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Letter to a dead girl

by shima


Margareth Green

12th Avenue 45/123

Manhattan NY, 10020

Maggie Greensleeves

Edgar Avenue 56

Crowback,MN 04759

Hello

I don’t know why I’m writing this letter. Or whether or not I should be writing it at all. I won’t be able to change anything, anyways.

I sit here and think about us. What we used to do together.

The coffee I need to stay awake burns a little in my throat. I want to start crying.

Yes, the world is a very different place from the one we imagined in our childhoods.

You know, back in the day, when we were young, we could dream for hours about what the future would look like. We watched “Back to the Future” and “the Terminator”. We read “1984” and “ Do androids dream of Electric Sheep”. We listened to David Bowie and we dreamed of meeting Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust.

We were laying on the roof of that yellow bus somewhere out in the woods, looked at the stars and thought about whether or not there is life on Mars, about how the first aliens would arrive on Earth. You know, just like in E.T.

By the way, that bus, our bus, still stands there lost and abandoned in the woods.

We thought about the future, how by 2015 we would already have robots and flying cars and hoverboards and telephone-tv’s. Now we have smartphones and roomba’s and honestlyI would rather switch them out for the flying cars.

Back then you always said to me how I was going to be a writer, that I had a talent to play with words. That my first book was going to make me the youngest ever recipient of the Nebula Award and that I would have dozens of fans and that my book was going to be made into a Hollywood movie starring Molly Ringwald and Johnny Depp as the leads.

Look at me now. Columnist for a monthly female magazine. You know, the kind you always hated, the ones with tricks and tips about how to seduce men and be good in bed. Guess I do have talent, but in other areas.

Outside it is grey and cold and it feels like the air wants to cut your lungs. The cold light of the morning falls through my window. I can hear people talking, cars beeping, the music of the big city. I sit here behind a table bought in a Swedish shop and I am writing this letter to you. Using pen and paper, because there where you are right now they don’t have internet. I am not even sure whether or not you know what internet is.

My life is common and mundane, boring days that float by,coffee in the Starbucks every morning (that is a famous coffee chain) and getting drunk of Cosmopolitans and Martinis every Friday.

Like you can see I have changed my name. It was apparently too difficult to write beneath articles.

I was even married, for a while. Nice man, funny and a real joy to hang out with. All of his good parts – his sense of humor, his love for food, his general niceness – where finally sucked out, killed by Manhattan. By the grey giants with the glass eyes and the small office spaces that want to suck out your soul.

He finally could not bear it and…I still visit his grave every Saturday.

Then, on that day, I asked myself, what has happened and how did you become me ? What happened to that little rebel in ripped jeans, listening to AC/DC and Dead Kennedy’s, sneaking into the movie theater to watch Robocop ?

Back in the day, when I was young, I never imagined that life would turn out to be this way. That I would leave my birth home in Maine, that little house in a dead-end street of a small town hidden in the woods.

I miss my childhood. Why did it have to go away, together with that small house in Maine ?

And when did it happen ? When I had my first solicitation and they said I didn’t fit in their profile ? When I went to the university ? Or was it a slow process, piece by piece, until I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror ?

Love, Margaret Green, yourself 30 years into the future. 


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Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:03 am
Nyla wrote a review...



Hi there!
Lucrezia here, for a very belated review. (Sorry about that!)

So, I'll get the criticism out of the way first. There's not a lot that I would suggest here, since it's a short piece and, in my opinion, mostly strong—but there's a few things. The beginning, for instance, is probably the weakest part. It's not too bad, but it does start off on the wrong foot: it sounds portentous, like the monologue of a dying showboat in an antiquated radio play. I know you can do better. How do I know this? Because the rest of the piece is, by and large, very well-written. After the first 1/3, the 'letter' begins to hit its stride, and by the end, it's gripping, and powerful. So I know you can turn that first 1/3 into something just as good.

That said, though the last 2/3 of the piece are quite good overall, that portion can also be inconsistent at times, and occasionally border on overwrought. Just be careful not to make a piece like this—something inherently sad and sentimental—into something excessively self-pitying. That's my main piece of advice.

Another big issue—pointed out already by rosette—is the way the writer continually refers to "us" and "we." Like here:

I sit here and think about us. What we used to do together.


