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  1. #1
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    First page

    I've had the idea for a novel for a while. I just started writing it recent and am finished with the first two chapters. I was hoping to get some feedback on writing on the first page, because I've looked over it too many times to tell if it reads well or not.

    Chapter I
    The Otherworldly Well

    Eshbaal stepped slowly and reverently toward the body of his young friend, which was lying motionless in the dirt at the side of a small pond. In the quiet and still night, the sight was almost peaceful. The body, the water, and the surrounding pine trees had become silver and gray in the light of the moon, and the pale, shimmering moonbeams created an illusory air of serenity and holiness.

    Tears began to well up and choke Eshbaal as he came to terms with the reality in front of him. His friend, Daniel, was dead, but he would not allow himself to be overcome by the all too familiar pain of loss. For a brief second, something deep inside of him had been touched—a memory that he would have liked to keep buried—and he closed his eyes. A moment later, he composed himself.

    He was an unusual looking man, with dark skin and deep, golden eyes. Subtle frown lines, signs of age and wisdom, contrasted his otherwise youthful appearance. His short, wavy hair was the same golden color as his eyes at the tip and darkened nearly to black at the root.

    His long coat folded beneath him as he knelt, facing away from the moonlight that filtered through the needles of nearby pine trees. He put his hands together and mouthed some words over the body, then stood once again. It was a half-hearted attempt to respect what he knew would have Daniel’s wishes. Somehow, that still seemed to matter.

    He wanted to cry, or at least part of him did. But part of him couldn’t. And so instead of crying, he stood there, letting the cool autumn air rush over him, his coat barely swaying in the nearly imperceptible breeze, hoping to feel at peace.

    “Eshbaal,” came the soothing and familiar voice of a woman. With complete ambivalence, he turned to face her and saw colors in her eyes, skin, and long, wavy hair that matched those of his own. The powerful feelings that engulfed him in a single moment were contradictory and confusing.

    “I can’t believe,” he began, nearly sobbing, as he tried to restrain an outpouring of emotion. He wondered if very much of it had to do with the dead body behind him. “Is this how much you hate me?”

    “I’ve never hated you,” she said with complete sincerity. “Never.”

    “Then why—” Eshbaal was cut off.

    “It has nothing to do with you.” She tried to sound comforting. “You know why, and you know it has nothing to do with you.”

    “Then, it’s here?” he asked, with something between hope and fear. “It’s real, and it’s here?”

    “As much as it is anywhere.”

    Eshbaal, overwhelmed, was still. All he could think to say was, “I can’t. . .” But can’t what? Can’t go on? Can’t let you do this? Can’t bear to stop you? He didn’t say anything more, because there was nothing else that could be said.

    “Then let me finish,” the woman whispered, placing her hand on his shoulder. Eshbaal gazed into her eyes and then silently walked off, leaving his wife to finish her work, as she began to circle the pond.



  2. #2
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    Mk, now see, that wasn't fair. Now I want to know more of the story. Poor Daniel . You're a really good writer!

    The paragraph, "He was an unusual looking man," seemed out of place. It could just be me, but it threw me out of the emotion of the story.

    You also missed a word in, "It was a half-hearted attempt to respect what he knew would have been Daniel’s wishes."

    Other than that, I didn't see anything wrong with it (I am a novice writer, though).

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your compliments. I can't believe I missed the word "been". I've looked that sentence over dozens of times. When I'm finished with chapter 3, I'm planning on sending this to a few friends, who hopefully will find the time to read it, and maybe will point out some of those things if I'm lucky.

    As for the paragraph that seems out of place, thank you for pointing that out. It was actually a later addition that wasn't in my first draft of the chapter. I think the information is somewhat important (for reasons that aren't apparent on the first page) and the scene shifts at the beginning of page two, so I'm not sure where else to put it. I don't want to hold off on the physical description until his next appearance, especially because I wanted to emphasize the fact that his wife has a similar, unusual look. I'll try to figure out a better way to work it in.

  4. #4
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    I hear ya on the word "been." I'm lucky in that I have several people who read my story (all family, and three of them I make read it ;p) to catch words like that.

    Not knowing anymore to your story I'm afraid I can't help you with the description thing. I do know that with my writing if something feels like I'm forcing it in, it always means I should leave it out, add it later, or add it in over time in bits and pieces as it seems relevant. Obviously you're a better writer than me, but maybe that could help.
    Last edited by Elven Candy; 01-20-2016 at 12:15 PM.

  5. #5
    Rogue Mutt
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    Overall I liked it. Just a couple of little things:

    Eshbaal stepped slowly and reverently toward the body of his young friend,
    You don't want two adverbs in your first sentence.

    He was an unusual looking man, with dark skin and deep, golden eyes.
    The thing about this is he isn't unusual because he has dark skin, is he? It's the golden eyes that are unusual.

    Since you've read other threads in this forum, I'm sure you've braced yourself for resident pointer Jay Greenstein to tell you that you're an amateur and don't know how to write because you didn't read Dwight Swain. Good luck to you.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    Overall I liked it. Just a couple of little things:
    Liked it as in, would keep reading voluntarily because it's interesting, or as in, I'm being polite because I don't want to offend you?

    You don't want two adverbs in your first sentence.
    Fair enough.

