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gerkintrigg
April 27th, 2012, 11:34 PM
I'm writing my third novel and this is going to be quite a bit bigger than the other two, but I wonder whether I'm giving too much story and slowing down the action?

I find the characters fascinating and I think it makes them richer, but I thought I'd post this to see what people think...

By way of explanation, Orphan is an orphan called "Orphan". He was plucked from an Orphanage by two people in green suits who smell of apples. All three of them vanish in a bolt of lightning and that's where this chapter starts.

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Orphan's eyes were stinging from the light. There was a strong smell of burnt human hair mingling with the sweet tang of the apples. Orphan looked around but (unsure which way was up), found nothing to fix his gaze upon. His feet flew over nothingness. He was as light as a feather, floating like a summer breeze, but he was so warm. It was like a fire burned inside him, making every bone hot to the point of pain.

Something was rushing past him. It might have been air, but air never moved that fast. Could it be that the air was stood totally still and that it was Orphan that was moving so fast?

With a deafening crack, Orphan's feet collided with the ground and he stumbled and his knees buckled. In that instant, the light was gone and he stood facing the man and woman, outside a large, white building.

The man's hat had fallen to the floor and his head was ablaze with yellow flames. Orphan watched in terror as the man looked mildly interested and his hand rose to his head, where he snuffed out the fire with his top hat. The heat made the top start to melt and orphan saw a lick of flame pop from the top of the man's hat. Orphan was going to mention this to the man when the top hat started to melt. Surely the man would notice?

All this time, the woman watched and said nothing. She rose her hand. She too held a short wooden stick. She said a foreign word, in an odd coughing shout and Orphan wondered in that moment whether he was still asleep or anything he had seen that day was real. A jet of water shot from the end of the woman's stick and soaked the poor man who did not bother to thank the woman. In fact, he seemed to have noticed neither the fact that he was on fire, nor the torrential downpour that had sprung from the tip of the stick. It was like magic!

The man simply held the palm of his hand flat against the white wooden door in front of him and when it creaked open, stepped inside. Orphan paused to look at the woman who merely tilted her head to one side and stared straight back, into his eyes. The look ha something eerie about it - almost like the woman was going to crack an evil grin.

'After you' she said and gestured with her long, palm-up hand toward the open doorway.

The first thing that Orphan noticed when he had stepped into the wide entrance hall was the smell of damp. Orphan knew the smell of musty mildew very well, having spent most of his life surrounded by it. The linen of the orphanage, the bed sheets and even the curtains stank of it. Eventually, the smell clung to the skin of every child in the place and it was impossible to escape. A musty house would not be uncomfortable. You got used to the smell eventually, but this place had the air of having not been lived in for a few years, and that was a new experience to Orphan. All his life he had been surrounded by people. Some were pleasant enough, some (like Miss Spite) were far from it, but solitude was a scary prospect.

'If you do not wonder who we are by now, my boy' said the man 'then I have chosen incorrectly!'

'Forgive me sir, I'm sure I don't know what you mean.' Orphan replied politely.

'Then it might be that I shall have to replace you with the right one' said the man.

'We should call him now' said the woman.

'Are you in any hurry to call him?' the main said, back.

'I'm right here.' Orphan said, confused.

'He would want us to call him. He has such a temper.' the woman said.

'True' replied the man. 'You know what this means?'

'But I'm right here' Orphan said, ignoring the comment about his temper. Orphan's temper was not as bad as they were making out.

'Oh very well' the man said at last, giving in to a very persistent stare from the woman. He rose his hand to the sky and muttered some more nonsense words. The tips of his raised hand started to melt.

'I hate it when this happens' he said as his hand dropped to the floor and his whole right arm went limp and the green oily cloth flapped at his side.

'Goodbye, Orphan.' said the man and his whole body fell with a wet crash in a puddle of skin and cloth, on the floor.
Orphan’s mouth hung open in stunned silence for a few seconds before he gasped in a gulp of stale air and bellowed.

