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This is the first chapter of a dystopian thriller I have been working on for some time.  It is set in the near future and begins in a first-person POV, but it will not be entirely in first person.  The main character's name does not appear in the first chapter and this is intentional.  I appreciate all types of comments and criticisms.  Thanks!


For once, it’s not insomnia confining me to the dim bedroom.  I’ve spent the last ten minutes begging my stomach to settle down without success, and I feel like I just got out of a hot shower. The sticky sweat on my legs and lower back can only mean a fever, a harbinger that the silent negotiation is probably not going to end in my favor.  Clare is still asleep on the other side of the bed so it’s probably not food poisoning since we ate the same thing for dinner. Plus food poisoning would’ve hit me sooner, at least in theory. It’s too dark to read my watch and I can’t see the clock sharing the nightstand with my glasses. There’s a lump in the bottom of my throat. It’s only a matter of time now.

I softly toss the blanket and sheets to the center of the bed, both of which feel like they are drenched in sweat too. The cool air gives me a much-needed jolt that dissipates far too quickly when my legs shudder as I try to stand, instantly unsteady on the thin carpet. The wall beyond my nightstand is a good guide, and even better crutch, as I feel my way towards the bathroom. There’s a momentary pause when my foot lands in a warm wet spot but there are more important things about to come up. My tentative first step into the bathroom, to avoid slipping on the cold tile floor, works well enough. I skid only a few inches on my greased right foot and stay upright long enough to collapse in front of the toilet without a second to spare.

Half-digested dinner, dessert, and wine explode from inside me and taste so much worse than they did going in.  Especially the wine. It reeks of raw vinegar and summons a second wave until there’s nothing left but spit and stomach acid drooling from my mouth. I’m grateful for the darkness. It takes three efforts until the toilet finally flushes and eliminates the smell.  I yank the toilet seat down and rest my forehead there. It feels spectacular. The sweat covering every inch of my skin turns into a blessing, a menthol-like sensation from the forced air falling from the vent overhead. The bathroom floor below beckons me to lay down but I resist the temptation. Clare is still in bed, somehow undisturbed by my stomach refund, and she would freak out if she found me here in the morning. I have no confidence in my legs at this point so I shuffle towards the double bathroom doors aided by the edge of the vanity and close them quietly. 

Now I’m shivering. The soft black robe from the metal hook near the doors provides instant relief. The next task is getting rid of the taste of vomit and vinegar. Of all things, my mother’s voice is inside my head instructing me to brush my teeth to wash the stomach acid off my tooth enamel. I find the sink furthest from the door, still in the darkness, and paw for my toothbrush in its usual place near the sink handles. Finding nothing, I close my eyes and reluctantly flip the switch for the light inside the glass-enclosed shower behind me bracing myself to see if I look as deathly as I feel, or worse.

It is so much worse. My face and neck are smeared with something red that I’m convinced must be the wine I just threw up. Until I see my hands. There’s no question it is blood. The robe quickly finds its way to the floor and now there is a lot of blood, mostly dry and definitely not mine. Only a huge gash could produce this much blood and there’s not a scratch on me. My head snaps to the closed bathroom doors where there are blood smears near the handles and a deep burgundy footprint at the threshold. Sweat pours from my forehead and down the back of my neck.

“Clare?” I shout at the doors. No response. I yell again and still there is nothing but my bare feet pounding the tile before I crash into the bathroom doors. The ones that open inwards. The single bulb over the shower is faint but there’s enough light to reveal a nightmare when I manage to get the doors finally open. The wet spot on the carpet is such a deep red it may as well be black, and the overturned sheets on my side of the bed have traces and smears of the same. Worst yet, the light blue comforter on top of Clare has turned an unbelievable deep purple.

I scream her name again as I round the bed to her side and fight the lamp cord for more light. The comforter feels ten times as heavy as it should. As I try to shake Clare awake, the sheets underneath cling to her lifeless body covered with a staggering amount of caked blood. With one hand I look for a pulse in her neck and search for an injury with the second. There’s no pulse but numerous stab wounds in her chest and stomach framed by wild tears in her favorite blue T-shirt.

I need a cellphone to summon the RoboMedics but Clare’s isn’t on her nightstand. I take two running steps for mine on the opposite side when I see it on the floor. In front of the bed glinting in the lamplight is one of our kitchen knives, the big one, from the expensive set we received seven months ago as a wedding present. It’s the same one I sharpened hours earlier for the redskin potatoes, shallot, and garlic. The matte black handle and polished sliver blade are both flecked in dried blood.

I’m suddenly paralyzed with indecision. No medical machine or robotic physician can bring Clare back, even I can tell that. Someone has murdered my wife, my best friend, in our bed—while I slept next to her—for some diabolical reason. She has no enemies. What second grade teacher would? How did I not hear anything? Did she not cry out? My mind is racing with questions while my eyes are transfixed on the certain murder weapon until I settle on the most important one: Who am I going to accuse? I can’t think of a single person and I know exactly what that means. The Commonwealth with certainly accuse me.

