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October 21, 2010
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The young woman lifted a large shoe box off the shelf, brushing away what little dust had accumulated since she had last looked at the box and its contents. She sat on the floor, with the box in front of her. Her long brown-blonde hair fell into her face, hiding her from the rest of the world. There was no one around, yet even here, alone in her own home, she felt the urge to withdraw to a place where none could touch her. With a slow shaky breath, she lifted the lid.

She looked down at the old mementoes, the ghosts which clung to them now rose up to meet her, reminding her of the long line of those who had left her. Selfish. Failure. Worthless. The words whispered through her mind, chilling her to her core. She slowly began to examine the items, one by one. A large band of tarnished metal, a birthday card from years before, a carven pendant of jade on a worn string, all these items and many more she carefully examined, her body tense as the memories overwhelmed her. Two ticket stubs, the only evidence of one particularly tragic relationship, but these she cast aside. She reached beside her, a small but thick paperback in her hands; the only symbol of this newest abandonment. Another friendship lost, no less painful than withered romance, simply a different sort of pain. A hollow aching that fills the soul as it mourns the companionship lost, leaving a void behind accompanied by the sting of betrayed trust. It still seemed surreal, even now, when the facts were undeniable.

One more broken promise, it shouldn't matter so much to her. When had she known anything else? Yet, this betrayal seemed to rip her apart with every waking moment. Even in her dreams there was no escape from the sorrow, the raging loneliness which consumed her. There once was a time where she expected nothing more. Why did this matter now? She sighed heavily, for she knew the answer. That had been before him. He had dared to give her hope, dared to make promises and find a way into her life. Then, just as all those before him, just like those he had sworn he would never become, he walked away, leaving the bitter taste of lies and harsh words heavy in the air.

A single tear fell from her cheek, landing on the book she held. She wiped her face as she gently placed the book inside the box, one more memory added to her shrine of suffering.

  Some time later, after her eyes were dry of tears, she found herself encompassed by a mental fog. She aimlessly wandered the house, feeling as though she were searching for something she could not name. She paused in front of the tall bookshelves which lined her walls, running her fingers along the spines. Suddenly she came to a stop, her fingers catching on a larger book. Removing it from the shelf, she looked at its cover and faint smile tugged at her lips. She sat curled up on her couch, the childhood scrapbook in her hands. She flipped through the pages, finally pausing as she looked at her fifth grade class photo. Her eyes quickly found the face of her first best friend, the first of many who would turn on her. The taunts of her childhood remained fresh in her mind even now, echoed by the voices of all the others, a chorus of insults reminding her that she deserved nothing more than pain and loneliness, even that was probably too good for the likes of her. She was worthless. The world had proven that over and over again.

Her thoughts were interrupted though, by the obnoxiously cheerful sound of her phone ringing. Her heart leapt in anticipation and her breath caught in her throat. Could it be? Some part of her had hoped it was him, calling to say this whole situation had been a huge misunderstanding. Such a foolish thought, and yet one part of her clung to like a life preserver.  

"Hello?" she answered, her voice soft, a vulnerability within it that was nearly tangible. She listened to the voice on the other end, her mother. She bit back a sigh of disappointment. She could hear that her mother was desperately trying to sound casual, but it did not succeed in hiding her worry. She did not listen to her mother's words, but she knew what she would say. Just as every time before, her mother would try to coax her out of the house under some pretense or another, as if her mother didn't know she was trying to hide from the world.

"Mom?" she said abruptly, cutting off whatever outing her mother had been suggesting, "Do you remember Melissa? My best friend from elementary school?"

"She wasn't your best friend. Actually, you really rather disliked her, but her mom was in PTA with me so you would play with her during the meetings."

With those simple words, the snide voice in her head was silenced. Without that common thread, the others no longer seemed haunting, merely grotesque exaggerations. She no longer saw the events through the veil of despair and now she recognized the words as falsehoods, projected to wound and to rid the others of the burden of blame. Her eyes widened as a soft gasp escaped her lips, the realization sinking in as her ghosts faded into oblivion. Her eyes, an unusual mixture of sage green, cerulean blue and amber, lifted towards the shelf where the box, her constant reminder of her worthlessness, sat on the shelf, looking down on her. For the first time in many days, a smile touched her lips.

