Jul 09 2010

Clapham37’s Review Forum

Published by at 3:31 pm under Review Forums

Please see the comments below.

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “Clapham37’s Review Forum”

  1. Clapham37on 16 Jul 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Matthew Ball is unknowingly a Pariah, a mutated human with supernatural abilities, who inadvertently gets caught up in a struggle between a group of these Pariah’s and a squad of highly trained soldiers.

    – I haven’t really thought of a synopsis before, but I suppose that pretty much sums it up without revealing too much.

    – I’ve only writen the first chapter so far, (that was difficult enough :)) so I’ll just post that and see the reaction.

  2. Clapham37on 16 Jul 2010 at 3:51 pm

    “Don’t be such a baby,” the rather ironically baby-faced Kyle Black called out to his less ethically challenged classmate.

    And the irony was not lost on Matthew; he was just preoccupied with a moral dilemma of the highest importance. After all, the sign on the door that he stood halfway in clearly stated that “STAFF ONLY” were permitted behind the door, and his lowly age meant that he wouldn’t be able to work at the third largest Water Purification Plant in all of the Greater Metropolis of London for a few years yet.

    Matthew shuddered at the thought; there was no way he wanted to end up like the elderly tour guide who was supposed to be showing them around the remainder of the Plant with the rest of their fellow classmates. After said tour had spent the last hour and a half explaining the mind numbingly dull process of how they were able to separate the solids from the liquids, with a youth enthusiasm normally only displayed by a child on Christmas morning, Matthew needed little persuasion to sneak away from the group and try to find, what Kyle described, as “the real reason an old geezer could have so much fun at such a painfully boring place.”

    However, it wasn’t until Matthew had started to walk through the door that he had developed cold feet. He was, after all, the model student; not the brightest, but he was always on time to class, never late with his homework and he had a spotless record from years of good behaviour. All of which had led him to become some sort of social outcast in his school simply because he was one of the few who’d listen to their elder’s. Exactly how he had allowed himself to get caught up in the high jinks of the notorious ne’er-do-well known as Kyle, was beyond his comprehension.

    “You coming, Matty?”

    Oh, yes, that was why. The fault for his unusual lack of discipline lied solely with the third member of their group; who could have been mistaken for a clone of Kyle if it wasn’t for her friendlier demeanour, and the lack of a Y chromosome.

    For too long Matthew had desired to spend more time with the irresistibly lovable Hayley Roberts. He was normally limited to only a couple of hours a week, when she would be forced to leave her usual social circle and sit next to each other for the duration of their science classes. For the first term they would barely say two words to each other, but after a rare heroic act from Matthew where he covered for Hayley when she missed the deadline for an important piece of coursework, they were, at least for those few hours, the closest of friends. However, at this particular time, he was torn between spending time with the girl he adored and his common sense demanding that he turn around and join up with his class.

    “I don’t think I should”, Matthew’s nervously spoken disposition was met by a scoff from Kyle, who immediately began walking off. “I’m sorry, Hayley. I won’t tell anyone, I swear.”

    He began to retreat through the door, but stopped as Hayley firmly grabbed hold of his arm. His head moved from staring pitifully at his feet to see why the only girl he didn’t receive distasteful glances from wanted him to stay, ending up looking straight into her magnificently coloured hazel eyes, which seemed to peer equally as awkwardly at him. Instantly, it was as if everything else had seemed to simply cease to exist, and the two of them would probably be okay with it.

    “Come on Matty,” she spoke softly, her words meant only for him. “You only live once.”

    “Okay,” all the worries in his head had evaporated, replaced with thoughts about the colour of her eyes, the smoothness of her skin and exactly what kind of shampoo she used to achieve the angelic smell coming from her hair.

    Hayley released the vice grip on his arm and allowed him to walk through the door and close it behind him. They began to walk beside each other in pursuit of their classmate, though it might have been possible that they had both completely forgotten about Kyle.

    If he hadn’t yet, Matthew certainly did when Hayley’s hand suddenly grasped hold of his own, sweaty one, creating a slight squishing noise. He, hearing more of a deafening farting sound, pulled away his hand sharply away, almost yanking Hayley’s arm off in the process, and frantically wiped it dry on his trousers.

    “Sorry, I’m a little new to all of this,” he spoke referring to his new criminal life.

