I should also say up front that I think the title of this fic is very--er--fitting--to the creepy tone of it. Calling someone "sugar" is a bit like objectifying them, and then sugar as something very appealing, and something to be consumed. So with those themes in mind I thought that the title added to the whole of the thing well.
Some of the best advice I've received is that poetry and clarity can coexist. I do pick up on the plot points of what's happened in this story, having read it a couple times and paid good attention to the clues you give us. I'm not saying you need to be more forthcoming with details. Rose's mental state is detail enough. Your description is beautiful, vibrant, brilliant in places. Some lines raise goosebumps on me that I rarely feel reading fic. Part of that is because of the theme of this story and part of it is because your phrasing of certain ideas or descritpions is haunting and beautiful. But there are other lines that look--like they are trying to make me think they're beautiful. Part of the wonder and amazement someone would feel reading Woolf, for example, not that any of us can live up to her--but I use her as an example of the s-o-c style--is that we wonder how they've done it, is that we can look back and see reasons for the descriptions, that nothing was done just because it occurred to her.
I took a class last winter and basically the professor's advice was to write on purpose. So many writers have come before us who have already said all that can be said, so we want to do it in our own ways. I think something about this story that I really do appreciate is you take a lot of time to craft descriptions. I rarely felt like you'd written something because it "came into your head" or something like that. The descriptions are unique and interesting. They're a bit grungy in places and then close up in a gloss in others. I like that sort of variation. The only thing I really mean to tell you is that some sentences I felt like, when reading them over, they were a bit random--beautiful, but strange. The imagery here of nature, for example, works well, especially compared to the mundane scene in the present. And considering the trauma in the forest.
Most of the time these sentences or remarks that stand out to me are ones where you've diverged from the physical. Of course, part of the loveliness of s-o-c writing is that you get the inside look, but it's easy to forget--and this is something I've worked on very consciously and still struggle with remembering--is that most of what goes on inside our heads does stem from something, however small, outside of our body. Now, in this story, most of Rose's thoughts seem to be going back between what happened to her in the past and what's going on in the present. And for the most part I get it. But some of the metaphors or comparisons--"have the delicacy of a paper lantern," "as sudden as a bolt of lightning," "forget the impact of life," "hear the cry of a hawk," "cloud of cigarette smoke," "a lone gypsy," "the madness," "into the wind"--get a bit too abstract for me personally. I think it's because I can't see how "cigarette smoke," or gypsies, or "wind" come into the story. How are they significant? As someone who can't quite tell it looks like something that might have sounded very beautiful when you wrote it out, and while it sounds lovely, a poetry teacher told me once that every word and phrase and turn has to "do work." In other words, idle phrases don't add much to the story at hand. This is a powerful story regardless, I just thought I'd point out some of the things like this that struck me as a bit random or a wee bit showy when I read through.
There are other things, however, that are beautiful and made me take pause: "the lullaby of desolation," "I'm a ghost," and especially this, "It is broken, it bends and shifts. Unalterable and imperfect, even the stars, they burn and die and plunge to the earth, to the hard soil…" I like the ideas here--of things too good and pure going down, failing in a way, and getting dirty. That sort of drove home the theme of what happened, I think. And that's beautiful construction.
One last thing I'd like to say critically: words like "soul" are dangerous to use in fiction, I think. There's a sort of mood about "soul," and the word itself appears several times in this short piece. There's a vague term that I hear around school often: we say that certain things are so "other," they're so--removed, or spiritual, they're the big things that young authors can handle clumsily and in so doing render the true power of the idea ineffective. To me, "soul" seems like a word that one would use when trying to get spiritual, and deep, when there are other, perhaps more fitting ways to do it. This story is sort of--I don't know, it's so full of earth and skin and sin that words like "soul" are too glossy and too posh, I guess, for me as a reader. And this will sound daft, but not everything can have a soul. Like, maybe the earth does, but can we ever really know it? The term "the sweat of my soul" is a bit odd, to me, too. There are other words I think you mean; however, it could be that this is supposed to be alluring and Rose is attracted to the idea of somebody's soul sweat? I don't really know. There's so much leeway in fic writing that even though I don't like it or get it, it could work. I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts on the word, though.
Overall, I like the structure of this. I like that you've made this event so prevalent in Rose's psyche and that it's transcended time, the way these things do. I like that you don't have to spell out what happened and we understand it. And I'm proud of you as a fellow writer for branching out and doing something different. And I'm really glad that you recognize that you've changed and that you were ready to write this story. Sometimes the experiment is worth it in itself :)
Author's Response: Thank you - I do my best to give the story a perfect title.
Thank you! I really don't know how to respond, to be honest (and I can usually write a novel!). Oh yes, Woolf is the go-to writer for SOC style. I actually hadn't read her until after I started writing SOC style, so it was lovely to see the similarities. I do take a different route, however, than Woolf. There's quote by Hemingway or about Hemingway (can't recall at the moment) that discusses his writing - it says that 10 percent is above the surface and 90 is below, like an iceberg. This is how I would characterize my writing - a mix between SOC and Hemingway, except he's got a very plain prose. So perhaps this is in response to your comment further into the review about those words or phrases that struck you as out of the ordinary. When we discussed and parse Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, the professor stressed the idea that many of her words and phrases are strange and sometimes do not seem to fit. Not that I'm Woolf by any means, but this is how I approach writing. I never give readers the entire package. Readers should be able to interpret the piece per their own perceptions of writing, emotions, their life experiences, etc. in order to arrive at some sort of interpretation. Those words and phrases have meaning, but they can mean /anything/ to any reader, it's all up to you as reader of the text. It's not to be showy or arrogant because I have the ability to turn a beautiful phrase, but to allow the writing, style, imagery, and description to create its own meaning without the writer interfering in the raw nature of the text.
Thank you for pointing out that line - it's one of my favorites and seems to be for many readers. It really does drive home the theme(s), doesn't it?
Ah, soul. We've had a rather heated discussion in class about this. I've been taught, and also gathered from my writings, that this word is sometimes necessary. We have no other word that holds the same general connotation for the readers and writer - that's the only explanation I have for you, to be honest. Sometimes, there is no other word or phrase that can elicit the same understanding or emotion out of the text and the reader as the word 'soul.' I've been writing for many years, long before I became an 'official' writer - but this in particular has come up again and again over my years. I've seen two professors argue over this one word and the conclusion is almost always the same - what other choice do we have than to use it? It drives the essence of a sentence, a theme, a story (sometimes) and frankly, it's an essential part of these kinds of stories. When dealing the the mental, emotional, and psychological state, with the heart too, the word 'soul' is inevitable. Personally, I use accordingly depending upon the piece. It comes up so often here because it is an integral part of the text and stands alone as an idea in context of the larger whole.
Thank you for the review! I appreciate it! :)