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Another crack at the whip

I'd like to share this rework of a seemingly controversial short story I posted a while back. Hopefully this one is more clear, and has less potential to provoke.

As usual, all thoughts, comments, suggestions are most welcome. 

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    • Jimmy this blew me away. I love this Al. You've developed him with so much depth that he leaps of the page. I was cheering for him in the last shop scene. 

      I didn't like the old serial killer Al, yet if you were to tell me in the next chapter that this Al is still a serial killer, it wouldn't matter - I'd read on because you got me hooked. 

      I've taken the liberty of making a couple of small tweaks, but the only big thing I'd recommend changing is to remove the asterisk to signal the dress flashback. I thought we had jumped ahead in time and it took me a couple of sentences to figure out that this was a flashback. A couple of transition words at the start of the paragraph would work better. 

      You've nailed this story. I can't wait to see it in print! 

      Can't seem to upload it. I'll message you

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      • Thanks, Julie. I really appreciate your comments and the file. I'm glad you raised the asteriks because it had been troubling me, but I didn't want to prompt.
        Glad you enjoyed it.

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      • Wow- I do feel a little in the dark, and worried, and fascinated, but trust I will totally understand just who this is, and what's going on, if I just keep reading. Even though so much advice is to put EVERYTHING in the first page and then get with the story, published books usually don't work like that. If well done, the prose brings the reader, disbelief suspended, into the tale to see what's going on, and I was in there. Head whirling, but in there. Wow.

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        • Cheers, Cathy. There's no more to keep reading from. This is the whole story. But I'm glad it has that element of mystery to it, making you want to know more. Not too mysterious I hope.
          The aim was for the subtle hint of darkness in him but not to show it too much. It's more about empowerment.

          Thanks for taking the time to read it. 

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          • Nicely done, Jimmy. One cliché-cringe, but other than that, it develops an interesting and mysterious character.

            Oh, and one manoeuvre I'm pretty sure is physically questionable.

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            • Yeah, you're right about the cliché.
              I can see how the dress-lift is questionable, but it comes from an account that was told to me by an aggrieved witness of a similar situation. The only difference was the person it happened to was female.

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              • For me, the dress-lift requires several levels of additional detail: that the garment be extremely high-waisted, and that the victim use her arms - or that several assailants are lifting the dress to overcome any such resistence.

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                • Okay, cheers. I'll address it.

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                • Hi Jimmy

                  I haven't read your first version, but I really enjoyed this one. I read through to find out if your character plucks up the courage to go back and ask the guy out and he does. The ambiguity about the character and his various 'selfs' became clearer as the story develops. I wasn't sure if he/they are entirely harmless, but felt that it's more about putting past slights to rest and gaining the courage to stand up to the bigots. My attention wavered slightly in the description of Chenise getting ready, but overall for me it's a well crafted, intriguing read.  

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                  • Thank you, Alison. I really appreciate your thoughts.

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                    • I'm a newbie at this.  I only joined the forum yesterday, but been an avid reader since I was young (a long time ago). Yours is one of the first things I have read on here and I found it really intriguing.  I realise you only want it to be a short story, but I think you have potential to expand in both Al's past (what got him to the personas) and his future. Very good, I wanted to read more!   

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                      • Janine, I agree, I felt it was just the start of a novel and wanted to keep reading. I think it is way too provocative a start to not be part of something bigger. 

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                      • Thanks very much, Janine, I'm glad you enjoyed it. This seems to be a pattern lately, where I'm told there is more of a story in them. Food for thought. Thanks for reading it. And welcome to Townhouse. Enjoy.

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                        • By the solution being pre-existent, I mean that all Al needs to do is embrace one of his personas. This isn't something he needs to discover. He knows them. They are imminently available. (To be a challenge, the one persona that would solve his problem would need to be the one that's inaccessible due to emotional scarring).

                          Because the solution is so accessible, the retrospective emotional impact is diluted; it's almost as though you've cheated us by having him stress so much in the first half when he can go home, change, and get the guy.

