A Story by Dave

and be out of breath, but she was calm, but she was complete calm

                                        since those                  Mindy  (Part 1)

     She came as a swirling gust of wind, bright as the sunlight, her hair aglow and cheeks a blushing red.  One would think she had been running, but she was completely calm, a complete contrast to the vigor she displayed to those about her.
     Mindy had piercing blue eyes that sparkled when she spoke and managed to entrance her listener.  She spoke softly, but was easily heard, since those she spoke listened intently, afraid to miss her bright smile  
     I had only seen her once or twice before, I'm pretty sure she is in one or two of my classes.  Since I usually sit in the back of the classroom I remember only seeing her briefly when I entered.  I did notice that she was one of the few students that spoke up or asked questions.  I was struck that she always seemed to have something worthwhile to question or comment on.
     Sitting at my table in the cafeteria I watched her literally sweep through the entrance into the lunch room. I was totally taken aback when despite her beauty and 
 grace, she simply plopped herself down on my bench
 right next to me.  This was a bit of a shock, granted a very pleasant one, but still, it wasn't everyday that a
beautiful girl, that I honestly hadn't met comes and sits with me.
   "Hi, I'm Mindy Persons.  You're new here at Regional aren't you?  I've seen you in a few of my classes, but I've noticed that you tend to eat alone.  Do you mind if I join you?"
     To say the least I was totally taken by surprise, but I wasn't about to let this golden opportunity pass me by.  I was just barely able to speak.
     "It's very nice to meet you Mindy.  I'm Robert, well all my friends call me Bob."
     "Can I call you Bob?" she asked blinking her blues.
     She had piercing deep blue eyes that sparkled when she spoke and entranced me.  Though she spoke softly she was very easy to hear and listen to and I couldn't help looking more and more deeply into her amazing eyes as she spoke.
     "Mindy, you could call me anything you want.", I said boldly.
     "It'll be Bob," she laughed.  "What year are you, junior or senior?  I'm a junior."
      "I'm a junior too.  My dad just got a new job so we just moved here from Philadelphia."
     "Philadelphia! Wow that is some big difference from a big city to a small town like Meckleton.  I hope you you're not finding it to hard to adjust."
     "Oh I don't know, sure there is a lot to be said about all the stuff that's available in a city, but we aren't that far away, it's only about an hours drive by car or on the bus.  Besides I've already gotten used to the peace and quiet here.  No sirens or whistles at all hours of the day or especially at night.  Mindy, I'm pretty sure I like it here already."
     "That's great to know.  I don't really know how it is in the city, but the folks here are pretty friendly.
     "You're right.  City people, it seems are so uptight, Here everyone I've met seems to go out of their way to make you feel welcome.  In my old high school I couldn't imagine a beautiful girl, that I didn't even know, coming up to me, introducing herself and being so extraordinarily nice."
      "Bob, you say the sweetest things.  I have to tell you that I don't normally introduce myself to handsome young guys, but you struck me as someone special."
     "I don't know about being special, but if I am I'm glad.  The only thing that might be special about me is that I love to play tennis, chess and sing."
     "I knew it! I knew it!  Bob we're kindred spirits!"
     "What do you mean?'

(End of Part 1)

© 2019 Dave

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Author's Note

Eventually I hope to finish this as a short story or novel.

My Review

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You write well…better then most on this site. But since you said you wanted to expand this to a novel, there are a few things I noticed, and a few tricks you need to know.

First, before you post anything, edit it till it glows, because one thing people hate is to have the response to a critique be, “Yeah, I know. I’m planning to fix it later.”

• She came as a swirling gust of wind, bright as the sunlight, her hair aglow and cheeks a blushing red.

Good opening line. It makes the reader want to know who “she” is, where we are, and whose skin we wear.

• One would think she had been running, but she was completely calm, a complete contrast to the vigor she displayed to those about her.

Here, we switch from observing and living the scene to an authorial commentary on that you visualized as you wrote—and as you edit—but for which the reader has no context. Who are the others around her? No way to tell if this is a general observation or what she’s doing. So knowing where we are in time and space would help a great deal.

There’s also the problem of what calm means. You say it appears that she’d been running. The word calm doesn’t speak of if she’s breathing hard, it seems to imply that the speaker is commenting on her mood, which s/he can’t know by observation, and which seems at war with her stated “vigor.”

And, watch out for things used as a demonstration word in speech to add meaning. They too often depend on HOW they’re spoken to do that. In person, we might say, “There was ABSULUTE silence,” or “he turned slooooly,” emphasizing the word to set a mood. But on the page silence is silence, and so the word absolute adds nothing meaningful, and serves only to slow the narrative. And, you use a form of “compete” twice in the same sentence, which is usually a bad idea.

• I had only seen her once or twice before, I'm pretty sure she is in one or two of my classes.

