|Reviews for Smoke Gets In Your Eyes|
| mononym chapter 1 . 8/12/2015
Wow. No wonder this won a writing contest. A series of major life events, family and sex-related history, and a jumble of emotions are all squished into a single chapter, but it's done very effortlessly. Apart from the obvious trauma of having been abused, little lines here and there really got to me, especially when you let drop the bit about the father's affairs while the mother had cancer. Talk about depressing.
There's also so much irony in how his father is post-humorously painted as a "philanthropist." I guess it just goes to show how one's perception by the public can so wildly diverge from their private affairs and tendencies. At the same time, it reveals how everyone is a bit two-faced like that, and has multiple sides to them that different people come to know about at different times.
In the end, Niel ultimately relies on his father, as the other figures in his life come and go. His father is his one constant. His father is both his reason for having wanted to die, and now, his reason for wanting to live...
| Sleepiest Writer chapter 1 . 7/3/2014
Well, this was quite the interesting story and certainly lived up to the disclaimer in the summary.
I thought it was really good. It was a little more graphic than what I'm used to, but the grittiness of it was well used and I think the European setting and language, which I've always considered pretty entertaining when it gets really dark and gritty, really helped.
One thing I didn't really enjoy was the overall format though, and I kind of found myself wanting more backstory to the whole situation, though I think more background would have made the format situation moot anyway. I found myself wanting to know more of the father and the family by the end, but I suppose that could have been intentional.
| Dr. Self Destruct chapter 1 . 5/23/2014
Characters: There was really one major thing that turned me off to this story, and it was Niel's father. I just thought the situation and story put behind him was cliche: father loses his wife and so he ends up developing a drinking habit (or just falls further down into the bottle). You see that all the time in Hollywood, and usually these situations are never that simple. Neither are all drunks physically abusive assholes. So I think by making Niel's father fit so snug into that trope/cliche of the alcoholic, abusive father, you really miss the opportunity to explore something new, complex and unique. For example, when my mother was in the hospital for a couple months and we thought she wasn't going to make it, my dad (who is an alcoholic) went cold turkey and ended up turning into a clean freak. All day, that's all he'd do was clean the house or tend to the yard. He hardly spoke.
That said, I know these situations happen. I know parents are abusive to their gay sons/daughters. But to limit yourself to "good" or "evil" when you make Niel's character so complex, it just makes his father's presence fall completely flat when put next to Niel. I think to mend this you can either eliminate his father entirely and have us only see him from Neil's POV through memory, or give us more layers to his character. Give us a better reason than "my wife died and my son's gay" as to why he's like that. Maybe his father also has homosexual tendencies and seeing it in his son reminds him of that. He sees something he's ashamed of in himself, and so he hates Niel for it. (Just a random example of what I mean - give us something we don't expect.)
Writing: Your writing, as usual, flows really well in this story. I think you do a great job dedicating the right amount of description to a setting, scene, and situation to help me picture it. It's a lot tighter than your writing in Carnations' Wake, and I feel like the word limit helps you stay more focused on what's important so that you don't end up with too much fluff.
Scene: I wasn't too keen on the sentimentality of the scene between Niel and his father, where his father just beats on him. This sort of goes back to what I said about his father's character, in that I feel like that scene is only there to play with my emotions. It doesn't really add anything to his father's character other than what I already know: he's abusive and Niel has reason enough to hate him. I don't really like it when something is only there to intentionally make me sad or angry because oftentimes it has the opposite effect: it makes me push it away because I feel like it's trying too hard to make me *feel* or *care* about something. And I think this scene suffers from that effect. Perhaps if I knew more about Niel's father, or if I knew a bit more about Niel, I'd accept it more. Or maybe if this was summarized more and not put into scene, perhaps Niel remembers it later on in the story, something triggers the memory, maybe it won't come off as overbearing. I'm not sure if what I'm saying makes sense, because I seem to be the only one who feels this way? I tend to read short stories differently than I do novels. I look at them from a more "literary" lens, probably because of my creative writing classes. And I've always been taught to avoid sentimentality / melodrama when writing literary works. The focus should be more on what the story is trying to show us, not tricking me into sympathizing with someone just because of violence or death.
Enjoyment: I think my favorite part of the story is when Niel and Roberts fuck in his father's bed. The writing there is just really raw and I think it speaks a lot toward Niel's character in both the actions done and the tone. Plus I really love the rebellion behind what they do. I think out of the entire story, that scene does the best job of showing us who Niel really is and at what lengths his hatred toward his father goes. It also shows us that no matter how overbearing and abusive his father is, Niel isn't going to just sit there and take it.
