Author Topic: Please critique my first edit of Chapter 1 Life's Enduring Battle -Jeff Nickels  (Read 162 times)

Offline jn3766

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Life’s Enduring Battle

            By Jeff Nickels

               1
                 Jasper

      Someone or something upset the sky that afternoon, putting it in a foul mood. Its tears turned to a deluge

covering a wide swath of land heading straight for the Bishop’s farm. The dull, dank loneliness of winter would soon
 
replace the bright and pristine colors of the season.  Glen Bishop never thought the battlefield storms would follow

 him home to his Kentucky farm. After years of torment and torture on the fields of Saigon, he was finally at rest.

 Fear and anguish were far behind him. Or so he thought. Glen was an imposing-looking young man all of 22. With

 dark cropped black hair slightly hanging over his eyes, and a once scrawny frame had now become sturdy and

 muscular from his army training days. Glen was now home. Home to a farm, he grew up on overlooking vast acres

 of corn, grass, and cows. His future was uncertain. Could he ever view life the same way again? Sitting on his porch

 with trouble looming, he knew life would never be the same.


      Glen Bishop’s early years were quite like many of the children in the farming community of Jasper, Kentucky.

 Jasper was a small town of about 5,000 not far from Lexington. By sunup, cows were to be milked followed by a

quick breakfast and off to school and to finish the long day with a late afternoon of more farming chores. Glen’s

early life prepared him for the future. The disciplined yet mundane existence served him well for years to come. His

 parents were typical of the 50’s South. Hardworking, god-fearing, work sunup to sundown and church on Sundays.

 His Father John, 40 years of age, was long and lean with a thick black beard. Friends and family nicknamed him

“Abe” as he looked similar to Abraham Lincoln. In many ways, John’s actions and mannerisms matched the former

President. He was efficient and always had a lesson to teach or an anecdote to share. Glen idolized him and wanted

 to live his life like him. His mother Louise also 40 loved to dote on her children. Faith and family came first to her
 
with little time for anything else. Louise hid her beautiful features behind a sizeable white vale overtaking her blonde

 shoulder-length hair. She was stern and fair but failed to display the affection her husband so desperately wanted.

The rest of the family consisted of a brother and sister. Glen was the eldest at 9, middle child Gregory 7 and Caroline
 
5. Gregory, as the middle child, had trouble figuring out his place in life; he was on the short and stocky side and did

 not seem to have the ambition of his older brother. Caroline was beautiful and engaging as her mother. As lovely as

someone could be at such a young age. She concentrated more on getting muddy in the fields than on her looks.

Everyone in the family knew as she got older; she would be the center of the attention. As the family aged and

continued to grow, changes were about to happen.

      Glen, as usual, was well ahead of his two siblings on their walk to school on most early mornings. Like most of

 the townspeople, they had already put in a day’s work well before their walk to school. Glen was used to the hectic

 schedule and had a good reason why his strides were so rapid each morning. No, it was not because he was anxious
 
to listen to long lectures on history and the importance of long division. The aspiring Romeo had another interest in

 mind. With speed, timing, and a little luck, Glen hoped he would arrive at school at the same time as his grade

school crush did. Usually, each morning, he had poor timing as his love interest was either already at her desk or

arrived later than him. On this memorable morning, his timing was perfect. There, in all her loveliness, stood

 Elizabeth Fairbanks. Glen was startled, frozen as if he slept outside all night. He thought to himself, “It’s her”! “I

can’t believe it”! “I am about to enter school at the same time as her”! In an instant, the boy who could work

massive acres of farmland and walk long miles to school with ease could barely stand on his own two feet. He began

 to wobble, and a numbness took over his lower torso rendering him motionless. How could this be, his nerves were

about to ruin a perfect scene. Move Glen, move before it is too late, but his legs didn’t respond. It was his moment

to talk to the girl of his dreams, there was the door and soon, the perfect moment he had rehearsed over and over, don’t blow it!


