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Thread: Please critique

  1. #1
    Dennis Boyle
    Guest

    Please critique

    Here are the first 5 pages of my novel.

    1: is it ok to have an introduction?
    2: I don't have chapters. I have 4 parts, and I divide up different sections within the parts with white space or a tilde.
    3: How's the writing in general?
    4: Assuming I pass all those, is it possible to get such a politically incorrect novel published?

    thanks
    Dennis Boyle
    dennisboyle99@gmail.com



    Equality 911

    Introduction

    After the epidemic, only a tiny fraction of the city’s population was left. The people were attacked by a virus so powerful it was a wonder that anyone had survived. A metropolitan area of over 10 million had been reduced to barely 50,000. The survivors that remained had concentrated in one small area at the edge of the great city, near open farm land. They called it River City.
    Almost 100 years had passed since the epidemic. The population had gradually increased to about 100,000, but millions of houses and streets remained empty. From high ground, abandoned buildings could be seen for miles in all directions. Decaying hulks of skyscrapers loomed on the eastern horizon. A river flowed silently through the town, murky and foul with raw sewage and garbage.
    It was obvious that the population had once been much larger, and although no one alive could remember it, it was known that the city had once been part of a great country called The United States of America. Unfortunately, the USA had not survived the epidemic. After the great tragedy there were simply too few people and too little infrastructure left to maintain a centralized government over large distances. Cities, therefore, had been left to their own devices, and many of them were direct descendents of the local government that had existed prior to the epidemic. The result was that the country was dotted with small city-states each with their own independent form of government. Some cities had democracies; some were governed by dictatorships, while others had a mixture of both.
    The city government offices were next to the river in an ancient gray cinder block building. City officials moved about in white suits, a symbol of austerity and practicality. It was also a necessity since no fabric dyes were available. The color was usually more of a washed-out gray, due to the lack of bleach or soap and a scarcity of cotton.
    Townspeople occupied the abandoned homes of the long-dead, or lived in ancient apartment buildings. The technology was an odd mix of primitive and modern. There was an ancient coal fired electrical generation plant, but it ran erratically. High sulfur coal was brought in from a mine to the south. The air was heavily polluted and dangerously unhealthy on calm days. There were telephones, but they were frequently out of service.
    The economy was a mix of state run factories, collective farms, and a few small private industries. The state run automobile factory tried to produce cars and trucks from leftover parts, but the output was very low and the quality poor. The state run steel plant produced batches of different products, with no regard to market demand. The state run cement plant produced small amounts of cement of bad quality. There were no guns except for ancient ones, and it was usually impossible to find bullets. There was one radio station, which operated whenever electricity was available. The content was strictly controlled by the state. Collective farms spread out to the west along the river. They tried to grow livestock and a variety of crops. Shortages were common due to mismanagement, apathy and a total lack of fertilizer and pesticides. There was a thriving black market supplied by a few hardy independent farmers farther up the river away from the town.
    Paper money had become almost worthless, so trade was carried out using bits of gold, silver, tobacco, or other barter. Technology was strictly controlled by the Great Committee, ostensibly to maximize employment. New technology was viewed with suspicion and as a threat to the working man. There were few medicinal drugs known, and those that were available were due to the efforts of a few enterprising self-taught doctors.
    Small bands of people survived outside of the city, and the citizens of the town called them the “Wild People”. They were greatly feared due to their sordid history of raping and pillaging during their numerous raids. The few people who had tried to escape River City had usually returned dead, and their bodies were always badly mutilated. The city maintained a line of perimeter defense, especially to the west, where the Wild People were concentrated.
    Unbeknownst to the townspeople, wildlife had made an amazing resurgence in 100 years. The undeveloped regions to the west were well populated with all forms of deer, elk, and bison. Huge herds of grazing animals roamed the Great Plains to the southwest of the city as they had done in ancient times. Virgin prairies had returned to uncultivated land.
    Railroad tracks fanned out in all directions, but no trains ever used them. For transportation, people mostly walked or moved about by horse and buggy, so the town was littered with manure.

