Friday, January 14, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Closer to Away

Thanks, all for the spot-on feedback last week. That's the stuff I need, so please, continue to bring it.

This week's Red Writing Hood prompt is a doozy:

For this week's prompt, grab something out of your pantry and write a short piece - using all the words in the ingredients. It can be fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose.

I decided that Fridays will be dedicated to my emerging story about Walter and his family. You can read previous stories here and here.

For feedback this week, could you look closely at my sentence variety and specifically the flow and meter of my prose? Thanks in advance.

Closer to Away

Lydia gave her running shoes a final, satisfying tug and stepped out her door. The first moment outside, as always stung, like an icy whip. But that was the point. Isn't running about feeling something?

Running toward County Line road, she inwardly rolled her eyes. County Line Road. Could the cowpokes have less imagination? She had told Walter that if he insisted on taking that job at CU, they would live in Boulder proper. Yes, people build multi-million dollar nursing homes for dogs there, and never fail to find yet more heinous ways to adorn their feet, but at least the schools are decent.

Not like here. Dreary Erie. "We can get so much more house for so much less money," Walter had explained, his glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. "And we don't have to live in the PRB. The People's Republic of Boulder." He laughed, as if he had come up with this line himself, instead of reading it on one of his conservative Internet forums.

God, she hated him sometimes.

She glanced at her watch, noted her solid 8:00 minute pace. Good. Today was an easy day---a six miler, no repeats or hills. The Ft.Collins marathon was in May, and if she didn't qualify for Boston this time, then she had officially Not Worked Hard Enough.

Shuddering at the thought, she pumped her arms harder, her shoes leaving perfect tread marks in the newly-fallen snow. Her pregnant belly bounced slightly, papoosed in the belly band specifically purchased to keep Baby Girl safe. She liked the idea of her---Zoe, I guess they were calling her--resting in her womb, each pounding step lulling her into a deep, meditative sleep.

Lydia hated to run with other people--always yammering on about split times and the best post-race recovery foods. But Zoe would be a different story. She already knew to respect her mother's need for quiet and privacy.

Warmth flooded through her body as she began her last mile. As always, she was right. She had worn shorts, a long sleeved shirt, and gloves, and was now perfectly comfortable.She ticked off her day---seven hours in the ER, followed by interviews for nannies. Wincing, she remembered the final task of the day---drinks with the head of  the Poly Sci department.

Maybe she would beg off. For the baby, of course.

Rounding the corner, she was home. Her neighborhood builders, attempting to emulate the real Victorians in downtown Boulder, had painted each house in different garish colors. She and Walter lived in the most sensible of the lot---a sky blue two-story, with dark blue trim and cream embellishments. She yearned to paint it a gentle beige, just to fuck with the HOA.

As she stretched out her calf, she peeked inside the window. Walter stood in the kitchen, still wearing his ratty blue bathrobe. Squinting at a Gatorade bottle, he moved his lips softly as he read.

She shifted her weight to the other leg. Already, she could hear it. "Honey, I was reading the ingredients on this. Water, sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, gum arabic, glycerol ester of rosin, and yellow 5. Do you think you should be drinking this? Is it good for the baby?"

Muscles still hot and ready, she turned around, and ran away from her house, each step another moment closer to away.


Erin said...

Yes, running is totally about feeling something. And I felt that icy whip for sure, as well as all the other things---especially the end where you snuck in the Gatorade ingredients.

"God, she hated him sometimes."

"He laughed, as if he had come up with this line himself, instead of reading it on one of his conservative Internet forums."

How do manage to pack so much meaning into just a few sentences? I'm in awe.

Every time I come over here.


By Word of Mouth said...

I love this line ...
'She already knew to respect her mother's need for quiet and privacy.'
It speaks volumes to how in tune she is already with her unborn child.
Great read - thank you x

Anonymous said...

I love the baby. Zoe. Walter and Lydia make me sad. I want so much for them to welcome sweet Zoe into a world of love and warmth. Then again, sad stories are always more interesting.

I also think I sympathize more with Walter. I don't have a good reason why yet.

Ash said...

