Chapter 1 Excerpt - Completely Revised

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Myra

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Hi again. I changed the start of the first chapter and was just wondering if it is now better than my original beginning. It is a lot shorter as well. Please take a look and all comments are welcome :)

***********
Lily Riason had never once considered herself to be a beautiful person, or someone with any extraordinary skills that would define her in a special light. However, that was a matter of opinion, for there were many whose heads turned when she walked past.

Therefore, she had to wonder why anyone would consider her to be a special, or mysterious, person.

Was it because of the secrets she kept? Or was it because she never let anyone get close? Alternatively, was it simply because she happened to be prudish?

Not one person could say they knew her, and Lily was happy with this, but as humans tend to be rather nosy in matters they did not know about, or have any business poking their noses in, many had set out to find out her background story, only to become frustrated when they weren’t even close to the truth. Lily would simply smile, and the whispers that followed her would go over her head without a second thought.

The gossip and idiotic thoughts of her fellow students were the least of her worries. No, her worries stemmed from the nightmares that haunted her at night, terrible and shadowy figures lurking in her vicinity, and disappearing before she could get a good look at them. This had been happening since she had been a child, back in that forsaken orphanage and then the hell that followed.

Lily had always been a smart girl, sailing through her schooling, and was now in her last year at the University of Edinburgh studying history; her favourite subject, and the topic of her most treasured possession. The tome she had on her shelf in her student flat, dedicated to all history dating back to when time began. The entries in there fascinated her, and she had always wondered what it would be like to live in that time. Curiously, when these thoughts crossed her mind, she would see the shadowy figures.

On one occasion when Lily had been leaving her flat, to go to her morning classes, she had looked up, upon hearing a floorboard squeak by the stairs, just in time to see someone turn the corner and she even heard their footfalls on the stairs. However, when she had reached the stairs and leaned over the railing, looking down from the top floor of the dormitory buildings, she could not see anyone.

This happened quite regularly, and she had caught them off guard on a number of occasions, but upon turning a corner, or some another object that obscured her view such as a bush, or a wall, the figure would be gone.

She saw them everywhere, and this concerned her, but for the time being, she put the rising questions to the back of her mind, and concentrated on what she was doing presently, which was standing outside the door to one of the Board Members offices. She raised her hand to knock on the door, while staring at the scratched and grubby plaque with the name “Joseph Gael” engraved into it.
 
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ctg

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It's good that your style keeps consistent throughout this piece and it doesn't falter a bit. However, I was waiting and waiting for you to get into the meat, and I guess I have to keep waiting as there was so much stuff that I would have personally removed or altered. So please don't go around with a clever and chop off bits because I say so. There are audience for this sort of stuff and I bet they would be happy to read, but for me, it's nearing the point where I'm thinking about putting it down and switching to something more engaging.
 

Boneman

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Ad Myra,

I was going to comment on the previous chapter posting, but then you put up the revised version, which makes it easier for me - thank you! It is better then the original and it is shorter, but (since you seem to take critiques very well) can I suggest further? Do remember it's just my opinion and I'm exactly like you, a struggling writer trying to improve, and being brave enough to ask strangers for advice on how to do that. Do not change it just because I say so - change it if you agree with what I say. If you don't agree, ignore it. Having the courage of your own convictions about your own work is probably the best reinforcement of what we do, what we want to do. What follows is my suggestions for what works for me and what doesn't.

As it's the opening of your whole book (unless there's a prologue lurking in the wings) it's the one chance you have to grab readers' attention, to make them read on, and then buy the book. I accept there'll be a jacket blurb that tells us 'Lily Riason sees dead people' or some such, which is an advertisement for what's inside, and it's got to be attention-grabbing. The problem is, once inside the book you feel you've got to give us an awful lot of background about Lily, before starting the action. And not only that, you have to give it in quite a lot of detail. At first I thought it was a 'universal narrator' telling us all about Lily, then I realised it was close 3rd person as Lily's thoughts came in, but then we went back to the godlike narrator who told us her thoughts as well as what others might be thinking, which was a little jarring.

