An odd event

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Jo Zebedee

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#1
This is a revision of something I'm subbing. It has had interest, but I think I needed to make the scene more supernatural and less leading as to what might be happening and why. I'm calling it an early 16,000th post critique. (To save me finding something else for that!)
Anyhow, just wondering, mostly, if it confuses, if it hooks, and if it interests. Cheers!
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CHAPTER ONE

Newcastle town was bustling, and the harbour craft fair had been busy. So many stalls had sold overpriced Irish tat to tourists, Amelia’s paintings had stood out as something different, and she’d done well. Twelve prints sold, and one original, and the price of the stall had been more than covered, as well as the rent for the week and enough over to pick up something nice for dinner later.

As the fair drew to its close, Amelia focused on finishing her sketches of the harbour. This part of the world was popular with tourists, especially the Game of Thrones maddos who were obsessed with visiting the various shooting locations, and she’d sell pictures set here. Plus, people liked the idea of watching the artist working. It always brought in sales.

She focused on the cluster of boats with their thin masts reaching up in graceful lines. They clinked and jangled in the slight breeze, as if singing. Her hands sped up, the lines becoming thicker and stronger, the colours darkening as she sketched. It didn’t look like one of her paintings, but something more naturalist, like an Emily Bronte rendition of her moorland.

Her chest tightened and her breath became ragged. A familiar headache started, sweat breaking along her brow, and she had put her head down and wait for the black spots at the edge of her vision to melt away. She pushed the picture away, knowing that she would hate it later.
The fair grew quiet around her. One person asked if she was okay, and she nodded, slowly, a little dazed, and the square had quietened more. By the time she had her breathing under control again, most of the stallholders had left.

She drew in a breath. She packed away her pastels, and began stacking her prints into their box, when a movement at the harbour made her look up. An old woman walked along the opposite quay, presumably having emerged from one of the boats. Her dress was long enough to skim the pools of water along the quay, briny and dirty with oil, but she didn’t seem to notice, or care.

Without warning, the woman began to wail, long screams that rose and fell and didn't stop. Amelia pushed away from the table, knocking her sketchpad off. It rattled to the ground. She clapped her hands over her ears as the woman shrieked.

A hand grabbed her arm and Amelia spun on her heels, ready to run or fight, but it was only a scrawny teenage goth-boy.

“Missus, there’s a man not well,” he said. “Mandy, from the pub, asked me to see if I could find a nurse or a doctor? Can you help?” He showed no signs of hearing the woman’s shrieks.

“I don’t know,” she said. She’d done first aid, years ago, though, and that might be better than anyone else had. She allowed herself to be drawn to where a small crowd had gathered. In the center, an elderly man lay, her skin closer to grey than flesh-coloured. Beside him, a woman knelt, her hand tucking a blanket around him.

“Has someone called an ambulance?” asked Amelia. The bloody shrieking hadn’t stopped and it was hard to concentrate on what needed to be done.

“Aye. They’re on their way,” said Goth-boy.

“Good.” Amelia knelt beside the man, opposite what must be the bar-lady. She took the man’s wrist and found a thin pulse. His skin was clammy against hers.

He clawed weakly at her t-shirt. “The Grey Lady’s come for me."

“Hush now, Sam. That’s superstition, and nothing else. The ambulance will be here in a moment, and you’ll be just fine.” The bar-lady patted the blanket but her eyes, meeting Amelia’s, told a different story.

The merciful sound of a siren cut through the shrieks that carried from the quay. Amelia got out of the way as the ambulance crew worked at the old man. At last, they lifted him into the ambulance. It drove away and its lights were not flashing, or its sirens sounding, leaving a shocking silence behind.

The woman had stopped shrieking and the harbour was empty, as if the old lady had never been there and the day’s events hadn’t happened, and Amelia couldn’t have told anyone why that chilled her to the bone.
 
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#2
You have a character that the only one person can see, that is pretty supernatural. You might consider accenting this by having Amelia test it more directly, rather than just assuming that the Goth isn't just ignoring a crazy person. Like maybe having Amelia lead him right past the screamer and noting that he doesn't even try to speak louder as they get closer to the screams.

Also, there isn't a real clear sense for where things are. The scene has three locations - the art stand, the screamer and the sick man in/near the pub. How do they relate, and did Amelia get further away from the screamer by walking toward the pub? Is there anything supernatural about the scream's volume despite moving from stand to pub? Is the sick man in the pub or on the street? Did the ambulance truly get there seconds after Amelia arrived and took his pulse? Or was there time spent with the sick man while the screams continued? Could she see the screamer the whole time, despite the crowd or walls of the pub?

