Author Topic: Prose post  (Read 863 times)

Offline Mark T

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Prose post
« on: November 24, 2018, 07:25:21 PM »

Chapter 1

Friday night, Basher Morgan was drinking pub whisky in a corner when Zoë Weston

walked inside. Surprised, he watched her shove up to the bar and shout for attention.

The barman pointed at Basher in his hideaway, and she spun about.

   'Basher, how goes it?' A firm handshake.

   'No worries, Zoë. Long time.’

Zoe smiled and Basher thought she looked battle-weary. Even in the dim cloister he

noted a split lip, a yellowing bruise on her cheek and a row of stitches across the web

of her left hand. Her eyes were smudged with fatigue and her boots were scuffed.

   ‘Have a seat,’ he invited. Basher ordered with hand signs to the grinning barman as

Zoë flicked her ponytail and slid onto a bench.

   ‘What a surprise,’ said Basher.  ‘But a pleasant one,’ he added, harrumphing.

Zoë nodded. ‘How’re you really doing?’

   ‘Alright. What brings you to Tangmere, metropolitan jewel of the Midlands?’

   ‘I came to see you, Basher.’

   ‘I see. Uh, is it to do with Mikey? Has he, uh, resurfaced in any way?’

Zoë shook her head. ‘Negative. He sleeps with the fishes.’

Two years previously, Mikey the self-confessed girlfriend killer had jumped overboard

into a sharky sea at night after Basher pointed a lethal-looking water pistol at him.

He was bleeding steadily from questioning with a bolt-cutter and fifty klicks offshore;

and they had left him to his fate of rough justice. 

Basher studied Zoë over the rim of his glass. Beneath the light wear and tear she

looked hard and edgy. Muscles twitched on her forearms and her knuckles were

layered with scar tissue; her shoulders seemed to carry more heft.

   ‘Still training hard?’ he asked.

   ‘Yeah but not lately. I’ve been on a case.’

   ‘A case?’

   ‘I didn’t rejoin the cops after the Mikey business. Didn’t seem right. I’m a private

investigator now, based in South City.'

   ‘That’s great. Congratulations. So, how’s the case going?’

   ‘The case is done.’

   ‘Looks like it got a bit heavy.’

Zoë grinned. ‘It turned physical at the end. But you should see the other guy.’

   ‘Would I need to visit a hospital to do so?’

   ‘Something like that.’

Basher laughed. He was a generation older than Zoë but there was a kindred spirit

between them. She had honorary balls. A warrior. The background roar of the pub was

her soundtrack in that moment.

   ‘Well, it’s good to see you, Zoë.’ Basher paused. ‘Are you hungry? ’

   ‘I could eat.’

   ‘Let’s go in the kitchen and I’ll do us a couple of steaks.’

   ‘Can you do that?’

   ‘I have privileges. Bring the drinks.’

Two harassed fry cooks ran back and forth at Basher’s barked commands, chopping

onions, peppers and mushrooms, igniting the cooker beneath a massive cast-iron pan

and adding a giant blob of herb butter.

   ‘Defrost a pot of pepper sauce,’ ordered Basher. ‘And make some fresh chips,


Helen, the owner of the pub, walked into the kitchen. ‘What the hell’s going on here?’

she demanded.

   ‘I’m making some grub,’ replied Basher. ‘What does it look like?’

   ‘It looks like you’re interfering with my kitchen. There’re people out there waiting for

their meals!’

   ‘So what? Let ‘em wait. They’ll just drink more.’

Helen had no immediate counter to Basher’s logic and directed her annoyance toward

Zoë. ‘Who’s this trespasser?’ she demanded.
‘That is my long-lost daughter I never knew I had. She tracked me down. Z,

meet Helen, the owner of this no-star establishment. She used to have a

real boyfriend but married some limp noodle from the bank. That’s why

she’s so crotchety nowadays.’

   ‘Up yours, Basher.’ Helen stared uncertainly at Zoë, who was leaning against a

counter, booted ankles crossed, nursing a glass of whisky and looking pugnacious in

repose. ‘Are you really his daughter?’ she asked.

