Work in progress...(846).


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  1. #1
    WF Veteran H.Brown's Avatar
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    Work in progress...(846).

    So here is something that I am trying to get into the position to publish at some point and would love to see what people think to this prologue an beginning of my first chapter. Looking forward to see what yo all think.

    Prologue.

    It began when I came home from school one afternoon. I walked through our red painted door, allowing streams of sunlight to dance across the entryway.

    “Hello?” I called. “Anyone home?”

    No answer came. Dumping my bag at the door I went to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of Coke from the fridge and sat down in front of the telly. Flicking through the channels to find something, I did not hear the front door open and close.

    “Poppet? Are you home?” My father’s voice bellowed.
    “In here Dad!”

    Coming through the door I knew there was a problem; he had that look to face, the one he’d worn when telling me Mum had died, when I was eleven. “What’s happened?” My voice shook.

    “Well it’s a long story but we have to move away.”

    “Why! When! Where Why?” I screamed, each word getting louder.

    “To Filey, and by the end of the month. I promise I will explain everything soon, but we have to move. You will love it on the seaside.” His voice was strong which meant there would be no room to argue. In a month I’d be gone from London and everyone I knew.


    Chapter one.

    Looking out of the window I wondered what things would be like now. As the countryside flashed by on either side. I’d been thinking the same thought since the drive began. A new town, a new house. A fresh start or so my parents kept telling me. I caught a glimpse of my face reflected in the pane. My blue eyes seemed to shrink into my small, round face, making round shadows; as though I was looking into the eyes of someone already dead. My lips were too thin and my skin too pale. My hair hung in a limp ponytail, dragging down my back in a black trickle. I was looking at a stranger.

    “You’ll find new friends when we've settled in Rosetta.” My father had reassured me as we left the home I’d been born in. I was 16. Just finished secondary school, and would have been attending the same college as all my Childhood friends. But no! Now I was going to be stranded in a godforsaken small town. That no one has even heard of.

    Driving through the winding country side was the highlight of the whole drive, we’d been on the road about five hours, from London to the east-coast. The last half hour had disappeared as we sped towards the small town. The last place on the Earth I wanted to be. It was like my personal hell; no superstores or coffee shops, no shop open past 10pm and people that had grown up together. However here I was stuck until either I turned 18 or died. My money was on dying first…from boredom.

    The sky had become a midnight blue with a red tinged horizon as my parents chatted about our new life. At least someone was happy to be moving here. The sign flashed in our headlights:
    WELCOME TO FILEY.
    POPULATION:6,819.
    ENJOY YOUR STAY.

    Suddenly the car turned to the left, onto a dirt track leaving the main road behind. It wasn't a driveway, exactly but a small dirt track that took me away from everything that was familiar. We’d inherited an old manor house on the outskirts of Filey, surrounded by fields that stretched, unending all the way to the cliff tops. There was only the one track in and out of Wintergreen Manor.

    “So honey, what do you think?” My step-mother’s soft voice broke into my gloomy thoughts.

    The building in front of the car was a sprawling, brick building, covered with- something that was waving slowly in the breeze-probably ivy, the black windows seemed to be mocking our small selves as we gazed upon what was now to be called home.

    “Well? It’s a bit dark to really tell.” My answer was vague and unhelpful. I could see it in the scowl on my step-mother’s face as she looked at my Father.

    “Once we get the lights burning it will look and feel much warmer, Sweetheart.” Always the optimist, my Father was trying to make me feel better about the move, but how could I feel any better. I’d been torn away from all my friends and favourite places, to an unknown and distant town.

    Suddenly the moon broke from behind the clouds, lighting up the Manor in a ghostly light. The building itself was imposing. It had towers on every corner that reached up into the sky until it looked like the clouds were touching the tops. Black bricks that showed through the thick Ivy-that had taken control of the outside- Massive heavy oak doors that were closed, with iron work scrolling over the wood, window panes which also had the same iron work. Reminding me of the old mental asylums you saw on TV shows. Forbidden and forsaken. It was going to take more than lights to make Wintergreen Manor feel like home.

    The place terrified me, but I couldn't tell why!

