See if the above poster hooked you:

Total posts: [357]
1 ... 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Every time someone doesn't read the first part of this post, Rick Santorum eats a kitten and your post may be frowned upon.

Idea stolen from Critique Circle.

The writer will post no more than the first 500-1000 words of their work (unless you desperately need to finish a sentence, I guess). If it's a script, the first four pages should suffice, since 1000 words is about four pages in most books.

The reader is pretending to be an editor going through the slush pile, and will stop reading the excerpt if they lose interest. The reader will post to say if they stopped reading, why/ why not, and offer suggestions. The critique doesn't have to be detailed, but please at least offer some advice.

Every time someone doesn't follow the second part, Rick Santorum eats five kittens and your post has a 90% chance of being ignored.

FRIENDLY REMINDER: As the title of the thread implies, if someone posted an excerpt before you, please critique it before posting your own. If you skip someone, you lose the right to whine if someone skips over you. People that have been skipped, feel free to post a polite reminder if you're getting concerned. Reading 1000 words and leaving a few comments shouldn't take too long. And look at it this way: if you critique it yourself, you don't risk waiting forever for someone else to do it for you (this thread takes occasional naps) and you don't have to hope the critiquer doesn't have an excerpt of their own to post right after.

A SHORT NOTE: By hook we mean the first thing the reader sees of the story, not necessarily some sort of inciting incident. Your beginning can be slow and steady, but it still counts as the hook because readers can still be interested by something that moves slowly as long as something is there that gives the reader a reason to keep going. So if you have a prologue that meets or surpasses the word limit, don't stick your first chapter underneath it.

DISCLAIMER: This isn't a hardcore critique thread, so don't try to milk a detailed critique for your first chapter. That's why we have the word limits. Just think of this as a preliminary screening process for serious problems so you can get started on making your first impressions sparkly and awesome.

edited 20th Aug '12 7:46:48 PM by SnowyFoxes

326 somerandomdude19th Jun 2013 04:42:21 PM from Dark side of the moon , Relationship Status: How YOU doin'?
[up][up][up]That was quite entertaining, actually. I like the interplay of magic in the daily lives of your characters.

As for mine: this is an Alternate History set during World War II in a world where Russian Revolution didn't happen (at least, not the way it happened in real life. details )

“Emperor Alexis, please do not trust this man. I am asking you both as Imperial Advisor and friend.”

Anton Fyodorov looked up at the Emperor. The monarch was in his 30’s, but the stress of ruling an empire from an age when most young men are barely starting to leave home had aged him. The years had been kinder to his Imperial Advisor, who in his early eighties still had the presence and appearance of a man half his age, save for his snow-white hair.

“They will invade whether or not we sign the treaty, Anton,” was Alexis’ reply after a long period of silence. He could get away with using the advisor’s first name in private. “But with this, we can count on them being off our backs for enough time for us to get ready. I hope.”

Fyodorov knew he was right, but the thought of signing a treaty with the toothbrush-mustached freak of a German dictator, Adolf Hitler, still made him sick to his stomach. And the thought of the boy—he still thought of the emperor as a boy—he had raised as his own son going to war made him sicker still.

“You ask me not to trust him, and that I will grant you,” Alexis said. “I don’t trust that toothbrush-mustached freak any further than I can throw him, but what is looming over Russia from Budapest to Vladivostok is war, any way you slice it, and no matter what direction we may take. You’ve heard both his rants on world conquest and his seething hatred of the Slavic people. Conquering Russia would be achieving his greatest ambition. We cannot let that happen. We will not survive as a nation, and we will scarcely fare better on an individual basis.

“All that is left is to agree to his pact and open up talks with Britain and France. Perhaps the United States as well, should the Americans be so inclined.” Russia had enjoyed reasonably good relations with all three countries since the end of what was about to become merely the First World War, and they could all see the threat Nazi Germany posed. “Naturally, of course, the Germans must not find out about our talks with the Westerners.”

“Of course,” Fyodorov replied. “We’d be begging for an invasion.”

“We do that merely by being Russians, I’m afraid.” Alexis sighed. “At any rate, the pact must be approved by the Duma. Make your case, Anton. They will not listen to a monarch, but one of their own is a different story.”

edited 19th Jun '13 4:43:50 PM by somerandomdude

Wenn man nicht die Fresse halten kann, einfach mal Ahnung haben.
327 cityofmist20th Jun 2013 03:09:07 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
I'm certainly intrigued by your alternate history premise, probably enough to keep reading. Out of interest, how did the Nazis come to power in this scenario without being able to exploit the massive fear of a Communist revolution caused by the Russian Revolution? Thinking about it, the formation of the Weimar Republic probably would have been very different; if the SPD hadn't been so worried about the revolution turning Communist they probably would have gone a lot further in reforming the army, etc. It's definitely a fascinating idea for your story.

I also already like the character of Alexis. You establish a few details of his character quickly, without becoming unsubtle, and I can see how the shut-in-haemophiliac-turned-emperor could be a really interesting character to follow.

Your writing style is okay. I think it could be polished a lot, but there's nothing I particularly dislike about it. There are a couple of things I'd pick you up on, though:
  • You describe Alexis as 'in his 30's' and then, one line later, Anton as 'in his early eighties'. It looks weird to write inconsistently in that way and in prose fiction I'd probably expect the latter, so you should probably change the former to 'in his thirties'.
  • You use the phrase 'toothbrush-mustached freak' for Hitler twice in two paragraphs, which is just repetitious. In any case, I think putting in such an obvious historical in-joke for your readers in the first page comes across as a bit try-hard. Especially since once you've said 'that toothbrush-mustached freak of a German dictator', specifying that it is indeed Adolf Hitler is a bit unnecessary.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
Poke2201
Well, lets just revive this thread here.

[up][up][up][up]

It was pretty interesting. Normally I dont read more fantasy novels, but the beginning would let me read more into the story. I wish I had some criticism for this piece, but I see nothing that I would do better. grin

[up][up]

I like the scenario. However, it doesn't lend much to the imagination. Sure you just change the communist government with a monarchist government, but wheres the tension? Racial issues is a sticking point, but not a firestarter to war.

But I do agree that Alexis is interesting. His character shows political intelligence, but it makes me wonder, will he survive?


Here's a story I've been thinking about, its not fully fleshed out yet, but I have a gist of the main plot. I'm just hoping the plot device will be interesting enough [lol]


What would it be like to die?

What would it be like to eliminate a pitiful existence?

What if... No. There's no reason for that.

Don't take me wrong, I'm not suicidal or depressed... I'm just... normal. If you could call it that.

But what if indeed...

I finished packing up my things from my small room with my grandparents and headed out. They were the nicest people I've been with for a long time, and yet, I'm not going to miss them. Such kind people deserved to be missed, but I felt nothing.

They smiled at me with that kind smile they've given me over the years; since I moved in with them, first day of school and its last. Yet, I never smiled back at them. I couldn't. I didn't feel anything. I still respect that though. Having someone live in your house for almost 10 years without giving you a smile is something respectable indeed. It would have driven lesser people mad.

“Hey son,” My grandfather said quietly, “Are you ready to go?”

I nodded. Most of my other things were already packed into a car. I just needed to do one more thing.

“Give me a moment.”

“Alright. We'll be waiting in the car.” He left the room.

I looked at my cell phone, wondering if I should call the only friend I had ever made in high school. After a few seconds, I called her number.

“Hey... Amy....” I started.

“Hey... John...”

“I'm heading out soon...”

Silence covered the other line. I wondered if she even heard me. “I said-”

“I know.” She said finally.

“Don't you wanna see me leave?”

“I don't know anymore.”

That's right. She had fallen in love with me in freshman year of high school. I didn't even know until she walked up and asked me out. We lasted throughout all of high school. I thought I did everything right. I watched romantic shows and everything, yet... She broke up with me right after graduation.

“I can't go out with you anymore... We're going to different colleges after all.” “But... I still want to be with you.” I said.

“Thats the problem... You don't have any passion for anything. I mean, I've been obviously cheating on you with Greg and other guys since Sophomore year!”

I stared at her. She continued, “I mean, guy after guy took me away and I looked to see if you'd come do something, but no you just stood there and let me go! I didn't want to be branded a slut by the other girls, so I just pretended to stay with you until now.”

“Oh.” That's all I could mutter out.

“Thats it?! We're done John.”

I just stood there as she walked away. I sighed as I muttered, “Same as the rest of this world...” and walked home alone. We made up the next day, with her mostly apologizing for being mean. She promised to see me off when I left for college.

“Yeah... I don't think I can keep that promise.”

“...” I didn't say anything.

“I'm sorry.” She hung up. That was the last I heard of her.

I lifted my bags and walked to the car. My grandfather turned on the car and we drove off to college.

The college I got into wasn't a large college, but it had a decent amount of people in it. I applied only to this school, so I was lucky to get in on the first try. The dorms themselves looked inviting, but nothing more than that. In short, it was an average school in an average town.

