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Are you curious enough to want to read on?

How old do you think the speaker is in the story? Why?

THANK YOU from my literary heart.

Breaking through.

I’m kicking. I’m frightened. She won’t look at me. Her head is between her knees, the back of her neck gently sloping forward. She hears me but I feel like my cries are silent. I scream louder. What am I saying? I have no idea. I want to be seen. I kick her again. Shame. What a naughty little girl. What a bad little girl. Kick. Scream. Cry and scream, the tears pouring down, my balled fists red with sweat and tears as I cry and punch and kick and it’s never enough. For her to notice me. The top of her head is like a stone. Her feet slightly pigeon-toed, she moved them in towards herself once I began to kick and punch. I tried to bite but I knew I would be stuck here longer if I did that. How did we end up in this room? How did my mom decide to slump against my bedroom door, block my exit, lock the handle. The ignoring was far worse than those details. Her silent shaming. Of me. I am invisible to her. She wants me to stop, but if I do, it will mean that she wins. It will mean that I have to let go of myself. Give my own will over to hers, to theirs. I can’t win. If I keep screaming and kicking, nothing will change. If I cooperate, I lose myself. I’m thirsty. She won’t get me water and I’m screaming for it. My throat hurts now. 


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  • Hi Kelly,

    I think I can answer two of the three, which will implicitly - for now - answer the last.

    How old: Because you draw my attention to it with the question, I paid attention. And the answer is: I'm not entirely sure. Much of what's there suggests an infant: the kicking and screaming that is clearly not connecting with the mother, the not knowing what she's saying. But there are elements that are dissonant with that perspective: sentence structures that are too elaborate, the reference to "my bedroom" and being blocked in. (There were moments when I wondered if it was from the perspective of an unborn child - kicking again - but that really didn't mesh with knowing the mother's posture and anything about the room.)

    Reactions: Primarily, confused. So far, the PoV is indistinct. Is she standing? If so, she wouldn't be wondering what she's saying with her screams. (Standing might come before talking, but a standing kick wouldn't.) Is she lying down? Then where is she relative to the mother figure? How is she kicking? How/why is it ineffective?

    That said, the concept - if my guess about her age is right - is very intriguing. It's got a lot of potential, but needs to be handled very carefully so as not to throw the reader out of a suspension of disbelief. I would say the first rule is no subclauses, certainly not when she's agitated. (And even when quiet, they should be rare.)

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    • I thought of a very young child, ' bad little girl', having a violent tantrum just old enough to know that behaviour like that was unacceptable, however, like Rick, I found some of the vocabulary didn't fit. Pigeon-toed?  How would a small child know and use that metaphor?   So I am a bit confused, but I did want to read more to find out what is going on, if the mother is on drugs, or whatever her situation is.

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      • My first impression was Helen Keller.

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        • Thank you. 

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        • I agree with the other two. The idea of the tantrum suggest a two or three year old, but there's too much cognition in there for it to come across as that young. Someone of that age would not understand concepts like the 'silent shaming' and losing herself in cooperation. I'd expect them to be significantly older to be able to formulate those sort of ideas. Also the little details she notices like the 'neck gently sloping' and 'pigeon-toed' feel like a much older person.

          It's a tricky thing you're trying to pull off, but if you can get the balance right I think it would intrigue. Maybe try reading some stories told from a child's POV to get some ideas. Amanda Berriman's 'Home' had a lot of acclaim recently. 

          There again, you might be purposely trying to confuse and the person is older. I'd be interested to know the answer.

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          • Hello all,

            Thank you all for your feedback. You've articulated what I couldn't yesterday when I wrote this. It is a memory from my childhood that I have trouble remembering. The problem is that my 43 year old brain gets in the way to try to explain what I felt when at the time, I had very few words to use. I actually typed it with my eyes shut to try to really just feel it, and I love the idea of taking out any complex sentences, erudite sounding descriptions, and just letting it be a young, chaotic moment. 

