April Story Chat Summary: “The Power of Verticality” by Anne Goodwin

The Story’s Success

With 200 recent views, 54 likes, and 94 comments, Anne Goodwin’s story, “The Power of Verticality” continues to make Story Chat a raging success. If you love to read short stories, you will enjoy Story Chat. For links to all of the Year Two stories bookmark the Story Chat Page or visit one of the authors’ recent blog posts listed below.

More recent Flash Fiction from several Story Chat Authors on Carrot Ranch Literary Community

What Anne Said About Story Chat

“Absolutely, this (Story Chat) is the place for our musings about our reactions to stories and I’m thrilled that you’ve shared so much. I just wanted to point out that some stories are never going to work for us regardless of how well they are written.”

Anne Goodwin

99-Word Summary – No More No Less

In keeping with the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction tradition, each month the Story Chat Summary features a 99-word summary that will hopefully make you want to read or reread the story if you missed it the first time or want to study it more deeply after reading the comments.

One unreliable first-person narrator, a tale of abuse and obscenities, in sickness and in health, and voilá, The Power of Verticality.” Two women shared the same body for a time indicating a mother/daughter relationship. Who is sick and unable to communicate, except her thoughts as the narrator, is the big unknown. Readers witness the visitor come and go bringing unwanted relics of the past, inflicting unkind words and sharp fingernails on the patient. They hear the staff playing their own cultural music which evidently doesn’t match the narrator’s culture. The story makes readers consider their own vertical relationships.

Themes and Tips in the Discussion

  • The Unreliable Narrator
    • “I guess we are lured into trusting most narrators but with this one we know we can’t as she can’t be too sure herself who she is.  I would say she is Naively Unreliable: Narrators who are honest but lack all the information, they simply lack a traditional, “greater understanding.” – KL Caley
  • Mental Illness
    • “At one point I did sense mental illness and after the story when I read the author had a background with a psych center – I think that rich experience trickled in here.” Yvette
  • Experiences with ElderCare
    • ‘She may look asleep’, the staff told me, ‘but she can’t be asleep 24-hours a day.’ Hugh
    • “I had to put my mama in the home. And I went to see her every day.” Debbie
    • “I went to see her (my first mother-in-law) from a different state where I lived, and settle her affairs legally so that she would be cared for. She asked me if I had lost my husband, but didn’t realize that my husband was her son. I called her a few times after I visited her, but because she didn’t know me anymore, it scared her. I had to stop.”

Writing/Reading Tips

  • I decided not to read any of the comments for this story until I’ve left my comments. Hugh
  • The only improvement I would suggest would be for the opening three paragraphs, whilst beautifully written prose is possibly a little long-winded for a short story.  KL
  • The arc – is “usually about how the character develops over time. There might be less movement in a short story, and certainly in this one, where the arc might be more about movement in the mind of the reader.” Anne
  • First-person tales are almost always more engaging to read I think. Omniscient narration too easily turns into a literary lecture of sorts. Gary
  • I know some folks do not want any photos or questions before a story (as they can be subtle spoilers) but I always get more from those startling bits (and sometimes with a movie, I like to see the summary and usually get more from it if I have an overview). Yvette

Attendance with Abbreviated Chattering

Going into a chat room online is much the same as going to a party. Story Chat is kind of like a warm homey chat room. There’s a lot of off-topic conversation as well as niceties. Since this is a summary of the chatter, not a taped recording to be used in a murder trial, I edit (not murder) comments with a chainsaw. To do this, I take out the parts that I think are white noise or unrelated and leave some of the raw emotional comments brought out by the story. To read the unabridged comments, feel free to refer back to the story post.

If the chatter has a blog linked to their comment, click on attendance links to visit one of their recent posts.

