Short story -- or maybe novella -- introduction (1,000 words)

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Hex

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Thank you for your great comments, everyone. This is the re-write. It's longer. Less effective? I don't have a good history with re-writing in response to critiques... I'd be grateful for any thoughts (especially about whether you care any more about Emma and her decision-making processes, or whether I should leave it as it was).

I left it up to the software this time to get rid of the words it doesn't like. It was more lenient than I was last time.


______________



I met my husband when he broke my flatmate's leg.


I bet you're expecting a story about an accident. A wobbling bicycle, perhaps, on a country lane. The car coming around a corner too quickly: consternation, horror, anxious apologies. Later, tea and scones on the lawn, and happily ever after.


I know. With the freckles and the blue eyes I look as if my life takes place in some rural idyll peopled by men with floppy hair, and women in pale dresses.


It doesn't. Sorry to disappoint you.



#



My future husband kicked in the door of our flat and flung into the kitchen. Richard hadn't even got up from the table when the baseball bat prodded him in the chest.


"Been six months, Dickie-bird," the intruder said, mock-regretful. "You promised him two adventures and you haven't delivered."


"There've been problems with access, Chris," Richard said, white as the milk on his cornflakes. "I thought he understood."


"Understanding isn't what he does best, Dick. He checks the books, sees you're overdue and then he sends me. That's how it works."


"Tell him another week. I can do them in a week. There've been technical problems, but I can sort them. Really, Chris, I can. One week."


Chris' shoulders moved. "I'm not here to discuss it. I'm here to tell you what he says. And he says that a little bird -- another Dickie-bird, maybe -- told him you've been out a lot visiting the game jacks. He thinks you shouldn't be distracted when you're working for him, Dick. He thinks you should sit in your room like a good little bird and write the ******* code."


"Chris -- I will. Tell him I will. I'll do it now. Right now. I swear." Richard tried to stand, clumsy with panic, and shoved against the table. Dark tea spilled across its surface like horror-film blood, began a slow drip-drip onto the floor.


"God, Dick. You're making this hard. It's too late for that now. He reckons you'll stay put with a broken leg. Got a favourite?"


I'd been standing by the fridge, clutching a carton of juice, unable to believe what I was hearing. It felt as if Richard and the stranger were playing out some bizarre script because this couldn’t actually be happening. But when Chris asked Richard to choose a leg, I finally believed it was real. I dialled '999' and marched over.


"I've rung the police," I told the two men. "I'm going to tell them what's happening."


The man called Chris shrugged. "Is that alright with you, Dick?"


Richard shook his head. "No. Don't Emma. Put the phone down." He swallowed and looked up at Chris. "Better be the left leg," he said, and closed his eyes. "Do it now."


"Alright," said Chris and swung the bat. There was a horrible crack. Richard started screaming.


Then Chris turned and looked at me. It was like being pinned to the wall. A million stupid thoughts ran through my head.
I didn't know anyone had eyes that colour... shitshitshit I should have phoned the police... why the hell did I wear red today? What a crappy day to have chosen look-at-me clothes.

"You his girl?" He nodded at Richard, who was clutching his leg and screaming.


"No," I said, cold with terror, waiting for him to leave before I called an ambulance. And my mum.


"Good. Can I take you out?"


"Oh. I'm sorry. I --" The polite lie wouldn't come. I was distracted by his thundercloud eyes, his seriousness, the baseball bat.


"Tonight," he said. "Pick you up at seven." He waited politely as if we were the only people in the room, as if Richard wasn’t yelling himself hoarse a couple of feet away.


I was a nice girl. I had a nice life. I'd never met anyone like him. He made my insides go shivery and liquid. And not just with fear.


"I don't think--" I forgot what I was saying, staring at him. He had cropped hair, a scar on his cheek. He looked like a pirate.


My head span; the world was suddenly not the place I'd thought, but very big and very scary. And in this new world, I was tiny and weak and horribly unimportant.


