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The Other Side

by LilyRose


Jo watched as the cars passed, wondering who was inside them, what was their story. She’d always liked stories.

The group, Cathy, Jo, and Alice, stood on a normal, uninteresting road. Tower blocks on each side loomed over them. Jo looked up at her mother, Cathy’s kind and intelligent eyes focused on each car, assessing them, watching for a moment to cross to the other side. She was leaning, Alice was pulling her down with the tight grip of her hand on Cathy’s, her childish eyes wide with fear, looking out at the road. Alice hated crossing roads, they frightened her, as did most things. Cathy squeezed her hand; Alice was reassured.

Then Jo and Cathy stepped off the kerb and Alice jumped after them. “We’re going in 3, don’t run.” Cathy said with a stern tone, though she was smiling. “OK? 1…2…3…”

***

A Month after the Accident

“But I don’t want to go to the doctors.” Alice said to Jo, in a very whiny tone, tears streaming down her face.

“Look, we’re here, I’m getting out of the car, you don’t want me to leave you alone do you?”

***

“Come in.” The doctor calls. Jo gets up and looks down at Alice. She is still sitting, fidgeting with the zip of her coat. A sense of sickness fills Jo seeing Alice so upset. If mum were here, she’d know exactly what to do, how to comfort her she thought.

Jo hears a sigh from behind her. She turns around, Brendan is standing there. He has his arms crossed, acting as though the girls are nothing but a nuisance. This infuriates Jo, we didn’t ask to be given to you, she says in her head, she would never say it aloud, but you are our father, so do your job.

“Come on.” Brendan urges, with exasperation in his tone.

Jo takes Alice’s hand from her coat zip. Her eyes are still red from crying. Alice gets up. Jo smiles at her little sister and in return receives a small smile back. Warmth spreads through Jo at this smile, it relieves her for just a second.

This small room they enter resembles any old GP practice room, but Jo doesn’t like it. The walls surrounding them are covered in white, flaky wallpaper. The GP sits at a paper-covered wooden desk, typing at her computer, a printer and landline on either side. She looks up from her keyboard and they do introductions.

“So, why are you here?” She directs this at Jo but Jo looks down, Brendan speaks. He explains the ‘traumatic’ car accident. Their mother being ‘regretfully’ comatose but ‘thankfully’ the girls didn't have any serious injuries. The basic story. Jo tenses hearing this, but she won’t cry, not here, not today.

The GP begins typing, occasionally glancing at the computer screen.

Brendan adjusts his position in his seat and continues, “Their teachers contacted me saying that they felt the girls were less applied to their work, one suggested the girls should be checked for PTSD.”

***

“OK,” says the doctor, ending what seems like an age of questioning for Jo and Alice.

“I’m referring you both to CAMHS, the mental health service offered to young people in the UK. There’s a waiting list, you may not be seen for a few months but this is the best thing for you two right now.”

***

Two months after the accident

Jo sees her mum lying in the hospital bed, wired up to rivers of tubes, still, silent, as though she was sleeping. Jo wishes she was sleeping. She feels tears coming to her eyes, she pushes them away.

“How is she?” Jo looks around at Bella, she looks drained, her eyes dark with exhaustion. But it is wonderful to see her.

“The same.” Bella says, Jo’s heart sinks. She wasn’t expecting good news but she’s longing for some, it’s consuming her.

“Grandma, when is mummy going to get better?” Alice asks Bella. Jo looks down at her little sister, the usual worry fills her, Am I looking after her enough? If she is scarred by this forever it’ll be my fault.

“We don’t know, but soon, pumpkin.” Bella bends over and tickles Alice’s tummy, Alice giggles.

Bella returns to Jo, “Where’s your father?” she asks, using a sweet voice to disguise her dislike for the man, the man who abandoned her daughter, abandoned her without support for their children.

“You mean Brendan?” Jo says, decidedly. A slight smirk crosses Bella’s mouth. Jo continues, “He went to the cafe downstairs.”

Under her breath Bella says something about ‘courtesy’, and ‘ lack of compassion’.

“Are you enjoying living with Brendan?” She asks, casually, trying to mask her eagerness for the answer.

Jo thinks for a moment and decides she’ll tell the truth. “It’s awful. I can barely remember him from before he left and Alice doesn’t even know him. I don’t understand why we were put with him after the accident.” Jo turns red but Bella smiles reassuringly, she continues “And he knows nothing about kids. We have to look after ourselves.” Jo feels good finally letting it out.

“Sweetie,” Bella starts, a smile inching across her face, “How would you like to move in with me?” Elation immediately streamed inside Jo, a large smile spreads across her face.

“Is that possible?” Jo feels worry slowly build inside her.

“I’ve spoken to your father, he said its’s fine. Your sister also loves the idea”

The delight returns, Finally, a glimpse of hope.