'I'm done with being polite. What the hell was that!?'

'He melted.' said the woman matter-of-factly.

'Yes, I can see that he melted!' said Orphan.

'Well then I would expect you to ask a different question.' said the woman.

'Why did he melt?' Orphan asked. His eyebrows showed his utter confusion. They seemed to magnetically attract one another and the expression was stuck in one position.

'Well, it's just the way these things work.' the woman replied chirpily.

'Not on Earth they don't.'

'And that's the point, isn't it?'

'What? Are we not on Earth?'

'At the moment' said the woman. 'We are in a little place called Windy Falls. It's where it all started, you know.'

'Never heard of it' Orphan replied.

'I'm not surprised' the woman said. 'The weather's pretty dull most of the time. You saw that cloud above us, on the way in?'

'No.' said Orphan. He thought it best to be honest.

'Oh' the woman replied. 'Well that is as it should be...' Orphan was confused. Why should he have noticed the cloud? What was it about the cloud that he should have noticed? If that was "as it should be", then surely he should have noticed nothing, and if that were the case, why had she even bothered to ask about it?

'Who are you?' said Orphan. He had not wanted to be rude and ask such a direct question, but he thought it was a good idea to be properly introduced to the woman who -back at the orphanage, at least - claimed to be his mother.

'Oh what a wonderful question.' said the woman as she bustled around the hallway, throwing her shoes off with too much force and flailing of arms. She was spreading a heavy scent of apples around the place. It acted like an air freshener against the musty smell of aged, untrodden carpet.

'I can be called mother' said the woman.

'I think we can both agree that you're not my mother.' said Orphan.

'Indeed, but I can be called mother.'

'And who are you really?' said Orphan.

'I'm not sure.' said the woman. 'I remember the horrible woman at the orphanage. But I don't think I am her.'

'You don't know who you are?'

'You don’t know who I am either. Are we bonding?’

‘How can we bond if neither of us know who you are. I don’t even know what to call you.’

‘I can be called mother' said the woman. Orphan eyed her suspiciously and let out a sigh. Was she playing a game with him? He tried another tack.

'Who was the man?' he said.

'He can be called father.'

'But he can't, because he's not here.'

'No...' said the woman in an uninterested tone. 'But he will be back.'

'Where has he gone?'

'Ah! That's the question isn't it?' said the woman, shuffling into the kitchen. 'Are you hungry?'

'What?' Orphan asked. He was worried that the woman was answering nothing in the way he wanted her to.

'I was going to make something to eat' she said. 'Are you hungry?'

In truth, Orphan was starved to within a few days of death. His scrawny body had hardly enough fat to survive a few missed mealtimes, and his sunken eyes showed the lack of minerals and other nutrients from the staple of gruel he had had, back at the orphanage. Orphan nodded. He was wary of what he might get, but he could not turn down food when it was offered to him.

The woman who he now had to call "mother" vanished into the kitchen while Orphan just stood looking around the large hall. A grandfather clock stood against a wall and ticked loudly with clunking regularity. Mother was calling after him.

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That's as far as I have gone so-far. I know where it's going and I'm happy with it, but all comments would be thankfully received.

Olly Buckle
April 28th, 2012, 12:26 AM
A nice light, easy feel to it, a promising start that gets attention.

You use his name a lot, and you don't need to keep using "that" fot example " Could it be that the air was stood totally still and that it was Orphan that was moving so fast?" could easily be, " Could it be the air was stood totally still and it was him moving fast?". You loose nothing but gain brevity, which usually means clarity.

You are doing it a bit with the other characters as well, even though they don't have names.

All this time, the woman watched and said nothing. She rose her hand. She too held a short wooden stick. She said a foreign word, in an odd coughing shout and Orphan wondered in that moment whether he was still asleep or anything he had seen that day was real. A jet of water shot from the end of the woman's stick and soaked the poor man who did not bother to thank the woman. All this time, the woman watched and said nothing, then lifted her hand in which was a short wooden stick. She said a foreign word, in an odd coughing shout and Orphan wondered in that moment whether he was still asleep, or if anything he had seen that day was real. A jet of water shot from the end of her stick and soaked the poor man, who did not bother to thank the woman.