      Elizabeth Fairbanks was at the top of her third-grade class at Franklin Elementary. She eschewed

troublemakers and took her studies seriously. She was tight, quiet, and not comfortable to know. Glen didn’t care;

he was too busy listening to the thumping of his heart. She was quite fetching, with long black hair and dark brown

eyes. While most of the students dressed like farmers and, in some cases, smelled like them, Elizabeth, on the other

 hand, did her absolute best to separate herself from the farm community lifestyle. She consistently dressed

impeccably, usually a neatly pressed skirt and well-polished shoes were her regular attire. After containing himself,
 
Glen knew he had his work cut out for him. Glen wasn’t a bad student, but he was no honor student. A prank or a
 
joke with his classmates was his claim to fame. Based on reputation alone, Glen knew he was already on “thin ice”

with one Elizabeth Fairbanks. Well, there he was if he was ever going to make a first impression, now was the time.

 Politeness would be a good start, so he held the door for Elizabeth as they entered. She gave an approving glance,
 
and said, “Thank you.” Unfortunately, his politeness meant ten other classmates followed suit one by one walking

under his arm sarcastically responding to Glen, aren’t you so kind, we didn’t think you liked us. He felt his chance

was lost. No introduction, no “you look nice today Elizabeth,” no nothing! Well, maybe it was a start. There will be

other mornings to make an impression. By then, he would have his schtick down pat. Perhaps if he timed it right, he

 would see her at the end of the school day? This time he would walk out right behind her- lesson learned.

      Well, the school day ended but, Glen didn’t see Elizabeth as they left for the day. “Oh well,” he thought it’s time

 for chores! The walk home always seemed to go slower than the walk to school. The three Bishop children knew

 their day was far from over. As they finally arrived at the end of the dusty path, in the distance was the site of their

 Mom pacing back and forth, waiting for them on the porch. Glen, looking at his siblings and said, “oh no, something

 is wrong with mom.” The children followed his finger toward the farm and Glen said, “every time she paces and

nervously  curls her hair, you know there’s trouble.” “Yep, Gregory replied, there she goes, ut oh.” She didn’t greet

 them right away, still rehearsing the news she had to share flustered and nervous, not knowing where to start.

Without going into detail, she tried her best to explain there was a possibility they could lose their farm. Each sibling

formed a tight circle around their distraught mother in attempts to console her. Their mother explained, for the

government to run, there was a plan to levying a tax on all property. In other words, a property tax would need to

be paid yearly by the Bishop’s and others, or they would lose their farm. They did not have the tax money to pay the

 local government. While each child tried their best to comfort their mother, off in the distance, Father John was still

hard at work, plowing his field. Was he working off steam? All the sweat and toil endured over the years may have

been all for not. What could he do? Something had to change. As he plodded along acre after acre, ideas raced

through John’s head. Such as, “How could I make my farm more profitable?” He wondered. He was already selling

milk and corn to the State of Kentucky, but the money produced still wasn’t enough. John never changed his attitude

 no matter the news and, with an upright posture, carried on pridefully finishing his days’ work. A proud and

incredibly determined man more like it. Another workday was coming to a close; shade had overtaken the brightness

of the afternoon, and the day’s warmth dissipated beneath the Kentucky hills. As John removed the hardened soil

from his body, he did his best to remember to keep his head held high so the children would not detect any worry.

 With Glen being the oldest child and much like his father, it didn’t take him long to understand the situation

overtaking the family. Gone now were the typical thoughts of a 9-year-old. Playing kickball at recess, being lovesick,

 fishing at the nearby pond all seemed of less importance. There had to be a way to save the family farm, and Glen

 was about to play a big part in the outcome.

Offline JTetstone

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  • Jan Tetstone a/k/a Janice Sanford/nosuchmember
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jn,I read the whole chapter. It was sort of slow moving.  But. it did leave me wondering "what is going to happen next."  You might look into ways of making it more lively.

7 Quick Tips for Mastering Pacing in Your Story
Written by Claire Bradshaw

Most writers will be aware that pacing is important, whether in a short story, a novel or across an entire series.

But what exactly is pacing? Why is it so important? And how can you make sure you master it in whichever kind of story you’re writing?