    “Me too,” Hayley whispered so softly that Matthew was unable to hear, which was just as well as there was a good chance that if he had heard he would have mistaken her meaning. Though her immediately accepting his arid palm, once he had judged it worthy of her, reassured him that whatever she meant was good.

    “Hayley! Look at this!” a wheezy Kyle shouted as he ran back towards the two, completely ruining any sort of secrecy they were operating under. As he spotted Matthew, one of his eyebrows arched with the forming of a grin. “Huh. I’m surprised you had the balls to disobey your precious teacher. You must have made a good argument, Hayley.”

    She looked at Matthew, smiling as she spoke, “yeah, something like that.”
    Kyle’s jovial exterior shattered as his eyes spotted the blissful couple holding hands. Hayley was Kyle’s friend; they had been practically inseparable since their first rebellious truancies, and it was as if Matthew was pissing on his territory. His hands began to involuntarily clench as he pictured crushing Matthew’s head on the floor.

    “What did you want to show me?” Hayley asked when it seemed he had forgotten his original point.

    “Oh yeah,” he swallowed his growing anger in an ever so large gulp. “Follow me; you’re gonna love this.”

    He turned on the spot and hurriedly sped off, with Matthew and Hayley following at a much more leisurely pace.

    It wasn’t long before they reached Kyle’s great surprise and, lo and behold, it waited behind yet another door. However, not even the large sign stating that there was “NO ENTRY” allowed at any time would stop Matthew this time, though he did feel a slight twinge of guilt in his stomach as Kyle pushed the door open.

    “Now, how cool is that!”

    Matthew’s jaw practically hit the floor as his eyes were immediately drawn to the large globe of spiralling water hovering about twenty feet above a massive, sunken, half empty tank of waste. Every now and then a piece of rubbish would fall out of the bottom, or be pushed out the side, creating a large splash as it did, but instead of the water falling to the floor, it would unnaturally stop and rejoin with the sphere. This continued until the water was pure enough to see through it and to the other side of the room.

    For what may be the first time ever, Matthew was inclined to agree with Kyle. However, before he could, Hayley let out a soft whimper and buried her head into Matthew’s arm.

    “What’s wrong?”

    She kept her eyes and mouth shut, refusing to budge, but instead pointed towards a miniscule transparent cube that sat next to the edge of the tank. Inside this tiny room stood a frail looking man, who at first glance appeared to be no more than a skeleton draped in a skin size to large for him and clothes that probably would have only fitted a baby.

    “My god,” Matthew had to rub his eyes to check that he wasn’t hallucinating.

    “I know,” Kyle’s grin had returned. “It’s about time these bloody Pariah’s got what they deserve.”

    “Pariah?” Matthew muttered under his breath as he examined the man once more. He hadn’t noticed it before, due to his shock at the man’s condition, but sure enough he was using his hands to control the flow of the water in the sphere hovering in the air. He was a mutant, a Pariah, but, as bad as that was, he was still human and his living condition was the most inhumane thing Matthew had ever witnessed.

    “Yeah,” Kyle answered Matthew’s unintentional question. “It looks like they have about twenty of these freaks doing all the work,” he pointed Matthew in the direction of another dozen or two boxes laid out all along the rest of the large room. “I don’t remember this being mentioned in the tour,” he laughed loudly whilst nudging Matthew to invoke a response.

    “You’re a dick,” Matthew reply, not giving Kyle the applause he had expected.

    Matthew removed the distraught Hayley from his arm and headed off the nearest cell.

    “What are you doing?” both Kyle and Hayley asked.

    “Letting him go.”

    Kyle’s smile faded once more, whilst Hayley displayed the opposite reaction.

    “WHAT?” Kyle stormed after Matthew, with Hayley following him. “You can’t do that! He’s a Pariah! A monster!”

    “He’s still human,” Matthew argued as he reached the door, and began examining the lock for a weakness.

    “Look out!” Hayley yelled, but as he turned to see the danger, Kyle’s fist came slamming into his nose, knocking him backwards and onto the edge of the half empty tank of water.

    Having never taken a punch before, Matthew became rather dazed and found it hard to stand still. Seeing Kyle walk towards him, he threw all his body weight into returning a punch, but completely missed his intended target, and span around on the spot, losing his balance on the edge. His arm’s flailed around trying to keep him from falling in, and grabbed hold of Kyle’s shirt. However, this caught Kyle off balance, and Matthew fell forwards, with Kyle being dragged with him, over the side of the tank and into the water.

