Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wordy Wednesday : "Reunion"

And again we try to get back into some sort of schedule, such as it is. Prior to the challenge, Wednesdays were about writing. Specifically, something I've written. Today, I'm going to go for something a little different.

I had two short things I wanted to put up here, but I'm just not sure they're ready. So, I pulled out the way back machine—otherwise know as the flash drive that contains backups of all the stuff I've written, just so I have it on me at all times. You never know, right? Trust me, you never know. I pulled up a short story I'd drafted twice called "Reunion" and started giving it another read for the first time since last May.

Image removed because I can't find the attribution.

You know what it is? It's one of those shorts where I'm not sure if I love it or hate it. And that, my friends, is where you come in. I'm going to post the first few paragraphs here because I want some serious impressions. I feel like there's something missing, or wrong, but I've tinkered with it too many times to be able to tell. Too close to the situation, so I'm going to recuse myself and let you all rip it up.

And, with the seriousness of a shop owner in China dying after a woman squeezed his balls too long and hard, your honest feedback is appreciated.



Tom sat alone at a table for two, a glass of water and an empty bottle of Bud Light in front of him. The label had been peeled off while he waited. Eying the basket of bread, he forced himself to look away. The last thing he needed was more bread. His stomach was already stuffed enough on the carb overload; certainly another slice wouldn't help. Instead, he attempted to tie another knot into the straw he had pulled from his water glass. There were already five straws, each with five knots marking the twenty-five minutes he had been waiting past the time they were to meet. It was better than chewing his fingernails—a habit he had tried, unsuccessfully, to lose. The waitress, looking more concerned with each pass she made by the table, asked again if he needed anything.

“I’m fine for now, thank you. I’ll just wait until my party arrives.”

She nodded and a few loose strands of blonde hair fell into her face. As she had done each time prior, she pushed the strays behind her ear as she left to check on her other tables. Tom decided that she deserved a generous tip after he had hogged her table on such a busy night. Giving in, he was reaching for another piece of bread when he heard a familiar voice from the direction of the hostess stand. Her voice.

“I’m supposed to be meeting someone.”

Turning in his seat, Tom saw her. She was scanning the room with her light brown eyes. He had always argued that they had more yellow in them than any other color. Standing up, he made a short wave as she spotted him. She passed the few tables between them and he pulled out her chair.


This isn't the whole thing, but just the beginning. So...hit me.

Word to the Nerd


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hard to judge on such a short excerpt, but I did get a good sense of his anxious wait. Like the touch of the peeled beer label.

Anna Smith said...

Yeah I liked it. I felt sorry for the guy, he was clearly anxious, then I got all excited when the girl with the yellow eyes showed up. I want to know who she is and what happens next, so job well done :)

Nadja Notariani said...

I also got the sense that he is angry and tense. Like maybe this isn't such a good meeting. Hmmmm.
You should post more.

Swap out any/all being verbs where you can for strong(er) verbs. It's the only helpful hint I have in the writing department. I like it so far.

Padded Cell Princess said...

I don't know if I'd be so anxious for only waiting 5 minutes. 5 doesn't seem very long, even on a busy night. The main thing is that he's drinking Bud Light. No main man should ever drink Bud Light. Makes me think he's wearing chaps and has a big Ford with a lift kit in the parking lot. ;)

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

read well to me. :)
like the knots in the straw- i do that!

Jamie Gibbs said...

The knots in the straw ramped up the tension for me. Princess has a point, 5 minutes doesn't seem to be too long to wait, which makes me think that the MC is a little paranoid or introverted. Nice job :)

Samantha said...

I liked it...the part with the waitress was a little awkward for me to read. Not exactly sure why...if she isn't a big part in the story then maybe she shouldn't be given much thought in that paragraph. Like where he thinks that he's going to tip her well. Maybe that didn't have to be in there?

The rest of it was fabulous!

D'Artagnan said...

I felt a nervous excitement in the first paragraph and this kind of shunned acceptance in the second. The third left me feeling a little, eh. I couldn't decide if Tom should be thrilled about someone he's been waiting all night to see, or pissed off because I can only assume she's done this before. I then realized I only feel this way because you haven't told me what these people are like. So while I relish the opportunity to critique the shit out of your story like a total douche, I'll just say this. You're too close to it. It is missing something for sure though. The rest of the story. Let us read it, lol.