    The thing about this is he isn't unusual because he has dark skin, is he? It's the golden eyes that are unusual.
    When I put dark skin last, it sounds worse to me because I feel like I've saved it for last because it's *so* unusual. But I see your point. The combination of dark skin and golden eyes is more unusual, I think, than golden eyes by themselves, though.

    Since you've read other threads in this forum, I'm sure you've braced yourself for resident pointer Jay Greenstein to tell you that you're an amateur and don't know how to write because you didn't read Dwight Swain. Good luck to you.
    Geeze, no, that's going to be amazing. That's all I'm going to say for now.

    I'm on the phone at the moment, so I hope that was a coherent reply.

  7. #7
    DaBlaRR
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpalenik View Post
    Liked it as in, would keep reading voluntarily because it's interesting, or as in, I'm being polite because I don't want to offend you?
    Trust me. He would have no problem with offending you. Take it as a compliment.

  8. #8
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    You have somewhat of a couplet mannerism. A couplet is two words or phrases connected by “and”, “or”, or a comma. I call it “habitual clarification”. You must have at least a dozen in this short piece..

  9. #9
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    I haven't heard the term "couplet" used that way. It sounds like your definition ranges anywhere from compound sentences to lists of nouns and adjectives. Can you be a little bit more specific about which lines you think could benefit from removing some of the couplets, or show me how they're interfering with the flow of the piece?

    By the way, at the advice of Rogue Mutt, the first sentence now reads: "With reverence, Eshbaal slowly stepped toward the body of his young friend, lying motionless in the dirt at the side of a small pond."
    Last edited by mpalenik; 01-21-2016 at 12:07 PM.

  10. #10
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    Eshbaal stepped slowly and reverently toward the body of his young friend, which was lying motionless in the dirt at the side of a small pond
    This reads like a report, unfortunately, because you're describing not what the character is motivated to do, as they see it, you're telling the reader what you visualize happening in a scene that you've not given the reader. And because you are, there are several issues that get in the way.

    First, where are we? You have him walk, and talk as if the reader sees the scene, and do that before we know whose skin we're wearing, where we are in time and space, or what's going on—which is, in essence, placing effect before cause. Why not kill the poor bastard before we begin looking at the body? In the protagonist's viewpoint he has a reason for walking slowly, and for being there. But unless we know it, we don't know him. And since it's his life, isn't it batter to focus on what matters to him rather than to you, someone not on the scene or in the story? After all your reader isn't looking for s chronicle of events, or a description of the visuals. They're not seeking information, either. They're looking to be entertained. So everywhere you are apparent, explaining things, can there be a sense of being on the scene in real-time? The answer is no, but that is what the reader seeks—to live the story with the protagonist as an avatar.
    The body, the water, and the surrounding pine trees had become silver and gray in the light of the moon, and the pale, shimmering moonbeams created an illusory air of serenity and holiness.
    Were I you, I'd know the answers to where and when we are, etc. And knowing what led to the unnamed person's death, and why the protagonist is focusing on the scenery rather than his friend, I would have context. But as a reader who knows only what the words, so far, have said, my first reaction was, "What water? Where the hell are they? And who's the friend? What's going on? And all of those are questions you don't want your reader asking.

    Remember, your reader doesn't know the era, the social position of the character, the society, or anything that would give context. The words, to this point, would fit two kids, tribe members, who went out at night and were attacked by a lion, killing one of them. It would fit two teens who got bad drugs, and one died. It could fit a septuagenarian who has witnessed his friend's suicide. The words could fit so many things that the reader has no context with which to make the words meaningful. And without context it's just a series of words.

    Yes, if the reader continues, they will have their confusion unwound. But they won't continue, because they have no assurance that you will clarify. And in any case, readers hate being confused, and if they are, while deciding if they want to buy the story, they stop reading as soon as something makes them say, "Huh"

    Think about the situation. Someone unnamed is dead, and our protagonist is sad for unknown reasons. But at this point we don't know what the term friend means in the context of this story, how the friend died, or what role the protagonist played in it. What is it about what we've read that would make the reader need to read on?

    Think about yourself. Suppose someone ran into the room where you were and said, "A car just hit someone at the corner." You might ask for more information, and you might feel sad for whoever it was. But suppose they ran in and said, "Your dog was just hit by a car." Or worse yet, your child. That emotional connection would provoke an immediate emotional response. And that's my point. Our reader is expecting us to connect them and the protagonist on an emotional level, and cause them to mirror the protagonist. And no way in hell can we do that with either the verbal storytelling skills we've developed over the years, or the book-report and essay writing techniques we learned in our schooldays.

    It's not a matter of talent or potential as a writer, or the story. You may be awash with it, for all we know. It's that because they tell us we're learning to write in school, and the profession has the title Writing, we never question our having all the tools we need. But every profession has techniques and specialized knowledge that aren't apparent to those outside that profession—things that must be mastered, and which the pros take for granted. Ours is no different. So with a few tricks of the trade to give your writing wings, who knows how far you'll fly?

    After all, if we invest no time or money in our writers education can we really call ourselves serious writers?

    I have a few hints and tricks, pulled from professional sources, in the writing section of my blog that might give you a feel for the issues involved. But in the end it's best to go to the pros. My personal recommendation is to pick up a copy of Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer. It's the best I've found at clarifying and defining the nuts-and-bolts issues.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

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