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  1. #1
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    The Revenge - Partial First Chapter.

    Chapter 1 - The Theft

    He carefully hid his motorbike in the foliage on the bank of the lake. He could not afford any surprise sprung by some small-time thief or an alert passerby.

    He took his small sack of tools from the bag attached to the side of his bike and put it in pocket of his jeans. He checked his handgun. His trusted PSS Silent Pistol was ready to serve him if need arose. It was a fine specimen of Russian craftsmanship that was his companion since he was ten years old. He attached a coil of knotted nylon rope to his belt. Finally he took the bag that had the basket made of straws in it.

    He stepped back on the small road and glanced at the place where he had concealed his means of escape. The bike could not be observed from the road. Satisfied by the job he had done, he looked at the lake behind foliage.

    The view was captivating. It was almost midnight. Full moon had turned it into a lake of molten gold from a fairyland. Rawal Lake supplied water to the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. He stood in the suburb of Bani Gala on the bank of the lake. Elite of Islamabad lived in that lush green reclusive suburb.

    He shook his head as if trying to break the spell and turned his attention to his immediate objective.

    He started moving toward the house that was his destination. Bani Gala was quiet right now. There was no traffic on the streets. He remained in shadows of trees and foliage to avoid being spotted by any sporadic vehicle showing up at the most unfortunate of times. Moonlight was a blessing and a curse for him tonight. He would be able to see his enemies and his enemies would have not much difficulty in spotting and hitting him. However moonlight had an important role to play in his plan tonight.

    The house was in the last lane of the suburb toward the lake. There was a small road in front of it. It was third house from the end of the street. It was different from the other houses. It was neither the size nor elegance of the main building nor beauty of gardens surrounding it that made it stand apart from neighboring houses. Part of what made it different was the aura of isolation.

    It had high gate and still higher walls. The single story house had few windows that were unlit most of the times. The windows were small and rather high and a man sitting on his chair would not have been visible from outside. They were secured by iron grill. They were built to keep prying eyes away. The house had a large concrete-made water tank on the roof. Sounds seldom came from the windows or garden. It was as if the house was barely inhabited, yet it was well guarded. Two guards were always present in the small room that was built inside the gate.

    During his surveillance he had found that the houses on both of its sides had just caretakers in it. Their owners probably lived in some other city most of the time. A small patch of woods was behind the houses. He circled the houses and entered the woods.

    One tree was adjacent to the rear wall of the house that was his target. It was a tall tree with a big trunk and a large spread. One of the branches was just above the rear wall. It had been his surveillance point for last few days. He had already selected it as his point of entry into the house. The tall evergreen tree could hide him well and he could climb down the wall from it. He climbed the tree and looked at the house.

    The house was built into an area of about three thousand square yards. Main building itself was not very large. It was surrounded by a garden around it. There were plants and flowerbeds along the boundary wall. A walkway separated the flowerbeds from the fifteen yards wide lawn. Main building had two doors that opened in the rear lawn. There were two small and high windows which made it hard to look from the house into the lawn. The windows were secured by strong iron grill like all other windows of the house. From his high point on the tree he could see through the windows that one door apparently belonged to a kitchen and the other opened in a library.

    He waited patiently. The backyard of the house was lit by moonlight. He took the straw basket out of the bag and held it carefully in his hands. The rounded basket was a common household item. It was eighteen inches in diameter and its contents were secured by a heavy lid made of straws. The lid was secured in its place with a string. He untied the string carefully. Now the waiting period had started. He knew that the guard made the rounds after every fifteen minutes or so. Finally he heard the footsteps after about ten minutes and he became alert. The footsteps got closer. He sensed that the guard was just around the corner of the building and was going to enter the backyard any moment.

    He held basket in one hand and its lid in his other hand and flung his arms toward the house. The basket and its lid remained in his hands and the contents of the basket flew toward the ground and landed in the backyard with a dull thumping sound.