I realize you are trying to give away as little as possible with the scene, but it doesn't seem grounded in reality as the places and times are so vague. That contrast between grounded reality and the screamer might better emphasize how creepy she is. But the way it is now it feels like dream logic rather than real events.

So many stalls had sold overpriced Irish tat to tourists, Amelia’s paintings had stood out as something different, and she’d done well.
This isn't a run-on, but it feels like one.
 
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#4
You want me to describe somewhere!? :D (being tongue in cheek - I can be a little lax with spatial description sometimes. I’ll nail myself to the seat and sort that. Cheers!)
Not because every scene needs it, but because the scene as written doesn't feel real, so it has little to contrast the one event that is supposed to be un-real. It is a list of events with seemingly no time or space between them.
 
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#5
I should have mentioned the other way of dealing with this: Let it remain dream-like and make Amelia accept the screaming woman no one else sees as normal. But then you have to have a later scene where she realizes how odd her acceptance was.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#6
Does this do enough? I don't want to bog down in description, either.

“I don’t know,” she said. She’d done first aid, years ago, though, and that might be better than anyone else had. “If I can, I will.”

She allowed herself to be drawn away from the harbour and up the narrow street a little, to where a small crowd had clustered in front of a pub. Amelia pushed to its centre, where an elderly man lay, his skin closer to grey than flesh-coloured.

Beside him, a woman knelt, her hand tucking a blanket around him. The bar-lady, Amelia assumed; she had a practical way about her that told of someone who’d had to deal with plenty of incidents before.

“Has someone called an ambulance?” asked Amelia. The bloody shrieking hadn’t stopped and it was hard to concentrate on what needed to be done. Even here, on from the harbour, the shrieks sounded just as loud as at the quayside.

“Aye. They’re on their way,” said Goth-boy.

“Good.” Amelia knelt beside the man, opposite what must be the bar-lady. She took the man’s wrist and found a thin pulse. His skin was clammy against hers.

He clawed weakly at her t-shirt. “The Grey Lady’s come for me."

The Grey Lady? Amelia frowned and the bar-lady shook her head, as if in warning.

“Hush now, Sam,” she said. “That’s superstition, and nothing else. The ambulance will be here in a moment, and you’ll be just fine.” She patted the blanket but her eyes, meeting Amelia’s, told a different story.

The day seemed to stretch. Still the screams went on but no one else showed any sign of hearing them. The harbour was out of sight, behind the growing crowd, but Amelia would have bet that the woman would still be there, her dress sweeping the filthy quay.

The merciful sound of a siren cut through the shrieks. Amelia got out of the way as the ambulance crew worked at the old man. At last, they lifted him into the ambulance. It drove away and its lights were not flashing, or its sirens sounding, leaving a shocking silence behind. At some point, Amelia realised, the shrieks had stopped.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” asked the bar-lady. “That’s been a shock.”

Amelia shook her head. “I have to get home. I was just here for the fair.” She had to get home, to Joe, to normality, and try to make sense of what she’d seen. She made her way along the road, following the low sea-wall, and back to the harbour car park. The quayside was empty. The woman was gone, as if Amelia had imagined her and her shrieks.

Amelia picked up her prints, and folded the table. She heaved it all into the back of the car. Quickly, she got into the driver’s seat, and pulled out, past the bar-lady, who was still talking to people, past the place where the man had lain, and Amelia couldn’t have told anyone why that chilled her to the bone.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#7
I should have mentioned the other way of dealing with this: Let it remain dream-like and make Amelia accept the screaming woman no one else sees as normal. But then you have to have a later scene where she realizes how odd her acceptance was.
This doesn't work against the rest of the story, I'm afraid. It was something I considered. Amelia does know what she is seeing, and why, but she's not in the position to accept it yet.
 
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#8
The re-write works better.

One thing you might consider is adding something about Amelia wondering how the other people feel about the screaming. Not "why aren't they hearing this?" but more "the screams continued, but the pub-folk focussed on the sick man". Amelia should probably have some sort of empathy with her (assumed) fellow scream audience members if she isn't going to explore the possibility that they can't hear the screams. Just because it is natural to consider how the people around you tolerate irritating things like loud noises or noxious smells.
 

Brian G Turner

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#9
I don't really have a problem with the piece - but for greater impact I might suggest a closer association between her headache and the screaming banshee. At the moment you have a lot of text between both events, whereas less might provide more of a punch.