***

3 months after the accident

Jo looks up at the councillor, “OK, our time’s up, I have two more sessions with you and then we can see where you’re at.”

They both stand up, the councillor shows Jo out.

“Hi darling, mums still asleep, before you ask,” Bella is waiting right outside. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m feeling… I’m feeling better.” And for the first time in 3 months, Jo did feel just the smallest bit of optimism.


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Mon May 01, 2017 2:59 am
Rosendorn wrote a review...



Hello. Here as requested. I know you requested this on a deadline, but reviews can still help improvement. I would like to mention, before I begin, that a "tomorrow" deadline for reviews wouldn't give you enough time to incorporate feedback you had received if it was in-depth.

This is an attempt at a really poignant story, and I'd personally like to see it expanded upon in a longer format because there's a lot of room for a nice progression here. But the wordcount limit makes it this amount of information should've been presented in a much more tailored format, focused on a single moment. Instead, there's a time span of three months, sacrificing exploring the internal life for cramming in as many external events as possible.

This piece suffers from the advice "show, don't tell." Sometimes, we do need to be told things— especially in a short piece. Telling a lot of the background events, like the therapy and the accident, would've freed up wordcount for exploring the hospital visit/offer to move in, which feels like the crux of this whole thing.

Showing multiple plot events, especially in a flash piece, is a detriment instead of an asset. For short scenes to work, each one needs to be long enough to show the internal aspect for the characters. When I wrote a similar type of story, the wordcount was 1,626. And I needed that length to really get into the meat.

I would examine how to apply "show, don't tell." For short pieces, the showing really needs to be about the emotions involved, and the telling can be about the events. The importance for writing is to create a connection to the character, and right now the focus is so heavily on things that are happening that there isn't much of a connection there.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

~Rosey




LilyRose says...


Thank you, this was really helpful information to take into future writing



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Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:41 pm
Paracosm wrote a review...



Hey! Shino here!

I like what you have here! My tips in this review are going to be about clarity and organization.

Clarity: The reader needs to know what action is happening, and what character is taking action. I had trouble discerning who the main character in the story was. I recommend picking one character and sticking to narrating their experiences. There are a lot of characters with not so much personality. I recommend fleshing out the most important ones, and cutting everyone else.

Organization: Organization is deciding what happens when. Every event and action should ne tied together. The story needs a sense of cause and effect. I felt like I was reading about a stream of events that characters barely acted on.

That being said, this is a good first draft, and you have a good idea here! I hope you keep working on it. :D




LilyRose says...


Thank you for your straight forward review, as the deadline for the competition I am entering it for is today I was not able to implement all your suggestions but I definitely had them in mind when revising the piece, especially the character clarity one.



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Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:27 pm
Kazumi wrote a review...



So, you have to bring it down to 1000, right? Welcome to flash fiction.

Hey LilyRose, it's me outvaders. I came here upon your request to review this work. I'm really tired right now, so let's get straight to it. Apologies if I'm very terse in this one, 'cause you know, searing migraines.

I hear that your story's word limit is about one thousand and you want this story's word count to fit that so that you can enter a competition. A story that is a thousand words and below is considered flash fiction. Based on that, I'll review your story as a flash fiction specifically. I'll give you two tips to help you make story that is shorter, yet way more immersive.

Let's move on to the first tip. The problem I have with your first paragraph is that it stops the flow of the plot to describe a setting that is indeed insignificant to the story. That's not good, especially in flash fiction, because it stops the plot which should be moving. That means you're spending more words than you should. You can establish the setting and still move the plot by describing the setting as the characters interact with it. Let's look at the paragraph where you describe the GP's room.

There you describe that there was a "wooden desk, with a printer, computer, and landline, coated in papers and placed in the corner." Instead of outright stating the existence of these aspects of a setting, you can show that they exist by having the characters interact with them.

Actually, you've already done that in the next paragraph:

"The GP looks up from her keyboard, they do introductions."

Through the interaction of the GP with her keyboard, we are clued in that the setting has a computer set. There's no more need to state the existence of that computer in the previous paragraph. Do this with the other aspects of a setting, and you can pretty much describe everything while still moving the plot forward.

Obviously, you can't describe everything about the setting with this method. But if you slip in a little more information, you'll be able to establish a fair image of the setting. Let's take a text my friend wrote as an example:

"Closing the door behind her she made her way down the normal route, gravel roads flanked with fields that would soon give off that lovely citrus aroma her humble town was known for."

In an efficient thirty-three words you've already got a fair idea of what the setting of this scene is, while still moving the plot. I can't exactly explain how you can achieve this effect right now 'cause I'm tired. However, this is what you can achieve by describing the setting through character interactions.

