Hugh George Callaway

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Incredibly passionate, but lacking formally.

Anno Domini,

Thank you for the opportunity to read such an intensely personal piece. I definitely get the sense that you or someone close to you has dealt with PTSD in a way that has left a lasting impression. And while PTSD as a human experience is naturally a worthy topic for a short story, you need to help orient your readers with specific details about the characters, setting and backstory before it can have any emotional impact on us.

As of right now all we can determine is that Sam (I think, it was difficult to follow who was who and what they were doing) is with his dad and uncle while a fireworks display is going on, which triggers his PTSD from a difficult military campaign. But take some time to clue your readers in on where they are specifically? Why are these characters together at the moment? What's the occasion for the fireworks? As you establish their current circumstances you can flesh out who these characters are as individuals through their interactions. I want to relate to these characters who are precious enough to you that you labored over telling their story, but I need to know who they are and what they want in order to experience that.

Once you've oriented your readers in the story's present, you may want to take some time to give us some exposition through a flash back or dialogue. Perhaps these three men have gotten together at a cafe in a quiet corner of the city away from the fireworks displays to celebrate Sam's safe return from the war. As they toast him, kids from a neighborhood nearby light some firecrackers in the street and run around screaming as they go off. Our protagonist sees this and suddenly he's back in the war children fleeing machine gun fire. Maybe he runs and tackles one of the children in an attempt to protect him from the 'gunfire,' and instead injures him. This, in turn reminds him of the kid back during the war he failed to save...

I'm just making things up off the top of my head, but maybe you get my point? Every great story is a chronicle of the character pursuing a dream (for Sam that dream mat be as simple as living a 'normal' life) or fleeing a dread--the horrors of his past in the war. And, of course, the best stories will incorporate both of these poles of this motivational continuum. Right now all we know is what he dreads, and you've done a pretty good job of forcing him to confront it, but what does he dream of? What is he actively seeking? I think figuring that out might help you recenter your focus for the rest of the story.

It's great that you are experimenting with style and syntax but you want to be very careful about where and how often you use those short fragmented sentences. If used sparingly in carefully chosen parts of the story, those fragments can add incredible emotional flavoring to your story. However, continuing the seasoning metaphor: imagine those sentence fragments and other such formal experimentation as salt: a little will bring out the flavors that are already there. Add too much and all you can taste is salt. So, maybe go easy on the salt? :)

Anyway, I hope I was able to give you some insights and a fresh perspective as you approach this story for revision. You've chosen a difficult but important subject to tackle. I'm confident you will make your characters seen and heard!

Keep going!

Hugh G. Callaway

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