Story Two, Draft One

I sat down at eleven o’clock this morning and wrote for five hours, working on the first draft of the second story for my writing class. I strove to give the thing a plot. Too many of my stories aren’t stories; they’re character sketches. I can create a character — Lord knows y’all give me rich source material! — but I have difficulty creating a compelling plot.

I’m not going to claim that I’ve created a compelling plot yet, but at least this story has one.

I’ve posted Single Image here if any of you are willing to provide feedback, positive or negative. I’m not sensitive about this kind of thing; you’re not going to hurt my feelings. (I’m my own harshest critic in this regard. You should see how I completely disemboweled my first story after the first draft, retaining only a hint of the central theme.)

Remember: this is only a first draft. There are many revisions yet to come. The style is intentionally choppy. You all know how verbose, how loquacious I can be. That’s my normal style. The style in this story is forced. Does it work? I don’t know. You tell me.

What works? What doesn’t work? Is there any sense of foreboding? What’s too obvious? What isn’t obvious enough? Is the end too abrupt? Does the beginning drag?

I’m looking for any feedback I can get, taking advantage of this weblog’s built-in audience in an attempt to get as much criticism as possible.


On 26 October 2003 (05:59 PM),
Tammy said:

Ok maybe it’s because I’m at the end of a long hard day but I found myself skimming the descriptions of all the roads. Too many back roads, wooded roads, slopes, trails; the reader grows bored and more than a little confused. Here is how the roads and all pan out if you start from beginning of story to the end:

gravel turn off
gravel road to dell
walk down gravel lane
gravel lane dips
turns on gravel lane
race down the lane
drive to next gravel road
back down gravel lane
drive up gravel road
old dirt road
speeds down lane
the old road
down the trail
rocky road
road goes on and on
road bottoms out
back down the road
choose the path
scramble down slope
slide down slope
continue down slope
bottom of slope
across bridge
back across bridge
trail through trees
old road

Ok tell me I know nothing whereof I speak. You may be right. But I found it a little much and a little boring. And yes the beginning drags.

The man arriving is nicely scarey. Good touch!

On 26 October 2003 (06:34 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Thanks, Tammy. That’s exactly the sort of feedback I’m looking for. I’ll work on the roads and slopes in revision, see if I can’t filter some out. I already know I have to work on the beginning — it’s just a question of what to cut or edit. πŸ™‚

On 26 October 2003 (10:42 PM),
dowingba said:

Make it about a child who sees dead people.

On 27 October 2003 (08:01 AM),
Jeff said:

I’m sure you will find the spelling errors eventually, so I won’t point those out.

I do find it strange that Tallman would be wearing an Oregon Ducks sweatshirt. He seems like the kind of guy who wants nothing to do with a “liberal” place like Eugene. I think an Oregon State Beavers sweatshirt would fit much more appropriate.

On 27 October 2003 (08:26 AM),
J.D. said:

Something’s wrong. Jeff has posted a comment, and I’ve posted a new entry, but the site will not update…

On 27 October 2003 (09:58 AM),
mac said:

I disagree with Tammy. The roads, though similarly described, provided me with a strand to follow the story. I saw the day as a series of chronological events much like one would encounter a series of sights on a road in a chronological order…I like them, they linked the events of the story for me.

On 03 November 2003 (12:38 PM),
Lynn said:

You write short sentences. You should mix them up. Write short. Then long. Gives a better flow. hee hee
Check out Alice Walker or Annie Dillard – they mix their sentences very well.

On 03 November 2003 (05:07 PM),
Aurora said:

I think you have an interesting start here, however I agree with Lynn. The short sentences while giving you a choppy feel make it very frustrating to read because you feel like you hopping in baby steps. one. at. a time. A period makes you mentally stop, then. Continue. I think after a while it defeats the purpose you may have originally intended. Also you use the word ‘cursing’ three times in quick succession. Very distracting. There was a part where you describe birds flitting from tree to tree, considering the beautiful surroundings you are describing I’m quite sure you can come up with a less cliche phrase than that. You also have your character saying that he does not know anything about the animals, or the birds. Personally I found it strange that you made that distinction. As if birds were different from animals…maybe i’m just being anal retentive, with a hyphen here. Also, if you’re going to have someone saying “pitchers” write what they say don’t say that that’s how they said it. Because if it were a script that’s not what you would hear…not that this has to be like a script. It just doesn’t work for me that is. The repetition, like the short sentences, also got on my nerves. I realize it was intentional and there for a reason, and does give a sense of foreboding. However, it was too much. So work on that. I’m sorry I feel as if I’m ripping up your story, but I enjoyed it and I think it has potential, thus I am being extra critical. I agree about the roads too. Also if it is drizzling would Diego’s cigarrete still be smoking on the ground? well good luck!

