I really enjoyed reading “Open Me” by Lee Stoops. I found it interested that it was written in only dialogue and feel that this was a successful way to write the story. It is just one scene in which a couple is interacting so you don’t really need to know anything except for what they are saying to one another. I think if anything, all that this story is missing are the characters’ names. I feel that a name helps you connect with the characters but you don’t know their names. Even though you don’t know many things about the characters, you don’t really need to know much other than what is happening in this one scene. I only see this one moment in their lives but know intimate details about them and their feelings and struggles. I would like to try and write a scene or a piece of flash fiction only in dialogue. I think it is definitely an interesting and unique approach, especially being that dialogue is something I have tried to avoid in my writing in the past. This story flows because it is a conversation. There is no break between scenes or pauses for description or directions on what the characters are doing. I was compelled to continue reading because it was almost as if I was listening to a conversation happening right in front of me.
Stoops’ “Open Me” is a unique approach to a story. While the use of only dialogue at times could lead to some confusion, the characters were developed and several issues were addressed. Overall, the story was successful. The reader for the most part is able to follow the conversation and understand the issues at hand—the ransom note and the pregnancy issues. The fast-paced nature of the dialogue-only story eliminated a lot of detail, but did not fail to capture the change in emotion as the topic of the conversation shifted from someone’s missing cat to the miscarriages and pregnancy issues. One could argue that the most important elements of a story were captured in this format.
The dialogue moves the narrative forward by forcing the characters to interact with each other, and thereby prompting the reader to engage with the characters. Without details about the house, or the physical attributes of the characters, or even facial expression, the reader feels as if he is a silent observer to this conversation. Because the reader does not feel disconnected from the story, perhaps this structure offers a way in which writers can connect with the reader without the barriers of detail. The dialogue also propels the story. The dialogue (and the story) begin with the issue being discussed and end at a resolution.
In my own writing, I would consider modeling some of the dialogue. The dialogue in this story is realistic. I everyday conversations, people drift between topics and reveal fluctuating emotions just as the characters in “Open Me”. This degree of realism leads to a more believable story. Additionally, I would also like to improve character development through the use of dialogue. In this short story, the characters undergo some character development without boring the reader with lengthy descriptions.
I think this story is definitely successful. It was quickly paced but also slow enough that nothing was confusing. It flowed nicely and everything came together. The straight dialogue pulled out anything we didn’t need that other stories have such as: the color of the mailbox or even the characters’ names. If this story were longer than names and more detail would mesh well, but because this is so short and sweet we got all we needed out of it. We got a basic story then the story beneath it. Even without knowing the characters’ names we got to know them and their relationship more than other stories where we get in depth character descriptions, history, physical appearance. We get the plot, the characters, sort of a setting and just everything we would need with just simply dialogue.
When I read the assignment I thought, wow this will never work a story needs more breaks and description, or internal monologue, but it didn’t need anything. This length was perfect for the dialogue format. The characters dialogue gave subtle hints into their relationship and plot points without trying too hard. Other than the miscarriage bit it didn’t seemed forced at all. The miscarriage was clear when she said she got her period and with their later discussion, saying it out right I don’t think was completely necessary, and may be the only thing this story isn’t doing perfectly. Without giving names or basic story elements the story seems much more realistic and simple. This could easily be a real recording of a couple’s conversation. I’d like to try this in my writing. Not the entire story as dialogue, but more straight dialogue. I tend to have a lot of he said and she said moments, and facial expressions but none of that seems necessary in a story like this.
The opening line of A Good Man is Hard to Find- “The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida”- creates a tone of impending trouble. Flannery O’Connor changes the usual ‘once upon a time’ framework of a story by throwing us into the conflict early on. Because the grandmother doesn’t want to go to Florida, we have questions about this statement already on our minds. O’Connor uses this technique to create suspense which is sustained throughout with the use of foreshadowing. Nothing is ever going quite right in the story and she shows this with even the littlest details. As each small thing happens, we can feel something bigger coming.
A technique that I would try is O’Connor’s use of a single character as the cautionary point of view. While she depicts every other character as being carefree and often tossing aside worries, she uses the grandmother as the sole person that flags the reader that something might be up. Even as their trip appears to be going smoothly at points, she never loses this worry and we can accept (as the ending might make clear) her as the most reliable figure.
Something that I disliked and that I wouldn’t try in my writing is the way that the story was mostly structured around the events leading up to the ending, with only a short scene spent on the ending. Although many stories do work this way- with the actions leading up the to climax being the most important- it seemed like this story needed a more explanatory ending. Because it starts to end rapidly after the arrival of The Misfit who we’ve waiting all story to appear, we don’t get much time to wrap our heads around that character and his actions. Therefore, while the ending left me unsettled (as was probably the goal) it also left me a unsatisfied.
