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Thread: Opinions Please

  1. #1
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    Opinions Please

    Here are the first few paragraphs of something I wrote a few years ago and I wondered if I could get your thoughts.

    Thanks in advance.


    The last of the daylight was fading as Baybee eased her car into a vacant spot on the front row. She watched as a few flakes of snow drifted lazily down to lie melting on her hood, and behind her the lights over the parking lot flickered on one by one. She sat for a moment, the silence broken only by the ticking of her engine, and waited for her courage to return. Alone in her car with the sky hanging dark and low, she was both terrified to go in, and terrified not to.

    “Come on honey…where’s your nerve?” she scolded herself, “You’ve been through much worse than this!” She sighed and took a moment to look around. To her left were parked perhaps a dozen empty cars; their passengers already inside. On her right were two news vans from the city. “I suppose he’ll be on the news tonight.” She thought, and sighed again.

    After passing through security at the entrance, “What a mess that was!” she thought, “All those people with all those signs!” she had driven slowly between rows of sad and cheerless buildings. Surrounding each were deserted, wind blown yards bordered by high double fences, each with razor wire looped lazily along the top. Guard towers were on each corner and although she could only see dark shapes moving behind the dirty glass, she could feel their eyes and hear their watchful thoughts in her mind. She turned her eyes forward and looked at the main building beyond her hood. “What a dreary old place!” She thought and shook her head sadly. She slid off one glove and covered her eyes with her smooth black palm, trying to block the barrage of feelings and images that flooded her mind. She opened her eyes and looked again at the main building. Three stories tall and a block long, in daylight it was likely white, but when lit by the scattered lights of the parking lot it took on a yellowed, used look. Three rows of windows ran above the main entrance in the center. Each window had a set of bars mounted on the outside, and in the light from the parking lot, the bars stood out in stark contrast against the building. She mused that the bars looked a bit like rows of teeth clamped tight against the cold. “What must it be like to work in such a place?” she whispered.

    She pulled back the sleeve of her coat and checked her watch. “Like it or not Baybee ol’ girl…” She slid her knit hat off and ran her hand over her short hair and then down across her face, “It’s time to go.” She put her hat and glove back on and as she reached across the seat for her purse, she heard his voice speak softly in her mind. Not all the others, only his.
    “Is that you?” he asked gently.
    “Yes, it’s me.” She answered.
    “Good…” when he paused, she could both hear and feel the raw fear just below his words, “I could use a friendly face right now.”



  2. #2
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    I thought it was pretty good overall. You have a few confusing sentences, like this one:

    After passing through security at the entrance, “What a mess that was!” she thought, “All those people with all those signs!” she had driven slowly between rows of sad and cheerless buildings.

    I'd probably make two sentences out of that.

    What exactly are "watchful thoughts"?

    That third paragraph could probably use some trimming. I started skimming a bit through it.

  3. #3
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    Thank you for your reply!

    You're right. How about,

    After passing through security at the entrance she had driven slowly between rows of sad and cheerless buildings. “What a mess that was!” she thought, “All those people with signs!”

    My main character can hear other people's thoughts and I hoped to hint a little as she drove through the prison with guards watching, "she could feel their eyes and hear their watchful thoughts in her mind". Then more directly with the mental conversation with someone in the last few lines. I guess it's not as obvious as I thought.

    Is this better for the third paragraph,

    After passing through security at the entrance she had driven slowly between rows of sad and cheerless buildings. “What a mess that was!” she thought, “All those people with signs!” Surrounding each building were deserted, wind blown yards bordered by high double fences, each with razor wire looped lazily along the top. Guard towers were on each corner and although she could only see dark shapes moving behind the dirty glass, she could feel their eyes and hear their watchful thoughts in her mind. She turned her eyes forward and looked at the main building beyond her hood. “What a dreary old place!” She thought and shook her head sadly. She slid off one glove and covered her eyes with her smooth black palm, trying to block the barrage of feelings and images that flooded her mind. “What must it be like to work in such a place?” she whispered.

    I fixed the first sentence and cut out some description of the building. You're right, it's better.

    Do my paragraphs make you want to read on?

  4. #4
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    That's way better in my opinion, but you could use better verbs, use past tense more consistently, and tighten just a wee bit more. Read this (suggestions in red):

    After passing through security, she drove slowly between rows of sad and cheerless buildings. “What a mess that was!” she thought. “All those people with signs!” Surrounding each building were deserted, wind-blown yards bordered by high double fences with razor wire looped along the top. Guard towers stood on each corner, and although she saw only dark shapes moving behind the dirty glass, she perceived their eyes and their watchful thoughts in her mind. She appraised the main building before her, shaking her head sadly. “What a dreary old place!” She slid off one glove and covered her eyes with her smooth black palm, trying to block the barrage of feelings and images flooding her mind. “What must it be like to work in such a place?” she whispered.

    I understood there was some kind of telepathy thing going on, no problem there. I just think "watchful" is an adjective you see, not hear. How do you hear something watchful? Also, it just occurred to me, I've known quite a few black people in my life, and their palms were always just as white as mine. Just an observation.

    Yeah, I thought it was decent. I would read more.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 01-17-2014 at 05:25 AM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks again for your thoughts. It's amazing to me that no matter how many times I read something, even aloud, fresh eyes change things. I'll go through the rest and try to apply your advice. Meanwhile, here's the next 600 words or so. Unchanged, as I wrote it a few years ago.

