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Start of a story (1300 words) - looking for feedback

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Old 12-23-2015, 01:33 PM
amacash (Offline)
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Default Start of a story (1300 words) - looking for feedback


Hi -- I am very new to this (both writing and sharing on forums) so would be hugely appreciative of any feedback you could give. This is just the start of a story I am hoping to write...



She wiggled the key once, lifted the door up slightly, and finally felt the give as the key turned in the lock. The door swung open and she reached for the light before stepping in. The apartment was disgusting: rotten walls, rotten windows and rotten stench. But for now, it was home.

It was two years ago that Katherine had last seen her real home. Home used to be high on a hill, alongside the dirt road that led down to the lake. Katherine’s last memory of home was standing on that dirt road, waiting for the minibus to take her on the first leg of her 37-hour journey to America. Katherine remembered sitting in the warm evenings chatting on the phone to her auntie trying to organize her journey. At the time, the idea of a 37-hour journey seemed an unreasonably long period of time. But looking back now, as she entered her small apartment in Queens, she suddenly realized that 37 hours did not seem long enough for two worlds so far apart.

It had been a long day, and Katherine’s feet were sore. She took reluctant steps over to the kitchen and pulled out last night’s dinner of cold rice. The stark, hanging lightbulb shone brightly down, and only made her food appear even less appetizing. And as she sat down and started eating yet another lonely dinner, she let her mind wander back to that last morning she was with her family, and that first day of her journey.

Despite it being early in the morning, the sun was strong and Katherine waited for the minibus, fanning herself. The backwards and forwards motions of the paper fan calmed her. Her parents and sisters, who had come out to wait with her, chatted away and greeted all their fellow villagers. But Katherine remained quiet.

After an hour of waiting and fanning by the side of the road, the white minibus finally came speeding around the corner, blaring out the latest Zambian pop songs. As it came to an abrupt stop, Katherine found herself staring at the sticker emblazoned across the top of the windscreen that said ‘This car is blessed with the blood of Jesus’. A simple, Godly slogan suddenly felt ominous and Katherine took a deep breath.

Katherine was the chosen daughter; she was taking all of her family’s savings and expectations to the promised land. She was one of six daughters, but she was not the oldest. She always imagined it would be the oldest, Geddis, who would be sent off to America to live with her father’s sister. But almost one year ago to the day, her parents had taken her aside and told her they had decided that Geddis was not as well suited to life in a different country; they feared she was not as brave as Katherine. So they wanted it to be Katherine who would carry the family’s dreams to New York.

Katherine had always been independent, and this had often got her into trouble. She distinctly remembered, as a 9 year old telling her social studies teacher that it was unfair that he only asked for answers from the boys. He caned her and told her that she was quarrelsome and would never find someone willing to marry her. This was something she had heard many times in her life. And when her parents told her that it was her, and not Geddis, that would be travelling to her Auntie’s in New York, her first thought was that it was because they, too, believed she would never find a husband here in her village; after a lifetime of being told her she was stubborn and too difficult, these thoughts were difficult to ignore.

With the minibus in front of her, music still blaring, she steeled herself for the inevitable moment of her leaving and embraced her family. She tried to drink in every moment and detail of her family; the sweet smell of the lotion on Tilly’s skin, the ruffles of Maggie’s dress and the roughness of her mother’s palms. She couldn’t bring herself to say goodbye, so instead went down the line, from sister to sister, to mother to father, simply saying ‘see you soon’. Looking back now, it seemed rather absurd to be saying those words, but no one corrected her, no one stated otherwise. As she reached her father, she felt her eyes reach full capacity, and the threat of the tears rolling down her cheek was realised. But with a quick wipe of her cheeks, she stood straight and her father squeezed her shoulders.

“You already have made us so proud, and now here you go, on your way to living in America. God has blessed us with you and now we hope he blesses your journey to America”, he said. The double use of the word ‘America’ was done with a slight dramatic flourish, just loud enough to make sure the others on the bus might hear.

She curled her lips upwards and squinted her eyes, and hoped that she was forming a convincing smile. With that, she picked up her suitcase and squeezed into the minibus. She placed herself between two women dressed in their fineries on their way back from church, and looked out the window to her family. Looking into the window and seeing Katherine’s still face, her father reached across and grabbed Katherine’s hand. Placing some mangoes for the journey into her palm, he told her with a final touch, “Katherine, you are an incredibly strong woman, don’t ever forget that.”

“But…” she started, knowing she would never finish that statement.

Her father smiled and before Katherine had chance to leave her sentence hanging, he said, “You are brave”.

It was those words of her father that played over and over in Katherine’s head on the 12-hour minibus ride to Lilongwe, the capital. The unease she felt in her stomach made her question the truth in her father’s words.

The bus pulled into the crowded terminus. There were buses, people, noise, music everywhere. The bus rolled up next to a group of men grilling meat on barbecue, and the smoke filled the bus, which added to Katherine’s feeling of nausea. She slowly unfolded herself and clambered out of the bus.

“Ama Katherine! Here!”

Katherine looked up and saw the wide and warm face of Blessings, her friend from secondary school, amongst the crowd of people going about their business. It was a hugely welcome sight and Katherine quickly pushed her way through the throngs of people, dragging her suitcase behind her. As Katherine and Blessings embraced, she felt the knots in her shoulders gently ease. Blessings took her hand and pulled her out of the midst of vendors and bus boys, to the relatively quiet sides of the market.

