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The Red Dress Club: Nomenclature

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Courtesy Microsoft Office

Caroline woke with start. Reaching for phone, she wondered if she would ever get used to the middle of the night pages. She entered the call-back number.

“This is Dr. Greenwood.”

“Hi Carrie?”

The people in Caroline’s life could be divided into two categories; those whom she’d known before she went away to school and those she met after. And she could determine which group a person belonged simply by what name was used.

Carrie. The diminutive form had been used from the very beginning. “Caroline is much too long of a name for such a tiny girl,” said her father. But the name never seemed to fit. Caroline felt as though she was using a pseudonym. On two different occasions, she had tried to make the transition to Caroline. But it never took. “You can be Caroline once you get to college, Sweetie,” consoled Mom. “It’s just too hard for folks who’ve known you all your life.”

“Hello? Are you still on the line?”

The voice on the other end of the phone could be placed into the first category, though it was someone with whom she attended university. She and Tara had met in high school and rather coincidentally ended up at the same university. Determined to be Caroline right from the start, she had shared her plan with Tara during Freshman Orientation. But by the time classes started a month later, Tara had either forgotten or didn’t really care. When Caroline would mention it, Tara would simply respond, “Hard for me to remember. I’ve always thought of you as Carrie.”

There were other things as well. Incidents or behaviours that viewed in isolation seemed of little consequence. When viewed together, and with the gift of hindsight, ought have made it clear that this was a very unhealthy friendship.

Like Tara’s habit of correcting Caroline’s grammar. Which, as it so happened, was pretty good. Or the unrelenting criticism of what Caroline ate. Worst was the one-upmanship. No matter what Caroline had done, was doing, or planned to do, Tara could beat it. SAT scores, position on the Student Council, volunteer work. As if they were rivals in some unnamed competition.

“Yes. I’m still here.”

“It’s me. Tara. Tara Finnley.”

The voice hadn’t changed since the last time they spoke. Which was three weeks before the end of Fall Semester, Sophomore Year. Caroline had gone to share a disturbing phone call she had just received from home.

“So I need to go home for about a week while my mom is recovering from her surgery.”

“What did you say she had again?”

“Some kind of brain tumour. They won’t know for sure until they can do a biopsy. It’s close to the surface, though, and she seemed to indicate that was promising.”

“So it seems like not that big of a deal.”

Tara seemed annoyed.

“It’s still a brain tumour.”

“I just don’t see why you have to go home?”

“I can’t explain it, Tara. My mom said it was fine for me to stay here and that my dad would call as soon as the surgery was over. But I just can’t imagine being here. I’ll be a nervous wreck. I might as well be there, see that she’s OK with my own eyes, get her settled back at home, and then come back to school.”

“Your mom said it herself; you don’t need to go. I mean, really, it isn’t as if you can assist in the operating room.”

A frigid vice grabbed hold of Caroline. With a sudden clarity, she turned and walked out of the room. They never spoke again.

It was the right decision. Six weeks later, her mother was dead. From a glioblastoma. On a leave-of-absence for the rest of the year, Caroline returned to school the following August.

“Yes. Tara. How are you?”

“I know it’s been a long time. My daughter. They saw something on the Xray. In the posterier para-something lobe.”


“That’s it. Parietal. It’s just…I read in the alumni magazine about your research…”

As Tara’s voice trailed off, Caroline was surprised by the response that rose to her lips.

Red Writing Hood is a writing meme. This week’s prompt was to write a piece of fiction about a phone-call from a long-lost friend. A friend who is in tremendous need of your help. Nomenclature is my initial foray into this genre. So constructive criticism is especially important.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, 15 April 2011 2:10 am

    Man, that seems to real. Very well done, I really liked reading it, although I have to admit the start was a little shaky and almost lost me, but maybe I was just distracted because in the end I really enjoyed it. Would have loved to see this as a full blown short story.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Friday, 15 April 2011 3:17 pm

      First, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      I’d love to know which was the shaky part and at what point do you feel that the story becomes more solid?

      This was my first attempt at fiction so your critique is very helpful.

      I love your approach to the prompt. I am intrigued by the topic choice. What an interesting subtext.

  2. Friday, 15 April 2011 5:20 am

    I love this! Would love to hear the rest of the story sometime!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Friday, 15 April 2011 3:23 pm

      Thanks, Teresa.

      Me too 😉

  3. Friday, 15 April 2011 5:44 am

    “A frigid vice grabbed hold of Caroline. With a sudden clarity, she turned and walked out of the room. They never spoke again.”

    LOVE love that!!
    Super great job! Great take

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Friday, 15 April 2011 3:25 pm

      Thanks, Dawn.

      Of course, what you have no way of knowing, is how long I toyed with the rhythm and working of these three sentences. So this is an especially gratifying comment.

  4. Friday, 15 April 2011 8:50 am

    I really liked the ending. It made me want to know more about your characters. I liked that you had them deal with a serious illness in different ways.

    All in all, the story very interesting. The only issue for me was the switching of the dialogue boxes and who was talking in them. I had to back and check to who was where. Was there a special reason for using the dialogue boxes? I think this story would have read easier, for me, without the boxes.

    Still, it’s a good story and I like your take on the prompt.

    p.s. Due to construction at my site (posts disappear without warning), I have moved my story to a friend’s site. If you want to read my story, go here I would love your thoughts about the story. And I do want constructive feedback:~)

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Friday, 15 April 2011 3:29 pm

      The special reason was that I simply could not remember how to indent and chose to use “blockquote” instead. I too found it distracting, but didn’t want formatting to be the reason that I backed out of my first attempt at fiction.

