PDA

View Full Version : The Barber. (First 500 words)



thecitydweller
January 4th, 2011, 09:41 PM
Hi all. I thought as my first post on these forums I would post the first 500 words of a story I am writing. Just give me a bit of feedback on style etc. If it is liked I may post the whole story, as what I have written is just a teaser;



I have always believed that with a good, straight hair cut, and a clean shaven face, a man can accomplish anything. Perhaps this belief is why I first developed an interest in becoming a barber.

I began as an apprentice, as you do, cutting the hair of the customers that my master decided were not worthy of his expertise. My master was an elderly gentleman named Harris, who sported the finest head of silvery curls that I have ever seen. His skill with a pair of scissors would often leave me with a sense of awe that led to him having to, several times; clap his hand sharply against the back of the chair to attract my attention to the words he were saying. Harris taught me all that I know, and indeed, taught me many a thing outside the realms of the profession that I know and love.

When Harris passed away, twenty years ago now, I was the obvious candidate to take over the business. I say obvious, I was in fact the only candidate, seeing as I was the only living soul that the man had ever employed. So, for the past twenty years I have owned and operated a small barber shop, right here, in the heart of the city.

Business is often slow. It seems that my business was never set to do a roaring trade, for few city folk wish to have their hair cut regularly in such a poky establishment. It also doesn’t help that I began to lose my hair over a decade ago. I have seen many a traveller, each with uncontrollable tufts of long hair, slow as they pass my shop only to spot me and resume at full speed straight past my window. I can only assume it is the receding hairline which repels them, they seem not to realise that I myself am not a walking advertisement for my services.

Due to the size and location of my shop, I seldom see the same person twice. In some ways this pleases me, for it keeps the job (when there is a job) fresh. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a flock of regular customers, who bring with them consistent and regular trade. In order to amuse myself, I try to get anybody who comes into my barber shop to amuse me with a story, while I cut their hair. This isn’t just for my benefit; my reasoning is that it passes the time for both of us. This seems to be somewhere else I am going wrong for not many people seem to know of any exciting stories to tell and when they do, they are boring stories of losing car keys, or finding a lost pet.

So it was a privilege then (if one could call it such) that one windy morning in the closing days of March, my little bell tinkered through the shop and a character arrived who would prove to provide a story so rich for retelling, that I shall do so right now...

heartofthedragon
January 5th, 2011, 02:30 AM
That's a pretty good teaser for the second part. But in addition to that, with a couple tweaks here and there it would stand on its own extremely well.

Let me say in advance that I'm in no way a professional writer, and my opinions may or may not be shared by others. But I'd just like to share those opinions with you. Hope nothing offends you.



I began as an apprentice, as you do

The "you" sounds a bit out of place, to be honest. It's not wrong, but I would have preferred to say "as one does" instead. I think that makes the flow better, at least for me.


him having to, several times; clap his hand sharply

Also sounds weird when I'm reading it. The punctuation is the problem for me here. Again, it might be perfectly acceptable English but for me I'd want to rework that sentence so it doesn't stop-start like it reads now.


When Harris passed away, twenty years ago now, I was the obvious candidate to take over the business. I say obvious, I was in fact the only candidate, seeing as I was the only living soul that the man had ever employed. So, for the past twenty years I have owned and operated a small barber shop, right here, in the heart of the city.

THE business but A barber shop. Was it his barber shop or your own that you've been running for the past twenty years? I'm inclined to think it's your own, but then you shouldn't say that you would take over "the" business. Perhaps "the profession" might be a better choice?


Business is often slow. It seems that my business was never set to do a roaring trade, for few city folk wish to have their hair cut regularly in such a poky establishment. It also doesnít help that I began to lose my hair over a decade ago. I have seen many a traveller, each with uncontrollable tufts of long hair, slow as they pass my shop only to spot me and resume at full speed straight past my window. I can only assume it is the receding hairline which repels them, they seem not to realise that I myself am not a walking advertisement for my services.

Wonderful paragraph. The visuals jump out at me. Very well-written. The only minor thing wrong I'd say is I would split the "doesn't" into its two-word counterpart. You didn't use contractions before this, even when you could, and it sticks out. Otherwise I'd change nothing. I feel for the poor guy, I'm losing my hair too!


