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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » The Arc: Laura's Rise to Power (first 13)

   
Author Topic: The Arc: Laura's Rise to Power (first 13)
jcc2k4
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Hello all, here's the first couple lines from my novel. It's title as you have probably already seen is "The Arc: Laura's Rise to Power" It is currently 43,000 words (approximately 40% through the plot) and i continue to write about 2,000 words daily.

I know that the main character awakening to start a novel is a bit over used and now cliched, but if you were to read the ending I'm sure you would think it would be charming.

Either way, I'm looking for a little help with the 'hook', if you could give me some constructive criticism that would be a great help. Thanks.
****************************************************************

Jack yawned loudly as he stretched out in his bed, awaking to another day in the drudgery of ‘everyday life’. He didn’t immediately sit up from his bed nor open his eyes, trying to dig himself deeper under the warmth of his blankets.

“Another day of school” Jack said silently as he rolled out of his bed, then walked sleepily to his closet drawing clothes out blindly as he muddled through them hanging neatly on hangers. His alarm clock rang out telling him it was time to get up for school, and he quickly shot across the room half dressed to turn it off before any of his family members awoke from the noise. He returned to his closet to fully dress himself before departing from his room.

****************************************************************

Also, as I'm writing more, i begin to think about publishing and editing. If you read the first couple lines here and would like to read more, shoot me a PM and I'll edit up the first couple chapters and send them your way (basically all of my writing is unedited, raw ideas on the page).

Thanks,
John Chase


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skadder
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Depends what you think constructive is. If you are unused to being critiqued, then it may hurt.

Jack yawned loudly as he stretched (out-cut) in his bed, awaking to another day in the drudgery of (‘everyday life’--don't use '' in prose. The reader is unsure exactly what you mean and you should be able to say more explicity with your prose anyway.). He didn’t immediately sit up from his bed nor open his eyes, trying to dig himself deeper under the warmth of his blankets.

So you spend time telling me he didn't get up or open his eyes. But then the next sentence he gets up. For all the impact that has you might as well have said:

He stayed in bed for a few more moments but then got up.

“Another day of school,(This bit of dialogue looks suspiciously like an micro info dump. You could more artfully tell us he is going to school, and in fact you do) Jack said silently (said silently? Is he a mute or using sign language?))as he rolled out of his bed, then walked sleepily to his closet (and then pulled out--he couldn't walk there, drawing unless he has telekinetic abilities)drawing clothes out blindly as he muddled through them hanging neatly(he is hanging neatly on the hangers?) on hangers. His alarm clock rang out telling him it was time to get up for school, and he quickly shot across the room half dressed to turn it off before any of his family members(you could mention a few of them here) awoke from the noise. He returned to his closet to fully dress himself before departing from his room.


1) Waking is a cliche. As a slush reader it would immediately make me think that this person is a novice writer if he/she can't find a way to avoid it. I would drop it and pick up the next manuscript reading no further. Jack is also an overused MC name.
2)This whole intro tells me:
MC is called Jack. He goes to school but age is unknown. He gets dressed. Nothing really happens. In short there is no hook.
3) The writing is clunky. I would suggest you edit it before posting it. Sometimes good prose will be a hook when nothing is really happening but in this case it isn't.

I hope this helped and didn't hurt too much. All the above is fixable, but unless you know what you have to fix it will stay broken.


[This message has been edited by skadder (edited March 21, 2008).]


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annepin
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I have to agree with skadder--there's nothing here that would keep me reading. You've proclaimed his day will be pure drudgery and that his life is ordinary. While I imagine that's supposed to foreshadow that something odd _is_ going to happen at some point, I'd really rather not slog through how boring this guy thinks his life is. I'd rather know what's interesting about his life, or what motivates him, etc., even if his life is boring. Face it, a lot of our lives are boring, but it's what we try to do with them that counts.

If you're looking for a hook, I'd suggest thinking about what makes this guy interesting, or starting the story much later, at the point something happens. Think about him wanting something (warning: not sure if this is where you're going, but a person with ordinary life wanting to be a hero or whatnot has been done to death, IMO.) So, rather than thinking about what isn't happening (i.e., his life isn't exciting), think about what _is_ happening (i.e., what he's involved in, what he wants, what he's looking forward to, dreading, etc.)

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited March 21, 2008).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Warning: I think I'm going to be saying the following a lot around here, for a while at least.

Consider starting where Jack is "hooked" into the problem/situation. Show us what gets his attention and makes him get involved.


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skadder
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We are starting a weekly 13 lines contest using the same story outline in the contest section of Hatrack. It could be a good place for you to learn how to create a good hook and compare what you do with what others do.

I think the outline will be posted tomorrow.


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jcc2k4
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Thank you very much for your replies, i'll edit the first chapter today and repost.

Thanks again,
John Chase


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jcc2k4
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Ok, this is the point in my book (you see this 9 pages in, but i can reorder the chapter to make this the begining) where Jack discovers that he's different.

Tell me what you think, or if i still don't have a good enough hook.

