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  1. #1
    Rich DeRuvo
    Guest

    What do you guys think of this?

    While writing a novel I came up with an idea for a story so I started writing it to take a little break from my bigger project. I just want some opinions on pretty much anything from the writing to the characters and situations. Here is only part of the opening scene:

    1851
    The Redemption sailed on black waters under a starlit sky. The only light on the ship was that of the full moon that sat perched high giving a white streak to the water like crystal in an urn of ashes. There was the faint and soft sound of splashing against the breast of the ship. Her boards creaked as she swayed, a stretching sound of rope could be heard from the yard and the tireless breathing of her sails never ceased. By morning, the captain had said, they would reach London. All sailors would be given shore leave after work at their stations had been done. The only man who was free to leave straight away, as the captain said, was the man who stood now at the bow of the ship waiting tirelessly but without fervor for the first sight of land.
    “We may as well put him in the crow’s nest if he’s going to stare out there all night,” said Henry to his elder companion as they leaned over the side of the ship.
    “Hush, boy,” said the old sailor. They looked down into the black water again. Then McDougal, grabbing the shrouds, pulled himself up a little and peaked over Henry’s head.
    The man stood as a black shadow against the sparkling water. He wore a vest, a red shirt, and black pants. All seemed to fit him too tightly and by first glance at him one would think that he hadn’t eaten in days for he was almost crudely slender although his shoulders were broad and seemed to let his arms hang far from his body. But McDougal knew well that this man ate more than his fair share every night, especially for someone who didn’t have to work a single day under the sun during the months he sailed on the Redemption.
    “Unless I’m seeing ghosts on haunted waters or have gone to Hell for sins I can’t recall committing, that man is Arthur Linfold,” the old man whispered to the boy.
    “Linfold? Who’s that?”
    “I best not say it but it can’t be worse than them ghost stories that sailors tell on this ship. Bout ten years ago, give or take, that man was sentenced to a horrible fate. A fate he escaped and how I’ll never know.”
    “What crime did he commit?” the boy asked, looking to the man who looked now even darker against the moonlit sea.
    “Which didn’t he? As the story goes, he raped a woman, a young woman, at that, early in her twenties only a little older than you. Forced himself on her in an alley right outside his house. He was drunk when he did it but that don’t change nothin’. Then he killed her, for what reason I don’t know. Then he kills this little boy right after. Turns out that little boy was her son. Well, the watch heard and got a hold of him. Knocked the daylights out of him and when he woke up he was staring at gray ceiling. Didn’t even give him a fair trial, I heard. Through prison bars the judge told him he was to hang by the neck until dead. He was so drunk the night before that the story goes he didn’t know what had happened.”
    “What happened?” asked the young sailor. “Surely it has not been a ghost that we have been sailing amongst all these months.”
    “Well, talk had spread quick and soon everyone knew about old Mr. Linfold. He had been a writer too, good or bad I don’t know but it didn’t matter at that point. Everyone was ready for his hanging, all wanted to see such injustice set right if that’s what they call it. But when they went to fetch Mr. Arthur Linfold from his cell the next morning he was gone. His cell locked and nothing put out of place. The watch was on edge for days, worried sick that the madman would strike again maybe at their own wives and children but not another word was heard of Mr. Linfold. I know his family was questioned but they had not heard from him at all. All his things were left where he lived with his parents and, sister I think it was.”
    “This cannot be the man you speak of,” the boy argued. “Surely this is a ghost story the men have put you up to telling me.”
    “I don’t care what you call it but it’s not right whatever it is.”
    “Where did these horrible deeds happen?”
    McDougal stuck out his lower lip and nodded, looking back out to the black of night. “That’s the strangest part of all this. London.”
    “London! Surely then you are mistaken! Why would a man who committed such crimes and was so sinister return to where he had disappeared from so long ago?”
    “I don’t know, boy. But somethin’s not right aboard this ship. When a man sails the Redemption he’s got a purpose in his heart. But none I think are fouler than that man’s there.” He took a deep breath and said, “Better check the bearings or we won’t end up in London for another week. Captain’ll have my head….” He trailed off as he retreated to the helm.
    Henry looked to the man at the bow. A strong wind suddenly caught the sails and rustled them loudly. Henry pushed himself up and walked slowly to where the man stood. He stood a few paces behind him and to his right.
    “Surely Mr. McDougal is quite the storyteller is he not?” said the man in an English accent. His words rolled to a small build up when he spoke. “To hold your attention with a story like that you would think you’ve never met a murderer.”
    “No, sir.”
    “No what? Mr. McDougal is not a sufficient storyteller or you’ve never met a murderer before, which is it?”
    “I’ve never met one. And Mr. McDougal means no harm, his stories are result of a little too much salt air, that’s all.”
    “Perhaps I can tell the story better. I can give details and fill the holes where Mr. McDougal left off perhaps?”
    “No, sir, it’s quite alright.”
    “Very well. It’s just as good. Too drunk I supposedly was to remember it.”
    “Supposedly? Mr. McDougal said you were. He also said you forced yourself on a woman.”
    “Is this the first time you’ve heard the story of Arthur Linfold?”
    “Yes, just now in the dark.”
    “Heed not whispers in the dark, it may be the Devil himself at your ear.”
    “If you are not Arthur Linfold, who are you?”
    “You had not cared before. But what does it matter?” He turned and faced the boy and it seemed that this was the firs time Henry had really caught a good look at the face of this stranger for it may have been the light of the moon and the salt air playing tricks on his mind but he was unusually pale. His face was like snow and his eyes were lightly bloodshot and seemed to glow like fire in the dark. “Who am I not? I have sailed the seas and seen things you can’t imagine!” he said filled with wonder and had suddenly become interesting and even exciting. “I have been through the desert where giant cats sit like stone! I have seen the Pope look lustfully at nuns and lands where snow covers all and have been frozen and then thawed! I have counted the stars while lying atop yardarms! I have seen the Americas! I have seen men fight for gold there! I have been through jungles of uncharted land and been inside their temples that are cursed and live now to speak of it! And now I sail to London in search of more adventure!”

