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Weasel Overlord
8th May 2008, 08:21 AM
Hey everyone! This is my final attempt at filling my portfolio to its 8000 word limit, and it's becoming quite a monster, too. Portfolio-day is tomorrow, alas, and I'm not quite finished with it. Any criticisms will be welcomed whole-heartedly, even if they're too
late for me to do anything about, cos I've grown quite attached to this story.
It was an endeavour to show my tutor that I can write in the real world, although usually I don't like to. She said I should try writing something "normal", and this is what came out.
The title is from a quote prompt I found on livejournal, but I can't remember who said it now. ><

EDIT: I made some changes regarding the timeline, so I deleted my other post and put the changed version here so people can looksee.


Beware the Fury of a Patient Man


1. Ivan, 23 years, 1989

Ivan had never been a patient man. Every word he said was uttered quickly, as if the taste of the sounds in his mouth was vulgar. He would annoy his friends by finishing their sentences for them, and irritate strangers by pushing past them in the street with a pronounced sigh.

Up until his current age of twenty-three, every moment of his life had been spent in much the same way. From his tousled hair to his ruffled clothing, his entire person radiated impatience and with it, a sort of refined forgetfulness. His teachers had despaired, “late again, Ivan?” No matter how much he rushed, he still managed to miss the bus, or forget his fare, or his dinner, or his coat, or his creaky old wooden guitar that he only ever took to school once a week, on a Monday. Of course, he would have to run back home for the forgotten articles or go hungry, or get wet in the rain, or not have his guitar lesson.

He still had the old acoustic guitar, although the strings were rusted now and it needed a good clean. The instrument must have been ten years old when he was a boy and it had rested against his bedroom wall, blocking dog-eared posters of rock stars from view. Now, it sat in a wardrobe in the spare bedroom, draped in unused clothes. All the times that Ivan had missed lessons had crept up on him until finally and inevitably, he could not bring to mind even a note of a song or the breath of a chord.

It was on the subject of music that Ivan Miller was regaling the pretty black-haired woman with. Two funny gig anecdotes later and Ivan felt like he was on to something. She laughed at all the appropriate moments, angling her shapely legs towards him. When she laughed, she covered her mouth with her hand as if fun was prohibited in the pub on a windy Friday night.

Ivan had only been at the bar of the Old Turk for half an hour, brooding into a pint of cider, when she walked in. Her hair mussed and damp and her breath stolen by the wind. She closed the door carefully behind her and walked to the bar, fixing a few strands of hair behind her ear. She ordered an amaretto and coke with a straw. The barman scowled at the extra work, slammed open the door to the cellar and emerged two minutes later with a dusty bottle of the sweet liquor and a green-striped children’s straw. The woman gave him a winning smile as he sloshed some amaretto into a glass and topped it up with coke, then she handed over a two pound coin and turned to lean against the bar, drink in hand.

Ivan took a long, leisurely look at her as he tilted his glass back for a drink. Her black hair was shoulder length and cut to flatter her face, and her eyes were brown with a Chinese slant to them, shaded by long, dark lashes. She was petite and her hands slender, and when she caught Ivan looking at her, she gave him a cheeky wink that made his breath catch in his throat.

“Hi,” she said, turning to face him. Her voice was soft and it had a slight foreign lilt, as if English were not her first language. “Horrible night, huh?”

“No kidding. So hey, can I buy you your next drink?”

“I don’t see why not, mister, uh, what’s your name again?”

“Well, I never told you it, but I’m Ivan. Ivan Miller, actually,” Ivan put down his drink and extended his hand, and the woman took it and gave it a little shake.

“Hello Ivan Miller. My name is Xia.”


