Author Topic: Excerpt from my novel  (Read 550 times)

Offline historylover

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Excerpt from my novel
« on: September 11, 2017, 01:22:18 PM »
The air filled with the pungent smell of spices, saffron and wine accompanied by another underlying scent she couldnít identify. The streets were loud and chaotic full of people buying and selling at the market, horses and carriages carrying the rich and wealthy roman men and women, children playing, and the roars of the crowds bellowing from the Coliseum. It was late in the afternoon, and the sun was beginning to sink behind the overbearing grand circular building. Bella stood in the middle of cobbled marketplace amongst the bustle of Ancient Rome trying to find her target. The noise was unlike anything she had ever encountered. The roars and chants of the roman mob coming from the Coliseum could be heard from a mile away.
She moved naturally with the crowd along the uneven path. Her target was too distant from her, he was short with bright blond hair and was wearing a cream toga.  She could hear her heart beating fast in her ears and feel the adrenaline pumping through her veins. Her hands were shaking. She was tracking him through the busy market, and he was heading straight for the Coliseum. If he were to make it into the Coliseum she would lose him amongst the hordes of people. She couldnít let that happen. Hastening her pace to catch up with him, she moved with the crowd to remain undetected. She was fast approaching the man she had been tasked to kill. He was part of the Kķgarar and had been climbing the political ladder of Ancient Rome. And now positioned to take a place amongst the Senate.
Thinking back to her training with Julius she rapidly closed the gap. Lightly touching him her hand lingered on the small thin blade for a moment concealed under her cloak. This is it, now or never, she thought. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the blade from under her cloak stabbing him directly in the heart. She pushed the blade in and out of the man swiftly and twisted her body away. She created a distance between them before he had even collapsed to the floor. Her knife was hidden back under her cloak as quickly as it was drawn. Keeping her eyes straight ahead of her, and her momentum away from the crime scene slow and natural. Her body shaking from the adrenaline, and the shock of what she had just done. She had taken six steps away before she heard a scream and knew her targets death had been detected by someone in the crowd. Once out of the main square and on a small back street she strode with haste back to the Verndarar base. I just took a manís life, she repeated the thought over and over again in her mind, as she walked back. She could not get the horrible sound the blade made as it pierced the manís flesh out of her mind. Her stomach was uneasy, and her body shaking.

Offline bailish

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2017, 03:52:14 PM »
Hello, historylover.
This sounds like it could be an interesting story, but I found your writing clunky.

The air filled with the pungent smell of spices, saffron and wine accompanied by another underlying scent she couldnít identify. Odd to mention an unidentifiable scent. Pleasant or unpleasant?The streets were loud and chaotic full of people buying and selling at the market, horses and carriages carrying the rich and wealthy roman men and women, children playing, and the roars of the crowds bellowing from the Coliseum.Roars doesn't fit with the visuals. It was late in the afternoon, and the sun was beginning to sink behind the overbearing grand circular building. Bella stood in the middle of cobbled marketplace amongst the bustle of Ancient Rome trying to find her target. The noise was unlike anything she had ever encountered.Put the sound with your other sound reference. The roars and chants of the roman mob coming from the Coliseum could be heard from a mile away.
She moved naturally with the crowd along the uneven path. Link these sentences together for more continuity of thought.Her target was too distant from her, he was short with bright blond hair and was wearing a cream toga.  She could hear her heart beating fast in her ears and feel the adrenaline pumping through her veins. Her hands were shaking. Excellent description.She was tracking him through the busy market, and he was heading straight for the Coliseum. If he were to make it into the Coliseum she would lose him amongst the hordes of people. She couldnít let that happen. Again, link these together.Hastening her pace to catch up with him, she moved with the crowd to remain undetected. She was fast approaching the man she had been tasked to kill. He was part of the Kķgarar and had been climbing the political ladder of Ancient Rome. Don't break the tension with this description.And now positioned to take a place amongst the Senate.
Thinking back to her training with Julius she rapidly closed the gap. Lightly touching him her hand lingered on the small thin blade for a moment concealed under her cloak. This is it, now or never, she thought. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the blade from under her cloak stabbing him directly in the heart. She pushed the blade in and out of the man swiftly and twisted her body away. She created a distance between them before he had even collapsed to the floor. Her knife was hidden back under her cloak as quickly as it was drawn. Keeping her eyes straight ahead of her, and her momentum away from the crime scene slow and natural. Her body wasshaking from the adrenaline, and the shock of what she had just done. She had taken six steps away before she heard a scream and knew her targets death had been detected by someone in the crowd. Once out of the main square and on a small back street she strode with haste back to the Verndarar base. I just took a manís life, she repeated the thought over and over again in her mind, as she walked back. She could not get the horrible sound the blade made as it pierced the manís flesh out of her mind. Her stomach was uneasy, and her body shaking.


