Friday Fictioneers – A Reminder

This week’s FF photo is Rochelle’s own – taken from the cover of her short story anthology. It’s suitably eclectic for that purpose, so I’m intrigued as to what the fictioneers make of it. My response is below, together with previous editions again. Comments, critique and criticism all welcome.

Genre: Police Procedural!

menora

The Reminder

“What’s the picture, Guv?”

“That was taken at the first scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…”

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?”

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have their own human stories. Motivations that make sense in their own heads.”

“But … you said suicide?”

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. Old Lewinski raised the kid. See those crayons?”

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder-suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”

 

Version 1:

“What’s the picture, Guv?”

“First scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…”

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?”

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have human stories.”

“But … you said suicide?”

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. The kid survived. See those crayons?”

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”

[At 84 words, quite a bit too short. I decided to go a lot longer for v2, then cut back, as I find it easier to cut than extend word by word.]

Version 2:

“What’s the picture, Guv?” asked Detective Sergeant Briggs, picking up the framed photograph from his boss’s desk. He’d been meaning to ask for years, and finally plucked up the courage this morning when the old man seemed in a talkative mood. [The easiest way to add words to a dialogue scene like this, is to add narrative. This is the background I’d thought was going on anyway, so I simply put it down on paper]

“That was taken at the first scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…” [Another way to add words is to cut out the colloquial shorthand of the senior officer.]

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?” A menorah, a black and white photograph and an old telephone – off the hook as if someone had tried to call for help. [Again, narrative. I would have liked to keep the description of the photograph. I fought myself to keep this in the final edit, but ultimately, it didn’t make the grade, because having cut the rest back to dialogue, this bit of description stuck out.]

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have human stories. Reasons, motivations that make sense in their own worlds.” [There’s a saying “Nobody ever does anything wrong by their own view of the world.” I needed a reason for the senior officer to keep the picture, but also I suspect that saying – fascinating in its own right – would be all the more potent to a murder detective.]

“But … you said suicide?” Something didn’t add up. [If I was adding narrative, I needed some in this second half of the piece, but I was very glad when I could take this out again. It feels very hard-boiled Detective story-ish to me.]

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. The kid survived her. See those crayons?” [Given the ending, “the kid survived” is confusing, so I added her. It still didn’t read right though, hence the change of focus in the final version.]

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder-suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”

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34 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

34 responses to “Friday Fictioneers – A Reminder

  1. Grim one. The dialogue was very realistic.

  2. I too write long and cut, like a puzzle. This was a very good piece. I like the line about human side in the other draft too.

  3. Thank you for saving all the versions to share with us. I started to do that this week too, but was 1/2 way through the editing process before the light bulb came on. I love the final version. The dialogue is very real. For some reason I expected the child to be a girl. Great story, Jennifer, and thanks for the kind words on mine.

    • Ooh, I’d love to see the devlopment process on your stories, Russell. I wonder how different it is with jokes. The kid might well be a girl; I guess the Sergeant just took it differently from you.

  4. Great twist to this story – a very sad one – and, as always, thanks for sharing your drafts with us (mine started at 156 words this week but I managed to get down to 100 somehow!). Love your writing 🙂

  5. I like your idea of the human side of criminals but also the senior officer keeping his human side. I think the latter must be difficult when your job consists of dealing with people breaking the law or watching for people doing things wrong. As always, you wrote it very well.

    janet

  6. Great story. Really enjoyed your version 2 with all the process explanation as well.

  7. Thanks for visiting my story. I like your take on the objects in the photo and that you showed the process of your writing.

  8. moondustwriter

    Nice flash fiction fun to see your progression. A noir edge

  9. Jennifer, I laughed at the ending, not because it was funny, but because it WORKED LIKE A CHARM! AWESOME! That’s how it’s done! You and some others are on my “go-to” list because I know your stories don’t disappoint.
    Baby doing OK? Rochelle told me you had one recently.
    Thanks for this!

  10. I didn’t see where this was going – a great, and shocking, ending.

  11. Dear Jen,
    That’s quite a punch you packed into a small space. Well done. Thanks for sharing your process. I wonder how many words I actually wrote and backspaced over before coming to just the right mix.
    Shalom,
    Rochelle

  12. Oh My God!!! (shocked voice)… my reaction to the last line. How can Jennifer, with such an angelic face, write this?… immediate second reaction. Love it! Enjoyed the thought process of writing on display.

  13. This story just keeps building, becoming more and more dramatic. Ron

  14. your story leaves me with wanting to know more and more…arrgh, and tragic loss at the end. 😦

  15. i think the reason that someone was confused about the child’s gender was because of this:

    “Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. Old Lewinski raised the kid. See those crayons?”

    “Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

    in the first line, it’s a “daughter,” but then you wrote “…he was there…”

    that confused me too. also, a comment about this part:

    “You keep the picture to remind you of the case?”

    “I keep the picture to remind me that…”

    it would be more “word efficient” to replace “i keep the picture…” with just

    “no, to remind me that…”

    however, the repetition of “i keep the picture…” give a strength that feels necessary, even with the extra words. so it was good to keep it.

    well done, miss.

    • Cheers, Rich. With regard to the gender of the kid – the boy is Lewinski’s grandson, who was born five years ago. His mother (Lewinski’s daughter) died giving birth to him. The old man, cut up by his daughter’s death, ends up killing the boy and himself.
      And I agree that “no” would be more word efficient, but it wouldn’t work as well (at least in my head). The senior officer is interupted saying “killed himself and his grandson” so although the Sergeant thinks he’s completing his boss’s sentence, for the boss this is a new thought. I haven’t explained that very well, but hopefully it makes sense!

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