Author Topic: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)  (Read 1465 times)

Offline Everyman

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The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« on: November 29, 2018, 01:08:50 PM »
   I'm already a good way through the story, but it's mostly in pieces at the moment. The opening segment has been the most difficult part. I'd really appreciate any feedback on how it reads.

         “In my opinion things are critical now.” Doctor Abbott sighed, “peripheral neuropathy—that's why she feels there are devils stabbing her.” He retched, clasping a napkin to his mouth; he leaned against the wall for support, mopping his sweated brow, eyes screwed back in exhausted resignation. He waved an apology. It was the smell.

   “Are you saying she's mad?” I asked, concerned. “I tried to help her, doc. Those devils are real! They're the residents here. And devil is too kind a word for those—”

   “Well, mad... That's a very crude way of putting it. I can't say for certain.”

   He cut my outburst short and shot me a considered look, as if questioning my mental state. Turning his attention to the contents of his medical bag, he said in a low voice, “Personally, I confess I've never seen anything like this, and I've been a practitioner almost twenty years. I've applied salve to her sores; her edema can't be treated until we can determine the underlying cause. And without medical equipment, I can't make a definite diagnosis. That's why I'm suggesting institutional care.”

   He set large orange pill bottles in a neat row on the window sill, his hands shaking, the pills rattled out like a child's toy. “Saint Lawrence in Eastpointe might take her, but I'll first need to call through, as you know, there are few beds to go around these days. In the meantime, administer these vitamins as directed, and make sure she's hydrated. I'll be back tomorrow.” He pressed my hand warmly. “Call me if there's any change in her condition.”

   A half-light played across his face; for a moment, he held a strange expression, a mix between unease and indecision. It he seemed desired to say something more, but could not find the words. “Has she been...is there... ” he began, but balked on pretense of a sudden bug attack. He flapped the air with his hands, scratching himself frantically.

   “Good heavens!” he cried, “What are these things? They're everywhere! Don't worry, we'll soon get her out. Ghastly place this.” 

   And with that he departed, hitching his pants and theatrically slapping his clothes, without finding the nerve to ask if Joan had suffered abuse. 
« Last Edit: November 30, 2018, 09:03:53 AM by Everyman »

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2018, 01:50:06 PM »
   It he seemed desired to say something more, but could not find the words. “Has she been...is there... ” he began, but balked on pretense of a sudden bug attack. He flapped the air with his hands, scratching himself frantically.

   
It seemed he desired to say something more, but could not find the words. “Has she been...is there... ” he began, but balked on pretense of a sudden bug attack. He flapped the air with his hands, scratching himself frantically.

It's a sad story...It read smooth, until the end.  It could be I'm off on my reading of it.     jt
 

Offline Everyman

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2018, 02:09:01 PM »
Thanks Jan. You're right, of course. The "bug attack" does seem off, it's a hangover from an earlier version, where I'd made a connection between Joan's deterioration and the condition of the building. It looks out of place now. Because I've rewritten this some many times, there's a sort of blind fog, so new eyes are appreciated.

Good call and thank you. 

Offline Tak

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2018, 05:17:07 PM »
Overall, I enjoyed the piece and writing; though it had no action, it flowed well enough to sustain a reader.

There are a few things that you do, of which you might consider looking at. Then again, this is just an opinion from me, so you might not consider it either. :) I wish only to point what I noticed in your writing.

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“In my opinion things are critical now.” Doctor Abbott sighed, “peripheral neuropathy—that's why she feels there are devils stabbing her.”

for me...

"Now in my opinion, things are critical." Doctor Abbott sighed. "Peripheral neuropathy....


I know it puts 2 pauses in the sentence where you had one without. For me, structurally, it wasn't sound. I believe you need to Capitalise the P in Peripheral. Unless the doctor sighed that whole line out in dialogue. Otherwise it would be an action tag and full stop, then the dialogue would be a new sentence.. ie   ... Abbott sighed. "Peripheral neuropathy....   

Quote
He retched, clasping a napkin to his mouth; he leaned against the wall for support, mopping his sweated brow, eyes screwed back in exhausted resignation. He waved an apology. It was the smell.

I thought this could be tightened.

He retched, leaned against the wall for support, clasping a napkin to his mouth. "It's the smell," he apologised.

