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Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 02:40 AM
Thought I'd put up a part of what I've been working on for the past couple of days. It's my first attempt at writing and is a chapter called 'An Unexpected Arrival' from an as yet unnamed book aimed at ages 11-16 and perhaps higher depending on where the subject matter goes. This isn't the first chapter of the book, it'll be roughly chapter 3 or 4.

Just looking for some feedback on whether it's too wordy, draws you in or not, makes sense and flows easily, etc.


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An Unexpected Arrival

Opening his eyes, Felix moved them upward and across the wall towards the sound of the cuckoo clock which had been making so much noise and finally stirred him from his sleep. The tiny bird had cuckooed so many times he’d lost count and, almost as soon as his eyes fell upon it, had sprung back behind its small wooden doors, finally silent.

The clock itself, heavily decorated with carved leaves and other birds, was so big Felix wondered how it stayed hung to the wall, and as it ticked away softly his eyes were drawn to the large gold face at its centre. His gaze widened as he stared at the black embossed numbers around the outside. This was a clock unlike any Felix had ever seen. This clock had a dial numbered from one ... to fifty six.

Fifty six hours?

As far as a puzzled Felix could make out it was a little after thirty three o’clock.

The clock was very strange, but glancing around the rest of the room Felix had suddenly found himself in he thought everything else seemed pretty normal, if a little old fashioned. There was a television in one corner - at least, he guessed it was a television; it looked more like a toaster with a screen – and next to it was a small round wooden table, with a gleaming white teapot in the centre and several matching teacups, complete with saucers and teaspoons, all neatly placed around the outside. A bowl of heaped sugar lumps completed the set.

The walls, each covered in dark floral paper, were adorned with several decorative plates, some painted with cats and dogs, others with fruit or flowers, and all of them very neatly arranged in perfect symmetry. Against the far wall opposite Felix stood a tall old dresser with a few more plates stood on its shelves, some small ornaments, several books, and three black and white photographs framed in silver. A door was ajar to its right, and a shaft of light from behind it shone through in to the room.

The living area itself was quite small. A thick, woolly, circular rug lay on the floor and covered nearly all of it. An open fireplace, roaring with orange and red flames that licked the surrounding grey stone arch, stood to Felix’s left and effortlessly provided blissful warmth to every corner while giving off a wonderful smoky aroma which reminded Felix of bonfire night.

It was, Felix thought, one very cosy and welcoming room.

Unfortunately, he had absolutely no idea where he was or how he came to be there. He’d just opened his eyes and here it was. The last thing he could remember was ...

... come to think of it, he couldn’t remember what the last thing he remembered was either!

He hadn’t even woken up in a bed, as people usually do after they’ve been sleeping, apart from his Nan and Granddad who often liked to doze off in front of the telly during the afternoon, usually after a hefty roast dinner, and usually while making noises similar to those made by a variety of farmyard animals. He was, instead, sat upright in a very large and very comfortable armchair, which was so big Felix felt as though it was about to swallow him whole. Its warm deep red leather hugged him as he sat and his feet didn’t even come close to touching the floor. He was dressed in his spotted pyjamas and had rarely felt more at ease than he did right now, which was odd considering the fact that he was sat in a strange house in the middle of the night and completely lost for ideas as to how he got there.

Where on earth am I?

His eyes were drawn, once again, to the cuckoo clock. Its dark wooden case was obviously very old and was chipped in places, but the face of the clock itself seemed quite shiny and new, almost as if it didn’t belong, much like Felix himself. Why would any clock need to show fifty six hours on its dial? Every clock Felix had ever seen only showed the usual twelve hours. It made no sense at all. Then again, neither did much else right now. If he could only remember how he got here then perhaps the rest would fall in to place. He’d never been here before though, he was sure of that. He’d have remembered the weird cuckoo clock if nothing else. Who would forget something that odd?

As he looked over the room one more time, Felix suddenly realised that he wasn’t alone. Sitting in the opposite corner, hidden behind a huge newspaper held up to their face by big sausage shaped fingers, was a very large figure. Felix couldn’t quite believe he hadn’t spotted them before. He also couldn’t quite believe that the light of the fire alone was enough to read the small print in a newspaper without hurting your eyes and giving you an enormous headache, but that was beside the point.

