The Living Room by Jenny Young

Jenny has submitted a piece for the blog.  This is Jenny’s first piece on here, but she’s not a stranger to Writers Anon.  She was a regular until about a year ago, when other commitments meant she couldn’t get to the meetings.  It’s great to see her back (in text, at least) and hopefully she’ll also be able to make it to some meetings soon.  This piece is for the First Page Competition and she’s pared it down as far as she can but still needs to lose 42 words from somewhere.  Suggestions, observations and some good, balanced feedback would be just the thing.

night writingThis is to you, Jack. This is my say, my side of the story. This is what I should have said but didn’t because I was too in love and too damn slow to understand what you were doing at the time. That was my mistake. Your mistake was to think I’d just accept what you did. Keep quiet. I won’t. So here I am, excuse the delayed reaction.

I’m sitting at my computer in the living room. My fingers tingle on the keyboard. I’m coming alive, fingertips first. 3am. I should be in bed, but I can’t sleep, not tonight, not any night in this endless, pointless slow-roast summer. I long for rain, to lean out the window, feel the raindrops, the outside world, on my hands, my head.  Instead, one small bead of sweat slipping down my spine.

I got to thinking – it’s like that philosophical problem: if a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound?  If you are the centre of the universe, do I exist when you’re not there? Yes Jack, I do. And this is what you didn’t see, what happened when I was alone. I think you should be aware of the damage you can do.

I used to have these dreams where I’d be chasing you through a city, a maze of silver skyscrapers. You’d be there, climbing escalators or in a lift, glimpsed through glass. Ascending, always.  I’d try, but could never catch you, I’d get stuck, turning forever in revolving doors, or thumping on glass but you don’t hear me, just carry on, a small smile on your lips. I wanted you so much, you know.

I don’t have those dreams any more. Now it’s you that’s stalking me. Catch glimpses of you, in a mirror, a window, or in fitful sleep. I wake flinging my body about and then I’m awake and I don’t want to be, because it’s scary being alone, when it’s dark. I was never afraid of the dark until I met you, Jack.

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6 thoughts on “The Living Room by Jenny Young

  1. If anyone’s interested, this is my synopsis. Actually below word-count for once! Don’t love the final clause.

    Louise arrives at Exeter University still raw from the break-up with her first love, but falls straight into the comforting arms of Jack, a charismatic second-year Psychology student and leader of the university Paranormal Society. He lives next door in her halls of residence and soon persuades the group of friends who live on the corridor to join his group. Though she’s a sceptic, Louise anticipates an opportunity for candle-lit vigil romance, hand-holding in the dark. And she’s right. Soon she’s clinging on to Jack, terrified to let go…

    The Living Room is a love story and a ghost story told by Louise as she recounts the year just gone while she spends the summer alone back at home. It’s a claustrophobic campus novel about an insecure man, a possessive relationship – and its heady mix of love and fear.

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    • oh no, I’ve only just seen this. Sounds like a cool story, so I’d say that synopsis works 🙂
      Hope you got it posted and good luck!

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  2. Ooh many thanks guys – I’ve only just seen this was put up. Interesting – I wasn’t keen on that last line, thought the ‘afraid of the dark’ bit was a bit clichéd, But I couldn’t think of an alternative that packed the same punch. But that gives me loads to think about; I think you’re both right on lots of counts. Who knew such a short piece could take so long! Am writing the synopsis tomorrow – time is running out! Thanks so much for your help. See you soon.

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  3. This is a lovely piece. That fugue-like feeling of going round in circles, the endless post-mortem of a relationship gone sour comes across really well. Love the slow-roast summer. Great line.

    I like Chella’s suggestion of bringing that last line to the top, make it the opener. It’s really punchy. Also what she says about the 4th para. It’s one of those that will stall a reader because of the repetition.

    In the first para, the sentence ‘Keep quiet’, which is good, currently is ambiguous. Is the narrator telling Jack to keep quiet or is she referring to herself? Maybe it’s just me and would be obvious to other readers, but consider making it a dash, rather than a new sentence: “Your mistake was to think I’d just accept what you did – keep quiet. ”

    That first sentence in the third para seems a bit cliche. I know it’s leading on but an alternative maybe: “I got to philosophising – if you are the centre of the universe, do I exist when you’re not there?”

    In terms of trimming… “I’m sitting at my computer in the living room”. Most people sit when they’re using the computer. “Sitting” is therefore redundant. I know the piece is entitled ‘The Living Room’, but could you lose the “in the living room” here? Will it become evident later in the story why the living room is so important? If so, lose it now as currently it seems to be a bit of a sore thumb.

    “I used to have these dreams I’d be chasing you…” could be “I’d have these dreams of chasing you”. “I think you should be aware of the damage you can do.” Take out ‘I think’. More impact.

    Now it’s you who’s stalking me, rather than “that’s stalking me”?

    Just my views. Maybe helpful. Ignore if not.

    Martine

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  4. Interesting opener. I’d like to have the 150 word synopsis too, so that I know what it pertains to. I love the last line! Maybe it should be the opening line – it grabs the reader. What did he do? Who is he?

    My next thought is, I think there should be some action/dialogue soon (beyond the first page, but not much beyond).

    There’s lots I like here, especially the dreams, with her chasing him and then it switching and the tone changing. I’m intrigued.

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    • Okay had a closer read looking for words to cut.

      I think start with the last line. Then para 3 cut the last line. I’m not sure about this para but like the tone of defiance.

      Then last para. 4th sentence: I wake flinging….repeats itself. I suggest something like. ‘And when i jolt awake I’m scared; scared of being alone scared of the dark.’ This brings it full circle with the first line.

      Not sure how many words that leaves to cut. That’s my 2cents. I will post my first 300 so you can get your own back.

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