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Offline digitaldeath

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First Chapter in First book, this year's trilogy - Horror? No?
« on: December 09, 2009, 08:49:10 AM »
3,000 approx


There are many things in life we do not understand, that does not make them any less real. Take an arbitrary notion, luck. Is there more to the phenomenon that random occurrence? It seems so, because just as there are those lucky in love, they have their counterparts, seemingly cursed to endure a virtually solitary existence. Perhaps in this age of political correctness that should be the emotionally challenged. If fortune favours the brave, that doesn't mean if you buy twenty lottery tickets you will win. On a more sinister vein, certain things can sometimes frighten us, movement out of the corner of our eye, or an inexplicable sound. Maybe it was our imagination, or just perhaps there was something more substantial out there.
Lurking for want of a better word.
I'm not suggesting that there is anything significant behind the Thriller video, only it is like so many things, we do not know enough to be sure there isn't a little truth there. So, we find it very hard to prove in the existence of a spiritual world. But in the same breath we cannot say for certain it is not there either.
If we study the providence of certain characters, just what would science tell us about their lives? Shakespeare once wrote; the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. Well that may not always be the case. What if some of us are prawns on life's chess board and there is a barbeque nearby. Players, albeit unwittingly, in a game. Perhaps the game is poker.

Cathy's voice was little more than a croak, a feeble offering that she hoped would be recognisable. In her weakened condition she wasn't exactly sure that through eyelashes covered in blood she had even dialled the right number. The room around her was dark; it hadn't started out that way so she must have been out cold for hours. A good beating can do that to a person. She couldn't remember what had started it, not that he ever seemed to need a reason; it just went on longer than usual. Maybe he was angrier this time, blamed her for bleeding so much; he didn't like taking her to hospital because of the cold bitter looks from the nursing staff. The sour glare on his face had told her every blow would be hard. When she bounced off the wall and crashed onto the bed, stars filled her eyes. The momentum rolled her once, then she started sobbing. That seemed to antagonise him even more. Picking her up by twisting the neck of her dress so sharply it tore, he gave her a final backhand blow across the face and threw her back down. Maybe she managed to crawl away, out of reach, because what appeared to be only moments later she heard the front door slam. Then the ceiling spiralled away into oblivion and light left her eyes.
How long ago that was meant nothing, Cathy felt terribly cold, weak, maybe she was dying. There had only been one person she dared call. One friend who would be guaranteed to come when she asked. Energy failing the frail figure only managed a couple of words before darkness flooded through her mind again.
"Help, please."
It was quite late in the evening, a television moment. Jack was sitting in the dark, the flickering images almost painting patterns on the walls. Running his fingers through his thick brown hair he had wondered who was likely to call at such an unsociable hour. Still half watching the television he didn't even glance at the display. When he put the clam shell phone up to his ear he was about to speak when the faint words almost drifted into his mind. So soft they seemed to bypass hearing. Jack wasn't sure who it was at first, the quiet tones barely held enough information. Luckily the mobile was registering the number. It didn't take more than a couple of seconds to realise just why Cathy sounded out of it. Virtually launching himself out of the rather comfortable reclining chair, he took long strides to cross the small open space. The lounge door crashed open and he snatched his car keys from the turned Olivewood bowl on the hall table as he stormed past.
The night air was crisp, just not cold enough to make his breath visible. The sky clear, apart from the odd wispy cloud. Peaceful and serene. It was just a shame that people had a tendency to mar life's tapestry so frequently. Slamming the car door angrily he wondered just how bad Cathy was this time. Two things worried him, the brief duration of the call and the fact that it must have happened a lot earlier and she had only just been able to ask for help. Maybe she had to wait until her husband had left. It didn't seem to worry the man, however bad her injuries were he saw past them, a cowering pitiful figure that often disgusted him. Perhaps it was an attitude towards all women rather than simply Cathy. Quite likely a trait ingrained during childhood, watching his father in full flow too frequently. It was quite difficult driving considerately; it would have been all too easy to tear through the streets squealing tyres, only the last thing he wanted was to attract the attention of a marauding police car.
