So, I picked out a sample of my creative writing to submit to the Story Refinery on The Story Mint.
Hearing your love story.
Feeling throbs through the space. The coziness of cushions and familiar shudder-clink of radiators give way to the jagged edges of anticipation and unasked questions, to the heavy reflection on the tangible ache of a sepia view, to the manic happiness of spiritual orgasm, filling lungs and stomach and heart with air sucked from the midst of a freefall.
Wine is drunk but not savoured: an excuse for motion by bodies fettered by the tale’s thrall, while the flitting anxious emancipated imaginations predict resolutions. A story crafted for emotional emphasis, made satiating with months of hinting and hesitation. Clichés bound about, unexpected and only summoned at vocabulary’s end out of a mouth made innocent by word choice, ancient by crushing feeling.
Then reduced to sound, sigh and gesture (words have failed), the storyteller squirms and pushes at space and carpet, clutches clothes and chews chocolates, wind velocity (that is, air intake and release) conveying more than English can confine in definitions. Accompanying onomatopoeia assist.
But maybe words have not failed but filled, and the space has only room left for deep breaths and smiling whimpers.
The storyteller begs to clear the air of thick, contemplative words by forcing another’s talk. She grasps at big questions and throws them at listeners with accuracy. The conversation turns.
(© 2011 S.E. Lund All Rights Reserved)
Eager for feedback, I was amused but disappointed when this screen came up:
Apparently I am just too creative. Or, more likely, the system administrators only have a limited amount of sections of books cataloged. My second attempt was much more successful. This time, I chose something a little less poetic: the opening scene of a long story.
Carolyn leaned heavily against a worn oak desk. The cash register to her right was napping, wrapping itself in the thin layer of dust that covered every surface left disused for even an hour in the fusty second-hand store. The faded books in the stack on her left waited patiently to be shelved with their fellows, ignored but not neglected; Carolyn would get to them by the end of the night.
At that moment she was leafing through a photo book of lake country, her chin perched in the palm of one hand with her elbows resting on the edge of the desk. Her other hand clutched a pen as she flipped the pages with a careless snap.
The playlist that spilled through the store was an eclectic mix of Carolyn’s favourites. Punk followed banjo music which flowed into a string of motown hits. When the last notes of the final song drifted into nothingness, she was too tired to notice.
Her head wavered on her arm and her eyes drooped. “Hò-bhan, hò-bhan, Goiridh òg O, my love was not where I left him,” she hummed, oblivious to her own voice and the symbol she had started to doodle down the side of the book. A long wavy line traced its way down the length of the page in thickening black ink. A second line, separate at the top of the page, gradually overlapped and then appeared to twist itself in ever-tightening spirals around the first until the two ends connected at the bottom of the page in a crude imitation of an intricate v-shaped charm.
Carolyn’s chin teetered dangerously on its balance point, spilling long strands of her chestnut hair across her forehead. Her large hazel eyes flew open and her humming stopped.
“Damn” she said, examining her handiwork. She wasn’t nearly as irritated at herself for defacing the store’s property as for drawing that particular symbol. It seemed to spill from her pen independent of any conscious thought. She resented that the shape stuck in her mind after so many years.
She slapped the heavy covers of the book closed and grabbed the rest of the books that needed to be shelved. The desk groaned as she lifted the pile from its wizened top.
Carolyn didn’t need to think much as she distributed the books to their rightful places. The layout of the store made sense to her in a way that was second nature. Aside from the owner, she was the only one who could boast of this intuitive knowledge of Pendham’s Used Books & Oddities. Most people, customers and the few staff alike, got lost in the small store with its cache of very hidden treasures. They were used to box stores with logic and labels to lead them, and couldn’t understand the owner’s distribution of stock foremost by mood, then by author.
The store was created as a shelter and a maze. People who fought the feeling of getting lost, the notion of browsing, never felt quite comfortable among its shabby shelves.
Carolyn walked to the Regional Interest section with her drawn-in pictorial. The section, her favourite, was tucked into the back corner of the small space and had the most eclectic collection of items in the store.
Her eyes scanned the piles of mismatched travel stock in this “catch-all” section of the store and she shuffled her book, with much difficulty, into a pile of pictorials in similar condition. It was a beautiful area, she thought, running her fingers across the white-capped water on the cover of one of the display books, but then caught sight of the watch on her wrist. She ran through the to-do list in her mind. Dust, lights, lock up, home… mail, calculus, alarm, bed. It would be a late night, but her last late night for a while. After tomorrow, high school would be all but finished. She allowed herself a satisfied smile and then walked back to the desk, stifled a yawn, and took out the dust rags and wood polish.
(© 2010 S.E. Lund All Rights Reserved)
The Refinery compared my excerpt to Wilkie Collins’ ‘Poor Miss Finch’ and an extract from Thomas Keneally’s, ‘Schindler’s Ark.’
The suggestions you receive when you use the Refinery are lengthy but some of the notes I got are, “Keneally’s style is pronounced by its concrete descriptions. […]The reader is not part of the scene suffering the horror the passage describes. The reader stands outside of it. Is this the effect you are looking for? Does it serve the purpose of your story?”
“The story is told in the first person so the narrator is describing the events as he sees them and as he reacts to them. […] Consider how you have put words together. You won’t have done exactly what Wilkie Collins has but you may have used similar words and coupled them with concrete words like apple, girl, child. […] Collins uses subjective words like irresistible, poor and useless but the reader has to decide what he means by those. Sometimes his approach works well. However, check if there is a need for more detail in your submission.”
My advice? Test it out! It’s interesting to get feedback from a completely dispassionate source.