Dec 10 2007

Holliequ’s Review Forum

Published by at 8:09 pm under Review Forums

What I’m writing: A fantasy novel. Two teenagers from our world – Victor Coburn and Zoe Stockton – are somehow transported into another. There they find themselves on a quest for forbidden knowledge, mixed up in a war, and ultimately called upon to help save all creation. (That sounds really bad written like that. I’ll think about it a bit more…)

Target audience: I’m not aiming at a specific gender right now. Age range is probably something like 13 – 16.

Preferred style of reviews: Spare nothing, but please try to be polite about it.

Best references: My favourite fantasy novels are probably The Belgariad and The Mallorean by David Eddings, but I’m pretty sure I’m writing for a younger audience, haha. Least favourite work . . . I’m probably going to get lynched for this, but the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkein. Only because I felt the narrative was a bit of a drag and a lot of the characters (particularly the women) were a bit flat. All that said, I loved The Hobbit.

[start story]

Victor swore loudly as a motorcycle raced past, only inches from his feet. The roar of the engine faded into the city traffic as the machine disappeared altogether. Victor quickly lost his scowl, shrugging as his dark eyes resumed their former activity: searching for some way through the maze of cars filling the street. Even though the traffic was basically at a standstill, he had trouble convincing himself that it was safe to cross the street – mostly because of people like that motorcycle rider. Very few motorists, it seemed, paid close attention to 16-year-olds trying to cross the road.
–I think pumping up his motivation might make him more interesting in this paragraph. Good description, though.

After a few seconds more of tentative steps forward, and then hasty steps backwards, Victor sighed and gave up. He glanced at his watch, groaning as he realised that he was already late for work – about seven streets away. Not only that, but his Dad had a meeting in just under an hour and had, somehow, managed to leave all the materials he needed at home.
–Much better, I think.
–I think that the urgency here might be assisted by faster-paced sentences. What would you think about “He glanced at his watch. He was already late for work, seven streets away. And his Dad had a meeting in an hour and had somehow managed to forget all his materials at home.”

Annoyed by the thought that he was going to be late to work because of his forgetful father, Victor didn’t pay much attention as he raced down the street. Instead, he concentrated on exactly what torture he’d put in place for motorcyclists when he was mayor of the city, no, Prime Minister. As he hurried up the steps of the grand office building his father worked in, he had just decided that having their bike torn in to scrap metal before their very eyes would be a suitable punishment for dodging traffic.
–“having their bike torn in to scrap metal before their very eyes would be a suitable punishment.” I”d recommend tightening this a bit. “tearing their bikes into scrap metal before their very eyes would be suitable punishment.”
–I’d think about replacing the phrase with “mayor of the city, no, Prime Minister” with just “Prime Minister” or “mayor” because I think it paces better.
–“had just decided” would probably be smoother as just “decided.”
–I really like the detail about him thinking about tearing their bikes into scrap metal. The humor is subdued but effective.

He opened the doors and entered, mind elsewhere, and he was embarrassed to find himself walking straight into somebody else. “Sorry, wasn’t looking where I was going,” he began automatically, beginning to crouch and gather the papers the person had dropped.
–I feel that this scene is a lot easier to place geographically than the last version.
–“mind elsewhere” sounds kind of awkward or, alternately, British. I’m not sure whether it feels awkward to me just because I’m American or whether a UK/Canadian/Australian/NZ publisher would react similarly.

“That much is obvious.”
–I think this is very smooth. I like the word choice.

Another pair of hands joined his in trying to gather the documents together, but Victor wasn’t paying attention to them any more. He knew that voice. The boy stared in shock at the girl he had bumped into.
–The first sentence here seems unproductive. It could probably be removed.

“Zoe? Zoe from history?”
She rolled her eyes. “No, it’s Zoe from Mars. Honestly. Did Michelle’s stupidity start rubbing off on you?”

–I love this. She strikes me as very well-characterized and more than slightly humorous.

He started moving again as a tall man in a sharp suit pointedly walked around them to get to the door; Victor had forgotten that he was blocking the entrance. By this time, Zoe had managed to gather nearly everything together – she was, of course, Zoe Stockton, and therefore everything she did was done better and quicker. At least, that was what you’d think if you heard the teachers singing her praises; she wasn’t quite as bad a person as they made out. Victor was even willing to forgive the mention of his ex-girlfriend, even though that ship had sailed and been blow apart weeks ago.
–I think the first sentence here helps give us an idea of what’s going on around them, but could probably be shortened.
–The punctuation in this paragraph strikes me as a bit, umm, exotic. There are two semi-colons, many commas and two sentences separated by a hyphen.

“What are you doing here?” Zoe asked him suspiciously, tucking a stray strand of red hair behind her ear.

“Dad was working on some advertising thingy for hours last night,” he explained, “But, being useless as he is, he forgot to take it with him this morning.”
–I really like the word “thingy” here. It really makes him sound like he’s in over his head.

She smiled and shook her head. “Like father, like son.”
–Haha.

“Hey, I’m no where near as forgetful as Dad,” Victor protested.
–This may just be an American thing, but I’d recommend condensing “no where” into one word, nowhere.

“You always forget your homework.”



“Yes, but – that’s homework. It doesn’t count.”

“Very true,” Zoe mused, “You wouldn’t do it even if you did remember.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, well, why waste my time on something I don’t need to do?”

She sighed. “One day, Victor Coburn, I’m going to find out how you manage to do so well in school without trying at all. But not today. See you around, maybe.”

“Why, are you here all day?” he asked, surprised.

She paused long enough to give him an answer. “I’m helping my Mum.”

–There’s a lot of back-and-forth dialogue here, interrupted only briefly by elements other than what the characters are saying. It may be more evocative to mention more about what the characters are doing, what’s going on, the scenery, etc.
–I’m not quite sure what to make of the detail that Victor does very well in school. It may be inconsistent with the characterization of him as a kind of bumbling kid that forgets everything. On the other hand, it’s not so inconsistent that I think it’s particularly important to revise or remove the detail. What do you think?

Then she dashed out of the doors and down the steps to the street. Zoe Stockton was always in a rush. Victor shook his head; he couldn’t understand the need to hurry all the time. Then he suddenly remembered that he had about 45 minutes before Dad’s meeting started and about 15 minutes more before the boss arrived at his own workplace and realised he wasn’t there on time. The boy eyed the lift regretfully as he ran for the stairs, ignoring the strange looks he got from people in the lobby.
–Is the word “then” at the start of this paragraph necessary? I think that the action– her essentially running away from him– would be more sudden and dramatic if it weren’t initiated by a “then.”

His father was normally happy to see him, but as Victor burst through the door he jumped and frowned at his son. It was only after Victor handed over the massive briefcase and his father’s memory stick that the expression cleared.
–I’d suggest switching “frowned” with a more quizzical expression.

“Oooh, I would have missed that during the meeting,” his Dad chuckled (though Victor didn’t see how it was funny), ruffling his son’s dark hair as he had done when he was small. “Thank you.”
He batted his father’s hand off and ducked away. “Yeah Dad, whatever.”

–the parenthetical phrase here is awkward. It’s a long sentence already.

“I’ve seen Clara Stockton’s daughter around today,” Mr. Coburn told his son, almost casually, as he carefully placed the briefcase on his desk. “She’s a nice girl.”
–This seems like an awkward way to introduce the dad’s feelings about Zoe. It may be slightly less awkward if the son brings him his briefcase AND something that Zoe asked him to take up that way.

“She’s alright,” he replied warily.

“Quite pretty, too.”

Victor groaned. Not this again. “Dad!”
–“Not this again” seems to be from Victor’s perspective rather than the narrator’s.

“I’m just saying,” his father answered defensively, holding up his hands. “It’s, you know, an observation.”

“Not a very subtle one . . .” Victor scowled, annoyed by his father’s words – although it wasn’t so much his words as the tone behind them. His Dad was of the mistaken belief that he hadn’t quite “gotten over” Michelle yet and, apparently, a new girlfriend would solve this problem. Even if his father had been right – which he definitely, definitely wasn’t – then Zoe Stockton was not the solution.
–If the tone is what annoys the boy, then it would probably help to mention the tone when the father is first speaking the words.
–“was of the mistaken belief that” could probably be “mistakenly believed that”
–Depending on your style, a zany metaphor or simile might be in order at the end of the paragraph. “Zoe Stockton was not the solution, any more than Victor was a jelly doughnut.”

As his Dad started to say something else, Victor looked at his watch – and grimaced. “Dad, I’m really sorry but I’ve got to go.”

His father looked at the clock on the wall. Scowling, he said, “Christ Vic, didn’t your work start 10 minutes ago? Can’t you keep better time?”
–Haha, I like this.

“Well, I had to come a different way to give you all your stuff for the meeting!” Victor protested
The man’s angry expression dissolved. “I should have known that would be the explanation. I’m sorry; you shouldn’t have to look after your old Dad like this. If I’d remembered everything this morning like I was supposed to . . .”
–I don’t like this paragraph. First, the father comes to appreciate the son’s efforts too quickly. Second, I think that the relationship between the father and son would be more interesting if the father appears to blame the boy for being late to work (when we know that it’s really the father’s fault).

“Yeah Dad, that’s great,” Victor said, concentrating on edging towards the door rather than listening, “Look, save the rant for later, okay? I’ve got to run. Good luck with your meeting!”
–Not necessary, I think.

Without letting his father get another word in, Victor opened the door and stepped outside before slamming it behind him. He felt a little guilty about running from his Dad without even saying goodbye properly, but he was late and getting later by the second. This thought spurred him on as he threw himself down the stairs, hoping that he’d be able to make it to work before he became grounds-for-firing late.

He reached the first floor without incident, dodging around astonished office workers like the rugby star that he was. Victor was starting to feel a little more optimistic about keeping his job when he ran into Zoe Stockton again – literally.
–I’m having trouble visualizing him as a rugby star, but OK.

“Ow!” The girl exclaimed loudly, crashing to the floor and dropping the large stack of files she was carrying. Victor stood sheepishly amongst the mess as she glared up at him. “What the hell, Victor? Are you out to get me today or something?”
–I love her lines here.

“Sorry,” he muttered, helping Zoe to her feet. “I’m not having a good day.”
“You really didn’t have to tell me that,” she answered sourly, “I think I could have worked it out for myself.”

–Her lines may be longer than necessary here. You could probably cut out her first line and use her second instead.

Victor sighed and simply started collecting the files together again as quickly as he could. After a moment, when she’d realised that he was intelligent enough not to get into an argument with her (not right now, anyway), Zoe started to help.

It took well over ten minutes, because Zoe insisted on putting back all the papers into the right files (how she knew, Victor had no idea, and he suspected she was guessing with half of them. He also suspected she would blame those ones on him). By the time it was done Victor looked like he was dancing on coals – every second in Zoe’s company that dragged by reminded him that he was getting closer and closer to a lot of trouble at work (with a capital T).
–I’d recommend axing the phrase “with a capital T.”

He was relieved when the task was finally done. “I’m really sorry about that, Zoe. Anyway, I’ll see you around, I’ve got to–”

“I don’t think so,” Zoe interrupted thunderously, “You are not getting away with this that easily!”
“But I’m late for work,” Victor protested, inwardly groaning as he imagined just what more delay would do to his welcome.

–I dislike some of the phrases here. thunderously is a kind of intrusive word… inwardly groaning seems kind of superfluous…

“Well I don’t care! I’m injured!” she retorted, tossing her hair and glaring. “Besides, aren’t you on the rugby team? This should take you half the time it would take me.”
–“I’m injured!” Haha!

“There’s a big difference between rugby and carrying a bunch of folders–” he began.
Zoe evidently wasn’t listening. She picked up all but three of the folders and dumped them into his arms. “Stop whining and get moving. My Mum’s office is on the tenth floor.”

Victor groaned. “Zoe, I’m going to be so late it’s not even funny . . .”

“Well you should have thought of that before you crashed into me,” she answered. “Come on, we’ll take the lift.”
–Comma after well, I think.
–“Well, you should have thought of that before you crashed into me.” Haha!

–What would you think about ending the chapter here?  I didn’t find the next two paragraphs very productive.

He snorted bad-temperedly. “Well, thank God for small mercies. At least we can take the lift.”

Victor Coburn found himself being dragged to the tenth floor, hoping that Zoe’s demands wouldn’t make him as late for work as he suspected they might – not that he could just walk off after running into her like that. And, in all honesty, at this point it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.

79 responses so far

79 Responses to “Holliequ’s Review Forum”

  1. B. Macon 10 Dec 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Hello, Holliequ.

    –I feel that your first paragraph is paced a bit slowly. The scenery is good, but the only question I get is “can Victor cross the street?” That’s not very dramatic. I’d recommend inserting in an extra detail so that we will care about Victor. For example, some foreshadowing of where he’s going, or who Victor is.

    –Paragraph #2 is also devoted to whether he can cross the street. I don’t feel that the stakes are high enough. Why does he need to get across the street? Some urgency would also help. (My job interview’s in five minutes!)

    –Victor’s last name is probably not necessary early on.

    –” ‘That much is obvious,’ was the sarcastic reply.” I like the first clause, but “was the sarcastic reply” is self-explanatory and could probably be removed.

    –I think that ZS’s last name is introduced more smoothly than his is, but if the two are high school students, it might be helpful to have him say something like “Zoe? From chemistry class?” or something.

    –Speaking of chemistry, I feel that her nastiness creates a lot of chemistry with his helplessness.

    –One of the things I really liked was that I feel like I’m on your page. The first few paragraphs made him look like a bumbler, and Zoe also thinks he’s a bumbler.

    –Unless ZS and Victor are family friends, I’d recommend having her say “I’m helping my mum” rather than “I’m helping Mum.” The second phrase suggests that he knows her mother.

    –“he was initially confused…” this is something you could probably show with an action.

    –Although Victor’s father is in this passage, I’m still not sure his last name is necessary. You could introduce him as “his father” or “Victor’s father.”

    –Michelle is brought up in a slightly awkward way. If this is something that’s been bothering him, Michelle should probably be brought up sooner. I think Zoe should bring her up.

    –At some point, I feel like I lost track of what was going on. I think the conversation between Mrs. Stockton and (??) Joseph was a bit hard to understand. At least, I assume it was Joseph. There aren’t many dialogue tags and I don’t know why Ms. Stockton would talk about business with the son. Victor seems to have disappeared from the story.

    –Some setup: I’d like to know more about Victor’s job here. I felt kind of confused that he was doing gofer work.
    –I don’t think you have to rush into the other world. If you’d like to do it next chapter, OK, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it any sooner.

  2. Holliequon 11 Dec 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Okay, thanks a lot. I’ll go back and rework that chapter.

  3. Holliequon 11 Dec 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Alright, I made a bunch of changes, including having Victor needing to get to work AND deliver his father’s things. I also cut out Clara Stockton altogether and rearranged my set-up for the world-travelling slightly.

    Victor swore loudly as a motorcycle raced past, only inches from his feet. The roar of the engine faded into the city traffic as the machine disappeared altogether. Victor quickly lost his scowl, shrugging as his dark eyes resumed their former activity: searching for some way through the maze of cars filling the street. Even though the traffic was basically at a standstill, he had trouble convincing himself that it was safe to cross the street – mostly because of people like that motorcycle rider. Very few motorists, it seemed, paid close attention to 16-year-olds trying to cross the road.

