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Author Topic: The Hunter  (Read 4960 times)
PaulH
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« on: October 15, 2007, 07:24:02 PM »

Hi

Thought I'd be a brazen hussy and drop the first 2 chapters of my novel here. If anyone can bear to read it, I'd love to know what you think - no matter how happy or harsh it may be.

Thanks

Paul


First day

ONE

The moon crept over the crest of the hill, glaring down on the landscape like a huge one-eyed owl searching for its prey. But the moon was not the hunter this night. Tonight, something far more deadly held that role.
The hunted man looked back along the road. The perfect silver circle of the moon was bitten into by the crest of the small hill he’d just descended, as though the Earth had bitten into its lone satellite. As he watched, the smooth line of the crest of the hill was broken. Rising higher with each passing second, the silhouette came on. The midnight black shape resolved itself into the outline of a broad brimmed hat. Below the hat was deepest shadow, any face indiscernible in the silver back-light. All that could be seen were twin spots of red where eyes should have been. Outcrops of shadow rose from each shoulder, making a ‘v’ shape around the head. The rest of the body crowned the ridge at a leisurely pace. A coat flapped around the knees, reaching to the top of a pair of boots. 'Click, clack', came the sound of boot heels on road, the beat slow and regular. The hunted man wished his heartbeat was as steady and regular as that, instead of pounding fit to break out of his chest.
   The hunted knew what that slow, regular beat meant. Death was coming. No matter how fast he had run, no matter how well he had hidden, that steady rhythm had followed him all night. Death was coming, and there was no escape.
   The hunted frantically looked for somewhere to hide, hoping this time it would work. He scurried off the road and clambered into a tree, fear surging adrenaline into his system to boost his ascent. Perhaps up here the hunter would miss him, would walk below without looking up. He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed silently to a God he hadn’t thought of in years. Tears rolled down his cheeks, his thoughts a chaotic babble of promises to live a good life, just so long as he survived the rest of this night.
   'Click, clack, click, clack' came the sound of his pursuer’s boots. The hunted man clung to his branch, wishing he wasn't breathing so loudly, wishing his frantic heartbeat would quieten, wishing most of all that the hunter would pass by and leave him be. 'Click, clack, click' went the noise of the worn down heels of those boots. Then the night fell silent. The hunter had stopped. The quarry forced his eyes open a fraction, looked out towards the road and saw the red gleam beneath the wide brim of the hat. The bark below him steamed as the hunted man involuntarily relieved himself down the tree trunk.
   The hunter reached up over his shoulder and slid one of the shapes smoothly from his back. The ominous sound of metal sliding on metal broke the silence. The hunted man prayed to every god he had ever heard of. Like Pandora's box, hope was all he had left. Then even that was gone. A roar split the night and fire spat from the hunter's shoulder. The quarry fell from his tree like some overgrown, ungainly bird, hands clutching the bloody mess of his left thigh. He slammed into the ground, driving the breath from his body. He couldn’t get up. The hunter walked slowly towards him, re-holstering his shotgun as he came. "It... it's over man. You got me." He moved his hands away from the ragged wound in his leg and raised his wrists, offering them up to be cuffed. "Take me in, man, claim your reward."
   The hunter’s crimson gaze moved slowly over his catch from feet to head, until their eyes locked. Then the hunter’s foot lifted, hovered over the messy leg wound, then descended slowly, deliberately, the heel of his boot grinding into the traumatised flesh. The quarry screamed in agony. The hunter slowly brought his foot back up, releasing the pressure. "You must have mistaken me for someone else." he said in a deep, almost melodic voice. "The warrant says dead or alive." The hunter reached over his other shoulder this time, and the last thing his prey ever saw was the glint of moonlight reflected from the silver of a finely-honed sword blade.
 
