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I just wrote this scene and I was wondering if I could receive some feedback. It's roughly 550 words and the protagonist is recalling the death of her brother.

 I haven’t really shared my work outside of a couple of family and friends so I’ll really appreciate it if I could get some feedback.

  • Wow, I love the way you play with different meanings of the same word and move from one to the next in a series of poetic connections. It's very powerful.

     I think you particularly get into your stride with this later in the piece and I think you could afford to lose a few sentences earlier on which would, in my view, make it even more striking.

    I would start by losing the very first sentence because it's a bit clichéd and doesn't really need saying. You could instead start with 'My brother's body was found washed up...'

    I would also cut the start of the second paragraph because the simile of hunter and prey doesn't fit with the rest of the passage. I'd start this paragraph with 'The thought of him struggling...'

    I would possibly do something about the bit where you talk about 'deciding' who reads the note as I think this breaks the flow a bit. It depends how important it is to get across that the mother can't bring herself to read it. I think it would read fine if you slipped straight from '...note in his bedroom.' to 'He spoke of his dreams...', unless the bits in between are important to you.

    Finally, I think you could end the scene on 'But his death had power over us.'

    You have a beautifully moving and powerful scene here with what I think people would say was a very distinctive voice. Do ignore all my cuts if you want to. I am a very inexperienced writer myself and would be incredibly proud of I'd written something like this.

    Thank you for sharing. I'd love to read more.

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    • One more thing...

      I just read it again and found myself wondering whether caged birds really do wait patiently. Like the hunter and prey, this is a slightly clichéd simile which doesn't really fit in with the rest of your narrative. I think I'd cut that bit too and start that sentence with 'He waited patiently...'

      Hope you don't feel I've cut it to pieces. It really is beautiful, but I think it would be even more beautiful with that little bit less 'fleshing out'.

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      • Thank you so much for your feedback and your kind words. I’ll definitely apply your suggestions to my writing. I was a bit worried that I was telling instead of showing that’s why I included the caged bird and hunter descriptions, but I’ll be sure to cut them out like you suggested.

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      • Do see what others think too before taking on all my suggestions. I could be wrong!

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        • Hi Hdiyl90, and thank you for sharing this.

          Like Paul says, the way you have played with different meanings of the same word and moved from one to the next is clever and engaging. Well done for sustaining this feature throughout the piece, too. It's a real strength of the piece!
          I also agree with Paul's comments on the opening line and the suggested cuts/changes. And I'll add one more: in line 7 you describe how the narrator's brother '...hoped his wrongdoings would be cleansed and washed away by the water.' but I wasn't sure what his wrongdoings were meant to have been. The line set me up to anticipate I'd be learning that the character had done something awful at some point; but in actual fact my takeaways were that the brother was the quintessential innocent victim, treated cruelly by fate/life/society time and time again. So, what I'm saying is that line 7 ended up feeling misleading to me.

          That little niggle aside, I thought this was really well written, well done ;-)

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          • Thank you so much for your feedback. I initially wrote about his wrongdoings with the intention of expanding on his flaws whilst touching on the injustices he faced as well, but I decided against it later on. Yes you’re right, I’ll just take it out and apply Paul’s suggestions as well.

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            • Although the talk of being cleansed from wrongdoings makes sense of your allusion to baptism. Could you perhaps leave it in but say 'any wrongdoings' instead of 'his wrongdoings' or use a less strong word in place of wrongdoings, e.g. failings?

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              • Thank you for your suggestion, Paul. It didn’t even occur to me, that could actually work well.

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              • Good morning! I would just like to say, you have a lovely little piece here. Is it simply for practice or for something bigger? Either way, you have a wonderful style (and I am a huge fan of the first paragraph, though I do agree with Paul regarding a few of the cuts). 

                To be honest, the only thing I feel I can provide in terms of feedback is that the idea of what happened to her brother gets muddied a bit once you hit the sentence “He didn’t get the chance to clear his name because they believed he completely cleared out the cash register.”

                At first, I thought he was simply mistaken as the robber and they pointed fingers at him for convenience and lack of evidence did him in. But then, what apparently happened was the real thief took the money, he walked in as the thief ran out and the cashier pointed fingers at him and the cops arrived really quickly afterwards without him saying anything? And then they didn't find it suspicious that he didn't have any of the money on him?

                (Or he bolted as soon as she yelled at him, in which case that is also horribly suspicious and odd for him to do.) But, maybe change the words around a bit so that there is a clearer picture on what happened? 

                Also- this might be purely preference, but I know my eye has a tendency to get lost in really long paragraphs, so you could probably split it up a bit with each change of scene 

                This is also all my opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt. Either way, this is a really nice short with an amazing first paragraph and a powerful last line. You also set what caused his death from the very beginning which is nice (drowning has to be one of the worst ways to die, and since he's a capable swimmer, suicide is one of the easiest conclusions to go to.). All in all, an enjoyable read.