Due to the size and location of my shop, I seldom see the same person twice. In some ways this pleases me, for it keeps the job (when there is a job) fresh. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a flock of regular customers, who bring with them consistent and regular trade. In order to amuse myself, I try to get anybody who comes into my barber shop to amuse me with a story, while I cut their hair. This isnít just for my benefit; my reasoning is that it passes the time for both of us. This seems to be somewhere else I am going wrong for not many people seem to know of any exciting stories to tell and when they do, they are boring stories of losing car keys, or finding a lost pet.

Another well-written paragraph. Nothing wrong with it at all, just the use of "isn't" as with "doesn't" above.


So it was a privilege then (if one could call it such) that one windy morning in the closing days of March, my little bell tinkered through the shop and a character arrived who would prove to provide a story so rich for retelling, that I shall do so right now...

And now of course you want me hoping you'd post the second part. I love this story and I can really get a sense of the barber. I'd like to get a bit more description about this strange character, but I suppose that can come a little later on.

Some Call Me tim
January 5th, 2011, 03:52 PM
I'd read on. This story pulled me in. At first I wasn't sure about it, because I myself (being bald) have little interest in hair, or barbers. But, as the story progressed, I got over that hesitation and committed myself for the read.

Please post more of this.

Olly Buckle
January 5th, 2011, 04:19 PM
"would often leave me with a sense of awe" I think rather, "In a state of" considering the following chair clapping.
"Harris taught me all that I know," This seems unlikely, possibly add "about hairdressing"
"I was in fact the only candidate" little qualifying phrases like "infact" rarely add anything and often detract from the strength of the statement.
"not to realise that I myself am not a walking advertisement" Tautology.
"So it was a privilege then (if one could call it such)" You did call it that, questioning it detracts from the anticipation.

That is a really nice lead in to a story, mind you make it one of several rare occasions and it could equally be a good lead in to a short story collection, there must have been a few good ones in twenty years.

Edit, My eyesight is getting rubbish, I thought the poster above was "Some call me trim".

thecitydweller
January 5th, 2011, 05:25 PM
Hi, thank you for all the feedback, I am now posting the first 1000 words.
Let me know what you think, your feedback is invaluable .


I have always believed that with a good, straight hair cut, and a clean shaven face, a man can accomplish anything. Perhaps this belief is why I first developed an interest in becoming a barber.

I began as an apprentice, as one does, cutting the hair of the customers that my master decided were not worthy of his expertise. My master was an elderly gentleman named Harris, who sported the finest head of silvery curls that I have ever seen. Harris taught me all that I know, and indeed, taught me many a thing outside the realms of the profession that I know and love.

When Harris passed away, twenty years ago now, I was the obvious candidate to take over the business. I say obvious, I was in fact the only candidate, seeing as I was the only living soul that the man had ever employed. So, for the past twenty years I have owned and operated a small barber shop, right here, in the heart of the city.

Business is often slow. It seems that my business was never set to do a roaring trade, for few city folk wish to have their hair cut regularly in such a pokey establishment. It also doesn’t help that I began to lose my hair over a decade ago. I have seen many a traveller, each with uncontrollable tufts of long hair, slow as they pass my shop only to spot me and resume at full speed. I can only assume it is the receding hairline which repels them, they seem not to realise that I myself am not a walking advertisement for my own services.

Due to the size and location of my shop, I seldom see the same person twice. In some ways this pleases me, for it keeps the job (when there is a job) fresh. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a flock of regular customers, who bring with them consistent and regular trade. In order to amuse myself, I try to get anybody who comes into my barber shop to amuse me with a story, while I cut their hair. This isn’t just for my benefit; my reasoning is that it passes the time for both of us. This seems to be somewhere else I am going wrong for not many people seem to know of any exciting stories to tell and when they do, they are boring stories of losing car keys, or finding a lost pet.

So it was a privilege then, that one windy morning in the closing days of March, my little bell tinkered through the shop and a character arrived who would prove to provide a story so rich for retelling, that I shall do so right now.

