I've become interested in the possibility of writing a short story/novella, so I'm trying to practice my narrative ability. This is my first short story (if you can call it that) in a long time, so I'd appreciate some feedback. Any comments are welcome. C4C, as always.

P.S. It really isn't as long as it looks.


“What is it?”

“It's for your cold.”

I had told my dad that I was sick. He never pays much attention to me unless there's something wrong with me. I usually just tell him I need to borrow some money, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that ever since he got fired from his job at the factory.

I remember the day he got fired, four months ago. I had called and asked for thirty dollars to help pay my car insurance. He went into an hour-long rant about the factory and how “those greedy bastards could give a shit about the union, so long as their paychecks are trimmed in gold.” Twenty minutes after I hung up on him, he showed up at my house and gave me the thirty dollars. He hasn't mentioned the factory to me since then.

“Well, duh, but what the hell is it?”

“It's some new miracle cure for colds. You just mix this stuff into a glass of water, and it's supposed to make you feel better almost instantly,” he explains. “I tried some last week. This stuff is something else!”

“It looks like sand or something.”

“Well, it is a little gritty, but it works. Here, I'll mix some up for you so you know how to do it.” He walks into my kitchen and starts looking for a glass. After a minute or two of the sound of cabinet doors and silverware and drawers, I migrate to the kitchen and take a dirty bowl out of the sink.

“I don't have any glasses. Nell took them when she moved out last month.”

“Oh, you two still on the outs?”

“Something like that,” I reply, rinsing the bowl before filling it with tap water and handing it to my father. “She took the plates and spoons too. I guess she thought it would be funny to leave me with just a bunch of bowls and forks.”

He tries not to smirk at the thought as he stirs the magic sand into the water. “You know how women can be. I mean, take your mother for example,” he says, “She once fed the contents of my wallet to my dog.” “I don't remember having a dog,” I challenge in disbelief. “Oh, this was way back when me and your mom were dating. She was one crazy teenager. A bit of a bitch at times, but she always made things interesting,” he chuckles.

“Yeah,” I murmur with a faint smile.

“Well, here you go,” he announces merrily, shoving the bowl of foaming yellow liquid in front of my face. I take a startled step backwards, my face contorting with disgust. “It looks like piss,” I sneer. I lean closer and smell the elixir. “Smells like piss, too.”

“Would you still drink it if I told you it tastes like piss, too?” he asks with a guilty smile, eyes squinting. “That's disgusting. Why did you bring me this shit?” I say angrily. “Medicine always tastes bad. At least it's not shit flavor, right?” he muses, testing a laugh before clearing his throat and averting my glare.

“Whatever. Thanks, but I'll just stick with chicken soup,” I say as I walk over to the door and open it, hoping he won't try to make an excuse to stay any longer. “Okay. Well, it was nice seeing you,” he says, setting the bowl on the table before hurrying toward the open door. “Yeah,” I mutter.

“I hope you feel better soon.”

“Goodbye, dad.”

He turns with a forced smile and leaves. I close the door closely behind him before returning to the kitchen to look at the bowl of magic piss on the table. I pick it up and step over to the sink, giving it a long hard look before raising the bowl to my lips and knocking back the strange liquid, cringing at the taste of piss flooding my mouth.

I'm not really sick. I'm just young and unimpressed with the world and the people around me.
Last edited by Winter Sky at May 27, 2011,
"...paychecks trimmed in gold." Very nice. Within the first few paragraphs, you've already set up some interesting characterization, and it's natural and not too expositional.

The dialogue about the missing glasses is good, I'm introduced to a conflict almost immediately between the narrator and his (ex?) girlfriend. You're showing, not telling me and it's working well.

I'm curious about whether or not the dog was okay from eating whatever was in that wallet. I can't imagine that credit cards would digest well. Haha.

Personally, I'm not a fan of any other noun other than "say" when it comes to dialogue. You use "murmur", "explains" and I think that if dialogue is strong enough it doesn't need anything else to help describe it. It kind of seems like cheating, in a way, to help your reader infer the tone of voice. But this is solely my personal preference, take it as you will.

All in all, you've got very natural discourse between characters. Well-written indeed. I will say that I'm a bit intrigued by the motives of a character that will fake sickness to get their father to come over to their house, and then kind of act like a bit of a dick when he tries to help. Based off of this, I'd have to say I prefer the father to the son so far.

As far as this being a work in itself, I don't feel I have quite enough here. You start to approach some themes of father/son relationships, love/marriage/dating, but I don't get enough of either. I would focus on establishing a stronger mood, sense of place and some inner conflict both for the father and son and you could have a very interesting little piece here.

The Sound of White
art tumblr

If I'm not raw, I'm just a bit underdone.
Thanks a lot for the critique. I honestly wasn't expecting this to get any attention, as most longer pieces like this tend to get ignored around here.

I can see your point with the say/murmur/explain/etc. However, with so much dialogue, it felt very repetitive to use 'say' for everything. But, looking back on it, I feel I may have overused the alternatives. I'll keep mental note to conserve usage of murmur/explain/etc to a limited number of situations, as to preserve their narrative impact.

This was written as sort of a random chapter or excerpt from a larger piece, so the conflicts will definitely be fleshed out if I decide to continue with this story.

Thanks again for the critique. I'll be sure to return the favor right away.
Loved it, please continue.
I've seen
What you're doing to me
Puppet Strings to our souls
Cheers for commenting on my piece man.

This was an enjoyable enough read, and with regards to what Svetlona said, solely using the word "say" would of been too repetitive thinking about it, although I've never thought that using alternative nouns to show the tone of voice as cheating, I suppose it sort of is.

I like the father/son commentary you have, I think you're almost on the zeitgeist of most teenagers these days. (I can say this because I am one myself.)

But, again as Svetlona said, there isn't enough here. I tend to write my dialogue with Bob Dylan in mind, very select, careful word choices to convey something large with words so small.

Sorry if this didn't help, but I'd like to read more of this in the future.

Good day!
You take my place in the showdown, I observe with a pitiful eye. I'll humbly ask you forgiveness, a request well beyond you and I.
Thank you all for the helpful input and kind words. I'll continue this story as soon as I find the time between juggling my many hobbies. I will quite possibly be re-writing this part as well, with more care and precision.