Pacing in fiction refers to the speed at which a story unfolds – its rhythm and flow, the rise and fall of its plot points and events. Basically, it’s how quickly or slowly you’re telling the story to readers.

Well-considered, controlled pacing is important, because without it, a story will feel uneven and disjointed. Parts that are too fast risk rushing readers through and losing impact, while parts that are too slow risk boring them.

It’s important to balance faster- and slower-paced sections in your work to create a story that flows seamlessly, develops plot and characters effectively, and engages readers consistently.

Let’s dive into some quick tips on how to achieve just that!

1. Break down the structure of your story
Whether you have an outline or plan for your story, or you’ve already completed your first draft, one way to work out how pacing should flow is to break the story down and examine the pieces closely.

Scrivener’s scene and chapter cards are a useful way to do this, but you can also hand-write or type out a basic breakdown yourself. All you need is the main events of the narrative mapped out in the order they occur.

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Image via Startup Stock Photos
Doing this will help you see where you need to increase the pace and ramp up tension, where you can afford to slow things down a little, and how the narrative rises and falls over the course of the entire story.

It will also allow you to see whether the pace is uneven or inconsistent in places, and identify where/how you can smooth it out.

If your story follows a common structure such as the three-act structure, breaking it down to its components will make it even easier to identify where high/low/fast/slow points usually happen in these types of stories.

2. Use sentence, paragraph and chapter length to influence pace
One of the easiest ways to control pacing in your story is through the length of your sentences, paragraphs and chapters.

In a fight scene, for example, you want to keep things fast-paced and exciting.

To achieve this, use short, choppy sentences and shorter paragraphs to keep readers’ eyes flying over the words. Perhaps end the chapter on a cliffhanger to keep them flipping pages, desperate to find out what happens next.

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Image via Kaboompics
In a slower-paced section, on the other hand – perhaps one where you want to delve deeper into a character (more on this below) – longer sentences and paragraphs will be more effective.

You can also afford to be a little more lyrical rather than strictly economical with words in these sections, allowing the prose to slow the pacing a little by encouraging readers to linger over every word.

3. Use heightened detail when you want to slow things down
Another way to slow down the pacing – especially for a single moment that you want to highlight – is to heighten the attention to detail.

Think of a slow-motion movie shot. This kind of shot amps up the focus on each visual aspect, allowing the viewer to experience a single moment in exquisite detail.

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Image via Pexels
You can utilise a similar technique and achieve a similar effect in your writing.

This sort of ultra-slowed-down moment is perhaps most effective when juxtaposed with an otherwise fast-paced scene, adding interest and drawing attention to a climactic moment.

4. Use introspection to develop character and control pace
Never forget that character development is just as important as plot development in fiction. An exciting plot is all well and good, but it will mean nothing to readers if they don’t understand or care about the characters involved in it.

Character development through introspection can reveal motivations, provide understanding and a sense of empathy, and overall help you craft believable characters.

Introspection slows down the pacing of a story, but if this is done deliberately and carefully as a counterpoint to faster-paced scenes, it can be extremely effective.

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Image via Pixabay
Techniques like internal monologue and stream of consciousness can work well here, provided they’re utilised in the right place – the middle of an action scene, for example, isn’t the best place to launch into a long paragraph of character thoughts.

When done right, though, diving into a point-of-view character’s mind is a great way to control the pace of the story while contributing to their development into a fully fleshed-out character.

5. Ask yourself what’s necessary to include (and what isn’t)
When editing your novel or story, one of your aims should be to strip the story down to its essence. To do this, you need to ask yourself: is everything I’ve included absolutely necessary? Does it contribute to plot, character development and/or reader experience?

When you identify areas where the answer to this question is ‘no’, you’ll often find that those are the sections that suffer from lagging pacing.

The old ‘kill your darlings’ mantra comes into play here. Sometimes, you might have a piece of prose or a character interaction that you personally love, but that doesn’t really serve much of a purpose – and slows down pacing as a result.

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Image via rawpixel.com
In those cases, you need to be honest with yourself and brave in your editing, and cut out what isn’t necessary for the sake of your story’s pacing.

