What do you think of this beginning to a short story I’m writing?
HONEST critiques are welcome. Try to be as thorough as possible. Be harsh, but only critically harsh. Remember, this is only a beginning.
Emma was a quiet human being.
From Monday through Friday, she sat through school. From eight thirty through three thirty, she watched seven teachers speak without looking at anybody and seven clocks tick through algebra, important dates, and pages of broken poetry. From twelve thirty to one thirty, she ate a peanut-butter sandwich in a closed and quiet circle of acquaintances.
She wore clothes that were fashionable, but not edgy. Her essays were neither imperfect nor insightful. In art class, she succeeded in perfecting the angle at which a beam of sunlight filters through a grove of trees, and copied Monet’s lilies to a tee. From five to eleven, she sat in her room and did her homework, then fell asleep to the sounds of the radio, the sounds that often snaked into her dreams. Somedays, Emma felt boxed in.
Some days, she’d sit at her desk with a bright blue notebook and pencil, writing, learning, (and eventually) losing herself into the lull of the history teacher’s lectures, until she felt a weightless feeling in her toes. She’d lift her toes and feel that invigorating heat crisscross up her short, bent knees and up between her thin white thighs, and through her chest, and through wrists, and through her hands, until suddenly–(as if by impulse), her pencil would drop (a silent clatter) and her mind would become noisy with heartfelt mirages and soldiers, armies of dotted lines soaring every which way, until she was screaming! no, bursting! with that age-old temptation, with murder! incest! atheism! adultery! Her mask became her maker as she trembled underneath it, frightened of that pale and sunken virgin within, exhaling exhaling exhaling until shaken, once again, with the relief of having kept her bearings once again. These were days Emma would forget. The following morning, she would wake up, eat her breakfast, and go to school.
I actually like your style, and how it begins. You can definitely write.
That said, showing is still much better than telling, and this is all telling. But sometimes it works, and I suppose if you transition into telling, that this showing is only for the introduction, it could work.
“and seven clocks tick through algebra, important dates, and pages of broken poetry.”
Nah. If you’re going to reference history and English through “important dates” and “pages of broken poetry” (which I like), you can’t leave “algebra” merely “algebra”. Change it to
“and seven clocks tick through quadratic equations, important dates, and pages of broken poetry.”
or something like that.
And then the ending… I’m not sure. I guess I like what you’re trying to do, but I didn’t find it wholly clear. Like, why does she forget these days? I understand what you’re getting at with the “and the next day, everything was back to its banal normality” type of thing, but maybe just change how you phrased it as “forgetting”? I’m not sure, starting to doubt myself here, so do whatever you’re comfortable with, but maybe just make it slightly clearer with the second and third to last sentences.
“her pencil would drop (a silent clatter) and her mind would become noisy with heartfelt mirages and soldiers, armies of dotted lines soaring every which way, until she was screaming! no, bursting! with that age-old temptation, with murder! incest! atheism! adultery!”
I like this.
Anyway, great writing, keep it up.