Sometimes, the force of two contrasting emotions could pull apart the fabric of the human heart. Marin felt it acutely each time she walked through the door. Her reality was carved into the lines of the faces behind these walls. So she dreaded them, but she loved them, too. In the daytime, they were all the family she had.

“I’m home,” she said, slinging her backpack off at the foot of the stairs.

“Hi honey!” Her father’s voice sounded raw, coated with a thin layer of enthusiasm that dripped away in the air between them. “How was school?”

“The same.”

She climbed the stairs slowly, thankful at least for the comfort of home, where no one watched her. It felt like busting out of a mold. Here, she breathed without thinking. On the outside, she focused always on her breathing, pulling in air and compressing it into a sphere, which she pictured in her belly, like an empty womb. When she breathed, only the sphere moved, not her shoulders, not her back, not her chest. It was a trick she learned years ago on a hike with her Girl Scout troop. Just off the path, she’d spotted a dust-colored lizard, and cried out. At her cry, the lizard flattened itself against rock. She tried pointing it out to the others, who had gathered around her in excitement. But the lizard did not move, and was invisible on the stone. In moments, her troop moved on. People never wait for long, Marin thought. If you learn to be still, they will look right through you.

Instructor Response

Sometimes, the force of two contrasting emotions could pull apart the fabric of the human heart. Yes, very effective opening sentence.  Marin felt it acutely each time she walked through the door. Going well, but you’ve put her through a door into what?  In the next sentence you refer to “behind these walls.”  Slightly confusing.  Suggest you have her go through the door into a house or a room or something.  Then “these walls” would flow.   Her reality was carved into the lines of the faces behind these walls. So she dreaded them, but she loved them, too. Great!  The two emotions dread and love.   In the daytime, they were all the family she had.  This is confusing.  Why in the daytime.  Wouldn’t the family be there in the nighttime?  Or are you referring to nighttime dreams when she didn’t think about them?  This is good, but it needs to be clear. What are you trying to convey and what is the purpose for the story?  Carry the reader through your thinking as an author without obscurities that disrupt the flow of understanding for the reader.

“I’m home,” she said, slinging her backpack off at the foot of the stairs.  Well done.  For me, you achieve purpose, in this sentence, of orienting me to place very well, and giving me information about her age (with backpack) without frank exposition.

“Hi honey!” Her father’s voice sounded raw, coated with a thin layer of enthusiasm that dripped away in the air between them. “How was school?”  Great too.  The reader is in scene and learns about father and his characteristics, and you’ve nicely set the emotionally tone of the scene.  This is high quality.

“The same.”

She climbed the stairs slowly, thankful at least for the comfort of home, where no one watched her. It felt like busting out of a mold. Here, she breathed without thinking. On the outside, she focused always on her breathing, pulling in air and compressing it into a sphere, which she pictured in her belly, like an empty womb. When she breathed, only the sphere moved, not her shoulders, not her back, not her chest. To this point, you’re going great.  You’ve poetically captured feeling in these sentences, and provided valuable characterization.  But be careful about what comes next.  You go into back story about an experience that taught her she is invisible to others a times.  It is effective, and a very nice touch.  But consider if this is the right place for it.  As back story, it stops the action and flow of the scene.  And the juxtaposition of this back story next to the trick she’s learned with her breathing (also nicely done–it rounds out how desperate she is to control what rages within her, and we want to find out!) doesn’t fit.  That is, the next idea about invisibility, for the reader, is a non sequitur.   You might consider carrying on with her breathing and significance to the story line you’ve got going with leaving the father and going to her room.  You could expand those ideas.  It is true, invisibility could be used here, but it would need to be presented in a different way to be maximally effective.  In essence , the lizard back story stops the movement of the segment and it doesn’t seem to connect to the nicely developed ideation of what proceeds.  It was a trick she learned years ago on a hike with her Girl Scout troop. Just off the path, she’d spotted a dust-colored lizard, and cried out. At her cry, the lizard flattened itself against rock. She tried pointing it out to the others, who had gathered around her in excitement. But the lizard did not move, and was invisible on the stone. In moments, her troop moved on. People never wait for long, Marin thought. If you learn to be still, they will look right through you.

 

Comment.  This is really excellent, and without hyperbole, you are an excellent fiction writer.  I’ve taken an idea-by-idea progression through this segment to suggest how, in revision, you might go through your work.  Look to what you’re providing for your reader, imagine what they will be taking away from your writing, and particularly look for inappropriate story-logical thinking disruptions, these are the things that will confuse the reader about action, motivations, emotional arcs, and consistent characterization that readers will perceive as writing that is not quite as good as they would like.  And you are good.  I think this type of thinking in revision could raise you to a level that would please both reader and you.

All the best.

WHC

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