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popsprocket
December 12th, 2012, 12:35 AM
So I have this plot idea for what is probably a YA book that has come together as an amalgamation of various tidbits that I had lying around in my writing ideas notebook. It's pretty trashy (:D) but I reckon it'll be fun to write if I can ever make myself do it. I'm loathe to call what I wrote last night a prologue since I hate using them, but that's basically what it amounts to. Let me know what you think.



Connor picked his way through the dark apartment, careful not to kick any of the neatly stacked boxes that lined the wooden floor. Stepping out onto the balcony, brisk night air went barely noticed. He drank in the city that sprawled before him, leaning forward on the railing like a king lording over his kingdom. There was something about endless skyscrapers whose every inch were afire with light that made for a spectacular view.

He sipped the drink he’d brought with him; a cheap gin, a small wedge of lime providing its only redeeming quality. Connor leant forward again, cupping his glass in one hand held out over the city’s peaks. From this height he could see a good deal of what lay before him, but it was largely lost on his apathetic mood.

Twenty floors up. They’d pulled out the stops to put him up this high in an area like this. Even if the apartment was poky, the rent on a place like this wouldn’t have been cheap. Well, it always paid to keep your employees happy. The thought brought a smile to his face. He didn’t hold many cards when it came to his work, but being an unstable investment provided him with a little bit of leverage.

Not that it mattered. He downed the rest of the bitter drink. Frequent location changes were in the job description, and where he got a nice apartment in this city, he might get stuck with a broom cupboard in the next. It was part of the reason he only carted around a meagre supply of personal items. What he kept was barely enough to fill the trunk of a small car. And now it was all packed up again and ready to make its home somewhere else. Make its home, Connor mused. His next destination had been his home, once; perhaps it could fill that role again.

Connor set the cup down on the railing and resumed his count down as cars crawled by far below. Even at this hour there was traffic – all the tourists gawking at the light displays from the back seats of their taxis. It didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be a problem.

Ten… Nine…

He’d been counting for the last hour as he taped up cardboard boxes and drank bad gin. The wind picked up, whistling between the skyscrapers that lined either side of the street, whipping his short hair into an excited frenzy.

Four… Three…

Turning, he looked back into the dim apartment to the bright red numbers on the digital clock that he still had plugged in on his night stand. Home. After this, he was going home.

One…

But not yet. The numbers on the clock flicked over to 10pm and a small smile tugged at the corners of Connor’s mouth. Time to begin.

With a quick breath, Connor leapt over the railing, sailing down through the night sky toward the street below.

empresstheresa
December 12th, 2012, 04:32 AM
Connor moved through the (1) dark apartment slowly, using a foot to push aside the neatly (2) packed boxes that stood between him and the (3) sliding glass door. (4) Bracing night air greeted him as he stepped through the sliding doors onto his (5) small balcony. He leant forward on the (6) railing and looked out over the (7) grand city that spread out beneath him, like a (8) king lording over his kingdom. (9) Cities like this were some of the most (10) magnificent sights to behold in the whole world. (11) Historians might have thought that blasphemous, considering the (12) decadence of (13) beauties past, but there was something about a (14) sprawling concrete jungle whose every inch was lit with (15) sparkling lights that made for a (16) spectacular sight.


The poor reader already has at least 16 things and ideas to worry about. What's important? What isn't?

Reading like this gets tired quickly.
How about this:


Connor walked to his balcony and looked over the city.

popsprocket
December 12th, 2012, 05:28 AM
I think you over counted the number of ideas (I get 9 or 10) but yes, it could be tighter. Though, being a scene setter I certainly wouldn't reduce it to one sentence. That's just not how I write. Whether or not my writing style is suitable for YA is something that I have no idea about since I've never written in the genre before and am not widely read; the idea, characters, and plot are just best suited to the age level, I think.