Perhaps that explains what I said next.


"Yes. OK then. Seven."



#



By the time I'd called the ambulance and a locksmith, cleared up the scattered remains of breakfast, had a shower and decided what was appropriate to wear for an evening with a psychopath, it was five o'clock. I'd run out of things to do so I sat on the sofa and stared at the TV.


It wasn't on, but that was OK.


What was I doing? What the hell was I doing? How could I have said I'd go out with him?


It wasn't as if Chris would make my world safe. He'd make it dangerous.

If I had his number, I could call him. I could tell him I'd changed my mind. Or... the thought hit me like lightning -- genius lightning -- I could be out when he came to pick me up. I didn't have to sit here waiting. I could go. I could find another flat, send someone to get my things and he wouldn't be able to find me -- assuming he'd even try.


Brilliant.
I jumped to my feet. No time to lose. I grabbed a jacket and dashed out of the door.

"Hello, Emma." Chris was sitting on the top stair, leaning against the banister. In the dull light of the stair he was all shadow, light from behind me glinted on his eyes, the buttons of his long coat.


"Oh. I--" I sagged, defeated. "How did you know?"


He swung to his feet. "You seem like a clever girl. I don't blame you for being scared."


"I -- I'm not--" I stopped. He'd broken Richard's leg with a baseball bat. He was lurking in the stairwell. Obviously I was scared.


"Apprehensive, then." He wasn't much taller than I was. This close, he smelled of soap and leather and cigarettes. His eyes flicked over my wool dress, my sensible boots. "Got everything you need?"


I bit back a sigh. I should have gone down the fire escape.
 

Droflet

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Hello Hex. Hmm, or maybe even a novel? They have a way of doing that sometimes.
I like this a lot and have made only a few minor suggestions.


I met my husband when he broke my flatmate's leg.

I bet you're expecting a story about an accident. A wobbling bicycle, perhaps, on a country lane. The car coming around a corner too quickly: consternation, horror, anxious apologies. Later, tea and scones on the lawn, and happily ever after.


I know. With the freckles and the blue eyes I look as if my life takes place in some rural idyll peopled by men with floppy hair, and women in pale dresses.


It doesn't. Sorry to disappoint you.



#



My future husband kicked in the door of our flat and flung into the kitchen. Richard hadn't even got up from the table when the baseball bat prodded him in the chest.


"Been six months, Dickie-bird," the intruder said, mock-regretful. "You promised him two adventures and you haven't delivered."


"There've been problems with access, Chris," Richard said, white as the milk on his cornflakes. "I thought he understood."


"Understanding isn't what he does best, Dick. He checks the books, sees you're overdue and then he sends me. That's how it works."


"Tell him another week. I can do them in a week. There've been technical problems, but I can sort them. Really, Chris, I can. One week."


Chris' shoulders moved. "I'm not here to discuss it. I'm here to tell you what he says. And he says that a little bird -- another Dickie-bird, maybe -- told him you've been out a lot visiting the game jacks. He thinks you shouldn't be distracted when you're working for him, Dick. He thinks you should sit in your room like a good little bird and write the ******* code."


"Chris -- I will. Tell him I will. I'll do it now. Right now. I swear." Richard tried to stand, clumsy with panic, and shoved against the table. Dark tea spilled across its surface like horror-film blood, began a slow drip-drip onto the floor.


"God, Dick. You're making this hard. It's too late for that now. He reckons you'll stay put with a broken leg. Got a favourite?"


I'd been standing by the fridge, clutching a carton of juice, unable to believe what I was hearing. It felt as if Richard and the stranger were playing out some bizarre script because this couldn’t actually be happening. But when Chris asked Richard to choose a leg, I finally believed it was real. I dialled '999' and marched over.


"I've rung the police," I told the two men. "I'm going to tell them what's happening."


Swap alright for all right, Hex, or TJ and Chispy will tear you a new one.


