Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Hone Your Skills Blogfest!

blogfest?! Why yes, since you asked. Today it's time for the Hone Your Skills Blogfest, hosted by RosieC and Charity Bradford (click the picture above to find out more)!

The blogfests requires the following of participants:

  1. On March 16, post a short story around 750 words, no more than 1000, in any genre you like.
  2. Read and give a critique for the person before and after you in the Linky List (and as many others as you can/want to). When you critique: a) find at least two things that really work, and b) at least two suggestions for how it can be tightened or improved.
  3. (Optional) When you post on March 16, list one or two (online) journals where you plan to submit your piece after making revisions. - RosieC

For my story's genre, I'm really not sure - maybe you can be the judge! I don't think I will ever seek publication for this. I just consider it another writing exercise. And I do love to practice accepting horribly brutal critique with good grace. :D So have at it!

Oh, and the word count is 761, according to Word (p.s. It was originally posted here on my FictionPress account).
Newsreaders' Blues

Asynja Dharmo tried not to grind her teeth, but her efforts were in vain for the most part. She had been trying for the entire morning since her alarm went off in her ear to keep her cool, yet it seemed the early mornings, the lack of pay raise, the snooty attitudes of her co-workers and her lack of a photocopy girl to bring her coffee in the studio were all adding up against her. She had had it up to here.

"Synje, you're on in ten," Mark called from his spot beside Carlotta – oh, he thought he was so damn important. He was trying to get in her good graces after last week's debacle. Asynja thought snidely – and happily – that he wasn't making much progress at all. I hope he rots in the back of her paddy wagon, she thought as she purposefully ignored his comment. As if I didn't know I was on in ten, you fucking moron.

The last few minutes always went by slowly, and also as usual they brought Asynja's stress levels through the roof. At least she had her welcoming smile firmly plastered on – and from their seats on the couches in their living rooms, viewers wouldn't notice the sheen of sweat that coated her forehead. They wouldn't notice what she was not telling them either – they were all as stupid as the next person, if the nightly opinion polls could be believed.

"Seven minutes," Abigail called from her little corner of the room, causing Asynja to begin fiddling with her pen again. She slammed it a little too firmly down onto the desk's surface and tried not to look directly at the cameras – yet. Doing that before the time came to start speaking always freaked her out. She focused instead on what she'd buy for dinner tonight – not only what kind of wine would go with it. Eating alone could be a bummer but when it was really great food and a quality drop, Asynja found herself easily comforted.

Tonight's list of items to be reported included a vicious rape, a cowardly attack, a grotesque act of terrorism, a valiant shower of counter terrorism, and a small kitten rescued from a drainpipe. The cowardly attack came first, then the grotesque act of terrorism – which would of course be followed by the valiant shower of counter terrorism. The kitten story, of course, came second-to-last. She had to watch how she switched from sombre-faced to cheerfully amused – sometimes, she'd been told, she left it a little too late, so that she was looking almost happy while delivering the tail end of the latest tale of death and destruction. It was really a tough job she had – tough but satisfactorily challenging. She wouldn't have it any other way, except for a large raise and better air-conditioning – oh, and more vacation time.

"Three minutes and counting!" Mark yelled, and Asynja was startled back to reality realising that he had moved positions. Either he had moved or Carlotta had moved him. Either way he was glancing importantly at his watch and glancing this way and that, acting as if he actually knew what was going on, or what should be going on, and was the grand overseer of the entire production.

Production might seem an odd word to use for the evening news program, but since beginning her first stint as an amateur newsreader Asynja had learned that production it was indeed. The make-up on her face wasn't the only part of the show that aimed at concealing and distorting reality. But that wasn't her concern – her only concern was to do her job and do it well, better, to secure that raise. Bloody Mark Davenport had stolen her last one, and she'd sooner stab him in the back than let him do it again.

"Thirty seconds," Anabella cried, and several people looked at her in surprise – since when had she earned the right to call times? Asynja supposed even Anabella was wondering that now that everybody had begun giving her the evil eye. It didn't matter anyway. There were more important things to think about right now.

"Eight seconds," Brodie yelled, and then began counting down on his fingers for Asynja's and other crewmembers' benefit. If one could call it a benefit: it was more distracting than anything.

Asynja cleared her throat as she always did and at the precise moment, looked right at the cameras, saying, "And I'm Asynja Dharmo. Welcome to Channel Eight News Tonight." She donned her serious look and leaned closer to the camera.


  1. Wah, Tisha, Wah,

    Caught all the anxiety of Asynja in 1000 words or so!! *Nods & grins*

    I don't wanna take that job!! No need!! I can't handle such stress!!

    with warm regards

  2. I can feel her pain! You do a great job of showing her frustration. My favorite part was how you put me in a foriegn environment; I've never read about a news reporter before, and I really felt like I was there with her.

    For the two negatives: Her complaints against her job are pretty standard, so you're titering on the edge of being relatable and cliche. It would help if you could show us, instead of tell us, how frustrating her job is. Maybe she could have a conversation with the guy who stole her raise, and he could be so stupid that she'd say, "Seriously? How does this guy make more money than me?"

