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first 5 pages of novel... (1 Viewer)

js1268

Senior Member
I could kill someone. Most times I’m angry, and by that measure, I could. I wish there was someone I could blame; someone I could point to and say, “That person has destroyed everything,” and hunt him down and strangle him with my bare hands. I’d blame him for everything. I’d blame him for the drugs and alcohol everyone does. I’d even blame him for bad music and why people play it so loud. I’d blame him for cell phones, personal listening devices, and people who swear in public and dress like slobs. It’s a sickness, and I swear if I had this person in front of me I’d kill him.

I had to get off Main Street. The congestion was making me sick. I can’t stand people. There are too many people. There are too many cars. I took a right down Nelson Street and floored the accelerator of my full-sized Ford Bronco. The dual exhaust roared to life while I sped down the short street that intersected Main and Warren. I passed Laurelston on the right and glanced over at the empty lot on the corner. Thank God it’s gone, I thought. Damned house, I wish I’d burned it down, back then.

When I looked back at the road a car had stopped in the middle of the street. The driver was talking to someone in another car facing the opposite direction. I slammed on my brakes and came to a screeching halt. I locked the doors and held the horn until they moved. The person in the car in front of me looked like he might have soiled himself. I laughed while he gave me the middle finger in his rear view mirror. I gave it back with as much force. He pulled over, and I squeezed by him nearly sideswiping his old Toyota that had been haphazardly modified to look like a racecar- too low for the street and with an exhaust that sounded like a kazoo. His buddy in the car facing me in the opposite lane maintained a blank face while I slowly drove by.

I stopped at the corner of Nelson and Warren and watched as an old man scrubbed some unintelligible graffiti off the side of the corner store where I bought penny candy when I was a kid. He’s out there at least twice a week scrubbing or painting over gang signs and names with some green paint that doesn’t even match the green color of his store. It looks horrible, and he just makes it worse each time. I giggled at how pathetic it all seemed and tore into the pavement.

I pulled into the driveway and shut my truck off. I took a deep breath and sat in silence staring at the house I’d bought so close to where everything had happened, nearly twenty-five years ago. My head was pounding.

Leanne had arrived home only moments earlier and appeared on the front porch with a smile. She waved me in. I smiled back at her and thought about whether I’d made the right decisions about things. Over the past few years I’d come to think that maybe the life I’d shaped for myself was motivated by something else, altogether. Was it an affliction that compelled me to be so close to where everything had happened? Did I need closure, and because I never got it, was afraid to get away as most others my age had done who were born in Brockton? Was it an insecurity, I often wondered, that I felt the need to stay put. No! The house had come to me through an old friend who’d moved away. He knew the previous owner- an elderly lady who fancied the Cape and was simply looking for a quick sale. Leanne and I saw it as an opportunity to move out of our parents’ house, so we took advantage and purchased the house on a handshake. Was it fate? Our purchase of the single-family two-story house nearly eight years ago made sure of it. It was over a hundred years old and was in desperate need of repair. Selling it to get away was not a foregone conclusion; it needed new paint inside and out; the roof needed replacing; the bathroom and kitchen hadn’t been remodeled in over fifty years and the hardwood floors were dull and worn. I felt guilty, at times, thinking that I might have deprived myself of opportunities and disappointed Leanne. I smiled back at her, though, glad that through all my craziness she’d stuck by me even though promises to restore the home to its original luster fell short. I had her confidence, always reminding me that she was happy where we lived, that the house had charm and it would prove to be an investment over time when it was all fixed up. Leanne had faith.

“Hey, you coming in or what?” she asked, her voice muffled.

I pretended as though I couldn’t hear her and rolled down my window. I wanted her closer.

“What!” I yelled.

“Are you coming in?” she asked cheerfully.

“Give me a minute. I got a bit of a headache.”

She stood at the top of the stairs on the porch with her hands on her hips and waited anxiously with a smile that most men probably dreamed their wives would give them at the end of their day. We weren’t married, yet. We’d often argue over the issue, I always contending that a piece of paper didn’t mean anything and what mattered was that we loved each other.

I got out of my truck and strolled toward the joyful countenance of my girlfriend, Leanne Stalwitt. “What are you so happy about?”

“Nothing,” she replied gleefully.

Leanne’s smile didn’t let up. She was always this way. “You want to go out tonight, or something?” she cheerfully asked.

“I don’t know. I told you I have a headache.”

“Come on, it’ll be good for you.”

I sat on the porch stairs and Leanne sat down next to me. I knew she was staring, and smiling. She beckoned my attention with curious twists and turns of her head as she’d always done to cheer me up. I stared off.

“What’s up?” Leanne asked, anticipating the melancholy diatribe that my mother always said I was famous for. “You want some aspirin?”

“I’m fine. I took some earlier... I was gonna call Adam later on and see if he wanted to maybe get together and work on some music.”

My beautiful girlfriend was all too familiar with my investments -she liked to call them- in music, or anything else for that matter. She’d been there through the band phase when all I wanted to do was play stand-up bass for a progressive rock-rap band. I wouldn’t work a full-time job, and I didn’t care about anything else, but playing. I was always angry, too. Leanne couldn’t understand why I expected everyone else in the band to take it as seriously as I did. I was determined, and when things fell flat- when Adam left the band to spend more time with his girlfriend- I fell apart. I started drinking, and fell into another month long depression that demanded her attention and pity. It was all or nothing with me, she’d say.