The man called Chris shrugged. "Is that alright with you, Dick?"


Richard shook his head. "No. Don't Emma. Put the phone down." He swallowed and looked up at Chris. "Better be the left leg," he said, and closed his eyes. "Do it now."


"Alright," said Chris and swung the bat. There was a horrible crack. Richard started screaming.
Perhaps: ...crack followed by a searing scream. More immediate. Your call.

Then Chris turned and looked at me. It was like being pinned to the wall. A million stupid thoughts ran through my head.
I didn't know anyone if you're using italics and you want to make a word stand out, don't underline, just go back to standard font. Instead of anyone try anyone. had eyes that colour... shitshitshit I should have phoned the police... why the hell did I wear red today? What a crappy day to have chosen look-at-me clothes.

"You his girl?" He nodded at Richard, who was clutching his leg and still (?) screaming.


"No," I said, cold with terror, waiting for him to leave before I called an ambulance. And my mum.


"Good. Can I take you out?"


"Oh. I'm sorry. I --" The polite lie wouldn't come. I was distracted by his thundercloud eyes, his seriousness, the baseball bat.


"Tonight," he said. "Pick you up at seven." He waited politely as if we were the only people in the room, as if Richard wasn’t yelling himself hoarse a couple of feet away.


I was a nice girl. I had a nice life. I'd never met anyone like him. He made my insides go shivery and liquid. And not just with fear.


"I don't think--" I forgot what I was saying, staring at him. He had cropped hair, a scar on his cheek. He looked like a pirate.


My head span; the world was suddenly not the place I'd thought, but very big and very scary. And in this new world, I was tiny and weak and horribly unimportant.


Perhaps that explains what I said next.


"Yes. OK then. Seven."



#



By the time I'd called the ambulance and a locksmith, cleared up the scattered remains of breakfast, had a shower and decided what was appropriate to wear for an evening with a psychopath, it was five o'clock. I'd run out of things to do so I sat on the sofa and stared at the TV.


It wasn't on, but that was OK.
okay (perhaps?)

What was I doing? What the hell was I doing? How could I have said I'd go out with him?


It wasn't as if Chris would make my world safe. He'd make it dangerous.

If I had his number, I could call him. I could tell him I'd changed my mind. Or... the thought hit me like lightning -- genius lightning -- I could be out when he came to pick me up. I didn't have to sit here waiting. I could go. I could find another flat, send someone to get my things and he wouldn't be able to find me -- assuming he'd even try.


Brilliant.
I jumped to my feet. No time to lose. I grabbed a jacket and dashed out of the door.

"Hello, Emma." Chris was sitting on the top stair, leaning against the banister. In the dull light of the stair he was all shadow, light from behind me glinted on his eyes, the buttons of his long coat.


"Oh. I--" I sagged, defeated. "How did you know?"


He swung (perhaps lurched) to his feet. "You seem like a clever girl. I don't blame you for being scared."


"I -- I'm not--" I stopped. He'd broken Richard's leg with a baseball bat. He was lurking in the stairwell. Obviously I was scared.


"Apprehensive, then." He wasn't much taller than I was. This close, he smelled of soap and leather and cigarettes. His eyes flicked over my wool dress, my sensible boots. "Got everything you need?"


I bit back a sigh. I should have gone down the fire escape.


This flowed well and kept my interest. Is she and idiot, no, of course not. Well, ah, yes but let's face it the ladies do like the bad boys. I don't know where this is going but I'd like to find out. That's a compliment by the way. I'll leave the big hitters to pull this apart but it looks pretty good to me. Well done. T.
 

Hex

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Thanks tel.

I wondered about "all right"/ "alright" but my spell-checker insists on "alright" and, you know, Chris is a bad boy... Still, the threat of tearing is enough. I will change it.
 

