View Full Version : Minor novel excerpt (900 words) - Warning: Language

January 2nd, 2011, 07:43 AM
Neal led me through the supermarket aisles. He had that fixated, businesslike expression he wore when excited about something, almost as though a small spark had ignited somewhere in his temporal lobe. I watched with fascination as his indifference to most things washed away. I knew from experience that it was temporary, but it was, nonetheless, fun to witness. He quickened his pace, perhaps drunk on whatever idea had privately ensnared him. I found myself taking extra long strides just to keep up.
I'd always admired his furious resolve, the way he disregarded everything when something caught his attention. He wasn’t easily excited, in fact he was quite selective about which ventures were worth his time, that’s how I knew something exciting was about to go down.

Neal systematically scanned each aisle as we passed it. We passed one through four without stopping, then beelined into five so quickly I nearly twisted my ankle in pursuit. Aisle five contained confectionary, which was apt because Neal looked like a kid in a candy store right now. He stopped in front of the hanging sweets and looked over them in deliberation. Each bag hung there, limp, in perfect symmetry, all the colours and graphics melding into one another. Neal folded his arms, as if on the cusp of a difficult decision. He appeared to be torn between Sour Skittles and a Starburst Party Mix.
“I’d go with the Starburst,” I said.
Neal’s decision was made. He reached out and tore off a bag of Skittles, stuffed them into his right jean pocket, and walked off without a word. I stood there a moment, panic-stricken, then hurried after him like a dog chasing its master. He was just two steps away from leaving the aisle when he paused mid-step.
“Fuck!” he exclaimed under his breath, then turned, and began walking back to the Starburst section.
He’s proven he’s not lacking in audacity, now he’ll return the goods and we’ll hightail it out of here, maybe grab a burger or something. But Neal did not do this. Instead he pulled a bag of Starburst towards him, sliding it off its silver prong delicately, and depositing it in his other pocket.
He looked different this time, like he were almost reluctant to take this second bag. I figured something compelled him to do it, some weird tick in his mind, maybe a compulsive desire for symmetry, I don't know. Whatever it was it seemed to clash with his rational judgement.
“Favourite chocolate bar?” Neal asked. No foreshadowing, just straight to business.
“I don’t know. Snickers I guess.”
Neal turned his attention to the chocolate bars. They were stacked in tiny cardboard containers and uniformly shelved so that each container had the name and logo of its accompanying chocolate bar. Neal searched the shelves, found the Snickers bars, and took out three.
“Hold out your hand.”
I obliged, and he slapped all three into my open palm.
“In your pocket,” he commanded.
I looked around the aisle. Directly in front of us was a forty-something soccer mum pushing a trolley of groceries. A little kid with scruffy blonde hair plodded along beside her, tugging at her dress with great persistence, though failing to get her attention.
I checked behind us, an old Russian couple, diminutive in size, squabbled over a can of pea soup. They both sported walking sticks and an unsteady lurch that clutched onlookers by their heart strings and evoked deep sympathy. Fortunately, in the heat of the proceedings, I was able to overlook their shortcomings and prey on their obliviousness to everything around them. Awkwardly I forced the second Snickers into my pocket. The bulge was telling. My jeans were tight, and my pockets shallow; I looked at Neal, then scanned the perimeter for bystanders.
“Quit looking around, you make it obvious.”
“Sorry,” I said.

We walked into the next aisle, pet food. I looked around again, then scorned myself for doing so. Stupid instinct. The remaining two chocolate bars dangled in my limp grip. I guided one along the outside of my pant leg, into the same pocket as the last. I was a little more composed about it this time.
“This is better. There’s no people,” I said.
Neal scoffed. Apparently he was two steps ahead of my delinquent thinking.
“People are good. If there are six or seven people in an aisle then nobody suspects anything. A crowd offers you cover, especially when dealing with cameras.”
“But what if someone sees?”

