Challenge 335 Response
Plot Problems in “Smile”
by Carmen Ruggero
And, answering the next Challenge question, I would add that the story would have a better chance of survival if the photographer’s “chorus” were omitted. Now that's the simple fix.
I believe that the author took on a very ambitious project, but it doesn’t come together:
We start out with Tammy’s mother being late to pick up Tammy after soccer practice. If we go with Tammy’s reaction, her mother’s tardiness could conceivably be a family issue. However, everything seems average at home. Thus the drama — anticipated by the reader — fails. Tammy seems to have normal parents.
The artist-photographer’s chorus appears from the beginning. It seems as if he is stalking the girl. But that doesn’t happen. They don’t even meet. So who is the photographer?
Tammy is asked by her teacher to submit a story, I suppose for a contest. Again, we see Tammy’s self-doubts, her apparent jealousy of her friend. Now the plot could advance in this anticipated direction, and Tammy throws another pity party. Something is wrong with this child. But that line of thinking goes nowhere.
Suddenly Tammy is talking to a man at school. Is he a teacher? The school principal? I don’t know who he is. He appears to be her friend’s father, who Tammy believes is her father, not her friend's. She holds the same “woe is me” internal dialog. But that part of the story doesn’t really go anywhere, either.
I believe that in some cultures it was or even still is believed that, when a person’s picture is taken, that person forfeits his or her soul. If they steal your image, they steal your soul, as well. Is that what the photographer is doing? Stealing talented souls to build his or her own gallery of ghostly talent?
The story goes full circle and ends with the opening paragraph: Tammy is waiting for a ride home. But has it really gone full circle or simply not moved at all? Sometimes a piece of writing raises valid questions, but I believe that what we have here is a notion of a plot that fails to come together.
Copyright © 2009 by Carmen Ruggero