            Your comments are always so helpful. There is more, but it is really raw and skips around. I'm nervous to post something so raw. This little paragraph was all I had the courage to muster. I've been reading about trauma and how the mind cuts out things that are too painful to remember, like a really good system that bleeps out what is too painful to register. I think I was two or three, like one of you said, but I'm not entirely sure either. Thank you again for helping me put together this puzzle I'm creating to show me the image my brain can't conjure on its own.

            Many literary hugs (we hug in California...!!),

            Kelly

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          • My hat off to you for sharing even this much. Writing it, even if you never share with any one (perhaps especially if it is never to be shared with anyone) is, I hear, cathartic.

            Just a crazy idea here; you could take a slightly different grammatical approach, especially where you want to emphasise the frustration. (Which, at least to my mind, encapsulates the lack of vocabulary at that age.) I don't know the grammatical description of this (because, hey, subjected to foreign-language education) but see it as an object-function structure.

            For example - "Me: kick." instead of "I'm kicking."

            Or, for "What am I saying? I have no idea," something like "Words? Sounds? Meaning: lost." (Which implies that you knew them, but the trauma is blocking the processing.)

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            • I love this idea Rick. I just did yoga with my eyes closed which helps me go inside more. Inner space. I'm going to play with it and see what comes. The brain is so good at protecting us from trauma; I'm reading The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, which inspired my attempt at putting the pieces together. My attempt at accessing the images to create the pieces. It's more delicate than I thought it would be.

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            • Rewrite #4 (2,3 were not great, trust me) My husband helped me with pacing by coming at it from the other end. 

              What image do you see when you read this? It is jumbled in my mind and I'm curious if you see what I'm trying to paint for you. 

              lots of literary love,

              Kelly 

              Breaking through.

              I got broken. I allowed it to happen. By submitting. By being quiet and letting my hurt be my own. Nobody liked a screaming child like me. All I wanted was her to notice me. I’m here, in front of her, sad and red and wet with tears and she has nothing. Only a pair of knees about at my eyelevel or just below. No face. I’m alone. I know what to do to get out. Be quiet. Submit. It is the earliest trauma I remember. Actually, only glimpses of the scene are visible to me. Feelings of being terrified and trapped. Then I think I’m just making it all up. My mind is somehow tricking me into thinking that something bad happened to me when it really didn’t. When it was actually all my fault. For screaming and kicking like that. The time she blocked my door. From the inside so she could ignore me to my face. So I could absorb it. So my body would get the message. Submit. There was no “or” because it was silence. I only had one choice and something in me hated that. And so I fought back, first with my words, then with my body. Kicking her left knee with my barefoot. It felt fleshy and solid against my skin and I remember the dark pores on hers. She pulled in her feet after my assault. Her head remained down, between her knees, the whole time. I was yelling at my mom’s knees. Screaming. No words, just the ache of my hurt finding physical manifestation in my throat, in my lungs. 


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              • Hi Kelly - I read the version you posted up for a short time yesterday, and rather liked it. It was very visceral. However, you still had that problem of it not feeling like a very young child's perspective because it needed to make sense to the reader, so I think what you've done here is a good idea; using the adult looking back interpretation of events. 

                I like this version - I think it shows a hugely traumatic event and the effect it had on both the child and adult mind. The short opening fragments reflect her mental state well, and you conjure up a strong picture of the child standing in front of the mother. I do wonder if once you've established that it's an adult thinking about what happened, if you can then sink back into the rawer mode slightly, as if her memory is taking over?  Just a thought.

                I really love this line 'I only had one choice and something in me hated that.'

                A few nit picking thoughts:

                ' at my eyelevel or just below' - the specific detail felt a bit out of place with the rest of the writing.

                'No face.' - Because I've read the earlier version, I know the mother has her head between her knees and is ignoring the child. I just wonder, if I was reading this for the first time, if I might think this was a headless corpse in front of the child? Gruesome!

                'Actually, only glimpses of the scene are visible to me' - not sure you need that. Who else would it be visible to?

                'My mind is somehow tricking me into thinking that something bad happened to me when it really didn’t.' - Taking out a few extra words might make it stronger. Watch out for using 'me' when you don't need it.