Aside from mixing tenses, suppose you move this line up and make it the second one? Doesn’t it make the previous line have more clarity? And it would imply that the speaker is observing her in the moment s/he calls now.

• Since I usually sit in the back of the classroom I remember only seeing her briefly when I entered.

Wordy. Since we can replace “I remember only seeing her,” with, “I saw her,” removing two unneeded words speeds the read and adds impact.

And lots of us entered classrooms at the front, so he would have seen her clearly. Remember, your vision of that classroom may not be that the word classroom calls up in the reader’s mind.

• I did notice that she was one of the few students that spoke up or asked questions. I was struck that she always seemed to have something worthwhile to question or comment on.

Again, you’re being wordy and over-specifying. What does the reader get from thest thirty-three words that, “She was one of the few who actively participated, and her contributions were surprisingly insightful." doesn't provide in fifteen?

Remember, this is a live scene. You open with her sweeping in, then freeze her in place to talk ABOUT her, which kills any momentum the first line brought. Chop anything not relevant to the scene, in the moment the protagonist calls, “now.”

• Sitting at my table in the cafeteria I watched her literally sweep through the entrance into the lunch room.

You open with her entering an unknown place like a gust of wind, and imply that she’s interacting with others, as our protagonist watches. Then you stop the action (or perhaps were only reminiscing in the first line), to talk about having seen this unknown person in classes that might be in college, high school, or some other classroom setting. And now, she “sweeps in.” is this a continuation of the opening? It doesn’t appear so, given she doesn’t interact with anyone. And what comes between the opening line and this seems irrelevant to the action.

And as a point of interest, how does one "literally" sweep through the door without a broom in their hand? Would you bet that the image the reader gets, given that they don’t know what the place looks like, where the protagonist sits in relation to the door, or their age or dress, matches the one you hold? Had you said trot, slouch, saunter, race, or a great variety of things, I’d have an idea of the meaning. But “literally sweep?” Not a clue.

And finally. He’s in the cafeteria but can see her entering the “lunch room?” Edit, edit, edit.

• I was (totally) taken aback when (despite her beauty and grace,) she (simply) plopped (herself) down (on my bench right) next to me. (This was a bit of a shock, granted a very pleasant one, but still, it wasn't everyday that a beautiful girl, that I honestly hadn't met comes and sits with me.)

Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Again, you’re way over-specifying things that are true without need of explanation, and presenting things irrelevant to the scene. Let’s remove the unneeded words I’ve placed in parenthesis, which yields:
- - - -
I was taken aback when she plopped down next to me.
- - - -
That’s story. The rest is fluff.

1. “Totally,” is redundant, as is “simply, right, herself, and honestly.” Were this a spoken story those words might be included for purposes of cadence. But it’s not. Our medium has its own set of mandates and exclusions to be taken into account.

2. Everything after the first sentence is either implied by it or unnecessary. Why?

We know the protagonist hasn’t interacted with her before because you told the reader that in a previous line.

Does it matter if it’s a bench or a chair? No. So why specify? Every word you can eliminate without changing the meaning or muting the author’s unique voice speeds the read and adds impact. And in a serial medium like ours that’s critical. If it takes longer to read about a character crossing a room than to do it in life the story drags.

Doesn’t “taken aback” tell us it was “a bit of a shock?” So why mention it twice?

Doesn’t the reader assume it was a pleasant thing to have happen, based on the nice things that the narrator has been saying about her? Make implication work for you to give the reader a feel that they’re noticing things in the scene.

Do you really have to tell the reader that it’s something that doesn’t happen often, given that the protagonist already has been “taken aback?”

Do we really have to tell the reader it was her choosing to sit with the protagonist that caused the surprise, again and again?
- - - - -
Okay, now that I have your attention, let me get to the problem behind the problems, which is connected in no small part to your profession.

First: for the twelve years of your primary education you were assigned endless reports and essays, but damn few stories. And in your studies of writing technique the goal was to communicate the ideas and information clearly and concisely, in an author-centric and fact-based way, as does all nonfiction writing. And like most people, since the name of the skill, and the name Fiction-Writer seem appear to be related, it’s reasonable to assume that the techniques are shared as well.

They’re not. Given that nonfiction’s objective is informational, and fiction’s goal is to provide an emotional experience, the methodology of the two are NOT interchangeable.

But universally, we forget that all professions are learned IN ADDITION to the general skills our primary schooling gives us, and, that writing fiction is a profession in all senses of the word, including the availability of four year majors at the university. Surely at least some of what’s covered is both necessary and not something that we’ll discover on our own.

You don’t mention the subjects you taught, but as a general thing, how much time did the teachers at your school spend on the nuance, and importance of viewpoint (as against POV as defined by personal pronoun use)? Do they explain why a scene on the page ends in disaster for the protagonist, the use and need for a short-term scene-goal, or even the major differences between a scene on the page and one on the screen or stage?

