Working Title: Bayou Horror or Dark Waters --- 2nd Attempt - 1360 word opening

Cathbad

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#1
Working Title: Bayou Horror or Dark Waters


Brown water, covered with duckweed and cattails rising, in crowded conditions, in the shallower water near the edges of the pool. Palmetto bushes line the water’s banks, some of their leaves and branches dipping into the dank water.

As a child, I used to climb the Old Willow, whose great, meandering root system includes many that have spread into the dark waters. Many of the roots are now above the water line, and strong enough for me to walk out on them and sit – virtually in the pool, but not touching the water. Which is where I sit now.

A group of tadpoles swim feverishly, just below the surface below me. I can see them through a gap in the roots. A ringneck – a rather common snake in these parts – swims so quickly across the pool, I expect to see a pursuer – but there is none.

The constant caws of blackbirds can be heard some distance off. I’m not well-versed enough of their calls to tell if they are crows or ravens - both I see frequently around here. There is a rather large flock of small birds flying high above. They flitter to and fro, west to east, north to south and back again. It is late summer, but the temperatures have been lower recently, making me wonder if this flock is confused, and undecided if it is time to head south. I’m startled out of my reverie, as I hear a sort of kerplunk, as if something had been dropped into the lake. I look up quickly and see the ripples moving landward, but not the cause. I look around, to assure myself I was alone. I wouldn’t put it past the McCurdy kids to be trying to mess with me.

But there is no one.

Many of the branches of this Old Willow hang out over the pool – a fact I’m reminded of when I look up. Seeing no other possible cause, I decide the Spanish moss must have killed off a small limb, which then tumbled down into the water. The moss is itself looking sickly and thin, but surely it is still feeding of the tree?

I settle down again to enjoy the cool, late summer weather. It might not even reach ninety today! Spring, summer, fall or winter, this is my favorite place in all the world!

There are no ducks in this small lake. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen any living on this pool. Even visiting ones abandon the pool after just a few minutes - or less.

This lake is dead. The tadpoles will probably survive, but there are no more fish in these dark waters. The local animals won’t even drink the water here, anymore.

The duckweed is more yellow-brown than green. The parts of the palmettos in or touching the water have also browned.

The roots of the Old Willow upon which I sit are still solid and strong, but there is a bad stench to them, and those that I can reach feel rough and dry (I won’t try to feel those beneath the water line – no telling what diseases this smelly water holds!). The Willow itself looks to be dying of old age.

I am wearing my second set of clothes, old, patched blue jeans, a gray t-shirt, and the old brown loafers I found in a bin one day, in town. These are my ‘lazing’ clothes. My first set is for working in, the other set for church.

There’s another caw – but different from the others. It is a lone caw, of a different pitch, and much nearer.

I look up, shielding my eyes from the bright sun, shining through the leafless tree. It is a raven – which convinces me the nearby flock is a murder of crows.

I take the appearance of the raven as a good sign, and figure it is time to start fishing.

As I sit on the Old Willow’s roots, I take the fishing line and hook out of my back pocket. I reach out for the stick I’d found on my way down here this morning. I tie the line securely to one end of the stick, then checked the length. I am pleased to see I have a good six or seven feet left dangling from the stick.

I stand up, stretching away several hours of sitting, then pat my shirt pocket, making sure I remembered to bring the bait gramma had made from some bread that was going bad. Satisfied it is there, and not stupid enough to try fishing in this dead lake, I turn to leave. Luckily, a pool of good water isn’t more than three or four dozen yards away. I’ve caught plenty of fish in that one.

Just as I get turned, I am startled by a soft splash. It sounds like something perhaps the size of a dog – or maybe a gator – slipping into the water. I see the ripples – but they’re moving toward shore, instead of away. Again I can’t see the cause. Both times, the ripples looked to have originated about ten feet out from the Old Willow’s roots – my seat.

Once, I’d have been quite nervous, now. But I’ve grown up. Or, at least I like to think I have. There are lots of inexplicable sounds in the bayou. One can’t get freaked out by them.

I shrug, turn and make my way off the roots – though not without incident – a slight misstep and I’ve soaked my left loafer before reaching land.

I’ve moved about a half dozen yards west, away from the dead pool, when I hear another splash. It is slightly louder than the last one. I turn about. Pure instinct, since there was no way I am going to see anything.