On the other hand, maybe it would do Cathy's husband good to get a little extra attention. Just so long as the police officers ignored the fact that he was speeding and followed him once he had explained. It wasn't impossible that they would disregard his words as a feeble excuse. Why turn away from a little extra revenue after all.
It was a familiar route, usually taken in daylight, if necessary Jack could have probably made the journey blindfolded. But that would have taken longer. Cathy was frequently in his thoughts, only despite apparently loving his warm embrace she refused to leave the husband who beat her on a regular basis. Jack pulled up outside the darkened house in less than ten minutes, parking rather untidily with two wheels on the pavement. Not caring how much noise he made, he slammed the car door again and strode up the short concrete path, only he was fairly sure it wasn't worth ringing the doorbell. The house was semi-detached; it was easy enough to race down the side to reach the back door. Brief contact caused him to curse, he rattled the dustbin noisily as he brushed past. Needless to say the door was locked, but thankfully, carelessly, the kitchen window was slightly open. Smashing a pane of glass may not have been beneficial, knowing his luck the key would not have been in the door. A couple of plates slid off the draining board as he stood on the edge of the sink before leaping down, shattered noisily on the tiled floor. The shards tinkled in the stillness.
Silence. A few almost desperate paces later proved she wasn't in the lounge, the television wasn't even on, so he bolted upstairs, bounding up them two at a time. Jack took the turn at the top rather rapidly by hanging onto the newel post, he was panting when he reached his destination.
The bedroom door was ajar, the room dark. Silent and dark. Almost nervously he pushed the flimsy wooden panel away and his hand slid along the wall and found the light switch.
Cathy was hanging off the bed, barely covered by her torn dress, what looked like drenched in blood, scarcely breathing. Jack's phone was already in his hand as he knelt down beside her, checking to see how strong her pulse was, mainly because it looked as though she had lost rather a lot of the red fluid that gave her life.
"What service do you require?" asked a calm female voice.
"Ambulance, probably Police. A woman has been beaten, she is unconscious." Jack quickly relayed the address.
"Who are you?"
"A friend, she called me a few minutes ago. Only she simply managed to say ‘help'. I expect her husband kicked the shit out of her, he has a nasty habit of doing that." Jack shook his head, if she didn't leave him soon maybe she wouldn't need to, that night's injuries seemed worse that before.
"Is he there at the moment?"
"No, the house was in darkness, I don't know how long she has been like this."
"Have you any first aid experience?"
"A little, her pulse is feeble, that doesn't surprise me as the bed is covered in blood, a large stain has formed on the carpet beneath her head. I can't see what caused it though. I daren't move her in case something is broken. At the moment she's lying on her back, almost touching the floor. Breathing is shallow but steady."
"There will be someone there in a few minutes. Can you see if there is anywhere still bleeding?"
"Not immediately, there clearly is a stomach wound only fabric is hiding it, at least it isn't pulsing." Jack reached out, touched the surface gently, Cathy didn't move. The cotton was stiff, quite sticky. "I think the dress is helping keep the cut closed. I'll clean around her face with some water; there is semi dried blood around her nose and mouth. Perhaps it will make breathing easier. I won't be long." Jack left the mobile on the bedside cabinet, still live, in case he needed to speak again.
As Jack slipped into the bathroom he wondered what excuse the husband had this time, not that it was ever relevant in the man's eyes. It wasn't that he suspected infidelity, he was far too arrogant and the beatings had been going on almost since they were first married. Jack had only known Cathy a couple of months, it wasn't exactly a torrid romance, more an occasional snatched moment of tranquillity, he felt he needed to be there to support her at times of weakness. Jack soaked a small towel in cold water and returned to administer a little treatment. Only immersed in conversation with the emergency services he had failed to realise that his words had masked the opening of the front door. Maybe as his car was across the bottom of the path it had caused suspicion, caution when sliding the key into the lock. The noise from running water had also prevented him picking up on the sounds of cautious movement downstairs. Before he realised the danger, Ralph, Cathy's six foot tall husband was standing over him with a rather large kitchen knife.
"What the fuck have you done to my wife?" he slurred. Maybe he was so drunk he had forgotten just who the guilty party was. Not that he waited for a reply, the long silvery blade swept down, digging deeply into Jack's arm as he tried to protect himself.
"I've already called the police. Don't be bloody stupid, you could kill someone with that." Jack screamed, glad the connection to the control centre was still active, that hopefully it would prioritise the response. Awkwardly he managed to get to his feet, trying to avoid crashing into the silent Cathy, but the knife caught him again.
"That's the bloody intention, you pillock."
