It's very short and I'm just looking for feedback. Anything you have to say will be read.
Dad and son sit across one another in the booth.
“How do you feel, dad? You’ve been silent since Pittsburgh”, says Ethan looking down at his half empty coffee and over the sodden tea bag stewing in boiling water on his father’s end of the table.
Behind the arts section of the New York Times a voice of once perfect diction and timbre lilts, “I’m fine. You know me. It’s the other stuff I’m worried about.” Harold reaches around the page to dip the teabag softly.
“The kids will be glad to see you and Martha will be glad to have someone else around the house.”
“I can’t stay with you. I’ve been on my own too long. I need the privacy.”
“Could you put the paper down? What are you even reading in there?”
Harold fold the paper down revealing his cool green eyes diffracted behind rectangular bifocals, “There are all these plays, these art critics, these galleries. Gone. An entire web of connections and references that have no external meaning anymore.” He takes a sip of the tea and begins to read from one. “Like sitting alone in an empty industrial plant while a man shouts at you through a loudspeaker about efficiency ratings. Mantrap, an adaptation of the 2023 Audrey Koch short story by Stanislav Verdeloski opening in the Sontag Memorial Theatre, speaks in the same tone as its absurdist author but with the dehumanization turned up past 13. This heightened level of engagement the audience feels…”
“What’s the point?”, interjects Ethan. He doesn’t look at his father but down at his spoon swirling around the last of his coffee. “It sounds awful. Why would anyone want to experience that?”
“You said you wanted to talk”
“But that’s not talking. You’re going to see your family. They’re all looking forward to seeing you, that you weren’t in the city when it happened. It means the world to them.”
“The world has more going on than this. This is a grain of sand under a boulder.”
“You’re lucky. You should feel blessed. Any of the others would be glad to be you. To be reunited with your family, your whole family.”
“How am I to feel joy in the face of such terror and pain? It’s worse to survive it, its as if I shoulder the weight of 25 million… And you speak to me of comfort in the face of such realities.”
“Your family is fine, I’m here. The kids will be there. You’re not the only one who felt the loss. The whole country has”
“The country knows nothing of struggle. It knows only excess, comfort and convenience. It thinks the millions that died a thousand miles away is a struggle for them. They know someone who knew someone. For them that’s hardship. Well things are going to get worse.”
A girl 17 years old wearing a yellow and white dress comes to the table carrying two platters. “Who had the poached eggs ?”
Harold motions to himself
“And you must have had the omelette with bacon and cheddar.”
“Thank you” says Ethan.
“Y’all have a good meal”
“Thanks” Harold mutters as she walks away.
“We’re gonna hit them back, dad.”
“I’m surprised we haven’t already. I expected it to be over within the hour when it happened. The power went out and I heard the sound and I thought it was over. If it doesn’t happen within the next week we might be okay. It might not happen.”
“They deserve what’s coming to them.”
“So do we.”
“Fine. That’s enough talking for now. Just eat your fucking eggs, dad.”
The silence continued long after the eggs were eaten.
All my characters seem to get at their points too quickly and talk too pointedly.
They all seem to have the same voice. I seem to be incapable of consistent prose.
I just don't know how to address these problems.
A little bit of (hopefully) helpful critique because I'm bored.
The first sentence is clumsy, not a good way to start. Even "Father and son..." would be better, but I'd try to set the scene in a different way. Furthermore, I had no idea they were supposed to be in a diner until the end, when the waitress came out to deliver their food. Not good.
Very little context about what's going on here, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but your execution is lacking. Too much dialogue, and the characters are really just mouthpieces for two opposing viewpoints ("We're going to hit them back, they deserve what's coming to them," is quite reminiscent of the immediate reaction to 9/11, whereas the father's more pessimistic take is more like the attitude towards the war on terror today).
Regarding your prose, learn where to put commas. Stuff like, "A girl 17 years old wearing a yellow etc." is frankly inexcusable. You've got issues like that throughout. A lot of typos and weird mistakes ("Harold fold the paper down...")
Just work on it. Read some short stories, pay attention to the pacing, when information is delivered and withheld, etc.
>looking down at his half empty coffee and over the sodden tea bag stewing in boiling water on his father’s end of the table.
You cannot do this in one motion, as his own coffee is right in front of him. You shouldn't state it as if it happened in one moment, so cut one of both (which is onvenient since the description was too long anyway).
>They’re all looking forward to seeing you, that you weren’t in the city when it happened.
Not really clear what you mean with this
I think you'd better start over. The story seems to pile mystery upon mystery while not explaining anything, which is not a nice sensation for the reader. I also feel like you don't know where you're going with the story. Furthermore the dialogue is very forced and clumsy; it's a father and his son talking to each other, yet they talk as if they're strangers in an old book, for example:
>How am I to feel joy in the face of such terror and pain?
No-one talks like that, especially not to their family. Because of that, the "fucking eggs" don't fit either. I would suggest constructing more regular dialogue. The descriptions are kind of bland but all of a sudden have these expensive words or poetic parts.
Just curious, you're not a native speaker, are you?
I'm a native speaker but I didn't proofread this and I wrote it without knowing where it was going at the beginning. It was also done in one sitting.
I'm just trying to get practice and get used to writing something. I think a lot of the problem is that I don't know what these characters are, what their relationship is or how to make it unique/ believable.
I have a project I care about much more that I want to stop writing for because I just seem so bad at writing this kind of stuff. I'm trying to get better before I continue writing it.
>Too much dialogue,
I'm trying to get better at writing dialogue
>and the characters are really just mouthpieces for two opposing viewpoints
Yeah. I don't know how to stop myself from doing this. My characters always seems to behave this way.
>I don't know how to stop myself from doing this. My characters always seems to behave this way.
Think of how real people talk over breakfast in a diner. You are ultimately in control of how your characters act (don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise), so if you want to stop them, just stop them. Don't write in philosophizing where it doesn't need to be.
>I don't know what these characters are, what their relationship is or how to make it unique/ believable
Shit, son. The relationships between characters is one of the most basic units of a story. You should have a pretty good idea of who these people are before you write anything about them.
Anytime I write from blank I just go off on tangets about different things. I just started writing something else to see if I could do a simple conversation between a father on a subway train that asks a 20 year old how he likes his university becasue the daughter wants to go there and now it has progressed into a discussion about the difference between how exclusion happens in small town compared to a big city.
I need a clear prompt or something that limits me from doing this. Fuck I should have studied some amount of literature.