I moved into my room quickly, I didn't have as much stuff as other people did. I had a co-ed dorm, so both girls and guys were packed into one floor. My grandparents helped me move in and left quickly, as they had to be in the the next town in a few hours to catch a flight or something. They seemed happy though. I saw them off and walked to my room.

That's where I saw her. It was a girl with dark brunette hair, she had a teddy bear in her hands and she was walking with a few friends, evidently her roommates. The other girls looked at me and quickly walked off, gossiping about how creepy I was. However... She didn't.

“Hi! I'm Lily!” She stuck her hand out. I nodded and walked into my room.

“Hey, don't ignore me!” She barged in. “Whoa...”

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Your room looks so... bland.”

“Thanks.” I said sarcastically.

She smiled. “That was the first time you spoke to me! Who are you?”

I gave in at this point. I just wanted her to leave. “I'm John.”

“Hello John. Meet my teddy bear, Marius.”

Little did I know that teddy bear would change my life forever.

edited 1st Jul '13 7:30:22 AM by poke2201

"Love is like war: Easy to begin but hard to end." - Anonymous
Well, I guess first off I should say that I think that rhetorical questions are a terrible way of engaging the reader. Especially some melodramatic "what is life? a pitiful pile of existence" type talk. I also feel that the narrator is a bit too self-obsessed. It seems almost every other sentence includes the words I, me or my. It makes the story seems like a 'woe is me and my pathetic life as a narrator' and nobody wants to read about how much the narrator thinks he sucks. I think I would prefer it if the narrator made a few more observations about his surroundings and the people he's interacting with rather than just focus on himself. Also "little did I know that teddy bear would change my life forever" seems kind of cheap. Like "hey, you better keep reading, you won't believe how this teddy bear thing pays off". Also, there's a few too many ellipse. They become less dramatic the more they're used.

Sorry if this comes across as really negative. It seems like the story itself kind be kind of alright.

Here's the first two paragraphs of a short story I started last night...

In his office, detective Harvey Lee Robinson sat intently, his tall, lean figure draped in a brown tweed jacket. The upward slant of the cigarette clamped between his teeth hinted at his total absorption with what he was listening to. Nestled between his jutting cheekbones and the brim of his fedora, his sharp eyes stood fixed on the figure at the other end of the desk: a seven-foot reptilian humanoid.

Droplets of thin white liquids bled from the pores in its forehead, running between the buds on its brow and around its big black eyes as the creature shivered in its sit. With its rubbery appendages acting as a hand, it took a few frantic drags from its cigarette.

"It's all The Worms," the creature exclaimed, “The Worms broke in.”

Harvey struck a match and held it in his cupped hands, lightening the near-dead cigarette. He squinted and turned his attention back to the creature.

“Who are they? These ‘Worms’, I mean.”

Impudent Upstart
Many thanks to those who provided feedback! Glad to know it has an interesting start.

@Somerandomdude:

So far so good. You set up plenty of plot points to be intrigued about in such a short space (Will the Germans honor the treaty this time around? Will the secret talks with the West be discovered? Will the people go along with Alexis’ plan? How will the preparations for war go?) I’d want to read until the end of the first chapter before deciding to stick with the story, but the characters seem interesting and the premise is promising at this point.

No real concrete critiques with what you have so far. I’ll second cityofmist’s comment about the ‘Toothbrush-mustached freak’ comment. It took me out of the story, made it sort of obvious I was reading something written by someone who had a historical perspective of the man. I’d watch out for characters knowing things or having insights which would be out of place.

@poke 2201:

Honestly, I have a hard time deciding if I’d keep reading this or not. You definitely made me believe the main character has an apathy problem, but the rhetorical questions and “Same as the rest of the world” type comments made him feel obnoxiously pretentious to me as well. When I encounter such a character its usually a tossup if I keep reading to see if he’s got some sort of redeeming (or at least interesting) quality, or figure, well, if the rest of us people are so uninteresting he probably wouldn’t want me reading about him anyway. It’s a difficult thing to balance, so that’s something to watch out for. His thoughts about his grandparents made me feel a bit more sympathetic toward him though. (Though I gotta admit, when I heard they were catching a flight my first thought was “probably going on a well deserved vacation after getting this kid out of their house tongue)

As for the rest, a few comments:

First, I didn’t realize that his conversation with Amy was a flashback at first until you mentioned John staring at her.

As for the character of Lily: she only showed up at the end, but from what I’ve seen you’ll have to be careful if you want to avoid her being a mere Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Just what about boring John makes her feel she wants to introduce herself to him and be separated from her friends?

Focus on dialogue, especially with Amy, seemed somewhat wordy and unnatural.

A few more details would be nice. Not too many, he doesn’t seem like the detail oriented type, but the name of the college at least.

Teddy bear as a hook has me somewhat intrigued, but honestly I’m more curious as to what John’s excuse for being so mopey is. I have to admit it caught my attention; it definitely was a change in tone from the rest of the opening.

All just my opinion, of course.

@WSM:

Well I’d definitely keep reading from this start. Gotta find out more about the worms! That being said, I’d have to read more before committing to the entire thing. Not many comments since it was somewhat short. Good, detailed writing, just needs a little polishing and maybe a closer look at some word choices. Example: his eyes ‘stood’? Or the creature shivering in its ‘sit’?

edited 1st Jul '13 4:17:14 PM by LittleBillyHaggardy

Nobody wants to be a pawn in the game of life. What they don't realize is the game of life is Minesweeper.
Poke2201
Ahh thanks for the feedback.

@WSM It's fine. I wanted to place an establishing character moment for John, but its hard to balance apathetic with plain depression. Though I do wonder how you think he's self-obsessed when its a first person story. I'm actually pretty bad at starting stories, which explains the rhetorical questions.

@Little Billy John's supposed to be apathetic, but its thanks to certain traumas that get revealed throughout the story. And yes, Lily is a crazy Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is a more mysterious character; I wanted to make the reader be more "Why?" at her presence rather than "Oh those two are going to get close".

I'm probably going to do a rewrite of this, because I wrote myself into a corner with the hook here. There were somethings that I wish I could have added now that I had time to think and take in the feedback.

edited 1st Jul '13 9:46:00 PM by poke2201

"Love is like war: Easy to begin but hard to end." - Anonymous
332 danna452nd Jul 2013 03:45:48 AM from Wagnaria , Relationship Status: GAR for Archer
Owner of Dead End
@WSM, although I read through the whole thing and didn't get bored, I feel that it kind of gets to the point a little too fast to my taste. Other wise, good writing, I'd definitely read more.

Time for mine, I guess? Full thing is actually around 1.5k words, but I found a good stopping place so its only 900-ish words.

How does one define the term ‘friendship’?

This question is something that has been touched upon very often by media, whether it be by anime, manga, light novels, films, social documentaries, and even by philosophers in real life, even if that last part doesn’t count as ‘media’. Nevertheless, it’s an abstract term created by mankind whose definition of it changes depending on whom you ask.

Of course, before one attempts to answer that question and define friendship, one must look at who is asking the question, for the only people who would really ask said question out loud are usually people who themselves don’t have any friends. People who have friends often don’t even think much about the question, mostly because there is no need or reason for them to. The need to define friendship is as illogical as the very definition of friendship.

Now, consider me, since I’m the one asking this question, albeit to myself. Does this perhaps imply that I don’t have any friends? At the time when I asked the question, that was definitely true.

However, it was ten years ago since I found the need to ask that question.

Ten years ago, back when I was in my first high school year, wasting my life on the internet chatting with anonymous people in anonymous chat boxes. Right now, ten years later is a different matter though. After graduating from school, realizing how harsh life and work is, as well as the fact that I’m not actually the loner or emo I thought I was back in high school, I’ve realized my place in society eventually, found work, and I can now interact with people normally. And thus, I have no real urge to answer the above question.

Nope, definitely not at all.

As a high schooler with no siblings, living alone because my parents are overseas, I never really interacted with anyone. That eventually led me to thinking that I’m an introvert with no friends, and thus I tried to liven up to my own self-esteem, tried to isolate myself from others because that’s what I thought loners all do, and that caused me to really not have any friends at all during high school.

In short, during high school I was friendless. That’s what I would say if someone were to ask me to describe the me back in high school.

However, that statement was at least a partial lie, now that I look back at it.

Even back then, I did have one person I considered a friend, although there was no guarantee that he or she ever had considered me the same. Heck, I’m not even sure it counts as friendship, considering the anonymous nature of the Internet.

Back then I was very obsessed with anime and manga, and would often go into forums dedicated to the subjects, and discuss it with other people online, with youtube playing music in another tab on the browser.

During my ventures deeper into the world of the internet, that was when I met him…or her, I was never quite sure. For the sake of convenience I will refer to him as him, because it’s easier that way.

Not that I’m a sexist or anything, but chances are that person you met on the forums is a guy.