Ralph slashed almost wildly at the air, arms flaying like an erratic windmill, and as Jack dodged steel a fist dug into his ribs. The atmosphere was ripe with alcohol fumes; Jack's attacker had probably just crawled back from the pub having run out of money; only despite the amount of drink he was still sober enough to cause serious damage. It didn't help that he towered over Jack and was built like a wrestler. Rather than a brick outhouse. Reeling from the blow, Jack staggered back into the wall and screamed in agony as Ralph forced the knife into his stomach.
Somehow Jack knew that the only way to survive was retaliate. Before Ralph had pulled the weapon completely free he launched himself at the man's throat with both hands, caused him to stumble back. It was really weird, from the edge of vision it was almost as though he had a little help. A dark shape on either side, barely enough form to recognise seemed to lift his arms, give him the strength he needed to fight back. As he was unable to lock onto a stout neck he resorted to some form of boxing. A rather pathetic jab to the nose kept up the momentum, forced Ralph back onto the landing. Jack's vision was beginning to blur but he was sure there was someone... No something else aiding his plight. Only before he could strike again he felt the knife rip into his chest. Jack sprang forwards again... Or maybe he was thrown from the floor. Clearly he needed to stop Ralph pulling the blade free, only the thought had not actually occurred to him. It was not just to prevent another wound, but because he would bleed more freely as the steel left his tissue. Well, Ralph wasn't expecting the sudden increase in weight, it took him off guard and he wobbled back a couple of steps, releasing the knife as arms waved wildly in an attempt to regain stability. The doorbell rang and the ox of a man half turned, just enough to disrupt his balance. Just enough for a misty black arm to push him hard maybe. Losing support, his victim followed him over. Before the echo of the bell died two figures crashed down the staircase.
When the police broke the door down moments later they found Jack laying on his back, hardly cushioned by the short pile of the wool carpet, the carving knife still sticking out from between his ribs just to the right of the sternum. Blood was flowing freely from both arms, and soaking his shirt where a tear in the fabric revealed a vicious stomach wound.
"Bloody Hell," exclaimed the leading officer as the door gave way and he staggered forwards into the hall.
"I called because he had beaten seven bells out of his wife," Jack managed to say with remarkable calm. Almost as though his condition was immaterial. "She's upstairs. Only I didn't hear him come in. I never imagined I would be on the receiving end of his drunken rage." Jack tried to turn, to search out his nemesis.
"Don't move," shouted the policeman. "You may have broken your neck. It looks like Ralph has."
"You know him then?" Jack said, rather feebly. Hardly surprising really.
"Oh yes," sighed the uniformed man, "he usually starts a ruckus every weekend. Cathy makes it to hospital once a month but never presses charges." The man in blue knelt down beside Jack while his colleague ran upstairs, scrambling quickly over the lifeless figure. Through the open front door Jack could see the blue flashing lights of the ambulance as it stopped. From the bottom of the path, probably baulked by his vehicle the rays reflected on the plain painted hall walls, comforting Jack a little. "I'd better leave the knife in," the officer said, pressing his hand against Jack's abdomen to help stem the bleeding. "We don't want you ending up on a slab next to that idiot. Control heard when he attacked you, so we drove a little faster."
The quite narrow carpeted staircase had a quarter turn at the bottom. As the two men had careered down, Ralph's head had apparently struck the wall, motion, combined with his weight probably snapped his neck instantly. It was a pity he hadn't had any time to suffer. Jack thought of the word probably as movement had been a little illogical to say the least. How Ralph became airborne was beyond him. To slide heavily down the short flight made sense. But for loss of balance to propel a twenty stone mass fast enough to break his neck on landing, dare he say it, possibly from some height, didn't bear thinking about. Then there was a slight anomaly of him reaching the hall floor when Ralph was blocking the stairs. Oh, without causing the knife to do even more damage either. Trivia? Or Men in Black? No, they didn't seem to have much substance. Still at least it prevented the slob from attacking the police as they came in. The state he had been in he would probably have seen red, rather than blue uniforms, and laid into them too.
"You don't seem too worried," Jack said quietly as he fought to compose his thoughts.
"I should be, but it had to happen sooner or later.  It was always going to be a gamble whether he killed someone before he drunk himself to death. The odds suggested it would be his wife."
"I don't feel too good at the moment," coughed Jack, tasting blood as it rose up from his torn lung into his mouth, wondering if he would be the somewhat belated fatality in question.
The ambulance crew came through the door shaking their heads. "I thought we were picking up Cathy again." Their tone was rather matter of fact, as though it was something of a chore.