   Zoë looked amused. ‘Apparently. According to my mom, someone named Basher

Morgan shagged her silly in a van outside a Rolling Stones concert nine months before

I was born. I’m here to get a DNA sample to make sure.’

   ‘That’s right,’ said Basher, impressed with Zoë’s improvisation. ‘Perhaps you’d like to

assist me with producing the sample, Helen.’

Helen snorted. ‘You know what you can do with your DNA samples, Basher.’

Basher grinned. ‘That we do.’

Helen stormed out of the kitchen as Basher threw two thick sirloin steaks into the

sizzling pan. ‘How do you eat steak?’ he asked.


   ‘Maybe you really are my daughter.’

« Last Edit: November 24, 2018, 07:57:18 PM by Mark T »

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: Prose post
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2018, 08:37:20 PM »
Mark, I enjoyed the read.   I was a bit taken back, by the single quotation marks, at first. I did research on the use of quotation marks in different countries. Decided against commenting on your use of single quotation marks:

Quotation Marks Can Differ

In Finland the most used for sure is "x" but 'x' is also used when there is a quotation inside another quotation.

I think >> x >> is only used in literary. Never seen anyone use these in normal everyday life. Sometimes italics is added to quotations too.

2. From what I remember my teacher in elementary school said "We use the other brackets if there's a <<quotation within a quotation>>." However, from what I've seen in literature we used to use <<those>> more often in the past.
(Poland here)

3. In French, it depends. On the internet, I very rarely see people using the << >> quotations mark (because we don't have the rights symbols « » on our keyboards, at least with the default fr_fr windows azerty layout), while the English " " is very common. In articles and in hand writing, it's a different story. The ones on the map are the ones we should be using. (edit : read through other comments, yes, this is the map of the ones we should be using, not the ones that people actually use, therefore my comment is meaningless, well, should have read before writing !)

4. 'This' is not used in the UK except when it's a quote within a quote:

The Finn recounted; "I was walking down the street when I heard someone scream 'Stop!'. Not one to intervene, I shuffled on by".

5.Huh? In Latvian the officialy correct version that is normaly used when writing by hand is like in Estonia and Lithuania. On computers there is no obvious way to type them, therefore everyone uses " ". These《》were popular like in Soviet times or something maybe also due to easier technical availability, but now they cannot be typed on computer either and have fallen out of use

 It also works better typographically with the British convention of using single quotes first, doubles for quotations within quotations (the reverse of the American convention).

Offline Everyman

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Re: Prose post
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2018, 02:03:36 AM »
Hi Mark,

As you know I like your writing. This reminds me of Gene Wolfe's earlier work. Perhaps, something you might find in his short story collection Endangered Species. He also liked to experiment with different ways a story can be approached and layered, and it looks like you're experimenting here with loose dialogue and flashbacks to carry the story. Because it's still in its early draft stage, at the moment it reads more like a script for a teledrama, than a story which takes itself seriously. The timing of the pub owner's arrival seems rehearsed, almost comical, so does the manner of mickey's death (and the unattached remarks which follow, "sleeping with the fishes" is a really bad, flimsy pun). The dialogue reads very non-committal, without a sense of authenticity, hurrying on to the next segment, or else word jousting, just waiting for a punchline—if only to say something. Nothing seems to matter; a man is dead at their hands, she is beaten and bruised, and she may or may not be his daughter, but it reads like that's just the comedy of life, an everyday occurrence. Time for some grub. The impression I get is of two shallow, awkward pretenders who, despite their outward bravado, are very uncomfortable in their own skin. Perhaps this is what you were going for? But I doubt it.  It's an interesting experimental piece, I like how you can carry a story without the use of dialogue tags, and I'm certain there is a good story in there. But as it stands it doesn't read like there's any weight to it. It's just not grounded. It's in constant flight, as if it is running from itself, and thereby the actual content of the story is left undeveloped.

Just my thoughts.