    Part 1: Struggles

    His name was John. As he labored over a hot caldron of molten metal, the lean musculature of his arms was impressive. The years of working metal had made him strong. With dark blond hair and above-average height, he made a striking figure. The angular features and charred appearance of his face made him look angry. Stripped to the waist, the scars on his back were disturbing, evidence of his previous infractions against the state. His metalworking shop was a brick building lined with large smoky windows. Although the windows were clouded over, the light was more than adequate on most days. The shop consisted of a mixing room at the back and a larger metalworking area. The mixing room was separate from the rest of the shop in order to keep the process secret from the employees. No employee was allowed into the room during the process, and the secret ingredients were hidden in case anyone was able to break in. Once the metal was mixed, a trap door was opened and the molten metal allowed to flow to the outer room and into the waiting molds, which were at floor level. The employees built the molds and took the finished products out for processing.
    John’s shop was one of only a very few private business in the city. Most production was done in state-run factories. Private industry rarely survived due to high taxes and excessive government regulation. Only the hardiest of souls or the truly desperate dared try to run their own business. Not only were taxes high, but there was a large annual fee for a license. In addition, private companies that needed labor were required to accept a worker’s “contract” in which all the rules and regulations of employment were spelled out in detail. The book containing these rules was two inches thick. The contract was enforced by a central authority. It included a seniority-based pay scale which was very generous, and was increased a significant percentage every year by decree. In spite of all this, John was turning a profit.
    All workers were required to be part of the Workers Collective Union which included essentially every person over 16 in the city. Any worker who refused to join the party at the age of 16 was banned for life from all employment. Three years prior John had been terminated from the state run steel factory and whipped because he had dropped out of the Workers Collective. Using his knowledge of metallurgy, he started his own business from the ground up. It was surprisingly successful from the beginning, in spite of all the obstacles. He started with small items, like door hinges and buttons, and worked up from there to larger items.



  2. #2
    nancy drew
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    Dennis,

    Although you write well, this is all "telling."

    I'm parched for some dialogue, some plot, some something.

  3. #3
    Smiling Curmudgeon
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    Dennis,

    You wrote, "After the epidemic, only a tiny fraction of the city’s population was left. The people were attacked by a virus so powerful it was a wonder that anyone had survived. A metropolitan area of over 10 million had been reduced to barely 50,000. The survivors that remained had concentrated in one small area at the edge of the great city, near open farm land. They called it River City."

    Feel free to ignore my comments.

    For me, this is pretty passive. Consider making it more active. More immediate.

    Something like---Only a tiny fraction of the city's population survived the epidemic. Barely 50,000 of ten million survived the virus. The survivors concentrated at one edge of the city. Vast farm lands and a winding river was their breadbasket. Edgar Frolich, leader and strongman, named it River City. (I don't like that name, but it's your story.)

    That's quick and dirty, certainly not what you would use. But do you see a difference?

    Cur

  4. #4
    Smiling Curmudgeon
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    Dennis,

    I forgot to add that I'm a sucker for this kind of tale. Your excerpt needs work. Keep on keepin' on.

    Read. Read. After that, read some more. Then read. You'll learn things about the craft without realizing it.

    Cur

  5. #5
    jayce
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    This is all back story. Open with a scene in present time that gives the reader a sense of the conflict you intend to develop.

  6. #6
    Lauanna Aaronlap
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    another possibility , rather than an intro, is a preface or prologue. i personally like these terms more than introduction.

  7. #7
    Dennis Boyle
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    Thanks. I admit it is a fair amount of telling. The dialog is right around the corner, and most of the book is dialog. I can't speak for others, but when I pick up a book I will usually give it 50 pages before I give up.
    Is this a show stopper to an agent? I mean is there some unwritten rule that you must start out with a live action scene? If so I can re-work it and put the background info somewhere else.

  8. #8
    Keith .
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    One famous agent reads the 1st 16 lines. That's the 1st page. Some agents give a submission more than 5 pages. Many don't. You don't have to burn down city hall in the first graph, but you do need to involve the reader in the story.

    This is all telling. Don't tell me it's raining. Show me how it feels to be rained upon. Give the reader an emotional investment in the characters. My opinion. Luck.
    km

  9. #9
    Mandy Pauza
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    “After the epidemic, only a tiny fraction of the city’s population was left. The people were attacked by a virus so powerful it was a wonder that anyone had survived. A metropolitan area of over 10 million had been reduced to barely 50,000. The survivors that remained had concentrated in one small area at the edge of the great city, near open farm land. They called it River City.

