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The view from my window

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by ventanamist, Apr 29, 2011.


    ventanamist I no longer go wrinkly

    May 18, 2009
    As always any comments welcome. I am particularly interested in peoples opinions on the feel and music of this p.o.v. It's not something I've used much before.

    The man comes again. He knocks and awaits my answer before he enters – behaviour I would once have found unthinkable. He knows more words now, but still makes childish mistakes. He says he was never blessed with the gift of tongues. He tries to explain more. Some things begin to make sense, some become more confusing. He says that I am 'free'. He uses this new word from another language because we have nothing to compare with it in ours. He says he doesn't own me.

    'Who does own me?' I ask.

    'No one.' he explains, 'That is the meaning of “free”.'

    'If I am not owned, then who is responsible for me? Who will care for me? I will have no value.'

    He says my value is simply because I am, just because I think and feel. This is a new way of thinking. I suppose there will be many more marvels that I will have to accept as normal.

    I find a new, previously unthinkable audacity. I ask, 'If I am “free” then why am I a prisoner?' I tense, there is no telling how, even this man would react to such a question.

    Instead of chastising me he calmly explains that the house is keeping me in this room. 'For your own good, no doubt. The house has its own reasons for doing things. Although I have known the house for most of my life now, its actions are sometimes still a mystery to me.'

    I assume that he has made another mistake with my language. He must be referring to the master of the house, not the house. That's it! He is a eunuch kept by the lord of this place. It is not unknown for a wealthy man to keep alive a much loved relative in that emasculated state. This would explain much. He is not like any man I have known – gentle, understanding, like a priestess but nowhere near as stern. Man and woman in one person – so strange. Old and young at the same time too. I could not begin to guess at his age. I ask him about the lord of this place.

    'No.' he insists, 'The house is a living thing like you or me.' He sees that I am having difficulty comprehending this new marvel and continues to explain, 'You are important to the house; it has taken great care on your room.'

    He is right. Truly it is the room of my dreams – full of well-crafted wonders. The timber-panelled walls make even the coarsest sound warm and mellow – hardly a prison cell; I should count my blessings. The furniture is a joy, the joints tight and ingenious, some have acquired that thin rich skin of centuries, some are neat and smooth fresh from an accomplished workshop. Some of the timber used in their manufacture is familiar but some I have never seen before – one strong with a fine grain and shimmering ripples that catch the light, another honey-coloured and sinuous, another dense grey-black like living slate. I would like to know their names, walk under the trees from which they were hewn.

    The simple intimacy with the wood is the one thing that convinced me that this is no dream or hallucination. The sight, smell and feel of the carefully crafted wood is as real as real can be. Wood is truth. I have cleaved, cut and smoothed much wood in my time; it has tested and challenged me but it has never lied to me.

    Dwelling on the wood makes me mourn the loss of my beautiful tools – my friends, my connection with the traditions of my kind, with my guildmother, her guildmother and hers before her.

    I apologise to the man for my wandering mind. He has sat patiently on the simple, neat ladder-back chair against the wall. When he sees he has regained my attention, he smiles kindly and says, 'The house must think you are very special to allow you such a window.'

    The window: another marvel. An extraordinary thing but easy to accept because I can touch it and examine it. I can only agree with him. 'Yes, it is a wonder.' I say as I walk over and touch the magical glass. I look down on a busy market place in a huge town.

    The man says it is a 'city' – another new word from a strange language. 'Like many towns joined together.' he explains.

    'But all those men?' I ask, 'Jostling each other, arguing, shouting. Why are they not fighting? And those women: brazen and bold, the way they look men straight in the eyes. The way they speak before any man addresses them.'

    'They are “free”.' He emphasises that word again. 'I assume that the house is allowing you to see the city to help me with my fumbling explanations. You will have to come to terms with the many ways in which people live together. As for the fighting: in the place on which you gaze, duelling has been outlawed for several centuries, although I believe it still occurs among the aristocracy.'