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                • Hi Jewlyn,

                  Thank you so much for your feedback. Yes, this excerpt is part of a novel I’m writing. I wasn’t sure if my writing was very clear so I wanted to see if there were any aspects people weren’t sure of, so I’m glad you’ve pointed them out. 

                  You’re right about the cash register bit, I‘ll take it out to avoid any confusion. Thank you for also pointing out the long paragraphs. I did notice it after I uploaded the file but I wasn’t sure if I could change it. I wrote this on the Scrivener app and just converted it to pdf when I was done, so I’ll be sure to edit it next time.

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                • Hello! What worked for me was the sense of story. The narrator's brother's life has a story and it's an interesting one. But you're telling a lot of it in that excerpt. Could some of it be told later, through other memories or conversations? In my work-in-progress I wrote a detailed recollection of my main character recalling her mother's death - but in editing I had to be really strict with myself about how much of the detail was relevant to the main story and whether the length of the memory was distracting the reader's flow away from the present. :-) Hope my thoughts are useful in some way. If not, do ignore. Good luck with your writing!

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                  • Thank you for your suggestions, I’ll definitely look into them. This is my first time posting on here and so far the feedback I’ve received has been amazing. Thank you once again 😊

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                    • I was also quite touched by the generous responses I got the very first time I posted a question, even without being a regular or well known member of the community! 😀 

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                      • Thanks for that, I have just found the webinar to watch. Think it may help me 😊

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                      • The feedback you have received is amazing because your writing is rather amazing. In spite of the criticisms (justified), your storytelling makes a real impact and I think we would all like to read more.

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                        • Thank you so much, it really means a lot to me. Writing isn’t always easy especially at a young age, and there are days where I and I’m sure many other writers have doubts, so seeing such a great response to my writing really gave me the boost I needed. I’m still working on improving my craft and the valuable feedback I’ve received so far will definitely help with that. Thank you once again, I’m so glad I finally took the step to upload my work, it really paid off.

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                          • Gotta tell you.  It's no easier when you are older.

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                          • I've come to this rather late(!). Sorry! And I'm left with agreeing with all the terrific feedback you've been given already. I think Amanda's point about showing a bit more rather than telling is the only real (and minor) criticism I'd have too.

                            Otherwise, nothing but praise! It's a terrific piece of writing, really emotional, strong and powerful, and as others have said the word-choice and phrasing you've used are really, really good. It's prose written with a poet's ear for language, cadence and rhythm. 

                            I loved it! Well done.

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                            • Hi Jon,

                              Thank you so much, it really means a lot to me. I‘m still working on showing instead of telling, I do struggle quite a bit with it but hopefully it’ll get better with time. Even though I was initially nervous to upload my work for the first time, I’m so glad I finally did! Thank you once again for your kind words.

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                            • Wow I really like it 👍

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                              • Thank you 😊

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                              • You appear to have a good tale here. Personally, I would like to be 'seduced' a bit more with less information thrown onto the first page and a slower buildup as to why he died, The shift in viewpoint in the first paragraph distracted me from the strength of your opening sentence, which is very strong. I would stay in the narrator's head, showing more than telling. 

                                One person can't tell another what to write but here's how I would edit this first paragraph:

                                "My brother’s death hit me like a gun shot to an open wound; it destroyed every ounce of joy my family had last year. His body was found washed up at the beach a few days after he was reported missing, and he spent his last few moments doing what he loved most, swimming. I remember him saying that even though he was drowning in debt, he could always swim and drown his sorrows in water instead of alcohol. A regular baptism, he would say. He had hoped his wrongdoings would be cleansed and washed away by the water, swimming was as easy as breathing to him. I didn’t think the very thing that gave life to his dying spirit would ultimately lead to his death."

                                to this:

                                "My brother often said he preferred to drown his sorrows in water rather than alcohol. When his body washed up at the beach, a few days after we reported him missing, I supposed he'd done just that; a final baptism, his wrongdoings cleansed and washed away with my family's joy. His death hit me like a gun shot."

                                Keep working on this. It's a good and poignant beginning. Maybe in the next paragraph there can be more said about his love for swimming and slowly show the reader why he was in debt.

                                On my own novel, I probably have cut as many words as I have written! On my 4th draft and still finding better ways to paint the picture.

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                                • Thank you so much for your feedback. I’m trying to finish my first draft and it’s been a real struggle 😭. I’ll definitely apply your suggestions to my work, thank you.

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                                • Wow, you've got talent my friend. No new suggestions for improvement. Just hope to read more of your work in the future. I am sure your struggle will pay off!

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                                  • Thank you so much for your kind words 😊. I hope it pays off too

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