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for Two Fires

1/21/2017 c1 51Electrumquill
This was a solid idea for the writing competition, working within its awkward constraint of 2000 words. The jumping back and forth to instances in time is a little confusing on first reading, but it certainly fits together well in the end and everything makes sense on second reading. I would say that Toby’s parts are definitely better crafted than Claire’s, but I will comment on both individually.

Claire immediately comes across as psychotic and her brutal images of acid burn and suffocation are eerily jarring when mixed up with the mundane first thing in the morning sex. The best image of this kind is “pale morning light was slashed across his face like a beautiful wound…”

Toby’s imaginary conversation with Nathan after his passing very strongly evokes someone who has really been bereaved. Despite the tragedy, the re-imagining of the event in a perfect scripted world of cardboard cut-outs is amusing.

The funeral really sounds cringeworthy and adds to the tragedy.
I see certain writing in-jokes, with both Nathan’s mum and her shameless promotion of her non-fiction and Claire’s analogy too. It’s good to be able to see the funny side of writing prose.

Very gritty realism with the topic of drug addiction. Given the word limit, a scene like the one in the bathroom is the way to get it across forcefully. Is Toby right about Claire? She’s no prize herself. Ideally Toby would have prevented Nathan from being so rash, but there is a limit on how much support a flawed human being like he and I can possibly give to a drug addict.

I like how Claire’s perspective easily conveys how neurotic she is, especially with her trichotillomania and magpie like tendency. I have both. It doesn’t make me like her any better. The relationship with her and Nathan just sounds so unhealthy. He would have been so much better off with Toby. It’s a creepy suggestion you leave us with that someone was possibly plotting against Nathan … possibly… if so, then who?

Toby sounds quite the poet here: “I get it. I finally get your thing with Claire. It’s a togetherness. Her icy skin cools your burns.”
12/8/2016 c1 25sprinkled clean
So I'm gonna start off by saying that it was an over-the-top attempt to depict love, love as something illogical, and it depends on the reader if that style works or not. I'm personally a fan of more subtlety, especially when dealing with "crazy" themes, so this piece didn't really click for me in some places.

First, the characters. I get that they're somewhat psychotic, but I had hoped you included more background on how they ended up that way because it was quite disarming to read about such characters and expect myself to sympathize with them. The part where Claire and Nathan meet each other for the first time could have been expanded on or described in a more detailed way, not just through their dialogue to make it more believable that these people are indeed crazy, and although their self-introductions were creative, they didn't seem to justify how crazy they were.

Next, the concern over their craziness. Nathan's a drug addict, that's easy enough to understand, but the extent to which you showed that in the story was successfully done only in the part about the medicine bag. Everything else talking about his addiction was done through more "tell" and less "show," which didn't add to the depth of our understanding of his character.

What I did like about this piece was your metaphor of love. It was well explained by Claire, worded nicely, and of course, tying it to the ending was the best thing you did for this piece. I also liked the un-chronological way you've written it because it allowed me to look at these characters as if they were a puzzle - there's no specific order in which you put a piece in the right spot; you just find it.

One thing I'm confused about is the title. I think it sounds nice, but I'm trying to figure out what the two fires refer to. The last line from Toby says how Claire "cools" Nathan, so that would make it more like Ice vs. Fire, but at the same time, Claire and Nathan's interactions with each other seemed more like they were both "fires" lashing out at each other.

Overall, I think this piece was interesting to read, to find out how things happened, but as it failed to "show" instead of "tell," I couldn't find myself more attached to the characters.
10/30/2016 c1 9TheBeastlyPrincess
I liked the the opening, though I found the first sentence of Toby's point of view much more grabbing than the first sentence of Claire's. I think if you somehow started with a sentence more like Nathan's then you would have a much more dramatic beginning.

I must say I was quite confused by this, but after reading it again I began to understand the plot. Well really I think the plot is not really the important part, I saw this more as poetry, or as a metaphor. If I look at it from that perspective I can start to see why you wrote this piece.