  2. #2
    Ray Veen
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    I enjoyed this excerpt, nice opening imagery. Here's some stuff you might consider:

    crystal in an urn of ashes - had trouble picturing this.

    I'd recommend a comma after 'yard'.

    All sailors would be given shore leave after work at their stations had been done - awkward, maybe something like 'After they finished the work at their stations, all the sailors would be given shore leave.'

    The only man who was free to leave straight away, as the captain said, was the man who stood now at the bow of the ship waiting tirelessly but without fervor for the first sight of land. - almost a run-on, I'd break this into two sentences.

    But McDougal knew well that this man ate more than his fair share every night, especially for someone who didn’t have to work a single day under the sun during the months he sailed on the Redemption - same with this.

    Good dialogue, your story is unfolding nicely.

    Surely it has not been a ghost that we have been sailing amongst all these months - awkward again, try rephrasing this.

    That’s the strangest part of all this. London. - I'd re-punctuate this. Something like, 'That's the strangest part of all this... London.' or 'all this - London.' or 'all this: London.' It'd probably be best to say something like, 'That's the strangest part of all this - it was in London.'

    “Surely Mr. McDougal is quite the storyteller is he not?” - doesn't sound right. Maybe drop the 'surely', or the 'is he not?'.

    He turned and faced the boy and it seemed that this was the firs time Henry had really caught a good look at the face of this stranger for it may have been the light of the moon and the salt air playing tricks on his mind but he was unusually pale. - definately run-on.

    ...he said filled with wonder and had suddenly become interesting and even exciting. - awkward. Phrasing aside, if you truly feel you need to include every bit of this information, consider breaking it into two sentences.

    Too many exclamation points in final paragraph. They're just not fashionable these days. Save them for use in extreme emergencies.

    Overall, a good piece of storytelling. However. You're in real danger of losing your magic at the end. If this Arthur starts telling his own story at this point, you'll lose all sense of mystery and suspense. I'd have him utter a cryptic remark, go below decks, and let the rest of the crew build the myth. Course that's just me.

    Good luck with this.

  3. #3
    Rich DeRuvo
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    Thank you! I'm glad you liked it and your advice is great. Don't worry, he doesn't explain anything. I've continued with the story and they get to London and Linfold will remain just as much of an enigma until the end. Anyone else please post your opinions on anything!

    Oh, and as far as the exclamation points and the wording... I was going for and older storytelling style, the kid I love but as all but disappeared sadly enough....

  4. #4
    Rich DeRuvo
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    Come on people, I thought I wake up with some more responses, I know it's a long excerpt but I need opinions!

  5. #5
    Grandmaster Sik
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    You want advice?
    STAY ON TARGET.
    I've not read the above can I tell you one thing right now: unfinished work is worth sh*t; you can develop this new story in the back of your mind or make notes or do whatever the hell you want to do, but at least get the first draft done of your existing novel - it'll improve you mentally and technically if nothing else!

  6. #6
    Rich DeRuvo
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    I am. I'm not just sitting waiting for responses on this website, I was just looking for CONSTRUCTIVE advice. Your advice isn't constructive, everyone knows to focus on the work but there's nothing wrong with asking for some opinions. That's what I did, asked opinions on my STORY, not how YOU think I should work.

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    Here's some advice if you want people to read it: put an extra space between paragraphs so it doesn't run together.

  8. #8
    Rich DeRuvo
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    Thanks, Rogue.

  9. #9
    cara k
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    I know there's more to be said, Rich, but the last paragraph reminded me of the song 'Sympathy for the Devil.'
    For a guy who seemed so mysterious, he suddenly did a lot of grandstanding at the end.
    Like Rogue said, this will be much easier to read with better spacing. Good luck.

    --Cara K

  10. #10
    Rich DeRuvo
    Guest

    Re: What do you guys think of this?

    I've never heard the song but I'll look up the lyrics. The idea is that he is supposed to be mysterious and although, yes, he says all these things at the end you can't help but wonder how he has done these things or if he has. Still, we do not know if he even is Arthur Linfold. Is there no way for me to edit my original post so I can add the spacing?

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