Only, I do.

Another splash – much greater than the previous ones. It sounds like a tree has fallen into the small lake! I see the water erupt upward and out – but not the cause.

No tree… nothing.

I just stand there, for, like a minute. My curiosity is stronger than my fear (or common sense, I suppose), and I walk back out on the Old Willow’s roots.

I hood my eyes again and look out over the water. At first, I see nothing unusual. Then I see – or imagine I see – something - a dark blotch on the water’s surface, some distance out on the water – quite farther than where the splash had occurred.

I cannot be sure, but from these roots, it looks like a body. A human body!

I stare for some time, wondering if my eyes are playing tricks. The body of a dog, deer, or boar is a frequent thing one saw out here, drowned in the bogs. It could be a floating gator; it should be a gator! I think to myself.

But I’m somehow sure it’s a human body. In my favorite pond, more’s the rotten luck!

I make my way back to land again, lay down my fishing gear, and begin to traverse the lake, trying to find a closer look. The lake isn’t round; its borders uneven.

I soon find a spot where I can get that better look. Sure enough, the floater is human. An Outsider, judging from the hunting clothes, which look like they’re straight out of L.L. Bean. I can’t be sure of the sex, but I’m pretty sure it’s male.

I marvel at the corpse’s condition. It is bloated, but not yet much decayed. Its eyes are still fine – of course, they’d last longer than usual in this pool, since there are no fish to eat them.

“Murphy, go get he’p!” I tell myself out loud – and am finally able to turn myself away from the macabre sight.

I quickly go and collect my fishing gear, then head out toward town. I’ll be passing by my shack, of course, so I decide to stop in, drop off my gear, change my socks and get some change for some jerky. It’s best not to waste a trip into town, just to report finding a dead man!
 
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#2
This is an atmospheric piece, but I'm afraid it is also soporific. In the entire piece, all that happens is Murphy finds a body floating in the pond. Throughout the writing, I believe there is much repetition, both in the description and mood. For example: in the first paragraph you describe the water as brown and then later dank. Dank is a more emotive word than brown and I would have used that as the first word.

In the third and fourth paragraphs, I thought you were using the snake as a metaphor for Murphy and the McMurdy kids, in which case I would have ended both paragraphs with an identical phrase.

As I said, the setting is atmospheric, but in my opinion, the description is far too long and the scene lacks direction.
 

Cathbad

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#3
Thank you, @VinceK .

I am wondering, though. Do you believe all things should be explained/have a resolution in a chapter? I ask, because you aren't the first to seem put off because there's no explanation. It was my intention that the only thing that would happen is that Murphy finds a body. (It is also an immediate introduction to the "bad guy", though I'm aware no one will probably realize that).

As far as being "soporific"; in a way, that is what I was going for - showing the lazy, uneventful day Murphy is used to. is it truly necessary to have a lot of action right off the bat? If so, I should probably just abandon this story idea. It's just not meant to be a break-neck action piece.

I'm kind of amazed, because it seems most are quite put off everything is not full of action and fully explained - in a mere 1,360 words of a novel. Especially for a paranormal horror.

I guess my tastes differ from most.
 
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#4
I did find the piece pleasantly ethereal at the start, but I was always waiting for a clue as to why I should keep reading. I'm not saying you should have action from the outset, but I would plant the seeds of suspicion in the reader's mind that there is something around the corner that will turn Murphy's dream into a nightmare. I was also slightly confused as to why Murphy would be relaxing beside a pool that he described as dank.
As you say, tastes do differ and I'm not suggesting that you throw away the idea, but for me personally, I would have found it more engaging if Murphy had been relaxing in an idyllic setting and a then a dead body floated into view.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#6
Comments in bold. :)

Working Title: Bayou Horror or Dark Waters


Brown water, covered with duckweed and cattails rising, in crowded conditions, in the shallower water near the edges of the pool. It feels like there's something incomplete in that sentence. Maybe one of the grammar people could know what it is but my best take on it (and, remember, my grammar is not my strong point)
Brown water - the subject. It gets described, but there is no action attached to the subject. Eg it moved, it stank, it rose in a funnel. So, I think that makes it a fragment as opposed to a sentence (but I could be wrong).

