untitled retail humor (600 words)

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JohnDurvin
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untitled retail humor (600 words)

Post by JohnDurvin » January 25th, 2013, 9:56 pm

This isn't the beginning of the story (around 2500 words), but it's the beginning of the main conversation. The story is a character sketch of a young lady with a retail job, and just how miserable it is to work there. The dialog between Tatiana and the Grunnah is a compilation of real conversations I've had, so my main concern is that whole thing is more of a comedy skit than a real short story--but is that a problem?

It was just as she’d dreaded: pen refills. The best Tatiana could have hoped for was a wise old gentleman that already knew which he needed, depleted refill in hand, but that was never the case. Here, now, she had a monstrously fat man standing obtusely in the center of one of her aisles, staring alternately at this or that pen through tremendous glasses balanced on an unevenly shaped botch of a pencil mustache, scowl-lines creasing his face blubber. Tatiana steeled herself with a sigh and a preliminary roll of her eyes, hoping to get it out of her system now.
“What brings you in today?” Tatiana asked the person after she’d walked over. Gyrating around the elderly creature’s knees, there was an irritating-looking youth in camo with a rat-tail and freckles, but when Tatiana appeared he ran off with a breif cry of ‘I’m’a be in sportin’ goods,’ and then he called the thing a name that might have been ‘Grandma’ or it might have been ‘Grampa’, or it might have been ‘Grendel’; the result was closest to ‘Grunnah.’ “Can I help you with anything?” Tatiana asked. The Grunnah’s eyes bulged breifly under its aviator-frame bifocals and it pursed its lips, evidently having realized that someone was talking to it, if only it could determine who. “Do you need help finding something?” The troll’s roving gaze hit upon her suddenly and it jumped slightly, startled, staring Tatiana square in the eye with an expression of dull intensity. “Hi, my name is Tatiana. Is there something I can help--”
“Do you work here?” the Grunnah demanded. Its voice sounded like a dying dog trying to struggle its way through a fifty year haze of the cheapest cigarettes money could buy.
“Why, yes, I do, sir,” Tatiana said through a smile more forced than usual, straightening her day-glow uranium-green vest with the store logos on the chest and back. “Can I help you?”
“I seem to be having some trouble finding something,” it said, stumping slowly in a circle to face the wall of pens. “Could you give me a little help for a second?”
“Sure, what can I do for you?” Tatiana said loudly with the kind of wide-grinning mock-enthusiasm that she certainly hoped this creature was blind enough to mistake for sincere. It made no answer, squinting one eye, then the other at the oyster-grey shelving. “What--”
“Can you?”
“I sure can, sir,” said Tatiana. “What can I do for you?”
“Well,” he said, pulling a black plastic pen out of the pocket on the front of its shirt, “I need a refill for my pen.”
“No problem, the refills are right here behind you,” Tats said, pointing at the wall. Slowly it wheeled in a circle to face the display like some obsolete engine of progress. “What brand is it?”
“I don’t know,” said the Grunnah, following her finger and snatching one off the rack in its ham-fist and presenting it. “Oh, is this it?”
“Uh--I don’t know, can I have a look at the--”
“This one looks right, don’t it?” It stared at the refill in its hand from a few angles. “Is this it?”
“I--”
“I think it is, you’re right. If it’s not, how long do I have to return it?”
“Well, thirty days, but if I could just have a look at it, I could probably tell if it’s the right one or not,” she said, waving her hand towards the pen like a Jedi. The Grunnah had the pen enclosed in its giant fist, drooped limply by its side.
“A look at what?”
“The pen?”
“The what now?”
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

ZoeOlivia
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Re: untitled retail humor (600 words)

Post by ZoeOlivia » September 25th, 2013, 5:37 pm

I used to be a retail manager, so I DEFINITELY relate to what you're trying to do here, but I think you may be putting the customer down in a way that is kind of hard to picture and possibly insulting. People don't like to think that retail workers HATE THEM THAT MUCh, it's depressing. Maybe use a customer who is hopeless in a way basically anyone could relate to but not feel guilty enjoying (not just fat and troll-like AND dim witted, all of which kind of make the character seem like a parody which may not bode well for realistic humor because it's hard to picture)

I would like to see this as a skit, actually, it would be fun to watch someone act out that character, but when you can't see anyone doing a goofy portrayal its harder to picture.

Gnad
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Re: untitled retail humor (600 words)

Post by Gnad » January 21st, 2016, 5:18 am

These are my thoughts off the top of my head as I read.

It was just as she’d dreaded: pen refills. The best Tatiana could have hoped for was a wise old gentleman that already knew which he needed, depleted refill in hand, but that was never the case.

