This short story, “Impressions Matter,” was submitted by a 15 year old writer from India who has asked for feedback and is happy to share that feedback with an audience so that other young writers can benefit. I will not be correcting grammar and spelling, just the telling of the story. My comments are in coloured text. – Laura
- This title fits moderately well, but I think there is a better one in the story somewhere. It will come out when revisions are done to bring forward and clarify the story problem.
Trisha and Sheila were best friends. Not only because they shared the same school since they were five, but also because a major part of their address read the same. Trisha Basu lived at Sandhead Apartments, Block III, 2nd floor, 165/G Southern Avenue, Kolkata. And every morning, when she removed the curtains of her bedside window, her eyes caught Sheila studying in her room, in the Dey’s flat, in 2nd floor of Block VII. - I feel like I have to stop and figure this address thing out, better to say exactly how they are the same or different That morning, seeing Sheila study brought to Trisha’s mind the Physics assignment that they had to submit by the 4th period. Plus she had to stuff her bag with the dresses which she had decided to wear at the party that evening at her boyfriend Roco’s place. Trisha ran to get a bath, changed into her school uniform. After packing her bag according to that day’s schedule, (Bio, Library, Phy, Recess, Maths, Chem, Eng.) she finally sat at work – the assignment. But even after a half hour’s hard thinking, though in the mean time her mind did often wander off to the evening’s party, Trisha wasn’t able to so much as understand the questions, let alone solve them. But this class assessment test was important, if she hoped to pass the midterm exam. Now, Sheila, the darling, the intelligent babe was her only hope. - this first paragraph could be tighter – What is the most important thing we need to learn about Trisha or the story problem right now?
And as always, Trisha wasn’t disappointed. She copied half the answers - from Sheila? in the school-bus, with some slight variations in the language of course (Trisha’s not that stupid!), and left the rest to be copied in the Lib.
“Umm, Trish,” Sheila said, as the bus entered the campus of Mother Rosetta Convent School, “do you forget every time, or do you do this just to annoy Sister Josephina?”
“Now what exactly do you think I’ve done, to be called into Josephina’s office today?”
“What exactly?! Actually, almost everything, including nail-colour, hair-do, danglers, and eyeliner…even your fancy watch!” came the exasperated reply. “And, call her Sister Josephina for a change, willya?”
“Oh, God, I thought you were MY best friend. You know, it’s time you decide, Shel, on just whose side you are – mine, or theirs. And as for Jose – uh, Sister Josephina’s office, I’ll land up there only if they catch me first,” she said with a crooked smile. - I quite like this dialogue – it makes me want to keep reading
“At least remove your danglers and watch please.”
“This gal’s spoiling my party mood already” Trisha murmured to herself, but obeyed.
Whatever Trisha might say, she knew inside that Sheila was right. She didn’t have a particularly good reputation at school, especially among the humourless nuns.
During prayer at assembly, she had her eyes open, and spied Sister Lucy’s disapproving eyes on her. She quickly shut her eyes.
Bio class, in the morning, didn’t go particularly well – she couldn’t answer three questions out of the five that ma’am asked. As punishment, she had to solve an extra assignment that week. But thankfully, she wasn’t the only one, there were four others.
After class, the five went to collect their assignments from the staffroom in the sixth floor. They had Lib. - what is Lib? Next, and while coming down, Trisha and another girl Anita realised that they hadn’t brought their books along. So they went left from the fourth floor landing while the others headed towards the Lib.
While coming down, Anita carelessly stepped on a banana-peel and slipped three steps down. As she shrieked with pain, a few students from the nearby classes came and helped Trisha take her to the Matron.
Anita had sprained her ankle, and had to stay there. So Trisha started alone for the Lib.
The Lib was just beside the school Principal, Sister Amelia’s Office-room. And anyone entering had to pass across the lobby in front. Trisha hoped against hope that Sister was not in her room. “If she is, then I’m dead” she thought. Roaming in the corridors during class hours was one thing, among million others, that the Convent did not tolerate. Plus she had nail-colour on. Oh, why did that stupid gal have to slip today!
Trisha ran across the playground and peeped into the lobby. Sister’s door was open, and inside, the lights were off. Trisha heaved a sigh of relief. Thank God!
She crossed the lobby, calm at heart, and just as she neared the Lib. Door, it swung open by itself, and there stood…. the Principal herself. - nice rise in tension
“Aah, Miss Basu, may I know where you’ve been?”
