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Chapter 1 of Before the World Died (mature content) (1 Viewer)

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Senior Member
It was the third week in July and to say the weather was hot would be an understatement. For more than a week the temperatures had touched down in the 90's and the humidity never seemed to break. Negan and Lucille, married barely more than a year, hosted a barbecue for friends and family at their house at the end of a dead-end street, generously offering their pool up so everyone could cool down in the extreme, undying temperatures.

Most of their guests were other couples of about their age, some a little younger, some older. Some were longtime friends, others co-workers. Lucille's parents had stopped by for a short time before retreating to the couple's boat for the remainder of the evening with some friends of their own.

"Second round of burgers... come and get 'em." Negan raised his spatula and took a swig of his beer flashing Lucille a wink before serving several of their friends.

"This is a great place you got here," Mark Avery, one of Negan's assistant football coaches, said. He smiled and patted a meaty hand on Negan's shoulder.
"Just big enough for the two of us," he said with a grin, running a hand through his beard.

"Getting some grays there Negan," his friend joked.

"Shut the fuck up." He laughed, but secretly hated the grays that reminded him daily that he was getting older, despite Lucille's claims that it made him look sexy and a big sophisticated. "You've got a George Clooney thing going on," she had said. The comment always made him chuckle, but still reminded him that he wasn't the twenty year old he once was.

"I'm just kiddin'." Mark smirked. "We got ourselves a team to beat this year. Gotta run them kids into the ground come the end of August."

"If we don't take it to the state championship I may lose my shit." Negan smirked, dimples penetrating the hair on his face. "When you got the best damn quarterback in the league and a defense like ours you'll get crucified in a football town like this. Shit, I may run double sessions every day until November."

The two of them shared a hearty laugh and then looked up as their wives approached with plates.

"Ladies, how many burgers?" Negan asked.

"Just one for me," Mark's wife Tina raised her eyebrows. "I saved up all my calories for this meal today." She eyed a bowl of pasta salad.
Negan's eyes followed her stare and he laughed. "Well it's not going to fucking eat itself Tina. Go get some. Damn. You got ten pounds to gain."
Lucille turned to her friend with apologetic eyes, but the women shared a laugh.

"I may just have another beer with my pasta salad after that comment," Tina said, smacking Negan on his big, broad shoulder. She smiled and waved Lucille with her. "You know he's kinda sexy until he opens his mouth," she muttered loud enough for both men to hear her.

"I heard that," Negan said at the same time as Mark. They glanced at each other and laughed before Mark made his way over to the table to sit with his wife and Lucille.

Several others approached the grill when they sensed Negan's conversation with Mark was up and helped themselves to his self-proclaimed world famous burgers.

"Help yourselves to everything," he offered, "Really..." He sighed when everyone seemed preoccupied, "Food ain't gonna eat itself," he repeated quietly. Negan eyed the sky as it grew darker, wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand and putting to the grill to rest for awhile. It felt like hours he had been cooking as Lucille played hostess, keeping all of their friends occupied with drinks in their hands. Despite the heat, the day had been fun.

Prior to having the party Negan had thought it would become one big pain in the ass, but when the day made way to night and all of them were clad in bathing suits by the fire, beers in hand he knew his wife had had a great idea. They hadn't hosted a party since moving into the home together.

"How many hours we going day one?" Mark asked, downing the second half of his beer before diving into another one.

"Hey, go easy," Tina warned. "You're a teacher. If you get pulled over for drinking-"

"I know every cop in town," he said with a laugh, "So... you go easy."

"Men..." she sipped her glass of Chardonnay.

"Three hour morning session," Negan said with a nod. He folded his hands and eyed the fire. "Three hour afternoon session."

"On the same day?" Tina asked.

"Let the men talk," Mark insisted.

"I lose him to football season every fall," Lucille complained lightheartedly. She looked to her husband with a smile and he scrunched his nose with a grin.
"You knew me getting in to this," he laughed, "You had plenty of time to get out."

"But those nights after a big win are worth it, aren't they?" Mark winked at Lucille making Negan tilt his head back and laugh.

"Well, actually..." Lucille laughed with them and Negan raised his glass, tapping it lightly against hers.

"Cheers to..." he began.

"Good sex," Tina finished.

They four of them laughed again and then Tina gave her husband a set of eyes when he continued to drink. Without anymore protest he nodded and placed the bottle down. "You're the boss."

