The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: RENAMED: Pillar of Salt
PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2004 1:17 pm 
Summary: This is a revised version of what I initially started for Sarah "Tzeitel" Keshet. It's now a vignette about Tzeitel being caught in the horrors of 9-11 and how she views the lingering effects as she wanders in Gehinnom. It's a little different than before but I'm still stuck as to how to continue. Hopefully, someone will have some ideas :pray



It was cold that morning, this day in September. I felt this ache in my hands that wasn’t there before; it reminded me of the day me and my Gania almost got frostbite during a spur of the moment ski trip to St. Moritz when we were young. It was almost like a warning, telling me that bad things were coming and this time I’d be swept up in the evil, unable to free myself from the spider’s web of events that would snare me and claim my life.



I’d gotten up early to make my way from Gania’s and my tiny apartment in the Lower East Side to go to the 2nd Avenue Deli. It was not as crowded as the Carnegie Deli on 7th, where all the goyim go to pretend like they’re Jewish for a day. Marty, the grandson of the original owner of 2nd Ave, called the day before to tell me his wife, Avital, would make challah the way I like it, with honey and roast lamb to go with it. I could almost taste it; so sweet and soft, it always felt like it was melting in your mouth. It was always worth the trip.



For some reason, it was harder getting started that day than usual. I didn’t have enough energy to deal with the ebb and flow of the city’s fast moving crowds; my ankles still felt weak and fragile after all these years (courtesy of a mamser camp commander who had broken almost all of the bones for his sick amusement). So I decided to walk around the outer rim of NYU to watch the throngs of students, faculty, artists and street musicians performing, talking, enjoying life. Fall was usually my favorite time, when the air smelled of the fallen leaves and wood smoke that I remember from my University days in Mainz. I used to think of Fall and Spring as seasons of possibilities, both good and bad; the change is what I used to love the most. I know my lovely wife enjoyed them so much. Wife. It felt so good to finally be able to say that word, to have the opportunity to do in this country what we could not do in our own so long ago. Didn’t matter that we couldn’t do it in New York. We were fortunate that our kind neighbors, two Columbia University kids from down the hall, offered to take use to Vermont so that we could enjoy this privilege. It seemed that winds of change were cleaning house, making way for new life, new love. This should have made me happy and, for a while, it did. On this day, for some reason, the possibilities of change no longer excited me. I feared it more and more as I walked down Houston, my gnarled hands thrust deep into the pockets of my wool sweater to warm them. A shadow passed over me and I looked up to see the sky fill with grey snow. I opened my mouth to catch an errant flake, concerned that maybe winter has come early and that is what had been chilling my old bones as of late. A little heavy flake settled on my tongue; it tasted of brimstone, ugly and salty.



In the blink of an eye, my world became a hell from which I could not escape. A deluge of passersby shoved their way past me, crying, screaming and bleeding. I caught glimpses of torn clothing, missing limbs and bleeding bodies through the whirlwind of frenzied activity as a fought to get out of their way. A bilious wall of dust barreled down the street like a tidal wave, absorbing people and machinery in its wake. I managed to stumble into an empty doorway just barely ahead of the rolling storm as it passed; its deafening thunder rang in my ears. My limbs started to shake like they’ve shaken only once before; the scar on my arm burned like the day I was branded though I no longer wore the pink triangle that was tacked onto my chest by a heavy-handed guard. The numbers looked more menacing, blacker the more I stared at them. My knees buckled and I could no longer move my feet. My aged body slid along the brick wall of the doorway and crumpled to the ground. I heard someone wailing loudly, frantically “No more! Not again!” Clamping a gnarled hand over my face, I realized that the voice was my own. I began to weep in earnest, paralyzed and ashamed of my uncontrollable fear. I thought that part of my life to be over, that hell I survived for so many months finally buried along with my father, mother, and countless other Jews. In another country, with another name, my demons were resurrected.



I felt someone grab my arm and lift me gently from the pool of ash and blood (whose blood it was, I could not say) that formed around me. Gaping in horror, I saw half an arm mere inches away from me with the wedding band on one finger gleaming dully in the gloom that had settled across the sky.



