Proust’s Playlist, draft bit the third, for Sunday Snippets

Hi, everyone,

Here is the next submission for our Sunday Snippet review.

As noted before (but always worth repeating) – this is a first draft. I’m jumping around in the story a bit, trying to find both footing and a better sense of how to approach it. I expect that there are many holes to fill and rough spots to smooth, and I look forward to hearing people’s suggestions.

I’m continuing to play with the concept of how I want to tell this story, in addition to the prose itself. It’s entirely possible that as this project goes on, it will morph into an altogether different form and style. Hopefully, with lots of show and emotion.

Thank you for your time,



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Mal looked at the open box. It was full of loose sheets of paper. Her fingers shook slightly as she began to pull out the contents. There was no other personal note, aside from the one she had ripped off. Instead, each page was a sheet of music. There were hundreds of pages. She pulled them out, handfuls at a time, and rifled through them. Her breathing became shallow and her fingertips cold as she began to read measure upon measure of what appeared to be rock. The time signatures changed abruptly and often. The melodies were more complicated than other popular music she had played. The songs were long, too, and relentless. But most intimidating were the lyrics.

“How would anyone be able to play this and sing anything at the same time?” She muttered. “Let alone this – nonsense.” Song after song discussed philosophy, literature, and human relationships. Where were the cute rhyming tricks and straight forward chord progressions?

Mal walked to the phone. “Timmy, this is Mal,” she left a message when she reach his voice mail. “What the hell did you drop off on my porch? What is this? Call me back.” Mal rolled her eyes and punched the “end” button on her phone harder than necessary. She sighed, exasperated. Timmy knew she didn’t like surprises, so what was he getting at with this pile of stuff?



About Shannon Blue Christensen

Storyteller. Author. Editor. Literary Critic. Director. Teacher. Knitter. nascent Musician. Student. Operations and Quality. Marketing. Historian. Lear's Fool. View all posts by Shannon Blue Christensen

17 responses to “Proust’s Playlist, draft bit the third, for Sunday Snippets

  • itsjennythewren

    like it πŸ™‚ got abit confused with “read measure upon measure of what appeared to be rock” but good read x

  • kford2007

    First, let me say hello and how nice it is to meet you. I really like the angst you’ve developed in this piece. I could feel Mal’s confusion and irritation and I got a decent picture of her in my mind. I take it she’s a musician who has studied more on the classical side?

    I had a couple of little niggles. They’re not biggies but they are things to look out for. The first thing I noticed was the passivity in the passages. “She began to pull out the contents.” “Her breathing became shallow.” The story would read better if you used active verbs instead. “She pulled out the contents.” And instead of ‘telling’ her breathing became shallow, show us, maybe even relate it back to music. Something like, “Her chest rose and fell in quick cadence.” (I’m sure you can do so much better than that). Also watch repetitive thoughts. “She began to pull out the contents.” “She pulled them out, handfuls at a time.” See what you can combine and tighten to strengthen the storyline.

    I really enjoyed reading this snippet. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    • Shannon Blue Christensen

      Passivity has been an issue with this draft from the start. Also, creating tempo without repetition…..

      Thank you for your good comments. They are very helpful.

      I love my story, but it’s causing me angst. ;p i haven’t figured out *how* to tell it yet. I can’t work out if this is painful because it’s close to the heart,or if it’s painful because I’m trying to Force it to be something it doesn’t want to or can’t be….

      • kford2007

        Ahh, the struggles of a writer. πŸ™‚ You’ll find the balance. Just hang in there. One day it will hit you and you’ll wonder why you didn’t see it all along. Let it come. I think you’re doing a great job already.

      • Shannon Blue Christensen

        Thank you for the encouragement. I sincerely appreciate it – and doubtless will reread it lots.

        I feel still so wet behind the ears that I carry two towels with me. One for use while the other one dries out from being used. πŸ™‚

  • Ileandra Young

    Hi again πŸ™‚ Good to see another snippet.
    Do I understand right that this is not a immediate continuation of last weeks? If that’s the case, I’ll keep it in mind as I go through….

    ‘her fingers shook slightly’ much improved, that’s the short of show everyone is talking about. Readers are smart; all you need do is drop them clues and they’ll work through what you’re talking about. If you choose, you could drop the ‘slightly’ for a stronger sentence.
    This happened again with ‘she left a message when she reach[ed] his voice mail.’ A reader will already know how one leaves a message, so there is no need to state ‘voice mail.’ Small nit picks, but if you ever get to a point where you need to work on word count, then those tautologies can be useful to get rid of. You’d be surprised how many words they take up (I always am).

    I personally take the advice about ‘was’ and ‘were’ with a pinch of salt. Sometimes it is the best way to say what you need, sometimes there is no other way to say what you need and sometimes, there is a much better choice. I wouldn’t recommend changing every instance of ‘was/were’ in this piece, but some of them could be fiddled for stronger verbs. Take a peep and see what you think.

    You have some instances of repeated words close together, see if you can change those up. eg ‘she pulled THEM out, handfuls at a time, and rifled through THEM.’

    • Shannon Blue Christensen

      Yes, this is not exactly after what I posted earlier….

      I am pushing around trying to find a way inside. I appreciate your comments re: tense. I generally agree that passive tense is to be avoidied, but I also think that English verb tenses lack enough nuance. In my head, I want to use pat perfect, plusque perfect etc, but it just doesn’t translate into English too well…..

      • Ileandra Young

        I must admit that my technical knowledge with regards to tenses is not as good as it could be (my English learning stopped at A Level rather than degree level) but I feel that so long as the tense(s) you choose don’t distract the reader and make understanding the story difficult, than you can probably get away with whatever you need to.

  • caitlinstern

    You do have a few weak verbs–I’m totally guilty of this myself–‘looked’ is one.
    “Mal looked at the open box” could become “Mal glared at the open box” or “Mal peered into the open box” etc, depending on what emotion you’re trying to convey.
    I had that same ‘huh?’ moment with the β€œread measure upon measure of what appeared to be rock” phrase. Maybe if you clarified it “rock music/songs” or what kind of rock.
    The surface details distract, but I’m liking the bones of this story–her mounting frustration and confusion, as she tries to figure out what’s in the box. It makes me wonder what’s going on, and why she’s been given such difficult music–it feels like a challenge.

  • mandyevebarnett

    I agree with the comments above…try to reword the measure upon measure – it halts the reading flow. I still like how you have kept the intrigue though.

  • journeyofjordannaeast

    Hello, I like this excerpt better than the previous two. It seems to be edging nearer to the heart of the story. My only suggestion is to maybe strengthen up some of the verbs. For example, in the first sentence, I’m sure “looked” can be replaced with something more active. Also, in the last paragraph, I think you meant to say “she left a message when she REACHED his voicemail.” It’s a rough draft though, so I know you would’ve caught that eventually. Nice work though!

  • Let's CUT the Crap!

    I am ejoying the ramp up of Mal’s confusion / irritability and my curiosity IS engaged. There are lots of possibilities to the mystery.
    I have nothing more to add as I see no point in repeating what has already been said.

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