Grats again on your WCC win!
| Rainbow35 chapter 1 . 5/21/2014
Wow, that was sad and then happy and then really sad again and I don't know what to feel at the end. I really, really like this. I love the idea and it's really well-written and I just like it a lot, it's great!
| Samofthestars84 chapter 1 . 5/18/2014
Hmm. Alright. Let's get on with this then.
Very brief. But then again I think that is the point, as this is simply the introduction. The windows into these varying stages of Niel's life are all very cut and dry, only they pick up after slipping back stage, as it were. Once I got over the fact that this is the introduction, I was able to take in the whole story, at this point. The brevity is actually very effective, it builds up this character with minimal input, just enough and just important enough so that whatever follows is almost a reference back to this first chapter. I'm wondering as to how it'll all be fleshed out, or if any of this will come into play, ie references, etc.
Niel so far is very archetypal. Abused kid, closeted, then out, then... rock bottom and angry. Not that this is a dig at the character. As I said, at this point you've given us just enough for the character to be at the forefront but not exactly wholly fleshed out. Just have to wait to see how exactly this character is fleshed out by his actions. All that said, he still was very natural. Some might complain about lighting up a cigarette (Read an article poking fun at young male authors, and BAM, that was one of the trademarks), but his attitude in each scene, the tone of this internal thoughts and the language he (And therefore, YOU) use, all are blunt enough that it doesn't seem too forced nor does it seem overly dramatic and unnecessary. Argh I hate reviewing openings because it feels like I'm jumping at the big toe that's stuck through the door before the rest of the imposing figure steps through the frame!
Your style is always this kind of very candid, unflinching 'now', I guess you could say. In every story, the world is, and the people are, and the actions follow. I should explain. "The World Is", basically in your writing the world already is, everything is a given value even without the reader's total knowledge, everything just is and is placed as it is because it is. Very, very vague, but I'm trying to get at something here. "The People Are", means that every character already stepped out to face the world right at the point we jumped in, sure these little snippets are background and development, BUT, we are introduced to "The World Is" and "The Actions Follow" so that the characters are a side effect of it all, almost. Everything happens because it was going to happen because the world is the way it is and the people are no matter what. Argh I'm getting off track here. Basically, your style is very tricky but forgiving to the reader with it's ease in reading and direct approach to everything from language to dialogue to actions.
I am looking forward to continuing on this story, you're always a pleasure to read. Sad I didn't hear of this story sooner.
| Persevera chapter 1 . 5/18/2014
It's so sad becauseNiel began as a sweet kid but you know if you meet him any time after he ran away that he probably wouldn't have been likable at all. The character through those snippets allows us to still care for him, because we don't see him hurting people, though he probably did.
For writing technique, the vignettes- all beginning with his name- concentrate on his sex life. One can see why, since it was always a great way to get back at his father and in a way, he never really left him.
The deterioration of the relationship between father and son is inevitable and deserved and still heartbreaking. It makes one wonder if the old man stayed cruel all of his life or if he ever regretted his treatment of Niel, as abusers often do as they age.
I love the clean writing in this. The terseness adds to the mood and enhances the examples of more careful prose, such as, " the seed of sin and sodomy"- alliteration with a purpose.
| solidprecipitate chapter 1 . 5/14/2014
I liked how you began your piece, it seemed natural, a transition into the point of view of your character. You start of by making a simple statement, then by adding in a lot of information in the next paragraph. It helps to show how Niel is pretty much just a normal ten-year-old boy, right before you show us his dad's treatment of him and it does create sympathy for him right away.
Your characterization was also pretty good. I found the way you built sympathy for him in the first part quite skilful, as you focus on sensory details - the smell of alcohol, the sight of his father and the pain. These serve to help us get into the mind of the character. The second part to me is sort of a coming of age for Niel, as he begins to understand and explore his sexuality. Throughout these two parts there was some consistency, in a sense that Niel is still just a normal boy, in many ways. Then he grows as a person, acting on his anger towards his father.
Your language was well suited for the general theme of this piece - the short sentences and sometimes abruptness, as well as the use of curse words shows a rawness to this piece which worked well for its content. Your writing at some times seems slightly matter of fact, such as in this line - 'He's fifteen and has just discovered the beauty of his gender...' and it works to convey the seriousness and reality of this piece.
