Author Topic: Women's Fiction-first chapter  (Read 472 times)

Offline Jemacush

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 13
Women's Fiction-first chapter
« on: February 26, 2020, 06:12:19 PM »
Below is the first chapter of a novel I'm working on. Any feedback will be appreciated, I'm at a point where I need someone else's opinion. Re-writing is doing me no good without external input.

Chapter 1

Jack

From the mind of Tessa Ryan:

Journaling-a way to deal with my feelings that doesnít involve alcohol. A requirement of my therapist. She didnít say I couldnít drink while writing though, soÖ yeah, Iím having a beer.
 
What?! Writing is hard work.
 
At least I get to write about whatever I want; however I want. So, why not step off on the right foot. The BIG foot.

God.

Every day I talk to a God I donít believe in. Talk, not pray. Iíve never been in a church. It hasnít been purposeful avoidance. Iíve just never had a reason to go. No weddings, funerals or baptisms-the usual shit-has made it necessary. Isnít that odd? That in my whole life, Iíve never had to go into a church? And, so far, I havenít felt the need just to go for the hell of it. To set the record straight, Iím not afraid the place would burn down or anything like that if I did go in, itís just, the God I talk to is everywhere. No need to plant myself in a building to say whatís on my mind. To me praying is what you do when you believe, and talking is what you do if you want to believe, but just canít bring yourself to it. I need proof of this God that loves us so much, and Iím not talking about the sun rising and setting. Thatís science. Is God, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Am I just not seeing, or is there nothing to see? Am I wrong to want proof, to need a sign that there is more to this existence than dumb luck and happenstance? I want to believe. I WANT to believe. I guess Iím a hard sell.

 
The sound of waves rang through the tiny bungalow like ill-played cymbals in a high school marching band. A sound Jack knew very well thanks to his youngest sister, Teri. Nine hours ago, the waves had been soft as corn silk to his ears.
He stopped in the doorway, unable to commit to coming in or going out. Uncertainty was a feeling he was both unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, it lay on him like a wet blanket. He looked over the deck railing to the blue-green sea. Dawn had already given way to early morning.

Time was a merciless bitch, wasnít she? Not resting for a moment, forcing you to dance to her beat. Today she was moving in strange spurts and lags. How was it already ten-thirteen a.m.? Hadnít he just lay down to sleep? It seemed only seconds ago it been four am when heíd reached across the bed and realized the left side was cold and empty.

Everything seemed to be functioning but him. The AC hummed, the ice maker clicked and clanked, the lighthouse-shaped clock ticked methodically. The house went on. It buzzed and beeped and made house noises, but there were no human sounds. No warm, fleshy, people noise. He realized he was holding his breath and let it out in a ragged exhale, quickly sucking in another before sitting heavily on the couch.

Was this even real? Maybe he was still sleeping, and Tessa was snug against his side taking up more than her share of the bed. As usual. His hand drifted to the empty cushion next to him. Like the bed this morning, it was cool to the touch, but it was the silence that convinced him more than anything. Whatever this was, it was no dream. It was as real as the cushion under his hand. 

Jack sighed and let his chin sag to his chest. His eyes, grainy from lack of sleep, listlessly watched his hand pick up the phone. A hand that suddenly looked like it belonged to someone else. Thick veins pushed against sun-spotted skin. He felt as if age had caught up with him overnight. An image of glistening rose-pink lips spread in a full smile flashed through his mind. The plane was scheduled to leave at twelve-thirty this afternoon. It was going to be leaving two passengers behind. His hand trembled as he punched in the first number. 


JCush

Offline Jung_Love

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Re: Women's Fiction-first chapter
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2020, 05:49:38 AM »
Hi Jemacush,

Perhaps I'm not your target audience but I wanted to critique your work. Firstly, I wanted to check what you feel you want to focus on to take this section forward?

Secondly I wanted to confirm a few things about what's happening or what conclusions the reader is intended to form, before I go off on a dumb tangent (I'm new to critiquing creative writing). I'm not clear what exactly the reader is supposed to know, and what things are intentionally mysterious. So I have some questions, sorry.

1. The opening is Jack writing while drinking a beer, right? Is this in the morning before standing at the doorway, or the night before, or an unspecified point in time?
2. Is the writing about churches and God intended to be a reflection on how he feels that the morning?
3. It's inferred that Tessa thinks Jack has a problem with alcohol, right? Is he drunk or hungover in this scene? Or is it open to the reader's interpretation?
4. Is it intended the reader has a clear idea of Jack's age, or simply that he is conscious of aging?
5. Jack is somewhat disorientated by the passing of time, right? Is this because he's just woken up, or drunk? Or again it's intended to be up to the reader to decide?

Offline PIJ1951

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 130
Re: Women's Fiction-first chapter
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2020, 06:16:09 AM »
Here are my own observations - feel free to ignore.

Openings are notoriously difficult to get right. First impressions go a long way to establishing a rapport between the author and reader. The first requirement is generally a hook - something to make the reader want to continue reading. Secondly, the MC/narrator has to chime with your readership. We either love or hate him/her - both are acceptable if that's the writer's intention. Indifference is fatal. The secret is not to bore your readers or annoy them right from the start.