Palmetto bushes linethe line makes this a sentence - that's what is missing from the first. the water’s banks, some of their leaves and branches dipping into the dank water.

As a child, I used to climb the Old Willow, whose great, meandering root system includes many that have spread into the dark waters. Many of the roots are now above the water line, and strong enough for me to walk out on them and sit – virtually in the pool, but not touching the water. Which is where I sit now.I like this. I can picture it very well.

A group of tadpoles swim feverishly, just below the surface below me. I can see themDo you need this filter? through a gap in the roots. A ringneck – a rather common snake in these parts – swims so quickly across the pool, I expect to see a pursuer – but there is none.

The constant caws of blackbirds can be heard some distance off. I’m not well-versed enough of their calls to tell if they are crows or ravens - both I see frequently around here. There is a rather large flock of small birds flying high above. They flitter to and fro, west to east, north to south and back again. It is late summer, but the temperatures have been lower recently, making me wonder if this flock is confused, and undecided if it is time to head south. I’m startled out of my reverie, as I hear a sort of kerplunk, as if something had been dropped into the lake. I look up quickly and see the ripples moving landward, but not the cause. I look around, to assure myself I was alone. I wouldn’t put it past the McCurdy kids to be trying to mess with me.I think this probably pushes the description to its limit, and we need a story to start about now. Having said that, it's nice description and in the voice but - for me - I'm wanting to see what it's all about.

But there is no one.

Many of the branches of this Old Willow hang out over the pool – a fact I’m reminded of when I look up. Seeing no other possible cause, I decide the Spanish moss must have killed off a small limb, which then tumbled down into the water. The moss is itself looking sickly and thin, but surely it is still feeding of the tree?

I settle down again to enjoy the cool, late summer weather. It might not even reach ninety today! Spring, summer, fall or winter, this is my favorite place in all the world!Yep. Definitely hoping a story gets hinted at soon. :)

There are no ducks in this small lake. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen any living on this pool. Even visiting ones abandon the pool after just a few minutes - or less.

This lake is dead. The tadpoles will probably survive, but there are no more fish in these dark waters. The local animals won’t even drink the water here, anymore.

The duckweed is more yellow-brown than green. The parts of the palmettos in or touching the water have also browned.

The roots of the Old Willow upon which I sit are still solid and strong, but there is a bad stench to them, and those that I can reach feel rough and dry (I won’t try to feel those beneath the water line – no telling what diseases this smelly water holds!). The Willow itself looks to be dying of old age.This raises more questions in me but I do wonder why this info isn't in the bit about the willow above. I'm now reimagining the scene in my head, which pulls me out of the narrative.

I am wearing my second set of clothes, old, patched blue jeans, a gray t-shirt, and the old brown loafers I found in a bin one day, in town. These are my ‘lazing’ clothes. My first set is for working in, the other set for church.

There’s another caw – but different from the others. It is a lone caw, of a different pitch, and much nearer.

I look up, shielding my eyes from the bright sun, shining through the leafless tree. It is a raven – which convinces me the nearby flock is a murder of crows.

I take the appearance of the raven as a good sign, and figure it is time to start fishing.

As I sit on the Old Willow’s roots, I take the fishing line and hook out of my back pocket. I reach out for the stick I’d found on my way down here this morning. I tie the line securely to one end of the stick, then checked the length. I am pleased to see I have a good six or seven feet left dangling from the stick.

I stand up, stretching away several hours of sitting, then pat my shirt pocket, making sure I remembered to bring the bait gramma had made from some bread that was going bad. Satisfied it is there, and not stupid enough to try fishing in this dead lake, I turn to leave. Luckily, a pool of good water isn’t more than three or four dozen yards away. I’ve caught plenty of fish in that one.

Just as I get turned, I am startled by a soft splash. It sounds like something perhaps the size of a dog – or maybe a gator – slipping into the water. I see the ripples – but they’re moving toward shore, instead of away. Again I can’t see the cause. Both times, the ripples looked to have originated about ten feet out from the Old Willow’s roots – my seat.

Once, I’d have been quite nervous, now. But I’ve grown up. Or, at least I like to think I have. There are lots of inexplicable sounds in the bayou. One can’t get freaked out by them.

I shrug, turn and make my way off the roots – though not without incident – a slight misstep and I’ve soaked my left loafer before reaching land.