"Upstairs, but you'd better start here."
The men glanced briefly at the silent figure crumpled on the stairs, the older one smiled slightly. "Good, now perhaps his wife can have her life back."
"Cathy's stirring," called a voice from the top of the stairs. "Probably the usual mass of bruising, although she's been bleeding more than usual. Ralph hit her in the face for a change, and there's a gash in her stomach. Do you want to start to sort that guy out first?"
One of the paramedics had already managed to get a line into Jack's wrist and was squeezing plasma through.  "Don't worry, you'll be fine, a few days in hospital and you'll be back to normal. My mate will take a quick look at our other patient; then we will see about moving you."
"I don't think I've ever been normal," sighed Jack.
Maybe they were distorting the truth to prevent undue stress as his lips seemed to move almost silently and the policeman hurried out to the ambulance. Three men slid him onto a back board once a neck brace was on. Movement caused severe pain to shoot up from his leg, right through every cell in his body. Jack screamed like he was being branded, and a firm hand steadied him.
"Easy now, your leg is broken too. We'll do something about that now."
Before they lifted him from the floor someone started another litre of plasma seeping into his body. Within a couple of minutes he was being stretchered into the awaiting transport. Clearly he was a priority; Cathy would have to wait for a second vehicle.
"Suck on this if you feel the need," offered the paramedic beside him as they sped through the streets. "Gas and air."
"If!" Jack tried to laugh, only it hurt too much to get any volume.
"I'm glad you can see the bright side."
"Is there one?"
"You're alive, that counts for a lot. You've helped to free a battered wife; that merits Brownie points. I dare say we will both buy you a pint for that." Gazing straight ahead perhaps he was wondering just how many times he had been around to that particular address after a serious domestic incident.
"What would have happened if I hadn't turned up and called you?"
"Pass. The second crew will see how bad she is. I gave her a once over, to make sure she was stable. There's a nasty wound in her stomach, I couldn't tell how deep, I didn't disturb it in case it started bleeding again. Ralph wouldn't have called until the morning."
"So she could have died in the night?"
"Don't try to second guess a different future," he said quietly.
At hospital he was rushed straight into crash, nurses instantly began to cut away clothing and peel away the temporary bandages the paramedics had used. Blurry figures were indistinct, fluid motion, as though time in his head was distorted, someone was wiping blood away from his skin. A doctor began to gently press Jack's abdomen the moment it was relatively clean.
"Is it very painful?"
Jack sniggered, a rather stupid question. "I've had gas and air." Maybe that partially explained the problem with his sight. "It's hard to say which is worst. I ache all over from falling down the stairs. Just don't ask me which individual injury hurts the most, they are all mingling together."
"Can you wiggle your toes?" That didn't seem to be a problem. "Any tingling of the limbs?"
"No, my chest feels like it is burning because there is a red hot poker in it. Both arms are stinging like buggery. My right leg like there is an elephant sitting on it."
"The ambulance crew reckon it is a straight forward fracture. It'll keep a bit longer. First thing we need to do is X-ray your neck and back, just in case we need to be extra careful moving you."
"I feel bloody stupid with a knife sticking out of my chest."
"Well it isn't doing any more harm at the moment and it may just be plugging an artery. They will remove it in theatre." Fingers cautiously felt around the edge of the wound, only there didn't seem to be blood freely escaping.
"What about the other hole?" asked Jack warily.
"Impossible to say from the outside. Position wise it is below the liver and has probably missed the kidney, that would depend on the angle of penetration, but it may have torn the intestine so it needs flushing to prevent infection. Where's the other guy?"
"Broke his neck at the bottom of the stairs I think. I don't believe I even managed to give him a nose bleed."
"I won't ask, it obviously wasn't a mugging. Nice carving knife, quality steel. I like to play in the kitchen myself, it helps me chill out after patching up bodies."
Just then Jack thought he sounded relaxed enough anyway, maybe it was the start of his shift. "The man objected to me calling an ambulance after he beat his wife senseless. I dare say she isn't that far behind me."
"It doesn't pay to get involved in other people's domestics."
"Clearly, only I tend to be something of a Good Samaritan, perhaps I should turn a blind eye in the future."
"What about these other scars, it looks like you have been in the odd hospital before?"
"Car wreck, hit by a drunk..." Jack's eyes instantly watered up, recollection was still painful.
"Sorry. I think I have placed your face at last. Jack Hawkins isn't it? No need to torment yourself anymore, I remember what happened."
Maybe he did spend far too much time in hospital. One way or another.
Jack wasn't conscious long, he needed surgery rather urgently and when the doctor injected Morphine to line up the bones in his leg everything just went black.