  2. #2
    I like the writing style. My main thought is that this all belongs together, probably as the first chapter.

    I see a prolog, or prologue, as something a bit different than the rest of the narrative. This is the same. Also, I've heard that some readers skip right to the first chapter. These are, of course, one person's opinions on the subject.

    I empathize with the main character. Sometimes a place just has a bad feeling surrounding. I want to know more.

  3. #3
    Member 20oz's Avatar
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    It has impressive details and it flows well. There was no point in the story where I wanted to stop.

    As for grammatical errors, you need to teach yourself how to use quotation marks. I found it to be the only blemish in an otherwise strong start.
    Last edited by 20oz; February 23rd, 2016 at 09:55 PM. Reason: Redundancy
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  4. #4
    A couple of points.

    “Poppet? Are you home?” My father’s voice bellowed.
    Why "bellowed"? Why not "called"? The word"bellow" implies anger to me, and he doesn't seem angry.

    “In here Dad!”
    The response should be a new paragraph.

    “Why! When! Where Why?” I screamed, each word getting louder.
    "Where" is missing punctuation.

  5. #5
    To catch a reader you need to establish an uninterrupted flow; avoid the ambiguous.

    "Coming through the door I knew there was a problem..."

    For example, this does not establish who is coming through the door, that comes after, so the person who thought she got up to meet him has to re-think, which breaks the spell for a moment.

    'As he came through the door I knew there was a problem...' on the other hand is completely un-ambiguous.

    Similarly here;
    "when telling me Mum had died,"
    "A fresh start or so my parents kept telling me."
    The information about a stepmother comes later, I actually stopped and went back to check I had got it right and her mum was dead.

    Brush up on your punctuation, 'A fresh start, or so my parents kept telling me.' Commas mark short pauses and there is nearly always one before those little words that change direction, like 'but' and 'or'.
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  6. #6
    WF Veteran H.Brown's Avatar
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    Thank you to everyone for all your comments I have developed this piece now and I feel that each of you were right and it needed a closer look, it is still a work in progress however it is becoming more to how I imagine it in my head.
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  7. #7
    enjoyed....
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  8. #8
    Some generalities:

    People talk in contractions. Can your characters seem real if they don't? A given character might no use them, and seem stiff, but the dialog must seem natural to the people, the era, and the location.

    Forget the visual unless it matters to the protagonist. Look at the opening:
    I walked through our red painted door,
    Forgetting that the character walked into the house, not through the door. What function does the color of the door play? Would a blue door, or a white one change the story? No. Is the protagonist paying attention to the door they've seen over and over again? No. But by mentioning something that the protagonist isn't reacting to you clearly establish that we're not on the scene, we're with the storyteller hearing about it, second hand.

    Expanding on that, look at the paragraph:
    It began when I came home from school one afternoon. I walked through our red painted door, allowing streams of sunlight to dance across the entryway.
    This is the storyteller explaining the situation as a dispassionate external observer. That the one "speaking" is supposed to be a later version of the character changes nothing. Telling is telling. It's an outside-in approach that hands facts to a reader whose only reason for being with you is to be entertained by being made to live the scene emotionally. Having someone talk about the scene is nowhere near as effective because for anyone but you there's not a trace of emotion in the narrator's voice.

    Look at what we get in the line: 1) This is the beginning of the story. Not much of a surprise. 2) The character comes home from school and enters the house. 3) when you open the door sunlight comes into the house till you close it. Also not a surprise—or necessary information. So what matters is that at the story's opening our protagonist has come home from school. So why not make it part of the actual story opening as the protagonist perceives it with something like:

    “Hello?” I called as I closed the front door. “Anyone home?”

    No answer. Dumping my book-bag at the door I went to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of Coke, and turned on the telly.

    “Poppet?” My father’s voice called from the front door, a few minutes later. “Are you home?” There was an odd, hesitant note to his voice. Something was up.

    “I'm in here, Dad.”