Mouse

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Not read it yet, Hex, but will try to later. Just had to comment on the name... why are all the nutjobs called Emma? ;)

Also, it is definitely 'all right'. 'Alright' is non-standard (if that's the correct term!). Chrispy'll do his nut if he sees 'alright.' :D
 

Boneman

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Wow, what a change! And all for the better. The broken leg thing is wonderful, and we've just got to find out more about what is going on. Brilliant re-write.

One small carp:
My future husband kicked in the door of our flat and flung into the kitchen

Flung what into the kitchen?
 

Hex

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Not read it yet, Hex, but will try to later. Just had to comment on the name... why are all the nutjobs called Emma? ;)

I was looking for a nice-girl name. It's always the ones you least expect...

Also, it is definitely 'all right'. 'Alright' is non-standard (if that's the correct term!). Chrispy'll do his nut if he sees 'alright.' :D

And to think I almost spelt it 'awright'... All right, all right. Consider it changed.

(initially I just had 'right', but then it occured to me that it risked being confusing if Richard had just said 'left' and then Chris said 'right'...)

Wow, what a change! And all for the better. The broken leg thing is wonderful, and we've just got to find out more about what is going on. Brilliant re-write.

One small carp:

Flung what into the kitchen?

Thank you, thank you.

I see what you mean about 'flung'. I'll go with 'stomped'. I was looking for something less... I don't know... lumpen.
 

hopewrites

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I see what you mean about 'flung'. I'll go with 'stomped'. I was looking for something less... I don't know... lumpen.
or 'swaggered'. it would follow with the pirate reference later.

pacing flowed better for me this time. loved the added details, showed me that i had seen it all wrong the first time. or rather, i had pictured it tremendously different from you and by adding all that delicious detail my imagination moved closer in alignment to yours.

the dialog in the kitchen flows natural, but feels forced. the way you had the dialog before flowed natural and didnt feel forced. i probably would have done the same thing, using dialog to sneak in some exposition that sets the seen better and expands the world. and to be honest my dialog is horrendous so i'm definitely not in a position to "cast stones" about anyone elses.

once your back out of the kitchen seen everything was captivating and compelling with all the plausibility to tie me to my chair whimpering for more.
 

Hex

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Hi hopewrites,

Thanks very much for your comments. Delighted to hear you're whimpering. Again, if there was a particular bit that felt forced I'd love to know what it was (or was it just all the dialogue in the kitchen?)
 

HareBrain

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Yes, I think this works better.

However, I'm not sold on the opening. Partly because I'm uneasy about the narrator addressing the reader directly (unless you plan to make this a feature throughout the story), but also because I'm not imagining the wobbly bike etc -- surely that would only work if it were the narrator's leg that was broken? Also, I'm not wholly convinced by the way you get the narrator's physical description in. It feels a bit contrived.

On a "technical" point, I mentioned this before but I'm still not sure about Richard screaming. Whenever I've witnessed a broken bone, the person always goes pale and perhaps gasps and groans but doesn't shout. They're in shock, even if only mildly. Granted that was because of accidents, but I don't see why the same wouldn't apply here. Others with more colourful lifestyles might be able to advise you better.

Lastly, I'm still not happy with her agreeing to go out with him. Her reaction up to that point is more realistic in this version, but that final turnaround doesn't convince me. Since she then (sensibly) decides to run off anyway, you could get the same result by her just being silent when he asks her out, and him then saying "I'll see you at seven then". This makes him more controlling and more threatening.

Otherwise it's good, and I liked the intrigue about what exactly Richard is involved in.
 

Jake Reynolds

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Heya Hex, I like it a lot- the dialogue flows nicely, but I- like HareBrain above- am not certain about her acceptance. I include just some tiny thoughts below.

-----


I met my husband when he broke my flatmate's leg.

I bet you're expecting a story about an accident. A wobbling bicycle, perhaps, on a country lane. The car coming around a corner too quickly: consternation, horror, anxious apologies. Later, tea and scones on the lawn, and happily ever after.