But anyway, this is what I notice you do. And you do it a few times.

Quote
I've applied salve to her sores; her endema can't be treated until we can determine the underlying cause.

Whenever I see two words that similar and that close together, I try to remove one occurrence(unless repetition strenghtens the scene). Here I did not see it strong enough, and then when looking at the sentence further, I removed the 2nd mention and seen that the meaning of the sentence hadn't changed. The removal in the 1st instance, changes the meaning, or fractures the sentence.  So I would suggest removing the 2nd.

But it is that you do this a number of times; like you are unsure of your writing in that regard.

Your punctuation needs a touch up, but I think it might be this site when posting.

Still, as I said, I liked the opening. The bugs at the end, I like it more if attached to the foul odor and possibly what was so foul.

If not, then I'd remove all mention.

You should finish your story fully
« Last Edit: November 29, 2018, 07:30:18 PM by Tak »

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2018, 10:30:48 PM »
The bug part threw me off a bit. I wasn't expecting it. If this is the actual beginning, might want to flesh that out a bit more.

Other than that, I enjoyed it. I caught my attention right away and held it until the end.

Also, may want to look at some commas after a prepositional phrase to start a sentence.  "In my opinion, things are critical now." Breathes life into dialogue. 

Best of luck!
My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

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

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Offline Everyman

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2018, 03:14:00 AM »
Thank you, Tak and landmersm, both excellent feedback.

I'm not ashamed to admit I still have a lot to learn, that is it what this site is for, and you've both contributed excellently. I did notice the uncapitalized P, but the correct use of action tags is actually something I struggle with Tak, so thank you for the clear explanation. And I do have a tendency to fracture sentences with unnecessary semicolons. I also have this weird compulsion, where I feel I must make my characters act in an odd or unusual way. To my mind, I believe this enlivens them with humanness, but the very opposite is often the case. I'll need to address this urge if I'm to take writing seriously. It's cheap, and the reader deserves better.

Thank you landmersm, for pointing out the correct use of the prepositional phrase comma, and your thoughts on the (admittedly bad) bug part. I've since removed that segment, and had him simply crushing a bug on the wall, making it the second time he cuts off the MC as they are declaring the other residents as the culprit. I've done this deliberately, as not all characters are what they seem. It's a modern day Cinderella story. Joan, a symbol of goodness, is worked to death. I plan to post in The Gallery when it's finished.

Your comments have helped clarify the direction of the story and improve it structurally.
Thanks for your time and valuable feedback.     
« Last Edit: November 30, 2018, 06:09:36 AM by Everyman »

Offline Gyppo

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2018, 06:40:32 AM »
Thanks Jan. You're right, of course. The "bug attack" does seem off, it's a hangover from an earlier version, where I'd made a connection between Joan's deterioration and the condition of the building. It looks out of place now.

It's easy for this to happen over a lengthy writing process.  Which is why very often what was written as an inspired opening scene, or even chapter, doesn't mesh with what follows when you've written the whole story.

In many cases the first chapter is just a way for you, as the writer, to get into the story and settle down to your own writing style/voice.  For any new writer, and many experienced ones, by the time you reach the end of the first draft you will be a much better writer than you were at the start.

You will either see or feel the difference when you look at the first part.  Which is when you either discard the false start because you realise it isn't needed, or rewrite using the new skills and understanding - and confidence - you've picked up along the way.

There's a lot to be said in favour of just pressing on and finishing a complete first draft rather than double-guessing yourself as you go along.  Then you have a complete and cohesive story to re-think, rewrite, and tidy up.

To the meticulous pre-planners this seems a terribly labour intensive way, but they probably spend just as long if they include their planning time ;-)

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

hillwalker3000

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2018, 04:35:26 PM »
First drafts are notoriously difficult - as are first chapters. The soundest advice is 'Write the story then let it rest before reading again with an editor's eye'. By then you may well realise your opening chapter is no longer a good fit. The first draft is you telling yourself the story. The second is you telling a prospective reader the story. It's all good fun, even though it can seem hard going at times.

For the record, I'll give your extract a look and comment as I read if I may.

Openings are meant to grab the reader's attention - to make them want to continue reading to discover what's about to happen next. There's no room for ambiguity. You're allowed to misdirect the reader if you wish, or even trick them. But whatever you do, don't confuse them or make then hate your characters right from the off. Your opening paragraph didn't make me particularly keen to continue reading or make me desperate to spend more time in the company of the doc or Joan's father.