“Sister, I -”
“Nobody talks when I do. Do you understand?” Sister’s voice reverberated across the vacant lobby. The only other sound audible to Trisha was her own heart pounding violently. “And if you follow English, you must be aware of the school rules. I will not put up with such nuisance every other day. Next time, your parents will have to answer for you, if you’re caught breaking the rules again. Do you understand?” Sister strode past her briskly.
“I’m sorry Sister,” Trisha murmured, and after the door closed shut, she continued, “sorry for no mistake at all.” Every soul in that room heard her say that over the lingering pin-drop silence.
“Where were you?” Sheila glared, looking almost as angry as the Principal, if only not more.
“What would you do knowing that?” Trisha shouted back. “It’s not like you’d go explain it to her, would you? And why does she ask for an explanation anyway, if she does not have the patience to listen! That idiot Anita sprained her ankle on the staircase, and I had to take her to Matron, and then I am scolded for the delay.” Realising her voice faltering as the whole class watched her, Trisha stopped.
“Oh, darling, it’s alright. Amelia’s a zombie, remember?” winked Mrs. Chaudhuri, the beloved Librarian.
Mrs Chaudhuri was probably the only sane adult at school. Her friends were two – the girls, and books. Isolating herself from the typical teaching community of India, that was busy getting ready their race-horses called ‘students’ for their final goals – high salary jobs, Mrs Chaudhuri saw the students for what they really were – little girls striving to become good human beings. She asked them to read for the love of it, and not if they didn’t enjoy themselves. She was always a companion to them, and stood by them. - I like the contrast between the librarian and the principal – they are what we call “foils”
She shook her head as Trisha started copying complicated-looking Phy. calculations from Sheila’s notebook silently. The Librarian gently stroked her head and walked away. - cut this action or make it more meaningful Probably the poor dear is pressure-mount again. Those long calculations were something that never entered her head. She was meant for fashion and fun. Sheila had spent hours in the Lib trying to cram some Phy. into her best friend. - I’m not sure who this paragraph is about
Phy., actually, was Sheila’s subject. She was a genius and excelled at anything that was beyond the reach of the general population. She cracked Olympiads and Science Talent Exams, and always restrained herself from doing anything rash. She was least interested in anything other than science, and people saw her in the plainest trousers and T’s. Make-up, to her, was like Hebrew.
But make-up meant mother-tongue to Trisha. A lovely child with loads of naughty ideas, and even more boyfriends. And an overwhelming tendency to cross boundaries. Forever in trouble, but all smiles. Her life was a roller-coaster ride. After dates and parties if she had time left, she spared some for studies. But she was extremely good with her pencil and colours, and had an artist’s imagination. And a compassionate heart.
Trisha and Sheila were polar opposites. How they got along so well was a mystery. But they were best friends, always together. The whole school knew that. The teachers always feared Trisha’s bad influence on Sheila, and had, on numerous previous occasions, indirectly asked their pet to keep away from that lazy-bones Trisha, though of course without much consequence. - too much backstory, cut these past four paragraphs and replace them with action and dialogue, sprinkled with some of the backstory as needed
Next Period, the Phy. Teacher asked Sheila to collect the class’s assignment answers-scripts. And then he continued,
“Yes, Miss Basu, did you manage to finish yours?”
“Yes sir, I did,” Trisha said, almost expecting another tongue-lashing on the earlier issue. She knew how fast gossip spread at the Convent. But nothing.
Sheila started collecting, and when she reached Trisha’s seat, she winked her.
“Looks like you’re famous again!”
“Notorious,” Trisha shook her head, handing over her copied answer-script.
Before class got over, the Phy. Teacher gave away the corrected papers back to the class. Trisha;’s one came. She got an 11 on 15. But Sheila’s never reached. - what do you mean?
At last the bell rang.
“Once more Sheila has done best in class, securing a 14. Here you are, Sheila.” The Teacher returned Sheila her paper.
During recess, Trisha pouted, “But Shel, I copied from you! This is so not fair!!!”
Sheila turned and looked at with earnest, almost sorry, eyes.
“Keep well out of trouble next term, Trish, and you’ll get the highest, too. I swear. They never check your answers. They almost always check only the name at the top.” - This does not feel like a satisfying ending even though Trish passed her exam.
More Feedback: This is an interesting story, but it reads like a first draft. What exactly is Trish’s main problem? Is is the teacher? Is it the exam? If it’s a combination, that needs to be clearer. It needs some revisions to tidy up the flow of the story and bring the story problem more to the foreground.
Thank you so much Laura!! your opinion was the most helpful. I’ll try to improve the story keeping your suggestions in mind. Thanks again!