I believe his net handle was ‘Shion Titor’, unless memory serves wrong. If you’ve heard of that famous time traveler John Titor, then great, because apparently his name’s based on that bloke. I guess I could see it work, since Shion sounds somewhat like John if you corrupt it hard enough.

Anyways, he was a pretty strange guy. Hm, how do I say this? Thing is, on the internet, nothing is ever quite certain because it could all be a facade. That girl you know and talk to occasionally could turn out to be a guy, or vice versa. For some reason though, I have this absolute feeling of trust in him, like I could believe anything he said. He gave off this feeling of reliability.

The way he typed and acted was pretty girly, and most people would’ve thought he was indeed a girl. The fact that he didn’t mind and played along with whichever gender people assumed didn’t really help either. The more I talk with him though, the more I feel as if he could be either gender. It’s as if the very connotation of the word ‘gender’ could not describe him or his personality, so in the end I decided to go for him since it was slightly easier to type ‘he’ than ‘she’.

He was more or less the only reason I even stayed in that forum for so long. The place was okay, but the other members were annoying and stuck-up as hell, and most of the time I just lurked in the chatbox until he arrived, ignoring the occasional ‘Yo, sai. wassup?’ that other members would say sometimes.

We were pretty close. Heck, I might even dare to say we were closer than two best friends, even though we never met each other. I don’t even know what he looks like in real life, and I’m pretty damn sure he doesn’t know what I look like in real life.

Despite that we were...good friends. We have the same tastes, think pretty similarly when it comes to anime, and he was the first person I met who I could discuss about all those old niche RPG games I’ve been playing for ages then. Sometimes I really wonder how come a bond forged through the internet can be so strong.

It wasn’t.
"And you must be Jonathan Joestar!" - Sue
333 MorwenEdhelwen2nd Jul 2013 05:08:31 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] Definitely fascinating! I want to read more about the narrator's friend.

(Don't know if I posted this before, but here is something that's a bit on-and off. It's inspired by a Billy Joel song called The Downeaster Alexa, prompted by the thought, "What were the fisherman's family thinking?" And the Bering Sea's crab and fishing industry include small-boat fishermen who are threatened by overfishing. So this is the story of the fisherman's daughter.)

Alexa Sokoloff,

Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Amaknak Island, Aleutian Islands, AK

January 11

Discovered this on my dad’s blog, where he writes his logbook every fishing and crabbing season. Says it’s a good way to track how much he’s earning. But I know he does mainly because he wanted us to be able to find it easily and get updates on what he’s doing every day. He doesn’t say it of course. It’s not his kind of thing to say.

''We left Dutch nine days ago, at first light. I hope for a larger catch by the end of this month - last year’s season the number of crabs we hauled in barely paid enough to keep us working for the next two years. We hauled in 1000 king crabs so far, but I’m hoping for a bit more. I’m trying to make it worth going out, as it might not be worth it to pay the cost of repairs at this end of this season, due to the size of our quota so far.

There’s enough food for extra supply stops to be unnecessary. So far, there hasn’t been much ice on the deck, but Rob, the latest greenhorn, is prepared for the situation. He says that he plans to stay here for a few seasons. Dinner tonight will be spaghetti and meatballs, which should be good. Emilia’s a great cook.

If my family’s reading this –Alexa, we’ll talk about getting you a job as a deckhand in three years when I get back in three weeks. Natalya, your meatballs are better than Emilia’s. No disrespect to her of course, but it ain’t the same. I’m praying that the numbers won’t drop, that I’ll get back safe at the end of this month, and that nothing happens to you.''

-Captain’s log of the Alexa

Dad loaded up the Alexa’s deck just before Thanksgiving for king crab season. He went again last week at the beginning of opilio season to meet his quota. We’re having another snowstorm. The snowflakes are all I can see in the blackness looking out the window. It’s sleeting too; been like this since morning. Last night he told us the repairs on her were done and he was going to try and get some sleep. “A good crab boat captain can’t fall asleep. The ice might thicken or a storm might creep up at any moment.”

He’ll send us an email if the radio, Skype or phone onboard don’t work. The last time that happened was when I was ten, three years ago. I’m going to copy his logbook entries in here so I know what he’s doing. It’ll help me when I can’t talk to him. It’s practice for keeping the Alexa’s log when I leave school.

There ain’t nothing I’d like to do better than be a crabber like my father. I’ve always loved the feel of the cold wind on my face when I go on deck during the crab seasons and salmon, halibut and rockfish seasons. Dad told me that thousands of years ago, before the Russians came to Alaska, our Unangan ancestors used bone hooks, spears, and lines and sinkers to fish. He said he’d teach me if he had time. He’s already shown me how to gut fish, and one of my aunts showed me how to clean and smoke it.

It’s nine-ten and I’m writing this at the desk in my bedroom. This red-covered journal with gold leaf on the edge of its pages was an early Christmas present from Mom. She gave it to me after night prayers on December eighth, with an Orthodox cross. After we got back from church in Unalaska, I was so tired I flopped down on my bed and spent a few minutes listening to the living room conversation. She handed the cross to me in a little brown box and placed the journal in my other hand. “I decided to give it to you ahead of time. I figured you wouldn’t want to wait. Don’t worry, I won’t read it.” “Thanks.”

This morning when I went out to collect the eggs from the shed in our yard, it was sleeting. My face stung, so I pulled my red North Face coat tighter around my shoulders and pushed the hood up my head, hiding my wavy black hair. Luckily I’d put on socks and my favorite pair of Bunny Boots.

A few seconds ago, we were on the couch listening to the radio. The sea’ll be up to 50 feet and the winds are going to be about 40 knots for the next two weeks or so. I sat there for half an hour. Well, it sure seemed like it. I had pins and needles in my legs. At least my fingers aren’t numb. Joel spent a minute fiddling with his shoelaces and looking at the clouds. Mom started humming under her breath. Some old song. I looked up from my sewing. My fingers bled already. Why do I have to do this? Because my mother’s a bit old-fashioned and thinks I should learn how to mend my clothes. Maybe it’s because girls used to have to do that, and Yup’ik girls like my grandma and great-aunt Esmeralda even sewed with bone needles.

Grandma Tatyana went to boarding school in Oregon where she learned to speak English and sew “like a kass’aq girl, with steel needles. I hated it as much as I hated sewing at home. I used to rush through it and mess it up, and then I got the cane.

They wanted us to speak English more to make it easier for us to learn to be more like whites. But they didn’t stop us from speaking Yup’ik. Once, a teacher said that I should cut my hair, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to get sick. It’s how things were back in those days. ”

“What?” I sucked the blood off my finger. It’s not an experience I want to repeat. Lena asked me about Dad- the question we all wanted answered. “Is Dad gonna be OK?” I wanted to say “Yeah”, but what’d I say? “Maybe.” The answer no one wanted to hear. Hate to say stuff like that. Mom should’ve said it. Or even Joey.

Mom’s calling me. I need to brush my teeth in a few minutes. Maybe Dad’ll call later. He usually calls around the time we get to bed. Sometimes he calls after one of us wakes up- usually Mom. It depends. Wish I was listening to the waves and seagulls on deck. There’s been lots of storms. I always remembered the one when I was three and Joey was five. It was dungie season. Crabbing seasons usually mean that our family spends time aboard the Alexa. She’s 40 feet long and red, with the name ALEXA painted in black on the hull, and a huge deck for the crabbing pots. Dad’s family’s had it for years. This season we’re not going, because Dad thinks we’ll fall behind on schoolwork. We’re coming for fishing season though.

Our parents bought us presents when we docked, including a blue coat for me and a train set we were forced to share. When we got up in Dad’s cabin next morning, there was rain on the window and the sky was covered in grey clouds. Kept hearing sledgehammers on deck, pounding off the ice. Thud. Thud. Thud.

13 January

There’s a storm coming. It’ll probably be worse than the last one, if the forecast’s right. The waters seem to be calmer as I’m writing this, but they might change at any moment. This morning I heard on the radio that the cloud cover is estimated to be heavy for the next few days.

Our haul has increased today. If it continues to grow or even stays at this number we’ll have a better chance at filling the quota.

Captain’s Log of the Alexa

I’ve been in the loft for hours, reading and writing in this journal and reading the logbook. He’ll have a story to tell at the bar. But he doesn’t need to; it’s not important. We’ll hear him do it anyhow, when his friends visit. Or see it when he comes back from the bar.

It’s quiet in here, sitting on the floor next to a pile of books which were brought up here because our basement’s cluttered up. It’s funny how life goes on even though Dad’s been gone for two days. Maybe he’s just busy resting because of the size of his catch. The day before yesterday he wrote that he hauled in the same number of crabs and it took him hours to type up his log entry. I copied it down on the top of this page.

I haven’t written anything because I’ve been catching up with vacation work, working through questions on of our class novel and math problems. Joey’s initials are written inside my “new” math textbook cover. “J. B. S. 7F. Dutch Harbor Amaknak School”.