When you used the word 'humans' I thought 'ooh, Lilly is an alien!'. Not sure if this is true in this excerpt, but I kinda think you intended us to understand that 'people' tend to be rather nosy. This, incidentally, was where I actually became interested in Lilly, thinking she wasn't human. All the bits about her beauty and her secrets and prudishness I skimmed, because they were a succession of infodumps or 'telling'. Telling us about a character can work very well, and it's totally necessary to get information over, but 'showing' is so much better. I actually thought, from your opening, that Lilly was a vacuous, silly female, who knew some secrets, and frankly I wasn't interested in those secrets because I had no idea if they were dark secrets that threatened the world, or whether she's seen John kissing his tutor in the library.

So I'd ask you to consider: is her beauty/extraordinary skill important in the story, ie the genesis of the story, the development of it, or is it incidental that she's drop-dead gorgeous? Because you've placed it right at the forefront, which suggests that it is. But as far as I can see from the excerpt, the essence of this story is that she sees shadowy figures at certain times; I got that it was when her thoughts turned to the past, so I'm sort of expecting either communication from the dead, or time-travel (as she so interested in history). However, that is buried in so much prose about Lilly and what others think, and her beauty and prudishness, and nightmares (which did give a hint) and the orphanage that it's not given enough emphasis.

There's a curious lack of tension or excitement about these shadowy figures:

This happened quite regularly, and she had caught them off guard on a number of occasions, but upon turning a corner, or some another object that obscured her view such as a bush, or a wall, the figure would be gone.

She saw them everywhere, and this concerned her, but for the time being, she put the rising questions to the back of her mind, and concentrated on what she was doing presently

Your description is so matter-of-fact that the reader's not going to be terribly interested, especially since you've told us this has happened since childhood. 'Catching them off guard' suggests a greater understanding of these figures than you've given us. If there was a pounding heart, a dry mouth, a cold sweat, a jolt of electricity - any clue that these shadowy figures held some threat of the unknown, or towards Lilly, we might be more interested.

When you do give us hints, you follow it with another matter-of-fact description that immediately dilutes what you've said:

No, her worries stemmed from the nightmares that haunted her at night, terrible and shadowy figures lurking in her vicinity, and disappearing before she could get a good look at them. This had been happening since she had been a child, back in that forsaken orphanage and then the hell that followed.

Lily had always been a smart girl, sailing through her schooling, and was now in her last year at the University of Edinburgh studying history;


As it stands, Lilly is outside Joseph Gael's and all the stuff before it is trying to tell us about her. We have no way of knowing how relevant it's all going to be, and (in my case, anyway) I'm starting not to care. Which is a shame, because I can see there are some interesting threads that you're going to develop, which are going to be good. Problem is, I'll have stopped reading, because I wasn't interested in the opening. Do the figures frighten her? Is she still having the nightmares that haunt her?(the only words in the whole text, apart from 'terrible', that suggest anything wrong in her world)

Can I make a really radical suggestion? Dump all the beauty and what other people think, and open with something that ties us to Lilly for the rest of the book, makes us want to know her backstory (which you'll drip-feed to us, bit by awful bit) and give us sense of mystery, of tension, of horror even (if that's what you're after)

Lilly clawed her way out of the same nightmare. She covered her face with her hands.
"Leave me alone," she whispered, as silent tears burned her cheeks. "Leave me alone."
The floorboard creaked and Lilly froze. Through her fingers she caught a glimpse of the shadowy figure.
"Leave me alone!" she screamed.
When she dropped her hands she was alone. As always.

Just a thought... she could drag herself into the shower, dress and head to Gaels' office, with some descriptive showing of the university along the way.

Ignore what you don't agree with, and good luck!!:)
 

Bowler1

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A very interesting narrative with a nice pace to it. I’m with CTG on this, close to the limit of what I could take with narrative, but, you have done it well so I would have carried on reading, but with the expectation of something more very soon. There are sections I would be tempted to cut/trim, but as the overall flow would be affected by this, I have also held back on editing comments. Shorter needs to be considered Myra, but as a narrative introduction, which I would not normally go for, it flowed and carried me along ok.
 