Additionally, as everything's so close, why not have one of the bystanders collapse close to her? Would that make more sense then being dragged away from the presence of the banshee?

Btw, I do like the way you set this scene up over your previous versions - nice work. :)
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#10
Hopefully you know all my fiobles.

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CHAPTER ONE

Newcastle town was bustling, and the harbour craft fair had been busy. So many stalls had sold overpriced Irish tat to tourists, Amelia’s paintings had stood out as something different, and she’d done well. Twelve prints sold, and one original, and the price of the stall had been more than covered, as well as the rent for the week and enough over to pick up something nice for dinner later. (which alone covered the price of the stall and expenses for the week - First chapter and we're thinking about 'distractions' rather than a big punch impact)

As the fair drew to its close, Amelia focused on finishing her sketches of the harbour. This part of the world was popular with tourists, especially the Game of Thrones maddos who were obsessed with visiting the various shooting locations, and she’d sell pictures set here. Plus, people liked the idea of watching the artist working. It always brought in sales. (was there actually any sets there?)

She focused on the cluster of boats with their thin masts reaching up in graceful lines. They clinked and jangled in the slight breeze, as if singing. Her hands sped up, the lines becoming thicker and stronger, the colours darkening as she sketched. It didn’t look like one of her paintings, but something more naturalist, like an Emily Bronte rendition of her moorland. (to me sketching prior to painting is done with charcoal or pencil, so what are these colours all about - Plus the masts and lines would surely become thinner as they got higher)

Her chest tightened and her breath became ragged. A familiar headache started, sweat breaking along her brow, and she had put her head down and waited for the black spots at the edge of her vision to melt away. She pushed the picture (sketch) away, knowing that she would hate it later.
The fair grew quiet around her. One person asked if she was okay, and she nodded, slowly, a little dazed, and the square had quietened more. By the time she had her breathing under control again, most of the stallholders had left. (there's a few, and s in there)

She drew in a breath. She packed away her pastels, and began stacking her prints into their box, when a movement at the harbour made her look up. An old woman walked along the opposite quay, presumably having emerged from one of the boats. Her dress was long enough to skim the pools of water along the quay, briny and dirty with oil, but she didn’t seem to notice, or care. (so it's leg length and then some - there will be tripping)

Without warning, the woman began to wail, long screams that rose and fell and didn't stop. Amelia pushed away from the table, knocking her sketchpad off. It rattled to the ground. She clapped her hands over her ears as the woman shrieked.

A hand grabbed her arm and Amelia spun on her heels, ready to run or fight, but it was only a scrawny teenage goth-boy.

“Missus, there’s a man not well,” he said. “Mandy, from the pub, asked me to see if I could find a nurse or a doctor? Can you help?” He showed no signs of hearing the woman’s shrieks.

“I don’t know,” she said. She’d done first aid, years ago, though, and that might be better than anyone else had. She allowed herself to be drawn to where a small crowd had gathered. In the center, an elderly man lay, her skin closer to grey than flesh-coloured. Beside him, a woman knelt, her hand tucking a blanket around him.

“Has someone called an ambulance?” asked Amelia. The bloody shrieking hadn’t stopped and it was hard to concentrate on what needed to be done. (I'm having problems with this shrieking so loud, across a harbour plus a drag away, that she can't think - that's some decibels the woman's got)

“Aye. They’re on their way,” said Goth-boy.

“Good.” Amelia knelt beside the man, opposite what must be Mandy the bar-lady. She took the man’s wrist and found a thin pulse. His skin was felt clammy against hers.

He clawed weakly at her t-shirt. “The Grey Lady’s come for me."

“Hush now, Sam. That’s superstition, and nothing else. The ambulance will be here in a moment, and you’ll be just fine.” The bar-lady patted the blanket but her eyes, meeting Amelia’s, told a different story.

The merciful sound of a siren cut through the shrieks that carried from the quay. Amelia got out of the way as the ambulance crew worked at on the old man. At last, they lifted him into the ambulance. It drove away and its lights were not flashing, or its sirens sounding, leaving a shocking silence behind. (not dynamic enough IMO - ambulances in the UK anyway, often don't use sirens unless there's a need. If the implication is the guy's dead - I think it is - Then, although this nearly works, for me it doesn't quite. .Plus if he was actually dead the body would be covered. I think you could get more active.)

"The Grey Lady's come for me. Get away bitch you can't have me" he cried defiantly, but even as he railed,
Amelia saw the light in his eyes fade and the medics ceased their attemps to revive him. Kind of thing.