They, too, were dressed in pyjamas, feet stuffed in to tartan slippers and almost bursting out of them in every direction, and similarly seated in a large leather armchair, although this one was a dark brown colour and it was fair to say that they were taking up considerably more of their seat than Felix was of his.

And just as Felix had failed to notice them it would seem that they had also failed to notice Felix.


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Olly Buckle
January 22nd, 2012, 03:32 AM
Hi, welcome to the site Jamie. This all seems literate and reasonable writing, a nice gentle introduction. The only bit I wonder about is this,
apart from his Nan and Granddad who often liked to doze off in front of the telly during the afternoon, usually after a hefty roast dinner, and usually while making noises similar to those made by a variety of farmyard animals.It establishes the 'normality' of your character but really has nothing to do with the story, consider ,
"apart from his Nan and Granddad who liked to doze off in front of the telly after dinner, making noises similar to farmyard animals."
That is roughly half the length, I have only taken things out, not added anything, but I think all the essential information is still there. Sometimes it is better to stay a little vague, for example 'dinner' instead of 'A hefty roast dinner' is much more of a catch all, those whose grandparents eat like birds or simply don't like roasts can still empathise with it.
The use of 'they' in the last couple of paragraphs had me wondering if I had missed something and there was more than one other for a second until I had re-read a bit, it is not wrong, but finding a way of making it clearer might help, eg, The other was also dressed ...

Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 03:39 AM
Thankyou Olly, I appreciate the feedback.

I expected the last part to be picked up. I don't really know how to word it, as it's not straight away obvious whether the figure is male or female, so I can't use 'he' or 'she'. 'The other' also seems a bit odd to me.

Olly Buckle
January 22nd, 2012, 03:57 AM
Try looking at the bigger picture, the whole sentence, rather than the bit that is the problem.

Dressed in pyjamas, feet stuffed in to tartan slippers and almost bursting out of them in every direction, someone was, similarly, seated in a large leather armchair, although this one was a dark brown colour and it was fair to say that they were taking up considerably more of their seat than Felix was of his.

SamMcClure
January 22nd, 2012, 05:12 AM
"The clock was very strange, but glancing around the rest of the room Felix had suddenly found himself in he thought everything else seemed pretty normal, if a little old fashioned."

I liked the story, but I think there has to be a simpler way to say this.

"... come to think of it, he couldn’t remember what the last thing he remembered was either!"

And I'd try to simplify this bit too. Maybe "come to think of it, he couldn't remember the last thing he remembered!"

Overall though very nice. Most of it flows really well.

Higurro
January 22nd, 2012, 11:32 AM
I think this is engaging and could lead on in a number of different interesting ways. Outside the door Felix could find almost anything. Really my only quibble is with a slight tendency to wordiness, and you mention Felix (either by name or as 'he') quite a lot. As he's the only character here it's not necessary to clarify who you're talking about. For example:


Against the far wall opposite Felix

You don't need to say both 'far wall' and 'opposite Felix' as they amount to the same thing. Just a small point really, and it's good to see writing that's formatted and grammatically well turned-out, and going over it again, working out where you can afford to lose words, will tighten the whole thing up.

Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 01:56 PM
Thanks for the feedback so far, everyone.

There are definitely some sentences that need shortening if it'll make the story flow a little better, and you're right Higurro, I should be able to take out a few references to Felix or 'he' until there is more than one character in the scene.

Already learning a great deal and I've only been here a couple of days.

Higurro
January 22nd, 2012, 02:11 PM
It's great to hear this is helping you. I feel that in the few months I've been here I've learnt so much too. I think the main thing I've learnt is not a technical thing, so much as the value of simply taking your time and thinking things through. Bearing that in mind has really paid dividends with my stuff.

Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 02:52 PM
Try looking at the bigger picture, the whole sentence, rather than the bit that is the problem.

Dressed in pyjamas, feet stuffed in to tartan slippers and almost bursting out of them in every direction, someone was, similarly, seated in a large leather armchair, although this one was a dark brown colour and it was fair to say that they were taking up considerably more of their seat than Felix was of his.

I've changed it to this:

The figure, also dressed in pyjamas, their feet stuffed in to tartan slippers and almost bursting out of them in every direction, was similarly seated in a large leather armchair, although this one was a dark brown colour and it was fair to say that they were taking up considerably more of their seat than Felix was of his.

Better?

Olly Buckle
January 22nd, 2012, 07:13 PM
Looks like you are doing a good job to me. It is easy to pass over those little hiccoughs with 'it'll do', and often it will, but the more you can learn to recognise and iron out the better it gets.

