Review of: Steering Wheel 

reviewed by LBarbarell on 04/14/2011
Credited Review
Challenging to Read Credited Review
I think that there's a meaningful story somewhere in these 14 pages, but I must admit that I'm hard pressed to find it. I understand that the station wagon is a key metaphor for something and that the truck that finally replaces it is symbolic of some sort of character arc. But that's about all that I was able to figure out.

I think there are four issues that need to be addressed in revising this. First, there are too many characters and most really don't add much more to the story than their existence: Micky, Danielle, Claire, grandpa, Marie's mother, etc. Similarly, there are places and things that merely exist in the story but don't clearly figure in it: Chicago, tulip bouquets, etc.

Secondly, the story doesn't seem to have a clear narrative line. It ambles toward an arbitrary stopping point rather than striding towards a conclusion.

Third, there's simply too much detail. Every detail in a short story needs to have a purpose such as providing useful information, deepening a character or adding weight to the story. But much of the detail provided here seems extraneous; it just there for it's own sake. As a result, rather than enhancing the story, the detail impedes flow, coherence and pacing.

Finally, and most important of all, sentences are often overwritten to the point where they must be reread several times to gain an inkling of what they mean. And, sometimes the re-reading process reveals that they don't make sense (see page notes below).

I don't mean to trash this work or discourage the author. I really do see talent here and I see and interesting story as well. I think a stronger commitment to communication, clarity, and coherence will produce better results.

Page notes:

P 2: "With these men they found better foraging than the fight that lay ahead in those roaring days without." Sorry, but I have no idea what this sentence means, nor the many others like it.

P 3: to gain some insight into why much of the prose is so difficult to read, studly the sentence that begins "Now less able to wipe." As written, the sentence literally states that the wax residue is less able to wipe the remnants. I think it really means to say: As the man's advancing age renders him less able to wipe energetically, the wax residue just keeps building.

P 7: Apparently without rhyme or reason, the wtense changes from past to present and back to past.

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