    After a few seconds more of tentative steps forward, and then hasty steps backwards, Victor sighed and gave up. He glanced at his watch, groaning as he realised that he was already late for work – about seven streets away. Not only that, but his Dad had a meeting in just under an hour and had, somehow, managed to leave all the materials he needed at home.

    Annoyed by the thought that he was going to be late to work because of his forgetful father, Victor didn’t pay much attention as he raced down the street. Instead, he concentrated on exactly what torture he’d put in place for motorcyclists when he was mayor of the city, no, Prime Minister. As he hurried up the steps of the grand office building his father worked in, he had just decided that having their bike torn in to scrap metal before their very eyes would be a suitable punishment for dodging traffic.

    He opened the doors and entered, mind elsewhere, and he was embarrassed to find himself walking straight into somebody else. “Sorry, wasn’t looking where I was going,” he began automatically, beginning to crouch and gather the papers the person had dropped.
    “That much is obvious.”
    Another pair of hands joined his in trying to gather the documents together, but Victor wasn’t paying attention to them any more. He knew that voice. The boy stared in shock at the girl he had bumped into.

    “Zoe? Zoe from history?”
    She rolled her eyes. “No, it’s Zoe from Mars. Honestly. Did Michelle’s stupidity start rubbing off on you?”

    He started moving again as a tall man in a sharp suit pointedly walked around them to get to the door; Victor had forgotten that he was blocking the entrance. By this time, Zoe had managed to gather nearly everything together – she was, of course, Zoe Stockton, and therefore everything she did was done better and quicker. At least, that was what you’d think if you heard the teachers singing her praises; she wasn’t quite as bad a person as they made out. Victor was even willing to forgive the mention of his ex-girlfriend, even though that ship had sailed and been blow apart weeks ago.

    “What are you doing here?” Zoe asked him suspiciously, tucking a stray strand of red hair behind her ear.
    “Dad was working on some advertising thingy for hours last night,” he explained, “But, being useless as he is, he forgot to take it with him this morning.”
    She smiled and shook her head. “Like father, like son.”
    “Hey, I’m no where near as forgetful as Dad,” Victor protested.
    “You always forget your homework.”
    “Yes, but – that’s homework. It doesn’t count.”
    “Very true,” Zoe mused, “You wouldn’t do it even if you did remember.”
    He shrugged. “Yeah, well, why waste my time on something I don’t need to do?”
    She sighed. “One day, Victor Coburn, I’m going to find out how you manage to do so well in school without trying at all. But not today. See you around, maybe.”
    “Why, are you here all day?” he asked, surprised.
    She paused long enough to give him an answer. “I’m helping my Mum.”

    Then she dashed out of the doors and down the steps to the street. Zoe Stockton was always in a rush. Victor shook his head; he couldn’t understand the need to hurry all the time. Then he suddenly remembered that he had about 45 minutes before Dad’s meeting started and about 15 minutes more before the boss arrived at his own workplace and realised he wasn’t there on time. The boy eyed the lift regretfully as he ran for the stairs, ignoring the strange looks he got from people in the lobby.

    His father was normally happy to see him, but as Victor burst through the door he jumped and frowned at his son. It was only after Victor handed over the massive briefcase and his father’s memory stick that the expression cleared.

    “Oooh, I would have missed that during the meeting,” his Dad chuckled (though Victor didn’t see how it was funny), ruffling his son’s dark hair as he had done when he was small. “Thank you.”
    He batted his father’s hand off and ducked away. “Yeah Dad, whatever.”
    “I’ve seen Clara Stockton’s daughter around today,” Mr. Coburn told his son, almost casually, as he carefully placed the briefcase on his desk. “She’s a nice girl.”
    “She’s alright,” he replied warily.
    “Quite pretty, too.”
    Victor groaned. Not this again. “Dad!”
    “I’m just saying,” his father answered defensively, holding up his hands. “It’s, you know, an observation.”
    “Not a very subtle one . . .” Victor scowled, annoyed by his father’s words – although it wasn’t so much his words as the tone behind them. His Dad was of the mistaken belief that he hadn’t quite “gotten over” Michelle yet and, apparently, a new girlfriend would solve this problem. Even if his father had been right – which he definitely, definitely wasn’t – then Zoe Stockton was not the solution.

    As his Dad started to say something else, Victor looked at his watch – and grimaced. “Dad, I’m really sorry but I’ve got to go.”
    His father looked at the clock on the wall. Scowling, he said, “Christ Vic, didn’t your work start 10 minutes ago? Can’t you keep better time?”
    “Well, I had to come a different way to give you all your stuff for the meeting!” Victor protested
    The man’s angry expression dissolved. “I should have known that would be the explanation. I’m sorry; you shouldn’t have to look after your old Dad like this. If I’d remembered everything this morning like I was supposed to . . .”
    “Yeah Dad, that’s great,” Victor said, concentrating on edging towards the door rather than listening, “Look, save the rant for later, okay? I’ve got to run. Good luck with your meeting!”

    Without letting his father get another word in, Victor opened the door and stepped outside before slamming it behind him. He felt a little guilty about running from his Dad without even saying goodbye properly, but he was late and getting later by the second. This thought spurred him on as he threw himself down the stairs, hoping that he’d be able to make it to work before he became grounds-for-firing late.

    He reached the first floor without incident, dodging around astonished office workers like the rugby star that he was. Victor was starting to feel a little more optimistic about keeping his job when he ran into Zoe Stockton again – literally.

    “Ow!” The girl exclaimed loudly, crashing to the floor and dropping the large stack of files she was carrying. Victor stood sheepishly amongst the mess as she glared up at him. “What the hell, Victor? Are you out to get me today or something?”
    “Sorry,” he muttered, helping Zoe to her feet. “I’m not having a good day.”
    “You really didn’t have to tell me that,” she answered sourly, “I think I could have worked it out for myself.”

    Victor sighed and simply started collecting the files together again as quickly as he could. After a moment, when she’d realised that he was intelligent enough not to get into an argument with her (not right now, anyway), Zoe started to help.

    It took well over ten minutes, because Zoe insisted on putting back all the papers into the right files (how she knew, Victor had no idea, and he suspected she was guessing with half of them. He also suspected she would blame those ones on him). By the time it was done Victor looked like he was dancing on coals – every second in Zoe’s company that dragged by reminded him that he was getting closer and closer to a lot of trouble at work (with a capital T).

    He was relieved when the task was finally done. “I’m really sorry about that, Zoe. Anyway, I’ll see you around, I’ve got to–”
    “I don’t think so,” Zoe interrupted thunderously, “You are not getting away with this that easily!”
    “But I’m late for work,” Victor protested, inwardly groaning as he imagined just what more delay would do to his welcome.
    “Well I don’t care! I’m injured!” she retorted, tossing her hair and glaring. “Besides, aren’t you on the rugby team? This should take you half the time it would take me.”
    “There’s a big difference between rugby and carrying a bunch of folders–” he began.
    Zoe evidently wasn’t listening. She picked up all but three of the folders and dumped them into his arms. “Stop whining and get moving. My Mum’s office is on the tenth floor.”
    Victor groaned. “Zoe, I’m going to be so late it’s not even funny . . .”
    “Well you should have thought of that before you crashed into me,” she answered. “Come on, we’ll take the lift.”
    He snorted bad-temperedly. “Well, thank God for small mercies. At least we can take the lift.”

    Victor Coburn found himself being dragged to the tenth floor, hoping that Zoe’s demands wouldn’t make him as late for work as he suspected they might – not that he could just walk off after running into her like that. And, in all honesty, at this point it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.

  4. Holliequon 12 Dec 2008 at 3:48 pm

    The Victor I had in mind was a ltitle like an absent-minded professor – intelligent but easily distracted. He’s a little lazy, too, although I don’t think that really comes across in here. It explains his schoolwork though – naturally gifted, but he doesn’t really do anything with it.

    This is (hopefully) the final version. I skipped the beginning bits because I didn’t change much of those, just slotted some new bits in the middle and end (just making a note, so you know the beginning is still there).

    He opened the doors and entered, mind wandering, and he was embarrassed to find himself walking straight into somebody else. “Sorry, wasn’t looking where I was going,” he began automatically, beginning to crouch and gather the papers the person had dropped.
    “That much is obvious.”
    He knew that voice. The boy stared in shock at the girl he had bumped into.

    “Zoe? Zoe from history?”
    She rolled her eyes. “No, it’s Zoe from Mars. Honestly. Did Michelle’s stupidity start rubbing off on you?”

    A tall man in a sharp suit pointedly walked around them to get to the door, making him jump. Victor had forgotten that he was blocking the entrance. By this time, Zoe had managed to gather nearly everything together – she was, of course, Zoe Stockton, and therefore everything she did was done better and quicker. At least that was what you’d think if you heard the teachers singing her praises; she wasn’t quite as bad a person as they made out. Victor was even willing to forgive the mention of his ex-girlfriend, although that ship had sailed and been blow apart weeks ago.

    “What are you doing here?” Zoe asked him suspiciously, tucking a stray strand of red hair behind her ear.
    “Dad was working on some advertising thingy for hours last night,” he explained, “But, being useless as he is, he forgot to take it with him this morning.”
    She smiled and shook her head. “Like father, like son. But speaking of forgetting things, I was supposed to give this to your Dad.”
    “Hey, I’m nowhere near as forgetful as Dad,” Victor protested, taking the paper full of scribbles and numbers from her. It looked like budgeting to him . . . or something. The numbers didn’t seem that big – Dad would be overjoyed.
    Zoe raised her eyebrows, though it might have been because of his reaction to the paper. “You always forget your homework.”
    “Yes, but – that’s homework. It doesn’t count.” As he said this, Victor remembered the English detention that he’d missed on Friday. Whoops.
    “Very true,” Zoe mused, “You wouldn’t do it even if you did remember.”
    He shrugged, stepping around a woman heading for the reception desk. Her heels clacked on the floor in a way that made him edgy. “Yeah, well, why waste my time on something I don’t need to do?”
    She sighed. “One day, Victor Coburn, I’m going to find out how you manage to do so well in school without trying at all. But not today. See you around, maybe.”
    “Why, are you here all day?” he asked, surprised. He’d worked out why the sound of the heels annoyed him – it sounded too much like a clock.
    She paused long enough to give him an answer. “I’m helping my Mum.”

    She dashed out of the doors and down the steps to the street. Zoe Stockton was always in a rush. Victor shook his head; he couldn’t understand the need to hurry all the time. Then he suddenly remembered that he had about 45 minutes before Dad’s meeting started and about 15 minutes more before the boss arrived at his own workplace and realised he wasn’t there on time. The boy eyed the lift regretfully as he ran for the stairs, ignoring the strange looks he got from people in the lobby.

    His father was normally happy to see him, but as Victor burst through the door he jumped and blinked quizzically at his son. It was only after Victor handed over the note from Zoe, a massive briefcase and his father’s memory stick that the expression cleared.

    “Oooh, I would have missed that during the meeting,” his Dad chuckled ruffling his son’s dark hair. Victor, glancing at the clock, didn’t think it was funny. “Thank you. But what’s this?” He held up the sheet of paper Zoe had asked him to pass along.
    Victor batted his father’s hand off and ducked away. “Zoe gave it to me.”
    “Oh, Clara Stockton’s daughter. She must be helping out again today,” Mr. Coburn carefully placed the briefcase on his desk. “She’s a nice girl.”
    “She’s alright,” Victor replied warily. He didn’t like the too-casual tone his Dad was using; that was normally a bad sign.
    “Quite pretty, too.”
    Victor groaned. “Dad!”
    “I’m just saying,” his father answered defensively, holding up his hands. “It’s, you know, an observation.”
    “Not a very subtle one . . .” Victor scowled, not annoyed by his father’s words, but rather the assumption behind them. His Dad mistakenly believed that he hadn’t quite “gotten over” Michelle yet and, apparently, a new girlfriend would solve this problem. Even if his father had been right – which he definitely, definitely wasn’t – then Zoe Stockton was not the solution any more than she was from Mars.

    As his Dad started to say something else, Victor looked at his watch – and grimaced. “Dad, I’m really sorry but I’ve got to go.”
    His father looked at the clock on the wall. Scowling, he said, “Christ Vic, didn’t your work start 10 minutes ago? Can’t you keep better time?”
    “Well, I had to come a different way to give you all your stuff for the meeting!” Victor protested.
    The man’s angry expression didn’t lessen. The boy mentally kicked himself for sparking what looked to be another long-winded rant. “Victor, I keep talking to you about time management – I know it’s difficult when you’ve got work and school, but you shouldn’t–”
    “Yeah Dad, that’s great,” Victor said, concentrating on edging towards the door rather than listening, “Look, save the rant for later, okay?”

    Without letting his father get another word in, Victor opened the door and stepped outside before slamming it behind him. He felt a little guilty about running from his Dad without even saying goodbye properly, but he was late and getting later by the second. And this time, it wasn’t even his fault. This thought spurred him on as he threw himself down the stairs, hoping that he’d be able to make it to work before he became grounds-for-firing late.

    He reached the first floor without incident, dodging around astonished office workers like the rugby star that he was (never mind that he’d been cut from the team – they would let him back on. Eventually). Victor was starting to feel a little more optimistic about keeping his job when he ran into Zoe Stockton again – literally.

    “Ow!” The girl exclaimed loudly, crashing to the floor and dropping the large stack of files she was carrying. Victor stood sheepishly amongst the mess as she glared up at him. “What the hell, Victor? Are you out to get me today or something?”
    “Sorry,” he muttered, helping Zoe to her feet. “I’m not having a good day.”
    “I think I could have worked that out for myself,” she answered sourly.

    Victor sighed and simply started collecting the files together again as quickly as he could. After a moment, when she’d realised that he was intelligent enough not to get into an argument with her (not right now, anyway), Zoe started to help.

    It took well over ten minutes, because Zoe insisted on putting back all the papers into the right files (how she knew, Victor had no idea, and he suspected she was guessing with half of them. He also suspected she would blame those ones on him). By the time it was done Victor looked like he was dancing on coals – every second in Zoe’s company that dragged by reminded him that he was getting closer and closer to a lot of trouble at work.

    He was relieved when the task was finally done. “I’m really sorry about that, Zoe. Anyway, I’ll see you around, I’ve got to–”
    “I don’t think so,” Zoe interrupted, “You are not getting away with this that easily!”
    “But I’m late for work,” Victor protested, imagining just what more delay would do to his welcome.
    “Well I don’t care! I’m injured!” she retorted, tossing her hair and glaring. “Besides, aren’t you on the rugby team? This should take you half the time it would take me.”
    Victor decided not to correct her. “There’s a big difference between rugby and carrying a bunch of folders–”
    Zoe evidently wasn’t listening. She picked up all but three of the folders and dumped them into his arms. “Stop whining and get moving. My Mum’s office is on the tenth floor.”
    Victor groaned. “Zoe, I’m going to be so late it’s not even funny . . .”
    “Well, you should have thought of that before you crashed into me,” she answered. “Come on, we’ll take the lift.”

