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  1. #1
    Kit Summers

    A different perspective

    This is a different character perspective in my novel. I'm much happier with this than my previous offering - which has me concerned. I've never written a creative piece in my life until two weeks ago, and a beginner should not be feeling too confident.

    Is the narrative tone working as well as I think it is?

    Other than minor rephrasing I can't really find anything wrong with this one.

    As always, any comments are greatly appreciated. The feedback I've received so far has helped me a lot, and I hope it shows.

    “How much are we at?” Todd asked silently, dropping the last candle into his basket. He’d been to several stores today and cleaned them all out.
    “$11.40 here, $234.65 total. You’ll have $214.54 left when we leave,” Roland answered, succinct as ever.
    “What else do we need?” Todd inquired. He hardly bothered to keep track of anything when Roland was feeling cooperative.
    “Just a few syringes. You don’t want to try the alternative,” he said dryly..
    Finally, he’d gathered almost everything. Roland had him traveling all over town to buy oddments and curios
    He arrived at the register, shoveling double handfuls of black candles and incense sticks onto the counter. The cashier looked over his selection with wry amusement.
    Well, really. With bits of metal jutting from every angle of her face, and no less than six nose rings, who was she to judge? She had long dark hair and a smooth, pale complexion. Todd thought she would have been pretty if not for the masochism.
    “She thinks you’re a Pagan,” Roland informed him. “And evidently you’re not the only one to buy out the stock.”
    “Was the other guy a pagan?” Todd wanted to know.
    “Dunno,” Roland replied, noncommittally.
    Todd almost shrugged in echo of Roland’s indifference. He caught himself at the last second, but the cashier still gave him a queer look. He was used to that.
    With purchase bagged and balance paid, Todd found himself daydreaming again, as he was wont to do. Wandering out in vague direction, he crossed half the parking lot before he recalled parking at the entrance. His distraction was met with exasperated disapproval.
    “We don’t have time for movies tonight,” Roland interjected sharply, reining him in. “You need to start preparing now, as soon as we finish at the pharmacy. We don’t want to be late, do we?”
    Todd was forced to concede the point. Roland was right, of course. The “Flames of Drak’lor” would still be playing tomorrow, or even next week. The moon was full tonight, and Todd didn’t want to wait another month.
    Todd’s car was ancient and red, rusted and filthy. He gingerly seated himself, attempting to avoid an unruly spring. He inserted the key into the ignition and turned. The engine roared grudgingly to life, shuddered, then died. Starting Todd’s car was a lot like starting a lawn mower. He was so accustomed to this routine, he hardly even thought about it.
    Since the task at hand required so little attention, Todd found himself pondering the nature of artificial intelligence. Could machines really take over the world? It was a perplexing problem with so many details to consider. He was happily considering them when Roland broke into his train of thought, a slight edge of panic in his voice.
    “What the @!#$!” he said, “Watch the road!”
    It was good advice. So lost in thought was he that he’d begun to slide into the opposite lane. Todd always gave himself good advice, and he always took it. To do any less would have been crazy.
    Some ten minutes later he arrived at the pharmacy, miraculously unscathed. It was on the way home, and he was almost finished with the boring part.
    “I need ten syringes,” he informed the pharmacist. “Big ones.”
    He figured he had better stock up. Needles were cheap and he didn’t want to keep coming back. Roland had reminded him that it was best to use a clean one each time.
    The pharmacist quirked an eyebrow. A pimply youth who seemed younger than Todd, the look on his face was all too familiar.
    “I’m diabetic!” Todd explained, indignant. People were so quick to assume the worst in Todd. It was downright irritating. Of course he was not diabetic, but how would this guy know?
    The pharmacist shook his head, unconvinced, but retreated to the back to fill out his request. When he returned, the needles he proffered were distressingly small.
    “Is that the best you’ve got?” Todd asked in dismay. “My condition is really severe,” he said weakly, flushing in embarrassment.
    The youth regarded him with the world weary look of a teenager who has seen everything.
    “That’s as big as they come,” he said, dismissively.
    Todd sighed, his shoulders slumped, and he resigned himself to a terrible fate.
    “Get over it,” Roland said in irritation.
    “Yeah, we’ll manage,” he said with false confidence, trying to believe it.
    With the final requisite in hand, Todd set off bravely for the dangerous journey home.
    He’d only been driving for a few minutes when a terrible racket arose, trailing behind him like a string of tin cans. He wondered which part had fallen off this time. The vehicle had been losing pieces like some decaying zombie. It would ramble stolidly onward, everlasting and eternal, heedless of missing flesh.