    I look down on the colourful clothes, the stalls full of produce. I hear the muffled sound of shouting and laughter, the crooning of a man with a stringed instrument. In my world that would be a crime. I imagine one day walking among these vivacious people.

    The fabrication of the window is in itself a small wonder. Instead of opening on hinges, it consists of two sashes, one above the other, that slide up and down independently. Each are supported in grooves by a smooth braided waxed rope that rides up over pulleys into the hollow sides of the window opening. The weight of the sashes are balanced by metal weights that can be heard clanking around in the hollow frame. It is such an elegant mechanism. I wonder why we never made such things. I suppose it was the strength of the guilds and their traditions. The windows I made, with their forged hinges, were much the same as those that have weathered several centuries.

    The man says that there are many such windows in his world but few as special as this. Even in his experience the view through the glass is rare and extraordinary. I can only agree. This morning the sun rose over blue mountains against a violet sky, vapour rose from the forest that spread unbroken from the foothills to the foundations of the tall building from which I gazed. What must be birds of some sort flew in the distance, slowly, sinuously, weightlessly like thin silk handkerchiefs. Last night a bloated, ruby-red sun set on the horizon of a vast, calm, slate-grey sea speckled with decaying icebergs. When I first entered the room, I was welcomed by familiar rolling hills and puffs of cloud in a blue sky. I realise now that this was one of the house's ways of making me feel welcome.

    It was while I could see this familiar landscape that I first opened the window to explore the possibility of escape or perhaps to just breathe the sweet air. Mist! Beyond the window was mist, unformed, colourless, dense mist; nothing else, no hazy shapes, no vague sources of light, just swirling nothingness. Yet through the glass the clouds still scudded across the sky and the tops of the trees danced in the wind. I now tend to keep the window closed; the bland mist is one marvel I would rather not dwell on.

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

    Oct 13, 2008
    Poshville, West Sussex
    Really liked it. I think you strike the tone perfectly; I found it a real pleasure to read, the pacing good, and it drew me in with its intriguing ideas.

    Only thing I have to comment on are a few punctuation issues, especially around dialogue.

    This is wrong. The most usual correction would be:

    'No one,' he explains. 'That is the meaning of “free”.'

    If you ignore the quote marks and read it aloud, you should find that the longest pause falls after "explains". It should be clear that the line splits into two sentences, as here:

    [No one, he explains.] [That is the meaning of “free”.]

    And "explains" is the end of the first, so this is where the full stop goes.

    I say "most usual" because you could split it like this, if you wanted the longest pause to go after "one":

    [No one.] [He explains: That is the meaning of “free”.]

    That is techically valid, but feels slightly strange and gives a different feel to the line.

    You could also do with a bit more punctuation in places, to more closely follow the rhythm of speech if you were reading it aloud. (In fact, reading it aloud is a good way of finding where they should go). As here:

    I would insert two commas, thus:

    The man says that there are many such windows in his world[,] but few as special as this. Even in his experience[,] the view through the glass is rare and extraordinary.
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

    Nov 23, 2002
    Nairn, Highland
    I like the concepts used in this - the concept of freedom, the living house, and hints of other worlds.

    However, I can't help but personally feel the voice strangles any sense of pace and tension by feeling so passive.

    The character figures little out - instead, "the man says". "The man" is effectively driving the story through exposition, with the character simply reacting to it a little.

    It may well be a great peice, but personally I would think you have to centre the character more in the story - after all, we're following that character's thoughts for a reason aren't we?

    You also lack descriptions - you mention the window being a marvel and wonder. Why?

    I can appreciate what you're trying to do, but personally I think it needs tightening up a little - push the character POV more to prevent them being so passive, and don't rely so much on "the man" to explain things to us. Let the character discover them more, perhaps.


    Kiercoria99 Active Member

    Apr 29, 2011
    just ask
    For the most part, I enjoyed the voice and the beginning pacing of this piece. I didn't mind the passivity of the main character as she is in unfamiliar territory and is acclimatizing. I was engaged enough after the first few paragraphs to want to read more.