  5. Holliequon 17 Dec 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Just a reminder for when you – or anyone else – has time.

  6. B. Macon 17 Dec 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Yeah, I’m sorry. I promise I’ll get to it within a few days.

  7. Holliequon 22 Dec 2008 at 7:38 am

    I really need to work on this more. ~_~ Still haven’t finished chapter 1.

  8. Holliequon 26 Dec 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Well, I finally finished the next chapter (which is now chapter two, since the other one wasn’t really much of a prologue). I’m not very satisified with it, especially the beginning, but I’ve been struggling with a minor writer’s block and I’m out of ideas.

    Chapter Two – Through The Shining Door

    As it turned out, even the tiny mercy of using the lift was denied to Victor. He groaned as he saw black and yellow tape crossing the sliding doors. “Today really is not my day. Trust the lift to break down in the 15 minutes since I last saw it.”
    “We’ll just have to take the stairs,” Zoe muttered, though she seemed a little put out as well.
    “I’m going to be very, very late,” Victor reminded her. She simply pushed him forwards.

    Zoe didn’t say anything as they started climbing the stairs, Victor trailing behind slightly. He didn’t say anything either, in no mood to converse with somebody who was probably going to lose him his job. It looked like he was going to have to say goodbye to that new game he had been hoping to treat himself too. Not to mention his father’s birthday . . .

    Thinking of his father made Victor remember his abrupt exit earlier. He felt a little guilty about that and wondered if he ought to apologise when Zoe finally let him go. But then he squared his shoulders and his expression hardened. His Dad had been out of order. It wasn’t Victor’s job to say sorry this time.

    “Yoo-hoo.” Zoe’s voice startled him. “Earth to Victor. Anybody there?”
    He shrugged. “Eh, sorry.”
    She eyed him for a few moments before saying, “So, were you thinking about Michelle?”
    “No!” Victor answered, surprising himself with the edge in his voice, “Why does everybody keep assuming that?”
    “Because you’re not over her yet?” Zoe suggested.
    They passed the door to the fourth floor – that meant he only had to put up with Zoe for six more floors. The thought helped keep his temper in check. “That isn’t true. I don’t care about Michelle any more.”
    “Then why are you getting all defensive about her?” she asked, sounding smug.
    “Because . . .” He stopped, realising that he had no answer to give. His trainers made a squeak on the floor as this thought drew him to a brief pause. “Just because,” he finished lamely, glancing out of the windows lining the walls.
    It wasn’t so easy to avoid Zoe’s voice. “Look, I know she cheated on you . . .”
    “Just drop it,” Victor told her flatly.
    “Okay, fine,” Zoe answered, sounding a little huffy, “I was just trying to be helpful.”

    How? Victor wondered, but he said nothing. Ten more steps passed in silence before Zoe spoke up again. “But seriously, she was only getting her own back because of what happened with you and Louise.”
    “Didn’t I tell you to drop this?” he spat, “Nothing happened with me and Louise.”
    She sounded surprised, “Did you tell Michelle that?”
    “What do you think I am, an idiot?” Victor finally glanced back at Zoe, glaring, “I said that as soon as I heard the rumour going round. She didn’t believe me.”

    That ended the conversation.

    For a few more steps.

    “You ended it because she didn’t believe you?”
    “Zoe,” Victor said sharply, “Please. My day’s been bad enough already.”
    “Just answer the question,” Zoe was practically begging by this point. Victor had never understood this thing with girls and gossip. “I won’t mention it to anybody.”
    Realising it was likely going to be the only way she would drop the subject, he snapped, “Yes, I did. Now, please: shut up.”

    As they ascended the steps to the eighth floor, Victor was surprised to find that Zoe remained silent. He had been expecting her to speak up with some other question or demand by now – she was always being nosy, asking questions that nobody wanted to answer. The fact that she was being quiet bothered him a little, especially as she was now behind him. It felt like she was plotting something.

    When he looked back, though, all he noticed was her thoughtful expression; a slight frown creased her features. The look surprised him and he couldn’t help blurting out, “What’s with that face?”
    The expression disappeared, replaced by raised eyebrows. “I thought you wanted me to shut up?”
    “A quiet you worries me more than a noisy one.” A quiet Zoe usually meant she was thinking, the consequences of which were rarely good. For the people around her, anyway.
    He didn’t hear the retort he had been expecting. Instead, Zoe explained, “It’s just, I wasn’t expecting that to be the reason. I thought it would be something more – um, guyish?”

    Victor wondered whether he ought to be worried when he thought he understood that. After a moment’s thought, he decided that it was good grounds for worry. He perked up, however, when he noticed the large number ten next to a set of double doors.

    “Finally,” he muttered, pushing it open with his shoulder and stepping into the corridor. It was utterly empty, except for a few potted plants. Victor didn’t know why, but for some reason he had been expecting it to be busier – now that he thought about it, with the lifts out it made sense for the stairs to be busier too.

    “Strange,” Zoe said curiously, echoing his thoughts, “It’s not normally this quiet.”
    “It’s like a haunted house,” Victor grumbled, “Let’s just dump these in your Mum’s office so I can finally go.”
    The red-headed girl shot him an odd look. “What sort of haunted houses do you know, Victor? White and yellow aren’t your staple colours for a horror story.”
    He gave her a gentle shove in the back. “What did I say about shutting up, Zoe?”
    “Haunted houses tend to be full of spider’s webs rather than spider plants, too,” she continued, ignoring him completely. Victor sighed. At least she was moving, he supposed, though not nearly fast enough for his liking. He gave her another gentle shove in the back.
    Zoe paused briefly to glare at him before she continued walking. “You could fill the part of the ugly monster, if you like.”
    “Oh, very funny,” Victor replied.
    She smiled; he guessed she was joking. With Zoe Stockton you could never really tell. “I think you’ll find that my Mum’s office is the third on the right.”
    Victor counted the doors and realised he was standing in front of the fourth door on the right. He backtracked. “You could have mentioned that before.”
    “That would be making things easy for you,” she smiled.

    Victor scowled. They stood in front of the door for a few moments.

    Zoe stared at him pointedly. “You know, it’s considered polite for men to open the door for ladies.”
    “In case you hadn’t noticed,” he said sourly, shifting the massive pile of folders slightly, “My arms are kind of full at the moment.”
    “Well, you’re no gentlemen anyway,” she muttered, reaching for the door handle.

    You’re not exactly a lady yourself, Victor thought. He wasn’t stupid enough to say it out loud. Zoe would kill him – or work him to death, whichever proved more convenient. The door to the office opened and Victor stepped forward, expecting to be greeted by a room as ordinary and boring as Zoe Stockton’s mother wasn’t.

    He wasn’t expecting for the room to not be there at all. A white light flooded his vision and he shut his eyes automatically. Where the hell was this light coming from? It was so bright it hurt his eyes with the lids closed.

    Victor swore as he felt the unpleasant sensation of tiny hooks digging in to every inch of skin, dragging him forward. He was pretty sure he hadn’t really been impaled on a thousand needles, but it damn well felt like it. Understandably, holding on to the pile of folders wasn’t a priority anymore and he let them tumble to the floor.

    If this was some trick of Zoe’s, he was going to murder her. But even as he thought this, it occurred to him that it would have been pretty difficult – impossible, even – for Zoe to set this up . . . whatever ‘this’ was. Speaking of Zoe, where the hell was she? A moment ago she had been at his shoulder. Obviously he wasn’t expecting to be able to see her, but he couldn’t hear anything. Not just anything from Zoe; he couldn’t hear a single sound. It was like the whole world had suddenly been put on mute and, in the middle of a big city, this was unnerving. Maybe even frightening.

    A split-second later, however, Victor wished that the word was still on mute. A rushing sound filled his ears and even though he wasn’t in water he had the weird feeling that he was drowning. It was hard to breathe. A thousand tiny hooks-that-weren’t-there were still pricking his skin. His feet hadn’t budged a centimetre, but he felt like he was being pulled all over the place.

    The bright light suddenly disappeared. Victor instinctively opened his eyes. He was surrounded by . . . absolutely nothing. It was pitch black; there was literally no light at all. He shut his eyes again quickly, preferring the safety of the comforting darkness behind his eyelids. What the hell was going on?

    Victor experienced the sudden sensation of being weightless for a split-second before he crashed into something hard, face-first. With the breath knocked out of him and a million unpleasant sensations plaguing his body, Victor finally fell unconscious.

  9. Holliequon 27 Dec 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Reminder?

  10. Holliequon 28 Dec 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Another reminder? (I’m working on chapter 3, right now, and I already think I’m going to need major changes – I’d like to get these over and done with . . .)

  11. Holliequon 30 Dec 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I don’t mean to be annoying, but if anyone has time to identify problematic areas so I know which parts I need to work on, it would be a huge help.

  12. Ragged Boyon 30 Dec 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I have a huge science fair project that I’m working (slacking) on, you probably don’t care for my thoughts anyway.

  13. B. Macon 30 Dec 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Ah, Christ. Whoops. I’ll get right on it.

  14. Holliequon 30 Dec 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I value everyone’s input, RB. 😀 You give some (lots of!) good advice.

  15. B. Macon 30 Dec 2008 at 2:50 pm

    –That’s an interesting title.

    –The first sentence is not very flavorful. I’d recommend merging it into the second, and/or replacing it with some statement of dismay/annoyance by Victor.

    “though she seemed a little put out as well.” I think that this phrase is a bit unnecessary; I feel that it’s encapsulated by “she muttered.” Also, it seems a little bit awkward so say that “Zoe muttered, though she seemed a bit put-out…” The sentence currently uses the word “though,” which seems to mean “however” here. But I don’t think that’s intended. I think the phrase should be “as though.”

    “Victor reminded her” is probably not necessary. I think we’ll know it’s him talking based on the content of the line.

    “probably going to lose him his job” could possibly be shortened to “probably get him fired.” I know that forms of “get” can be dangerous, but I feel that it creates a more powerful expression here.

    The re-introduction of Michelle seems very sudden here. For what it’s worth, I didn’t get any impression that he was still getting over her before. When Zoe pushes the issue (“because you’re not over her yet?”), I strongly felt that she didn’t know what she was talking about. If you’d like to suggest that Victor is still getting over Michelle, I’d recommend having traces of their relationship slip in to his perspective. (For example, perhaps Zoe’s shoes annoy him because they remind him of some fancy shoes he bought for Michelle).

    The sentence “she was only getting her own back because of what happened with you and Louise” doesn’t feel right. One, it implies that she thinks he’s a cheater but doesn’t have use any of the judgmental language I would expect in such a sentence. I’d recommend something like “Maybe if you hadn’t cheated with Louise, she wouldn’t have cheated on you.”
    –“The consequences of which were rarely good.” Haha! Although the narrator sometimes uses description a bit densely, I think he’s a solid addition to the story.

    –“good grounds for worry” could probably be “reason to worry.” It’s a bit shorter.

    I think that the two characters have a lot of chemistry.

    “you’re no gentlemen.” I think gentleman should be singular there.

    I think that the internal monologuing relayed by the third-person narrator is pretty smooth in the paragraph beginning “if this was some trick…” The use of third-person narration is very fitting for this book.

    In all, I think the chapter is definitely a serviceable transition. It’s a bit strange that he is transported from an office building into his version of Narnia (rather than from something like a mysterious wardrobe in the middle of some scary old house), but I kind of like that. It helps keep the pacing steady.

  16. Holliequon 30 Dec 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Do you think “Am I asking too much of life? Victor wondered as he saw black and yellow tape crossing the lift doors. He groaned.” is suitable replacement for the first few lines?

    I’ll think on their conversation some more and maybe get back to you on that one.

    Otherwise, thanks very much. That really helps. I knew something was bugging me about their conversation!

  17. B. Macon 30 Dec 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I’d recommend something like “Victor groaned as he saw black and yellow tape crossing the lift doors.” As always, if you’re applying to an American publisher, remember to replace lift with elevator. Heh heh.

  18. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:22 pm

    My writing is full of Aussie and British things. For example, Isaac calls cookies “biscuits”. I guess it’s because I do the same thing. In my vocabulary, French fries are “chips” and potato chips are “crisps”. Elevators are “lifts”, color is “colour”, Mom is “Mum”, hot dogs are “sausage rolls”. I could go on. Coffee is “beer”. Nah, not really. Haha.

  19. Ragged Boyon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:38 pm

    I know this kind of random and a bit of a task, but could you guys (and gals) give me some scientific topics for a science fair project and some experiments that I can replicate?

    You don’t have to if you don’t want, but it would REALLY be appreciated.

    Did I mention how stunning and radiant you all look today?

  20. Jacobon 30 Dec 2008 at 6:13 pm

    If you’re really into science, I recommend something like testing out paper airplane designs. The trick to the scientific method is that you have to test each design fairly, so try something like dropping them in front of a fan that’s a constant force in a room without another source of wind.

    If you’re not much into science, an easier project would be to test what makes plants grow the best. Your control group would be a plant that had regular access to sunlight and water. Your experimental groups would be a group that had access to fertilizer, a group that was given only rainwater rather than tap-water, a group that had limited sunlight, etc. This is kind of a no-brainer. The ones with fertilizer should perform best, followed by the rain-water plants. Depending on which plants you use, the ones with less sunlight will probably lag behind the control group a bit.

    If you’d like something really creative, you could do an experiment like “which kind of people have the most effective sense of taste?” Prepare six or seven teas and have your taste-testers taste each one and pick their favorite. (Make sure they rinse their mouth with water before trying each one). When they’ve picked their favorite, mark it down. The next day, have all of your testers repeat the experiment and take the second set of results. Most of the people will have picked a new favorite tea! Do the experiment again for a day or two and keep recording each test-taker’s data. To analyze your results, break down the test-takers by age and gender. Those will be your experimental groups. Do kids have a more consistent sense of taste than adults? Is there a major difference between men and women? (Experimental notes: if possible, it will help to test all of the people at the same time of the day, ideally in the same room. Otherwise, your results might be skewed by factors like humidity). Also, I should add that you’ll probably need a lot of people for this experiment. I’d recommend at least 16 test-takers.

  21. Ragged Boyon 30 Dec 2008 at 6:33 pm

    I like the first one is sounds the cheapest, most doable, and fun, I think I may go with that. Pick up a few origami books and lots of paper, two things that I have.

    As for number two, I have a touch of death when it comes to plants. They don’t like me and I don’t trust them.

    Number three sounds really fun, I LOVE tea, but would take alot of planning and organizing. Two things that aren’t my specialty. Ill consider it though.

    Thanks! Did I mention that’s an amazing labcoat you have on Mr. Mallow!

  22. B. Macon 30 Dec 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Yeah, using Britishisms or Australianisms shouldn’t be a problem, particularly if you’re selling to UK/Australian/Canadian publishers. However, personally I’m a fan of selling to US publishers because it’s the largest market for English-language books. I’m not well-versed in international publishing, but it’s my understanding that authors typically get a higher rate of royalties from the book’s home-market. So publishing first in the US may increase your revenue. If you’re not scared off by a promotional schedule that might be grossly inconvenient, I’d recommend looking into it. (Incidentally, although I’m definitely looking at US publishers, my promotional schedule may end up taking me across Canada anyway).