Komm mit mir, Bubele,” the stranger, a muscular light-skinned black man with studded earrings in both ears, said in a quiet voice, quieter than I could’ve imagined from such a large person. “It’s time for you to go home.”



Nisht geferlech.” I muttered bitterly. “Azoy geht dos when madmen still think the way to rule the world is with violence and hatred. Lomir geyn,” I grumbled. “What? You think I’m too old to move my own two feet without help?” He looked at me with an amused glint in his light blue eyes; his face was oddly untouched by the ash and blood raining from the sky. I felt somewhat ashamed at my rudeness. He was only trying to help, after all. “A sheynem dank,” I whispered.



As I looked, I saw nothing but balagan and mishegas; chaos and confusion for blocks. I was horrified by the carnage; the man beside me wore an expression of deep sadness.



“Why is it that you’re not dirty?" I gasped. "Look, even your hair is clean! What are you an angel or something?” His eyes glazed over for a moment then he gave a noncommittal shrug. “Something like that.”



Was ist ihr Name?” I asked him when he picked me up in his arms as if I weighed no more than paper.



A brief smile crossed his face, his gleaming teeth in sharp contrast to his dark skin. “My mother named me Tobias, but I am often called Tovi so…if you wish, you can use that one.”



“My name is Sarah but you can call me Tzeitel if you like.” I murmured; my eyes were growing heavy with weariness and my strength had been sapped by fright.



“Well then, Tzeitel, relax,” he gathered me to his chest in a firm grip. “You'll be safe now.”



Had I the presence of mind at the time, I’d have been worried about the numbness that spread through my body. I so desperately wanted to be back in my bed with my gelibte, my lovely Gania, to have her hold me so that I could forget all of the madness of this day. It never occurred to me that I’d never see her again, never touch her face or kiss the beautiful blue eyes of the woman that looked at me with love for almost sixty years.



TBC


Time flies by when the Devil drives.
It's not the pace of life that concerns me, it's the sudden stop at the end.

Edited by: Kieli at: 10/21/04 5:48 pm


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 Post subject: Re: The Past Has Just Begun
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2004 5:43 am 
I like this story a lot. I like the idea, the characters, and the perspective from which it’s being told. I offer you this advice as per your request…



STYLE---



It’s powerful, poignant, and honest. There’s a bit of detachment in the narrative though. Since you’ve chosen the first-person perspective, you have the potential for more emotional involvement than we’re seeing here. It’s probably from the passive nature of your descriptive delivery. I understand that this character is in a passive-observational role, but there are ways to deliver the account in a more attached manner.



[“Quite suddenly, people shove their way past me, screaming and bleeding.”]



It’s a passive observation which could be made more associated with the happening without the narrator assuming a directly active role. Maybe like this:



---“First one by one and then by the dozen, people ran past, screaming, dodging and weaving around me in a growing frenzy of panic. I caught only flashes of their torn clothes and bleeding bodies as I fought to get out of their way, heading to a narrow little doorway, the closest recess among the storefronts. They were shrieking, screaming, struggling; fleeing for their lives.”---



Notice that the narrator is still just a passive observer, but more engaged in the action with a few non-involved actions. Also notice the past tense of the verbs. It’s a way to imply greater urgency, and put the reader much deeper inside the head of the narrator. I’m not sure why it does that, but it does nonetheless.



Watch out for adverb-abuse. Try to find better ways of phrasing. Adverbs are easy, colorful, and addictive, but they make for clumsy prose and dilute the impact of sentences that could have been written with stronger verbs instead.



You have a great ability for description. [“…it tastes of brimstone, ugly and salty.”] That’s the way it’s supposed to be done. Simple, elegant, and vivid. Try to use that prowess on a few more of the descriptions as well. “pearly teeth” is one of those clichés that writers are supposed to avoid. “tsunami” is a vivid image full of power and menace, but using a pseudo-compound like “land-based” dilutes the impact of the noun’s implications. We understand that it’s not water, so a ‘roaring tsunami of tumbling grit and smoke’ or something like that would fill the role a little better.