“Eeehhh, Ama. How are you? How was your journey? How long has it been? Ahhh Katherine, we have so much to catch up on, but so little time before you go”

She let out a hearty laugh, a laugh that would, on any other day, have taken Katherine straight back to the boarding school in Nkhotakota where they got up to so much mischief during their shared teenage years. But with her hand still in Blessing’s, Katherine could only respond with a weak smile; for the last few months, any mention of America had been turning Katherine’s stomach, and today, the start of her journey, she felt the bile rising up her throat.


Last edited by amacash; 12-30-2015 at 12:22 PM..
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  #2  
Old 12-24-2015, 07:01 AM
wrc (Offline)
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Hello, amacash.

I've quoted you entire sharing in the event I want to make comments in place. If I am struck dumb with nothing to say I will delete it to avoid such a long response.

((This is just the start of a story I am hoping to write...))

Okay. Here's goes... Reader hat is on head.

((She wiggled the key once, lifted the door up slightly, and finally felt the give as the key turned in the lock. The door swung open and she reached for the light before stepping in. The apartment was disgusting: rotten walls, rotten windows and rotten stench. But for now, it was home.))

Great opening and I'm hooked.

It was two years ago that Katherine had last seen her real home. Home used to be high on a hill, alongside the dirt road that led down to the lake. Katherine’s last memory of home was stood standing? on that dirt road, waiting for the minibus to take her on the first leg of her 37-hour journey to America. I don't know the rules, but I'd put a new para here.Katherine remembered sitting in the warm evenings chatting on the phone to her auntie trying to organize her journey. At the time, the idea of a 37-hour journey seemed an unreasonably long period of time. But looking back now, as she entered her small apartment in Queens, she suddenly realized that 37 hours did not seem long enough for two worlds so far apart.

It had been a long day, and Katherine’s feet were sore. She took reluctant steps over to the kitchen and pulled out last night’s dinner of cold rice. The stark, hanging lightbulb shone brightly down, and only made her food appear even less appetizing. And as she sat down and started eating yet another lonely dinner, she let her mind wander back to that last morning she was with her family, and that first day of her journey.

Despite it being early in the morning, the sun was strong and as Katherine waited for the minibus, she fanned fanning? herself. The backwards and forewards motions of the paper fan calmed her. Her parents and sisters, who had come out to wait with her, chatted away and greeted all their fellow villagers. But Katherine remained quiet.

After an hour of waiting and fanning by the side of the road, the white minibus finally came speeding around the corner, blaring out the latest Zambian pop songs. As it came to an abrupt stop, Katherine found herself staring at the sticker emblazoned across the top of the windscreen that said ‘This car is blessed with the blood of Jesus’. A simple, Godly slogan suddenly felt ominous and Katherine took a deep breath.

At this point I have relaxed in the reading. The language skills are great, the MC is someone I want to know more about, the story of displacement is interesting, and the 'the writer's voice' is trustworthy, not using language to amaze me or words I have to look up. So I'm going to sit back and enjoy the experience, and delete as I go....
...
...
...

I feel you could develop this a little more, plus the doubts she has. Let the reader really expeience this tension. “Katherine, you are an incredibly strong woman, don’t ever forget that.” A little piece of dialogue between father and daughter would be nice as she expresses her doubts and he reassures her. That just crossed my mind and, of course, you are the writer.

...
...
...

Your work is very satisfying to read. I'll keep my eyes open for more from you. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it. I appreciate the work it represents. Please keep it coming...

Have a nice writing day.
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Last edited by wrc; 12-24-2015 at 08:02 AM..
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Old 12-24-2015, 07:08 AM
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You're new to this? Well, keep going. You're a hell of a lot better than I was when I started. I think you're better now, very talented. Keep going.

... her first thought was that it was because they, too, believed she would never find a husband here in her village. This was not true and Katherine knew it...
This is the only part I didn't like. I like being worried that she thinks she's not good enough. In the next sentence, you dashed away my worries with hers and got rid of this interesting conflict.
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Last edited by Futureblues; 12-24-2015 at 07:15 AM..
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Old 12-24-2015, 11:07 AM
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wrc - you're right about building on the tension and having a bit more dialogue when Katherine is saying goodbye to her family. I added a little more to 'the goodbye' and tried to show more of the relationship between her and her dad. Thanks for the suggestion. And also your kind words.

Futureblues - You're too kind, thank you. You have made my day!
And as for that sentence, I initially wanted to make it clear that her parents did not think that at all. But after reading your comment, I agree that it is a shame to lose that internal conflict. The fact her parents don't consider her 'inability to find a husband' a reason to send her to America can come out later in the, what I hope will become, novel!
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Old 12-24-2015, 05:23 PM
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Well done, easy to follow, sympathetic character, and it moves along nicely. Very polished and professional for a beginner. The ironic comedy ending would be she becomes a great success in the USA and then has to get a mail order husband from Russia and it turns out to be someone from her own village....
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Old 12-30-2015, 12:24 PM
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"The ironic comedy ending would be she becomes a great success in the USA and then has to get a mail order husband from Russia and it turns out to be someone from her own village...."

I love it!

Thank you so much WilliamS for your kind words.
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Old 12-30-2015, 04:26 PM
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Hey, second note. I really recommend Stephen King's 'On Writing,' if you haven't read it yet. Even if you're not a fan of his work, it provides a helpful window into the process of a determined writer and prolific reader. Part of it deals with how we self-sabotage by looking for feedback too early.
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