Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta

In the Spirit of Revisions # 6 Back Story

| Filed under Fiction Relationships writing Writing Life

Hello again, readers. Welcome back to a work in progress. This time you will read about the dreaded back story. Too little can cause the story to deflate the narrative, too much can lose the reader’s interest. A little goes a long way. For the short story, some editors and readers prefer no back story at all unless it boosts empathy for the characters. I tend to agree with that but also have a blind spot when it comes to judicious pruning, too. The excerpt below is the result of removing over half of the back story.
Body, Mind, Spirit
By Ann Chiappetta
When I realized Cole was sticking around, I started taking him seriously. We talked and joked during inventory counting sessions. One Afternoon, while we were sitting on our stools folding fifty cent napkins, The Most Boring Job in Linens, Cole said that he had broken up with his girlfriend.
“Why?” I asked.
Cole stopped folding and looked at me, “Well, she’s still a virgin. And we weren’t alone long enough to find out if she wanted to change her mind,”
I blushed when he looked at me. I wasn’t a prude, but at that time, I hadn’t been alone with a guy in over a year.
I caught his smile, and I smiled back.
It wasn’t a shock when, after that conversation, we found ourselves alone together. Cole and I walked through town one fall evening after our annual inventory. Sometime after the first mile he reached for my hand. As we made our way under the I-95 overpass, we were arm-in-arm. We came out from under the overpass and I stopped, facing him. “Do you like me, Cole?”
He smiled down at me, “Yes, very much.”
“Then make a move.”
His hands cupped my face and we kissed. His touch overcame the loneliness I’d been feeling for a long time and I gave into the passion. Sometime later, I showed him to a private spot known to a few of my friends by the town reservoir. We jumped a low fence and I led him to the spot. We cleared the rocks and twigs from the grass and laid our jackets down, spreading them out end to end. Suddenly, I felt like it was the first time I’d ever slept with anyone. It felt as if I’d gone back to being 16 again.
He came back from relieving himself and knelt down in front of me.
“This place is perfect.” I said
He pulled me down next to him and kissed me
“Amy, I’ve wanted this to happen for so long.” He said, “Let me show you what you’ve been missing

We dozed off around 4 a.m. and awoke with the coo of the mourning doves. It was then that I saw the scars. The pre-dawn light revealed them. I had felt them during our loving session but seeing them gave my stomach a tug. I didn’t ask him about them, but couldn’t get them out of my thoughts. We parted at the fence and got ready to greet the day with only a few hours of sleep. But it was worth it.
When I walked into the linen shop at nine that morning, Cole was already there sweeping the floor.
“Hi Amy,” he smiled. We just stood there staring at each other, goofy grins on our faces. He broke the silence.
“Did you get enough sleep?” His hazel eyes danced with mischief.
“Not enough, how about you?”
“It was rough, but I managed some on the bus ride this morning.

I went down to the basement and put my purse and jacket in my locker. Miriam was at her desk crunching yesterday’s numbers, manicured nails tapping on the calculator keys. She glanced up, her eyes narrowing as she watched me get a cup of coffee and sit down on a chair.

front’s done, do we have any deliveries today?” asked Cole, standing in the doorway to the office.
Miriam was quiet, her shrewd gaze taking in first Cole, then me.
“Thank you, Cole, the delivery sheet’s upstairs behind the register.”
He nodded and turned to leave, both of us watching him go.

She waited until Cole was out of ear shot then playfully shook her finger at me,
“Just remember to be on time when it happens again.”
“I wasn’t late today.”
She looked up at me, then glanced at the doorway where Cole had just been, a knowing smile on her Madonna red lips,
“Trust me, you will be.”