2. Alastair, 27 years, 1989

He sat in his blue Nova, worrying at his lip. A speckle of blood sat just above his chin unnoticed as he stared at the door of their house. The door was red and a curly number twelve anointed the middle, just above the letterbox. Nothing out of the ordinary about this house, and nothing out of the ordinary about the man sat in the Nova. His name was Alastair Brown and he had meek blonde hair, shaved short. His eyes were blue, and his lashes pale and indistinct against his white skin. He had been waiting outside his own house for two hours now, forehead pressing against the cold glass of the side window and his eyes squinting against the growing dusk.

There was a car parked in his space. The car was ancient, and its colour reminded Alastair of mud baked by the sun until it cracked and flaked. One of the wheel trims was missing and he had tut-tutted about that when he first pulled up in his own, extremely neat little car. Now, however, his attention was taken up much more by exactly who was in his house and less on the state of their car. The fact that whoever it was might have even been there for longer than two hours niggled at Alastair’s mind. He could not let that fact go. Whoever it was had been in his house. His house. For probably longer than two hours. Not like two hours was such a long time anyway - Alastair Brown was well acquainted with waiting. No, it was the anticipation that had a hold of him. The sweet, delicious anticipation, that’s what made the waiting so worthwhile. When this person came out of his house, Alastair would get a good clean look at his face. There was a street-light right outside their door - it often bugged him on a night, if the curtains weren’t closed quite right.

He rubbed his eyes with a knuckle, hard, enjoying the feel of fingers pressing against the eyeball; the darkness that swirled about his vision, and the dancing colours that accompanied it.

A noise startled him from his brief reverie, and he looked up to see the red door opening. The soft light from indoors illuminated the untidy-haired figure as he walked down the short flight of stairs to his car. He paused, looking back as the door closed with a half-smile, and Alastair clenched his teeth and his fist simultaneously. The man - no, he looked like a boy - was smiling like a cat who’d got the cream and the tuna at the same time. He stared at that face through the meticulously cleaned glass of his Nova, memorising every last feature. Messy dark hair, clearly a ruffian. He thought he espied a scar too, right on the end of his nose, but in the bad lighting he could not be sure. From this distance, he could not make out eye colour, but the boy was tall. Taller than most, Alastair would guess, and he had probably dwarfed… no, he would not think on that. He looked down sharply, thudding his head against the window. As the man drove away, his battered brown car exuding smoke as old as its producer, Alastair turned the key in his own. He drove across the street into his rightful space. It was his space. It had his name on, written in sloshes of yellow, like road-markings.

It was his house. His space, his house. And some… boy had invaded it with his smiles and his ruffled hair and his scar, and Alastair could almost scream with the amount of bile the very thought brought up into his throat.

It was his space. His. It would take a long while to purify it, to make it his own again. But Alastair could wait. Never let it be said that Alastair Brown was not a patient man.


3. Ivan, 30 years, 1996

Ivan Miller sighed and combed a hand through his hair. No matter how many times he sat and stared at the books, they would not display themselves. He hauled himself from his comfortable chair behind the counter and applied himself to the large stack of hardbacks that needed to be strategically placed on displays in the front window. Ivan picked up a copy of Making Money and a copy of A Scanner Darkly and climbed the few steps to the top of his ladder. Leaning precariously over, he cursed the designer of the displays and placed the two hardbacks onto their shelves. Whoever had thought that using two hanging wooden spaceships to display books was a good idea was clearly lacking a few brain cells. In reality, the spaceships looked quite swish, but they had splintered over the years, and you had to be careful when sorting out the display that you not only avoided tearing the books, but that you also didn’t get a splinter the size of a tree trunk in your hand. The only good thing that could be said about the displays was that they were suitably sci-fi.

Ivan worked at Galactic Empire Books full time, and had been doing so for seven years, ever since he left university at the ripe age of twenty three, his English Literature degree tucked under his belt and not a single clue about what to do with it. For some reason, his brain had told him that having an English Literature degree was certain to get him a nice job working with books. After all, that’s what bookshop owners looked for in their employees, right? Unfortunately for Ivan, no-one had thought to mention to him that books were sharp, and handling lots of them, day in day out, was a sure-fire way to get calloused and paper-cut hands. In spite of the constant paper cuts, however, Ivan did actually like his job. It wasn’t overly taxing; he got to work with books, which he definitely enjoyed. He only occasionally had to wipe down a table in the seating area, and the staff discount was worth any discomfort since Galactic Books was the main supplier of rare science fiction and fantasy for the entire city of Birmingham.

Most of the customers he served were your typical geeky guys - glasses-wearing, nervous and shy beyond belief, they only usually said a word to him if he mentioned anything about their graphic novel purchase, or brought up the topic of the latest changes to the Dungeons and Dragons core rules, something which was so controversial that even the most hermit-like frequenter of Galactic Books had an opinion on it. The ones he couldn’t deal with quite as well were the fangirls who came in just to stalk the bottom-most shelves of the manga they stocked, where all the - well, Ivan presumed it was just gay porn - was shelved. Each volume of this “yaoi” was wrapped in clear cellophane with a parental advisory sticker in a prominent place, and yet they were almost more popular than anything else in the shop. It always bemused Ivan as to why a girl would buy gay porn, but he felt just intimidated enough to not ask. They would probably draw him diagrams or something.

Lately, though, there had been a man stranger than most coming into the shop. He didn’t seem to be remotely interested in the books - instead, he’d just sit nursing a coffee for at least an hour every day. He didn’t even bother to browse; he would just sit and stare at Ivan as he went about his work, occasionally taking a drink out of his cup, and then he would leave. Ivan always felt a little discomfited to have a pair of eyes following him around the shop, but after about two weeks, he’d sort of got used to it. The man was quiet, and he didn’t cause any trouble, and after all, they did sell coffee. The rule was that you had to buy something to stay in the shop, and the blonde man always bought a cappuccino with extra milk and chocolate sprinkles. Occasionally he would tap out a leisurely beat on the round tabletop, as if he could hear music drifting on the breeze from somewhere distant.

This man had been coming to the shop for nearly a month when he finally spoke to Ivan. He finished his coffee, put the cup down hard on the table and stood up quickly, as if he could lose his nerve at any minute. He walked over to Ivan, who was working behind the counter, serving a short man with an X-Men action figure, and stood politely at the end of the queue. Two customers later, and Ivan was face-to-face with the quiet blonde man who liked cappuccino. He gave Ivan a half-hearted smile and extended his hand over the counter. Ivan took it with some hesitance, but took care to make sure that no trace of uneasiness showed on his face.

“Hi Ivan. Can I call you Ivan?” The man frowned slightly, as if he was trying to solve a difficult puzzle.

“Uh, yes, that’s my name, mister um?”

“Brown.”

“Mister Brown. Right. How can I help you, Mister Brown? Is it a book you’re wanting?”

“No. No books. I just wanted to introduce myself, that’s all. Alastair,” he placed a hand on his chest, just above his heart. “My name is Alastair Brown. And if the name Xia means anything to you, which I am certain it does, you may want to know that she is dead.”

“Xia?” Ivan’s brow creased as he searched his memories.

“Seven years ago today, Ivan Miller. It matters not to me whether you remember. All that matters is that you know me.”

“I’m really sorry Mister Brown…I honestly don’t know who you’re talking about. I am sorry for your loss, though.”

“I suspected as much. Well, it is of no consequence. Know this, Ivan Miller. I remember. And I will wait for as long as it takes until you do too.” He smiled a little smile at Ivan’s puzzled expression, then turned to leave. “I will be waiting.”


4. Alastair, 34 years, 1996

The bookshop where Alastair had gone every day for the past month wasn’t very far from his home, so it only took him about fifteen minutes to walk back. He put the old key into the lock and closed his red door behind him with a sigh of relief. It always felt good to be back home after a trip outside, where he could lose himself in the peace of his plans.

Alastair walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on. It would soon be time for tea, and he had a nice piece of lamb to look forward to. As he stood waiting for the kettle to boil, his eye was caught by a stain on the floor. He sighed and squatted down to examine the red-brown mark. Reaching out with a finger, he dabbled it in the liquid. Almost dry. He smiled and opened the cupboard under the sink for a dishcloth. After rinsing it out under the tap, he poured a little cleaning fluid onto it and knelt down again to give the stain a good scrub. When he was finally satisfied that it was all out, he stood up to rinse the cloth once more. He poured his tea, added a tiny bit of milk and one sweetening tablet, and then took his cup and a chocolate digestive into the darkroom.

His darkroom was Alastair’s favourite place in the house. It had always been somewhere he could find some peace if he and Xia had argued. He would sit down on the low stool with only the red safelight switched on and lose himself in his developing.

His camera was an old one with its detachable flash and lens, and Alastair had always felt that he had to develop pictures himself in order to do the camera justice. He made sure to keep a supply of photo paper in his neat little safe, along with an ample supply of ink and toner.

As he sat on the stool, dipping the digestive into his tea to melt the chocolate, Alastair examined the pegged photos which he had set to dry before he went out for his daily cappuccino. They were developing nicely, he saw. He liked the old feel of black and white photos - the way you could almost make out the colours from the different shades of grey and black. He especially liked the way that sometimes, if he was very careful, he could even capture the words on the lips of whoever it was he was photographing. He liked to try and guess what they were saying from his pictures.

Alastair’s absolute favourite of all his photographs, though, was the collection that Xia had reacted to so violently. His hatred of Ivan Miller seemed to give Alastair a superhuman ability to take amazing photos of him - his hair the darkest shade of black and messy in almost all of the pictures, and almost every pose imaginable snapped. In some, he sat in cafés drinking coffee; others, eating sushi with chopsticks; in one, he leered at a long-legged woman walking past in a skirt that was short enough to be a belt. Each one of these particular photographs was taped at the corners with creamy masking tape, covering nearly every inch of the darkroom’s walls. To the left side of the door were the earliest photos, to the right were the most recent and the rest covered all times in between; a collection seven years in the making and secret, until the previous night.

The darkroom was the single room in the house that Alastair insisted upon keeping to himself. It was his secret, his dark place. Inside that room, everything he dared not show the world was visible for all to see. Inside that room, he was no longer the man Xia had thought she knew and loved.
Yesterday, Alastair had returned from his ritual trip to Galactic Empire Books and found his fiancée sat upon his stool, in his darkroom, with a pile of photographs in her hands. There were spaces on the wall where she’d torn them down, and a few scraps of masking tape still clung to the wallpaper in places. She had stood up, slowly with a weary look upon her face. Raising her hand, she waved the bunch of photos at Alastair, one delicate eyebrow raised in question.

“What are these meant to be?”

“They’re photographs.”

Xia had laughed at him then. A mocking laugh, probably meant to sting him into saying something stupid.

“They’re my photographs.”

“Am I engaged to a stalker now, Alastair? Just how long have you been taking photos of this poor man?”

“Oh, don’t say this poor man like you don’t know who he is! You know exactly who he is, Xia,” he had said her name then as if it were filth. “Yes, you know exactly who is. Don’t you?” Her eyes had widened ever so slightly as the colour left her cheeks.

“I… I knew him once. It was a long time ago, Alastair.”

“It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, the point still stands, Xia.” Alastair had walked forward, then, into the darkroom proper, and Xia stumbled into his sturdy table, some of the photos tumbling from her grasp. Alastair gave a little hiss of anger and he’d bent down to scoop the precious photographs from the dusty floor when Xia shoved past him and out of the room. He didn’t stop to think - he’d just swung round after her, photos in one hand and a heavy bottle of toner in the other.

The blood was tough to get out. The toner less so.


5. Ivan, 40 years, 2006

After his talk with Alastair, Ivan had racked his brain again and again for a memory of her name - Xia, he’d said it was, but time and time again he’d come up against a blank. It was almost as if she’d never existed. After about a year, Ivan had decided to put it behind him. This Alastair Brown was clearly crazy enough to not be taken seriously.

It wasn’t until he visited his home town for mother’s day ten years after his encounter with Alastair that a spark of a memory found its way to the forefront of Ivan’s mind. He was sitting in the pub he’d almost lived in as a teenager - the Old Turk - when a sudden recollection of a windy night and a pretty woman hit him. Xia, she’d said her name was, with a little laugh when he’d mispronounced it horribly.

Now that he remembered, Ivan realised that she’d actually said she was from Birmingham. She was in Warwick on business, but when he’d asked what business, she was loath to say, so he hadn’t pressed the matter. As memories from the rest of the night came flooding back, Ivan began to realise that perhaps, just perhaps, this might be the reason Alastair Brown hated him so much. Oh, he hadn’t specifically said that he hated him, but Ivan could tell. There was dislike in his tone of voice, in the way that his smile didn’t reach his eyes, and in the way that he spoke with complete dispassion, almost coldly, about Xia’s death. As if he was completely detached from it.

With Xia’s memory, all the anxiety Ivan had felt after Alastair’s thinly veiled threats came flooding back. Seventeen years ago, his twenty-three year old self had been flushed with the handsomeness of youth. Seducing Xia hadn’t posed much of a problem, and it was only now that Ivan realised that she’d been wearing an engagement ring - a confection of white gold and diamond, simple and elegant and oh-so easy to ignore in the heat of passion.
Ivan remembered that her house had a red door and that it was in the middle of a terrace of white doors. That fact stood out in his mind, as bright as the red paint. His car back then was an ancient old Fiesta - he remembered that too. Peeling champagne-gold paint so dirty it was more champagne-brown - a memento of that year’s Glastonbury, where it had rained so much that Ivan near enough slept in his wellies.

Ivan bought himself an amaretto and coke in Xia’s memory and with the sweet taste of almonds he savoured what he could remember of that night. She had tasted of the liquor, sweet and potent, as she pressed against him for a kiss and Ivan’s only crime was that he had not pushed her away, then.
He had to return to Birmingham tonight. He had a shop to run, and assistant managers were only good for so much holiday cover before they reverted to their default underling state and set something on fire or accidentally sold the shop.

Finishing the amaretto, he slammed the glass back on the bar, swung on his coat and walked to his car. Luckily, it wasn’t too late, and a single shot of amaretto wasn’t going to show up on any breathalyser tests.

It was only thirty-five minutes to his house back in Birmingham, and since it was dark, the roads were quiet. Ivan parked up, made sure his permit was visible through the windscreen and locked up the car. It took five steps before he realised that his front door was swinging wide open, though no light showed from the corridor.

“Did I leave the front door unlocked again?” He shook his head wearily and advanced with caution. Whoever was inside might still be there, stealing his stuff.

Ivan trod as quietly as he could manage in his squeaky old shoes up the front path and peered around the door frame. All black and all quiet. No-one there, from what he could tell. He edged closer, fitting a key between his fingers, just in case. The sensation of the cold metal pressing into his skin felt reassuring, somehow, and gave Ivan the confidence to walk forwards and into his darkened house.

A blinding flash of white light suddenly filled his vision and Ivan saw stars.

“Argh!” He rubbed at his eyes hastily, trying to regain his sight but only succeeded in deepening the blackness.

“You didn’t say cheese, Ivan.”

firepokemon
10th May 2008, 09:50 AM
Well good luck for your portfolio Weasal Overlord I presume you have handed it in by now. If you have you should feel proud as overall this work is great.

The story is in a lovely format, an interesting format that one doesn't see enough these days (funnily enough I'm doing a similar type of format for the TPM writing contest). The work reads well, there wasn't much that seemed to be awkward, the paragraphs flowed well together and thus anything where I can read something easily to me means that its got something going for it.

I feel a connection to Ivan. You are able to in little time describe who this character is and what he is about. Where there is a problem, its with Alistair as one doesn't really know who he is. We know that hes discovered his wife cheating, for years it would seem, he has been spying on Ivan who slept with Xia. Xia later finds out about the photos and presumably is killed by Ivan. But where it seems to be lacking, is that their doesn't seem to be any anxiety or fear about what Ivan did, and what Xia did. While, this is a short work and thus ones capability of doing so is scarce, I would have liked to know more about how Alistair felt afterwards towards his relationship with Xia. Also I think Xia could have been explored a bit as well. Why would she have an affair with a seventeen year old, how did she feel about her husband and more importantly what compelled her to check the dark room where presumably it had been a secret. I guess this is simply a weakness in a format that is short.

The other concern with the story is some things don't make much sense. And where I think you needed to re-read your story.

First of all is just something that sounds kinda weird


From his tousled hair to his ruffled clothing, his entire person radiated impatience and with it, a sort of refined forgetfulness.

- I'm not sure "person" is the best word that could be used. I just found this sentence rather awkward.


It always bemused Ivan as to why a girl would buy gay porn, but he felt just intimidated enough not to ask.

- Another sentence that sounds rather awkward. I guess where it goes, "but he felt intimidated enough not to ask". Its really the "intimidated enough not to ask" that for me just sounds strange.

----

In Chapter 4. Alistair. It mentions Xia reacting violenting to these photographs. But then straight after that. It does this:


His hatred of the subject matter seemed to give Alastair a superhuman ability to take amazing photos of him - his hair the darkest shade of black and messy in almost all of the pictures, and almost every pose imaginable snapped.

Now I think you're talking about Alistair photographing Ivan. But I just find that it works awkwardly, as one first presumes, that she had hatred towards the subject matter. I'm not sure if I am making any sense, but it doesn't seem to connect with the first sentence in that paragraph.

----


Seventeen years ago, his twenty-three year old self had been flushed with the handsomeness of youth.

- Thats in the last paragraph but I can't seem to work out how this time-frame works. You mention that it took 10 years for him to remember the incident with Xia as he returns home. Which makes him 33 now? So did he have the encounter with Xia at seven-teen? Sorry but its confusing. Either I've read things wrong or there is an error

-----

I do find that the ending seems to be rushed a bit, as we find out that Ivan remembers Xia and then Alistair attacking Ivan. It just seems to happen way too quickly. I think the ending could be re-worked. I realise this was a work for a portfolio and thus certain things had to happen as they happened and clearly you needed to get the work in.

----

In conclusion. I think this work is formidable. The writing and paragraphing is superb. The grammar and punctuation is all proper. Everything flows beautifully. Where it could be better, is better characterisation for Alistair. Expand his character a bit, look into Xia a bit. What made Xia cheat on her husband? Why did Alistair become so obsessive about the affair and thus became his obsession with Ivan. These are things that could be explored if you are interesting. This story could be expanded further exploring such issues. As it is now, it has a few minor flaws, but those flaws are more than made up by the superior writing. Thus while there are some flaws, it still remains a great story. Well done I think you have produced a lovely piece of writing.

Weasel Overlord
10th May 2008, 11:38 AM
Aw, thanks fp! ^_^

I actually sent it to a friend before I handed it in and she had trouble with the timeline too, so I made some alterations. I'll edit the new version into the first post so you can have a look over it and see if it's any better.
In the new version, I put dates and ages in the titles of each part, so hopefully that should get rid of any confusion.

Hm, for the "intimidated" sentence, would it make more sense if I put "he felt just intimidated enough to not ask"?

As for the ending, well, I actually meant it to have 6 parts in total, but when I wrote it, it didn't seem to want to come out with anything after the last line. I tried to write another part to go after it, and to extend part 5 to actually show Alastair killing Ivan, but it I dunno... felt like I was putting too much in, so I left it as you see it now.

firepokemon
12th May 2008, 01:00 AM
The time frames help the story along immensely. And I do think that would sound better the revision of that particular sentence. Do tell us how you got on with portfolio and this story n particular as that would be interesting.

Weasel Overlord
12th May 2008, 06:44 AM
Unfortunately, the only thing I'll get about my portfolio is an overall mark - they don't give feedback, which is REALLY annoying. I don't even know why they don't, since every other subject does. I won't be getting the mark til like, July anyway most likely cos it has to wait til after my exams.

mistysakura
20th May 2008, 08:44 AM
What a pain about the lack of feedback for your portfolio -- isn't the point of this whole uni thing to help you learn? Anyway, I enjoyed it. It was very chillingly written, and I agree with firepokemon that the dates and ages helped a lot. Awesome last line. However, I felt there was too much in the story. It could have been a novella at least. Both Ivan and Alastair could have been explored much more. Xia doesn't matter so much because she's a peripheral character. Part of the reason this didn't make sense without the dates and times (yes, I did read part of it before you made the changes) was that Ivan acted exactly the same way when he was twenty-three as when he was forty. It's not that the characterisation's bad; the bit at the beginning about Ivan's impateience made me laugh, and so did his sci-fi obsessions. But there was just so much going on in the fic that I couldn't get a sense of a complete character. I just knew bits about him, but I couldn't predict what he would do in any given situation.

Alastair posed even more questions. Yes, he's patient, in contrast to Ivan, and a great photographer. Again, the characterisation when he was sitting in the car was great. But as events started happening his character also got lost. I couldn't feel his jealousy or any complex feelings about Xia's betrayal, really. Just this vague thing they call hatred. Alastair may be a cold person, but even cold people have complex thoughts. I just couldn't get into Alastair's head. And because the last scene was from Ivan's point of view, the creepiness of Alastair waiting until Ivan remembered who Xia was before killing him didn't strike me as strongly. Alastair's escalating, escalating path into madness could have had so much tension.

Personally, if I were the author, I'd just tell the story from Alastair's point of view alone. As the title says, the story is about the patient man. Ivan's point of view doesn't add half as much as Alastair's. Most things Ivan go through are seen through Alastair's eyes anyway, because Alastair's stalking him. So making the whole thing from Alastair's point of view would add a lot more suspense and tension, and give you so much more room to develop his psychopathic character, which is central to the fic. Alastair is the one who's driving the action in the fic and he's hands-down the most intriguing character. More camera time please :P But of course, it's up to you what to do. You could come up with something far more brilliant than my yarn.

Good luck :)

Weasel Overlord
20th May 2008, 10:35 AM
Hey, thanks for the feedback! I've actually been discussing the story with my favourite editing monkey (Plantae) and he also says that it could do with more, hehe. SO after my exams, what I'm gonna do is add a whole extra part onto the end, showing the last bit from Alastair's point of view. Possibly add in more flashbacks to give more of a feeling of Alastair and Xia's relationship, and I'll take your advice too and try fleshing out those characters some more.

Since it had to be around 4000 words for my portfolio (cos I already had about 3500 out of 8000 written) I couldn't really extend it much more than it is right now. But I think, with hindsight, I'm gonna do a lot more work on it. Ooh, it could even turn into an entire kind of... "life of Alastair" type story. Perhaps he could have stalked/killed other people! *ideas start to bubble* Oh damnit, stupid exams. *kicks uni work* Cannot WAIT til next Thursday, when I can finally do some more writing.

Bulbasaur4
21st May 2008, 08:22 PM
Hmm.... well, I'll have to play devil's advocate and say that I don't believe we need to sort out Alastair or Ivan very more or make it into a novella. I just finished my creative fiction class and we focused on short stories, and the thing about short stories is that they're exactly that- short. So of course not every character is going to be explored all the way to their inner core and you're going to be left with questions, but that's part of the fun of a short story. However, if you wanted to explore a little bit more with the characters I'd say that Ivan is the one to explore a bit more.

You do wonderful detail work on Alastair and you describe his actions and settings perfectly well that we get a clear picture on his personality. I've read a lot of works lately that simply tell, tell, tell and it was nice that you showed more than told. However, I think perhaps giving more detail into Ivan's actions and perhaps a description of his own setting - perhaps not the whole store, but his little counter that he works at - would give away a little more about him. However, I'd say for a short story you've done a remarkable job!

The descriptions, again, were wonderful and I love how you described mundane actions such as making tea. It was perfect and my professor would have loved you for it. I didn't read this to critique, merely to give positive feedback and enjoy. However, there was only one part that stuck out that perhaps I'd give a glance over.


“Hi,” she said, turning to face him. Her voice was soft and it had a slight foreign lilt, as if English were not her first language. “Horrible night, huh?”

“No kidding. So hey, can I buy you your next drink?”

“I don’t see why not, mister, uh, what’s your name again?”

“Well, I never told you it, but I’m Ivan. Ivan Miller, actually,” Ivan put down his drink and extended his hand, and the woman took it and gave it a little shake.

“Hello Ivan Miller. My name is Xia.”


This dialogue, to me, seemed a bit unnatural or rushed. I think he jumps a little too quickly into buying her a drink (perhaps have an awkward silence or show some pause). Also, the fact that they obviously just met makes her next line about "What's your name again?" seem unnatural, to me. However, on the other hand I could see it as her way of being a little coy but I think that since they've barely said two sentences to each other, that perhaps she wouldn't say that.

That's really the only thing that stuck out to me. Although, since you've already handed in your portfolio I'm sorry my advice doesn't help. Still, awesome work kirst! You're really talented and I'd love to read more stuff you have! :D It was so much fun to read!

mistysakura
22nd May 2008, 07:31 AM
Yeah, short stories are short, and there isn't time to find out every aspect about a character. That's partly why I suggested to focus on Alastair only. But although not all aspects of a character are explored, one aspect needs to be explored enough for us to get an understanding of the character, and for the reader to feel satisfied (which is different from knowing every single thing...)

Bulbasaur4
22nd May 2008, 04:45 PM
^_^ I just felt as if I understood the character Alastair quite well and that he was explored enough for things to make sense in the story and for him to feel believable. I felt that Ivan, if there was a character to pick, would be the character to flush out a little more through descriptive detail. Of course, that's just my opinion because everyone reads things a different way.

I also wanted to note one other thing, Kirst: I really liked the description of Xia. I just reread that part and found the way you worded her appearance to be very appealing and visual. :D Nice!

Weasel Overlord
22nd May 2008, 06:48 PM
Agh, conflict! WELL. Um. That is all. *hides back under her Roy Mustang shaped rock*

Kalah-senpai! Thanks for saying such lovely things!! :D (which reminds me, I forgot to tell you what I thought of your story! I shall send you uno pm-o right away :)) BUT ANYWAY. Something. I'm not sure.

Oh yes, the conversation with Ivan and Xia... I hated writing that. I had this bit that was meant to be longer, with more conversation, and all that came into my mind were stupid cheesy chat-up lines. And Ivan's totally not a chat-up line sort of guy, so I decided to take a short-cut, as it were. Not for the best, it would seem. But I've been thinking about that part, and I'm gonna flesh it out a bit more into a more... well, conversationy conversation.

Also, I don't think I could bring myself to ONLY do Alastair's pov. I like Ivan too much... however, I will add more of Alastair, since I need to work out whether I want him to be a sympathetic character or not. I guess I'll post anything new into the first post, so it's not a confusion of different versions (although it'll be a while before I work on it more).