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for Den Wallen Air

11/13/2011 c1 16Ioga
Hey, you have a new short story (Box) up for me it seems! Great. :)

I was rather entranced by the concept of Amsterdam air making people do things. Is this an Amsterdam-specific thing, or do e.g. New York, Peking and Paris have their own act-inducing air too?

Sometimes I feel like you have an independent idea that just happens to walk by a given prompt; this was one of such stories, touching the theme a couple of times in passing, but drawing my focus elsewhere. Sometimes, like in The Immortal Curer, the prompt becomes an integral part of the story; I wouldn't say it needs to be spelled out as explicitly every time either, though, but sometimes I wonder if the prompted story, in cases where I can see only a loose connection to the prompt, would fly better if it broke free from the original trigger of its inception. Eliminate the additional element of "distraction", sort of?

But I also suspect that when you write regularly for the WCC, the main drive might come more from the trigger + reaction pair and getting something out, than a deep emotional connection with the specific outcome story. In that sense the prompt is a part of the story whether the story wants it or not, because it would not have existed without. I'm actually reminded of NaNoWriMo, where the central lesson is "keep writing" rather than "keep revising"! In this case the additional challenge comes not from producing a maximum number of words per month, but a story with a connection to the monthly prompt. It's really a fascinating concept, one day I will pick a prompt and run with it. But not yet, too many "internal prompts" are going unfulfilled with lack of creative moments at hand... :)

This story reads like a drug-misted nightmare; the short-sentence style makes it jerky like a toss-and-turn-disturbing dream, the changes of time and place support the impression, and either it's drugs or serious full-moon indigestion that I imagine would induce the bombardment of what seem to be less-than-pleasant elements in the dream: wrestling-the-anaconda conversation, seeing and being concerned about a street bird whose discontent connects too close to a memory of familiar people, pondering personal morals in a stranger's bedroom, witnessing a murder and the wail of what seems to be a newly made orphan.

The funky part about reading "dreams" is that the details jump out at me and make me wonder about the mind behind them. I think it's when the story is out of control that it feels more revealing, like people in general. Julissa - did she and the choice of interpretation appear in the dream from e.g. a recent showing of the topic in the news, or something that has been pondered at more length? (At least my dreams are a mix of things that reside permanently in my head, and utterly random elements from the previous day.) How about the ponderings of how you can come do weird stuff in Amsterdam because it's so far away from home - a societal observation or a personal subject? The story becomes two-layered, it's about the plot and characters, and on the other hand it has the feel of an author lurking behind it more strongly than the more structured, polished and slick entertainment pills that slip by with half a glass of water and minimal processing.

I actually had the expectation to have a man's libido wandering around in my head for a couple of days after reading this. It struck a chord. Mostly a chord of "let men be more feminine if they want to, and women more masculine, but don't force gender behaviour upon people, be it based on their own sex or the opposite". So this piece was sneakily educative as well. (Besides teaching me the word 'toke'.)

As a depiction of Amsterdam, hah, I've been by there without really being to Amsterdam, and mirrored against my vague mental images this was a bit like reading how Copenhagen has a viking district where you can get axed if you're not careful. The initial reaction is a kind of "What, right up my neighbourhood? Preposterous." The secondary reaction is "this author makes a random office a really scary place, so you could definitely run into Great Old Ones in Amsterdam if need be". (And I'm aware that my view of humans as a whole is rather skewed for the positive, so I have cognitive bias protecting me from hearing out any evidence to the contrary. ;))

Thanks for this!
10/15/2011 c1 J.Szewczuk
I have never been to Amsterdam, but you did a great job describing it so I thought that I was really there! Great descriptions!

I like how you mention the narrator drank the uncapped Heineken. It makes me wonder if perhaps there was something put into it that the narrator doesn't realize. And of course, making the reader wonder is a great way to keep them reading.

Good luck!
10/14/2011 c1 11Javajive
I love when a story transports me somewhere. It’s been a hundred years since I visited Amsterdam but I thought you recreated the bizarre contrasts of the city with such flair.

“windmill shaped condoms”. : ) Still trying to picture that.

The way you liken Amsterdam to a jungle, peering out over the ‘canopy’. And then the: “Wild mushrooms and herbs flourish in these parts, and the townsfolk feast on their bounty.” You witty dragon, you.

I get the sense that your MC is a little on a bender, behaving recklessly in a foreign world after a love affair gone bad. I enjoyed how your character speaks to this person, and the ‘you’ makes the tone intimate but still hints at a desperation she’s trying to suppress. As if the main character asking the person to come save her.

