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  1. #1
    Conor Beaulieu
    Guest

    Revised first chapter

    It was a grand staircase, and the landing held a massive window of amber, honeyed glass. Through this window stood a garden, with ancient oaks. Through it, leaves fell, in eternal autumn through this window; embers on the wind. On this window hung a painting, a painting of the world aflame. A determined, sad fire. An inferno of passion. A blaze of knowing we are all coming to an end, and burning in spite of it. And the world was on fire. And the monster wept.


    ~ I ~

    October 27th,

    I'm awake long before the alarm clock sounds. I let it scream through the morning for a while before turning it off. Everyone tells me I need a wake-up call; somehow I don't think this is it. A sigh escapes me as I roll out of bed, already deciding whether or not to play sick to stay home from yet another day of senior year. It's not really playing these days, I get so little sleep that I look sick without trying, and the headaches I complain of are all too real. As I hit the light in the bathroom and start the water running, I'm still undecided. I think best in the shower anyway. With the water thundering in my ears I can actually hear. This morning I stay in longer than usual, water stealing the life from my fingers and loans my skin an angry red stain in return. I look down at them, my fingers, and wonder how long it'll be until the rest of me is just as old. Just as lifeless. I don't want to admit it to myself, but I'm scared. Scared of watching myself dry out inch by inch. Scared of never going anywhere. Scared of never being anyone. Terrified. I need to get out.
    I'm the first to rise, of course. Jake is a year younger than me, and doesn't go in till a little later. Lucky bastard has his first block off every day. Mom doesn't have any reason to wake up early nowadays, she hasn't worked in months. Mike may be awake already, but I wouldn't know; he's miles away, and I haven't talked to him in years. Everyone says I should talk to him, that he's my dad, but I think we understand each other. Its just not time yet. So every two weeks another check comes in, and every two weeks it slips away. Some for rent, most for the stash of bottles in the lower cabinet that Mom doesn't even try to hide anymore. Sometimes I feel guilty, like if that check didn't come in, those bottles wouldn't be there. But I know I'm just being ridiculous. I like to feel important sometimes. We all do.
    I'm still having my bout of metaphysical claustrophobia as I get dressed, and I end up deciding to go in today. I don't think I can take another day alone in this room, tabbing through cyberspace or trying to force myself to sleep. Even my dreams aren't much of a refuge anymore; too much fire and brimstone. Maybe I should run away and become some fiery evangelical minister somewhere, preaching wrath and destruction to the masses. Putting the fear of god into sinners and heathens alike. Then again, maybe not. Oh well, I'm not much of a public speaker, anyway, and I'm just a little partial to my clothes. At the moment I'm wearing one of three identical pairs of jeans I own, with the outline of my phone just barely showing against the pockets. I wonder why I even carry it. Not like I have anyone to talk to. Laugh a little at how pitiful that sounds, even in my head. I slip my shoes on, plain black Chuck's, and step outside into the darkness. I breathe deep and listen to the night dying; the song of crickets growing ever more quiet, the hum of motors growing ever louder...
    I snap out of my daze and take another look around. It's a true Midwestern October morning. There's a chill you can see in the sky, and an edge to the breeze that sends shivers down my spine as if to remind me that I'm alive. Just in case I forgot. I decide to walk, and shrug my jacket up higher on my shoulders. Its leather, and probably the nicest thing I own. A gift from the Mom of yesteryear. As I start out its still early, but I'm in no hurry. I take my time and enjoy every scrawl of graffiti, every trash strewn pile of leaves, every mote of exhaust. I drink it in. An urban masterpiece, a city-born kaleidoscope, an industrial perfume. Everything in life can be savory; its all about how you look at things.

    As the school comes into view I let out another sigh. I do that a lot. The parking lots are packed, the roads to and from are empty. Late. Again. I laugh as I realize that even being late is a step up for me; I've been M.I.A. for a week or two now, lost count. Stepping through the lobby, the guard on duty gives me a lazy nod. They know by now its not worth hassling me. I'm a ghost in these halls, drifting where ever I want, whenever I want. Where I want to drift right now is a semantics class just down the hall. The teacher knows me, and she doesn't care if I sit in. I think I may have even been scheduled for the class at one point, but it doesn't really matter, not now.
    No sound rises from the hinges as I open the door; nobody looks up or even notices I've come in until I slide into a seat in the front row. That's when I get a few surprised looks from the kids around me. The occupied seat next to mine whispers at me, wondering where I've been. I wonder why he cares. Don't know his name, kind of surprised he knows mine. “Sick”, I say, not bothering to whisper. The teacher offers me a sidelong glance from where she stands, poised before the board. Hasn't been a real blackboard in years, its surface the proud owner of that permanently hazy look earned from continual use. I wonder how many times the same things have been written on it, how many times those repetitive old ideas have been carved into its face. I bet if I ran my hands over it, I could tell you what it said. Like braille. Truths so self-evident the blind could see them. I listen to them for a while, the teacher and the students. She pitches question after question at them. Underhand. They hit it out of the park every time, just what she wants to hear. Its fascinating to watch, a machine building and rebuilding itself. Every year, with every new crop of heads. Fascinating and a little scary. I slip out of my seat and head out the door; I've seen enough. I don't look back as the doors to the building swing shut for a final time. I can almost hear the steady hum of machinery behind me.
    Back home I sink onto my bed and try to think. Its hard these days. Sometimes I'm amazed by how difficult it is just to make a single, simple decision. Like getting out of bed in the morning. Should I? Or should I just lay here until I fall back asleep, and hope my dreams take me some place better. What I'm thinking now is that I don't belong here anymore. Never belonged here in the first place. I have no friends, no connections, no ties. All I am is a source of worry to Mom, and Mike wouldn't even know the difference. Jake is a big kid now, and he has a good head on his shoulders. I'm sure he would do fine without me. Hell, probably better than I've done. My eyes wander up to the ceiling light, where my money is stashed. I know I should have it in a bank somewhere, but these days you have to set those up with a parent, and I don't know how long that would last if Mom had access to it.
    I stand up and feel around inside the panel until my hand closes over the envelope. Spiderwebs brush my fingers, and something skitters along the back of my knuckles. I wait until whatever it is crawls off of me before pulling back. No reason to freak out and hurt the little guy, he was just sitting at home, relaxing. The paper feels heavier in my hand than I remember, I guess I lost track of how much I've saved. Maybe its just a different kind of weight. Count off the bills inside. Just a little over six thousand. My hand runs through my hair as I think, eyes closed. School is a non-issue, the chances of me graduating were laughable, at least with my attendance record. Work wouldn't miss me, I'm sure they could fill my spot immediately. Not like I do anything important. The family would be hurt, Jake most sincerely, but he would understand. Mom would play heartbroken for a while, but deep down I think she'd breathe a sigh of relief, knowing she wouldn't have to care for me anymore. I am kind of a hard teenager, and she has herself to care about.
    The next time my eyes open I'm homeless. I throw my other pairs of jeans into my duffel, and toss a couple of shirts in on top. Cinch it up and walk through the halls of the house that's no longer my home. After a moment's thought I detour into Jake's room. He's in school right now, probably eating lunch. I open up the bottom drawer of his nightstand and push away the socks he has piled up so inconspicuously. Underneath are his notebooks, the ones he thinks I don't know about. The kid is a damned good writer, I tell you that? He doesn't like people knowing, but he has a mean grip on this whole English language thing. Guess it's not cool in this generation. I open up his current journal and flip to where he's left off. Hopping over to the next page, I scrawl out a note.




    Jake,
    Sorry man, but you were never very good at being sneaky. Known about these things for years. Don't you know you're doing it wrong? You're supposed to hide your nudie mags and condoms in your sock drawer. Weirdo. But anyways, I'm leaving this here because I don't want you to think I'm abandoning you. I just need to get out, start my own story. This must be how it feels when you crack open a fresh notebook. I'm heading out of this place, though. Its just not for me anymore, never has been, actually. I think I'll head to California, everyone says its beautiful out there. I'll mail you back a blonde. I left you a little something in case you need it. I know how you're always loaning money to mom. Don't with this, its for you. I'll keep in touch with you. Take care of Mom.

    Love, your big brother.


    p.s. Don't tell Mom where I'm going, alright? No matter how bad she interrogates you.

    p.s.s. Get some condoms, or at least some nudie mags, you little weirdo. Didn't I teach you how to be a guy?



    I slip around a thousand dollars in between the pages and put it back into the drawer, leaving it cracked a little so he'd notice someone was in there. I take the lasts few footsteps from his room to the front door quickly, not wanting to risk having something change my mind. Make me stay. I step out the front door for the last time. It gives a loud report as it bangs shut, a goodbye from all the people who didn't get one from me. I hitch my duffel higher on my shoulder and shrug my jacket in close against the wind. Against the world.


    I never look back.



  2. #2
    Conor Beaulieu
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    Oh, and my third chapter is where the dialogue starts happening. Picks up quite a bit tension wise too. And has strippers.

    Yayyy strippers.

  3. #3
    Conor Beaulieu
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    damnit. Loaning* my skin an angry red stain. Meant to fix that when I was pasting it in. Sorry.

  4. #4
    james heller
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    No offense, but it TL;DR.

    I skimmed it though, the problem is that it starts excruciatingly boring and doesn't really pick up. I realize that the next chapter is when the action starts, but thats one chapter too far in my opinion. A book should start with action, otherwise people get bored and put it down, like I did.

    Good luck, writing isn't bad, a little too descriptive and dense if anything.

  5. #5
    Conor Beaulieu
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    I just don't think its your kind of book. It's not an "action" novel by any means, no matter how far along it gets.

    Thank you for your opinion.

  6. #6
    Keith .
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    Oh, and my third chapter is where the dialogue starts happening. Picks up quite a bit tension wise too. And has strippers.

    Yayyy strippers


    I feel texture in your voice and that's a good thing, but you won't be able to tell prospective readers the above in the bookstore. You don't need bombs exploding or boobs bouncing on the first page, but you need something to draw the reader in. You need something on the first page to convince someone to pull out their debit card and head to the register. I don't see it here (yet) and stopped at the fourth graph.

    Look at a site called Flogging the Quill. An editor lets you submit the first page of your manuscript. He reads the first 16 lines (page one after chapter titles and such) and tells you whether he'd continue. He also gives pretty good feedback.

    You're skills are there, but IMO your writing isn't ready for primetime. At your age, and I know that phrase frosts teens but it is what it is, you have a great opportunity to get there quickly. Writing is a learned craft so be agressive. Join a crit group and read every day.

    If I may, I nearly didn't open this thread because of the immature and unprofessional way you handled criticism in an earlier thread. Get thick skin and thank people for their input-even if you think it's crap. Also accept the fact your work isn't perfect and be willing to change it. Naturally, that doesn't mean to take as gospel the suggestions of strangers like me on a message board. But taking a defensive and combative stance on readers' suggestions won't encourage folks to give honest feedback.

    Finally, take your writing seriously. My agent just brokered a multi-book deal for an 18 year old writer. The opportunity is there, right now, but you have to approach it professionally. Luck.

  7. #7
    Conor Beaulieu
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    Crit group? What about my skills isn't there for primetime? Extrapolate if you would, please.

  8. #8
    Conor Beaulieu
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    Also, I really don't get how people come to a reader/writer forum and don't take the extra 15 seconds to read the entire excerpt. Confuses me to no end.

  9. #9
    Keith .
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    Also, I really don't get how people come to a reader/writer forum and don't take the extra 15 seconds to read the entire excerpt. Confuses me to no end.

    Are you really this thick? I stopped reading because I hated it. Sentence after sentence of boring minutiae makes for a poor opening to a novel. I tried to give you encouragement and a resource to visit because I saw no need to nitpick your structure when the sample itself was so tiresome. Other opinions will differ but that was mine. Explore the resource I suggested or ignore it. You’re in control.

    But wait! You've discovered an amazing remedy for bad writing. First, post a sample asking professional writers to give you an honest opinion. When a writer replies with anything other than, "Jesus F'ing C you're brilliant!", then reply with insults and wiseass cracks. Clouds gather, winds swirl and--

    BAM! The entire publishing world evolves to your way of thinking and throws basic rules of story out the window. Congrats, you don’t need to change anything.

    You asked for opinions and I gave you one. Some here may write your book for you. I won't. Some may line edit your novel for you. I won't. Some may offer to help with mechanics when the storytelling is a bigger problem. I won't. I prefer to suggest resources and let the writer learn the craft. Teach a man to fish, and all.

    If you’d like some texts on style and storytelling, on writing craft or novel structure, then search out this forum and you’ll get some good suggestions. Or you can spend your entire life arguing with those whose opinions you solicit. My first ten minutes/my last ten minutes.

  10. #10
    Conor Beaulieu
    Guest

    Re: Revised first chapter

    Holy over-reaction batman.

    Thank you for your opinion! Have a nice day.

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