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River Girl
December 10th, 2011, 05:14 AM
Okay, so this is my first attempt at writing fiction, so be gentle, please. ;-) Any constructive criticism would be great! Here are the first two chapters.

The Yard (Ch. 1)

Dakin sat silently in the shadows of the kitchen corner, taking in the familiar scents of Emily’s Chicago apartment—a mixture of brewing Earl Grey tea, Dragon’s Blood incense, and cigarettes caught in the thick summer air pushing through the open windows. A breeze glanced across her skin, sending the faint aroma of her perfume through the dim light to dance in front of his nose before escaping through the screen door. He closed his eyes and conjured the feeling of holding her tiny frame, losing himself in her wide, yellow-green eyes as he brushed her long chestnut hair over her pale shoulders. God, she’s beautiful, thought Dakin, as he watched her make tea in the tiny studio kitchen. It broke his heart to see her look so sad, so hollow, so fragile.

How he longed to make a noise to let her know he was here, just a little noise, a push of the door just enough to make it squeak. It would be of comfort to her, wouldn’t it, to know she’s not alone? He nudged the door ever so slightly and the sticky hinges made a soft squeak.

Startled, Emily jumped, sending the teacup to the floor, shattering. As she turned toward the door, she thought she caught a glimpse of someone in the shadows. The hair on the back of her neck stood up. Damn. The last thing he had wanted was to frighten her, and he had done just that. Dakin shrank further into the corner and then quickly disappeared as Emily turned back to reach for the light switch.

****************

The steady hum of lunch conversation rose and fell in slight waves from the cafe tables. Gossip, secrets, confessions and revelations mingled briefly in the caffeinated air before the summer breeze carried them away. CRASH!! People were running. Someone yelled. Conversations stopped mid-sentence with gasps, as all heads turned with a simultaneous jerk. Then, silence. The rapid heartbeat of every startled patron could almost be heard. Then, a muffled laugh. And another. The quiet chuckling spread. Dakin smiled and thought, “Sounds like a full tray went down this time.” Slowly, the conversation picked up again and soon the tide’s rhythm steadied. The waiter, flushed with embarrassment, delivered a fresh tray of morsels to his table and apologized for the delay. A customer joked, the waiter laughed, thankful for his kind understanding. All was right with the world again.

Dakin looked up from his book and sighed. He thought, “ I love this place. I don’t know why they don’t have the patio open through winter. I suppose it would be too cold for some, but not me.”

He never tired of spending his days here listening to tidbits of people’s lives, watching the scene around him as if it were a shoebox play. He studied the sky. So many times from this chair he witnessed the pale yellow wash of dawn, just before the sun’s spectacular entrance as a blinding orange-yellow prima donna, parting the blue satin drape. He’d seen the sky turn quietly from silver to gray to steel as the heavy slate curtain of night closed on the end of act two, and the stars silently applauded the inconspicuous rise of the modest starlet moon as it took its place on stage.

“I thought I’d find you here.” The voice over his shoulder interrupted Dakin’s thoughts.

“Syl.” Dakin half-heartedly guessed.

“Right every time. You know, I think you’re psychic, Dak” Syl joked as he pulled up a chair and sat down.

Stretching his legs in front of him, Syl scanned the scene. “Yeah, just like I know where you were last night… again,” he said and sighed through a sympathetic grin as he shook his head at Dakin.

Dakin’s nonresponse signaled a changed of subject, and Syl obliged. “Yep. Place looks the same as it did yesterday. Come to think of it, aren’t these the same people? No one actually leaves, do they?” Syl laughed at his own observation.

Dakin shook his head, amused with his friend. He could make light of anything. If you were looking for a profound, soul-searching discussion, Syl was usually not the person to talk to. Still, he did have a strange intuitiveness about him, almost as if he knew when you really needed feedback. Then he’d astound you with this insightful wisdom that seemed almost surreal coming from the lips of a 24-year-old. These were rare occasions, and came with reluctance, as if he didn’t want to damage his reputation for being that laid-back guy. But if you ever needed a reality-check, or a laugh, Syl always was the man to see.

“How many years you been coming here, man?” Syl asked as he eyed a beauty nibbling on hummus at a far table. For a second she reminded him of a waif he once knew.

Dakin kept his eyes to the ground and smiled. “I don’t know. How many times have you asked me that?”

Dakin groaned, leaning his head back, and shut his eyes tightly. His long wavy hair cascaded over the back of the chair like a soft, chocolate wave. Under the sun, his light-brown face had an angelic glow, and he looked like one of his Native American ancestors from another time.