The woman had stopped shrieking and the harbour was empty, as if the old lady had never been there and the day’s events hadn’t happened, and Amelia couldn’t have told anyone why that chilled her to the bone.

You need to move the Grey Lady in for the kill IMO, because that would explain the volume and how the old guy could see her, what with the crowd and all.

OK, as to the actual piece.

It's certainly got something going - Why can only Amelia see the old woman etc. Why now and why Grey.
A quite good attempt at scene setting too, although a bit to much focus on the small things and not on the large. - Nothing is moving in the harbour for instance. I didn't get the hustle and bustle of the working harbour. She's sold pictures, but no mention of the customers - That might be because it's a word limited piece I suppose.


Hope I helped


Tein
 

tinkerdan

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#12
I know this is just me so bear with me.

I think it would start better at the point where the boy is grabbing at her.
Have her realize he's been saying something and then give a part of his dialogue while she runs a quick recall for us of having been distracted by the grey lady screeching and her headache and her assembling her tools in a concise a description as possible and then fall into the rest of the story.

I also realize that's asking a lot because there is a lot up there before the boy grabs her attention.

Just my thoughts.
 

Brian G Turner

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#13
Actually, I was thinking again about this last night, and realized it would be more technically ideal to open as follows:

Opening sentence about woman screaming
Sentence about Amelia's reaction - the only one seeing this?
Maybe 1 or 2 lines about the setting and background in a new paragraph
Return to immediacy with the woman still screaming and the old man collapsing

That way you start with an opening hook and go for maximum impact, rather than have a few paragraphs setting the scene before the story technically begins. That may or may not suit your personal style, though.
 

HareBrain

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#15
You've left quite a lot out here about what she knows or suspects, and given that this is her POV and she would surely find it relevant enough for it to enter her head, that feels a bit of authorial tricksiness -- which might be OK except that here, it causes uncertainty and confusion rather than tension.

You don't let us know what she thinks of her headache, for example, or what she thinks it portends, only that she will hate the painting later (because ...?)

Without warning, the woman began to wail, long screams that rose and fell and didn't stop. Amelia pushed away from the table, knocking her sketchpad off. It rattled to the ground. She clapped her hands over her ears as the woman shrieked.
And here, you give us no mental reaction at all. Then the boy comes to fetch her and she allows herself to be drawn away, with no thought about the wailing woman at all apart from that she's still screaming.

That kind of thing goes through the whole piece, and though I can see why you've done it, for me it doesn't quite work. For my money, either she needs to be more open with us, or the supernatural element should be less definite, so that she isn't certain it's the same kind of thing she's encountered before. In that case, the questions about it might be pushed back because of the emergency.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#16
You've left quite a lot out here about what she knows or suspects, and given that this is her POV and she would surely find it relevant enough for it to enter her head, that feels a bit of authorial tricksiness -- which might be OK except that here, it causes uncertainty and confusion rather than tension.

You don't let us know what she thinks of her headache, for example, or what she thinks it portends, only that she will hate the painting later (because ...?)



And here, you give us no mental reaction at all. Then the boy comes to fetch her and she allows herself to be drawn away, with no thought about the wailing woman at all apart from that she's still screaming.

That kind of thing goes through the whole piece, and though I can see why you've done it, for me it doesn't quite work. For my money, either she needs to be more open with us, or the supernatural element should be less definite, so that she isn't certain it's the same kind of thing she's encountered before. In that case, the questions about it might be pushed back because of the emergency.
You may well have a point. In Waters I wanted the distance from the character in the first scene, but I don't want that here. This is the main character and it is the first scene, not a prologue. I'll try to pull this a little closer and more in her head.
 

Toby Frost

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#17
I agree with Harebrain here. Although it is definitely well-written, and there’s nothing that stands out as “wrong” to me, it is strangely detached and feels rather trippy as a result. It has that sense of things just happening, without there being a clear link between them, which the pared-down description of the setting makes stronger. Obviously the closeness of the point of view and the amount of emotion you want to put into it are up to you – and might work very well in the book as a whole – but if I was told to make this scene more powerful, I’d emphasise Amelia’s thoughts more. Another small thought: would the Game of Thrones reference date it?

Strange coincidence: I’ve been writing a book about a painter called Amelia.
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#20
Just a thought, but why not freek her (Amelia) out with the wraith/banshee gliding across the harbour just above the water. That way you could have the crap and oil dragging the dress behind her and get some finer face detail of the she witch as she gets closer. You could even throw in a bit of fading cackling (nothing like a bit of cackling) after she makes of with the blokes soul.
 
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