Smooth out the roughness and it will be more enjoyable.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 04:02:23 PM by bailish »

hillwalker3000

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2017, 08:28:25 AM »
Is this how your novel begins or is it an excerpt from further along?
Either way, I can see you're trying to open with as dramatic a scene as possible to grab the reader's attention. Well done for 'cutting to the chase'.
But on the minus side, there's a great deal of ballast here - detail that you force down the reader's throat for no apparent reason. I tend to think most of it is unnecessary.

The air filled with the pungent smell of spices, saffron and wine accompanied by another underlying scent she couldnít identify.
First we have pungent smells - spices are normally pungent anyway, but is wine? Hardly. Then you refer to an unidentifiable scent. How does its inclusion help the reader imagine the scene? I guess what you're trying to show is your MC's unfamiliarity with the strange surroundings - but for this to work, maybe the smells need to play a more active role.
The smells accosted her from all sides as she made her way through the crowded market. Saffron, spices, something unidentifiable that made her eyes water, and the underlying stench of unwashed humanity.
Not great, but you hopefully get the idea of how to handle description to your advantage. You're meant to be telling a story not drawing up a list.

That's why the second sentence is such a muddle.
The streets were loud and chaotic full of people buying and selling at the market, horses and carriages carrying the rich and wealthy roman men and women, children playing, and the roars of the crowds bellowing from the Coliseum.
Is the narrative 'spotlight' meant to be on the loud sounds or the market traders or the horses or the wealthy people or the children or the roar of the crowd? It's too much, and ultimately you're clouding the picture with clutter rather than clarifying things. What would Bella be focussing on, given her mission? I'm guessing she'd be wary of being seen, and be plotting her escape route, rather than recording the scene as if she was compiling a travelogue.

Then the 'picture' broadens to take in the time of day as well as the stature of 'the overbearing grand circular building'. Too many words. What's your point? That the building is overbearing or grand (sound like the same thing to me) or circular? Surely we don't need all three. And if it's the Coliseum, the majority of your readers will know itís a circular structure - and for those who don't, its shape doesn't matter anyway.

Then the focus blurs again.
Bella stood in the middle of cobbled marketplace amongst the bustle of Ancient Rome trying to find her target.
Has she been standing in this spot the entire time? If so, it would have made more sense to tell us this right from the start. Or did something make her come to a halt? The introduction of 'her target' makes this more intriguing, but we already know about the market and the bustle so you're repeating yourself. And assuming this is being written from Bella's viewpoint, unless she's a time traveller, she wouldn't call the city Ancient Rome. She'd call it Rome.

Finally, in case we don't get the picture you recap everything:
The noise was unlike anything she had ever encountered. The roars and chants of the rRoman mob coming from the Coliseum could be heard from a mile away.
We're also left wondering where she is? Unless she's still a mile away, she can't possibly know how far sounds travel. I assumed she was already standing outside the Coliseum, which is why there's some urgency. Personally, I'd remove both sentences.

The narrative continues to stumble along in a non-linear fashion, as if you wrote each sentence on a separate piece of paper then connected them randomly. You describe the way she moves, then tell us what her target is wearing, then return the focus to Bella and her mounting nervousness, then you tell us how and where she's heading, then some consideration of what might happen if she loses her target in the crowd, then how she's moving again, then you attach some potted history at the end of it all explaining who her target is (dreadfully clunky and intrusive). It's a mess because we don't see any natural plot progression from her standing in the cobbled street to the attack itself. You also mention the political ladder of 'Ancient Rome' again. But it's Rome. Historians only began to call it Ancient many, many years after the fall of the Empire. In the same way that there are no coins dated BC. At the time, the Romans couldn't see into the future.

The final paragraph suffers in the same way. It's all over the place, and again repetitive and weighed down with unnecessary detail. Simple things like this:
She had taken six steps away before she heard a scream and knew her targets death had been detected by someone in the crowd.
compared to this:
She had only taken six steps away when she heard someone scream.
You have to trust your readers to have enough intelligence to figure out why someone screamed, and what that meant.

Keep at it, but if you're writing a fast-paced action story you're always best trimming the detail to the bone. And if you want the reader to feel they're being swept along, there needs to be a natural plot progression from each sentence to the next.

Good luck.

H3K

Lin

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 09:39:14 AM »
This needs a good edit to avoid the clumsy writing.  Otherwise you are on the right track. Be more positive with your sentences and avoid using WAS.  SHOW IT AND DON'T   TELL IT

Lin.

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2017, 10:25:38 AM »
I can see the problem you are having. It is a logical step when evolving your writing from one genre to another. I believe that even historical fiction's descriptions play and active role in what is being told. They are all tied to complete an overall picture.

I've only had one coffee, so ugh :( my sense of wording is still sleepy.

I like the scents of the market, the bustle, jostling, distant cheers from the stadium. But as they stand, they are only descriptions. The grab at my attention more than the mc. Yet this is her story.

Do I recommend removing them all? Or most? Or some? I'm tied on a fence in that. Like I said, I envisioned Rome's streets quite well. Then again, there are so many pictures of those days for me(the reader) to fill in for you. The decadence, the debauchery, conquests, emperors... it's still available to any public eye.