Syl felt his friend’s pain. “You know, even if she shows—”

“I know, I know.” Dakin moaned in frustration and shook his head fiercely to erase her image from his mind. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and stared at the ground. “But I need to talk to her.”

“Look, Dak.” Syl was getting frustrated with his friend. He paused momentarily and took a few breaths to calm himself.

With a comforting tone, he continued, “Things happen in life, man. It’s not a fair game. One minute everything’s great. The next thing you know, life turns on you, and the sky is falling. Sometimes a person leaves another because of circumstances. Sometimes circumstances lead a person away. That’s what happened to the two of you. She still loves you, you know that. But present circumstances prevent you from being together. I don’t know what else to say, Dakin. Hell, I don’t even know if I’m helping you, or just babbling.”

“No, no, I hear you, Syl. I just don’t get it. People live their whole lives never having known the feeling of love. I mean real love. The kind that is so much bigger than you it aches, the kind of love that almost frustrates you because you can’t find the words to express it. It makes you free, yet has total control over every fiber of your mind and body. Like once you have it, you can’t breathe without it. And I can’t breathe.”

Dakin looked through the clouds, as if the answer were there, hiding somewhere behind a big horse-shaped cumulus. His jaw tightened at the sting behind his eyes.

Syl sighed, staring at the ground, trying to understand as much as he could his friend’s agony, as he’d done for the past four years. But he’d never felt had that kind of love. Close, but not like Dakin had. Part of him was angry for him, the other part continued to try to find a way to help him adjust to a world without her. Right now, though, he had no words that could help ease his friend’s pain.

The dinner crowd replaced the lunch crowd. Still, they all looked the same to Syl. He got up and stretched.

“Well, Buddy, you going to stay a bit longer?” Syl asked, knowing the answer.

“Yeah, just a little while,” Dakin replied, unable to hide the melancholy in his voice.

“You know I only say this because I have to.” Syl always hated telling him this; it made him feel like a den mother. But Dakin didn’t need any more problems. “Remember the house rule—in the yard by midnight.” He pointed his finger, and imitated a cranky old lady, then rolled his eyes.

“Thanks Buddy. I’ll be there.” Dakin’s token answer.

They both knew that one night, some night, Dakin wouldn’t show.

andrew.mack
December 10th, 2011, 07:33 AM
Hi there! It is a little late, so I decided to only read chapter one. Also, I'm pretty new here, but I would suggest that you might get more feedback if you curtail the length of your excerpts. Speaking for myself, I know I thought, "Wow, this is going to take a while."
That being said, I'm sooooo glad I gave it a chance. This is not the writing of someone making their debut effort! I caught a few things that could probably be a bit more condensed, but for now I just want to give you some well-deserved praise.. In my opinion there are three major requirements to hook a reader (aside from grammar). Visually evocative narration, witty dialogue, and pacing. You get an A, an A+, and a B+ respectively.
I may even come back and read chapter 2 tomorrow. The people who are visiting this thread and not sticking around to read what you've offered are missing out.

Okay, I'm tired. Good night.

Robdemanc
December 10th, 2011, 10:47 PM
I like your naration. The sense of lost love is very strong, which is good, but at one point I got the sense you were overdoing it a little. Some of the thoughts got on my nerves and Emily seemed a bit too good to be true, but I suppose through Dakins eyes she is/was. Dakin is a great name btw.

I am under the impression that Dakin is dead and is now a ghost and if that is the case I think you need some kind of hint to make it concrete. Perhaps Emily comes into the room while he is looking through her things....I don't know its up to you.

But its well written and I could sense emotion.

Steamship
December 11th, 2011, 02:56 AM
Fantastic narrative, definitely draws you into Dakin's world. I actually want to know more about Emily especially why she hasn't written anything (Grief or loss of her Muse).
Have you written more chapters, perhaps delving more into the relationship between these two and the dynamics that made them work while they were together?
Can't wait to read more.

River Girl
December 12th, 2011, 02:23 AM
Andrew.mack--I didn't realize how long it appeared until I visited the page again. It's seems shorter as a Word doc. I removed chapter 2 for now. ;)

Thank you for your wonderful comments and for taking the time to "grade" the chapter. I agree that some parts can probably be condensed. I think that's probably going to be my weak point in the writing--I tend to sometimes over-describe. Definitely something I need to pay attention to and continue to work on, and I'm glad you pointed that out. Thanks again for your feedback! I'll post chapter two after I've decided whether to edit the first draft.

cussedness
December 16th, 2011, 07:08 PM
A lot of things are subjective, so I'm going to disagree with Mack about the narrative flow. I think it works well.

themooresho
December 16th, 2011, 08:08 PM
Right off the bat, I love your descriptions where you mix the rich with the mundane, such as “…sending the faint aroma of her perfume through the dim light to dance in front of his nose before escaping through the screen door.” That’s the right way to do detailed descriptions like these. Other people may disagree, but it sure caught my attention.