It was beginning to wear on her, though. I was on thin ice as it was for having lost another job in less than six months, and she wouldn’t be putting up with another dive-into-myself melodrama. We had a house to pay for, now, and she depended on me to stick with the job I just got at a local juvenile detention center a few months ago. But I could tell she was having doubts.

She’d never let me push her away, even though she always knew I needed a focus. But after six years, she was getting tired. If it wasn't the music thing, it was something else- like collecting silly action figures of super heroes I remembered my friends having when I was a kid. Or, when about a year ago all I wanted to do was dress like the men in Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine. I’d spent every paycheck I got on clothes and rationalized it by claiming that I had to dress-for-success to get a good job. Even worse, I’d recently gone through a phase where I became obsessed with trying to figure out the mystery behind a childhood friend who’d been murdered in 1981 only weeks after we had moved from one of our brief stays in a local neighborhood. His body was found in the woods where we’d often take our bikes to build forts. He was face down in the thicket with his pants to his ankles. He’d been severely beaten and sodomized. According to newspaper reports he’d been with a friend, but when the police arrived at the friend’s home to investigate, the boy’s mother wouldn’t let the local detectives into the apartment. It had been reported that the child was under the kitchen table crying not to let the clowns take him away. Rumors circulated that a blue van was seen in the neighborhood just days before the abduction driven by someone who appeared to be dressed like a clown. Further newspaper reports revealed, however, that the investigation had been stymied by the fact that the boy’s friend and his family had moved away just days after the incident, never to be heard from again. I’d been consumed with trying to figure out who that friend was that had been with my friend that day.
 
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js1268

Senior Member
i did, but it didn't paste properly...was all over the place....will try again when i get home later
 

js1268

Senior Member
okay, fixed it the best way i could... thoughts from anyone would be greatly appreciated
 

KRHolbrook

Senior Member
I could kill someone. Most times I’m angry, and by that measure, I could. I wish there was someone I could blame; someone I could point to and say, “That person has destroyed everything,” and hunt him down and strangle him with my bare hands. I’d blame him for everything. I’d blame him for the drugs and alcohol everyone does. I’d even blame him for bad music and why people play it so loud. I’d blame him for cell phones, personal listening devices, and people who swear in public and dress like slobs. It’s a sickness, and I swear if I had this person in front of me I’d kill him.

Unfortunately I stopped during this paragraph. As far as I can tell, it's a rant from a character that I don't have any knowledge about nor have any care for. An emo letter. The bold words are repetitive; far too repetitive. They could, they could, they could. They'd blame, they'd blame, they'd blame. All I'm seeing is the person is doing nothing. As a reader, I wouldn't pick something up to read about a person's rant. I'd write my own instead.

Sorry!
 

js1268

Senior Member
Unfortunately I stopped during this paragraph. As far as I can tell, it's a rant from a character that I don't have any knowledge about nor have any care for. An emo letter. The bold words are repetitive; far too repetitive. They could, they could, they could. They'd blame, they'd blame, they'd blame. All I'm seeing is the person is doing nothing. As a reader, I wouldn't pick something up to read about a person's rant. I'd write my own instead.

Sorry!

don't apologize, you're assessment is correct... it is indeed a rant... the protagonist is in essence histrionic... hence, the repetition

if it doesn't pique your interest, that's perfectly fine

...btw, it's not an autobiography...so it's not my rant.... but good luck when the mood strikes you to write yours, though... will it be fictitious?
 

KRHolbrook

Senior Member
Oh, I figured it wasn't an autobiography; I figured it wasn't your rant. That's why I tried to establish I was taking about your character, because I knew what I said could lean a little on the personal side. I didn't want that. When I spoke of writing my own rant I was saying instead of reading a character's, I could make and read my own. :p
 

js1268

Senior Member
Oh, I figured it wasn't an autobiography; I figured it wasn't your rant. That's why I tried to establish I was taking about your character, because I knew what I said could lean a little on the personal side. I didn't want that. When I spoke of writing my own rant I was saying instead of reading a character's, I could make and read my own. :p

... taking what you said personally would be ridiculous considering it's only 5 pages of 386

in my experience, characters that frustrate and irritate pique my interest as much as those i might find an affinity for ....denying the former in favor of the latter would be shallow and simplistic
 

WechtleinUns

Senior Member
js1268, I am impressed with the intensity of your writing. The narrator and main character speaks as though he's constantly on edge. He's honest, and not afraid to lash out, and seems aware of this. He is introspective and ambitious, but there's so much drive and torque coming out from his engine that the wheels can't grip the road. He's burning out.

In much the same way, I think that the story would do well to balance this intensity with another character. Have you considered giving more prominence to Leanne? She appears to be a stabilizing force in the main character's life. In the same way, writing a few chapters from her perspective will allow the reader a chance to catch their breath before the furious rush again.

