Because this story is quite ambiguous in relation to the setting and also the main character's gender, I have been wondering whether this is frustrating for the reader or whether it provides a good effect for the story.

It’s been twenty-eight years since it began. Their government is hell-bent on destruction, willed on by – them. Those men who walk around in their suits, full of self-importance. On their fourteen thousand pound a year, have decided we must conform to their standards. We must speak their language. Adhere to their customs. They invaded my people’s land just over one-hundred years ago. Tried to destroy my race and overtook the country. Today my people will send a message to ‘them’.

I live in a community where they are few and far between. They aren’t as brutal as the ones in the bigger cities, probably due to the fact that we outnumber them at a rate of almost one-hundred to one. Although it has been over one hundred years since they stole my people’s land, they have only just taken the last step towards overtaking my peoples country. A bloody twenty-eight year battle has been fought. That is why today, my people are protesting the introduction of their language at my school.

I was five hundred metres away when I rounded the corner and caught my first glimpse of the crowd that had amassed for the rally. At first it looked like there was about ten thousand people, later I realised this was far from correct. Not one of them was around. All I could see was black. It was inspirational seeing all of my people here, slowly rolling towards me, rumbling just like a summer storm. As I got to within two hundred metres of them I heard it. A sound so terrifying, I break down every time I hear it, the POP! of a semi-automatic weapon. The crowd rushed in every direction, avoiding the bullets being hurled at them. Police suddenly swarmed, almost as if they had been teleported in. They must’ve brought them in from the city. ‘POP! POP! POP!’ Within five seconds police, were everywhere. I was now within one-hundred metres. The only safe-haven on the right side of the street, an old white, crumbling mud-brick shanty, roof tiles scattered across the road, was now almost pitch, covered with trembling. I ran quickly to the left side of the road where I found a tree and climbed it. Branches gouged my face cutting it open in several places. I couldn’t feel anything due to the fear of being shot.

I sat watching from my vantage point in the tree. Three students were thrown, lifeless, into a pile. Two of them were standing next to the small mound. ‘POP! POP! POP!’. Due to the shock at the situation unfolding, my vision slowly blurred. After about fifteen minutes the shock had dissipated and the scene started to become clear again. Guns trained on them, the dead students’ mothers and siblings screamed in what sounded like a mix of anger and grief.

After seven hours, the fighting died down. I decided to make a break. It was the longest minute of my life. With the searchlights trained on me I weaved my way down the road, bullets whizzing past my torso. I was ten metres away from the refuge of a building. My leg gave way. I’d been shot. When I hit the ground I heard footsteps, heavy ones. The next thing I knew I was sitting up against a house, covered by the all-consuming darkness. The voice of a young man pierced the cold night air. It sounded, different, foreign almost. It was then I realised that this man was one of them. ‘Bloody bastards!’ he exclaimed. ‘Why are you helping me?’ I asked, bamboozled. Was this a dream? ‘I’m one of you.’ ‘You can’t be, you’re not like us, you neither speak nor look like us.’

The man stood, silent. Then, displaying knowledge well beyond his years explained, ‘I may not look or speak like you, but I believe in your cause’. He continued ‘that makes me one of you.’ ‘POP! POP! POP!’ That dreadful sound continued to wreak havoc in the hearts and minds of my people. The ‘POP!’ had been followed by the ‘THWUMP!’ of flesh hitting the ground. I took a peek, the pile had grown. It was now about five-feet high.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see the young man holding something that resembled a soft-drink can and a gun. I soon realised it wasn’t soft drink, it was a silencer. Placing the silencer on the gun he instructed me to stay where I was. The young man’s heroics lasted but thirty seconds. He, who had risked his life to save me, in an act of defiance against his people, was gunned down. With rage rising like the sun, I did it, I ran out into the open, snatched the gun off the ground and peppered them with six bullets. I hit three. ‘SHIT!’ No bullets left. With only one of them left standing, I ran for it. Using cars as shields, I sprinted down the road. As I got to the last car, ten metres away from the sole survivor, I heard it. It was the most beautiful sound in the world. About one hundred of my people, of all ages, all screaming. They ducked out from behind the crumbling, mud-brick shanty. The last police officer, with only three bullets left and one-hundred people surging towards him, fired his gun in desperation. All three shots drifted away into the night. He was gone in under three minutes.

That was the day our country united.

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    Hi minimatt, welcome to Writers SE. Stack Exchange isn't like other boards; we need concrete, answerable questions which have the potential to help others. In the case of critiques, you would need to ask something specific: "Does my writing accomplish X?" (Is it suspenseful, does the dialogue sound realistic, is there a way to make this shorter) Asking for "opinions" is a discussion question and too broad for our site. Please edit your post to include an actual question we can answer, or we'll have to close. Oct 22, 2012 at 10:20
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    Once upon a time, there were 7 dwarfs and a snow white. Could somebody please give me an opinion of my story? Oct 25, 2012 at 3:50
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    Wasn't that a Disney movie or something? Oct 25, 2012 at 9:58
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    Thanks for editing (and @JohnSmithers - thanks for the neat title). Reopened. Oct 26, 2012 at 2:16
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    Dang, @JohnSmithers, that is an awesome title. :) Oct 28, 2012 at 0:17

1 Answer 1


This is of course my own, subjective opinion, but...

The gender ambiguity changes about nothing. It has no bearing on the story, and so no impact - a redundant undefined variable.

The nationality of the character - if you skipped the 'black' it would be a salt, turning a specific racial struggle into a general, universal one, with a bearing all of us could identify with. "What if it were us?" But this way, the key element - who vs whom - is defined (frustratingly far into the story) and the salt is lost.

The ambiguity of location - This is frustrating to no end. As you paint a picture of the location in your head, and must backtrack and change elements because no, it's not colonial period, there are semi-auto guns, change it to a modern times backwater settlement. No, it's not a poor backwater settlement, they have a bunch of cars; change it into a moderately advanced city. And the violent discrimination of the blacks is not a trend of current day, so it's not modern day, but some somewhat recent past, change models and style of cars. No, not a rampartly militarized country like most of Africa, the gathered are all unarmed. And the thrown in bits of historical facts break it up even further without adding much. The location requires an exposure. Let us see the place, instead of piecing it from our imagination then invalidating the image piece by piece. That's frustrating.

Summarizing: if you keep an important piece of exposure from the readers, keep it hidden until the end (either forever or just until last lines before the end if it's to be a surprise shattering the image we had built). If you want it to be known, make it known as soon as it bears any importance to the story, before we are forced to build a mental image from insufficient data. Do not dribble pieces of information in a story explicitly written. It's a valid technique in a criminal, where the explicit story (investigation) is all about piecing together the implicit story (the crime) from ambiguous details painstakingly gathered. It's not valid if the story itself is not implicit.

  • I didn't notice the bit about their being black. From the start I imagined something close to the world of 'Fringe' and so I imagined black suits or something similar. Realizing the 'invasion' was in fact racial really changed the meaning, not sure for better or for worse.
    – Mussri
    Oct 26, 2012 at 12:08
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    Hi guys, this is actually meant to be set in apartheid south Africa, the protest is the Soweto uprising
    – minimatt
    Oct 27, 2012 at 23:20
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    Yeah, revealing that makes AN ENORMOUS DIFFERENCE. I say it's officially frustrating, and bewildering. On the three previous reads I thought it might be an alien invasion, or possibly a kind of future England which had gone fascist like in V For Vendetta. Oct 28, 2012 at 0:20

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