PDA

View Full Version : Opening paragraph of my novel



Abby
May 11th, 2014, 10:31 PM
Another re-write, if you commented on this before I would love to hear if I've managed to improve my character's likability! All c & c's welcome :)


Jeff opened his eyes, half formed memories dancing just beyond his reach as he struggled to focus his eyes. He groaned and rotated his head slowly, trying not to jar his brain which felt like he'd left it in a bucket of broken glass. A sudden shiver racked his body; he was soaked in sweat and clad only in his boxers, his bed covers firmly tangled around one foot. Reaching up to massage his aching temples he noticed absently that his nails were caked in oily black dirt. What happened last night? He tried to sit up and every muscle in his body screamed in protest; his neck felt bruised and tender, and his knees creaked as he stretched his legs. As he contemplated his misery, the big muscles in his right thigh turned to rocks as a cramp took hold and he clenched his teeth in agony, pushing his heel towards the ceiling and squeezing his thigh with his fingertips until the pain passed and he lay back, panting with relief. God, why did I have to wake up? I’m so damned sick of this life.

Daylight was streaming through the thin curtains, rolling over he saw it was nearly 10am. God knows what time he’d got in last night, and come to think of it, he couldn’t actually remember leaving the pub. Must've been one hell of a night, he thought grimly.

Delving into his foggy brain, Jeff recalled being at the pub after work with the usual crowd. It had been another in a long line of crap nights, the same old faces grating on his nerves, and as usual he’d had way too much to drink. The guys had been urging him to ‘get back in the saddle, ’ and he recalled a blonde girl had been giving him a pretty blatant come on at one point whilst the lads smirked from behind their pints, but he hadn't taken the bait. He was a good looking guy and took pride in his appearance, but it only brought him grief, attracted the wrong type of girls. Like Gemma. He’d worked hard to build up his body; trying to impress her because she liked big guys, but she had taken his efforts and thrown them back in his face. According to Gemma, the only thing that rated higher than the gym for Jeff were his mates, she had seen them as competition and had tried to sabotage both his reputation at the gym and his relationship with his friends. What was that old saying? Women come and go but your friends will never fail you? It was a shame, but Jeff was beginning to see that wasn't entirely true. Not one of them had the slightest inkling about how he was feeling, and even if they did Jeff didn’t think they would try and help him deal with it. They just thought that he could replace Gemma with another girlfriend, anyone would do, and things would be rosy again.

The girls he came into contact with on his benders were only interested in one thing; that had been okay for a while and had certainly helped restore his battered ego a bit, but he needed something more than that. He had been in love with Gemma, in spite of everything, and even when it became obvious that she was an evil, twisted little bitch who was hell bent on destroying him, he still loved her. His mates had hated her and couldn’t have been happier when she left him: they saw him scoring with the ladies again and told him he was a lucky bastard, clapping him on the back when he came to work in last night’s clothes, never sensing the sadness that engulfed him.

Last night had been different though, something had happened but he couldn’t remember what. He had a vague memory of suddenly needing to leave urgently, like it was life and death, but he couldn’t actually remember leaving the pub. The train station! He’d gone to the tube station! He remembered trying to read the timetable but not being able to focus, and wandering through corridors, looking for something. Why had he been there? He lived within walking distance of the Angel. And now he was back home in bed, how had that happened? Jeff suddenly felt panicked, why couldn’t he remember? He was getting to be quite a heavy drinker, and Jeff was starting to think maybe he had a problem, although he was never going to admit that to anyone but himself. But he had never lost time before…or memories come to that, and he knew he hadn’t had enough to drink to make him forget. The pub had been rowdy and packed when he left so it hadn’t been late; where the hell had the rest of the night gone?

All this thinking wasn't doing anything for his pounding head, he had to go find some pills. Groaning at the pain in his tender muscles, Jeff swung his legs out of bed like an old man. He’d had hangovers before; in fact they were almost a constant companion these days since Gemma left, but this was something else. The pain in his body was excruciating, every joint felt torn and his muscles were howling. The usual thud of pain in his temples was accompanied by a new sensation, a buzzing, angry mutter that kept trying to form in his tender brain but couldn’t quite get through. He tried to grab it but it was just out of reach, and the effort of trying to focus was too much for his aching head. If he’d suppressed the memory of last night then maybe it should stay buried.

He trudged into the bathroom and grabbed the basin for support, his body swaying like a dancer whilst his burbling stomach tried to catch up. Raising his head he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror; Jesus, what a mess! Blood shot eyes underlined with swollen bags stared out of a face that looked infinitely older than it had when he headed out last night. Gemma wouldn’t look twice at me now. He pushed the thought away, he had enough to deal with right now. Deep creases had appeared in the dirty skin across his forehead and around his mouth, and where the hell had that scratch across his cheek come from? He turned away from his reflection, afraid he might remember.

A few moments later he was standing in the tub, his hands braced against the wall for support. The harsh needles of water lancing his flesh felt both brutal and comforting to Jeff as he stood in the spray, soaping his battered body. He rubbed his hands over his skull, the short black bristles of hair disappearing under his fingers as last night’s grime washed away. He was starting to feel a little better, but still that nagging feeling remained, like he was missing something. As he stepped out of the shower, absently rubbing the moisture from his skin, a flash of memory hit him like a brick to the head. He saw a girl…she was running, looking over her shoulder with a look of terror on her face. Her eyes were bulging, her black hair streaming behind her...what else? He groped inside his pounding brain but couldn’t quite grasp it. Something terrible had happened to her, he didn’t know how he could know that but he did. It was a fact. Had he been a witness to a crime? Sweating again he lurched over to the toilet bowl, only just getting his head into position before the remains of last night’s binge vacated the premises.

