioned Canadian Tuxedo--which I am very familiar with--why, I do not know, but to my friends and me, if we bust out this term, we are also busting up in laughter shortly after.
Following this scene, where we go into the hags and eyeballs sequence, I'm back to a serious tone, which seems to last for the duration of the piece.
But at the beginning of the interview, Marnie is doing things that have me questioning my own read--she stares awkwardly into the camera, discusses Boy Meets World.
So as I'm reading this, I'm not sure if the tone is supposed to be more of a mockumentary in style or something more serious, and perhaps that is because the hags/eyeballs extends to something so abstract for me?
Either way, consider that your setup is going to establish a tone of some sort. Or, I've read that the opening is a promise to readers, so what follows needs to align with that promise, or the reader may experience frustration.
The eyeballs all over experience was fascinating.
Here are some lines from which grabbed me:
-"She looked and saw the pink, wet socket where the eye had just been. It made her think of chewed bubblegum, still soft from a wet mouth"
Now, I know Chuck has some recommendations for how to tweak this line, and I totally agree, but I do want to say what grabbed me about this particular line was the chewed gum being something specific, concrete, and familiar, which helps me process the abstractness of the eyeball/hag world with something I can relate to in real life.
-"Fairytale Hag’s long, curved fingernail slid into another socket, then plucked out the eye. This time, the figure felt like a splinter had been removed."
This is wildly interesting, because it almost reminds me of the sensation of having teeth pulled, which is a story for another day. The plucking of the eyes had me cringing. But you surprised me with the splinter reference.
-"When the figure peeked, one of the twins had an eye in her mouth."
This is cringeworthy.
-"Uncle Hag came over to her and cupped her hand around the figure’s chin. She put her fingers into the figure’s mouth and pried it open. Uncle Hag extracted an eyeball that was the size of a baby’s fist. It had numerous pindrop pupils covering a yellow iris."
This made me squirm a bit. I wish this would have gone somewhere. You mentioned in this sequence "The removal process didn’t appear to have logic to it. Logic didn’t make sense in this space." And I find myself wanting some logic to it. Even if The Figure doesn't understand it, maybe it could be a logic the reader could see.
"Hag Hag removed an eye that resembled her childhood chihuahua’s bulging eyeball, dark and expressive even as it was being held in the air. She wanted to ask to keep that one, but she didn't"
I like this because it shows a bit of her character.
"One of the Hags took an eyeball from her right butt cheek. It tickled, and the figure laughed."
I like this because I can relate to the tickling of this area of the body.
"A green pouch was inside of it. She took it out and removed the eye, which was the color of dirty sea water. She touched it with the tip of her tongue. It did taste like pollution. The figure replaced it and closed the drawer."
I like how she used just the tip of her tongue. I would like to know what pollution tastes like though. Can you unpack that?
"The woman next to the camera has a Game Boy in her hands."
The camera crew seems bored with Marnie's story. Which again, makes me wonder--is this supposed to have a mockumentary feel to it? The dreamlike sequence is sort of like when I start to tell my husband my dreams. He gets this look... Because to me, the dream makes total and complete sense, but when I try to tell it to someone else, it does not come out the way it appeared to me.
If this were my story, I would consider shortening the dreamlike portion of the story. Clarifying the tone overall. And creating some "logic" to the eyeball plucking that gives the reader an ah-ha somewhere in there. And a must--adding tension. Or--if you are going for mockumentary, hitting that really hard. And then asking your critique partners to confirm that you are hitting it the way you intend.
Thank you again for sharing, and best of luck with future drafts!