Author Topic: A start  (Read 2517 times)

Dwin7454

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A start
« on: August 21, 2019, 08:19:42 AM »
The idea for this project has been floating around in my mind for a long time.So, this is a first draft of the first 500 words. comments please.

One thing that was missing from his life as an ironstone miner was the dawn, even in the height of summer he was up before the dawn. Sunsets he’d seen a plenty but watching this one as he leaned on the fence smoking his pipe it felt different. It was not just the sun setting on this day but also on a way of life, of the very existence of the world as he’d known it. Even in this quiet corner of North Yorkshire he could feel destiny and fate conspiring together, like two old washerwomen who’s gossiping could change lives.

The beauty of the sunset and the peace of his surroundings were marred by his morbid thoughts, gnawing at him like a beggar at a bone. His family had a history of foretelling doom and gloom, his mother had stopped reading tarot cards as all she could see were the deaths of her nearest and dearest. His grandfather had come up from Oxfordshire, some saying he was chased away because he brought bad luck to everyone who knew him.

All his life he’d had these feelings, hazy premonitions, of bad things due to happen but he’d managed to keep them to himself, bottled up inside him; like a champagne cork resisting the pressure building up inside of him. This time it was different, it was like a cloak wrapped around his shoulders but instead of been warm and comforting it was as cold as a shroud. He wondered if it could be his own doom that he was feeling, or even worse someone close to him, someone he cared for more than himself?

The sun was almost gone, the last rays bringing everything into silhouette and spreading the shadows along the ground like dark tendrils looking for the coming darkness of night. A chill ran through his body, was it the cold of the evening or the result of his dark and cold thoughts? Did it matter? Tomorrow the sun would rise again, by which time he’d be deep underground mining the ironstone that was in plentiful supply underneath the beauty of the purple heather that covered these moors.

It was said that there had once been a great forest here, cut down for the sailing ships that were now getting replaced by ‘steamers’. That had been before his time but if you looked close enough you could still see evidence of the past around you. The churches and priories in the area had been here before the miners, and the railways that had brought them here. In most cases, the villages had been built to house the miners, who were themselves remnants from the land, farm workers looking to better themselves and the lot of their families.

Before becoming a miner, he’d been a farm labourer hiring out at the annual fares, working for board and lodge and getting paid at the end of his years’ service. Most times there was no cash available at the end of the year, so he’d receive payment ‘in kind’; in the form of an animal, a cow or a couple of sheep, that he’d then have to drive to market himself to sell for the best price he could get.

Mark Hoffmann

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Re: A start
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2019, 12:18:25 PM »
As it's a first draft and you'll be changing it, I'll comment on the general impression rather than the detail.

I think you do a good job of setting the scene. By the end I know where he is, what he does, rough period in time, and something of his family history. I think there's plenty of scope to trim it back a bit and still retain all that info.

Your similies didn't really work for me. Do washerwomen conspire to change lives? The champagne/cork stuff feels wrong in this bucolic scene. I don't know if beggers gnawed bones or not in that era but the image is slightly comedic and likewise the cloak that is not a cloak. That reads like typical comedy writing where you'd set something up as being similar just to knock it down. Why not simply use the shroud as the simile.

Simile and metaphor are good, but maybe use them a bit more sparingly.  :)

Mark
If you like Bob the Alien he gets a good run out in my NaPoWriMo 2018. Download pdf here: http://www.scribblers-ring.co.uk/downloads/napowrimo_mhh_201804.pdf

Lin Treadgold

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Re: A start
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2019, 12:43:19 PM »
Yes I have to agree with Mark on this one.  Too many similes.  Watch your spelling as well.

I would strongly suggest that you don't tell the story so much when you eventually set the scene.  Whenever you see the word WAS, you need to change it because it is 'telling' and not showing and 'showing' really does make a difference to the story. Also watch out for repeated words.  Suggest you invest in Grammarly or some other editing tool.

This paragraph for example:
The beauty of the sunset and the peace of his surroundings were marred by his morbid thoughts, gnawing at him like a beggar at a bone. His family had a history of foretelling doom and gloom, his mother had stopped reading tarot cards as all she could see were the deaths of her nearest and dearest. His grandfather had come up from Oxfordshire, some saying he was chased away because he brought bad luck to everyone who knew him.