    He pulled up into his parking space feeling immensely relieved. He’d been suffering visions of flying metal careening into some unsuspecting motorist behind, a tragic accident, and fees he couldn’t pay for lack of insurance.
    A casual inspection under the chassis revealed his muffler hanging by a thread of corroded steel. He gave it a good kick, snapping the bit of rusted metal with little effort. The thing was almost solid rust. In fact, the same could be said for the entire bottom of the car. Todd feared one day he would fall right through, to die horribly with a ton of metal grinding him into sausage.
    As he entered his modest apartment, thoughts of impending doom changed focus. Dropping several bags of candles carelessly at the door, he clutched at the small paper bag with dread in his heart.
    “Let’s just get this over with,” Roland suggested.
    Todd agreed with the sentiment. He was reaching for a glass in the cupboard when Roland spoke up again.
    “You’ll just knock it over,” he said wearily. “Get a Tupperware.”
    This was sound advice, as usual. Todd was awfully clumsy and usually left disaster in his wake. It was best not to tempt cruel fate with such an obvious enticement.
    Snatching up a clear square Tupper from the shelf, he made his way to the small kitchen table, and pulled up a chair.
    Heart pounding, he withdrew one of the appallingly undersized needles and rolled up a sleeve. He recalled that whenever he’d given a blood sample before, the nurse would usually stab him in the crook of the elbow. There was a nice, fat, bulging vein there, and this really should have been be easy.
    He poked at it timidly, feeling nauseated. That would not suffice. He closed his eyes and took a firm grip on the torturous device, slowly forcing it in.
    “Oh @!#$!” he gasped out loud.
    He could only hold it with one hand, so he awkwardly forced the knob up between two fingers. Blood welled at last in the instrument of evil, but so agonizingly slow he didn’t think he could make it.
    “Oh @!#$!” he moaned in a pitiful mantra. “Oh @!#$! Oh @!#$!”
    “Oh god!” Roland chimed in, mocking.
    He was so light headed his vision was beginning to fade. He felt as if he were on edge of consciousness, the darkness closing in.
    Roland’s patience was at and end. “I can do this,” he said.
    It was a brand new concept, one which Todd would never have considered. His mind swirled in a furious flurry of thought. Could his subconscious actually take control of his body? Of course it could! It happened every night when he went to sleep. What was sleepwalking if not the subconscious taking the wheel? Todd had never considered taking the back seat to Roland.
    A brighter future opened up before him, a flood of exciting new possibilities sweeping his fear away. Roland could perform all the unpleasant tasks which made life so tedious, as Todd slept and dreamed. Roland could go to work for him, shower, brush his teeth, shave his –
    “Forget it,” Roland interrupted. “This is a one time deal.”
    Todd slumped, dejected. So did the needle. It was quite forgotten in his moment of epiphany, and the wretched thing had slipped through his fingers as he stared into space. Heavy with blood, it clattered to the floor, tearing painfully through the vein.
    When Todd regained consciousness he found himself still sitting in the chair. He couldn’t figure out why his head would hurt so much if he hadn’t fallen though.
    “You passed out and cracked your head,” Roland informed him in a suffering tone. “Tell them you slipped in the shower,” he suggested as Todd wondered how he would explain this one. It was just the sort of thing Todd would do, and no one would doubt it.
    It was only then he noticed the Tupperware full of blood on the table. It was a lot of blood.
    “Why so much?” he asked.
    “Because you’re hopeless,” said Roland, dolefully. “We can just keep whatever’s left over in the fridge and nuke it next time.”
    Todd admired his practicality. However, he was not a large man, weighing in at a maximum 140 at best. If he was any judge, he’d just lost several pounds, and that didn’t seem very practical at all. If he passed out again he would probably miss his chance tonight.
    Imagining how many times he must have been stabbed, Todd’s attention shifted to his arm. There was a great wad of bloody toilet paper bunched up at the elbow, tightly bound by a double knotted sock. Todd stared, aghast, as his mind conjured images of his brutal mutilation.
    “What the hell did you do to me?” he demanded. “Just look at this mess!”
    “You made the mess; I cleaned it up,” Roland retorted. “Just don’t move the arm too much, and don’t touch the wrapping.” He hurried on, urging Todd to action. “Come on, we don’t have much time left. It could take hours to find a hooker.”
    Yes, the prostitute; the wildcard of the evening. Todd was not even certain he knew how to find one. But he’d worry about that later. It was time to prepare the scene.
    The small dining area had been cleared the previous day. Walls, floor, benches and tools meticulously cleaned and readied.
    He poured some blood into a pot and set it to simmering. He began to stir in ingredients, one by one, a diabolic chef with a soup for sinners.