    From time to time, I may say something like “if you were thinking about publishing in the US, I’d recommend replacing flat with elevator.” When I say that, it’s not to pressure the author to publish American, but mainly for the benefit of any other writers that are thinking about the US market.

  23. Holliequon 30 Dec 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I’m wary about publishing into an American market because I think my characters will always be a bit too . . . well, British. Mind you, Harry Potter sold well enough and that’s *fairly* British. >.<

  24. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 30 Dec 2008 at 10:04 pm

    It’s the same with me. Most of my major characters are Australians or live in Australia, which is the main setting. Isaac was raised here, Will moved here to be with his grandparents, Amy-Belle was born here, and so was Rana.

    I try to keep a pretty diverse cast, though. Amy-Belle’s mother is Greek, Rana’s parents are Indian, Will is English, Tristram is American, Klemente and Atalya are African-American, Isaac’s foster father is Japanese and Requiem (in this life) is half-Irish. All of their origins are the same as people I know or have met in real life, so it’s pretty realistic. Most of the similarities end there.

  25. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 30 Dec 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Sometimes my characters talk about Aussie current affairs or history, like when our Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared in 1967. I could be wrong, but I don’t think many people in the USA would be familiar with how big that was, or even know who he was. It’s still on the news sometimes.

    Channel Ten news presenter Charmaine Dragun jumped off a cliff in Sydney hours before she was due to give the bulletin.

    The horse Makybe Diva won the Melbourne Cup three times in a row, something that even Phar Lap, the most famous horse didn’t manage.

    These are all things that I wouldn’t expect the average USA citizen to know, but they’re really big events for us Aussies.

  26. B. Macon 30 Dec 2008 at 11:23 pm

    The Australian history sounds pretty interesting. The Australian current affairs might date your story. Also, they might limit the geographic appeal.

    In contrast, a Harold Holt reference would probably require some explanation, but I think that it’s sufficiently sensationalistic that it could appeal to most Americans and presumably other non-Australians after you tell us what happened.

  27. B. Macon 30 Dec 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I think part of the charm of Harry Potter was that it was (mildly) British. That gave it an exotic feel without getting bogged down in hopelessly exotic things like, umm, soccer. Harry and his friends aren’t obsessed with soccer; they are obsessed with Quidditch, which is essentially soccer on broomsticks.

  28. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 31 Dec 2008 at 3:27 am

    I try not to give any indications as to what year it is in my writing. All I’ve said is that school has just gone back and Isaac has begun year eleven. His birthday is in early February, so he’s already sixteen.

    More Aussie history:

    Harold Holt was at the beach with three of his friends, and he went for a swim. The friends alerted the authorities when he failed to return. Despite a huge air and sea search, along with one that went down several kilometres of beach, no trace of him was ever found.

    Another huge event was the disappearance of Peter Falconio. He was a British tourist who was with his girlfriend, and according to her he was shot. No one has found his body, so there is still a lot of mystery surrounding it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Falconio

    We had a pretty huge historical event just recently. Indigenous Aussie children were being removed from their families in order to make them learn the ways of the settlers, and also to “breed them out” during the 1870’s through to the 1970’s (It wasn’t very common by then, but it still happened). On February 13 this year, our current Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) officially apologized to every Indigenous Australian to make a fresh start.

    I’m pretty sure that you’ll have heard about Steve Irwin’s death. For a guy who wrestled crocs, you’d think that would be what killed him. Nope, it was a stingray.

    Daniel Morcombe disappeared when he was thirteen and hasn’t been seen since. His family set up a foundation to help families of missing people and have offered a million AUD for the return of Daniel or information that leads to his abductors’ arrest.

    http://www.mako.org.au/danielmorcombe1.html

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/missing-boys-parents-reveal-phone-tipoff/2007/02/26/1172338505782.html

    What happened at the soccer riot? I hope it wasn’t as bad as the Manchester United vs. Manchester City rivalry, because that would be BRUTAL.

  29. B. Macon 31 Dec 2008 at 7:39 am

    I had been planning on doing a webcomic about Agent Orange and his fondness for the Crocodile Hunter (1: anyone that hunts crocodiles is surely a friend of alligators, right? and 2: he appeared in a commercial with The Florida Gator) but then he died and I kind of nixed it.

  30. Ragged Boyon 31 Dec 2008 at 8:13 am

    Here in America:

    My city, Jacksonville, was recently the murder capital of the nation, but it isn’t anymore.

    Were in recession, we’ve already got our tickets back to Brasil if the economy crashes here.

    That’s about all I now for semi-current events. I should watch the news more, but its scary when they talk about killers and they have the guy with the really deep voice to talk about them. Creepy.

    American is just a victim of ignorant, senseless violence. But don’t worry, when I’m a famous celebrity, I’ll spread the word of peace WITH A COMBAT SHOTGUN!!!

  31. B. Macon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:29 am

    I think Chicago is a strong contender for murder capital this year. Great fundamentals. But Minneapolis has something to prove. It won’t be known as Murderapolis for long unless it really works at it.

  32. Holliequon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:39 am

    There are two famous people from my area (a singer and footbal– soccer player), and they’re only famous nationwide. Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing of interest here – except I think some place near me was the origin of the methodist movement.

    Britain’s in a recession too (though not as bad as the US, I think). That and Israel are all that’s on the news at the moment.

  33. B. Macon 31 Dec 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I like the swap a lot. You might want to establish early on that the job means a lot to him.

  34. Holliequon 31 Dec 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I’ll do that. Thank you.

  35. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 31 Dec 2008 at 4:03 pm

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  36. Holliequon 31 Dec 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Another 50 minutes here. ;P

  37. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 31 Dec 2008 at 4:40 pm

    It’s 8:37 on the 1st of January here. I watched the fireworks on TV. There’s a huge annual celebration over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and I heard that $6 million was spent on the whole thing. It’s better than going to see the local ones, because they’re nothing in comparison.

  38. Holliequon 31 Dec 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Okay, not it’s midnight.

    Happy new year guys! 🙂

  39. Ragged Boyon 31 Dec 2008 at 6:16 pm

    We still have 4 hours and 45 minutes until New Year.

  40. Holliequon 08 Jan 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I feel like there’s something wrong with chapter 3, but I can’t place it exactly. I’ve barely had time to work on chapter four since school started. >.<

    Chapter Three – Somewhere Over The Mountain

    Victor’s head hurt. A lot. More than anything what he wanted was to sit still and breathe. Well, what he really wanted was some painkillers and a bed, but that didn’t seem very likely considering his surroundings. He was in a narrow valley, with no end in sight. The mountains, dotted by rough grass and some sort of blue flower, were steep but not too high, as mountains went – more like glorified hills.

    It was still a very picturesque scene, he supposed, if you liked that sort of thing. He preferred the busyness of the city – but Victor definitely wouldn’t find that here. It was so quiet. Just the buzz of insects and the wind rustling a lone tree.

    Well, that and Zoe.

    “Victor, if you don’t start listening to me I’m going to knock you out again!”

    Maybe she was the reason his head hurt so much.

    “Victor!” Zoe demanded, prodding him.
    “Leave off,” he mumbled, pushing her hand away. “You’re making my headache even worse.”
    “You’re worried about a headache?!” She stared at him with an expression approaching revulsion. He couldn’t help wishing that the branch she was sat under would suddenly fall off the tree. At least that would keep her quiet.
    He sighed. Like he would be lucky enough for that to happen at the exact moment he wanted it to. “Alright then, what should I be worried about?”
    Zoe’s expression registered dismay. “Oh, I don’t know – how about, where the hell we are.”
    “Why should I be worried about that?” Victor asked, knowing that his relaxed manner was just making Zoe more infuriated. “Nothing bad has happened so far, has it?”
    “How can you even think that?” she asked, quieter, “We don’t know where the hell we are, we don’t even know how we got here. How the hell are we supposed to get back? How can you be so . . . so – stupid?”
    “Seems stupider to me to worry about it,” he told her, “Stress is bad for your health, you know. Why not just find a shelter or something?”

    Zoe yelled in frustration, turning away from him. Victor closed his eyes, lying on his back and hoping she would leave him alone now. Maybe he would worry about where they were – later. For now, he was content to let his headache slowly recede.

    The girl with him, apparently, wasn’t. Victor felt a sharp prod to the ribs that, when he only winced, was quickly followed by a slap.

    “OW!” He sat up on his elbows, glaring at her. “Christ, Zoe, what now?”
    Victor regretted the tone of his voice almost immediately: when Zoe answered, she was practically growling. “Hey genius, why don’t you take a look around? Do you see any signs of people about?”
    “What?” This time, he sat up properly, examining both ends of the valley again. Zoe was right – there was no sign of civilisation. Victor might not have been as worried about their situation as she was, but the idea of having Zoe as his only company in a strange place didn’t appeal. “I suppose you want me to move, then.”
    “Oh, it finally dawns on him,” she snapped. She was on a shorter leash than normal.
    Victor, standing, made a mental note to play on the safe side. “So where were you planning to go, exactly?”
    “The nearest town, of course.” Zoe gave him an odd look. “Where else do you suggest? The top of the tree?”
    I wish, Victor thought, glancing upwards into the boughs. “No, no. The town is fine. One question, though.”
    She sighed. “What now, Victor?”
    “Where is it?”
    Zoe glared at him. Then the expression dropped from her face, replaced by – worryingly – something close to fear. “Jesus. I didn’t think of that. Who knows if there’s even one nearby. If there isn’t, then what are we going to do? We’ve got no water, no food–”
    “Woah, woah,” Victor had expected to get one up on her, not start off some breakdown. “Calm down. C’mon, how hard can it be to find a town?”

    Zoe sat down, rather abruptly, in the space by the tree that Victor had just occupied. She didn’t answer.

    He glared, exasperated. “We already talked about how you worry me more when you’re quiet.”
    “You weren’t worried about anything a minute ago,” she answered.
    Victor scowled. “You weren’t quiet a minute ago.”

    He glanced at the sky. The sun glared overhead and he wished he hadn’t given Zoe the opportunity to steal the only shade in sight. She still hadn’t come up with a smart reply to his comment earlier, which was unusual for her. Victor regretted wishing she would shut up earlier – Zoe talking was always better.

    Well, I don’t know what she expects me to do, Victor thought. If Zoe didn’t know where the nearest town was, how was he supposed to know? It wasn’t like he’d been here before. It didn’t look like anybody had been here before.

    Victor sighed, looking around in the hope of seeing some sort of settlement – and that was when he spotted the smoke. The dark plume rising over the “mountain” stood out a mile against the pale sky. He wondered how he’d managed to miss it before.

    He glared at Zoe, still sitting silently in the shade. “Hey.”

    No reaction.

    “Oi, Zoe.”
    “What?” she snapped.
    He nodded his head. “Smoke. Something’s on fire.”
    “I see the wisdom of that old saying hasn’t escaped you,” Zoe muttered, standing up to have a look for herself. “You’re right, though. So?”
    “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” he told her, unable to resist a grin.
    “Yes, Victor, we’ve established that.” Zoe frowned, and despite her sarcasm he could tell she was annoyed he knew something she didn’t. “So?”
    “So, where there’s fire that big, there’s . . .”
    “A town?” she guessed, unconvinced, “It could just be a forest fire, you know.”
    He raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t it a bit cold for a forest fire?”
    “Well, maybe. But whatever’s causing that fire is on the other side of the mountain,” she pointed out.
    He didn’t see the problem. “Yeah, and?”
    Zoe looked from him to the mountain and back again, her face registering disbelief. “You expect me to climb that?”
    He still didn’t see the problem. “It’s not that high.”
    “Are you crazy?” She certainly thought so, judging by the look she was giving him. “You can’t just walk over a mountain.”
    “Well, why not?” he asked. “It’s not really a mountain . . . more like a large hill. With rocks. ”
    Zoe glared at her surroundings, as though it was the scenery’s fault. At least she wasn’t blaming him (for once). “Do we really have to go over the mountain?”
    Victor rolled his eyes. “Why don’t you try walking to the end of the valley and see where that gets you?”
    “I don’t think this valley even ends.”
    “Exactly,” Victor said, smugly, “Come on, you know I’m right. That place is our best bet.”
    “Victor, it’s on fire,” she pointed out.
    “Yeah, still. There’ll be people.”
    Zoe gave him another one of those looks. “You’re really attached to this idea, aren’t you?”
    “That’s because it’s the right one,” he scowled, fed up of talking, “Look, I’m going whether you are or not.”
    “Fine, let’s go with your idea,” Zoe said, grudgingly, “But if I get injured, it’s your fault.”

    The mountain didn’t turn out to be quite as easy to climb as Victor had thought. Small rocks slid underfoot as soon as he stepped on them. He was glad of the tough blue plants that dotted the mountain, because they were the only things he had to hold on to. Zoe, annoyingly, seemed to be having a better time. Maybe because she was lighter (or luckier), the places she stood didn’t slide nearly as much and she made faster progress.

    “Alright, Victor?” she shouted cheerfully.

    Victor grunted as his feet slid from underneath him yet again, but there was nothing to grab and he slid a few metres back. His jeans were going to be wrecked. Seeing Zoe’s smug look, he gritted his teeth and pulled himself up again.

    Eventually, they reached the top – and stopped abruptly. The slope down the other side was much steeper and higher than the one they had just climbed, but that wasn’t the first thing that Victor noticed.

    “Oh my god,” Zoe said.
    Victor let out a low whistle, staring. “We’re in trouble.”

  41. B. Macon 08 Jan 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Some of the scenery stuff wasn’t very powerful, but mostly I found that this chapter was pretty good. Some line-by-line stuff…

    “Victor’s head hurt. A lot. More than anything what he wanted was to sit still and breathe. Well, what he really wanted was some painkillers and a bed, but that didn’t seem very likely considering his surroundings. He was in a narrow valley, with no end in sight. The mountains, dotted by rough grass and some sort of blue flower, were steep but not too high, as mountains went – more like glorified hills.
    –This is pretty good at the beginning but tapers off a bit in interest.
    –As a minor tweak, I’d recommend altering “more than anything what he wanted was to sit…” to “more than anything, he wanted to sit…” Given that he’s in pain, I think this slightly more urgent and fast-paced construction will fit the mood a bit better.
    –We get probably 20-30 words describing the setting, but I don’t feel like it’s very emotionally powerful or immersive. For example, I’d rather know something like how cold it is or get a strong impression about the setting. For example, we see rough grass and a blue flower, but is that supposed to create an impression of a rough, foreboding landscape or something else?
    –Does the height of the mountains matter enough to get its own sentence?

    It was still a very picturesque scene, he supposed, if you liked that sort of thing. He preferred the busyness of the city – but Victor definitely wouldn’t find that here. It was so quiet. Just the buzz of insects and the wind rustling a lone tree.
    –the use of the second-person “if you liked that sort of thing” seems a bit awkward.
    –I didn’t get the feeling that it was picturesque from the first paragraph.
    –The use of the word “Victor” makes the second sentence feel a bit disconnected from the first. I’d recommend tweaking it to “He preferred the busyness of the city, but there definitely wasn’t any of that here.”
    –This paragraph feels a bit redundant with the first one. It’s mostly scenery.