I found your ending a little out of place though. The fact that Niel wanted to live on for the sake of outdoing his father was logical, but the reasons you gave weren't compelling enough. It might have been because of the WCC word limit though.
Best of luck for the WCC.
| Guest chapter 1 . 5/12/2014
What I liked about this piece is that it tackles the evolution of the human mind following the conflict of life as it keeps going. There isn't any obvious and outstanding grammar errors and there is a clear intent of the story. I think that you tackle the prompt really well. What I think that you could work on is the voice of Niel. You start him off as a 10 year old and he's already mindlessly swearing. I just think it would help a bit. I hope you do well in the contest! Good Job.
| SunshineWaldo chapter 1 . 5/13/2014
I love the intensity of the story. I like how Niel is always clearly explained. The reader knows how he feels and what he is thinking. I also like the raw nature and the way the full emotion isn't held back.
I think your characterization of Niel is very strong and developed. Good job.
| deadaccount2019 chapter 1 . 5/13/2014
At first I wondered if the story would be about burning more than one bridge (nice theme integration, btw), but on the second scene I realized the story would focus on only one bridge, Niel's dad. The story follows a pretty basic plot formula for gay protagonists escaping an abusive home, which takes suspense away from the story, but at the same time makes it a light read.
I love the way you frame each scene, starting with a clear statement of Niel's goal, and ending clearly on the outcome. It makes the scenes fuller, as well as establishes a sense of closure on each chapter of his life.
Because of the template nature of the plot, I didn't really connect to Niel as well as I would have liked. Probably the strongest connection point was the first scene, when Niel was hopeful for his approval. Even though I was expecting his father's reaction, it still broke my heart.
Despite the criticisms, it's something I would reread. I definitely the beating down of emotions throughout, but I think the criticisms above actually help to make the reading much lighter, and therefore much easier to get into.
Anyhoo, sorry for the delay in getting this reviewed. Good luck on the WCC, Jitter!
| Ridely chapter 1 . 5/12/2014
I review seemed to have disappeared. I can't seem to find it, is that just me? :/ What I liked about this is that there isn't great grammar mistakes and there is a clear story and point to the story. What I think that could use some work the voice. It seems consistent through out the story, which is odd, because he's growing up and he starts off as a 10 year old. I don't feel 10 year olds should be swearing that much, you know? Good luck at the contest. Good job too.
| cybersheep chapter 1 . 5/12/2014
Hi! So I’m all psyched to read this, as you know.
I love all of Niel’s naivety in the beginning – how his father’s clearly a bit of an a-hole, but he still has that childish sort of hope that he will get his congratulations. He still wants his dad’s approval, which seems pretty natural for a little kid. I wonder how long his father’s been this way – you get the sense it’s been a while (because Niel recognises the smells etc.) but maybe like a couple of years as opposed to *forever* just because of Niel’s hope. I guess it was when his mum died – that sort of trajic air that Niel sort of ignores a little through this (well, he’s talked to Alex about her, but it’s like…he never focuses on what happened to her throughout this).
I sorta felt the innocence pervaded a little in the next scene (despite the wanting to shoot his father thing, of course). The image of Niel sitting down with his porno treat was weirdly adorable. And maybe because he’s *just* discovering his sexuality now – it’s sweet to hear him talking about pretty Johnathan in the shower. AND THE BOY CAN’T EVEN FINISH HIS FANTASY SENTENCE. It’s fun seeing him progress from sweet kid to sweetish teenager. But feck, his brutish dad just likes to ruin everything doesn’t he?
Ooh nice progression too of your ‘Niel …s’ first lines :D. Bahaha and BLOKE. TWAT. YOU ARE BRITISHISMING MORE THAN ME. Yay.
Bahaha, I love how Robert just accepts Niel’s obvious daddy issues. Like…okay, I’ll fuck in your daddy’s bed. Not weird at all. Niel must be pretty. Or the bed must be uber pretty. Or Robert must be horny. ALL FUN AND GAMES.
‘He wishes there was a video camera installed in this room, just so he can raise his head, stare right at the lens, and show his father what he really thinks of him’ – I love how Niel comes across sort of uber-petty here. We almost forget that his dad is a bit of a monster, and that Niel’s hatred should be totally understandable. He’s lashing out in a way that’s childish, but he *is* a child, so he’s sort of half entitled to it. Um…I think this particular line bit at me the most, because you get such a clear impression of how Niel feels, and the sort of hatred that rocks through him. I just want to give the guy a hug, but you get the feeling that…yeah…he’d just tell me to fuck off haha.