“Each window is a cell in a giant beehive: each woman a drop of honey enticing you to enter.” I thought this was a beautiful way to write the sordidness of those peep-windows.

I liked how you took on the issue of prostitution, letting your character question the justifications. “I am doing this as a form of artistic expression.' Also how she makes up a story for the girl. And by doing that giving her back a little of her humanity, making her a person again. Her mere musings making ‘Julissa’ no longer an object.

Like I’ve said before. This was by far my favorite of all the great submissions to the Oct WCC. And maybe you’re right, it’s the atmosphere, the description and the imperfection and frailty of your characters that makes them so relatable. Hurrying over to drop my vote now.

Thank you for a great read!
10/12/2011 c1 19Lara Bykirk
This story is much darker than the ones I usually enjoy, but you did such a good job with your materials. It was heartbreaking and gritty, and had moments of real loveliness. I also really enjoyed your read of Amersterdam's stance that "real freedom is to be like a man". It added some dark humor into your emotional mix.

I really just have two things to say, which both come down to stylistic choices. The first part of this story is made up of one- or two-sentence paragraphs, which I didn't like. It seemed like a formatting glitch at first, although that could have just been because I'm reading online. Later in the story you switch to more normally-sized paragraphs, which I liked better. If this was a deliberate stylistic choice on your part, I think you should either rethink the short paragraphs or make the stylistic switch more blatant-make the first part more heavily poetic, for example, and emphasize the switch between sections.

The second thing was your ending. The chronology threw me-she imagines Julissa being dragged into the alley, she goes to the window, she sees Julissa's body actually there. I can't decide if I absolutely love the way that your narrator's darkest imaginings become (at least seemingly) real, or if the sudden twist is too sudden, too much, and takes away from the bitterness of the final repetition of "The Amsterdam air made me do it". I wasn't sure how much we were supposed to doubt the narrator's perception of reality, and how much she herself was surprised by the grisly actualization of her reality. I don't think that it's necessarily a bad ending as is, but if you're going to revise this story, at least think about what you're trying to do, and get a few more second opinions.
10/12/2011 c1 2Siochana
I found this a bit confusing in terms of its tense. I just couldn't seem to latch onto it or where it was going.

Anyway, a solid piece. I liked the idea and how you actually spun it from real life occurances. That was nice and made it much more honnest and striking. There was some good interweaving of the prompt through it and some of the discriptions were so easy to picture; good job.

The end was extremely catching and snapped everything together in a pleasent yet dark way. :)
10/12/2011 c1 3S.R. Revel
Hi there! :D Before you read on, keep in mind, these are my opinions, and this is your writing. And as a member of FP for many years I believe we are all on here to grow as writers, and what better way to grow than have other people read and critique your work. I admit I am no expert, and I don't not in any way feel my writing is superior to yours. Please do not interpret my tone as hostile or sarcastic. I am here for the same reasons you are...

Just want to say when I began this story I couldn’t figure it out. Your style was so different from what I’m used to. I imagined it as a narrator in detective movie because each paragraph was only tow sentences long. Interesting and kinda really awesome.

I got lost in your language at somewhere around “emerald green and black corset” and “an ennui at where life has taken her”

“Money for green card, a simple equation.” Edit- might want to add an “a” before ‘greencard’.

“Like a computer game where you can press F2 and start over if you make a mistake.” – he he he he he

Wow. I am blown away at how... different, may not be the right word, artistic yet entrancing. Look I am better when I am writing a story not a review, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed that.I really like your style and plan on checking out your other work!
10/9/2011 c1 58Inkspilled
This is for the review game:

Wow. I definitely liked the narration and the way you led us through the story, because it had such an interesting word choice and description. I have to agree with another review that it was too tied down to the prompt because it almost took the attention away from the story itself. Now the plot I find really interesting and I liked the development throughout the turn of events, how it grows darker and more sinister as events progress. The change in this character is really clear. I like the creativity you've taken on in this story. :)
10/6/2011 c1 4lookingwest
Very cool. I'm a huge fan in your style when you write short stories, really, you do an excellent job capturing atmosphere, and that's a huge part of this story, I think. I really loved the title and the way you worked it in judging by the real place. The adventure in Amsterdam was a setting I've never read anything in before, so I found it really interesting in just the mere descriptions of the streets, etc. I think you captured something and I had a fun time with it. I liked the subject tying into the prompt by discussing the red light district and using that as the established setting, so much so that it almost becomes a theme or even character in itself.

