August 2015 Critique/Review/Thoughts
September 9, 2015Posted by on
The more I read the more I understand the difficulty that there is in the creation of a good short story. Perhaps it’s now time that I took some short stories off my bookshelf and at least attempted to read them, other than Woody Allen and a few other comedic collections that I have read. Of course every month the short stories in this group are really short, especially this month. Novel, novella, novelette, short story, flash fiction — a word count by any other name may not lead to any enlightenment! This month most of us may have written really long flash fiction, which those subscribing to National Flash Fiction Day may still think too long (see Rule 10.1).
This has been a particularly difficult month (for me at least) both in writing a short story limited to 500 words and in reviewing those written by others. I think that stories have a lot in common with paintings, you know what you like when you see it or in this case read it. As with paintings and in this group especially, there is quite a diversity of style. This compounds the difficulty of choosing three stories each month. As someone remarked recently, ’Not voting for a story doesn’t mean that you don’t like it’. As there is a trend to include more than one story, the following is limited to that story which I thought was the author’s best offering. This month’s theme resulted — as ever — in my assessments coming so close together that I’m inclined to wish we only had to choose one story each month.
- I found myself reading and re-reading Giselle’s Adam thinking, yet again, that it was a winner with such an impressive writing style. It was certainly a haunting story but each time I read it I stumbled over the third paragraph ‘Now he uncurls in her mind like a foetus ….’ As I did with the reference to electronic bytes of her computer in the following paragraph. Somehow the story line ‘lost me’ from this point and made it a ‘difficult read’. I thought that the heroine’s writings were always about Adam, her first love, yet this (assumed) connection became lost, along with my connection to the storyline.
- Araminta’s And A Nightingale Sang was my second choice and an enjoyable read, though most would think that a Prime Minister being away with the birds was quite normal. Having amended the story to include Berkley Square and, perhaps, to justify the title, I felt the compulsory purchase rationale of ‘Project Nightingale’ needed elaborating for the inclusion of Grosvenor Square in the denouement to make sense and work effectively.
- The Invitation by Colmore was delightful and very readable. I hesitated a little over the dialogue, especially at what I took to be Jane’s double entendre. It would be interesting to read about the development of this friendship (expecting of course a ‘romance’).
- It’s always hard to choose three ‘winners’ and exclude an entry from Fizz. Best Foot Forward was no exception, this story was so believable, I think the situation was developed and brought to a climax so well. The nightingale theme though seems to have been difficult for all us all (well, most of us).
- Gazoopi’s The Storm and
- OnceOnly’s A Night In Gale were both creative entries that I thought failed to pull of any real connection with the theme. I could have bought into a pun on the word nightingale but I didn’t think that the attempts at this happened (if that was the intent). Most used a different technique to incorporate nightingale into a story and it was a brave attempt at a play on the word.
- ‘Oh Diana!’ by Capucin brought back memories of the song and an unforgettable incident in my own life on seeing a matured Diana. Was this an anecdote or fiction or a mixture of both? Perhaps such memories come back to haunt us in our old age and are the source of a good storyline, which we can embellish (or not) to our hearts content. At my age, my heart may be a better source of emotion than my memory.
- Chester’s entry Broadhurst arrived somewhat ‘out of the blue’, I really liked this short story Americana and its link to this month’s theme.
- Atiller’s story A Song, Slightly Out Of Tune certainly turned out to be desafinado. It progressed so nicely that you had to expect a pleasantly romantic or at the worst a tragically romantic ending. Certainly not the cynical ending we were presented with, which was so unexpected and funny even if, on reflection, it were true and somewhat trite.
- Nightingale by Dan is, as ever, a cleverly contrived story line. The idea of Nightingale being a residence and its influence on the postman was inspired. It would be nice to find out if the postman ever realised his wish or perhaps even to spend some time with the residents of Nightingale.
- The Nightingale by lost caught the theme spot on. However, each time I read the story I become increasingly confused about Fanny’s suspicions regarding John’s motives towards her. They appear to be based on rumour and innuendo that the reader is not privy to and for which we must take John’s word that they have no substance. We are led to believe that John is not one to trifle with any woman’s affection and certainly not Fanny’s. Is Fanny being duped? I’m not certain!
- My third choice was Moonsong by Jenny, a tremendously evocative story that set each scene so well and yet … it disappointed. I don’t know why the story had to end in such an abrupt manner — true or not — as the tree being vandalised. I thought that adding it — as almost an after thought to meet this month’s theme — spoiled the tempo of the piece itself. If this was a truth that needed to be told it deserved as much attention as the rest of the piece and if not could have been a footnote to this piece or itself the subject of a longer piece. The prose in the story was, to my mind, occasionally rather OTT (as in paragraphs 5 & 6), wonderfully descriptive but which I found hard to decipher as a link to the sequence of the moon’s full appearance. PS – Is the nightingale in the citemik tree a real event?
- American Mum’s story Meet Me At The Nightingale made me laugh with relief at the happy ending, for a moment I thought we were heading for a tragic one. I’m not entirely sure that the story was thrown together in haste — as commented on — although I thought that adding their respective homes at the end of the first paragraph was superfluous and could imply that the whole paragraph needed improvement. I’m sure that these little snippets of Isabel’s life and especially this piece, could be greatly extended into a single story.
- Charles’s Rebirth is perhaps a story contrived to meet the theme only by the addition of HMS Florence Nightingale, but then a number of contrivances have been used to meet this theme. I never thought that the story came off very well, some techno-fiction (sci-fi) writers seem to have a need to explain the minutia — perspex, looked like water but wasn’t. The point of view in switching from narration to speech was not done effectively and I thought that this was because there was no real characterisation. There was no emotion in the piece, yet it was an emotional event. Maybe requiring more than the 500 word limit on it.
- I assume that when applying rule 10 (two or more stories are still equal then the story nearer to 250 words will be the winner) could be taken to mean that 1500 words is bit excessive this month. If Archie’s story Kitten’s Play has been entered in error it would be interesting to know if it could be used again in a normal month. In fact could any story be used again? It would seem to be possible if they are amended (whatever that means). It would be a pity for such a well written story not to have a chance of appearing in the Anthology.
- Angie’s storyline Singing With Rufus and Tilly was my first choice, it really did get the theme spot on and with such nicely interwoven subplots, a really beautifully tale. The reference to Jose and Karim at the end initially threw me (I easily forget names that I have read) so I guess I can be forgiven for thinking that Angie is a Chelsea FC supporter.
- All For Love by Pondusa was another well written story and yet again a rather tenuous link to theme. Nevertheless, a pleasant read with a surprising — to me — denouement.
- A story with text excerpts in what may be a foreign language to the writer and probably is to most of this group, is a brave undertaking. In Le Loup et le Rossingnol by Claire I assume that in a story limited to 500 words it was done for atmospheric effect and in this I believe it worked. I suspect that de Gaulle’s 1940 speech wasn’t repeated in 1942 but we can write this off to author’s licence. I have a couple of niggles on flow the main being that when Loup kicked in the cabin door, how was Rossignol able to watch sceptically; head leaning on one hand, leaning on one elbow, perched on one cross-legged knee. When Loup shuffled to his feet and said, ‘Right. I’ll give it one more go’. When did the previous attempts occur?
Finally: and I haven’t given a number to this piece as strictly speaking it’s not an entry this month but I I would like to encourage Cheech to join this group as I thought his autobiographical piece A short story that’s too long to enter an enjoyable read. I did wonder though why grandad wasn’t wearing his rubber boots but maybe he’d gone out early just to hear the nightingale! PS – I now appreciate having a wise grandma!