I know. With the freckles and the blue eyes I look as if my life takes place in some rural idyll peopled by men with floppy hair, and women in pale dresses.

It doesn't. Sorry to disappoint you.


#


My future husband kicked in the door of our flat and flung(charged?) into the kitchen. Richard hadn't even got(stood?) up from the table when the baseball bat prodded him in the chest.

"Been six months, Dickie-bird," the intruder said, mock-regretful. "You promised him two adventures and you haven't delivered."

"There've been problems with access, Chris," Richard said, white as the milk on his cornflakes. "I thought he understood."

"Understanding isn't what he does best, Dick. He checks the books, sees you're overdue and then he sends me. That's how it works."

"Tell him another week. I can do them in a week. There've been technical problems, but I can sort them. Really, Chris, I can. One week."

Chris' shoulders moved. "I'm not here to discuss it. I'm here to tell you what he says. And he says that a little bird -- another Dickie-bird, maybe -- told him you've been out a lot visiting the game jacks. He thinks you shouldn't be distracted when you're working for him, Dick. He thinks you should sit in your room like a good little bird and write the ******* code."

"Chris -- I will. Tell him I will. I'll do it now. Right now. I swear." Richard tried to stand, clumsy with panic, and shoved against the table. Dark tea spilled across its surface like horror-film blood (not sure if this works), began a slow drip-drip onto the floor.

"God, Dick. You're making this hard. It's too late for that now. He reckons you'll stay put with a broken leg. Got a favourite?"

I realise that this is a core event, but not sure if breaking a leg with a baseball bat would be the best way to speed things up. Depending on the severity of the break (and in this case I'd say it would be shattered) then he may need pins, etc, which could keep him in hospital for much longer than the week (presumably) it would take for him to write the code.

I'd been standing by the fridge, clutching a carton of juice, unable to believe what I was hearing. It felt as if Richard and the stranger were playing out some bizarre script because this couldn’t actually be happening. But when Chris asked Richard to choose a leg, I finally believed it was real. I dialled '999' and marched over.

I think that her pov/reaction should be put in sooner. Possibly split the above paragraph and insert the first part further up. With regards the first sentence, she’s been standing quietly with the carton of juice for at least a minute now.

"I've rung the police," I told the two men (them, or just “I said”?). "I'm going to tell them what's happening."

The man called Chris shrugged. "Is that alright with you, Dick?"

Richard shook his head. "No. Don't, (comma) Emma. Put the phone down." He swallowed and looked up at Chris. "Better be the left leg," he said, and closed his eyes. "Do it now."


Maybe he should get him to stand up- the legs of the table wouldn’t allow him to connect. Also, why the left leg? I think it may work better if he simply pleads more and Chris swings mid-beg.

"Alright," said Chris and swung the bat. There was a horrible crack. Richard started screaming.

Then Chris turned and looked at me. It was like being pinned to the wall. A million stupid thoughts ran through my head. I didn't know anyone had eyes that colour... (not sure about this- unless they're red or yellow, eye colours are all pretty standard) shitshitshit I should have phoned the police... why the hell did I wear red today? What a crappy day to have chosen look-at-me clothes.

"You his girl?" He nodded (pointed the bat?) at Richard, who was clutching his leg and screaming. (I agree with HareBrain on the screaming)

"No," I said, cold with terror, waiting for him to leave before I called an ambulance. And my mum.

"Good. Can I take you out?"

"Oh. I'm sorry. I --" The polite lie wouldn't come. I was distracted by his thundercloud eyes, his seriousness, the baseball bat.

"Tonight," he said. "Pick you up at seven." He waited politely as if we were the only people in the room, as if Richard wasn’t yelling himself hoarse a couple of feet away.

I was a nice girl. I had a nice life. I'd never met anyone like him. He made my insides go shivery and liquid. And not just with fear.

"I don't think--" I forgot what I was saying, staring at him. He had cropped hair, a scar on his cheek. He looked like a pirate.