After downing a pint of orange juice with his paracetamol Jeff was still feeling dodgy, but the tidal wave in his stomach had subsided and the throbbing in his head was muted to a dull roar. He still couldn’t remember much about last night, and the image of that girl with fear in her eyes was haunting him. Time to ‘reach out’, as Gemma had been so fond of saying. He located his mobile eventually; after untying the knot his jeans had become, it dropped out of his pocket and clanged to the carpet amidst a shower of coins. Gary would fill him in, delighting in the details no doubt. With a sigh he called his number and waited for the abuse.

“Hey , buddy, what the fuck happened to you last night?” Gary said cheerfully out of the phone. Jeff could tell he was grinning; not good.

“ Err…not sure? I was hoping you could fill me in actually mate, the details have temporarily slipped my mind.” He held the phone away from his ear as laughter erupted on the other end.

“Jesus Christ, Jeff, how much did you have?" More laughter assaulted Jeff’s delicate brain. ” I dunno what’s going on with you lately but you need to sloow down fella, or you’re gonna crash and burn!”

Jeff tried to keep the irritation out of his voice, without much success. “Yeah, whatever, buddy, just spell it out for me will you? My head hurts like a bastard and I can’t think straight, we must’ve been knocking it back a bit…”

“No, you were mate, the rest of us were sipping with our pinkies out!” More laughter ensued.

“Gary, please, focus will you? Did you see a girl, with black hair? Very pretty, having trouble with someone…?”

“Mate, there were girls everywhere; you attract them like flies to shit!”

Jeff groaned…this was hopeless. Gary was a piss taking twat at the best of times, but when he sensed weakness, man, did he know how to go for it.

“Please, mate, it’s important…did you see me leave; was I with someone?” There was silence on the line and then Gary was there again, serious this time.

“No, mate, you left alone. Can’t you remember? Actually I’m not surprised, you were so wasted you could hardly stand up; you must’ve had twice the bevvies we all did. Either that or someone was spiking your drinks. At one point you started pouring your heart out to Nathan’s missus, she looked like she was just about ready to eat you up, came over all tender nurse maid she did!” Gary laughed, “Nath was livid, man!”

Jeff groaned again, in embarrassment this time. Nathan was a solid guy and his girlfriend...well let’s just say she wasn’t really Jeff’s type and she had a seriously roving eye. “Okay, okay, so I was wasted. Did I leave after that? Where did I say I was going? “

“Funnily enough, mate, you didn’t say. It was weird though, one minute you were fine, the next you were wrecked.You just upped and left whilst Nath was bawlin at you for tryin to poach his girlfriend…no ‘sorry’ or nuthin, you just walked out! “

He hung up feeling worse than before. It had just been another in a long line of royally fucked up evenings in the sad life of Jeff Ryder, the nice guy who had a tendency to behave like a total moron once he’d had a few. Things had really gone to shit since his stuck up cow of a girlfriend had decided to move onto pastures new. But he still couldn’t fill in that gap in time between leaving the pub and waking up here, and he had no explanation for why he went to the tube station, and who was that girl? Jeff was used to looking at girls, he had it down to a fine art in fact, but this felt different, more than just a passing glimpse of a pretty girl. He could see her in his head so clearly; shining black hair like a velvet curtain surrounding a face so white it could’ve been porcelain; and those eyes…Jeff didn't think he had ever seen real fear before, but she had been terrified. The image of those pleading, luminous eyes was so strong he could still see it, like an after image, swimming behind his closed lids. But who had she been afraid of? Was it him? He didn’t think so and he was too tired to consider it anymore. With a groan Jeff gave in and crashed onto the bed, seeking oblivion.

Blade
May 11th, 2014, 11:11 PM
I would split it at "Delving into his foggy brain" as it is a change of location, sort of, and takes on the issue of cause rather than experience. I don't think that would be choppy but rather a natural division.

As a single paragraph it strikes me as a little overwhelming. I prefer to see something brief and catchy that warms you up to the story rather than a really dense package of information.

Abby
May 11th, 2014, 11:49 PM
Thanks Blade, you reinforced my original instincts, I will split it there :)

Ephemeral_One
May 12th, 2014, 01:40 AM
Hmm.....let me try my hand at a bit of reworking. I think you could split it up into two or possibly three. I've always been a believer that each paragraph should hold it's own idea.

Jeff opened his eyes, hazy memories dancing just beyond his reach. With a low groan, he pulled himself to a seated position. Trying desperately not to jar his pounding head; it felt raw in there, like broken glass. What the hell happened last night? Lying in his bed soaked in sweat, he was wearing only his boxers. The covers were a heap on the floor and he shivered. As he pulled his hand away from massaging his aching temples, Jeff noticed absently that his nails were caked in oily black dirt. He tried to sit up(You originally mentioned him 'pulling himself up, maybe try another action?) and every muscle in his body screamed in protest; his neck felt bruised and tender, and his knees creaked as he stretched his legs. As he contemplated his misery, the big muscles in his right thigh turned to rocks as a cramp took hold and he clenched his teeth in agony, pushing his heel towards the ceiling and squeezing his thigh with his fingertips until the pain passed and he lay back, panting with relief.

