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First Few Chapters of My Story! (1 Viewer)

engl.9905

Member
Hello! I'm posting this as part of my Honors English assignment requirement. I have to put my writing out where someone can read it and possibly give me feedback. Here is the first few chapters of the story. Note:This story is set in the 50's-60's time period
Chapter 1 The Interview
“This looks horrible doesn’t it?” Mary questions, turning to her friend Daisy. In the mirror, her reflection stared back at her. An emerald green suit dress sat on her body, black heels gracing the floor. Mary was quite a pretty girl with skin tanned by the sun, legs as long as the redwoods, and silky chestnut hair.
“No you are just being hard on yourself. It’s only an interview, what's got you so worked up?” Daisy responds. Mary looks back with an incredulous look on her face.
“Just an interview!?” She sputters, “This is an amazing opportunity to work at the prestigious Wentley Asylum. Just an interview, hmph” In the background, Daisy just rolls her eyes. She couldn’t understand why Mary just doesn’t settle down and start a family, a common argument between the two friends. Daisy was the exact opposite of Mary in every way. Daisy thought that the best thing in life was to find a rich husband and become the perfect trophy wife while Mary thought that was simply ridiculous. She respected her friends' values but she could never picture herself sitting at home all day, waiting for her husband to come home. No, Mary preferred to be on a new adventure every day.
“You know all this could be solved if you simply find a nice man to take care of you,” she states, leaning back against the blue textured couch. Mary’s face twisted up like she ate something sour.
“Daisy,” Mary responds pointedly, “don’t start that again, you know I don’t want to depend on someone else to live a good life.”
“Yeah yeah whatever. What are you applying for again?”
“A psychiatrist.”
Daisy rolls her eyes yet again. Mary wonders to herself if they’ll ever get stuck back there. “I will never understand why you would willingly put yourself around those crazy people. They’re locked up for a reason.”
“Daisy! They are not crazy, they can’t control what’s going on inside their own mind. My goodness women, have some respect for others.”
“I am simply stating facts Mary. You need to face reality, this is a dangerous job for a petite lady like you.
“I think it’s time for you to leave. I have been looking forward to this job and I am not gonna let you ruin it for me.” Mary stares harshly at her, daring her to reply. Daisy simply sighs exasperatedly and stands up to leave.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she looks back one more time before shaking her head and walking out the door. Mary simply huffs and finishes up getting ready. ‘How dare she insinuate I’m too weak for this job’, she thinks. ‘I am perfectly capable of handling myself, thank you very much.’ With that, she finishes up with her mascara, grabs her purse and heads out the door.
In her line of sight is her 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible, firetruck red. Opening her door, she hops in and gets ready for the hour long drive to Westley Asylum. As the car rolls down the road, she admires the scenery rushing past her. Tall ancestral trees whiz by and the blinding golden sun stands tall in the sky. This nice of a day must be a good omen for her interview, it’s simply too perfect of a day for it to go any other way but perfect. Sealing that into her mind, she feels much more confident for what’s to come.
Turning on to a deserted windy road, she finds herself heading towards a tall gloomy, grey building in the distance, a stark contrast to the bright colors of nature surrounding it. Tall spiky gates greet her, a man in a booth to her left. The man had a very peculiar face, nose sticking out like a gnarled tree root.
“Business for being here?” The man asks.
“Interview with Mr. Callum.” The man nods and a beeping noise is heard. The gate swings open revealing the asylum in all its glory. Tall, cement walls tower into the sky, looking down on those who enter. Windows line up and down the walls, if you look closely you can see patients staring out, clouds dancing in their glossed over eyes. The building is set up in a way that the middle looks almost like a clock tower, height wise, while the left and right of this tower are much shorter. As Mary pulls into the long driveway, fields of green surround her, a small garden to her left. Following the road, she is led to a barren parking lot just to the side of the building. Parking, she checks her watch.