TWO

“I quit, Arlen.”
   “You’ve got to be kidding me, Tom. The wanted list is down to a handful. Give it a few weeks and there won’t be an outstanding warrant left in the area.”
   “That’s not the point, Arlen.”
   “Then what is, Tom? What makes a man walk out on his job when it’s just about to become easier than it’s been in living memory?”
   “You know what it is.”
   “That trouble you had with the Carlsons last month? Is that still bothering you?”
   “That’s just the Carlsons, Sheriff. Sure, they’re mean sons of bitches, always ready to pick a fight, but I understand them, Arlen. I know can deal with their crap.”
   “We’ll catch them red-handed one day, Tom. When we do, I promise you, we’ll have the whole lot of them behind bars faster then you can say death penalty.”
   Tom shook his head and dropped his deputy’s badge on Sheriff Arlen Quinn’s desk. “Like I said, Arlen, they’re not the problem.”
   “Then what is?”
   “The hunter.”
   “The bounty hunter? Are you still bitching about him?”
   “It’s not bitching, Arlen.” Tom frowned and considered his words. “There’s something plain wrong about that guy. There are people hiding out all over these parts. Mostly no-one finds them. We only know when they do because we find the body of the poor fool who ran into them.”
   “Not this hunter though, Tom. He’s been bringing them in one after another.”
   “Don’t you see, Arlen? That’s exactly what freaks me out about him.”
   Quinn sighed and picked up Tom’s badge. “I’m not taking this. Think about it, Tom. In a month, maybe less, there’ll be no more scumbags out there to catch. You know what that means?”
   “Yeah, we get to have an easy life for a while.”
   “Not just that, Tom. When there are no more bounties to collect, what reason will there be for the hunter to stick around? Madrigal isn’t exactly the life and soul, is it?”
   Tom shivered and wouldn’t meet Quinn’s eyes. “Nor is he. I don’t know, Arlen.”
   “Take a couple of weeks for yourself, Tom. See how you feel then.” Quinn held the badge out to his deputy.
   Tom began to reach for it, then hesitated. He let his hand fall back to his side. “No, Arlen. I’ve made my decision. I quit.”
   Quinn shook his head in disgust and pushed his fingers through his hair. It had gone grey in the time he’d been Sheriff of Madrigal. No matter how many times Peggy told him it gave him a distinguished look, Quinn was certain it just made him look old. He picked up the Zane Grey novel he’d been reading when Tom came in, shoved his bookmark into it and put it in his desk drawer next to his revolver. He’d only been reading it because it had been a present from his late wife’s brother.
   Tom was still standing on the other side of the desk, shuffling his feet and looking at the floor like a naughty schoolboy called before the head. “So what are you planning on doing, Tom? You’re no farmer and with Earl there, Lucy doesn’t need any help around the saloon. What else is there to do around here?”
   “I wasn’t thinking of working somewhere else.”
   “You’ve got enough tucked away to not have to work? You must live like a monk.”
   “It’s not that-” Tom’s voice faltered. Quinn scowled at him. “I’m leaving town.”
   “Really? Where are you going? Has someone offered you a Sheriff’s job somewhere else?”
   “I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t have anything else lined up.”
   “So what’s the big rush?”
   Tom looked embarrassed. “Can’t you feel it, Arlen? Something bad is in the air. Something evil.”
   Quinn furrowed his brow and his face twisted into a frown. It was only the sincerity in Tom’s voice that stopped him laughing out loud. “Hold on here, Tom.” His voice was coaxing. “Wait for the hunter to finish what he’s doing and go. At least find a place to stay or a job to go to before you leave Madrigal. I’m asking you as a friend.”
   Tom bit his lip. Quinn could see he was trembling on the edge of a decision. Before Tom could speak, the flickering lamplight streaming from outside was blocked by the shadow of a man. Quinn knew who it was instantly. The click clack sound of those worn-down boot heels was all the signature the man needed.