Must've been one hell of a night, he thought grimly. Delving into his foggy brain, Jeff recalled being at the pub after work with the usual crowd. It had been crap, the same old faces grating on his nerves, and as usual he’d had way too much to drink. There’d been a blonde giving him a pretty blatant come on at one point whilst the lads smirked from behind their pints, but he hadn't taken the bait. It never ceased to amaze him that even though his own opinion of himself was fast approaching rock bottom, women still thought he was something special. He was a good looking guy - he'd been told that a million times so he supposed it must be true, and he was pretty well built. According to Gemma, the only thing that rated higher than the gym for Jeff were his close friends; he was the guy who was there for them, no matter what. What was that old saying- women come and go but your friends never fail you? It was a shame, but Jeff was beginning to see that wasn't entirely true.

Well, there's my crack at it.

InstituteMan
May 12th, 2014, 01:42 AM
I agree with Blade.

Redundant, I know, but also superfluous.

LeeC
May 12th, 2014, 04:38 AM
I'd split it in two, but I think you've already decided that.

The point in my commenting, is in getting to the end of this opening my interest dropped off, and I though you might be interested in why.

Starting into your opening I'm in bed hurting, digging my way through how I'm hurting, I notice an oddity "noticing absently that his nails were caked in oily black dirt." An oddity because it's not something normally associated with a hangover and/or a hot night. With the promise of maybe another hint or two dropped, I dig further through how I'm hurting, to where I start to recall what might have happened. OK, finally, I think, here comes a hook. But alas what follows is just more character rounding. This leaves me thinking that the following paragraph (third I suppose) better be a damn good hook, because I'm running out of patience. Now normally patience is something I've got a barrel of, stumbling along in my declining years, but you build interest only to leave me with nothing to hang my hat on, not even a hint.

My take on this could well be way off, and we're just headed into some romantic tale (not meant to be chauvinistic), but if there's a bit of mystery/intrigue/dastardly doings around the corner, don't let me give up in the opening :-)

For what it's worth from the eyes of the beholder.

Write on,
LeeC

Abby
May 12th, 2014, 09:16 AM
Thanks guys, your input is much appreciated. Lee, your instincts are right, it's a thriller, but the hook doesn't come until later in the first chapter. Is that really too late? When I've posted earlier revisions of this I was told to describe my character better in the opening scenes so I did so. I've revised this post to include the whole chapter so you can get a better idea of where I'm going with it.

InstituteMan
May 12th, 2014, 02:00 PM
This is well written. I like the hook of remembering the girl and the urgent need to leave and the wandering. I think that the pacing is good, and I wouldn't recommend changing it, but I also understand that in today's age of tweets some readers will be wanting their hook in pretty much the first sentence.

I have two suggestions/comments.

First, Jeff seems rather vain to me. I am not sure that I would want to read a novel about a dude who critiques his appearance to that level (truth be told, I wouldn't read a novel about a gal who critiques her appearance to that level). I may not be the intended audience, though. Plus I realize that may be an important plot point, like Jeff may recognize some . . . I dunno, face cream for men that helps him solve the mystery or something. Or, this could be a growth opportunity for Jeff. Still, FWIW, I find the guy bit unlikable. That you elicited such feelings from me in the first chapter is certainly a tribute to your skill, but that may or may not be what you are going for here.

Second, with the certainty of being pedantic, you write "a flash of memory literally hit him, like a brick to the head." Ack! No, do not give in to the misuse of the word "literally" in your narration. Feel free to allow your characters to make errors like that in their dialogue, but please, for the metaphorical love of all that is right and holy, keep your literal events from your metaphors and similes. Stand firm against the second definition of "literally" as the opposite of what the word started out meaning!

Rant complete. I enjoyed the read!

Mistique
May 12th, 2014, 02:47 PM
I'm not really sure what to say about this. This is not a reflection on the quality of your writing, but more an inability of mine to find the right words. So, I'm going to give it some thought and try to formulate words that express my feelings anyway. I think it's well written. If I imagined this to be the first chapter of a book I had just bought then I don't think I would find the quality of the writing dissapointing. It also somehow doesn't quite grab me. Maybe its not my type of story. Maybe I need more of a hook to draw me in. Somehow I just don't grasp why its such a big deal that he doesn't remember who this girl is with her big fearful eyes. I don't feel as curous about him as I should do if I was going to read this book. That might just be, because I'm not your target reader. I don't know. Anyway that's my thoughts. Not sure if they help you any, but it's all I got.

Abby
May 12th, 2014, 03:20 PM
This is well written. I like the hook of remembering the girl and the urgent need to leave and the wandering. I think that the pacing is good, and I wouldn't recommend changing it, but I also understand that in today's age of tweets some readers will be wanting their hook in pretty much the first sentence.

I have two suggestions/comments.

First, Jeff seems rather vain to me. I am not sure that I would want to read a novel about a dude who critiques his appearance to that level (truth be told, I wouldn't read a novel about a gal who critiques her appearance to that level). I may not be the intended audience, though. Plus I realize that may be an important plot point, like Jeff may recognize some . . . I dunno, face cream for men that helps him solve the mystery or something. Or, this could be a growth opportunity for Jeff. Still, FWIW, I find the guy bit unlikable. That you elicited such feelings from me in the first chapter is certainly a tribute to your skill, but that may or may not be what you are going for here.

Second, with the certainty of being pedantic, you write "a flash of memory literally hit him, like a brick to the head." Ack! No, do not give in to the misuse of the word "literally" in your narration. Feel free to allow your characters to make errors like that in their dialogue, but please, for the metaphorical love of all that is right and holy, keep your literal events from your metaphors and similes. Stand firm against the second definition of "literally" as the opposite of what the word started out meaning!