‘He’ll never have to go back to being that angry, sad, scared little boy again’ – Loved the contrast between this and the sad little next line.
So the ending – I wasn’t surprised that his dad was rich (like the books in the first scene, and the bedroom bit with horny Robert), but I was that he was a philanthropist, for obvious reasons :p. It was fun that Niel’s sort of burnt himself so badly that he’s got nothing going now that his father is gone – a really awesome portrayal of how hate can eat you up.
‘…could’ve died back then, ’t have been hard’ – typo :)
And the turnaround at the end there – with Niel’s resilience was really interesting – I wonder what sort of a show he’s planning on (and it’s sad what happened to sweet Alex!). I liked that Niel’s hatred was destructive, but also helped build some sort of determination in him. I wonder what sort of person he’ll be, all deconstructed and put back together again.
Ummm CCwise, I guess maybe some more portrayal of the dad would have been nice – like he doesn’t really talk (but was that intentional? To maybe build him up as the two-dimensional sort of monster that Niel has in his head?). Hmm, actually, now that I think of it, the latter sounds more likely (and interesting). Maybe actually less daddy would work? Oh my gosh, I feel that this is the least helpful I’ve ever been, but it could be kind of cool if all you see from Daddy is in Niel’s head? Either way, maybe a little more (real or Niel-perceived) character development would be cool. Fuck, though, I am so sorry, I’m being a heap of unhelpful. This was so intense though, such a great job at portraying flat sort of hate, on top of something sweeter (his early desire to please his dad, and its evil twin at the end there – making Daddy proud). I actually feel weirdly angry (on Niel’s behalf) after reading this haha, he’s got my emotions all twisted. I didn’t even particularly like Niel as a person (great character though), but his thoughts are so strong, and he doesn't make any excuses, so I seriously sympathise with him.
| Aki1 chapter 1 . 5/12/2014
So I know I already told you most of my thoughts as I beta'd this piece, but there were a few more that I didn't say / didn't realize until I gave it another read-through, so I thought I'd post them here.
Niel's character is hard for me to summarize in a word, but if I had to do it, I would say he's unapologetic. He doesn't hold back on his language, even swearing in his thoughts, and his actions - well, he brings home a man and has his way with him on his father's bed, 'nuff said. But I appreciate how that translates into the writing as well: the writing is coarse, vulgar, disjointed at times and brutal at others, and never apologetic. I love that, that raw 'this is me, take it or leave it' aspect that Niel presents to the world, and I loved seeing it build up to the end.
I also like that he doesn't get a happy ending - you know this already, and another reviewer before me commented on this as well. But what really drives it home is that he could've had one, easily, if he wanted it: had he chosen to stay, or at least, to bear with his father until moving out and waiting for him to die (SPOILER: Niel obviously had nothing to do with the fire that burned his house down, as shown by his shock in the last scene: END SPOILER), he could have inherited all of his father's money and lived nothing but the good life. But he didn't, because he wanted to get away, and he wanted nothing to do with his father; heck, he could always go back and claim the money now, but the way you wrote him already makes it clear that he's not going to do that. So, I like that you threw that curveball, that this boy could have had such a privileged life, but decided that some things were more important and stuck with that. Is it the right decision? Different people will say different things, but what's great about Niel is that he's not gonna care. This is how he's chosen to live his life. It's not perfect, and he's made some seriously questionable decisions, no doubt about that. But it's his life (cue Bon Jovi song), and that's what matters.
Alex. Dear Alex. It's cruel, of course, that Niel gets this fleeting taste of happiness, and gets it taken away from him in the end. I like that you kept what happened ambiguous: "Alex is all drugged up and pathetic now" is all that we get. We know that Niel sells/sold drugs at some point, but are they connected? Who knows? Niel doesn't tell us, which shows that while it still hurts (he's thinking of Alex), he's not fixated, and trying to move on (we get half a sentence, and his thought process literally moves on). This I think, really won me over for him in the end. He doesn't get a happy ending wrapped up with a pretty ribbon, and he may never get one in his lifetime. He takes the hands he is dealt and plays them the best he can. And again, he screws up some, but he keeps playing. And I can really get behind that.
