The youth of today, worried about the future, ha! The future happens over and over, will happen just as it has happened. All I need are your anchors, the things deciding your future. For example, that pretty little thing you left outside, she is no anchor. She will change you, yes, she will eat up your pocketbook! I saw her, I saw her jewelry and fake breasts. No, look at me, not at her. You did not bring her into the tent, you do not see her as part of your future, yes? She is a fun little fling, am I right? Oh, you think it shameful for me to speak of such things? Silly boy, I too was once young, I too had my flings. Beware that one, if you spoil her too much she will eat up all your money and leave you penniless. But have your fun, yes, that is what youth is for.
I see a career in business, yes, it is clear. You have the face of a salesman, fake sincerity is written in the lines of your forehead. But not greatness, no, you do not have the aura for it. Stay small, that is my advice, work for a great man who you can help become greater. You will know him by the offer he makes, he will come to you and offer you a good job, almost too good. Avoid the first offer, the one from the man with too-bright teeth. He is flashy, a big spender and wasteful, he will lead his business and you to ruin. The second man, he will be more modest in appearance but will offer a good position nonetheless. Work for him and you will have a good stable job. Maybe if you work for the first man you can afford to keep the pretty little thing for a while longer, but the second man will be the best in the long run. That is how these things go.
Family, a home? Of course, I see those things too. You are a modest person so you will have a modest home, a modest wife, two or three children when you least expect it. The house will be plain, but every year at Christmas you will dress it up in lights to try and outdo your neighbors. You will not, the man a few houses away will always have more, but do not worry about that. It will be your home for some time. Your wife will be plain, but crafty, she will outsmart you every time you try to get out of the yard work, better to do it the first time she asks. You think not? You will learn, trust me. This wife, she will not be the first you meet after the pretty little thing leaves you. There will be others, yes, other little flings. Each one will feel special, but none of them will be that plain wife. Have fun while you can, do not think too much about the plain wife, you will meet her eventually. Better that you have these days now, then later when you are married. And the plain wife, she will do that thing you wish for, if you are good to her. You know what I speak of, boy!
You have a hobby, yes? Stamp collecting? You are more boring than I thought! You could have told me anything, you could have said you were a big game hunter or a salsa dancer! Forget what I said about trying to outdo your neighbors with the lights, you are much too modest for that. You will have a small light-up snow man in the yard and a few lights, that is all! But this hobby, this stamp collecting, you will pursue it. You will keep it up, and go to things, conventions and such. They have conventions for stamp collecting, yes? Do not take the little flings with you, you do not want to scare the plain wife off if you meet her at one. Pursue this hobby, you will meet many other people through it, maybe even the second man although I doubt it. You will build relationships that will last your entire lifetime at those convention things, friends that you can rely on in times of need.
You will travel, of course you will travel! Nowhere very exciting it seems, perhaps the Mexico or the Florida. The children will wish to go to the Disney World, you will probably take them to the Disneyland first, being a modest person. And those friends, the ones you meet at the conventions? They will help you travel farther, they will let you and the plain wife stay with them when you wish to travel. Remember to offer the same in return, do not think your home too plain for them. Everyone wishes for somewhere else, even the people living in far off places.
Why does everyone ask about that? Why would you want to know about your death? Such a boring topic. Yes, you will die, did you think yourself immortal? Of course you don't, I am simply having fun with you. Let's see your death will be like you, modest. Avoid the easy food from the place near your place of work. Avoid eating there every day is what I mean! The plain wife, she will make you a good healthy lunch if you are good to her, and if she is not too busy with her own job. What, did you think she would not have a job? It is the new century boy, even I have a job of my own! Telling fortunes to silly little boys of course!
But your death, let me see there are many ways to die, boy, give me the time to divine yours! Avoid flashy sports cars, you would wreck them. Avoid doing your own home repair, especially electrical. I know you will avoid the Africa so I do not need to warn you about the lions there. Let's see, avoid the drugs, the pills; they may seem like fun at first but they would kill you in the end. Be moderate in the alcohol, more moderate than you are now I mean, there will be bad times just as there will be good ones and it is very easy to fall victim to the alcohol and the drugs in the bad times. Incidentally, avoid the stock market unless the second man advises something in particular; if the first man advises you, do the opposite. Be wary of snakes, the animal as well as the human kind, both are poisonous. And yes, if you do those things you should live a long life and die modestly.