You could try to edit thus:

He knew the family history of foretelling doom and gloom and recalled the words of his mother 'The Tarot cards tell too much about death in our family' His grandfather had been chased away because it was said he brought bad luck to everyone who knew him.  He gazed into the sunset and tried to dispel the thoughts of his  own destiny. 

So if you can bring the character to life more, rather than tell the reader the background, then you've got it! 

« Last Edit: August 24, 2019, 11:13:25 AM by Lin Treadgold »

hillwalker3000

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Re: A start
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2019, 02:52:51 PM »
Thanks for sharing. As others have already suggested, this is weighed down rather by too much irrelevant detail, as if you don't trust the reader to use their own imagination to colour in the background for themselves. Your use of metaphors and similes is also heavy handed. If used well they add colour and a personal touch to the narrative while remaining virtually invisible. But here they begin to act as distractions.

I'll not do a forensic crit, but here are a few points you might like to take into consideration:

One thing that was missing from his life as an ironstone miner was the dawn, even in the height of summer he was up before the dawn.
Mentioning 'the dawn' twice in the very first sentence is not the best way to get potential readers to take your writing skills seriously. It's up to you to find a better way to eliminate this kind of repetition.

The rest of the paragraph is fine - we get a sense of location and timeframe (an age when ironstone miners and washerwomen were found). All that's missing is his name. I suggest you tell us right at the start so we can engage with him as a real person rather than as a nameless entity.
who's should be whose by the way.

But having eased open the door to this world, you overdo the foretelling business in the next two paragraphs. What does it matter at this point in the narrative that grandfather came up from Oxford for example, even if it's true? There has to be a more subtle way of introducing his family's powers.

One paragraph should lead onto the next - so we have the sunset and the sense of changes happening then maybe the reason why he feels this way. You do a fine job of addressing this in your fourth paragraph. . .
The sun was almost gone, the last rays bringing everything into silhouette and spreading the shadows along the ground like dark tendrils looking for the coming darkness of night. A chill ran through his body, was it the cold of the evening or the result of his dark and cold thoughts something else?

But again, why do we need to know how much ironstone lay beneath the moors? By dragging the focus away from what's important you're allowing the reader's concentration to wander. The last two paragraphs tell us a little more about his personal history and the local geography - but they contribute nothing to the plot and the subtext of foreboding. It's as if you've set the story to one side when what you should really be doing is maintaining the momentum to carry the reader along on a wave of expectation. If relevant, you can weave these subsidiary facts into the tale as the plot continues moving forwards.

Good luck,

H3K

Lin Treadgold

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Re: A start
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2019, 11:29:20 AM »
I'm afraid this 'writing lark' takes a lot of practice and discovering the balance of what is too much and what is not enough. 

All I can advise is for you (knowing you as I do) to stick to the main points of the story.  Add some dialogue and get into the heads of the characters and stay detached from your own feelings.

If you have a character, you need to become him.  Show the reader (yes show) his feelings and thoughts, but steer away from being a historian.  What I do if I want to show background history, is to slip it into the dialogue.  But it has to be relevant, of course.

So instead of saying. -   The Ironstone mines of North Yorkshire were about to close down.  The problems seem to be lack of.... etc etc. 

Slip it into the dialogue.  'You working up at Lumspey Mine?  I hear it's hard times up there. '
                                     'Yeah, but not nearly as hard as ......
Then make sure that what you write is moving the story forward. 

You got the right idea, but you are more of a historian, Dave, so you write like one.  The two are a totally different way of writing.  Novel writing draws the reader in to the fiction inspired by fact.  The historian writes the history and facts as it was.

I think you need to choose which one you wish to pursue.   Don't try to mix the two and be the writer you are not.  By that, I mean don't try too hard!  LOL  :D You have what it takes, but the balance still needs working on.  Be as realistic as you can.  Fiction is not always about great works of literature and using words which are not natural to you.

Keep going, you're getting better.  Hope to meet up again soon. If you are down this way, bring it with you and we'll work on it together.  I mean I know this area as well as you do, so I'm probably the ideal writing partner. 

Lin

« Last Edit: August 24, 2019, 11:31:58 AM by Lin Treadgold »