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Author Topic: Chapter one  (Read 10428 times)
Ed
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« on: February 17, 2005, 06:50:56 PM »

I've decided to ditch my novel in progress and start again, after learning a few things that I didn't know before and realising that it wasn't worth trying to patch-up the original - better to start over.  Anyhoo, here 'tis - comments welcome afro

Chapter1

Still bleary-eyed from a fitful night’s sleep, Steve picked up his post and thumbed through the envelopes.  Junk mail, bill, bill, bill, more junk-mail, bill, junk, bill, bill, “Great start to the day.  Thank-you, God.”  He wandered through to the kitchen and made strong coffee then sat down to drink it.  It was so quiet at this time of the morning that he could hear his own breathing, like the proverbial lull before the storm that lay ahead.  Today would be manic, like every other lately, and those he could see in the near future too, but he had to keep it together – keep a straight head and get through it, otherwise he would lose everything.

By six-thirty he’d made his lunch, filled a flask, and was already driving across town to pick up his apprentice.  Carl ambled from his run down council house, lunch in a carrier bag, his wrist through the handles, twisting a cotton bud in his ear with one hand and patting-down a defiant tuft in his gingery blond hair with the other.  Steve leaned on the horn and shouted, “Come on!” which made him quicken his pace.  Flicking the cotton bud over his neighbour’s hedge, he climbed into the seat next to Steve, “Mornin!”

“Made it then?”

“How’d you mean?”

“My gran walks faster than you and she’s eighty, for Christ’s sake!”

“You’re in a good mood today then?”

“Bollocks.”

Carl Chapman was a good kid.  Descended from a very long line of complete morons, but a good kid all the same.  Steve wondered if there was a mix-up at the maternity hospital all those years ago, or whether Mrs Chapman, on seeing her own pugnacious, mewling little cabbage in its cot, had simply switched tags with somebody else’s baby.  Somewhere in the depths of rural England, there was no doubt some poor family with a cuckoo in their nest.  Perhaps all their other children grew up to be fine upstanding citizens, but there was an odd one out – a loping mono browed delinquent, named Tarquin, or something.  A knuckle dragging simpleton that spoke in clicks and grunts, was always in trouble with the law and could barely spell its own name… .

“…are you listening?” Carl broke into his thoughts.

“Hmm?”

“I said, I need a pay rise.”

“What?”

“I said…”

“Yeah, I heard, but why?  You’ve just had one.”

“My mate Simon, at college, is getting three hundred a week.”

Their first job was to get some carcassing done at a housing site in Shilton, which involved fitting all the pipe that needed to go in before the carpenters laid the floors and put the plasterboard up.  Usually it took them three days to do each house, but there was a rush on, so they were slamming it in at a rate of one house a day.  It wasn’t pretty, but it would have to do.  With the prices as they were, Steve couldn’t afford more labour, but would get hit with a penalty clause, which equated to twenty thousand pounds per week, if the work wasn’t done on schedule.  That’s all it would take – five working days of hold-ups would sink him; cost him his house, his credit rating and everything else he’d accrued in fifteen years of working.  To make matters worse, material costs were rising fast and the builders were slow to pay, resulting in a cash-flow crisis.  His co-habiting girlfriend’s wage was all that kept them afloat at the moment.

“Your mate ‘Simon at college’ is probably getting three hundred a week, before tax, which means you’re on more than him.”

“Nah, I don’t think so.”

“I can’t pay you any more money – you’re earning more than me as it is.”

When Steve first went self-employed, the idea was that he’d be earning more money for fewer hours, and he would have the occasional day off when he wanted one.  It didn’t work out like that.  Now he was earning less money than his apprentice and working more hours than ever before.

“Come off it – you must be raking it in, with all the work we’re doing.  Danner said so.  He said you’re earning a thousand a week.”

Danner Taylor.  What a pain in the arse that guy was – wooden spoon award for craftsmanship, and he used it to stir-up trouble wherever and whenever he could.  The most talentless bricklayer in the history of wall making, ever, yet he would pick fault with everybody else’s work, and punch anybody who criticised his.  Boss’s son or no, Steve would put him on his arse one day; he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.

“Danner loves to stir it up, mate.  If you want, I’ll show you the books, and then you’ll see how bad things are.  Think about it.  If I was earning a thousand a week, would I be living in that run-down old house and driving this crappy old van?”

Carl went quiet for a moment and seemed to come to the right conclusion, saying, “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

As they turned into the site entrance, Steve could see the foreman standing in their path, waiting to ambush them and ask lots of stupid questions, as he always did.  An involuntary, “Aaw,” passed his lips as he wound down his window.

“Hello Steven, and how are we this fine morrow?”

“I’ve had three hours of fitful sleep, I ache all over, I’m stressed out, pissed off and just generally feel like shit, actually.  And you?”

“Fine, thank you for asking.  Now, what I want you to do today is…”

Where did Midbrass Homes find this jerk?  David Braddock was like a failed children’s TV presenter – larger than life, in a goofy kind of way, knew absolutely squat about building, but seemed to enjoy dressing-up as a construction worker and bossing people around.

“…so, do you think you can manage that?”

Steve suddenly realised that he hadn’t been listening, but felt safe to say, “Yeah, no problem.”

“Oh, yes, and I nearly forgot,” Dave’s chubby hand fed an envelope through the open window, “I’ve got a correspondent for you, from head office.”

“You mean correspondence.”

“That’s what I said.  See you later,” and off he fucked.

Carl had a look of consternation on his face, “Why’d you say we’d do that?”

“Do what?”

“Clean out the houses before we start.”

“Eh?  Oh shit, did I?  Well, let’s see how bad it is first.”

They drove over rough ground, the van heaving and wallowing towards the half finished houses.  Even from fifty yards away, it was obvious they were in a pretty bad condition.  Once inside the first house, Steve decided not to bother starting, “Jesus, look at the state of it!  Bricks and blocks all over the place, boards and trestles up above – it would take us at least a couple of hours to clear all this shit out.”

“Yeah, and if we spend the time doing it today, they’ll expect us to do it every time, won’t they?”

“Yup, and that ain’t gonna happen.”

They returned to the van and got their flasks out.  Steve read the letter that Braddock had handed him, “Grrr!  The bastards!  They’re trying to stick me with that penalty clause again, saying that we’re not keeping up with the programme of works, and demanding that we get more labour on site.  Well, they can shove it up their arse.”

At least twice a week, Midbrass Homes sent a letter of complaint, often without real grounds.  They did it to every trade.  The temptation was not to reply, but that would be disastrous in the long term.  If he didn’t refute the claim, it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

“Looks like they want at least one of us here full time.  That ain’t going to happen though, is it?” A thought entered Steve’s mind; old twinkle-toes wouldn’t know a real plumber from any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, would he?

Carl just sat, sipping his tea as Steve pondered his options.

“Yeah, that’s it!” he dialled a number on his mobile, and was soon talking with the plumbing lecturer at the local college, “Got any adult trainees that need placements?  Yep, yeah, I could take two.  What are they like?” he listened to the voice of encouragement for a few seconds, “Yeah, right, but what are they really like?”  The phrase ‘never as long as he’s got a hole in his arse’ came up a couple of times, “Thanks for the truth, but I’ll take them anyway,” Steve hung-up, raising an eyebrow and nodding at Carl.  By the end of the week they would at least have two adults ‘helping’ them.