   Tom had turned white as a sheet. The doorknob rattled. Tom’s trembling wasn’t only metaphorical now. Quinn knew who was at the door, but he put his hand into the desk drawer anyway, fingers curling around the butt of his gun. It paid to be careful in his line of work. There was a good chance the previous Sheriff would be the current Sheriff to this day if he’d taken care not to be drunk while he was sitting behind this very desk. Quinn’s eyes dropped to the tabletop for a moment, then flicked straight back up. He wondered how many of the stains on the desk were etched in the blood of a former Sheriff.
The door swung wide and Quinn froze in place. Icy sweat broke out on his forehead. He suddenly wished there’d been a murder, a robbery, anything that would have taken him out of the office. The figure before him stood framed in the doorway, the light behind him reducing him to a silhouette. At over six feet tall and bristling with weapons, the figure would be imposing enough, but it was the aura around the figure that truly let you know here was someone to watch your step around. In one of his more eloquent moments, Quinn had likened it to standing in an open grave and looking up to see your own name on the headstone. No matter how many times he met this man, the effect was the same.
   "Sheriff Quinn, I have one for you. May I come in?" The voice was a low rumble, like distant thunder, yet somehow melodic. Quinn had never heard another voice with a timbre remotely like it. Something about it always managed to send a shiver down his spine.
   Quinn nodded rapidly, then realised how nervous he must look. "Sure," he tried to say, but only a strangled noise emerged. He took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "Sure," he said, and was pleased with the note of authority he managed. The man in the doorway gave the slightest of nods and crossed the threshold, pushing the door closed behind him. The 'click, clack' sound of his boots on the polished wooden floor brought a mental image of a drummer boy at a military execution sharply to Quinn’s mind. He gulped apprehensively, trying to moisten his dry mouth as he tried to push the picture away.
Tom was shaking ever more violently as the hunter’s footsteps approached from behind him. Quinn had thought he found the man’s presence disturbing, but seeing his deputy like this brought home to the Sheriff just how petrified Tom was of the hunter.
He drew level with Tom and stopped. “Deputy.” There was no inflection in his voice, no hint of threat or any emotion. He inclined his head politely as he spoke.
“G- go. Got to go.” Tom’s words tripped over his tongue in their hurry to get out.
“Tom-”
“No, that’s it. I quit, Arlen.” Tom was backing away as he spoke. He kept his eyes fixed on Quinn, refusing to look at the hunter. “You should get Peggy and get out of town while you still can.”
“Tom, you can’t just walk out on me like this.”
“Got to. I’m sorry, Arlen.” Tom turned and bolted. Haste robbed him of dexterity and he had to pull at the door four times before he could flee though it.
The hunter had watched him go. Now he turned back to Quinn, one slightly cocked eyebrow the only sign he’d found anything odd in what he’d just witnessed.
In the silence, the Sheriff cast his eyes over his visitor. As far as he was aware, no one in town knew the hunter’s name. It was simply the hunter, or the man in black. Looking at him up close in the light, Quinn could see that wasn’t strictly true. From the collarless shirt and denim trousers to the calf-length boots and long coat, everything the hunter wore may have been black once. Now his clothes were shades of grey. A broad brimmed hat that had seen better days sat atop the hunter’s head. The whole ensemble spoke of secrets and concealment. It was obvious to Quinn why the hunter wore it; he always seemed to work at night and these clothes would make him almost invisible to his prey. They also made him look damned intimidating.