I had never seen the man before. When he had made his way uneasily into my shop (and it was an uneasy entrance, due to the man’s height; he was approximately two inches too tall for my door) he glanced at me with alert eyes. The hair! I thought instinctively; don’t be put off by the hair! I smiled as gently as I could as to make him feel comfortable. After a few cautious seconds the man seemed to relax and removed a large, grey Boater hat, with a black strip running sharply around the brim. I indicated a wooden coat and hat rack to his left and he placed it on a hook, along with his well worn maroon duffel coat.

‘Would you cut this for me?’ he said, rather smartly, as he took a few steps towards me. Now this may seem a silly question for a man who had just stepped into a barber shop to ask, but to look upon the forest of tangled, matted hair on his head it was understandable that he might have his reservations about my willingness to serve him. Had I been the owner of a particularly busy or prestigious barber shop, then perhaps I would have turned the poor chap away, but I could easily class this as a specialist cut and charge him more.

‘It will count as a specialist cut,’ I told him, trying my best to keep my smile friendly and not forced. ‘It will cost a bit extra.’

‘And the beard? Would you see to that too?’

The man’s face was half obscured by said beard. In fact, to call it a beard was an understatement, for there seemed to be just as much hair on his lower jaw as on his scalp. ‘Certainly,’ I said, beckoning him towards the chair, ‘Again, it will cost extra.’

The bearded man agreed to this and happily sat down.

I had my work cut out, I could tell. Upon close inspection, his hair also appeared to have not been washed for several weeks, and large clumps had formed, held together with dirt. He seemed to spot my face as I surveyed his scalp. He laughed.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I have just returned from travelling. I am also in the middle of a house change, so I am currently without water. I will pay whatever needs to be paid in order to get it sorted.’

I told him not to worry. After twenty years in the business, I had seen hair on par with this several times. It would take quite a while to sift through the tangles to achieve a sharp hair cut. It was for these situations that I had started by quest for stories.

‘I say, sir, you said you had been travelling?’

‘Indeed. I returned just last night.’

‘You wouldn’t happen to know of any stories would you? I ask every customer for a story and it seems destiny that a traveller should enter my shop today.’

I wasn’t holding out much hope. He didn’t look like the story-telling kind, his eyes didn’t shine with intelligence nor did he appear to have the hands of a writer, or the lips of a great speaker. I was wrong about this man however.

‘You want to hear a story? I hear many a story whilst away. In fact, I heard this story a few weeks back that might interest you. I’ve been dying to tell it.’

greggb
January 5th, 2011, 08:31 PM
Your writing style here is good! A few things...

The catch is the reference to the story the stranger is going to tell. We become aware of this at the end of the first 500 words. I understand your reasoning in wanting to provide some history, but it's definitely not the most exciting part of the story. Also, the next 500 words is kind of redundant in that you've already alluded to the fact that the bearded man is going to be telling a story. You make one allusion at the end of the first 500 words, and another at the end of the first 1000 words. You setup the opportunity for the bearded man to tell his story twice.

Here's what I'd suggest: rewrite this first portion, beginning with the bearded man coming into the barber shop. Let us know he'll be telling a story as quickly as possible, and have him start telling his story as quickly as possible. You can drop little bits and pieces of the barber's history along the way. You can have the bearded man ask the barber, "How long have you been doing this?" You can use dialogue to reveal things you believe the readers need to know. But I really think you want to avoid a big block of history, especially at the beginning of the story.

Also, think about story tellers you know. Do they normally ask if you want to hear a story, or do they just start telling the story, whether you want to hear it or not?

Hope that helps. It's a great start a story, so keep plugging away!

Johnathanrs
January 7th, 2011, 12:52 PM
Hi, thank you for all the feedback, I am now posting the first 1000 words.
Let me know what you think, your feedback is invaluable .


I have always believed that with a good, straight hair cut, and a clean shaven face, a man can accomplish anything. Perhaps this belief is why I first developed an interest in becoming a barber.

I began as an apprentice, as one does, cutting the hair of the customers that my master decided were not worthy of his expertise. My master was an elderly gentleman named Harris, who sported the finest head of silvery curls that I have ever seen. Harris taught me all that I know, and indeed, taught me many a thing outside the realms of the profession that I know and love.