Loved the small details like the windmill-shaped condoms! Great language with "the hive opens" too, it provided a perfect strong image and also tied in again with the prompt. I think you also manage to get us attached to the narrator too, which is a great thing, in the first person things are very emotionally attached, I feel like, and I can't see this written in any other perspective.

It's also extremely complex. Your lines and writing is something that can be unpacked and might even take a second reading, depending. Very literary with this one, which I also appreciated.

The only thing that took me off guard and I didn't exactly like, was the last paragraph. It tied into the prompt so heavily that to me, it felt a little forced. I do love the imagery and everything, but the transition just didn't do it for me from the "A lone infant wails..." and the creepy factor that's embedded into the tone. You've already made several references to the prompt before this paragraph so it felt a little overdone at the end-that's just my opinion though and I think it's more so my problem than anything that actually inhibits the story.

Anyway, very fascinating stuff that this was somewhat based on a real experience! I like the idea of "what if" as far as taking a second choice or if you had the chance to go back and do something over. Great use of the prompt and great use of time and space and character. The tone, the fear, the creepiness, it worked great together. Liked the Dutch companion, the "Ja doch!" that you sprinkled throughout-very strong! Good luck with this month's WCC Dragon!
10/4/2011 c1 18Stephanie M. Moore
Wow. I missed so much of this the first I read through this the other day. I definitely appreciate the real complexity now.

The structure of the first sentence and what you are trying to say still eludes me a bit. I can't find a subject in the sentence and it throws me off a bit, at first.

"...they could be like the anti-spyware program that is actually spyware itself."

So true. What an awesome, unique way to describe that.

I love the contrasts you point out- the way you juxtapose the church and the sex show, the way you point out the closed sex shop. And the extended metaphor with the forest/jungle works really well. It really helps to give the ending a certain poignancy, a different edge. And I love the extended discussion about women's liberation, the way the arguments sort of twists by the time we reach the end.

And the imagined life is a nice touch. I do that sometimes myself, watching strangers... but here, it really helps to cement her presence. You give her a name, a life, and a child, and so the reader has some investment in her existence.

This piece is really nice. You tackle some interesting ideas in some unique ways, and your style throughout is very consistent and wonderfully effective. I really enjoyed this. Nice work and best of luck!
10/4/2011 c1 5Dr. Self Destruct
I like how you open this and paint the setting with very short, precise descriptions. It doesn't lag at all and never loses my attention. Amsterdam is one of those places that I'd love to see, mostly because of all the stories I've heard of the place. I really don't know much about it, to be honest, so maybe this story will shed some light. Hopefully it doesn't shatter my desire to go there, haha. xD

I like how you mention the stench of weed. I think that's what most people think of when you mention Amsterdam, so I'm glad you incorporated it in there and addressed the reader's sense of smell - which is something a lot of writers overlook.

[they could be like the anti-spyware program that is actually spyware itself.]

Can't tell you how much I loved this. I work on computers and deal with computer viruses every day, so I perfectly understand what you're saying here. Very clever. :D Also, considering you compare them to a virus, it brings to mind something corrupted, damaging, and dirty. This entire thing has a very nitty-gritty texture to it.

[In my head, I compose a history for her. ]

This gives me the impression the narrator is trying to find anyway she can to sympathize with these ladies, maybe make them seem more humane to the world. It's an interesting concept, and I wonder if she's afraid of becoming just like them... or maybe if these stories she creates are self reflection. Perhaps she's as much as prostitute as they are.

[I feel so free I could strut naked through the Vondelpark - a place where I have learnt it is legal to have sex but not to walk your dog off-leash.]

REALLY now? Wow... I need to go there. I like how you incorporate some shocking facts about these different places; it really lets sheltered people like myself have a glimpse of what they're really like (because we can only learn so much from what we see on TV, and humans tend to block out the more unsavory aspects of certain things).

[I drink honey inside his hive, but you are the reason I stay alive. I scrape it off my knees with a tissue, not quite sure how it got there, eww. As I said before, you wouldn't be impressed.]

Ahaha, this is brilliant and helps me remember how sick my sense of humor is.

Wow, I really liked this. Very dark, very creepy, and it's open to so much interpretation. I know this isn't probably what you were aiming for, but part of wonders if Julissa is really just another part of the narrator herself. Maybe she's seeing herself down there on the pavement, torn open and bleeding, ridiculed, dirty. A great ending - I loved that last paragraph.

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