Loved this!

"The People's Republic of Boulder" - bwahaahaaaaa.

Sincerely, the characters are coming together so well. Erin is so right, concise.

My only thought, and this is probably a personal thing, but I like it when words don't appear again too soon. Like your first and second paragraph -

...Isn't running about feeling something?

Running toward...

I think it would flow better with the second paragraph starting with something like, "Making her way toward County line..." you've already established that she's running. More words, sorry for that.

I hope I make sense. Cold meds are kicking in.

Anonymous said...

The telling details in this are great - and everyone before me has pulled them out for review!

Although, if Lydia *really* thinks her baby will respect her need for peace? She has another thing coming, hmmm?

Fantastic, and yay for more Walter!

Paul said...

First off, this kicks ass. You integrate your dialog with your non-verbal action cues very naturally.

You tend to start out your paragraphs with terser sentences, building momentum - however briefly - to the longer sentences that end them. Might be something to look into varying more? It's not a distracting issue, more of a curiosity. Makes me want to look at my own writing (or better yet, ask someone else to look at it!) and analyze it like this!

Another not-problematic-but-noticeable thing. Paragraphs 2, 6, 8, 10 and 13 start with a variation in your style, where you start off with either a noun (muscles, warmth) or a verb (running, shuddering, rounding)as part of a short descriptive phrase that seem tied directly to location (running/County Line Road, shuddering/tread marks in snow, warmth/last mile, rounding/home, muscles/away). I like this connection, but wondered if it was intentional or just something that happened? Other sentences that you begin with a verb like this later in a paragraph don't have the same link to a location. Interesting!

Paragraph 6 is the only jarring thing - you/the narrator insert yourself directly into the scene as a separate entity "I". Nowhere else is there this intrusion in the scene (and I don't think it was there in the other scene from last week). Is this justifiable because of some sort of narrative framing that you envision employing in the larger work, or ought this "I" to be related to Lydia instead?

Also, just as a matter of personal taste. In the last paragraph you call it her house because that's apparently what it is. Three paragraphs earlier she refers to it as home, which given the overall tone of the piece, it clearly doesn't seem to be. This is the only place where you refer to it as a home in this piece, though you do convey a sense of her possessiveness about this place in the first and last paragraphs - both of which involve her departure. Interesting.

Also, as an even greater issue of stylistic taste, I would eliminate the last part of your last sentence. Away hasn't really been set up as an alternative possibility to house/home (at least in this particular scene) so it sounds odd to have her physically heading towards it, even if it's clear she's already emotionally on that journey. I think that a terser finish here could be just as effective while allowing the reader to construe for themselves the varied reasons why she might decide not to enter the house/home. You do a great job of setting up what these reasons likely are, so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to leave it for the reader to fill in the blanks.

Lydia isn't sympathetic to me at this point in reading your scenes. Then again, neither is Walter. Nobody is innocent here, and they both participate in the dance even if neither would say that they called the particular tune. It will be interesting to watch the story and the characters evolve!

Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any constructive criticism because I'm not all
writer-y like that. Just wanted to say this is another awesome piece of prose.

Jill said...

Visiting from TRDC. Great story & way to incorporate the ingredients in to the story. :)

Kristy said...

I love when thoughts and dialogue are written how people really think and talk. I thought it flowed well. I could relate to her and imagine the scenery too.

Beth Zimmerman said...

VERY nicely written! :) Long time no see. (Bad sentence structure. I know! LOL!)

Stephanie said...

Wow! Can Paul come critique my writing too?!? I'm not really sure what you are asking, I actually enjoyed the ebb and flow of your sentences. The only thing that really distracted me, was where you said "I guess they are calling her Zoe". It seemed intrusive, and a jolt from the story (I took as "I" meant you, the author). That is my only complaint.

I'm really really loving the development of the story, and honestly, while I am coming to understand Lydia more, I still like Walter better. She seems very cynical.

Please keep writing about them!!

Bekah said...

