Pyromaniacs 3

Welcome to another cheeky episode of #Pyro! The rules are short and easy: your job is to read this story and critique it! Please remember our purpose is to HELP the writer, so (1) focus your comments on the story, not the writer; (2) try to address story elements specifically (WHAT works/doesn’t work, and WHY/HOW); (3) be honest but kind (imagine someone is giving you this feedback). Ad hominem or mean-spirited comments will be deleted. And now, here’s a story for your reading & critiquing pleasure, with many thanks to the writer who courageously volunteered it.

Encendador. CC2.0 photo by Villegas Lillo.

Encendador. CC2.0 photo by Villegas Lillo.

Time Enough
Written by One of You 🙂
Note: The writer also wants to know if this is worth expanding, or if it’s too much like what’s already out there.

He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. Even at the speed of light, it would take years for the signals to reach us.

In time, he would be forgotten by the people of Earth. Life would move on without him. Generations would pass and he would be among the stars, poised on the threshold of oblivion, dreaming of sunlit beaches.

It was bold experiment. Who would willingly go Out There, just to follow a ripple in space-time, to be borne away, who knows where. What shore would this bottle wash up on? That’s what we talked about as we walked along the beach, looking out to sea. It was easier to make up stories than to say goodbye.

I said I’d be waiting for him, whenever he came back. Fifty years is not so long, I said. They are increasing life expectancy every day. I will be a spry centenarian. I will be here in 500 years.

One day, there was a signal, and the ship washed up, like a bottle.

Now I hold him, smooth as beach glass. His eyes are full of the things he’s seen, his mouth is full of stories.

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

QUESTIONS you may wish to address: 

  1. Does the first line catch your interest?
  2. How is pacing — does the story move smoothly from beginning to end?
  3. Does the dialogue sound realistic/natural? (If not, which lines?)
  4. Are the characters developed effectively within the confines of this piece? Are they realistic? Sympathetic/resonant?
  5. Is point-of-view clear and consistent? Is the voice unique, interesting, compelling? 
  6. Is the story mostly free of grammatical/punctuation errors?
  7. Is the plot clear and believable? Are there any plot holes that need to be addressed?
  8. Does the story follow the rules of its genre? If not, were the rules broken well?
  9. Is language used well: does the story rely on cliches and too-common devices, or does the story contain striking imagery, colorful and vibrant descriptions, powerful metaphors?
  10. Does the last line effectively conclude the story?
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6 thoughts on “Pyromaniacs 3

  1. Good morning!

    First off, well done and I do want to see more, but we’ll get to that. 😉

    The first line makes me curious but it is in a passive voice. You might want to start off with the “It was a bold experiment.” That gets the curiosity – it’s still a tad passive but it’s the situation more than the character.

    The story premise is interesting and I know the places my mind was going as I read it, and by the end I wanted to read more.

    To me – this isn’t a short story as much as a back cover blurb for the story (in novel form).

    The one punctuation thing I noticed, was the line “Who would willingly go Out There…” I think it should either be no init caps, or “Out There” with the quotes to identify it as a ‘thing’.

    The last line doesn’t end the story as much as open us up for the stories to come.

    This story is intriguing and interesting, but as a standalone tale it needs… more. It needs the stories that were promised, the longing and passion that would be there if the narrator had been waiting 500 years… Those are the stories I want to hear.

    I’d say go on – use this as your book blurb, your premise… but by all means, build on it!

  2. Hello. First of all I really like this. There is something very lyrical and meditative about the piece.

    What works particularly well is linking the descriptions of walking on the beach and being a ‘message in a bottle’ to the description of eroded, smooth bottle glass at the end. It really brings the story round to a lovely conclusion.

    My two pennies for things you might consider. I’d like a little more content in the form of a back story perhaps – I did wonder why the journey was being undertaken – it also gives you the chance to further engage the reader emotionally with your characters.

    The language is a little repetitious to begin with. The word ‘borne’ away is used twice – I would think of a different word if you can.

    My last comment is that I don’t think you need to include the second to last paragraph at all. Make the assumption in the concluding paragraph that the traveller has already returned – leave a little space for the reader to make the jump by themselves – you don’t need to hold their hands through every step of your story’s journey.

    Generally these are minor quibbles – overall I really liked the piece!
    Cheers

    dazmb

  3. I like this piece very much. I think the wordchoice is beautiful: ‘poised on the threshold of oblivion, dreaming of sunlit beaches.’ This is so poetic, and you continue that throughout.

    I think, for what it’s worth, the third last paragraph could be pared down. I know you are conveying how it would be possible for them to meet again, but I think you could be briefer. I’d take out the ‘life expectancy’ comment. But this is a minor point.

    The ‘ship washed up like a bottle’ is such an effective image. And that final paragraph is fabulous and, in my opinion, perfect for a piece this length. I am left pondering whether he is haunted by the things he’s seen, or if it is wonder in his eyes, and I very much like that.

