Fall


Note: This is a sequel to a story which I had intended to pass for my high school’s school paper. If you didn’t get to read the first one, just click on Obvious.

It was their Juniors and Seniors Prom. Nick was hanging around the buffet table. He was eating loads of chocolates, not caring if he gained any weight because he never did no matter how much he ate. He was careful not to stain his tuxedo, though. Daft Punk’s Lose Yourself To Dance was playing while each class took their class pictures. Nick was stomping his foot to the beat of the song while he sang along in his head.

“You look bloated!”

Nick turned to see her and then looked down at his belly.

“Yeah, right,” Nick said, sarcastically.

Alayne beamed. It was the brightest smile Nick has seen of her since she and that senior dude broke up during their Christmas Party.

Nick picked up a piece of cake from the table and hold it up to Alayne.

“The food’s great!” Nick said.

Alayne’s eyes diverted from Nick. He turned to see what she was looking at. It was the senior guy holding a senior girl’s hand. During the Pisay Night, the senior guy asked Alayne to be his girlfriend so much to her delight. Five months later, on the supposedly happiest day of her life, he broke up with her saying he likes someone else. Nick, then, stayed late in school with her as she wept too many tears of heartbreak. After she ranted to him about Senior Guy for two hours, she thanked him and called him her best friend and that she was happy he was always there for him. Over the Christmas break, they kept exchanging text messages, always checking up on her if she’s okay. When school was back again, Alayne was always uneasy everytime they had to pass by the corridors of the seniors. Nick was always stalling her with his little jokes. But he knew his small jokes weren’t enough to keep her mind off of Senior Guy.

Nick ate the cake he picked up for her. Alayne saw that and punched his arm.

“Ow! What was that for?!” Nick said.

“That cake was for me!” Alayne said.

“Well, you were busy looking at him again,” Nick said.

“No, I wasn’t.” Alayne looked away.

“Lie to yourself.”

Alayne took a cake for herself. “Why aren’t you dancing anyone, anyway?”

Nick fixed his tie. “I like food better.”

“Didn’t you mention your crush looks fantastic tonight? Huh? Who is she?” Alayne said, nudging Nick’s shoulder.

Yeah. She looks fantastic. Very fantastic. Nick thought.

Nick walked back towards their table. Alayne followed him.

“Uh yeah,” Nick said. “She’s somewhere here.”

He sat quietly while Alayne sat close to him. Nick tried to tell Alayne what he felt but he couldn’t because she was not over Senior Guy. She was still hurting, and he didn’t want her to feel like she doesn’t have anyone to hold unto.

Alayne smirked. “Afraid to ask her?”

Nick scowled.

“Oh come on! I meant to say was are your afraid to ask her to dance?” Alayne said.

Nick looked away. More like afraid you’ll finally find out I like you.

“Oh,” Alayne said, “Is she taken, too? I guess, we’re on the same boat.”

“She’s not taken. She just broke up with her boyfriend,” Nick said.

“Did he hurt her?”

“Very.”

“I didn’t know anyone from our section or class who recently broke up, well, apart from me.”

Nick glanced at her. Oh God. She knows now.

Alayne looked at him, as well. “Oh my gosh! It’s a senior, isn’t it?”

Nick sighed in his head. How naive, this girl is.

“So who is it, then?” Alayne grasped Nick’s arm.

“I can’t tell you.”

“What??!! I told you when I had a huge crush on…”

She didn’t continue. Nick pulled his arm away from her so he patted her back. Alayne buried her face on her hands.

“I can’t think of any seniors who had broken up,” Alayne said.

“That’s because there’s none.”

Alayne looked up at his face. Another music was playing. Nick knew this song. It was the song his father and mother danced to on their very own Prom – “I’ll Be”. Nick curved his lips. He had a sad look in his eyes.

“M-me?” muttered Alayne.

Nick nodded.

“S-since when?” Alayne straightened herself.

“Since last year.”

“And-and you didn’t tell me?”

“I tried to show you.”

“Y-you tried to show me?! You’re my best friend in this entire world!” Alayne said.

Nick looked down.

“Why are you just telling me this now?” She was calm again.

“‘Cause of our friendship. Like you, I don’t want to lose that either.”

Alayne shook her head. “I just got out from a terrible break up, and you’re telling me this?”

“Technically, I didn’t.”

“Of course. You and your cunning words.”

“But you figured it out yourself.”

“I don’t even want to fall in love anymore. Falling in love hurts so much. And now, I learn, my best friend likes me?” Alayne said, exasperated.

“I’m sorry.”

“No. You’re not sorry.”

Alayne stood up, looking down at him.

“Why, Nick?”

He looked up, shaking his head.

“I can’t just tell myself to not feel this way. I didn’t ask for this. It just happened. I’ve always been here for you, unlike Senior Guy, who in your five-month relationship repeatedly made you cry. I’ve always made you happy, always made you smile. I’ve always been your shoulder to cry on. It breaks me when I see you cry. I can’t stand how much you’re hurting,” Nick said.

Alayne shook her head with her eyes stinging. She walked away. Nick didn’t follow her. He stayed in his seat. He stared at the dance floor where almost everyone was, but he was not looking at it.

Nick closed his eyes briefly. “You fell, and you will fall, but I will always be here to catch you.”

The second chorus of the song began. Nick smiled with hurt.

“What’s gonna make you fall in love when I know you got a wall wrapped all the way around your heart?” He muttered.