This opening did not work for me. Apart from a throwaway line here and there, I'm not a fan of internalised reflection in first-person narrative. Navel-gazing is boring, and over familiarity where I feel I'm being personally addressed can also prove to be a turn-off. We need to be eased into a relationship.

You've probably guessed my overall reaction by now - if your opening sets the tone for what follows, I'll struggle to read further. The first 296 words can be safely removed, in my opinion. They contribute nothing positive. In fact they create confusion, because they suggest everything that follows is still 'inside Tessa Ryan's mind' when the focus switches to Jack. It wasn't clear that he had written the preamble - and whether he has or not is actually irrelevant.

This is probably where your story starts:

The sound of waves rang through the tiny bungalow like ill-played cymbals in a high school marching band. A sound Jack knew very well thanks to his youngest sister, Teri. Nine hours ago, the waves had been soft as corn silk to his ears.
He stopped in the doorway, unable to commit to coming in or going out. Uncertainty was a feeling he was both unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, it lay on him like a wet blanket. He looked over the deck railing to the blue-green sea. Dawn had already given way to early morning.


Having said that, a number of expressions pulled me up short. 'ill-played cymbals' is very clunky. And how does a 'wet blanket' equate with unfamiliarity? I think you're trying too hard to give the appearance that you're writing. The author should always remain invisible, but here all I'm seeing is you moulding words and phrases in an attempt to impress instead of getting on with telling the story.

The rest of what follows drags. More internalised observations that lead nowhere and one distraction after another that interrupts the flow until the story seems to have ground to a halt. You even manage to transform the act of picking up a phone into a major undertaking - so much so that the mystery of the two missing passengers is lost in the fog of daydream.

My advice, speed things up. Let's have something happen on page 1. So far all we have is a rather flat build-up without a punch.

Offline Jemacush

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 13
Re: Women's Fiction-first chapter
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2020, 08:39:24 AM »
Thank you both for your input. Jung_Love, the first part is Tessaís journal not Jacks but I can see how that could be confusing. PIJ2951, Iíve been on the fence about the phrase Ďwet blanketí, added it then taken it out too many times to count, so thank you. As for the beginning, the journal entries are a huge part of the whole story but maybe I can find a way to delineate them better. Thanks again for your input, itís nice to have some direction.
JCush

Offline Jung_Love

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Re: Women's Fiction-first chapter
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2020, 09:31:13 AM »
OK, thanks for explaining it. Sorry I was being really dumb with that, ha!

I wondered if the journal entry was there to avoid starting with a 'beginning the day' first chapter.
I feel like I wasn't sure why I was reading the journal entry, because it doesn't immediately seem to relate.

The sound of waves rang through the tiny bungalow like ill-played cymbals in a high school marching band. A sound Jack knew very well thanks to his youngest sister, Teri. Nine hours ago, the waves had been soft as corn silk to his ears.
He stopped in the doorway, unable to commit to coming in or going out. Uncertainty was a feeling he was both unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, it lay on him like a wet blanket. He looked over the deck railing to the blue-green sea. Dawn had already given way to early morning.


I also felt the metaphors took me out of the scene. And I wanted to point out that there are three quite close together, and two different metaphors for the waves.
Also what kind of sound are the waves? On rocks or on the beach?

Today she was moving in strange spurts and lags.

I feel like you have the opportunity to show time moving in this way, instead of just telling.

but it was the silence that convinced him more than anything.

I understand the point you're making, but you've already talked about waves and house noises. So you're describing the scene with ambient noise, but also saying it's silent. There might be a better way, or a better word.

Was this even real? Maybe he was still sleeping
I'm sure you know the dreams/waking up red flag, and I wonder if it's possible to convey the scene you want without using the word dream or sleep.

The plane was scheduled to leave at twelve-thirty this afternoon.
I suppose this is the detail that conveys some intrigue and conflict.
I think it's possible to rework the time and passing of time to make the scene more engaging.

It was going to be leaving two passengers behind.
This is a major nitpick, but "passengers" makes me think of people who have already boarded [as in they sat down and were then taken off the plane]. If they have a ticket but don't board, I think I would just stay two empty or spare seats, or even a pair of seats, if they are traveling together (assuming it is Tessa and Jack who are not on the flight)

How was it already ten-thirteen a.m.?
This is another major nitpick, but we just read it's morning, and afterwards you wrote 4am, so I don't think we need the a.m. here. And "already dawn" and "already ten thirteen"

What?! Writing is hard work.
I think there's a better way to phrase this.

I also noticed a few filter words that I think you don't need.
Thick veins pushed against sun-spotted skin. He felt as if age had caught up with him
He realized he was holding his breath

I think the elements of time, silence, waves and the plane departure could make a nice opening. Time and water really complement each other I think. I guess you could think about what Jack's goal is in the scene, and how to have a sense of him moving towards it sooner, or introducing more of an obstacle. What kind of symbolism do you want to attach to any of the elements in this scene?