How about this instead:

Connor moved through the dark apartment slowly, careful not kick any of the neatly packed boxes that stood between him and the sliding glass door. Bracing night air greeted him as he stepped through the sliding doors onto his small balcony. He leant forward on the railing and, like a king lording over his kingdom, looked out over the grand city that spread out before him. There was something about a sprawling concrete jungle whose every inch was lit with sparkling lights that made for a spectacular sight.

lasm
December 12th, 2012, 03:03 PM
Your second version of the first paragraph is an improvement, I think-- more condensed, more focused in the character's POV. Still, that whole last sentence seems unnecessary, I'd suggest just "looked out over the sparkling lights of the grand city spread out before him". "Concrete jungle" is a well-worn phrase at this point, saying it's spectacular isn't very concrete.

I'll note that there's a whole lot of -ing words in the first part, to the point where they started to bug me a little.

Maybe he should look at the clock before he starts counting?

I'd cut "effortlessly" from that last sentence.

This is a good start, though, and it's well-written -- could use some tightening up, and maybe a stronger sense of Connor's character, how he's feeling; I'm guessing something supernatural is happening, since he doesn't seem suicidal or anything, and if he comes through more strongly as sarcastic or self-confident or something, that might help. But it's good and I'm curious to see where you go with it.

Blondie
December 12th, 2012, 08:01 PM
I like it I really do I'm already interested in how its going to turn out for Conner and I'm interested in why he threw himself off the balcony like that. The next thing is aimed somewhat at empress's comment and the original intro and second version of it, I myself am 17 and had no trouble keeping up with the details while it did seem a little over flowing (to many descriptors in my opinion for the first one) which sounds ludicrous even to me (you can never have to much detail :) ) but the second version is definitely an improvement and a lot smoother of a read.


As a side note I've always been a fan of "darker" or more I guess surreal novels somewhat of an Edgar Allen Poe-esque feel to them and this really gives me that vibe so please do post more of the story when you get the chance!

popsprocket
December 13th, 2012, 01:13 AM
Atmosphere and melodrama are my favourite parts of writing. My first drafts frequently look like this ;)

And yes, Connor has a supernatural element. It's a magic system that I nicked from something that came to me while I was writing nano this year. At the super basic level, he's able to do what amounts to stopping time (for as long as he can hold his breath) and has some control over the laws of physics there. So he can throw himself off a balcony and alter how his body is effected by gravity.


I'd cut "effortlessly" from that last sentence.
On the one hand that totally fixes everything that I don't like about that sentence. On the other, does it make it seem more like he's jumping to his death, rather than just slinging himself off the 20th storey on purpose?

Scratch that, easy fix.

With a quick breath, Connor leapt over the railing, sailing down through the night sky toward the street below.

popsprocket
December 15th, 2012, 01:52 AM
I've updated the original post with the revised scene. I'm actually pretty happy with that, though it bothers my imagined-OCD that it's so short for being the entirety of the scene.

I'm working on a scene list for this book right now, whether or not I keep writing will all depend on how this turns out. Fingers crossed! (Or not, if you don't like it :P)

moeslow
December 15th, 2012, 02:33 PM
Connor crept through the dark room, careful not to bump the neatly packed boxes piled along the floor. Sliding the balcony door, he tiptoed into the blustery night air. Leaning over the cold, hard railing as though a king lording over his kingdom, he drank in the sprawling city. The concrete jungle, screaming with sparkling lights, made for a spectacular sight.


28 word reduction.

Notes on my editing choices:
First sentence: Moved is so broad it may as well be an abstract verb. Crept gives you the desired effect in this case and removes the adverb slowly, which by the way is redundant; you are modifying his movement (the verb) with a relative clause, so what is the point of a silly and wimpy adverb like slowly? any of is redundant, and I would have removed neatly and used a more vivid adverb or none at all, but it's not that big of a deal. He is moving, and you are modifying his movement, no need to introduce extra information like the glass sliding door of the balcony.