By Any Other Name…

Denise writes:

If I remember correctly, you used to spell J.D. as Jay Dee. In fact, on your senior picture you signed your name Jay Dee. I found this interesting because I always thought is should be JD, as your name is John David.

So when did you make the switch from Jay Dee to J.D.?

When I as an infant, I was Bug.

When I was a young boy, I was David. (I still am David to my extended family, including Virginia and Tammy, and to friends who knew me only in grade school.)

During grades one through three, I was David at home and John David at school. There were multiple Johns in my classes (John Galen, John Kern, John Kyllo) and multiple Davids (David Sumpter, and another David whose last name I’ve forgotten). I became John David, and that suited me fine.

I was a squirrelly kid — no surprise there. One day in fourth grade I was squirreling away, not paying attention, and Mr. Zagyva was trying to get my attention.

“John David,” he said, but I didn’t hear.

“John David!” he said, but I didn’t hear.

Finally, he yelled, “J.D.!” and I heard, and I knew he was talking to me. From then on I was J.D. at school. I was still David at home for many years, but by high school I was J.D.

Signing my eighth grade yearbook at the end of the year, Mary Sanderson called me Jay Dee. I liked it. I adopted it, but slowly.

During high school, I called myself J.D. or Jay Dee, depending on with whom I was communicating. With Denise, and many of the other girls with which I was twitterpated, I called myself Jay Dee. I don’t know why, I just did. The Jay Dee thing died with graduation, though. It was just something I was trying on to see how it fit.

On the high school soccer team, I was Argyle, because I wore argyle socks to practice. It was my schtick.

In college, I was alternately J.D. and John, depending on the situation. I was J.D. to my friends and in informal situations, but I was often John with my professors and with the administration.

Today, I am J.D. to those who have any sort of relationship with me, whether it’s a business relationship, a friendship, or a family tie. (Even Tammy and Virginia have begun to come around, I think, though it makes me all warm inside when they call me David — they can call me whatever they want, actually.)

On official communications, or situations in which I don’t have a personal relationship with the people around me, I’m always John. I like the name. It’s simple and strong: John Roth. If I ever publish, it’s going to be as John Roth.

There are occasional instances of confusion. Andrew Parker calls me John, which bothered me at first. Now, I like it. Andrew can call me John. It feels odd, but right. Tom, the guy I work with at Quickstop Photo, calls me John, but we’re moving toward J.D., thanks in part, I think, to Mac.

Kris is Kris except when I am angry with her; then she becomes Kristina. When she was a girl, she was Tina. But, then, she didn’t really want you to know thatοΏ½


On 25 October 2003 (11:30 AM),
Mom (Sue) said:

Twitterpated . . . now there’s an expression I haven’t heard in quite a while! πŸ™‚ You’re working at Quick Stop Photo? Is this for Computer Resources or as a regular employee of theirs?

On 25 October 2003 (11:32 AM),
Mom (Sue) said:

BTW, you were named for a professor Steve had and admired at Goshen College. I have always really liked your name, as well as the names of my other sons.

On 25 October 2003 (11:36 AM),
Aimee Rose said:

J.D. …

During those long winter evenings, ages ago, Joel and I pondered, weak and weary, “What does J.D. stand for?” We’d known you almost a year, but did not know the significance of the initals [Something I’d always regretted, as I am overly sensitive about the spelling and pronounciation of my own name – Like Anne, I too can tell when my name is said with a “y” (Ew, the cursed, nasal “y”) – I was always ‘touched’ (not exactly the word that I’m looking for) that you remembered and called me by first two names, spelled correctly, of course. But, I digress …]. Naturally, Joel concluded that the initals must stand for Jackal Death, and of course, in our innermost hearts, each time we say J.D., we are secretly, affectionately saying “Fine afternoon isn’t it, Jackal Death?” and “I’ve enjoyed this Proust utterly, Jackal Death!” and “What say you to a game of Magic, Jackal Death?”