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22 thoughts on “Fall

  1. Instead of “some upbeat song” it would read better and have more resonance with your reader if you referred to an actual song. It doesn’t matter whether your reader knows or not that song, but it will create an atmosphere, a setting, in a way than a generic reference simply can’t.

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  2. I hope you do not mind if I keep adding some suggestions as I read. When I post something on my blog, I always hope that if something does not ring right with a reader, they will tell me so. It’s a learning process, and I learn something new with every piece I write.
    So here it goes:
    “Alayne smiled brightly.” It is ok, but it does not need the adjective. What is one verb that means “smiled brightly”? Find it and replace the weaker verb+adverb combo with one single, stronger verb.
    This goes for everything you write. Search for these strong verbs, as well as for strong nouns that do not require the addition of an adjective.
    Your writing will improve substantially if you make this a rule. Adverbs and adjectives can serve their purpose, but just as with verbs and nouns, they only add to your prose if they are unusual, descriptive in a precise and enriching manner. Bland, generic, everyday adverbs and adjectives, on the other hand, make for bland, generic and unexciting prose – which I am sure you so not want either as a reader or a writer.
    I wish someone had told me this when I first started out. It would have saved me a lot of time and effort at the revision stage.

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  3. “very lovely in her blue dress” is another place where you can apply the stronger adjective/adverb rule. Perhaps she looked like a naiad? (use of metaphor, similes and comparison to strengthen character description) The reference to these mythological creatures displaces both the need for very lovely, because of course water nymphs are very lovely so the meaning is implied, rather than stated, and this makes for a subtler description. It also displaces the need for “blue dress” (which, forgive me, is as bland as any primary colour used for description usually is), because the reference to water implies again a particular colour pallet.

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  4. When Nick remembers it all, the sentence is redundant, as moving directly from “girl’s hand.” to “During the Pisay Night” already tells the reader, without stating it, that we are tracing Nick’s memory. He is the main character after all, we are already in his head, so unless explicitly stated, we expect that what we are reading are his thoughts.
    Cutting that sentence out tightens your text and makes for better pace, which in turn makes for better reading.

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  5. Since Senior Guy features quite a bit in your story, I think you can probably afford to baptise him hehe. To preclude the necessity of physically describing him, you could pick a name that is either descriptive of his appearance or his character. It’s up to you, but the first names that came to mind from the context were Grunt, Dash and Nova. Don’t know why 🙂 just something from the way Nick refers to him.

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  6. Complained, snarled, muttered, mumbled… This is a common mistake in beginner writers (and believe me! one I made countless times until quite recently). Dialogue handles ought to be invisible, otherwise they detract from the dialogue. We think we add colour and emotion by adding them, but in fact we do the opposite, and it scrapes the reader’s ear. So cut them all out at replace with “said” everywhere. Your dialogue, what your characters are actually saying, ought to be strong enough in itself. And in fact, if you re-read it without the handles you will see that you lose nothing by removing them, because what they say already implies how they say it. Plus, you have some great action there emphasising what is going on, and that’s always better than cluttering the dialogue with “emoticon” handles. For example:
    “No. I wasn’t,” Alayne looked away.
    “Lie to yourself.”
    It does exactly what the original version does, but the pace is better, and this actually has a higher dramatic impact that the one peppered with muttering and mumble.
    And notice that I removed the speech handle for Nick altogether?
    Using as few handles as possible also makes for better, faster paced dialogue.
    Since we already know from the previous lines who are the two interlocutors, we can skip the handles for one or two lines, only adding them later on, if the dialogue is lengthy enough that we need to make sure the reader can keep up with who speaks when.

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  7. Discovered a few more to be cut out: exclaimed, smirked, scowled.
    Again, your dialogue is actually strong enough that it implies these emotions anyway. There is no need to tell the reader how to read it: they already know 🙂

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  8. Another music was playing. It was a romantic song.
    -I will reiterate: be specific. Pick your favourite romantic song and replace the generic with the specific. This way you tighten your writing by compressing two sentences into one and paint an actual audio-image for the reader.

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  9. Nick said, rather than Nick explained, although I’d reconsider how she tells her this. It would be better if he only referred to her and her feelings, rather than focusing on what he’s done. Otherwise it makes him sound quite self-centred, which I’m sure you do not want for the protagonist.
    Instead of “I’m better than him” at the end, he’d do better to say “Can’t you see how much it hurts to see you hurt that way?”
    He had to let her come to the conclusion that he’s better than Nova on her own. Stating it is just… not cool.

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  10. Final line: ‘Nick muttered’ can either be cut out altogether, because we know its Nick thinking it, or replace with said or whispered, the latter being a softer, gentler alternative to “muttered”.

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    1. Thank you so much for all the comments. I will keep all what you said in mind. It will be of great help. As I am still an amateur, the comment about common mistakes by beginner writers are really going to be helpful in a lot of stories I am writing and planning to write. I really appreciate that you took the time to tell me all of these. It gives me boost to know that there are indeed people who cares about what I’m writing. Once again, thank you.

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      1. Thank you for your message. I am very pleased that you found my comments helpful. Being a writer myself and always striving to improve I hoped that by imparting some of the knowledge I acquired the hard way I would help smooth the way for others joining on the journey.
        Best of luck with your writing. I look forward to reading more of your stories.
        There are many books on writing technique, so if you are interested I could recommend a few that have been a great help to me 🙂

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          1. I am in Athens at the moment so don’t have them with me, but will be returning to London come Wednesday and will make sure to look send you the list 🙂
            And thank you.

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    2. I also would like to apologize that I have only been able to reply now because my internet connection has been really bad for the past few days.

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