Now for the last and second tip. Let's look at the eighth paragraph, where we see Jo taking Alice's hand from her zipper. It explicitly states that she's been crying and doesn't want to go to the doctor. Now, stating these facts out is counterproductive to the appeal of flash fiction, which is its immersive experience. In this one, you don't want to tell your audience that Alice has been crying and doesn't want to go to the doctor, you want to make them feel that instead. So my next tip is to hide it all in details.

There are many ways to do this. You already did that in saying that she was fidgeting and that her eyes were red. Maybe you can make Alice go like "I DON'T WANNA GO TO THE DOCTOR WAAAAAAAAH." Or maybe Jo literally has to pull her butt to the doctor. You can also set a really tense mood to do that. All these details can point to the fact that she doesn't want to go to the doctor. Once you put all these details together in the story, the reader truly feels that she doesn't want to go to the doctor. You don't even have to tell them about it anymore.

I know these are like, really small tips, and that I took them from small snippets of your work. If you keep applying these tips, however, the positive effects will add up and you're gonna have a very rich flash fiction. Anyways, that's it for today. I hope you learned something new in this review. I'll see you around next time.

-outvaders




LilyRose says...


This review was amazing, so helpful, especially as it is flash fiction and you were able to give me tips that would improve my writing in the space I was given.



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Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:43 pm
PrincessInk wrote a review...



Hello there--I'm here with the promised review!

I definitely like the sisters! The interaction between the sisters are lovable, and I can feel a strong bond between them. But I would have liked to see more depth in them, so that they feel more *real* so that I can immediately attach myself to them like a burr! Same thing for the others, like Bella and the councillor. :P For example, I wasn't feeling too sad when the mother died. I think it would be better if you showed the sisters' grief and the torn feeling about not knowing if the mother will recover or not.

The theme wasn't executed too badly, but I felt as though the arc and plot of the story wasn't so strong. I also spotted some confusing spots, so I'll be pointing them out:

1) First of all, I'm confused as to why Brendan is their father? Was he their father in the first place or what? Some clarification would be great! Did he adopt them for the time being? I'd like to know.

2) And why does Bella dislike him a lot? For a moment, I felt like she was a sugary-sweet lady with a mean inside. I don't really see why Brendan is disliked. Is it because he just grabbed custody of the girls?

3) So what happened to the mother? Is she still in the coma? I love open endings, but this time I'd like to know--is she alive? dead? comatose?

But the ending was great! I'm glad for the girls; they can live with their beloved grandma. The only quibble here is that I wish I saw her earlier in the story. You know, she just popped up in the end and I wasn't a huge fan of that.

I also noticed some comma splices here. I'll show you an example to help you proofread:

Bella bends over and tickles Alice’s tummy, she giggles.


The comma between "tummy" and "she" causes a comma splice. You can rewrite it as,

Bella bends over and tickles Alice’s tummy and she giggles.
.

So good luck with your contest and I hope my review was helpful! Your story has a lot of potential here, and with more revising, can become poignant!

~Princess Ink~




LilyRose says...


This was really helpful, thank you so much.



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Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:54 am
thepapermonster wrote a review...



Okay, here we go. This could be interpreted as my personal opinion, but here's my review. Sorry it's long-ish.
So first, for the story as a whole, there is a lot of work to do. I would say you could through a few more drafts to fix it up. But feel free to ignore me.
Well right off the bat, starting a story with dialogue is kind of a no-no. Start with an image.
In the second line from the top you could have put a comma between “Tight” and “pulling”.
Passed instead of “past”?
“Jo goes to take Alice’s hand from her zip, she can see her eyes are red from crying earlier, she didn’t want to come to the doctors. Alice stands up slowly and they walk towards the doctors room.” – This could be better. Sentence structure, word choice. My opinion, but really your decision. Of course “doctors” needs an apostrophe.
About the story, I actually don’t find it to be all that interesting. Like for one, you didn’t establish a connection between the readers and characters. I would have liked more context to make me actually care for the characters before you damn near killed the mother. The characters have personality though, however vague.
Locked instead of “looked”?
“have PTSD”” – Did you forget the period?
“were allocated, “ - Did you mean a period?
” if Cathy wakes up” – I think a comma would have fit in there somewhere nicely, you know, for a dramatic pause.
” soon pumpkin” – Comma.
““Where’s your father?” Asks Bella, looking at me, a tone of forced innocence in her voice.
“You mean Brendan?” Bella smirks a bit, but tries to hide it, “He went to the cafe downstairs.”
“ – This confuses me so much I don’t know where to start. But who’s “me”?
” She had drifted away from her friends at school.” – How does this sentence relevant to the paragraph?
“then she felt” – Than instead of “then”. I feel like “ever’ could have been used in there.
Keep writing, really, you could have something here.
- MNSTR




LilyRose says...


Thank you so much this was so helpful




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