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Re: First Chapter in First book, this year's trilogy - Horror? No?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2009, 09:53:55 AM »
I read the first paragraph and then gave up. Too many problems with the grammar. I didn't have the energy to continue. ALL the punctuation needs an overhaul. Check for typos too.

I'd suggest that you get rid of the opening preamble anyway. Far better to plunge straight in with the story as then the problems might get swept away by the strength of the narrative. Start with "Cathy's voice..." which is much stronger than the clichéd "There are so many things in life..."

Offline Pharosian

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Re: First Chapter in First book, this year's trilogy - Horror? No?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2009, 11:41:41 AM »
I did read the whole thing, and I agree with delph. The introduction has to go. Not only is it full of punctuation and grammar errors, it rambles and jumps from topic to topic without ever saying anything concrete. It's a series of one-liners strung together trying to sound philosophical, but the effect is lost due to lack of focus.

With regard to the chapter itself, you need to work on trimming your word count. Yes, it's wonderful that you can write 500,000 words per year. But now you need to learn to cut at least 100,000 words per year--or just stop using so many in the first place.

For example, you used the word "rather" several times. Jack had a rather comfortable reclining chair; he parked rather untidily; he took the turn at the top of the stairs rather rapidly; he needed surgery rather urgently; Cathy had lost rather a lot of "the red fluid that gave her life." In the last example, you used SEVEN words instead of "blood." In the heat of the moment when a man finds a woman he cares for covered in blood, he's not going to think of it as "the red fluid that [gives] her life."