Rant complete. I enjoyed the read!

Thanks for the critique, rather annoyingly you are not the first person to say they find Jeff unlikeable...I just can't see it! I keep re- writing it, trying to make the reader more sympathetic towards him but it never works! I've actually written 4 chapters and I think he seems more likeable as the story proceeds, he is in the midst of a hangover coupled with his current mind set of self pity and self loathing, so I suppose that could make him seem unlikeable too. I want to post the rest of it on the forum but I think it will probably need to go in the members only section. Oh, and I will remove the offending 'literally' immediately!

Mistique, wouldn't you find it disturbing if a powerful memory kept surfacing in your brain but you had no recollection of the person or event involved? I would! Thanks for taking the time to read it though, I will try and get more of a hook into this first chapter.

LeeC
May 12th, 2014, 05:44 PM
Actually the flow of it works well on the whole, with more of a sample. With just the initial bit you posted, it seemed I had to trudge though an excess of words to garner the smallest of clues as to where it was going. Further on, now, the writing is more incisive, carrying the reader on.


When I've posted earlier revisions of this I was told to describe my character better in the opening scenes so I did so.

I don't know what your earlier versions of the first paragraphs read like, nor how I might have interpreted the comments, but anything anyone says, especially me, should be seen as individual viewpoints. That is to say, let your writer's instinct be your conciliator and guide. I bring this up, because it struck me in a déjà vu way.

I'm at that point in life where the old women sit around talking about the old men, and the old men sit around talking about the weather. Still, if I sense a good story I get annoyed at verbosity, which is what I saw in the opening paragraphs. Yes, give me a visualization of setting, and a sense of character and their circumstances to plug into my mind's eye, but pull me along into your story with a need to satisfy my curiosity.

Like I said, as you progressed the flow did catch me up, yet there was at least one little phrasing that was off-key to me.


only just getting his head into position before the remains of last night’s binge vacated the premises.

Would have read better to me as: "only just getting his head into position before heaving the remains of last night’s binge."

Beyond that, I like your style because you write for impact in a realistic manner. Maybe not paying as much attention to "correctness" in writing though, might bring more life into your depictions. An odd statement I know, but let me try to get the point across with an example (a completely different story, style and setting snippet I've noted before, but it encapsulates my point).

[a snippet of Garrison Keillor's writing, set in an archetypical rural midwestern America diner named the Chatterbox Cafe]


It's packed today because it rained so hard last night nobody could get into the fields this morning and a lot of them wound up in town. Big butts of pear-shaped gents in coveralls lined up on the stools like the 1938 Chicago Bears as seen by Bronko Nagurski. Platters of the Commercial on the counter ("Twenty-six years I stood back here and watch them eat—if I got some hogs and a trough, I'd feel right at home": Dorothy) and big forkloads of chow hover above the gorge, meanwhile Al who hasn't yet got his dinner hunkers at the end and clears the phlegm from his head with one expert snort. It's a deep liquidy snort that Flora would never allow at home, but here at the Box he cuts loose as if it were no more than a little cough, a mere ahem, and then he eases up one cheek and releases a whistle of a fart. Bob next to him is offended. "Take a dump while you're at it," he says. "Gotta eat first," says Al.

I was drawn to this example because of comments about my own home-spun style, run-on sentences, and not breaking up dialogue. As you might see, he covers a heck of a lot of ground in very little space, and really draws one into the scene.

Well that's more than enough for you to ponder if you see any merit, so I'll get back to my own writing. I hope to see this story develop further :-)

Write on,
LeeC

Abby
May 12th, 2014, 06:34 PM
Thanks Lee, your time and help are very much appreciated :)

InstituteMan
May 13th, 2014, 01:40 AM
Thanks for the critique, rather annoyingly you are not the first person to say they find Jeff unlikeable...I just can't see it! I keep re- writing it, trying to make the reader more sympathetic towards him but it never works! I've actually written 4 chapters and I think he seems more likeable as the story proceeds, he is in the midst of a hangover coupled with his current mind set of self pity and self loathing, so I suppose that could make him seem unlikeable too. I want to post the rest of it on the forum but I think it will probably need to go in the members only section. Oh, and I will remove the offending 'literally' immediately!

Mistique, wouldn't you find it disturbing if a powerful memory kept surfacing in your brain but you had no recollection of the person or event involved? I would! Thanks for taking the time to read it though, I will try and get more of a hook into this first chapter.

Abby,

For me, I find Jeff unlikable because he seems to think -- correctly, apparently -- that he is God's gift to women. He is annoyed at women who hit on him in a bar; I know of absolutely no straight man who would find that annoying, even if he wasn't up for a tryst. Jeff actually thinks that he looks ten years older than he is, which is off the charts vain for a guy; maybe a typical guy would think he looked bad or rough, but no straight guy I know would think that he looked old, much less a specific number of years older than actual. His friends give him a hard time about passing up on a "sure thing." Jeff sounds like the kind of guy most dudes would like to beat up, but know they can't (he goes to the gym, he has big thighs), thereby disliking him all the more.

I don't mean to pile on here, it is just that I thought that you were trying to make Jeff obnoxious, at least to your male readers (or that you just weren't targeting men, which is certainly allowed!). I could see Jeff being intentionally unlikable as part of a self realization story of some kind. Since you say you were trying to make Jeff likable, though, I figured that I should be clear about my issues with the character. I hope that it helped -- I think you write beautifully, I just think that this dude is a jerk.