On their way out of the site, Steve resisted the urge to flee, and called into the office, “Dave, there’s too much rubble in the house – it’ll take us hours to clear it before we can make a start, so you’re going to have to get a labourer in there.”

“They’re called general building operatics, now, not labourers, Steven.”

“Operatives.”

“Sorry?”

“They’re called general building ‘operatives’, but they’re still labourers, as much as sanitation engineers are still dustmen, and domestic engineers are still housewives.  Anyway, glad you understand.  Now we’re going to bugger off someplace else.”

“No, you can’t do that…”

“Yes, we can, and we will.  The houses aren’t ready to start, we’re already pushed for time, and it’s up to you or the bricklayers to clean up their mess, not us!”

“But…”

“But bollocks – we’ll see you next week!”  As Steve left the office, he glanced back to see the foreman stamp his foot and shake like a toddler that had been refused a chocolate biscuit, his fat face wobbling, purple with stress, and sweating profusely.  The guy would have to learn to chill out, or face an early heart attack. 
Outside on the steel steps, Steve could see right across the site.  Two new gangs of bricklayers had started and were making the most of the dry spell, slamming down thousands of bricks a day between them.  There were perhaps twenty houses, all at the same stage of construction, which meant they’d all be ready for first fix at the same time and, worse still, second fix, not long after.
He clanged down the steps and walked to his van as a forklift truck hammered by, on its way to unload another delivery of bricks.  Trying not to breathe the fog of dust in its wake, he stared up at the sky, squinting at the sun, willing it to cloud over and piss down the incessant rain normally characteristic of an English summer.

The ‘somewhere else’ was another headache.  Taylor Construction fell out with their regular plumbing contractor, citing the reason that he was unreliable and awkward to deal with.  Steve took over what was left to do.  Gary Taylor owned a big chunk of Tolminster, a small market town, a few miles from Shilton and was a generous paymaster. 

Steve climbed into the van and drove off, heading for Taylor’s offices, to pick up a cheque that would pay this month’s merchant invoices.  If he could do few more well paying jobs for Gary, things might be alright.  As he drove, deep in contemplation, a feeling of isolation enveloped him like a cloying second skin.  His heart beat fast and irregular in his chest.  He tried to shake it off, telling himself not to be so stupid, but it stuck firm.  Waiting at some traffic lights, he spotted a little boy leaving a shop with a packet of sweets, and Steve found himself trying to remember how long it had been since he last felt happy.  At the urging of a car horn, he looked up to see a green light.  Snapped back to reality, he pulled away, noticing Carl had his feet up on the dashboard and seemed younger than his eighteen years.  The kid had his whole life ahead of him and, if he had any sense, would get out of this game and find a better job.  Not just yet, though, for Christ’s sake.

At Taylor’s yard, they pulled up alongside Gary’s new high-specification Range Rover.  Fifty or sixty grand’s worth of car, but inside it looked like a farmer’s ride; bales of hay in the back, muddy old Barber jacket on the front seat, burn holes, and dust and dirt all over the upholstery.  Unbelievable.  And the outside was worse – dents and scratches, tufts of grass sticking out from the bumpers, caked in shit and dirt from where he reportedly wove his drunken way back from the pub every night, down through the lanes, bouncing off the hedgerows and wending his way home, like an oval ball thrown down a skittle alley.

“Is he in?” Steve asked as he passed the receptionist.

“Yeah.”

Gary’s office stank of putrid cigar smoke and stale coffee, as did the man himself.  That and cow shit.  Sitting at his desk with a sour facial expression and yellow eyes, the personification of the worst hangover imaginable, he sucked at the end of a fat cigar, smacking his wet lips and swallowing noisily.  He nodded at Steve.

“Alright, Gary?”

He nodded again and uttered a phlegm-filled, “Yeah,” before plugging his smoking hole again.

“I just came in to pick up a cheque for my last invoice, well, the last two, actually.”

“The work’s not finished.”

“Yeah, I know, but when we first started you said we could have stage payments, and I’ve only billed for what I’ve done.  Come the end of the month, the merchants will need to be paid, and if I don’t get this money off you, I can’t pay.”

“Finish the work, and I’ll pay you.”

“I can’t get any more materials to finish the work if you don’t pay me.  What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Like I said, finish the work and I’ll pay you…”

“But…”

Gary lifted his hand to stop Steve going any further, “I can’t get any more money from the clients until the job’s wrapped up – they’re holding money on me, I’m holding money on you, simple as that.”

“Well just give me an advance on what you owe me, just a few thousand, so that I can keep going.”

“No, not a penny until you’re done.”

Steve gripped the edge of the desk, feeling a lightness in his head that he knew meant he was about to go berserk, “Listen, fucko!  That wasn’t the deal!  Now write me a cheque, or you’ll be wearing this fucking desk!”

“Hey…hey…calm down, there’s no need to get like that…”

“Like fuck!  Get your fucking cheque book out, now!”

“Look, I could write you a cheque, but it would bounce.  I can’t pay you until the client pays, and the client won’t pay until the work’s finished.”

“What kind of fucking outfit are you running anyway?  You must be taking the piss!  You’ve got that new fucking Range Rover sat out there, and you’re telling me you can’t afford a few grand to pay me what you owe?  Fuck off!  If things are so bad, why don’t you sell that fucking car and use it to pay what you owe?”

“This is getting us nowhere.  Now, I suggest that you go away and have a think, before you say something you might regret,” he puffed out a smoke ring and then exhaled more smoke through it.

“I ought to smack your fucking head in.”

“Well if you decide to try,” his voice deepened, “you’d better make sure you do a good job of it first time round, otherwise I’ll have your fucking legs broken.  Now fuck off, before you get yourself into trouble, boy.”

Steve lifted the edge of the desk and slammed it down again, he knew Taylor wasn’t kidding about having his legs broken.  It was well known that he had it done to a guy that ripped him off a few years ago, but he didn’t stop there – he waited until the guy’s legs healed, and then had them broken again, and again, until the guy ended up in a wheelchair, permenantly.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2005, 07:00:18 PM by blunt » Logged

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]
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2005, 07:32:07 AM »

Quick reaction for the moment.

This is a great start.  I like your mc and his apprentice.  I really want to know what happens to them.  The idiot foreman and the Mr Nasty contractor are good foils.

One tweak I noticed in passing - 'thank you' doesn't need a hyphen.

There are a few clumps where you need to 'show not tell'.  The ending at the moment feels that you just ground to a halt at that point.  Not that you need a formal cliff-hanger, but there needs to be something spelt out - say, the mc has said, 'And when I get the cheque from Taylor I'll be able to x,' with x being really important, only then Taylor refuses him.  His threat of violence not only doesn't work, it gets him a counter-threat which he knows has to be taken seriously, which you've already put.  But with x in the air, you'd be able to end with a big question, or inspiration, or suggestion from the lad, or Taylor saying, 'If you want some readies you could...'  Then we're all set with tongues hanging out for where it goes next (or if you're really sneaky, in the chapter AFTER next, because you take us off to meet some other people in Chapter Two).
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2005, 03:39:36 PM »

Quick reaction for the moment.

