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Someone on another thread pointed me at Reedsy (we were talking about contests, and they have a pretty comprehensive list)... anyway, in exploring the site, I found they send out writing prompts, weekly, I believe, and hold mini-contests for those using the prompts ($5 entry). Even if I entered 4X a month, that's only $20, so not a huge investment, but great practise for short story writing... I'm like Harry, everything turns into a novel - including this message - sorry!

I have taken a prompt from this weeks list - HAVE A CHARACTER USE A PHRASE 3X, and written the attached, which I'm hoping you will critique for me, before I enter. I always find the group's comments illuminating, and learn a lot, so I expect this time to be no different 😉.

As noted above, I do have a deadline - it has to be submitted by the 26th... I've done 3 edits on it, but I'm sure you'll point out things I didn't notice, which is how I'll learn to do better... You may note this story is a nod to Stephen King and Peng Shepherd's Book of M (w/o the shadowless, LOL).

Thanks to everyone who helps me... FYI, it's less than 3,000 words...

FYI, for those just joining 😉, I incorporated Slago's suggestions, and the newest version is posted at the end...

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Replies (7)
    • Hi Jo, I wish I'd had more time to read, but here are my comments (attached).

      The concept is intriguing - the idea of a new kind of pandemic, and what effect it would have on society. Karen and James are potentially rounded characters that we can have sympathy with (Karen in particular). A short story with a word target is hard work. Every dot and comma has to earn its keep, and I think there is potential for tightening here.

      I think the main issue I have is with the point of view. I think a deep point of view would work better for this, possibly alternating with a 'news report' style indicating how the pandemic progresses. (Only now I think of this: begin each 'Week N' section with a news headline, possibly ending with the usual drivel "More after the break!" - perhaps a little 'Don't Look Up'.)

      Other than that it's a fun piece. I wish you the best of luck with the competition.

      Cheers, S.

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      • Thank you for reading as much as you did... your comments were really helpful - I especially love the 'news report' idea, and I may work on that - while (as you point out) staying w/in the 2-3,000 word restriction... If I can tighten, I may gain some word count to play with...

        Switching the first sentence around to show mystery... and a reveal (sort of), was a good idea too - thanx! FYI, I actually had Karen's job, so I can attest to how boring it was! 😉 

        This isn't what I normally write, but I've always been fascinated with end-of-world scenarios - I am literally on my 3rd copy of The Stand (Stephen King). The first copy was 'borrowed' and never returned, and the second was read to tatters and taped together, 😆.

        In the interests of honesty, I'm not done reading M yet, so don't know why everyone is losing their shadows, or why it causes memory loss (and other weirder things) when they do... but I was taken with the idea of a disease that causes forgetting - since there are already some existing... (hints that Karen thinks it was man-made follow later in my story). 

        I also envisioned some different consequences than she did... Though I must say, I'm glad I read Peng's "The Cartographers" before I did "The Book of M", as I might not have read both if I'd done it the other way around... not quite my cup of tea, but very imaginative, and she writes well.

        Anyway, thank you for your time, input - and friend request!

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        • Sorry, third paragraph should say "...not done reading Peng Shepherd's 'Book of M' yet..."

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          • This is the first page, trying some of your thoughts, Slago... Better, or worse? I went with a radio announcer, rather than a headline... Played with the POV in the first 2 para's... is this closer to what you meant? Minor changes to the middle, then down to the fleshed out conversation with her DH (last 2 para's and a line), and a second radio broadcast...

            But I'm almost at the word count limit now, so will have to seriously tighten the body to add more announcements and still meet that requirement...


            Sometimes she feared she was the only one left. The last one who remembered….

            It started unobtrusively. Everyone forgets things sometimes, right? ‘I’ve forgotten what I wanted, ha ha.’ So when it began happening more often, no one noticed.

            “Good morning, it’s Monday, um… er… “
            “It’s May 6th, Chet.”
            “Ah yes... thank you. Now, over to you for traffic, um…”

            Karen’s first inkling something was amiss came at work. Administrative Assistant to the Vice President of Southern Exploration at a major oil company sounded prestigious. Truthfully, she thought of herself as a glorified secretary.

            She knew her trim figure flattered the suits she favored, and her competence made her boss look good. Karen sighed. But I am SO bored! She blushed, feeling guilty admitting that even to herself.

            As James often said, she was fortunate. Many people couldn’t even find jobs.

            To kill time, she surreptitiously skimmed the Web. Videos featuring people exhibiting odd behaviors were posted everywhere she looked.

            One man climbed into a fountain with his clothes on. If he had danced or jumped, it might have been funny. But he just stood there, observing the water play on his hands, as if he’d never seen anything like it before.

            A woman, trying to walk in high heels, kept tripping and falling against people. She didn’t seem to notice. She’d walk a few steps, then twist an ankle and spill the opposite way. It was amusing at first, though it looked painful. Karen thought it was a miracle she hadn’t broken an ankle, and wondered if she was drunk. But the woman’s expression was so… bewildered…

            There were more, all similar, and she watched for a while, before closing the stream. They made her uncomfortable, though she couldn’t explain why.

            It was her husband, James (never Jamie, or Jim, and certainly never Jimmy), who told her about the forgetting. A serious man, not given to practical jokes, trying to hide a receding hairline and increasing stomach girth, James was the epitome of a ‘serious businessman, thank you very much’.

            She was dismayed when he reported what happened. “Peter came into the office late. You must remember him from the Christmas party? Anyway, after getting in late, he didn’t recognize us. Looked at us like he had no idea who we were.”

            He glanced over, confirming she was listening. “His memory was quite patchy, but reminding him of our names sparked a response. I quizzed him on what he remembered, which helped, I think. But he was forgetting again by lunch. Finally we called his wife, and she came to get him.”

            I should give her a call, Karen thought, and see if there’s anything we can do.

            “And a good morning to you all, on this bright May 13th, Monday morning! 
            Chet seems to have caught this darn bug that’s going around, so he’s at home, 
            as are many of you. I’m sure you all join us in wishing him a speedy recover.
             Not much traffic today, with the new restrictions…”

            As things worsened, Karen and James quarantined at home, like everyone else.

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            • Here's the re-write:

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              • Hi Jo, I made some comments, more towards the start than the end. Overall, it's an improvement. Hope this is helpful.

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                • Thanks for the help, and the great idea... I'm still tweaking... 

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