And this leads me into the next problem... point of view. Your writing suffers from a detached, omniscient viewpoint, evident in sentences such as, "A good beating can do that to a person." Nobody in particular is stating this; it's the author's or narrator's statement, and it intrudes into the story. Far better to leave such statements out, or have them come from the characters. (While this statement comes within Cathy's section, she doesn't appear to be thinking it.) Also associated with this omniscient POV is that the action is shown at a distance. For example:

Cathy's voice was little more than a croak, a feeble offering that she hoped would be recognisable. In her weakened condition she wasn't exactly sure that through eyelashes covered in blood she had even dialled the right number. The room around her was dark; it hadn't started out that way so she must have been out cold for hours.

It would bring us much closer to Cathy and thus strengthen the bond between character and reader if you reword it along these lines:

Cathy managed to get one eye open. The room around her was dark; it hadn't started out that way so she must have been out cold for hours. Everything hurt. She groped for her mobile phone and tried to read the numbers through eyelashes covered in blood. There was only one person she dared call. One friend who would be guaranteed to come when she asked. The moment the person on the other end picked up, she said, "Help, please." Her voice was little more than a croak, a feeble offering that she hoped would be recognisable.

Now you can have her go over the beating in her head again as she slips back into unconsciousness--but mind the word count. Note that I have her opening her eyes first, then dialling, then speaking. That is the natural order a person would perform the actions, so that's the order you should describe them. I'm not sure why you started with describing her voice and then didn't give her anything to say. It just confuses the reader.

The beauty of the omniscient viewpoint is that you can jump from character to character at your leisure. With 3rd person limited, it's expected that you stay with one character per scene. You should decide whose story this is and keep to their POV. If you need two, then keep them in separate scenes if possible. But 3rd limited is going to get you much greater intimacy with the characters and probably better reader satisfaction.

Your spellcheck program will not find instances where you used "that" instead of "than," but it seems to be a common mistake of yours, so you will have to learn to search for the word "that" and look for places where you meant to type "than."

Also, the word "only" is not an all-purpose substitute for the word "but." You seem to use "only" frequently when "but" would be the expected and proper word choice.

digitaldeath, I think you've got some real ability for creating characters and putting them into interesting situations. And you don't seem to have any compunction about hurting your characters, so you're far ahead of many on that score. But you really ought to google some sites on punctuation rules and learn how to use commas properly.

I really enjoyed your piece in the 5th annual contest, and I hope you can apply some of the above--especially the pruning of excess words--to good effect in your future works.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2009, 09:57:44 AM by Pharosian »

Offline digitaldeath

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Re: First Chapter in First book, this year's trilogy - Horror? No?
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2009, 07:21:48 AM »
My problem is that my brain almost forces me to write, god know where it comes from. I have read 'Eats shoots and leaves', that cleared things slightly. It didn't help that I barely passed English O level. I have no idea what pluperfect is; my degree is science based. Stupid as I earn money as a photogrpaher. I always listen to critical viewpoint, only some people have said in the past I don't use enough words and the action flows too quickly. Then others say they like the may the story grips them. I read Steven King's Christine and thought that would benefit from cutting out 50%. Then I read a coment that there is nothing wrong with a Harry Potter book that taking out 75,000 words wouldn't cure. I have more ideas than I can shake a stick at at am constantly looking for people to prrof read for mistakes. Most want to be paid silly money, I don't have two pennies to rub together a the moment. [Point of note, are those similies?]
cheers folks, I may die with 50 unpublished novels. That is when people usually pick up on you. Perhaps I should cut of an ear?

Offline Ed

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Re: First Chapter in First book, this year's trilogy - Horror? No?
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2009, 07:07:25 PM »
No, they're metaphors. Similies (think 'similars') are when you compare one thing to another, such as 'mad as a hatter'.

Pluperfect is also called 'past perfect'. It's a distant past tense. The word 'is' denotes present tense, 'was' denotes simple past tense, and 'had been' denotes pluperfect, which can be used to indicate the time before the timeline of a past tense narrative.

Marvin was a policeman, but had been a sailor before. That kind of thing.
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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