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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Singer Man: A Storytelling Comparison

When Disco Ruled the World  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

          I hope you won't mind indulging me in this little experiment.  Today I'm going to present two different versions of the same very short story.  I'd like for you to tell me which one you prefer and why.    On Friday I will explain a bit more about this.

                                     The Singer  

    Ted settled back at his table in the night club nursing his beer while he watched the crowd filter in to fill the seats around him.  The poster outside the door had made him smile with the anticipation of seeing the singer he'd long admired.  Ted had made this special trip into the city to experience this performance.

       Drumming his fingers on the table, Ted's impatience grew.  Finally the lights dimmed.  From some unseen place he could hear the announcer introducing the singer.  Then after the voice said, "Now it's time to welcome the artist", the crowd roared its approval.

        A spotlight illuminated the singer, who Ted immediately recognized.  Ted's excitement swelled and his face beamed as he broke into applause along with the rest of the audience.  Soon Ted was humming along to favorite songs he knew so well.  The singer ran through his playlist of popular songs while his top notch band punched life into each one of them.

        Unseen by anyone in the audience was the singer's attractive girlfriend who was sitting at in a booth at the back of the room. She'd had a few too many drinks and was snuggled up with some guy she didn't even know.  He was putting some smooth moves on the lady while her true lover sang his songs for his adoring audience.

         Appreciative comments could be heard throughout the audience.  "Man, our singer's alright" and "He's such a burning performer" and "What a fabulous show!"   The singer was "knocking 'em dead" as the old show biz adage goes.

         Amid the stomping and cheering, the movement of the singer's lover and the stranger was unnoticed as they got up to succumb to their passions. Only the singer could see the pair leave the room while he poured out his deepest emotions, his saddest heartbreak, into these songs that his fans loved so well.  His heartbreak was real to him, but only songs to those who heard them sung on that night.

        After the show Ted felt terrific as he headed toward the exit.  He could overhear the raves and excited appreciative buzz of the departing crowd.  In particular he overheard the exchange between one young man and his girlfriend as they discussed the evening's performance.
         "Don't you envy that guy?" she said.

          "He's the ultimate singer," her boyfriend replied.  "He's on top of the world."

Now for version two:

                 Make It All So Real          
       Take your seat at the table. Watch the cabaret fill.  Ted came down for the singer. He saw the name on the bill.  How the minutes were dragging as the audience grew.  Ted was growing impatient as he swallowed his brew

       "It's time to welcome the artist," he heard somebody say.  He saw a face in the floodlight and everything was okay.

Then the singer was singing all his serious songs and his band was a-playing.   Ted was humming along. 

             "Singer man do your work. 
              Sing your song. Make it hurt.
              Sing the tears. Sing the pain. 
               Make it all so real."

         Meanwhile back in a corner there was a table for two where sat the singer's cute lover and she was drinking a few, all snuggled up with a stranger who had his hand on her thigh. She was receiving his message and gazing into his eyes...

         So the sound came a-rolling, tumbling into the night.   And all the people were raving, saying "Man our singer's all right ! "  And "Such a burning performer!" "What a fabulous show!"

        Little lover was stirring. She was ready to go.  And while the singer was wailing she got up to depart.  The crowd was stomping and cheering. She was breaking his heart...

        Ted was feeling terrific as the crowd filtered out raving on about the hero, there were whistles and shouts.

        There was a guy with his sweetheart.   Ted came walking on past.  He could hear what was spoken. He could hear what she asked.

        She said, " Don't you envy the hero ? "

         And the fella answered his girl, "Yes. He's the ultimate singer. He's on top of the world!

          Please come back on Friday for my explanation and some further comments about this story.  What version do you like the best and why?  What  particular impressions do you have about either version?  Honest critiques please.

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  1. I think I like the first version better than the second in all honesty Lee. The way that you build up the suspense for the singer to come on stage, the way that you show how much the audience are enjoying the singer then right at the end reveal that he's actually breaking his heart on stage is actually brilliant and the ending sums that brilliance up.

    Honestly I don't really like the second account so much, the rhyming takes away from the serious aspect of the story and spoils it a little for me, I definitely think I prefer the first one.

  2. Hi Lee. In some ways, the first version is 'easier' to read from a fluency perspective; and yet; and this is the thing; when I write 'stuff' I can almost imagine a tune running beside it - and therefore the second version appealed to me very much as it made a 'connection' with a style I have a strong affinity with. I hope this makes some vague sort of sense. Best wishes. Jeff.

  3. I also prefer the first version, I like that it's more descriptive and builds up slowly until the end. The second version seemed to speed by too quickly, almost as if nothing happened.

  4. I felt the short, choppy sentences in the second version made it hard to get into any kind of flow, which made it a bit difficult to engage with the story.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  5. I'm going to be a pain and say that both can work, depending on where you're going with your writing. :-)

  6. I like version number one. It suits the content of the story much better. The second version is flippant and disregards the true emotion of the situation.

  7. From a writing standpoint, I was intrigued with the way you wrote the second version but as a reader, it was esier to get into the first.

  8. first one is better for me. the message was more clear and i became engaged. the second, I had to re-read, who was the little lover who was the hero. not enough development.

    Mimi Torchia Boothby

  9. I like the first one, I think because it sets the scene. I know this is off the topic but I did want to smack his girl also.