    Not great writing, just a quick demonstration of another approach, one that places us in the character's viewpoint, in the moment that person calls now. A few things to note:

    • We don't have to mention that it's after school, the book-bag tells us that. And in any case, the when matters little. It's the message that matters. All the business before dad arrives serves to do is tell the reader that the character is old enough to travel from school without a parent.
    • I trimmed unnecessary things like the last word in, "no answer came," plus, that the coke came from the fridge, and where one sits in respect to the telly. Watching is implied by the act of turning it on. As a minor point, We can sit up, because that defines a stance, but sit "down" is unnecessary, because it's inherent to the act. Sit is enough. Never forget that fewer words = more punch.
    • I dropped "bellowed," because there seems no reason to do that and makes him seem angry. Instead, I foreshadowed his mood, from the viewpoint of our protagonist. It's what she concludes, as against what the narrator explains. That matters because she's on the scene living it, and the narrator lives in a different time and place. Can they be on stage together and seem real?

    As a not so minor point, the father told her that he would explain the hurried move. Given that, he has to, or, she has to worry about it and speculate. To seem real she must behave as a real person. Were you in her situation would you say, "Ah well. I'm going to quit school in mid-semester, abandon all my friends and rush away to God knows where," and not wonder, ask, nag, and spy on your parents? Wouldn't you demand at least some assurance that the law wasn't after dad?

    Tell your story from the inside out, not the outside in. Outside in is an overview, an immutable history with no uncertainty. But inside out places us in the protagonist's moment of now, making the future unknown and uncertain—and therefore, interesting.

    A little time spent digging out the techniques the pros take for granted would yield huge dividends, and make the job much easier.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

  9. #9
    WF Veteran H.Brown's Avatar
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    So i have taken all of your comments on board about this opening chapter and have made changes to it. I have not posted the whole extract that I did originally because due to my changes it has no become extended and i felt it would be too much for you all to look at. Please read and let me know what you think now...

    Chapter One.

    It was late spring when my Dad pulled me out of school. The weather was pleasant; the sun shining down as I walked the short distance to our house watching the pavement. Neither me or the school receptionist had been surprised that he had not come to pick me up with us living only five minutes I was expected once again to walk alone. The street was empty at two in the afternoon; kids were at school and the adult’s were at work. I could feel the nerves take over my stomach, filling it with butterflies as I tried to puzzle out why I wasn’t in school.


    Five minutes later I was standing in the street looking at our small two bedroom house. Everything looked the same as it always had. I had felt the same way on the day I had found out that Mum’s car had crashed. I had walked the same route home, alone, with my jacket open and the sun trying to break from behind the clouds. I’d stared at the house then too, scared to walk up the garden path. Knowing in that moment that my life was about to change forever.


    However now looking at the dark windows and the closed front door I had no such feelings, I was confused and wondering;
    what was wrong this time?

    From the street the house looked empty but my father had to be inside. I walked up our winding garden path, remembering when me and mum had designed it all those years ago, I smiled as I pushed open the front door. “Hello?” I called crossing the threshold. “Dad are you home?” My voice echoed down the hallway but no response came.


    Where was Dad and why was I not in school?


    Dumping my bag at the door I went to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of Coke from the fridge and sat down in front of the telly. I’d been flicking through channels for about an hour when I heard the front door open and close. Flicking off the telly I stood up as my dad shouted.


    “Poppet? Are you home?” My father had a deep voice that travelled through the house on a normal day but today was anything but normal, his voice was uncertain and quiet. I barely heard him through the door.


    “In here Dad!” I raised my voice enough that he would hear me.


    I knew that something was wrong from the moment that I saw his face when he pushed the door open. His expression forced me to sit back down, hitting the chair with a bump; he had that look on his face, the same one he’d worn when I was eleven and he’d had to tell me that Mum had been in a car crash and was in the hospital.


    “What’s happened?” My voice shook with worry.


    His eyes drew tight and he had to open and close his mouth several times before he could get the words out.“I’m sorry Poppet but we have to leave London.” He paused letting it sink in to me. “We will be moving in a months time.”


    “Why! When! Where! Why?” I screamed, each word getting louder.


    “To Filey, I know that you don’t want to leave here but your Grandfather is very ill and is going to need on-going care from now on. I can not afford a career for him and we are the only family he has, so it has to be us.” He must have read my disappointment from my face. “Everything will be fine, you’ll love it on the seaside.” His voice was strong which meant there would be no room to argue.