“12:54!” She exclaims to herself, “My oh my I need to hurry up and get inside.” With that in mind, Mary hops out of the car and starts walking, borderline running, to the front door.
“Good afternoon,” A short, plump, mushroom like woman greets her from the front desk, name tag presenting BETH, “how can I help you?”
“Hello,” Mary greets back, “I have a 1 o’clock appointment with Mr. Callum.” Beth looks down at a notebook filled with dates and times before looking back at Mary with a smile. Mary stifles a gasp as the smile she is presented with is nastily disfigured. Yellow, rotting teeth stare at her, parts of her mouth filled with the hollowness of where pearly whites should have been.
“Ah yes, welcome Ms. Jones, right on time. If you follow me I’ll take you to his office.” Following Beth, Mary had to almost jog to keep up with her. For a short woman she was moving at a swift pace. After turning down many hallways, Beth stops with the suddenness of a deer caught in the headlights, Mary nearly slamming into her.
“Well here we are! Just knock when you’re ready to go in and he should be waiting for you. Good luck.” With that, the woman known as Beth turned on her heels and briskly walked back the way she came. ‘She is so darn fast’ Mary idly thought to herself. Shaking her head, she formed a loose fist and lightly knocked on the door. A faint ‘come in’ was heard and Mary twisted the intricate, gold, door knob. Walking into the office, she could see bookshelves lined with informational books and different plaques commemorating the many accomplishments of Mr. Callum. Giddy with excitement for she had looked up to this man since studying psychology in university, she walks to his desk and takes a seat. A middle aged man stares at her, wrinkles littering his once youthful face and dirty blonde hair fading into snow.
“Welcome, you must be Ms. Jones, correct?” The man asks. Mary simply nods her head. “We are so glad to have you here, I am Robert Callum but I am assuming you already knew that.”
With a nod of her head she replies, “Yes. If I may, you look much different from the photos I’ve seen of you.” The man, seemingly Mr. Callum, lets out a hearty, slightly manic, laugh.
“Yes I get that quite a lot. The pictures in the newspapers just don’t quite do me justice do they. Now, you wish to obtain the psychiatrist position?” The topic change was sudden and sharp but Mary paid it no mind.
“Yes sir, that is correct.”
“Wonderful! First question, what’s your social life like? Close with friends and family?” Seeing the look on her face from such an odd question, he quickly added, “I only ask that because in this sort of position, you can be called in at a moment's notice. Not the sort of job for someone who likes to go out and about often as we need you fairly close by.”
Mary was slightly creeped out by the nature of the question but not too bothered. This was only her fourth interview she’s ever had, for all she knew this was a normal question. “No sir, my family live a few states away and I only have a few friends, one that I’m particularly close with.”
“Excellent, excellent,” The man mumbles to himself. “It looks here like you have all the qualifications needed so let’s not talk about the boring academic stuff. Who are you as a person, now that’s the real question I want to get into. Can’t have just anyone working here, have to have a special mindset to deal with the feeble minded.” (I would like to add I don’t agree with this term as it is very outdated, I’m just using it as this what people with intellectual disabilities were called in the 50’s-60’s.)
“Totally, I get it. I’d like to think I’m fit for this type of position, but wouldn’t anyone say that?” She responds with a slight laugh.
“Indeed I’m sure they would.” The interview continues like this, questions thrown and answers given until one question stands out in particular to Mary.
“What is the worst thing you have ever done?”
Mary had to do a double take. “Excuse me? I don’t see how that question is relevant to this position.”
“Of course, sorry. That was inappropriate of me.” And with that, the topic was dropped. More questions were asked and Mary forgot all about the odd inquiry in her excitement to get the job.
“Well, I feel confident in saying that you would be perfect here. How would you like to start next Monday?” Mr. Callums questions. With a blinding smile, Mary replies,
“That would be perfect sir! I’ll see you then.”
“Good good. Don’t be late, you start at 9 o’clock sharp.” With one last handshake, Mary departs the office with a pep in her step.