****************************************************************

Jack lugged a large crimson pushcart out of the back stock room of a department store, upon the cart was a number of expensive looking televisions. He began stocking the nearby shelves with the televisions as he was ordered to do so by the store owner, Mr. Rollins. All the while doing his task he was being pestered by people, asking him where obscure objects where in the store, most of which he had no idea where they were located.
“I need some peace and quiet to finish my work!” screamed Jack to himself.

Suddenly as though a supreme being granted Jack’s wish everything in his immediate surrounding turned from being filled with color to a dull black and white as though he was viewing the world through a black and white camera.

****************************************************************

Thanks,
John Chase

[This message has been edited by jcc2k4 (edited March 22, 2008).]


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rickfisher
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quote:
Jack lugged a large crimson pushcart out of the back stock room of a department store "a department store"? Some unknown one? I should think "the" would be better, since what follows indicates it's a specific one--the one he works at. Better yet would be to drop "of . . . store" altogether, <--NEW COMMENT starting here. Following the end of my last comment, you have a comma. This is a comma splice. Use a period and capitalize the next word. upon the cart was--> were a number of expensive[ ]-->[/b]hyphen [/b]looking televisions. Why expensive-looking rather than simply expensive? Also, your presentation of material is out-of-order. When he pulls out the cart, the reader will automatically visualize it as being empty. Telling us later that it's full of TVs pulls us out of the story briefly, while we readjust our image. He began stocking the nearby shelves Why this mention of "nearby"? It makes it sound like he's putting the TVs there because it's convenient, rather than because it's where they should go with the televisions as he was ordered to do so-->omit by the store owner, Mr. Rollins. Again, the information is out of order. 1) Mr. Rollins told him what to do, 2) he found the cart full of TVs, 3) he pulled out the cart, and 4) he stacked the shelves. You've essentially given us the information in the order 3, 2, 4, 1. All the while doing his task awkward he was being pestered by people, asking him where obscure objects where were in the store, [most of which he had no idea where they were located.]-->of which he had no idea where most were located. (Could probably still be phrased better; I'm just fixing the grammar here.)
“I need some peace and quiet to finish my work!” screamed Jack to himself. If you scream in a crowded place, it's not going to be just to yourself.

Suddenly comma as though a supreme being had granted Jack’s wish comma everything in his immediate surroundings turned from being filled with color to a dull black and white as though he was-->were viewing the world through a black and white camera.


This is probably about where you want to start. But, as written, it still doesn't hook me. What constitutes the hook is weakened by the line "as though a supreme being . . . ," which makes it sound a bit like a fairy-tale. Having the incident happen in direct response to his rage (which also makes him a rather unsympathetic character) also gives it that feel. Finally, since I don't really know quite what's happening yet, it doesn't quite grab me yet. Maybe if you trimmed more from the first paragraph, you can get more of the actual hook in the first 13, and interest me more.

By the way, you say this is 9 pages in, but you can "reorder the chapter to make this the beginning". Do you really want to reorder? Is there really anything in those first 8 pages we need to know? You might want simply to cut them.

[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited March 23, 2008).]


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jcc2k4
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I would cut the first 8 pages, but that is where i develop my MC for the reader. It sets the tone as to why you're on his side later on in the book, and not on Laura's (The nemesis).
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chimpwithpencil
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Hello JCC. I often have a clear picture in my mind of how a scene should be, but when I try to get it out on paper it doesn't quite tell the readers the same story.

One thing I've done that you may want to try is go back and read a few of your favorite authors again, even if they worked in a different genre than your story. Years ago I read about Hunter S. Thompson typing long passages of F. Scott Fitzgerald's GREAT GATSBY so he could get a feel for the flow and tempo and word choice. So one night I dusted off old GATSBY and started typing.

While your STORY is completely your own, there's nothing wrong with imitating the STYLE of an author you admire while you're learning your craft and developing your own voice.

I hope this helps and good luck with your story.


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jcc2k4
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TO: chimpwithpencil

Thank you very much for your suggestion, i'll try that out tonight.

Edit: Tried it, it worked amazingly well. Thank you very much.

[This message has been edited by jcc2k4 (edited March 27, 2008).]


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Patrick James
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Chimps advice sounds really helpful, I'm going to try it myself, and reminds me of an exercise Ben Franklin used. He would take other peoples works and see if he could rearange their sentences to better advantage.
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Bent Tree
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I will have to agree with Chimp. That is great advice.

I would also like to point out that when I read a line like 'Jack lugged a large crimson pushcart out of the back stock room of a department store' It tells me-- because I have the same problem at times-- that the scene just hasn't been thought out well enough. If you were in the POV of the character you would describe this far differently, because you would know the name of the department store.You would know what kind of tv you were looking at because the would be a proudly displayed logo.

example

Dillon lugged the large crimson pushcart to the store room. Mr. Youknowwhat had been riding him to stock the new Sony flat-screens. He hated working at Dillards, but as a slave to alimony payments, This second job was the only way the rent got paid.

