Working on my fiction! This week’s prompt spoke to me so I decided to give it a whirl. We were asked to let a character be inspired by music. I had to show in 400 words or less how my character responds to a piece of music.
• • •
The music rolls upward in smoky circles toward lights covered in red-cellophane. On the floor below, a man and a woman sit side by side at a tiny round table. Dressed in black, they look sharp together. The two have had several bottles of wine, and the woman has draped her bare legs over his thighs. He pushes against her and something rises inside me, a longing perhaps to be touched like that. And always, the music, it pumps.
While the drummer fans his cymbals, I watch the woman teasing her man, and I feel like I am watching some kind of primitive human mating ritual. From out of nowhere, she is shouting. Her voice rises over the music, and her fingers open and close as she clutches the air around her.
Suddenly, he pushes her legs off his lap; he is on his feet, taking long strides towards the back of the club. I look to see her reaction but I can’t see her face because her hair blocks her eyes. I see now that she is drunk, that she is crying, choking on her sadness. Help her, I look around wildly. Someone help her; she is too beautiful to cry.
The waitress comes and whispers something in the woman’s ear. For a moment I can’t tell whose ear is whose; they are a collage of interchangeable body parts, two women, two strangers come together in the darkness. The woman owes for the bottles of wine, and she takes out her wallet to pay. A few papers fall on the floor, but she doesn’t notice or — if she does — she doesn’t care.
The waitress leaves, and the woman dabs at her eyes with a cocktail napkin. She checks her watch, but never turns around: never turns to see where he might be. Or where he might not be. After what seems like an eternity of jazz, he returns to his chair as if he has only been gone a moment, not some small eternity. Staring into the dark hole of the horn player’s trumpet, he taps his foot to the beat.
The music quiets. The man says something I can’t decipher, words that cause the woman to rise. Tall and curved, she reaches for her purse. When she looks for him, he is three-paces ahead of her. Teetering on too high heels, cigarette smoke swirls around her and, for a moment, she recognizes the toxic funk she is in, a low vibration or a blue note from the bass player’s strings.
How do you feel about people who are drunk in public?
Thanks Susie. I think I got the scene, but I don’t know about the interaction between the three people.
So hard for me to be short!
I like it! I could definitely picture the scene, and I thought the whole thing worked.
I don’t know if I like them; it’s hard to tell when people are drunk. Due to personal experiences, I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who get upset or overwrought when they are drunk.
It says a lot to me that I’m considering these people and their interaction, what might have passed between them and why, what role alcohol had to play, and why the writer reacted so strongly to (and was so personally drawn to the drama of) the scene below. And I’m contemplating my opinions of all three of them and why I react to them the way I do. For example, I don’t like the woman at the table, and I have a kind of irritation at the watcher for feeling sorry for her. Interesting…
It was a short piece that put a lot of thoughts and questions in my head. Well done, I like that.
I hate drunk people, and I don’t drink myself. I don’t think I really got the whole dynamic — mainly because I was trying so hard to make it fit into under 400 words. I cut out a lot. But maybe I can edit it a bit before the link up tomorrow.
I so appreciate your honesty. Refreshing!
And I didn’t want you to like the woman at the table. She’s pitiful. Don’t you ant her dump the guy? Or for him to dump her? I wanted people to think maybe this is their weird pattern.
At least it left you with questions.
Don’t edit too much! I thought the interaction, including with the observer, was very real feeling and the observer seemed genuinly distressed. The “too beautiful to…” (you took it out, and I can’t remember if it was to cry or be sad) comment made be think that person is either drinking too or familiar with feeling the way he/she thinks the woman feels. But it made it more than an observation – the speaker is clearly emotionally involved in the scene below. I may feel a little contempt for the observers pity, but you got a rise out of me, which is great. And who am I to judge the observer? I don’t know the background, maybe this scene plays out like this every weekend, it plays out with a different girl or guy each time, maybe the observer wants to ne one of them, who knows.
I liked it how it was, I hope I didn’t give you the wrong impression, I just thought I had already written too much before, so I stopped. But I practically feel like I could analyze this to death.
Being 100% honest, the only part I didn’t like was the cigarette smoke. I can’t put my finger on why, but I didn’t like that line as much. I needs a line at the end like that, and I liked the music part being brought back up. I wonder if you can write it as the music hitting her in the face like so much smoke, circling nack to your initial reference to the music as smoke. Just an idea, by no means is it an awful line.
PS: I hope you put the beautiful line back in or something like it, I think the observer needs to show that emotion.
Terrible typos, sorry, I’m on my phone.
Okay, I tried something else. I put that line back in and I messed with the ending a bit.
I like when people offer criticism, and I think people don’t do it enough. Instead, we get a lot of “wonderful” — which is why I changed my question above.
i think most people are uncomfortable giving critique. r they just want to read for pleasure. This was super helpful though! You have a keen eye. And a keen ear.
It ALL works, in my opinion! I know constructive criticism is helpful, but this piece is perfect. Really. Don’t change a thing, Dah-ling.
I don’t think it is perfect, but I’m trying to listen to Kristen Lamb and use these exercises to try to write faster and looser.
I usually spent HOURS on a post. I did this is 25 minutes.
To me, it feels like 25 minutes.
Wow! Great job for off the cuff writing. It doesn’t feel “25 minutes” to me.
I could picture the club and the scene.
But the people suck, right?