    “she stared at him with an expression approaching revulsion.” This is probably a detail that you could show visually. (For example, “her lips were curled with revulsion.”

    He seems to be a bit too incurious about where he is or what happened. He doesn’t have to be as stressed or anxious about where they are, but I’d kind of like to see him looking for shelter before he says that stress is bad for his health.

    “She was on a shorter leash than normal. Victor, standing, made a mental note to play on the safe side.” I think the first detail is observable to the audience. The second sentence could probably be shown somehow. Alternately, the phrase “made a mental note to” could be shortened to “decided to.”

    I like the retort “You weren’t quiet a minute ago.” That said, he does seem to complain both when she’s talking and when she’s not talking. Heh heh.

    If the sun is glaring overhead, that’s probably something that should come up a lot earlier.

    Suddenly noticing the smoke that they didn’t notice before is a bit contrived. I think it would help if they started walking and then noticed the smoke.

    “Isn’t it a bit cold for a forest fire?” What? Isn’t the sun glaring overhead?

    I think that it would help at the end of the chapter to give us a bit more information about why he thinks they’re in trouble. Since he’s the point of view character, the audience is probably entitled to everything he knows. I think the cliffhanger will be more intriguing if we have some inkling of why he’s worried.

  42. Holliequon 08 Jan 2009 at 3:42 pm

    I feel really short-sighted when you pick up these things. They seem obvious when you point them out. I’ll get round to making those changes this weekend. Victor is supposed to complain about Zoe no matter how loud/quiet she is, though, as you probably picked up. Heh.

  43. B. Macon 08 Jan 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Don’t worry; it happens to everyone. Some of the reviews I’ve gotten have been, umm, pretty savage.

    Yeah, I don’t think it’s a problem that he complains about Zoe no matter what. It feels believable. He may come off as a little bit whiny, though. 🙂

  44. Holliequon 17 Jan 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Editting chapter 3 went faster than I thought tonight! Hopefully, I won’t need to make any more big changes. I think I made the description of the scenery a bit more engaging/relevant this time round too. I made the chapter longer as well, though. Do you think it would benefit from some cuts?

    —-

    Chapter Three – Somewhere Over The Mountain

    Victor’s head hurt. A lot. More than anything, he wanted to sit still and breathe. Well, what he really wanted was some painkillers and a bed, but that didn’t seem very likely considering his surroundings. Not that’d he’d even bothered to check out his location yet, but it was freezing and he was lying on grass. He highly doubted it was the local golf-course. For a start, his city didn’t have one.

    Figuring he might as well get it over with, Victor opened his eyes and sat up. He was in a narrow valley, under the shade of a single dead tree. For Victor, who had spent his whole life in the city, the silent chill that settled over the landscape was the most unnerving thing he had ever experienced.

    Well, that and Zoe.

    “Victor, if you don’t start listening to me I’m going to knock you out again!”

    Maybe she was the reason his head hurt so much.

    “Victor!” Zoe demanded, prodding him.
    “Leave off,” he mumbled, pushing her hand away. “You’re making my headache even worse.”
    “You’re worried about a headache?!” Her lip curled. Victor couldn’t help wishing that the branch she was sat under would suddenly fall off the tree. At least that would keep her quiet.
    He sighed. Like he would be lucky enough for that to happen at the exact moment he wanted it to. “Alright then, what should I be worried about?”
    Zoe’s expression registered dismay. “Oh, I don’t know – how about, where the hell we are.”
    “Well, I suppose you’ve got a point,” Victor said, knowing that his relaxed manner was just making Zoe more infuriated. “But nothing bad has happened so far, has it?”
    “How can you even think that?” she asked, quieter, “We don’t know where the hell we are, we don’t even know how we got here. How the hell are we supposed to get back? How can you be so . . . so – stupid?”
    “Seems stupider to me to worry about it so much,” he told her, “We can find out what happened later . . . maybe when I haven’t got a headache.”

    Zoe yelled in frustration, turning away from him. Victor closed his eyes, lying on his back and hoping she would leave him alone now. Maybe he would worry about where they were – later. For now, he was content to let his headache slowly recede.

    The girl with him, apparently, wasn’t. Victor felt a sharp prod to the ribs that, when he only winced, was quickly followed by a slap.

    “OW!” He sat up on his elbows, glaring at her. “Christ, Zoe, what now?”
    Victor regretted the tone of his voice almost immediately: when Zoe answered, she was practically growling. “Hey genius, why don’t you take another look around? You ever see a place like this in England?”
    “Well, no.” This time, he sat up properly. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean we should be panicking.” Zoe was right in a way, though – they at least needed to find out where they were and, more importantly, what the hell had happened when he’d opened that door. “I suppose I’d better move, then.”
    “Oh, it finally dawns on him,” she snapped.
    Victor, standing, decided to play on the safe side. “So where were you planning to go, exactly?”
    “The nearest town, of course.” Zoe gave him an odd look. “Where else do you suggest? The top of the tree?”
    I wish, Victor thought, glancing upwards into the boughs. “No, no. The town is fine. One question, though.”
    She sighed. “What now, Victor?”
    “Where is it?”
    Zoe glared at him. Then the expression dropped from her face, replaced by – worryingly – something close to fear. “Jesus. I didn’t think of that. Who knows if there’s even one nearby. If there isn’t, then what are we going to do? We’ve got no water, no food–”
    “Woah, woah,” Victor had expected to get one up on her, not start off some breakdown. “Calm down. C’mon, how hard can it be to find a town?”

    Zoe sat down, rather abruptly, in the space by the tree that Victor had just occupied. She didn’t answer.

    He glared, exasperated. “We already talked about how you worry me more when you’re quiet.”
    “You weren’t worried about anything a minute ago,” she answered.
    Victor scowled. “You weren’t quiet a minute ago.”

    He glanced at the sky. The sun was obscured by clouds, which made their surroundings look even more forbidding. Zoe was shivering. She still hadn’t come up with a smart reply to his comment earlier, which was unusual for her. Victor regretted wishing she would shut up earlier – Zoe talking was always better.

    Well, I don’t know what she expects me to do, Victor thought. If Zoe didn’t know where the nearest town was, how was he supposed to know? It wasn’t like he’d been here before. It didn’t look like anybody had been here before.

    Victor took a careful look around again, but he didn’t see any signs of civilisation that he’d miraculously missed before. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t find any. “Zoe, maybe we’d better start walking. There has to be something around here.”
    Zoe finally raised her head, glaring at him. “Wasn’t that what I suggested about ten years ago?”
    He scowled back. “Well, you didn’t look that likely to follow it through sitting down there.”
    “Touché.” Zoe stood up. “Well, would you rather go forward, or back?”
    “I don’t see what difference it makes,” Victor muttered, wondering why she was asking for his opinion. That was unusual for her. “Forward, I guess.”
    “Fine by me,” she said, “Just so you know, it’s your fault if we don’t find anything.”

    That would explain that one, Victor thought sourly. Still, he wasn’t about to change his mind just because Zoe didn’t want to make a decision. Now that Victor had made the decision for her, though, she seemed all too keen to lead the way. Typical.

    They continued for a while, mostly in silence. The valley didn’t seem to change much. It was hard to tell how much progress they’d made, but when Victor looked back he couldn’t see that tree any longer. But he saw something else that hadn’t been there before: a trail of black smoke, rising into the sky. He watched it for a few moments before he realised that this was the best sign of life they were going to get.

    He nudged the girl next to him. “Oi, Zoe.”
    “What?” she snapped.
    He nodded his head behind them. “Smoke. Something’s on fire.”
    “I see the wisdom of that old saying hasn’t escaped you,” Zoe muttered, turning to have a look for herself. “You’re right, though. So?”
    “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” he told her, unable to resist a grin.
    “Yes, Victor, we’ve established that.” Zoe frowned, and despite her sarcasm he could tell she was annoyed he knew something she didn’t. “So?”
    “So, where there’s fire that big, there’s got to be some sort of town!”
    “A town?” she guessed, unconvinced, “It could just be a forest fire, you know.”
    He raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t it a bit cold for a forest fire?”
    “Well, maybe. But whatever’s causing that fire is on the other side of the mountain,” she pointed out.
    He didn’t see the problem. “Yeah, and?”
    Zoe looked from him to the mountain and back again, her face registering disbelief. “You expect me to climb that?”
    He still didn’t see the problem. “It’s not that high.”
    “Are you crazy?” She certainly thought so, judging by the look she was giving him. “You can’t just walk over a mountain.”
    “Well, why not?” he asked. “It’s not really a mountain . . . more like a large hill. With rocks. ”
    Zoe glared at their surroundings, as though it was the scenery’s fault. At least she wasn’t blaming him (for once). “Do we really have to go over the mountain?”
    Victor rolled his eyes. “Why don’t you try walking to the end of the valley and see where that gets you?”
    “I don’t think this valley even ends.”
    “Exactly,” Victor said, smugly, “Come on, you know I’m right. That place is our best bet.”
    “Victor, it’s on fire,” she pointed out.
    “Yeah, still. There’ll be people.”
    Zoe gave him another one of those looks. “You’re really attached to this idea, aren’t you?”
    “That’s because it’s the right one,” he scowled, fed up of talking, “Look, I’m going whether you are or not.”
    “Fine, let’s go with your idea,” Zoe said, grudgingly, “But if I get injured, it’s your fault.”

    The mountain didn’t turn out to be quite as easy to climb as Victor had thought. Small rocks slid underfoot as soon as he stepped on them. He was glad of the tough grass that dotted the mountain, because they were the only things he had to hold on to. Zoe, annoyingly, seemed to be having a better time. Maybe because she was lighter (or luckier), the places she stood didn’t slide nearly as much and she made faster progress.

    “Alright, Victor?” she shouted cheerfully.

    Victor grunted as his feet slid from underneath him yet again, but there was nothing to grab and he slid a few metres back. His jeans were going to be wrecked. Seeing Zoe’s smug look, he gritted his teeth and pulled himself up again.

    Eventually, they reached the top – and stopped abruptly. The slope down the other side was much steeper and higher than the one they had just climbed, but that wasn’t the first thing that he noticed.

    Victor stared at the city laid out before them. “Oh, hell.”

  45. Holliequon 18 Jan 2009 at 9:21 am

    The city’s supposed to look very medieval (which is why Victor’s really, um, surprised). I was thinking about adding another line hinting at this, but I’m not sure what yet.

    What do you think? Would that add anything?

  46. B. Macon 18 Jan 2009 at 11:19 am

    “He highly doubted it was the local golf-course. For a start, his city didn’t have one.” This joke seems a bit out of place here. I think that it might be better to focus on helping the reader understand why he’s suddenly on cold grass. Your readers will have the benefit of a back-blurb that will probably help clear this up, but the publisher’s assistant won’t.

    –“that didn’t seem very likely considering his surroundings.” Which are? Next sentence: “Not that he’d even bothered to check out his location yet…” We still don’t know where he is or what he’s observing. (Yeah, I know he’s kind of lying down with his eyes close, but for the sake of establishing the scene early I’d recommend altering that detail).

    The detail about the tree is excellent.

    “was the most unnerving thing he had ever experienced.” This is a bit hyperbolic. I’d recommend showing how unnerved he is. For example, he might feel the need to sit down.

    What’s he wearing?

    “Victor, if you don’t start listening to me I’m going to knock you out again!” This strikes me as a red herring. It introduces another possible reason he might be experiencing this trippy scene. (She knocked him out and now he’s hallucinating that he’s in a cold forest).

    “The town is fine. One question, though… where do we find it?” I’d recommend tweaking this. “A town is fine. One question, though… where can we find one?”

    I like the banter.

    “The city laid out before them… Oh hell.” Why’s he saying “oh hell?” I thought he was looking for a town.

    If the town is highly medieval, I think that will help a lot establish why he’s not that pleased. A medieval town will help establish that something is seriously wrong here (besides, umm, getting teleported from the city into a cold forest).

  47. Holliequon 18 Jan 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Hmm. Changes to the first bit done.

    Victor’s head hurt. A lot. More than anything, he wanted to sit still and breathe. Well, what he really wanted was some painkillers and a bed, but that didn’t seem very likely considering his surroundings. It was freezing and he was lying on some grass. The last thing he remembered was opening an office door. Something huge had obviously happened between those two things, but he had no idea what.

    Figuring he might as well get it over with, Victor stood up. He was in a narrow valley, under the shade of a single dead tree. He shuddered, and not just because his shirt gave little protection against the cold. For Victor, who had spent his whole life in the city, the silent chill that settled over the landscape was horrible. He leaned against the tree for support. His legs suddenly didn’t feel so stable.

    The place was too quiet. It was creepy.

    “Victor, if you don’t start listening to me I’m going to start using violence!”

    Zoe didn’t help much, either.

    And I’ve changed the last sentence to:
    Victor stared at the smoke-obscured town laid out before them. “Oh, hell. The 15th century was not what we needed.”

    Better? I think the last sentence is still missing something, but I don’t really want to launch into a description of the town yet.

  48. B. Macon 18 Jan 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I think the improvements are solid across the board. However, at the end you might also want to include some detail that suggests this town is very medieval. For example, the city might have stone walls, etc.

  49. Holliequon 18 Jan 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Hmm. Yeah, I think you’re right. Thanks.

  50. B. Macon 18 Jan 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I feel that this story is progressing very smoothly.

  51. B. Macon 26 Jan 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Hey, Holliequ. You have a very good sense of characterization. Could you do me a favor? I’m working with David on his script and I’m not really feeling his characters, particularly the protagonist and the evil father. Could you look at the script and suggest some ways he could alter this opening to engage readers more? (I know you’re not that into comic books, but that’s fine).

  52. Holliequon 19 Feb 2009 at 7:20 am

    You know how I was saying my story was digging its heels in? I just guilt-tripped it into finishing chapter four. Now with italics!

    I’m a bit concerned with the pacing in the beginning of the chapter, I think it’s a little slow. I’m also wondering if it ends on a satisfactory note. I feel like I should add a bit more in. What do you think?

    Chapter Four – We’re New In Town

    In the time it had taken for Victor to scale the hill-pretending-to-be-a-mountain, the fire seemed to have only increased. Even from his current position the smoke stung his throat a little. He coughed.

    Victor couldn’t quite believe the city he was seeing. It was no wonder that the fire had been so severe, because all the houses seemed to be a hybrid between wooden and stone architecture. There was no sign of the skyscrapers he was used to seeing. He couldn’t see the people clearly from here, but he was willing to bet that they resembled the rest of the town: looking like they had just stepped out of a medieval novel.

    One thing was for sure: there were no cities like that today on Earth. Victor wasn’t sure that there had ever been a city quite like that on Earth, because he distinctly remembered that electricity wasn’t around in medieval England.

    He didn’t know what had happened to him and Zoe, and he didn’t exactly want to know, either. But whatever it was, it sure as hell wasn’t going to be easily reversed.

    “Are you sure this was a good idea, Victor?” Zoe asked weakly.
    “Oh yeah, because it was really my idea for this place to exist,” Victor shot back. “It’s better than nothing.”
    “I’d argue that,” she replied.
    He rolled his eyes, unimpressed. “Why don’t you argue that on the way down?”