This is a great start.  I like your mc and his apprentice.  I really want to know what happens to them.  The idiot foreman and the Mr Nasty contractor are good foils.

One tweak I noticed in passing - 'thank you' doesn't need a hyphen.

Thanks, Joyce afro

Quote

There are a few clumps where you need to 'show not tell'.  The ending at the moment feels that you just ground to a halt at that point.  Not that you need a formal cliff-hanger, but there needs to be something spelt out - say, the mc has said, 'And when I get the cheque from Taylor I'll be able to x,' with x being really important, only then Taylor refuses him.

Which clumps do you think are over told, Joyce?  I wasn't sure how much to tell as back story, and how much people would already understand without explanation.  Thanks.

I thought I had left a cliff-hanger, but maybe it wasn't clear enough - the inference was that 'things might be alright' if Steve got a few more well paying jobs from Taylor, so they just got worse because Taylor not only isn't giving him more work - he isn't paying for what's already done, so when the merchant invoices are due at the end of the month, Steve is in big trouble, because he won't be able to pay them, and then he'll be 'on stop' and unable to get the materials he needs to carry on.

Quote
  His threat of violence not only doesn't work, it gets him a counter-threat which he knows has to be taken seriously, which you've already put.  But with x in the air, you'd be able to end with a big question, or inspiration, or suggestion from the lad, or Taylor saying, 'If you want some readies you could...'  Then we're all set with tongues hanging out for where it goes next (or if you're really sneaky, in the chapter AFTER next, because you take us off to meet some other people in Chapter Two).

Steve isn't usually a violent person, but sleep deprived and under stress, his temper gets the better of him - his mouth's working faster than his brain.  So now he's made the threat and had it countered, he's put himself in an even weaker position than he was in before.  Plus the next time they meet, he's going to be embarrassed, and will have to decide whether to try and save face, or eat humble pie, apologise, etc.

Oh, I've already got a couple of horrible characters lined up for chapter two - they're the same two that feature in my part chapter posted in this section (from the abandoned novel).  I'll post a bit of the re-write later on afro

Thanks for the crit, Joyce - I really appreciate you taking the time to read through and comment smiley
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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]
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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2005, 04:09:03 PM »

You're welcome - I'm glad it's useful.

I'll have a look at the detail of the 'show not tell' clumps and the cliff-hanger when I can over the w/e.
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« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2005, 07:35:02 PM »

Thanks again afro

I want to get this as good as I can, as I write it - I think it's going to be a good novel, if I can write it right.
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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]
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2005, 08:50:15 AM »

I'm putting together what I'm sending back to you on this one - just having lost the lot with an incautious sweep of the mouse, this time I'm doing it in a Word document first!

Blunt, can you tell me how you do the quotes thing so that it ends up in pretty boxes?  I tried a couple of things but it didn't do it.  It won't be for this effort, but in the future!
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2005, 10:43:13 AM »

Here's the chapter, with alterations and comments in brackets and italics.  One thing I didn't alter but you might like to consider - these days, most printed material uses single quotes for speech, rather than double.  Oh, shit, the cut-and-paste hasn't picked up the italics from the Word document.  Well, sorry about that, which will make it a little more difficult to spot the alterations, but probably you'll be able to make it out by comparing.

Still bleary-eyed from a fitful night’s sleep, Steve picked up his post and thumbed through the envelopes.  Junk mail, bill, bill, bill, more junk-mail, bill, junk, bill, bill, “Great start to the day.  Thank you (two separate words), God.”  He wandered through to the kitchen and made strong coffee then sat down to drink it.  It was so quiet at this time of the morning that he could hear his own breathing, like the proverbial lull before the storm (doesn’t need that lay ahead).  Today would be manic, like every other lately, and those he could see in the near future too, but he had to keep it together – keep a straight head and get through it, otherwise he would lose everything.

By six-thirty he’d made his lunch, filled a flask, and was already driving across town to pick up his apprentice.  Carl ambled from his run down council house, lunch in a carrier bag, his wrist through the handles, twisting a cotton bud in his ear with one hand and patting-down a defiant tuft in his gingery blond hair with the other.  Steve leaned on the horn and shouted, “Come on!” which made him quicken his pace.  Flicking the cotton bud over his neighbour’s hedge, he climbed into the seat next to Steve, “Mornin!”

“Made it then?”

“How’d you mean?”

“My gran walks faster than you and she’s eighty, for Christ’s sake!”

“You’re in a good mood today then?”

“Bollocks.”

Carl Chapman was a good kid.  Descended from a very long line of complete morons, but a good kid all the same.  Steve wondered if there was a mix-up at the maternity hospital all those years ago, or whether Mrs Chapman, on seeing her own pugnacious, mewling little cabbage in its cot, had simply switched tags with somebody else’s baby.  Somewhere in the depths of rural England, there was no doubt some poor family with a cuckoo in their nest.  Perhaps all their other children grew up to be fine upstanding citizens, but there was an odd one out – a loping mono-browed (I’d hyphenate that) delinquent, named Tarquin, or something.  A knuckle dragging simpleton that spoke in clicks and grunts, was always in trouble with the law and could barely spell its own name… .

“…are you listening?” Carl broke into his thoughts.

“Hmm?”

“I said, I need a pay rise.”

“What?”

“I said…”

“Yeah, I heard, but why?  You’ve just had one.”

“My mate Simon, at college, is getting three hundred a week.”

Their first job was to get some carcassing done at a housing site in Shilton (, which involved I’d substitute a dash here) - fitting all the pipe that needed to go in before the carpenters laid the floors and put the plasterboard up.  Usually it took them three days to do each house, but there was a rush on, so they were slamming it in at a rate of one house a day.  It wasn’t pretty, but it would have to do.  (Some changes here to tighten it a little.)  With the prices as they were, Steve couldn’t afford more labour, but if the work wasn’t done on schedule, he would get hit with a penalty clause which equated to twenty thousand pounds per week. Five days of hold-ups was all it would take to sink him.  Five days would cost him his house, his credit rating and everything else he’d accrued in fifteen years of working.  To make matters worse, material costs were rising fast and the builders were slow to pay, resulting in a cash-flow crisis.  His co-habiting girlfriend’s wage was all that kept them afloat at the moment.

“Your mate ‘Simon at college’ is probably getting three hundred a week, before tax, which means you’re on more than him.”

“Nah, I don’t think so.”

“I can’t pay you any more money – you’re earning more than me as it is.”

(Next para is Steve thinking in the middle of the conversation, so shortened and tightened.) Steve was working longer hours than ever before, too.  That hadn’t been the idea when he first went self-employed.  He’d even dreamt of having an occasional day off.

“Come off it – you must be raking it in, with all the work we’re doing.  Danner said so.  He said you’re earning a thousand a week.”

Danner Taylor.  What a pain in the arse that guy was – wooden spoon award for craftsmanship, and he used it to stir-up trouble wherever and whenever he could.  The most talentless bricklayer in the history of wall making, ever, yet he would pick fault with everybody else’s work, and punch anybody who criticised his.  Boss’s son or no, Steve would put him on his arse one day; he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.

