NYC Midnight – a return to form

Some of you may remember that I have developed a (somewhat self-destructive) habit of entering this competition. You may also recall that, until recently, I have had an unblemished record of being eliminated during the first round and being placed overall, therefore, about three thousand three hundredth. During the current competition, however, there was a slip up in the judging process which saw me slip into round 2 with a story concerning (allegedly) the Vietnam War. You can read it, should you be very bored, Here

In response to this surprising turn of events I produced a silly story about a old man living on old dreams (a short autobiography, in other words) and that can be read here.

It bombed. So the world order has been restored. So, in this competition, I suppose I came in about nine hundred and fiftieth.

I always find the judges feedback a bit confusing and highly inconsistent. I don’t think I’m alone in this regard. Here is what they had to say.

 

”Miss Queensland Country 1954” by Brutus Richmond –   WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

– {1955}  Nice introductory paragraph. It makes me want to read more to find out about their conversation. 

The early descriptions of Janet, both in the exposition and dialogue, give me a clear image of her. I especially like the old man’s comment about her having “one hell of a bark.”

Mr. Johnstone is a solid character. The way he acts out his football play is interesting and vivid.

{1777}  I enjoyed the walk down memory lane with the old man in his garden, planning yet another trip. It was fascinating to see all the different possible adventures and to learn the eccentricities of Janet. I got a feel for the old man’s devotion and love for his wife and her passion and devotion for him. The story about the football game was great, and the light shining on Janet was lovely. I liked the faded photo of her he kept with him, the memories of them in the various trees, and the story of the strike was poignant and powerful. 

{1943}  This is an exceptional story, written with a beautiful tone of sweetness and sadness. You writing is exquisite, for example, “That he had been invited into a sacred space” when he is shown the newspaper cutting about Janet. The old man’s reminiscences are heart rendering, and your story brought tears to my eyes as it made me remember old friends and grandparents. 

 

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

{1955}  At the section that started, “There were many stories. Not all of them were about football,” I suspected Janet was dead. Intentional? If your intent is to withhold that information from the reader until the end, consider revising this section. 

The line, “He had seen her only once,” made me wonder if he ever had a relationship with Janet or it was all in his head. Intentional? 

By the end of the story, I’m still not certain whether he was ever really married to her or it was something only in his mind. The photo of her in the wedding dress could have been from her marriage to someone else. Even though it says, “Before she was Mrs. Johnstone,” that again could have been something only in his mind. 

{1777}  I wanted a first name for the old man and an identity for the jogger. Right now he’s a nameless, shapeless person. Since he’s the narrator, I wanted a name, some physical description, some background. How long has he been hanging out with the old man? Does he stop at the beginning or end of his run? Does he have anything in common with the old man? Why does he hang out? Does he ever bring the old man anything? Does he ever help with the garden?

At the very end the POV changes from the narrator to the old man. Why? Could you bring the jogger into the cottage and write it from that perspective? 

{1943}  With a story  that is this beautifully written, it is difficult to find much to recommend. The odd comma might help the reader, for example, after “self-contradictory” in the first paragraph, and after “examined” in the seventh paragraph. I reread your story three times to see if there was anything else I could recommend, but honestly, it was perfect just as it was. Many congratulations!

So …..

Judge 1943 is clearly an individual of astute tastes, and an impassioned proposal of marriage has already been sent (I know, I know …. there is no clear indication as to whether or not this is a male or a female judge, but I don’t care. I’m in love.)

1955, on the other hand is, unquestionably, an imbecile. He seems to be insisting on the presentation of a official documentation to prove that the old man and Janet were actually married – apparently the wedding photo hanging above his fireplace might have been of her marrying some other guy …..

1777 is not much better. He needs to know what the jogger had for breakfast and what colour socks he was wearing, apparently.

So those two have been removed from my Christmas list.

AM I BITTER AND TWISTED????

DOES IT SHOW???

No? Good. Because sometimes my emotions can get a little out of check.

Authors note: Lest anyone think otherwise I don’t really think judge 1955 is an imbecile. And I am sure that, not only 1777 knows a hell of a lot more about the craft than do I but also that there were, sadly, about 300 stories better than mine. It was all tongue in cheek and I will be back next year to have another crack.

My desire to sleep with judge 1943, on the other hand, is entirely genuine.