STRUCTURE—



When we write stories, factual accounts, letters to the editor, articles, and essays, we have a secret contract with the reader- so secret that neither the reader nor author are often aware of it or its implications. Part of that contract is stated in the first few paragraphs of a short story, or the first few pages of a novel. When we open a story, we have to declare- through creative means- the player(s), tone, setting, and reason for the tale—providing a subliminal explanation to the reader of exactly what you stated in your summary. You’ve used the first three paragraphs to set up a mood and introduce us to the character, but we’re not sure why we’re reading about all this until it’s juxtaposed with the sudden, grim happenings of the otherwise normal September morning. Its considered good practice to begin the story ‘in media res (latin phrase,) or “in the middle of things.” That doesn’t mean that you need to start off with the action of the dust, tragedy, and evil happenings, just that you have to demonstrate the change, idea, or event that will trigger the start of the story, and the characters reflection. You’re almost there with the “It seems cold…” but there’s no positive connection to the pending change-event other than a vague month.



Its not fair, but readers judge a story and evaluate its contents from the first couple of paragraphs. The way that you begin things here sells your idea a little short. Don’t forget that drama comes first, and setting comes second. Again, that’s not to say that you have to open with the cataclysm, but you may want to put a stronger allusion to it right in the first couple of sentences.

---“It was my usual walk to the deli; the last one before the city changed forever.”



You don’t need to elaborate more from that point, because now you’ve declared that a change is about to take place, and the readers will wade through quite a few pages of back-story and description in order to find out what that change is going to be. It builds anticipation.





You’re off to a great start with this work, and I offer these pointers and suggestions in the hope that my hard-earned (through lots of failure) wisdom will help you to best express your story to the audience. Remember… When you invite people to read one of your stories, you’re leasing some space in their minds and asking them actively imagine based on your emotional and descriptive cues. Writing is THE most challenging form of expression due to that implicit need for reader-participation. Don’t be discouraged by that though. Sometimes, on those occasions when you get everything right, when your characters become real, when your settings and scenes leave a lasting imprint in the memory of your readers- That is the greatest reward- A reward well worth the struggle and disappointment of the writing process.



Keep up the great work. You have a powerful story in-the-making.



-SQ





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 Post subject: Re: The Past Has Just Begun
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2004 10:21 am 
Wonderful! Wonderful! This is exactly what I am looking for. Although I have a slight disagreement with the use of allusion in the first couple of sentences (probably due to my own experiences as a reader of some really excellent prose that didn't do that per se but found other ways of drawing their reader in....a technique I don't think I've yet mastered), I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to dissect my beginnings in detail...the summary was only a cursory thought, for reasons I have yet to figure out. It was hastily drawn up and I will do better after a few revisions of this piece. This is my first attempt at original fiction (fan fiction has mostly been my focus up until now) so this is far more difficult than I had imagined. I am printing out your suggestions to keep nearby as I go about the editing process. Thank you very much for your thoughts and constructive criticism. I appreciate it more than you know.



Cheers!

K.



ETA: I'm just going totally mad. Why is it I can write stuff like Come Away With Me but I can't seem to make my own original works come to life? :cry


Time flies by when the Devil drives.
It's not the pace of life that concerns me, it's the sudden stop at the end.

Edited by: Kieli at: 9/14/04 8:34 am


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 Post subject: Re: The Past Has Just Begun
PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2004 1:39 pm 
Hey Kieli



Great start! I was pulled immediately into the story. What caught my attention foremost was your use of first person in present tense, everything unfolding in ‘real’ time. This tale has a tremendous emotional pull; you drew me into the street. I shivered and could taste the ash as it fell. If this was the impact you were looking for, you definitely succeeded.



I agree with SQ’s feedback on ways to improve this story, and if I may add a few more things … mostly form and structure – the content is great. I’ll just highlight a couple of examples. I might suggest if you don’t already, read the story aloud, word for word. Take note of anywhere you stumble, there’s a good chance the section you’re stumbling on needs a bit of tweaking for clarity.