    The first I can remember hearing about Filey was when I was four we had visited my Grandfather Richard, who lived in a big house in a small town near the sea. We’d only been there a couple of days when my mum had flown into my room one evening and started shoving all my clothes into my tiny suitcase. “We’re leaving Poppet.” She’d said in a calm voice. I’d gotten out of bed in the night and let her put on my coat over my pyjamas. I could hear my dad and granddad shouting at each other downstairs.

    I can remember holding my mum’s hand tightly as we walked down the stairs to the front door. Her thumb moving in circles on the back of my small hand. She’d smiled down at me when we were at the door and waiting for my dad, they both came out of a door my Grandfather had still been shouting at him as we opened the door and got into our car. I’d looked out of my window as my Dad had turned the car around. Staring at my grandfather crying as we drove away.


    It was years until I heard about my Grandfather and Wintergreen Manor again. I was six, when I overheard my parents arguing about them in the night, my mum’s voice had been tight and controlled and my Dad’s voice raised as he explained that he was his Father and he had to go and help out. I must have made a sound as my Mum had come flying out of our front room and whisked me away up the stairs, tutting and shaking her head. My father had left after that night for two weeks to help my grandfather after his accident.


    Now I was sixteen and hearing about it again and in a months time I’d be gone from London and everyone I knew.


    I’d spent the whole drive wrapped up in my own thoughts. Staring out of the side window as he motorway flashed past, then changed into countryside and back to motorway again. Traffic was minimal allowing the car to drive forward, speeding us towards Filey. I had lost count of all the different services we’d passed and how many times my Dad had tried to drag me out of my dark thoughts.


    The countryside flashed by on either side of us now in an unending patchwork of yellow and green fields stretching as far as the eye could see. Only broken every now and again by small towns and villages that we sped through. I’d been thinking the same thought since the drive had began:
    what now?

    A new town, a new house, a fresh start or so my Dad kept telling me. The glass of the window reflected my face back at me making me stare. I couldn’t recognise the face staring back at me.


    As each day had passed over the last month, my eyes had sunk deeper and deeper into my small, oval face.The blue had dulled from a tropical ocean sea to the murky colour of the north sea. Dark shadows ringed them as I spent nights laying awake until the early hours, dreading the move. My face was too pale and my hair was a limp tangle of black strands, a few pasted to my forehead as I stared into my dead eyes. I was looking at a stranger. I let out a sigh I’d been holding in and focused back on my Dad’s voice.


    “You’ll find new friends when we’ve settled in Rosetta.” My father had tried to reassure me of this over the last month and I still wasn’t convinced. I had a feeling of deep dread whenever I thought about Wintergreen Manor. I kept getting a chill that ran down my spine each time it was mentioned. The feeling had been growing worse with each mile that had passed since we’d left home-the home I’d been born in- this morning until now I was vibrating with tension.


    I should have been attending the same college as all my childhood friends. But no!
    Now I was going to be stranded in a godforsaken small town. That no one has ever heard of.

    Last edited by H.Brown; January 4th, 2017 at 05:16 PM. Reason: added some more
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  10. #10
    It was late spring when my Dad pulled me out of school. The weather was pleasant; the sun shining down as I walked the short distance to our house watching the pavement. Neither me or the school receptionist had been surprised that he had not come to pick me up with us living only five minutes I was expected once again to walk alone. The street was empty at two in the afternoon; kids were at school and the adult’s were at work. I could feel the nerves take over my stomach, filling it with butterflies as I tried to puzzle out why I wasn’t in school.

    I have a problem with this paragraph. Too many "was". Far too passive. Example:

    My Dad pulled me out of school, his mood seeming ..... to me. The sun shone warm upon my shoulders as we walked home as I stared down at the pavement .....(because?) At two in the afternoon; kids were at school and the adult’s were at work so the streets were empty. The nerves ... in my stomach as I puzzled why he had taken me out of school. (You might describe your father's mood by showing how he'd acted at school and during the walk.)

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