I had a blueberry jam sandwich for breakfast, made using the leftover jam in the fridge. It was the best one I’ve made. It’s still cloudy and pretty windy. I’m really worried about Dad. I think Mom is too. There’re lines all over her face, and it’s got nothing to do with her job at the cannery. Maddie Evans’ father… don't think about that anymore.

After feeding the chickens this afternoon, I went for a run around the docks. I can see the hills and more clearly from there. There were puddles and snow on every inch of the ground. I don’t think they’ll stop any time soon. My legs are aching.

Something else happened a few minutes ago. There was a noise up in the rooftops when I first woke up this morning and now it’s come back. At first I thought I was imagining it. But Lake Iliamna isn’t that far from here. It was a hammering sound, like something’s trying to get in through the window. Also it was pitch-black for two hours. The light dimmed then went out permanently. I’ll tell Mom. A fingerless sea monster can’t turn off the lights.

edited 2nd Jul '13 7:08:20 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
-Tolkien
334 Lyra50001st Jun 2015 10:44:40 AM , Relationship Status: I like big bots and I can not lie
Detention For: Leaping With Intent To Fly
Chapter One excerpt; 1060 words. Synopsis of whole story is available if anyone's interested.

PS: OMG! I may be resposible for the sad ending of FIVE kittens! Please don't iggy my post (Obviously, I'm a foot-chewing dufus, but I really do need your help.) Besides, I hear Santorum is a kitten huffer and doesn't actually eat the little cuties...

In Victorian days, the stony rise had already been called Pine Box Hill for many years. Tales of fallen Civil War soldiers buried in the woods were confirmed when four coffins were found in the late 1890s, unearthed by weeks of violent summer rainstorms. Plans were made to rebury the remains at the hill’s summit — this time at the proper depth – and to shelter the new graves by planting four willow saplings around them.

The trees had to be situated above a source of subterranean water to keep their inquisitive roots from tearing apart man-made things. To the embarrassment of the property owners, the Episcopal Church, the hill’s crest needed to be searched with a divining rod by a purported local witch. The interment was done, the willows flourished and the rectory built there was given the name, Willowcross.

At the foot of a nameless unpaved way, rusted signs nailed to the trees warned: PRIVATE PROPERTY - NO TRESPASSING - KEEP OUT. I turned off of a dead-end street in a Virginia suburb and drove up the steep slope, scattering the year’s first fallen leaves.

The classic spooky house – the strangely- shaped, forbidding mansion reachable only by half a mile of unlit forest road – that's where I was going.

Three years had gone by since I bought Willowcross — a nineteenth-century house built on a landmark that has since been renamed Requiem Ridge. The willows were gone, the old monster had been vacant longer than I’d been alive, and it was a crumbling wreck. The entire Mansard roof needed to be replaced, from the outward-sloping base above the first floor to the central tower’s uppermost room.

Only a set of steps winding around the tower’s inner walls still connected the little cupola to the rest of the house, which made it the natural place to do things that were nobody’s business. The guy I shared the house with called it my sanctum sanctorum.

My friend Spider had his own private domain at the house — his lab in the cellar, where he worked with a passion that put Frankenstein’s to shame.

People who knew him only as Dr. Blaise, who’d been to his lectures or studied his theories, called him visionary, a genius — which he was — but those strangers saw just the tip of the iceberg. He could be a force of nature when it came to protecting his creations. Last weekend, he snapped, punched me in the head and kicked me out of my own house. I’d stayed away since then, crashing for a few nights in a scantily-furnished condo to give him a chance to cool down.

I cruised up the driveway past the wrought iron gate, hit the brakes and stared at the criss-cross of fresh tire tracks on the lawn.

Without a doubt, this was Spider’s retribution; he’d had a whole fucking mob at the house, breaking our number one rule. Inside,a milk-crate stage still stood in the front room of the house, set up between twin stairways built along the walls on either side; confetti, shrunken balloons, cigarette butts and spliff roaches littered the patterned oak floor. The kitchen was covered in stacked pizza boxes, mostly-dead bottles of booze, mixers, and plastic cups – fallout from a monumental party. A buzz from my phone broke the silence.

“No rest for the wicked, Conjure,” said a familiar voice. “Get back here. The Feds have a hot job for you.”

“Bite me, Brooks. I just got home. Have you looked out the window?”

Already, dusk loomed. Slanting sunlight streamed between the trees in dire bright long bands.

“They say it’s life or death.”

“It better be,” I warned him. Damn, this was cutting it close.

Norm Greenbaum’s, "Spirit In the Sky", blasted in my car — music from way back when my Stingray first hit the streets. DC was an hour away…or a good deal less, with a V-8 like hers and a lead foot like mine. I tore down the highway, pressing my luck, all the time praying I’d be off the road before sundown.

Evening stained the clouds red and purple when I parked at the edge of Chinatown. Sudden wind whipped the hair back from my face as I hurried through an alley to an unmarked side door tacked with tar paper. I pressed the buzzer, feeling a nip in the air for the first time in months while security cams looked me over.

Given my profession, it seemed best to look ominous, so I wore black; a lightweight trench and kid gloves, black denims and a black silk shirt without a tie. And shades — I had those on a lot of the time, anyhow. I can’t stand it, the way strangers stare.

The lock disengaged with a punch-clock sound, I got out my dark glasses and walked into J. Rouges Research.

The firm’s legal advisor and token suit, Brooks, was waiting for me in Reception. From the early days on, he’d nurtured ties between JRR and some agencies of US law enforcement, bringing in steady work. He looked after those ties, too, constantly greasing the wheels, smoothing the waters...or, to hear him tell it, walking on them.

By a black door marked, AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL, two government agents waited with their high-value prisoner — a barrel-chested man with a beautiful suit and a pock-marked, fat-lipped face.

I recognized that face; Vince Virelli was a fixture in the Baltimore mob. I’d seen him on the news not long ago, going into court to face racketeering charges — charges that had to be dropped when a key witness failed to show.

The young bombshell of a blonde at the front desk looked up at me with incredible, unreadable cat-green eyes. Back in June, on her first day there, in my head I’d nicknamed her The Valkyrie. She answered the phones in a low, sultry voice and strutted around on long, long, shapely legs, wearing snug skirts and stiletto heels. This once, I wasn’t pleased to see her.

It was seven o’clock. I asked Brooks why she wasn’t long gone. The lawyer jerked his head toward the three men waiting there.

“Someone has to be here when you’re in the Tank. Those Feds will snoop around otherwise — it’s what they do.”

He put his laptop in his briefcase.

“You’re leaving?”

Brooks nodded.

"He's been paying way too much attention to me," he muttered as he snapped the case shut. “His goons won’t come after her,” he promised in a furtive voice. “She's small fry.”

“And they say chivalry is dead,” I said acidly, giving him a stony glare. He took a defensive step back.

“I have a family,” he said in a sharp whisper, and left.

edited 8th Jun '15 10:12:10 AM by Lyra5000

The Future will be the death of us all.
335 Wolf10662nd Jun 2015 02:40:06 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
It started out pretty good but it got very difficult to follow - no paragraph breaks separating the different characters' speech, no changes of paragraph when changing ideas.

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
336 Lyra50002nd Jun 2015 09:32:38 AM , Relationship Status: I like big bots and I can not lie
Detention For: Leaping With Intent To Fly
I'm sorry. I fixed the paragraph breaks; the post reformatted when I placed it. It's fixed now. TY for looking!
The Future will be the death of us all.
337 Wolf10663rd Jun 2015 04:02:19 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
Thank you for that. Much more readable, now.

Yes, it had me wanting to read more and find out what was going to happen.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
338 Lyra50003rd Jun 2015 05:21:14 AM , Relationship Status: I like big bots and I can not lie
Detention For: Leaping With Intent To Fly
Oh thank God
The Future will be the death of us all.
[up]I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with Wolf1066. Your first chapter is a mess, and it badly needs rewriting. I've done a quick breakdown, paragraph by paragraph, of issues you need to address.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

First two paragraphs:

What stony rise? Where? Who's telling me this information? Who's perspective am I reading this through?

Okay, some coffins were reburied, trees planted on them, priests who owned the site got pissy because a witch had to be called in (why? who demanded the witch be there?), the coffins were finally buried without incident, and a rectory was built. Now, what does any of this have to do with your story?

After break, first paragraph:

I don't understand what's going on here. With some creative reading, I get the impression that the "nameless unpaved way" that's festooned with signs is supposed to be the same road that the first-person narrator drives up in the second sentence. If that's the case, then you need to rewrite it to be more clear. The way it's phrased now makes it seem like there's two different routes, with the narrator ignoring the first and taking the second instead.

Second paragraph:

"The" classic spooky house? There's a single, specific spooky house that I'm already supposed to know about? Because I don't know about it. This is the first I've heard of it. Where is it? What town, what region? What's so spooky about it? You can't refer to a particular instance of an object without establishing that instance beforehand.

Also, "is where I was going." You've mixed present and past tense together here. This should either be "was where I was going" or "is where I'm going". The former takes place in the past, the latter in the present.

