Manila Envelope by Robert Starr


Tell us what you thought about the May 2007 issue!

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Post May 02, 2007, 04:01:21 AM

Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

liked the mood of the story more than the plot itself. especially the detailed memories and the way smells come back to you from across the years. that silent plane was also excellent..enough to make Nate appreciate sensory input in this story.

other than that, and although the pace of the story was fitting, eventually i didn't find the subject matter too compelling. and we don't even know what it was David thought Carol took from him. I guess his dad went for her and kinda cast him aside?

not a bad one of course but i was hoping for more layers of meaning.


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Post May 02, 2007, 07:00:47 AM

Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

The key problem that I have with this story is similar to what the previous poster wrote: motivation. Obviously the main character is hurting because he feels that Carol stole his father from him and needed to get revenge. Yet... it takes two to tango - David's father seems to have made Carol the most special person in his life and David could never accept that. At the end, when David is calling the police: is this some indication of penance, that David knew he did the wrong thing (the apparent murder is one thing; blaming Carol is another)?

I do like the imagery within the story.
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Post May 02, 2007, 11:47:42 PM

Re: Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

I'm going to put the link to the story if I don't see it in another post. There have been times when the new issue has come out and I can't navigate to a story I was late in reading:
http://www.aphelion-webzine.com/shorts/2007/05/ManilaEnvelope.html

This was a decent story, although I mirror the other comments about motivation. I only got a snippet of David's angst. I think it needed to be stronger for me to empathize with him. He sort of came off as a spoiled brat who didn't get what he wanted. Another tact would have been to emphasize Carol. We don't get enough sense of her, so when she dies, we don't feel any attachment.

The story is full of foreshadowing and symbolism. I might have eased off describing the wife's glove the second time. The first time planted the seed within the reader's mind. The second time seemed to push the symbolism. However, that's just my preference. I prefer subtler approaches.

Question for the author. Was this inspired by Anna Nicole Smith?

[edit: sorry, I put in the wrong blonde...]
Last edited by Jaimie on May 03, 2007, 12:59:13 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post May 04, 2007, 05:09:20 AM

Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

found myself thinking about this story today...guess it means it was memorable.

glad to see Spoofman and Jamie agreeing...it would have helped significantly to actually know why it was David held on to the grudge. that way he would have been more of a sympathetic character.

as it stands we get glimpses, like his sudden need to reconcile with Carol just before putting her on ice.

Lee
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Post May 04, 2007, 09:34:07 AM

Re: Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

[edit: The post I responded to was deleted, so I modified this one to be standalone...]

If you look deeper into the criticisms, it's less about plot and more about characters. It's difficult to feel any attachment with David. He's neither likable nor interesting. His victim, Carol, is also neither likable nor interesting. We just don't know enough about them to feel any empathy.

I'll take good characters over a good plot any day. The recommendations to shore up the plot is to strengthen the characters.
Last edited by Jaimie on May 04, 2007, 10:29:28 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post May 05, 2007, 12:53:29 PM

Re: Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

Wow. Lee is noting the sensory input, and Jaimie discussed the lack of empathy for a character... Could it be my years of harping on the same things in stories is having an effect?

No, probably not. But I'm taking credit for it anyway. ;)


Actually, the first thing I wondered about was why were some of the flashbacks italic, and others not?

Rob, I've always liked your stories. I like this one. Like most of your tales, it leaves disturbing images simmering in our subconscious. David is not vile, he's not evil, but he's not lovable, either. He's someone who's hurt, jealous for the love of his father, and then he goes too far.

David is just a guy, a regular human being, who at the right point, does the wrong thing. Even if I didn't know, I would have said this reads like a Rob Starr story...

At first, I was going to agree with Jaimie. David isn't a very strong character. As it is, we barely get to love him before he's whacking Carol over the head with a shovel. But then again, he wouldn't be. That's not how you write. Your tales are not heroic accounts, sweeping tragedies, or overt horror. Your stories are more of a gentle, sad melody with occasionally chilling overtones.

Stick to what you do.

Still, I do think there is more room to generate more feeling for and from David. He holds his feelings in too much. Perhaps a tear in his eye when he comes back from a flashback, something like that. Not too much, just a bit to reveal just how much he hurts inside.

Also, I have to admit I had a spot of trouble "getting" the suds metaphor. I had to ponder that for a while.

Nate
Last edited by kailhofer on May 05, 2007, 12:54:01 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post May 06, 2007, 08:01:01 PM

Re: Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

I liked this story.

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Post May 07, 2007, 08:04:15 PM

Re: Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

I always love the old ‘Whack on the Head’ murder stories and this one had all the qualities needed. Hatred, envy, jealously---everything needed to drive an unstable mind into doing the one violent act that has been hashed over and over again, but still has not gone out of style. The whack over the head, yes!!

Robert Starr’s talent is vibrant and flowing. He took the old whack over the head story and made it his own by the use of good psychological drama.

The beginning of the story grabs your interest in what the envelope contains, and the dialogue between David and his wife further insures that the envelope contains a threat to David’s wife.

Her actions are driven by some knowledge since “She pulled one rubber glove off so it smacked and twisted into a yellow/white mangle landing in a heap on the counter beside the sink.” That action must suggest stress!! And placing both hands over the sink is a mannerism that shows a defensive action between the two “Just open the thing” then after the hands are placed, “Just open it.”

Your interest in what’s going to happen is set between David’s youth, a camping trip with his father, and his wife who knows what David feels but seems unable to change him!

The remainder of the story develops naturally, and Robert uses symbolism---references to the soap suds--to bridge the beginning of  David’s anguish to the final act that will set him free!

Good use of description and that of generating the right feelings when David was in the cemetery. The sounds, the plane, and the stars that have watched David for years were played out very strategically in developing the right mood for the reader. And after the mood was set, the whack on the head became a crescendo fulfilling David’s deep, violent hatred of Carol.


I liked it!!!
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Post May 08, 2007, 03:47:31 AM

Manila Envelope by Robert Starr

whack on the head subgenre? not a bad concept.

yes, the sensory input here was good. there's typically little acknowledgment of how strong and long lasting the memory of scent is in the human brain and nervous system. This was one factor in the story's favor, big time.

Lee

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