Abby
May 13th, 2014, 09:33 AM
Abby,

For me, I find Jeff unlikable because he seems to think -- correctly, apparently -- that he is God's gift to women. He is annoyed at women who hit on him in a bar; I know of absolutely no straight man who would find that annoying, even if he wasn't up for a tryst. Jeff actually thinks that he looks ten years older than he is, which is off the charts vain for a guy; maybe a typical guy would think he looked bad or rough, but no straight guy I know would think that he looked old, much less a specific number of years older than actual. His friends give him a hard time about passing up on a "sure thing." Jeff sounds like the kind of guy most dudes would like to beat up, but know they can't (he goes to the gym, he has big thighs), thereby disliking him all the more.

I don't mean to pile on here, it is just that I thought that you were trying to make Jeff obnoxious, at least to your male readers (or that you just weren't targeting men, which is certainly allowed!). I could see Jeff being intentionally unlikable as part of a self realization story of some kind. Since you say you were trying to make Jeff likable, though, I figured that I should be clear about my issues with the character. I hope that it helped -- I think you write beautifully, I just think that this dude is a jerk.
Lol, what can I say to that!! It was not my intention to make him a jerk, and as a girl I just don't see it! I see him as a guy who knows he's attractive to women, who likes women, but is heartbroken because his girlfriend left him. Consequently he had taken to drinking heavily which has caused him to act like an idiot at times, but he is basically a good guy who is suffering from low self esteem. He doesn't get annoyed when women hit on him in bars, he just wishes he could find love instead of one casual encounter after another. On top of that he is aware that his friends haven't been there for him in his hour of need, they are too busy being lads and enjoying having him back on the scene to notice that he's in a really bad place and needs help.
I am clearly NOT getting any of that across though so I think it's time to declare this chapter a failure and re-write it! Thank you for giving me a very well explained critique, and as you're not the first person to say this I will concede that I have got it wrong and try to do better, and I hope you will give me your thoughts on the re-write :)

I have revised it :)

InstituteMan
May 13th, 2014, 01:38 PM
Lol, what can I say to that!! It was not my intention to make him a jerk, and as a girl I just don't see it! I see him as a guy who knows he's attractive to women, who likes women, but is heartbroken because his girlfriend left him. Consequently he had taken to drinking heavily which has caused him to act like an idiot at times, but he is basically a good guy who is suffering from low self esteem. He doesn't get annoyed when women hit on him in bars, he just wishes he could find love instead of one casual encounter after another. On top of that he is aware that his friends haven't been there for him in his hour of need, they are too busy being lads and enjoying having him back on the scene to notice that he's in a really bad place and needs help.
I am clearly NOT getting any of that across though so I think it's time to declare this chapter a failure and re-write it! Thank you for giving me a very well explained critique, and as you're not the first person to say this I will concede that I have got it wrong and try to do better, and I hope you will give me your thoughts on the re-write :)

I have revised it :)

I think that you are making Jeff a much more likable guy, here. Pushing the lost love bit further up, and as the clear reason why Jeff is not interested in the other women, makes him sound like a more relatable heart broken guy than before. The bit about Jeff hitting the gym to make Gemma happy makes her seem shallow and makes him sound henpecked, which probably where you are going. FWIW, there is a tiny set of men, mostly disliked and viewed with suspicion by the general male population, who go to the gym for aesthetic reasons, but virtually all of the rest of us who work out do so only for competitive reasons (to help us in our basketball or soccer, say) or for health reasons. Making Jeff a guy who goes to the gym to please his girlfriend could be a mast stroke in terms of making clear how terrible she is and how desperate he is to win her affection.

Writing the other gender is hard, at least when there are heterosexual romantic aspects to the story. I have struggled with that in a couple of my works in progress, only from the other side of the equation than you. If I am not disciplined about my character development, I have a tendency to write the woman I would like rather than a woman that actually could be, so to speak. In other words, I understand where you are coming from.

I think that your revision here makes Jeff a much more likable fellow. I confess that I can tell that the re-work doesn't have quite the same well-honed quality as your first effort, but that is to be expected for a quick revision. You are headed in the right direction there, IMHO. Please keep it going!

Abby
May 13th, 2014, 01:53 PM
Thanks, I'm glad he's not a jerk anymore! It sounds like you're now seeing him in the way that I do, a bit pathetic but basically a good guy. I'll try to recapture the lost qualities, I will keep at it until it's positively gleaming :)
I know what you mean about writing in the opposite gender, my male characters are often vain arrogant losers though, I'm not sure what that says about me but it can't be good!

InstituteMan
May 13th, 2014, 02:12 PM
You are welcome, Abby. I am happy to help!

FWIW, my female characters have had a tendency to, shall we say, run towards bimbo. InstituteWoman was a little worried when she saw the kind of women I was writing about, back in the day. After years of work I think that I have gotten a bit better at writing women, but I am not always so sure.

Abby
May 13th, 2014, 02:57 PM
You are welcome, Abby. I am happy to help!

InstituteWoman was a little worried when she saw the kind of women I was writing about. Lol :)

thepancreas11
May 13th, 2014, 07:53 PM
A couple of things:

First, shorten your sentences. Multiple times you string together three or more phrases uses semicolons, conjunctions and phrase modifiers to connect ideas that don't necessarily go together. Never use "but" except when what follows the "but" directly contradicts the phrase beforehand. Several times, you used it in a way that didn't make sense. A common mistake of writers, I know because I've been there. We get this gusto, this want to jam-pack all our sentences with as much as we possibly can. Do not fear the short sentence. Embrace it. Human nature dictates that speech, especially, should tend to be on the short-winded side. If you can't say a sentence in a single breath, chances are, you've overdone it.