14 thoughts on “NYC Midnight – a return to form

  1. Oh, I hear ya. I had a meltdown of sorts (minor in the grand scheme) over a judge who wanted me to “show, not tell” the characters’ feelings. As in, don’t say, “She was in full angry lecture mode,” but instead show her body actions that indicate as much. And I’m thinking that any bodily action can be ambiguously interpreted. Like finger tapping could be nerves or a nervous tic or a tremor. I spoke to my dad about it, and he said that the judges were looking for flaws. He added that they were insanely envious that I showed such a vast knowledge of teaching reading (since I was assigned a reading teacher as a prompt). Word.

    With your story, I think that one judge is being ridiculous. All those details are so trivial that it adds nothing nor takes anything away, either way you do it. I’m not following the judge’s logic.

    But with the other judge, if you sleep with her, let us know!

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    1. Ha ha! In truth I wasn’t that fussed. It was the result that I have learned to anticipate.
      I think that my main problem is that I am coming from a different angle than are the judges. I am far more interested in how a story is written than in the story itself.
      The judges’ focus seems to be on ‘story’ … which is fair enough …. it is a ‘story’ contest, after all. But that doesn’t fit well with me.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. ive run into that in poetry crit classes: I wrote a poem about a man on a bridge (the bridge was the vehicle, not the subject) and I like to leave some stuff vague, so we can all visualize our own bridge, road, tree, etc. One woman was quite concerned about that damn bridge. ‘well, what does it LOOK like? what color is it? How big is it?” on and on and on. I finally said, this is not a poem about the bridge. This is a poem about the man in the water.” “well, what KIND of water was it? was it salt water? how fast…”

      Stick to your guns. If you were writing a novel, yeah, then you put in the fine details. but for flash fiction, lean and spare works very well.

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  2. 😀 You sure do take it better than I do! I’ve been so disappointed to miss the finals! You’re right, though; there’s something odd about the judging. I was giving more thought to your story since last I commented and it occurred that your not naming the jogger was a literary way of making it seem as if the jogger is of lesser importance than the other characters (which he is), and the judges don’t seem to appreciate (or understand…?) anything of literary value!! AARGH!

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    1. Well … you fared better than me in the end.
      But yes …. that judged asked several times, “is this deliberate?” To which my reply would have been “yes”. But he didn’t go on to say “because if it is deliberate then that is a bad thing”, but I’d have to assume that to be the message.
      And I really can’t believe that I left much doubt that the old man and Janet had been married – though evidently I did. I don’t really get the ‘narrator’ criticism either – the narrator was an omnipresent observer throughout. I thought so anyway….

      But …. I’m not the judge, and that is probably for the best.
      There was one glaring spelling mistake in it that somehow passed unnoticed.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah. I once wrote a story about a woman who was disconnected from reality. It’s title was Disembodied. At the beginning, she’s vaguely aware of the policemen standing respectfully at the back of the funeral home. At the end, when they move in to arrest her husband, she thinks, “Where’d the policemen come from? Were they here already?” And in between, she’s SO TOTALLY dissociative. The judge was like, “Did you accidentally forget the policemen were there in the beginning?” And I was first HM. I wanted to scream. 😀

        Do you do flash fiction? It starts in July, I think!! I hope to see you there!

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      2. I do do flash. But this year I will be boarding a boat in Vancouver on that day and won’t have a chance to write anything. I’m considering it anyway, just for the exercise of the second shot.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. In a moment of madness I put my name down for flash …. even though I may not make an appearance in round 1 at all ….. so I’ll see you there (during the second bit).

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  3. It seems like you’re making progress. Next year you should win it.
    Isn’t it fascinating how different people can have such vastly different opinions about the same piece? That’s what motivates me at times, while demotivates me during other times. There will always be someone who thinks you’re the worst, and hopefully, someone who thinks you’re the best. The trick is to get as few people thinking you’re the worst as possible. You don’t always have to be the best. You just need others to be the worst.

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    1. Actually, I’ve done the calculations and, at the present rate of ascension, I can expect to win the contest in 432.7 years (with luck).
      But, throughout my lifetime, I’ve made something of an art form out of mediocrity; never quite the worst; never near the best …. at it would upset the very nature of things for me to be otherwise. The lower-middle ground is my place in the universe and the delicate balance of the cosmos relies upon my consistency in that regard.

      Liked by 1 person

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