Instead of describing what can easily be imagined by the reader, give them something more, that has to do with the moment, with the opening, with the character. Put her in the crowd - first.

Something; for example:

Bella lost her target. She had followed him into Rome's central market, tracking his blonde hair bob through a crowd of vendors. When she bumped into an overly dressed saffron merchant, his expansive robes blocked her view while he gestured in anger. It only took a moment for Bella to apologise and slip passed, but by then her target had disappeared.  

Luck came her way as a roar from the Colosseum drew her eyes down the main venue. That flash of blonde.

"Found you."

Bella began her hunt again.

**

So what I am trying to explain(under the grounds of coffee) is that there is nothing wrong with descriptions. They can help the writer, help the reader - fill in that otherwise grey background. Use your reader's knowledge whenever possible. For example if you mention The Great Wall of China - you don't have to mention it stretches for thousands of miles. The title alone shows that expanse far better than any words, that's why its a wonder.

But also. Use the descriptions (in fiction) for the benefit of the story. Make them be part of her next decision, or what brought her there. Rather than just paper cut outs placed for your convenience.  

Well, sorry about the ramble.

« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 02:50:30 PM by Simple Things »

Offline NatalieA

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2017, 04:20:01 PM »
Hi Historylover.
Quote
The streets were loud and chaotic full of people buying and selling at the market, horses and carriages carrying the rich and wealthy roman men and women, children playing, and the roars of the crowds bellowing from the Coliseum.
This sentence is too big and has a lot of information, in my opinion.

Quote
Bella stood in the middle of cobbled marketplace amongst the bustle of Ancient Rome trying to find her target.
I found that sentence intriguing and it made me keep reading. Maybe it would be a good opening line?

Quote
Taking a deep breath, she pulled the blade from under her cloak stabbing him directly in the heart. She pushed the blade in and out of the man swiftly and twisted her body away. She created a distance between them before he had even collapsed to the floor. Her knife was hidden back under her cloak as quickly as it was drawn. Keeping her eyes straight ahead of her, and her momentum away from the crime scene slow and natural
I wanted to see the man's reaction, too. Didn't he react at all?

It needs editing but I liked the setting and I found the idea of a female killer in Ancient Rome intriguing. Good luck with it!

Offline writer99

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2017, 05:47:17 PM »
My initial feeling is that you have an amazing wealth of imagery but need to write in shorter sentences. There are no breathing spaces and I felt I was gasping for air. That's my gut reaction.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2017, 07:42:34 PM »
You've received a wealth of good advice, all worthy of serious consideration.  But don't rush to act on it.  Let it settle in your head first.  I've seen people on here rush into using any advice they receive and their work ends up looking as if it's been written by a committee.  A bit like the way some schoolchildren write to pander to the teacher's pet theories or fancies.

Let the advice you choose to follow become part of your thinking first, then your writing will flow instead of flicking around from one new approach to another.

I'm not advocating sitting and doing nothing during this 'gelling' period though, so keep writing.

I also liked the timely reminder about looking out for historical/chronological anomalies, like 'Ancient Rome'.  They slip by surprisingly easily.  You read books with soldiers in the trenches talking about the First World War when they really had no idea a second one wasn't far behind.

I was at a talk by an historical writer many years ago and she said we all have favourite phrases which sneak in unnoticed until proofing, and sometimes slip by even then.  In a historical romance the highwayman's touch wasn't 'electric'.  Nor did her blue eyes 'burn as bright as a welder's torch'.  Yes they're painfully obvious, but as writers we don't always see them.  Readers often will.

=====

TECHNICAL POINT.  To come up alongside someone you are following through a crowd and then stab them in the chest takes up a lot of space and some pretty broad and obvious arm movements.  You said she'd been trained, even if she's never done the job before.  I would have trained her to go for the kidneys from behind as she walked by.  She could be several paces beyond them by the time they started to stagger, and spectators would be looking at the victim, not her.  It's a time-proven technique.

Visualise using it next time you're passing through a crowd.  If you're right handed pass your target on their left and see how much more unobtrusive it can be.  If you're a lefty then vice versa.

=====

Final thought.  Paragraph breaks please, with white space in between.  Much easier to read.  Readers less likely to give up part way through.  It's a story, for the reader's pleasure, not the small print on a guarantee ;-)

Best wishes, and have fun with the assassination 'walk throughs'.

Gyppo
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline historylover

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Re: Excerpt from my novel
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2017, 07:14:47 PM »
Hello,

Thank you all for your very helpful advice. I will take it all on board and have a good think as gyppo suggests. That is good advice, as I can sometimes rush to implement feedback I am given without really thinking it through. So I will think on it a while and then begin my edit. This is an excerpt from my first novel, but the first introduction to Ancient Rome. I wanted to make sure it transports the reader, as the story involves time travel. This excerpt is from the beginning of chapter eight, so it is not the start of the story. I know it needs a lot of editing and improvements. Thank you again for all of your comments. You have all shed light on areas I need to improve, and I really appreciate it.

Basia