“Danner loves to stir it up, mate.  If you want, I’ll show you the books, and then you’ll see how bad things are.  Think about it.  If I was earning a thousand a week, would I be living in that run-down old house and driving this crappy old van (You’re repeating ‘old’ here – how about letting him go a bit OTT, as in ‘would I be living in that ancient monument and driving this rust-bucket)?”

Carl went quiet for a moment and seemed to come to the right conclusion, saying, “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

As they turned into the site entrance, Steve could see the foreman standing in their path, waiting to ambush them. (and ask lots of stupid questions, as he always did  You don’t need this – we’re going to see him do it.)  An involuntary, “Aaw,” passed his lips as he wound down his window.

“Hello Steven, and how are we this fine morrow?”

“I’ve had three hours of fitful sleep, I ache all over, I’m stressed out, pissed off and just generally feel like shit, actually.  And you?”

“Fine, thank you for asking.  Now, what I want you to do today is…”

Where did Midbrass Homes find this jerk?  David Braddock was like a failed children’s TV presenter – larger than life, in a goofy kind of way, knew absolutely squat about building, but seemed to enjoy dressing-up as a construction worker and bossing people around.

“…so, do you think you can manage that?”

Steve suddenly realised that he hadn’t been listening, but felt safe to say, “Yeah, no problem.”

“Oh, yes, and I nearly forgot,” Dave’s chubby hand fed an envelope through the open window, “I’ve got a correspondent for you, from head office.”

“You mean correspondence.”

“That’s what I said.  See you later,” and off he fucked.

Carl had a look of consternation on his face, “Why’d you say we’d do that?”

“Do what?”

“Clean out the houses before we start.”

“Eh?  Oh shit, did I?  Well, let’s see how bad it is first.”

They drove over rough ground, the van heaving and wallowing towards the half finished houses.  Even from fifty yards away, it was obvious they were in a pretty bad condition. 

(The next bit was a tell – Steve wouldn’t need to say it to Carl, as he could see it too.  But if you send Carl on, there’s a reason to spell it out.)

Carl jogged ahead into the first house, and was back on the doorstep by the time Steve had plodded half way up the slope.  ‘Bricks and blocks all over the place, and boards and trestles up above. It’d take us a couple of hours minimum to clear it all out.’

‘Yeah, and if we did it today, they’d expect us to do it every time.  They can whistle.’  (And that saves ‘it ain’t gonna happen’ for in a minute.)

They returned to the van and got their flasks out.  Steve read the letter that Braddock had handed him, “Grrr!  The bastards!  They’re trying to stick me with that penalty clause again, saying that we’re not keeping up with the programme of works, and demanding that we get more labour on site.  Well, they can shove it up their arse.”

At least twice a week, Midbrass Homes sent a letter of complaint, often without real grounds.  They did it to every trade.  The temptation was not to reply, but that would be disastrous in the long term.  If he didn’t refute the claim, it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

“Looks like they want at least one of us here full time.  That ain’t going to happen though, is it?” A thought entered Steve’s mind - old twinkle-toes wouldn’t know a real plumber from any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, would he?

Carl just sat, sipping his tea as Steve pondered his options.

(Next para – the bits of speech are complete sentences in themselves, so you need capitals afterwards.) “Yeah, that’s it!” He dialled a number on his mobile, and was soon talking with the plumbing lecturer at the local college. (full stop) “Got any adult trainees that need placements?  Yep, yeah, I could take two.  What are they like?” He listened to the voice of encouragement for a few seconds.  (full stop) “Yeah, right, but what are they really like?”  The phrase ‘never as long as he’s got a hole in his arse’ came up a couple of times. (full stop) “Thanks for the truth, but I’ll take them anyway. (full stop)” Steve hung-up, raising an eyebrow and nodding at Carl.  By the end of the week they would at least have two adults ‘helping’ them.

On their way out of the site, Steve resisted the urge to flee, and called into the office. (full stop) “Dave, there’s too much rubble in the house – it’d (conditional, because they aren’t going to do it)  take us hours to clear it before we can make a start.  You’re going to have to get a labourer in there.”

“They’re called general building operatics, now, not labourers, Steven.”

“Operatives.”

“Sorry?”

“They’re called general building ‘operatives’, but they’re still labourers, as much as sanitation engineers are still dustmen, and domestic engineers are still housewives.  Anyway, glad you understand.  Now we’re going to bugger off someplace else.”

“No, you can’t do that…”

“Yes, we can, and we will.  The houses aren’t ready to start, we’re already pushed for time, and it’s up to you or the bricklayers to clean up their mess, not us!”

“But…”

“But bollocks – we’ll see you next week!”  As Steve left the office, he glanced back to see the foreman stamp his foot and shake like a toddler that had been refused a chocolate biscuit, his fat face wobbling, purple with stress, and sweating profusely.  (The guy would have to learn to chill out, or face an early heart attack.  This bit is telling.  Steve could either say it to himself, or tell it to the foreman in the hopes of making it happen!)

Outside on the steel steps, Steve could see right across the site.  Two new gangs of bricklayers had started and were making the most of the dry spell, slamming down thousands of bricks a day between them.  There were perhaps twenty houses, all at the same stage of construction, which meant they’d all be ready for first fix at the same time and, worse still, second fix, not long after.  He clanged down the steps and walked to his van as a forklift truck hammered by.  (, on its way to unload another delivery of bricks  We don’t need to know.)  Trying not to breathe the fog of dust in its wake, he stared up at the sky, squinting at the sun, willing it to cloud over and piss down the incessant rain normally characteristic of an English summer.

(Now I know what you want to do with the end of the chapter, I think it just needs some changes of order and balance, and then you’ll have enough of a cliff hanger.  This is a for instance.)

The ‘somewhere else’ might dig him out of a hole.  Taylor Construction had fallen out with their regular plumbing contractor, and  Steve said he’d take over what was left to do.  Gary Taylor owned a big chunk of Tolminster, a small market town (no comma) a few miles from Shilton, (comma) and was a generous paymaster. 

Now he headed for Taylor’s offices.  The cheque he was due would pay this month’s merchant invoices.  If he could do few more well paying jobs for Gary, things might be alright.  As he drove, deep in contemplation, a feeling of isolation enveloped him like a cloying second skin.  He tried to shake it off, telling himself not to be so stupid, but it stuck firm. (Change of order, because he’s not trying to shake off his heart.)  His heartbeat was fast and irregular (in his chest don’t need this – it’s not going to be anywhere else).
 
(This next bit is all Steve’s POV, so I think you need sentences which sound more ‘spoken’.  Also, you had several in a row that started ‘DoING something-or-other comma’, so it’s a repetition of rhythm.)

By the traffic lights, he spotted a little boy smiling over a new packet of sweets, and Steve found himself trying to remember how long it had been since he last felt happy.  A car horn blared.   He looked up to see the green light.
 
Snapped back to reality, he pulled away.  Carl had his feet up on the dashboard. H didn’t look eighteen.  The kid had his whole life ahead of him.  If he had any sense, he’d get out of this game and find a better job.  Not just yet, though, for Christ’s sake.

