STORY: The Edge of Comfort

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SirMustapha
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STORY: The Edge of Comfort

Postby SirMustapha » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:21 am

Here's a story I finished recently, and decided to translate on a whim. It's actually quite short, 10 pages long, and it's a sickening little tale of a young man who happens to find another young man in unusual circumstances, and the conversation they get into. It gradually becomes dramatic, with an inevitable ending. I actually wrote this as a challenge to myself, as most of my stories involve male-female couples, so I thought I should try breaking that mould and see how it went.

I tried to make the text work well in English, remaining as faithful as I could to the original, but adapting whatever was necessary. It got wonky when it refers to college stuff, as the Brazilian system has its own unique features, so it may look odd to foreign eyes. Also, if you're curious, the beach is the same one from Treasure Hunt.

WARNING: this story contains elements that are morally objectionable, wrong, dirty and sinful. It also happens to contain absolutely natural and acceptable elements such as same-sex relationships. Contains some strong language, upsetting imagery and very mild, occasional eroticism.
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"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: STORY: The Edge of Comfort

Postby c_nordlander » Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:28 pm

Typo: "that that young man"

This also seems to be a typo: "at any moment if can say something that hurts you a lot." Also, you have "Ricardo said" in the dialogue tag, even though that must be Marcelo speaking.

"made you anything bad" is a bit of a translation problem. I'd change it to "did anything bad to you" or something similar.

There are a few other translation issues (mostly minor things that don't impede anyone's understanding of the story). I didn't want to list them all here, since I don't know whether you want to publish it in English (for any given value of "publish"), but if you want to, I can PM the list to you.

Now that the formalities are done, I really enjoyed this story. It starts out simply, but with a good hook to get the reader interested in the stranger, just as Ricardo himself is. Both central characters feel realistic and subtly depicted, especially Ricardo himself. The writing style is good; just descriptive enough, without having so many details that it slows down the narrative. I especially like the nature descriptions at the start, and the various hints showing the characters' emotional and mental state. The dialogue is very good in places. (And I didn't have trouble understanding any of the Brazilian university stuff.)

The only slight downside I can find is that the dialogue is very occasionally a bit clichéd. There are a couple of places where it feels like the characters are saying things to give information to the reader, rather than because it comes naturally out of their conversation. This is just in a couple of places: like I said before, most of the time the dialogue is very good. Also, the very ending feels a bit conventional (more on that below).

While I'm admittedly straight, I personally think this is a realistic, non-objectifying depiction of gay and bi people, and deals with bigotry without sensationalising the topic. I'm particularly happy that Ricardo is bisexual (and OK with it) before the story begins; I've read so many gay romance stories where the protagonist has no idea s/he likes people of the same sex until s/he meets Mr./Miss Right. Also, bi characters seem fairly rare in fiction in general.

Scattered con-crit/praise below. Take as much or as little of it to heart as you like.

*

I love the title. It sounded good even before I knew what the story was about, and of course, it's an important theme for the protagonists.

"at the end, it seemed to end among some trees": the repeated use of "end" feels a bit redundant.

You have some good description at the start, especially of the man's expression and his voice.

I also like how you reveal Ricardo's age to the reader in a natural way. It may sound simple, but giving the reader information that the viewpoint character already knows can be trickier than you'd think.

Also, the repeat of "presence" twice in the same paragraph (on page 1) feels slightly off-key. Not a big problem.

The dialogue is good. One bit I have a bit of a problem with is the young man's long speech about nature: it's interesting, but the way he delivers it out of nowhere feels a bit... unnatural? Theatrical? Could be a characterisation thing. Anyway, I like Ricardo's response. It's something I've been thinking a lot about myself.

More good dialogue. In fact, that seems to be a strength in all your writing. I noticed it in "Treasure Hunt", but there, the characters were more clearly antagonistic. Here, there's some subtle back-and-forth between Ricardo and the stranger, and I really like the way they're wary of one another without being outright hostile.

On page 5, you suddenly jump to Marcelo's POV. I'd put in a scene break there so the reader doesn't get confused. (And again when you switch back to Ricardo's POV.)

I really like how Ricardo
Spoiler
Somehow, it reminds me of the bit in your novel "Backwater" when Janice walked into the pond and refused to come back, and Mark walked out to her. Both scenes strike me as a very good illustration of trust, and made me feel quite emotional. In fact, this whole story reminds me of that scene. And that was my favourite part of "Backwater", so it's pretty high praise.

The "Monsieur Descartes" and "Monsieur Diderot" dialogue made me giggle. Nicely done.

I like the bit where
Spoiler


That bit where Marcelo tells his story...

Spoiler


I like
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I think this bit is kind of redundant:

Spoiler


Good ending.

Spoiler


All in all, a well-written story with realistic characters and a powerful ending. I feel happy that I read it.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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SirMustapha
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Re: STORY: The Edge of Comfort

Postby SirMustapha » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:41 pm

That's a lot more praise than I expected. :) I had the feeling that the whole story was very conventional, not just the ending, and that's why I thought 10 pages were more than enough. The ending is pure syrup, I admit, but I'm sentimental by nature! I can't help it.

As always, though, I'm very glad with your criticism, and I'm kicking myself for not catching some of those mistakes in my own revisions. If you have more nitpicks, I'd actually want to hear it; I think I'll stick to this English version for whatever opportunities that may come up. The most worrying criticism is the cliché dialogue; I hate being responsible for that, and it must be a problem in the original version too.

I think the only criticism that I feel I can't follow is the POV switching; it doesn't feel jarring when I'm writing it, and I can't take an unbiased look at it after I'm done. Any tips on how to make it less jarring and confusing would be extremely welcome, as this is a limitation I feel I can't overcome on my own.

Anyway, while I'm very motivated to work on improving the problems you mentioned, your praise feels very empowering. I wrote this story not to please the LGBT readers, but to stir up some discomfort among people who surround me and still have these conservative, conspiratory views on same-sex issues. I'm very scared of the growing wave of ignorance and intolerance in Brazil right now, and I wrote this as just another little pebble they'll have to kick aside if they want to take over. Maybe it's white knighting, but I still feel responsible. And I know good intentions alone don't make a good story, so this is why I reserved this part for last so I wouldn't cause a guilt trip. :)
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"

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