On 25 October 2003 (11:59 AM),
Mom (Sue) said:

My son John David just let me know that what he meant by his saying he was working with Quick Photo was that he was interacting with them, as in having develop his photos. (I just lost the e-mail as I tried to look at it again in my in-box to see exactly what he said, but that’s basically the meaning.) In the defense of my odd leap to the conclusion I came to, it seems that my sons are always involved in other work endeavors in addition to Custom Box Service, including J.D.’s work with Computer Resources, so that was where I went with it. Have photos developed at Quick Stop Photo? Why would anyone do that? -G- Seriously, I like Fred Meyer’s photo processing much better. But I do check Quick Stop photo now and again for scrapbooking supplies. πŸ™‚

On 25 October 2003 (03:02 PM),
tammy said:

For years I barely saw or knew my Uncle Steves boys. Now my Uncle Normans kids I knew very well. I’m sure this was due in part by the fact that Norms kids were my age. David, Jeff, and Tony were little kids who played with my little brothers.

I remember when David was just a young boy I went down to Canby and worked as a hired girl for Aunt Sue. I think it was only like a week or two. I’m sure Mom or Sue remember better.

All I remember of it is that the trailer was so hot. It was summer time. I also remember how picky Jeff was with his food and how all the boys rolled and tumbled around on the carpet in spite of the heat. It seemed like everyday David and his brothers would get in some sort of wrestling contest. I remember the orangish drapes that were always pulled against the heat.

Years later when we were all grown up somebody said something to me about jd. I had absolutely no idea who jd was.

As long as we were all kids at home we stayed in contact at least for Christmas. It was when we grew up and each went into the world to seek our fame and fortune that we all lost track of each other.

Now that we are aging, family has become as important to us as it was to our parents. It’s funny how you seemingly go through a time in life that relation and family really don’t matter so much. But let old age show it’s ugly face and we all start turning to our roots. Suddenly we find something lasting and comforting about knowing we all came from the same long line of descendants of Roths and Sharps.

We go to reunions that once we hated. Now we are the fat middle aged couples sitting around telling stories and trying frantically to preserve our heritage. We feel a rushing of time and with that rush comes the realization that we are writing history.

The last couple of years the Noah Roth cousins have begun to get together again between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And the last couple of years we have breathed new life into the dying Roth reunion at Zion Mennonite Church. The day has come to make our mark in the halls of time.

Today we are proud to be cousins. We give a nod of recognition to old age and in that nod we find David has become a middle aged man named jd.

Long live the Roths!!

On 25 October 2003 (04:15 PM),
Tiffany said:

I have had a few nick names over the years, but nothing ever stuck. Only a few friends even call me ‘Tiff’. I have always disliked my name, too formal, too blond cheer-leader, to stuck-up. I have often wondered what that means, when a person does not have a nick-name.

On 25 October 2003 (04:17 PM),
Nikchick said:

Unlike the rest of you, I never gave a thought about asking J.D. why he was J.D., but I do remember him getting testy with me when I wrote JD and not J.D. back in ’83 or ’84.

I honestly thought the Jay Dee (and jay dee) thing was just part of his e e cummings phase, where he was writing a lot of poetry without punctuation or capital letters. πŸ™‚

On 25 October 2003 (11:28 PM),
Virginia said:

“David” it shall be.


There are two major elements to the writing course I’m taking though the community college. The first, obviously, is writing. The second is reading.

One of our texts is the marvelous Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American Short Stories Since 1970. Of the many short story collections I’ve read in my life, this is probably my favorite. The quality of the stories collected here is uniformly excellent.

Many short story anthologies are uneven. End-of-year compilations tend to feature a lot of weaker stories, included only to fill the volume; there are really only two or three great short stories published each year, and that’s just not enough to merit an annual anthology. Most retrospective anthologies, though, include sentimental favorites, or cover too broad a time-span to be truly reflective. The Scribner anthology covers only stories of the past thirty years. Every one I’ve read is a gem. If you enjoy short stories, I encourage you to find a copy of this book.

I just finished reading Gryphon by Charles Baxter, an author with whom I am unfamiliar. “Gryphon” is a charming little tale of fourth-grade metamorphosis, more fun than most short stories. (Short stories seem to be typified by serious, somber tales of moments of crisis. Humor is an oft-missing feature in short stories, even in mine.) The full story is available on-line and worth a read if you have ten minutes to spare.

Reading great short stories from great authors is inspiring, but it’s also disheartening. When I compare my work to their work, I lose hope of ever developing the craft. Still, I’m not going to stop reading or writing. I’ll persevere, churning out my maudlin brand of fiction as best I can.


