Robert called from the living room. “I’ve been lonely…come and say hello to me.” His voice carried a deep tone with the softness comparable to silk.

 

I smiled, of course not so that he could see. I came invited into his personal space. He sat on the sofa; his back a little slouched and with one leg crossed over the other. Documents of some kind rested on his lap, reading glasses were pressed against his face. His gentle grey eyes were right where I wanted them to be – drawn to my bare thighs as my choice of clothing was provocative by virtue of their design: black socks with significant length, tied above the knees with elasticated baby-blue ribbons. These things coupled with a longish knitted cardigan which came just passed my bum.

 

His gaze broke from its captivity and reached for my face the moment I stood close enough to make him seem like a pervert, had he continued. “Hi Robert, how are you?”

 

“Better,” he said.

 

I sat in the space between him and the right end of the sofa. “You sound so depressed. Is Susan treating you bad again?”

 

“She’s gone out with her friends.” His gaze fell on his documents. “She told me before she left.”

 

Susan employed me as a waitress and I used the money to rent the spare bedroom in their house. I had been living with them for a year…and I didn’t believe what Robert was telling me. His so-called wife was having a secret affair with some geography teacher called Mr. Sullivan. His name was Warren, and she spoke it so lovingly. I would see her sneak out to meet him. I would follow her, follow them. They would snog passionately in his car. They would drive all the way across town to his house and presumably…disgusting unfaithful person. The woman didn’t have enough respect for her husband to divorce him first. She owned a successful restaurant but that wasn’t enough. She also enjoyed his income working as an experienced veterinarian, so why would she want to part from that? The two of them were pretty rich together. I think that Robert even suspected his wife was cheating on him, unlike me, without proof.

 

“Friends…?”

 

“You don’t believe her?”

 

“Well, do you?”

 

“What are you getting at?” He looked straight up at me. His voice a bit angry and his face with that look: do you know something I don’t.

 

“Nothing but it tends to be better without her here anyway.”

 

“It…?”

 

“Yeah, you and I, we’re cool together. I mean we’ve never argued unlike you and Susan who argue all the time…” can’t believe I said that, then I added, “…you don’t mind me saying that, do you?”

 

“No, I suppose you’re right. She is such a miserable person.” 

 

“Yeah, totally,” my face brightened with recognition.

 

“Where have you been for the past three hours?”

 

“Oh I went to Josh’s house. He called me earlier.” I leaned back staring at Robert whilst he scratched his trim beard.

 

“Is he your boyfriend?”

 

“Are you kidding me? He’s not hot…oh my god like he’s gay. No, no, we’re just friends.”

 

“Right, okay.” He turned, now pointing at the DVD case which I held. “What’s that in your hands?”

 

“American Pie…he lent me this because, no offence, but the films you buy are boring as hell.”

 

“Then perhaps you ought to buy your own films?”

 

“…Yeah…”

 

“So what’s that one about?”

 

I gave a rather enthusiastic deliverance. “It’s about these high school boys that make a pact to lose their virginity, by prom night. It’s a classic comedy and it’s hilarious.”

 

“A classic really,” Robert shook his head. “I simply don’t understand American humour.”

 

His snobbery kicked my enthusiasm for American comedy to the curb, so to speak. “Well, I like it, so shut up.” I hugged the DVD case to my chest like I would a teddy bear. “Hey I heard there was a big protest, or a strike or something. But Josh’s mum turned off the television in the middle of the news report.”

 

“The asylum had let the patients out for the day. It was crazy downtown.”

 

“Very funny…what was happening?”

 

“I have no idea. I didn’t have time to see what the fuss was about when I had somewhere to be, although I saw this woman get pushed down by her own child, a small boy, and it was ridiculous. Why on earth anybody allows their children to behave so appallingly is beyond me.”

 

“You would have been a strict dad, hey?” Fuck. How stupid of me. I looked down at the old burning gas fire. Even the roaring flames behind the glass cover seemed to be angry at me. “I…I didn’t mean to-”

 

“No, it’s alright. You were referring to my son…Tom. I held him for just ten weeks of his life.”

 

“Did he die?”

 

“…Not exactly, no, he was taken by some madman right after he was born. Susan was injured in the same attack. I left her and Tom in the park for a little while and when I returned…she needed an ambulance and she now blames me for not running after him but they were gone so quick…it was very foggy that day.”

 

I met his gaze, though it was uncomfortable. I tried to look sympathetic. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.” His pain didn’t exactly show on his features but his voice did hint at it.

 

“Susan will be extremely upset if she knows you know. You will not tell her about this, d’ you see?”