    The guard turned the corner. Apparently he had heard the sound. He looked toward the origin of the sound and froze in his tracks. He traced back his steps.
    "Snake! There is a black snake in the backyard!" he yelled.
    Meanwhile the snake had disappeared in the shrubbery planted around the house. The second watchman who was stationed at the front door ran down toward the first guard.

    "What is wrong?" he asked.
    "There is a black snake here," the first guard said in a fearful voice as he pointed toward the flowerbed in which the snake had disappeared.

    The second guard turned on his flashlight and checked the back yard. Nothing was there. He put his light on the narrow path. There were unmistakable tracks of snake on the dust.

    "I won’t be making rounds in the back yard," the first guard said to the other. "If you feel like doing it, you can do so."
    "I am not doing it either," the second guard spoke in a nervous voice. "We’ll find and kill the worm in morning. Anyway the neighborhood is not known for thieves. A night without rounds in the backyard won’t cause any problem. Just don’t tell it to the boss."

    The first guard nodded his head in agreement and both of them left. Baz remained in the tree for another half an hour to check if they’d wait for the morning or not to come back to the back yard. They did not return.

    Baz moved toward the wall. He tied a dark knotted nylon rope to the tree and dropped it in the courtyard. The rope blended well with the color of wall and it was virtually invisible. Baz jumped down on the top of the wall and climbed down in the garden. The rope would give him a quick and safe escape route.

    He got closer to the library and peeked through the window. As he had expected, the room was empty. He had noted during his reconnaissance that room was not used after eleven in night.

    He minutely looked at the window and door. He could not find any sign of any intruder detection system. Satisfied, he opened his bag of tools and started working on the lock of the door. It was a simple lock. The owners of the house had put too much faith in the guards for protection. The lock gave away within minutes. He entered the room.

    He bolted the interior door of the room. Now he turned his attention to the objects in the room. The large room had Spartan but expensive furniture. The walls had wood paneling. A cupboard built into a wall had some books in it. The most prominent object was a mahogany table placed in one corner of the room. The table had a laptop on it. Its empty carrying bag was also on the table. The bag was made of leather and it looked expensive. There was an easy chair in one corner of the room. A leather sofa set with a coffee table in front of it was placed beside one wall for the room. The room had almost no decoration pieces. The only decoration he could see was a two-by-three feet Chinese painting of flowers on one wall and a marble chessboard on the coffee table.

    His eyes fixed on the only painting on the walls. The Chinese painting of flowers was behind the chair of the study table. Baz observed with a satisfied smiled; the painting did not match the general theme of the room. He moved toward the picture and removed it from the wall. There was a safe behind it. It looked like a simple safe to him. He started working on it and managed to get it open in less than ten minutes. Four bundles of money were in the small safe.

    Baz took money from the safe and put it on the table. Three bundles of money were in one thousand rupee denomination. The fourth had one hundred dollars bills in it. It’d be enough to cover his loss and give him some extra money in compensation for his discomfort. He looked around and finally his gaze fixed on the laptop bag. He started putting the money in laptop bag. He won’t take laptop with him. The money was the only thing that he wanted. He did not want to pick anything heavy. He put whole cash into the laptop bag.

    Another item attracted his attention. It was an eye-catching mobile phone. It looked different from the phones that he commonly saw in hands of people. It had small shiny stones encrusted around the edge of the screen. He decided to take it with him and put it in his side pocket. He searched the drawers of the table. There were no valuables in them.

    The sudden sound of chime startled him. He looked around him but could not find the source. The sound rang in the room again. It was coming from his side pocket. He took out the phone in hurry and it rang in his hands again. He pressed the hang up button and then shut it down. He zipped up the laptop bag and started moving toward the outer door. Every passing moment was putting him in danger.



  2. #2
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    Don't have time for a detail critique, but I'll try to give you a few general impressions.

    The prose style has a monotonous subject-verb-object rhythm to it. You tend over-describe every action; that, coupled with an almost pedantic correctness of expression (e.g., "It was eighteen inches in diameter and its contents were secured by a heavy lid made of straws. The lid was secured in its place with a string.") well nigh bludgeons the reader with detail.

