How to become a better writer (featuring a short story by me)

So basically i need some tips on how to become a better writer. I try my very best but i know i have a long way to go. Below is a short story i was to write for a two hour english test with the subject of not fitting in being between 500-600 words long. constuctive criticism needed.

Not fitting in

I've been here so many times before, more than I can count. Yet, still I feel as though it's the first time I've ever been here. This place feels so cold and unforgiving, so rejecting and non-caring, so eerie, but it seems as though I'm the only one who feels that way. Around me everything is buzzing with life, filled with laughter and warm smiles among friends. But as the others become more comfortable I become more and more uncomfortable. As people around me widen their smug grins I can feel my plastic smile fading from my face, feeling my forced thoughts about how everything is fine and everyone is nice being replaced with hateful and resentful thoughts. How can they stand there laughing, smiling, and giggling? Can't they see what sort of fucked up place this is? Is it really just me?

Right before I thought I was going to explode into a ball of hate and misery, I'm disturbed by my only friend around here. Apparently he's been trying to reach me for quite some time. "What?" I ask, coming out more spiteful than I expected. "W-We should be going soon." He said, obviously a little startled by the tone I had earlier. "Yes, of course, you go on ahead. I'll catch up." I reply, trying to reply more calmly this time than previously. I really won't be able to maintain a conversation with anyone in the condition I am now. I've always preferred to be alone anyway; at least that's what I keep telling myself. He nods and goes on ahead. Finally I can be alone with my thoughts.

One would think that I'd like to get away from here as soon as I could. But what would they think of me if I was the first one to go? I feel out of place enough already, I can't even begin to imagine what would happen if they were to see me leave this early? Surely I'd be the gossip of the day tomorrow if I did. And honestly, I don't need any more glaring eyes staring at me as if though I'm some sort of monstrous freak. Looking at me like I'm this freakish being, as if I'm a fucking psychopath, looking at me like I deserve to die.
I've been here so long, yet everyone keeps staring at me, glaring through my very soul, judging my every move. A bit short of breath? They'll notice. New clothes? They'll notice. Done something awkward? They'll notice, and they'll judge. Why can't they just leave me be? Why can't they focus on their own mistakes? Why do I feel so alone even though there are so many people around me? When will I ever be free of this torment?

Reflecting on this however I think I may have found another way out. It's a bit radical, but it's quick, it's effective, and it will ensure that I won't have to worry about not fitting in anymore, because where I'm going, I'll be exactly as all the others around me.

Brutal constructive criticism, moderate, or light?

I can do all three.

lacktheknack:
Brutal constructive criticism, moderate, or light?

I can do all three.

Just do a mix of them all. I can take it

NaitsabesH:

lacktheknack:
Brutal constructive criticism, moderate, or light?

I can do all three.

Just do a mix of them all. I can take it

OK! Don't be disheartened by the following, just push yourself to do better. You really can.

Your short story:

Your grammar is questionable. When I read it, it feels as though you understand the point of grammar, but just miss the finer points of it. For instance:

I've been here so many times before, more than I can count.

This is called a "comma splice". The words before the comma is a complete sentence, but the words after are missing a subject. Ideally, you would finish with "more times than I can count". It just adds a weird out-of-place pause in the writing. This is fine for poetry, clearly marked personal thoughts or dialog with a dramatic character, but not for prose. And no, writing in first-person is not "clearly marked personal thoughts".

This place feels so cold and unforgiving, so rejecting and non-caring, so eerie, but it seems as though I'm the only one who feels that way.

More comma splices as well as a run-on sentence here. You should have cut it at "so eerie. But it seems..." Your thoughts are spilling out a little bit faster than you're writing them down. Make sure you edit your writing after every paragraph or two to combat this.

In terms of story content, you're pretty messy. Let's break it down a bit:

Main character (who?) is standing in a place (where?) -> main character begins to suffer a paranoid/depression episode -> friend interrupts (why?) -> friend leaves, main character stays behind (why?) -> main character continues to be paranoid/depressed -> character decides to kill self

Problem one: This is not a compelling story. It attempts to create a drama, but drama only works when you're invested in the characters. In this story, no one even has a name. It then has a "sad ending", except we still don't know who's committing suicide, so it's difficult to care. It's like talking about suicide at a debate panel, because no names are named so no one gets upset about it as a nebulous concept.

Problem 2: The inclusion of the friend was pointless, really. Sure, he appears to stop the main character from doing something explosive, but he then immediately leaves. He's then never mentioned again. He doesn't have a reason to exist.

Problem 3: Who is the main character, anyways? Obviously, the story is in first-person so it's supposed to have the reader project into the main character themselves, but the story is so low on details that the reader can't do that. I'm not about to sympathize with his suicidal tendencies because I have nothing to sympathize with. Even giving a location that you refer to as "this place" would be helpful. Is it a school? Then we can more easily imagine a student bullied by his/her peers. Is it a party? We can imagine a reveler disenfranchised with the whole scene (although that's more of a stretch). Sadly, all we have to work with is a guy with a depressive mental problem

Problem 4: The story is too short. I know it's a "short story", but you chose a topic with too large of a scope for a four-paragraph hand-in. This could work if you wrote a ten-page short story, but at this length, you're best off going with a less impacting topic. Maybe a lost pet that's found at the end?

I know that there are some brilliant microstories on powerful topics, but this is beyond your (and my) abilities.