No! This is why I’m on my phone doing this. I was afraid to wait! Don’t ruin my story with second guessing your talent!
Oh, yeah…your story.
No! I totally appreciated your comments. It’s good for me to loosen up and know I can mess with things. That I can play around, but I always have the original. It’s good practice for me!
I actually like this better, too.
I like the smoke swirling around her. I don’t know why I had such a hard time with the smacking in the face. You know what I’m thinking, is that this is a very flowy kind of piece. I’m wondering if the smacking part is what was bothering me, almost as if the flow was coming to a stop. On the other hand, that could be good, because it gives you pause, it’s like her life and how it continually smacks her in the face. Now it’s smacking me in the face.
Wow, that’s amazing how one line can kind of change how you leave the story. But I still like the swirling better :). I kind of feel like the story swirled into my life and circled around a bit before it swirled back out again. That’s what observations of people we don’t know are like, anyway – they are moments that we sort of share with them and then we all move on as though nothing happened.
I like it better, too. At least with this piece. I had to keep it to 400 words. In the longer piece, the man is more rough with the woman, so the “smacking” made more sense. But since I had to cut all of that out — of of his roughness (or most of it anyway), I think this works better. So thank you for that! 😉
Wanna be a beta reader for my novel when it’s done? 😉
I would love that!! I’m just worried that I will over-analyze everything. Did you figure out that I tend to do that? You would just have to let me know when to shut up. (No, for real. I wouldn’t be offended.)
Hahahaha, is it fitting that I’m writing this reply after having just had a number of beers?
I read this post first earlier today and will answer your initial questions as honestly as possible. I love your writing Renée, you know that. I found the scene easy to go with, although my initial imagining of the couple was a little difficult. My mind painted a picture of people sitting across from each other, so naturally I stumbled when trying to imagine their bodies intertwined. Once I saw a curved chair though, with them sitting beside each other rather than across from each other, everything materialised in the scene. The smoke and music worked really well to bring the club to life in my mind!
As I was reading my focus was on the emotion that was being shared by the reader and the girl, and then the intimacy of the interaction between the waitress and the girl, as overseen by the writer. I hope that the intent was to make the man a little shadowy in the whole scene, rather than me just being a poor reader!
As for your updated question… I suppose it really depends. I hate drunk people being obnoxious or similarly rude in public but I have little problem with people who are intoxicated and are enjoying themselves.
I hope you don’t hold my drinking habits against me!
Hi Christian: I may try to tweak the bodies thing. I agree it might be a little unclear! Thanks for the feedback. And for answering the before and after question. 😉
ANd yes, the dude is supposed to be rather shadowy. In the longer version, he is much more rough with her. It was hard to make the word count and keep all of it. But I tried.
This is delightful! Your hard work was clearly successful. Your build up the passion and emotion in the first paragraph and it is sad to see that the passion is not romantic, but angry and drunk and lost.
I had, for the record, no trouble imagining intertwined bodies. I envisioned a round booth, her nearly sitting on his lap, a little table in front of them, all facing a stage. The smoke is perfect to add to the atmosphere. It feels New Orleans, clad in colors of red and blue…
Somehow, at the end, I can’t help but wonder why the protagonist seems to be alone, and what is her story, as she seemed so sad and lost along with the drunken woman.
I think the atmosphere is beautiful, and of course the people don’t suck! It felt like a scene from an old Boggart film, where this just wasn’t going to work any more, and even if she promised to change, it was time for them to move on, couldn’t she see that? It has that sort of sad, black-and-white romance to it.
But seriously. I loved it.
Okay, if you got New Orleans…I heart you so much.
Because that is exactly what I was going for.
It is a memory from a club in New Orleans.
How can you know that?
I didn’t poke around at all, I promise! Just for some reason it felt the same as reading Anne Rice, and if you are familiar with her you know she has a special love for New Orleans. The weight, the smoke, the music. Maybe it was just a lucky coincidence, or maybe you are that good. 🙂
This is a solid piece. I didn’t understand what was happening with this line.
“Her voice rises over the music, and her fingers open and close as she clutches the air around her.”
I filled in the blanks. The end made me sad for her and that last line was excellent.
I don’t drink much and drunk people in public make me nervous. I never know how they’re going to behave.
I’m glad you could fill in the blanks. That’s what I was hoping people would do. But too many blanks mean holes. And that’s no good either.
I LOVE to watch drunk people.
But I am never drunk.
I really like this piece. Th pacing was quick, like jazz and your imagery clearly evoked emotion. Kudos!
I’m glad the piece worked for you. It has been tweaked throughout the day.
I think this works best as a character sketch–of the narrator. The descriptions, the subtle judgement on the characters, the mix of compassion and disgust that keeps us watching when unpleasant things unfold – all of that is spot on and says quite a lot about the person watching the moment pass.
Thank you. That’s what I was going for. Really all of this says more about the voyeur. Right? But I’m not sure I nailed that. I’m glad you kind of got what I was going for anyway.
This is one of the best fiction responses to this prompt I’ve read. If you say it’s tight- I get it only if you mean that it felt suspenseful. The writing didn’t feel tight at all. The bar reminds me a lot of the bar I met my husband in (romantic, I know)- lots of red and yellow tones, bulky lighting, nicotine sticky tables. Awesome.
Thank you so much! I can’t believe i just saw this comment now, but I really appreciate your feedback.
And I love that you met your man at a sticky table in a bar filled with smoke. 😉