Third paragraph:

You've stopped the action dead to deliver an infodump. This is a big no-no, especially at the start of your story. You need to keep the action flowing, give the characters time to settle into the reader's mind. You're dealing in broad first impressions here - leave the fine details for later.

Now you're talking about Willowcross, which at least means your prologue paragraphs were actually relevant. Unfortunately, much like "the" spooky house, I have no idea where Willowcross is in relation to your character. Is it "the" spooky house the narrator is driving to? You didn't say.

Actually, a question: does the narrator know the information that we were told in the prologue infodump? About the coffins and the trees and the church and the witch? If they do, wouldn't it make sense to put that information here in abridged form, rather than in the prologue where it doesn't seem to relate to anything? And if the narrator doesn't know, why tell your readers? Why not keep it a secret, so we learn about it the same time the character does? Then we could share their sense of knowledge gained.

Another question: if "the spooky house" is Willowcross, and Willowcross is owned by the POV-character, why did they describe the approach to their house as if they'd never seen it before? Surely they'd be familiar with their own front drive?

Don't have much to say about the content in this paragraph, though. It's a decent enough description of a crumbling old manor, and it neatly establishes that the narrator has been repairing it over the past three years. No grammar problems that I can see.

Fourth paragraph:

The infodump is dragging on now. You should really get back to the action. I feel like this information would be better saved for a later time, such as when the narrator is actually going up to the cupola for some privacy.

Also, that last sentence is blatantly Telling instead of Showing. Why not Show the character using the nickname in a conversation later? That would be a much more elegant and natural way to include the information.

And hey, maybe the nickname "sanctum sanctorum" won't sound as awkward once I've met the character who supposedly came up with it.

Fifth paragraph:

More fucking infodumping. This is a single sentence! Weave this into the action somewhere! It's not hard!

That aside, is Spider meant to be "the guy I shared the house with"? It's hard to tell at a glance. Once again, you've referred to a definite article without first properly defining that article. All it would take is to briefly refer to "the guy"s name in the last sentence of the previous paragraph.

Also, "worked with a passion" on... what exactly? Is Spider reanimating corpses, like the name-dropped Frankenstein? Or is he doing something else of a grisly nature? Define that shit. Otherwise, I have no clue what to make of Spider's passion. Right now, it doesn't tell me anything about who he is as a character. He could be an obsessive stamp-collector for all I know.

Sixth paragraph:

JESUS CHRIST MORE FUCKING INFODUMPING GET BACK TO THE ACTION ALREADY

Ahem.

Why are you suddenly giving Spider an alias? I haven't even gotten to know "Spider" as a character, yet now you're introducing this "Dr. Blaise" identity as well. Why not just say that he uses aliases a lot, and leave the exact identities vague? That new proper name is too distracting.

Carrying on from your previous paragraph - lectures on what? Theories about what? What does Spider do? What are "his creations"? What's so special about his expertise that it marks him out as a visionary genius? I still know nothing about Spider as a character, because you haven't actually described him doing anything.

Similarly, what did the narrator do to make Spider get so protective? I don't know, and I can't even guess, because I still have no idea what Spider's "creations" even are. Hideous re-assembled cadavers? Stamp collections? I don't know! Either define the incident, or don't mention it.

Seventh paragraph, and following dialogue:

Fucking finally, we're back to the action!

Don't see why you had to split the first bit of action into three lines. Seems like the first leads into the second, leads into the third.

When you wrote "a whole fucking mob", did you mean a torches-and-pitchforks angry peasant mob? Or a raucous house-party? Given the themes so far and the earlier Frankenstein allusion, it feels like it could go either way.

Also, what's "the number one rule"? Don't piss off the peasants? No visitors? Some definition would be nice.

And I just realised what you meant by "Spider's retribution" - getting back at the narrator for... doing something to his creations? Again, the statement is completely empty, because I know next to nothing about the context of that falling-out.

Phone rings! We're into our first dialogue, and - oh, is that the narrator's name? Conjure? Odd, but it's a name, at least.

Also the first indication of the narrator's motivation! I was going to ask, "why is this guy driving up to the spooky house?" And now I know: he was coming home, presumably from a long day's work. Of course it would've been better to have that information in the first paragraph, if not the first line. Then I could've read through all the action that followed with some firm fucking context.

Also the first hint of what Conjure does as a job! Something to do with the US Secret Services, it seems. Again, would be nice to know the actual specifics. Then I'd have some idea of who he is as a person. For all I know, the guy could be a senior accountant.

So is Brooks another of Spider's aliases, or a new character? Again, really unclear, could use some clarification. Just because the character is familiar to Conjure doesn't mean he's familiar to me.

I don't like the description of the light. "Dire bright long bands" - eugh. You've got three adjectives hanging off a noun there, one of which doesn't even make sense. How can a ray of sunlight be "dire"? Trim it down.

Oh, so now Conjure is turning his car around and going back to work, thus rendering the entire introduction of his house and co-habitator completely pointless. Why not just skip that, and start the story after Conjure has already been called back for an emergency? You'd save yourself a lot of time, and get the story moving immediately.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm going to stop here, because I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. In case it's not obvious, your work did not hook me, mostly because for the first seven paragraphs I had no idea what was going on or why I should care. Fix your shit.

And no, don't post a giant rebuttal explaining every part of your precious story that you think I misread. You won't be able to explain yourself to every single reader who ever claps eyes on your work, so why do it with me? Fix your shit.

edited 6th Jun '15 6:34:26 AM by Tungsten74

340 Lyra50007th Jun 2015 11:06:56 AM , Relationship Status: I like big bots and I can not lie
Detention For: Leaping With Intent To Fly
I very much appreciate the time you took to read my post, and thank you for your comments. Tentatively, the book's title will be Pine Box Hill, hence the little introduction, which is intended to replace a dump of this info later on in the story. Sorry about that. End of apologetic mode. "Dire bright long bands" of sunlight. Yes DIRE. Did I stutter? This guy has a problem with the sun setting; I haven't said what that problem is yet. I hint at it; he's praying he'll be off the road by sunset. Why? You might guess if you tried. I will explain it frankly after a few more pages. Overall, I think you really dislike the way I've paced things. I give info, just not all of it. I'm trying to make you curious, three pages at most into a work of book length. How fast does the story have to go to keep your interest? "Legal advisor and token suit, Brooks" is pretty obviously not Spider, btw. I'll say politely that I think you have rushed and missed some things.

PS: The 'classic spooky house' I mention has a Mansard roof. Second Empire houses have Mansard roofs. I don't expect everybody to know this, but a Second Empire house IS the classic spooky house — Google it. Or should I have dumped it in your lap and called it a Munster's/Addams family house? I think that sounds really hokey.

edited 7th Jun '15 3:30:53 PM by Lyra5000

The Future will be the death of us all.
Before I answer, I would like to apologise for the amount of profanity in my critique. That was unnecessary, and I'm sorry for including it.

I do not, however, apologise for the rest of my criticisms. I don't have a problem with the way your story is paced. I have a problem with the fact that I don't know what's going on, or why I should care. The first things you should establish in any scene, as quickly as possible, is where the characters are, what they're doing, and why. If you can find an elegant way to fit that all into the first paragraph, if not the first line, you're golden.

Because, get this: if I don't like your first line, I'm not going to read anything after that. Never mind hooking me "in the next few pages" - you should be hooking me with your first sentence. I'm willing to push past that restriction in the name of giving you critique, but someone reading just for fun will not be so lenient.

You spent four of your first seven paragraphs infodumping instead of detailing character action. Then you rendered all that information pointless by changing the scene completely, sending the narrator to a different location to interact with completely different characters. Don't waste your reader's time like that. If it's not relevant to the scene at hand, don't mention it.

I stand by my point about attaching three adjectives to a single noun. If you must use the word "dire" there, I'd make it the sole adjective. You don't need to tell me that bands of light are bright and long. I think that would be a given.

No, it wasn't obvious that Brooks wasn't Spider, because up to that point I assumed the scene was going to take place at the house, the only person in the house was apparently Spider, and you'd just established that the guy uses false identities. I assumed this Brooks character was calling Conjure into the house or something - I wasn't expecting you to discard the house scene immediately and move the action somewhere else.

Finally, trying to build a mysterious tone is all well and good, but when you're setting a scene, you are supposed to work in solid, concrete terms. THIS is where they are, THIS is what the protagonist is doing, THIS is why they're doing it, etc. Leaving that stuff vague will just confuse and frustrate the reader, as they can't follow the action.

PS. Read my point again. I know what you mean when you say "a classic spooky house". My point is that the sentence is written as if there's a specific instance of such a spooky house in the scene that I should already be aware of. But I'm not, because that's the first mention of a spooky house in the text. It's awkward and confusing to read.

edited 8th Jun '15 4:38:41 AM by Tungsten74

342 Lyra500011th Jun 2015 12:59:01 PM , Relationship Status: I like big bots and I can not lie
Detention For: Leaping With Intent To Fly
MORWEN; first, I apologize that I'm writing this review so late. I was we'll say tenuously hooked.