"Oh, ouch." Negan raised his eyebrows.

"I don't feel like crashing the brand new Volvo tonight," Tina said to all of them, beginning with Lucille, then Negan and eventually continuing to give her husband serious eyes.

"Well you're not driving so I don't think we'll crash," he laughed, making Negan laugh with him. When Tina failed to join them this time he stood up and held out a hand. "Well, sir, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for the hospitality."

"Anytime pal." Negan rose, continuing on with a firm handshake. "Tina."

"Negan." She smiled and nodded before they exchanged a hug.

"Come by again soon," Lucille offered, tucking strands of long, dark hair behind her ear. "It can just be the four of us."

"Less clean up," Negan added with a heavy laugh.

"Oh, man, do you want us to help-" Mark began, but Negan and Lucille held up their hands in protest.

"Nah, my wife's got it." He nudged her playfully and then strung an arm over her shoulders.

"Yes... I've got it." Lucille rolled her eyes and laughed, knowing her husband was secretly hoping she would take the lead on the clean-up.

"You're sure?" Tina asked.

"Go home." Negan said to them with an ear-to-ear grin.

"Thank you," Tina said, echoed by her husband. They waved goodbye as Negan opened a door disguised in a fence that blocked the road and led out into the front yard toward the driveway where their friends had parked.

When the car engine started up Negan looked at Lucille, who sighed and leaned against him. "I'll clean up," she offered, noting how her husband had been sweating all afternoon in front of the grill, and then again as he manned the fire for several hours. She went to move away but he reached for her arm.
"It can wait," Negan told her, "There isn't much. I'll help you later."

"Later when?"

He smiled and kissed her once on the lips before taking his shirt off and leaping into the pool. Lucille laughed and stood smiling with her hands on her hips as he resurfaced, slicking his dark hair back. "I've been waiting all day to get in the water. It's so fucking hot still." When she didn't immediately join him he waved her in. "Come on."

Lucille looked around the empty patio, glancing at the tall fence that bordered one side, the woods-line that bordered another and no visible neighbor to the opposite side. She looked at him for a moment, wandered over to the small patio light and turned it off before ridding of the top of her bikini and slowly making her way toward the edge of the pool.

"God damn it, woman." Negan chuckled. "Hurry up and get in here."

She laughed and continued her slow cat-and-mouse game, staying on the opposite side of the pool as her husband.

"Oh I see how this is going to fucking go." He swam lazily in her direction and Lucille walked backward in the shallow end of the pool near the light of the lingering flames from the fire. As he approached she gave in and planted her back against the side of the wall as Negan swam up an placed a hand on either side of her so they were nose to nose. Lucille grinned and gazed into the swollen pupils of her husband in the dim-lighting. "Now where the fuck are you going to go?" he whispered, brushing his lips against her.

At times she knew her husband could be a little over-bearing and often scolded him about his mouth, and the way her cursed. But at other times his words turned her on like no other. Negan's hot temper and foul-mouth were a part of his charm that she couldn't deny. It was rare that she matched his words with curse words of her own, but she decided to tease him and go with it.

Lucille let her hand travel the length of his muscular torso and she rested her fingers on the inside of his shorts. Without breaking eye contact she whispered, "Where ever the fuck I want."

Negan flashed a smile, desire oozing out of his expression. "You've got a mouth on you." He pushed her hand down farther beneath the front of his shorts in the water and kissed her hard when her hand wrapped around him. He moaned into her mouth, caressing her breasts with both of his thumbs as he held her in their embrace. He then proceeded to slide them down her body toward her hips where he peeled off the bottoms of her bathing suit, letting them fall to the pool floor.

As he kissed down her neck Lucille moaned and arched her neck. "Mmm..."

"Mmm..." he said back, regaining her lips with his own before shoving his pants down until they floated off his ankles. When he picked her up by the hips Lucille closed her eyes, still kissing her husband hard as he slipped himself inside of her with ease with the aid of the water.

She wrapped her arms around her husbands back and shoulders, whimpering his name at the first feel of him inside of her. "Negan..." his name lingered on her tongue.

He secured her hips in his hands and thrusted into her again, taking in her expression as he did. Lucille's mouth was partway open, eyes closed hard and her fingernails dug into the top of his back. After several more thrusts he got caught up in the moment, moaning louder the harder he went.

Lucille locked her legs around him, arching her back in a way that angled him into her deeper.