Chapter 2First Day
Driving down the now familiar road, Mary was filled with excitement for her first day. She honestly wasn’t very hopeful that she’d even get the job considering how little experience she had. She was fresh out of university, a newborn to the psychology world, and all previous workplaces had turned her away until she could gain more familiarity within the field. But Mary wasn’t one to question her blessings. She was just grateful she had gotten the job, no matter the peculiarity of it. With her white button up uniform on, Mary parked her car, grabbed a box of her things, and headed to the main entrance.
“Hello Beth,” she cheerily greeted her front desk co-worker, “Do you think you can show me to my office? It gets quite dizzying walking through these halls.”
“Of course, follow me” Leading Mary through the halls, they entered a large room filled with patients. It seemed to be a rec room of sorts. “Sorry but to get through your office we have to go through here.”
“Oh that’s fine, I’m gonna be around them quite often anyway.” Walking through the room, Mary noticed that a lot of the patients seemed to have a glazed over look in their eyes. Suddenly, a hand reached out and grabbed her wrist.
“Help me please, they’re holding me here and won’t let me out. They’re crazy!” Beth just laughs off this exclamation.
“Ah silly James, always has a new conspiracy each day. Don’t mind him or his ‘followers’ they’re simply in a group delusion. Hopefully with you here you can help them realize we’re only here to help.”
With a nod of her head Mary states, “Yes, I hope I can help them. It must be terrifying to believe the ones that are supposed to be helping you are out to get you.” The conversation ended at that and Mary was led out of the rec room. Now turning down a few more hallways, they came across her office.
“Well here we are, it’s pretty bare so feel free to make it your own.” Turning around sharply on her heels, Beth goes back the way they came leaving Mary in her new office. The walls were a stark white, the floor made up of chocolate brown tiles. To the left is a ceiling high bookshelf while to her right is an empty wall. Directly in front of her a desk lay bare, a chair on each side. One for her and one for the patients. Behind the desk, a large window overlooks the front garden. ‘A beautiful view’ Mary thinks to herself, ‘should be very calming for the patients.’ Walking to the desk, Mary grabbed a simple black lamp out of her box and set it down in the corner. Next she walked to the plain wall and hung up her diploma, next to it a picture of her and Daisy. Grabbing a few books out of the box, she set them neatly on the bookshelf and made her way back to the chair.
“Well I think that's ok for now,” Mary idly thought out loud, “Now to Mr. Callum’s office.” Getting lost a few times, Mary finally found his office and lightly knocked.
“Mr. Callum? It’s Mary Jones. I was just wondering what you would like me to do today?”
“Yes yes come in,” a voice replies. Walking into the office, Mary takes a seat in the same spot she sat just a few days ago.
“Well first order of business, I’d like for you to get to know the patients, so how about you start with a brief session with each of them? The ones you are unable to meet you can chat with tomorrow.”
“That sounds great sir, I’d love to get to know and understand them.”
“Perfect I’ll have one of the staff, Nancy, send them into your office so head on back.” Turning on her heels, Mary heads back to her office and readies for her first patient.
***
A light knock sounds on the door, signaling her first patient for the day has arrived.
“Come in,” Mary replies. The door opens revealing a young woman with fiery red hair and a man with wrinkles surrounding his face.
“Hello, I’m Nancy and this is James,” the woman with red hair states. The name James struck a chord in her head. ‘James,’ she thinks, ‘he was the one claiming to be held captive here.’
“Ah yes come on in. This will be a quick introductory session so only about 15 minutes. Can you come back with another patient then?” Nancy nods her head, looks at the clock, and heads out the door.
“Hello James, we met earlier do you remember?” He lets out a small timid nod, no noise coming out of his mouth. “Well I’m Mary and I’ll be helping you from here on out. Do you wanna tell me about yourself?” James just stares back at her, still not talking. “How about this. Why don’t you tell me about the accusation you made earlier?” His eyes widened and his head snapped back and forth like he was looking for someone.
“Are you sure they’re not listening?”
“Is who listening?”
“The patients.”
“James, you are a patient. Is there another patient causing you trouble?”
“No you idiot woman. The real patients.” He puts an emphasis on the word real.
“Now there’s no need for name calling. Why don’t you just tell me what you mean. I can assure you that no one is listening. It’s just me, you, and this little notebook,” Mary waves a notebook around, “is that ok?” He simply shrugs. “So how about we start with what you mean by ‘the real patients’.”
“I used to work here. I should still be working here!” He exclaims, “they’re crazy you need to get out! Get out and help us!” His voice was slowly getting louder, loud enough that others outside the office could hear. “Please help me, help us. We’re trapped in this hell!”
The door suddenly opens and Nancy walks in with a doctor by her side, a syringe in his side. “Back away Mary, when he gets like this he needs to be sedated.”
“NO, no don’t let them. You have to lis-,” His sentence ended abruptly as the doctor had stuck the sedative in his neck. He slumps over into the doctor's arms, dragged out the door like a ragdoll.
“So sorry about that,” Nancy states, “He can get quite worked up over his delusions.”
“I don’t think that was quite necessary, I didn’t see him being a danger to himself or I.”
“Sweetie,” she said like she was talking to a child, “you’re new here. I know all these patients and I know how they can get. Trust me when I say he needed to be sedated before it got too far.” She let out a sickly sweet smile and walked out of the office. As she was walking she turned around and said, “I’ll bring in the next patient, try not to work him up either, ok?” With that she was off. Mary waved a not so friendly finger at her retreating back.
“How dare she!” Mary exclaims to herself, “to insinuate I worked him up. I was just asking questions.” A new patient walked in, leaving Mary to store away her thoughts for now. But she planned on figuring out what was going on here, things were starting to get weird.





Chapter 3Investigating
Over the next week, Mary started snooping and putting clues together. She thought of the way Mr. Callum looked much different from his photo, how when Beth smiled it never seemed quite right, the claims James made, and how quick Nancy was to sedate James when he was explaining his ‘delusions’. With all these in mind, Mary still wanted more proof, she couldn’t just accuse the staff of what she was thinking. No, she needed more evidence. On a Friday evening as her shift ended, she decided to go searching for the records room to find case files. Getting lost a few times, she finally found a set of double doors in the basement with the word RECORDS over the top.
“Well, this must be it,” Mary quietly muttered. Pushing open the doors she was greeted with a dark abyss. Fumbling for the light switch, the room suddenly brightened, allowing her to see the dusty room. Shelves upon shelves were filled with different files, sorted by year of admittance. Coughing at the dust swirling in the air, Mary started her journey of going through case files.
***
A few hours later, Mary had only made it through the years 1890-1900. She hadn’t realized just how long the asylum had been opened for. Deciding to continue this Monday when she returned to work, Mary put everything back in its place and drove home. Over the weekend she met up with Daisy who apologized for her behaviour and congratulated her on getting the job.
“I’m very happy you got the job but please, for my own sanity, stay safe ok?” Mary’s face scrunched up and went to reply but Daisy was quick to add on to what she was saying. “Now I know you’re gonna say you can handle yourself and all that, and while I believe you can I still just want you to be careful. Never know what’s going on in the minds of people like that.” With a sigh of resignation, Mary nodded her head.
“Yeah yeah ok. And I do think something weird is going on there.”
“What do you mean?”
“A patient made a claim that he used to be the staff along with a few others but was uprooted by the patients who took control. Now this may sound crazy but I almost believe him.” Daisy started clutching her stomach in laughter but one look at her friend's face had her sobering up quickly.
“You’re serious about this?” Mary nods her head swiftly, “What could possibly make you believe such an absurd thing. Wouldn’t someone notice the staff going missing?” Mary frowned with realization.
“I hadn’t thought of that, you’re right this is crazy.”
“Are you sure this is healthy for you to work in an environment like that?”
“Yes of course I’ll be fine. It’s just some things were a bit weird and fit the storyline of what the patient was accusing. But I’m sure there’s a much more reasonable explanation for those things.” The topic was dropped at that and the two friends continued on talking about miscellaneous things. As the day drew to a close, Mary said her goodbyes to Daisy and got ready for bed. Pulling on a blue, silky, nightgown, she hopped under her floral covers and quickly fell asleep.


 

gary wedlund

Senior Member
“This looks horrible doesn’t it?” Mary questions, turning to her friend Daisy. In the mirror, her reflection stared back at her. An emerald green suit dress sat on her body, black heels gracing the floor. Mary was quite a pretty girl with skin tanned by the sun, legs as long as the redwoods, and silky chestnut hair.
“No you are just being hard on yourself. It’s only an interview, what's got you so worked up?” Daisy responds. Mary looks back with an incredulous look on her face.
“Just an interview!?” She sputters, “This is an amazing opportunity to work at the prestigious Wentley Asylum. Just an interview, hmph” In the background, Daisy just rolls her eyes. She couldn’t understand why Mary just doesn’t settle down and start a family, a common argument between the two friends.
Let me take the opening bit of this and work on some editing that might help you reimagine the craft and assist in your own edits. Let's start off with viewpoint. This is third person and a lot of time is spent in head space, so the approach to viewpoint needs to be considered, right out of the house. Who is your viewpoint? Now, in 3rd person we are taught that there is an external narrator, but in most modern literature that is suppressed in favor of a limited 3rd person viewpoint, depending upon intend, design and need. Here, the need appears to be limited 3rd because of the nature of the material and the non-considered voice of any external one.

Thus, in limited 3rd you'd pick some actor and make that the only person who can directly think, see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Here was have Mary looking at herself in a mirror, but then Daisy seems to be thinking and observing Mary looking back, so we have two limited 3rd actors in the same space, a violation of that viewpoint approach. The true value of honing in on this isn't to limit confusion (though that would help), but to provide us with voice, bias, stakes and space. My suggestion is to figure out the window into this work, and stick that that actor as the limited viewpoint actor. If you choose to write this multiple limited, then you can shift to some other viewpoint actor in some other moment of need, such as a chapter break.

The second concept is to break the paragraphing down into actor spaces. Give Mary her paragraph then give Daisy her paragraph spaces. You use uncredited dialogue, but how do we know who is speaking if paragraphing is inconsistent? We also have sentences with pronouns, but who is the pronoun, if paragraph integrity is constantly compromised? So, same actor/same paragraph, new actor/new paragraph. Let me illustrate:

“This looks horrible doesn’t it?” Mary turns to her friend, Daisy, then back to her mirror. An emerald dress suit drapes her body, black heels meet the floor. Mary knows she isn't an ugly girl, with skin tanned by the sun, legs as long as the redwoods, and silky chestnut hair, but she needs to impress.​
“No you are just being hard on yourself. It’s only an interview, what's got you so worked up?”​
Mary doesn't attempting to mask the incredulous look on her face. “Just an interview?” she sputters. “This is an amazing opportunity to work at the prestigious Wentley Asylum. Just an interview, hmph”​
In the mirror, Daisy rolls her eyes. Of course Daisy wouldn’t understand why she just didn't settle down and start a family, a common argument between the two friends.​

Now, in the edit, above, I'm doing some critical things. One, only Mary is thinking and seeing (Mary knows she is {a filter, but necessary this early}, and In the mirror, Mary doesn't attempt to mask...). Daisy rolls her eyes, but Daisy has to see it or we can't. Less LOOKING, and going more directly to the dialogue. The dialogue can flow more naturally because each actor has her own paragraph integrity. Pace picks up. The need for dialogue tags drops. Meat remains. Fodder is removed. Attitude is injected, and by paragraph 4 we have established the viewpoint so emphatically that we can go to direct thought without any crediting at all, knowing that the direct thought that ends the 4th paragraph belongs to Mary.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Good points above by Gary.

But ALSO, the narrative constantly shifts between past and present tense. BIG NO NO. My recommendation is to stay in past tense. Selling a present tense piece takes a good bit of skill, and you're not at that level yet.

Lots of missing commas, so review your punctuation rules. In addition, in a few places you have a comma where you need a period and a new sentence.

Read over your sentences aloud. Awkward sentences abound, and that will help you recognize them and, hopefully, fix them.

The flow of the action is jumpy. For example, you have a character "deciding" to do something, then the result of the doing. Instead, have her "start" doing it. Then having a result of the action makes sense.

I'm not ready to comment on the story yet, because these other problems knock the reader right out of the story itself. So work on maintaining a consistent tense, getting punctuation right, and fixing the awkward sentences. Then give it another try here. :)
 
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