    The way down looked to be just as unstable as it had been coming up. There were already several holes in his jeans and he didn’t really want to add more. Victor took a careful step. To his relief, the stones didn’t slip out from under him.

    His second step didn’t go as well.

    Victor yelled as the stones beneath him slid and he ended up flat on his back, following them. There was nothing to stop him and he kept moving, eventually coming to a painful stop further down the slope.

    The dust kicked up by the rockslide made him cough. “Ow.”
    “Are you all right, Victor?” Zoe’s voice reached him from higher up the mountain. He raised a hand, just to let her know he hadn’t killed himself or something.

    Carefully, Victor picked himself up again and looked back, surprised by how much distance he’d covered. Alright, so it had been unintentional, but maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Victor wondered if he ought to slide the rest of the way down – but then he turned back again and recoiled. Maybe not.

    They eventually made it down the slope to the outskirts of the town. The area was in chaos, even though (or maybe because) the fire was on the other side of town. Nobody noticed them as they darted through the streets. Victor was on the lookout for anyone who might look helpful, but he wasn’t exactly sure what ‘helpful’ was supposed to look like. Back home he’d be looking for a policeman or something, but nobody here seemed to dress in any sort of uniform – or care about anything except saving their possessions from the fire. Victor and Zoe had had to navigate their way through streets filled with tables, chairs, bookshelves and even beds. They clearly didn’t hold out much hope that somebody would stop the fire from reaching them.

    “This is stupid!” Zoe hissed as they turned a corner down a narrow sidestreet. “We haven’t got a clue where we are!”
    “I’m sorry that I didn’t bring a map with me!” Victor spat back, “Look, I’m doing my best, alright?”
    She only sighed. “Jeez, you’re such a man. Why not just ask for directions?”
    Directions to what?

    Zoe ignored him. “Excuse me,” she said politely, approaching somebody in the street who had actually stood still for more than a second. The man was short, shorter even than Zoe, with frizzy black hair and pale skin. He stared at her as she approached. “This might seem like an odd question, but do you know where we are?”
    The man regarded her with suspicion, glancing around. “What are you up to, miss? Where’s your father? Husband?”
    Zoe’s eyes blazed. “Husb–?”
    “She’s with me,” Victor said quickly, elbowing her discreetly. “I’m her . . . cousin.”
    “Oh, I see,” the man suddenly shifted his feet. “Sorry, young master. Just – women on their own, it’s easy to get the wrong idea, isn’t it?”
    He blinked, unused to being addressed so oddly. “Um, that’s alright. Where are we?”
    “This is the town of Kern. We’re less than a day from the capital, if that’s where you’re heading. Small country, you know.” He laughed. Seeing Victor’s puzzled expression, he quickly stopped, and coughed. “Ah, well, I’ve got to be going. Good day to you, young master . . . and miss.”
    “Thank you–” Victor began, but the tiny man had already hurried off.

    As soon as he was out of earshot, Zoe exploded. “Husband? Husband?! He expects me to have a husband at 16?!” She suddenly rounded on him. “And you’re my cousin? That’s the biggest lie I ever heard! We don’t look anything alike!”
    “Would you rather I’d have said you were my wife?” Victor snapped, annoyed.
    Zoe seemed not to hear him. “And did you notice, as soon as you showed up, he didn’t look at me at all. What am I, invisible? Did you see the look of disgust he gave me when I asked him where we were? He was happy enough to talk to you, but oh no, can’t be talking to a female–”
    “In case you hadn’t noticed, they seem to be a bit behind on the times here . . .” Victor trailed off as he spotted somebody sitting on a stack of crates behind Zoe watching them intently. He looked away again quickly, but couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of his eye that the man didn’t glance away.
    Zoe was still ranting. Victor wondered if she intended to ever stop. “I mean, he wasn’t even polite about it–”
    Zoe!
    She stopped, giving him a confused look. “What?” He grabbed her arm and started along again, dragging her with him. She scowled. “Hey!”
    “Oh, please, for once in your life just trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

    She muttered something that sounded like ‘I doubt that’ under her breath, which was basically as silent as you could expect Zoe to get. Victor supposed that would have to do. He pulled her round a corner and let go of her arm, ignoring her hissing complaints. He glanced quickly around the corner they’d just come from.

    Sure enough, the man he’d spotted was tracing their route. “Crap, he is following us.”
    “Who’s following us?” Zoe asked immediately, “Victor, why didn’t you say anything before?”
    “Because I couldn’t get a word in edgeways.” He added quickly, seeing her expression, “And I’ve only just noticed him.”
    “What does he look like?” she asked, sounding more curious than worried.
    Victor did not share this view. “I really think we should be going that way now,” he said, hurriedly following the sidestreet to an open square.
    “What does he look like?” Zoe asked again, glancing behind her.
    “Um, orange shirt . . . shirt-ish thing . . .” Victor frowned, trying to remember.
    She sighed irritably. “Oh, come on, you’re telling me you’re worried about this guy following us and you can’t even remember what he was wearing?”
    “He was about seven feet tall,” Victor protested. “You expect me to remember his clothes?!”
    Zoe stopped dead. “Seven feet tall?” she squeaked. “Seven feet tall and you’ve only just mentioned it?”
    “We’ve already met a dwarf,” Victor muttered defensively. “Maybe they have a lot of people here who are seven feet tall!”
    “You really think they have dwarves here?” Zoe asked wondrously, side-stepping someone playing an odd instrument for coins. Somebody was a little out of touch with things.
    “I didn’t mean it that way.”
    “Oh,” she said. They stopped in the middle of the square, hiding behind the huge fountain that dominated it. “Well, what do you suggest we do now?”
    “I don’t know. I’ve never been followed before.” Victor breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted the man again. He didn’t seem to have seen them yet. “You’re supposed to be the smart one, why don’t you think of something?”
    “Well–”

    Zoe was suddenly interrupted as somebody ran into the square. Everyone in the square immediately stopped. The effect was slightly unnerving, but Victor guessed it was somebody important.

    “The library is on fire!” they bellowed, “We need water, now!
    Victor stared as people flocked to the speaker, who started handing out orders. “Are people really that bothered about the library when it seems like half the town is on fire?”
    “Some people, Victor, appreciate books,” Zoe said pompously, standing.
    “What are you doing now?” he asked.
    She raised her eyebrows. “Can you find a better crowd to get lost in?”

    She had a point, he supposed. Victor sighed and stood up, following Zoe at a jog as she dashed towards the crowd. All this fuss for a bunch of books.

    In the next chapter I was planning to have Victor and Zoe get seperated, then Victor meet up with Kettrick (the man following them, he’s really not as bad as he seems) and search for her. When they do eventually find her, they are actually forced to admit for the first time that they’re not in their own world anymore (there have been plenty of clues dropped, I think, but this will be the first time they’ve actually admitted it). What do you think of this chapter as a lead up to this?

  53. B. Macon 19 Feb 2009 at 11:31 am

    “Even from his current position” sounds technical. Could it be simplified to something like “Even at the mountain’s peak”?

    “bet that they resembled the rest of the town: looking like they had just stepped out of a medieval novel.” The colon is a bit awkward here. What would you think about “resembled the rest of the town, like they had just stepped out of a medieval novel”?

    “Victor wasn’t sure that there had ever been a city quite like that on Earth, because he distinctly remembered that electricity wasn’t around in medieval England.” This town has electricity? I didn’t notice that.

    “The area was in chaos” could probably be shown. If this is a medieval fire, you probably have people screaming, houses burning, maybe some people on fire, people ineffectively grabbing buckets to try to put out their homes, etc. However, is the area in chaos if it’s not actually the part of the town on fire?

    One thing you might consider is adding a bit of atmospherics like air quality and temperature. I imagine that every part of town would have smoky, thick air and maybe you could feel hot ashes blowing in the wind.

    As before, I really like the chemistry between Victor and Zoe, but I really like the line “some people, Victor, appreciate books.” You could consider tweaking that to “Victor, some people appreciate books.” Also, I’d recommend cutting the tag “pompously” because I think that it’s unnecessary.

    I think the ending could use more of a cliffhanger. For example, maybe the guy organizing the effort to save the library tries to conscript them into service. At that point, they either do it (which I imagine would be unpleasant, maybe dangerous work) or they try to run or they try to look like they’re going to help with the library but plan to break away as soon as no one will notice them.

    Other than the kind of abrupt ending, I think this chapter worked very well.

  54. Holliequon 19 Feb 2009 at 12:32 pm

    “This town has electricity? I didn’t notice that.”
    -It doesn’t have electricity, but it does use light magic for lamps and stuff. I didn’t include that in the actual town though. I’ll add it at a window or something.

    ““The area was in chaos” could probably be shown. If this is a medieval fire, you probably have people screaming, houses burning, maybe some people on fire, people ineffectively grabbing buckets to try to put out their homes, etc. However, is the area in chaos if it’s not actually the part of the town on fire?

    One thing you might consider is a bit of atmospheric like air quality and temperature. I imagine that every part of town would have smoky, thick air and maybe you could feel hot ashes blowing in the wind.”
    -The area’s in chaos because people are trying to save their possessions by dumping them in the street. They’re expecting the fire to come there next. Do you think I should make that more obvious.

    That’s a good idea bout the smoky air, though. Thanks. (I should think these things through more . . .)

    “I think the ending could use more of a cliffhanger. For example, maybe the guy organizing the effort to save the library tries to conscript them into service. At that point, they either do it (which I imagine would be unpleasant, maybe dangerous work) or they try to run or they try to look like they’re going to help with the library but plan to break away as soon as no one will notice them.”
    -That’s a good idea. Thank you once again. 🙂

  55. B. Macon 19 Feb 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Hey, that’s why I make the big bucks. Oh wait…

  56. Holliequon 19 Feb 2009 at 2:10 pm

    What do you think of this as a changed ending? It’s longer, but I think it’s a more dramatic finish to the chapter.

    “The library is on fire!” they bellowed, “We need water, now!”
    Victor stared as people flocked to the speaker, who started handing out orders. “Are people really that bothered about the library when it seems like half the town is on fire?”
    “Victor, some people appreciate books,” Zoe said, standing.
    “Oh jeez, what are you doing now?” he groaned.
    She raised her eyebrows. “Can you find a better crowd to get lost in?”
    Victor stood up, following Zoe at a jog as she dashed towards the crowd. All this fuss for a bunch of books. “Um, Zoe, helping out means going towards the library. It’s on fire. I don’t think that’s a great idea.”
    “I’m not an idiot,” she muttered irritably, “We’re just going to lose him by following the crowd, then slip out. Easy.”
    “Fine, but I hope you know what you’re doing. We’ve got better things to do than visit a burning library.” She rolled her eyes.

    They joined the crowd, quickly becoming swallowed by the huge mass of people. Victor felt like he was being crushed as he was practically carried by the crowd in what he assumed was the direction of the library. He turned to Zoe, who was scowling at the people surrounding her. “Can we get out yet? I’ve never liked crowds.”
    “Is he still there?” she asked.
    Victor craned his neck, but it was impossible to see anybody above the people surrounding him. “No idea, I can’t see a thing.”
    Zoe frowned, biting her lip. Eventually, she said, “I don’t think he’ll notice, and we’ve moved away now anyway. Let’s go.”
    He sighed with relief. “About time.”

    He started to push his way out of the crowd, which wasn’t easy. People kept giving him dirty looks as he tried to push past them, but they seemed too concerned about other things to care why he was leaving. Victor eventually emerged from the crowd, gasping. Next time Zoe had an idea, he resolved to think before he went along with it. He turned around to tell her this, only to find that he was alone.

    Zoe had disappeared.

    What do you think? I’m not sure if I did the crowd scene right, but ending with Zoe disappearing works out better, I feel.

  57. Ragged Boyon 18 Mar 2009 at 9:11 am

    I think the disappearance of Zoe is good. My main concern is that I’m not feeling the crowd all that much. You added details like people gave them dirty looks, I suspec a few of them had something to say. Also if this were a large crowd of somewhat panicing people would victor and Zoe need to yell to hear each other.

    “He started to push his way out of the crowd, which wasn’t easy.”
    -That’s a little passive, I suspect you could add a short sentence about actually manuevering through the people. Nearly tripping over people’s legs, working around a walls or something. Conversely, I’m guessing the atmosphere of the crowd would pretty gross. Along with smoke and ashes, dust is being kicked up by the people, etc, you could have Victor react to the situation more.

  58. Holliequon 18 Mar 2009 at 9:45 am

    That’s very helpful. Thanks! I’ll review the crowd scene when I finish the first draft of chapter 5.

  59. Asayaon 21 Mar 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Uhh, Holliequ? I’ve just put a password on my own review forum, and B.Mac told me I should give it out only to certain people, since you where one of the first people to comment. If you don’t want to that’s fine, but if you help me I’ll help you the best I can.

    If you want the password you’ll have to post me your e-mail address(also instructed by B.Mac), so let me know.

  60. Asayaon 25 Mar 2009 at 9:25 am

    Ignore earlier comment.

  61. Holliequon 25 Mar 2009 at 10:39 am

    Whoops. Sorry, I missed your comment.

  62. Holliequon 31 Mar 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Okay guys, I’m really struggling to finish chapter five so I’d really like some input here. It doesn’t help that I’ve been really busy lately, but I’m not sure where to go from here.


    Chapter 5 (no title yet)

    It took a second or two for this to dawn on Victor. Oh crap, he thought, I’ve lost her. He should’ve guessed Zoe’s crowd idea wouldn’t work out well! Now he’d have to go and rescue her from that stupid crowd before she got herself trapped in a burning library. So much for a love of books.

    This thought put him in an even worse temper, but it did get him moving. Worried that the crowd would disappear in Kern’s unfamiliar streets, Victor hurried forward, still cursing Zoe and her stupid smart ideas under his breath. The crowd’s stragglers disappeared around a corner ahead. Victor’s eyes were watering now, though he couldn’t see the fire from where he was. He wiped his eyes, breaking into a run. He would not let Zoe get lost in this city – he’d never find her again. Or if he eventually did, he’d never hear the end of it and wish he’d let her stay lost.

    Victor was almost about to turn the corner when he felt a strong grip on his arm. He yelped, almost yanked off his feet. Turning, he was about to yell something and attempt to wrench his arm free when he recognised the figure and the words died on his lips. He felt his face grow pale.

    The stranger wore an orange shirt and carried a knife and small pouch at his side. At about seven feet tall, he towered over Victor. Apparently they hadn’t lost him after all.

    “Where’s your friend?” he said sharply.
    “I don’t know!” Victor said, trying to yank his arm free. The grip tightened and he winced.
    “What do you mean by that?”
    “I lost her – I was trying to find her again, when you . . .”
    The man didn’t let go. “Where?!”
    “That way,” Victor yelped, pointing randomly with his free hand.
    Eyeing him suspiciously, the stranger finally let go of Victor’s arm. “I am Kettrick. Your names?”
    “Zoe,” he answered automatically. “And I’m Victor.”

    He flinched as soon as he’d said it. Idiot! You’re not supposed to tell him your real names!