I like how you fleshed out the characters, but I do however think Claire's character could be more developed, she seems odd to me. I like Toby's perspective and his relatioship with Nathan is very believable, I like it.

My favorite scene is the funeral scene, I can see his hopelessness and sorrow, it's like he's in denial and trying to convince himself that Nathan might not be dead. He has to repeat it to himself. I like that, it has a very realistic feel, another thing I really liked about the funeral scene was your straight forward langauge, I think a funeral shouldn't really be romanticised so I loved the way you portrayed it.

I did enjoy this piece, it's gripping and a little creepy. The quick changes in perspective are actually what held my attention, it gave the whole story a snappy feel.

I like it despite finding it confusing, and you are right, this does remind me a lot of Gone Girl, all in all an interesting story.
9/30/2016 c1 4lookingwest
Hey, Vick! I'll start with the crits here - at first I was with Sjoorm and Brady that I wasn't sure I really "got" this piece at the ending, especially seeing the comparison to Gone Girl - I thought maybe there was supposed to be a big twist. The twist got a bit lost on me, still - I'm not sure if it's supposed to be that Claire killed Nath or had a hand in it, but I didn't really see that coming through. I more aligned with your other reviewer who just saw you working with an extended metaphor for writing-as-love in that ending line, but I think to really help that more (and even get at whispers' comments about why Claire felt harder to grasp) you should use MORE of the writing imagery/figurative language in Claire's sections that just her one paragraph early on laying out how love-is-writing. I think something should come a bit closer to the last line to make it really clear for the reader that's the extended metaphor being worked with, if that makes sense. I do love it and I think it works - pretty much agree with your reviewer who raved about it already :) It's also a REALLY cool working of the prompt!

My other suggestion is to just make this reverse-chronological and do away with the skipping around. It was a bit confusing at parts when we were moving reverse but then we would get these snippets where obviously it was happening before Nath died and then the next one was after - was it trying to go for every-other? Past weaving with Present? I think it would be fun to do a reverse-linear all in a row, and it might make that twist ending (if there is one and she really did kill Nath, though to me it reads like it was just him doing it to himself due to their relationship or her prodding) more obvious if you wanted.

I also think I could really see this piece expanded over 2k as well. Those scenes where - because of WCC - we get sort of a "tell-y" thing going - esp like with Toby when he just tells us abt the stomach pumping - could all be filled out more to "show" more of Nath, I think. Anyway though, that's pretty much my only suggestions and they all relate to me just being very intrigued and drawn into your story. I want to know more about the characters - not in a novel-way, but just in a way of a short story. I could easily see this being about 5-6k. As I said - once the writing-as-love idea clicked for me, I really loved it. There were some beautiful lines in this story too - "Her icy skin cools your burns" with Toby was a very nice image. I loved the moments between Toby and Nathan with trying to talk sense into Nathan when he was all drugged out. It was tragic - I think the moment when he describes Nathan's funeral is one of the saddest lines/moments that hit the most for me. I really liked how that was able to characterize Nathan without him being there, too. I think it would work super well if it was the first segment.

If you wanted Claire's POV in first - I'd center hers more around the funeral aftermath or even Toby and her meeting. Though at that scene I did wonder why they would meet - I mean, Toby hates Claire. Claire doesn't like Toby. Their thread was Nathan and Nathan is dead - wasn't really getting why Toby and Claire would go out with one another to a place without that connection - so filling out that scene, making that one of the earlier ones and giving it more of a clearer character motivation could be cool.