It will take a hundred miracles to survive a public vote from citizens starved for a salacious criminal trial on the third Friday of the month. Just one hour to defend myself and convince thirty-one percent that, for once, the husband didn’t kill his wife. My first miracle comes quickly but it’s useless.  Somehow I’m able to throw up again.

Thanks for posting.  I think you have a unique idea here, and I have a couple of observations that may help you improve.

1. The opening is a bit confusing - I gather it is dialogue, but without quotations it made me re-read it a couple of times to be sure.  I would use quotation marks to make it more clear this is opening dialogue.

2. Fifth line in opening - "but I have a feeling you're going to explain it to me"

3. Second line after the first break.  The period should be inside the quotation marks.  [or "wish they had a better life."]

4. Another typo - it should be "believe" in the line that stars with "Let me try to explain this"
Welcome Board - START HERE! / Re: Hello All!
« Last post by msgretagreen on Today at 09:28:29 AM »
Welcome TRex, and thank you for commenting on my first pages. I did add the second half of the chapter if you have any further thoughts. Also happy to look at any writing that you post.

Hello All! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my first pages. I really appreciate the feedback. I’ll specifically consider having less separated paragraphs. I’m including the end of my first chapter here (since many agent submissions require the whole first chapter). Happy writing!

     The moment Rousseau entered their humble home and wrapped his arms around Camille, she released a torrent of tears. Adine could not tear herself away from the spectacle of her mother’s sadness. In her heart, she knew her mother was not all coolness and stoicism, but her self control seemed infinite.
     Rousseau’s arrival triggered memories of the past. He was the only friend who knew Jean-Baptiste longer and loved him as much as they did. The men met on La Digue over twenty-seven years ago, when the French Revolutionary Wars were ending and the Seychelles were a haven between battles. Rousseau was then a privateersman and Jean-Baptiste an infamous corsair.
     The weariness of ocean and road travel were apparent on Rousseau’s fine, rumpled clothing, but his person sparked with life. To Adine, his presence felt magical. When he first ducked through their doorway, his great height awed her. His legs were long and spindly, but his torso thick, widening at his shoulders. He had a full head of shoulder-grazing, wavy gray and brown hair, and a narrow face with an elongated chin that curved like a crescent moon. The warmth of his smile and the benevolence in his brown eyes made his comical features handsome.
     Still shocked by the loss of her papa, Adine sat at her mother’s feet. She listened to their conversation while Camille caressed her scalp.
     Rousseau asked her mother, “I know you were young, but how old?”
     He took a moment to appraise her face, a smile upon his lips, then looked to Adine. “Your mother stood before us with eyes shut, hands on her hips and legs apart, and her feet burrowed in the sand. We both froze and held our breath, but she heard us. When her eyes opened, they landed first on your father. Such a lucky man!”
     As if she were eighteen again, Camille covered her mouth to suppress a giggle and hide the heat in her cheeks.
     Rousseau went silent and stared at Camille until she returned his gaze. “It is true. You were a sight. Jean-Baptiste said you looked like a wise tree with roots growing straight into the marrow of La Digue. You were the flesh and bones embodiment of everything he loved about this island.”
     They hushed. Adine had never heard her parent’s first encounter described this way. Rousseau was the only witness to the instant alchemy between these two spirited people, and now Adine pictured them as separate puzzle pieces meant for conjoining.
     Rousseau said to Adine, “I too was captivated by your mother, but who could compete with Jean-Baptiste? He was an old man with a peeling, pink sunburn on his big nose, and your mother still found him irresistible.”¯
     “Rousseau, he was only thirty-five,”¯ said Camille.
     “Forgive me. But was it not love at first sight?”
     Adine spun her head to see her mother nod, the sweet truth naked upon her face. Adine never doubted the love between her parents, but her father—impulsive with his kisses—was more demonstrative. He looked at Camille as if she was the most magnificent being he ever encountered, and with her on his arm, he strolled the beach bursting with pride.
     When Rousseau spoke next, his low voice warbled. “I have always respected your relationship and looked up to you both. Your bravery is hard to match.”
     “Jean-Baptiste made it easy.”¯
     “I know it was not always so.”
     Adine felt invisible as she watched the effects of Rousseau’s words.
     “Well… we were lucky,” said Camille. “The people of La Digue make little fuss.”
     “Yes. This motley crew are skilled at turning a blind eye, but that does not mean they sanctioned your union or that wagging tongues kept silent.”
     “Maman, what did they say?”¯ interrupted Adine.
     Camille wavered, then explained, “Your father had many admirers. People were jealous of our relationship. Some thought I deserved him not while others… others thought we were an equal abomination.”
     “Abomination? How?” Adine got up on her knees.
     “Adine. Because I am black, and your father was white.”¯
     Oh that, thought Adine. She set herself back on her heels, so easily forgetful of what was forefront to others, and embarrassed by her stupidity. She knew the rumors. They cast her mother as a dark seductress who lashed her body to a marauding pirate and used black magic to weave a tether to his heart. Adine judged ridiculous anyone who assumed her father weak or susceptible to spells.
     “People are fools,”¯ said Rousseau. “Your bond with Jean-Baptiste was preordained by God Himself. Still, with this ugly thinking I worry about you and Adine. Maybe I am the fool after the tales I heard?”
     “What now?”
     “There are rumors of inherited treasure, that Adine is set for life.”¯
     “That is absurd,”¯ said Camille. “Though I wish it were true.”
     Rousseau’s forehead crinkled.
     “Oh, stop it with your face. We are not poor. My work keeps food on the table.”
     If not for Camille’s vegetable and herb garden, and the gifts her clients exchanged for remedies, the Duplessis larder would not have been a cornucopia of abundance. Camille never lorded this over her husband, nor would she shame his memory in the telling, for the riches he brought to her life were without measure. Jean-Baptiste had loved her with a fierce and proud passion, but most importantly, without a dram of shame.
     Camille nudged her daughter aside and stretched her legs.