At Taylor’s yard, they pulled up alongside Gary’s new high-specification Range Rover.  Fifty or sixty grand’s worth of car, but inside it looked like a farmer’s ride (; I think the semi-colon is too literary for this style, and a dash will do the job.) - bales of hay in the back, muddy old Barber jacket on the front seat, burn holes (no comma) and dust and dirt all over the upholstery.  Unbelievable.  And the outside was worse – dents and scratches, tufts of grass sticking out from the bumpers, caked in shit and dirt from where he reportedly wove his drunken way back from the pub every night, down through the lanes, bouncing off the hedgerows, (comma no and) wending his way home, like an oval ball thrown down a skittle alley.

“Is he in?” Steve asked as he passed the receptionist.

“Yeah.”

Gary’s office was like the man himself.  It stank of putrid cigar smoke and stale coffee. That and cow shit.  Taylor was  at his desk with a sour (facial it can’t be anywhere except on his face) expression and yellow eyes, the personification of the worst hangover imaginable. (full stop) He sucked at the end of a fat cigar, smacking his wet lips and swallowing noisily.  He nodded.

“Alright, Gary?” Steve began.

He nodded again and uttered a phlegm-filled, “Yeah,” before plugging his smoking hole once more (again to get rid of the repetition).

“I just came in to pick up a cheque for my last invoice.  Well, the last two, actually.”

“The work’s not finished.”

“Yeah, I know, but when we first started you said we could have stage payments, and I’ve only billed for what I’ve done.  I can’t pay the merchants at the end of the month if I don’t get the  money off you.”

“Finish the work, and I’ll pay you.”

“I can’t get any more materials to finish the work if you don’t pay me.  What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Like I said, finish the work and I’ll pay you…”

“But…”

Gary lifted his hand. (to stop Steve going any further It’s obvious.) “I can’t get any more money from the clients until the job’s wrapped up – they’re holding money on me, I’m holding money on you. (full stop)  Simple as that.”

“Well just give me an advance on what you owe me, just a few thousand, so that I can keep going.”

“No, not a penny until you’re done.”

Steve gripped the edge of the desk, feeling a lightness in his head that he knew meant he was about to go berserk.  (full stop) “Listen, fucko!  That wasn’t the deal!  Write me a cheque, or I’ll wrap this fucking desk round your neck!” He lifted the edge and slammed it down again.

(Big change of order here.  We need to know SOON that Taylor is really dangerous .) “Well if you decide to try,” his voice deepened, “you’d better make sure you do a good job of it first time round, otherwise I’ll have your fucking legs broken.  Now fuck off, before you get yourself into trouble, boy.”

Taylor wasn’t kidding.  Everyone knew what had happened to a guy that ripped him off a few years before.  When his legs healed, they got broken again, and again after that, until he ended up in a wheelchair permanently.  (Wrong spelling in the original.)  But Steve was still fired up.

“What kind of fucking outfit are you running anyway?  You must be taking the piss!  Fuck off! ”

“Hey…hey…calm down, there’s no need to get like that… The client won’t pay until the work’s finished.”

“If things are so bad, why don’t you sell your fucking car and use it to pay what you owe?”

“This is getting us nowhere, little man.  Now, I very strongly suggest that you go away and have a think, before you say something you might regret. (full stop)” He puffed out a smoke ring, (comma) then exhaled more smoke through it, straight into Steve’s face.
 
As Steve choked, he saw the yellow eyes, narrowed with anger.  He realized what good advice he’d just been given.  Coughing till the tears came and he could hardly see the way, he blundered out of the office.
 


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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2005, 12:58:18 PM »

I'll take a closer look at what you've done, later afro  Ta.

With the quote boxes, all you need to do is select the text you need to quote and then press the 'quote' button (second from the right on the bottom row, to the right of the button with the hash mark on it).  Alternatively, you can press the quote button instead of the reply button, and then type in [/qu-ote] after the end of the first block you want to quote (I've hyphenated to stop it working here) and then for each subsequent block you would start with [qu-ote] and end with [/qu-ote] or select text and press the button.

Italics never make the transition on any forum I've seen, which is annoying on a long paste.
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« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2005, 05:50:23 PM »



Still bleary-eyed from a fitful night’s sleep, Steve picked up his post and thumbed through the envelopes.  Junk mail, bill, bill, bill, more junk-mail, bill, junk, bill, bill, “Great start to the day.  Thank you (two separate words), God.”  He wandered through to the kitchen and made strong coffee then sat down to drink it.  It was so quiet at this time of the morning that he could hear his own breathing, like the proverbial lull before the storm (doesn’t need that lay ahead).  Today would be manic, like every other lately, and those he could see in the near future too, but he had to keep it together – keep a straight head and get through it, otherwise he would lose everything.

Agreed afro

Quote
By six-thirty he’d made his lunch, filled a flask, and was already driving across town to pick up his apprentice.  Carl ambled from his run down council house, lunch in a carrier bag, his wrist through the handles, twisting a cotton bud in his ear with one hand and patting-down a defiant tuft in his gingery blond hair with the other.  Steve leaned on the horn and shouted, “Come on!” which made him quicken his pace.  Flicking the cotton bud over his neighbour’s hedge, he climbed into the seat next to Steve, “Mornin!”

“Made it then?”

“How’d you mean?”

“My gran walks faster than you and she’s eighty, for Christ’s sake!”

“You’re in a good mood today then?”

“Bollocks.”

Carl Chapman was a good kid.  Descended from a very long line of complete morons, but a good kid all the same.  Steve wondered if there was a mix-up at the maternity hospital all those years ago, or whether Mrs Chapman, on seeing her own pugnacious, mewling little cabbage in its cot, had simply switched tags with somebody else’s baby.  Somewhere in the depths of rural England, there was no doubt some poor family with a cuckoo in their nest.  Perhaps all their other children grew up to be fine upstanding citizens, but there was an odd one out – a loping mono-browed (I’d hyphenate that) delinquent, named Tarquin, or something.  A knuckle dragging simpleton that spoke in clicks and grunts, was always in trouble with the law and could barely spell its own name… .

“…are you listening?” Carl broke into his thoughts.

“Hmm?”

“I said, I need a pay rise.”

“What?”

“I said…”

“Yeah, I heard, but why?  You’ve just had one.”

“My mate Simon, at college, is getting three hundred a week.”

Agreed afro

Quote
Their first job was to get some carcassing done at a housing site in Shilton (, which involved I’d substitute a dash here) - fitting all the pipe that needed to go in before the carpenters laid the floors and put the plasterboard up.  Usually it took them three days to do each house, but there was a rush on, so they were slamming it in at a rate of one house a day.  It wasn’t pretty, but it would have to do.  (Some changes here to tighten it a little.)  With the prices as they were, Steve couldn’t afford more labour, but if the work wasn’t done on schedule, he would get hit with a penalty clause which equated to twenty thousand pounds per week. Five days of hold-ups was all it would take to sink him.  Five days would cost him his house, his credit rating and everything else he’d accrued in fifteen years of working.  To make matters worse, material costs were rising fast and the builders were slow to pay, resulting in a cash-flow crisis.  His co-habiting girlfriend’s wage was all that kept them afloat at the moment.

Yup afro

Quote
“Your mate ‘Simon at college’ is probably getting three hundred a week, before tax, which means you’re on more than him.”

“Nah, I don’t think so.”

“I can’t pay you any more money – you’re earning more than me as it is.”