Let's see - loved the moments with the ring / describing the ring. I thought it was really smart to have the Claire/Toby scene before the Nathan/Toby scene in regards to the ring. I had no problems at all switching back and forth between the two perspectives and I think the character voices were very vibrant and distinctive from one another. It seems like at the end Toby and Claire might hook up? The manuscript could be read as her heart, and Toby's comment "I get it" could be him and her together? I like reading it that way, haha. This was a really beautiful working with the prompt in a really unique way. I love that line in the poem - it actually won a National prize (that particular poem) this year in the US, so it was really fun to see the interpretation of it. That's the line of it that really stuck out to me! Congratulations on a very well deserved win! Love love loved it! I hope you are submitting again for October!
9/12/2016 c1 9Sjoorm
For the first half of the story, I found it hard to actually care about the characters because of the rapid jumps back and forth. What really pulled me in, however, was both the mystery behind Nathan's death coupled with the fact that you're telling this story in reverse. I love it when stories are told backwards, and you can see all of the events pieced together bit by bit. Good job with that!

Is Nathan in Addicts Anon with Claire? Is he at a psych group? What were they both in for?

Does Claire actually kill Nathan? Or did he realize that was the only way to fix himself?

What is the purpose of the last line? She mentions the manuscript earlier about how he could either save her or break her. Does he die (or is murdered?) because he failed to save her? What did her portion of the manuscript even say?

I really connected with Toby's story because I've been there. I've been the best friend who's watching his friend fall down into a black pit. I'm watching it happen right now with my best friend's slow descent back into speed and crack and meth. It's killing me right now, and I found myself pushing through Claire's portions (slightly boring for me) and devouring Toby's simply because it resonated so powerfully for me. I know this might not happen for other reviewers, but damn good job with that.

Keep up the good work, Vic, I know I'm always on the same page for your stories, but this one was real nice after I slogged through the beginning :) (There isn't much you can do to fix that, as an aside, as the whole story relies on the back and forth storytelling).
9/11/2016 c1 17whispers of lowlit flames
I love "disarming and loaded and all at once" because that's a clever bit of antagonistic imagery and slightly ironic as well, since if strangulation is a boring death, then what's a bullet to the head or heart? (though love like writing is a second, but a somewhat more sedated depressing :D) Of all the images you bring out in this piece, that one's my favourite.

The sporadic timeline is interesting as well, not quite backwards but pretty close, with death right up the top and first meeting way down on the bottom. Relates quick nicely to hindsight/after the fact, and I wonder if that's what you were going for. That thought somehow makes bits more emotionally brutal too.

Tony and Nathan come out quite powerfully too, but I find it hard to grasp Claire. There's a lot of her - bits and pieces but they don't seem to make a full solid picture like it does with Tony. I see a side of Nathan that Tony can't explain through her, but I don't really see her.

Overall, nice piece! Poetic in some places, frank in others and the disjointness between those styles and POVs knits a powerful tale together. Good luck in the WCC!
9/10/2016 c1 7Matiana
This is really cool, but I'm kinda confused about the ending, the last thing Claire says. There were a few awkward phrases throughout and also a few misspellings, but that't minor. For the ending, is it supposed to be that she wrote this and then gave it to Nathan and that's why he killed himself? It's just a bit confusing.
Overall, a solid original take on a scenario that's been done quite a few times.
I think it could use a bit of elaboration in some parts, to flesh out the characters more. Also, your imagery and use of figurative language is very strong; you seem to stay away from cliche comparisons, which is good.
Hope this helps! Keep writing!
9/10/2016 c1 70BradytheJust
Well, Victoria, I doubt I can be kind on this one... because there are so many other words I can use. Incredible, heart-wrenching, thoughtful, insightful, tragic, and yet strangely beautiful in its own way.
I don't even like suspense, but this story kept me engaged (pun) until the very end.

I absolutely loved how you compared love to writing because it just makes so much sense! You write yourself onto the paper, the good and the bad, and you wait to see if that person not only likes it, but accepts it all. I think that was probably one of the best lines you've ever written.

Also the title. Two Fires. When you truly love someone there's the fire of love, passion, happiness etc. But sometimes that much adoration can build up feelings of jealousy, anger, and possessiveness... enough to where you become a different person and the relationship becomes toxic ("Her Icy Skin cools your burns" Eek! Perfection in a line! :D)

Wonderful work by you my friend, and I'm happy to see you back! :)

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