And with that last point in mind, I'm actually okay with how we don't know what's coming next for Niel. Whether he gets another dose of crappy luck, or actually finds himself happy, we don't know - neither does he. What he does show us is this resolve that he's going to rush into it headlong (as he does all things, it seems, what with the mention of 'brawls' earlier, and how direct and upfront he was with Robert...) He's the kind of character who tells the world to bring it on with a middle finger stuck out to the sky, and I would be highly surprised if he hasn't done this at some point in his life, drunk or otherwise. Brash, headstrong, and unapologetic - this story is just as much as Niel is, and I think it's very brave. So, thanks for sharing this, and once more, best of luck on the WCC :)
| lookingwest chapter 1 . 5/12/2014
Opening - I didn't believe that Neil was 10 years old in your opening judging by his language - I know I think you're trying to imply that he's had a rough childhood so that equates to swearing more or something, but just the way he used phrases like "shit eating grin" made me think more of a 15 year old than a ten year old. I'd believe if he was 14, maybe 15 - but I felt there was tension with him being 10. The voice felt much more consistent as he got older. Someone else said they didn't like the "Daddy" thing - but it wasn't too bad. Reminded me of Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" - you should really read it if you haven't!
Setting - What was lacking the most from this. I had no real clear sense of setting visually or otherwise - no smells, no sense of touch really. I guess there's the "hardness" described in the trousers but overall I feel you could've done much more with this. I was actually very taken off guard at the end when we learn that Daddy was a millionaire. I know that's not much money these days, though - but I was not thinking of Neil as coming from a privileged background. You might've been able to allude to it more through description of setting. I was picturing a rundown terrible shack-house somewhere that was barely standing up, but maybe that's my own stereotypes coming into play paired with Neil's language - still - the news at the end felt too abrupt without context laid down for it earlier in the piece.
Character - Meh. Daddy came across as a huge cliche for me. Mother dies - father suddenly becomes alcoholic abuser. Okay - the biggest downside to this is that he felt more like a trope than an actual in depth character like Neil. Neil feels a lot more in depth. I guess in the end that makes him twice the character his father ever was too - but I would've liked to have overall seen a more original plotting with the father's storyline. Maybe you could reference that his father also beat his mother a lot? Even when she had cancer? That might take away that type of stigma - that assumption that trauma can cause something like this. Which I mean - it totally can - but it's a reaction that has really been overused, I think.
Ending - It's probably no surprise that I didn't like the ending that much because of my earlier crit about the millionaire thing. I had to re-read that paragraph twice because I had no idea why it was relevant. At the end it just felt too...random? Why does Neil get the happy ending? I don't know. I think it would've ended better with more ambiguity about whether or not Neil would ever meet with his father again. I mean - why does the heir thing matter, really? If this were a longer piece - a novella or a novel, I could see the inheritance playing in as some sort of plot thing, but in a short story I think it loses focus on the story's focus. Maybe the gist is that we're supposed to ask "will he go claim the money?" but I feel like you already accomplish a question like that before you even get there - the more important one being: "will he ever confront his father?" - and this story is about their relationship, so I think ending on that question would make more sense than a plot related one that perhaps didn't have a whole lot of setup prior to this (and sort of contributed to that cliche of the abusive father who was once a successful man stigma). Just some ideas.
Writing - My favorite technique was the repetition of "Neil thinks/imagines/does this, Neil thinks that" and how you started each section that way. I liked it because I thought, again - it gave us some really great depth for character here and became your strongest moments. While I think this piece really lacks setting and sensory experiences, I don't think it lacks in characterization at all - and knowing there's a limit on WCC, there's of course some sacrifices that you need to make and I recognize that. But if you ever decide to come back to this piece, I think there are some things you could do to really jazz it up :) Best of luck this month!
| tstul006 chapter 1 . 5/11/2014
So this was really deep. I loved it. Mostly...
I didn't like that Niel referred to his father as Daddy. Probably because when I hear the word daddy I think of a man who protects and cares for his child and this wasn't the case here at all. It made the word seem cheap and that saddens me. (In case you're wondering... I hate it when people use 'daddy' in the bedroom too. It's just creepy to me...lol.
Anyway, I loved the rest of it. I'm a bit sad that he and Alex didn't work out, but this story wasn't about love and happy endings. Which is something I found refreshing. Not every story has a happy ending, and that's okay.
Gosh this is such a short review... I'm just so tired from this weekend my mind is shot. Oh I wish the smut had been more drawn out. (But you know... that's just because I'm me.) :) Oh and I didn't expect the father to be a millionaire. I loved the reference to Joan Crawford. (No more wire hangers!)
So you know I voted for you. :) Hope you win.