Second, I wish we got to see more of the interaction with Jeff and his friends and less of this dictation taking place. You're giving up the whole plot without telling the story. Sounds like something I could get behind, but I'd rather see it in action than hear a second-hand account of it all. Think about it this way: would you rather be in the crowd at a killer concert or watch it on YouTube? I can tell you, being there in person, seeing that first hand, live, and unedited, is far more exciting than hearing about it or smooshing it all onto a computer screen. Put us in the scene; use sensory detail. That's how you win the reader over.

Mechanically speaking, you're all stopped up here. I can see great potential for the plot, a man struggling with the demon of losing someone he cared about very dearly, a man who's downward spiral only barely registers to him, more of an afterthought. Clean up the prose, and you'll make a better headway with literary agents.

Abby
May 13th, 2014, 09:41 PM
Hi, thanks for your advice. I don't think I am giving up the whole plot though, I'm merely giving the reader some background on the main character's life, it has no bearing on the plot. The only thing that pertains to the plot is the blackout and the mystery girl. If I give no background it will be a very boring first chapter and the reader will have no sense of the setting or personalities of the characters, if the book was all about Jeff becoming an alcoholic and messing his life up then that would be the case, but it's not.
As for the sentence structure problems that you mentioned, can you give an example within my work? It would help me to see where exactly I need to be chopping up my sentences. I worry that if there are too many short sentences it will read haltingly and unnaturally. Thanks :)

RubyEclipse
May 15th, 2014, 10:57 PM
Personally it feels a little heavy to me for an opening. The writing quality is good and perhaps it would work in the middle of the story but not when you're attempting to hook the reader's interest. I felt like I was trudging through the description and very little actually happened for the length of the passage. The first paragraph gives a pretty solid description of the strength of his hangover, so I think the continuation of the same description throughout is not needed. Another thing would be perhaps make it feel a little less self pitying, it doesn't lead to sympathy for the character, instead, grouped with his thoughts on women, he comes across as a bit up himself. As I said, the writing quality is good but there doesn't seem to be enough of a hook. I'm interested to read more to discover about the girl with the black hair though :)

Abby
May 15th, 2014, 11:06 PM
Thanks for the critique Ruby. I understand where you're coming from, maybe I should bring in part of chapter 2 for the first chapter and leave most of the background for later? The self pity is the result of me trying to make him less arrogant and more likeable!!

RubyEclipse
May 15th, 2014, 11:06 PM
Also, as I read in your last comment that the background has no bearing on the plot. If this is the case then this could be why it feels so heavy. It is not necessary to fill in in such a large chunk. It would perhaps be better to just insert these facts in as background throughout the story rather than giving a life story at the beginning

RubyEclipse
May 15th, 2014, 11:09 PM
But yes, the background would be better suited elsewhere. The first chapter needs to be something to grip the reader, they don't need to know everything about the main character straight away, leave some things to be found out :) I would say definitely leave in the plot essential stuff, the blackout leaves an air of mystery but you leave the mentioning of the oil with no explanation so perhaps follow through on that hook

Abby
May 15th, 2014, 11:15 PM
Sounds like good advice, thanks! :)

Greimour
May 15th, 2014, 11:47 PM
For me, I find Jeff unlikable because he seems to think -- correctly, apparently -- that he is God's gift to women. He is annoyed at women who hit on him in a bar; I know of absolutely no straight man who would find that annoying, even if he wasn't up for a tryst.

And there is the winner for my disagreement. I am going to go to bed now but first I will respond to that comment.
"I know of absolutely no straight man who would find that annoying, even if he wasn't up for a tryst."

I do...

This may sound like a digression at first, bare with it - True story from 2003-2004 in very miniature form follows the digression:

Many women are frequently annoyed by men who think it is OK to interrupt them with attempts at getting lucky. A simple 'night out with the girls' can turn into 'a night avoiding men'. Many men do not see a problem with this - you don't know unless you ask, right? For the fifth man trying his luck, it might be his first roll of the dice all night, but for the woman, it is a moment of sigh and frustration.

Now spin it. Before I turned into an introvert (or as much of one as to allow me to fit within it's label) I was quite the party goer. I would have 3-5 guys with me by dinner time, be out socializing with 12+ guys by evening and be finding/searching for ladies with as many as twenty guys by 7pm. We did this six days a week (and were drinking on 2-3 of those evenings per week)... some of the lads were luckier than others but there was rarely a week where one of us hadn't gotten lucky at least once. That is to say; within the 6 days, all twenty would have found a girl for at least one evening within that week - others may have had six, others may have had twelve. Some may have started a relationship and met up with the same girl all week... it varied but that's generally how things went.

Now - that is where my disagreement comes.

One of my friends who generally got lucky once or twice every single day we went out - snapped.
A good looking girl with a nice voice and a sweet personality had started talking to him. I felt kind of happy for him. Normally he ended up with "good looking but don't I know it" kind of girls. He was looking for the sweet kind of girl who was looking for a relationship. You might imagine my shock then, when the conversation made him snap.

Her: "It's been nice talking to you, but I have to go now. Can I have your number? or - would you like mine?" (Facebook was released that year if I remember right, or maybe got popular soon after I am not sure, had it been around then maybe could have avoided the incident - haha!)