    Hayley’s high pitched scream caught the attention of a few nearby Pariah’s, who lost concentration and accidently released their control over the water they were manipulating, causing it to come crashing back down into the large tank and on top of the two boys.

    *****

    Blackness greeted Matthew as the last moments of his memory ended and the Virtual Reality Memory Reconstruction Unit powered down. He raised himself so that he sat in an upright position on the psychiatrist’s chair before removing the large goggles that the machine required him to wear in order to function. He breathed a loud relaxed sigh as the heavy strain was lifted from his head.

    “What made you choose that memory, Matthew?” the psychiatrist inquired as he removed his own pair of goggles.

    Matthew handed the goggles back to the other man, “you told me to pick a life changing experience. I can’t imagine anything more so than dying.”
    “But you’re not dead, Matthew.”

    “No,” his head lowered, “not anymore.”

    The psychiatrist waits for Matthew to collect his thoughts before pressing on. “It say’s in your file that you were dead when they pulled you out of the water. What exactly happened?”

    Matthew shrugged before resting his head in the palm of his hand. “I don’t remember. We were fighting, and somehow ended up falling over the side. I think I heard Hayley shout my name, but it was a bit muffled under the water, then, as I emerged at the surface, I felt a sudden, but massive, impact on my face. The next thing I know, I’m waking up in a hospital bed with my parents and doctors telling me how lucky I was to survive. There was no bright little, no sudden life realisation, no epiphany, just a complete lack of consciousness. I could have been out for a year, and I would have still woken up in the same perplexed state that I did. Kyle, however, wasn’t so fortunate. I imagine we both must have ingested large amounts of water, but, whilst his lungs had swelled to bursting point with water, I was relatively clear. Apparently, I was some kind of miracle.”

    “You don’t think so?”

    Matthew’s head rose as he looked his psychiatrist straight in the eye, “miracles are meant to have happy endings. Mine, however, ended with me getting expelled after the police tried to blame me for Kyle’s death. My parents decided to move from our quaint country home to the crowd streets of Haven, which is one of the worst districts to grow up in the Greater Metropolis of London. I never even got to say goodbye to Hayley; to see if she was okay. I doubt she even knows if I’m alive. Or if she cares.”

    “Are you still in love with her?”

    “She was my first love. She’ll always hold a place within my heart.”

    Matthew’s head lowered once again as he bit the side of his lip to try to prevent his eyes welling up. His right hand wiped the corners of his eyes as he composed himself.

    “What have you learned from the whole experience?” the psychiatrist eventually asked.

    Matthew snorted as he looked the other man straight in the eyes, “never play the hero. Especially for the girl.”

  3. Clapham37on 16 Jul 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Thing’s I’ve noticed/don’t like include:

    – I think I’ve tried to do too much too quickly, or not perhaps enough backstory between Hayley & Matthew, or even Kyle.

    – The whole psychiatrist thing could be redone… I’ve already done it at least three times already. I want to portray him as a little depressed at life and feeling let down by the whole experience.

    – The fight scene… I just dunno… could be much better, but doesn’t really need more expanding.

  4. B. Macon 17 Jul 2010 at 3:02 am

    –I thought introducing Matthew as “his less ethically challenged classmate” was interesting. However, Matthew is the main character/POV, right? I sort of assumed that Kyle was the main character because he’s the one he’s the subject of the first sentence and he’s also the only one named in the first sentence.

    I thought “the rather ironically baby-faced Kyle” and “And the irony was not lost on Matthew; he was just preoccupied with a moral dilemma of the highest importance” sort of missed the mark for me. First, I don’t think Kyle LOOKING baby-faced makes it ironic that he’s telling Matthew to man up. (I think it would be ironic if it were a baby delivering the line). Second, I don’t quite get the point of the over-the-top voice in “he was just preoccupied with a moral dilemma of the highest importance.” The narrator’s voice is consistently mock-epic. What’s the effect you’re going for?

    “with a youth enthusiasm…” –> youthful, I think.

    I feel that the paragraph starting with “However, it wasn’t until…” has a lot of exposition. I think it would be stronger if you moved some of the information into action or dialogue. Failing that, if you keep it as narratorial exposition, I’d recommend livening it up with some interesting details. For example, maybe something like “He was the model student; not the brightest, judging from the Burning Toupee Incident in chemistry class.

