His troubled soul

His troubled soul

A Story by Haim Kadman

A short story in which the protagonist is assaulted with doubts.



Was it our last meeting, is it the last time that I’ll see her...? He wondered perturbed as he watched her boarding the bus, on her way back home.

They’ve just left his apartment, as he escorted her to the nearest bus stop; after having spent several splendid hours togather, but on their way to the bus stop she said that she’ll be busy during the next forthnight…

He didn’t dare to ask her why hopping that she’ll  visit  him again much sooner, although he knew her well enough to internalize that whenever she says that she won’t come she won’t come.

She did mumble hardly audibly a few words, about a trip abroad with two friends of hers; he reminded himself during the last  few seconds in her company. 

She didn’t lie to me up to this very last time in my company, but she might have on this certain occasion… She might have been seeing latetly another man, with whom she’ll spend the next two weeks… Yes that might be it, and I’ll better be prepared for the bitter end, the end of our relationship. For if she won’t call me or she won’t answer my phone calls, that would be the proof that’s it’s over…

But hardly some thirty minutes passed and she called him, she said one of her female friends fell ill and they’ve dicided to cancel the trip.

When will I see you again my only love?’ He asked her relieved.

Next tuesday,’ was her answer.

So on this same evening he went over to his neibourghood's pub and bought drinks to all his friends and cronies.

© Haim Kadman 2020 - all rights .reserved.

© 2020 Haim Kadman

My Review

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Given that you’ve written lots of shorts, and are obviously working hard on your writing, I thought you'd want to know about some things that are getting in the way of clarity and reader involvement. Nothing relating to good or bad writing or talent, just a misunderstanding we pretty much all come to writing with.

Think back to your school days. There, from the time you entered till you graduated, you were assigned an endless number of reports and essays. So by the time you left those years you were ready to write the reports and essays that employers require.

But how ready were you made to write fiction? Reading fiction no more teaches us the techniques of creating it than does eating us teach us to be a chef. So, while you had lots of practice, what percentage of your writing assignments were for fiction? And how much time did your teachers spend on things like the role of the short-term scene-goal and its management? How about the role of disaster in ending a scene, the elements of a scene on the page as against one on screen?

If you’re like most, the answer to those questions can be summed up by, “Oh-oh…” That misunderstanding I mentioned? It’s that we leave school believing that the writing skills we were given are universal, and that since the term “writing" is part of the title of the profession we call, “Fiction Writing,” there’s a close relationship between the skill and the profession.

But there’s not, and we don't see that because of our second mistake. We forget that the skills of ALL professions are acquired IN ADDITION to those we call “The Three R’s.” And Fiction-Writing is a profession. So in reality, we leave our school days exactly as prepared to pilot a fighter-plane as to write fiction.

So since we use what we know, and can’t use the tool we don’t know exists, like most hopeful writers, certain that you have the necessary skills, you used the tools you own. But that comes with built-in problems.

1. Only you can hear emotion in the voice of the narrator because only you know how you intend it to be read. Have the computer read the story aloud to hear what the reader gets.
2. Only you can visualize your performance: the gestures, changes in expression, and body language that add emotion to the telling.
3. Because you know the story, the background, the characters, and, your intent, you’ll tend to leave out what’s obvious to you, and not notice the loss in meaning for those who don’t possess that knowledge. In example, look at the story's opening as a reader, who has only what the words suggest TO THEM, based on THEIR background.

• Was it our last meeting, the last time that I’ll see her...?

You’re asking that question of me? I have no idea of who she is, what she is to him (or her), where they are in time and space, or why they're together on that day. This could be lovers parting. It could be father and daughter, with one of them—and our setting in jail. We could be at the train station or the spaceport. The reader has not a trace of the context that would make this meaningful. For you though, it makes perfect sense.

• He wondered perturbed as he watched her boarding the bus, on her way back home.

I have not the slightest clue of who “he” is, why he’s upset, and how much, why she’s leaving, where they are in the world or where the bus is bound. So while you’re cheerfully going on about the events, the reader is lost.

As presented, first you give his mood on seeing her leave. THEN you place them at the bus station. THEN you talk about what led to their being there. You keep placing effect before cause. That not only precludes context, it cannot seem real because only the narrator can do that. The people in the story have no choice but to live their life as-it-happens.

You’re presenting the story from the outside in—a list of events accompanied by authorial commentary. Does it matter if the narrator—who’s talking is ABOUT the events from the comfort of their easy-chair—is the author, or the author pretending to have once been the protagonist? No, because neither of them can be on stage with the protagonist and seem even remotely real. So while you’re using first person personal pronouns, this is not first person as the publishing industry—and readers—view it.

What you’re doing is trying to give a sense of reality by talking about what you visualize happening in real-time. But the external approach you're using a nonfiction technique. The reader wants/expects you to make THEM feel as if they’re living the story, with the protagonist as their avatar. And that takes an entirely different approach.

The nonfiction skills we were given in school are fact-based, and author-centric, with a goal of informing the reader. But were you reading a horror story, do you want to be informed that the protagonist feels terror, or do you want the author to terrorize YOU? Learn about events, or be made to feel a shiver of fear run down your spine when it’s time to turn out the lights? No way in hell can nonfiction skills do that. For that you need the emotion-based and character-centric techniques of the professional fiction-writer.

Not good news, I know, after the work you’ve been doing on your stories. But on the other hand, switching to the necessary skill-set will make the act of writing, and the reader’s pleasure of reading change, dramatically, for the better. As Mark Twain so wisely said, “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.” And it’s those, “Just ain’t so” issues that you need to address.

I also have to say that while this is an outline of a scene in a larger story, it's far too sparse a presentation to be more than an outline. Readers aren't seeking to know what happened. That's boring. They want to live the scene, moment-by-moment.

The library’s Fiction-Writing can be a huge resource. But my personal recommendation is to pick up a personal copy of the best book on Fiction technique I’ve found to date: Dwight Swain’s, Techniques of the Selling Writer. It currently has over 200 five star reviews on Amazon, and I’ve found no other book that come close to clarifying the why’s and the how’s of the profession. It’s an older book, one that talks about your typewriter, but it’s still, by far, the best I’ve found for making the nuts-and-bolts issues clear. Swain won’t make a pro of you. That’s your task. But he will give you the knowledge and the tricks-of-the-trade that will give your words wings.

For an overview of the issues involved, you might look at a few of the articles in my writing blog. They’re written for that purpose.

So have at it. It never gets easier, but with work and study we can become confused on a higher level. So hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein

Posted 7 Months Ago

Haim Kadman

6 Months Ago

Thanks so much JayG for your kind advice, but I don't need it. I'm getting on rather well after som.. read more

6 Months Ago

Sorry. Given you're working so hard I thought you'd want to know why none of your stories are gettin.. read more

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1 Review
Added on February 16, 2020
Last Updated on February 28, 2020
Tags: literrature, prose, short, story, doubts


Haim Kadman
Haim Kadman

Petach-Tikva, Israel

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