     “Adine, it is time for bed. Leave your granmoun to converse in privacy.”¯
     Adine said goodnight to her elders and Camille and Rousseau sank into silence, melting into the comfort of their wicker armchairs and the corridors of their minds. With a lone candle illuminating the hallowed space between them, Rousseau looked around the Duplessis parlor, trying to decipher its darkened contents. The minimal furniture pieces were modest - a petite armoire, a mahogany chest and side table, two chairs, and an ottoman - but Jean-Baptiste’s souvenirs were bountiful. Curios hung from hooks and crowded every surface.
     “Your daughter is turning into an uncommon beauty.”
     Camille nodded in agreement. “She has Jean-Baptiste written all over her.”
     Adine’s features mimicked the shape of her mother’s, including a large mouth with full lips and a slightly wide and flat nose, but the coloring was of her father, like her frizzed and voluminous, ashy blonde hair. She had lovely, doe-shaped eyes inherited from Camille, but painted the spell-binding aquamarine of Jean-Baptiste’s - pure magic that reduced the rest of her features to a blur. On islands populated with a murky medley of imports - people of African, Malagasy, Indian, Chinese, French, and British descent - and with the greatest number of residents being dark-skinned slaves, Adine’s unusual coloring would set her apart from the bouillabaisse of eligible ladies.
     “What education has Adine?” asked Rousseau.
     “You know she is literate,”¯ said Camille.
     “I expect nothing less.”
     “Jean-Baptiste oversaw her book learning. They read the Bible together, and he taught her French songs—including the bawdy shanties of sailors.”
     “Mon Dieu, forgive him,”¯ said Rousseau, shaking his head.
     Camille laughed. “Adine also had a tutor. She enjoyed best his lessons on the natural sciences, but French is where he helped her most. Mine too.”¯
     “Is that true?”¯
     “What? Can you not tell? My tongue is better suited to the patois of Creole, but—”
     “I jest.”
     Camille leaned back with a pout, and Rousseau waited.
     “Camille, I want to help Adine. She is almost sixteen and nearing the marriageable age.”¯
     “What is it you propose?”
     “As her Godfather, I want to introduce her to society, to distinguished men and women.”
     “You mean men.”¯
     “Gatherings are mixed. But yes, I am referring to a potential partner. A good man who will value Adine for who she is and offer a comfortable life. I know many successful and well-respected men.”¯
     “What do you mean by ‘value her for who she is?’ Are you speaking of her inner self or something else? Do you think Adine knows who she is yet, or that either of us has a clue of her wants and desires?”
     “We are not speaking of arranged marriages. I only suggest we open select doors to increase Adine’s choices. With your example, I do not imagine her settling for anyone without love.”
     Camille sat back and stared into the dark distance beyond Rousseau’s head. “Let us not be oblique. Is race not the gist of your involvement?”
     Before Rousseau answered, Camille continued. “I admit, I forget to consider Adine’s unique opportunities. She is not me.”¯ Her voice flared. “But that is the question. Who is she? How will others define her? You suggest the Grands Blancs would accept her presence, but how can you assure me they would not mistreat her?”¯
     Rousseau pushed his palms together and tapped his lips with his pointer fingers. He had always thought of Jean-Baptiste and Camille as exceptions. They did not conform to societal expectations and lived a rare life without rules. It wasn’t Jean-Baptiste’s open pursuit of Camille, a woman of color, that shocked La Digue’s small population, but rather his determination to make her his wife.
     From Rousseau’s experience, their ideal was unattainable. The best he did was introduce subtle challenges to the status quo and ease the lives of those he loved. He saw his role as a protector against harsh realities, and prepared for each punch with the careful placement of cushions.
     “I understand your concerns, and although I cannot speak for others, I can be truthful. Because of Adine/s bla-ros fairness, her mixed blood is a small hurdle. Many men prize Creole women.”
     “I know about men’s personal appetites,”¯ snapped Camille. “You need not explain how her pale skin offers legitimacy, while her much maligned African blood increases desirability. This is the thinking I fear.”
     Rousseau winced. “There are good, honorable men in this world. They might not fight bigotry like Jean-Baptiste did, but they protest injustice in quiet ways. I try to surround myself with open-minded people and can attest that times are changing.”¯
     “Be careful what you promise.”¯
     “I make no promise. I cannot guarantee that any of these men are worthy of your daughter for a multitude of reasons, but I will not tolerate their disrespect.”
     “Oh, Rousseau.”¯ Camille closed her eyes and dropped her forehead into a propped hand.
     Rousseau leaned in and spoke softer. “Camille, you and I can speak without pretense. Adine will fall in love someday, and she will want her own home. Is it not better for her to fall in love with someone who has prestige and the means to provide for her? Do you imagine supporting her for the rest of your life?”¯
     Camille shook her head. “This is difficult for me. Do you not see how strange it is that I would advocate for wealth or reputation when my life has been a battle against the judgment of others?”¯
     “That is why I am here. It is because of cruelty and ignorance I meddle. Imagine if we could spare Adine similar trials. Do not take offense. I was only thinking of your daughter as I do my own children and wishing her the best in life.”¯
     Camille unclenched her fists and rubbed her palms across the top of her thighs. “I appreciate your intention. I also understand the reasons for a debut, no matter how harsh my reaction.”
     “What would Jean-Baptiste have done?” said Rousseau.
     Camille stilled, and they locked eyes. When she answered, the words caught in her throat. “He thought no one was good enough for Adine, that she deserved only the best.” She reached for Rousseau’s hand and gripped it tight. “I cannot agree that money or status make for the best man, but neither does poverty nor disdain make for the best life. Jean-Baptiste would have broken any door for his daughter.”
     Rousseau reached for her other hand. “Then is it settled? Shall we do this together?”¯
     “My part feels small since the introductions depend on you, but I concede it cannot hurt. Play matchmaker.”
     Rousseau squeezed Camille’s hands.
     “I have one request,”¯ she said.
     “What? Ask for anything.”¯
     “Give us one year. One year to grieve Jean-Baptiste and preserve what little is left of Adine’s youth.”

