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yarn
November 28th, 2010, 04:00 AM
Here's the draft of a first chapter I'm writing on a novel. Could do with some constructive criticism









Draft 1



The silhouette of the domes rose eerily against the darkened skies. Rishan could not remember a day in his life when the sky hadn’t been dark. Day and night were barely distinguishable. The night was often black as pitch but the day was cloaked in a sullen blue-grey light that cast muted shadows over the landscape. Strange empty winds blew cold and unrelenting in the face of any lonely traveler who happened to be present. Empty because there were no people’s voices to carry or bird songs or wolves howling or even trees rustling; so little had survived in this sun-depraved world.
Rishan had never seen the sun. At least, not in its full glory, yellowy-orange in the midday sky, shining its life-giving rays across the galaxy. The sun he knew was just the pale light that filtered through the soot blanket high up in the atmosphere, the remnants of a super-volcano that erupted long before Rishan was born.
The dark world he lived in was all he knew but stories passed down through the generations told of a time when the world was abundant in natural resources and people thrived in their millions in huge cities. Now, all that remained of those cities was their empty shells. The cities were ominous places. Monolithic buildings towered high into the air, slowly succumbing to erosion and decay. The cities cast even darker shadows on an already darkened world. They were also great places to hide and it was for this reason that Rishan and his family chose to live there – and they had good reason to hide.
The city that Rishan lived in was on the edge of a huge desert and somewhere out there in the midst of it stood the domes, solid and impenetrable. They were so big it was possible to see them from the city and they spanned an area so great it would take days to walk from one dome to the next. Rishan and his father had ascertained whilst out on one expedition that there were nine domes – eight surrounding the central dome in a circular fashion with long tunnels connecting each one. Rishan had heard stories about the domes but no-one who ever went in there came back out.
The domes were inhabited by another group of human survivors that lived very different lives from Rishan and the other people in the Outlands. According to the stories, they were the descendants of rich and influential people from pre-eruption times who had secured themselves a place in the domes with large sums of money. They had sealed themselves off from the outside world and had escaped the terrifying fate that became so many of the world’s people.
Those that lived in the domes called themselves Gem, though Rishan did not know why. Gem was an abbreviation of Genetically Enhanced Mankind but everyone had forgotten the reason behind the name, including the Gem themselves.
The Gem were an advanced race who had the power to create life, or so Rishan’s father had told him. Rishan was confused at first; he’d said that humans can also create life, that’s how babies were made. But his father had explained that with the Gem it was different, they could create life just like God had created men. But Rishan’s father said it was wrong to play God and that what they did was a perversion of nature. Rishan found it hard to understand, as did Rishan’s father who had learnt most of what he knew from his father and the few books that his great-grandfather had passed down through the generations. Rishan and his father would look at the pictures in some of the books and find it hard to believe that life may have once resembled those pictures.
If they couldn’t understand how the Gem created life then they certainly knew of some of the life forms they had created. The Gormen were an aggressive species of animal-human hybrids that would come out of the domes about once every 30 days and capture some of the Outlanders then lock them away in a large vehicle. They would then be taken into the domes never to return. The stories of what happened to people after they had been taken into the domes were manifold but they all shared one central theme: death. The Outlanders were terrified of the Gormen and that was why they chose to live in the derelict cities where they could easily disappear into the labyrinth of buildings.
Life in the Outlands was difficult enough without the added danger of the Gormen. Every corner opened the potential of walking straight into their arms. Every trip outside of the cities was filled with risk and yet, they had no choice – most of their food was found away from the cities. Their only advantage was the relative predictability of the Gormen’s actions: they came out of the domes roughly every 30 days, though sometimes it could be less, sometimes more. The Outlanders knew to be extra careful around these times though the Gormen would always catch some of them, usually between ten and twenty people every time.
Rishan had a deep hatred of the Gormen and the Gem. His own mother and sister had been captured by the Gormen when he was just 16. His sister had only been 14 at the time. They had been foraging for food on the outskirts of the desert where a few edible shrubs grew. The Gormen had ambushed them and five others. Two had gotten away and related the story back to Rishan and his father, Navid. That had been four years ago. Rishan and his father had put brave faces on and continued to go out hunting every day, not entirely sure what their reason for living was in their bleak world.
Rishan was now a man and one of the stronger and more able bodied among the poorly fed males. He had been lucky. Many of the children were born malformed because of the lack of nutrition, poor drinking water and general lack of fertility. He secretly vowed to take revenge on the Gormen if he ever got the chance though his father warned him against it saying that, strong as he was, he was no match for the mighty Gormen who stood at least a foot taller than most men and had unrivaled strength.
He and his father went out to find food every day on the outskirts of the city though it hardly required the same kind of bravado that hunting a stag or a boar would have demanded when those kinds of animals roamed the Earth; Rishan and Navid went hunting for rats.
Rats were one of the few species of mammals to have survived after the supervolcano erupted and dramatically affected the Earth’s climate. The lack of sun light and heat killed-off most of the plants and vegetation which in turn killed-off all those animals that depended on them for survival. The starvation moved through the food chain until all that remained were a few burrowing rodents, insects and the ubiquitous cockroach. Even sea life was affected. Phytoplankton – which also depended on photosynthesis – suffered greatly and much of the sea’s fragile eco-system was destroyed.
Rats were the only meat on the Outlander’s menus, except for a small desert gopher which could be found deeper in the desert but was hard to locate and even harder to trap. Other than the rats they had a few edible plants and insects to subsist on; nobody had taken to eating cockroaches yet, though they could be found in abundance.
A sound in the desert broke Rishan’s musing. He turned and looked in the direction of the noise; it was his father coming towards him. Life in the Outlands had taught Rishan to be alert. Any sudden sound would cause him to react defensively; he was always ready to duck for cover and had developed ingenious ways of hiding himself.
‘We’d better be getting back, Rishan,’ his father said. ‘It will be too dark to see soon.’
Rishan just nodded his headed and threw his hunting bag over his shoulder. They set off in the direction of the city, trudging through the sand in their bare feet; shoes were a commodity that was hard to come by in a world with so few resources.
As they came to the outskirts of the city they instinctively became more alert and edgy; the city limits were an ideal place for an ambush and many people had been taken by the Gormen or robbed by bandits. They scrutinized everything in sight for tell tale signs of the Gormen.
They stepped over the rocks and debris, careful not to make any noise, and took the east route to their dwellings; they took a different route every day so that their movements would not be easy to predict. They followed a short path that led to an old disused subway line. It was one of the riskier routes because it was in a confined space but there were exits at various points along the line which they could use to escape. They walked along the subway for about half a mile then exited onto a long avenue with buildings on either side and various alleyways and side streets leading off of it. After three blocks Rishan and his father went through a door into a derelict mall then turned immediately into a small hole that had been broken into the wall; this was a kind of decoy to put anyone who may have been following them off their tracks. The hole in the wall lead to a flight of stairs in an adjacent building which they followed up three flights then turned through another hole into a large empty room. This room led to another room where old bookshelves and tables were placed haphazardly. Behind the bookshelf was small hole in the wall, just large enough for Rishan and Navid to climb through. This hole led them to a space between the walls where they scaled a ladder to another room that was impenetrable from any other route; all doors and windows had been sealed-off. This was where they lived.
Before entering their room they tapped lightly on the wooden portal in a coded message that told Tirina who was entering the room. She opened the door and welcomed them with a warm smile that seemed out of place in such a bleak world.
The place where they lived was a series of three rooms, all on one floor and quite spacious; they had once been lawyer’s offices.
Tirina was Rishan’s partner – nobody married anymore, there wasn’t any time for it – and they had a six-month-old daughter together, Riena. Tirina and Riena spent most of their time in the house where it was safe and the Gormen couldn’t get to them.
‘I heard that the Gormen have been sighted around the city,’ said Tirina. ‘You men had better be extra careful next time you go out looking for food.’

