“Inside my comfort zone, I indulged my exhausted body and into the deep sleep I surfed, when all of the sudden I woke up in panic mode, desperately searching my non dreamy surrounding for the nearest exist. My heart was racing out of control, while my hands were cold and heavy like a block of ice. I could feel the sudden chill take over my entire body while smothering to take a deep breath, fearing for it to be my last.

What a horrifying feeling that was, as I recalled myself traveling my tormented dreams through the old passage of nightmares. Soon I realized that all of the black and white visions that I had unconsciously visited, were nothing more but a brutal reality, in which I was forcing my mind and heart to forever erase.

Although the history of my past life was somewhat gone with the wind, it was not completely forgotten, when the outdated pages of the 1930’s came rushing back to life reminding me of the ruthless person that I once was. In a blink of an eye, I departed my current world, to have found myself in the old times and in my vintage dress, standing between the barbarian crowd of a naïve society, as we all waited for the most savage execution ever. Back then, I was young and ignorant nonetheless proud of my white origins, as I watched the colored slaves pay the high price of each living breath with their own lives. I wasn’t the only one that showed up that day to watch such vicious event unfold. My brother George was there too, holding my hand as we stood in line ready to unleash our criticism and unreasonable hatred upon the unworthy ones, who’s bodies were hanging down from the mighty tree.

The two innocent men were just killed in the most rotten of ways, and right before our eyes. Why? Was it just because they were the men of color? Perhaps that was the only reason we used to hide our sins behind, yet it did not justify the purpose of our grudge against those weak humans, who had no powers to fight for themselves.

Who were the whites to judge another human being? And why did we not think twice before committing the most cruel act of the century?

Covered in the filth of the earth, they dangled down from the skies so lifeless. Meanwhile the seamy people cared nothing more but for the shameful fame they sought through the shallow screens of the filming cameras. Sure enough I was one of those superficial people, who was very much blinded by resentment and disgrace towards the poor’s. The poor’s who’ve wanted nothing more but to live fairly and equally, just like the rest of us. Sadly we refused to give them the one chance of humanity, yet we failed miserably to redeem ourselves when we chose to look the other way, by torturing their spirits to infinite death instead.

Perhaps the murdered souls of those blameless victims I once watched perish within the evil world, yet without a sensible closure, have found a way to resurface the forgotten land of living, nonetheless they have come back to claim their revenge, and adopt my life to the buried existence of theirs.” I furiously imagined without having the will to believe otherwise…

Best,
Ramona

Instructor Response

Ramona—

Excellent. This is among the most challenging of assignments, and you’ve done well. And you got to the root of the horror of it all so effectively. I’ve highlighted a few clichés I’d advise you avoid. Your style is your own and effective, but consider varying the intensity of the language for variety and emphasis, and avoid over-describing. For example, “my hands were cold and heavy like a block of ice”: for many readers “my hands were cold” would be sufficient, even stronger, without the ice metaphor. It’s hard to relate a block of ice to a cold hand and the comparison doesn’t augment the reader’s understanding of either term, or story significance. (Search in “The Fiction Well” on site for “metaphor” for understanding complexities of metaphor.) And you might review the effect of too many modifiers, some which may strain for effect and fail because of word choice that may not be totally logical or credible, or redundant. I’ve highlighted some examples in red. I’ve crossed through things that I think could be left out to intensify the quality of the prose.

“Inside my comfort zone, I indulged my exhausted body and into the deep sleep I surfed, when all of a sudden I woke up in panic mode, desperately searching my non-dreamy surroundings for the nearest exist. My heart was racing out of control, while my hands were cold and heavy like a block of ice. I could feel the sudden chill take over my entire body while smothering [wrong word] to take a deep breath, fearing for it to be my last.

What a horrifying feeling that was, as I recalled myself traveling my tormented dreams through the old passage of nightmares. Soon I realized that all of the black and white visions that I had unconsciously visited, were nothing more but a brutal reality in which that forced I was forcing my mind and heart to forever erase.

Although the history of my past life was somewhat gone with the wind, it was not completely forgotten, when the outdated pages of the 1930’s came rushing back to life reminding me of the ruthless person that I once was. In a blink of an eye, I departed my current world, to have found myself in the old times and in my vintage dress [Describe the dress so the reader can visualize it; “vintage” will mean different things to different people], standing between the barbarian crowd of a naïve society, as we all waited for the most savage execution ever. Back then, I was young and ignorant nonetheless proud of my white origins, as I watched the colored slaves pay the high price of each living breath with their own lives. I wasn’t the only one that showed up that day to watch such vicious event unfold. (Already implied.) My brother George was there too, holding my hand as we stood in line ready to unleash our criticism and unreasonable hatred upon the unworthy ones, who’s bodies were hanging down from the mighty tree.

The two innocent men were just killed (?executed] in the most rotten of ways, and right before our eyes. Why? Was it just because they were the men of color? Perhaps that was the only reason we used to hide our sins behind, yet it did not justify the purpose of our grudge against those weak humans, who had no powers to fight for themselves.

Who were the whites to judge another human being? And why did we not think twice before committing the most cruel act of the century?

Covered in the filth of the earth, they dangled down from the skies so lifeless. [Good. I liked this.] Meanwhile the seamy people cared nothing more but for the shameful fame they sought through the shallow screens of the filming cameras. [This is confusing. Too many words and ideas in one sentence.] Sure enough I was one of those superficial people them who was very much blinded by resentment and disgrace towards the poor’s. The poor’s those who’ve wanted nothing more but to live fairly and equally, just like the rest of us. Sadly we refused to give them the one chance of humanity, yet we failed miserably to redeem ourselves when we chose to look the other way, by torturing their spirits to infinite death instead.  [Interesting idea.]

Perhaps the murdered souls of those blameless victims I once watched perish within the evil world, yet without a sensible closure, have found a way to resurface the forgotten land of living, nonetheless they have

come back to claim their revenge, and adopt my life to the buried existence of theirs.” I furiously imagined without having the will to believe otherwise…   [Interesting idea.]

 

CHALLENGE:

Write another piece now in third-person point of view and perspective with a strong narrator presence. If you present the piece in the first person, the first-person narrator is looking back from a later time to a former time of the lynching. So many of the observations are from the context of the narrator’s time of telling the story. In this new segment, keep all the observations and feelings consistent with the immediate time when the photo was taken. And bring the reader into the moment. (See the appendices in Story in Literary Fiction: A Manual for Writers for examples of in-scene and in-the-moment writing. You may have to buy the PDF for $2; there is a free example online but the appendices are not included, although everything else is.)

So in third person in scene, the writing might go like this: Maud’s hand felt the dry skin of her husband, smiling at the dangling bodies of the lynched men swinging on ropes from a branch of a live oak. How insensitive he was to the injustice, his arrogance blending into the excitement of the crowd that murmured with pleasure at the site of the dead men, bolstered by the feelings of comradely accomplishment they all felt.

This is not necessarily good and is not what you should do. I just wanted to give you an idea of how third-person in-scene would sound.

Give it a try if you have time. Eager to see what you can do with it.

Regards,
Bill Coles

 

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