“Nobody will. They never do. People just aren’t interested in what you’re doing, they’re focused on themselves.”
I soaked in this information, and tried to remain unfazed. Turning my body towards the shelving, I pretended to look over the cat litter. Thirty-seconds passed without movement. The last goddamn chocolate bar remained in my closed fist. I couldn’t will myself to put it into my pocket, I was convinced I would get caught.
“For fuck’s sake Jack, stop looking so suspicious!” Neal barked under-breath. “The idea is to look natural, not stiff and scared. Natural people do not fall into cat litter trances.”

I nodded and followed him down the empty aisle. Somewhere during this walk my hand, operating on autopilot, slid the final bar into my other pocket. It nestled in with my mobile phone, the faint rustle of its wrapper could be heard with each step I took. Surely everyone in the store could hear that? Surely they knew what it was?

Neal didn’t say anything else until we were almost outside. We approached the huge exit arch, and my heart sank. There was a security guard, a towering, broad-shouldered Indian man with folded arms. This was it, it was over for sure.
“‘Afternoon,” Neal chirped as he passed by.
The man didn’t respond. He just stood there looking gruff and menacing. Maybe he hated his job, maybe his police force hoop dreams never quite got off the ground, and this, being some supermarket statue, was his punishment.
I didn’t really think much about it as I met his gaze and hurried past. Neal marched right out into the grey afternoon. I remember he was whistling.

January 5th, 2011, 05:30 AM
Okay, cool shoplifting experience :). I liked the way the one, experienced guy was calm while the other guy was nervous, which seems to me the way the emotions would play out in that situation.

For the sake of adding a little excitement, what if more stuff went wrong? What if somehow a candy bar slipped from his pocket and the guy got all jittery? Or the security guard gave them a hard time, maybe even asking, "What's with the candy in the pockets?" And the one guy had to come up with something on the spot. "Oh, yeah—had them in there all morning. Probably all melted by now."

Got a few nits here,

perhaps drunk on whatever idea had infiltrated his mind.I'm not quite feeling infiltrated.

Neal systematically scanned each aisle as we passed it. We passed aisles one through four without stoppingGiven that you just mentioned aisles in the first sentence, I'd omit the second one.

Theirs was an unsteady lurch.This sentence would come across better if it was, "They had an unsteady lurch."

January 5th, 2011, 05:56 AM
I like it, but I don't love it. Your style is a little rough, too many short sentences that lend the piece a choppy feel at the start. You seem to kind of fix that by the end, but it's too short a sample to really tell.

Other than that, the biggest change I would advise you to make it to get you paragraph spacing both technically correct (you have dialogue from two different characters in the same paragraph) and consistent (the breaks between paragraphs seem random- come up with a method and stick to it).

And pay attention to Caelum's post. That's good advice.

January 5th, 2011, 11:03 PM
Thanks guys.

Caelum, I've enforced all of your suggestions in the redraft. Since it's a novel excerpt I can't really change what happens. This small scene is kind of a preface for later shoplifting scenes. It has to go smoothly this time around, so as to hook Jack on its merits. Don't worry though, complications arise later :-)

Vertigo, I agree about the initial barrage of short sentences. I will go over it and try to implement a little more variety.
To the rest of it I'm fairly nonplussed. I don't think I had any paragraphs in its original form, I just threw them in haphazardly to break it up for the forum. The dialogue from two characters appearing on the same line was a forum engineered problem. I'm kind of used to it, whenever I put a piece of writing on any site (ESPECIALLY Facebook) the gods of the internet decide it would be funny to interfere and alter how it looked in word processor form.

January 6th, 2011, 06:24 AM
Yes, I learned well about the internet gods and MS Word not mixing the first time I pasted a piece in and the bloody italics didn't copy over.

But you need to learn to break up your writing into paragraphs based on what the subject of the section of the text is/who is speaking. Otherwise you have something that is just a block of text that looks utterly non-professional and reads hellishly. Best you start correcting now than later.

January 7th, 2011, 04:59 AM
I tinkered with it a little. Cut some stuff out and added a few bits and pieces. I also divided the paragraphs into clearer sub-sections.