(Next para is Steve thinking in the middle of the conversation, so shortened and tightened.) Steve was working longer hours than ever before, too.  That hadn’t been the idea when he first went self-employed.  He’d even dreamt of having an occasional day off.

I'm not so sure that has the same impact, but I get what you're saying smiley

Quote
“Come off it – you must be raking it in, with all the work we’re doing.  Danner said so.  He said you’re earning a thousand a week.”

Danner Taylor.  What a pain in the arse that guy was – wooden spoon award for craftsmanship, and he used it to stir-up trouble wherever and whenever he could.  The most talentless bricklayer in the history of wall making, ever, yet he would pick fault with everybody else’s work, and punch anybody who criticised his.  Boss’s son or no, Steve would put him on his arse one day; he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.

“Danner loves to stir it up, mate.  If you want, I’ll show you the books, and then you’ll see how bad things are.  Think about it.  If I was earning a thousand a week, would I be living in that run-down old house and driving this crappy old van (You’re repeating ‘old’ here – how about letting him go a bit OTT, as in ‘would I be living in that ancient monument and driving this rust-bucket)?”

I would have said that it was authentic dialogue - people don't tend to screen out word repeats as they're talking huh


Quote
Carl went quiet for a moment and seemed to come to the right conclusion, saying, “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

As they turned into the site entrance, Steve could see the foreman standing in their path, waiting to ambush them. (and ask lots of stupid questions, as he always did  You don’t need this – we’re going to see him do it.)  An involuntary, “Aaw,” passed his lips as he wound down his window.

“Hello Steven, and how are we this fine morrow?”

“I’ve had three hours of fitful sleep, I ache all over, I’m stressed out, pissed off and just generally feel like shit, actually.  And you?”

“Fine, thank you for asking.  Now, what I want you to do today is…”

Where did Midbrass Homes find this jerk?  David Braddock was like a failed children’s TV presenter – larger than life, in a goofy kind of way, knew absolutely squat about building, but seemed to enjoy dressing-up as a construction worker and bossing people around.

“…so, do you think you can manage that?”

Steve suddenly realised that he hadn’t been listening, but felt safe to say, “Yeah, no problem.”

“Oh, yes, and I nearly forgot,” Dave’s chubby hand fed an envelope through the open window, “I’ve got a correspondent for you, from head office.”

“You mean correspondence.”

“That’s what I said.  See you later,” and off he fucked.

Carl had a look of consternation on his face, “Why’d you say we’d do that?”

“Do what?”

“Clean out the houses before we start.”

“Eh?  Oh shit, did I?  Well, let’s see how bad it is first.”

They drove over rough ground, the van heaving and wallowing towards the half finished houses.  Even from fifty yards away, it was obvious they were in a pretty bad condition. 

(The next bit was a tell – Steve wouldn’t need to say it to Carl, as he could see it too.  But if you send Carl on, there’s a reason to spell it out.)

Carl jogged ahead into the first house, and was back on the doorstep by the time Steve had plodded half way up the slope.  ‘Bricks and blocks all over the place, and boards and trestles up above. It’d take us a couple of hours minimum to clear it all out.’

I'm not so sure about this - again, it's dialogue, and people state the obvious to each other all the time undecided


Quote
‘Yeah, and if we did it today, they’d expect us to do it every time.  They can whistle.’  (And that saves ‘it ain’t gonna happen’ for in a minute.)

They returned to the van and got their flasks out.  Steve read the letter that Braddock had handed him, “Grrr!  The bastards!  They’re trying to stick me with that penalty clause again, saying that we’re not keeping up with the programme of works, and demanding that we get more labour on site.  Well, they can shove it up their arse.”

At least twice a week, Midbrass Homes sent a letter of complaint, often without real grounds.  They did it to every trade.  The temptation was not to reply, but that would be disastrous in the long term.  If he didn’t refute the claim, it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

“Looks like they want at least one of us here full time.  That ain’t going to happen though, is it?” A thought entered Steve’s mind - old twinkle-toes wouldn’t know a real plumber from any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, would he?

Carl just sat, sipping his tea as Steve pondered his options.


Quote
(Next para – the bits of speech are complete sentences in themselves, so you need capitals afterwards.) “Yeah, that’s it!” He dialled a number on his mobile, and was soon talking with the plumbing lecturer at the local college. (full stop) “Got any adult trainees that need placements?  Yep, yeah, I could take two.  What are they like?” He listened to the voice of encouragement for a few seconds.  (full stop) “Yeah, right, but what are they really like?”  The phrase ‘never as long as he’s got a hole in his arse’ came up a couple of times. (full stop) “Thanks for the truth, but I’ll take them anyway. (full stop)” Steve hung-up, raising an eyebrow and nodding at Carl.  By the end of the week they would at least have two adults ‘helping’ them.

On their way out of the site, Steve resisted the urge to flee, and called into the office. (full stop) “Dave, there’s too much rubble in the house – it’d (conditional, because they aren’t going to do it)  take us hours to clear it before we can make a start.  You’re going to have to get a labourer in there.”

Yup, I'll take your word for that - I've never been sure of how to punctuate passages with dialogue in them scratch

Quote
“They’re called general building operatics, now, not labourers, Steven.”

“Operatives.”

“Sorry?”

“They’re called general building ‘operatives’, but they’re still labourers, as much as sanitation engineers are still dustmen, and domestic engineers are still housewives.  Anyway, glad you understand.  Now we’re going to bugger off someplace else.”

“No, you can’t do that…”

“Yes, we can, and we will.  The houses aren’t ready to start, we’re already pushed for time, and it’s up to you or the bricklayers to clean up their mess, not us!”

“But…”

“But bollocks – we’ll see you next week!”  As Steve left the office, he glanced back to see the foreman stamp his foot and shake like a toddler that had been refused a chocolate biscuit, his fat face wobbling, purple with stress, and sweating profusely.  (The guy would have to learn to chill out, or face an early heart attack.  This bit is telling.  Steve could either say it to himself, or tell it to the foreman in the hopes of making it happen!)

That was meant to be Steve's thought entering the narrative, but it might be better spoken - later in the book, we realise that Steve is the one who needs to learn to 'chill out', but he can't recognise the warning signs in himself.

Quote
Outside on the steel steps, Steve could see right across the site.  Two new gangs of bricklayers had started and were making the most of the dry spell, slamming down thousands of bricks a day between them.  There were perhaps twenty houses, all at the same stage of construction, which meant they’d all be ready for first fix at the same time and, worse still, second fix, not long after.  He clanged down the steps and walked to his van as a forklift truck hammered by.  (, on its way to unload another delivery of bricks  We don’t need to know.)  Trying not to breathe the fog of dust in its wake, he stared up at the sky, squinting at the sun, willing it to cloud over and piss down the incessant rain normally characteristic of an English summer.

Agreed afro


Quote
(Now I know what you want to do with the end of the chapter, I think it just needs some changes of order and balance, and then you’ll have enough of a cliff hanger.  This is a for instance.)

The ‘somewhere else’ might dig him out of a hole.  Taylor Construction had fallen out with their regular plumbing contractor, and  Steve said he’d take over what was left to do.  Gary Taylor owned a big chunk of Tolminster, a small market town (no comma) a few miles from Shilton, (comma) and was a generous paymaster. 

