Reviews for Twenty Minutes
Findus chapter 1 . 4/25/2012
Hi and congrats on winning the April WCC. reviewing this one since I've already left a comment on that one (wonderful piece by the way. Really well-deserved.)

I chose this piece just randomly from your work and wow, it's such a gem.

I loved the abrupt, snappy sentences you use in this. It makes the tone so quirky and just skewed enough to make it hilarious. I think you handled the characterization amazingly by using mostly dialogue. How they talk around each other, nobody really listening to anyone. There isn't much description in this and you really don't need it. i can clearly picture these old ladies. June, who seems lost in a different time. "I think I've lost my marbles." Haha... sweet line. She reminds me a lot of my grandmother who is rather senile and the way things go around in that head can really drive you crazy.

My favorite character must be the nurse though. It feels like I have met this person, or at least seen her on TV a couple of times. How she speaks too loud (or bellows as you'd have it) that faux cheerfulness, and her patronizing patience with the oldies.

I did a double take on the end. "By 5:14 even June stops talking." Hah, it might be morbid to assume so, but I reckon the only way June would have stopped talking would be if she'd croaked. :)
A. Gray chapter 1 . 4/16/2012
I have to say your summery and title hooked me on this one, but I felt the openeing was a little dull. Nothing really compelled me to keep reading, yet I couldn't stop. It was an interesting effect to say the least.

You build some great characters in the short time you have to do so. I have to say that I found Annie was my favorite. I wondered about this woman that took small moments to seem nice, and do as eddiqute dictates, but still seems withdrawn, sullen and generally unhappy.

I think your pace was great. It gave me time to feel myslef in this womans shoes, but not to think it was dragging. I think the time you took for each, and then integrating, was very well done and worked well.

You don't really go into detail about where they are, but tell subtlely. I think it was wise to not spend anything on telling of the room or table. What you gave us was enough, and made me focus on the people.

Overall I liked this piece. It wasn't forcing me to feel, but letting come naturally. It was nice to have this small time with these women, and to get a glimpse of a possible future one might have. It made me more sad than anything that this woman is realizing that her life is irrevocable different and maybe not in a pleasent way. I think that my favorite moment was when Marge gets her "frowning realization". It was that moment when I felt like I was her, and my heart went out to her all at the same time.

Gratz on the WCC!
Samsonet chapter 1 . 4/8/2012
Marge and Annie are my favorite characters.

I liked how the nurse talks cheerfully despite probably being very bored by now, and the timing was a clever idea. What I mean was when you had the people appear and how you chose that specific twenty minutes. Thank you for writing this!
Dragon made me do it chapter 1 . 11/13/2011
n.b. this review is for winning the trick or treat guessing thingy, so you don't owe me anything for this :-)

Opening

'Marge waits.' - to me this is the key sentence in the opening, it really sums up what it's like to be dependent on other people, the patience required to not go mad with frustration. Two simple words say it all. if it wasn't for the importance of the time signature thing you are doing, I might suggest you open with this as your first paragraph.

Characters

Writing about people suffering from something you haven't yourself experienced (assuming you are not in a wheelchair, deaf, blind, senile, elderly etc) makes it difficult to avoid being patronising, or just not really getting at. It's a tough challenge but I think you have lived up to it. it is also good that you have added an element of humour in there and not being too precious about it, while still being respectful. the scene where somebody thinks she is in class when they start talking about professors reminds me a bit of my grandmother's experiences in a nursing home.

Relationships

With the characters you have introduced, there was bound to be interested in the way they bounced off each other. Blindness, deafness, memory loss, it's as if everybody has some kind of deficit that interacts in a unique way with each other, but they all have their own personalities which go beyond their ailments.

For example:

'"Your milk is just a little further past your plate, at 1:00."

"I think I have an appointment at 1:00," June says. "Could you check that for me, dear?"'

There is a kind of sad humour in the mixing of the compensation for blindness of Caroline with the senility of June.

Techniques

I like your idea of structuring the piece according to Time, punctuating precise moments with time updates. This is a good way of really zooming in on at time of their lives when everything seems to happen at a different pace to the life of younger people. it is also clever the way you weave in the directions to the blind lady into the clock motif. Makes for lots of wry humour.

Spelling/grammar/punctuation:

Not sure if this is a mistake or not, the nurses call her 'Margie' then 'Marge' - is this a variation on the name or a mistake?

'I heard someone is and I wanted some advice about my son' - A comma after is would be good.

'the nurse says with a smiling voice though her face remains bored' - and a comma after voice

Overall, this was a really fantastic piece. I am not sure of that genre of angst/hurt/comfort, because I think the humour in it lifts it to a slightly less tragic level. Either way, it is spot on, really getting to the bottom of what life will be like for all of us one day.
Butterfly chapter 1 . 10/22/2011
Trick or Treat!

[At a dull roar] interesting diction.

["You haven't had it yet," Marge says before frowning realization crosses her face.] Another interesting line. I wonder what Marge has realized. If she figured out just now that there's something wrong with June, it seems like it's a rather delayed reaction, but if she senses something else…?

Wow, what a fascinating piece—I highly enjoyed it; it reads like one of those short stories that's waiting to be analyzed.

So you have Annie who's deaf(ish), June who's insane, and Caroline who's blind. I thought it was interesting that of the four women (excluding the nurse), Marge seems the least disabled. Yet, she's obviously here, so there must be something wrong with her as well, and I wonder if that makes her perspective, or the way she's presented, less reliable. Which would be an interesting contrast offsetting the preciseness of the atmosphere.

Speaking of which, I really liked how you interwove the clock motif into the story. I would have even liked to see a bit more, especially in the middle of the second half, because when you introduced it back again by the end with the 3:00/ 9:00 clock exchange with Caroline, I'd almost forgotten about it.

I noticed that even though Marge was the initiator of conversations for most of the story, she also stops speaking far earlier than when the piece ends. The transformation of her character was so smoothly and effortlessly executed that it felt very natural. It's tragic, really, the way all four women fall silent at the end. I think it gives a lot of hinting about the way the other characters may have been before, or how Marge is going to turn out in the future.

Style-wise, I thought the way you primarily used dialogue when writing was effective, especially when dealing with these characters and their dynamic personality traits. There's pretty much no exposition here, but that only gives the reader a challenging puzzle to piece together. Kudos to you for assuming your readers are intelligent!

Maybe I'm just not enough of a creative thinker, but personally, I didn't really get the piece's connection to the prompt. Language or word choice was not a theme I picked up on in reading this, and while I can see that June's optimism has been stifled out by the end, I felt like it was a result of the other women's characters than what was actually said.

I don't know if you've read Long Day's Journey into Night, but this piece really reminded me of the play, in that you made an otherwise banal situation so depthy and intense. Also, there's something wonderfully ironic in the fact that dinner's one of the best times for human bonding, but none of the characters are connecting with one another.

Thanks for the intriguing read and Happy Halloween!

Butterfly