Quinn knew it wasn’t just the man himself the clothes hid from prying eyes though. Underneath the coat, the hunter had a frightening arsenal tucked away. Quinn had only glimpsed it a couple of times, but he’d seen enough to know he was like a one-man army. The amount that weaponry must have weighed told Quinn just how strong the man had to be. The only visible weapons he carried were the shotgun and sword strapped to his back. The way the butt and hilt of the weapons rose above his shoulders made Quinn think of an angel with its wings cut off. The shirt covered other mysteries. He’d seen it only once, but the Sheriff would never forget the sight of the hunter’s upper torso, criss-crossed with scars and burns. The marks were so horrific that Quinn wondered how the hunter had survived.
The Sheriff gritted his teeth. There was one thing he’d been avoiding looking at. He let his gaze fall to the hunter’s left hand and the burlap sack he carried in it. The brown material looked strangely out of place against all the shades of black. Quinn’s experienced eyes didn’t miss the dark stain that discoloured the bottom of that bag, and his stomach lurched at the knowledge of what it almost certainly contained.
   "This one is worth four thousand, Sheriff Quinn. May I have the money?"
   "You know I have to..." Quinn trailed off, wishing he didn't have to. The man before him left the sentence hanging in the air, waiting to be finished off like a condemned man dangling from the rope of an inept hangman. The Sheriff knew there was only one way to deal with a dangler. You grabbed it by the ankles and pulled, and just hoped you weren’t going to get covered in crap. "I can't just give you the money. I have to have proof." Quinn knew by now that if this man said it was worth four thousand, then it was. But there were rules. No matter if Arlen Quinn would probably puke his guts up later, the rules had to be followed.
   "Very well, Sheriff Quinn." The hunter slid his right hand into the sack. He withdrew it slowly, hanks of brown hair poking up between his long fingers. Quinn had the strangest image of the hunter tapping the bag with a magic wand and saying 'ta-daaa' appear in his mind’s-eye. Was the hunter’s sense of humour really sick enough to do a magic routine with a severed head? Then Quinn’s attention was drawn back to the bag. He was very aware of the hunter’s eyes locked on him, just as his own eyes were fixed on the face that was slowly emerging from the bag. The hunter pulled it clear of the bag and despite the mouth hanging open, the rolled back eyes and the neck ending in an almost bloodless stump, it was undeniably the face of Fariah Barnes, familiar to Quinn from a multitude of wanted posters.
   The Sheriff fought down the urge to vomit as a blob of congealed blood fell from the stump. Proud of his self-control, he turned to the safe and pulled out five neat bundles of notes. He turned and dropped them on the desk, next to the head the hunter had laid down while the Sheriff’s back was turned. Quinn told himself not to puke at this latest trick, sure the hunter was trying to get a reaction from him. At least he’d had the decency to lay a cloth first to save the desk from any more blood stains. The hunter looked at the five bundles on the desk, then up at Quinn, the question plain on his face. "Reward went up while you were after him. Seems he killed another little girl."
   "You are sure it is him, Sheriff Quinn?"
   Quinn looked at the head and couldn’t quite suppress a shudder. "Yeah, that's him. Why?"
   "Last time I brought one in you were not so certain."
   "You’d blown half his face off."
   "A regrettable error, one I hope not to repeat. Regardless, I have ensured there could be no doubt this time." He reached into the sack once more, and then began to withdraw his hand, watching Quinn intently once again. Quinn's heart began to beat faster, and he could feel his gorge beginning to rise. With a flourish, the hunter slapped a pair of severed hands onto the desk. Quinn bolted from his chair and ran for the toilet as fast as he could. He knelt over the bowl, gagging as he fought for control. The sound of the hunter's boots approached at their unhurried pace. One of the hands suddenly appeared before Quinn's face, suspended from its middle finger.
The hunter’s deep voice was calm. "For fingerprints, you understand." Quinn gave up and offered his supper to the gleaming metal bowl before him.