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

In the Spirit of Revisions # 5

| Filed under Fiction Relationships writing Writing Life

Cutting the word count. Yup, the dreaded hunt for the unessential and redundant in a story. How does one get into the mind set of slashing words after reading the draft and thinking, there is no way this will work if I have to find a way to eliminate thousands of words.
Been there? I was there with a short story. It began at about 6,000 words. My goal was 3000 words. A very lofty goal, but, heck, I was ready. Flexing my fingers and securing the keyboard, I set to work.
This is how I managed to get it down to just under 5000 words.
I made every word count. I kept asking, does the reader need to know this? I opened with an action scene, trimming and deleting. It is now 550 words. I cut the first scene by 250 words, more or less. I wanted it to be quick and forboding.This is what resulted from the trim:
Mind, Body, Spirit
By Ann Chiappetta © 2017

“Wake her up.”
Something warmer than the frigid aluminum gunwale touched my face.
“Amy, get up, babe, its Cole, get up and open your eyes.”
Cole? Why did he sound like that? He sounded worried. I opened my eyes and met Ray’s bruised face, He pointed a pistol at me, his hand steady.
I clutched Cole’s hand. The gun had all my attention. The blueish gun metal glinted dully in the shafts of light breaking through grey November sunset. We were heading out of the harbor. I turned, getting my bearings and ignored the pain in my head. We were approaching an island just outside the basin. As we got closer I picked out an Arial tower. I knew then where we were going, Governor’s Island.

The events of the last two hours finally came back with consciousness and I retched. I felt the boat shift. The top of the old jetty could be seen, covered in icy slush and debris.

“Take the line and tie up,”
Cole secured the craft,
Get her out.” Ray ordered, steadying himself with the handle of the outboard motor, pointing the way with the gun. We splashed and slid our way up the submerged slab of concrete. The icy water soaked our legs up to the thigh. It was so cold, I stopped feeling like puking
Ray watched us, trying to keep his balance on the slick ramp after climbing out of the dinghy. He was still a few feet from the dry land, his hand on the line when the water surged up the ramp and knocked the boat into the back of his legs. He stumbled and fell to one knee, the icy water dragging him down. Cole sprang, yelling,
“Amy, run!”
Cole knock the gun out of Ray’s hand before I turned and headed up the rocky shoreline. The gun skidded down the ramp under the dinghy and was lost. I started to run, but then I stopped, feeling dizzy and out of breath. I found something to rest on, closing my eyes.

Strong hands pulled me up, “Amy, babe, we’re almost safe, but to be really safe we have to climb.”
“Cole? Is that you?” He was pushing me from behind.
“We can rest up there. Let’s go.”
We started up the rusty ladder. Cole helped by moving my hands and feet as we made our way up. Once we reached the last third of the tower, the wind hit us so hard we grabbed at the iron rungs with renewed desperation. It was almost dark now and I started to cry from the pain in my head and the cold and wind ripping at us.
“You’re doing great, just a little farther then you’ll be safe,” said Cole kissing my head.
The tower platform was still so far away. Cole pressed closer, lips pressed to my ear so I could hear him above the gusting wind.
“I love you Amy. Don’t give up. We’ll find a way, but we have to get to the top.”
I shook my aching head and buried it in his damp shirt. “No, I can’t. I’m so tired.” I felt his body jerk, and then I felt the thump-thump below us on the ladder. Ray was coming

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

In the spirit of Revisions #4

| Filed under Fiction Relationships writing Writing Life

What did you say? Dialogue and how saying less means more. Yes, that’s right, readers. In this manuscript, as its author, I am finding the conversations falling flat. I admit I struggle with writing effective and compelling dialogue. In this case, it’s most likely due to the writing being old and written strictly for word count. Some of the dialogue is perfunctory, like a robot is speaking, other lines just seem to just take up space and don’t advance the story. So, what, exactly do I look for or listen for to determine when dialogue is good versus when it is poorly written?
Read it out loud. If it sounds stilted or obtuse, it is – unless, that is, you want it to be interpreted as obtuse or stilted, .
Be consistent with whatever speech patterns you choose.
Ask yourself, would this character speak this way? Ask if what the character says is giving to much or too little information and conversation. Also, if there is a reason to insert misspellings, it better be a good one and it better not distract the reader overly much or don’t do it. Nothing pulls a reader out of a story more than bad dbialogue. In contrast, nothing pulls in a reader than realistic, compelling dialogue. There is a scene where Griffin is drunk and the line before he begins talking mentions he is slurring. Originally I slurred the actual words. The revision removes the slurred words and because I mentioned that he was slurring, the reader can take it from there. No need to overdramaticize or belabor the fact that he’s drunk.
Dialogue helps move along the story, take a break from exposition, and can advance the plot and allows the reader to empathize with the characters. Poorly written dialogue can turn off the reader and we don’t want to lose the reader, do we?
Think about reading Pig Latin. Remember that secret language? The writer doesn’t want dialogue to be confusing or opaque like Igpay Atinlay.  What the heck is Pig Latin, you might be thinking. Go here to find out:

