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The Living by Chris Marsh - Short, Drama - After losing his job, Ray busies himself investigating his neighbor's suicide. As the mystery deepens, he befriends the dead man's widow but his own identity slips away in the process. 39 pages - pdf, format
thought I'd give this a look -- ended up reading the whole thing. Nicely done overall, very quick read. A natural, subtly to the dialogue and flow to the story that kept me interested.
I really felt the sense of intrigue developing here as Ray delves deeper into Alex's life and wanted to know where it was headed -- which is where I felt the length really got in the way. it felt too long and developed for a 'short' and too short for a feature, which left me expecting, well, a bit more from the story and characters you'd created.
Anyways, I'll go into more detail if I know you're around.
This is a good one, but falls short of a great one. I was worried about your ending until it ended and I'll say that I wasn't disappointed. Nice touch. In the beginning, i liked how he cut his tie, a declaration of cutting himself away, so I was surprised that he paid so much attention to the police and his surroundings at the apartment. The offering of peanut butter to the cop was an amazing gesture and great for your story. Dialogue needs work. To keep this short, I want to know the desperation of Alex, and the hotel scene was mishandled when he entered the room. I would love to discuss more of this in detail.
Still think this is a clean and well written piece. It just felt like it lacked something in the resolution.
A few things as I read: No ages/descriptions for some of your minor/secondary characters. SERVER, ROBERTSON and the STAFFING AGENT.
Looks you double space after full stops/periods. May well be your style, but it’s accepted as being redundant nowadays and might just pull a few orphans in here and there. I was taught to do this myself, it’s a hard habit to break.
The conversation between Robertson and Ray -- quite a lengthy exchange, though like most of the dialogue here, it feels natural and flows well. The image of him nonchalantly eating the PB with his fingers while the cop asks questions gives us an insight into Ray’s character/state of mind. Think it helps set the pace and tone to the story and it’s partly those elements that makes this entertaining to read (for me anyway).
Could probably trim the last two lines of dialogue, the ‘goodnights’. Perhaps the cop watching him wipe his hands on his shirt and leaving.
I did notice a lot of ‘Hi/Hellos/goodbyes/goodnights etc. especially between Sila and Ray. I read these more as character nuances kind of ‘awkward moments’ between them, not sure if that’s what you intended?
p.9 ‘Is it next to Poland?’ -- liked the exchange. There’s an element of dry humour throughout the dialogue.
p.18 -- not sure you need the ‘INT. RAY’S CAR’ scene, could just go straight to the store. Once there probably just use MOMENTS LATER for a mini-slug rather than repeat ‘INT. L.B SPORTS.’
MIKE ...see that it feels.
-- Maybe ‘how’ it feels?
Could trim a little between LB SPORTS and the CLUB if Mike knew the name of the band? Or maybe someone else there could know? It sometimes felt like there’s a lot of set-up in Ray’s enquiries for what amounts to a small insight or piece of information. Not a problem for a feature, but it adds to the page count for a 'shorter' piece.
p.34 -- the suicide note reference:
RAY That’s what I want to know.
-- This is the first hint at what’s driving Ray. It puts a twist on his previous interactions with Sila as now I’m thinking maybe she had something to do with it. But it ends up unresolved -- I’m still uncertain as to what she knew about her husbands activities.
p.35 - the HALLWAY interaction: Sila’s ‘I envy you’. Good exchange, short and subtle -- this is what’s driving her.
Guess one issue here is what is this story about? What's at stake and what does Ray want? He seems to want to know what really happened to Vernon -- but why? Right now it’s like something to keep him busy between jobs. I liked the way he drifts around digging from one lead to another but in the end it doesn’t feel like he comes away with any solid answers and he’s nothing to gain nor lose which puts no pressure on him to succeed.
We never find out if it was suicide on Vernon’s part or murder or indeed really why he did it -- or Sila for that matter. I can appreciate if that’s partly your story, we’re not meant to know. In that case something more has to happen with Ray over the course of his ‘investigation’. Something that he learns about himself or through his relationship with Sila as he sifts through their lives.
You’ve crafted these characters and built an air of mystery through a series of short, subtle scenes. But it all kind of came to a frustratingly gentle end. Like you were constantly building up to some revelation or twist that never came. To be honest there’s not a great deal of conflict, the characters kind of simmer their emotions away.
I like the idea of this average guy next door drawn into the personal lives of these strangers. I got the impression you were trying to stay away from the sinister/malevolent angle and work towards a more soulful/reflective story, that works here and is no doubt a lot harder to handle, but it needs a little something more to draw us in.
Hope you can get some more reads and feedback on this. Think it deserves it.