The Adventure by Allen M. Jenkins

Tell us what you thought of the August 2009 issue

Senior Critic

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Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

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Post August 13, 2009, 02:38:28 PM

The Adventure by Allen M. Jenkins

This piece wanted to evoke a sense of nostalgia, and the elements are there, but ultimately I think it needs more development; I found that I couldn’t really just settle into it and lose myself, which is what a good nostalgic story allows.

There’s no compelling indication of how/why Johnson lost touch with the Magic Light and had to leave town. And abruptly too as he didn’t even bother saying goodbye to the Old Man.

Johnson speaks of a troubled relationship with his father. Johnson’s perception of it can be distorted, that’s fine (and potentially interesting), but whatever the case, I think the dynamics need to be more fully explored. I’d like to see the father more fully fleshed out.

Scathlock is a small town, we’re told, so I’m not surprised the Old Man knows everyone’s name; I am surprised that no one seems to know his; at the very least, shouldn’t Johnson (or someone) wonder what the dude’s name is? Also, a little history of the Old Man and his movie house as well some detail on the town might add depth to the story. Further, we’re told about the Independence Day “festival”; experiencing it through Johnson’s overly critical eye would've helped evoke a better sense of place.

A couple of small things:

It would've been fun to have some of the classic movie house candy brands cited. And some detail on the movie posters would've been cool too, and could've helped make the point that I think the author was trying to make about the decline of cinema.

I'm thinking if the Hyundai was still "smoking" by the time Johnson and his dad returned, the volunteer fire dept rather than the old dude with the pickup and top drawer chain might be in order. I mean, what actually happened to the car?


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Joined: August 06, 2009, 01:19:44 PM

Location: Oklahoma

Post August 14, 2009, 09:14:25 PM

I've also noticed that the story is begging to have a scene of the day he left.

Thanks for the great critique. I'm preparing this story for submission as a writing sample to Graduate School, and this had run the gambit with my fellow writers at school, so it's wonderful to have some fresh suggestions after putting the story away for a year.
"Thinking outside the box doesn't count when you're just thinking inside someone else's box."

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Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Location: Augusta, GA

Post August 16, 2009, 04:01:38 PM


You have the makings of a good story here. Some of the prose needs tightening, but, at the same time, there are some real gems hidden throughout this piece. You have a good if burgeoning sense of language that will no doubt grow as you continue to apply yourself to this craft.

I am not a popular,published author -- not yet! -- but I'd like to share with you a couple of things I've learned over the years of pounding keyboards to make stories.

I look at everything I write from at least two perspectives. Let's call them the forest and the trees. The forest is the overall story -- what I wanted the reader to "get".

In this case, you gave us Johnson and the Old Man and, to a degree, Johnson's father. The relationships here are strained by the son's (son to the old man and to the father I believe) need to stretch his wings, to go out in the world and make his own way. Johnson does this by running headlong into the world, escaping his little hometown, but it's too fast and too sudden. You see that he wants what he left behind in his choice of career. He wants that magic light, but he can't find it away from home and away from his mentor(s).

To me, that was the forest of this story.

The trees are the words, sentences, paragraphs and, to a lesser extent, the emotions they evoke. I say to a lesser extent, because emotion, in my opinion, can be anchored as much to the forest as the trees and indeed will be guided by both. The trees in this story could have used some pruning back in areas, but for the most part you handled them well.

I'm not usually one who gets into the show versus tell debate. Some writers will say you must ONLY show me what's happening. But that is impossible. Such a story would be exhausting to read even in short form let alone novel length. I like a good mix of show and tell.

In this story I felt there was a little too much telling and the words used in that telling were sometimes (notice I didn't say every time) misspent on details that didn't further Johnson's story. A rule of thumb I use for telling is this: telling should be used to advance emotional investment both between the characters and between the reader and characters. Showing can do the same job, and ofter to better effect, but telling must give me something that makes me love the characters more by demonstrating their love, intelligence, vice, hatred, reasons for all those things, and more.

If you are looking to rewrite this story any time in the future, you should take a little time to examine Johnson's motivations. Maybe sketch out a bit of his past if you haven't already and put yourself in his shoes. Even if you wouldn't make the same decisions he would (he is a different person from you unless you based him on yourself), you must have his reasons for those decisions and thoughts planted firmly in your mind so that you can best demonstrate them to your reader.

-- david j.
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