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My Best story, now please tell me what's wrong with it.

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by HookEm2014, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. HookEm2014

    HookEm2014 Member

    Hey Guys,

    I'm just looking for some feedback on my most recent story. It's a pretty long piece on a football player that lost his Dad last season. And for me personally, I feel it's the best piece of writing I've ever done, but I always want to get better so I'd love to know what could have made this story even better. So please, if you have time let me know what you think. Thanks!

  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    FYI: You can edit thread titles by clicking "Modify."

    Anyway, I will read this in the next couple days.
  3. HookEm2014

    HookEm2014 Member

    Oh OK, sorry about that, and thanks a lot!
  4. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    This is a really nice piece....the number of voices is good, the fact that you got this stuff and got the punter to open up about it is very good. Only real advice would be, where you say something in New York clicked....maybe flesh that out a little more. What clicked, more specifically? Try to describe what he was feeling....and then maybe a tab more background up top. I was a little confused about the Duke stuff, the transferring...I however am not familiar with Texas football to the degree your audience would be so I say that with the caveat that maybe most of your readers already know the background. Enjoyable read all around.
  5. HookEm2014

    HookEm2014 Member

    Hey, thanks a lot for the feedback and kind words, I really appreciate it. And yea, I totally see what your saying about the New York thing, it could have certainly been fleshed out a little more. Same goes with the transfer information. Actually, the information was originally included, I was just forced to cut quite a bit from my story for space. But, thanks once again for the feedback, it's much appreciated.
  6. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    You have improved a lot from your first post here. That said ...

    You're using too many short cliches as transitions, even in your lede. When you're writing a feature story, the writing should be tight (unless you're Charles P. Pierce or Jeff MacGregor, but you're not).

    A couple thoughts on the lede:

    1. He obviously was not finished with football. We already know this. It's not an effective misdirection.
    2. Specificity is crucial. You're writing a personality profile. Do what you can to make that individual personality stand out. Find a key detail or anecdote to lead with. Start with the suicide, perhaps. Or start with the investment company.
    3. Consider your verbs, particularly for the first sentence of a long feature. "Was finished" is weak. Pull the reader in with something active. Active verbs liven up writing.

    You use another weak transition with "Until that fateful day," which gets to another key point. It's easy to write in sections. You can sort of regroup. You don't have to worry about continued voice as much. But you overused them. There were too many breaks, and the story felt choppy. Imagine a feature as a movie. You wouldn't want to be bouncing from scene to scene so quickly. There's no time for emotional resonance.

    Did you make an outline for this feature? Sometimes that can be a big help, but other times it can be a hindrance. You made a lot of awkward jumps that I could see as sort of bulleted points on a list of moments you wanted to describe. Keep the flow of the narrative moving. Make transitions natural. Cut out things that aren't interesting. Most of the Duke-Florida State game anecdote was uninteresting.

    More than anything, you need to focus on telling us what happened. Keep the point. Don't describe emotions, describe events and scenes. Don't make so many value judgments because they're not necessary. "Life was great" is a perfect example. "Alex thrived on it." "Under the surface, Dr. King struggled." These are phrases and sentences that don't do anything but set up the substantiating details. Get rid of them and let the details do the work.

    You have the details. That's the best part of this piece. You have a lot of little details that, with some strong editing, could have told this story really well. Work on restraint. Let the story tell the story.

    A few other notes:
    • Dr. King is Martin Luther King Jr. Every time I read it, my mind jumped to a man with a dream. Do not use "Dr." even on first reference unless you're using some quirky style guide. "Michael" would have been the better choice.
    • "Died by suicide" is a horrible turn of phrase. He killed himself. He committed suicide, if you must.
    • Speaking of suicide, you glorified Michael King on a pretty absurd level. Now, I am not one of these people who thinks suicide is the worst thing ever, but there were so many points at which you took the family's words as gospel. "Dr. King was an orthopedic surgeon who dedicated his life to helping people." That sentence is full of value judgments. Tell us what he did. Let the reader judge the guy for himself or herself.
    • You buried King being Texas' punter way down in the story. That's why people at your school are reading the story. Don't forget that.
  7. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    Really nice story. Most of my suggestions would echo what's already been said, but there's one I wanted to make. At the end, you write:

    Actually, he’d probably be doing his patented laugh and clap — a move he reserved for his kids when they accomplished something he was especially proud of.

    “We’ve talked often that if Dad could see Alex now, he’d be doing his laugh and clap,” Katie said.

    You don't need a quote to repeat what you've already said. Kill that and go with just the second part of the quote.

    Actually, he’d probably be doing his patented laugh and clap — a move he reserved for his kids when they accomplished something he was especially proud of.

    “He’d be so proud and so blown away to see how much he accomplished,” Katie said.
  8. HookEm2014

    HookEm2014 Member

    Thanks a ton y'all for reviewing my story. The feedback is beyond helpful and I really appreciate it.
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