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27 May 2007

A short story Anybody wants to read a short story of mine and tell me what you think of it?
Especially if the ending sucks...I am vaguely dissatisfied with it, and I don't know why.
posted by dhruva 27 May | 22:02
In my mind, the balance of motivations in the story isn't right. You go to some lengths laying out motivations for Anil and Adriana, and working up sub-plots for Anil's parent's visit, and include details about the pronunciation of her name by her mother-in-law, but when you come down to the conclusion, it's forced into 2 paragraphs, like a red headed step child.

But the ending is this story, and your opportunity as a writer to let your descriptive powers and plot sensibiities take hold, in revealing how a communal process of acceptance and shared experience in that kitchen blurs lines of teaching, learning, and doing, in ways that the solo experience of the Cooking Mask can not.

A re-write that rebalances the story would be interesting. Cut the first 2/3 of the story to something like 5 or 6 paragraphs. Your explanation of the Mask concept is good, but you could tighten it up plotwise, too (what value does the reference to the remote programmer's sub-story really offer the story?), and not just leave the unexplained "Garden Mask" reference hanging up front. Expand the Kitchen scene accordingly, and give the characters faces, accents, hands, and voices! Make the crowded, noisy kitchen the humanizing epiphany you want it to be.

There's a movie in it, or at least a short.
posted by paulsc 27 May | 22:47
I love it. That said, a bit of constructive criticism. Make the paragraph brakes clearer as that big page of text is a bit hard to follow. Drop the footnotes as they do nothing to advance the story. This bit of dialogue; ‘Besides, with all due respect, you can barely make toast without burning it. How on earth are you going to make a traditional Kannadiga meal? Once again, I suggest you relax and let me do the cooking. I've been at it for much longer than you have and I assure you nothing will happen. Not even one eyebrow will be raised.’ seems a bit clunky. A bit more like a teacher to a student than a husband to a wife.

On preview I'll replace what I said by echoing what paulsc said about expanding the family and cooking aspects of the later part.

I hope you have more as I really do like this story.
posted by arse_hat 27 May | 22:59
but when you come down to the conclusion, it's forced into 2 paragraphs

yeah there was a word constraint, and I think I let it affect the pacing. I will rewrite the end and see how it goes. Thanks so much, Paul and arse_hat, it's a lot clearer now how it should go.

There's an older story that I wrote about tags and arranged marriages, if you're interested. I seem to end up exploring diaspora issues via speculative fiction.
posted by dhruva 28 May | 01:52
I really hope you don't mind me chiming in after you've decided to rewrite but I wanted to let you know that I too thought the pacing of the ending was way off. I really got into this story. I was disturbed and intrigued by the functions of the masks and by Adriana's reliance on them.

I THINK I get what you were going for with the ending but, as a reader, it was...not satisfying. Not because it was uplifting or positive. I feel the dissonance between the anxiety and insecurity brought on by the use of the mask and the lesson learned in the end but somehow that lesson was both too abrupt and not fleshed out enough at the same time.

That said, I think you're a gifted writer and really liked the story.
posted by LeeJay 28 May | 02:13
Thanks, Leejay, and no I dont mind you chiming in at all, it helps to know. This is pretty much the first story that i actually had an outline before I wrote it, and even then it shows that I have a lot to learn. I like setting up complications, but not so much solving them :)
posted by dhruva 28 May | 02:29
"I like setting up complications, but not so much solving them" I think you were my boss a couple of times.
posted by arse_hat 28 May | 08:02
Interesting story. I like the formal style/voice, cultural references, and sci-fi/futuristic mask angle a lot. I also really like how you build up the suspense, both in what's going to happen with Adriana trying to cook for the in-laws, and then again at the festival. Definitely pulled me in and kept me reading.

That said, I have a few suggestions (since you asked : ). One is to introduce the futuristic element sooner in the story; just a hint or two early on to help me anticipate the cooking mask. When the cooking mask did come in, I was confused, until I realized, Oh, you're going for something sci-fi/futuristic here. You may have been going for this with the husband's gardening mask, but all I thought when I read that was some kind of protective mask, as if he was spraying insecticide or something. Maybe one or two other hints early on that let us know it's a future world and to prepare us for what comes later. Great concept, though, the mask. Raises some interesting questions, about our ever-increasing technological world and all.

Second, I'd really like to see the characters a little more. What the wife and husband look like, and the in-laws and all. The festival seems like it would give a good opportunity for more description as well.

Finally, try to leave more unspoken. Resist the temptation to tell us what the characters are thinking and feeling. Let their actions, words, and body language speak for itself. We don't have to be told, for instance, that Adriana is nervous. We know from the situation. (That's easy stuff to edit out at the end, though.) Also, in my own writing, I find that anything that's bugging me, like an ending, is much easier to fix if I set the story aside for awhile, and look at it again after a couple of weeks, say. Solutions often pop in my head when I'm away from it, and any final editing becomes much easier.

Never-the-less, there's lots of great stuff going on here. I enjoyed this.
posted by Pips 28 May | 11:23
I'm not a good critic. I either like something or I don't, obviously, but I'm not good at verbalising my reasons behind my likes or dislikes.

That said - I really, really liked your story. I also agree with most of the criticisms posted above; especially the critiques about more info on the Masks and abrupt ending.
posted by deborah 28 May | 13:25
You may have been going for this with the husband's gardening mask, but all I thought when I read that was some kind of protective mask, as if he was spraying insecticide or something.

Point. I'll make it clearer.

I'm going to set it aside for a bit, and then see how it goes. Thanks for all the comments, you've been a lovely lot. I feel sometimes that I'm in a vacuum, surrounded by scientists all the time, and it really helps to work through something like this. I really wish that the ill fated writer's group on Mefi would somehow become viable.
posted by dhruva 28 May | 21:51
What I did this weekend, two words... Kidney Stones || OMG! Bunny!