I can understand that you were trying to keep the ending a surprise twist and as such, wanted to make it seem the writer and the would-be recipient were two separate people—but it's one thing to omit the truth, and another to mislead the reader in a way that doesn't make sense. I don't think anyone who writes a letter to their past self would say "the things we used to do together." It just isn't logical. As a result, this work is no longer purposely leaving out information in order for there to be a twist; it's lying to its audience. It challenges their suspension of disbelief, and that's a problem. So, the solution? I'd suggest scrubbing this piece of anything that refers to this character and her past self as two different people who would "do things together." This might mean rewording some things and striking others, but it would, in my opinion, make for a stronger work overall—and you'll still be able to pull off the twist.

Another of my problems would be the excessive 20th century pop culture references. Don't get me wrong, I love pop culture; I love the 20th century. I can understand why you would want to include some, both to establish a timeline and because, c'mon, who wouldn't? But the trick to remember is that less is more. Keep the ones that are seamlessly woven into the letter, and cut the rest.

Okay, so now that I've gotten a heavy dose of criticism out of the way, it's time for the good stuff. And there's plenty to like about this. The idea itself is enjoyable, and the twist ending—even if achieved by some trickery—was great. I'm a sucker for a good twist.

When your writing is good, it's great. Parts of this were achingly beautiful, and you captured the nostalgia, angst and yearning quite well. The relationship between the current author and her past self—and the author and the past in general—is quite relatable, too.

Your imagery is very attractive. Striking and memorable. And I loved how this letter told the story of a writer's sacrifice, the way that some writers choose the path of commercialism and profit (i.e., working for a shallow women's magazine) rather than pursue the more difficult path of their legitimate goals (i.e., writing some great American novel). There's a lot of reasons one would do what the letter writer did—adapt to a more vapid writing approach—but it can be a soul-sucking choice that takes a toll, and I really like how you succinctly pointed this out. It was subtle, and probably one of the saddest parts of this piece. It also makes the main conceit of the letter—that the author's past self is dead—seem more understandable. So, how it all ties together is really great.

I think the last few paragraphs—and especially the last few sentences—build to a strong, interesting conclusion. It makes you think. It reads as a cautionary tale, and in that, it's successful. I imagine its message will resonate with readers and stick with them long after. That's always a good thing.

Overall, I'd say it's a very compelling piece, with some beautiful writing sprinkled throughout and a concept I can get behind. I liked it a lot. And with an edit, I think it can be even better.

Well done! :)




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Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:56 pm
Vincian wrote a review...



Heyo shima!

I'm a bit rusty, but let's dive right in.

First of all, this would be much more believable if you set up the beginning as an actual letter cover. Something like this:

Margareth Green

12th Avenue 45/123

Manhattan NY, 10020



Maggie Greensleeves

Edgar Avenue 56

Crowback,MN 04759


If you want to be even more stylish, you could do some Paint skills (or look up on the interwebs for a good picture editing service. I personally use Pickmonkey) to put addresses on an actual letter cover and put the picture in at the beginning. That would probably be the best to set a mood. Right now, I didn't know this was a letter for a bit, and even then I still wasn't convinced. It may be how YWS formats literary works, but hey they just dooon't look like a letter to me. I'm sure if you look at some of the poetry around here you can see a bit of what I'm talking about.

Execution of your message is just as important as the message itself. In other words, how you say it is just as important as what you say. Take this wonderful piece of work as an example. It's a simple message, but such a powerful way to deliver it.

Now, I'm not saying you have to brush up on your art/editing skills and spend hours pouring over a poem. My example was an exaggerated one. It was meant to draw attention. Did it?

Now, did this? For me, no.

I'm a stickler on presentation. As you might have guessed in the beginning, I believe presentation is hugely important. You'll lose a large majority of your audience with a poor presentation. Which is precisely what was done here. You presented a lot of random information right at the beginning that takes awhile to decipher. For situations like this, putting the presentation in the foreground and leave the crucial information to decipher later is such a smart and important move. I do hope you end up doing something like that.


Regarding the piece itself, it is a wonderful take on the reminiscence of life when you're younger. You do well to provide specific examples of things you remember from your childhood and contrasting that will generic, sweeping examples of mundane life. I can tell how the life has been drained from this narrator. You've done well here!