    Kettrick surveyed him for a few seconds. “If you are lying, you put your friend’s life in danger. You should know that.” Victor didn’t trust himself to answer. Sighing, the tall man finally let go of his arm, removing a tiny globe of swirling white gas and handing it to him. “Hold on to this and remain here. I will go to find your friend.”

    Victor considered running for a brief moment, but despite his size Kettrick looked fast. He wasn’t sure he would be able to get away. Instead, Victor took the strange object cautiously. It looked like it was made of glass, but it felt less fragile. It was plain, apart from the white gas inside, which moved ceaselessly, forming itself into odd shapes.

    “What’s this?” he asked suspiciously, not taking his eyes from the odd bauble.
    “That does not matter now,” Kettrick told him. “Everything will be explained later.”
    That made Victor pause and his eyes flickered briefly back to the stranger. “Everything?”
    “On my loyalty,” he promised. “Please, remain here.”

    With that, Kettrick started in the direction Victor had pointed, his huge strides soon taking him out of sight.

    “Yeah, right,” Victor muttered, “Do you think I was born yesterday?”

    He checked again to make sure that the strange Kettrick had gone, and started in the direction where Zoe had actually been heading. Rounding the corner, he suddenly stopped. Of course, the crowd containing Zoe was nowhere to be seen . . . at least, he was hoping she was still with the crowd. If she’d decided to go somewhere else then he’d never find her. Or worse, Kettrick would find her first. Victor didn’t know what that guy was up to, but if somebody was following you it was rarely good.

    Victor studied the glass ball in his hand. It looked disarming enough, but he couldn’t trust anything from that man. And what exactly did it do? He’d never seen anything like it before. Maybe it was some sort of bomb? In that case, throwing it away would probably be a bad idea. Maybe it was valuable. Victor wasn’t sure why the man would have given him something valuable, though. He eventually decided to pocket it, figuring that if it hadn’t blow up yet it was probably safe enough.

    The library. He had to get to the library.

    And that’s all I have. 🙁 From here, I was planning for Victor to make his way to the library, find Zoe and maybe stop her being injured in some sort of accident. At that point, Kettrick would find them again and the chapter would probably end there. I’m just kind of stuck on how to get there. Any suggestions?

    I also have some concerns apart from that:
    -The glass bauble that Kettrick gives to Victor is a magic tracking device, which is how he finds him again. But now I don’t think Victor would keep it. Any ideas? I don’t want Kettrick using magic because that would distract from the major point of the chapter (“We really are in another world!”) and the mechanics of magic make that highly unlikely.
    -I’m not sure about Kettrick’s voice here. He’s supposed to be something of an outcast in this world, and he doesn’t speak the language well. Even so, I think he sounds a little awkward. What do you think? Is there any way I can improve it?

    I’d really appreciate any suggestions.

  63. Gurion Omegaon 01 Apr 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Uh, this is probably irrelevant, but do you plan on explaining why EXACTLY Zoe Stockton is such a…you-know-what?

  64. Holliequon 01 Apr 2009 at 3:24 pm

    It’s the culture. They’re, um, very old fashioned. Woman on her own = up to no good. It does get elaborated on later, though.

    Any idea on this current chapter?

  65. Asayaon 01 Apr 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Hey, Holliequ!

    -‘cursing Zoe and her stupid smart ideas’ stupid smart ideas seems a little contradictory and unneccessary. Maybe just-

    ‘cursing Zoe and her stupid ideas’

    -‘Or if he eventually did, he’d never hear the end of it and wish he’d let her stay lost.’
    This sentence seems kinda unneccessary, too.

    – ‘Turning, he was about to yell something and attempt to wrench his arm free when he recognised the figure and the words died on his lips.’

    You should cut out ‘and attempt to wrench his arm free’.

    Sorry, I don’t have enough time to finish. I’m not that experienced at reviewing, but I hope this helps in any way possible.

  66. Asayaon 02 Apr 2009 at 6:09 pm

    If you want a suggestion for the glass bauble, maybe it should be more GPS- like. Maybe it has the ability to track a person’s essence(or something) or maybe it can track whoever’s used it before.

    Hope that helps ya some.

  67. Ragged Boyon 02 Apr 2009 at 7:35 pm

    I really liked this, but I don’t want to gush. 😉 Here are my concerns:

    I disagree with Asaya. I think stupid smart ideas works. The idea is a smart one, but her way of going about it was stupid. I understand it.

    -You have Kettrick letting go of Victor’s arm twice. I’m guessing this was a mistake.

    “but despite his size Kettrick looked fast.”
    -I think there should a comma between size and Kettrick.

    “but if somebody was following you it was rarely good.”
    -comma between you and it, I think.
    -This line feels akwardly intrusive. Does the narrator know he’s telling a story?

  68. Ragged Boyon 02 Apr 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Oops, messed up with the italics. It was only supposed to cover “stupid.”

  69. Ragged Boyon 02 Apr 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Regarding your concerns:

    -I think it believable that Victor holds on to the bauble. Most teens have a particular interest in things that look cool and glowy. If that’s not reason enough, most teens love money. He may think it’s valuable.

    – By appearance I feel that Kettrick is an outcast. I’m not feeling it as much in his speech. Have you ever heard a native African learning English? They create a very interesting sound. I suspect you could incorporate some phrases that would show that he’s a little different.

    Maybe phrases like:

    “You are not from this place, are you?”

    “It would be very wise of you to remain here.”

    I think these work better in my head because I can hear the accent saying them.

    What do you think?

  70. Holliequon 03 Apr 2009 at 11:09 am

    Aha! I had thought about him wondering if it was valuable. Thank you.

    Hmm. That’s a good point (plus, South Africans have lovely accents). I’ll try and incorporate something like that. I really want to nail Kettrick’s character voice, so everything helps.

    Thanks.

  71. Holliequon 27 Apr 2009 at 11:15 am

    I’m an idiot. I started writing something else. I just got inspired and I couldn’t resist. 🙁 Also, if it seems different to my normal style, it’s probably because I literally just finished Skellig by David Almond. I was also aiming for something slightly depressing. I realise it’s not great right now and it kinda jumps around a bit, but I don’t think it’s too bad for just coming off the top of my head.

    I don’t need detailed feedback right now, just some thoughts. Would it be worth continuing the story in a similar style? Should I work on this project instead of Zoe and Victor? I haven’t written anything in that for so long. I’ve got a really bad block on it.
    —-

    Arvid pulled the toast out of the toaster and stared at it. It was black, like charcoal. He sighed and dropped it straight into the bin.

    “Hey,” his dad said, “That’s a waste.” His eyes were black.

    Arvid glanced at the black circles under his eyes in the shiny surface of a saucepan. The curved shape made his face look weird and bloated. Different to Dad’s black eyes.

    “Hey,” his dad said, “Are you listening?”
    “I’m going to school,” he muttered, dragging his feet to the hall and putting on his coat.
    “Hey,” his dad said, appearing in the doorway. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
    Arvid looked down at his cold feet. “Shoes.”
    His dad laughed, but his eyes stayed black. “Dozy kipper. Were you up reading all night?”
    He stuffed his foot into his shoe. “I’m going to school,” he said again.

    Mrs. Trill was back in school.

    “Hello, Arvid,” she said. “How are you?”
    “Fine,” he said.
    “That’s good. You look tired. Were you reading again?”
    “Yes. I’m half-way through.”
    She seemed pleased. Her smile reached her eyes. “That’s good. Are you enjoying it?”
    Arvid nodded. “Mrs. Trill, do you believe in karma?”
    “Who told you about karma?”
    “I read it. In a book. Do you believe?”
    Mrs. Trill looked at him doubtfully. “I don’t know, Arvid. Why do you ask?”
    “But people get what they deserve, don’t they?” he insisted. “That’s karma, isn’t it?”
    “It doesn’t work all the time,” Mrs. Trill said quietly.
    Arvid looked at the floor. “Mum said bad things will come back to get you. She said that people don’t get away with bad things.”
    “Arvid . . .”
    “Did Mum do a bad thing?” he said. “Did she do a bad thing and it came back to get her and died?”
    “Arvid, don’t be silly. Your mother didn’t do anything wrong. Some people are just . . . unlucky, is all. I’m sorry. Do you want me to call your father?”
    Arvid thought about Dad’s black eyes and the charcoal toast in the bin. “No.”
    “Okay,” she said. “Okay. Are you going to do some work today?”
    “I think so,” he said.
    “Well, that’s good enough for me,” Mrs. Trill said. Her eyes smiled. Blue, not black. “Go sit down now. Tyler will help you with the work you missed.”
    Tyler was no help at all. But Arvid just said, “Okay.”

    Mrs. Trill tried to teach them division later. She drew a straight line on the board, and then a smaller, curved line from the left side. On the right she wrote 275. On the other side of the curved line went 5. She said it was a bus shelter, but even Tyler knew that bus shelters didn’t have curved edges.

    “What do you think it is, then?” she asked.
    “Lines!”
    “A monkey!”
    “Ryan, don’t be silly. That’s nothing like a monkey.”
    “It’s a flat monkey. He got hit by a car!”

    There was a sudden, collective gasp. Ryan blushed and hung his head in shame. Arvid said nothing. He looked at his desk and traced the numbers in the textbook with his finger.

    “Arvid, are you alright?” Mrs. Trill asked.
    He looked up at the board for a few seconds, ignoring the numbers. Eventually, he said, “It’s a river barrier. From the Thames.”
    “River barrier!” Tyler shouted.
    “I don’t think it looks like the river barrier,” Louise said, frowning.
    Tyler stuck his tongue out. “River barrier river barrier.”
    “Tyler, that’s very rude,” Mrs. Trill said sternly. “Now say sorry for being rude to Louise.”
    “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

    Mrs. Trill sighed and turned to write something on the board. Louise stuck her tongue out at Tyler as her back was turned. Tyler did the same back. They both giggled. Arvid looked back down at the textbook and traced the numbers with his finger.

    —-

    Arvid and his classmates are about 9-10, in my head. I think they might come across as younger though. I do have ideas for the way this story should continue. I think I’m going to steal an earlier idea and adapt it.

    What do you think?

  72. Bretton 05 Jul 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Hmmm. Not quite “depressing.” I think you were trying to use the repetition of “black” in the beginning to create a mood, right? Well, at this point it feels a little redundant. Try being more subtle. Constantly saying “black” doesn’t make me feel depressed.

    I think Arvid is a little awkward as a name. In any case, since it’s such a special name, it makes me expect more from the character. If he’s a normal kid and not an epic hero (and this story is supposed to be depressing), then I’d suggest a very normal, run-of-the-mill name. It’s hard to believe (at least subconsciously) that a person with a name that special is a normal, and even depressed, character.

    Im not sure I get the last part about the division bar jokes, but maybe I don’t have access to enough material.

    As for which one you should work on, I’d say you should go with whatever you have the most material for. Personally, I’m biased toward the fantasy story.

  73. Holliequon 16 Jan 2010 at 9:10 am

    Okay, since RB expressed some interest in seeing it, here is the short… thing that I recently finished (I’m reluctant to say “story”). I think this is the second draft, although I’ve only changed minor things. My mum has read it and she thinks I could get it published, but for obvious reasons I’m looking for second opinions. I’m not convinced, myself.

    So, what do you all think? Ridiculous? Strange? Which parts need work? It’s a lot different to what I normally write — I haven’t used second person seriously before (yes, second person!)

    By the way, the Shaw quote is just because I’m thinking of writing similar pieces. Also, I thought it was oddly appropriate (and it is a good quote, haha).

    —-

    The Perfect Retribution
    “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.” –George Bernard Shaw

    You never really thought of yourself as a hero.

    You can’t remember the day you discovered that you had powers, that you were different – superhuman. As far as you know, you have been that way since you were born. Not that anybody can tell you for sure. Your earliest memories are all of care homes, or occasionally foster parents with more compassion than sense.

    It wasn’t really a bad life, you decide, just not perhaps the best upbringing you could have had. You have tried to trace your origins but never quite managed to find them. You wonder if anyone else had this power; your mother or your father, whoever they are. You wonder if that’s why you ended up in the care of the state.

    You stop wondering at that point, and just deal with the fact that you’re unique. Some facts you like more than others.

    This city suits you. You like being anonymous. It’s loud, big, bright and there are more people here than you have seen anywhere else in your life. Here you are simply one of a crowd, not the odd one out. No one knows you here. Hopefully, no one will ever know you here. Not by your real name.

    Not that you are too sure of your real name yourself. That is another part of your origins that was told to you but you have been unable to confirm. This does not bother you unduly. What is a name, after all? Only a title by which others can refer to you. It is necessary to write it on documents and faxes and cheques, but nobody needs to call you by your name. Well, perhaps that is incorrect. You have no one who needs to call you by your name. The man passing you on the street; the woman crossing the road at the moment – they have friends and relatives, perhaps even children.

    You have none of these, and would not want them. You prefer anonymity. Nobody is invulnerable, of course; you know this very well. It is, however, easier to hide your vulnerabilities if you keep to the shadows. Don’t let anyone shine the light on you, and they won’t know how to hurt you.

    It has occurred to you that this may come across as paranoia, or perhaps insanity, but you disagree with that. You like isolation, and in the line of work you are starting to get involved in, isolation brings great benefits. Isolation is essential, even. It’s a dangerous game, this hero business, and all the others in it who died had somebody. Parents, siblings, a partner – even children, some of them. People who could be used; who could be hurt.

    This actually surprised you when you first heard it, given their line of work, but you suppose that even those kind of people (your kind of people, now, you remind yourself) like to have weaknesses. You don’t have any, and don’t want any, but you can see the attraction. It’s a silly thing, really, to think that you can understand the feeling, just because you had a small attachment to a pet – it actually belonged to one of your earlier foster parents, but it felt like yours. You weren’t careful enough, though. It died. And then you were moved into another care home.

    Not that it matters. The point is that you understand the gist of it; you understand the need of some to have a weakness, because the feeling you receive in return is worth taking risks for. If you hadn’t decided to pursue this life, you would probably seek it out yourself.

    But you don’t like the thought of your weakness being hurt because of you, not again. So whilst you’re in this line of work, you won’t have weaknesses. You will only do your job.

    You stumble on the sidewalk suddenly and automatically reach out your arm to catch yourself. You fall anyway, landing heavily on your knees and your right hand. Too late, you remember that you don’t have a left arm below the elbow, at least for the time being.

    There are eyes of passers-by on you, but none of them move to help you up. You did not expect them to. Scrambling to your feet awkwardly, you continue on your way, until the stares have stopped and you can become anonymous again.

    Your hand stings. You glance at it, briefly, seeing that some of the skin has been has been grazed. You are bleeding lightly. Quickly, you lower your hand again. That could have been dangerous, but fortunately nothing happened. It would have been awkward to manage without either arm, you think. You break into a smile. Of all the reasons you could have for not wanting it to happen, the first one that occurs to you is the simple inconvenience. How, after all, would you explain to your new employers that you’re currently incapable of signing the contract?

    Shaking your head at the image, you try to keep the smile from spreading but fail. Well, nevermind. Smiling will not do you any harm. You receive a few odd looks from the people you pass; they are probably wondering what you have to be so happy about. You needn’t worry, though, as they’ll forget you soon enough. It’s a big city and you are not the only odd person. That’s why you like it here.

