Hey Writer Bugs!
Today, I’m taking a look back in the archives and sharing a story I wrote from 2015 from Fiction Writing Class. Since this piece is four years old, and my writing has evolved over time, I’ll be self critiquing myself at the end of this post. This is me learning from past mistakes.
“Is our house gonna get blown away? Like in the Wizard of Oz?”
We crunched potato chips as the wind howled outside.
“That was a tornado,” I answered “This is a hurricane.”
“They called it a super storm on the news.” He said
matter-of-factly. He was a small boy, with blonde hair and big curious hazel eyes, wearing Batman pajamas. My little brother was six year old, an age where he had a question for everything.
We were sitting on the sofa, a pile of junk food between us. Our elbows leaned against the windowsill. Mrs. Goodrow’s tree across the street was teetering from side to side, threatening to fall. She was a wicked old bat, who would yell at children, including my brother, for playing in the street too loudly. Said the kids were ‘disturbing Winston’, her bird. Nutty weirdo. Part of me wished that tree did fall.
“It’s an extra big hurricane, so they’re calling it a superstorm.” I explained, rolling my eyes, thinking we could wait out the storm, like the last one.
“Mommy would be mad,” He started, digging his tiny hands into a bag of gummy worms. “Cause we’re up past bedtime, eating candy and chips and watching a scary movie.”
Our parents left to Florida for a couple of days, for a business conference, leaving me, a fifteen year old in charge of a six year old, Arthur. All I heard was “You’re in charge”, so I spent
my allowance on junk food and rented movies. They thought the storm’s route would redirect, that it wouldn’t hit New York. It did.
“They said I was in charge, right?” I reminded with a smile. I glanced at the flat screen t.v. in the living room. An old scary movie was playing. There was a close-up on the werewolf’s face, which looked more like a cheap Halloween costume. “Look Arthur, you can see the zipper on his mask.” I laughed as I ran a hand through my messy strawberry blonde hair. He giggled too.
“Are Mommy and Daddy ever coming back?”
“Of course they are, they’re just stuck in Florida until this storm blows out of New York.” I answered, my gaze returning to Mrs. Goodrow’s tree, still swaying from side to side. The roots were beginning to peek through the ground.
The lights began to flicker. I stared at the lamp in dread. “Oh no.” We were then engulfed in darkness.
“The lights went out.” He informed, his Batman pajamas glowing in the dark.
“I see that.” I huffed. This was perfect. I stumbled quickly into the kitchen, rummaging through the junk drawer for a flashlight.
“I can’t see anything,” Arthur said, following behind me. “This is scary.”
Notes from Lady Jabberwocky
- I like how the story begins. This is a good example of in media res. When the reader is dropped into the middle of a scene, or in this case a conversation, with little context. Grabs the attention of the audience quickly.
- At this time, I hadn’t learned about Hemingway’s Ice burg theory. Some bits have too much unnecessary exposition. Like explaining how old the kid is, or why the parent’s are away. Show, don’t tell, Lady.
- For some reason, I wish there was more physical interaction between the two siblings. Just to show more of their relationship as brother and sister. Their movements seem so staged. However, I made some interesting choices with a few verbs, like the boy digging his hand into a bag of candy, rummaging through a junk drawer.
- Both setting and character descriptions need to be bumped up. I should’ve added more detail on the inside of the home itself. Right now, it feels like two kids floating in empty space, with only a window and a television to occupy them.
- The idea of a young teen spending all her money on junk food and candy and movies while her parents are away makes me smile. Also, the boy’s glow in the dark Batman pajamas is an easy to imagine picture. It’s details like that that make this simple story feel real and relatable.
Back during peer review, we had to offer comments like this on stories written by fellow students. A proper, honest critique can really help someone grow and learn as a writer. And looking back at old work is definitely an enlightening (and cringey) experience.
What did you guys think of this short story (and my self critique)? Should I do more of these? Let me know in the comments. Have a great weekend, writer bees!
Write with Heart,