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Ed
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« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2007, 06:14:01 PM »

Hi

Thought I'd be a brazen hussy and drop the first 2 chapters of my novel here. If anyone can bear to read it, I'd love to know what you think - no matter how happy or harsh it may be.

Thanks

Paul

Hi Paul. I'll take a bash at it if you like. Bear in mind mine's just one opinion, good or bad afro


Quote
First day

ONE

The moon crept over the crest of the hill, glaring down on the landscape like a huge one-eyed owl searching for its prey. But the moon was not the hunter this night. Tonight, something far more deadly held that role.

The simile in the first line doesn't work, IMO - I'd go with the 'huge eye' idea, but in no way does the moon look anything like an owl, and nor does the sky it resides in. It needs tweaking, for sure. Saying the moon wasn't the hunter is stating the obvious, as is the following statement. Personally, I wouldn't keep that.

Quote
The hunted man looked back along the road. The perfect silver circle of the moon was bitten into by the crest of the small hill he’d just descended, as though the Earth had bitten into its lone satellite. As he watched, the smooth line of the crest of the hill was broken. Rising higher with each passing second, the silhouette came on.


This is really quite fuzzy and passive, Paul. At the beginning of a story I'm looking for a point of view I can adopt and attach myself to. I would suggest giving the point of view to the prey and sticking with him until he meets his demise. The passivity lies in placing the object before the action. For example:

Quote
The perfect silver circle of the moon was bitten into by the crest of the small hill he’d just descended

is passive, whereas:

Quote
The crest of the small hill he’d just descended bit into the perfect silver circle of the moon.

is active, and thus widely regarded as more engaging for readers.

Likewise, you could rearrange the info in this passage to make it more engaging and active:

Quote
As he watched, the smooth line of the crest of the hill was broken. Rising higher with each passing second, the silhouette came on.

Quote
A silhouette broke the smooth line of the crest of the hill and rose higher with every passing second.

I find this more menacing, as well as being more active and immediate.

Quote
The midnight black shape resolved itself into the outline of a broad brimmed hat. Below the hat was deepest shadow, any face indiscernible in the silver back-light. All that could be seen were twin spots of red where eyes should have been.


'The midnight black shape' is superfluous, because everybody knows what a silhouette is, and that it's going to be inky black. You could save words by using an 'It' instead. The last sentence doesn't make sense unless the eyes literally glow and give off light. By definition, a silhouette has no features of any type.

So far, we can clean up the paragraph with a quick edit and get this, which I think is more crisp than the original:

Quote
The crest of the small hill bit into the perfect silver circle of the moon. A silhouette broke the smooth curve and rose higher with every passing second. It resolved itself into the outline of a broad brimmed hat and, below, deepest shadow - any face indiscernible against the silver back-light.


Quote
Outcrops of shadow rose from each shoulder, making a ‘v’ shape around the head. The rest of the body crowned the ridge at a leisurely pace. A coat flapped around the knees, reaching to the top of a pair of boots. 'Click, clack', came the sound of boot heels on road, the beat slow and regular. The hunted man wished his heartbeat was as steady and regular as that, instead of pounding fit to break out of his chest.


This is a better passage, I think. The only thing I would like to see is a word or two to tell us what type of boots, if poss. I like the onomatopoeia - click clack of the boots.

I'll read and comment more tomorrow night, if you like. I haven't read to the end yet, but what I have read is holding my attention, which is good.  afro

(Edit - Gary? Who TF is Gary? grin )
« Last Edit: October 17, 2007, 03:38:21 AM by Ed » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2007, 07:18:54 PM »

Ed, you're an angel! Thanks for the suggestions so far and any more would be very welcome.
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2007, 03:40:55 AM »

Glad you found it useful afro Dunno why I started calling you Gary - sorry about that. Must be me going senile
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2007, 08:52:23 AM »

Paul, I've only had a very quick read, so forgive me for not going into as much detail as Ed has done. And, to reiterate Ed's point, these comments are from my perspective only. What I like in fiction may be very different to what you like, so take all of this in that context.

The first thing that strikes me is that you write very visually - a very positive thing. The descriptions are extremely vivid, which is great. But... I think the vividness needs to be tempered just a little. There are so many moments such as:

like a huge one-eyed owl searching for its prey

as though the Earth had bitten into its lone satellite

like some overgrown, ungainly bird


that after a while they start to pull the reader out of the story. They start to feel like interruptions rather than important elements of the story.

On the positive side, some of the similies are great. By the time I got to:

The man before him left the sentence hanging in the air, waiting to be finished off like a condemned man dangling from the rope of an inept hangman.

I thought ' No, not another one' but you redeemed it immediately by using the simile for more than just description (i.e. telling us a little bit about the character of the sheriff):

The Sheriff knew there was only one way to deal with a dangler. You grabbed it by the ankles and pulled, and just hoped you weren’t going to get covered in crap.