Second Sentence: You are painting a mental picture. Don't apply paint before you sketch, and don't tell us about the bracing air before we even see him sliding the door open and stepping out. Tiptoe is more concrete than stepped; you can see him trying to stay quite, while at the same time picture his bare feet trying to avoid touching the freezing floor. BE SPECIFIC.

Third Sentence:
First, that was the wrong usage of like. Drank in is more vivid and something like surveyed could have worked too. AGAIN, BE SPECIFIC. Why use a wimpy verb like looked when you can use beasts such as eyeball, gawk, gape, ogle, inspect, spy etc?

We already know the city is grand because you used the word kingdom. You gave us an image of grandness, no need to repeat it. Sprawling city works and leads to one less word as you can now remove it from the next sentence.

There was something about a these are filler words. You can argue they help create voice, but that is a voice you grow tired of rather quickly.
whose every inch was lit anther instance of filler words combined with a wimpy verb like lit. I used screaming because it was the first one that came to my head and because it is not something you hear every day in regards to light, so it is fresh (to me), and it gives you an image of lights so bright they can be heard. Again, you can use better words than screaming, and you should try to find them. Mine also happened to create a nice rhythm with the S alliteration run in: screaming with sparkling lights, made for a spectacular sight.


In conclusion: BE SPECIFIC, and BE EXACT. Think about the image you want to paint for the reader and then reduce it to as few brushstrokes as possible.

That's my thought process, and I hope it helped a bit.

moeslow
December 15th, 2012, 02:47 PM
The poor reader already has at least 16 things and ideas to worry about. What's important? What isn't?

Reading like this gets tired quickly.
How about this:
Connor walked to his balcony and looked over the city.






That is something out of badly written screenplay, not a novel. You need some meat for the reader to chew.

popsprocket
December 16th, 2012, 01:11 AM
I'll give you the validity of some of those edits, but I have to reject the others. Tiptoe and crept have the wrong connotations for what is happening. He's not creeping through someone else's apartment, or trying to be quiet for that matter; he's simply walking from wherever he last was - probably the kitchen since he has a glass of gin with him - to the balcony. I'd also like to note that I don't believe in painting 100% of the picture for the audience. Things like being specific over whether or not he opens the glass door to the balcony are irrelevant because I know that the reader can infer that the door was either open or opened for him to move from inside the apartment to outside. It's an unnecessary detail. I could go on and on about not needing to be overly specific, but I won't since it's a writing style preference that everyone differs in.



First, that was the wrong usage of like.
No it's not. This idea is in reference to Connor, not to the city.


Try this on:
Connor picked his way through the dark apartment, careful not kick any of the neatly packed boxes that lined the wooden floor. Stepping out onto the balcony, he was greeted by brisk night air that went barely noticed. Leaning forward on the railing like a king lording over his kingdom, Connor drank in the grand city that sprawled before him. There was something about endless skyscrapers whose every inch were afire with light that made for a spectacular view.



BE SPECIFIC, and BE EXACT
No. :P

moeslow
December 16th, 2012, 02:23 AM
I'll give you the validity of some of those edits, but I have to reject the others. Tiptoe and crept have the wrong connotations for what is happening. He's not creeping through someone else's apartment, or trying to be quiet for that matter; he's simply walking from wherever he last was - probably the kitchen since he has a glass of gin with him - to the balcony. I'd also like to note that I don't believe in painting 100% of the picture for the audience. Things like being specific over whether or not he opens the glass door to the balcony are irrelevant because I know that the reader can infer that the door was either open or opened for him to move from inside the apartment to outside. It's an unnecessary detail. I could go on and on about not needing to be overly specific, but I won't since it's a writing style preference that everyone differs in.



[/I][COLOR=#333333]No it's not. This idea is in reference to Connor, not to the city.


Try this on:
Connor picked his way through the dark apartment, careful not kick any of the neatly packed boxes that lined the wooden floor. Stepping out onto the balcony, he was greeted by brisk night air that went barely noticed. Leaning forward on the railing like a king lording over his kingdom, Connor drank in the grand city that sprawled before him. There was something about endless skyscrapers whose every inch were afire with light that made for a spectacular view.