I’ve moved about a half dozen yards west, away from the dead pool, when I hear another splash. It is slightly louder than the last one. I turn about. Pure instinct, since there was no way I am going to see anything.

Only, I do.

Another splash – much greater than the previous ones. It sounds like a tree has fallen into the small lake! I see the water erupt upward and out – but not the cause.

No tree… nothing.

I just stand there, for, like a minute. My curiosity is stronger than my fear (or common sense, I suppose), and I walk back out on the Old Willow’s roots.I like all this bit. :)

I hood my eyes again and look out over the water. At first, I see nothing unusual. Then I see – or imagine I see – something - a dark blotch on the water’s surface, some distance out on the water – quite farther than where the splash had occurred.

I cannot be sure, but from these roots, it looks like a body. A human body!

I stare for some time, wondering if my eyes are playing tricks. The body of a dog, deer, or boar is a frequent thing one saw out here, drowned in the bogs. It could be a floating gator; it should be a gator! I think to myself.

But I’m somehow sure it’s a human body. In my favorite pond, more’s the rotten luck!That made me smile

I make my way back to land again, lay down my fishing gear, and begin to traverse the lake, trying to find a closer look. The lake isn’t round; its borders uneven.

I soon find a spot where I can get that better look. Sure enough, the floater is human. An Outsider, judging from the hunting clothes, which look like they’re straight out of L.L. Bean.I don't know what this is. Is it an American thing? I can’t be sure of the sex, but I’m pretty sure it’s male.

I marvel at the corpse’s condition. It is bloated, but not yet much decayed. Its eyes are still fine – of course, they’d last longer than usual in this pool, since there are no fish to eat them.

“Murphy, go get he’p!” I tell myself out loud – and am finally able to turn myself away from the macabre sight.

I quickly go and collect my fishing gear, then head out toward town. I’ll be passing by my shack, of course, so I decide to stop in, drop off my gear, change my socks and get some change for some jerky. It’s best not to waste a trip into town, just to report finding a dead man!

I liked the humour in this, and the description but I did feel it took a little too long to get going, and you could either cull the description or make it more part of the story and merge the two. :)
 

Cathbad

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#7
I would have found it more engaging if Murphy had been relaxing in an idyllic setting
There is a moment in Chapter 2 when the town deputy asks Murphy why he hangs out there. The reason is hinted at above - it was his "spot" since he was a child. Better times, when he was still full of hope and wonder - and his parents were still alive. And the lake's water wasn't yet "dead". Nostalgia.
 

Cathbad

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#8
Comments in bold. :)

I liked the humour in this, and the description but I did feel it took a little too long to get going, and you could either cull the description or make it more part of the story and merge the two. :)
Wonderful comments! Thank you.

L.L. Bean is well known (over here, at least). The company sells a lot of stylish (but not necessarily practical) outdoor clothing. Quite expensive.
 
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#10
There is a moment in Chapter 2 when the town deputy asks Murphy why he hangs out there. The reason is hinted at above - it was his "spot" since he was a child. Better times, when he was still full of hope and wonder - and his parents were still alive. And the lake's water wasn't yet "dead". Nostalgia.
I think if I'd read the back cover I would more likely to continue reading, but at the moment, as Jo said, it appears to be taking a while to get going. Perhaps I'm just not picking up the "clues".
 

Cathbad

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#11
I think if I'd read the back cover I would more likely to continue reading, but at the moment, as Jo said, it appears to be taking a while to get going. Perhaps I'm just not picking up the "clues".
There are only 2 clues I tried to incorporate:

I tried to show that the body had nothing to do with the splashes, by using distance - The splashes occurred only 10' of Murphy's position, yet the body was barely discernable - and the condition of the body.

The second clue was grammatical, and I'll give Extra Credit if anyone even noticed it. ;)
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#13
I agree with VinceK - but I cocked up the insert quote so this will have to do - Sorry Vince.

First thing that struck me about the re-write was water water everywhere

I did do a blow by blow, but found I was red penning too much and didn't want to seem over harsh.

Howevr, if you want the full hit no holes barred crit let me know.

The other thing I found troublesome was you revisit things that we as readers have absorbed.

Like the willow tree. You describe it, then have some action and then go back to decribe more about the thing.