I also like:

Quinn had likened it to standing in an open grave and looking up to see your own name on the headstone.


However, as someone (Hemmingway?) once said, we have to be prepared to murder our little darlings, and quite often it's the lines that we're most proud of that have to be cut.

My advice would be twofold: firstly go through this and take out every adjective and simile that you can. Strip it down to the bones. Try and write the descriptions in one sentence rather than whole paragraphs. Be careful not to repeat descriptions, we only need to have the hunter described to us (in any great detail) the first time we meet him. Secondly read it aloud to yourself, or get someone to read it aloud to you. You'll start to pick up repeated words (especially 'thens') and you'll understand how the description slows down the action, and thereby frustrates the reader.

Now here's the proof in this particular pudding: when chapter two started it was like a breath of fresh air. The conversation skipped along without any frustration or slowness and the story started to move forward at a really good pace. That's what you need to aim for in all the prose. Alas, when the hunter arrived in the sheriff's office everything slowed again. I sense you're having so much fun describing the hunter, his work, and his reputation that you're forgetting to balance this with other elements.

It's not all negative however. It's far better to get something on paper and be able to work on it, rather than not be able to get something down in the first place. You're over-flowing with ideas - which is brilliant and something I'm envious of - but now you just have to decide which ones to keep. The story is very promising, too. On that score, I say try and make it clear as early as possible who our hero is, what problem is facing him, and why he's got no choice but to do something about it.

Hope this helps. Can't wait to find out what happens next!

Cheers,
Del


« Last Edit: October 17, 2007, 08:55:15 AM by delboy » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2007, 07:09:59 PM »

Del, thanks for the honesty. All of that is appreciated and yeah, I think you're right, some of those little darlings do need killing off.

Paul

Ed

Thanks again for taking the time on this.

Gary.  bleh
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2007, 08:03:51 PM »

Quote
The hunted knew what that slow, regular beat meant. Death was coming. No matter how fast he had run, no matter how well he had hidden, that steady rhythm had followed him all night. Death was coming, and there was no escape.


I'd cut this back a bit, too. If he knew death was coming, then he wouldn't have expected to be cuffed and taken into custody, plus saying this telegraphs what's going to happen to him a few lines down the page.

Quote
The hunted knew that slow, regular beat well. No matter how fast he had run, no matter how well he had hidden, that steady rhythm [had caught up with him].

If he knows hiding doesn't work, why does he try again? IMO, the only reason he would try it was if he was exhausted.

 
Quote
The hunted [stumbled] off the road and clambered up a tree, adrenaline surged into his system to boost his ascent. Perhaps up here the hunter would miss him, would walk past without looking up. He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed silently to a God he hadn’t thought of in years. Tears rolled down his cheeks, his thoughts a chaotic babble of promises to live a good life, just so long as he survived the rest of this night.

Just a light edit on this para. Nice bit of tension building there.


Jump ahead a bit.

Quote
The hunter had stopped. The quarry forced his eyes open a fraction, looked out towards the road and saw the red gleam beneath the wide brim of the hat. The bark below him steamed as the hunted man involuntarily relieved himself down the tree trunk.

BTW, you should be capitalising 'The Hunter' because you've made it his name. Likewise 'The Hunted', IMO. The word 'involuntarily' is unnecessary, it's also classic 'tell' as in show vs. tell, because it's obvious the man didn't voluntarily pee his pants, and it's an adverb. Better to say his bladder failed, or something along those lines.

Quote
The hunter’s crimson gaze moved slowly over his catch from feet to head, until their eyes locked. Then the hunter’s foot lifted, hovered over the messy leg wound, then descended slowly, deliberately, the heel of his boot grinding into the traumatised flesh. The quarry screamed in agony. The hunter slowly brought his foot back up, releasing the pressure. "You must have mistaken me for someone else." he said in a deep, almost melodic voice.