Friend: "Jesus! What the hell? Here I was thinking you were a nice one for a change and instead you're just like the others. Can't I just relax and have a laugh without girls trying to grab my ego or get my phone number?" (he didn't say ego)

Her: "But... I wasn't..."

Friend: "Kev, I am out of here mate, will catch you tomoz."

And he stormed off. I didn't know at the time, but he had already turned down four girls that night (for reasons I never learned) and was given four numbers and msn addresses from other girls. He'd been on a downer all day and I had thought girls might cheer him up - instead they made him snap >.<

Like I said - he was looking for a nice girl to date - but he kept getting those with looks and no personality. He had literally become fed up of the attention. Girls hitting on him, him hitting on girls ... it had gotten too much and he'd reached his limit. Funnily, he wasn't even that good looking... 'No Brad Pitt' - if you pardon the term, but he had a 'mans-man' quality to him. He had a certain magnetism that made people notice him.

I did make him apologize to the girl a few days later and they did in fact start dating. Sadly, he wasn't as fed up of the attention as he'd thought - pretty soon he told me he missed the attention of multiple women and broke it off with the girl... Shame really, I now tend to think she had probably been too good for him if that's how he really felt.

Anyway - soon after he got with her I stopped doing all that stuff myself and tried settling down with a nice girl of my own (things didn't work out). After I'd stopped hanging around with them the group dropped to three-five people and their luck also dropped - my friends claim was: "Without so many guys in the group it was harder to attract girls. When you have twenty guys all laughing and joking together everyone notices and it's only natural that girls will be drawn to that group." He asked me to go back to our old ways and get the group back together- but most of them were settling into relationships - there was no 'group' to get back together.

Still, the point remains: For at the very least a single day he had very much gotten fed up of girls hitting on him.

InstituteMan
May 16th, 2014, 05:16 AM
I like the story, Greimour. Your buddy just have had a terrible day, worse than I have ever had or even seen.

SarahJames
May 16th, 2014, 09:26 AM
This is my preference. I'm not insinuating neither is wrong or right.
The overall story was good, but I personally, would change some of the wording.
Examples:



Daylight was streaming through the thin curtains,

Perhaps: Daylight streamed through the curtains.

Delving into his foggy brain, Jeff recalled being at the pub after work with the usual crowd.

Perhaps: Jeff delved into his foggy brain as he recalled (or) Jeff delved into his foggy brain. He recalled being............ Adverbs drive me nuts. lol

Have fun :)



.[/QUOTE]

RubyEclipse
May 16th, 2014, 10:26 AM
Daylight was streaming through the thin curtains,

Perhaps: Daylight streamed through the curtains.

Delving into his foggy brain, Jeff recalled being at the pub after work with the usual crowd.

Perhaps: Jeff delved into his foggy brain as he recalled (or) Jeff delved into his foggy brain. He recalled being............ Adverbs drive me nuts. lol



I don't understand why you're bring up adverbs when neither of the lines you chose to alter included any? Personally I would disagree with these corrections, Abby has made a good use of varying sentence structures which helps the flow, all of your suggestions switched them back to the same SVO or SVAO clause structures. Again, just a personal opinion but the constant use of that structure will begin to feel ploddy and repetitive

Greimour
May 16th, 2014, 11:30 AM
Sometimes people say; "Change this" or "change that" in other peoples writing purely because it doesn't match how they themselves write - or how their favourite author writes. If there is nothing actually wrong with the sentence though, should such statements be given? That's what I have been contemplating lately and why I have been reading rather than responding to many posts. (Because it's something I am known for doing myself)

Pancreas makes good points directly talking about the text at hand. InstituteMan expressed his personal view on whether or not the story held weight/credibility and the likeability of Jeff. Those things are where Abby can directly focus attention on making her piece even better but comments I have seen so far on 'rewrites' for sentences don't appear to be helpful in my opinion. It is merely conflicting views of personal style. There are many books I have read where I didn't like the style the author wrote in, but there was nothing actually wrong with how it was written. These books were world best sellers and I liked the books - I just didn't particular like the style of the author.

For example, I didn't like many of the long winded descriptions of 'a room' or 'a hall' or most other things/places within works of Dan Brown. Some of his sentences would run on longer than necessary and I don't remember a single character that spoke 'normal' ... how many people speak 'properly' after all... to say: "You and I" instead of "you and me" etc... point is, I am not particularly fond of Dan Browns style of writing. But there is nothing actually wrong with it and I liked the stories: Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and Deception Point.

Not liking the style doesn't stop me reading the book and as long as the story is good and at least written properly - what's the problem really?

Kudos to Pancreas I think your response was the best for this thread. +1

garza
May 16th, 2014, 07:45 PM
I'm only going to point out what I see in the first couple of sentences. The remainder of the the piece needs the same treatment, in my opinion. (Please note the operative word, 'opinion'.

Jeff opened his eyes,(should be a full stop) half (Half) formed memories dancing (danced) just beyond his reach as he struggled to focus. his eyes.(delete - redundant) He groaned and rotated (turned) his head slowly,(should be deleted and the comma replaced by a full stop) trying (He tried) not to jar his brain.(full stop)(It) which (delete) felt like he'd left it in a bucket of broken glass. (or maybe - Someone had dumped it into a bucket of broken glass.) A sudden (delete) shiver racked his body;(or better, He shivered.)

The effect of the piece can be strengthened and the word count reduced by about one-third by following this pattern. Quite a few words are wrongly used, such as 'rotated'. A robot might rotate its head. Humans turn their heads.