Now he headed for Taylor’s offices.  The cheque he was due would pay this month’s merchant invoices.  If he could do few more well paying jobs for Gary, things might be alright.  As he drove, deep in contemplation, a feeling of isolation enveloped him like a cloying second skin.  He tried to shake it off, telling himself not to be so stupid, but it stuck firm. (Change of order, because he’s not trying to shake off his heart.)  His heartbeat was fast and irregular (in his chest don’t need this – it’s not going to be anywhere else).

Agreed afro
 

Quote
(This next bit is all Steve’s POV, so I think you need sentences which sound more ‘spoken’.  Also, you had several in a row that started ‘DoING something-or-other comma’, so it’s a repetition of rhythm.)

 whoah repetition of rhythm?  Never heard of that one - more to worry about Cheesy


Quote
By the traffic lights, he spotted a little boy smiling over a new packet of sweets, and Steve found himself trying to remember how long it had been since he last felt happy.  A car horn blared.   He looked up to see the green light.
 
Snapped back to reality, he pulled away.  Carl had his feet up on the dashboard. H didn’t look eighteen.  The kid had his whole life ahead of him.  If he had any sense, he’d get out of this game and find a better job.  Not just yet, though, for Christ’s sake.

At Taylor’s yard, they pulled up alongside Gary’s new high-specification Range Rover.  Fifty or sixty grand’s worth of car, but inside it looked like a farmer’s ride (; I think the semi-colon is too literary for this style, and a dash will do the job.) - bales of hay in the back, muddy old Barber jacket on the front seat, burn holes (no comma) and dust and dirt all over the upholstery.  Unbelievable.  And the outside was worse – dents and scratches, tufts of grass sticking out from the bumpers, caked in shit and dirt from where he reportedly wove his drunken way back from the pub every night, down through the lanes, bouncing off the hedgerows, (comma no and) wending his way home, like an oval ball thrown down a skittle alley.

I've always been a bit wary of using too many dashes, because it's listed as a punctuation 'over-used by novice writers' Sad


Quote
“Is he in?” Steve asked as he passed the receptionist.

“Yeah.”

Gary’s office was like the man himself.  It stank of putrid cigar smoke and stale coffee. That and cow shit.  Taylor was  at his desk with a sour (facial it can’t be anywhere except on his face) expression and yellow eyes, the personification of the worst hangover imaginable. (full stop) He sucked at the end of a fat cigar, smacking his wet lips and swallowing noisily.  He nodded.

“Alright, Gary?” Steve began.

He nodded again and uttered a phlegm-filled, “Yeah,” before plugging his smoking hole once more (again to get rid of the repetition).

“I just came in to pick up a cheque for my last invoice.  Well, the last two, actually.”

“The work’s not finished.”

“Yeah, I know, but when we first started you said we could have stage payments, and I’ve only billed for what I’ve done.  I can’t pay the merchants at the end of the month if I don’t get the  money off you.”

“Finish the work, and I’ll pay you.”

“I can’t get any more materials to finish the work if you don’t pay me.  What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Like I said, finish the work and I’ll pay you…”

“But…”

Gary lifted his hand. (to stop Steve going any further It’s obvious.) “I can’t get any more money from the clients until the job’s wrapped up – they’re holding money on me, I’m holding money on you. (full stop)  Simple as that.”

Agreed afro  Why didn't I spot that? scratch


Quote
“Well just give me an advance on what you owe me, just a few thousand, so that I can keep going.”

“No, not a penny until you’re done.”

Steve gripped the edge of the desk, feeling a lightness in his head that he knew meant he was about to go berserk.  (full stop) “Listen, fucko!  That wasn’t the deal!  Write me a cheque, or I’ll wrap this fucking desk round your neck!” He lifted the edge and slammed it down again.

(Big change of order here.  We need to know SOON that Taylor is really dangerous .) “Well if you decide to try,” his voice deepened, “you’d better make sure you do a good job of it first time round, otherwise I’ll have your fucking legs broken.  Now fuck off, before you get yourself into trouble, boy.”

Not sure about this, but I'll look at it some more smiley



Quote
Taylor wasn’t kidding.  Everyone knew what had happened to a guy that ripped him off a few years before.  When his legs healed, they got broken again, and again after that, until he ended up in a wheelchair permanently.  (Wrong spelling in the original.)  But Steve was still fired up.

“What kind of fucking outfit are you running anyway?  You must be taking the piss!  Fuck off! ”

“Hey…hey…calm down, there’s no need to get like that… The client won’t pay until the work’s finished.”

“If things are so bad, why don’t you sell your fucking car and use it to pay what you owe?”

“This is getting us nowhere, little man.  Now, I very strongly suggest that you go away and have a think, before you say something you might regret. (full stop)” He puffed out a smoke ring, (comma) then exhaled more smoke through it, straight into Steve’s face.
 
As Steve choked, he saw the yellow eyes, narrowed with anger.  He realized what good advice he’d just been given.  Coughing till the tears came and he could hardly see the way, he blundered out of the office.
 

Thanks for the detailed crit, Joyce - I need to tighten up quite a few things.  I thought I was writing fairly tight as well undecided  Must keep a closer eye on what I'm doing smiley
« Last Edit: February 19, 2005, 05:52:25 PM by blunt » Logged

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]
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« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2005, 07:08:40 PM »

If it's any consolation, we ALL think we're 'writing tight', and there's ALWAYS stuff to take out and move round.   Sad I think one of the most important things I've learnt about writing is not to expect the first draft to be 'it'.  Or the second.  Or the third.  Or the... (One of the other most important things is that you have to let go of it sometime!  smiley )

Re: your remarks about authentic dialogue.  Of course in real life, people repeat themselves and state the obvious all the time, but writing IS NOT real life.  The trick is to make it enough like real life that people are fooled into relaxing and believing it.  But it's ART.  Written dialogue is real life with the boring bits taken out.  It's real life improved, condensed, and sharpened up.  People would love to believe their real-life speech to be as clever as written dialogue.  If you ever try the experiment of transcribing a tape-recording of real conversation, you'll see how awful it is, and you'd never want to write anything like it.  (When I was studying play-writing, someone once made us do this, and then try to read out the 'script'.  It was practically impossible.)

You can trust me on the punctuation.

'Repetition of rhythm' is only me describing something - it's not some rule.  What I mean is that if you get any pattern of words happening several times in quick succession, it makes the passage heavy, and distracts the reader from what you're trying to tell them.  (e.g. 'Hearing the door open, she looked round.  Seeing her husband enter, she stood up.  Moving to meet him, she tripped over.  Falling to the ground, she cried out.  Hurrying to help her, he twisted his ankle.'  And so on, or preferably, not!)

Well, I've never heard the one about a dash being the sign of a novice before.  Quite honestly, I think putting semi-colons and colons in non-literary fiction is more of a give-away.  The important thing is not to have a relaxed reader interrupting themself, wondering what something means.  I remember being mortified when someone criticized an early piece of newspaper writing of mine by saying, 'You've written this like a school essay, as if you were going to get a tick for every rule you kept,' because he was RIGHT, damn it.

