Long post but for a reason. Apologies

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ventanamist

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Apologies folks. This is quite a long post for a crit. But you will see the reason for it when you read it. It is quite crucial to the way I will write the whole novel.


This was going to be the very beginning of the story but Euellula crashed into it (previous post), and, as her introduction was a few years earlier in time and quite active and concentrated, I thought that it would be more likely to make people want to read on. But this seems a better introduction to the whole story. Comments welcome.


This part is slower and more thoughtful but it introduces many of the underlying themes of the story. Apart from welcoming the reader in and preparing them, it introduces the idea of other realities, it asks why and how you should enter them, and it poses the question as to who creates these worlds and how they are maintained.


The 'We' referring to the author and reader, I haven't seen used much in other stories. That sort of conspiratorial chummyness with the reader seems relegated to some 19th century novels and early 20th century children's stories. Tell me if I'm wrong. And it does commit me to using mainly the present tense in a story that may cover several years. This is why the post is so long – so I can show how the 'We' blends into the story.


It seemed to work with Euellula but here it is used extensively. I could get rid of the 'We' completely. There is a minor character in the story who is a writer and she could introduce these ideas and questions.


As far as I know it will not be used as blatantly as this again but I do intend to use it very briefly at the introduction of each main character and at the beginning of each major theme.


As usual, I welcome any criticism, comments or ideas. Read on.



PETER


If you came across a door that looked inviting, you might open it a crack and peep through. What if you saw another world there, where none of the certainties of this existence could be relied on; would you go through? Would you travel in this dangerous new country? You might go away, just blot it out of your conciousness and get on with your life; most people would.


But you have been through such a door many times. Every time you open a book, you take the first step on such a journey. That's okay, because books are a certainty in this existence; we tamed the world of story long ago. We pushed our collective dreamtime into these paper prisons, but in doing so, we have allowed it to explode into uncountable universes, each as much a mystery as this one. But they are tamed, they are safe. The worlds in books can be stepped into and out of at will, and you emerge unscathed.


Or do you?


The cover of a book, although it resembles a door, prevents no physical barrier to your entry. In fact this hinged rectangle is designed to invite you in. But, for many reasons, it may also repel. Be brave. Come through this door with me, remember, its safe; you can go back at any time. But to truly enter it, you must leave certainty behind. This is the first key to exploring another reality.


Yes, I know it looks familiar; the seaside, and the English love the sea. They have been breathing in all year and they breathe out now with a great contented sigh. We hear the sigh as we find ourselves looking down on the prom at Bournemouth on the Boscombe side of the pier. There has been a light shower. People who had temporarily retired to the cafes, pubs and shelters, have now flooded out onto the beach again, thirsty for the sun.


None of the promenaders notice us. Strange. Wouldn't you notice two people from the future slowly materialising in your midst? Ah, but we have entered a story. What unfamiliar rules must prevail in this otherwise familiar world. You must be prepared to find new certainties for, even though it has supposedly emerged from my imagination, this world we are entering already has rules that even I, the author, cannot break. I couldn't make one of these people come up and talk to us; I might possibly be able to do that in another story-world, but here, it is already forbidden.


Your imagination is the next key to entering this world; otherwise to do so would be impossible. Lets start with smells: sun screen, tobacco smoke, ice cream, candy floss, vinegar soaked chips, coffee and, of course, the rich cocktail of the sea. Getting there? Now the sounds: loud children, quiet adults, the Tremeloes on a distant, tinny transistor radio, and the shush shushing of the surf, all with a delicate echo from the low cliffs. Now lets use our eyes: lots of colour, clothes people wouldn't dream of wearing anywhere else, bare flesh in all shades of pink and brown, and no one hurrying, apart from a few of the more lively children. Are you there yet? Have we fully incarnated into this world? Oh, touch. Yes, that will do it. Feel your skin, the tight dryness of salt crystals, sand and the beginnings of sunburn, feel the goose pimples appear every time the scudding clouds hide the sun, feel the damp sand between your toes, and finally, the warm tarmac hard against your bare feet as you are sucked down and held by the gravity of this new world. There, we are just like one of them now, although we remain invisible and intangible.


See that Boy? Watch him closely. We have all been small and helpless, and most of us got lost at least once. Do you remember? Yes, so you know how he feels. What is he thinking? His certainties have been stripped away; parents should be reliable and predictable, holidays should be happy times, these people should be helping him, he should be able to find his mother, she should be able to find him.


He must make sense of the world again. He has lost his certainties so he needs to find new ones. Should he cry, should he ask for help, should he wait, should he look for her, or should he do something else entirely?


