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  1. #1
    Chris Anderson
    Guest

    For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    I'm looking for feedback please. This would be the start of the novel I am working on. Some the things I am looking for, other than grammar or structure issues, would be impressions of the situation, tone and emotion. Does it make you care to read on? Finally, does the last paragraph work as a transition to Logan telling his story? Eventually the story will catch up to the moment portrayed here and move on, but it will start from the beginning and move forward chronologically up TO this point.

    * * * * *

    Chapter 1

    How many times have we woken up together?
    Anna sleeps with her back to me, flannel sheet shrugged down to her hips and checked down comforter slacked to her knees. Her toasted chestnut hair pours across her pillow and tickles my nose. I dip my my face and lay it between her shoulder blades. Deliciously soft skin brushes my against my cheek. I lay still, breathing her in. I cannot describe the way she smells because the aroma is simply Anna, my flawless Juliette.
    I lick my parched lips and kiss her shoulder. The sunlight slowly tanning the morning into midday makes her silhouette glow. I cannot resist sliding my arm across the valley of her curves and she reacts with a gentle sigh hardly more noticeable than sleeping breaths, but finishes with a pleasant moan. Like every morning together, my first touch causes her to roll to me and drape herself across my chest, leg across my thighs, head against my shoulder, soft breaths kissing my neck. She smiles in her sleep and makes small noises like a baby snuggling against her parent.
    Silent tears fall on her from my cheek and into her hair. I try to disguise them by brushing her hair with my hand.
    "Logan?" she pauses but doesn't lift her head. "I love you."
    I hold my breath and swallow hard, choking back the waver in my voice. "How many mornings like this have we had together?" She doesn't say anything, but answers with a firm hug using her one free arm. I stare at the cracks in the plaster ceiling and absently caress her back until my voice recovers.
    "We've woken up together so many places. The cabin. Our parents. Up at Split Rock that time we went camping. Remember how cold it was that morning?" Another tear drops in her hair. I don't even try to hide them now. I sniff the drips back into my nose before they follow the tears."Remember how cold it was in in the apartment those mornings last month? We always warmed it up, didn't we." My laugh mixes with a choke and comes out ragged but honest. She laughs just once and sniffs her own drips back. I feel her cheeks tighten and know she is smiling, but she still doesn't look up. The room is quiet again and we listen to the birds chirping outside the window.
    "I love you." I say. "I'm sorry I didn't answer you."
    "I know you love me, I don't need you to answer every time. Sometimes, I just want to say it, even if you are asleep."
    "I just can't stop thinking. I think...when did things change?" She hugs me again and let's me talk. "I guess it's obvious. Will they ever be like that again? I want nothing to matter but us. I want nothing to think about but you." The tears are dropping steadily now and I need to sniff each breath back to clear my nose. I think about the few times I've seen her cry and how she always hides it from me. Sometimes she tells me later, but I never seem to know at that moment. Every time I discover her crying, or suspect it when I wake up in middle of the night and hear her hidden snuffles or the subtle sound of a tissue leaving it's box, I long for her to share it with me. I want her to wake me, infuse her anguish with my woe, perhaps purge our minds and our hearts so we can be who we were, for just a day, for even one morning the way it used to be.
    She pushes herself up off my shoulder and looks me in the eyes. Her's are red and glossy, swollen, and beautiful as ever. She is smiling at me and her gaze is as powerful as we have ever shared. It is more passionate than the moment of our first kiss and more sincere than the first time she told me she loved me. Everything I fear is reflected in her face, but the warmth and sincerity of her smile has more hope in it than every God damn get well card pinned on the far wall.
    She kisses me hard, palms framing my face and wiping tears of my cheeks. "I'm right here, and all that matters is still the same. We have each other and that's all we need."
    I know the smile I forge has none of the strength and sincerity of hers. She lays her head against my neck and we stop talking. We finally purge together. We release it all, but know it will just build again. She falls asleep against me and around me and I listen to her breathe while my tears continue to trickle into her hair.
    The dream I can't shake drifts back into the place where it seems to belong, possessing my life. Ryan is with us and I'm handing him a paper. I don't usually remember my dreams, and I see very little of this one anymore, but I know how it feels. I'm showing my best friend what Anna's favorite things in life are, I've written them down. In my dream I know he will take care of her. In reality I know he would never do it, even if I begged him. He loves me too much to take my place.
    I run my hand through her hair and smell her again and again, trying to replace the oxygen in my body with her scent. Her body against mine finally relaxes me and I fall into the land between dreams and Saturday morning, listening to her soft cat Sunny purr next to me while I rub his back. I realize Anna is right, and at the same time, very wrong. She is all I need, but I can't save her the way that she can save me, and she needs more than I can give her now. Who will she wake up next to when I'm gone? I fear I will never come to understand that future, to accept that world where she loves someone else. I know she will, and even though I can't accept it, I desperately want her to have that life. It's nauseating to want her to forget me and move on, and in the same moment to want to be enshrined as her only love. Not born out of ego, but out of the desperate desire for her to understand just how much I love her.
    So many people go through pain at my expense. I should have stayed home, alone, where it was safe, where I wouldn't have pulled her into the battles of my war on life. My first day here would have been sign enough for most people, but I was invincible that morning. I was alone and unstoppable in a new life.