No. :P
If you don't believe in using the best words to write then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage from the start. Picked is way, moved, stepping out, do nothing to help you. They are dull. Why settle for dull?

Like is used incorrectly. The proper usage is to introduce a single word. Exe: moved like a car. Sat like a king. If you are going to introduce a phrase, you need one of: as if, as, as though.

I don't even know what to say to the last one. Why would you reject the most important mantra in all of the writing? Do you know many rewrites authors have to go through? How many drafts because of that exact reason? Read a Toni Morrison novel, or a Elmore lenord, ellory, Hemingway, and on and so on to see how concrete their language is.

popsprocket
December 16th, 2012, 03:23 AM
You seem to be missing the point. Using crept or tiptoed is not making the language more concrete if the meaning is wrong. Both of those have connotations of stealth or being quiet, neither of which is what is happening. The use of a dull phrase is intentional for the mood of the scene; moved is certainly weak, but picked is mildly more interesting and infinitely more accurate. I don't know if you read past the first passage, but Connor is a bit of an apathetic person due to the circumstances of his life. He's the kind of person who does everything with a bored expression and writing voice reflects the character.

Also, this isn't my first rodeo. I understand the concepts of being concise and precise perfectly well. But as the writer, I have more information regarding what is happening here and I can tell you beyond all doubt that what I'm conveying is precisely what I mean to


Leaning forward on the railing like a king lording over his kingdom
Like is used correctly, even using your examples as a basis. That it wasn't originally has been noted but I don't tend to use 'like' in my writing very much because it's a bit of a weak word and people fall into patterns of "It was like this. He did this like he was a that."

As for the last point I probably should have conveyed that better. I said 'no' to your version of my specific meaning, not to the use of the best word for the situation.

moeslow
December 16th, 2012, 03:44 AM
You seem to be missing the point. Using crept or tiptoed is not making the language more concrete if the meaning is wrong. Both of those have connotations of stealth or being quiet, neither of which is what is happening. The use of a dull phrase is intentional for the mood of the scene; moved is certainly weak, but picked is mildly more interesting and infinitely more accurate. I don't know if you read past the first passage, but Connor is a bit of an apathetic person due to the circumstances of his life. He's the kind of person who does everything with a bored expression and writing voice reflects the character.

Also, this isn't my first rodeo. I understand the concepts of being concise and precise perfectly well. But as the writer, I have more information regarding what is happening here and I can tell you beyond all doubt that what I'm conveying is precisely what I mean to


Like is used correctly, even using your examples as a basis. That it wasn't originally has been noted but I don't tend to use 'like' in my writing very much because it's a bit of a weak word and people fall into patterns of "It was like this. He did this like he was a that."

As for the last point I probably should have conveyed that better. I said 'no' to your version of my specific meaning, not to the use of the best word for the situation.

No matter how many times you say it, it is not. It is a mistake. A mistake countless authors make, but it is a simple distinction that should be learned. Than and Then is a mistake you'd have problems with, why not this?

EXE: My friend looks like Tom Cruise.
It's as if my friend was Tom Cruise.
He leaned over like a king.
He leaned as though he were a king lording over his kingdom.

Crept is fine. It means moving silently and methodically ("to slip or gradually shift position"). It is night. There are boxes everywhere.

Anyways, good luck with the rest.

popsprocket
December 16th, 2012, 04:09 AM
Okay then. It kind of ruins how the analogy sounds though, will have to go back to the drawing board on the opening passage.

Bah, never liked opening with a character's name anyway.

erusson
December 24th, 2012, 02:18 PM
This is really interesting and it definitely makes me want to read on and know more about why this is happening. I know you say you don't really like prologues but I think this could work really well as one - you could start chapter 1 in the past, telling Connor's story and what makes him suicidal, or go to a different set of characters who are somehow affected by Connor's decision to jump / their stories are tied in with his in some way.