My head span; the world was suddenly not the place I'd thought, but very big and very scary. And in this new world, I was tiny and weak and horribly unimportant.

Perhaps that explains what I said next.

"Yes. OK then. Seven."


#


By the time I'd called the ambulance and a locksmith, cleared up the scattered remains of breakfast, had a shower and decided what was appropriate to wear for an evening with a psychopath, it was five o'clock. I'd run out of things to do so I sat on the sofa and stared at the TV.

It wasn't on, but that was OK. (I think this sentence can go entirely)

What was I doing? What the hell (
hell?) was I doing? How could I have said I'd go out with him? (You might address the ready acceptance here by saying something like "Not that he'd given me much choice in the matter")

It wasn't as if Chris would make my world safe. He'd make it dangerous.

If I had his number, I could call him. I could tell him I'd changed my mind. Or... the thought hit me like lightning -- genius lightning -- I could be out when he came to pick me up. I didn't have to sit here waiting. I could go. I could find another flat, send someone to get my things and he wouldn't be able to find me -- assuming he'd even try.

Brilliant. I jumped to my feet. No time to lose. I grabbed a jacket and dashed out of the door.

"Hello, Emma." Chris was sitting on the top stair, leaning against the banister. In the dull light of the stair he was all shadow, light from behind me glinted on his eyes, the buttons of his long coat. (If he is on the top stair and light is coming from behind her, then he wouldn't be in all shadow. Also, if he is sitting on the stair, presumably he has his back to her).

"Oh. I--" I sagged, defeated. "How did you know?"


She might try and cover here, claiming that she was heading out to grab milk before he arrived, or some such.

He swung to his feet. "You seem like a clever girl. I don't blame you for being scared."

"I -- I'm not--" I stopped. He'd broken Richard's leg with a baseball bat. He was lurking in the stairwell. Obviously I was scared.

"Apprehensive, then." He wasn't much taller than I was. This close, he smelled of soap and leather and cigarettes. His eyes flicked over my wool dress, my sensible boots. "Got everything you need?"

I bit back a sigh. I should have gone down the fire escape.
 
Last edited:

Hex

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Thank you, guys. I will reconsider the screaming.

Thing is, about Chris, I want her to make the decision -- not just be his victim. Or, anyway, I want her to think that she made the decision -- that she's somehow implicated -- that he turns up because she gave him a reason to think he should.

If he gives her no choice then it's fairly clear that she is the innocent victim of a Bad Man. I'd like it to be a bit more messed up than that.

Clearly her reasons do not yet persuade. I'll have a go at making them better.
 

Abernovo

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Definite coming on well.

I love "flung into the kitchen". Perhaps not strictly literal, but it works as an image.

Richard shook his head. "No. Don't, Emma. Put the phone down."
I think you need a comma here.

I'm starting to see how your character becomes involved with this guy and presume further explanation comes further down the line. It's certainly much more ambiguous this time. Considering Richard's predicament, would he not try to dissuade Emma from getting involved with him?

Dubrech is right in that pins in the leg can lead to a few days in hospital. It all depends upon what's broken and how. If it's the patella, it's at least a few hours whilst they put you in an ankle to groin plaster, as well.
 

chrispenycate

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Telford said:
Swap alright for all right, Hex, or TJ and Chispy will tear you a new one.
shrew said:
Chrispy'll do his nut if he sees 'alright.'
I would have you know (quoth he with quiet dignity;)) that I attempt to help people with their grammar, and not through aversion therapy. However unpleasant "alright" may be (and believe me, even typing it made me squirm) I no longer correct it, as it has insinuated itself as an "acceptable alternative" (to whom I cannot say).
Certainly anyone using it in the seventy-five word challenge to gain a vote will not be expecting my vote, but I will not descent to the level of physical mayhem, or even unconsidered insult.