On 21 October 2003 (12:07 PM),
J.D. said:

Hm. Just for fun, here are links to other stories from this volume:

You have the time. Go read one of those.

On 21 October 2003 (02:15 PM),
Lynn said:

I haven’t read any of these and am anxious to try them out. I usually like anything Alice Walker writes. I have a book, “Ten on Ten,” or something like that, including the essays of 10 authors. Alice Walker was one of the essayists featured, as well as George Orwell. His essays are wonderful.

On 21 October 2003 (04:15 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

I went to the site and read Gryphon, which I liked although I thought it ended abruptly (or was there a link to a second portion that I missed?). I have ordered the book of short stories, as well as a couple of books by Edith Wharton. I mentioned on the family blog the books I bought today and I had forgotten I had Under the Tuscan Sun so may read it next. I have the impression it is lighter fare and that might be nice for a change.

On 21 October 2003 (05:35 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Hm. I don’t think the ending is abrupt, but it is pointed. I think that the point of the story is that these kids are in school, learning facts, that they’re going to be tested on their knowledge of insects the next day, but it’s not anything that they’ll ever remember. Instead, they’ll remember the “crazy” teacher who taught them that eleven times six sometimes equals sixty-eight. What she taught was of lasting importance; the insects are not.

On 21 October 2003 (08:17 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

Going back to the story again, I can see what you’re saying. While they were going to have to work at memorizing the information about the insects, they had no trouble at all remembering what the substitute teacher had told them. Is this story in the book of short stories that I ordered?

Best Songs of the 80s

One of our weekend events was a lovely dinner at the Briscoes’ to celebrate both Lisa’s birthday (happy happy) and the arrival of Albert Simon (who is six weeks old and gassy). During the dinner, Aimee Rose and I had a discussion—a disagreement, really—about “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. As I’ve mentioned before, I think it’s the best song of the eighties. She just thinks it’s creepy. I was more than a little defensive, and didn’t give Aimee a fair hearing.

I know we just did this six months ago, but let’s do it again: what are your favorite songs from the 1980s? Why? What do you think are the best songs from the 1980s? Are these different from your favorites?

I love so many songs from the eighties that it’s difficult to choose favorites, but these would probably make the list: “Bad” by U2, “Faith” by George Michael (which I first heard while riding in a car with Denise and Tara), “Subculture” by New Order, “Just Like Heaven” by the Cure, and why am I even trying to make a list? I love the music of the eighties (though when I say this, I’m generally excluding 1988 and 1989).

I think the best songs from the eighties are “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by The Eurythmics, and “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper.

What about the 1990s? It’s more difficult for me to identify favorite or best songs from the nineties. My musical habits were so different than when I was a teenager. It’s easier for me to identify favorite artists from the decade: Sinead O’Connor, Alanis Morrissette (whose name I can never spell correctly), Fiona Apple, Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, Mary-Chapin Carpenter. Yes, they’re all women. No, I don’t know why that’s the case.

So, tell me: what are your favorite songs?


On 07 October 2003 (09:45 AM),
J.D. said:

Here’s a site where people list their top ten songs from the decade…

On 07 October 2003 (10:21 AM),
jack bog said:

From the ’80s? “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. You can’t not dance to it.

On 07 October 2003 (11:09 AM),
Denise said:

Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears for Fears is one of my favorites……

On 07 October 2003 (12:00 PM),
Dave said:

Let’s be real clear about this. “Every Breath You Take” is a delightfully catchy song that for all intents and purposes outlines the thoughts of a man who can’t let go of his former relationship and is apparently stalking his former lover. Aimee’s right. It’s creepy as hell. The only other way to read that song is that the guy is sitting in the dark watching his lover breathe while she sleeps. Even that seems a little creepy. “I’m so obsessed with you that I’m going to sit here in the dark and watch you.” Weird, weird, weird.

And that’s from a guy who’s been there!

On 07 October 2003 (12:18 PM),
Joel said:

Dave, sounds like we need to follow this up with a little of the old foldedspace “virtual purge”. Anytime you want to start, I’ve got Tammy, Dana, and the guys from “Loveline” standing by.

On 07 October 2003 (12:41 PM),
Denise said:

I think ‘Every Breathe You Take’ is about a man involved in a relationship, but is having some doubts about his lover, so he is monitoring her every move. I remember watching an interview with Sting and him describing it as that…he wrote it when his first marriage was breaking down, and he felt confined…. like his wife was always watching and interrogating. Sting went on to comment that he found it funny that many people had mistaken the song to be a real love song. I could be wrong, but that is what I remember.

