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Friarswood; (1 Viewer)

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Senior Member
This is the opening from chapter one in the novel I am working on. It's aimed at children or pre-teens. I welcome all comments. Thank you in advance.

Chapter one

The little green car came to a sudden stop. The driver, an over weight businessman called Ted Stoats, had finally lost his patience.

‘I’m lost! Lost in this no man’s land’ he growled pounding the steering wheel with his chubby fists. He glared through the windscreen searching for a sign or a landmark, or something to ascertain where he now found himself but there was nothing, high hedgerows blocked his view on both sides of the lane and he saw no signs.

“Damn I’m going to be late for the most important conference of my career and here I am stuck in this rancid dung heap” he fumed. Ted hated the countryside, he saw no need for it. There was nothing here to interest him, no shops, restaurants, theatres or entertainment of any kind, nothing but wide open spaces and foul smelling beasts. Why anyone in their right mind would want to spend any time in this nothingness was beyond him. The sooner he got back to civilization, the better.

Ted reached over to the passengers seat and grabbed up the road map and began studying it. A sudden noise startled him and he looked up with alarm, fearing it might be one of those foul smelling beasts about to stampede,he clutched the map tightly for protection and bracing himself for the impact, he waited but nothing happened. Slowly he peered over the map and surveyed the lane, the hedge-rows and even the sky but saw nothing. Nothing had changed, everything was the same nothing had moved but no, a sign had miraculously appeared where there hadn't been one before. It was as if the hedgerow had pushed the sign out just for Ted, apparently anxious for him to be on his way.

Dropping the map Ted peered through the glass trying to read the sign. The letters were very faded, so he moved closer. Was that a T or a F? The sign was very weather worn, difficult to read so Ted moved closer still until his piggy nose was squashed hard up against the windscreen but it made no difference, he still couldn’t make the letters out. Feeling his temper bubble Ted removed his nose from the glass, rubbing it vigorously until it returned to its original shape. This sign would not beat him he was sure of that. He would have to get closer. Ted rose from his seat and began to ease his huge bulk out the side window, until half of him hung over the open window like a limp biscuit newly dipped in hot tea. This caused the little car to tilt dangerously over to one side but Ted paid no heed to this danger his anger had overtaken his reason. He would have to resort to more drastic measures.

'I’m going to have to get out!' he fumed. Reversing himself he wriggled, snake-like back onto his seat. The little car gave out a creak of relieve as it levelled out again. Seizing the door release Ted pushed opened the car door, easing one leg out at a time, he prised himself off his seat and out of the car.

Ted stood steadying himself, his eyes darting in every direction, alert for danger. He didn't like being vulnerable like this, in the open, where anything might happen but he must find his bearings and get back to the motorway. With great trepidation he waddled (with as much speed that his bulk allowed) over to the sign.

The sign read:
Population 912

Ted gave out a grunt of disapproval. He stood staring at the sign uncertainly, scratching his head and wondering what to do next. Then remember where he was. Out in the open. Where dangerous animals might spring out at him, he turned tail and ran back to his car, dropped hard onto the seat and grabbing onto the door handle encaged himself back into his car. Safe.

Grabbing for the map once again and opening it out flat on the steering wheel he found Friarswood on the map and began retracing his way back to the motorway. Tossing the map behind him Ted started up the car.

The little car churned, rattling and coughing, black smoke escaping its exhaust. The gears rasped and grated as Ted forced it into gear. The little car sharply turned and sped off in the opposite direction.

Ted grimacing at the sight of an on-coming car. How he hated these country lanes, so narrow that you had to stop and allow other cars to pass by. He had no time for this, he was already late. There’s plenty space for both cars, he decided. I need only slow down enough to squeeze by and won‘t have to stop. But as he came alongside the other car, it stopped and a fair headed man poked out his head and asked politely, ‘Could you tell me, is this the way to Friarswood village?’

Ted glared at the stranger and said, ‘You’ve welcome to it’ and without another word, sped off past the Phillip’ car and out of sight.

‘Well! that was friendly’ said Peter Phillips with a raise eyebrow.

‘The look of a desperate man’ said Marianne Phillips with a small smile. ‘I recognise the signs. Late for a big meeting no doubt. I’m so glad we’re out of that particular rat race. I won’t miss it. The constant stresses; the rushing, the endless traffic, the noise, the dirt, and the crowds. No! I won’t miss it’ said Marianne.

‘The countryside will be good for us; it will be tranquil, slower paced, people are friendlier in the country, said Peter.

‘Blissful! No more rushed meetings, panicks about orders or lost invoices, disgruntled staff or gripes from Head Office. It will be wonderful’ Marianne said with a dreamy smile.

‘We’re tortoises now’ said Peter. ‘Slow. Methodical. Peaceful creatures. Living long happy lives. No more the harassed hares for us. That is our past’

‘Okay I get it. The tortoise and the hare story but why can’t we be tortoises in the city? exclaimed Layla Phillips.

‘Friarswood is going to be our home’ said her parents in unison then they turned smiled at one another.

Peter continued, ‘Its going to be a big adventure. A new start. Aren’t you excited?’
‘No!I want to go home!, demanded Layla, pulling her most disapproving face and throwing herself back in her seat and kicking-out like a mule with as much force she could muster targeting her mothers seat in front.

‘Layla! That’s enough! Said Marianne turning round sharply and giving her daughter warning look.

‘She acting out is all. Testing her limitations and ours? It’s normal said Peter with his usual calming voice.

‘ Normal? Layla will never be normal. Not as long as she continues living in her day-dreams. She should be out in the real world, making friends, mixing with children her own age, even seeing a boys or two’ said Marianne.
Really! She’s not yet thirteen and you’re pushing her into dating’ said Peter with questionable smirk.
‘I’m not! said Marianne with exasperation. I just want our only daughter to make something of herself. She has great potential I can feel it. She could be someone of great standing, someone of great importance if only she stopped her incessant dreaming and saw the world as it really is’ finished Marianne.

'She’s got plenty of time to be great! Let her be herself before you plan her life away!'said Peter smiling.

Layla knew nothing of this conversation she had return to her book and was lost in the world of fire-breathing dragons and brave knights.


WF Veterans
Mr. Stoats was well drawn. There was humour and only two small possible inconsistencies. 1. at one point you refer to him as moving in a snake-like fashion. Ya, that's good, but he's swelled up like a...anyway, I thought there was an opportunity for a...more precise 'visual' (?) 2. You stated that he moved in a fashion that was a fast as he could, then, a bit later on, contradicted yourself with a description...
these are small things, easily fixed (or not ) There's some quotes and commas missing (look at the last sentence..) Oh, and uhm..you could make Layla a little more involved in her imagination (last sentence, too) 'brave knights and dragons' is sort of...generic.

The first part was filled with movement and some sense of danger; the second part, well I think it needs a little more 'hook' (you know, to 'hook' them kiddies..) O'course it's all loaded with possibilities, but you might want to throw some hints or tidbits in there to entice, you know, like the sign coming out of the hedges. Did it?
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Senior Member
Hi Kevin, Thank you for your comments. I posted this piece because I needed feedback on the opening, Ted Stoats in particular. I was/am attempting to convey the differences from two prospectives; the rushed townie and the relaxed/calm rural folk, that the Phillips hope to become. Thanks for pointing out the contradictions, and the punctions mistakes, this is my first draft and I'm still finding my way.


Senior Member
I know you said that you were wanting help with Mr Stoats, but seem to be drawn to the instance in the Phillips' car. Particularly the convorsation that Peter and Marianne have about Layla. I think if they were to have that convorsation not in Layla's presence, that it could be more impactful to the girl. Maybe an instance of Layla "spying" on her parents and hearing that convorsation. Just a thought.


Space Lord
You've got a good grasp of how prose should flow, and your pacing and tempo was impressive. Let me show a few things I'm seeing:

‘I’m lost! Lost in this no man’s land’ he growled
'I’m going to have to get out!' he fumed
I think these could be better shown through body language or even a description of irritation (sighing, rubbing of the face, ect.), rather than having him say it out loud. Always show rather than tell if at all possible

he growled
he fumed
exclaimed Layla Phillips
Creative attributives when used too much, start to lose their punch. Use sparingly

dropped hard onto the seat and grabbing onto the door handle encaged himself back into his car.
That's lots of words to say he "got in the car and closed to door". Less is more. Resist the temptation to over do it.

The little car churned, rattling and coughing, black smoke escaping its exhaust. The gears rasped and grated as Ted forced it into gear
You've fallen in love with description here. Modifiers, intensifiers and all the other things that "pretty up" a sentence, should be used in moderation.

I like where you're going with this. Just keep an eye on what you're putting into the piece. Readers can get so much more out of brevity rather than being pummeled with syntax. You've got a good start and I encourage you to keep going. Just hone those skills by reading as much as you can, and reading many different types of writing. Good luck and keep it up!



Senior Member
Thank you for your comments; for the praise and for your critiques, after all that is why I joined this writing forum; to summit some of my work and have it dissected by like minded people; pointing out my errors and giving constructive criticism. Thank you Squidtender I would agree some of my sentences are rather clunky and need shorten.

quote by Cullmeyer
Particularly the convorsation that Peter and Marianne have about Layla. I think if they were to have that convorsation not in Layla's presence, that it could be more impactful to the girl. Maybe an instance of Layla "spying" on her parents and hearing that convorsation. Just a thought.
I wrote this conversation in the car because I wanted to show Layla as a dreamer, with a short attention span, who's lost in fantasy worlds most of the time, in books or her imaginings (mentioned later in the story), She is totally oblivious to her parents conversation because she has already returned to the fantasy world of her book. Perhaps I didn't made it clear enough.

Thanks again for your comments.
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