Hmm. I got a lot of information about the narrator’s family; they’re not rich, they have First Nation bloodlines and elders who’ve experienced cruelty and prejudice. The young protagonist wants to go fishing with her crab-fisherman father, despite knowing about the dangers and discomforts of the sea. The family’s anxiety as they listen to disheartening weather reports and wait for the father to communicate with them is understated and poignant.

The last paragraph seems to be taking the story into a very different direction, implying that something supernatural may be at work (and perhaps about to make an appearance). Overall, I found the storytelling interesting, though there is no “action”. Everything said about life both on land or at sea sketches an existence that is frank and physical. Action does seem to be coming, though the narrative has been deliberately a slice of life, and rather dry. I felt a bit cheated at not being told anything more about the conversation in the living room.

I would like to suggest adding in a short but exciting anecdote – a sailor’s story told at a bar, perhaps – that could highlight the sort of danger that has the family so worried. If something otherworldly is about to intrude, maybe include a reference to some related superstition.

edited 11th Jun '15 1:01:25 PM by Lyra5000

The Future will be the death of us all.
343 Lyra500021st Jun 2015 03:50:33 PM , Relationship Status: I like big bots and I can not lie
Detention For: Leaping With Intent To Fly
I know — a picture of a hog or a large ham should probably accompany this post; I've taken up a lot of space. I just want to say, Tungsten74's critiques, which I found difficult to deal with and met with resistance, improved my first chapter (I hope). Maybe it is true that no good deed goes unpunished; sorry for all the frustration, Tungsten. This is the first 950 words of my first chapter. I hope some of you can stand looking at it once more.

cool

Damn, this was cutting it close. Norman Greenbaum’s, "Spirit In the Sky", blasted in my car — music from way back when my Stingray first hit the streets. DC was an hour away…or a good deal less, with horsepower like hers and a lead foot like mine. The Feds said this job was super-hot, life or death, but already, dusk loomed. I tore down the highway, pressing my luck, praying the whole time I’d be off the road before sundown.

Evening stained the clouds red and purple by the time I parked in a lot at the edge of Chinatown. Sudden wind whipped the hair back from my face as I hurried through an alley to an unmarked side door covered in tacked-on tar paper. I pressed the buzzer, feeling a nip in the air for the first time in months while security cams looked me over.

Given my profession, it seemed best to look ominous, so I wore black — a lightweight trench and kid gloves, black denims and a black silk shirt without a tie. And shades; I had those on a lot of the time, anyhow. I can’t stand it, the way strangers stare.

The lock disengaged with a punch-clock sound, I got out my dark glasses and walked into J. Rouges Research. The firm’s legal advisor and token suit, Brooks, was waiting for me in Reception. From the early days on, he’d nurtured ties between JRR and certain US law enforcement agencies, bringing in steady work. He looked after those ties, too, constantly greasing the wheels, smoothing the waters...or, to hear him tell it, walking on them.

By a shiny black door marked, AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL, two government agents waited with their high-value prisoner — a barrel-chested man with a beautiful suit and a pock-marked, fat-lipped face.

I recognized that face; Vince Virelli was a fixture in the Baltimore mob. I’d seen him in the news not long ago, going into court to face racketeering charges — charges that had to be dropped when a key witness failed to show.

The young bombshell of a blonde at the desk in Reception looked up at me with her incredible, unreadable cat-green eyes. Back in June, on her first day there, in my head I’d nicknamed her The Valkyrie. She answered the phone in a low, sultry voice, and strutted around on long, long, shapely legs, wearing snug skirts and stiletto heels.

This once, I wasn’t pleased to see her. It was seven o’clock; I asked Brooks why she wasn’t long gone. The lawyer jerked his head toward the three men waiting there.

“Someone has to be around when you’re in the Tank. Those Feds will go snooping otherwise — it’s what they do.”

“You’re leaving?”

Brooks nodded and put his laptop in his briefcase.

“He’s been paying way too much attention to me,” he said nervously as he snapped the case shut. Cramming all the assurance he could into his furtive voice, he promised, “You don’t have to worry about Miss Fletcher. He won’t send his goons after her. She’s, you know… small fry.”

“And they say chivalry’s dead,” I said acidly, glaring. He took a step back.

“Bite me, Conjure,” he growled, and left.

I put on my shades just as one of the agents approached to bring me up to speed.

The Bureau claimed Virelli was behind the snatching of a boy, the son of a Maryland district attorney. The longer the thugs had their hands on the toddler, the worse the odds got of finding him still in one piece.

The four of us went through the black door, across an inner room and finally, into the Tank — a claustrophobic, soundproofed chamber with a nautical hatch for a door. With the flip of a switch, a light hummed and flickered on, revealing a windowless room tiled in arctic white, three times as tall as it was wide. High above, a bare florescent ring stared coldly, like an eye.

The mob boss had been grilled at least once already — without success, or the Feds wouldn’t have brought him to me. He sat down in the only seat in the place, a dentist's chair, actually smirking a little.

“I’ll be damned,” he snorted, “there really is a Conjure! And we all thought old Fez was fulla shit.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” I said flatly. “Tell me where the kid is.”

He glowered in contempt.

“I do not know what you’re talking about.”

I raised the chair, tilted it back and hooked a short bungee cord across his chest and over the crooks of his arms to make sure he’d stay put, then I told the two agents, we’d need some alone-time. The steel hatch shut behind them with a solid clank.

The dentist’s rig was there because it looked intimidating, and creating the right atmosphere was crucial. Wearing sunglasses indoors at night made me feel like a geek, but they walled off eye contact and made me seem cold and remote… exactly the impression I wanted to give my new Subject.

“Yeah, waste your time, you little fuck,” he taunted. “You got no clue who you’re messing with!”

I took off the sunglasses and smiled as Virelli stared up at my eyes.

“RELAX.”

The big man fell limp in his chair.

I’m not an evil man, but I’ve done evil things — a guy who helped build the first atom bomb said something like that, and I appreciate his way of thinking. Whether I was controlling a man or a woman, that moment of capitulation never failed to get me aroused; the knowledge that somebody’s mind was temporarily mine to play with stirred my blood. I rested one hand on his shoulder and told him what he was about to see.

edited 25th Jun '15 2:38:31 PM by Lyra5000

The Future will be the death of us all.
344 Wolf10667th Aug 2015 04:53:28 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
A definite improvement.

However, the first paragraph seems to veer off course and back again and introduce separate ideas: "cutting it close" - something about music and the car - why he's cutting it close - why it's important.

It might pay to put the cutting it close and why together and move the music and the car to a separate paragraph describing the journey itself.

Likewise put the bits about wanting to be off the road by sundown and the approaching dusk in that order in a separate paragraph.

As it stands, I'm at a loss as to the significance of dusk until its revisited after descriptions of tearing down the highway and pressing his luck.

What follows is the first 1009 words (I desperately had to finish the sentence) of one of my current works in progress. As it's an adage that the first 250 words should be sufficient to convince the reader to continue, I've marked that point and I'd be interested to know if anyone was hooked by that point or whether they had to read further before being hooked, if at all.


The most startling thing about coming to on the ground was not the fact that I must have passed out, but the fact that I wasn't where I knew I should be.

The trees I could see from where I was lying were all wrong, as was the undergrowth, the terrain and the sounds of the birds. It even smelled wrong.

The weight of my packs and rifle bag held me down but I managed to struggle free of the straps and stagger to my feet, hoping that if I got a proper look around me it would all make sense.

It didn't. All about me was a strange wilderness that was nothing like the familiar native New Zealand bush I expected to find and I was surrounded by gentle rolling hills rather than the steep sides of a mountain valley.

Not only was I lost, I was lost in an alien forest that I didn't recall entering.

I must admit, I panicked and couldn't think straight for a while. I wondered if I was hallucinating or going mad or if I'd somehow been abducted and dumped here.

I frantically checked my packs and rifle bag to see if anything had been touched or stolen, suddenly and irrationally convinced that I'd been abducted and robbed, but everything seemed to be fine – both rifles, my camping gear and food and the little packages I had carefully hidden amid my equipment were all intact and exactly where I had packed them. (first 250 words)

By the time I had put everything away I was feeling a lot calmer and was able to start thinking clearly about my situation and how to get out of it.

I forced myself to sit down and light a cigarette and go through the process of using my head before my legs, as the old adage put it, speaking out loud to focus my thoughts. I felt very glad that my response to my earlier panic attack had been to ensure my firearms had not been stolen rather than some other ill-considered action that could have made my situation worse.

I worked my way through the “Rule of Threes” and quickly determined that I was in no immediate danger. I was uninjured, there was no immediate need to protect myself from the climate and I had already confirmed that I had my water canteen and four days' food supply as well as everything I might need to deal with an unpleasant change in the weather.

