This is a 85,000 word novel I've been working on for a while. Something feels off about the first couple paragraphs but maybe I'm over thinking it. I would appreciated any feedback.
Nero paced the cell he shared with Sharon. Glacier called it their apartment, but that wasn't how he saw it. The steel door was locked from the outside and the walls were concrete. There were a few small rooms and a little furniture. They could call it a mansion and fill it with gold. It was still a cell. Usually Sharon made it feel like home, but right now she was in the bathroom with the door locked. She wouldn't speak to him. He only asked if she would clean up her side of the bedroom while he was gone. She got angry and yelled at him. She had been in a bad mood all week and he was tired of her taking it out on him. That's why he yelled back and that's when she started crying and ran into the bathroom.
[This message has been edited by Noctua (edited May 19, 2011).]
"Glacier called it their apartment, but Nero wouldn't call it that. It had a few small rooms and little furniture, but the walls were concrete and the steel door was locked. They could call it mansion and fill it with gold. It was still a cell.
Sharon made it feel like home, but she was not speaking to him. He only asked if she would clean up her side of the bedroom while he was gone. She yelled at him. He yelled back. He had been tired of her taking it out her week long bad mood on him. Never had he expected her to start crying and lock herself in the bathroom. He was left to pace the floors of his cell."
I put Nero's pacing in the second paragraph because it shows that his cell is more than just physical. I wrote his argument with Sharon as a she said, he said format, to show his simple view of the argument that appears to be more complicated than a disagreement of chores.
Just my take.
[This message has been edited by hteadx (edited May 19, 2011).]
I like it. Makes me imagine somekind of prison Big Brother thing going on. One thing at the end "That's why he..." doesn't sound quite right, because he's justified in his mind so maybe something more along the lines of "So all he did was raise his voice a little..." Yell has a stronger conotation of unreasonablness, so he should sound like he's like "I did what anyone would do." IMO
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The feel of the cell could be enhanced with smells or other qualities that evoke emotion. For example: Tomb-like dank walls that matched Nero's foul mood after the argument.
Three names for characters (albeit first names) in the opening two sentences is too much info too fast.
The "few small rooms and a little furniture" is fine, but again, why not evoke an emotion with a description connecting Nero to that emotion? Something like, Nero fidgeted with the spartan lamp and stark chair gracing the room, his fingers itching to slap something hard.
Is there any way to give us a goal to shoot for within the first 13?
Consider "sobbing" instead of crying. It evokes a whole different level of emotion in Sharon.
Bottom line: You have two lovers sharing a homey prison cell. They've had an argument. Nero apparently has the freedom or discretion to leave the cell ("clean up her side of the bed while he was gone"). Punch it up with the frustration of being somebody's captive--or did I misunderstand because the prison-cell reference is a metaphor for mood?
I agree with the last post-er. There are too many names in the first two sentences and that is very confusing. Who is Glacier and why does that person matter? Maybe that person could be mentioned later and dropped from this sequence for now? Your description of the place is too stark and does not include enough emotion for me to get involved in the story. Also, not enough information for me to clarify if they are really in a prison. Also, I have a hard time figuring out exactly what is this Sharon person to Nero? Interesting that one has an ancient Roman name (Nero) and one a typical American name, btw.
It is a bit confusing that the door was locked from the outside, yet Nero can leave. It took me three reads to figure that out, however, maybe because of too many pronouns in one sentence: " He only asked if she would clean up her side of the bedroom while he was gone." Therefore I wonder if you could clarify that sentence to make it easier to read? OR clarify the concept? Maybe some dialogue would clear that up? Not sure how to solve that issue. Maybe show or tell us through your character's eyes the situation more clearly. I assume your POV character is Nero? If so, IMHO opinion you must get deeper into Nero's mind and show, tell, all of this from his mind using his voice. I can't tell much about him from this sequence. For example. If Nero was a real jerk, real macho, abusive guy-his voice might be like this: "Asked that stupid Sharon to clean up her side of the room...again....Stupid B*t couldn't even get that right and left the pillows unfluffed on the bed again. I had to get on her case so she would remember...." If Nero was a good guy with an honest request of a neurotic woman, he might sound like this" "Again, I asked Sharon really, really nice.....to pick up her side of the bed. Cause the Kleenex was really starting to make me sick. I mean. I know she is really tired and not being able to leave the prison...I mean...apartment... is hard. But, she could at least clean the cracker crumbs and the candy wrappers out of her side of the bed, and toss the tissues...ya know....I gotta lay there. But she got mad. Started bawling. Ran to the bathroom. ...."
