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Long Story Short · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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A Bourbon and a Lively Waltz
The party calmed down once the initial frenzy had passed.

Only a dozen or so couples remained on the dance floor, colourful dresses and dark suits moving in rhythm with the music.

John knew this calmness wouldn’t last. As soon as the bride and groom finished talking with the rest of the guests, the party would liven up once again. Meanwhile, he’d stay at the bar, nursing his second glass of bourbon.

As he raised his glass to his lips, he heard his name and turned around to see a woman in a simple yet beautiful dress staring straight at him.

“Hello, Emma,” John said with a smile.

“It’s been a while,” she replied with a smile of her own. He missed seeing them.

“We don’t get a chance to see each other as often anymore.” John set down the glass down and took a good look at her.

Emma wore a silver, sleeveless dress which accentuated every part of her body while remaining within the boundaries of good taste. Not that he’d tell her that.

“It’s still a shame that it took the wedding of our best friend for us to see each other.” She walked towards the bar, sitting on the stool next to him, and asked the bartender for a drink.

“The wedding could’ve happened sooner, but you know Anne. She had to wait for a perfect proposal.” He paused to take a sip of his drink. “Should’ve done it herself.”

“You have no sense of romance,” she deadpanned before accepting the martini from the bartender.

“The ceremony was beautiful, though, I’ll give them that. And the open bar was a great idea.”

Emma’s soft laugh was a nice reaction, it’d been some time since he last heard her laugh.

A memory flashed through his mind. He saw the much younger faces of his friends and himself at a wedding much like this one, cheering and laughing without a care in the world.

“You know, it seems like it was yesterday when Anne and you were fighting over the bouquet in your aunt’s wedding.”

“Which wedding?” she replied, and it was his turn to laugh.

A few seconds later, though, their amusement died down. John looked into the amber liquid before taking another swig while Emma traced the edge of her cup with her finger.

“I didn’t see you at the bouquet toss,” John said, immediately regretting not finishing his drink in silence.

Emma regarded him with a look of annoyance, but before he could take back his words, she spoke, “I don’t see the point right now…”

Her words lingered in the air, weighing him down with the burden of words left unsaid. As they had many times before, three words dancing on the tip of his tongue, almost pushing themselves to come out. He washed them down with the rest of his bourbon.

Before either of them could say anything else, the band started on another piece: a lively waltz which they both recognised.

Their eyes met, and in them he found that same shimmering he found the first time he looked at her. Part of him wanted to believe he saw them glint with a light of expectancy.

She bit her lip before she downed what was left of her martini and looked at him once more.

“Hey, John.”

For a moment gone too fast for his liking, he saw in her eyes the young girl he met and hit it off during his freshman year in college.

“Would you like to dance?”

Doubt crossed her face for a second, but that was enough. He saw in her the girl who cried for nights on end. The girl who could never bring himself to hate him, and would always give him another chance.

Emma must have seen something similar in his face, for the small smile she had mustered dissipated into a frown. “It’s never going to be the same, is it?” She said, and despite her calm tone, he knew she felt disappointed.

“No,” John said, the words feeling like gravel as they came out of his throat, “And they probably never will.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Those three words once again threatened to come out, but he kept his mouth shut.

“Goodbye, John.”

He watched her walk away, when those three words finally escaped his lips. “I’m sorry, Emma,” John whispered before ordering his next bourbon.
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#1 ·
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
Well that was a tellful intro, though the story finally gripped me by the time the reminiscing about past weddings started. John and Emma's interactions were definitely nice, and you can sense there is something stewing between them. I wish we could've gotten more of that before the reveal near the end, since the story is ultimately about romantic loss and people going their separate ways, then getting to know them and their relationship would've given the twist more impact. Still, definitely top twenty material.
#2 · 3
· · >>AndrewRogue >>Zaid Val'Roa
Once again I am struck by a story where, on the whole, I think the attempt at subtlety does more harm than good.

A twist or a reveal should re-contextualize the preceding material in a way that serves to improve it, not be the emotional crux of the story. The issue with waiting until the end of the story to drive home your big point and the emotional heart of the story is that I'm now at the end of a story that I wasn't particularly invested in so the big punch isn't going to have much of an effect on me.

You need to come out strong and use late twists/reveals as an opportunity to really double down on that, instead of effectively couching your hook in them.

I think this story hinges too much on the reveal. Realistically, the emotional stakes are kind of unclear up until tongue tied line, except the easy guess (I love you) broadly speaking turns out to be wrong. So it just ends up feeling muddled. You've got a solid emotional core once you let out, but the problem is you wait until we're done to actually let it out.
#3 · 3
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
So, I'll double-down on what Andrew said. This story felt emotionally 'flat' to me; mostly just bittersweet nostalgia and regret the whole way through.

The reason using the reveal to change the mood can be effective is because it grasps that feeling of progression; the mood going from, say, regret to joy, helps the audience feel that mood more clearly. You can go the other direction, of course; from bittersweet to utter despair, too, but the point is... most people want a story where something significant happens, and that's usually signaled by a mood change. There's a moment or two in here that might be hope, and that's a good start, but I don't feel like it gets enough traction to really sell itself before the reveal brings it back down.

