Metal clangs against metal, un-greased wheels squeak, and rubber beats upon the surface of a road not paved since Roman times. The boy coasts on his bicycle down the hill to the center of town where people meander among cockeyed rows of stands displaying samples from mid sumer’s harvest, home-baked goods, and prize livestock.

The boy tugs the rope that holds a burlap bag draped across his torso, then ensures the opening is wide while he controls the bicycle with his other hand. At the bottom of the hill he’s reached maximum speed, and the clanging of the bicycle parts draws the attention of those nearest his approach. He stretches out his free arm as if to grab hold of something, and focuses his eyes upon his intended target.

A middle aged woman distracted by the boys noisy approach lets go of the pan holding bread loaves, the pan bangs against the table top a few seconds prior to its contents, the loaves rejoin the pan in a disheveled manner as bread crumbs scatter from the table forced by moving air. In one smooth swoop, the woman turns, grabs a broom leaning against the side of her wagon, and pulls the weapon over her shoulder and down upon the crown of the cycling boy, just as he was scraping a row of bread loaves from the tabletop.

Seeming as slow as a cold jar of molasses, the bicycle continued with its natural momentum as the boy succumbed to the force which had acted upon his head. His body bounced and slid a foot or two on the stone pavement like a heavy side of beef, then came to rest in front of the woman’s booth. Activities ceased in the immediate crowd as they all looked in awe upon the boys motionless body. A young man kneeled next to the boy, extended his arm with two fingers outstretched, pointing to a spot just below the boys ear. The young man slowly looked up toward the woman wielding the broom, raised his brow and offered a half smile. The woman was relieved the boy was still alive.

A few of the ladies near the boy gasped and slowly backed away, the young man looked toward them inquiringly, then in the direction of their gaze upon the ground. A pool of thick crimson spread from the boys head, encircling it perfectly. The young man rose and backed away as the pool pursued him. The circle of people around the boy grew larger as if framing it in matte.

Instructor Response

Comments

Very well done.  You’ve successfully achieved an engaging and well written scene—easy to read and comprehend.  I’ll make comments, not to suggest any changes in what you’ve done, but to give thoughts (may seem picky but they will suggest broader application in your writing) to consider.

Metal clangs against metal, un-greased wheels squeak, and rubber beats upon the surface of a road not paved since Roman times. [I really like the structure of this sentence, and the information it contains. Good job.] The boy coasts on his bicycle down the hill to the center of town where people meander among cockeyed rows of stands displaying samples from mid sumer’s harvest, home-baked goods, and prize livestock.  [Excellent. I’ve got the picture, and you’ve done it succinctly.]

The boy tugs the rope that holds a burlap bag draped across his torso, then ensures the opening is wide while he controls the bicycle with his other hand. At the bottom of the hill he’s reached maximum speed, and the clanging of the bicycle parts draws the attention of those nearest his approach. He stretches out his free arm as if to grab hold of something, and focuses his eyes upon his intended target.

A middle aged woman distracted by the boys noisy approach lets go of the pan holding bread loaves, the pan bangs against the table top a few seconds prior to its contents, the loaves rejoin [wrong word] the pan in a disheveled manner as bread crumbs scatter from the table forced by moving air. [Way overwritten. Especially when the prose is so pinpoint in the rest of the writing.]  [In general, this sentence doesn’t work. What happens to the bread takes too much time and too many words to tell. There are too many ideas for one sentence. And some of the word choice is writerly, that is, it feels as if the author is straining to sound erudite.] In one smooth swoop, the woman turns, grabs grabbed a broom leaning against the side of her wagon, and pulls pulled the weapon [not a useful word for the action being delivered.] over her shoulder and down upon the crown of the cycling boy, just as he was scraping a row of bread loaves from the tabletop. [This is too much, too. I like the action and imagery, but the excess words are not specific enough and give a sense of writing to fill the page. Here is what, in essence, seems needed: The woman grabs a broom and hits the boy riding the bicycle on the head as he scrapes a row of bread from the tabletop.Even more basic: woman hits boy stealing bread.]

Seeming as slow as a cold jar of molasses, [This is cliche—the molasses simile—and also the idea seems out of place. Start here maybe–>:  The bicycle continued with its natural momentum as the boy succumbed to the force which had acted upon his head.to the blow. His body bounced and slid a foot or two on the stone pavement like a heavy side of beef, [wrong metaphor, the image isn’t right] then came to rest in front of the woman’s booth. Activities ceased in the immediate crowd as they all looked in awe upon the boys motionless body. A young man kneeled next to the boy, extended his arm with two fingers outstretched, pointing to a spot just below the boys ear. The young man slowly looked up toward the woman wielding the broom, raised his brow and offered a half smile. The woman was relieved the boy was still alive.

A few of the ladies near the boy gasped and slowly backed away, the young man looked toward them inquiringly, then in the direction of their gaze upon the ground. A pool of thick crimson spread from the boys head, encircling it perfectly. [Really? Perfectly? In truth, it is impossible to form a perfect circle, there are always imperfections, and the nice idea of a circle (a great idea in that it provides an image useful to keep the reader engaged) is lost. Blood seeping from a wound on a floor that is probably uneven, and congealing at different rates, wouldn’t spread in a circle. So why “perfect”? It is not needed and if something is needed, use a better word.] The young man rose and backed away as the pool pursued him. [I didn’t get this on first read. “Pursue” is not the right word for a pool.] The circle of people around the boy grew larger as if framing it in matte. [A disruptive and unnecessary simile. Circle growing larger might work, but I think is not needed, and the idea of matte is too unrelated to the imagery to be useful.]

 

In summary:

1. Watch metaphors. They are tricky and should be used sparingly. Be sure they are specific and required. Go to The Fiction Well (on website) and search “metaphor” for lots of varied ideas.

2. Avoid cliché. You don’t do this often, but even occasionally it weakens the writing.

3. Be sure modifiers work for your story. Keep them specific and effective. “Perfect” circle is an example of a less-than-perfect choice.

4. Strive for succinct prose. Be careful of stray or off-the-mark ideas. I’ve indicated where I thought this was occurring.

Great work. You are an excellent writer. Continue to dedicate yourself to the pleasures of being a writer. You will please many readers, and you’ll find a sense of accomplishment that few other endeavors can generate.

All the best,

WHC

  1. Thank you so much. Your advice is very helpful. It brought attention to much that I had not noticed in my writing previously. Looking at it now, I wholeheartedly agree with your criticism.

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

© 2020 Literary Fiction Workshop