“The steady hum of lunch conversation rose and fell in slight waves from the cafe tables. Gossip, secrets, confessions and revelations mingled briefly in the caffeinated air before the summer breeze carried them away. CRASH!! People were running. Someone yelled.” I think this part could be improved. I’m not sure what specifically bothers me about this, but it’s something. I think maybe it’s that you’re being overly descriptive of a rather boring scene. I would try to use language that lulls the reader into complacency before the crash. As it is, I think the reader is too alert to feel the impact of the crash. Maybe this crash should interrupt the dialogue briefly instead of being put here in the beginning.

“Still, he did have a strange intuitiveness about him, almost as if he knew when you really needed feedback. Then he’d astound you with this insightful wisdom that seemed almost surreal coming from the lips of a 24-year-old. These were rare occasions, and came with reluctance, as if he didn’t want to damage his reputation for being that laid-back guy. But if you ever needed a reality-check, or a laugh, Syl always was the man to see.” This I think is one of those times where you should show, not tell. Let the reader get to know these little nuances about your character on their own. They’re be more invested in them that way.

“The dinner crowd replaced the lunch crowd.” This is rather sudden, as if it happened in a matter of moments, like the changing of a shift. Maybe consider, “The dinner crowd had replaced the lunch crowd.” As though Syl just realized how time had passed without him being aware of it.

“…it made him feel like a den mother.” I would find a different description for this.

Aside from all this, I think you have a great first chapter. It builds interest and makes the reader wonder where you are going with this, but at the same time it doesn’t give the game away. Great job.

doghouse reilly
December 16th, 2011, 10:44 PM
I'm probably not the one to say much about romantic fiction, but it seems to me several passages reek of "purple prose." The sentence with the "pale yellow rush of dawn" for example has way too much color imagery. And "modest starlet moon."? Your metaphors and flowery descriptions are a little over the top, so if I were you I'd step back and see if you could simplify the description. Still, for your first try, overall I thought it was a good read and well worth working on.

doghouse reilly

River Girl
December 17th, 2011, 01:42 AM
My apologies for having not yet responded to everyone's feedback. I've been positively slammed with work lately, and didn't want anyone to feel that I've ignored your valuable input. I appreciate the time you've taken to read my chapter and provide thoughtful critiques, which deserve my thoughtful response. Rather than rattle off quick replies, I'd rather wait until my work schedule lightens a bit (and hopefully soon!) and take the time to respond. Thanks again for your interest and for your patience. :)

Anneky45
December 17th, 2011, 10:48 PM
First attempt at fiction - well done. Have no idea where you are going but am interested enough to want to find out. Great imagery.

luckyscars
December 23rd, 2011, 10:02 AM
definitely different. good, lean prose. i wanted to read on for sure. good job!

Nevermore
December 25th, 2011, 12:44 AM
You draw the reader into the scene very beautifully, but I notice it sometimes has a choppy flow, though its mostly at the beginning. You may wish to look it over.

Dramatism
December 27th, 2011, 04:09 PM
This story is intriguing me because I don't think I've read anything like it. Now, I'm certainly wondering what "the yard" is, and why everyone has to be there by midnight and who 'everyone' includes.

Razzazzika
December 28th, 2011, 12:47 PM
It's been said before, but you definitely have a great sense of imagery, and can spin together lovely metaphors, something I find myself nearly incapable of.

A few things jumped out at me, the first of which were the names. Dakin and Syl are very neat names, but makes me think this is in some fantasy universe instead of the 'Chicago' that you have placed it. Those names sound very... Elven. Granted, I don't know much about the character, maybe he's a faerie or something I don't know.

How is it he can't manipulate anything in Emily's apartment yet Syl is able to 'pull up a chair' at the cafe? Are they not the same thing? Is Dakin incorporeal and Syl is corporeal? I'm so confused.

I just don't get it --- don't was probably not the right emphasis you wanted here, I would have italicized get it. --- I just don't get it. When you italicize something, think of the character as almost shouting the word. Not necessarily, but you get the point. Maybe.