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iflewoverthecuckoosnest
June 3rd, 2013, 06:44 AM
He belonged there. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew that in some sick, contrived way, it was his home. It was the last meandering shadow he saw before he went to sleep and it was the final militant phantom presence burnt onto his eyelids when he awoke.
He fought it once; tried to cauterize it, to cleanse it, and, at last, to hide it quietly away deep in the earth, but it was simply too enormous. The burnt out skeleton of barn wood and bloodied sap leered over miles and miles of wheat and stone and dirt, and where its shadow didn’t touch its ashes still did, were driven into the very soil.
Whenever he saw those deathly birch wood arms reaching out to him, he felt a dark cloud blooming widely and dangerously open inside of him, and it was as though all of the air had been suddenly and sharply sucked out of his chest; he felt lightheaded and small, and he usually had to sit down a while. There were other things, too. Things best left lurking around in the nighttime parts of himself, things that could swallow him whole from his center on out, things that he hoped he fell fast asleep before he had to face.
Dominick smacked his head on the exercise bar.
“Shit! Aww, shit,” he grumbled, cradling his sore head in his hands.
Kelly was jumping on the end of his bed, her feet stamping against loose edges of wrinkled blue sheets.
She giggled, “Wake up! Wake up!”
“Kelly, Kelly stop it. Go away.”
“No, you gotta get up!” She kept jumping, the tremors from her bouncing made the sheets splash up and down like puddles of rainwater.
“No, no,” he groaned, “It’s too early.”
“No it’s not! It’s not, not, not, not! You’ve gotta get up and play with me!” A tangle of silver and yellow bounced against her head; her plastic princess crown was toppling out of her unruly hair.
“Goddammit,” he muttered into his pillow.
“What? What did you say?!” She asked, still flouncing up and down, now grabbing onto the exercise bar with her pink little fingers, leaning over him with childish eagerness.
He chuckled tiredly, “nothing, I didn’t say anything.”
She giggled, “What did you say? What did you say? What did you say?” She chanted.
“I said that little girls who bother their brothers this early in the morning get eaten by big, hairy monsters,” he reached up half heartedly, his fingers gnarled into a claw.
She screamed gleefully and leapt off the bed, running around in a narrowing spiral until she dropped in the middle of the floor, her tiara hanging next to her face by only a few, tangled strands.
He was still an unmoving lump on the bed.
She pouted, “Come on!” She whined, “Come on, come on! Get up!”
“Just give me five more minutes, okay?”
“No. No, no, no, no, no. You won’t ever get up. Not never ever. And you gotta come play with me! Mommy’s being boring again!”
He turned his head to look at her, “Mom’s being boring again?”
“Yeah. She won’t do anything with me.”
He slowly sat up and rubbed his temples, then dragged his hands down his face; his bloodshot eyes peering out of the grayish hollows they were set in, the tips of his fingers sliding over his mouth to reveal a mischievous grin.
“You’d better run little girl, ‘cause I’m gonna eat you up!”
She squealed happily and jumped up to run away, the crown swinging wildly from her hair, heavy and weighted as a pendulum in some sporadic gravitational field. He pounced on her and tackled her to the floor, tickling her until she was a flushed, giggling tangle of flesh and cloth crumpled by the door. Finally, he had mercy and ceased.
“Alright, I’m just gonna get dressed and stuff now. I’ll play with you some more when I’m done, okay?”
She nodded, the small, white bones of her teeth peeking through her pink lips. He reached over her and grabbed her decrepit crown. Chips of the cheap silver paint were worn away, and there were empty craters where translucent, plastic jewels once were. To Dominick, it gave the impression of a leering, plastic skull.

Any critiques and suggestions are appreciated more than you could ever know :)

Kyle R
June 3rd, 2013, 09:46 AM
Hi, Alisa!

Interesting start to your novel. You have a strong sense of poeticism, and a clean narrative style.

The only thing I'm wondering about is the opening narrative (those first paragraphs before Dominick smacks his head on the exercise bar). It seems detached from the first scene, both in style and in substance. Is it meant to be a miniature prologue, of sorts? Or perhaps, a narrative hook?

The writing of that segment is strong and the language is beautiful, but there is a large amount of ambiguity. I felt, as reading it, two things: 1) You're a good writer, and 2) I don't really know what is happening.

The first thing is of course good. The second one might be something that should be addressed.

Usually, when I write about abstractions and ideas, I try to "tether" them to actual action or movements within a scene. That way the reader has something visual to picture, some sort of forward progress in the story while the narration fills in the gaps.

Something like "he fought it once" is good, but even better would be to describe that actual instance.

Compare the two, for example:

"He once risked his life, and survived. The moment had changed him."

It's a statement that says something, but it also doesn't leave the reader with much to imagine (which, ultimately, is why the reader is reading).

Something more specific would be like,

"He once played Russian Roulette in a seedy bar near the Oklahoma interstate. That night an image had been stamped into his mind--that of a small corkwood table crowded with seven empty shot glasses, a loaded revolver, and the sweaty elbow of a one-eyed man who smelled of whiskey and manure. Now that view greeted him whenever he closed his eyes. The other reminders came, even when his eyes were open: the pistol's barrel pressed against his temple like an accusing finger; the hollow click of the hammer pin; the one-eyed man's gravelly, end-of-the-world laugh."

That's just an example, of course. I don't mean to advocate being verbose (sometimes I have my own problems with that :D). More so, I'm suggesting to be specific, and sprinkle your poetic narrative along with actual concrete story motion.

Something like

He was astonished at how a life could be taken away at any moment.

is nice, though abstract. If you tether it to something specific and eventful, it can work even better, such as:

Johnny was stomping a path through the yard when he noticed a dark lump in the weeds. It was the body of a young bird, so still and peaceful and intact it almost looked to be sleeping. But it wasn't. Johnny peered up at the dried oak branches above, searching for the nest the bird had fallen from. He saw only bare wood, and the soft, blue sky beyond. He looked back at the bird and nudged it gently with his shoe. It was astonishing how quickly a life could slip away at any moment.

(notice how the abstract narration is tethered to actual story movement?)

Anywho, that is just a suggestion of mine. Feel free to disregard it if you wish. : ) You are, after all, the artist!

Despite my long response, I very much enjoyed reading this, and I liked your characters right away. I'd love to read more.

Hope any of this helps! Cheers.

Jon M
June 3rd, 2013, 10:21 AM
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escorial
June 3rd, 2013, 11:20 AM
The dream was forgotten about when id'e finished reading about his interaction with his sister..is there a connection later on between his sister and the dream?

iflewoverthecuckoosnest
June 3rd, 2013, 08:13 PM
Kyle and Jon: Thank you both very much :) Very helpful advice. I will definitely work on tethering down the first paragraph to make it more interesting and concrete.
Escorial: Yes, there is.