  1. Anne Goodwin (author) I’m intrigued by your distinction between narrator and person telling the story as to me they’re the same thing in a first-person narrative. I’d say the narrator shouldn’t lie to the reader but they can mislead through omissions and their personal biases. They can also communicate in a way that wouldn’t be possible in real life – for example, a piece of furniture could be a narrator, although none to my knowledge can actually talk or type.
  2. Marsha (me the hostess) Prequestioning is a great technique for learning rather than being a spoiler. Granted our readers are adults and most of them are also writers, but my aim is to enrich the conversations between them, and the conversations are super RICH! 
  3. Hugh W. Roberts It wasn’t long into the story before I saw a familiar life-experiencing theme. The storyteller in this story was like my mother, who sadly had dementia and passed away in 2015. However, I hope that my mother was never experiencing any of the emotions of the storyteller, although I know that my mother will have been very confused at times. When I visited her at the nursing home, although my mother was often asleep, I was always told to talk to her because she would be able to hear my voice and know what I was saying. ‘She may look asleep’, the staff told me, ‘but she can’t be asleep 24-hours a day.’ I don’t know how the nursing staff knew that, but I talked to my mother nonetheless. I can only guess that this terrible disease she suffered from allowed her to still have thoughts that the illness could not control. Before my mother passed away, she briefly opened her eyes, looked up at me, and smiled before fading away. Like the other person in this story, I wonder if she had heard everything I told her? So, there you have it. I have to add that it is excellent storytelling, Anne. You hooked me in straight away. It makes me wonder if you have encountered somebody will dementia?
  4. Yvette Prior At times it was poetic, warm, chilling (even haunting), and let us feel the settings so vibrantly: the murmur of the machines and music of the underpaid staff. The clear sections and the vague parts of this well-crafted story allowed me to come in and out of personal connections. Some of the scenes really hit home (kind of like when we re-watched Breaking Bad after being with my father-in-law – hubs and I both related to the nursing home scenes and the brief mention of the way the resident was complaining about sweet n low packets being taken). At one point I did sense mental illness and after the story when I read the author had a background with a psych center – I think that rich experience trickled in here.
  5. Gary Wilson Wow! What a strange story you’ve woven. …At different times I thought of mother & daughter, daughter and mother, a woman and her mildly evil caregiver from a 3rd world country, all one person with a multiple personality disorder, one person with an injury so massive that she can’t communicate, and only through the magic of storytelling are we hearing her explanation of how things are. …So – if this is a flawed protagonist telling the story – all her words could be suspect.
  6. Gloria The protagonist is perhaps a victim of a stroke or an accident that has left her unable to communicate. Is she in a vegetative state? Maybe an illness? It seems like she’s been this way for a long time. She compares the daisy to the friends and family that used to support and love her, but now they don’t. ‘Loved me once, loves me no more.’ If she’s an elderly person, maybe these loved ones have passed away or are themselves ailing. Only when I got near the end of the story did I decide that She is the mother. (Once they shared a body…this she seems certain of. A daughter visiting an ailing mother is how it usually is, a natural occurrence in the stages of life—but that’s not how it is.) Whoever she is, she’s in a sad place emotionally as well as physically. This is a sad story and makes me very grateful to have my health. Great story Anne and very thought-provoking. I like the mystery of it and trying to work out the answers. Even if there are no definite answers!
  7. Zelda Winter Very intriguing.
  8. Cathy Cade The story is a mystery, almost poetically framed. Mention of the ‘world outside’ is our first clue, described as a ‘vast beyondness’.
    • Her visitor has the ‘power of verticality’ that provides our title, so must be significant. Is she a social worker or a relative? Maybe a daughter?
    • Having staff suggests a care home or a hospice. ‘Hope peeled away … like dead skin’, along with her status reveal her feeling of worthlessness. She has nothing to give back. But, helpless, she is anyway unable to respond – not even to pinches and obscenities.
    • Maternal love is cited, but even the protagonist isn’t sure which of them is the mother. Trapped inside her own head, is she the daughter trapped in a coma? (a disappointment to her mother due to drugs or other failures) or – more likely, I think – a mother floundering in the fog of Alzheimer’s?
    • Information is gradually released in a masterful way, but still, nothing is certain – as the protagonist is no longer certain of anything.
      Very well done!
  9. KL Caley “The Power of Verticality” was an enjoyable and unusual read. I really enjoy tales like this that force you to walk in another’s shoes so to speak (anti-social or confessions of a GP tell this kind of story well). Although in this case, we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. Intelligent clearly, but experiencing some kind of brain fog that keeps them revealing the truth of their situation (as they don’t seem to fully know it themselves). The hint of abuse is incredibly sad but captured very well by the author. The protagonist displaying not just physical pain but emotional too. Provoking us to consider ourselves or our loved ones in a similar setting or scenario. Thank you for sharing it with us. I suspect the cruelty is real but with the lack of understanding of who (mother/daughter/another?) is causing it or why it’s difficult to say.
  10. Charli Mills What I appreciate about Anne Goodwin’s story is that there is no definitive answer to who “she” is. We, as witnesses to this moment, experience the uncertainties of a mind locked in limbo. The narrator’s memory loss and physical confinement limit what we can know and understand with certainty. The agony of not being able to communicate is keenly felt in those last three questions. Ah! This is why I love Anne’s writing. She allows readers the space to experience the inner world of another with no right or wrong interpretation. We are left with an alternative to “the end.” Anne gives us a chance to withdraw from “this is.” And as readers, we leave but continue to mull over what we bore witness to.
  11. Robbie Cheadle This is an interesting story. I would assume the person is in a coma. Perhaps it is a woman who had a car accident resulting in her being in a coma. Obviously, the doctors do not think there is much chance of recovery. Perhaps the visitor is a jealous sister who is taking malicious pleasure in her sibling’s suffering and taking the opportunity to be deliberately unkind.
  12. Erma Williams This is a story that makes you think. At first, I thought they could be sisters who still had some sibling rivalry between them. Now I think it is a mother and daughter who might not have had a strong relationship. One character is trapped in her body unable to respond or care for herself. The other character takes advantage of the condition. It’s like she is getting revenge while showing false concern. She is enjoying the control she has over the first character.
  13. Debbie Hill I had to put my mama in a home. And I went to see her every day. Some days she knew me and then others she didn’t. But I had 2 years with her before she passed. I miss her so much.