Overall, your fiction shows a lack of polish, which degrades the quality a bit. However, this is to be expected in what I can only assume is a first draft. Small things, such as better paragraph organization, can make a world of difference in improving the reader's perception of quality.

There are also places where the intensity becomes too strong. At these points in the story, the writing turns into a caricature of itself, and suddenly loses its emotional grip. A prime example is when the narrator becomes obsessed with finding the murderer of a childhood friend. The precise moment when things turn from agonizingly intense to somewhat ridiculous is here, "keep the clowns away."

Small things like that just push the piece over the edge, and severely damage the credibility of the story. Using pop-culture references like "monkey in the middle" are not helpful either. When used well, such references can be very powerful, but in these cases they just appear inserted for the sake of witticism, and detract from the overall quality of the story.

I think that, holistically, this work of fiction would benefit immensely from dialing back the intensity just a touch. As it stands, the narrator is all go-go crazy-man. There, of course, is nothing wrong with that, but care must be taken to insure the intensity of the main character is balanced by a calmness elsewhere in the story. Without such a foil, the reader becomes numb and agitated, and is likely to put down the book.

Finally, I would like to comment on the first few opening paragraphs. It seems to me that the story really comes into its own at the moment that the main character smiles at Leaane. Before that point, the main character comes across as just another angry anarchist. But when he smiles at Leaane, he begins to take on qualities more suitable to a 3-dimensional character.

My concern is that this point occurs several paragraphs into the story. Many readers will read the first few paragraphs, and assume that the main character is simply another 2-dimensional douche. There is nothing wrong with the opening paragraphs, except for the lack of polish and small things that I mentioned earlier, and if you wish to use such an opening, you most certainly can. But you should be aware of the danger in doing so. If you plan to publish this book, most editors will suggest that you re-work the opening into something more mass-market friendly.

Whether you follow the advice of professional editing/publishing houses is up to you. Many might not want to take the work if you refuse to change the beginning. Of course, if you feel that you can change the opening and not destroy the overall integrity of the work, then there is little reason not to. In either case, you should be aware of this.

I do not know how far you are along in the novel, but I will say this: As it stands, your work is not print-ready. It is very good for a first draft, but only if you have finished the entire first draft already. If you do not have a complete first draft yet, then posting this onto a writing forum is not a good idea. If this is your final draft, then I would suggest holding off on submission for a bit. The small errors in this short post speak to issues down the road, and it might benefit you to work on improving your craft that much more.

Tenacity, as always, is key. I hope this helps, and I hope you continue to work on your writing js1268. Sincerely,

WechtleinUns.
 

js1268

Senior Member
great critique!... thank you

and yes, it is only a first draft of 386 pages... i agree with most everything you say...and i say 'most' only because there are 381 pages to be read

fwiw, the 'keep the clowns away' is actually a true story
 

BryanJ62

Senior Member
I liked it. It does need some editing, some polishing but hey, what doesn't. I was hooked. Now I want to know more.
 

qwertyman

WF Veterans
I read this to the end and the further I got the better it became. There are many good points, epecially after the introduction of Leanne; by the way...

Leanne had arrived home only moments earlier and appeared on the front porch with a smile.
Be careful, when writing in first person, that you don't describe actions at which you weren't present.

#


I struggled with clarity, especially in the first paragraph.


I could kill someone.
Sorry, but this sounds like ‘Ive been told you must start with a gripping first sentence, consider omitting.

Most times I’m angry, and by that measure
, I stumbled on this I expect it’s correct, but it doesn’t come easily to me that angry is a measure.

I could. I wish there was someone I could blame; someone I could point to and say, “That person has destroyed everything,” and hunt him down and strangle him with my bare hands
Bare hand strangling is a bit of a cliché, consider strangling him with something else. You're going to repeat the killing at the end of the paragraph anyway, so consider replacing the killing at the end with the strangling, (or bludgeoning 'the somone' with something that is annoying you?)

I’d blame him for everything. I’d blame him for the drugs and alcohol everyone does.
Confusing, everyone does drugs, or everyone blames him?

I’d even blame him for bad music and why people play it so loud. I’d blame him for cell phones, personal listening devices, and people who swear in public and dress like slobs.
I’m fine with the repetition of blame.

It’s a sickness, and I swear if I had this person in front of me I’d kill him.
This is the backbone of the para and the ‘person’ is also called 'someone' and 'him'. It’s unclear, on first reading, if the person exists or represents a blend of all that the narrator hates. Consider calling him, 'The someone' (or Joe Doe?), all the way through.

#

Hope this helps, and anyway it's only one opinion.
 

claritystory

Senior Member
These pages sparked interest and left me wanting more. Leaving a reader wanting more and anticipating what may happen is critical. You have accomplished that.
 

Gargh

WF Veterans
The tense in the first paragraph is inconsistent with the rest. I also had to read it a couple of times to be sure what the character was saying. With that, and the comments from everyone else, if I were you I'd be inclined to axe that paragraph altogether and drop right in to the action, it won't harm the narrative and you can always put it in somewhere later if you feel strongly about it. I also agree that some of the intensity of the character should be pulled back to start with. Otherwise, an intriguing start.
 

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