Dave expanding on his statement of being there would be fun to listen to….

On 07 October 2003 (12:41 PM),
J.D. said:

I don’t understand Joel’s comment at all. Just like I didn’t get the raspberry swirl thing. I’m so old that my bones are beginning to petrify…

Yeah, “Every Breath You Take” is creepy. There’s no denying it. But it’s creepy good. And while we’re on the subject (and to bring up another huge hit from the early eighties), what the hell is “Eye in the Sky” about, anyhow? It almost sounds like it’s the same theme. Except the “cheat you blind” part.

Song lyrics don’t really have to make sense, do they?

On 07 October 2003 (12:53 PM),
Denise said:

Ok – although I did dip my toes into pop music and new wave, I was by far the big-hair band fan…so some of my favorites from the 80’s were:

Photograph – Def Leppard
What’s it Gonna Be – Ratt
Dee – Randy Rhodes (Ozzy Osbourne) that may not be in the 80’s – I didn’t check
Welcome to the Jungle – Guns & Roses

So there you go – some motley selections for you all. I figured I might be the only one to bring any of those bands up as ‘greatest songs of the 80’s’…they don’t really deserve a title like that, but if you liked big-hair bands, those are some good tunes.

Now I’m going to put my black ‘Bark at the Moon’ t-shirt back in the drawer and get back to work!

On 07 October 2003 (01:15 PM),
Dave said:

Oh, Denise. Let’s just say that it was a reeeaaallllly unhealthy period of my life and leave it at that. I’m not sure that a public forum is really the best place for displaying my past follies.

As for a list of some favorites (in no particular order and note that these are not necessarily what I would consider the most influential songs)-
Modern Day Delilah- Van Stephenson
Eye in the Sky- Alan Parsons Project
Don’t Pay the Ferryman- Chris DeBurgh
Black Celebration- Depeche Mode
Chains of Love- Erasure
Everlasting Love- Howard Jones
Rock You Like A Hurricane- The Scorpions
Fascination- Human League
West End Girls- Pet Shop Boys
Down Under- Men at Work
Blue Monday- New Order
Girlfriend in a Coma- The Smiths
You Shook Me All Night Long- AC/DC

On 07 October 2003 (01:21 PM),
Denise said:

Oh – must add, anything by The Cure – they were one of my favorite bands in high school as well.

On 07 October 2003 (01:38 PM),
J.D. said:

Oh, come on, Dave. “Modern Day Delilah” by Van Stephenson influenced a generation of musicians to follow. HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH. I slay me.

On 07 October 2003 (02:01 PM),
dowingba said:

“White Wedding” – Billy Idol.

On 07 October 2003 (02:38 PM),
tammy said:

Too funny Joel! And yeh Dave why not take it to the forum? One hundred and some odd comments later you would know exactly what happpened back when and how to never let it happen again.

On 07 October 2003 (06:23 PM),
psionicpoet said:

I must admit to having rather cheesy taste when it comes to the 80’s. I love Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls and Tears for Fears best of most 80’s bands.

Consequentially, my favorite songs are “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “I Ran (So Far Away)”, and “Mad World.”

Side note: I like the site. Always interesting to read what fellow Oregon bloggers are up to.

On 07 October 2003 (09:48 PM),
Dana said:

How about Once in a Lifetime (1980)? Or Graceland (1985)

(Of course, this, this, this, this, and this aren’t from the 80s, but they’re still good…)

On 07 October 2003 (10:05 PM),
Dana said:

I’m still going to hold on to In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel as my favorite, I think…

On 08 October 2003 (09:49 PM),
Scott said:

How Soon is Now? – The Smiths
To Turn You On – Roxy Music
Never Let Me Down – Depeche Mode
Tom Sawyer – Rush
Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie
DE LA SOUL’s “3 Feet High & Rising”

These came off the top of my head.

On 19 November 2003 (03:28 PM),
Josette said:

“Cruel Summer” by Bananarama
“Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor
“Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
“(I Just) Died In Your Arms” by Cutting Crew
“With Or Without You” by U2
“Every Breath You Take” by the Police

On 05 February 2004 (09:07 AM),
Rebecca said:

every breath you take is a political song about the government everyone – Thanks!