                          (The writing is still excellent; it's only the structure that sags a bit.)

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                          • If you were to tease us in the setup with "it would be so easy for [persona], but I don't dare go in the closet" (or something to that effect) and make the choice of persona the hardest of the lot, that would strengthen it without changing the literary aspect.

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                            • Okay, got ya. Makes sense.

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                            • Well done, Jimmy. I thought this was a great improvement on the previous version, and it's really well written. I must confess I still have a small twinge of dismay at the 'gender-swapping as a shortcut for sinister' aspect (whether Al is transgender or 'just' cross-dressing) but it's handled more sensitively here than it has been in other examples I can think of. I was gripped by the build-up of tension throughout. Like others, I felt almost as if this was a preamble - almost complete in and of itself but hinting at a wider or deeper story waiting to be told! Then again, perhaps that's all it needs to be, and it's better to leave that further story to the reader's imagination. A very well-told and well-written piece!

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                              • Thanks, Jon. I'm glad you like it. The sinister side really isn't the intention in this one. The focus is more on empowerment, but I wanted a subtle hint of a darker side to leave the reader wondering, or even concluding whatever they want, making it their story, as you say.

                                All this time, I've been toying with changing the title to make the character appear less iniquitous, but haven't changed it once for some reason.

                                Maybe one day, I might expand it.

                                Thanks for your thoughts.

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                                • Hi Jimmy - I love how you've developed this piece. There's some wonderful strong writing and great character depiction which pulled me to the end.

                                  I do wonder if what it is lacking is an element of change that gives short stories that complete feeling, and this is why most people have assumed it is a first chapter.

                                  We know Al has been Scarlet before, and perhaps dark things happened in that persona. So when Al is overcome by loneliness and becomes Scarlet it doesn't feel like he's changing, just putting on a temporary skin. So tomorrow he will still be shy lonely Al, but perhaps with a dark stain on his soul from whatever he did while Scarlet. There's been no change. This is sad and leaves me slightly dissatisfied with the ending.

                                  I'll admit I'm a sucker for upbeat endings and that may not be what you want here, but I wonder if the story needs a slightly different tilt. Al has dabbled in different genders before with bad outcomes, but now driven to the edge by his loneliness has finally embraced what he wants to be, made the change and come out on top - the caterpillar to butterfly transformation. That might give the story its transformative arc and the ending a more rounded feeling? It also might help address Jon's 'twinge of dismay'.

                                  After the end of the story, I'd like to be able to imagine Al going to the shop the next day, maybe back in his usual day clothes, but still having that new confidence and it's Julio who is the tongue tied one.

                                  Your story and writing is powerful and has had my grey matter whirring all morning.

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                                  • "Your story and writing is powerful and has had my grey matter whirring all morning. "

                                    Yes, this story has me gripped, as well, very strong visuals and viscerals (computer says that's not a word, lol, but who cares?) Whether final form is short story or intro to a novel, it's quite powerful -- and yes, my grey matter is still swirling, too.

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                                    • Interesting. Funnily enough, I've been making more of an effort lately to create happier endings.

                                      Damn it, there's a lot of useful advice here, but I've already submitted it to a literary mag. Stil, you've all whirred my grey matter now as well, as to adding more ingredients. I'll let it marinate for a while first.

                                      Thanks Kate, I appreciate your words.

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                                      • Cheers, Cathy. Apparently, Viscerals is an album by Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. A bit of useless info there for ya. Cool name though.

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                                      • Strong mental imagery and a vacuum of a storyline that sucks you in better than a Dyson on heat. Like it! 👍

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                                        • Hahaha, thanks, Bob, I'm glad you like it. It got a rejection, so some revisions are due.

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                                          • How disappointing! It's a great story, I'm sure you'll find the right home for it soon.

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                                            • Disappointing, Jimmy, but keep subbing. There'll be a home for it somewhere else. It's a strong bit of writing.

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                                            • Thanks Kate. As it happens, as you write that, I'm analysng the wonderful feedback you have all given, in preparation to go to work.

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