This 1000-word short story was generously donated by a brave young writer from Ontario who is willing to receive feedback from me at the cost of sharing that feedback with you. My comments are in orange text. I will not be correcting grammar and spelling, just looking at the overall structure of the story and pointing out anything that breaks the spell and makes me work too hard as a reader. – Laura
A Hopeless Mistake
I cringed at the sharp menacing clash of thunder. My fingertips grazed my face as they placed the coffin at the front of the room, prodding for tears but finding none. Shame washed over me. strong opening, vivid
It was a typical funeral: quiet tears followed by strangled cries, as well as the murmuring of consoling words. A heavy and deafening silence hung in the air, broken every second by the ticks of the clock. I wanted to cover my ears – anything to muffle the sound of death. good use of multiple sense imagery
I stumbled over to the seating area, eyes casted downward. After sitting down I rubbed my hands against the rough fabric of the chair, counting the pieces of shredded skin that fell off my fingers. counting skin is hard to imagine, this breaks the spell Beige curtains extended across the cracked walls, draping over the windows and casting shadows along the room. It was an old church – the musty smell of dust crawled up my nostrils as an odd melody sputtered out of the untuned piano sitting on the stage. One by one, relatives and friends of Stephanie stepped up to the podium. I chewed on the ends of my hair. okay let’s get to the story, too much detail that has no meaning for me
“Her optimistic nature touched us all.” who is speaking?
“Stephanie’s perseverance was special.” who?
As foreign qualities ambushed my ears, a painful thought came to mind– who would be standing behind the podium at my funeral?
The walls tilted as my stomach lurched, and a vile taste exploded in my mouth. I was being sucked in by an invisible force, needles shooting through my chest… again too much description here, get me to the story problem more quickly
everything said up to now could have been said with half the words The blurry haze in my eyes slowly disappeared, and I found myself standing in the hallway of the eighth school that I had attended years ago. tell me more about this I was running a comb through my wet hair after leaving swim practice, when I pondered my dad’s earlier words– “Yoshimi, I promise we won’t have to move anymore. My job has settled down.” His beckoning eyes had reached for me to understand, but it was futile. this last sentence sounds like you are trying to sound like a writer, say it plainly, it’s more believable, or just cut the sentence
I plugged headphones into my ears, the melody flushing away the unwanted thoughts. While I was pulling books out of my locker, Stephanie crept up on me, “Hey Yoshi!” She squealed as she wrenched the iPod from my hands. I scowled and playfully punched her arm, pretending to hate the nickname she had invented for me.
“Practice was brutal today, huh?” She remarked as she rubbed her shoulder.
“Yeah, nothing new,” I replied. The pain and sweat was worth it however. Feeling as light and nimble as air while gliding through the peaceful water – alone with my thoughts… It was a delicious feeling. what does swimming have to do with the plot?
Stephanie linked her arm with mine, “Let’s go get some drinks. I forgot to bring juice.” She sauntered toward the exit, me scrambling behind. The usual. is getting drinks important to the plot?
The smell of freshly cut grass lingered in the air. I gazed at the crystal blue sky, feeling the cool air caress my face. Stephanie flung her arms out, as if she was trying to fly.
Some kids from school were at the cafe, watching us as we walked in. Stephanie chatted with them while I ordered our sodas, fumbling for change. I felt their stares pierce into my back as a blush swept across my cheeks. Stephanie and I are a weird combination. again, I’m still waiting to see what this story is all about
We slid into the booth and gulped the cool drinks down our parched throats. Only then did I notice the faint smile playing on Stephanie’s lips.
“Guess whaaaaaat?” She sang, wiggling her eyebrows.
I rolled my eyes. “What is it now?” I asked, fending off a laugh.
Stephanie suddenly looked nervous. She bit her lip and took a deep breath, “So um… I’m going to the cottage for spring break… and my parents said I could bring a frie – can you come?” She finished quickly, gripping my arm. could get to this part more quickly, I feel a connection with the intro now
At that moment, I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. A grin stretched across my face and I giggled. My heart was racing as I leaned in close. cut this paragraph, use dialogue, showing is better than telling
“Definitely,” I answered after a pause. Stephanie shrieked and threw her arms around me. this conversation could be much bigger and be used to reveal a great deal about the main character’s self-imposed isolation
I was giddy with excitement on the day of the trip, rechecking my bags and glancing at the clock every few minutes. Just as I was about to step out of where? setting is muddy here, a shiver ran down my spine. My body felt like glass being broken into a million pieces, the jagged shards protruding my flesh. Snippets of memories with forgotten friends flashed before my eyes, blinding me. The sobs rising in my chest as I had gasped for air so vivid, like it was just yesterday that I was torn away from everyone I knew. this scene needs more attention and could be twice as long as it is now
With shaking hands, I dialed Stephanie’s number. When her voice came through, I whispered, “I can’t go.”
“What’s wrong Yoshimi? Are you ok?!” Stephanie cried.
“I-I’m sorry…” My voice faltered while I choked on the words that stayed lodged in my throat. Tears stained my shirt as they rolled down my cheeks, leaving a trail of dried salt and pain. I slammed the phone down.
Using my nails I slowly picked and scratched at the scabs in my fingertips, tearing off strips of skin. I savored the pain as I watched the blood oozing out. Old habits are hard to let go I guess.
My attention was suddenly snapped away by the shrill of the phone, but I closed my eyes and laid my head against the pillow… sleep cradling me in its arms… this series of actions is vague, too vague, don’t make me work so had to get into the character’s head
I blinked and the church reappeared as I unclenched my fists, my shirt drenched with sweat. The past lonesome years blazed in my memory–a phone covered in dust why dust? not clear and the angry red welts trailing down my hands this is good. I had built a wall around myself, afraid to let others in.
Fresh tears streamed down my face, tasting of regret. Now I realise it’s too late to even try–what good would it really do? I have been wandering aimlessly through life, hovering outside the bubble in which everyone else lived. Now I realise I made a mistake…
A mistake beyond repair. this ending needs a rewrite and needs to bring me to a deeper connection with the title, I don’t feel that this character made a hopeless mistake unless her decision not to go on the trip led directly to the death of her friend on that trip
Overall, this is a good lump of clay, but it is not yet ready for publication. There is a lot of superfluous description that could be cut and more dialogue and action that could be added. I would trim it down and then do another pass through to further develop the plot and characters by adding to the key scenes.
Tip: Don’t describe things in detail unless they are important to the story problem. If they are not important, like the fact that the character swims, then just mention them and move on.
Thank you so much for the feed back! I’m certainly glad I decided to submit this for editing… it was my first story and I had a feeling it could use a LOT of work. The issue was that I wasn’t aware of what to look for when editing. Thank you once again. – The Author of “A Hopeless Mistake”