After? Boy, I do not look `After.` There is only so much one should see in this life, seeing the things that come after it is not something I will dabble in. Find a holy man, any will do, he will tell you all that you wish to learn of his opinions. It is opinion only, that is all I will tell you. No one really knows what happens, that is my opinion.
Why do we want to believe that our future fortunes can be seen, especially by any old carnival-dwelling fortune teller? A true prediction of the future would be unavoidable, and so there would be nothing we could do to avoid or hasten it … and a false prediction would be little more than meaningless entertainment. Instead, it seems to me that what we should want is a fortune adjustor, someone to help us make our own future better. Thus this piece, in which one man's fortunes are adjusted by a carnival crone. In some sense it's all simple and practical advice: avoid certain people and associate with others, do the things you care about doing and live modestly, avoid these dangers and those threats. But the voice she uses, that of the wise old woman who really can see into his future, turns this advice into something mystical and important. I really appreciate the lesson I learned from this piece, that people tend to ignore or even test simple advice but they will listen to and heed it if there is some sense of the mystical involved. I also like how the fortune adjustor is such a strong character while the person she is talking to remains almost a blank slate, which to me is not unlike the idea that voiceless videogame characters will allow the player to identify with them better. With this piece I can really see where all of my old wise characters come from, which is a fun character for me.
For tWR, here's my critique [link] and my questions for the purposes of critique:
1. Does the fortune adjustor seem wise?
2. Does the fortune adjustor seem mystical, practical or both?
3. Does the fortune adjustor seem old?
4. What do you think is the source of the fortune adjustor's advice?
And thanks to HeyImNatalia [link] for spotting an error!
1. Yes. There seems to be a lot of experience under her belt that comes from observation in life. Experience and knowledge are said to help wisdom.
2. Both. There are signs of practicalities, such as her mentions of the plain wife and the little fling, as well as the continual use of 'modest', but also mystical. She refers to anchors, 'Let's see' and fortune. The use of 'fortune adjuster' also seems to me to blend the two themes together.
3. Yes. 'Old circus hag' is used early on, but there are also signs that she has led a long life. 'I too was once young. I too had flings' is such an example.
4. As mentioned earlier, experience and observation. For instance, she observes the young lady outside and uses her previous experience suggests that she isn't 'the one'. However, the last two sentences 'It is opinion only, that is all I will tell you. No one really knows what happens, that is my opinion', these suggest to me that in reality, she is only giving her opinion. It might seem to me a useful, wise and pratical opinion, but it is nevertheless an opinion only, not a 'real' fortune. It is up to the man what he does in life, for he can choose to take, not take or partially take the advice of the old woman.
All in all, this is a thoughtfully written piece of work. Very well done indeed!
Yeah, the one-sided conversation was fun. I can (just barely) remember writing this piece and thinking, “Should I be using quotation marks and descriptive prose? Should I even give the man's boring replies? Nope!”
If I can ask, what do you think of her being a fortune teller? Does her use of that mystical angle help make her advice more believable or trustworthy? I tried to make it all good advice, but I'm curious about what effect is created by her giving the advice as a fortune telling.
Thanks for the comment!
Edit: And thanks for the fave as well!
I have no experience of real life fortune tellers whatsoever, but she seems in some respects a bit more like an agony aunt. She advises against certain things and what the man should do with his life. All in all, she does give sound advice. What I find intriguing, now that I think about it, is that her narration begins rather mystical, drawing the man in with his clear need for all things mystic, then it gradually leads to something more practical, such as the paragraph where she talks about death (pretty much all the don'ts in life there). So, I have a sense that while her advice is believable/trustworthy without the mystical stuff, she needs to grab the man (and myself the reader) in by using fortune telling to get her views across, which makes her advice stronger when she presents a picture of reality to the man.
Wow...I haven't thought quite so deeply about a piece of text in a while. This is much more fun than some of the stuff I had to analyse at school, by far!
