I woke up this morning to find out that my story WON over at Cracked Flash! Exciting!
Our story had to start with the following sentence:
“Sometimes, people really are just useless.”
I’ll put the judges comments at the end of the story. I must say, one thing that sets them apart from other competitions is that they are not afraid to point out things that need improvement. They had some very helpful critiques. I appreciate that. While I like hearing that my story was good, I also want to improve as a writer and if there is something I can do to make the story great, I want to know about it.
I must confess I really struggled with the 300 word limit. I had to make some deep cuts which did affect the desperation of the piece as Si pointed out.
So, here is the original story. I will work on it and post the revised version when I am satisfied. (That could take a while.)
The Tea Party
“Sometimes, people really are just useless. Cheese?”
“I’m sorry, what?” Clara stared at the strange man in front of her. A moment ago she was having tea with her boyfriend and listening to him talk about work. But this man was definitely not her boyfriend.
She closed her eyes for a moment.
“Would you like some cheese? It pairs well with your tea.” Reluctantly, she opened her eyes to see a big grin stretch across the stranger’s face farther than a grin should. A large hat dipped over his crazed eyes as they darted from her to the other guests at the table.
“Who are you? The Hatter?”
“Of course not, dear. The Hatter is a copyrighted name. You can call me Mr. Chapeau.”
“I’ll take some cheese,” Clara turned to see a rabbit sitting upright in a white gown.
“Where is Jason?”
“Jason, my boyfriend. Tall, dark hair, dorky tortoise shell glasses.”
“Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s my birthday you know,” the man with the hat said.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Clara jumped at the exclamation that rang out from a tiny mouse in a tea pot.
Did I fall down a rabbit hole? Where was Jason? He was just here.
“HEY!” She shouted over the loud singing that had commenced around her. “Please! Where is Jason!”
They all stopped and stared. She realized, now, that she was standing with a cheese knife held over her head. A small pinch in her shoulder made her go limp, falling into the arms of a strong woman.
“Take her to the holding cell.” A nurse said as she took a pencil from Clara’s fingers and walked out behind them. “Poor girl just can’t get over his death. Best keep her out of the common room for a while.”
I loved the rambling, unexplained craziness of this story. No info dump, just bewildering weirdness until it’s all explained in the end. Of course she’s crazy!
Good clean dialogue and I liked the personalities of all the strange characters we come across. The disjointedness of the dialogue: “Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s my birthday you know,” works very well for setting the atmosphere of confusion that Clara finds herself in. One thing I would recommend is increasing the tension of the story just a little–make us feel not only Clara’s confusion, but also desperation. I liked the Alice in Wonderland references–good connection there!–familiar to the reader, but we don’t know where you’re going with it until the twist ending. Great job giving us just enough dialogue from the Nurse to get what’s going on, quickly setting the REAL scene. Favorite line: “Of course not, dear. The Hatter is a copyrighted name. You can call me Mr. Chapeau.”, very funny. We can really feel Clara’s bewilderment throughout the story! Excellent job!
“The Hatter is a copyrighted name,” got a chuckle out of me! The Alice-is-insane has been done before (though it’s Clara in this instance), but it’s usually not done with any sort of levity like this piece is. I appreciate the allusion to Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (though I’m going to have “Merry Merry Unbirthday” stuck in my head now); I am very fond of references.
Watch out for how names are juxtaposed next to dialogue–“‘I’ll take some cheese,’ Clara turned to see a rabbit” could infer that either Clara or the rabbit were speaking, particularly with the comma there that runs into her name. The problem occurs once more later, when the mouse yells from the tea pot.
The beginning of the piece was a nice touch; it utilized the prompt in a unique fashion by making it sound like idle small talk, then drew the reader’s (and Clara’s) attention with the question, “Cheese?” Nice job!