Myra

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It's good that your style keeps consistent throughout this piece and it doesn't falter a bit. However, I was waiting and waiting for you to get into the meat, and I guess I have to keep waiting as there was so much stuff that I would have personally removed or altered. So please don't go around with a clever and chop off bits because I say so. There are audience for this sort of stuff and I bet they would be happy to read, but for me, it's nearing the point where I'm thinking about putting it down and switching to something more engaging.

Hi ctg, thank you for your comment :)

This is just the beginning of chapter 1, not the whole thing and I'm still working on it and this was more of an introduction and I do have some action after this which I'm working on :)
 

Myra

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A very interesting narrative with a nice pace to it. I’m with CTG on this, close to the limit of what I could take with narrative, but, you have done it well so I would have carried on reading, but with the expectation of something more very soon. There are sections I would be tempted to cut/trim, but as the overall flow would be affected by this, I have also held back on editing comments. Shorter needs to be considered Myra, but as a narrative introduction, which I would not normally go for, it flowed and carried me along ok.

Hi Bowler, thank you for your comment.

As you have mentioned this is literally an introductory piece followed by the dialogue piece I posted up the other day and then it gets a little more action which I'm working on now :) This was just to see if it flowed better than my original beginning :) Thanks again.
 

The Judge

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Hi Myra. I don't know if you've seen a comment I made to another newbie recently, but we do prefer that members don't consecutive post, but instead reply to several posts in one long one. (I know other websites are different, so it is confusing!) It's also possible to mutli-quote, so you don't have to worry about that. To the right of the ordinary quote button is one with a sheet of paper, inverted commas and a + sign. Hit that for every post you want to quote, then on the last one hit the quote button itself, and Robert is your father's brother!
 

Myra

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Ad Myra,

I was going to comment on the previous chapter posting, but then you put up the revised version, which makes it easier for me - thank you! It is better then the original and it is shorter, but (since you seem to take critiques very well) can I suggest further? Do remember it's just my opinion and I'm exactly like you, a struggling writer trying to improve, and being brave enough to ask strangers for advice on how to do that. Do not change it just because I say so - change it if you agree with what I say. If you don't agree, ignore it. Having the courage of your own convictions about your own work is probably the best reinforcement of what we do, what we want to do. What follows is my suggestions for what works for me and what doesn't.

As it's the opening of your whole book (unless there's a prologue lurking in the wings) it's the one chance you have to grab readers' attention, to make them read on, and then buy the book. I accept there'll be a jacket blurb that tells us 'Lily Riason sees dead people' or some such, which is an advertisement for what's inside, and it's got to be attention-grabbing. The problem is, once inside the book you feel you've got to give us an awful lot of background about Lily, before starting the action. And not only that, you have to give it in quite a lot of detail. At first I thought it was a 'universal narrator' telling us all about Lily, then I realised it was close 3rd person as Lily's thoughts came in, but then we went back to the godlike narrator who told us her thoughts as well as what others might be thinking, which was a little jarring.

When you used the word 'humans' I thought 'ooh, Lilly is an alien!'. Not sure if this is true in this excerpt, but I kinda think you intended us to understand that 'people' tend to be rather nosy. This, incidentally, was where I actually became interested in Lilly, thinking she wasn't human. All the bits about her beauty and her secrets and prudishness I skimmed, because they were a succession of infodumps or 'telling'. Telling us about a character can work very well, and it's totally necessary to get information over, but 'showing' is so much better. I actually thought, from your opening, that Lilly was a vacuous, silly female, who knew some secrets, and frankly I wasn't interested in those secrets because I had no idea if they were dark secrets that threatened the world, or whether she's seen John kissing his tutor in the library.

So I'd ask you to consider: is her beauty/extraordinary skill important in the story, ie the genesis of the story, the development of it, or is it incidental that she's drop-dead gorgeous? Because you've placed it right at the forefront, which suggests that it is. But as far as I can see from the excerpt, the essence of this story is that she sees shadowy figures at certain times; I got that it was when her thoughts turned to the past, so I'm sort of expecting either communication from the dead, or time-travel (as she so interested in history). However, that is buried in so much prose about Lilly and what others think, and her beauty and prudishness, and nightmares (which did give a hint) and the orphanage that it's not given enough emphasis.