« Last Edit: November 25, 2018, 11:40:47 AM by Everyman »


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Re: Prose post
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2018, 09:07:10 AM »
I'll give this a read and comment later - but the convention of single or double quotes is down to personal style rather than 'rules'. As long as it's consistent, it's up to the individual writer. Cormac McCarthy doesn't use quote marks at all when writing dialogue and he seems to have managed quite well.


Offline Tak

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Re: Prose post
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2018, 09:17:02 AM »
I thought the whole mention of the Mikey incident, could have been removed. I didn't care at that time about that past, what was happening felt more important. A man in the shadows, a woman looking like she just left a fight, ya, that was enough.

I found you didn't tie the images together as well as they could have, so the flow almost had a slight pause between each. An example would be their hand shake, you could have combined that with his attention turning to studying her more. Maybe as he shook, it could have been the right hand that was injured, so she stuck out her left.

As you have it, it becomes too narrative, too much of a point of view, rather than an active part of the scene.

It wouldn't take much, but I thought it could be better with the flow and sentence construction tightened.

Just my thoughts



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Re: Prose post
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2018, 04:09:53 PM »
First impression - the opening scene came across as rather dated. I was put in mind of 1960s London or Birmingham? Maybe that's intentional. The name Basher conjures up a stereotypical East End 'colourful character' which adds to the rather hackneyed image. Also the dialogue sounds odd - 'how goes it' and 'no worries' - more Australian than British, which might work for an Earls Court setting (the backpacking centre of London during the 60s where most visitors from Down Under congregated).

Other than that, it could be an intriguing start if you focussed on the reason why they get together. Presumably they are going to fight crime somewhere along the line. But the opening is a little too random.
I'm guessing Zoe's injuries will become an integral part of her backstory, but they're only mentioned in passing.
The reference to Mikey's murder two years earlier was glossed over - an entire chapter's worth of plot crammed into a couple of sentences. Maybe that's because the events have already featured in a prequel - in which case, why mention him here if he plays no part in what follows.
The plot development where Basher walks into the pub kitchen and orders a steak was difficult to take seriously. It looked as if it had been included simply to establish the nature of the relationship between the two leading characters and their love for banter.

But I was desperate for something interesting to happen. And I'd not be prepared to wait much longer if I picked up this book and browsed the first few pages.

Just my thoughts - feel free to ignore.

On a separate note, the formatting is rather odd. I'm not sure what text programme you are using but normally you should not press ENTER when the text reaches the right-hand side of your screen/page. Word automatically 'wraps' overlapping text onto the next line and will also align the right-hand edge if you choose 'Justified' formatting. I'm also not sure why you have taken the laborious step of typing three spaces at the start of each new paragraph instead of allowing Word to insert indents by default.

« Last Edit: November 25, 2018, 04:13:29 PM by hillwalker3000 »

Offline landmersm

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Re: Prose post
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2018, 09:34:09 PM »
I'm going to sit down later and give it another, more thorough read-thru, but I want to comment that I was pulled in rather quickly.  Although the first paragraph threw me for a bit - I wasn't sure what was happening, or to whom the bartender was speaking. I thought the dialogue between the characters was nicely done. Sounded genuine.

As far as the formatting goes, I'll mimic what others have said: If it's consistent throughout, then go with it. Our heads figure it out pretty quickly. Doesn't take too long to get into a Cormac McCarthy book after you've already read one of his. (Although how he ever got a publisher to agree to his personal style is beyond me.) Although, from experience, trying to keep the indentations right when you want to do something different can be a pain in the butt. Your choice would make me drink!

Best of luck!
My blog is  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@  (Amazon link)

Offline Mark T

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Re: Prose post
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2018, 03:54:13 AM »

Thanks for all the comments, guys. I'll respond properly this evening.   

Offline Mjhallden

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Re: Prose post
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2018, 08:14:07 PM »
It got me right away and kept my attention.  I’m not bothered by the sleeping with the fishes remark, you could modify it to match the kind of person this guy was- sharks, sting rays etc.  I don’t know where it’s going but I think that’s a good thing as it keeps me intrigued.