That girl keeps watching. He thinks she's a bit scary, but she is the only one who has noticed him. The holiday people walk past as if he isn't there, as if he doesn't fit into their world. What is he meant to do? Find a policeman? There's no one like that, just holiday people, and that strange girl, she hasn't moved; big straw hat, black plastic sunglasses, dark hair, dark dress, not like the holiday people; they all wear bright colours. The holiday people don't notice her either. She finishes her ice cream and walks over.


'What's wrong?'


He uses his small voice. 'I've lost my mum.' Tears appear.


'No you haven't.' She speaks as strangely as she looks.


'Yes, she's gone.' The tears are making their way down his cheeks.


'No she hasn't. You can find her.'


He uses an even smaller voice. 'I can't.' Very soon the tears will be unstoppable.


Her voice becomes even stranger. She begins to speak as if each word is a special gift, just for him to unwrap and use. 'Follow her footprints. Look.' She points down.


He looks. And sees. It's as if he has never looked down before. The thin layer of moist sand on the tarmac reveals the passing of many of the inhabitants of this world.


'Where did you lose her?'


He is in control again but he still feels the tears warm on his cheek. 'Over there.'


That voice again. 'It's simple. Find her footprints and follow them.'


When you're six it is easy for everything to seem impossible. You're small and helpless and the world is a big, dangerous place. Just as easily everything can seem quite quite possible, you haven't yet learnt about human limitations, common sense, the status quo and Newton's laws of motion. You are still wide open to magic and wonder. This journey from the impossible to the possible he makes effortlessly. What's more, as he does it, he feels a thrill, as if he had been given a new toy, but better, much much better. this toy will never wear out.


He makes his way over to where he had been walking with his mother and, staring down at the jumble of scuff marks, there, as plain as could be, the imprint of his sandals, half walking, half skipping, next to what could only be his mother's, those woven leather things. He sees the stitching and the beginnings of a tiny tear in the left sole.


There are many other marks made by the holiday people and their animals, in places his and his mothers tracks are almost obliterated by them. He has no trouble though, he finds that he can effortlessly filter out all of the other prints. In places the tracks disappear beneath the mass of foot traffic but he easily finds them again.


There is the spot where she turned to look at the poster on the wall, He sees his feet running ahead, there are the marks where he hid behind the waste bin to ambush her and there, his mothers footprints heading in completely the wrong direction.


Unerringly he follows. She had walked at first and then started to run. It is harder for him to follow but he finds her panic reassuring; it shows she cares. The trail takes him down to the beach, the damp sand makes his task easier, then back on to the promenade. The tracks look fresher here, they have not been obscured by other feet.


'Peter! Where have you been?' He is in the air, his mother holding him tight. 'Thank god I found you.'


The tear streaks have long since dried on his face; he knows he will never lose her again.


As they walk back along the promenade, he sees the strange girl again. She is standing in the same spot, just looking at the holiday people as they go past. She gives him a hint of a smile, just a hint, and then returns to looking at the people.


For a long time he will think that what he has done is fairly run-of-the-mill, just part of growing up. It will be a while before he realises that it sets him apart from others.
 

adyc

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I can't comment on the technical side of that piece, I will leave that for others but the quality of the story telling was outstanding!! I loved the external POV and the way in which the visitors to the book were guided into being part of the scene....please continue, you've got me hooked.

Adyc
 

Pyar

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This is a wonderful piece. I think you have perfected how to draw readers in. I just couldn't stop reading once I started. I think you do an excellent job of creating the scene one piece at a time by hitting all of the sense. You also put in directly into the shoes of the little boy who is lost and scared. I want to know more about this strange girl, who is she?? And the fact that you can create such questions in my mind that will make me keep reading is awesome, that means you are doing it right. I am wondering though, is this novel going to be about the girl or the boy or both? Otherwise again great job. I'll let others comment on the grammar part of it.
 

chrispenycate

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This is more to show I read it than any need you have of my aid. A couple of apostrophes, a capital letter or two…

The cover of a book, although it resembles a door, prevents no physical barrier to your entry.
probably "presents"

Come through this door with me, remember, its safe
it's

People who had temporarily retired to the cafes, pubs and shelters, have now flooded out onto the beach again, thirsty for the sun.
either a comma after "People", or no comma after"shelters"

What unfamiliar rules must prevail in this otherwise familiar world.
question mark?

Lets start with smells:
Let's

There, we are just like one of them now, although we remain invisible and intangible.
Nitpick (what else) but "one of them" when there are narrator and reader? Perhaps without the "one of"?

much much better. this toy will never wear out.
Capital "This"

There are many other marks made by the holiday people and their animals, in places his and his mothers tracks are almost obliterated by them
Semicolon rather than comma and "mother's"

There is the spot where she turned to look at the poster on the wall, He sees his feet running ahead, there are the marks where he hid behind the waste bin to ambush her and there, his mothers footprints heading in completely the wrong direction.
mother's; and you've put a capital "H" on "he", as if it were a full stop ahead of it. Grammatically, of course, it should be, and so should the next comma, but the accelerated rhythm of the list commas pulls you on, so I'd say a lower case "h"



 

Kith

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I think that it works.