J. A. Bennett said...

I think you're setting is really great and I want to know more about what he was waiting for. But the first few sentences are a little confusing. it feels like you are jumping from present tense to past tense between sentence one and two. Maybe if you tried something like 'pieces of the label littered the table' it would make more sense. That's just my two cents, but I think you have a workable story.

Nice thumb drive ;)

Jay Noel said...

Guy seems OCD. I mean, come on, 5 minutes???

You get the feeling of anxiety for sure, so you did a great job there.

Hard to give you more than this with this little snippet. Maybe get rid of the "hads." Had been pulled. Had argued.

I have a habit of using "had" a lot, so I find myself zapping them.

fishducky said...

I agree with the Bud Light comment, & 5 minutes isn't a long time to wait. Otherwise, I liked it--AND want to read more!

JustMe said...

I liked this, would definitely read more. Although I agree with the person above - five minutes isn't a super long time to wait ... I'd say 15 would make me anxious.

Joshua said...

Alex - Honestly, that beer label thing is too much of something I would do. Was thinking I would remove it, but it does show his personality.

Anna - Good thought.

Nadja - Good notes. Was going more for anxious, so thanks.

Princess - That's a typo in a revision. It was supposed to be 25. I've changed it above. Not sure why I chose Bud Light. Will have to update to something...anything...better.

vic - Guilty.

Jamie - Yeah...typo. I was transcribing too quickly.

Samantha - Excellent point about the waitress. His mind is just wandering, which is why he's thinking about that kind of thing.

D'Artagnan - Thanks, dude.

J.A. - Thanks for pointing that out. And can you imagine the faces you'd get with that thumb drive?

Jay - He is, slightly. And it was 25, and I goofed it. Thank you for pointing out the hads.

fishducky - The former will be fixed later, while the latter is done already.

JustMe - Thanks again. I was tired and typing too quickly, so that time has been changed back to its original 25.

Red Shoes said...

HOLY CRAP!!! I want one of those thumb drives!!!!

Re: Nut squeezing... did you see the part about where she was from Haiku City? I think we need to each write a haiku about squeezed nuts...

I think its a great start... I wanna know more about the waitress... ;oD


Johanna Garth said...

I enjoyed this but was confused by some of the other comments. It seems like he was waiting 25 minutes not 5. Maybe I should go back and re-read it.

Pickleope said...

Well I want to know what their relationship is and want a resolution, so that's an endorsement to get the rest out there.

Matthew MacNish said...

I was wondering why the hell everyone was saying five minutes. I only ever saw 25.

Now, without getting into a deep line edit type crit, I have to say that this doesn't get me as excited as other stuff I've read of yours.

Not because it's bad. Not at all. I mean it has tension, and the writing is mostly tight, and I sympathize with this guy, especially considering he's so poor he has to drink Budweiser, but the thing is, I'm much more into genre fiction, like some of the hard Sci-Fi stuff I've read of yours, and so far the vibe I get from this is Contemporary Adult Romance. I'm sure this story isn't, because I can't picture you writing that, but that's the feeling I get from this oh so short excerpt.

Joshua said...

Red -

Scooter parked outside.
Owner starts up a big fight.
She crushes his grapes.

Johanna - I changed it after they all pointed it out.

Pickleope - Ugh...I guess. Maybe next week.

Matthew - Your notes are valid, and without spoiling anything...I'll shoot you an email.

DEZMOND said...

oooh, Lord, back in my blogroll I thought the pic in your post was of a burito, and I thought "mmmm, yummy" :) and now I see it's a finger :)

S. L. Hennessy said...

I think I like the little details the best. The peeling label, and number of straws. It makes it feel more real and lived in, in a way. I really like it.

Joshua said...

DEZ - I want a burrito.

S.L. - Thanks. I should have posted the whole thing, though. I was afraid it was too long to post at 2500.

Christine Rains said...

I like the little details about the anxious waiting. I'm a label peeler myself.

Joshua said...

Christine - I'm regretting not putting at least half of the story up. I think it's length made me decide not to, but now it's just...hmm...

Summer Frey said...

I think if you started the whole thing off with a little showing instead of telling, you'd give the reader the set up for the emotion you're wanting to display. Instead of just "panning the scene" (Tom sits alone...there are two beverages in front of him...close in on the beer...), show him peeling that label off, or starting with another knot in the straw.

Also, and this is really nit-picky, you can't "eye" something at the same time you look away from it. (Third sentence.)