    You take the next left, and then the second right, and dart down the small alley opposite the pizzeria. The directions were complicated and it took a while for you to memorise them, but you are certain you got this bit right.

    The alley is not the cleanest place in the city, and the smell hits you with all the strength of a baseball bat, but it probably isn’t the worst place you’ve ever been in.

    There is a door on your right, just like Valignant said there would be. You try it, and step inside when you find it unlocked – just like he said it would be. It makes a nice change to know somebody who is reliable.

    Things have already been explained to you, so it doesn’t take very long to get everything finalised. There is a contract, but not the sort that is legally binding; Valignant’s assistant, who doesn’t have a name, tells you that bad things will happen if you go against the rules of the contract. He doesn’t answer when you ask exactly what. The contract is suitably specific, though, so you’re confident that whatever his ability is, it won’t have a chance to affect you. You knew the risks when you agreed to join them, anyway – even if you don’t have weaknesses like the others…

    An hour later you step back into the alley, remembering to breathe through your mouth. Valignant has told you to get back in contact with them when your left arm has finished regenerating. You think it will be a month, but you haven’t lost half an arm before, so you’re not certain about that. Valignant is understanding and says some delay is to be expected; it doesn’t matter if you are a little late. He thanks you for agreeing to work with them before he closes the door softly behind you.

    So now you have a job. It is not the sort of job they encouraged you to take when you talked about it in the care homes. They probably wouldn’t think of it as a job at all, in fact. You disagree. Just because it is not, per se, government sponsored does not mean you are not currently employed. Anything that employs you counts as a job, in your opinion – if it doesn’t, then it should.

    As you step out of the alley, you glance upwards. You can see the building Valignant talked about from here. Even in a city of skyscrapers, this one is impressive. You only know it as some kind of corporate headquarters, but it is several storeys taller than others you’ve seen in the city, and looks nicer – where the others are square concrete, this one is gently curved and made mostly of glass.

    You don’t like to think about how much it cost to build. You’re not sure you’re even capable of imagining that much money. Valignant has been quoting numbers at you for several weeks now; profits in numbers so large that they don’t even seem real. You can’t remember how many zeroes there were, you just know that there were far too many. Valignant definitely thought so.

    A month, you remind yourself, as your eyes flicker from the curved glass to the sidewalk. A month, perhaps more.

    It suddenly seems like a long time to wait.

    *

    You have realised – thanks to various events over the years – that you are very hard to kill.

    It is, of course, because of your ability – your unique ability. Unique as far as you know. As far as Valignant knows, too. If there was somebody else with this power, he would not be so desperate to work with you.

    You haven’t seen Valignant in six weeks, although you spoke to him only recently. You already know what your job is, so there was no reason to speak to him face-to-face. You only needed to confirm the time and that the job was still going ahead.

    Valignant assured you that it is, and that he would love for you to do it as soon as possible. Today is the day.

    Smooth glass doors slide open for you, almost without a hint of resistance. You step into the building’s lobby and begin to work your way up the stairs. Nobody stops you. You look the part, in a sharp business suit, and carrying a briefcase. Valignant gave you the money for these, but the employees here don’t know that. You’re certain that if you turned up in your usual clothes, you wouldn’t even get to the first floor.

    You’ve chosen these stairs on purpose, because they are the easiest place to access the structural weaknesses of the building. Besides that, nobody in their right minds would use the stairs in a building this tall. It will take you a while to get to the top, but it’s necessary. You don’t mind the exercise.

    There’s a cut on your left forefinger that keeps bleeding. You have to admit that you feel slightly annoyed; your left arm has only recently finished regenerating, and you don’t like the thought of being without it again, just after you got used to it being available. You are right-handed, though, and need both legs to walk, so you don’t have any other options.

    Losing your head is simply a ridiculous idea.

    You press your finger against the wall intermittently as you ascend the stairs. The red dots of blood left behind stand out to you, but the chances of the building’s employees spotting them and making the connection is somewhere between slim and impossible. The chances of them doing something about it in time are even lower. Valignant is a good planner, whatever else you think of him – not that you’re sure you have an opinion of him yet. You think his heart is in the right place, but you don’t know if his methods will work. He discussed this with you when you first met – you hadn’t moved to the city yet, then. Valignant said you would understand when you were here.

    You can see what he meant by that, but you are not wholly convinced yet. You still have a job to do, though. You keep climbing the stairs. Your finger keeps bleeding.

    If only your blood were safe in any body but yours, you would make a wonderful donor.

    It takes you a long time to walk to the top of the building; you had to move to a set of stairs in a different area every ten floors. Maybe a few hours have passed. You aren’t sure. You weren’t counting, and have never been very good at keeping time. You don’t think it’s important, anyway. What’s important now is that you are almost done. The most crucial bit has yet to happen.

    The briefcase you were carrying is digging into your skin painfully. You had to swap it from hand to hand several times during your journey from the ground floor, so now both your arms ache equally. You feel almost glad to be rid of one of them.

    You open it and find the promised instrument inside. Cautiously, you press your finger against it – not your left forefinger; that one is already bleeding – to test the edge. If it is the slightest bit dull, the plan will be ruined. The blade is sharp, however, and you breathe a sigh of relief. The thought of cutting through your own arm is bad enough – but you refuse point blank to even attempt it with a dull blade.

    Normally you would not try it with a sharp blade, either. The last time you lost your left arm, it was a very painful accident, and you are not eager for that to happen again. Valignant, however, knows somebody with an ability that suits you quite well. You trust that this will work properly – quickly, that’s the most important thing. You’ve seen how easily something like this can cut through things, at least when touched with that ability. Your left arm should be no trouble at all.

    You are under no illusions. It will still hurt. You’re used to the pain, though – it comes with your ability, the thing that makes you superhuman. This isn’t because of some silly prejudice, but because you were unlucky enough for your ability to require some sacrifice.

    You swing the blade down. At least you know your arm will grow back.

    It hurts, like you expected, but the pain is dulled automatically by a body designed to cope with this and as long as you grit your teeth, you think you are unlikely to scream.

    You can hear other screams. The chain reaction has already started. The building shakes and starts to collapse. The screams sound confused. Your ability is unique – at least you think it is – and it is unlikely that the employees here have training in how to combat it; any idea, even, of what it is.

    Most superhuman abilities are believed to have evolved out of a need for survival. Valignant believes yours is different. He seems intelligent and his idea is not unreasonable, so you have accepted this information. It answers some of the questions you have about your past, but by no means all of them or even most of them.

    There are some species in the animal kingdom that, whilst not being able to defend themselves on an individual basis, leave such an unpleasant imprint on the predator’s mind that they will rarely attack a member of the same species more than once. A way of ensuring the survival of the species as a whole, even if it does require sacrifices.

    Valignant thinks that your ability evolved along similar lines. Every time your blood is spilled, it is impossible to remove. This doesn’t do much until you acquire a more serious injury – you lose a part of a finger, for example – but then the effects can be catastrophic for the people around you. If they were trying to kill you, it’s not something they would want to try a second time. Assuming they survived, anyway.

    Your blood has explosive properties, but an explosion is only triggered by sudden trauma – the larger the trauma, the larger the explosion. You are no biologist, so you’re not sure how this works, or even if it should be possible – but you don’t worry about that, because a lot of superhumans have impossible abilities. Science doesn’t explain everything, no matter how hard it tries.

    Thankfully, this ability doesn’t kill you. It’s painful, yes, but you have a regenerative ability that allows you to survive. It’s not immediate, though – you don’t have the metabolism or calorie intake for that, unlike Valignant. You have to be content with slow regrowth, and what little instant recovery occurs to stop you bleeding to death.

    Your body is a complicated thing, to say the least.

    Valignant thinks your ability is one of the strongest he’s ever seen, given your ability to replace blood incredibly quickly. That’s why he asked you to do this.

    By now the building is crumbling around you. You’re not really very worried by this. You’re pretty sure you can survive almost anything at this point. This is why normal people are scared by superhumans. Your ability is inexplicable, dangerous and powerful. There are probably others stronger than you, though you have no reason to fear them if they have no reason to fight you.

    If they do have a reason to fight you, you have a simple but effective way of dealing with them. You have used this on occasion, albeit accidentally. It normally results in their death. You don’t feel bothered by this – it’s a natural response, and you have little control over it.

    Valignant is quite poetic, you think. He put it like this: ‘Every drop of your blood spilled will hurt them a hundred times over. It’s the perfect retribution.’

    That’s how Valignant came to give you your name.

    Vengeance.

    The dust settles as the building collapses all at once, almost burying you with it. You manage to blast away a large piece of rubble by losing part of your little finger. You can live without that for a few weeks.

    Carefully, you pick your way out of the remains of the building, ignoring desperate pleas for help and the sound of whimpering you can hear. It’s almost as loud as your heartbeat. Your main concern right now is getting to Valignant’s safehouse before the authorities arrive. You don’t really care about anything else.

    You never really thought of yourself as a hero, anyway.

  74. Holliequon 26 Jan 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I’m sorry to poke this again, but does anybody have any thoughts? To clarify, this isn’t related to anything else in this forum. Sorry if that confused anybody.

  75. B. Macon 26 Jan 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Ack. Thanks for reminding me.

  76. B. Macon 26 Jan 2010 at 2:55 pm

    The title’s okay.

    If this piece were about the reader and how the reader is supposed to react, I think the second-person would work better. Maybe something like “Admit it–you don’t think of me as a hero.” Right now, I feel like it’s an awkward way of trying to get the reader to put himself in the shoes of the main character. Would you lose anything by switching to 1PN or 3PN?

    Since I think this is aiming for a super-intimate look at the protag’s life (forcing us to put us in her shoes), I’d recommend bringing in details for lines like “parents with more compassion than sense” and “just not perhaps the best upbringing you could have had.” What sort of upbringing DID (s)he have? How could it have been better? This is a good opportunity to show us what she wants out of life vs. what her life has been like thus far.

    “Some facts you like more than others.” Details? As long as you’re trying to show us what she’s thinking, give us some details about how she thinks.

    “This city suits you. You like being anonymous. It’s loud, big, bright and there are more people here.” I feel like this would be more effective if we had seen more of the character in action first. She doesn’t give me the impressive of being loud and brash. Quite the opposite– she’s not making flashy statements about herself. If anything, her reticence to give any specific details about her life might suggest that she’s shy, ashamed or otherwise very withdrawn.

    I’m not feeling the 2PN.

    The author is addressing all these lines at me, but it’s not making me feel like a part of the story. A lot of these statements could be shown better. “You… would not want them. You prefer anonymity.” Put us there! Make us feel it! That’s more effective than trying to tell readers what we should be feeling.

    There are some usage issues with semi-colons, I think. “People who could be used; who could be hurt.” I’d recommend replacing that with a comma.

    I feel like this character has potential, but the second-person narration is getting in the way of revealing it. Every time you want to tell the reader what they’re feeling, try coming up with an experience that will evoke that reaction. I suspect that will probably be a lot more memorable and emotionally powerful.


    There is no action here. It’s more or less an extended monologue. Could you work action or possibly dialogue or at least some interaction into this? (I feel that the lack of dialogue could be effective because it shows isolation, but perhaps you could show the narrator remaining isolated as people mill by).


    I’d recommend naming the employers or at least the type of job. It seems like the narrator is being coy.

    I think “never mind” is two words rather than one.


    This might be a regional/national thing, but I think “storeys” should be spelled “stories.”

    “He would not be so desperate to work with you.” Show this. Although Val seemed accommodating (for example, of the month it might take him to grow back his arm), he didn’t seem desperate. Desperate would be like “I don’t care how much they’re paying you– I’ll double it” or maybe putting a REALLY hard sell and suggesting that his life will be very difficult if he doesn’t comply. (A man with that much money probably has the ability to make trouble).

    Readers like to have information that the POV has. I’d recommend telling us anything interesting about the job that the POV knows.

    So he’s a regenerator, okay. Was it explained why he was missing an arm at the start of the story? Right now, I’m wondering if there’s something about his body that makes his limbs fall off. Also, why does he randomly start bleeding?


    What’s the point of cutting off his own arm? This should probably be explained upfront because it is not at all intuitive.

    He appears to have some ability other than regeneration. Without knowing what it is, I have no idea why he cut his arm off and am very very confused.

    I like the biological reference. Like animals that protect themselves by tasting bad.

    This information about the possible evolutionary background of the character’s ability is interesting but probably should come much sooner.

    “but you don’t worry about that, because a lot of superhumans have impossible abilities. Science doesn’t explain everything, no matter how hard it tries.” I like this hand-wave. It’s an effective cue to readers along the lines of “these powers aren’t meant to be plausible; get over it.”

    I like returning to the line “[He] never really thought of [himself] as a hero, anyway.”

    I hope that helps! Please let me know if you’d like to move onto another chapter of this work. (I don’t think it’s the same work as the original, right?)

  77. Holliequon 27 Jan 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Yeah, it’s not the same as the original. I was intending this to be a one-shot sort of thing, but I’m considering writing some similar things based the same universe…

    The second person was… an experiment, I guess. I don’t want to give this character a gender, because I think that fits in with the sort of identity-less thing they’ve got going on. (Interestingly, you’re the first person to use the ‘she’ pronoun for the character. As well as he.) I’m finding the second-person difficult to use in an as-yet uncompleted follow-up, though, so I’ll probably change this to first person.

    Ack, telling vs. showing. *headdesk* I will definitely fix that.

    Hmm. I’m not sure about moving the explanation of the power to earlier – the reveal is tied to the climax, and I don’t think it would work as well (read: would be boring) without it. Do you think heavier foreshadowing of the power could work better?

    Thank you for all your help, B. Mac! Your input is highly appreciated. 🙂

  78. B. Macon 27 Jan 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Hmm. One way you could reveal the power towards the climax, I think, would be to have Val hear that there’s this guy-or-lady that can regenerate. He (correctly) guesses that the regeneration is a secondary ability caused by the body’s attempt to compensate for a primary ability. What sort of primary ability would cause so much damage to the body that regeneration has to be a part of the package? I think he’d have enough information to guess that the power is highly destructive, but maybe he wouldn’t know exactly how the destructiveness works and the protagonist seems anonymous enough that (s)he would be reluctant to talk about his/her capabilities.

    So that part of the conversation might go something like this…
    VAL: What sort of powers besides regeneration do you have?
    POV: It’d be safer for both of us if you didn’t know.
    VAL: For this job, I need someone that can take down a skyscraper. Think you can pull that off?
    POV: Sure.
    VAL: What materials would you need? A ton of C4?
    POV: A knife.
    VAL, repeating just to make sure: A knife.
    POV: Uhh, yeah. A sharp one. Definitely a sharp one.

  79. MGHon 11 Dec 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Hey! I’m just giving my two cents here 😛 I really like the second person point of view. I like it because it’s unique, you don’t see it every day. For me, it would give me more incentive to read it because it sounds interesting. I’ve always loved those ‘Choose Your Own Adventures’ kind of books and this is sort of like those. Also, I’m a big fan of repeating the same lines at the beginning and the end 🙂 It definately sounds like something I would read 😀 I’m not a pro on writing so I can’t give you any pointers or anything, sorry. Keep up the good work!

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