Thursday, January 14, 2016

Talkin' Heads #24

TITLE: Shekinah
GENRE: Adult - Fiction

Marcus Abernathy has gone to visit Jessup McTiernan, a farmer who will lose his land within a week under an eminent domain claim. Abernathy was supposed to arrange a settlement between McTiernan and the state, but McTiernan and his wife refused to sell.

     No greeting seemed appropriate so he finally settled for “Hey.”

     McTiernan grunted and offered the whiskey bottle. Abernathy accepted, settling down on edge of the porch and taking a deep pull. “Look,” he said finally, handing the bottle back. “I am truly sorry for how this all turned out. It’s not what I wanted.”

      “I know,” McTiernan said. “Thank you for trying.”

      They sat in silence for a few minutes, staring off across the gently swaying corn. Cicadas whirred, filling the evening with their hum.

      “I wouldn’t want to leave here either,” Abernathy said after a bit, feeling utterly wretched.

      “I’m not leaving.”

      “Jessup, you don’t have a choice. Think of Amelia and the baby if you won’t think of yourself.”

      “You don’t understand,” McTiernan said. “The land is our blood. Without it, we don’t have anything. No family, no home.” He took a long drink from the bottle. “I was born here, did you know that?”

      Abernathy shook his head, miserable.

      “It’s true. I was born right up there, in the front bedroom. And I buried my dad here after he died. I’m supposed to die here and be buried here and hand this all down to my son. I’m not supposed to end up raising my boy in a rental house in the middle of town and working under a roof all day.”
      “I know. It’s horrible.”

      “I don’t think you know. I think you want to understand, but I don’t think you do.”


  1. I think this scene is working VERY well, and the dialogue is well done. I especially like how colloquial it sounds (and I love the tiny details that accomplish so much in terms of setting). This is not a criticism because I think the dialogue is working well, but I do think it could be a hair tighter by cutting a few words, using contractions, and making it slightly more clipped like this... “I'm truly sorry for how this all turned out"... “Thanks for trying”… “It’s true. I was born in the front bedroom, buried my dad here. I’m supposed to die here, be buried here, hand this all down to my son. I’m not supposed to raise my boy in a rental house in the middle of town and work under a roof all day.”

  2. The dialogue is easy to follow, and it's easy to distinguish who's speaking. There are some places where the language seems a bit formal for casual conversation, though. "I am truly sorry" might sounds less weird if you changed it to "I'm". You seem to use contractions elsewhere, so I'm not sure if this was an oversight, or if he's meant to emphasize the am.

    In the next passage, McTiernan says "Thank you for trying." I think this sounds formalish as well. Maybe just thanks.

    You describe Abernathy as "feeling awful" and "miserable," but I don't think you need to. His actions, the fact that he came back to the farm at all, let the reader know he isn't happy with the way things have turned out. I think those descriptors are redundant, especially the miserable, and unnecessary. If you feel like his misery needs to be stressed more, show it instead. He could wring his hands while McTiernan talks, or the liquor could feel sour in his stomach, making him queasy as he thinks about the farmer losing his land. Something like that would be far more effective than just 'miserable.'

  3. No greeting seemed appropriate so he finally settled for “Hey.”--This is a great line.

    “I know,” McTiernan said. “Thank you for trying.”--I think this works well. I might add another dialogue tag in there, an action. Regardless, I can see this so very clearly. That's hard to do.

    “I don’t think you know. I think you want to understand, but I don’t think you do.”--This is a great line.

    I can't really find a lot to nit pick. I can well imagine reading this in a book. I think you did a good job with the dialogue. It's plain who's talking. The emotions are there. It's good to have the internals. Setting is good, but not overbearing. I know the focus is on dialogue, but I think the whole excerpt works well.

  4. I agree you don't need to TELL us how he's feeling because you've done a good job of showing it.

    I don't mind the lack of contractions so much. It feels right that they would be a little more formal with each other, considering their relationship and the kind of people they are. Also, is this present day, or are we in the past? The past would also call for more formal speech. It feels like it could work either way.

    I don't have much more to add except to say how much I like this scene and how much I wish I could find out what happens next to the McTiermans.

    Good job!

  5. Ditto
    - with the dislike of the TELLs for emotions.
    - for the appreciation of a well written scene.
    - for an indifference to whether contractions are used or not.