I went to a reading for my Aunt’s novel this weekend. The book is titled “Wild Point Island”. I read it when it was first published and enjoyed the story. The plot and the characters were lovely and magical. I did think there was a bit too much description at some points but thats simply preferential. Reading a story to yourself, you follow your own pace. You read want you want to read and skim the bits you don’t like so much. Sometimes I even find myself skim over long paragraphs without giving them full attention or even a chance. When reading to yourself you follow the overall plot or the main character. And at least for me the beautiful words or sentences don’t pop out at me when I’m reading silently (even though I’m a writer myself).
When a novel is read aloud the experience is greatly different. Not only are you relaxed and hearing the story as the speaker/author is intending it, but you’re also forced to hear ever single word and how they sound together. You hear dialogue and the he saids and she saids that at first glance you would overlook. My Aunt read the first few chapters of her novel and I wrote down this passage that stood out to me “I glanced around the too dark living room of my childhood home. Nothing much had changed since the last time I’d stood there clutching Lily’s hand, watching from the staircase as my parents had held each other for the last time”. This passage is something that didn’t connect with me when I read it myself. As my Aunt, with her massive public speaking experience (studying English for years at Rutgers and being a school principal) read aloud beautifully and rhythmically I appreciated it. The simplicity and beauty of such a passage like this stand out. Even though this novel is about a magical world with romance and action, this passage stand alone from that. It pulls in the narrator, her sister (Lily), her parents and just says what it means. It is so simple. It doesn’t contain intensely poetic words or big words, but all together each word bounces off the next beautifully. The magic of this sentence sounded like the magic in the book all combined into 4 lines. I don’t know if my aunt wrote this sentence to stand out, but just hearing it, it stood out to me. Just those little elements make the experience of having a book read to you so different than reading one yourself…
As I walked into this tiny wooden bookstore with a rusted bell hanging off the front door in reminded me of “The Shop Around the Corner” from the movie You’ve Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It was adorable and old. Everything was enveloped by dark oak wood. There was dust covering many old book on the many many shelves. The kids books fallen on a train covered carpet were in an organized chaos in the back of the small store. There were about 25 folding chairs in 3 rows facing a podium. As I sat in the front row I realized I didn’t even know the name of the store. Outside the store there was a sign that said BOOKS inc. I used my phone to see what came up as my location but only some restaurants near by came up. This book store was so sweet and classic. It didn’t have a website or wifi and no one else there was on their phone. The place itself puts you in the mood to appreciate writing in its original printed form. You’d never catch someone on a kindle or iPad in here. It was old fashioned and lovely.
Here’s a link to my aunt’s book if anyone is interested:
And here’s her website:
In A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Conner manages to really draw us in to senseless horror. I say “senseless” because there is no sense to it; no logic. She sets us up with great characterization and superficiality. We learn that all the family members have good and bad, and are very much human. The grandmother is the most explored, as it is her consciousness that we dip into and out of. The pettiness, the selfishness, the egos of the adults as well as the children makes them human to us. We feel the stress in the car – the anxiety. The short story could have worked very well exploring that and nothing more. O’Conner’s masterstroke is the bring in that horrible violence at the end. Violence in life seems surreal; it appears out of touch with the way things are. We go on with out lives and suddenly, out of nowhere, come car accidents and sicknesses. We wonder what it means. Of this surreality, perhaps the most strange is the nonsense that is serial violence. Violence for the sake of violence. That aberration of humanity, so senseless, is the meditation of works like Eli Weisel’s Night, or Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night. The only way it can be achieved realistically in a work of fiction is to bring it into a realistic setting; one with everyday human selfishness and stress. It comes out of nowhere in this shortstory, as if out of a hell we never thought existed. The christian meditations in so much of O’Conner’s work are possible in this not only through the dialogue between the grandmother and the Misfit, but as a human reaction to life at its most senseless. Perhaps the seminal meditation on nonsensical pain in the face of religion is The Book of Job. O’Conner’s work is like a compartmentalized version of such a work; as in Job, we must have what comes before the violence to contextualize it; to see how it contextualizes life. We are left wondering “why?” in this work, as Job does in the Bible story, and are left in the dark wondering. We could have been drawn into the violence itself, but are not, and are simply left with the question of how it is this could happen, out of nowhere, to these characters. All this would not be possible if the scene had not been set as masterfully as it was.