One thing I will say is that it doesn't really sound like a YA story, unless Connor isn't the focal point. YA novels tend to have a young adult as their protagonist and Connor seems very adult - he talks about bad gin and employees, the latter of which suggests there are workers below him, which is unlikely for a young adult. As is being able to travel around in your job.


He sipped the drink he’d brought with him; a cheap gin, a small wedge of lime providing its only redeeming quality. Connor leant forward again, cupping his glass in one hand held out over the city’s peaks. From this height he could see a good deal of what lay before him, but it was largely lost on his apathetic mood. You don't need to tell us he's apathetic; it's pretty easy to guess that from the tone, and you should be showing not telling.


Make its home, Connor mused. His next destination had been his home, once; perhaps it could fill that role again. I like this a lot. There's an element of mystery and you want to find out more.
On the other hand, I don't really understand why death is home. I'm not sure if it's a metaphor I'm missing, or if there's something you're going to reveal later.

In conclusion, I like it a lot!


Like is used incorrectly. The proper usage is to introduce a single word. Exe: moved like a car. Sat like a king. If you are going to introduce a phrase, you need one of: as if, as, as though.

I have to disagree with you - although you're probably right about this use of grammar, I would say it can be let off, and generally is let off in novel-writing today. Especially in a novel aimed at teenagers/young adults. If it has to be changed to "...as if he were a king lording over his kingdom" it sounds a little stuffy. There are some rules that can be broken because at the end of the day, it sounds better and more precise.

popsprocket
January 9th, 2013, 12:38 AM
On the other hand, I don't really understand why death is home. I'm not sure if it's a metaphor I'm missing, or if there's something you're going to reveal later.

Nope, it's more literal than that. Jumping off the balcony is his sense of theatricality and melodrama and he doesn't die. The destination of his next job is his home town - he left just shy of his 12th birthday and hasn't been back in five years. That's where the story really takes place.

erusson
January 9th, 2013, 11:44 AM
Nope, it's more literal than that. Jumping off the balcony is his sense of theatricality and melodrama and he doesn't die. The destination of his next job is his home town - he left just shy of his 12th birthday and hasn't been back in five years. That's where the story really takes place.

Ooh OK, sounds interesting. How does he survive the fall then? (I understand you might not want to tell me at the moment) x

popsprocket
January 11th, 2013, 04:30 AM
Magic.

I'm borrowing a magic system that I wrote up during this year's nanowrimo and modifying it to suit the setting. He can basically stop time for as long as he can hold his breath. I think I mentioned my reasoning before but I don't really like it, so at the moment not even I know how he survives. I'll address that issue when I get to it :P

And if I can't figure it out then he'll have to learn how to stop being so dramatic as to jump off balconies instead of using the damn stairs.

erusson
January 11th, 2013, 02:30 PM
Sounds interesting, and the magic thing immediately made it seem more YA to me! What if he could fly or something as well? Then it's not just him being dramatic, which isn't such a great motive for this very tense moment. x

Jeko
January 11th, 2013, 04:59 PM
How does he survive the fall then?


Magic.

Ah, the answer to all life's problems.

Find a way to make it connect to something non-magical in the story/plot/character development and you can make it more dimensional. Eg. He learns at that point how to manipulate his magic to slow his descent, which mirrors how he has changed as a person - he is able to slow down, be clamer and more rational, so he doesn't go all-guns-blazing anymore.

Of course, it would fit your plot, and your character development. But think on those lines. It makes the magic more effective and more memorable, rather than just a way out of a plorblem because something non-magical won't work . It also adds more internal meaning to the story, and aids holistics.

Ilasir Maroa
January 11th, 2013, 05:28 PM
I have a few questions. First, which version of the scene is the most recent?

Second, how old is this character?

popsprocket
January 12th, 2013, 01:19 AM
Ah, the answer to all life's problems.

