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Reject
June 2nd, 2014, 04:26 PM
In this third (and in all likelihood final extract posted here) extract of my novel, we find our protagonist taking on the legal system in the afterlife. (SODD'S is explained elsewhere as "Souls that earned eternal Damnation Department" or "Hell" to you and I. I received a rejection letter today which mentions the court case.

I have struggled with setting the scene of the courtroom and feel this could be the weakest part of my novel. Your sage opinion is both sought and most welcome........................................... .................................................. .................................................. ...........................................


“All rise!” squeaked the court bailiff. What the, whatever, Geoff thought it wrong to say “hell,” had happened. It was as though he had never left the court and now he was back for another verbal beating by McHopkins. The Judge seemed to read his mind and looked straight at him. “I trust that you are ready to continue Soul Guest?” Without waiting for an answer, continuing, “Mr McHopkins, please continue.”

“Obliged, M’Lud.” McHopkins squealed, fixing Geoff in his lawyerly gaze.
“Mr Guest, I put it to you, that you have never taken responsibility for anything during your allocated time on the middle ground. You have the audacity to stand before the highest of courts and challenge the wisdom of those tasked to allocate. If you had been a go-getter, a man of purpose, a person who was determined to make a difference, I could almost understand. Yet you were Geoffrey Guest. What makes this so hard to accept is the fact that you hardly registered here, whilst you were alive. We keep an eye on all souls, sometimes actions taken on earth can have ramifications here if we don’t take appropriate action.” Peter McHopkins smiled and continued. “Of course, we cherry-pick the bits we like. For example had this case occurred on the calendar last year we would have had to provide you with counsel – Do you know how hard it is to find a lawyer in paradise?” The court erupted with laughter. McHopkins waited for quiet before continuing, “Now Soul, to business. You were born in Stowdrege during the year of 1970. Your allocated time took you to 2013. You predeceased your Mother….” Geoff gasped out loud.
“I killed her!” spluttered Geoff. “I didn't mean too, I killed her though, she was the first!”
“The first?” retorted McHopkins, like a dog with a toy, “The first what exactly?”
“The first I killed,” sobbed Geoff, unashamedly weeping, his first ever public admission of his heinous crimes.
“You killed?”
“You know I killed them, stop pretending that you don’t!” Geoff petulantly spat out his admission.

“Who did you kill, Geoffrey Guest?” asked McHopkins ominously.
“My mother and those children, they led me on and then I couldn't let them live. I would have been caught; they would have put me in prison again! I couldn’t go back to prison, they had to be killed, I am sorry, I should never have touched them, they made me, it isn’t my fault, I shouldn't be here, I don’t deserve to be in heaven or whatever you call this shithole! I should rot in hell for what I have done. You sent me to the wrong place!” Geoff wiped the dangling snot from his nose and still weeping looked up and repeated, “I am in the wrong place.” Tears falling onto the table, he continued, “Help me, I am in the wrong place!”

Peter McHopkins smiled towards the shaking Geoffrey Guest, and said in a pleasant and scholarly tone. “And that Geoff is exactly what we are here to find out.” Picking up his notes, Peter continued, “Now all this killing, even were it to be true may not exclude you from Paradise. Let me tell you that we are full to the brim with all types of killers, perversely you won’t find many priests or rabbis!” A wry smile hovered on the corner of McHopkins measly mouth. “Every soldier who killed did so in the name of their God!” He slammed his hand on the table. “Those SS soldiers in the second world war had written on their belts “Gott Mitt Uns!” He glared at Geoff, “Do you know what that means?” Without pausing to allow Geoff to answer he carried on, “God is with us!” McHopkins raised his voice and almost yelled, “Half of the bloody screw loose serial killers you have read about claim they did it because their ‘god’ told them to!” Like a television lawyer, Peter walked over, actually more of a confident strut than a walk and lent on Geoff’s desk. A pause, lasting an eternity or maybe it lasted just a few seconds broken by the sound of Geoff’s heart not-beat. Geoff knew his heart was not beating yet could swear he could hear it. Damnation! He had missed whatever it was McHopkins had said. “Sorry,” stammered Geoff.
“Don’t be sorry for things you have not done; now we are getting somewhere!” yelled McHopkins, triumphantly. “So you admit it then?”
Shit! Thought Geoffrey, he must have asked me about the killings.
“I did it and I killed them all, I am sorry that there was no other way.” With a new found confidence, Geoff raised his own voice. “I wish I hadn't killed them but they had to die. I was powerless; it was like something took over. I didn’t enjoy killing them, that is the one thing I would change if I could, they had to die though, and they would have got me in trouble. I wish I had never seen them, they could be alive today. I don’t deserve to be anywhere like heaven, I am bad and need to be punished! I will do harm here if you keep me here, please, please for everyone’s sake get me sent to be punished, sent where I deserve to be.”