This story reminded me a lot of a Stephen King type film or novel. I thought the beginning of the story was extremely boring but after reading the entire story it made sense why the author would choose to organize it that way. The children, the parents, and especially the grandma juxtaposed with the environment around them made for a picture perfect scenario, like you’re run of the mill happy little family. More importantly, the dialogue between the children and the grandmother to present the conflict of interest and character really sets up the dialogue between the family and the misfits later on very nicely. It was very ironic that the grandma would be the one to mention that in current times they have to be worried about their safety unlike back in her day, all the while she is the one that leads them to their deaths. The beginning of the story sets a very safe tone, I honestly believed it was going to be a typical story that I would have to try really hard to focus in order to finish reading it. However, once the accident occurred and the misfit came along I found it rather easy to keep reading. I don’t think I would use this technique in my writing because personally although I appreciate that approach it is not one I take to. Also I feel like the tone was a bit dry, because there really is no enticing action besides the car accident. The reader doesn’t get to see the family’s death. It was more so about the dialogue between the characters; especially between the grandmother and the misfit. I think this story is more so about complexities and morals than it is about the actual actions.
In the story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, it is evident that the grandmother’s actions and words set the tone for the story. It starts out with her arguing with the rest of the family. It is clear that they are annoyed with her and do not even want her to tag along on their family trip. She is trying to convince them to go see their own state before visiting others but they do not pay much attention to her. Throughout the story she keeps mentioning an escaped convict. She tries to tell stories about her childhood and the good old days when people were truly good. She tells the family that you can’t find good people anymore and nobody can even be trusted. She begins exaggerating to get them interested which in the end, leads to their downfall.
I felt bad for the grandmother in the story because she obviously did not mean any harm and just wanted her family to appreciate the same things that she had always cared for. In the end though, they come across the convict and end up dying at his hands. Just as the family seemed to be annoyed with the grandmother throughout the story, as the reader, I was annoyed as well. Her character was rambling on for most of the story and nobody in the story, or the reader, cared much about what she was saying.
The title itself of this short story, “A Temporary Matter” lends itself to revealing a lot about the story in as few words as possible. In fact, a lot of the story revolves around “temporary matters”. The biggest example of this that I can find in the story, is that as I reader, I found it very apparent that the love between Shukumar and Shoba had been dwindling ever since the unfortunate result of Shoba’s pregnancy. However, the story takes a turn when, during the one hour of the power going out, Shoba introduces a new “game” for the couple to play, in which they both reveal to each other things, they hadn’t told each other before. It starts innocently enough, and for a while, you get the sense that this is how the couple will rekindle their love–because it really seems like that’s the direction things are going in. But as the title suggests, the power-outage was simply a temporary matter, and on the fifth day, the lights are back to normal, and so ends the little game. However, the couple decides to “pretend” anyway, and continue the game for a while longer, except Shoba then has to tell Shukumar something, and for this she turns the lights back on. The big reveal is that Shoba had been looking for a new apartment for herself in the few days that the lights had been off, and that the true point of her game was that she was trying to conferss this to Shukumar. Now knowing this, Shukumar retorts will revealing to Shoba the description of her child, which she had been avoiding. The story itself is very much focused on “temporary and trivial problems” everything that is temporary or fleeting, but it serves to show that these sort of trivial issues in our relationships really color the bigger picture. Knowing this, I think the ending is satisfying enough on a literary level. While I would have liked to have read a happy ending, that doesn’t mean that the ending itself is not a sufficient conclusion to the natural course of events that take place throughout the course of the story.
O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” sets the tone of the rest of the story by stating that the grandmother did not have any interest in going to Florida. The grandmother justified her reasoning by pointing out that there was a criminal on the loose in Florida, and she could never in good conscience bring her own children there. Throughout the story, the grandmother is often dismissed, and her opposition to traveling to Florida similarly disregarded. In addition to providing some insight on the grandmother’s personality, the beginning of the story also explores the personalities of the other characters. The children’s mother, who remained unnamed throughout the story, was passive and did not seem to speak her mind, or at all. Bailey was often irritated with his mother and his children, and perhaps rightfully so. The children were not well behaved, but often spoke their mind and disregarded manners. These characteristics were maintained throughout the story.
As the grandmother had mentioned the Misfit in the beginning of the story, she references the criminal in a conversation with owner of a restaurant. At this mention, it appears that The Misfit will continue to be present in the story. When the family’s car overturns and an approaching car stops to survey the situation, the reader already has an inclination that The Misfit will be making an appearance. The ending of the story is rather predictable, although not necessarily satisfying. This story seems to have set up an interesting beginning and then relied on the unlikely circumstances that follow to wrap up the plot.
In my own writing, I would consider using the foreshadowing technique. The mentioning of The Misfit by the grandmother at first seemed to be simply a method that she used in an attempt to persuade her son to take the family to visit Tennessee instead of Florida. However, as the story continues and The Misfit is discussed again, the reader begins to realize that The Misfit will likely appear later in the story. This strategy builds a degree of suspense throughout the story.