yarn
November 29th, 2010, 05:44 AM
Thanks for your support on here guys. Is this a creative zone or a clique? I think someone added a post called the clique. I should go and read it now just to make sure its not about the people who frequent this website. Or should this website be renamed "The good white American forum for tame writers that don't step out of line, write anything provocative or try to be original". I think I realise (oops American fascist spell checker says that I've spelt realise incorrectly) now that this forum is a place for hobbyists.

WoahKate
November 29th, 2010, 07:03 AM
Okay, I’m not really good at this because it is all pretty new to me.

What I read of the chapter was, to say the least, complicated. You use too many words in your writing, learn to compress your sentences and use less difficult words. It felt like you just put every other word in a Thesaurus and hoped for the best to be chucked out at you. Also, your tenses are off in places and so are your descriptions, so you should really do a thorough once over on the chapter.

Not that I’m trying to discourage you or anything, quite the contrary! I want to encourage you to make your writing better and continue on!

bobolob
November 29th, 2010, 07:21 AM
Funny that you have to try to insult people on here for not reading your post just to try to get people to read it. Quite frankly people don't have time to read everything posted on here. So little Douche, you should be happy that someone on this "good white American forum for tame writers that don't step out of line, write anything provocative or try to be original" actually was kind enough to critique your work.
Funny thing is that I was going to actually comment on your draft when I saw it on the top of the new post section. Then I got down to your comment and decided its not worth it. After all I am a "White" American, so obviously you probably don't want my advice. Unless I am incorrect, this site is based in England anyways.

yarn
November 29th, 2010, 07:34 AM
Ok my comments were inappropriate. I have nothing against white Americans. In fact I really like what America has to offer on its best side i.e creativity, competitive spirit and ingenuity. I really don't care if you (try to) insult me with words like "douche" because they're only words but thanks for taking the time to criticize my comments because these things teach us a lesson right? I mean it's so easy to curl up and die when some says we acted like a douche. It's a lot harder, though ultimately more rewarding, to listen to the criticism and say "ok, next time I'll do better and think before I speak" or so on.
Other people shape our lives and so I'm thankful that you criticized me - you're right I was a douche (whatever that (really) means) but even douches are good people sometimes, criminals have altruistic qualities just the same as do-gooders do, do-gooders can be criminals just the same as criminals can.

yarn
November 29th, 2010, 07:38 AM
Thank you WoahKate,

I didn't take your comments the wrong way at all. I'm very thankful for the feedback because that is exactly what I need to shape this novel. As for the thesaurus, I didn't use one but I'll consider toning down the language to a more palatable level.
I think I know what you mean about the tenses. Could you give me a couple of examples of where you noticed this?
Thanks again

WoahKate
November 29th, 2010, 07:59 AM
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great with tense either, especially in my own writing. I’ll give you a basic rundown of what I seen.

First, you need to learn how to use semicolons and apostrophes properly. You leave them out at times or leave run-on sentences. When writing read back over your material out loud, you’ll hear the pauses and the sudden shifts where these punctuation should go.

Second, your tenses are mainly between ‘were’ and ‘was’ which is easily fixed if you comb over your work. I tend to comb over a little too much, but that’s just me. Just go through it and read it out loud as I stated above, you can acknowledge the differences better that way.

Happy writing!

yarn
November 29th, 2010, 10:45 AM
Thanks for the help!

I might just print out the first chapter and read it aloud and then highlight all the bits that seem weak.

Still, it may be better to flesh the body of the novel out first but that's me just thinking aloud; which I do too often.