  2. #2
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: A different perspective


    Your dialogue tags are really slowing this down. They're also distracting to the reader. Remember, "said" is the invisible word. You don't need "suggested, informed, interjected, etc." When you use said, drop the adverb and amplify the tone/mood by including an action. A classic place is the line with the pharmicist:

    "That's as big as they come," he said dismissively.

    An easy fix that's less distracting:
    "That's as big as they come," he said. He shrugged and reached for the syringes. "Take it or leave it."

    Do you see how his attitude is *shown* by the action?

    Now look at the dialogue tags and adverbs you've layered in here. A few that I found up front:

    asked silently (How do you do this, btw?)
    Todd inquired
    he said dryly
    Roland informed
    Todd wanted to know
    Roland replied

    Hope that helps.


  3. #3
    Kit Summers

    Re: A different perspective

    I see what you're saying. That's a great point.

    Re: "asked silently" - He's talking to a voice in his head, which he believes to be his helpful subconscious. I thought I made that fairly clear, but apparently maybe not. lol

    I did have some descriptive paragraphs in the first version which explained his situation more clearly. Maybe I should just paste that back in. But I was trying to see how far I could go with the "show, don't tell" idea.

  4. #4
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: A different perspective

    You'd think after posting the third time you'd realize to throw some extra space between paragraphs so it's easy to read. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong...

  5. #5
    S Stull

    Re: A different perspective

    Hi, Kit: In writing, it's usually best to simply use, "he saids" and "she saids" for your tags. They're invisible, as Jeanne has said.

    Also, I got bored within the first paragraphs. I skimmed until I came to this: The “Flames of Drak’lor” would still be playing tomorrow, or even next week. The moon was full tonight, and Todd didn’t want to wait another month.

    I said, "Another month for what?" And I think that's what you're aiming for.


  6. #6
    Kit Summers

    Re: A different perspective

    Yes, I was trying to add the elements of the evening one one by one to maintain a sense of mystery and keep the reader guessing.

    Bags of black candles, needles, the night of the full moon, blood extraction, a prostitute. What the hell?

    As the pieces click into place you are constantly kept guessing. But no matter what you think you know, the chapter finish is still a surprise.

    As the character of Roland is merely a voice in Todd's head at the moment, it's hard to actually "show" what Roland is feeling. This is a lot like a phone conversation, where only one side can be properly detailed. I'll give this some thought and see what I can come up with.

    Re: Rogue

    If you want more white space you need only ask. I don't write solid half page blocks as many do. Since I actually paragraph as I go, I admit I didn't see it as an issue - my apologies.

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