                'and I remember the dark pores on hers' - I'm not quite sure what your saying here.

                ' my mom’s' - When a person is thinking about a parent, they don't think 'my' it is just Mom, as a name. Only when you're talking to someone do they become 'my'. Hope I'm making sense.

                'physical manifestation' - felt that phrase was a little out of style with the rest of the piece, but might just be me.

                There are quite a few 'my' in the extract and I think you could knock the odd one out and it would still make sense.


                Great job. I think this is shaping up nicely.

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                • Oh, that's a serious upping of the game, Kelly.

                  The voice is now really engaging; the PoV of an adult looking back on childhood is obvious.

                  There's one bit - I’m here, … Be quiet. Submit. - which I think needs to be broken out. Give it its own paragraph. Perhaps, even, a different presentation to make it clear that you are chanelling the inner-child voice. (Thereby allowing you to do the same later, using presentation, without needing to say it.)

                  Besides that, I was going to say "a handful of typos and grammatical gremlins," but Kate seems to have hit most of my list already…

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                  • Thank you so much for your feedback. Here is a revised version. I expanded it out like you said, Rick and took out some of the wordiness (thank you Kate). I think it's turning into something. We'll see.

                    Literarally (sp?) yours,

                    Kelly

                    Breaking through.

                    I got broken. I allowed it to happen. By submitting. By being quiet and letting my hurt be my own. Nobody liked a screaming child and I had temper tantrums. All I wanted was her to notice me. I’m here, in front of her, sad and red and wet with tears and she has nothing. I’m alone with her. I know what to do to get out. Be quiet. Submit. It is the earliest trauma I remember, that I have been inviting my mind to reveal to me. That my mind can recall. My body has never forgotten. Even before I knew what was happening, it was already done. Forty years ago and I never knew how bad my body took it. How the fear shaped my life. I thought other kids had stories like mine. Or worse. I never really told this one though. It never came up. Now it is all I can see. It’s an early one. I still fight back in this one so I know it’s from before I broke.

                    Actually, I only catch glimpses. Feelings of being terrified and trapped. Then I think I’m just making it all up. My mind somehow tricks me into thinking that something bad happened when it really didn’t. When it was actually all my fault. For screaming and kicking like that. I try to get past her. She grabs me by the wrist. Reach for the door with my other hand. She grabs it too. Tippy-toes. Turn the handle. Escape. Nothing. She pushes me away, her body a mass of silent, angry flesh. Blocking the door to my bedroom. From the inside so she could ignore me to my face. So I could absorb it. So my body would get the message: submit. There was no “or” because it was silence. I only had one choice and something in me hated that. And so I fought back, first with my words, then with my body. Kicking her left knee with my barefoot. It felt fleshy and solid against my skin and I remember the dark pores on hers. She pulled in her feet after my assault. Her head remained down, between her knees, the whole time. I was yelling at her knees. She wants me to stop, but if I do, it will mean that she wins. It will mean that I have to let go of myself. I can’t win. If I cooperate, I lose myself. Screaming. No words, just the ache of my hurt finding friction in my throat, in my lungs.  

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                    • Ah, Kelly, that's not quite what I meant (thought what you've added works well, for the most part).

                      I was referring specifically to the fact that there are points where you slip into channelling the innner-child thoughts directly onto the page. Those need to be broken out in a presentational sense. Either - if you're going to keep them infrequent - by putting them in italics, or, if they are going to account for more than, say 20% (some might say 10%), by giving them their own paragraphs, probably with greater indentation.

                      It's a change in PoV that needs to be obvious before the reader processes the words. Otherwise, it's extra work to figure out whose voice…

                      There is one discontinuity in this new version. "She grabs me by the wrist," (and then again two sentences later), conflicts with "Her head remained down, between her knees, the whole time." How did she grab both hands with her head down? Unless you were that predictable that she instinctively knew, in which case, tell us when she grabs.

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                      • Thanks Rick - that makes sense. I'm going to play with that concept. 

                        Have a great rest of the day!!! Mine is just starting:)

                        Kelly

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