Saturday, May 14, 2011

Freaky (not so) Friday Blogfest

(Or, Embarrassing My Writerly Self for the Sake of Critiquing)

Kat Brauer is taking a small break from her Crits for Water campaign for a special Freaky Friday Blogfest. She’s got prizes! And promises of jocularity! And Harry Potter! As Kat would say, for serious.

She posted one of her earliest, 500-word pieces of writing to be critiqued (for her, a fanfic Harry Potter spin-off written when she was a teen) on her blog. Pop over there and check it out. I did a line-by-line critique on it for extra credit.

Kat also posed this challenge: she wanted her readers to find some old piece of writing and post it for critiques on their own blogs. That’s right, she wants us all to open ourselves up to (*cue creepy music*) public feedback. This is slightly different from Miss Snark’s blog in that, well, it’s not at all anonymous on anyone’s part.

Naturally, since NOT AN EDITOR is all about critiquerly topics and such, I knew I had to participate, no matter how embarrassing it might be. Therefore, I found a piece of flash fiction that I did several years back. I’ve only been writing for shy-of-four years, and I started with short fiction.

Being a psychology major, I was drawn to characters with hard-core psychological diagnoses. Yes, I was more concerned about characters and their worlds than I was about plot* (oh, you mean there has to be a story, too?). See if you can tell what my character’s mental illness is.

Feel free to throw in some critiquing. I’m ready for the red pens (or, if you’re Marewolf, purple pens) to fly. Line edits or any other critiquerly advice is welcome.


New Shoes

Janice examines her purse for necessary items - a package of sani-wipes, keys, wallet, antibacterial lotion, tissue, gloves, and a white cloth. Was she sure she saw her keys? Yes, jingle, here they are.
A glance in the mirror to comb her hair reveals the worst: greasy. As she undresses to take another shower, she carefully re-folds her clothes. She is concerned that her pastel shirt might wrinkle and she finds a hanger.

She turns on the water, crisp and clean. The pressure didn't seem normal and she shuts it off. Turns it on and off. On. Much better.

As she steps out of the shower, she flexes her feet on the pristine rug. Left foot, right foot, left, right, left, right. She clearly cannot wear the clothes that she wore earlier; it wouldn't be right.

She has an idea and she packs an extra pair of sheer socks. Those nylon footies they offer in the shops bother her. The whole experience is a bother. Reviewing the faint quarter-inch scuff on her shoe's instep, she realizes that she must go. Her heart quickens.

Janice reviews her bag once more. Yes, everything was there, and now she has an extra pair of socks. She felt her keys jingle in her fingers. Perfect. What if she had left earlier with dirty hair and no extra pair of socks? And the beige shirt is much preferred over the light blue.

She readies herself as she flips the light switch off and on three times. Satisfaction gradually comes while sani-wiping the car seat and the steering wheel. And fastening, unfastening, fastening, unfastening, and fastening her safety belt. She takes a deep breath and presses her eyes closed. She turns the key without starting the car until three half turns back-and-forth are complete. The sound is fine, just fine, and she opens her eyes. She adjusts and re-adjusts her mirror.

Damnit! She says clapping her hands thrice, less than half a tank. She shivers.

I can do this, she says. People put gas in their cars every day. Every day, everyday. She slowly drives to a station and up to an empty pump, but is not close enough. She backs up and pulls forward several minutes until it feels right. I can do this.

She pulls out her gloves but wishes for more protection. She uses her pointer to press in between each of the gloves' fingers. Right and left. Each one twice more. It takes quite a few sani-wipes to sterilize the handle on the gas pump. Her nose squints as she cleans. Brown god-knows-what stains the disposable towels.

As the gas fills her tank, she wonders if she has to urinate. Yes, yes, she is pretty sure of it. She returns the nozzle, uses her white cloth to open her trunk, and disposes of her gloves in a plastic bag marked "dirty''. She takes a clean pair of gloves out of a Ziplock bag marked "clean'' and closes the trunk. Opens and closes, opens, closes. A sigh leaves her after the task is done. She sits down after sani-wiping the driver's seat, the steering wheel, her hands.

As she makes her way home for the safety of her own bathroom, she passes the shoe store. A half a tank wasn't enough, halfatank, h-a-l-f-a-t-a-n-k. Perhaps I'll go shopping tomorrow. She looks at the scuff on her left shoe in disgust. But she has to urinate. And she wouldn't feel proper afterwards without taking a shower.


That’s it. Critiques in the comments!

*Okay, I admit. I'm still this way. But I'm aware of it now. :)


Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I knew in the first line she was OCD. Fun. I got a real sense of how the day must be for her. Endless repetitions and never quite right.

Kat said...

This is a pretty interesting character study! Yes, I'm not quite sure what the plot is (PWP?), but I think there are a lot of great details here. A few tense shifts that threw me for a loop, though. :D

I thought that maybe the close examination of her OCD (yeah?) was a little TOO close. Like, too much for the reader. I think there's a line--don't want it to be exactly true to life, as that could come across as alienating, but then again, it'd be good to make the readers a little uncomfortable, too.

For similar reasons, I actually liked the switch into a more passive voice/the use of filter words. (WHAT HAVE I BECOME?!) Obviously not all the time, but it was a nice breather between the intensity of the other sentences.

That being said, I could have used a bit more grounding in the setting.

Still, I think this is a GREAT beginning. No wonder you're so fabulous now! :D :D

Marybk said...

Thanks Kayeleen! You and Kat are correct: It's OCD.

Kat, yes, I am still a tense-shifter (almost sounds like a super power), just a little better at catching it now during edits. I think I must have a little super power capability to get you to appreciate filter words! Hahaha.

Anita said...

Aack! Poor Obsessive compulsive Janice! Is germa phobe part of that same disorder, or is it seperate, because she's showing serious symptioms of that, too. Howid Mandell, I found you a woman!


This is a cute story! I'm amazed how well you got in her head and made us feel her anxiety. Pretty good for one of your first stories, I'd say. ;) This sounds like a fun exercise! I think I might partake on Wednesday. Hmm. I'll see what I have lined up for that day. Thanks for sharing!

Anita said...

That's supposed to say Howie up there, and I have NO idea if I spelled his last name right and am too tired to check. Hee.

Sarah Robertson said...

Well, the cat's already out of the bag, but you definitely highlighted the OCD very well. I also really love how a lot of the sentences are the same length. It makes the voice very controlled and stifling, which is perfect. :)

Kat's already said it, but the focus on the OCD is incredibly intense, to the point where it does detract from the action. For example, there's a lot of worry about getting gas, but then the actual event is pretty short. A plot would definitely help with that though. :P

Marybk said...

Anita: You're so right about Howie! LOL. This has been a fun exercise. I might do it again in a few months, too.

Sarah: Thanks for picking up on the sentence structure and voice. It was fun getting into the character to write this. Again, that blasted need for a plot leaves me hanging. :)

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