There's a curious lack of tension or excitement about these shadowy figures:

Your description is so matter-of-fact that the reader's not going to be terribly interested, especially since you've told us this has happened since childhood. 'Catching them off guard' suggests a greater understanding of these figures than you've given us. If there was a pounding heart, a dry mouth, a cold sweat, a jolt of electricity - any clue that these shadowy figures held some threat of the unknown, or towards Lilly, we might be more interested.

When you do give us hints, you follow it with another matter-of-fact description that immediately dilutes what you've said:

As it stands, Lilly is outside Joseph Gael's and all the stuff before it is trying to tell us about her. We have no way of knowing how relevant it's all going to be, and (in my case, anyway) I'm starting not to care. Which is a shame, because I can see there are some interesting threads that you're going to develop, which are going to be good. Problem is, I'll have stopped reading, because I wasn't interested in the opening. Do the figures frighten her? Is she still having the nightmares that haunt her?(the only words in the whole text, apart from 'terrible', that suggest anything wrong in her world)

Can I make a really radical suggestion? Dump all the beauty and what other people think, and open with something that ties us to Lilly for the rest of the book, makes us want to know her backstory (which you'll drip-feed to us, bit by awful bit) and give us sense of mystery, of tension, of horror even (if that's what you're after)

Lilly clawed her way out of the same nightmare. She covered her face with her hands.
"Leave me alone," she whispered, as silent tears burned her cheeks. "Leave me alone."
The floorboard creaked and Lilly froze. Through her fingers she caught a glimpse of the shadowy figure.
"Leave me alone!" she screamed.
When she dropped her hands she was alone. As always.

Just a thought... she could drag herself into the shower, dress and head to Gaels' office, with some descriptive showing of the university along the way.

Ignore what you don't agree with, and good luck!!:)

Hi Boneman, thank you so much for this and I will definitely take it on board. I like the little part you did about Lily waking up from having a nightmare and that has sprung ideas to my mind :D

Thanks again.

Hi Myra. I don't know if you've seen a comment I made to another newbie recently, but we do prefer that members don't consecutive post, but instead reply to several posts in one long one. (I know other websites are different, so it is confusing!) It's also possible to mutli-quote, so you don't have to worry about that. To the right of the ordinary quote button is one with a sheet of paper, inverted commas and a + sign. Hit that for every post you want to quote, then on the last one hit the quote button itself, and Robert is your father's brother!

Hi Judge,

I wasn't aware that this was available, but I will use it from now on. I have used it now and it is a very handy tool :D Thanks for pointing it out and it saves my fingers from typing replies ;)
 

Myra

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Is this better?

****************
Did you think you could hide, Lily?

Lily Riason shifted in her sleep, her hair sticking to her head from sweat, ‘No…please,’ she mumbled, swinging her arms out, as if she was fighting an invisible force.

Lily, the voice was louder now, echoing around her mind, or was it in the room?

She shook her head frantically; ‘No, let me out… please let me out…,’ her restless movements beneath her twisted sheets became violent. Her mind screamed for her to wake up, but Lily could not escape, ‘No! Don’t leave me here!’ she shouted out, bolting upright in her bed. Her eyes roamed the room, noticing a figure by the window, which was open, and the cold air brought goosebumps to her sweaty skin. That was the least of her worries though, as she watched the shadow exit through the window, she leapt up from her bed, against her better reason, and moved to see where they had gone.

There was no one there. There was never anyone there.

Lily shook her head, wiping the sweat from her head. Nightmares had haunted her since she was a child. They had started in the orphanage and then the hell that had followed. The nightmare was always the same, with the same feelings of being trapped and alone somewhere dark, lost in an interval of time she could not explain, clocks of different shapes and sizes floating all around her, showing different times and dates. Reaching out her hand to touch them, the clock hands would spin wildly, and her hand would pass through it, as if it wasn’t there. There would be a figure, and they would be speaking to her, but despite the movement of their lips, she could not hear them. That was all she could make out when trying to remember them, their lips, while the rest of their face was enshrouded in shadow.

However, those lips, they held a malicious smile that promised torment.

