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  1. #1
    Dawn Prince
    Guest

    Opening paragraphs

    Hello All:
    oops sorry about the italics, double postings--i am trying to get the revision to the top, but it is not working today.

    Thanks for the feedback. Great suggestions. Read the improved paragraph and I've added more just in case you would like to read further.

    Bart, it actually reads better. Thank YOu.

    L-Bea. Gosh, I now see the verbs and such. Thanks for that.

    C-bets, I felt that line about mourning should be later on. Matya. I changed it to feel, but I decided to lose the sentence as per Barts suggestion.

    Jill:
    Thanks for the critique. I like your take, but that would change the tone of my piece drastically as that is not her voice or her language. Thank you as every input helps me to write better.


    After The Funeral


    It is like burying him all over again--putting him away piece by piece into cardboard boxes from the A&P and labeling them to be stored in the attic or to be sent off to the Goodwill to be picked over by strangers. I take his clothes out of the drawers, and I fold him away into compartments, depending on their newness, laying my grief out in this mock burial of my father. I unfold ****-white undershirts that once touched his skin, and I close my eyes pressing my face against the soft cotton -- only to fold them up again. I need to make his death real for me. I perform this sequence over and over until the hallway is crowded with cardboard boxes and black garbage bags that stretch under the weight of the clothes.


    It's been several hours after the funeral, and I am locked away in his room while Maddie is downstairs leading her after the funeral ritual of having paisley old ladies back to the house for celestial seasonings tea in orange spice and gingersnap cookies all the way from England. The aroma of steeping tea is racing up between the floors.
    In the sitting room, just below the bedroom, the crowd drinks tea and talks in quiet voices. Through the floorboards, I hear their muffled voices, and the clinking of fine china--like a ceremonial banging of teaspoons as they stir their tea. They stir as if they have nothing but time. Never mind that they are, mostly, seventy and eighty.

    There are only little old ladies left on my father's side. At these things, there is always talk about what a nice little send off it was as if the dearly departed were going on some Mediterranean cruise with that Barry Mannilow song, Lola, playing in the background. I, on the other hand, never learned how to mourn properly. I can't cry on cue like Aunt Maddie does at funerals. I canít shed big, quivery, and indistinguishable from weddings and happy occasion tears. My grief is like brown wrapping paper, concealed for my own private unraveling in the middle of the night.

    On the table with the lilacs is the last picture of my father and me. It was taken five years ago at a book signing at the local bookstore. I am surprised that he had it framed. It is my first book of short stories, and my father has a tweed arm across my shoulders. We don't share any sort of resemblance except for the dark unruly, curly hair; mine shoulder and puffed out to the sides. My high cheekbones give away the exuberance of the moment while my father's English face tries to contain itself while trying to properly give the affect of the proud father. He looks as if he had tried on different faces for this picture in the mirror and was caught in between poses as the flash went off before he could make the proper face. The picture makes my father look ridiculous and buffoonish.

    I pick up the picture and examine it more closely to look at my mother's pin in the folds of my scarf. I 'd hardly remembered that I had worn the pin that day. I set the picture down amidst the remnants of a life interrupted. Things were just as he had left them. These things -- the sum of Harper tricks me into thinking that I will go downstairs and find him in his Morris chair, bespectacled, but still squinting at his morning paper with a cup of Earl Grey tea on the table, its Old-World English aroma wafting through the air.

    I can smell him everywhere in the house. Closing my eyes, and inhaling deeply, I can hold him in my head a little longer. The Lilacs, which used to be his favorite, are slowly dying, and no amount of water and sunlight will keep them from their fate, and though they are wilting, they give off a haunting, lingering smell that reminds me of a smoldering, long goodbye. With the afternoon breeze blowing just so between the Priscilla, his tobacco smell still lingers, and I can almost inhale him. I'm afraid that his tobacco smell will fade along with the lilacs when the breeze fades to little more than a whisper. And all that will be left is that familiar creaking of old man feet sliding across the bare floorboards.

    Mementos, pieces long forgotten in back closets and shoe boxes--things uncovered here and there bring back memories. My life up to age fifteen is revealed, mostly, in black and white shots taken by my father, the amateur photographer who preferred the graininess of black and white pictures. In the desk drawer, I find more envelopes stuffed with pictures and flip through them hurriedly--half-forgotten memories flashing by in quick frames. The fading dog-eared snap shots, with the white borders, hold traces of my father.

    As I thumb through the moments of his life, there is a picture of my mother than stuns me, and I sit back on my heels holding it up to the light bulb as if shining light on it would tell me about the reasons behind the picture. It is of my mother in a black and white summer dress that shows her thin freckled shoulders as she sits on a wooden and iron park bench in a courtyard overgrown with a variety of shrubs and ivy climbing the walls. I don't recognize the place. My mother is expressionless. She has always had one of those expressionless faces void of even a raised eyebrow or a curl of the lip. But it is more than my motherís bland face that intrigues, it is the date on the back of the picture that leaves questions in my mind.

    Dawn



  2. #2
    Harper
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    Hi Dawn,

    Here are a couple of quick thoughts.

    "They stir as if they had nothing left but time." Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

    "My grief is like brown wrapping paper, concealed for my own private unraveling in the middle of the night." The simile is wrong. The grief is what is concealed not the thing that is concealing it. Also, unraveling is not the right word for the opening of paper. Picky, I know, but when an image is vivid, but not the right one, the reader stops to try to figure it out, or is bothered by it.