"Fuck." Negan looked down as he thrusted, splashing water everywhere before leaning in to ravage the center of each of her breasts.

She clutched the back of his hand, grabbing a handful of hair and tangling her fingers in it as he worked every sensitive part of her body. When his lips crashed back against hers he pressed into her harder, making Lucille moan as he hit all the right spots over and over again with each crash of his hips.
Negan could tell when his wife was close. Her eyes stopped flickering open and her entire body tensed around him. It was the moment when he knew she was about to orgasm that he had the most difficulty controlling himself. He loved watching her in the seconds before he put her over the edge.

He grunted, clutching her earlobe in between his teeth and landing heavy breaths along the top of her neck.

Lucille held him tight, letting whimpers turn to moans back to whimpers as she called his name a final time before Negan took her to an amazing climatic moment that made her ounce of her go weak as she pulsed against him.

Negan felt her orgasm ripple up into his mid-section and without another second's hesitation he felt himself explode into her as he grabbed the side of her face with one hand and let out a profanity-laced lament out against the other side of her face. "Fuck..." he breathed into her ear, coming off of the high.

Lucille still clung to him and smiled when he pulled back with a lazy grin. She felt her heart flutter when he leaned in for a closed-mouth kiss, leaving his lips pressed against hers for several seconds before pulling away. They stayed close for a moment, staring into one another's eyes before Negan smirked, sporting his boyish dimples beneath the salt-and-pepper facial hair. "I love fucking you," he whispered.

She smiled and slicked his hair back with one hand and whispered back. "I fucking love you."

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
You're mentally watching the film version of the story and reporting what you see. But that only informs the reader of what you see. The image you hold in your mind brought the words, but that doesn't work in reverse. The words don't place that picture in the reader's mind, because they get what the words suggest based on their background. Moreover, the reader can't hear the emotion you hear as you read, and you never make the reader know the mental state of the one hearing or speaking the lines, so they have no hint of how the actors in the film version would read their lines. They can't even guess because not knowing what a given line will say till after it's read, it's too late.

It's an easy mistake to make because when you read, all the images and emotion are there. And in fact, most hopeful writers approach their writing this way because reporting events is how they taught us to write in school, where the goal of our writing was to inform.

But fiction readers want to be entertained by being made to experience the emotion the protagonist does. They want us to place them in that tiny slice of time the protagonist calls "now." Then, they want to move forward in time, within that now, moment by moment, to give a feeling that time is passing in the story as they read.

Obviously, no one in our school years explained the tricks of doing that. They were, after all, training us to be useful to employers, not work as professional fiction writers.

So it's not a matter of talent, or good/bad writing. It's that we leave school believing that writing is writing, and that we have that part of the profession taken care of. And who's to tell us different? Everyone we know went to the same classes, even our teachers.

So while it's a problem, it's no big deal because it's something every writer faces and overcomes on the path to publication.

The solution is pretty simple: dig into the tricks the pros take for granted: the specialized knowledge, tricks-of-the-trade, and the rest of the learned part of writing fiction for the printed word. It's no harder to learn than the nonfiction skills we were given in school, though perfecting those skills is a bitch because our existing writing skills will do everything they can to steer you back into the "proper way of writing." But if you do manage it you'll have exchanged that sturdy dray horse they give us in school for Pegasus. And mounted on a flying beast, who knows how far you'll go?

The local library's fiction writing section is not only a great help, it's free. And free is good. As always, my personal recommendation is to seek the names Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, or Debra Dixon on the cover.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.


Senior Member
You're mentally watching the film version of the story and reporting what you see.

Thanks for the input. Do you think you could pick a small part of the chapter as an example? I get what you're saying to an extent, but it would definitely help if you could show me... even just a sentence or two, and how you might change it. I appreciate the help. :)

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
Thanks for the input. Do you think you could pick a small part of the chapter as an example? I get what you're saying to an extent, but it would definitely help if you could show me... even just a sentence or two, and how you might change it. I appreciate the help. :)
Okay, but take a deep breath, because this will sting, I'm afraid. Look at a few lines as an acquiring editor might.
It was the third week in July and to say the weather was hot would be an understatement. For more than a week the temperatures had touched down in the 90's and the humidity never seemed to break. Negan and Lucille, married barely more than a year, hosted a barbecue for friends and family at their house at the end of a dead-end street, generously offering their pool up so everyone could cool down in the extreme, undying temperatures.
At this point the reader has just arrived. They're hoping to be entertained. More than that, they expect you to make them feel what the protagonist is feeling. But here, you provide what's called an info-dump of backstory. But:

The story has yet to begin, and the first thing you do is talk about what happened before the story begins. Remember, you are hot talking to the reader because they can't hear you. When you read this the voice in your head holds warmth and emotion. The reader gets a monotone because they can't tell how you want them to read it. And since they don't know what the line will say until after they read it, they can't guess at how to read it.