For more contemporary 2nd person stuff that isn't 19th century chummyness or 20th century children's lit (if you're interested in examples that is!), try Italo Calvino's "If on a winter's night a traveller", in which all odd chapters are directed to the reader (and all even chapters are the book 'you' are trying to read, IIRC).

Edit: Ah, and if you look it up on wiki and scroll down to excerpts, you can browse the first chapter.
 

HareBrain

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Well, it would be a long post if there was anything to find fault with, but Chrispy has already snapped up the meagre pickings as far as that's concerned.

I liked the way it seemed to get a bit sinister, but i don't know if that perception was just me - I almost had the opening voice in my head as being Vincent Price. In the end, it turned out not to be sinister, and I'm not sure whether or not that disappointed me - though it is still very mysterious.

There's a lot of scope for interesting things when you have the narrator addressing the reader like this, and I think you've done it very well. As I said, it doesn't come across as chummy, or at least (to me, sorry I'm repeating myself) it comes across as chummy but possibly masking something darker. For a uni project I wrote a story that combined straight 3rd-person narrative, 2nd-person diatribes from the narrator to the character (which the character was not aware of) and passages where the narrator addressed the reader, which in a way was the narrator trying to draw the reader into complicity with what the storyteller was doing to the character. Remembering that story of mine might be what made me try to find something darker in yours, but I still hope there is something a bit sinsiter to explore in the relationship between your narrator and characters somewhere down the line.

Finally, as someone brought up in a south-coast seaside town, the description is spot on - and your mode of storytelling actually allows for a more vivid description, I think, than 3rd person.

Top stuff!
 

Blackrook

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I agree that there seems to be something creepy going on, and the invisible people watching the events unfold heightens that sense of creepiness.

Don't take this the wrong way, but this is very similar to the way Rod Serling introduced episodes of Twilight Zone. He would stand just in front of the characters introducing them before the story would begin and the story was always about something paranormal or bizarre.
 

Blackrook

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I would like to make two minor points:

1) The narrator isn't necessarily the author and usually he isn't. He's a character who is just as fictional as all the other characters. Making him the author is an admission that the story is fiction and maybe you don't want to do that.

2) You talk about the English loving the seaside as if the reader is necessarily English. The English-speaking world spans the world, and most of us aren't English.
 

ventanamist

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Wow! It seems like I'm on the right track. Yes, it is meant to have a sinister undertone – I was hoping someone would say that.


Good points Blackrook. It is important that the voice is the author's and not a narrator. I'm hoping that this won't remind people that they are reading fiction, but rather make them question the nature of fiction and reality.


I hope that I am not assuming the Englishness of my readers. The more I write, the more I realise that the England of my childhood was very strange and exotic. I'm trying to present it that way. I feel like a foreigner as I look back on it. It really was another world.


Vincent Price. Yes. I was raised on Hammer Horror. In fact the main 'baddie' in this story, quite unconsciously has come to resemble Peter Cushing.


I would still appreciate any opinions as to whether I start the whole story with this or with Euellula (from previous post)


Oh my wife has just told me that she could have found all of those missing apostrophes etc. easily. I don't know. I look and look and I just don't see them. She also informs me that The French Lieutenant's Woman uses this kind of confiding-in-the reader technique. I must read it. She says that seeing the film isn't enough.


The girl is called Emily. I will post a bit more about her in the future.
 

chrispenycate

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Your wife is doubtless right; it is a whole lot easier to find them in somebody else's work than in your own. And seriously there weren't many for a piece that long; a proof reader would have been quite happy. But she'll have plenty to practice with. All you've got to do is write it.
 

Ursa major

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Bournemouth Pier? The Cobb at Lyme Regis?

All these out-of-world visitors in Dorset and I appear to be surrounded! And I can't see them! (Or would it be even worse if I could?)

* shivers *


While the use of the word, author, might pull the reader out of the story, I found in practice that I was pulled into it when the boy's predicament was being described. (I suspect that if the "author" popped up too frequently, there would a risk that suspension of disbelief would falter.)
 

blacknorth

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I agree with the general consensus that it's a very nice piece, very well written. Like Blackrook I made the Serling narration connection, but it took a few hours for that to happen and I've been wondering why. I think the reason is that, while Serling was undoubtedly a talent, the writing here is so good it simply transcends the similarity, and it certainly escapes the 'voice' with which Serling tended to stereotype the unusual.

My only concern is that the little boy learning to 'track' his mother through the crowds, while a lovely idea, doesn't have the full promise of strange implied by the opening. But that might come later as this is only an excerpt.

Congrats.
 
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