Personally I would leave out this "it was fair to say". Phrases that qualify what follows like that tend to weaken the impact.

Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 09:22 PM
Thanks Olly, I prefer to go over things and get them almost right before moving on to far in the story, so I'm grateful for any feedback and advice I get. That's what I'm here for after all.

I have another paragraph which is on the next page and I keep coming back to it and not entirely liking the way it sounds. I'm a fair few pages past it but every time I read this part back I'm not sure it works. If you could take a quick look and let me know what you think I'd appreciate it.

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‘Excuse me,’ he whispered, barely breaking the silence.

There was no reply. Not so much as a fidget from the figure opposite him.

‘Um...excuse me?’ he tried again, louder this time. ‘I was wondering if you could tell me where I am.’

His second effort was a success. Slowly, the top of the newspaper lowered revealing a shiny bald head, followed by a huge pair of white eyebrows and finally a pair of eyes, peering over the top of silver half moon spectacles halfway down a very large shiny red nose, and growing wider all the time as they fixed themselves on Felix. The giant figure lowered the newspaper a little further, displaying a big bushy moustache, arched over a black smoking pipe sticking out between barely visible lips.

He’d said nothing in reply, but by the look on his face Felix could tell he was as surprised to see him sitting there as he himself had been moments earlier.

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I don't dislike it but it seems a little clunky.

Olly Buckle
January 22nd, 2012, 09:48 PM
I don't really get that, but if you leave it for a bit and come back there is quite often an eureka moment I find. I would say, 'black comma smoking', and 'sticking out' seems unnecessary.

Thinking about it, is 'success' the right word, it depends a bit what follows but I have a suspicion 'got a response' might be more accurate.

Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 10:13 PM
'black comma smoking'? There isn't a comma there. The 'sticking out' part I dislike too, I just can't think of a better way to describe it.

The rest of it seems ok though? Too much describing going on? Never sure how much is enough.

Olly Buckle
January 23rd, 2012, 10:29 AM
What I meant is that I think there should be a comma, this is a list of attributes of the pipe, and the sticking out can be left out without any harm, what else would it be doing?

"... arched over a black, smoking, pipe, between barely visible lips."

LaughinJim
January 25th, 2012, 08:17 AM
Hi Jamie,

I don’t know how much older you are than your intended audience but I do detect a youthful voice. If so, you are quite fortunate to have such a fertile imagination, may you never lose it. You are also lucky to be getting so much help so quickly.

The ideas are wonderful, the description is vivid and on the whole it shows promise. There are some problems as you are no doubt aware. Others have pointed out a few things and I don’t want to launch into a laundry list which would be of little help as you are learning to edit yourself. I will however make three general suggestions and two corrections that might prove of some use.

First, I would suggest taking what you have and storing it safely somewhere for a week or two at least. Read a book or write some poetry. Then come back to the piece with fresh eyes and little booboos will come to your attention at once.

Second, consider breaking down some of your very long sentences that contain several independent clauses and make at least two sentences from it. Otherwise it sounds like German where a common construction leaves the verb as the last word in the sentence or the end of a frustrating musical piece that takes forever to strike the resolving chord. Notice the previous sentence: just a bit too long for young readers whose attention spans are usually short. Don’t give them an excuse to put your baby to bed never to wake it up again.

Third, make sure that there is agreement between similar subjects from one sentence or clause to the next.

You don’t need to use the past perfect tense in the first two paragraphs. Use the construction: I had seen or He had gone to describe action in the distant past as you did when you said any clock he had ever seen.

Finally, try not to use the word so as a modifier as much. You have an excellent vocabulary, use it.

Great job, especially for a first effort.
Keep writing.

Jamie
January 25th, 2012, 03:11 PM
Thankyou Jim, much appreciated.

I am not that young, just turned 35, but I am very young at heart I suppose. I love children's stories, always have, and I've always wanted to write one of my own.

I'll take on board your suggestions, and I've actually already been through that chapter about 50 times, each time finding a better way to make a sentence work. I think as I go along I'll discover new ways all the time, and will eventually craft each chapter a little better as a result. I'm pleased with the way it's going though, so I prefer to keep writing while the ideas are coming thick and fast, and every now and then look back and find ways to make it work a little better.

Thanks so much for taking the time to give me some feedback, it certainly helps.