Think about it. You meet new people all the time. No one explains their history to you before you meet them, yet you have no problems. If you need more information you ask. But for the most part we don't because we're reacting to what's going on. Our past and our desires influences what we do/say, and theirs does the same to them.

Story isn't a list of events, that's history. Story lies in the struggle to control your environment. In this case, does the reader need to know what the weather was like yesterday? No. Do they need to know how long the couple has been married? Again no. What matters is what's happening in the moment the protagonist calls now. Place the reader in that moment and keep them there, and they feel that time is passing as they read. Moreover, if you're in the character's now the future is uncertain, and therefore interesting. We learn what matters to the protagonist and what they hope to have happen, and why, so there's reason to read on. But present the story as a report and there is no "now," only a flow of facts.
"Second round of burgers... come and get 'em." Negan raised his spatula and took a swig of his beer flashing Lucille a wink before serving several of their friends.
This starts in the viewpoint of the protagonist, but you switch to overview with "several of their friends." Why do I, as a reader, care? He just told people to come and get it. Won't your reader assume that people do without your having to point that out in synopsis?
"This is a great place you got here," Mark Avery, one of Negan's assistant football coaches, said.
Here, you tell the reader that someone we haven't met, standing or sitting in an unknown place, makes a statement for no reason the reader knows. You have the film version running in your head when you read it so it works. The reader knows literally nothing about the characters or the scene. Yes, we know that the man i one of the assistant coaches, but for what team? And why does it matter what his job is at this point For all we know this comes an hour after the burgers were served.

But suppose you'd said:

Mark Avery held out his plate and he placed a burger on the bun he had waiting.

"There you go, Mark. I made this one out of one of the new students. That's one kid you won't have to coach."

Avery laughed, before he said. "Football player is nice, but runny. Have you any priest?"

"Only on Sunday Mr. Todd."

In response his wife yelled, "Football player is runny? Enough with the Sweeney Todd Jokes."

"Yes boss," he said with a smile and a phony submissive voice. With a grin he turned to Avery and waved the spatula to indicate the house and grounds, saying, "This is your first time here, isn't it? What do you think?"

"It is," Avery said, looking around and nodding. "Seems like a pretty great place. How long have you been here?"

It's not your story or characters, or great writing. It's a parallel to show what I mean. Notice a few things:

• We're seeing everything from Negan's viewpoint, as he perceives it. And the author never appears on stage to explain anything, which would kill all sense of realism.

• Without explaining it, we learn that Avery is a football coach and though I don't state it, it appears that Negan is his boss. But that can be clarified at the point where knowing the exact relationship matters.
• We learn that both are musical theater buffs and quote lines at each other, which is a bit of character development, as is his response to his wife—and her reaction to the exchange.

• Because we're in the protagonist's viewpoint I use "he" not his name. Everyone else is named to reinforce the tight POV.

• By mentioning that it's the man's first visit I establish that they're friendly, but no close friends. I also deliberately talked abut him using his last name, distancing him with formality to give a greater impression that they aren't all that close.
And, I give the man a reason to comment on the place.

Notice that every line had a purpose greater then simply reporting what was said/done as a camera would record it. It moved the plot, developed character, or set the scene. And, it was told in real-time, in the moment our protagonist calls now.

The short version: Fiction, like any other field has its own set of craft. And the majority of that craft must be learned because none of it is taught in our school days. Think of how much time your teachers spent on dialog tags, and scene structure.

It would be great if with a few hints you could start turning out prose that would make you rich. But like any other field, it's all in the becoming. And that takes time, study, practice, and a bit of mentoring.

For an overview, I'm vain enough to think my writing articles are pretty good, but there are lots of articles available online, so that's a good place to begin. This one is pretty advanced, but it's a good condensation of the technique I used above to place the reader in the protagonist's viewpoint.

Hope this helps.
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