Compare the two, I have dropped a word or two, and added an 'if' and several commas.

Continuity
The woman who he now had to call "mother" she said 'could' , not 'had to'.

gerkintrigg
April 28th, 2012, 07:57 AM
Thank you. I think the last reference you quoted could be:

The woman who he would now call "mother"

Olly Buckle
April 28th, 2012, 09:08 AM
Thank you. I think the last reference you quoted could be:

The woman who he would now call "mother"The 'who' is a bit like the 'that' examples I quoted earlier, "The woman he would now call mother" does the job just as well. It is worth going through and seeing where you can tighten things up, keeping the longer passages for the more important events and people, for example,
"'What?' Orphan asked. He was worried that the woman was answering nothing in the way he wanted her to.

'I was going to make something to eat' she said. 'Are you hungry?'

In truth, Orphan was starved to within a few days of death. His scrawny body had hardly enough fat to survive a few missed mealtimes, and his sunken eyes showed the lack of minerals and other nutrients from the staple of gruel he had had, back at the orphanage. Orphan nodded. He was wary of what he might get, but he could not turn down food when it was offered to him."

I am guessing a bit because I don't know the plot but my guess is this "'What?' Orphan asked. He was worried that the woman was answering nothing in the way he wanted her to." is more significant than this "In truth, Orphan was starved to within a few days of death. His scrawny body had hardly enough fat to survive a few missed mealtimes, and his sunken eyes showed the lack of minerals and other nutrients from the staple of gruel he had had, back at the orphanage." because it looks like she will be around for a while, but he is going to be fed and the hunger will be banished. Look,

"'What?' Orphan asked. The way that the woman was answering nothing in the way he expected was worrying him. Her kindness was appreciated, he was used to a world of direct orders and inconsiderate treatment, but also to a world in which things were regimented, orderly and predictable.

'I was going to make something to eat' she said. 'Are you hungry?'

In truth, Orphan was starving. His scrawny body had hardly enough fat to survive, and his sunken eyes showed the lack nutrients in the gruel, which was all he got at the orphanage. Orphan nodded. He was wary of the kindness, and of what he might get, but he could not turn down food when it was offered."

Of course I could be completely wrong, the lack of minerals might be what allowed him to be abducted for example, but I don't think so. :)
Note the little changes as well, such as "nutrients in" and "when it was offered." After all he wouldn't be refusing food offered to anyone else.

My feeling is that emotionally the part you expanded is important, plot wise it is the other bit. It is so easy to get involved in a story, that's great, it means you are giving it heart and soul, but you also need to be able to stand back from it from time to time to study technique, a bit like a runner.

gerkintrigg
April 29th, 2012, 08:37 AM
Great advice. Thank you for that. I will re-edit everything I have written with this in mind. It does make a lot of sense. I can feel my writing getting better every time I post in this forum. ;o)

riverdog
April 30th, 2012, 05:43 PM
Orphan's eyes were stinging from the light.

Orphan's eyes stung...

or

The light stung orphan's eyes. This is the strongest as the subject of the sentence, The light, is doing the action. The other way, Orphan is letting something happen. Always better for the subject to do, rather than have done to.


There was a strong smell of burnt human hair mingling with the sweet tang of the apples

Same problem. Try something like- The air smelled of burnt human hair and rotting apples.


Orphan looked around but (unsure which way was up), found nothing to fix his gaze upon.

Ouch. First, avoid the parentheses. Second, don't end sentences with prepositions, like upon. Orphan looked around, disoriented by the black void surrounding him him.


He was as light as a feather, floating like a summer breeze, but he was so warm.

Cliche, big time. Need new similies. And a summer's breeze is warm, so ax the but.

WiredNun
May 9th, 2012, 07:49 PM
The conversation is the best part. Try to open with some, or get to it earlier.