    Almost 100 years had passed since the epidemic. The population had gradually increased to about 100,000, but millions of houses and streets remained empty. From high ground, abandoned buildings could be seen for miles in all directions. Decaying hulks of skyscrapers loomed on the eastern horizon. A river flowed silently through the town, murky and foul with raw sewage and garbage.”

    Encyclopedia entry. Boring. Drop it.

    “It was obvious that the population had once been much larger, and although no one alive could remember it, it was known that the city had once been part of a great country called The United States of America. Unfortunately, the USA had not survived the epidemic.”

    This should be your first sentence, after you rearrange it to stand alone without the preceding 130 words. Try this on for size:

    “Although no one alive could remember it, River City had once been a part of a much larger metropolis that was once part of a great country called The United States. Unfortunately the U.S. had not survived the epidemic.”

    You have just been transported into the future, post apocalyptic and why (epidemic), been placed near any major city without needing to name it (so anyone can picture THEIR city) and given the basic human climate (‘River City’ being a fairly unimaginative, simplistic name probably indicative of the general intelligence of the population living there.)

    “After the great tragedy there were simply too few people and too little infrastructure left to maintain a centralized government over large distances. Cities, therefore, had been left to their own devices, and many of them were direct descendents of the local government that had existed prior to the epidemic. The result was that the country was dotted with small city-states each with their own independent form of government. Some cities had democracies; some were governed by dictatorships, while others had a mixture of both.
    The city government offices were next to the river in an ancient gray cinder block building. City officials moved about in white suits, a symbol of austerity and practicality. It was also a necessity since no fabric dyes were available. The color was usually more of a washed-out gray, due to the lack of bleach or soap and a scarcity of cotton.”

    More wiki, not enough story. Lets focus in closer to where the story will take place. Now is the time for a little dirty description, but keep it in the now…

    “From high ground, abandoned buildings could be seen for miles in all directions. Decaying hulks of skyscrapers loomed on the eastern horizon. A river flowed silently through the town, murky and foul with raw sewage and garbage. The technology was an odd mix of primitive and modern.”

    Then we can focus in tight since we’ve set up the technology:

    “John labored over a hot caldron of molten metal,” (Drop description of him here, it’s just indulgent.) The years of working metal had made him strong. Stripped to the waist, the scars on his back were disturbing, evidence of his previous infractions against the state.”

    Will the story suffer if I picture him with black hair instead of blonde? Does being blonde and describing his muscles move the story forward at all? Perhaps he brushes his unkempt, blonde hair from his face with the back of one hand. The scars on his back DO move the story forward, telling us more about the city’s government than the previous laborious paragraph. Laboring stripped to the waist is a great mental image we all get instantly. We can skip his craggy face until it means something to describe it, perhaps as someone looks at him for the first or the millionth time, giving us some insight instead of exposition. ‘John, you’d be so handsome if you didn’t always look like you’re ready to kill someone?’

    You have a lot of words but most of them should just be in your personal notes about the story because as they stand they are NOT the story.

    “His metalworking shop was a brick building lined with large smoky windows... [131 words] …took the finished products out for processing.”

    “John’s shop was one of only a very few private business in the city...” [129 more words]

    “In spite of all this, John was turning a profit…” [111 words]

    Again with the encyclopedia… lets try:

    “The brick building lined with large, cloudy windows was one of the few independent businesses left in the city-state and John jealously kept his manufacturing process as secret as possible, even to his own employees. It was testament to his sheer force of will that he was not just succeeding but actually profiting in a climate of oppression.”

    Why tell rather than show this part? Because you can’t show this part, so let’s at least keep the telling as brief and mysterious as possible. Let the details unfold with the story; let me discover John’s world as I learn about how he reacts to it. He can react suspiciously to his employees, they can react jealously to his personal freedom. Or maybe he has an unusual employee that doesn’t react that way, and THAT moves the story forward.

    Every word should have double duty: show us what is going on in a way that tells us something about the persons involved. Make sense?

  10. #10
    Dennis Boyle
    Guest

    Re: Please critique

    Yea. thanks. I guess I'll have to take a writing class or read a book. Do you have any recommendations?

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