Nice mix of passive/active voice. I wondered about the "fuck" at first- I'm not opposed to the word, it just didn't seem to suit Lydia. Then I went back and read parts 1 and 2, and it made more sense. She seems to have a little Angela in her, huh? "As always, she was right".

mama-face said...

i came. i read. i enjoyed.

I have absolutely no credentials as a writing critic, and I am having a difficult time trying to explain my thoughts from a reader's perspective, though I will try. Perhaps be careful when describing things that essentially have no impact on the story, i.e., what she was wearing for her run, or the color of their house. I'm not sure how to explain... so maybe I shouldn't?

I very much enjoy reading what you, and Ash, and Erin, have been writing. Such TALENTED ladies!


Victoria KP said...

I really enjoyed reading this. It made me wish I had started running before I had kids. It was cool how she envisioned Zoe as running "with" her. I like Lydia's voice. I'm going to go and read the other stories you've written about this family.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done, Nancy! I was right there. Love reading stories like this. Neat, crisp and everything you needed to say in a small package. Fabulous.

Not Just Another Jennifer said...

I'm really enjoying watching the characters develop. I felt like the pace of the sentence structure worked well, though I agree with the commenter who mentioned the repetition of "running" so immediately bugged me a little bit. Not a big deal, though.

Great job working the prompt into your story! The tension makes me uncomfortable. It's always a sign of good writing when it provokes a response like that.

Carrie said...

Oh, I was really hoping Walter and Lydia would be happy...maybe once Baby Zoe arrives they will magically reconnect through her?

This piece flowed better than the last one you did about Walter and Lydia. It almost bounced like a runner on the road.

Visiting from RDC

Anonymous said...

HI, Nancy! I know I said I'd be here 2 days ago but I made it! I am so glad I did! I loved this piece and I feel compelled to go read the others to catch up! Your writing is very descriptive and I really felt like I was there.

Ericka Clay said...

Fantastic. I know these people. You've captured their relationship brilliantly.

As for a critique, I noticed something in this line:

"She liked the idea of her---Zoe, I guess they were calling her--resting in her womb, each pounding step lulling her into a deep, meditative sleep."

I wouldn't say "Zoe, I guess they were calling her..." It should be "Zoe, she guessed they were calling her" since this is written in third person limited. But if this is part of a larger story I might be wrong. Just wanted to point this out!

wholly jeanne said...

What Paul said. (I'm minutes away from officially stalking him!) As for readability, you've got it babe. There was a good rhythm and pace. I enjoyed it immensely.

Cheryl said...

Okay. Let's see.

I liked being inside her head. You did that really, really well. And I liked how you mixed her thoughts with real-time activity.

I agree with a lot of what Paul said.

You use a lot of hyphens (paragraphs 5, 6, 7, 8, 10) which makes them read similarly.

I also noticed the "I" in the Zoe line.

Lydia is not sympathetic, and not just b/c she's running an 8-min. mile while pregnant! There's nothing warm or particularly kind about her, and that she wants a quiet baby is telling.

I agree w/ the house/home thing, too.

I really love seeing how this story is progressing!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Ha! PRB-- People's Republic of Boulder-- That's fabulous.

I'm not much of a critic but I enjoyed this very much.

Have a happy week, jj

Jen said...

Sigh...picking on my town...the development of which you speak is the most lovely of the entire village. ;)
Very well written babe.
Jen from Laughing at Chaos

varunner said...

Well, as someone who ran through both pregnancies (until the doctor put the nix on it at the ends), you pulled me right in on this story. I really enjoyed the read!

(Florida) Girl said...

This was really excellent.

I agree with the change to first person in the section with Zoe. But I actually loved the way you varied your style in your paragraphs, beginning some with a verb and others with one direct sentence. Having read some of your other posts I think this might be a part of your natural writing voice and I think it sets you apart. It is better to have your own style then something that sounds like everyone else, at least that is what I have heard from literary agents.

Perhaps some of the sections that repeat the word "running" could be modified with a new verb for less redundancy.

Keep writing!

Kristy said...

I have an award for you at my site!

Veronica said...

This was the perfect scene to get into her head more and you did a great job. I stumbled a bit at the beginning, but not exactly sure why?

All in all, I liked it!