Quote
         “In my opinion things are critical now.” That's about as vague as you can get. 'things'?? Doctor Abbott sighed, “peripheral neuropathyand now I'm having to pause while I Google that's why she feels there are devils stabbing her.” He retched, clasping a napkin to his mouth; Lovely image, considering we're barely two lines down the page. he leaned against the wall for support, mopping his sweated odd word choice brow, eyes screwed back difficult to picture in exhausted resignation. He waved an apology. It was the smell.

Maybe I'm being nit-picky but that's because there are so many careless distractions. If the opening hook was strong enough most readers would be able to forgive any missteps because the story is gripping enough. But I don't think there's enough here to hook any prospective reader. The story starts in the wrong place.

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   “Are you saying she's mad?” I asked, concerned. The reader doesn't need to be told you're concerned. You've already shown that through the dialogue “I tried to help her, doc. Those devils are real! They're the residents here. And devil is too kind a word for those—”

This rather lengthy speech undermines any sense of panic you're trying to convey. I'd expect single bursts of dialogue broken up by action tags reflecting your unease. There's too much uninterrupted talk.

Quote
   He cut my outburst short and shot me a considered look, as if questioning my mental state. Turning his attention to the contents of his medical bag, he said in a low voice, “Personally, I confess I've never seen anything like this, and I've been a practitioner almost twenty years. I've applied salve to her sores; her endema can't be treated until we can determine the underlying cause. And without medical equipment, I can't make a definite diagnosis. That's why I'm suggesting institutional care.”

Another long speech. The perfect opening line would be 'I've never seen anything like this and I've been practicing medicine almost twenty years'. But then you blow it again. Giving such a detailed, almost clinical diagnosis takes away the reader's focus from whatever horror they might be imagining. Maybe that's because you don't trust the reader. White spaces on the page are as important as text. By not leaving any room for the reader to fill these blanks, you're taking away their opportunity to engage or interact with the story. In a word, you're excluding your readers.

Quote
   A half-light played across his face; for a moment, he held a strange expression, a mix between unease and indecision. It he seemed desired to say Typo? something more, but could not find the words. “Has she been...is there... ” he began, but balked on pretense of a sudden bug attack. I have no idea what that's supposed to mean He flapped the air with his hands, scratching himself frantically.

Very clunky - I'd suggest you ask yourself how much (if any) of the above is essential for the reader to continue understanding what's happening.

Quote
   “Good heavens!Rather formal is it not? he cried, “What are these things? They're everywhere! Don't worry, we'll soon get her out. Ghastly place this.

Can you not see how you build up the tension then bring it crashing down seconds later? The pacing is rushed and works against any sense of impending doom. 

Quote
   And with that he departed, hitching his pants and theatrically slapping his clothes, without finding the nerve to ask if Joan had suffered abuse.

What a weird ending.

I'm sure you have an intriguing tale to tell, an Exorcist-type horror presumably. But I can't find anything here that feeds my imagination. There's no sense of place. We could be in a homeless shelter, a Beverley Hills mansion or a jungle camp. And your characters barely exist - they certainly don't leap from the page. The title character isn't even mentioned until you produce that throwaway line right at the end, so how do you expect me to care what's happening to her, or what might happen next? And the awkward choreography breaks up the narrative to the point of absurdity. The doctor hitching up his pants and slapping his clothes - is that an essential part of the plot? Or should we be shown the bugs emerging from Joan's suppurating body (assuming there are real bugs rather than pretend ones)? Gross, I agree. But at the moment you seem to be stuck between two stools. Is this meant to be a true horror or a stuttering cop out? There's no room for half measures in writing.

Just one opinion - use or lose.

H3K

hillwalker3000

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2018, 06:10:36 AM »
Well, I've been drinking again. I'm deleting my account now.
Enjoy your cookhouse of ego breeding.

It's a shame you have allowed your personal feelings to spill over and attack those of us who spent time reading and commenting on your work (at your request, don't forget). It sets a bad example to other members, particularly those newbies who are looking for a welcoming environment where they can obtain honest and meaningful feedback.