Geoff looked around the court defiantly, expecting a reaction to his admission. He was rather deflated, the Judge did not look like he was listening, McHopkins was cleaning his nails and the rest of the court seemed not pay any heed. Did they not realise how important what he had said was?

“Quiet!” Said McHopkins, it appeared if anything, rather condescendingly. “Well, have it your way then. You think threatening us will overturn the decision made by the wise allocations committee if you like. You keep telling us that you are a killer, yet provide us with not a shred of evidence. Why have you not called a single one of your so called victims? Surely even you would know that one of the lynchpins of justice is to give the wronged a voice, call them, Soul Guest, let them give evidence of your depravity. Let their voices be heard!” bellowed the barrister. Geoff probably was not aware that he was doing his impression of an asthmatic goldfish, the Judge cleared his throat. “Mr Guest, somewhat unorthodoxly, you are invited by counsel to call a witness or witnesses at this juncture, do you intend to avail yourself of such?”
“Err, sorry!” said Geoff, comprehension never his strongest point. “Who do you mean? How do I call them, is it like a Ouija board?” Shaking his head with a wry smile, the Judge said “No, Geoffrey, you tell the court whom you wish to appear and I despatch the bailiff to bring them.”
“Oh right, ok then, yes please!”
“Yes to what, Geoffrey?”
“Let my victims speak!” Geoff knew now that he had just won his case, when the innocent little ones told the court of his depravity he would not be staying in Paradise. In a rare moment of insight, Geoff realised that he was sounding pompous, an arse in fact! “Let my victims speak?” This was about his eternity and here he was starting to speak like an over paid American actor in one of those rubbishy films that his mother had enjoyed.
“Names?” Inquired the Judge, sounding exasperated, a tone of voice Geoff was most familiar with. “I am not sure,” replied Geoff, “surely you should know?” he added petulantly. Peter McHopkins leapt to his feet.
“If it pleases the court, I would be able to help shed some light on this, saving considerable time?”
“Please continue, Mr McHopkins. Do enlighten us!” beamed the kindly Judge.
“Obliged Your Honour, Mr Guest will struggle to call any of his victims to convince the court of his vile ways. I put it to you, Mr Guest that you are a fantasist and there are no victims, not one. The only person that you have hurt is your own stupid, selfish, barking mad self!” McHopkins smiled, “This is a place where miracles have happened but dead victims of criminal masterminds such as you, Guest, that have never existed and are not victims, nor are they dead, nor are they real, nor have they ever been, real, alive, or dead would be stretching things, even for us.” Dramatically McHopkins turned to the Judge and quietly said, “Habeas Corpus, Your Honour, Habeas Corpus.”
“Quite,” said the Judge, “Mr Guest, you must produce your witnesses in order that your application may proceed. The nonappearance could be devastating to your application to sod off to SODD’s! If you will be so kind as to pardon and forgive my little pun. We shall adjourn in order to allow you to inform your guiding angel of the names of your victims, Tracy shall liaise with the bailiff and ensure their attendance, We shall reconvene on my lawful command, thank you all.”

W M Gardner
June 3rd, 2014, 05:53 AM
I would suggest you that work on the hook. You want to write something that draws the reader in. The second sentence seems a little clunky to me. I know that it is his thoughts, but it just doesn't seem right. I would suggest looking at that again. Also, cut out all unnecessary words (adjectives/adverbs).

Reject
June 9th, 2014, 03:14 PM
I have thought about this reply for a while. I do not wish to come across as ungrateful for your comments, I do appreciate everyone taking the time to comment on my scribbles. What you have above is a small excerpt that I am a little unsure of. The second sentence attempts to capture a thought process, a moment in time, reacting to a dynamic situation; This is occurring about 18-20k words in. If the reader is not "hooked" by this juncture I feel they are unlikely to be.

The adjectives and adverbs I see as integral to the story - How would you do it differently? I am not sure that I have the atmosphere of the court as well as I could portray it. I will look at how I can set the scene without appearing "clunky." I really do appreciate you taking the time to comment.