1. sleepwalker

    sleepwalker New Member

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    How to write this scene of my ill mother?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by sleepwalker, Apr 17, 2017.

    I've been working on a project, regarding my mother's mental illness and what it was like growing up with her. I was writing about a moment I had as a child, where my mother pretended/thought she was dying of demonic activity (in this case, she believed my father was cursing her). Growing up, and being quite young... we believed her all the time. But I can't get past this rough draft I wrote. It just doesn't seem to flow right, and capture the emotion of the moment of seeing somebody die in a child's perspective. Any tips for improvement would help tremendously, and is greatly appreciated. Rough draft #1:

    “Mother?” I called out. “In here”, her croaky voice came from the living room. She was sitting on the sofa chair with her right hand clutching her chest, and breathed heavily. “What’s wrong?”, I asked, panicking. Mother pinched her eyebrows together. “I don’t feel good. My heart is beating really fast, and I can’t breathe”.

    What do I do, what do i do? “Slava, Andy!” [names of my brother's], I cried out. I placed my hand on Mother’s forehead. Her skin felt cold, and stuck to my palm. The two boys stormed in. “I’m dying” she whispered. “No, Mother”, Slava said. “We need to get you to the hospital now”. Her eyes closed as she descended into a deeper place of where she can cope. “There is no point”, she said. “What?” Slava asked in an incredulous tone, hurrying over to the telephone. “Of course there is!” She lifted her hand to motion for him to stop. “It’s demonic”, she snarled through gritted teeth. “It’s father, he is cursing me”. Slava held the receiver to his ear, and his fingers hesitantly floated over the numbered keys. His eyes flickered to Mother and back at the phone. “There is not enough time!” she insisted. With difficulty like it was glued to the palm of his hand, he let the receiver drop. Mother opened her arms with a faint smile, and we all collapsed and squeezed into her small body. “There has to be something we can do”, Slava said. “He is too strong”, Mother’s voice quavered. Her shoulders shook when she exhaled,and her tears ran down my neck. Our embrace was hardly comforting. It was desperate. Our hands grasped a part of Mother’s clothing, like it would keep her from leaving us. “Don’t go”, I whispered, pressing my face into her blouse. She started humming a nursery rhyme between her sobs, rocking us from side to side. After a ten minutes, the rocking started to wane and so did her heaving until it came to a full stop. My heart jolted. I pulled my head back to stare at her soft face. There was gentle movement of her chest, and my body was washed with a wave of relief. She just fell asleep. Andy raked his fingers through his air, and blankly stared at her. “She will be okay”, he concluded after a few minutes. “Just let her sleep it off”. Without another word, the boys went to bed. Meanwhile, I drew her some pictures of us as happy family. I left them on her lap for when she wakes up, and curled up on the couch with a blanket.
     
  2. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    “Mother?” I called out.

    “In here." Her croaky voice came from the living room. I followed the sound of her voice. She was sitting on the sofa chair with her right hand clutching her chest, and breathed heavily.

    “What’s wrong?”, I asked, panicking.

    Mother pinched her eyebrows together. “I don’t feel good. My heart is beating really fast, and I can’t breathe”.

    Inconsistent tense. 'was breathing' is past continuous tense, and 'breathed' is past simple tense. Inconsistent tenses will make for a disjointed tone when reading.

    What do I do, what do i do? “Slava, Andy!” [names of my brother's], I cried out. I placed my hand on Mother’s forehead. Her skin felt cold, and stuck to my palm. The two boys stormed in.

    “I’m dying” she whispered.

    “No, Mother”, Slava said. “We need to get you to the hospital now”.

    Her eyes closed as she descended into a deeper place of where she can cope. “There is no point”, she said.

    'where she can cope' is present tense. For a cohesive piece of writing, the tense needs to stay the same. In this case, it would be best stay in past simple tense, which is the tense in which most of this piece is written.

    “What?” Slava asked in an incredulous tone, hurrying over to the telephone. “Of course there is!”

    She lifted her hand to motion for him to stop. “It’s demonic”, she snarled through gritted teeth. “It’s father, he is cursing me”.

    Slava held the receiver to his ear, and his fingers hesitantly floated over the numbered keys. His eyes flickered to Mother and back at the phone.

    “There is not enough time!” she insisted.

    With difficulty, like it was glued to the palm of his hand, he let the receiver drop. Mother opened her arms with a faint smile, and we all collapsed and squeezed into her small body.

    “There has to be something we can do”, Slava said.

    “He is too strong”, Mother’s voice quavered. Her shoulders shook when she exhaled,and her tears ran down my neck. Our embrace was hardly comforting. It was desperate. Our hands grasped a part of Mother’s clothing, like it would keep her from leaving us.

    “Don’t go”, I whispered, pressing my face into her blouse. She started humming a nursery rhyme between her sobs, rocking us from side to side. After a ten minutes, the rocking started to wane and so did her heaving until it came to a full stop. My heart jolted. I pulled my head back to stare at her soft face. There was gentle movement of her chest, and my body was washed with a wave of relief. She just fell asleep. Andy raked his fingers through his air, and blankly stared at her.

    “She will be okay”, he concluded after a few minutes. “Just let her sleep it off”.

    Without another word, the boys went to bed. Meanwhile, I drew her some pictures of us as a happy family. I left them on her lap for when she wakes up, and curled up on the couch with a blanket.


    The basic edits I have made are the following:

    Tense consistency
    Formatting (makes it easier to read and also adheres to appropriate grammar rules. new line break for new speech, new idea, etc)

    I think the reason you are feeling the story is lacking something is because you have written it in a very perfunctory sort of way. You are telling us what each character is saying and feeling but you aren't immersing us in those emotions. Do some research on the teaching 'show, don't tell'.
     
    joe sixpak likes this.

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