Abby
May 17th, 2014, 05:25 PM
Well thanks everyone, lots to think on here. I won't be following a lot of the advice simply because, as Greimour pointed out, my style is just that and if I start changing it to resemble yours it won't be mine anymore! All comments are appreciated though, it all helps :) The advice about first chapter content and general character building has been very helpful though, watch this space for yet another revision!

codylf95
May 17th, 2014, 06:06 PM
It should be an introduction. If it's the book, start it at the beginning of the day or a book, or the beginning of the conflict.

Abby
May 17th, 2014, 07:20 PM
Not quite sure what you're getting at Cody? Its a first chapter of a book and it begins at the beginning of a day, and also there is the beginning of the event that will become the main theme of the plot.

deBroglie
May 17th, 2014, 08:09 PM
For an introduction, it feels too inconsistently heavy for me. The way you're presenting the scene, to me, feels like it should be in the middle of the story. What I mean by this is that you're presenting a lot of conflict, i.e.; Jeff doesn't remember anything, he may be a heavy drinker, the whole Gemma situation, there is a mysterious woman in the picture, and so on. A lot of that seems important by the way you're addressing it all. And for an introduction, it seems like a lot for someone to take in.


But then the rest of it doesn't seem like it matters after awhile. Like the Gemma situation, mainly. A lot of this information seems like rushed characterization in order to make your protagonist likeable or relatable, but putting all this in the introduction seems heavy and hard to digest for someone who just started reading. I can't really tell what's important for your character's disposition, and so that makes him bland and uninteresting for me.


There's some inconsistencies with pacing, as well. And with word choice. Like the first line using "opened" and "dancing" in the same sentence. It sort of throws off the mood, IMO. However, I am pretty fond of the writing from him finding the oily dirt under a fingers to him trying to remember what happened. That flows nicely and really works with the tone you're trying to set.

Abby
May 17th, 2014, 09:07 PM
Thanks deBroglie, I think you're probably right about there being too much background info. I'm going to re write and try and keep it to just about waking up and the memories of the night before and see if it works any better.

aj47
May 18th, 2014, 12:40 AM
Abby, I saw the subject, and that there were 3 pages of replies...so I didn't read your paragraph. I have some general comments though.

If your novel is still in process, you shouldn't be too worried about polishing the opening. Get it done, revise it and then when the dust settles, worry about your initial paragraph/first impression.

This is tough to live by but you could get it perfect, then find you want to start the story someplace else and need a new opening paragraph. And so on for iterations.

If I'm being an ass, there's a LOL button in the lower left-hand corner.

Blade
May 18th, 2014, 02:35 AM
There has been a lot said in this thread though I would still like to put some comment in.


For an introduction, it feels too inconsistently heavy for me. The way you're presenting the scene, to me, feels like it should be in the middle of the story. What I mean by this is that you're presenting a lot of conflict, i.e.; Jeff doesn't remember anything, he may be a heavy drinker, the whole Gemma situation, there is a mysterious woman in the picture, and so on. A lot of that seems important by the way you're addressing it all. And for an introduction, it seems like a lot for someone to take in.

This hits the nail on the head for me. To begin a novel is difficult as you may have lots to express but still have to start from nowhere. I am willing to give the author lots of time to warm up and get organized so easing in is quite comfortable in my way of approaching things.

The writing seems fine and any criticism, as far as I can see, is preference of style and not structural.

It never crossed my mind that the gut was a jerk as I think there are situations where the offer of a casual sort of contact would be the last thing in the world he would see as desirable. That depends on where he is coming from which at this point we do not really know.

Abby
May 18th, 2014, 07:28 AM
Annie you're completely right, I am getting bogged down with this chapter and with the amount of time I've wasted trying to polish it I probably could've finished the book by now !! :)

dmr400
May 24th, 2014, 07:15 AM
I feel like the craft of the writing is pretty good, but I'll add my vote to those that think the hook is too long in coming. In today's age of reading the Kindle sample chapter before purchasing I think that it is more important than ever to have the first few paragraphs be as riveting as possible. But I don't claim to be an expert on what 'riveting' is to any intended audience but the one I belong to, a late 20's male who is a fan of action/intrigue thrillers, military based historical fiction, and urban fantasy.

Abby
May 24th, 2014, 08:05 AM
Thanks for the input dmr400, that does seem to be the general consensus! I plan to revise, it's on my to do list! :)

Blade
May 24th, 2014, 09:00 PM
In today's age of reading the Kindle sample chapter before purchasing I think that it is more important than ever to have the first few paragraphs be as riveting as possible.

I think that is a good point. I have always been willing to give an author quite a bit of leeway to get things going but like long sentences and wordiness that may be a little old fashioned.:blue:

:hi:Welcome to the forums.

PlainsHermit
June 2nd, 2014, 06:11 AM
You might consider opening with this:

"What happened last night? He tried to sit up and every muscle in his body screamed in protest; his neck felt bruised and tender, and his knees creaked as he stretched his legs. As he contemplated his misery, the big muscles in his right thigh turned to rocks as a cramp took hold and he clenched his teeth in agony, pushing his heel towards the ceiling and squeezing his thigh with his fingertips until the pain passed and he lay back, panting with relief. God, why did I have to wake up? I’m so damned sick of this life."

It might help the reader if you begin the second sentence with the viewpoint character's name instead of "He."

Just suggestions. If I read the entire work it would help me understand better the context of everything you say in the first chapter.

Good luck!

PlainsHermit