It was clear that my current location was not ideal and I would need to find a source of water before too long but I remained seated and smoked my cigarette while I worked on a plan of action.

My first priority was to get an idea of where I was so I tried my GPS. It failed to locate any satellites but I put that down to the thick forest canopy above me and the fact that what little sky I could see was overcast – I might as well have been indoors or underground, so far as the GPS was concerned.

I then tried my phone but, not surprisingly, I wasn't within range of any cell tower. I tried the phone's built-in FM radio but, again, failed to pick up anything, which caused me to wonder aloud where the hell I was if I wasn't within range of something as ubiquitous as an FM radio station. I put the phone back onto “flight mode” to conserve the battery and shut it down.

Not being able to determine my location was no cause for further panic – the time-honoured strategies for dealing with being “geographically embarrassed” would still work just as well.

Now that my mind had calmed down and I was viewing things rationally again, it occurred to me that the forest looked more familiar than I had first thought. It looked very much like some of the woodlands of the United Kingdom, familiar to me from numerous videos posted on YouTube by fellow campers.

It seemed that even some of the bird song now sounded familiar and I imagined I could pick out the call of a blackbird.

As I looked more closely at the trees, trying to confirm my impressions by spotting one of the few trees I might be able to recognise – or even a blackbird – a brief scurrying movement on a branch caught my attention and I found myself staring at a squirrel.

The presence of this easily identifiable foreign animal banished any last hope that I was still somewhere in New Zealand and could simply find my way out of the woods and, if necessary, hitch-hike home.

I tried to focus on working out the first stage – getting out of the woods – but in the back of my mind was the nagging knowledge that I was on foreign soil with no explanation of how I got there – and armed, to boot.

“OK, get a grip on yourself, here.” Just saying the words aloud helped. They dragged me away from dwelling on what would happen if someone looked too closely at the contents of my pack and brought me back to my immediate concerns.

The conventional wisdom when lost in the wilderness was to locate a river and follow it downstream until it led to either civilisation or the coast. I had successfully applied that strategy on two prior occasions.

I couldn't see or hear a river nearby but the lush vegetation was ample evidence that there must be plenty of water around and logic dictated that if I followed a downhill path, I would eventually find at least a stream which would provide me with both a water supply and a course to follow.

I put on my packs and rifle bag and retrieved my hiking stick from where it had fallen and prepared to set off, confident that I would eventually find my way out of the wilderness and that I had what I needed to survive until then.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
...
I stopped reading at the paragraph with the GPS. There is nothing wrong with your pacing or descriptions, exactly, but most of what I've read was more of a survivor's starter handbook than an actual story.

There is an alien (I cannot tell whether this is extraterrestrial or merely unfamiliar) forest, the character is (maybe?) a wilderness explorer, and he is panicking (I think it's a he, at least). Except I don't know anything about the forest we're in, I don't know much about the character's inner state, and nothing makes me empathize with his panic. In fact, I'm not even sure I'd realize he was panicking if it wasn't made explicit.

What I would suggest is describing the immediate moment of his return to consciousness a bit more before describing what actions he takes. The wrong sounds, the wrong smells, the wrong trees, the reactions of his body rather than his mind to his current state, the feel of the straps exacerbating his initial confusion and panic, that kind of thing. Just give us more of a visceral rather than cerebral description to make us want for the character to get to safety.
"..."
346 Wolf10668th Aug 2015 05:19:56 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
[up]Thanks for that. My original draft had a lot more stuff about his physical reactions to having passed out and then come around but it wound up way too wordy so I cut it back drastically - sounds like I cut it back too much. grin
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
...
The thing is, this kind of opening, with just a bit more detail, can work in a third-person narrative, because you merely have to be hooked by the events. But the first-person narrative makes it immediately about the character, and if you don't care about the character - worse, if it doesn't look like the character cares about what's happening - the most interesting events around him will fall flat.
"..."
...
Meanwhile, I wanted to put the start of the story I'm currently writing here, but it's easily more than 2000 words. So, here's another story I started last NaNoWriMo, but haven't managed to finish yet.

_/_/_/_/

The first thing I remember is being caught in the headlights of an incoming vehicle, much like the proverbial – or, I suppose, actual – deer.

It was a confusing awakening, the light in my eyes, the terrible blaring of the horn, the screeching of the wheels trying to come to a stop as the driver, I assume, desperately stepping down on his brakes, the heavy scent of burning rubber from the wheels leaving skid marks on the concrete, and the color of A sharp. As I faced my oncoming, what seemed to be inevitable death, all I could think was “I hope the driver is OK”. As far as first thoughts go, not exactly a great philosopher’s words.

Then there is the collision. The pain was horrifying. My lungs collapsed, my heart imploded, all of my ribs, my spine and most of the rest of my skeleton shattered into a thousand slivers and ripped their way out of my flesh. For that very moment, I thought I was dying. They say that your life flashes before your eyes as you die, but even if that is true, there wasn’t much to flash. After all, my memory just extended a couple of seconds back. Instead, there was only blackness.

_/_/_/_/

When I opened my eyes, I was no longer in the middle of the road. Much to my surprise, I was also very much not dead. I was still in pain, which wasn’t exactly reassuring, but at that point, I would take it. My vision was a blur, my ears were ringing, and I couldn’t move, but I was alive.

As far as miracles go, not one you would want to live through.

There was snow falling all around me, all around the city. I didn’t know which city I was in, but my first impression was it was dark, it was noisy, it was snowy, and the clouds were crimson. I would say it was a city worthy of a noir movie if the torrential downpour was of a more liquid sort.

At this point there were a few things I had noticed. I didn’t know which city I was in, but I knew the language spoken here, even though I had no context to place it in. I didn’t know how, when or where I learned it. It felt alien, somehow, not something I grew up with. Then again, I didn’t exactly know how I grew up either. In fact, I didn’t know much of anything about myself, up to and including my name. I must have had a name, right? There was even a vague string tugging at my memory there somewhere, when I thought about names. I thought it was-

I didn’t think long. Wracking my brain trying to remember my name, for that moment, was not a metaphor. Despite the extraordinary amount of pain I was in, that torture in my head was even worse. I helplessly let out a scream.

“It’s alright. You’re safe for now.”

I felt a hand touch mine. I couldn’t make out who it was – I couldn’t even turn my head to locate the source – but despite the buzzing in my ear and the numbness of my flesh, somehow, her voice and her touch managed to penetrate to my senses.

“You need to rest, now. Try to breathe from your diaphragm. We only have a minute or two before they catch up, so you need every breath you can get.”

I didn’t know what she meant, at that moment. I didn’t know what breathing from the diaphragm was, or how it would help me recover from being smashed into by a several ton object moving at several dozen kilometers per hour. That was the first context clue I was given: whatever had happened to me, it didn’t feel natural. But I tried following her instructions to the best of my capabilities. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Let my body try to figure out how to recover from this ordeal. Slowly, as the air circulated through my body, my eyes, ears and sundry other senses that weren’t all about feeling pain returned to form, and details started to emerge. There was only a second after I was able to lift my head from the ground where I could take in the details. For starters, I wasn’t far from the road where I started. It seemed that I was dragged through the snow for a few meters from the site of the collision into a nearby back alley before being dropped unceremoniously. The site of the collision itself was in a much worse shape than I was. The car was in flames, painting the unmelted snow around it an ugly shade of pink and orange, and the horn, stuck on blaring mode, was loud enough to awake anyone nearby, as well as set off the alarms of nearby vehicles. There were bits of automobile I couldn’t recognize strewn around the set, as well as chunks of arm and leg. It would seem that my hopes for the driver were very premature.

I, on the other hand, was miraculously intact. Even putting my divinely brought about survival aside, even ignoring the very intense and very specific feelings of the harm inflicted on my body, there didn’t appear to be any missing limbs, or even a chipped tooth. Which was helpful, as noticing my head was capable of movement, the hand on mine started tugging, and suddenly I was on my feet and running through a maze of urban decay with the girl.

She was small. Not necessarily young, but quite a bit smaller than I was. Her hair was even whiter than the falling snow around her, which made a sharp contrast to the flashes of dark skin I could make out during our flight. Despite her size, the strength pulling me with her was enormous and irresistible, and in my weakened state, I made no effort to stop. Instead, I focused on my breath, the way my feet found the ground, the way my body swerved with each turn she took me through.
"..."
349 Wolf106610th Aug 2015 03:15:57 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
Certainly very visceral, plenty of mystery around the events - I certainly want to find out who the character is, how they came to be there, where "there" is, how they survived the impact and how the vehicle managed to be totalled.

Tantalising clues strewn about. All told, yeah, I'm hooked.

Especially seeing as it seems that the protagonist/narrator has wound up somewhere rather alien to their own environment.

I can relate to the complete sang froid with the approaching vehicle.

Some of the paragraphs had too many separate ideas clumped together and might be worth breaking apart into separate paragraphs.