To me this upsets the applecart. I was happy with the willow I had a clear idea of what and where it was, but then you tell us more and I have to re-paint the scene to squeese the new detail in. In the mean time I've forgot what was happening in the main thrust - as it were.

Of course this might just be me cos I am a picky sod.

As an opening, I prefer something eye ball grabbing (or worse) to get the juices going - I would start with the splash or whatever, (OK now I'm intrigued you've got my attension, what is it all about etc.) then you can give me some teasing details about the where etc.. All the time I'm chaffing at the bit to find out what the splash was about. And then you hit me with some more action and so on.

Tadpoles - who gives a toss about tadpoles - The reaction the tadpoles have to the splash when they all do a runner under the weeds adds to the action and confirms the bloke isn't losing his mind about the lack of seeing what caused the splash.

Bear in mind though, that I'm just giving my look on the world. People have said I'm an odd bugger who has a very warped view of the world, so feel free to call me an idiot.

Hope I helped.

Tein.
 
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Cathbad

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#14
Of course! All criticism helps - if just to make us think! Thank you.

I do understand the story starts slow - but that's on purpose. I appreciate that criticism, and it makes me realize I really have to write a barn-burner for the back cover - but I've decided to keep the non-active start. No offense - it's just that I see it as an integral part of the location's ambience. In fact, I foresee problems maintaining both this and the action. (In Chapter 2, getting the deputy off his butt 'just to go check out a dead guy' doesn't seem a reason for hurrying. "He'll still be dead when we get there!")
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#15
As I mentioned before I really liked the last line - And so true too.

And of course you know where you want it to go. I mean if I was criting Lord of the Rings, it would all fit in one book about half the size of The Hobbit. LOR didn't seem to do too badly, so no one can say what is right in that sense. :)

I do think four "waters" in the first paragraph is pushing it though.
 

Plucky Novice

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#17
Hi sorry it's taken a while to get back to this.

A definite improvement for me on the first draft. I think there is enough happening here but somehow the action doesn't engage me; the description does.

The only thing I can put it down to is the character/narrator doesn't demonstrate much emotion. He reflects that he would once have been nervous but we never really know how he's feeling. He sees a body, is he excited, scared, does his heart rate double?

I'd like to be closer to the character.

There are some pernickety points I could pick out that are not significant but I'm not keen on the use of "one" as a pronoun. It seems out of keeping with the character.

I hope that helps.
 

tinkerdan

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#18
From reading some of the dialogue going on here I gather that one point is to make this piece Soporific in nature. (a bit of pun there)

There is nothing wrong with that and it does succeed.

However I have feeling that we circle the same area over and over, like spinning wheels and it distracts from some of the more important points. The circling involves the description of the willow the roots the water the birds the tadpoles.

It might be safe to say that the character is out to have a relaxing day. He may have a routine and he's stopped at the dead pool just to relax(not fish)because; well nothing lives in that pool. However he has tackle and bait so somewhere he expects to fish. So really his goal seems to be to fish and to relax.

However there are these splashes that are beginning to intrude upon his goal, which he tries, unsuccessfully, to ignore. Then finally the body. So the protagonist's goal is to relax; the antagonist is the body that embodies everything that wants to disrupt his goal.

However even then when decided he thinks 'It’s best not to waste a trip into town, just to report finding a dead man!' ; and that sums up the soporific part without the need for the repetitive nature of the narrative.

I think that you could set the scene quicker with fewer more compact words of description and perhaps visit closer to the POV to get across his goal for the day and then rush right into finding the body.

Drawing it out as long as it is, seems to distract the reader from the important parts of the scene and make it look less like a scene.

The question seems to be --will he be able to sit and relax today-- the answer--doesn't look that way(but it does look like trying to pull a lion away from his kill at that).

End of scene.

Note:
I should probably add that at the end I wondered why he didn't just go off and fish. That body wasn't going anywhere.
 
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#20
I think it's a well-written opening to your work in progress. Have you thought of working on your opening hook? To me, it's not clear why there are so many details about the swamp. I appreciate the suspense you build around the sound the main character hears. I like the internal dialogue he goes through as he rationalizes what caused the sound. I feel like you develop the suspense very well. Perhaps starting off with that suspense will entice the reader from the beginning.
 

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