6 said:
I dialled '999' and marched over.…shitshitshit I should have phoned the police...
there seems to be a slight inconsistency here; although I suppose "Fire, police or ambulance" wouldn't have passed her through, yet. And she doesn't read like the brightest (or best organised) lightbulb in the box, either.

Yes, and despite there being a baseball bat behind me, (really. Just under the synthesizer rack), and my brother being called Richard, I don't go around breaking people's bones…
 

Hex

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Mmm. She hadn't pressed 'dial' either. It might just be simpler for her to say "I'm going to phone the police" (although given the situation that would be downright stupid).
 

Abernovo

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Sigh. Any idea what would get you a clean break, anyone?
A baseball bat would probably work if applied sharply to the shin (tibia). Painful as heck, but probably not as debilitating as breaking the knee or femur. Smaller, lower leg cast.

No, I don't go around with a baseball bat. I've just been a semi-regular guest in Accident and Emegency Departments. :)
 

HareBrain

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Thing is, about Chris, I want her to make the decision -- not just be his victim. Or, anyway, I want her to think that she made the decision -- that she's somehow implicated -- that he turns up because she gave him a reason to think he should.

If he gives her no choice then it's fairly clear that she is the innocent victim of a Bad Man. I'd like it to be a bit more messed up than that.

Couldn't the reason be just her not saying "no"? There are actually people who think like that. (Actually Chris might easily be the kind of man who thought he knew what she "really" meant even if she did say no.)

And even if she is effectively forced to go on the date, she could become complicit by how she reacts to him there, making herself ignore what he's done and the kind of man he is, etc. I think that would be more subtle and more realistic. After all, you've already got her trying to back out of it, so it doesn't really seem to be a firm decision she's made anyway, just a momentary lapse of reason she's trying to correct.
 

hopewrites

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ok so i'm giving it another good dozen read throughs to see if i can pinpoint exactly where the dialog feels forced and it occurs to me...

the people who are not liking chris as much as i am are seeing him diffrently then i am. when i read his dialog in the kitchen i hear it delivered with a clam clear voice, not exactly regretful about what he had been sent to do, but he's not there to enjoy it ether. its just a job to him, and the pleading making it hard for him is a clear indicator that deep down he's not a bad guy.

i did find out what felt forced to me, and it was my fault not yours Hex. I was still holding on to the previous image i had of Richard. that he was implecated in something terrible and deserved much more then a broken leg, that Chris had been giving him time to rectify some wrong and he had taken too long to do it.
i had to force myself to give up that image to see him as you did. and the way he comes across to me now is a book smart-street dumb sucker who got mixed up with the wrong crowd for a quick buck and didnt realized what he was in for.
the dialog there comes off as forced to me because Richard isnt very panicky, and i cant make up my mind if he knew something like this would happen if he slacked off and hoped he wouldnt get caught or could talk his way out of it. or if this is all surreal for him and its not till the bat connects that he really understands what he got into.

personally i am favoring the first explanation because it matches up with most of the dialog, but that being the case i would have had him start babbling excuses the moment the door bursts open and he sees Chris standing there in all his avenging angel glory.
or maybe Richard would leap up toppling his chair and try to put some furniture between them while begging for a chance to 'talk this over'

all the while tall strong hansom Chris is pitying him for not doing what he was supposed to be doing and putting him in a position where he has to be there.

i dont know if you did it or if i did it but what i find most alluring about Chis is his ability to make Richard out to be the villein and himself to be the victim in their interchange. it is therefor entirely plausible to me that Emma would start falling for him in the kitchen (i dont like that she started ringing the police, i wouldnt have but it works so well for making Chris look good because he leaves it up to Richard who is the one with something to hide evidenced by his denial)



i think that the dialog would tighten up if you made it more or less clear what Richard had done. by making it less clear your readers are free to imagine what ever depravity they wish, by making it more clear your readers get a clearer view of her flatmate.

i would go with the first if he is not going to be a major part of the story, and the second if he is.
 
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