The last problem is minor: You're too dramatic. Words like "torment", "explode into a ball of hate and misery", and "plastic smile" are too overwrought for what appears to be someone not enjoying a party. If you had built the character up as heavily damaged or naturally dramatic, then it could have worked, but you didn't (see problems 3 and 4).

You need to practice some "boring writing". Try writing a story about being on a boat in a storm. Once you can flawlessly lay down a simple story structure with interesting (but not try-hard) writing, then you can feel free to tackle bigger topics (in bigger stories).

Heck, to practice the technical aspect of your writing, you could try writing scientific papers or reviews.

<checks post history>

Oh goody!

In your To The Moon and Captain Philips reviews, we're faced with a few old and new problems.

Again, you're having some trouble with the grammar. There's a lot of run-on sentences in your reviews.

To the Moon Revies:
The only gameplay you get from it will be moving from place to place to continue the story, it leave you in a small enviroment where it leaves you to find interactive objects that has relevance to the story, you then find a main object and go through a small puzzle sequence before moving onto the next level, and the next bit of the story.

This should have been three or four sentences.

You also have some capitalization issues and "title/body blend". Look here:

To the Moon Review:
To the moon's story is very touching,

That should be "To the Moon's", italics included. Or instead of italics, you could bold the title or even just put it in quotation marks. If you don't denote the title some how, it will blend into the rest of the sentence and look poor. I'm a bit bad at this myself.

You're also hyperbolic and dramatic to the detriment of taking you seriously:

To the Moon Review:
and left me with tears streaming out of my eyes like a waterfall

Captain Phillips Review:
Have you ever seen a movie and though to youself: "I can't believe this was mere acting" or "Why are tears streaming down my face?"?

Colorful words there, but they're probably not actually accurate, since you gave both of them 8/10. That's a B in many academic circles, maybe an A- in others. You need to keep track of what you're writing and make sure your numeric value adds up to match it. Both reviews sounded like the subject deserved a 9.5 or more, only to be suddenly plunged to an 8/10. I can't tell if you're overselling the game and movie or underselling them, but you're definitely doing one or the other.

The other problem with your reviews is that they're WAY too short. And even in your short form:

To the Moon Review:
To summarize: Amazing and fitting music helping you along with the heavy amounts of text. Even though it's basically a short novel with graphics it's very much worth the money, as long as you don't mind the text.

...you managed to mention the game's text three times. Mention that it's basically a short novel OR warn about the text, you don't need to do both.

After reading your To the Moon review, I still don't know how the game is played, whether it has entertainment value beyond a good story or even how long it is. What I DO know, however, is the whole damned plot arc, because you gave it away.

The Captain Phillips review is even more egregious. Between the plot summary (summarized much too thoroughly) and your only complaint acting as a spoiler in and of itself, I want to watch the movie LESS because now I already know what happens.

Instead of your spoilerific summary, you should have just said that the main character's boat was boarded by Somalian pirates. That's all I need to know whether the plot interests me: the set-up.

The main problem in your reviews, really, is that you're spending too much time on the parts that aren't relevant to the actual review, yet you're not talking enough about the bits that matter.

Check out my Riven review. I'm not at ALL saying that your reviews need to be this long, but notice where the focus is. My recap of the story takes one paragraph (and a throwaway line), and it only covers information that you can find in the first few minutes. It's the game's job to tell the story, not mine. I then go into a lot of detail on how the game functions, what difficulty to expect, what the game looks like, etc. I also highlight a couple of notable moments that help explain why I like the game a lot, and there's more than one sentence dedicated to each aspect of the game.

Again, I'm not saying your review has to be long, but it's going to be short, it's important that you pay attention to the content that actually matters and that you give the right amount of time to each reviewed aspect.

Really, you're on the right track, but you need a lot of practice and you need to stay mindful of how well your writing expresses what's on your mind. Just keep writing, but also keep reading. And as you read, be it a short story, a novel, a review or anything else, keep dissecting how it's written and see if you can pick up some tricks from there.

I see. Thank you very much for your feedback. I appreciate it. Somethings are somewhat hard seeing as English is my second language, but that's just why i wanna improve.

As for the short story it seems i somehow managed to get a 6 (highest grade) But after reading your feedback it seems our teacher is easily impressed, either because English is my 2nd language or because it's 12th grade.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback.

NaitsabesH:
I see. Thank you very much for your feedback. I appreciate it. Somethings are somewhat hard seeing as English is my second language, but that's just why i wanna improve.

As for the short story it seems i somehow managed to get a 6 (highest grade) But after reading your feedback it seems our teacher is easily impressed, either because English is my 2nd language or because it's 12th grade.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback.

No problem. Seeing that English is your second language, your writing is actually pretty decent for a high school student. You'll do fine.

Some critique for you, in no particular order.

- Vocabulary like "rejecting and non-caring" is clumsy or just plain making words up. Find decent alternatives.
- Some of the description is pretty good. You get into a nice flow about halfway through the first paragraph. Good rhythm, nice assonance.
- Try to avoid using words right alongside their modified forms - comfortable and uncomfortable, for example - unless of course it's for a deliberate reason.
- Also, try not to use tautologies. "More calmly this time than previously", for example. Use "this time" or "than previously", using both is pointless.
- Paragraph 3: That's a heck of a lot of questions, and after the first few I'm not convinced they add much.
- Good attempt at conveying feeling through the first-person voice, and by and large you do this by showing, not telling. However our narrator is a little schitzophrenic - one minute he's using a very precise form of diction, the next he's calling himself a "fucking psychopath". It's a bit odd.

 

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