 

Robert turned his whole body away from me gathering the documents into a neat pile – tapping them twice on his lap to align the edges. I got the impression he could not finish reading them after our private talk. He sniffled placing the documents down on the floor beside his cup. He held back his tears, I should imagine, for the sake of his pride. I suspected that he was about to get up…and his need for someone at this moment presented me with an enticing opportunity to exact revenge on his wife. Her unfaithful actions were punishable in my eyes. My cute shape, my youthful face which he complimented as being lovely would be my lures. If maybe I could even the score. I wanted to, for him.

 

 

“Don’t cry, Robert.” I shuffled over to him. His legs were apart. The back of his hand lay awkwardly on his thigh. Now was my chance. Robert turned towards me when I touched it with tenderness. His pensive grey eyes threatened to spill their tears. Perfect. I was the impending jaguar and he was my vulnerable target. 

Instructor Response

Hi Vanessa—

Good work.  My comments are in text.  And thanks for submitting.

 

Robert called from the living room. “I’ve been lonely…come and say hello to me.” His voice carried a deep tone with the softness comparable to silk.  Maybe try “silky softness”.  Stylistically, look to say something with fewer words as long as the meaning or effect doesn’t change.  Here it could seem too wordy to many.

 

I smiled, of course not so that he could see. I came invited into his personal space. He sat on the sofa; his back a little slouched and with one leg crossed over the other. Documents of some kind rested on his lap, reading glasses were pressed against his face. His gentle grey eyes were right where I wanted them to be – drawn to my bare thighs as my choice of designer clothing was provocative by virtue of their design: black socks with significant length, tied above the knees with elasticated (I think elsatic is the right word) baby-blue ribbons. These things coupled with a longish knitted cardigan which came just passed my bum.

 

His gaze broke from its captivity and reached for (found?) my face the moment I stood close enough to make him seem like a pervert, had he continued. “Hi Robert, how are you?”

 

“Better,” he said.  Dialogue is tricky.  Even though in reality it is exactly what a person might say, in prose it can sound like “fill”, that is, something that doesn’t have any real purpose other than to fill the void of answering the question.  In this instance, using “Better” is a missed opportunity for your storytelling.  “He said nothing,” would be better; that would pose a question as to what is his mood.  Or you could have him say “Well aren’t you a little angel for asking.”  He’d be coming on to her and the reader would learn more about him.  Or he might say, “You don’t care how I am.  You wouldn’t care if I was about to die.”  He’s crusty now, maybe testing here true intention, checking out if she’ll deny, etc.  Here is a reference.

 

I sat in the space between him and the right end of the sofa. “You sound so depressed. Is Susan treating you bad again?”

 

“She’s gone out with her friends.” His gaze fell on his documents. “She told me before she left.”

 

Susan employed me as a waitress and I used the money to rent the spare bedroom in their house. I had been living with them for a year…and I didn’t believe what Robert was telling me. His so-called wife was having a secret affair with some geography teacher called Mr. Sullivan. His name was Warren, and she spoke it so lovingly. I would see her sneak out to meet him. I would follow her, follow them. They would snog passionately in his car. They would drive all the way across town to his house and presumably…disgusting unfaithful person. The woman didn’t have enough respect for her husband to divorce him first. She owned a successful restaurant but that wasn’t enough. She also enjoyed his income working as an experienced veterinarian, so why would she want to part from that? The two of them were pretty rich together. I think that Robert even suspected his wife was cheating on him, unlike me, without proof.  Think about this.  This is wonderful stuff here.  The characters are doing something that reveals them and their effects on the major characters are understood and it is perfect for in scene development (rather than discursive narrative).  The way you have it with two people telling the story in dialogue and much of the action in back story narrative seems to be working against a strong story.  There are modes of storytelling that vary in emphasis for every story: prose (diction), plot, voice, imagery, theme, and characterization.  You’ve got character working here.  If you wove this back story into front story chronologically, you could set up the ending with impact.  The reader would know a lot about what motivates Robert and the protagonist.  To make it work you’d have to be sure the reader understands the desires of the major character.  You would build that scene by scene with action and conflict. 

 

“Friends…?”

 

“You don’t believe her?”

 

“Well, do you?”

 

“What are you getting at?” He looked straight up at me. His voice a bit angry and his face with that look: do you know something I don’t.  This is excellent dialogue.  It’s interesting; it has conflict, it’s moving the plot along.  Good job.

 

“Nothing but it tends to be better without her here anyway.”

 

“It…?”