I do have two complaints, though:

1. The rambling at the beginning. It doesn't work here in my opinion. If this really is a written letter, then why would she ramble in the beginning? Or, at the very least she should not the ramblings in a soft meta part. I think that would give a little bit a of relieve to the weak start. Because weak starts are not greeat.

2. The husband dying. Honestly, it throws me in for a loop here. I know what you were trying to do (showing that she has lost everything, both literally and figuratively here) but it just doesn't work. I think it tries to drive the message home a little too hard, and ends up detracting from my sympathy of the narrator.

My recommendations here would be to either remove the part of her husband passing away or even take it a step further by showing her life not as bad, not as good (she has a job, a family, people who love her) but as dull. She settled, never tried to reach for the goals she had as a child, and she lost the wonder because of it. There's no more excitement in her life, and she feels lost because of it. Having her husband die weakens this whole piece.

Hope this helped! Keep writing <3




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Fri Apr 07, 2017 7:19 pm
rosette wrote a review...



Hi, shima! :)
I'm just dropping in to review this real quick. Letters like this, whether it be to a dead lover or friend or whatever fascinate me so, naturally, I wanted to see what this was all about.

I love the way you ended this. It totally put a twist and whole new perspective on things. And that title - mmm, you're clever! Your descriptions were clear and concise especially concerning what they used to and dream about - I loved those segments. Buuut this also put some questions in my head. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to go over a few points. (This is, by the way, completely my opinion and thoughts and I mean in no way to cause any offense!)

1. In the beginning of this letter you use "we" a lot, giving an impression that there's two people involved. But there's not. This girl from the future, what Dead Girl has become did not exist back then. She hadn't evolved into what she is now. So why the "we"s? I found it a little confusing. But - just a little.

2. Like you can see I have changed my name. It was apparently too difficult to write beneath articles. I don't understand these sentences. Why would she change her name? Why was it too difficult to write? You didn't clarify this, so... why?! I understand she was married for a short time, but did she keep her husband's last name and only change her first name, or was it a complete name change going on here? Either way, this was unclear to me. Oh, right. The sentence before this one you mentioned "the Starbucks". Huh. Usually I just hear Starbucks as well, Starbucks! No "the" or "a" or anything. Its a little nitpick but whatever.

3. Nice man, funny and a real joy to hang out with. All of his good parts – his sense of humor, his love for food, his general niceness – where finally sucked out, killed by Manhattan. By the grey giants with the glass eyes and the small office spaces that want to suck out your soul. I'm not sure if that first section in red was a metaphor for something?? But I don't get it if it was. Businessmen, maybe? Hmm, it was odd. The sentence previous to that well, I found it amusing. You say all of her husband's good parts, then add his love for food was one of those parts, was sucked out. XD I don't know if you intentionally did that but I am wondering: How does a person get their love for food sucked out?

4. That I would leave my birth home in Maine, that little house in a dead-end street of a small town hidden in the woods. This is way too many descriptions of the birth home and was awkward to read. Especially out loud - try it. There are a lot of ways you can fix this up, but I'd suggest you could maybe put some of these factors, like the "hidden in the woods" in a different sentence. This way its not all smashed together and ready to explode our brains out.

5. Now this is not a super big deal but I noticed it all the same... You give the addresses and names of the character(s) in the very beginning of this and mention the 'dead' girl lived in Maine. Yet her address or state abbreviation is MN. That's Minnesota. Maine is ME.

6. You end this abruptly. Very abruptly. That last phrase where she's asking all these questions - I'd like more emphasis to that. More detail. I think you're going to give it but no, just - Love, Margaret Green. I'll be honest - I didn't like it. It was too sudden! Too soon. I wanted to read more about this process and change that came over her, the whys and hows. But you didn't do that.


Anyway, like I said this was a brilliant work and I loved it. Thanks for sharing this with us, shima, and I hope to see more of your works in the near future. I'll be on my way now... have a great day!
cheers!
-TheKid




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Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:28 am
pixelstick wrote a review...



This is just. Amazing. When I started reading this I assumed that the letter was to a childhood friend and the twist caught me by surprise in a good way. You can tell that the main character feels incredibly sad about her life. The best part about this is all the subtlety. You don't say much directly, but what you do say gives off a very sad tone. The references to the seventies and eighties help to establish the time, but some of them are a little obscure and might be alienating to younger readers. Overall, this is phenomenal. 9.5/10





I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.
— Solomon Short