She walked over to the windows, throwing open the curtains. Sunlight poured in, dispelling the dull grey gloom which had filled the house for far too long. Light which once had burned and blinded her, now caressed and kissed her, warming her to her soul. She tilted her head back as she basked in the golden glow and a melodic laugh tumbled from her lips.

The next day, the old shoebox sat in a landfill miles away.

For the first time in her life, she was the one who walked away, never once glancing back at what lay behind her. For she had been freed the moment the epiphany struck her; her memories were a lie.
This is a piece I wrote primarily for publication in a local literary magazine, but it also is inspired by recent and not so recent events in my life.

I've never written a short story before so any and all critic is accepted.

More specifically, does the emotion and symbolism convey the message of the piece?
Did the lack of descriptive detail accentuate or hinder the piece?

*******EDIT*******
10-28-2010
I edited some minor errors in phrasing as well as adding some additional details to fill in a few gaps as well as adding to the meaning.
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:iconvioletice:
I like the idea here, that she has this box of items from people that she no longer loves anymore, but yet cannot bear to part with them. The fact that you've made her view these things in private works really well. If she looked at them in a more open/public situation, it would't have the same effect.

There's an untold story here that's interesting - how did these people betray her? Who is the "he" that she reminisces about? At the end, did she realize all of her memories were a lie, or just the one?


For critique--

The very first sentence seems a bit wordy:

" The young woman lifted a large shoe box off the shelf, brushing away what little dust had accumulated since she had last looked at the box and its contents."

Maybe "The young woman lifted a large shoe box off the shelf, brushing away what little dust had accumulated since she had last opened it up" ? It's only three words less, but seems to flow a little better.

"With a slow shaky breath, she slowly lifted the lid. " someone already mentioned this, but either the slow or slowly can be omitted.

"A hollow aching which fills the soul as it mourns the companionship which left" The word 'that' would work better than the word 'which' I think.

"She could hear that her mother was desperately trying to sound casual, but it did not succeed in hiding her worry." Why is her mother worried? And what significance does this have to the story?

"Thus she began anew, she had been freed when she realized, her memories were a lie." Awkward sentence structure. "Thus she began anew. She had been freed when she realized that her memories were a lie." or "Thus she began anew. She had been freed; her memories were a lie." or "Thus she began anew; she had been freed when she realized her memories were a lie"

Hope this helps!
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:iconpanda-saxophonist:
panda-saxophonist Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2011
I bet you've been showered with praise, but i must lavish more, cause this is awesome. Sort of changed my persepective on the whole betrayal issue. Nice touch.
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:icondailylitdeviations:
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2011
Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by DLD (Daily Literature Deviations) in a news article that can be found here [link]
Be sure to check out the other artists featured and show your support by :+fav:ing the News Article.

Keep writing and keep creating.
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:iconlumivalko:
Lumivalko Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
" Some time later, after her eyes were dry of tears, she found herself wandering the empty house in a fog. She felt as though she were searching for something she could not name.
Several moments later, she sat curled up on her couch, a childhood scrapbook in her hands."

"Wandering the empty house in a fog". Gives the impression of the house being foggy inside or the house being in a fog. "As in a fog?"
"She were"? I'm not 100% sure but I've the feeling it should be "was".
Two time jumps in such a short time sound weird.

The story ended too fast. I think you should have grounded the understanding of her past being a lie more. You could've also told more about how the box ended up being in the landfill.

There is so little paragraph division in the story that it makes it hard to read. More enters! ;)

All in all a good story even though there are some minor offs. You have some talent!
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:iconfaraday-of-skarabost:
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to offer these thoughts and suggestions, I truly appreciate it.
Secondly, you made some very good points. I have made some significant edits tot the story and if you don't mind, I would appreciate your thoughts on the new version.
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:iconmonstroooo:
monstroooo Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
I think there's a really good story in here. There's a great idea behind it, but I think gets a little lost in the writing. I'll try to let you know what works and what doesn't :)

Firstly, I love the idea of the story. There's that great idea of someone who keeps a token from everyone who has ever betrayed her. What a sweet and lovely notion. Bittersweet, anyway. I like it so much that I'm inspired to sit and write about it :D

I also like the idea of this shoebox being kept at home and only viewed in private. The touch of mentioning that there's not much dust on it implies that our heroine is let down regularly - a nice touch. You can really imagine the ritual of heartbreak.