    You begin in tight third-person POV, and switch to omniscient with the guards, and back to tight third, which is disconcerting. The guards' dialog doesn't sound real, maybe because you burden it with exposition.

    Finally, and this I believe is the primary problem, when I reach the end--after some six full manuscript pages--I have no idea who this character is or why he's gone to such pains (a snake in a basket?) just to burgle a residence. The opening pages constitute the most important real estate in your story; don't squander it on densely worded minutiae. My advice would be to read, read, read your favorite authors; study how they open their stories, how they set up characters and establish tension to draw the reader in.

    My opinion. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Belinda T.
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    I concur with everything Jayce has opined and will add one additional note. It seems like you're struggling not only with an excessive amount of adverbs but you're also using "he" in excess which also detracts from your character because he's not been personalized. I'd like to see his name at least once in a full para. Just my opinion. You're free to do what you want with your work.

    Too much info/overkill. Try to tighten up and lose some words, please.
    Good luck.

    Example:

    His eyes fixated on paintings in the hall. Baz smiled when he observed the Chinese floral. He removed it and located the safe. In less than two minutes, Baz looted four bundles of cash and a mobile phone.
    Last edited by Belinda T.; 07-01-2011 at 08:44 AM. Reason: experienced burglars are in-n-out in less than two [2] mins.

  4. #4
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    You are telling, not showing us what’s going on here. Lots of was’s, were’s, had’s, etc. Don’t tell us one guard says something in a “fearful voice” and another says something in a “nervous voice”. You have to learn how to how us their fear, their anxiety.

    I agree this piece needs some serious editing (and could probably be cut by a third, minimum). For example, in the span of 2 paragraphs you have 11 sentences about a telephone: Another item attracted his attention. It was an eye-catching mobile phone. It looked different from the phones that he commonly saw in hands of people. It had small shiny stones encrusted around the edge of the screen. He decided to take it with him and put it in his side pocket…The sudden sound of chime startled him. He looked around him but could not find the source. The sound rang in the room again. It was coming from his side pocket. (He couldn’t tell that the first time it rang?) He took out the phone in hurry and it rang in his hands again. He pressed the hang up button and then shut it down. Way, waaay too much about the phone already. Learn to chop. Good luck!

  5. #5
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    Thanks a lot Jayce, ******* and Jena. Actually this chapter was supposed to be a teaser; though after reading your comments I realize it needs a major rewrite. After this chapter, the story goes back in past and starts from there. In second chapter, the character is developed.

    As for phone, it plays an important part later in the story, so I gave it some extra space.

    The most important part for me was the comments about POV. I wanted to know if I really handle POV well or not, and if my grammar is ok or not. It seems that I've passed the grammar test :-) As for POV, I've to analyze the guards portion to understand what mistake I've made in POV.

    The character knows the locks, but he's not a professional burglar. He's simply trying to get back some money that was looted from him. As for heavy descriptions, probably its an influence of the last Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child that I've read :-)

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by Adnan Khan; 07-01-2011 at 09:40 AM.

  6. #6
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    Jena, jayce and ******* have admirably covered the issues from a macro standpoint. I'd like to step in and give you an idea of the level to which you can micro-edit this piece, by just taking the first two paragraphs and analyzing them. My comments are in caps.