Corny example, but you may see my point. I can recognize this because it is a problem many of us face. Put yourself in the story. Make it Shine.

[This message has been edited by Bent Tree (edited March 25, 2008).]


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jcc2k4
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I hate to sound like I'm not taking your advice, but I truly am. So much so that I feel I'm not starting my story with a good enough hook for the reader, but most of all, not a good enough introduction of a character I have come to love after writing about him for 5 years.

I have rewritten the 13 lines completely, nothing from my original story, i have a few problems with it, but i feel like it has potential to be, well not great, but good.

*******
3 gun shots. One long, black, gun barrel. This was the beginning of Jack Shaw's conscious life.

Jack's eyes widened, he could see the bullets slowly inching their way towards his chest. His heartbeat jumped involuntarily into his throat. He couldn't move, fear had taken control of his muscles.

No, he thought. Not now, not in this convenience store.

The bullets were closer now, Jack desperately tried to move. He flexed all of the muscles in his body trying to lift his right leg. He closed his eyes and fully concentrated on moving. He started to move!

He opened his eyes. Everything in his immediate surroundings had turned from being filled with color to a dull black and
*****

Better? Worse?

[This message has been edited by jcc2k4 (edited March 25, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited March 26, 2008).]


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Bent Tree
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This definately has a hook element. Better. This could be polished into a nice intro.
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rickfisher
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Yes, this is better.

And we don't NEED an introduction to your character. The character should show himself throughout. The introduction is for you, to let you get to know him before you start to write. (Although two or three lines before the current opening wouldn't be amiss, if they went straight to the core of his character.)


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alliedfive
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3 Three gun shots. One long, black, gun barrel. This was the beginning of Jack Shaw's conscious life.

Jack's eyes widened, he could see the bullets slowly inching their way towards his chest. His heartbeat jumped involuntarily Unnecessary, all heartbeats are involuntary. Also, did the heartbeat jump, or the heart jump metaphorically? into his throat. He couldn't move, fear had taken control of his muscles.

No, he thought. Not now, not in this convenience store.

The bullets were closer now, Jack desperately tried to move. He flexed all of the muscles in his body trying to lift his right leg. He closed his eyes and fully concentrated on moving. He started to move!

He opened his eyes. Everything in his immediate surroundings had turned from being filled with color to a dull black I think the "turned from being filled with color" is awkward. You can say it shorter and prettier. and

This reminds me of computer game I played years ago called Max Payne.


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jcc2k4
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Thanks alliedfive for your editing of my first 13. For the heartbeat thing, it is metaphoric, so would i just say "His heart jumped into his throat" and be done with it? I have changed the explanation of the color change. I believe it has been changed for the better, but with my writing skill, I'm never sure.

The one problem I still feel there is, is the sentence "He started to move!" I feel it is too abrupt, like there wasn't any build up to it. Am I wrong? Does it work with the flow fine?

Also, now that you say it I did play Max Payne and it is very similar.

Thanks again.

[This message has been edited by jcc2k4 (edited March 27, 2008).]


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alliedfive
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Yeah, I agree about the moving part. Also the exclamation point bugs me for some reason (I know it gets used often by others).

Maybe something like this:

He closed his eyes and focused all his strength and concentration on lifting his right leg. He imagined he could feel each sinew and muscle fiber drawing taught under his skin, he imagined his foot lifting a hairs width off the ground. It was moving, he realized with a rush of triumph and relief.

[This message has been edited by alliedfive (edited March 28, 2008).]


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jcc2k4
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I have finished writing the first chapter (2,695 words) and would like some feedback on it, not line editing if you don't want to, but just some feed back saying "your writing style goes from good, to really bad in this paragraph" or "There's too much detail here" or "Not enough detail here" or "This was awkward"

Either way, if you would like to read it, reply to the thread or send me an e-mail. Thanks.

[This message has been edited by jcc2k4 (edited March 31, 2008).]


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jcc2k4
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Oh man, no one?
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annepin
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Aw, I'll take a gander! I probably won't be able to get it back to you at least until the end of the week, possibly not until after the weekend. If that's cool, then send it on over!
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Acriter
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I'll take a look at it and offer my reactions. I have Young-Adult teens that might be willing to read it and offer feedback too.

[This message has been edited by Acriter (edited April 02, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Acriter (edited April 06, 2008).]


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Tiergan
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So many threads to keep track of. I'd be glad to take a look. Send it over.

Todd


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jcc2k4
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Thank you very much, and sorry to be so forward
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jcc2k4
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I have finished chapter 2. Currently it is at 3981 words, and am ~1000 words into chapter 3.

If anyone would like to read chapter 2, reply or send me an e-mail, I'll be happy to send you the chapter.


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Oblomova
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I'll take a look at it-I can have it back to you on Thursday or Friday.
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jcc2k4
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Oblomova, your e-mail isn't listed on the website and I'm unable to send it to you. You can send me an e-mail if you don't want yours to be these forums.
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Tiergan
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I'll give chapter 2 a look.

Todd


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