My point? Mark Twain put it well with. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

In this piece, to a large extent, you’re transcribing the words of a verbal storyteller. But that can’t work in our medium for anyone but the author. Sure, when you read this piece it works perfectly. But you cheat. Before you read the first word you’re emotionally on the scene. You know the place and the ambiance. You know the protagonist’s backstory and his innermost thought and motivating urge. You know her, her age, appearance, body language, and motives.

You can hear your golden voice filled with the emotion appropriate to the situation and the story as you perform the story. You can feel the gestures you’d use to visually punctuate, the expressions that illustrate so much, and the body language that amplifies or moderates the emotion.

And how much of that does the reader get? Not a trace. Have your computer read this aloud and you’ll hear how different what the reader gets is from what you intend. You have the story, and intent. They have only what those words suggest to THEM, based on THEIR background. And they have no access to your intent.

In short, you’re using the techniques of verbal storytelling, coupled with those of nonfiction writing, in a medium that doesn’t reproduce either sound or vision, and which requires a methodology that’s emotion-based and character-centric. Its goal is to make the reader feel, and care, not just know.

Events? They’re important only as to what they mean to the protagonist and what they motivate him or her to say/do. If we write a romance, the reader isn’t interested in learning that she loves him, or vise versa. They want you to make THEM fall in love.

Try this for size: Someone comes into the room where you are and says, “Did you hear that a kid was hit by a car at the corner?” How do you react? Compare that reaction to the same situation with a single change in wording: “Did you hear that your kid was hit by a car at the corner?”

Notice that when you’re emotionally involved your reaction, and sense of urgency, change dramatically. And that’s your goal for the reader. You want them to care about what’s happening as deeply as you would care on hearing that second example. As E. L. Doctorow put it: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”

But…no way in hell can you do that with the nonfiction skills you not only learned, but taught for so many years that they feel intuitive.

The solution? Simplicity itself: Pick up the tricks of the trade. If you know the three things a reader needs to have addressed quickly on entering a scene you’ll address them. If you don’t…

For an idea of the issues involved, I immodestly suggest the writing articles in my blog. But, for the skills needed, go to the book most of my articles are based on: Dwight Swain’s, Techniques of the Selling Writer—the best book I’ve found on the nuts and bolts issues of fiction. He won’t make a pro of you. That’s your task. But he will give you the tools you need, and the knowledge of what they can do for you.

So give it a try. Like chicken soup for a cold, it can’t hurt. I won’t kid you. It’s not a matter of reading a bit and writing like a pro. Like any other profession it takes study, practice, thought, and liberal doses of time. But I think you’ll love the difference in the writing when your protagonist becomes your co-writer. Your reader will, too. So have at it. And, hang in there, and keep on writing. The world needs more benign crazies.

Jay Greenstein

Posted 4 Months Ago


4 Months Ago

Jay - thank you very much for the time and effort you took in being so helpful. I printed out all t.. read more
Overall, I love your story, both parts. This is one of the best stories of yours that I've read so far. You love to write with romantic themes, but why this story is special -- you show us these two in multi-layered complex ways (sometimes you focus a bit much on physical attraction only). It's refreshing & more balanced that these two are attracted for many different reasons. Fresh, compelling opening. Paragraph 2 has a problem with tenses (some present tense, some past tense). When Bob first sees Mindy, you say in several different ways "mesmerized" . . . "taken by surprise" . . . "taken aback" . . . "entranced" . . . instead of TELLING in so many ways, why not SHOW? Show us something about Bob that lets us know he is entranced without using some four-bit word to describe it. For example, you could show us how Bob trips over a rock or maybe he brushes his brow & knocks his hat on the ground. SHOW instead of tell . . . the first rule of good writing! (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 5 Months Ago


5 Months Ago

Margie - I should have read this review of yours first.
I see so many of your points and I'l.. read more

4 Months Ago

I'm getting started reading this series . . . I like how you improved this chapter since my last rea.. read more
Young romance--you know I love this subject. That Bob, I tell ya--he's a lucky one. No pretty girls ever came and plopped themselves down next to me. A good beginning, Dave. I think a word is missing--"Mindy, could call..." And here, do you mean Bob?- "Mindy, I'm pretty sure I like it..."

Posted 5 Months Ago

Samuel Dickens

5 Months Ago

???? I hope you get that sorted out.

5 Months Ago

Me too. I'm gonna try again later.

5 Months Ago

SAM - figured out what I was doing wrong.
Take care - Dave

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3 Reviews
Added on September 9, 2019
Last Updated on October 22, 2019



Bridgewater, NJ

David B. Pincus I am a retired teacher. I have taught in grades 5th-8th in New Jersey. I am married and have two grown daughters and four grandsons. I enjoy playing tennis and traveling. With m.. more..

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