I've done a revision of my original post:

The most startling thing about coming to on the ground was not the fact that I must have passed out, but the fact that I wasn't where I knew I should be.

What trees I could see from where I was lying looked wrong, as did the undergrowth and the terrain. It made absolutely no sense at all.

I tried to get to my feet and found myself tangled in my packs and rifle bag. With effort, I managed to struggle free of the straps and stagger to my feet, fervently hoping that if I got a proper look around me it would all make sense. My legs shook so much they could barely support me.

All about me was a strange wilderness that was nothing like the familiar native New Zealand bush I expected to find and I was surrounded by gentle rolling hills rather than the steep sides of a mountain valley. Not only was I lost, I was lost in an alien forest that I didn't recall entering.

I could feel a hollow pit opening up in my stomach; my heart pounded and my chest constricted so hard that became difficult to breathe. I sank to my knees, shaking and gasping.

Nothing in my recent memory provided any clue as to where I was or how I had got here.

Suddenly and irrationally convinced that I'd somehow been abducted and robbed, I frantically checked my packs and rifle bag to see if anything had been touched or stolen.

Everything seemed to be fine – both rifles, my camping gear and food and the little packages I had carefully hidden amid my equipment were all intact and exactly where I had packed them.

By the time I had put everything away again, I was feeling a lot calmer and was able to start thinking clearly about my situation and how to get out of it. Wherever I was, I had to work out a way to get back home, and I wouldn't achieve that by running around like a headless chicken.

I forced myself to sit down and light a cigarette and go through the process of using my head before my legs, as the old adage put it, speaking out loud to focus my thoughts. I felt very glad that my response to my earlier panic attack had been to ensure my firearms had not been stolen, rather than some other ill-considered action that could have made my situation worse.

I worked my way through the “Rule of Threes” and quickly determined that I was in no immediate danger. I was uninjured, there was no immediate need to protect myself from the climate and I had already confirmed that I had my water canteen and four days' food supply as well as everything I might need to deal with an unpleasant change in the weather.

It was clear that my current location was not ideal and I would need to find a source of water before too long but I remained seated and smoked my cigarette while I worked on a plan of action.

My first priority was to get an idea of where I was so I tried my GPS. It failed to locate any satellites but I put that down to the thick forest canopy above me and the fact that what little sky I could see was overcast – I might as well have been indoors or underground, so far as the GPS was concerned.

Not being able to determine my location was no cause for further panic – the time-honoured strategies for dealing with being “geographically embarrassed” would still work just as well.

I then tried my phone but, not surprisingly, I wasn't within range of any cell tower. I tried the phone's built-in FM radio but, again, failed to pick up anything, which caused me to wonder aloud where the hell I was if I wasn't within range of something as ubiquitous as an FM radio station.

As I put the phone back onto “flight mode” to conserve the battery, I noticed the date and time and instantly checked my watch, certain that something had gone wrong with the phone. I checked both three times, half convincing myself that I was misreading them; that I'd got AM and PM mixed up or had misread the date. In the end I had to accept that, according to two independent sources, the date was the fifteenth of January 2014 and the time was just after quarter past eleven in the morning – which meant that only two hours had elapsed since I set off on my hike.

It made no sense at all. I knew for a fact that I had walked the trail for at least an hour and a half before the sudden attack of dizziness and the things I had done since coming to had to amount to between twenty minutes and half an hour. That left pretty much no time at all in which to get from where I had been, at the northern end of the Tararua Range, to wherever the hell I currently was. It was preposterous. Impossible. But so was the prospect that someone had engineered this and had tampered with the settings of both my watch and phone – the whole thing was beyond the scope of human agency.

I shook my head to clear it. How I got here, and how long it had taken, were distractions. My only priority was to work out how to get out of here and get back home.

I shut down the phone and stowed it back in the small black “Assault Pack” I used as a chest pack and balance bag.

Now that my mind had calmed down and I was viewing things rationally again, it occurred to me that the forest looked more familiar than I had first thought. It looked very much like some of the woodlands of the United Kingdom, familiar to me from numerous videos posted on YouTube by fellow campers.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
350 pablo3603rd Apr 2016 09:02:29 AM from Earth (probably) , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Arch-Viceroy of New Pointland
[up] Very nice. I was continually pushed, line after line, to the end of the hook.

I will say, however, that although the terse writing style is compelling for now, you will need to provide more detailed descriptions later on in the work. Also, the casual mention of YouTube seems like it doesn't really need to be there, unless it's foreshadowing a plot point. Also also, GPS won't be blocked that readily by overcast skies unless it's a really crappy GPS.

But anything else can be fixed in post.

EDIT: forgot to post my own hook tongue

Day 5249

If I’m doing the math right, today is the first day in 37 weeks that the date is greater than the number of journalists that SCOTUS chief justice and former FBI agent Elian Schrodinger sentenced to life imprisonment under a deliberate misconstrual of the revised PATRIOT act.

I suppose it's for the best no one will ever read this journal. I don't know how many people will die for the secrets it contains. I've already deleted it six times, but this time I will preserve it. A vain gesture, I assure myself. There is no way the message can ever get out.

Not since Executive Order 13224.

It seems odd, a little, to start the calendar where it does, instead of where the calendar was created. But no calendar is ever created on Day 0. I only wish they'd let us keep the old one. Only a select few are even allowed to mention it, and they're in the government's pocket.

Heh. I think the reason I've been allowed to keep this journal electronically is because I know that if anyone finds it while I'm alive, I'll be shot on sight. It's not that I'm afraid for my own life, though. I just don't want anyone to have to be transmigrated on my account. But they don't know that. They don't care.

I don't care either. That's what makes me special. Nobody needs to keep an eye on me as long as I know better than to talk in my sleep. If the sins aren't on my head, then I can condone pretty much anything. And that's if I'm in a position to condone.

Well, I guess I am, now that I've risen from a lowly journalist to the rank of editor. I'm the person who's in charge of mixing the lies with the half-truths, keeping the public from being outraged enough to start a revolution, but revealing enough of the atrocities the states regularly commit to quell my qualms and stop the suspicions of the hoi polloi from fomenting into something formidable.

If I used that kind of wordplay in public then I could face some fearsome fines. This diary is to get it all out of my system.

Anyway, today was a big day for the press because White Tiger Weekly finally managed to slip in a story about the Potsdam bombings. Really, what with the state of the war, and the fracturing of NATO into Socialist and Federalist factions, it's amazing that any journalists haven't been bribed by one party or the other into keeping stories about Europe from leaving Europe. For the most part, the Grande Meta-Union of North America acts like the rest of the world doesn't exist, except when it's dropping explosive warheads on it. Or, as we in the press refers to it, “Tuesday.”

Based on the sources we've received, the Potsdam bombings, the latest in a series of air raids with conventional weaponry known as Operation Turkey Sausage, caused casualties ranging from 1,500 to 15,000,000. We sprung for the middle ground and reported 150,000 dead and twice as many wounded. If the dim-witted masses think that the media uses guesswork, we'll lose our grip in the most financially-active power base in society, and the more intelligent members of the proletariat know better than to trust newspapers anyway.

There are some considerable atrocities being committed by our army overseas, but the only people who ever find out about them are the people who simply don't care. Potsdam is the closest to an exception to that rule that the Green Star Party has been willing to allow. Their opponents in the White Clock Party don't seem to care about the media enough to protest against censorship legislation, and every president since Bush has consistently reinstated Executive Order 13224, so this is one policy that doesn't seem likely to change.

The Potsdam bombings were carried out on the order of Air Marshal Helen Gretzky about three weeks ago. The idea was to destroy low-profile factories that were covertly supplying weapons to ISIS sympathizers in the Rhineland. Gretzky carried out the attack with her typical avaricious overzealousness, continuing the battering of the Polish Reich in the hope of getting EJK to surrender. So far, it has failed.

Of course, if I said that in public, I'd get six weeks in prison. I’ll let a mention of “continuing efforts” slip by and leave it at that.

The other stories that we’re working on are the usual fluff. The Party will help you, down with the Party, fabricated obituaries, a new pet shop opening, Congress made another edit to the tax code that won't actually change anything, and a satirical editorial column on how not to get laid. It's mostly stupid stuff, but the people who take newspapers seriously these days are mostly stupid people, and the government just doesn't seem to realize this.

Now, there was a story that I cut today. A reporter, Eliza Kreely, had said that she heard inklings of something called the Black Skull party that was planning on running in the next Congressional elections as a write-in. She wrote up a very disparaging piece, but as I pointed out to her, if I put it in the paper it would alert others to the presence of an illegal third party, which would go against standing orders from the Department of Print Media Censorship. She said she didn't care. I said I did. She went home dejected. I didn't report her.

If anyone in the DPMC found out about this, we would both be shot on sight. Nobody likes a snitch.

edited 3rd Apr '16 9:03:49 AM by pablo360

The strangest thing about reality is that it is real. Fiction wins, hands-down. Then again, fiction is a cheating bastard.

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