How does the waitress look concerned? Is she frowning? Not making eye contact when she passes?

Also, I'd expect to feel a little more emotional punch when "she" finally shows up, rather than just a quick internal on the color of her eyes. How does it make him feel for her to finally show her ass up, after making him wait 25 minutes?

Just some thoughts. Feel free to ignore. :)

Lady Gwen said...

I thought the story was well-written. Lots of little details. But two things I didn't think were very dude-like: He's worried about bread/carbs and he bites his nails. Okay, three things. He waited 25 minutes! Walk away, dude!

Patty said...

What does Tom look like? How do they know each other? Is it the weekend or a week night? How long have they been apart?

aziasaidwhat said...

I really like the detail here, I can see where Tom is, which is great.
This sentence kept bringing me back: "His stomach was already stuffed enough on the carb overload; certainly another slice wouldn't help." I think it could be written better... The only other thing I would suggest is maybe adding a bit more scene.. ? But, I think this is a great start!

Smedette said...

Ugh. Bud Light.

Smedette said...

However, I could tell he was anxious and I do find myself curious if this is going to be a positive or negative meeting.

Donna Hole said...

Your picture hurt my thumb; but made me laugh :)

As for the excerpt; I liked the setting, and the sense of trepidation your building, but the urgency is lost for me by recounting it in past tense. I'd get more of the nervousness if it was present tense, and I got to know him better throughout the 20 minute wait. Adding in his reasons for being there, a hint of why he's nervous or what he expects, a little bit of dialogue with the waitress; I'm looking for some kind of movement/action instead of synopsis.

These paragraphs are more "telling" than showing. But I like how it starts with the waiting and nerves (the atmosphere), and the setting is very well built. I like the image in the first line too: "Tom sits alone at a table for two." It instantly gave me a sense of place, and set up the nervous/frustration emotion. The line is concise, but clearly gives has a lot to say.

I hope this helps Josh. I was engaged enough to read more.


Dr Max Tunguska said...

So far so good. I liked what I read. The description of waiting for someone to show will ring true with anyone who has been in that position.

fishducky said...

Leave the label peeling in--just change the Bud Light to something more "manly".

The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting beginning. I like how you mentioned all the small details of his surroundings--things someone who'd been sitting in the same place for a while would notice.

Paige Kellerman said...

Good excerpt! For some random reason, the only thing that pulled me out was the bit with the waitress. I think it's when you mention the color of her hair. Anytime any writer takes the time to mention the hair color of a minor player, it can be distracting for me. Just my two cents. Can't wait to hear the next part!

Libby said...

I find it intriguing. The second sentence: "The label had been peeled off while he waited. doesn't quite work." Maybe because it's not active or because you could tell it in a more compelling way, bringing up the shards of label that littered the table or something. For the most part, a good beginning!

Emily L. Moir said...

Good emotional depth. Keep going!

Annika said...

I came to think of the movie "Catch me if you can" when reading about those peeled of labels :-).

Great beginning, I like the description of his anxious waiting, and the waitress' concern for him.

Hope you're posting more of the story sometime, it'd be fun to read how it continues.

Joshua said...

Summer - Nit picking is appreciated. Thanks for the thoughts.

Lady Gwen - Maybe there's a reason he's worried about carbs.

Patty - A guy. From high school. Week night. 12 years.

azia - Thanks.

smedette #1 - Yes, I know.

smedette #2 - {shifty look}

Donna - Excellent points to keep in mind. Thank you, dhole.

Dr. - I was banking on that, actually.

fishducky - Manly beer. Gotcha. Maybe some Dogfish Head.

Golden Eagle - Good point. Thanks.

Paige - Distracting. Gotcha.

Libby - Active. Noted.

Emily - Thank you.

Annika - Or is the waitress just feigning interest hoping he leaves so she can get a table that pays.

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

I have a thumb tack that looks much like your thumb drive. I've had it five years and chuckle a bit every time I look at it.
I like to excerpt; my thing lately has been sensory details. It could draw your audience into the scene more if, say, it was a plate of honey wheat rolls or a basket of sweet biscuits, rather than just a bread basket. Just a thought. Then, too much of that kind of thing is toxic for short stories, so you've got to balance.

Joshua said...

Brigid - That thumbtack sounds awesome. Right up there with the Ninja Throwing Stars ones I've seen.