Anyway, those are my amateur observations/contributions. The prison/apartment idea is definitely intriguing. I am wondering about that.
Noctua – the editors are very unforgiving, consequently, you must engage your readers (and editor) quickly. On the first page, maybe in the first paragraph, or even in the first sentence.
What’s at stake here? In your 13 lines, you imply Sharon and Nero are prisoners for some unmentioned reason. However, the bulk of your first lines are dominated by what looks like a domestic squabble.
TMR Beste suggested being more specific and using dialogue, and these revisions made the first thirteen far more active and immediate. I agree, that is more engaging because that raises the tension. However, nothing really important seems to be at stake.
Perhaps you could raise the tension by having Sharon blame Nero for their imprisonment, and name the reason. Have her scream at him and reveal why they are there. Make the reason one which has serious consequences, for example, a life threatening penalty. This would give your readers a reason to worry about your characters, fear for them, and thus engage their sympathy and attention.
Please note that I am, by no means, an accomplished writer, or an expert on the English language. Just a guy. New guy, at that.
I would guess that these two were in a society where the husband works, while the wife stays at home. A strictly controlled regime of slave labor, pre-programmed life arrangements, kind of like the movie "THX 1138".
If she's the one unable to leave and the one that makes the cell into a home, then why would his side of the bedroom be clean, whereas hers was a mess? Depression on her part?
They have also split the bedroom down the middle, as it seems. Suggests involuntary imposing of a life partner. Still consistent with the general impression. But there are other rooms around. Are they forced to share? Are they under constant surveillance?
What is Glacier? I'm inclined to think it's a "what" (AI maybe?), rather than a "who".
Better say "little furniture", rather than "a little furniture". I think it sounds better, although I'm not sure if it's wrong in any way.
Use more comas, lengthen the short sentences, except for the emphatic ones, shorten the longer ones.
Pay closer attention to the order of the words, for example, you could say "Sharon usually made it feel like home", instead of "Usually Sharon made it feel like home". Better yet, "It was Sharon, that usually made it feel like home".
Again, I am no sort of expert, just a reader with an opinion, hope you don't take offense.
Bottom line, if my guesses are correct, then I think you convey your thoughts quite successfully. Then again, I'd rather you surprised the life out of me. More interesting that way.
I would read on, definitely. Although, the depressed housewife bit, would probably turn me off, if not resolved extremely quickly.
quote:Here is my edit: "Glacier called it their apartment, but Nero wouldn't call it that. It had a few small rooms and little furniture, but the walls were concrete and the steel door was locked. They could call it mansion and fill it with gold. It was still a cell.
I second this rewrite - the original version got a bit confusing with the additional pronoun, is "he" Glacier or Nero?
quote:Nero paced the cell he shared with Sharon. Glacier called it their apartment, but that wasn't how he saw it. The steel door was locked from the outside and the walls were concrete. There were a few small rooms and a little furniture. They could call it a mansion and fill it with gold. It was still a cell.
One problem with this paragraph is how you flip back and forth between the "prison" and "apartment" image a bit too erratically, mushing the two together instead of successfully comparing them. hteadx's edit organized the flow better--lining the "it's an apartment" arguments together at the front, then the "it's really a cell" arguments after the "but." If that makes sense.
I agree with the name comments--both that three in the first line are too much, and that Nero, Sharon, and Glacier all sound like names that don't remotely belong together. Nero makes me think futuristic sci-fi (or classical Roman I suppose), Sharon makes me think modern realistic fiction, and Glacier just makes me think of strange/silly/pretentious naming practices. At first glance, you understand. I'm sure all three names can be found on real people in this day and age, but fiction needs to be a little cleaner than reality, in many ways.
Finally, I agree that the "domestic squabble" isn't the most engaging of conflicts, especially when you've just told us these people are imprisoned. Also, if Sharon's the one who "usually made it fell like home," then why should Nero have to tell her to clean her room? And what does it matter in a cell? And how messy could a room with little furniture and, as I then infer, few creature comforts, get in the first place? And I'm now all caught up in details that I can't imagine are really *that* important to the story as a whole, but they're all I've got. I don't even know the time or setting, other than the fact that they have indoor plumbing.
So, not much to engage, just yet. We need to get in a bit closer to the main dilemma, or make the current dilemma punchier.