Okay, so here goes …



It seems cold this morning, this day in September. I feel this ache in my hands that wasn’t there before; it reminds me of my Uncle Tevye’s bunion that would swell as big as acorn when snow was coming. I see an acorn as something small – I think you need a stronger image here; something evocative and ‘out of scale’ to foreshadow the impending disaster – exaggerate as Tevye does, but avoid cliché. Also, “as big as an acorn.”



…called me yesterday to tell me his wife would make challah the way I like it, with honey and roast lamb to go with it . The sentence is a little awkward to read and is peppered with pronouns (‘me’ ‘me’ ‘his’ ‘I’ ‘it’ ‘it’). I’d suggest re-working, perhaps into two or three sentences. I believe you’re trying to pack too much info into one sentence. Breaking this up a bit builds more ‘normalcy’ into the story, perhaps give Marty’s wife a name; it is a day like any other that will change into a day like no other.



Quite suddenly, people shove their way past me, screaming and bleeding. … At the risk of repeating SQ’s remarks – action scenes need to be tight; use action verbs and not verb phrases – ‘concrete fell vs. concrete was falling;’ ‘the scar on my arms burns like the day they branded me…, vs …like the day I was first branded; ‘…blood forming around me vs that had formed around me.’ Be on the look out for “have/had/has/were,” and determine if less wordy phrasing works.



Watch words like ‘quite’ and ‘just’ as they add nothing of value to the description – and that’s ‘a do as I say not as I do’ comment, btw – If you want to keep the effective tense, what do you think of this … “Suddenly, people shove past me, screaming and bleeding.” Give us what T sees, feels, smells – what sounds accompany the sights and experience – what colour is the wall of cloud, that kind of thing. You can build the image dramatically, adding a different sense, with texture to the description. Try to minimize the use of similes, as they are passive descriptors (you used “like” in two consecutive sentences). Make your readers feel what the character feels at that moment in time; it is the purpose of the allusion.



I hope this is beneficial. I cannot wait to read more!

Cheers!!

Patches



Our wedding vows: Life Love Everlasting, Always Intertwining. - Sunday June 27, 2004 :)



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 Post subject: Re: The Past Has Just Begun
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2004 6:40 pm 
Wow!



This is absolutely riveting. You really punched it up-- with the past tense and sharp description. It unfolded beautifully, and with an elegant quickness. Not that the first version that you shared was bad, just that this is even better. I feel it's a truer exhibition of your abilities and potential.



Where should this go from here? Well, you did leave us with a lead in the end. I liked the way you used "kiss her blue eyes." Very interesting and powerful use of the language, using a verb/noun combo that's both counterintuitive and beautiful. That's a great thing, right there... Finding new ways to say things while maintaining a sense of poetry. I'm envious :)



There are two threads at work in the story fabric-- Present and past. The present has had the most time so far, and the past has been relayed through re-collective narration. Maybe switch gears, and make the past story-present for the next section, and then return to present story-present for the next. You do seem to have two tales at work here, and they're both equally interesting. It's something to consider, at least.



As a reader, I'm not sure whether Sarah's past or present is more engaging at this point. I wouldn't be disappointed to explore either. If you chose to go back for the next part, you've got two great options-- comparative misery or contrasting happiness. She's got both behind her, I'm sure, so either are available as an avenue of continuation.



Again, you've beaten this into an even more enticing shape. Great work. The effort really shows. :applause



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: The Past Has Just Begun
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2004 6:52 pm 
Well I had lots of help. I printed out the comments from you and others, bounced several ideas off mariacomet (she and I dueled over the rewrites in IM *LOL* That was hilarious in and of itself), and just had to relax a bit more. I kept rereading my initial effort and it sounded constipated, even to me. Mostly I tried to rebuild some parts, reshape it. It still needs a little work but now I can at least give some thought to the next part (well not if Patches has anything to say about it....Deep Cover Threat might have to take precedence for a while :letter ). I couldn't have done it without everyone's insight and feedback. Thanks again and I hope to be moving forward with this one soon.



Cheers!

Toni



SQ - IM me sometime, eh?


Time flies by when the Devil drives.
It's not the pace of life that concerns me, it's the sudden stop at the end.



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