H3K

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2018, 02:43:51 PM »
Huh? What's happening? 
My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

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

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2018, 03:18:04 PM »
Huh? What's happening? 

MWC Red Barren Bar....gotta be they make some bad Lala drinks.    ;)

hillwalker3000

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2018, 06:27:13 AM »
Huh? What's happening?

Blink and you missed it. Someone venting their frustration, nothing more. Writers can be notoriously protective of their work, but we can gain so much from other readers'/writers' feedback.

H3K

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2018, 09:28:31 AM »
"Some of us don't live the comfortable upper middle-class lives many established writers enjoy, due in part to their education and privileged backgrounds."   -Everyman

Everyman, Life is hard for many people and without their dreams ,they truly would have nothing.

Up until a few months ago [by choice, because I am a very independent person who lives by faith],I lived for two years in a 10'x10' shed, behind my daughter's house. Prior to that I lived over 30 years ,where children and butterflies were a part of my everyday life.[It was the upper class who stole my world.]

Life is not always fair. But. I truly believe, it depends on each individual, as to whether or not, one reaches their dream.   

Don't blame others if you don't reach your dream. Reach your dream. Dreams do come true.     jt

PS If MWC did no good- we wouldn't be openly sharing our thoughts. You ever heard of 'tough love'?   

Offline landmersm

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2018, 12:07:49 PM »
I don't think anyone here is forcing you to submit your work.  It's purely voluntary. 

In reality, though, you want total strangers to look at your work and critique it. People who you know will read it - or say they will - and they "will love it". Doesn't mean it's good, though. No. What you want and should crave as someone who wants to write is the opinion of people you will, more than likely, never meet or see in real life. Their opinion is the one you should be actively seeking. They don't know you. They don't owe you anything. They will be brutally honest with you.

Think of it this way: Ever watch those horrible singing audition shows? American Idol. xxxxx Got Talent.  There's always a handful full of people who get on stage and sound like someone slaughtering cats with a butter knife.  Their first reaction when told how terrible they sound? "My family said I sound great!"  Yeah. I'm sure they did. Doesn't mean you are though.

Now, I haven't been on this site for long, but I have yet to see any review turn personal. I've only submitted one thing. Some people liked it. Some didn't. But they all were honest, and I didn't take it personal. I appreciated it. I didn't agree with everything they said, but I did some of it. It's the harsh reality of trying concoct a good tale. You're going to stumble, and even when you don't, someone isn't' going to like it. No one can submit something and have the world immediately fall at their feet, heaping praise.  That's Hollywood. Not reality.

As far as privileged backgrounds, middle class, etc.  I don't know about anyone else here, but my wife and I both work 50+ hours a week just to make ends meet. A daughter in grad school and two teenage boys in high school. I don't know how special that makes me. (Makes me tired, I do know that.) Selling millions of copies of a book is probably not in my future, but that's okay. If a few people can read it and say, "Hey, that's pretty good" . . . . . meh, that's pretty cool, I suppose. I'm here to get better, AS IS EVERYONE ELSE ON THIS SITE.

If you don't like it here, don't submit. Block the site in your inbox. You'll never hear from it again.

That would be a shame, though. I enjoyed what you submitted.


To the mods: I apologize if it was not my place to say any of this. I'll delete if necessary.
My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

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

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline Tak

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Re: The Undoing of Joan Baraita (opening: 368 words)
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2018, 12:32:13 PM »
I enjoyed that read, Land.

They can delete mine too, if need be.

Passion. Writers are fully of it. They have to be. It will be a sad thing to see a member leave over this, but people do leave and still achieve their goals. Best journey to you.

Critiques.

Many writers take critiques the wrong way, or maybe don't use them as the tools they are meant to be. 

Two or three reviews give a difference of opinion about a certain scene, but at another scene, everyone liked it. So a writer should be asking themselves, what is the difference between the two, and how can I make them both be accepted. Just because you disagree, doesn't mean it isn't a useful piece of advice. It could solidify your belief in your writing. It could be the reviewer who is incorrect, or is giving incorrect information. Writing changes, styles change, what's acceptable changes. As writers we have to evolve with our audiences.

I could go on and on about critiques and how any are beneficial, that includes a readers overall view of the story also.

You don't have to agree, but you should be willing to look from their pov also.

Otherwise you are only cheating your writing.

Best writing to you

Tak