I do hope you don't think that any of this is a 'thou shalt'.  It's a reaction, the same as I would have to something of mine that I'd put away in a drawer three weeks ago and was having another look at.  That's the best thing that you can do with it now, too.   cheers grin





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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2005, 05:36:29 PM »

This all reads as very plausible advice, Joyce afro  Thanks - I appreciate it. 
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2005, 04:42:46 PM »

Fancy a bit of chapter two? huh

***

Five miles away, in Romley, Milton and Mervin Hargreaves, ostensibly painters, were busy searching an old lady’s bedroom for valuables.

“These old people are fucking stupid, ain’t they?” Milton marvelled at the stash of cash under the mattress, “Why the fuck don’t they put their money in banks?  I mean, it’s not like we’re in the fuckin Wild West now, is it, where the town bank gets robbed and everybody’s money’s gone for good.”

“Just as well nick it now, ain’t we bruv?  Save us the journey later and all.”

“Yeah, good idea, dumb-fuck!  They’d never figure out who nicked it then, would they?”

“S’pose…”

“Look, leave the finking to me, right?  You just ain’t got the wiring for it, know what I mean?”

“Don’t start on me again, Bruv, I dunno, do I?”

“Nope, you’re right there.” Milt replaced the mattress and put the bedclothes back how they were, “You should know the drill by now though, Merv, for fuck’s sake.”

They would leave it a month or so, and then come back while the old girl was out bowling, like she always was - one ‘til four, every Monday afternoon.  Make a show of breaking-in, rough the place up a bit, empty a few drawers, make it look like they were searching for stuff, and then sweep through to where they knew the cash was.  Having been there, off and on, for a couple of weeks now, Milton knew that when they came back, the rest of the cul-de-sac’s occupants would either be at work, or be out with the old dear, bowling.  Perfect.

“Would you boys like another cup of tea?” An elderly female voice enquired from the bottom of the stairs.

“Uh, yeah!” Merv added a ‘please’ after being jabbed in the ribs.

“Yes please, Mrs Fielding, we’ll be right down.” Milt scowled at his brother, “She’s got to fink we’re ‘nice boys’, remember?”

They wandered downstairs and sat at the kitchen table.  The old dear put a plate full of fresh cream cakes and chocolate biscuits out for them.  “My son brought them round,” she smiled, “and I couldn’t eat them all myself now, could I?  Got to watch my figure, you know.”

Why the fuck would she have to watch her figure, Milt thought to himself as he smiled back, it’s not as if anybody’s going to want to shag her, is it?  Any old bloke that still found it attractive probably wouldn’t be up to the task anyway.

“Dig-in then boys, it’s not like you’ve got to stand on ceremony in front of me.”

Milt was imagining her naked, with all that wrinkled skin hanging everywhere, probably loads of veins showing too.  His smile curdled. 
Her eyes were shining; probably enjoyed the company, Mrs Fielding didn’t seem to get many visitors. 

“Do you like my flowers?” She beamed, caressing the petals of the display on her kitchen windowsill, “Michael gave me them, too.” 

Good old fucking Michael.  I bet he’s a swotty little greasy bastard, “Very nice, Mrs Fielding, he takes good care of you, doesn’t he?”

“Oh yes, but I wish he’d pop in a bit more often.  He’s very busy though, you know, he works very hard, a little too hard really.”

Yeah, me too, thought Milton, “Oh yes?  What does he do then?”   

“Oh, he’s very clever, he’s an accountant in town.  He’s very important.”

Yeah, swotty little greasy bastard then, I was right, “Oh, good for him, Mrs Fielding.”

Milt saw that his brother bore his simpleton look, like a baby grinning at a bunch of shiny jangling keys, and he wanted to twat him one, for being so stupid.  Whatever was going on in his amoebic brain was always plastered all over his face.  Sometimes he even mouthed the words the old dear was saying, as she said them, he was so wrapped up in her personality that it masked his own.  He often looked the same as this when he watched cartoons.

“Mervin, have you put the brushes in the thinners?”  His brother’s expression went from one of glee and flowers to plain vacant again, “We wouldn’t want the brushes getting hard now, would we?”

“Oh, let the boy eat his cakes,” Mrs Fielding interfered, “I’m sure the brushes will be fine for a few minutes.”  She patted Mervin on the shoulder, and he looked up at her like an appreciative dog, grinning from ear to ear, probably thinking the old dear had put one over on Milt.  A look from Milton wiped the smile off his face and set him straight again.  He put his cake down and left the room.

Mrs Fielding’s smile faded, and she stared at the half eaten cake on Mervin’s plate, probably unsure whether to clear it away or not. 

Milt said, “We’ve nearly finished your spare bedroom now – should be done and dusted in the next few minutes.”

“Oh right, I’ll pop up and have a look when I’ve washed up these plates.”  Her voice had lost its gleeful tone, and Milt couldn’t decide whether it was because she was annoyed at him, or because she would be back to being lonely when they went.  Not that it mattered, either way.

“Now, about the bill – it comes to seven hundred and fifty-six pounds.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, it’s a bit more than I thought it would be, but we ended up stripping all that old wallpaper, and there was a lot of filling to do and stuff, you know – time’s money and all that.”

“But it was only meant to be two hundred and fifty pounds, to begin with.”  Her eyes darted around, and her voice turned into a whine, “I’m only a pensioner, you know.  I can’t afford all that.  I wouldn’t have had it done if I knew it would cost that much.”

“Well, we’ve done the work now, and you’ll have to pay, Mrs Fielding – we’ve got to live too.”

Mrs Fielding blinked back tears and reached into her handbag, taking out a chequebook and pen.

“Ah,” said Milton, “If you’re going to write a cheque, I’ll have to add on twenty percent for tax and handling charges.  That was the cash price.”

“But I don’t keep any cash in the house,” her bottom lip quivered, “I don’t know what to do.”  She covered her eyes with her hand and sobbed.

Milt finished his cup of tea, “I’ll go and clear our stuff away, and I’ll be back.”  After taking another cake from the tray, he went upstairs.  “Can you believe the old bag tried the pensioner routine?” 

Merv said nothing - raising his head in acknowledgement before going back to his cleaning duties.

“What’s up with you now?”

“Nothin….”
« Last Edit: February 22, 2005, 05:45:03 PM by blunt » Logged

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]
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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2005, 08:10:41 AM »

Quick note to let you know I've seen that this is here - I'm not ignoring it, but I'm editing a story which ought to arrive somewhere by midnight, so I won't get round to commenting on this today.  smiley
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« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2006, 08:00:34 PM »

Blunt,
I enjoyed the chapter. You have a way of weaving words and a great flair for description. I especially enjoy your dry wit.
One question: Is this a gothic/horror novel? Is Steve going to turn into some psycho killer? That's the impression I was getting. Am I close?

Lanie

Lanie's Gothic Tales
http://laniesgothictales.wtcsites.com
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« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2006, 08:16:11 PM »

Glad you liked it.  Thanks for reading, Lanie smiley  It's not a horror novel persay - it gets very dark, murderous and claustraphobic later, though.  Milton is the one who has the psychotic break, not Steve.  Steve gets caught up and swept along, like a helpless pawn in somebody else's game.  Life's a bit like that, really, isn't it? smiley
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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]
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