 

“Yeah, you and I, we’re cool together. I mean we’ve never argued unlike you and Susan who argue all the time…” can’t believe I said that, then I added, “…you don’t mind me saying that, do you?”

 

“No, I suppose you’re right. She is such a miserable person.” 

 

“Yeah, totally,” my face brightened with recognition(? “lit up”)  Word choice.  There is no right, but you need to make sure your choice is the best for the story and your writing style.  For many readers, your style now may seem verbose and a little inaccurate on word meanings, that is, a word is chosen to impress the reader with intellect or imagination when, because of inaccuracy or lack of clarity in the meaning in the context, it becomes ineffective.

 

“Where have you been for the past three hours?”

 

“Oh I went to Josh’s house. He called me earlier.” I leaned back staring at Robert whilst he scratched his trim beard.

 

“Is he your boyfriend?”

 

“Are you kidding me? He’s not hot…oh my god like he’s gay. No, no, we’re just friends.”

 

“Right, okay.” He turned, now pointing at the DVD case which that I held. “What’s that in your hands?”

 

“American Pie…he lent me this because, no offence, but the films you buy are boring as hell.”

 

“Then perhaps you ought to buy your own films?”

 

“…Yeah…”

 

“So what’s that one about?”

 

I gave a rather enthusiastic deliverance. “It’s about these high school boys that make a pact to lose their virginity, by prom night. It’s a classic comedy and it’s hilarious.”

 

“A classic really,” Robert shook his head. “I simply don’t understand American humour.”

 

His snobbery kicked my enthusiasm for American comedy to the curb, so to speak.  (I’d suggest here you use something simple and straightforward: His snobbery dampened my enthusiasm for American humor.  Don’t let your prose be a vehicle to display author’s traits.  Keep your prose story oriented.)  “Well, I like it, so shut up.” I hugged the DVD case to my chest like I would a teddy bear. “Hey I heard there was a big protest, or a strike or something. But Josh’s mum turned off the television in the middle of the news report.”

 

“The asylum had let the patients out for the day. It was crazy downtown.”

 

“Very funny…what was happening?”

 

“I have no idea. I didn’t have time to see what the fuss was about when I had somewhere to be, although I saw this woman get pushed down by her own child, a small boy, and it was ridiculous. Why on earth anybody allows their children to behave so appallingly is beyond me.”  Good.

 

“You would have been a strict dad, hey?” Fuck. How stupid of me. I looked down at the old burning gas fire. Even the roaring flames behind the glass cover seemed to be angry at me. “I…I didn’t mean to-”

 

“No, it’s alright. You were referring to my son…Tom. I held him for just ten weeks of his life.”

 

“Did he die?”

 

“…Not exactly, no, he was taken by some madman right after he was born. Susan was injured in the same attack. I left her and Tom in the park for a little while and when I returned…she needed an ambulance and she now blames me for not running after him but they were gone so quick…it was very foggy that day.”  Consider taking this back story information and placing it in the story.  Then we would see in story time what happened to these two and why the conclusion is right for the story through the action you’ve created to create the characters, rather than telling us in back story.  Not easy, but your story would be a whiz bang.  I’ve said this twice: look at each section where I suggest this and see if you can imagine the information in scene in a chronological story presentation from beginning to end.  

 

I met his gaze, though it was uncomfortable. I tried to look sympathetic. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.” His pain didn’t exactly show on his features but his voice did hint at it.

 

“Susan will be extremely upset if she knows you know. You will not tell her about this, d’ you see?”

 

Robert turned his whole body away from me gathering the documents into a neat pile – tapping them twice on his lap to align the edges. I got the impression he could not finish reading them after our private talk. He sniffled placing the documents down on the floor beside his cup. He held back his tears, I should imagine, for the sake of his pride. I suspected that he was about to get up…and his need for someone at this moment presented me with an enticing opportunity to exact revenge on his wife. Her unfaithful actions were punishable in my eyes. My cute shape, my youthful face which he complimented as being lovely would be my lures. If maybe I could even the score. I wanted to, for him.

 

“Don’t cry, Robert.” I shuffled over to him. His legs were apart. The back of his hand lay awkwardly on his thigh. Now was my chance. Robert turned towards me when I touched it with tenderness. His pensive grey eyes threatened to spill their tears. Perfect. I was the impending jaguar and he was my vulnerable target. 

 

Well done.  And really interesting.  You’ve got good ideas.  In general, try to improve your word choices to compliment the story and use as few words as possible for your sensibilities—a matter of careful revision.  Think about restructuring the story to deliver information and involve characters within the story present; write in scene. 

 

All the best,

Bill Coles

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