The first improvement I'd suggest is that you should tidy up your formatting a bit. I see this a lot on dA and it's increasingly becoming an irritation of mine. Paragraphs should all have a clear line-break between them. It breaks up the writing and just makes it easier to follow. The easier your text is to read, the more likely your readers are to a) finish the story and b) enjoy the journey. I know that copying text into DA often kills the formatting - but it's well worth going through and adding the line-breaks yourself.

Secondly, I noticed a lot of little quirks in the writing. I do this sort of thing all the time - odd little expressions or dodgy uses of punctuation. Quite natural to do. It's good to be aware of them though, it makes for a better story. Examples include:

* ...it shouldn't matter so much to her, when had she known anything else?

This should be two sentences - replace the comma with a full-stop. Otherwise, the question is quite unnatural.

*Her thoughts were interrupted though...

You don't need the word 'though'. Again, it's quite an unnatural word to come across. 'though' normally indicates a contradiction... but there's no contradiction here, just interruption. Besides, 'though' is a very conversational sort of word. It's more likely to appear in dialog than a narrative, unless you're using a very conversational narrative tone.

* With a slow shaky breath, she slowly lifted the lid.

Although it's used in different contexts, I think you've over-used the word 'slow' here. You can drop either usage and still retain the emotion/tension you're trying to create. Again, it just makes the narrative flow a little smoother.


There's other things in there - a lot like the above - that just slightly hinder the story. Worth a read-through to see how many improvements you can make.

Regarding your own comments, I'd say that, if anything, the story is over-descriptive. Definitely not the inverse. It's really rich in adjectives, meaning that it's utterly loaded with description. I wouldn't say it's too much, but you should be aware that it is a lot :)

I might also be picky and say that there's no real symbolism here. There's some really good use of objects to convey emotional depth - but I'd call that imagery, rather than symbolism. I think symbolism is more synonymous with metaphor - it uses one thing to mean another.

Anyway - there's a great idea behind this :) It's well written, but I think there's scope to make it even better.

Keep writing, and good luck!
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:iconfaraday-of-skarabost:
Firstly thank you for your time and your praise.
You make a very good point with formatting. It existed in the original document but didn't transfer to DA so I forgot all about that.
I see what you mean about the little quirks though. I think when you read over something you've written there is a tendency to miss mistakes like that simply because you know what you meant so when you read it, you correct it without even thinking about it. It's nice to have a fresh set of eyes to pick up little things like that.
As far as description, I think characterization might have been better. There is just very little identity given to the girl aside from her emotions so I was concerned that might hinder the story.
I can see why you would say that. I said symbolism because the box and items represent the supporting characters of the story, the people who hurt the girl. But I can see your side as well.

Thank you again for taking the time to offer such an in depth critique and I truly appreciate your help and support.
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:iconmonstroooo:
monstroooo Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
It's a real pleasure! You wrote a story which made me think - the least I could do was offer you a few thoughts back :)

The formatting thing is a pain - but I really think it's worth the effort of sorting it out.

And you're right - the more time you spend on something, the more details you miss. I find that after a time, I just read what I'm trying to say, and don't read what I've actually said. It's a hard thing to avoid - I often find it helpful to leave a draft for a week or two. 'fresh eyes' is exactly the tonic :)

More character behind the girl wouldn't hurt, but I think you evoke a lot of character simply through the presence of the box. That she saves a token every time she's hurt says a lot about her. And the tokens themselves add an implied history. In fact, I'd say that there are just enough holes in the story for the reader to fill in themselves. Let the reader provide the identity - it'll make the story all the more personal to them.
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:iconfaraday-of-skarabost:
I have made some significant edits to this piece, keeping in mind your criticism. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the new version of this story if you don't mind.
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:iconmonstroooo:
monstroooo Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
I approve!

It was a pleasure to revisit the story, even though I'd only re-read it a week ago. The sentiments and ideas are all lovely, and there's a great moral to the story.

A couple of your changes jumped out at me, and I still think there are a few awkward phrases in there. But the narrative seems much better; the story comes through more easily; and you've definitely got a better story now than you did a week ago.

I'm glad to see you've resisted the urge to add a lot of backstory to this. I think you've padded it out a little bit - but not too much. There's still enough space here for the reader to fill out some of the story, which is really important.
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:iconbark:
Bark Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2010  Professional Writer
I think there was plenty of descriptive detail, maybe even a tad too much. i also think the last line is really unnecessary. otherwise, very emotional and not hard to follow. i like the idea behind the story, and overall it was well written. that's my nickel's worth. :)
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