When Harris passed away, twenty years ago now, I was the obvious candidate to take over the business. I say obvious, I was in fact the only candidate, seeing as I was the only living soul that the man had ever employed. So, for the past twenty years I have owned and operated a small barber shop, right here, in the heart of the city.

Business is often slow. It seems that my business was never set to do a roaring trade, for few city folk wish to have their hair cut regularly in such a pokey establishment. It also doesn’t help that I began to lose my hair over a decade ago. I have seen many a traveller, each with uncontrollable tufts of long hair, slow as they pass my shop only to spot me and resume at full speed. I can only assume it is the receding hairline which repels them, they seem not to realise that I myself am not a walking advertisement for my own services.

Due to the size and location of my shop, I seldom see the same person twice. In some ways this pleases me, for it keeps the job (when there is a job) fresh. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a flock of regular customers, who bring with them consistent and regular trade. In order to amuse myself, I try to get anybody who comes into my barber shop to amuse me with a story, while I cut their hair. This isn’t just for my benefit; my reasoning is that it passes the time for both of us. This seems to be somewhere else I am going wrong for not many people seem to know of any exciting stories to tell and when they do, they are boring stories of losing car keys, or finding a lost pet.

So it was a privilege then, that one windy morning in the closing days of March, my little bell tinkered through the shop and a character arrived who would prove to provide a story so rich for retelling, that I shall do so right now.

I had never seen the man before. When he had made his way uneasily into my shop (and it was an uneasy entrance, due to the man’s height; he was approximately two inches too tall for my door) he glanced at me with alert eyes. The hair! I thought instinctively; don’t be put off by the hair! I smiled as gently as I could as to make him feel comfortable. After a few cautious seconds the man seemed to relax and removed a large, grey Boater hat, with a black strip running sharply around the brim. I indicated a wooden coat and hat rack to his left and he placed it on a hook, along with his well worn maroon duffel coat.

‘Would you cut this for me?’ he said, rather smartly, as he took a few steps towards me. Now this may seem a silly question for a man who had just stepped into a barber shop to ask, but to look upon the forest of tangled, matted hair on his head it was understandable that he might have his reservations about my willingness to serve him. Had I been the owner of a particularly busy or prestigious barber shop, then perhaps I would have turned the poor chap away, but I could easily class this as a specialist cut and charge him more.

‘It will count as a specialist cut,’ I told him, trying my best to keep my smile friendly and not forced. ‘It will cost a bit extra.’

‘And the beard? Would you see to that too?’

The man’s face was half obscured by said beard. In fact, to call it a beard was an understatement, for there seemed to be just as much hair on his lower jaw as on his scalp. ‘Certainly,’ I said, beckoning him towards the chair, ‘Again, it will cost extra.’

The bearded man agreed to this and happily sat down.

I had my work cut out, I could tell. Upon close inspection, his hair also appeared to have not been washed for several weeks, and large clumps had formed, held together with dirt. He seemed to spot my face as I surveyed his scalp. He laughed.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I have just returned from travelling. I am also in the middle of a house change, so I am currently without water. I will pay whatever needs to be paid in order to get it sorted.’

I told him not to worry. After twenty years in the business, I had seen hair on par with this several times. It would take quite a while to sift through the tangles to achieve a sharp hair cut. It was for these situations that I had started by quest for stories.

‘I say, sir, you said you had been travelling?’

‘Indeed. I returned just last night.’

‘You wouldn’t happen to know of any stories would you? I ask every customer for a story and it seems destiny that a traveller should enter my shop today.’

I wasn’t holding out much hope. He didn’t look like the story-telling kind, his eyes didn’t shine with intelligence nor did he appear to have the hands of a writer, or the lips of a great speaker. I was wrong about this man however.

‘You want to hear a story? I hear many a story whilst away. In fact, I heard this story a few weeks back that might interest you. I’ve been dying to tell it.’

Highlighted parts are sentences that confused me a bit. I had to pause, re-read it, so just might want to take a gander at it and see if it reads fine to you. Story is well written. Good flow, good introduction into the story, everything is good so far.