    The main thing is that I think you are spending too much time on the details prior to the mystery implied by the date on the photo, that. It takes too long. Your language is great, and the details are fabulous, but it goes on for too long. I know that you are trying to get in as much as you can about the father/daughter thing, but you need to spread that out. Many of these details might be taken out and expanded on in later parts of the work (novel?). Trying to get them all in here bogs it down.

  3. #3
    Dawn Prince
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    Harper:
    Got ya. I just wanted to hear someone say that about the leading up to. The ending about the date on the picture should be further up is what you are saying. Hmmm...will work on that. Hey, you are the reader.


    Between you and Bart this morning, I think I am learning so much about this writing thing. Oh my gosh, I have had that sentence forever, and it isn't until now that I noticed that it is wrong about the concealing part. I know I want to keep the brown wrapper paper image, and so I will try to re-word that part.

    I like this critque thing. It really helps me see what I am missing being so close to the piece. Dawn

  4. #4
    Dawn Prince
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    Harper:

    The date on the picture. I put that in as I was typing it up this morning. It sort of changes my focus of where the piece was going as I seem to be putting a lot into the mystery of the date of the photo, but what I really want the novel to be about is the mother and daughter after the funeral, and the mysterious dates leads to questions about the mother. I don't want to have to make the picture so important because I don't see how I offer the reader a proper outcome regarding the picture. Maybe, the revelation of the meaning of the picture could be the climax of the book? A

    sking these questions because I just write off the top of my head. Now, I see that I should do some planning of where I want to take this story. Hmmm...learning more about this every minute. This started out as a short story, but I have been mulling it over for a month or so, and the scope of what I want to say just doesn't fit into a short story as I have two other women characters besides the protagonist and her mother. I am rambling. I hope that I made some sense. Smile. Dawn

  5. #5
    Harper
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    I would keep the date on the photo at the end of the chapter. But I would find a way to shorten up the long sequence of description that comes before it. It might be the effect of reading it here in single space, but it seems too dense with description and lacking in action. Just my opinion.

  6. #6
    Dawn Prince
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    Harper:

    I fully get you. My strenth is in details but yet I tend to go on and on as my mother would say. Though the action does start soon, I have a lot of narrative to get me there.

    I read this novel, Miss MacIntosh, My Darling and that book is 600 pages of long narratives and never ending paragraphs, the kind of writing I love, and I was in heaven as I rode her wave of poetic prose, but I have been reading about the elements of good writing and there has to be a balance between the narrative and action.

    I want to get the first draft down, and then I will put yours and all other suggestions into action. I have notes at the beginning of each chapter as a reminder of things I need to work on. It's funny, I spend a lot of time moving paragraphs around--I think it is my way of procrastinating, but hey, trying to shorten the descriptive details in the beginning could fit right into my procrastination. See what I mean about being long-winded?!! Smile. Dawn

  7. #7
    L Bea
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    Dawn,

    I'm on my way out to the pool right now so can't read the whole thing (will later), but just checking the first sentence I wanted to comment that you don't need so many "to be's." Now that you've changed the wording so the verbs match, you can simplify it even more by losing the second "to be."

    Off for some sunny fun! (taking my notebook with me to write if the spirit should move)

    ~ Bea

  8. #8
    Dawn Prince
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    Harper:
    Getting better?

    It is like burying him all over again--putting him away piece by piece into cardboard boxes from the A&P and labeling them to be stored in the attic or sent off to the Goodwill to be picked over by strangers. I take his clothes out of the drawers, and I fold him away into compartments, depending on their newness, laying my grief out in this mock burial of my father. I unfold ****-white undershirts that once touched his skin, and I close my eyes pressing my face against the soft cotton -- only to fold them up again. I need to make his death real for me. I perform this sequence over and over until the hallway is crowded with cardboard boxes and black garbage bags that stretch under the weight of the clothes.

    Mementos, pieces long forgotten in back closets and shoe boxes--things uncovered here and there bring back memories. My life up to age fifteen is revealed, mostly, in black and white shots taken by my father, the amateur photographer who preferred the graininess of black and white pictures. In the desk drawer, I find more envelopes stuffed with pictures and flip through them hurriedly--half-forgotten memories flashing by in quick frames. The fading dog-eared snap shots, with the white borders, hold traces of my father.

    As I thumb through the moments of his life, there is a picture of my mother than stuns me, and I sit back on my heels holding it up to the light bulb as if shining light on it would tell me about the reasons behind the picture. It is of my mother in a black and white summer dress that shows her thin freckled shoulders as she sits on a wooden and iron park bench in a courtyard overgrown with a variety of shrubs and ivy climbing the walls. I don't recognize the place. My mother is expressionless. She has always had one of those expressionless faces void of even a raised eyebrow or a curl of the lip. But it is more than my motherís bland face that intrigues, it is the date on the back of the picture that leaves questions in my mind.


    Dawn

  9. #9
    Dawn Prince
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    L-Bea:
    Right, you are! Sunning, eh? Hmm, I went out for a bit, but our mill is acting up. Sulphur!!! Yuck!!! Enjoy your fun in the sun! DAwn

  10. #10
    Harper
    Guest

    Re: Opening paragraphs

    I do like that better, Dawn, though I hope you don't lose the ladies and their teacups. Maybe you can integrate them into whatever comes next.

    H.

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