This paragraph needs a good edit. Plus, although I don't think it always works to put the description before, in this instance you read the dialogue and then find out how it was said, and I think it would be better the other way round.

I'm tired, so this edit might not be a lot of cop, but here goes:

The Hunter’s crimson gaze moved slowly over his catch, from feet to head, until their eyes locked. The Hunter lifted his foot, hovered it over the messy leg wound, let it descend slowly, then ground the heel of his boot into the traumatised flesh. The quarry screamed. The hunter slowly brought his foot back up and said in a deep, almost melancholic voice, "You must have mistaken me for someone else. The warrant says dead or alive."

Still too many 'the's there, I think, but I'm too sleepy to make any suggestions about them right now smiley
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2007, 06:36:04 PM »

Sorry I'm being a bit patchy here, but I'm trying to do a hundred things at once at the moment.

I've read the whole thing now, and parts of it read very nicely. The story rolls along with a clear time line. The main problems here are, for me, the lack of a character who is going to be my eyes and ears throughout the story, and the ponderous pace of the narrative, which is quite flat over all. My advice would be to give the hunted man a name in the first chapter and stick with his point of view, fatten out his character a little, so that your reader feels some empathy with him. I suppose it becomes a bit of an experiment in anti plot when you kill him off at the end of the first chapter, but I think it will work in your favour.

In the second chapter, again it isn't clear who the point of view character is until quite late in the scene. Normally, I would start by showing the reader the PoV character, explain a little about where he is and what he's doing, and then launch into dialogue. This starts your reader off nicely and allows them to slip comfortably into the rest of the scene with the PoV character to guide them.

The dialogue starts off quite stiffly, with the two men calling each other by name several times, which just isn't realistic. In some places your pacing isn't helped by the variety of 'ing' words that force you into a passive sentence construction in order for the 'ing' word to be gramatically correct.

Here's a chunk of quite passive text. I'll take a couple of the 'ing' words out, a few adverbs, and get rid of the occasional 'had' and 'was', by rearranging the sentence a little:

Quote
Tom bit his lip. Quinn could see he was trembling on the edge of a decision. Before Tom could speak, the flickering lamplight streaming from outside was blocked by the shadow of a man. Quinn knew who it was instantly. The click clack sound of those worn-down boot heels was all the signature the man needed.
   Tom had turned white as a sheet. The doorknob rattled. Tom’s trembling wasn’t only metaphorical now. Quinn knew who was at the door, but he put his hand into the desk drawer anyway, fingers curling around the butt of his gun. It paid to be careful in his line of work. There was a good chance the previous Sheriff would be the current Sheriff to this day if he’d taken care not to be drunk while he was sitting behind this very desk. Quinn’s eyes dropped to the tabletop for a moment, then flicked straight back up. He wondered how many of the stains on the desk were etched in the blood of a former Sheriff.

Quote
Tom bit his lip. Quinn could see he was trembling on the edge of a decision. Before Tom could speak, the shadow of a man blocked the flickering lamplight from outside. Quinn knew who it was - the click clack sound of those worn-down boot heels was all the signature the man needed.
   Tom turned white as a sheet. The doorknob rattled. Tom's trembling wasn’t metaphorical now. Though Quinn knew who was at the door, he slid his hand into the desk drawer and curled his fingers around the butt of his gun. It paid to be careful in his line of work. There was a good chance the previous Sheriff would be the current Sheriff if he’d taken care not to be drunk while he sat behind this desk. Quinn’s eyes dropped to the tabletop for a moment, then flicked straight back up. He wondered how many of the stains on the desk were etched in the blood of a former Sheriff.

It still doesn't read as smoothly as I would like, and I wonder if there's maybe a little too much irrelevant detail here, but I don't want to chop your work around too much.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
PaulH
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2007, 07:24:52 PM »

Chop and change as much as you want Ed. I won't be insulted as what you're doing is trying to help me learn to make my writing better. And THANK YOU for that.  afro
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