I got a little confused here. Is Tatiana holding the depleted refill or is Tatiana thinking about a man with a depleted refill?

Here, now, she had a monstrously fat man standing obtusely in the center of one of her aisles, staring alternately at this or that pen through tremendous glasses balanced on an unevenly shaped botch of a pencil mustache, scowl-lines creasing his face blubber.

I feel as if this sentence is too dense. Perhaps splitting it into multiple sentences would make the information easier to digest.

For example: Here. Now. She had a monstrously fat man standing obtusely in the center of one of her aisles.

It gives the readers breathing room to pause.

For this section: staring alternately at this or that pen

I am not sure if I would use the terms "this" and "that." It breaks the third person point of view by addressing the reader out of the blue. Perhaps simply stating that he stared between two pens would be better.


Tatiana steeled herself with a sigh and a preliminary roll of her eyes, hoping to get it out of her system now.

What is Tatiana hoping to get out of her system? We all have experienced a person who's a jerk before, but we're here to know about Tatiana. What is she feeling exactly?

“What brings you in today?” Tatiana asked the person after she’d walked over.

Gyrating around the elderly creature’s knees, there was an irritating-looking youth in camo with a rat-tail and freckles, but when Tatiana appeared he ran off with a breif cry of ‘I’m’a be in sportin’ goods,’ and then he called the thing a name that might have been ‘Grandma’ or it might have been ‘Grampa’, or it might have been ‘Grendel’; the result was closest to ‘Grunnah.’

This is a run on sentence. Splitting it into several sentences as I said before would be best because there are so many elements.

“Can I help you with anything?” Tatiana asked. The Grunnah’s eyes bulged breifly under its aviator-frame bifocals and it pursed its lips, evidently having realized that someone was talking to it, if only it could determine who.

Again, splitting this sentence into several sentences would make it easier on the reader.

“Do you need help finding something?” The troll’s roving gaze hit upon her suddenly and it jumped slightly, startled, staring Tatiana square in the eye with an expression of dull intensity.

Splitting this up is suggested. Also unless you are aiming for a sarcastic remark, "dull" and "intense" are probably not the best term to use together because they confuse the reader by contradicting each other.

“Hi, my name is Tatiana. Is there something I can help--”
“Do you work here?” the Grunnah demanded. Its voice sounded like a dying dog trying to struggle its way through a fifty year haze of the cheapest cigarettes money could buy.

“Why, yes, I do, sir,” Tatiana said through a smile more forced than usual, straightening her day-glow uranium-green vest with the store logos on the chest and back. “Can I help you?”
“I seem to be having some trouble finding something,” it said, stumping slowly in a circle to face the wall of pens. “Could you give me a little help for a second?”


I was a little confused here because the reader hasn't been really exposed to how the room looks like. It would be helpful to state where is the wall of pen.

“Sure, what can I do for you?” Tatiana said loudly with the kind of wide-grinning mock-enthusiasm that she certainly hoped this creature was blind enough to mistake for sincere. It made no answer, squinting one eye, then the other at the oyster-grey shelving. “What--”
“Can you?”
“I sure can, sir,” said Tatiana. “What can I do for you?”
“Well,” he said, pulling a black plastic pen out of the pocket on the front of its shirt, “I need a refill for my pen.”
“No problem, the refills are right here behind you,” Tats said, pointing at the wall.


Again, stating where this wall is in perspective to Tatiana would be very helpful.

Slowly it wheeled in a circle to face the display like some obsolete engine of progress. “What brand is it?”
“I don’t know,” said the Grunnah, following her finger and snatching one off the rack in its ham-fist and presenting it.


It would probably be best to split this into two sentences.

“Oh, is this it?”
“Uh--I don’t know, can I have a look at the--”
“This one looks right, don’t it?” It stared at the refill in its hand from a few angles. “Is this it?”
“I--”
“I think it is, you’re right. If it’s not, how long do I have to return it?”
“Well, thirty days, but if I could just have a look at it, I could probably tell if it’s the right one or not,” she said, waving her hand towards the pen like a Jedi. The Grunnah had the pen enclosed in its giant fist, drooped limply by its side.
“A look at what?”
“The pen?”
“The what now?”


The misspellings that I was able to spot are in red.

The only other element I would like to point out from your writing is how you've presented the antagonist as an "it." I had a few moments where I was confused on whether we were discussing about an item that you had brought the reader's attention to (such as the pen in his hand or the wall), or if we were still addressing the antagonist. I would suggest simply stating "troll" or another term in place of "it."

On another note, I haven't worked in retail. However, I have worked in fast food. So as a reader, I can relate to Tatiana. My favorite part was the short conversation at the end where Tatiana attempted to check the brand of the pen.

- GnaD

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