    My next complaint is that this story doesn't have a beginning, middle, and end. Some short stories don't, or at least, their endings are abstract. I'm not an expert with short stories, but this felt like a first chapter.

    I enjoyed this, thanks!

  3. Trisha, thanks for participating in the blogfest! Like Teralyn, I enjoyed getting a look into a profession I never think about. I enjoyed seeing into Asynja's head and see how she dealt with her stage fright by distancing herself from the moment. The competitive nature of the co-workers was also intriguing since they should have been working as a team.

    Things to tighten:
    Once again I agree with Teralyn. There wasn't a clear beginning, middle or end. Even in short stories we need a conflict and resolution of some sort. I kept waiting for something surprising to happen.

    I also didn't understand her anger towards the viewers. Why would she be thinking they are all so stupid?

    All in all though this was well written and you helped me feel what the MC was feeling.

  4. I thought it was great. You get a good sense of her personality and voice. The only thing I would change are the number of people you introduce. All the names get confusing.

  5. Hi Trisha. This is just a note for now to tell you that I'll be reading your story in the car on my way out of town. I'll post my comments later tonight. Thanks for participating! :)

  6. I really enjoyed this snippet into the life of a newsreader. But there was a lot of exposition going on, and too many characters.

  7. I enjoyed it. I like the time countdown through the piece too.

  8. How fun. I am watching TV and a news show is about to come on. I love getting a little glimpse of what could be. I was a little confused over all the people. Was I dropped into the middle of a book? A book I would love to read by the way. I wanted to know why the people counting and acting like they were in charge were doing so. Did they get a p romotion?
    Loved the story.

  9. Hi everyone. No this wasn't from the middle of a larger story or anything - some people suggested I continue it way back in the day, but I never did. ;)

    Thanks for all the critique, I will do a revision based on your comments :)

  10. Thanks for participating in the blogfest, and greetings from a fellow crusader, I don't think I've managed to visit here yet.

    I love the opening paragraph, especially the bit about no photocopy girl to bring her coffee. All of Asynja's stream of consciousness generally works well, at both telling the story and letting us get a picture of how her mind works.

    One thing that I did notice was that there were a few long lists - the list of gripes in the first paragraph, and the list of different news stories. I'm not sure if you can strictly follow the rule of three here, (to only include three details or examples and move on,) but trying to get closer to that point would probably be an improvement, I think - or you can include three items in a list in one sentence, and then add a few more on later.

  11. I've also noticed a few points where you're repeating the same word or phrase very quickly, and as a reader it threw me off rather than working to reinforce anything:

    "The cowardly attack came first, then the grotesque act of terrorism – which would of course be followed by the valiant shower of counter terrorism. The kitten story, of course, came second-to-last."

    Perhaps rephrase the first sentence to 'which would then be followed...'

    "glancing importantly at his watch and glancing this way and that,"

    I'm not sure if glancing works well in either spot. Staring importantly at the watch and looking this way and that?

    One other comment that I'd like to make. When the countdown started with "Synje, you're on in ten," I thought it was ten seconds, until we got to seven minutes. (Actually, when Asynja started to rant to herself in great and gory detail, I figured out that she didn't think she was on in ten seconds, but still.)

    I hope that these opinions are useful to you.

    Chris K.

  12. Thanks Chris, very helpful comments! :)

  13. Hi Trisha,
    Thanks again for participating. I also enjoyed getting a glimpse into this profession. I'm afraid, for the most part, that my comments will mirror what others have said above, so I apologize for any repetition.

    First, I agree with Myre that there are too many characters. For fewer than 800 words, you list 6 people, the MC plus 5. The only person beyond the MC who gets any development is Mark. Are Brodie, Anabella, Abagail, or Carlotta important? Do we need their names? I suppose it gives a sense of the busy, beehive feeling that might come from working in a newsroom, but it's hard to keep everyone straight in so few words.

    Also, this feels like a "glimpse of life" piece. Was that your intention? Those are really difficult (imho) because they still need to have some kind of climax and resolution. The conflict in this case is her nerves, but dealing solely with an internal conflict don't came with any kind of action. There's also no resolution because she has the same nerves night after night, and the only thing that will calm her nerves is the camera being switched off again. It's a difficult road to take.

    I liked reading her opinions about Mark. They made me laugh. I think you could work with that. There's something there beyond what's on the page. Speaking of, what was "last week's debacle"?

    What is she not telling them? I feel like this is lying the foundation for some conflict. Maybe it's a newscaster's typical feeling that there's always something left unsaid, but maybe her news station is purposefully withholding information? I don't know. I'm intrigued, and wonder where that would go.

    Thanks for the glimpse. I enjoyed this story. I'm glad you decided to join us today :)

  14. Great voice! So much captured in only a few paragraphs. I could feel her frustration with her job and her life. Well done. Loved the setting, too, of a news broadcast.

  15. Well done!

    It had me hooked from line one!

    And she seems to be a very interesting character.



Thanks for your words, me hearties! and don't forget to leave a link to your blog somewhere I can find it!