* * *

     In May 1830, Camille set aside her mourning clothes, swept away the dust of depression, and reentered humanity’s fray. With her compliance, Delphin Rousseau had arranged a special dinner party for Adine’s social debut. Mother and Daughter would leave soon for Mahe with ample time to settle into Rousseau’s home, outfit themselves for their new lives, and educate Adine on unspoken expectations.
     Turning toward her daughter, Camille said, “It is time to begin anew. For me, there will never be another man like your father. But for you? There is an ocean of possibility.”
The script is a little hard to read because of the formatting, I suggest using more paragraphs. There should be gaps after each character talks, for example

Hi, Jason, Jase

I can' talk right now...

This would make the piece less confronting to read.
Welcome Board - START HERE! / Re: Hi all I'm new
« Last post by tiredanddeadstudent on Today at 01:36:20 AM »
Never mind I answered my own question
Welcome Board - START HERE! / Hi all I'm new
« Last post by tiredanddeadstudent on Today at 01:34:59 AM »
Hi all, my name is Kerry :)
I am 20 and an animation student
I'm excited to read new things and try to give helpful feedback

Im wondering is it fine for me to post scripts for screenplays?
Thank you so much for this useful info @heartsongjt   :)

Only curious, have you ever had a book published before?
The Gallery / Re: Who has witnessed strange happenings in the woods?
« Last post by pltrish on Yesterday at 11:51:18 PM »
@jy334769 When I was really young, I once went camping with my friends in the woods.

I can't say for sure if I was right or not, but I saw a big broken tree branch with 'red paint' (or maybe blood?) covering the upper half of the branch. Either my imagination was wild and I scared myself, or maybe it really was only paint.

I didn't dare go near that branch, nor to find out more. My friends and I turned around quickly and walked down another path.

Hope this helps  ;)
Authors' Resource Centre / Re: Where to Find a Critique Partner
« Last post by pltrish on Yesterday at 11:42:43 PM »
@S-wo Were you able to find a suitable critique partner in the end?

Got my fingers crossed for you!
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