(In the case where something can’t be removed entirely, making use of summary-style writing could be a good way to include it in a cut-back form so as not to slow pacing too much.)

Despite all the above advice, we know that self-editing is a subjective art, and that you sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees when pruning your own work. That’s where our next point comes in!

6. Ask critique partners/beta readers for feedback in this area
If you aren’t already working with beta readers or critique partners on your fiction, we strongly recommend that you do so. Pacing is an area that can be vitally improved by the feedback you’ll gain from these relationships.

When briefing your beta readers and critique partners before sending them your drafts, be sure to ask what they think of your story’s pacing – specifically, if there are any areas where they felt the pacing lagged, was rushed, etc.

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Image via Startup Stock Photos
They will often pick up on this themselves, just through a general feeling that something was ‘off’ about the pacing of the story.

This is valuable feedback, as it comes primarily from a reader’s perspective, rather than an editor’s. This means it gives you a good idea about what your general readership might feel about the story, and affords you a chance to fix any issues before your manuscript goes to the next stage.

7. Don’t assume ‘good pacing’ means ‘fast-paced’
Our final tip is more of a warning: never assume that in order to master pacing in your story, you must make everything fast-paced.

This is a common misconception. While many stories whose pacing is ‘off’ can be put down to slower, ‘boring’ sections, just as many find trouble when pacing is too fast, or when there are no slowed-down sections at all.

Yes, part of mastering pacing is ensuring the story doesn’t lag and readers don’t get bored. But the answer to this isn’t making every single scene fast-paced.

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Image via Pexels
The goal is for pacing to be even and consistent, and to serve the story in the most effective way possible – and sometimes this means slowing down is necessary.

Slower-paced scenes are as essential as fast-paced ones. As well as allowing for character development and insight, they give readers a chance to ‘catch their breath’ after fast-paced, gripping scenes, and provide much-needed contrast.


https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/7-quick-tips-for-mastering-pacing-in-your-story/
« Last Edit: March 10, 2021, 01:22:48 PM by JTetstone »
I was born and raised wearing hand me down shoes and clothes-but I was richer by far than those who thought themselves 'my betters.'  I'd take love over riches and fame any day.

Offline jn3766

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Thanks for your input. The synopsis is about Glen Bishop from a Kentucky farm family in the 1950's. His first success and struggle is discovering a way to solve the town's severe drought problem. As he enters his teens he discovers a love for the law. That is when his life changed forever. When two black boys are accused of several crimes in the racial South at the time, no lawyer would take the case. That's when Glen begged the judge to represent the boys as a public defender. Through perseverance, he solved the case and got the boys off only to prove who was the actual criminal and it comes as a surprise. His next dream was to go to Princeton and become a lawyer. That dream was cut short as he was drafted into Vietnam. During a tour of bloodshed and the tragic loss of his bunkmate, Glen met someone who would affect his life forever. He had a clash with a Vietnamese soldier named Wu Chen. The name Wu Chen would be prevalent for years to come and he would play a role in some dramatic events when Glen returned to Jasper Kentucky. Glen again would put his defense lawyer expertise into play. This time to solve the murder of his father the Mayor of Jasper and who is the defendant? Wu Chen.

With all this in mind, could you give me hints at a better first chapter? I know it seems like a backstory but I'm trying to show where his struggles began and how he became better for them.  Thank you.

Offline JTetstone

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  • Jan Tetstone a/k/a Janice Sanford/nosuchmember
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After reading your above post, I did a few name searches. jt

Glen Bishop, the odd neighbor boy on “Mad Men” played by series creator Matthew Weiner’s son Marten, has sometimes been a weak member of the period drama’s ensemble cast, the younger Weiner’s mannered delivery and blank expressions falling short of the work of the more subtle adult actors on the show.

You might find this article/story interesting.It's where the above was found:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2015/04/20/mad-mens-smart-personal-take-on-the-vietnam-war/

I was born and raised wearing hand me down shoes and clothes-but I was richer by far than those who thought themselves 'my betters.'  I'd take love over riches and fame any day.

Offline jn3766

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The name was totally made up. I didn't even think about it.