  2. #2
    Smiling Curmudgeon
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    Chris,

    Comments.

    The format is messed up. That's common when people first post here. Always add an extra space between paragraphs. Yes, it looks fine on your word processor. Here, the space is lost.

    More important, you've written a buncha words where nothing happens. Way too much detail and repetition for this reader. Consider reading it out loud. How much of the detail stands out to you as unnecessary?

    Ask yourself what you're trying to convey in this excerpt. Then consider ways to do it with less folderol.

    Your explanatory para before your tale begins confused me. Is this the beginning of your story? If so, cut 90% of it. This is all introspective blah-blah.

    What have you showed your reader that'll get her interested in your characters? What's at stake for Anna and Logan? If it's there, I missed it.

    My only suggestion is to read. I mean, a lot! You'll learn some things by osmosis. My sense is, even if this is intended to be literary, it's unreadable. A critique group may be helpful.

    Hope this helps.

    Feel free to ignore.

    Cur (Conor, is this you?)

  3. #3
    d d
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    Cur always gives good advice. I second it.

    The opening few sentences set up a fairly sexy scene, but then it meanders around in a sentimental soup of words. Too many words.

    Focus on the main points of emotion and build around them.

  4. #4
    martin shaw
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    You have some super creative sentences, but it just doesn’t fit in to a story.
    “How many times have we woken up together?

    "Anna sleeps with her back to me, flannel sheet shrugged down to her hips and checked down comforter slacked to her knees. Her toasted chestnut hair pours across her pillow and tickles my nose. I dip my my face and lay it between her shoulder blades. Deliciously soft skin brushes my against my cheek. I lay still, breathing her in. I cannot describe the way she smells because the aroma is simply Anna, my flawless Juliette.”

    To flouncy; I find myself trying to understand an excruciatingly long poem... and crashing midway to slowly peter out. If you used your creativity for a watery sex scene, it would in fact be quite interesting: though an absolute turn off when you dip your face in to her hair like porridge. So alas, this was an anti climax for me.

    As I read it again; you simile her body’s countryside too obviously. When I use similes I try not to state immediate reflections.

    I can’t comment on punctuation; sorry.

  5. #5
    martin shaw
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    You have some super creative sentences, but it just doesn’t fit in to a story.

    /"Anna sleeps with her back to me, flannel sheet shrugged down to her hips and checked down comforter slacked to her knees. Her toasted chestnut hair pours across her pillow and tickles my nose. I dip my my face and lay it between her shoulder blades. Deliciously soft skin brushes my against my cheek. I lay still, breathing her in. I cannot describe the way she smells because the aroma is simply Anna, my flawless Juliette.”/

    To flouncy; I find myself trying to understand an excruciatingly long poem... and crashing midway to slowly peter out. If you used your creativity for a watery sex scene, it would in fact be quite interesting: though an absolute turn off when you dip your face in to her hair like porridge. So alas, this was an anti climax for me.

    As I read it again; you simile her body’s countryside too obviously. When I use similes I try not to state immediate reflections.

    I can’t comment on punctuation; sorry.

  6. #6
    Chris Anderson
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    I'm a little surprised to hear it's unreadable as is, but I'm not going to get defensive, I'll just work on improving it. I'll try and cut it down, I know I have a habit of being a little too wordy.

    I'm really surprised that the emotion and "what's at stake" didn't come through. I thought that was the strong point honestly. What's at stake is their relationship and Logan's life. Thought it was pretty obvious. Isn't that enough at stake? It's not a book about the end of the world. It's about love and beating cancer (yeah I know I didn't say that yet, but I thought I'd leave that for later). I DID think I made it clear his life was in danger, or at least he was feeling it was.

    And yes, I was trying to set it up kinda steamy and then throw in that twist that he's not happy, or at least he is depressed.

    P.S. Sorry about the formatting, I know better. I've done that before.

  7. #7
    junel ;-)
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    Hello Chris,

    I didn't think it was all that bad. I quite enjoyed it on some levels. But you need to write a whole let less I think. Notice i didn't say you need to say less. That's because you can write less, and still say everything you want, and even more. Upon a few rewrites this may well polish up to be quite excellent.

    You see, your overwriting so much at the moment, that nothing gets said. The reader isn't sure where you want his/her focus to be.

    I don't mind the poetry, but keep it succint. It loses its value if it's overused. Besides the reader generally just doesn't have the capacity to keep up with it, or doesn't want it in the first place. Just like melodrama, i don't think readers generally take to that well either.

    One bit of advice I will give you is, try to write this without the tears, not only will you address the issue of melodrama onto the reader, but i actually think it would make this piece ten folds more poignant. Then you will be suggesting at the tears, and repressed emotion is always more interesting. Try and write the scene where one would expect your characters to be crying, but they don't, so the reader may cry on their behalf.

    Save the tears for cathartic scenes. This isn't cathartic, it's reflective.

    Just one last thought, for me tears and melodrama are a bit like sex and violence. Too often used gratuitously because it's the easiest option.

    Have you watched a movie called 'My Life' (i think)?, Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman. It's about a guy dying of cancer. Could be good research material for you. But in that movie there is very little tears. In fact, part of the story is his inability to show emotion, and how he is unable to reach out to the people he loves before he dies. It makes the story so much stronger for it. It lets the audience feel the emotions.

    Before i go, i will reiterate i don't think this to be bad by any stretch. But it does need quite some work.

    Good Luck.

  8. #8
    Chris Anderson
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    Junel,

    Thanks for some more info, I will give it a try. I see your point on tears, I know I am guilty of that. I was hoping that after setting up the scene with what seemed good vibes, the sudden mention of tears would throw the reader and introduce the tension. I'll experiment with some other options.

    FYI, I realize that often, real life doesn't work as a movie or book. As for research, I'm not going to do much because this scene is 100% in every way autobiographical. Not one word is fiction, but the overall plot of my book departs heavily from real life. Just not this scene. I felt it was a good start point for book because it was so pivotal in my life.

  9. #9
    Sam Fletcher
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    Okay, I rewrote this three times to keep it from being overly critical. I think the second sentence is incomprehensible. I don’t know if flannel sheets even exist and I don’t understand a comforter that checks her knees. I had to reread several sentences throughout this selection in an attempt to figure out the meaning of them.

    All of this feels like the story is standing still, like you’re saying the same sentence over and over. Without tension, without suspense, without action, without hard choices there’s no story.

    This is like the caricature of a true romance. Romance is based on depth, courage and true worth. Before I’m going to be emotionally invested in these characters I’m going to have to see the truth of them and what makes them tick. I need to fall in love with them myself before I care about whether they love one another. They seem to be nothing but surface appearance and the mouthed repetition of “I love you” over and over.

    You have a nice voice and you’re good at description. But now you’re going to have to add underlying substance and forward momentum to all of that. People are seen much more by what they do than by the words they say. Show us the truth of them by letting us see them in action. Put them in a difficult situation so we can see for ourselves the kind of choices they’ll make.

  10. #10
    Jon Q. Public
    Guest

    Re: For Your Consideration: Chapter 1 beginning

    Sam, are you serious? You've never heard of flannel sheets? How is that possible? The comforter is checked. It should be checkered or, better yet, not be described in such detail -- it doesn't matter.

    Chris,

    I also was a little bothered by the blubbering. The writing is good but the relationship between these people seemed unnatural to me.

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