  10. If I have to pick one of those, I'd have to say the first. The second is really only understandable in light of the first. However, the first has an issue of perspective. Are we supposed to be experiencing the story through Ted's eyes? If we are, then there's a lack of connection, because he doesn't know what's going on with the girlfriend. Are we supposed to be experiencing the story through the singer's eyes? If so, what's Ted for? In a piece so short, splitting the perspective doesn't really work, because the audience can't make a connection.

    Also, if the singer has spot lights on him, he's not gonna see his girlfriend leaving with some other guy.

  11. Second one for me. Feels lighter for some reason.
    - Maurice Mitchell
    The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
    @thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

  12. I liked the second version because it had ambition and confidence, not to mention a certain je ne sais quoi -- a lot like the singer.

  13. I preferred the first version. When I started reading version 2 I instantly got into the meter of 'twas the night before christmas' and the whole thing was lost with me. I became more concerned with keeping the rhythm of the poetry than taking in the words.

  14. The first version was well-written, with perspective that was clear.
    But, the second version was strictly the observations made, leaving the final thoughts up to the reader.

    Both are good, but the 2nd version has more impact in its brevity and aloofness.

  15. hmmmm--now i am not sure if i want to be totally honest--but you asked---i don't really like either one particularly--the first one is kinda bland and the second one is too hard to follow--i guess if there was a reason to write it the second way, it would be better but if it was not done in that way because of the story line, then the first one, spiced up a little, would be preferred--

  16. I'm waiting for version 3. The first was good, but I felt it needed better descriptive phrasing. The second could easily be a song from which this scene was derived.
    Here's an example of what I mean: "Ted had made this special trip into the city to experience this performance." - to something like "Ted had endured the bumper to bumper drive into the heart of the city just for the chance to experience this live performance of his lifelong idol." - or something like needs more fleshing out, more thought like would you really hear what the audience was saying? would he really see his girlfriend leave?
    "From some unseen place he could hear the announcer introducing the singer. Then after..." hmmm. Can we reword this?
    "A bodyless booming voice, announced (heralded?) the singer, as he emerged from the darkened wings into the flood of lights and roaring crowd."
    So that's what I'm thinking...both need work. Sorry.

  17. Number one has the more consistent POV. To make it 100% consistent I'd change

    "Unseen by anyone in the audience was the singer's attractive girlfriend"

    "Appreciative comments could be heard throughout the audience"

    "Amid the stomping and cheering, the movement of the singer's lover and the stranger was unnoticed as they got up to succumb to their passions"

    so that it's the MC who sees the girlfriend, hears the comments and notices the singer's dismay.

    That way you have double irony at the end: the irony that the reader understands and that the MC understands as well.

    Looking forward to the why behind these versions.

  18. The second version is written as if the story was a song. They are like lyrics.
    Prefer the first one.

  19. Dear Arlee, . . . for me the first version worked best. I found the second version with its rhyme scheme distracting. That is, my mind was looking for the rhymes instead of paying attention to the story. Also, in the second version, the text offered little transition and so it felt, in the reading, uneven. The arc of the sentence and the cadence was lost.

    I look forward to learning why you're asking.


  20. I like the first one better--the writing seemed clearer--though the second one was interesting to read.

  21. It feels as if you can sense the effort put into the second one and yet I get so much more from the first version. I also think the rhyming thing might work better with a different subject.

  22. When I started the 2nd version, I immediately liked the rhythm of it, the feeling of being IN the moment. But had I read this one first, I don't think I would have gotten the point. I think I got it because I read the other version first. So overall, I like the 1st one better.

  23. I liked the 1st version better. I think there were to many passive verbs in the 2nd for me - kind of threw me out of the rhythm

  24. I liked the first version best.

    The second was too short choppy and just not as much of a story.

  25. Going against the grain and saying it...The reason no one likes the second one is you announced it as a short story rather than a poem. The meter is not my favorite, but nothing was lacking in the second one. Given my druthers, I prefer the rhymed one.

    However, in terms of the short story format, the first one is good. I agree is has a perspective problem. I was not sure why Ted made an appearance. I think there could be a segue (even if just a proximity) between his enthusiasm and the girlfriend's or the singer could overhear the conversation at the end (dropping Ted altogether).

    Yes, I am curious as to what you will reveal later today.

  26. Thanks for all the great comments. I have purposely kept my distance from saying anything so as not to taint any comments that could come after I've responded. I will leave it with the next post and respond to comments there.

    Thanks to all.


  27. I prefer the first version. The second version seemed to be in Jive Speak. Very difficult to understand.

  28. Loved the first one. Great descriptions, build up, and you can feel the emotions coming across. I agree with the other readers, the second one's poetry takes away from the story. Thanks!

  29. I have to admit since I'm reading this several days after you posted, I was tempted to skip ahead and see where you were going with this. However, I didn't. :)

    As a short story, the first version works best. The second version (with some tightening of the rhyme) would make a great country/western song. Bottom line, I liked both versions and see it as an interesting experiment.

    Now I will go and read what your followup post is about. :)

  30. Nellie- Jive Speak? Interesting comparison.

    Buck -- This seems to be the consensus.

    Paula -- I move on to see your next response, though you did a good job here.



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