      I have fixed that and would love to know if it reads more clearly now.

      Good luck with your server issues… I’ll leave my thoughts on your post soon.

      Thanks so much for your comments!

  5. Friday, 15 April 2011 10:28 am

    Stopping by from the Red Writing Hood meme. Just wanted to say that I love the real life take you placed of this prompt. It is such an unexpected adventure. However, I think that is what makes it so good.


    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Friday, 15 April 2011 3:32 pm

      Thanks, Jessica.

      This was my first try at fiction. I would imagine that most beginning fiction writers rely heavily on personal experiences, as I have done here. I borrowed from several different events in my own life in order to create something new. I am pleased that I created a story that was convincing and still fiction.

      I am so glad that you stopped by.

  6. Friday, 15 April 2011 1:45 pm

    I think this is really good – what were you so nervous about??

    I don’t think you need those different color boxes. You can do dialogue without it for sure.

    Definitely left me wanting to know what she said to Tara!!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:21 am

      Thanks, Cheryl.

      I explained the boxes above. And you’re right.

      I’m a bit curious as well, though I have an inkling what she said…

  7. Friday, 15 April 2011 1:59 pm

    I really liked this and loved how the ending left us hanging, wondering what she would do. I agree that the dialogue boxes make it a little difficult to read, they break it up and the bolding is kind of distracting. I found my eyes jumping to them like they would reading a list post.

    I loved the beginning, how she can tell how people know her by what they call her and how you made it clear she doesn’t care for it.

    I think you might be able to tighten up the three paragraphs where describing their college relationship. They start with, “The voice on the other end of the phone.” I really liked parts of it, how it defined their relationship and the specific examples of calling her Carrie, correcting her grammar, the competitiveness, but the second paragraph especially, could mostly be eliminated. It’s a little telling versus showing and I think readers would get their relationship dynamic without it by just creating a different transition between the first and third paragraphs.

    I really loved how the two situations with the mother in college and the daughter now paralleled each other. And how Tara appeared still self-centered. Calling in the middle of the night someone you haven’t spoken to is a little rude to me.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:22 am

      I’ll work on that transition and see how I might tighten it up.

      Thanks so much.

  8. Friday, 15 April 2011 3:33 pm

    I like that you were so formal, yet down to earth. It’s true about knowing someone from a certain time in your life by how they address you-

    I want to know what was said at the end!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:24 am

      Kelly, thanks so much!!

      It seems that everyone is wondering what Caroline said…


  9. mommylebron permalink
    Friday, 15 April 2011 6:36 pm

    This is your first attempt at fiction? You did a great job, I love them basis of the story though I got a little confused in the middle. I love the twist at the end and the cliffhanger!
    Stopping by from TRDC.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:25 am

      Thanks. Would you mind clarifying which was the section that was befuddling? I’d like to tighten up anything that distracts the reader.

  10. Friday, 15 April 2011 7:25 pm

    A nice read. I like the direction you take it. Caroline is realistic and relatable.

    If I had one criticism it’s this: you make Tara really unlikable, so I think you could have pushed a little more at the end. The Hippocratic oath, the sense of being a doctor. I thought Caroline was going to respond as a doctor does to a patient: with the sense of wanting to heal someone. I feel like it got lost amid all of the dramatic recollections.

    Good post.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:27 am

      We have not yet Caroline’s response so let’s give her the benefit of the doubt that she will respond as one would expect a doctor to respond.

      As for Tara, all I can say is her character profile is the least fictitious aspect of this essay 😉

  11. Friday, 15 April 2011 9:14 pm

    I love the very real relationship you presented. They weren’t “perfect” till something happened; they already had a bit of good and bad wrapped together.

    I understand from the previous comments that you’ve removed some formatting, but it still looks like there are some odd places where there is extra space between some paragraphs and no space between others. I was getting lost trying to see if there was a poetic reason for it.

    I love the ending. Yes, the reader really DOES want to know “And then what happened?” But one of the objects of writing fiction is to inspire your reader to ask that very question! Yes. We want to know. But it’s right that you don’t immediately tell us.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:28 am

      No poetic meaning; just my ineptitude!

      I am glad that in my first piece of fiction I was able to leave the reader wanting more.

      Thanks for your comment.

  12. Saturday, 16 April 2011 12:17 pm

    I wondered what you would have done with this without a word count. I can see and hear your talent…and I think you couldn’t tell all you wanted to because of the number of words. First try of fiction? I am both surprised and impressed!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:31 am

      And I am impressed that you were able to discern how confining the word count was for me.

      On the other hand, I am pretty certain that the word count is what inspired the cliffhanger ending 😉

      Yes, this really was my first go and it caused a great deal of anxiety. I felt as though I didn’t really know what I was doing.

  13. Sunday, 17 April 2011 7:36 am

    I really loved your writing style. I loved the moment when it clicked for me why she became a doctor. You knew the ending before you heard the mother had died just by this fact alone. Great stuff.
    The ending was really good too – even though I know what happened next, I wanted to hear her say it.
    my only concrit was that I was confused why her parent would name her something and then not want to call her that name. Maybe it was a family name?

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 17 April 2011 8:34 am

      Thanks, Sara.

      I believe that Caroline had always intended on going into medicine. However, her ultimate choice of specialty was, as you point out, heavily influenced by her mother’s fatal illness.

      Parents sometimes select a name and then end up using the diminutive form. You might notice that it is Caroline’s father who insists on the moniker while her mother uses the formal form.

      BTW, since you know what happens next, do you mind telling me???


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