Lily would wake up, much as she had done now, with those confusing thoughts. She would always follow them to the window, but upon looking out, she would find nothing, and reality would be upon her once more. Her rational thoughts would return to her, and she would tell herself that it was the aftermath of the nightmare making her see things. That was the most plausible explanation she could think of.

Although she was a smart girl, sailing through her schooling, and was now in her last year at the University of Edinburgh, she had never been able to explain what was happening to her. She had referred to books, trying to find the answer within their pages, but she always came up empty handed. She had given up when she left Nairn, but since moving to Edinburgh, the nightmares had become longer, more threatening, and harder to escape.

Lily mentally shook herself to rid the fear that was overcoming her, and went to her bathroom to shower. Whilst waiting for the water to heat up, she thought about what had occurred yesterday in one of her classes. She had been staring out the window, something she was wont to do because she tended to let her imagination run away with her, and the figure had been standing next to the fountain, watching her… She could not even explain then what they looked like, she almost thought it was ethereal, but the wind moving the hems of the robes it was wearing told her it was a solid being.

She stepped into the shower, letting the warm water calm her nerves, and wash her fears away. What they wanted with her, she could scarcely imagine. Her fears stemmed from the figure in her nightmare because they looked similar, and the dream figure tried to hurt her. She decided she would not think on it any more, if the figure in her waking life had wanted to hurt her, they had had many opportunities over the years. She instead focussed on the history essay she still needed to write up for her class the following morning.

Lily loved history. A tome, her most treasured possession, she had on her shelf in the little flat, was dedicated to all history dating back to the beginning of time. The entries in there had always fascinated her, and she had often wondered what it would have been like to live in certain past eras. Curiously, whenever these thoughts crossed her mind, she would see the shadowy figures.

On one such occasion, she had even come close to touching the robe of an unsuspecting figure, but a jolt of electricity, and a whimper from her, had alerted them. They had fled around the corner, and as she had given chase, but they were gone. This had happened quite regularly, and she had started believing she was insane.

She needed to stay focussed. Maybe she was insane, many people she had mentioned it to certainly seemed to think so, and so she shook it off. Presently, as she stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around herself, and another around her long black tresses, she had to focus on the upcoming meeting with Joseph Gael, one of the Board Members for the students. What he wanted to see her for, she couldn’t say, but it had to be important, and thinking of shadowy figures was the last thing she wanted on her mind.
 

Brian G Turner

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I only read the first few lines in the original and revised versions.

In the original, I found the opening to be weak, as if you weren't quite sure what you were trying to say - nothing seemed to try and grab for attention and the writing felt unsettled.

The opening of the revision was much better - you jumped straight into the mysterious, and setting a scene.

I'm not sure how the rest plays out, but it certainly started a lot better. Just not read the rest because I'm short on time, and the opening sentences can be very telling. :)
 

Myra

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I only read the first few lines in the original and revised versions.

In the original, I found the opening to be weak, as if you weren't quite sure what you were trying to say - nothing seemed to try and grab for attention and the writing felt unsettled.

The opening of the revision was much better - you jumped straight into the mysterious, and setting a scene.

I'm not sure how the rest plays out, but it certainly started a lot better. Just not read the rest because I'm short on time, and the opening sentences can be very telling. :)

Hi Brian, thanks for looking over them (even if it was the first lines!) :) and thanks for your comments, I feel a little better about my writing knowing I'm getting better, even if only a little.

You said the opening was very telling...is that bad? I have tried to show as well, just trying to get the hang of knowing what phrases work best to describe 'showing' rather than telling :confused:
 

Jo Zebedee

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Myra, it was without a doubt the hardest thing I ever learned to do, and I still pull my hair out over it.

Did you think you could hide, Lily?

Lily Riason shifted in her sleep, her hair sticking to her head from sweat, ‘No…please,’ she mumbled, swinging her arms out, as if she was fighting an invisible force.

Lily, the voice was louder now, echoing around her mind, or was it in the room?

