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  1. #1
    Howard Schwartz

    Your help is requested

    Mark's best friend since grade school was shot while hunting and is now paralyzed from the waist down.

    I decided to give Steve Peterson a call. I didn’t get a chance to talk with him at the baseball game as much as I

    wanted to.

    "You going to be home for a while?" I asked when he answered the phone.

    "Where did you think I was going? The Twin Cities Marathon is not for a couple of months yet."

    "Good, then you should still be there. I'll see you in about an hour."

    Steve and his wife Lisa own a 3 bedroom home near Lake Nokomis in southeast Minneapolis. The front storm door

    to his house was open, so I yelled through the screen. “Anyone home?”

    “It’s open, unless you’re a burglar then I would watch out for this Rottwieler I have sitting next to me. He hasn't eaten

    in a while and he looks hungry. Down boy.”

    “Hold on to the dog, it’s only me.” I opened the door and let myself in. I knew Steve didn’t have a dog, or at least I

    knew he didn't the last time I was over.

    "I'm in the back porch."

    I walked through his kitchen and dinning room and saw that Steve was sitting in his wheelchair next to a table. He

    had a flannel blanket across his lap and a book in his hand.

    “What are you reading?” I asked.

    “It’s a book that Lisa thinks I should read.” He held the book up and I took it from him.

    'The power of positive thinking can improve your life and is your key to success.' I said ow loud. "That sounds right

    up your alley" I sat in a folding chair that was next to him.

    "I know, do you believe what I have to go through around here, just to get laid?”

    I avoided answering that question. “I didn’t think you were into the 'self help' stuff." “I’m not, but I have to make

    sure my fingerprints are on the cover and I fold back a few corners so it looks like I’ve read it. If Lisa doesn't see

    evidence that I tried, she'll get mad. You know what that means. If Lisa ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.” Steve

    sighed and then set the book on the table. “ I guess she worries I might fall back into my black hole again." He took

    off his reading glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose where his glasses had been resting. "She's right though, I

    remember it used to feel like I was falling down a mine shaft and I couldn't stop." He leaned back in his wheelchair

    and closed his eyes.

    I wondered if I should change the subject, but like many things with Steve, his feeling down, was only momentary.

    "What brings you over? Do you need my advice about how to handle Carrie already?”

    “No, but thanks for the offer, I just wanted to see how you were doing. We didn't get a chance to talk the other day at

    the game.”

    Steve appeared to have not shaven for a couple of days. He rubbed his chin with his fingers and thought before he


    “I guess I’m doing about as well as can be expected. It’s hard not to get depressed occasionally, but most of the

    time I think I have it under control." He handed me his glass. "Can you get me a glass of water?" I took it from his

    hand and filled it at his kitchen sink.

    "By the way we both thought Carrie was great. Do you think you have a chance with her?”

    I gave him his glass back and sat down. “Well, you never know, but so far so good. It makes me wonder why a

    woman that good looking and easy to get along with, isn’t married yet." I stopped while he took a drink of water. "I

    guess she could probably say the same thing about me.”

    Steve paused before answering. “No, your wrong there, I don’t think she could say that about you." He rolled his

    eyes. "I think it’s obvious to anyone who has talked to you why you’ve never been married, but you're right about

    Carrie. If I were you, I'd marry her before she wakes up and sees what a mistake she’s made.

    "Thanks for the kind words, I might have to do that." I smiled.

    "Did you tell her you were born into money?”

    “No, I didn't say anything about having money."

    "Try it, it worked for me with Lisa."

    I have had conversations with Steve similar to this that lasted all afternoon and just went round in circles.

    "I should have asked you on the phone before I came over, can I get you anything as long as I’m over here? I can

    run up to the store on the corner?"

    “No, that's okay, but a job would be helpful. It's boring being alone every day.”

    “When we were at the baseball game, I noticed a Psychic store across the street from the Dome that had a 'help

    wanted' sign in its window. Maybe you should give them a call. You could do something like that on the phone."