    He WHO? THE READER DOESN'T WANT TO START WITH A FORMLESS MALE PLACEHOLDER. USE HIS NAME OR AT LEAST GIVE US A DESCRIPTION LIKE "THE TALL MAN WITH THE BULLET HOLE IN HIS ARM" carefully I DON'T HOLD WITH THOSE WHO CLAIM ALL ADVERBS ARE FROM SATAN, BUT YOU SHOULD SUBJECT THEM TO RIGOROUS SCRUTINY BEFORE USING THEM. HERE "CAREFULLY" ADDS NOTHING - THE READER ISN'T GOING TO ASSUME HE'S HIDING SOMETHING CARELESSLY - AND IT'S SURPLUSAGE WHICH SHOULD GO hid his motorbike in the foliage THINK ABOUT WHETHER YOU WANT TO SAY "FOLIAGE" OR SOMETHING MORE SPECIFIC AND CONCRETE LIKE "BUSHES" OR "REEDS" on the bank of the lake. He could not afford any surprise sprung THIS CONSTRUCTION IS AWKWARD AND NEEDS TO BE CLEANED UP by some YOU'VE NOW USED "ANY" AND "SOME" IN THE SAME SENTENCE. THESE ARE VAGUE GENERALIZING WORDS WHICH PULL THE READER OUT OF THE IMMEDIACY OF THE STORY small-time thief DO YOU NEED "SMALL-TIME"? or an alert passerby. DO YOU REALLY NEED TO LIST TWO POSSIBLE TYPES OF PEOPLE WHO MIGHT STEAL THE MOTORCYCLE? AND IF A PASSERBY TAKES THE CYCLE, ISN'T HE/SHE A THIEF ANYWAY?


    This is the beginning of your novel - it needs to shine and bring the reader right in. I'd recommend going to this level of detailed analysis with every line of the book, but it's critically important here. Hope this is helpful. Good luck!

    JH

  7. #7
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    You have to learn how to how us their fear, their anxiety.

    That was supposed to be "show" us, not "how" us. Bad me for not previewing.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jena Grace View Post
    You have to learn how to how us their fear, their anxiety.

    That was supposed to be "show" us, not "how" us. Bad me for not previewing.
    It happens to the best of us, Jena. You "show" how something was done, so you at least weren't that far off.

  9. #9
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    Thanks all for your help. I'd be grateful if you can guide me some more about one comment:

    Jayce has said about Third Person and Omniscient POVs. I've tried to use Limited Omniscient POV throughout the scene as in this kind of work it'd make more sense. Have I failed in managing it?

  10. #10
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    Adnan said: <I've tried to use Limited Omniscient POV....>

    Don't exactly know what you mean here. It sounds like a contradiction in terms, since third-person POV is either limited or omniscient.

    Here's my take on your POV (I'll quote your text in boldface):

    You open in Baz's POV; because the narrator proceeds for several passages without revealing anything conceivably beyond Baz's purview, I--the reader--settle in to a "limited third-person POV." It's when Baz tosses the snake that things get hazy.

    The guard turned the corner. Apparently he had heard the sound. Technically, that "apparently" modifier maintains the validity of Baz's POV, but it reads like an afterthought on the author's part.

    He looked toward the origin of the sound... The narrator can't know why the guard is looking in any given direction. This is where the POV shifts from Baz to the 1st guard. (If you intend a POV shift, either provide a narrative transition or insert a scene break--a few asterisks or pound signs on a line, like this:

    ***

    or this

    ###

    after which you resume the narrative from the second character's POV. There's books on this stuff; you should get one.)

    ...and froze in his tracks. He traced back his steps. "Snake! There is a black snake in the backyard!" he yelled.

    Meanwhile... "Meanwhile" implies the beginning of parallel action; is that what you intended? ...the snake had disappeared in the shrubbery planted around the house. because with that shift in tense, I get the feeling the snake's disappearance occurred unobserved by the 1st guard, which means it had to be witnessed by an omniscient narrator. Now this POV thing is truly wrapped around the axle. The reader's default reaction: omniscient.

    The second watchman who was stationed at the front door ran down toward the first guard. "What is wrong?" he asked. Here--with no narrative or typographical warning--the focus has shifted to the 2nd guard, but that's okay because I--the reader--have resigned myself to a head-hopping omniscient narrator (sigh.)

    "There is a black snake here," the first guard said in a fearful voice as he pointed toward the flowerbed in which the snake had disappeared. At this point I no longer care about POV, but I do wonder why you're telling me for the second time that a snake disappeared into the bushes? Do you think I missed it the first time around?

    When you finish with the guards' expository dialogue, the POV shifts back to Baz (third-person tight), whence it began.

    Read Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein. Or Google "Point of View"; you'll get loads of hits.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by jayce; 07-04-2011 at 06:56 PM.

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