Anne Goodwin Amazon Biography

Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health, and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by a small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Coming up on Always Write

  • May Story Chat and a new story by Charli Mills will post on May 10.
  • WQW will return on May 11. Please leave any links to your WQW posts on WQW #16 until then.
  • PPAC #46 is in the works for May 13. Please leave any links to your PPAC posts on PPAC #45 until then.

Now it’s your turn.

Don’t forget to give Anne a visit or purchase one of her amazing books and leave her a review on Amazon or on your blog. Her stories always enrich my life, as I’m sure they do yours. Thanks again for being a great part of Always Write’s Story Chat. Until next month, keep reading, writing, and chatting.

14 responses to “April Story Chat Summary: “The Power of Verticality” by Anne Goodwin”

  1. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home Avatar

    Thanks again for hosting me, Marsha, and doing such a wonderful job in summarising the discussion. Thanks also to everyone who read and commented on this story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      You are so welcome, Anne. It’s been a joy ride this month. I’d still like to consider a chat after I get back.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought” (#Vintage Books April 2022) – priorhouse blog Avatar

    […] you missed it – Marsha’s April story chat (here) featured a CAPTIVATING short story from Anne Goodwin (Website: […]


  3. Miriam Hurdle Avatar

    Great chat on the story by Ann this month! I love your summery, Marsha.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks so much, Miriam!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Miriam Hurdle Avatar

        You’re welcome, Marsha!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

    love your story chats and these words… nicely done Marsha..

    I edit (not murder) comments with a chainsaw. To do this, I take out the parts that I think are white noise or unrelated and leave some of the raw emotional comments brought out by the story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      When it first started I could include much mor detail. Now, and maybe then too, it would be way too long and cumbersome. We can get pretty off-topic!


  5. Cathy Cade Avatar

    Another masterful summing up. I’d missed some of these – time to review, I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      You are too kind. If I didn’t have all of your wonderful comments, what would I say???

      Liked by 1 person

  6. KL Caley Avatar

    Brilliant round-up of thoughts and feedback Marsha, I hope it was an enjoyable and useful experience for Anne. Thank you for including my own. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the thoughts and interpretations of the other readers. KL ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks KL. I’m always amazed at what the readers pull out of each story. Thanks for taking time to read and comment, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Marilyn Armstrong Avatar

    I admire this kind of writing, but I won’t read it. Life has been sufficiently challenging. I read to escape, not delve into greater darkness. This probably sounds a bit callow and if it is, so be it. At least Garry and I are unified in an unwillingness to dive into more darkness. His mother died of old age and dementia. My mother didn’t live long enough to get dementia and so far, Garry and I are mentally functional. So far, so good.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      The best news is that you are mentally functional. Yay. I hope you are doing well. We’re enjoying it while we can! My mom was good till the end. His mom, not so much.


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