    Steve put his glasses on again and leaned his head back. “You want me to work with that psychic crap? I don’t think

    I could look someone in the eye and take money for doing something like that.”

    “It sounds like your not a believer in Psychic abilities?”

    “ I think it would be safe to say that.” I could tell he was getting a little irritated. “A friend of Lisa's is a 'true believer'.

    She came over to our house so she could give me a 'reading'. She went into a trance and explained there was a

    reason for everything. She even said there was one explaining why I was paralyzed. Hello? Hey Lady, I got shot in

    the chest. Of course there's a reason why I'm paralyzed."

    “She was probably referring to a different type of reason.”

    Steve stared at me. “You mean like maybe God or Allah wanted me to be paralyzed? If I believed that, then I would

    get depressed." He sighed and put his head down and then looked up at me. "You know how religious people like to

    say that God never gives you more then you can handle?"

    "I've heard that before." I said.

    "Try telling that to all the people who commit suicide every year. If those people were around to tell their side of

    the story, they might shed a different viewpoint on the subject.”

    "You have a point there." I was trying to let him talk. I knew that by sitting by myself all day, he probably had many

    things he wanted to discuss.

    “I probably just overstated what I meant to say. I just wish some people weren't so damn sure about themselves.”

    Steve pushed himself up off the chair with his arms. “Could you help me adjust this pillow? I think it rolled up and is

    causing me to sit at an angle. If I could feel it, I'm sure my ass would be sore as hell.”

    I pulled the pillow out to where it was level with the chair. He had sat on it for so long that the pillow had rolled into a

    ball and he couldn't even tell.

    “Maybe you're getting too excited. Did you want to talk about something else?”

    "No, I'm okay. I know people are really just trying to help." Steve pointed to a table where his laptop was located.

    "Let me show you what I've been working on. Hand me my computer."

    "I've started designing web pages." He booted his computer and pulled up his home page.

    "I'm taking an online course. There's a government agency that gives low interest loan's to owners of business's that

    are handicapped. I'm thinking about starting my own web design company."

    Steve showed me the web page he was working on. It was a make believe company, but the graphics and design

    were quite good.

    "What would you charge me to design my work web page?" Mine definitely needed some help.

    "For you?" He stopped to think. "Nothing, I can use it to build my portfolio. Give me the details and I'll get started."

    He turned off his computer and placed it on the table next to him.

    “You know, right after the accident, everyone was worried about you. You were depressed and didn't seem to be

    snapping out of it." I said. "What finally turned you around?”

    Steve straightened the chair and tucked in his blanket. "At first it was really tough. I spent the entire time I was

    alone trying to convince my self that things were going to work out. When I mentally started to feel better, a friend or

    relative would stop by and I could see how uncomfortable it made them feel to be around me. One guy who I've

    known for nearly all my life, couldn’t even look me in the eye. After they would leave, I'd get depressed again. I

    finally had to tell Lisa to explain that no one could come over for a while.”

    I remember for a 6 month period Lisa explained she thought it would be best to not come over to visit. I wondered if I

    was the only one she was telling that too.

    “It was really that bad?”

    “For a while it was. Some people cried, others told me how sorry they were. I remember thinking, why are they sorry?

    They didn’t do anything.”

    “I'm sure they didn’t know what to say. I had a tough time when I first saw you. We all thought for a while that you

    might die. When it looked like you would live, then we had to come to grips with the idea that you had changed. It

    was such an adjustment.”

    “I know, but I wanted my friends to treat me like they used to. Talk about sports or work, anything except how bad I


    “So what did you end up doing?” I said. “It felt like you changed overnight.”

    Steve stopped and turned his head toward me. He had a slight smile on his face, which made me feel better about

    continuing with this subject.

    “I had to make the decision to quit feeling sorry for myself. If I didn't I knew my marriage would end. I had to

    quit thinking about just myself. I started to see how much of a toll this was taking on Lisa." Steve cleared his throat.