Ah, I haven't had any (personal) experience with fortune tellers either, just from movies and such. Maybe if I had, she might have seemed less like an agony aunt and more like a fortune teller. And now that I'm thinking about her believability as a fortune teller, I realize that descriptive prose might have helped in that regard. It isn't a fortune teller without beaded curtains and strange things within bottles
But yeah, you see what I see. The mystical nature she (half) takes on provides something important for the guy getting his fortune adjusted. He wanted to be here, he came to hear her advice, he just didn't know it would be so practical and straightforward. For me this is an interesting idea, because I'm curious about the meaning and importance of the mystical in our world
Thank you for the compliment! I'm happy to think deeply about this stuff too. But I think it helps that I'm alive; after all, the stuff you analyze in school is written by dead people most of the time, and they can't ask you response questions Also, mine being newer means a million people haven't already discussed it to death. Part of the fun could be discovering these things for yourself, rather than having your lit teacher tell you all the meanings of Romeo and Juliet. And really, what the school teacher wants is to train you how to analyze. Training isn't always easy or fun, but it can lead to fun and rewarding experiences later
I know what you mean, especially as analysing didn't come easy to me originally (especially with poetry). Like you said, the majority are older texts where they have been analysed so many times over the years. I wonder if schools will put more modern texts on the list (the most modern I ever got was 1984!). Certainly talking about the meaning and importance of mystical things in our world would be more interesting!
You're welcome again!
In answer to your questions, even though I am not part of whatever group you are in:
2. More practical than mystical. I don't feel a lot of mysticism coming from this piece, despite the use of terms like 'I see', 'aura', 'divine'. I'm not sure if you were aiming for this, though from your comment it seems you were aiming for a bit of mysticism. I think, for me, "I see" feels more like "I see your modest outfit, and see someone comfortable with a humble life," rather than "I see a vision in the mists of time...". Her language and the things she talks about, to me, feels like less of a stereotypical fortune teller, and more of a wise old granny who has seen many things in her lifetime. A superstitious granny, perhaps, like many grannies in Chinese culture (from my experience), but she doesn't strike me as particularly supernatural. Of course, that it my interpretation.
3. Yes. I think it's the way she calls him 'boy' and talks down to him without the sweet-talk that one would use for an actual little boy, implying that the 'boy' is not a child and implying at least a great age difference with the fortune teller. 'Hag' does conjure up images of an old ugly witch, but I think it's this subtler touch of talking down to him that does it for me, and I quite like it.
4. See #2. I can imagine her watching him interact with his surroundings before he has entered the tent, judging his character and this woman he is with. From experience, she can intuit what life will be like for him if he continues doing what he's doing, barring unforeseen dramatic life changes.
I haven't seen many people ask for critique in such a manner. I think it's quite helpful to both critique-er and critique-ee to ask specific questions like that. I might try it myself sometime.
Thank you very much for the full critique! The Written Revolution is one of those groups that requires you to a) critique someone else for every piece you submit and b) ask questions about the piece so those giving critiques have something specific to talk about. It is a pretty good system, although like many writers I have trouble occasionally thinking up good questions.
Back to this story: I think the mystical was sort of overshadowed by the practical. She sort of lost that old, mysterious, otherworldly witch feel, and felt more like a slightly grumpy, but nevertheless wise old lady. This is still a very vivid character, I picture a parent or grandparent warning me of taking the wrong roads in life (or something like that); though if you were trying to portray a regular old lady who disguises her solid advice as 'fortune telling' in order to get people to listen, I didn't that 'fortune telling' vibe.
I am not sure how I would remedy that if more mysticism was your goal, but I think perhaps some more phrases like "I see," or "I feel," "I sense," "something tells me," etc throughout would have solidified the fortune teller image; at the same time, because of the way the advice is presented, it wouldn't come across as "I see in my third eye," or "The spirits tell me," or "I sense a disturbance in the force." (I couldn't resist using that last one ). Because of the way that the advice is presented, these phrases would still convey a more realistic tone, such as "I see contentment in your eyes," or "I feel that you want something bigger," or "The way that you speak tells me that you aren't a very excitable person," all without you having to write out the full meaning. But since these vague "I sense" phrases are associated with fortune tellers, it helps blur the line a little more.
What I was trying to get at: was your goal 'I have wisdom and experience, but these young kids are coming to see a fortune teller so I'll play the part of the old witch'? Or was your goal 'I may be a carnival fortune teller, but I don't get my information from some crystal ball'? To me, you have achieved the latter.
Thanks for answering my follow-up questions!
It's not rude at all, thank you! So what's the difference between poison and venom? I should probably know this, being the guy who loved snakes as a kid, but for the life of me I can't remember.
If I recall correctly, the main difference is that venom is only injected, whilst poison can be injected, eaten, or inhaled.
So, can I just say that this is the most amazing thing I've read in a while? Seriously, whoa. The entire monologue was constructed very well, and there's a lot of character and wise simple advice in the crone's words. This was a pleasure to read.
Congrats on the well-deserved DD, and keep up the awesome writing.
Thanks for the congrats, and I am very happy you enjoyed the piece!
- Congrats on the DD!
Have a nice day!