    I love it as it is, but, obviously, there is a potential to lengthen it. I rather appreciate, though, when good flash allows the reader the opportunity to fill in the spaces themselves, and I think you’ve done that exceptionally well. Great writing.

  4. 1. Does the first line catch your interest?
    I favour short first lines. I don’t always practice what I preach but still, the shorter, the punchier the better.

    2. How is pacing — does the story move smoothly from beginning to end?
    The pace is celestial. What DO I mean by that? There is a brief beginning, a clear ending and a big bunch of middle that covers a significant amount of time.

    3. Does the dialogue sound realistic/natural? (If not, which lines?)
    No dialogue. I like dialogue. There is always “time enough” for dialogue.

    4. Are the characters developed effectively within the confines of this piece? Are they realistic? Sympathetic/resonant?
    The characters seem less realistic and more “metaphorical.” The observation of another that this story has a back cover blurb resonance seems accurate to me.

    5. Is point-of-view clear and consistent? Is the voice unique, interesting, compelling?
    The POV is clear but it strives I think to sound human and personal yet retain some mythic quality.

    6. Is the story mostly free of grammatical/punctuation errors?

    Given my tendency to embarrass myself grammatically and punctuationally (and this may not be a word) I should refrain from stepping in that sinkhole.

    7. Is the plot clear and believable? Are there any plot holes that need to be addressed?
    There seems to be some gaps in the “plot.” Lots of room to enhance this tale. Which is good.

    8. Does the story follow the rules of its genre? If not, were the rules broken well?
    Sci-fi, or Biblical. The genre eludes me.

    9. Is language used well: does the story rely on cliches and too-common devices, or does the story contain striking imagery, colorful and vibrant descriptions, powerful metaphors?
    I like “I will be a spry centenarian. I will be here in 500 years.” I also like the final line. “Now I hold him, smooth as beach glass. His eyes are full of the things he’s seen, his mouth is full of stories.” So, language is used well.

    10. Does the last line effectively conclude the story?

    I think the story concludes nicely yet leaves the doors to the universe open. The best of many worlds. A nice short tale with much room to grow and prosper. Thanks.

  5. This is an interesting submission. The opening paragraph is solid enough to pull me along. The plot is unique and engaging. Descriptions are strong and poetic. The ending hit the right note. There’s plenty to like here.

    I would like to see less telling and more showing. I think the characters need fleshing out. I didn’t get a sense of who they are. To impact the reader emotionally, you have to get inside your characters, expose them to a degree. Make the reader root for or root against them. Make the reader care about their journey.

    Overall, this is a good piece. It begs to be expanded. And it’s better than most of my own stories currently languishing in my documents. There is much potential here. Bravo.

  6. 1) I love the imagary of the first line, and as a standalone sentence, it works really well.

    2) Not sure if this would be pacing, or more like structure (or plot?). The tenses jump around a bit which confused me. For example “he was soon borne away” implies this has only just happened, as does “he would be forgotten”. Then it’s back to before he left and then forward to when he returns. Maybe adding something describing what the narrator did whilst waiting for him to come back would make the passage of time clearer. Or you could say “that’s what we had talked about” to make the bit about walking on the beach more of a flashback?

    3) No dialogue. Dialogue tends to add an immidiacy, so maybe you didn’t want this to keep the mystical quality of the story?

    4) Again, the tone you were going for may preclude this, but I think the characters could be developed more. All I know about the narrator so far is that they care for the explorer and are 50+ years old. I know even less about the explorer. Is he even human? His bravery comes through well though, and I like the idea of his being full of stories on his return. I want to hear thoses stories!

    5) You stick to the same POV all the way through, but until the “us” at the end of the first line, I thought it was 3rd person. I’d like something a bit more personal to establish the POV quickly. What about if you put “lost from my sight” or something like that in the first line?

    6) Grammar/punctuation is mostly fine. Maybe I should have put the thing about the tenses in here. In the third paragraph, I think you could put “It was a bold experiment:” and “a ripple in spade time;”, though that’s probably just style.

    7) I’m not really sure what the plot is…I assume some kind of journey, but is it physical or metaphorical? Is it in space or an ocean? Sorry if I’m completely missing the point…got a cold and my brain isn’t working particularly well at the moment.

    8) This seems like sci fi to me because of the references to space-time and stars, but the waves in the first sentence threw me off. Maybe more description of his vessel or the planned journey would be helpful?

    9) I love the language used in this, it has great imagery and originality, especially the last line linking the explorer and beach glass to the washed up bottle. There is a little bit of repitition, for example “borne away” used twice and mention of the bottle.

    10) The last line is lovely and intriguing. I’m just wondering why he is smooth as beach glass?

    I think this is a great introduction, and would love to see it expanded and to read the stories he has brought back with him. I hope you can get something useful from my cold-addled thoughts, and as ever, please take no offense at any criticisms. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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