Here are some other tips:
Listen to conversations and how people talk. Pay attention to the natural speech patterns of your colleagues, friends and even folks on line at the grocery store. Think about how you would write it, then practice. Read, read, and read some more.Write every day. Work that mental muscle and it will make a difference.

Here is another glimpse into the story with dialogue. It is between Griffin, his good friend, George Po, and then Jillian over the phone.

Griffin stood by the carp pond on the roof of his three-story canyon house, tossing in freeze dried fish flakes and nutritional pellets. The carp, about six or so, came out from the depths of the pond and skimmed the surface, missing nothing. In moments the surface of the pond was again calm and the carp sounded back down to the pool’s bottom. He noticed that the ficus tree his gardener, George, had placed next to the pond was finally growing leaves.
“No touch, Mr. Griffin,” George Po reminded him, “they drop leaf when you touch.”
Griffin smiled and patted his shoulder,
“You know what’s best, George. I’m glad you stayed on after dad died.”
George’s Asian feature saddened, and for a moment Griffin thought he would cry; George and his dad were very close, and at times Griffin found that the wizened old Chinese gardener needed more comforting than he did.
The two men stood in silence, the hot breeze stirring leaves on the trees dispersed within the peaceful garden.
“Dad said he wanted you to add to the area near the pond, remember?”
“Ah, yes he sit there many times. I put tree there to honor him.”
They stood together looking at the flourishing ficus and dwarf cherry blossom trees shading a bench where Marchall used to sit to feed the carp. Griffin watched a stray leaf skitter across the bench beside the pond and land in it, bobbing in its own wake. The largest carp, which he’d named Moby, rose to the surface, his pentode orange and white coloration gave im an odd, haphazard look, as if he were rusting. He and George watched as Moby zeroed in on the leaf, then nosed it along the surface until it got waterlogged and sank.
Griffin thought of Jillian, how she played with the carp, laughing whenever one nibbled on her fingers, the same fingers he wanted to take and do very erotic things with .
“You think of the lady who pets the fish.” Said George, a sly look narrowing his eyes, “She is beautiful.?
Griffin laughed; surprised George had even remembered being told about her one night over dinner. They were both fond of hot chilies and cold beer. George did the cooking and usually Griffin did the talking.
“Yes, she’s beautiful. Moby liked her,” Griffin admitted, gesturing to the big carp. He tried to cull down Jillian’s physical traits, sure that he didn’t like at least one thing about her but found himself liking everything.
“You bring her to dinner?” asked George, “I make special dumplings, maybe scallops?”
“Yes, that sounds good, ”
He glanced at his watch,
“I’ll call her now and let her know. She teaches at night a few times a week but I’m not sure which nights.” He flipped open his cell and dialed.
“Hello Tiger.” She answered.
“Hello Dragon Lady.” He replied, “Got a sec?”
“For you? I’ve got as many as you need, what’s up?”
“George and I were feeding the carp when he said he’d love to cook for you. “
“Oh, that’s sweet, Griffin. I’m free Thursday and Friday.”
“How about Thursday? That’s our usual day anyway.” He glanced over at George, who was listening, and he nodded, then walked away to give Griffin some privacy.
“Thursday it is, then. Does George like anything that he won’t get for himself?” asked Jillian.
“H-m-m, he loves a good cigar. What I’d call big, fat, and stinky.”
They laughed.
“Okay, but I’m not getting him more than a few. It’s a terrible habit.”

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0