She shook her head frantically; ‘No, let me out… please let me out…,’ her restless movements beneath her twisted sheets became violent. Her mind screamed for her to wake up, but Lily could not escape, ‘No! Don’t leave me here!’ she shouted out, bolting upright in her bed. Her eyes roamed the room, noticing a figure by the window, which was open, and the cold air brought goosebumps to her sweaty skin. That was the least of her worries though, as she watched the shadow exit through the window, she leapt up from her bed, against her better reason, and moved to see where they had gone.

There was no one there. There was never anyone there.

to here, it's mostly showing, with a bit of telling interspersed. You say the windows open, you probably don't need to pull it out as a seperate thing, just say she had goosebumps from the open window.

Lily shook her head, wiping the sweat from her head. Nightmares had haunted her since she was a child.this is telling - when she wakes up above, can you have her pulling some of this in. She sat up, waking from the nightmare, just like she had when they started in the orphanage, it's still a little telly, but it's interspersed. They had started in the orphanage and then the hell that had followed. The nightmare was always the same, with the same feelings of being trapped and alone somewhere dark, lost in an interval of time she could not explain, clocks of different shapes and sizes floating all around her, showing different times and dates.So, at the beginning, this could be her nightmare; She was trapped, in the dark alone. She looked, her breath hitching as she tried to tell how long she'd been here, but the clocks, their faces surrounding her, lit in the darkness etc. etc. Reaching out her hand to touch them, the clock hands would spin wildly, and her hand would pass through it, as if it wasn’t there. There would be a figure, and they would be speaking to her, but despite the movement of their lips, she could not hear them. That was all she could make out when trying to remember them, their lips, while the rest of their face was enshrouded in shadow.
I'm not sure I've made sense, I hope so, but if it starts in the nightmare, most of this paragraph is gone and it's all action instead....? and more gripping, therefore..
 

Myra

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Myra, it was without a doubt the hardest thing I ever learned to do, and I still pull my hair out over it.

Did you think you could hide, Lily?

Lily Riason shifted in her sleep, her hair sticking to her head from sweat, ‘No…please,’ she mumbled, swinging her arms out, as if she was fighting an invisible force.

Lily, the voice was louder now, echoing around her mind, or was it in the room?

She shook her head frantically; ‘No, let me out… please let me out…,’ her restless movements beneath her twisted sheets became violent. Her mind screamed for her to wake up, but Lily could not escape, ‘No! Don’t leave me here!’ she shouted out, bolting upright in her bed. Her eyes roamed the room, noticing a figure by the window, which was open, and the cold air brought goosebumps to her sweaty skin. That was the least of her worries though, as she watched the shadow exit through the window, she leapt up from her bed, against her better reason, and moved to see where they had gone.

There was no one there. There was never anyone there.

to here, it's mostly showing, with a bit of telling interspersed. You say the windows open, you probably don't need to pull it out as a seperate thing, just say she had goosebumps from the open window.

Lily shook her head, wiping the sweat from her head. Nightmares had haunted her since she was a child.this is telling - when she wakes up above, can you have her pulling some of this in. She sat up, waking from the nightmare, just like she had when they started in the orphanage, it's still a little telly, but it's interspersed. They had started in the orphanage and then the hell that had followed. The nightmare was always the same, with the same feelings of being trapped and alone somewhere dark, lost in an interval of time she could not explain, clocks of different shapes and sizes floating all around her, showing different times and dates.So, at the beginning, this could be her nightmare; She was trapped, in the dark alone. She looked, her breath hitching as she tried to tell how long she'd been here, but the clocks, their faces surrounding her, lit in the darkness etc. etc. Reaching out her hand to touch them, the clock hands would spin wildly, and her hand would pass through it, as if it wasn’t there. There would be a figure, and they would be speaking to her, but despite the movement of their lips, she could not hear them. That was all she could make out when trying to remember them, their lips, while the rest of their face was enshrouded in shadow.
I'm not sure I've made sense, I hope so, but if it starts in the nightmare, most of this paragraph is gone and it's all action instead....? and more gripping, therefore..

Hi Springs, thanks for looking this over :) and thank you for the tips, they have been great, and yeah you made sense to me :D I will make a the few changes, make it more action than telling, maybe try and put a little more showing in there as well :)

Thanks again!
 
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