Find a way to make it connect to something non-magical in the story/plot/character development and you can make it more dimensional. Eg. He learns at that point how to manipulate his magic to slow his descent, which mirrors how he has changed as a person - he is able to slow down, be clamer and more rational, so he doesn't go all-guns-blazing anymore.

Of course, it would fit your plot, and your character development. But think on those lines. It makes the magic more effective and more memorable, rather than just a way out of a plorblem because something non-magical won't work . It also adds more internal meaning to the story, and aids holistics.

His magic doesn't manifest at this point, but several years earlier. He's already in the the thick of his problems by the time this little scene takes place.

I suppose I'll provide what I have on his character outline at the moment. I just want everyone to know, before I write it down, that when I came up with this story I was intentionally trying to develop something that was corny and played-out. It just sounded like so much fun that it made me want to write it.

Connor - 17
A few days shy of his twelfth birthday he and his family packed up and left their home town with no notice whatsoever, leaving behind their lives prior to that without ever a chance to go back and salvage them. Years later we meet up with Connor after he has turned 17 and he leads a somewhat strange life. At the age of 12 he manifested a set of powers (which aren't particularly important at the moment because I haven't developed an internal logic to fit this particular setting) that basically allow him to stop time for as long as he can hold his breath. This kind of ability is obviously suited to less honest work than other skill sets, and as such, he, along with others like him, are employed off-the-books by the government as 'cleaners' who go around knocking off the people that the law can't touch. To achieve this they take the kids just before they become old enough to think for themselves and rewrite everything about them - values, morals, sense of right and wrong - to predispose them to killing without hesitation. In Connor's case this only worked mildly well and his father (who *SHOCK HORROR* is part of the government department that employs these kids) is holding his mother's safety over Connor's head as blackmail. So his sense of right and wrong is pretty much non-existent.

So then the bulk of the story is the return to his hometown where he reconnects with his old friends in order to get close to his target - the uncle of the girl he'd had a crush on when he was little - but he has his own motivations. The guy he's after has helped others in his position before and wants to get his help so that he can disappear (made complicated by his mother's predicament), but he's also one of those super bad dudes who really shouldn't be allowed to just stroll around freely. To make matters worse, the MC's friend had her parents murdered while the MC was busy becoming a psycho killer, which has left her severely emotionally damaged and living with this uncle who is physically abusive toward her. The MC and FMC make up the biggest arc where they help each other deal with the baggage that they've accumulated since they last parted. So far, the end consists of the MC leaving the country and bringing the girl with him, leaving for better lives somewhere else.

It's a big tangled mess of who to kill and who to save and how to do it that I designed it to push the person Connor has worked so hard to become right to the limit of his sanity. Should be a fun ride.



I have a few questions. First, which version of the scene is the most recent?

Second, how old is this character?

I updated the first post, so you can go by that. Haven't touched this in a while because of other things, so please keep in mind this whole thing might get axed. On the one hand the fact that it's vague and has people jumping to their own conclusions is exactly what I wanted, but on the other hand I feel increasingly like this is a poor way to start the story.

He's 17. The drinking and general depression is intentionally beyond his age for the reasons in his character profile above - he hasn't lived a life he's particularly proud of. He's drinking gin because I like gin.

Koshka
March 20th, 2013, 07:13 PM
What is NOT trashy about this is your skillful exposition. Twenty fours up / the most recent of many jobs / a mystery about what he does / am astonishing exit. I cannot believe anyone would pause before going on to find out what is going on. Congratulations!

Of course it is your duty to create, chapter by chapter, one cliffhanger ending after another.

/Koshka

Doc_Gonzo
March 31st, 2013, 12:31 PM
I always find that starting a story is difficult. The need to hook a reader in the first page(s) is something that eludes me but had I brought this home from the supermarket (where i often pick up books), I wouldn't be putting this down in a hurry to go and put my shopping away :smile2: