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Dannabis
January 12th, 2013, 12:56 AM
Hi guys, I've been cracking on with my first attempt at a novel recently and I'd like to share a section of the first chapter to see how I'm doing. If you decide to leave feedback, there are a few main points I'm particularly interested in. Edit: The indents were massacred when I copied it onto here so it looks clogged, I apologise.

1. I've been told that my writing can be difficult to read so I've tried to tone it down on this one. So, is the grammar appealing/acceptable? Would you read an entire novel composed of this style of writing?

2. Do you find the character and information interesting? Does he come across as realistic and do you find the events entertaining?

3. Do I need to add more?!

4. Enjoy!

The fists of the boy before me were wrapped with withered rags. He didn’t look particularly confident, though he possessed an aura of readiness. We were in the midst of a blisteringly hot day and his forehead was riddled with beads of sweat. I met him with an assured stance. He held a height advantage and the upper parts of his arm filled out his garments neatly. My nature as a sixteen year old had no room for fears and doubts though. The fields surrounding the village of Lorium were usually accompanied by nothing but the sound of a gentle breeze but the group surrounding us were composing a small uproar like a crazed choir to spur on the confrontation.
I was the aggressor. In all of my prior scuffles, I’d never sustained anything more than a bruised rib or a grazed elbow. The most important thing was that my pride was intact. A heart of steel and a head of tripe, I threw myself at the boy, launching a storm of random punches with no real sense of precision. In a perfect reality, I’d have fought valiantly and laughed amongst my peers as we cast a rain of rocks at the boy and his humiliated friends as they walked back to the village defeated. This reality was short-lived as a concoction of my unrealistic confidence and idiocy ultimately led to a chain of events that resulted in my head connecting with the wrapped fist of my opponent.
I had often wondered how it felt to take a perfectly precise thump to the cranium. I imagined that I wouldn’t feel much until everything was all over, which would have been ideal. That way, the expectant group behind me wouldn’t have witnessed the anguished grunt I expressed as the rugged weaving of a rag was crushed into my cheek, reinforced by a fence of bony knuckles. It was hard to determine whether the blow had summoned a hush amongst the crowd or whether it had smashed the sensation of hearing clean from my skull, but the world around me became silent on my vertical journey until I finally came to a thumping rest on the dirt road below.
Lying immobilised on the ground, spinning in a whirlpool of reality, I stared straight ahead of me at a row of hairy legs. I might have been able to twist and look at the glaring faces, but it wouldn’t have been worth the demoting looks that would have been received.
What once was a wary and nervous boy standing before me was now a raging bull. Kneeling beside me, he frenzied as he barraged my cheek with a flurry of punches, driving my face into the dirt. Under the attack, I underwent an incredible process of life analysis. It was as though a solid wall of sense was being thrust through my skull with each punch. I was now reduced to nothing but a limp chunk of meat. What I thought couldn’t have extended further than damaged pride had developed into a smashed tooth and a two inch cut running the course of my cheek.
Departing with the speed of a gazelle, the boy and his friends must have thought he’d killed me. In a haze, I was thinking the same thing.
‘Vibius!’ Someone called from behind me. ‘Vibius!’
Three of my friends remained while the others had scampered in a panic back to Lorium to engage in inconspicuous activities that would relieve them of any association with what had happened. As they braced my arms around their shoulders and lifted me, I was truly shocked to find that my legs were functioning with reasonable efficiency. The rest of the boys could return back to the village and point blame amongst one another, but I had no cloak. The evidence was plastered to my face and there was no possible evasion of the consequences. I felt like I had fucked up colossally. With that, I summoned the energy from the pit of my stomach, pivoted and sprinted down the dirt road away from Lorium.

Up until then, I had been a calamitous child. There was no real cause for me to be either. My father, Caius, had served as a principe until his legion was disbanded and he was discharged following the turn of the empire. He wasn’t a violent man, but fierce with his discipline. He had a pair of conductive eyes. He’d never become aggressive in his punishments. Instead he would adopt a deep silence following his lectures, forcing me into an uncomfortable state of attention while he pondered. It was his psychological warfare. As a child I had delusionary thoughts of the horrors that he could be plotting. Despite this, it was incredibly difficult to respect the man who I had spent so little time with as he travelled the provinces with his legion.
My mother was a reserved plebeian woman of an extraordinarily small build. She was quiet and composed in nature and rarely enforced any sort of rules towards me. Instead, she would report my misdoings to the school. It was a relentless environment. We would sit in one of the mellow rooms of the village school in silence while the teachers chiselled propaganda about the empire into our heads. Scattered amongst it would be a basic grasp of numbers, the alphabet and a general knowledge about the world around us usually extending no further than the twenty kilometres south east to Rome. It was the schools that were the real catalyst of our disciplinary development. As was the common amongst the plebeian education complex, the teachers were exiles from the legion, disbanded due to injuries sustained from their conquests. They brought the battlefield home with them and implicated it into the school.
The man in charge of us was Appius. His small and sturdy figure was obscured by an oversized toga that concealed a tremendous horrid scar embedded in his calf. While most veterans of the legion retired into a specialised community and lived out their days in a blizzard of drunken banter and nights sharing tales of conquest in Germania, Appius had volunteered as a teacher to fuel his quest to cultivate the next generation of legionaries. He knew that I was a sturdy character and was consistently lenient towards me. With the burden of being Appius’ main product, he acted as though he was training me to be himself. Amid disciplining my peers, he would turn with a smile and say, ‘Look at them Vibius,’ like I was his second in command.
‘Look how pathetic they are. They’re not fit to be anything.’
‘Yes, sir,’ I would reluctantly respond.
The other boys would look up at me with a betrayed scowl but never said anything. They knew that I was only doing what anyone would have done which over the years resulted in an unspoken mutual agreement. There were occasions where Appius was distributing a relatively tame punishment so I’d make the most of it.
‘What do you think of this boy Vibius?’ He would start in a mission of approval.
‘I think he could smash you, sir,’ I responded with the utmost seriousness about my face.
As expected, his expression warped into something only heard of in stories. He would snap into his bastard persona before casting me face down onto the floor alongside his other victims. We would share our thoughts via sneaky glances as we were all lined up like prisoners as he paced across our backs like stepping stones.
Every year the praetorians from Rome would stray as far as Lorium on their annual recruitment to pick up boys who had turned sixteen. They were novelty to us as children. We would group around them and pull on their huge red drapes and pester them with questions about what was happening in Rome. It was obvious that they loved the attention from people who didn’t fear them, but it didn’t take much to warrant a firm push to the ground as they began to realise you’d slipped their authority. Occasionally an army from Rome would pass through Lorium on the main road marching north to Gaul. Their ranks would be impeccable as they marched. The soldiers were dauntless, eyes forward with a solid look concreted on their faces. Their bodies were in peak form with rounded muscles bulging from their legs and forearms. Of course we were aware that it was a display of competence and professionalism to coax in donations from the well-wishing plebs and veterans. We knew that as soon as they were out of sight, they would break a degree of rank and cover their arms with makeshift sleeves to deter the shit northern weather.
Following the expansive reign of Caesar and frequent boast of the military power, the local boys were roused with the thought of enlisting when they were sixteen. We were always seen to be carrying great sticks from a cypress tree which we would declare as a gladius – the standard issue sword in the legions. When out of sight from the teachers we would wage immense battles against each other, or so we thought. In reality we were just an unorganised mob chasing each other round a field, delivering sharp whacks to the skins of each other’s thighs. Our weaponry became less primitive when we figured out that we could break off longer and thinner sticks to be used as pilums and launched at each other. When I was eleven, a boy of the same age called Sextus spent an entire night crafting his pilum into one of true potential. It was as straight as it could have been, glided through the air perfectly and even had a lethally sharp tip. He came out into the fields to meet us the next day with so much enthusiasm that he launched it straight at us, plunging it rigidly into the bicep of one of the boys. We all just froze like statues as the potency of Sextus’ pilum was expressed in a roaring scream accompanied with a stream of blood down the boy’s arm. When his parents and the school discovered what had happened, Sextus spent the next few nights enduring a world of horror from his father – a hardened veteran who had moved to Lorium from Rome following a twenty five year service in the legions. The next time we saw him, he was quick to show off the cuts and bruises canvased on his back. No less disheartened, a smile beamed across his face. He thought that he was properly tough after he’d survived punishment for fucking up so badly. The boy who had been stuck with the pilum returned to the group soon after with a thick bloody bandage around his wound. Luckily, nothing major had been damaged in his arm and he was surprisingly jovial about the entire situation.
After the permanent return of my father when I was ten, he was driven to encourage me into the legion. The whole affair was marvellous. In the interim of the sweeping obsession with the army, I was the only boy in the village who was living with a veteran. For a while I swindled his glory, becoming a celebrity amongst my peers as they flocked to interrogate me about him. Their ideas were astronomically delusional and out of proportion.
‘How many Gauls did he kill, Vibius?’ they would ask.
‘Who was his general?’
‘Did you see his gladius?’
There was a firm waiting list of boys who were coming round to my villa to meet him and hear first-hand accounts of his glorious tales. He was charismatic as he announced his accounts of the wars. He would put on a real show for us as though he was on the stage of a theatre. His arms looped around and struck back and forth while he danced around in front of the fire evading the illusory swords of barbarians and Greeks.
My father’s return prompted an honour fuelled determination to enlist in the army. I spent entire nights lying awake, profusely concocting imaginary scenarios where the praetorians arrive at our villa to discover and adept and driven young man waiting with his bags packed.
‘You’re Caius’ son!’ they would say, before rushing to greet my father and exchange affable pleasantries.
Summoning the other praetorians, a group would form in the cooking area as my father bountifully distributed fruit and hot drinks over nostalgic anecdotes of the legion. A solid smile would be fixed into their faces as they led me from the villa in supportive arms, boasting of the soldier I would become.

ktee
January 13th, 2013, 05:21 AM
Hi Dan,

In your intro you said your piece was up on the forum so here I am :) With the formatting issues when copying and pasting, I usually edit my posts if things don't look right, especially if I've started a thread. Some people get put off big chunks of text and won't give a critique.

A quick question, is the start of the first chapter?



Hi guys, I've been cracking on with my first attempt at a novel recently and I'd like to share a section of the first chapter to see how I'm doing. If you decide to leave feedback, there are a few main points I'm particularly interested in. Edit: The indents were massacred when I copied it onto here so it looks clogged, I apologise.

1. I've been told that my writing can be difficult to read so I've tried to tone it down on this one. So, is the grammar appealing/acceptable? Would you read an entire novel composed of this style of writing? I enjoyed this, but i think you use too many words, and at times the sentences are not structured well. I've highlighted some examples in your text.

You're using quite formal language and I'm not sure if this fits with the voice of a 16y/o. I'll highlight in red some of the text I think is too formal. But in saying that, if this is from the perspective of an experienced man reflecting on his youth, it might be okay. I think you would need to tell the readers the age of the narrator early on.

2. Do you find the character and information interesting? Does he come across as realistic and do you find the events entertaining? Yes, I found it interesting. I can't comment if it is realistic because I know little about that period - I'm relying on you and trusting that what you say is accurate. In terms of the characters being realistic: yes, the periphery characters like the teacher and dad are great. I'm not sure about Vibius yet, mainly because of the language style as mentioned above.

3. Do I need to add more?! I just think you need to go back and re-edit your sentences. And decide what tone Vibius will take. For a great example of 1st person narration describing childhood, read The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles) (Patrick Rothfuss[)/COLOR]

4. Enjoy! I did :)





The fists of the boy before me were wrapped with withered rags. He didn’t look particularly confident, though he possessed an aura of readiness. We were in the midst of a blisteringly hot day and his forehead was riddled [is riddled the right verb? definition: to pierce with many holes, suggesting those of a sieve] with beads of sweat. I met him with an assured stance. He held a height advantage and the upper parts of his arm filled out his garments neatly.

]My nature as a sixteen year old had no room for fears and doubts though. The fields surrounding the village of Lorium were usually accompanied by nothing but the sound of a gentle breeze but the group surrounding us were composing a small uproar like a crazed choir to spur on the confrontation.

Underlined section: Is this first time this village is mentioned? i.e. is this an introduction to the reader. This line seems jarring after the previous. I think I would remove the Lorium reference IF you've already introduced the location. If not I'd try something like "There was a group surrounding us in an uproar, like a crazed choir calling us to bring on the confrontation. The malice of the group was especially [description] because the he fields surrounding the village of Lorium were usually accompanied by nothing but the sound of a gentle breeze". Also the last line seems a bit clunky./COLOR]

I was the aggressor. In all of my prior scuffles, I’d never sustained anything more than a bruised rib or a grazed elbow. The most important thing was that my pride was intact. A heart of steel and a head of tripe, I threw myself at the boy, launching a storm of random punches with no real sense of precision. [COLOR="#FF0000"]In a perfect reality, I’d have fought valiantly and laughed amongst my peers as we cast a rain of rocks at the boy and his humiliated friends as they walked back to the village defeated. This reality was short-lived as a concoction of my unrealistic confidence and idiocy ultimately led to a chain of events that resulted in my head connecting with the wrapped fist of my opponent.


I had often wondered how it felt to take a perfectly precise thump to the cranium. I'd imagined that I wouldn’t feel much until everything was all over, which would have been ideal [i would cut the section in red, you don't need it]. That way, the expectant group behind me wouldn’t have witnessed the anguished [I would make this more physical adjective, anguished is emotional, but in that moment it would be a physical not emotional response] grunt I expressed as the rugged weaving of a rag was crushed into my cheek, reinforced by a fence of bony knuckles. It was hard to determine whether the blow had summoned a hush amongst the crowd or whether it had smashed the sensation of hearing clean from my skull, but the world around me became silent on my vertical journey until I finally came to a thumping rest on the dirt road below [isn't he already down? "rugged weaving of a rag was crushed into my cheek"].


Lying immobilised on the ground, spinning in a whirlpool of reality [this line is also confusing], I stared straight ahead of me at a row of hairy legs. I might have been able to twist and look at the glaring faces, but it wouldn’t have been worth the demoting looks that would have been received.


What once was a wary and nervous boy standing before me was now a raging bull. Kneeling beside me, he frenzied as he barraged my cheek with a flurry of punches, driving my face into the dirt. Under the attack, I underwent an incredible process of life analysis[where is the follow-up description of what this life analysis was and what it produced?]. It was as though a solid wall of sense was being thrust through my skull with each punch. I was now reduced to nothing but a limp chunk of meat. What I thought couldn’t have extended further than damaged pride had developed into a smashed tooth and a two inch cut running the course of my cheek.

At times you're more wordy than you need to be without being clear. An example is the underlined section. It could just be "The wary and nervous boy before the fight had transformed into a raging bull; he was on the ground beside me beating my face into the dirt with frenzied punches."


Departing with the speed of a gazelle, the boy and his friends must have thought he’d killed me. In a haze, I was thinking the same thing.

‘Vibius!’ Someone called from behind me. ‘Vibius!’

Three of my friends remained while the others had scampered in a panic back to Lorium to engage in inconspicuous activities that would relieve them of any association with what had happened. As they braced my arms around their shoulders and lifted me, I was truly shocked to find that my legs were functioning with reasonable efficiency. The rest of the boys could return back to the village and point blame amongst one another, but I had no cloak. The evidence was plastered to my face and there was no possible evasion of the consequences. I felt like I had fucked up colossally. With that, I summoned the energy from the pit of my stomach, pivoted and sprinted down the dirt road away from Lorium.

The last line is an example of what I mean by an overly formal voice for a 16 y/o. He goes from swearing to a wordy description. I would suggest something like: "I had fucked up colossally. So I gathered any remaining energy I had and sprinted down the dirt road away from Lorium."

Up until then, I had been a calamitous child. There was no real cause for me to be either. My father, Caius, had served as a principe until his legion was disbanded and he was discharged following the turn of the empire. He wasn’t a violent man, but fierce with his discipline. He had a pair of conductive eyes. He’d never become aggressive in his punishments. Instead he would adopt a deep silence following his lectures, forcing me into an uncomfortable state of attention while he pondered. It was his psychological warfare. As a child I had delusionary thoughts of the horrors that he could be plotting. Despite this, it was incredibly difficult to respect the man who I had spent so little time with as he travelled the provinces with his legion.


My mother was a reserved plebeian woman of an extraordinarily small build. She was quiet and composed in nature and rarely enforced any sort of rules towards me. Instead, she would report my misdoings to the school. It was a relentless environment. We would sit in one of the mellow rooms of the village school in silence while the teachers chiselled propaganda about the empire into our heads. Scattered amongst it [need to refer again to what "it" is] would be a basic grasp of numbers, the alphabet and a general knowledge about the world around us usually extending no further than the twenty kilometres south east to Rome. It was the schools that were the real catalyst of our disciplinary development. As was the common amongst the plebeian education complex, the teachers were exiles from the legion, disbanded due to injuries sustained from their conquests. They brought the battlefield home with them and implicated it into the school.


The man in charge of us was Appius. His small and sturdy figure was obscured by an oversized toga that concealed a tremendously horrid scar embedded [you could cut this] in his calf. While most veterans of the legion retired into a specialised community and lived out their days in a blizzard of drunken banter and nights sharing tales of conquest in Germania, Appius had volunteered as a teacher to fuel his quest to cultivate the next generation of legionaries [long sentence]. He knew that [cut this] I was a sturdy character and was consistently lenient towards me. With the burden of being[cut, replace with "I was"] Appius’ main product, he acted as though he was training me to be himself. Amid disciplining my peers, he would turn with a smile and say, ‘Look at them Vibius,’ like I was his second in command.

‘Look how pathetic they are. They’re not fit to be anything.’

‘Yes, sir,’ I would reluctantly respond.

The other boys would look up at me with a betrayed scowl but never said anything. They knew that I was only doing what anyone would have done which over the years resulted in an unspoken mutual agreement. There were occasions where Appius was distributing a relatively tame punishment so I’d make the most of it.

I would change the above to: "The other boys would look at me with a scowl but never said anything. I was just doing what the rest of them would do in the same position so over the years we formed an unspoken mutual agreement. And besides, [see below] so I’d make the most of it.

"distributing a relatively tame punishment so I’d make the most of it" is confusing. Are you saying that he gave Vibius a lesser punishment compared to the other boys?

This next section was confusing in the sense that you've gone from a classroom to physical education (Roman style). I think you need to clarify the change in venue. Or if physical classes are included with academic classes explain this.

‘What do you think of this boy, Vibius?’ He would start in a mission of approval.

‘I think he could smash you, sir,’ I responded with the utmost seriousness about my face.

As expected, his expression warped into something only heard of in stories. He would snap into his bastard persona [I would use "self"] before casting me face down onto the floor alongside his other victims. We would share our thoughts via sneaky glances as we were all lined up like prisoners as he paced across our backs like stepping stones.

Every year the praetorians from Rome would stray as far as Lorium on their annual recruitment to pick up boys ["of boys"] who had turned sixteen. They were a novelty to us as children. We would group around them and pull on their huge red drapes and pester them with questions about what was happening in Rome. It was obvious that they loved the attention from people who didn’t fear them, but it didn’t take much to warrant a firm push to the ground as they began to realise you’d slipped their authority. Occasionally an army from Rome would pass through Lorium on the main road marching north to Gaul. Their ranks would be impeccable as they marched[;] the soldiers were dauntless, eyes forward with a solid look concreted on their faces, their bodies were [cut] in peak form with rounded muscles bulging from their legs and forearms. Of course we were aware that it was a display of competence and professionalism to coax in [cut] donations from the [cut] well-wishing plebs and veterans. We knew that as soon as they were out of sight, they would break a degree of rank and cover their arms with makeshift sleeves to deter the shit northern weather.

Following the expansive reign of Caesar and frequent boast [confusing] of the military power, the local boys were roused with the thought of enlisting when they were sixteen. We ["could always be"] were always seen to be carrying great sticks from a cypress tree which we would declare as a gladius – the standard issue sword in the legions. When out of sight from the teachers we would wage immense battles against each other, or so we thought. In reality we were just an unorganised mob chasing each other round a field, delivering sharp whacks to the skins of each other’s thighs. Our weaponry became less primitive when we figured out that we could break off longer and thinner sticks to be used as pilums and launched at each other. When I was eleven, a boy of the same age called Sextus spent an entire night crafting his pilum into one of true potential. It was as straight as it could have been, ["and"] glided through the air perfectly and even had a lethally sharp tip. He came out into the fields to meet us the next day with so much enthusiasm that he launched it straight at us, plunging it rigidly into the bicep of one of the boys. We all just froze like statues as the potency of Sextus’ pilum was expressed in a roaring scream accompanied with a stream of blood down the boy’s arm. When his parents and the school discovered what had happened, Sextus spent the next few nights enduring a world of horror from his father – a hardened veteran who had moved to Lorium from Rome following a twenty five year service in the legions. The next time we saw him, he was quick to show off the cuts and bruises canvased on his back. No less disheartened, a smile beamed across his face. He thought that he was properly tough after he’d survived punishment for fucking up so badly. The boy who had been stuck with the pilum returned to the group soon after with a thick bloody bandage around his wound. Luckily, nothing major had been damaged in his arm [cut] and he was surprisingly jovial about the entire situation.

After the permanent return of my father when I was ten, he was driven to encourage me into the legion [clunky]. The whole affair was marvellous. In the interim of the sweeping obsession with the army, I was the only boy in the village who was living with a veteran. For a while I swindled his glory, becoming a celebrity amongst my peers as they flocked to interrogate me about him. Their ideas were astronomically delusional and out of proportion.

‘How many Gauls did he kill, Vibius?’ they would ask.

‘Who was his general?’

‘Did you see his gladius?’

There was a firm waiting list of boys who were coming round to my villa to meet him and hear first-hand accounts of his glorious tales. He was charismatic as he announced his accounts of the wars. He would put on a real show for us as though he was on the stage of a theatre. His arms looped around and struck back and forth while he danced around in front of the fire evading the illusory swords of barbarians and Greeks.

My father’s return prompted an honour fuelled determination to enlist in the army. I spent entire nights lying awake, profusely concocting imaginary scenarios where the praetorians arrive at our villa to discover and adept and driven young man waiting with his bags packed.

‘You’re Caius’ son!’ they would say, before rushing to greet my father and exchange affable pleasantries.

Summoning the other praetorians, a group would form in the cooking area as my father bountifully distributed fruit and hot drinks over nostalgic anecdotes of the legion. A solid smile would be fixed into their faces as they led me from the villa in supportive arms, boasting of the soldier I would become.

Dannabis
January 13th, 2013, 10:40 AM
Thanks Ktee, you've done an excellent job and helped me MASSIVELY there. I'm sure you'll agree that it's sometimes hard to go over your own work and analyse it the way you've done with mine, so thank you a whole bunch. I'm going to fix these issues :)

And yes, it is being recalled by a much older version of the character in question.

ktee
January 13th, 2013, 11:34 AM
No worries at all :) Glad to be of help.

I'm a terrible editor of my own work. It actually takes me 10 to 20 reads and fixes to get it to a point where i think it's ready for viewing. I waffle and waffle and go off track.... it can be so messy.

Good luck with the book, I want to read more!

Dannabis
January 13th, 2013, 11:46 AM
I'm glad that you want to read more! I think I found this first chapter in particular quite difficult to write. It's sometimes so hard to structure a sentence without sounding illiterate. It's hard to find the balance between elegant and simple writing. I think as I progress, I begin to enter a flow and it starts coming together nicely.