    "I was being selfish because I wasn't the only one who's life had changed by the accident."He used his hands to

    emphasize his point. "I finally persuaded myself to concentrate on things I could still do and not worry about so

    much about what other people thought. It's still difficult sometimes, but I realize they're still many things I can


    “Just that simple?” I said

    “Just that simple.” He repeated.

  2. #2
    Chuck Shaw

    Re: Your help is requested

    Sorry-this wouldn't hold my interest even in the middle of a manuscript. It's a section I would skim to get to where the story re-starts. IMHO, as an opener it is a bore.

    One of the 'standard" writing books (Orson Scott Card's book on Dialog?) mentions that dialog has to seem realistic, but can't be what people actually say in the real world. You have to convey the feeling of real conversation, but it must be shorter; convey more information per line, than the way people actually talk.

    Most people engage the mouth with the brain in neutral. Written dialog can’t do that or it drags, becomes incomprehensible or both.

    This sounds like two moderately bored people talking to waste an afternoon. I also think most people would use more contractions and less formal construction.

    "I had to make the decision to quit feeling sorry for myself." Most people would say ""I had to quit feeling sorry for myself."

    Nothing personal, but to me it doesn't make it.

    On the plus side, I picked out only one spelling error, two punctuations and four typos. In something this long that’s pretty good without a spell/ grammar checker.

    Over all I’d recommend you concentrate on content and tightening up the story. Your mechanics aren’t bad at all.

    Hang in there


  3. #3
    Robert Wilson

    Re: Your help is requested

    I don't think this passage would be a good start for the 1st chapter of your book. I can see it fitting in elsewhere (with minor editing).

    I thought the dialogue read well and naturally, for the most part. Two men who have known each other for several years talking. Perhaps, two educated men talking, thus the slight formality in the conversation.

    If Steve getting shot, and the consequences thereof, is the main focal point of the book, it might not be a bad idea to open with him getting shot.



  4. #4
    rock doctor

    Re: Your help is requested


    One quick thing of note. You wrote "I'm in the back porch", I think it should be:
    "I'm on the back porch." I guess you could use the preposition -in- the back porch if the porch was covered and enclosed and was more or less a room. If so, I couldn't tell from your writing.

    For a first chapter I think it lacks a hook to keep the reader going. The "world" seems a little mundane at the moment. Just thoughts.


  5. #5
    Howard Schwartz

    Re: Your help is requested

    I guess I was not very clear. This is a chapter in the middle of the book.
    Thanks to everyone for the help. I appreciate it.

  6. #6
    Janice W-D

    Re: Your help is requested


    Ditto what Chuck said. A good rule of thumb with description or dialogue: Don't waste time on things readers know how to do well, for instance, making phone calls. I'd strongly suggest delivering that info in the narrative: I called Steve and he gave me the OK to come over.

    My "rule" has exceptions, of course, but you're not at the point of needing those. Right now you need to spend as much time on studying writing as you do practicing it.

    If you haven't already, read several of the how-to books I mentioned on this thread:


  7. #7
    sam albion

    Re: Your help is requested

    .. it's confusing to read, because of the visual presentation.

    Each character should speak on a seperate line, and each of these lines needs to be indented.

    for example...

    Montgomery's innards now lay spead along the bottom of the tank like dried pink spaghetti. Rommel wasn't a bad gerbil. He just hated Montgomery.
    Jane smiled. "Sally said Rommel was a psycho".
    Jill nodded. "He was, but he was a nice psycho. Until now".

    The text, here the first two lines, doesn't need an indent. Unless it's the opening paragraph, or a change of direction, the text preceeding the dialogue stays static.

    Then, each time a character speaks, or thinks, to distinguish from the rest of the text you need to "start a new paragraph", or indent the first line of dialogue. Each time. Of course, you probably wouldn't say Jane smiled, Jill nodded, every time, only when it would be confusing not to; for example, if three people of the same age/background/class/accent are talking, or if there has been a lot of dialogue and a reader might get confused who is saying what.

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