    I began to phase out after she began analyzing the composition of the window and the description of the world beyond it (not including the city per se).

    I think the tone, pacing and her activity will increase if you continue to have her compare what she sees to what she has experienced in her own world or country. I liked knowing that music was outlawed in her country. It is a fast, easy, engaging piece of information.

    The first paragraph is also a bit wordy.


    ventanamist I no longer go wrinkly

    May 18, 2009
    Yes Hare Brain I think you're right about the commas. I've read it out aloud (it seems to work quite well as a monologue – lots of pathos) and the commas do help. I've noticed a few more places where they might be needed. It doesn't help when I read various authors, each with very different attitudes to the use of commas. But on the whole I think the reading out loud is a good rule of thumb.

    Perhaps she does need to be more central to the story. I'm not sure Brian. She does seem sort of hollow, formed by what is happening around her. But I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Perhaps she needs to be more human i.e. bodily sensations, flashes of memory, anger, fear, embarrassment, stuff like that. I find it hard to think of 'passive' as a criticism in this case. I deliberately adopted this voice as this character, up until very recently, has lived in a world where slavery is universal. However within this passive voice I hope to show someone who is strong enough and intelligent enough to understand new worlds with new possibilities. The process of adaptation has to be slow and believable though. I have tried to counter the slowness of events the intimacy of her personal story, hoping it will make the reader want to journey with her.

    Thanks K99. Perhaps I do need to look at that first paragraph again. It is the beginning of a chapter if not a completely separate short story. I see it would be a better lead-in if it wasn't so cumbersome and clunky. At what point did you realise she was a she?

    MstrTal Valeyard

    Feb 10, 2011
    You asked about flow. . .

    I think it flows wonderfully for the most part. That said there is one part that I find jarring.

    The way this sentence is constructed versus the rest just does not sit well with me for some reason. It does not flow the same.

    With the rest you have a consistency of form, however with this one sentence the wording seems just a tad out of place with the way the character speaks and thinks in the rest of the piece.

    Just an observation. I do like this that said. You can feel the characters frustration as she wrangles with a new concept and tries to come to terms with her new status.

    Kiercoria99 Active Member

    Apr 29, 2011
    just ask
    This will sound stupid, but the voice made the character sound female.
    Now that you ask and I looked back, there was no other indicator to me beyond social bias. If the character is male, it is more interesting and later, when that is made clear, as a reader, I will appreciate rethinking all of my preconceptions.
    Which for me, is a true joy in reading. I can see a woman carpenter easier than I can consider a male not free. Now I hope the character is male.

    TheEndIsNigh ...Prepare Thyself

    Mar 16, 2008

    R Remove
    B comments
    G suggestions

    All opinions only

    Yes I can see this being interesting. I can live with the passive voice but I think you need to explain when she 'knows' something as with the sash window. EG.

    In any case, it's building nicely, although I hope she will take a less passive position soon, because it would be quite difficult to read a whole book in this voice IMO.

    Hope I helped


    Rosemary The Wicked Sword Maiden

    Jun 14, 2005
    I really enjoyed reading it! The fact that the 'house is keeping her' is very interesting and I look forward to reading more.


    ventanamist I no longer go wrinkly

    May 18, 2009
    Thanks folks. Lots to think on here. I've been thinking more about the female voice and what makes it female apart from the clues. If the character is strong and vulnerable at the same time she comes across as female. It's not something men are very good at. They can be strong or vulnerable but are seldom consistently both.

    I think.

    The window isn't a TV. The house exists in several realities so you are able to look out on them if the house wishes you to. It can also allow people to pass from one reality to the other. The man is a sort of caretaker. He is waiting for other people to arrive who will be far better equipped to help his new lodger. So he's not doing too badly.

    Our carpenter will, I think, eventually end up making these windows and similar 'marvels'.

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