    She waited for more but he was silent. Sighing again, she picked up her purse and opened her door and got out. She pulled her coat tight against the cold, and walked to the double doors. They were glass, and through the faint lines of metal screen inside them she could see a well lit waiting room beyond.

    A tinny voice from a metal grill next to the door broke the silence and she jumped a little, “Mrs. Cooper?” She glanced above the doors and saw a camera high in one corner. “Yes, I’m Baybee Cooper.”

    “Good evening Mrs. Cooper. Welcome.” The voice was followed by a buzz from the door and the voice continued, “Please wait in the lobby. A guard will meet you there and escort you upstairs.”

    “Sixty one years old and finally…” she thought with a grin, “somebody to escort me!”

    Warmth greeted her as she entered the lobby and she unbuttoned her coat and took off her hat and gloves. The lobby was plain but pleasant and Baybee felt her spirits lift. A hallway led from one end of the lobby and she could hear the echo of footsteps approaching. A young guard entered, “Mrs. Cooper?”

    “Yes, I’m Mrs. Cooper.” She answered.

    “Could I see your papers please?” he asked.

    “Certainly.” She handed the guard an envelope from her purse.

    He took the single paper from the envelope and looked at it closely and then at her. “Looks fine, Mrs. Cooper.” and put the paper back into the envelope, “Sorry for the trouble, but we’ve had to increase our security tonight.” He said as he handed the envelope back to her.

    “I understand.” She said, “I saw all those people outside the gates.”

    “Yes, we don’t usually have such a problem with crowds but tonight is more than a little special. Now, if you’ll follow me please.” He motioned to the hallway behind him. He turned and she followed him into a hallway lined on each side with closed doors, each blank save for a lone name on a small brass plate. At the end were three elevators and he turned to the last one on the left. He pressed a button and the doors whispered open. He smiled and turned to Baybee. “After you, mamm.”

    “Thank you.” She said with her own smile as she went past him into the elevator. The guard followed, and the doors closed behind them. He pressed the button for the third floor and the elevator rose smoothly. The doors opened with a little ding and Baybee followed the guard down another short hallway into another small waiting area.

    “You can leave your coat here.” He told her gesturing to a rack along one wall.

    “Thank you.”

    She hung her coat on one of the empty hangers and put her hat and gloves on the shelf above.

    “Where to now?” She asked.

    “Right through there.” He answered pointing to a closed door opposite them. He nodded politely and went back through the open doors of the elevator. They closed, and Baybee was left alone in silence.

    She crossed the waiting room and stood for a long moment in front of the door. It was exactly like all the others she had passed on her way up, except the small nameplate on this one read, “Observation Room.”

    “Come on ol’ girl…” she told herself as she checked her watch, “You’ve got a little time yet before they bring him in.” She reached for the doorknob, “Just go in and sit for a while.” The knob turned easily in her hand and as she pushed, the door opened silently on well-oiled hinges.

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Too much blow-by-blow detail. Dial that way back. It's like you're trying to account for every second of the action. That gets tedious in a hurry. For example, we don't need to read about elevator doors opening and closing and buttons being pressed and all. Just say they took an elevator to the third floor. Done.

  7. #7
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    Thank you for your great suggestions. I guess I'll spend some time with this story and watch it snow.

    Thanks again,

    lveach

  8. #8
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Alrighty. Good luck.

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    I'm a little late to the party, but you are a good writer, Iveach, and wanted to comment. I really like your voice and the imagery you use. You have good word choice and sentence structure. Your writing could be tightened up with a few minor tweaks. I see John Oberon has helped you (hi John) so if I'm repeating anything, please forgive.

    The last of the daylight was fading as Baybee eased her car into a vacant spot on the front row.

    You should watch out using "dead" verbs, like 'was.' (If John Oberon already said something about this, then you know. He's the one who showed me the light about the dead verbs.) Verbs like this don't drive anything, they just allow the 'ing' (gerund, right?), on the end of the next word, 'fading,' which is better written as 'faded.' Applying this, your already strong sentence would read:

    The last of the daylight faded as Baybee eased her car into a vacant spot in the front row.

    You could do one better and streamline it to:

    Daylight faded as Baybee eased her car into a vacant spot in the front row.

    Get right to the visual and the subject. You have great verb selection, as in the next part, which is:

    She watched as a few flakes of snow drifted lazily down to lie melting on her hood...

    She watched snowflakes drift down to lie melting on the hood...

    Get rid of adverbs most of the time. "Drifted lazily' is sort of a cliche and made me think of Snoopy on his doghouse at Christmas for some reason lol. Avoid adverbs except when you HAVE to use it, like your life depends on it.

    Then, you need to tighten character placement. She's looking at the hood watching snowflakes melt. Good. Now she's looking behind her at the parking lot lights? How? And don't make her turn around and look or have the light gleam in her hair or some s**t like that. Use the environment, or make sure you have the action mean something, do something, as in set scenery as you have done really well, so I would suggest:

    ...and in the rearview mirror, the parking lot lights flickered on.

    Focus on the character, watch for dead verbs, and stick to active writing that moves. You have excellent voice and with simple edits your work will really shine. I tinkered a little more, but you get the jist:

    Daylight faded as Baybee eased her car into a vacant spot in the front row. She watched snowflakes drift down to lie melting on the hood and in the rearview mirror, the parking lot lights flickered on. Alone in her car under a dark, low sky, she waited in silence broken only by the occasional random ticking of her warm engine. She waited for her courage to return; she was terrified to get out, and terrified to stay in.
    Last edited by Diem Seven; 01-21-2014 at 08:26 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Howdy, Diem.

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