Working on something

I am not sure what this will become. but… well, here it goes

A tale of lost dreams, broken hearts and false hopes

Peter woke up on his disorganised bedroom. The window was wide open, and the morning light was flooding the yellow room with a distinctive glow. He was still wearing his jeans from the night before, and his hair still smelled of cheap alcohol and cigarettes. He tried to get up with a groan, but his head started to spin as soon as he moved.

The night before was a cacophony of blurred memories. The party was full of handsome, intelligent people who were probably much better than him. Underachieving was indeed his best skill. Peter felt like his talent for anything and everything was lacking, to say the least, but he was pretty sure it was, actually, abysmal, so he drank as much as he could and lied about his achievements, his job and his success. It was obvious to everybody else that he was, indeed, trying to hard to impress, and the scene was deplorable… Although everybody kinda did that in the end - people lie. People tell stories that didn’t happen. People tell they did things they only wished to be able to do, on a vain attempt of being accepted, loved and admired. People have to compete with each other, so it looks like they are competent, intelligent, talented and successful. People exaggerate stories so they are cool. And Peter did that every single day of the pathetic life he lived.

He managed to close the window, sealing the sounds of the waking up city outside his room. His head still spun and hurt, but this wasn’t the worst hangover of his life. At least with all the drinking he managed to get some sleep, albeit not really restoring. His insomnia was pathologically affecting his well-being and sanity. Every night he sat on his computer, not actually wanting to sleep. The darkness and silence of the night, together with the fact that his room mates actually slept at night like healthy, sane human beings meant that nothing and nobody disturbed him. Nobody questioned what he would do this year (no freaking idea), nobody questioned how was job (shitty, as usual) or of he would finally get a stable boyfriend instead of Grindr hook-ups that lasted until an orgasm and a goodbye at the door, without even having the decency of bringing the date down to the front door of the apartment building.

He dragged his body to the bathroom, turned on the sink without bothering to turn on the lights and washed his face. The cold water helped a bit with the migraine, but everything still span. He sat on the toilet, and rested his forehead on the cold porcelain of the sink. There were clear signs of life on the apartment: Someone was listening to music on the kitchen, and another room mate was on a rather loud phone call. He was going to be late to his classes, but didn’t really care. He felt on a hole filled with a void of lack of creativity and inspiration, and watching all his colleagues do all those interesting projects was just making things worst.
To be continued

Teenagers - a warning. Please never start off your short stories with your protagonist waking up around a pile of empty beer cans with a hangover and only vague recollections of the night before.* Everyone does that and it’s a little played out.

I don’t care about this Peter guy and what happens/is happening to him. Are you going to make me care?

  • Unless you are making a movie starring Bradley Cooper.

Thanks for sharing. I think you should try writing in the present tense - it lends a greater sense of urgency and connectedness to what’s happening for the reader.

Agree that there’s no reason to care about the protagonist. Instead of talking about his past hookups, I would lead off with the aftermath of a hookup right at the beginning. Whoever he was with is leaving, or he sees they’ve left, and he expresses his disappointment. And although I get this is about his feeling depressed and discontent with life (something plenty of us can relate to), it would be a lot more compelling if he has some quality that enamors us with him, and is showed early on. For example maybe he cracks a joke about the situation to show he has a sense of humor about it. Or if you don’t want to go quite that route, at least give him some sort of voice, or some sort of unique quality that makes him seem more like a real character and not just an empty vessel for your stream of consciousness.

Thank you for the advice. It helps quite a lot. I have a question, though: How do I use less pronouns? I feel I overused he, his and him way too much.

Fewer pronouns.

The problem isn’t too many pronouns. The problem is keeping the focus on one character for too long. You bounce back and forth between minute observations of his moment-to-moment actions, and exposition that focuses entirely on backstory. That pretty much forces you to say “he” over and over again.

Storytelling isn’t about telling the reader things. It’s about getting the reader to wonder what’s going to happen next. Set the scene and character with a couple of quick sentences and then introduce some instability in the situation that kicks the plot into gear. Once you’re in motion its a lot easier to weave in exposition as you go without it seeming like you’re belaboring the point.

OK, I’m feeling mean. This is really, really poor writing.


Yes, the dawn is fairly distinctive. So distinctive that it doesn’t need mentioning that it is in fact distinctive. “…the morning light was flooding the yellow room.” Doesn’t need more. Doesn’t even need “yellow”; you don’t need to specify yellow, it’s irrelevant and distracting. “…The morning light was flooding the room” will do fine.

2/ Also, who is your narrator? Your POV? You’re shifting from a flat description to Peter’s perspective to authorial omniscience and back without a pause, and it’s confusing.

3/ And where the hell is the sink that he can sit on the bog and yet still be able to rest his head on its cold porcelain? Does he have a long neck, or is it a small bathroom?

4/ He sat on his computer? He sat at his computer. Don’t sit on your computer, you’ll break it.

5/ “On a vain attempt”? Is English your first language?

6/ “He felt on a hole filled with a void” wrapped around a lacuna and dropped into an abyss within a chasm. Words mean things. Don’t just stuff more of them into a sentence in the hope that more words add more meaning.


Don’t. Just don’t.

It would be fun to turn this into a Straight Dope writing contest: rewrite that scene into something you think is good. I wonder if Le Ministre de l’au-delà is still interested in running that kind of thing…

Well, my suggestion for an edit would be to strip it right back to the basics of short, simple sentences, and build up from there: it’s a good technique when what you’re saying is being obscured by how you’re saying it. Essentially in this one AT is trying to say three things simultaneously: how Peter felt on waking, what he did last night that led to feeling like that, and why he did it, and the three strands are getting tangled around each other. I’d essentially rebuild based around a really simple framework:

I can tell that story in… thirty words. Well, I can do it in ten…

Which is always a good idea. My favorite phrase to the writers I work with:

I’m impressed he could smell his own hair. :wink:

An excellent point. “…his clothes smelled of beer and cigarettes.”

I’m not as averse to adverbs as some people, but they need to usefully qualify the verb to make the cut, and this one is just redundant: if it’s affecting his sanity and his health, it’s pathological. .

Span is not a valid verb tense of spin. Try “spun” or “continued to spin” instead.

Are you prepared for some sincere criticism? Word choice is suboptimal. Your style sounds juvenile. Read more books before you embark on a writing career, or prepare to hire an expensive editor.

Subject matter notwithstanding, here’s my quick 1-minute fix for your first paragraph: