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November 26, 2012
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I stood looking at his grave. My only son, dead at seventeen. Briefly I pondered what I would write on his tomb stone. What could I say about him that would redeem him?

Stuart placed his arm around my shoulders and stood there with me. I leaned into him for comfort.

“It’ll be ok Sarah. They will forget.”

I turned to look for any mourners who had followed us out here. There were none. There had been none at the church either, except for Stuart and Father Harvey. Nobody was mourning the death of my son, they were celebrating. Privately, but still celebrating.

“I wish none of this had ever happened,” I whispered.

“So do we all Seh, so do we all.”

Father Harvey made his way down to where we were standing.

“Father, where is he? Can he be in Heaven?” I was trembling despite Stuart’s strong arm around me.

“Ah Sarah, we will never know what was in his heart at that moment. It is said that if you believe in Jesus Christ you will go to Heaven. I think that’s why so many death row prisoners convert to Christianity. As to whether Keegan is in Heaven, I can’t say for sure. I just can’t say.”

“But Father, he was a good boy. He WAS. Where did I go wrong Father? Was I such a bad mother?”

“It’s not your fault Seh,” Stuart interjected, hugging me closer.

“But whose fault is it then? Who is to blame? God?”

“God is not to blame either Sarah,” Father Harvey murmured. “Yes, sometimes bad things happen and we blame God, we are angry at Him. Like with Brett. People need someone to blame, and when they can’t blame a certain person they turn to God.” He cleared his throat. “But God tests us with trials. He tests our faith...”

“So I lacked faith?”

He looked at me pityingly. “Maybe Keegan lacked faith.”

“My son was brought up in a good Christian home. He attended mass every Sunday. He had faith Father, he had faith!”

In the distance I heard laughter and cheering. My face went beet red.

“Maybe he placed his faith in the wrong things Sarah,” Father Harvey was trying to be kind. “Maybe he didn’t really believe in God, but in whatever caused him to do what he did.”

“Why did he do it?”

“We will never know Seh,” Stuart rubbed my shoulder.

“Will he ever be redeemed?”

“The people will forget eventually,” Father Harvey spoke authoritatively. “If not, I will have many people coming to confess un-forgiveness and anger after the sermon I am going to preach on Sunday.”

Stuart turned me ever so slightly away from the grave, and the three of us began making our way back to the church.

“Feel free to sit awhile inside Sarah,” Father Harvey placed his hand on my shoulder as we reached the door. Then he turned and walked away.

I knew that I wouldn’t. There would be people coming soon, and I know that seeing me here would turn them away. They couldn’t bear to see me at the church.

“Stu, I’m not sure I believe in God anymore.”

“Neither am I Seh, neither am I.”

Making our way down the street we passed a few townsfolk. Each and everyone stared at me with hatred in their eyes. Some with disgust. The only ones who had any pity for me were Stuart and Father Harvey. The only friends I had at the moment.

Today I had buried my son, but it seems that I had lost him long before.
Changed the prologue and the old prologue became chapter one. What do you think?
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:iconthefs:
Hey Jo, it’s Ed. Critiquing through #SuperWritersHelp!

This seems familiar… but hey, I haven’t gone through it in detail before. I did get slightly confused with all the names of different people the first time I read it. You’ve got Stuart, Keegan and Brett who are similar. Keegan and Brett are only mentioned once. I know it’s hard to say who they are without begin horribly expositional, but it might be a good idea. To be honest, do you need to mention them at all? Father Harvey and Sarah are fine, though.

There’s very little description. It could be hard to justify, since it’s Sarah’s narrative at the moment. That said, she’s just buried her son, and thinks the whole town is looking at her. My favourite bit is when there’s laughter and she thinks it’s at her. You could build in more of her paranoia through a creative semantic field (about being watched, being alone etc). Could the weather be cold, because that’s how she feels? Could there be an angel guarding a graveside, could it stare at her? What would she think if it did? It could bring another element to the story. It would help to bring more techniques to the narrative, too.

Specific notes:
-I think ‘tombstone’ is one word.
-“So do we all Seh, so do we all.” – I’m not sure what it is about this that means it doesn’t sound right to me. It might just be odd wording. I expect it to be: ‘We all do, Seh. We all do.’
-I don’t think you need to capitalize ‘WAS’. I think the repetition is enough.
-I think there should be a period, not a comma here (the tag doesn’t quite relate enough to be in the same sentence): “Maybe he placed his faith in the wrong things Sarah(period)” Father Harvey was trying to be kind.
-“Each and everyone stared at me…” – ‘everyone’ needs a space. It’s like saying ‘Each and everyperson stared at me…’
-“The only friends I had at the moment.” – ‘in the moment’ is present tense. It’s a strange one where ‘the’ becomes the present form of ‘that’. It jars with ‘had’ which is definitely past. I suggest: ‘At that moment (or At the time), they were the only friends I had.’
-I don’t think you need ‘it seems’ because, from her point of view, she definitely did. She could be certain with her words. ‘I buried my son that day. But I’d lost him long before.’

Stuart could be more direct. He doesn’t really achieve much in this scene. It would be good to see more of his character than just agreeing or stating the obvious. What does he want out of this? To get closer to Sarah? How could he do that? “Come back to my place for a while. You’re freezing.”

What does Father Harvey want? To keep Sarah and Stuart apart maybe (I’ve slightly forgotten the plot, doesn’t Father H want to bring Sarah back to God?) How could be do that? I know he wants to bring her back to the church, but he doesn’t try very hard.

By working through the wants of the character, it’s much easier to get their purpose across to the audience.

Overall, it’s a nice opening. We don’t quite get enough of character through, or a wider sense of where they are. But you use speech creatively, and don’t ramble. Economic speech is far more interesting to read, because it does several things at once (and it’s more real!) Plot is good though, we know Keegan is dead, but we’re not sure how yet. Lots of intrigue as why she feels like she’s being judged (with disgust) by the rest of the town.

If you’ve got any questions, just give me a shout =D
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OHiNeedTea Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2013   Writer
I really like this piece, it draws the reader in and keeps us intrigued throughout. I feel that some parts could do with development and that there could be more characterisation to let us know more about the other characters but since this is a prologue you could build on that throughout the novel.

The story line seems interesting. The line "What could I say about him that would redeem him?" immediately has us asking what the son has done. We get hints throughout that engage us and propels us further - this makes the prologue effective since it leaves us wanting to read on.
I particularly like how you have Father Harvey note that "I think that’s why so many death row prisoners convert to Christianity". This makes us wonder if her son has committed some kind of crime, especially when she mentions how everyone is celebrating rather than mourning.

I think the dialogue is very good and realistic throughout, although I wasn't sure of it in some places. One of which is when you write "but in whatever caused him to do what he did." This feels a bit too long and unnatural, maybe it should have been "whatever cause him to do it".
Also, you write that Farther Harvey "murmered" when he says “God is not to blame either Sarah," but is this really some thing that a Vicar/Priest would murmer under his breath, or something he would say affirmatively?

The piece could also be improved and developed upon by using more description and small observed details of the characters. There's very little in the way of imagery or sensory stimulus but these could let us further into the mind/feelings of the main character. Her son has just died but we don't really know how she feels about it. Obviously she's anxious for his soul but I don't get a feeling of devastation that normally comes with the loss of a child - not to mention an only child. You could pull in bits of the world to show us how she feels, is the sky to bright for her? Is it too dim? Is it a warm day but she feels cold? I don't mean to say you should write "I thought it was cold even though everyone else was hot" but it could be interesting to try and tie it in a little.

I would like to know more about the other characters. You could add more description of what they're doing and what they're wearing. This could also shed more light on the protagonist's character as well by letting us know whether her internal response to them matches her actions. Since this is a prologue though, this could probably be done in future chapters.

I think you could lose "for comfort" from the line "I leaned into him for comfort" - I mean, why else do people lean on other people? I think that if you left "for comfort" out, the reader can gather that she needs comforting but also maybe that she's in such a state of devastation that she needs someone else to steady her and hold onto her.

I'm being super picky here, but I think "Where did I go wrong Father?" should have a comma before "Father", just because when you read it out loud it's a bit too quick. Also, you could put an exclamation mark after "WAS" rather than capatalising it.

Towards the end, I think the tense starts to get a bit tricky. You write "I know that seeing me here would turn them away" but I think it should've been "I knew that seeing me there" unless when she's writing/telling the story she was doing it from the church.

I find the following quote quite problematic:
"The only ones who had any pity for me were Stuart and Father Harvey. The only friends I had at the moment."
The first sentence just feels a bit awkward. I feel like the important bit is that they're the only people who feel sorry for her, so perhaps that should come at the end of the sentence: "Stuart and Father Harvey were the only ones who had any pity for me," I think that the next clause should be hyphened so that it's something along the lines of "Stuart and Father Harvey were the only ones who had any pity for me - my only friends". I don't think you need "at the moment" especially as it doesn't correspond with the tense (at the moment is present tense but the rest is written in past tense).

You also write "everyone" when I think it should be "every one" - probs just a typo.

At the end, you write "today" which is confusing because that would mean she's writing the story on the same day, in which case there would probably be some raw emotion going on. I'd avoid "Today" altogether and just end with "I had buried my son, but it seems that I had lost him long before" or "I buried my son...I lost him" to add my immediacy to it. (By ... I'm just shortening the quote, not meaning you should chop out the middle)

The ending is very effective, since we know she felt that she had lost him but we don't know why - did he fall in with the wrong crowd? Did he go missing? These questions make us want to read on, thus making the prologue very effective.

Well done, keep it up.
PS, i have a pdf highlighting exactly where the things I've highlighted are and also any minor slips that I can send if you note me.
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:icondiluculi:
Diluculi Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
This is a really interesting beginning :)
It took me a while to understand the first paragraph, but after reading teh second it all made sense ^^
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:iconmagicaljoey:
MagicalJoey Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2012   Writer
Is the first paragraph 'hooky' enough or is it too confusing?
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:icondiluculi:
Diluculi Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I think it's hooky :)
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