This is a good character piece, but the emotional profile feels too muted for it to have much impact on me.
#4 · 2
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
This is a nice, atmospheric piece at first that narrows down pretty cleverly on that former couple. Well executed, the prose is up to snuff, except for a “himself” instead of “herself” somewhere.

However I must agree with Andrew. Either keep the “I’m sorry” at the end but don’t tell us the guy has three words locked into his throat or tell us but don’t spill the beans at the end, so we’d never know whether it’s “I love you”, “I am sorry” or “Go fuck yourself”.

Of course you want to trick us into thinking the right guess is “I love you” and then there’s a twist because it turns out this solution is wrong. But that’s contrived and in hindsight it detracts from the story because we’re led to think the whole point of this was not to show us what two former lovers can feel one for the other after a few years, but simply to set a trap and then gloat over the dumbasses who have fallen into it.

So yeah, too much said. Pick what you want to redact and you’ll have a better story.
#5 · 1
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
I’m going to deviate from many other readers and say that, on the whole, I enjoyed this story. The feelings of bitterness and nostalgia were decently handled (if a tad overwrought), and it really allowed us to see John’s pain over a failed relationship. I also enjoyed how vague and dreamlike the story is, as if this is just an odd event John finds himself drifting through during his monotonous life. Similarly, I liked how the resolution in the story is almost an afterthought, as if John already knew what’d happen and just went through the motions of the story to kid himself. The loss cuts deep and is final enough that he can’t even wrest himself to do something that might rekindle the flame (the dance).

Of course, this in turn makes the story feel somewhat pointless. A relationship was over, the duo reaffirm it’s over, then the story stops. Admittedly, I enjoyed how the story portrayed this, but from a narrative standpoint, there’s just not a whole lot to chew on here. I also thought that the dreamlike feeling sometimes made things too vague, like the exact timeline of Emma and John’s relationship (did it end years ago? A month?) or the physical details of the wedding itself. That’s the problem with doing stories about failed relationships: They’re one of those subjects that everybody remembers in precise detail, and leaving out enough things will break many people’s suspension of disbelief.

Add a few more details and make the central story a little stronger. It’s an alright story now, but it can be a better one with a little tinkering.
#6 · 1
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
In addition to what’s been said above (which I generally agree with, both positive and negative), I’d like to address a few redundancy issues I noticed in this piece.

Early on, you have the line:

“It’s been a while,” she replied with a smile of her own. He missed seeing them.

This is a good line! You’ve established that there’s some warmth between these characters, a shared history in the moderately distant past. There’s a wistfulness in John’s attitude towards her, a fondness for her smile that implies a deeper connection. You’ve packed a lot of information into a single line of text, which is an excellent quality to have in a minific story.

Now, consider the very next line:

“We don’t get a chance to see each other as often anymore.”

Who is this statement aimed at? Both John and Emma are fully aware that they don’t get the chance to see each other often. Is it for the reader? Because you’ve already told us it’s been long enough since they last saw one another for John to miss her smile.

Shortly thereafter you describe Emma’s dress a second time. I like this description a bit more because it gives me a more solid idea of what the character looks like, but it highlights the unnecessary context of the first description. Why delay introducing Emma’s character for a paragraph when John immediately recognizes her?


Emma’s soft laugh was a nice reaction, it’d been some time since he last heard her laugh.

It was here that I thought, “Alright, let's get on with it,” because this is the third time in less than two hundred words you’ve told us these two don’t see each other much. Not every word needs to drive the story forward, but repeating yourself (if you’re not deliberately trying to make a point) is a cardinal sin in minific.

Repetition aside, I honestly don’t find John to be a likeable protagonist. The fact that after all these years, when he explicitly knows where he went wrong in the past, he’s still too prideful to say, “I’m sorry,” makes him irredeemable in my eyes. It shows not only that he doesn’t really have an arc in this story, but he didn’t learn anything from the implied prior story (of John breaking Emma’s heart, the cad) you’re weaving between the lines, either.

Still, there’s some pathos to be had in watching the faded embers of an old love sputter and die. Keep avoiding repetition in mind when you take another crack at this, Writer, and I think you can craft something pretty special.

Final Thought: Play it again, Sam.
#7 · 3
Oh, hey. Most Controversial. That's new. Don't know if I deserve it, but I'm grateful nonetheless!

>>Zaid Val'Roa
Eh, what do you know?

The line between "subtle development" and "nothing happening" is really, really wide, but I trust I will eventually manage to do it right. I got the idea of a couple who may never get together again, but then I focused on the ending as the pivotal point of the story, which ultimately worked against the strenght of the piece as a whole.

Duly noted.

I believe I can trim some of the earlier fat, move the reveal to the midway point, and spend more time focusing on the actual feelings of the characters rather than trying to be coy about them. That should make for a better story, or at least a more solid one.

Oh, and regarding the repetition >>Icenrose mentioned, that's the result of writing the first section early in the morning, then rush through the middle in the afternoon, and realise I only had a few hours to finish the story and edit it into something presentable before the deadline hit. This lead to me going over certain points too much and not dwelling in others.

Anyway, thanks for your feedback, and I'll try to rework this into something better.