Vertigo, does it flow better? Or have I perhaps created problems where problems weren't there?

January 7th, 2011, 05:18 AM
Gets my seal of approval. Only things left are the typical minor grammatical errors (commas and the like), but I'm terrible at spotting those, much less fixing them.

Good edit.

January 7th, 2011, 12:22 PM
He had that fixated, businesslike expression he wore when excited about something,
I think this sentence could be re-worded. Story-content wise, for what you posted I think the flow is good.

I would like to make one comment, for future postings, would be nice if you could seperate the lines next time. Just makes it easier to read.

April 17th, 2012, 07:56 AM
Yes, a bit choppy. At first I thought maybe the kid was autistic and his mom was watching him rummage about in the store. It took me a while to realize these were two friends shoplifting. You stated that... 'Aisle five contained confectionary, which was apt because Neal looked like a kid in a candy store right now. ' Well, he IS a kid in a candy store. Not sure this line works. That's just one example of a line that doesn't work for me. I agree with the other posts too. Cut it down. Take out the uneccesary words, then juggle what's left to find flow. To me good writing is always about flow and proper puntuation. The comma is a great tool, but do not over use it. It came be the differece between your reader's comprehension, or not

June 10th, 2012, 07:03 PM
Yay, some good writing! I would recommend cutting it some - I think it would be more absorbing if it was a bit punchier, but I really like your prose. It's clever, but at the same time, is actually successfully taking us through the story rather than just showing off. Take out some unnecessary words and adjectives, and I think you're on your way.

badboi scene
June 17th, 2012, 11:05 PM
I would concentrate more on your main character's anxiety; the pace of his heart, occupying his hands more. Tapping the side of his leg maybe, rubbing the back of his head, his nose. Continuously examining his pocket to make sure the chocolate bars remain secure and out of view. Have him drop one of the chocolate bars Neal hands him making him react swift and awkwardly. Anything to create as much tension as you possibly can for this situation.

It appears, to me at least, as if you became a little too comfortable with writing this part. Now that isn't precisely a bad thing, because it means you're more likely to get at least something typed up, but it isn't always a good thing either because you tend to dash through paragraphs with such velocity that you find yourself forgetting to include some such significances.

You have an entertaining piece here, that is for certain. And you hadn't needed the involvement of murder, violence or some sort of vile act that would, more often than not, have a reader desiring more. You explicated a simple shoplifting scene whilst maintaining the readers interest. I have been debating whether or not to begin my story with a simple case of vandalism. Thanks to you and this enjoyable written piece of yours, I now know for certain that these storylines can attract as much attention as a murderous intro would.

June 18th, 2012, 10:53 PM
It's an interesting opening that makes a reader want to know more,but could probably do with some light pruning here and there. I found the phrase 'soccer mum' a bit odd: the American phrase is 'Soccer Mom'; but it's not a phrase that's used much in the UK.

June 19th, 2012, 12:18 AM
I think this piece would be a bit more fun if the guy felt a rush of disbelief and happy giddiness once they're outside and he realizes that they got away with the theft … and then sharp panic when he spots the security guard under the arch.

August 7th, 2012, 03:29 PM
Interesting piece, enjoyed it. better for the adjustments. Would be interesting to have the "Security Guards Tale" to follow up- did he know? did he see? whats his angle??

DW Keech
August 7th, 2012, 04:10 PM
You definitely grabbed my interest.

Judgement is actually spelled judgment

Natural people do not fall into cat litter trances made me laugh out loud. :)

August 23rd, 2012, 08:39 PM
I Really like this, I liked the pace and didn't even notice the use of too many short sentences - to me this was excellent and I wanted more.

I though the last sentence seem kinda out of place though "I remember he was whistling"

August 28th, 2012, 12:08 AM
Everyone else basically told you what could have been fixed. I liked it. It's realistic, it's interesting. Honestly, I want to read the rest of the novel.