    “All of which had led him to become some sort of social outcast in his school simply because he was one of the few who’d listen to their elder’s.” 1) He isn’t really being treated like an outcast–if he were, I imagine Kyle would be a bit more acerbic/mocking rather than patient and 2) Could you show this?

    “Exactly how he had allowed himself to get caught up in the high jinks of the notorious ne’er-do-well known as Kyle, was beyond his comprehension. “You coming, Matty?” Oh, yes, that was why. The fault for his unusual lack of discipline lied solely with the third member of their group; who could have been mistaken for a clone of Kyle if it wasn’t for her friendlier demeanour, and the lack of a Y chromosome.” I would recommend rephrasing this to something like:

    “Exactly how he had allowed himself to get caught up in the high jinks of the notorious ne’er-do-well known as Kyle, was, like many things, inexplicable but for [PHRASE DESCRIBING HAYLEY AND WHY HE WANTS TO IMPRESS HER].”

    ““I don’t think I should”, Matthew’s nervously spoken disposition was met by a scoff from Kyle, who immediately began walking off.” I’d recommend toning this down to something like “‘I don’t think I should,’ he mumbled. Kyle stormed off in disgust.”

    Maybe mention that she smells of awesome shampoo earlier? I think it’d be an interesting contrast with them being in a water purification plant that probably has a lot of nasty-smelling chemicals and sewage.

    I really like the paragraph starting with “Me too.” I think this explains his attraction pretty well.

    “You must have made a good argument, Hayley.” Is this appropriate for his voice?

    “Kyle’s jovial exterior shattered as his eyes spotted the blissful couple holding hands. Hayley was Kyle’s friend; they had been practically inseparable since their first rebellious truancies, and it was as if Matthew was pissing on his territory.” I found this a bit disorienting. The narrator has stepped inside Kyle’s mind where before he had been in Matthew’s. (Also, this backstory and relationship should probably be shown and/or implied through action and dialogue rather than said outright).

    For the plural of Pariah, I would recommend doing Pariahs rather than Pariah’s. Pariah is a cool term for this group of characters, by the way.

    “He was a mutant, a Pariah…” I really, really like this as well. It explains your word (Pariahs -> superpowered outcasts) in terms of what we already know (mutants).

    “He was a mutant, a Pariah, but, as bad as that was, he was still human and his living condition was the most inhumane thing Matthew had ever witnessed.” I would recommend introducing another detail or two about how horrible it is.

    How is it that Kyle knows what a Pariah is but Matthew doesn’t? Is it common knowledge? Is there some reason Matthew wouldn’t have heard about them already? (Maybe he’s new to the area or very sheltered?) It might help if Kyle throws in some scorn here along the lines of “Don’t you watch the news? They’re sick freaks.”

    “His arm’s flailed around” –> no apostrophe on the plural of arm. Actually, there are no apostrophes on any plurals except for some rare cases like letters (“with that many A’s, he could go to Princeton”).

    “accidently”–> the spelling might be different in the U.K., but it’s “accidentally” in the U.S.

    The scene-change to the psychiatrist’s office is rather interesting. However, if this scene is a memory or a dream from Matthew, I think it would make a lot of sense if it were centered on Matthew’s perspective. (The third-person narrator doesn’t need to go, but I would recommend against having him tell us what other characters are thinking).

    “he sat in an upright position on the psychiatrist’s chair before removing the large goggles that the machine required him to wear in order to function.” This could probably be shortened to something like “He sat up before removing the virtual reality goggles.”

    I think Matthew’s paragraph of exposition starting with “Matthew shrugged before…” could be dramatically shortened. For one thing, it’s information we already know, and I’d imagine that the psychiatrist would already know about the fight, too. Maybe something like “I was dead. Now I’m not. My doctors thought it was a big deal. Ask them.”

    How old is this character? I had the impression that he’s somewhere south of 18 (since he’s on a class trip). But he sounds MUCH older in the psychiatrist’s office. I’d recommend giving some heads-up early in the psychiatrist scene that this memory is from long ago.

    I wonder whether words like “perplexed” and “epiphany” and “consciousness” and “whilst” would fit him all that well unless he’s notably bright. (And the narrator told us he wasn’t).

    “There was no bright little…” –> “light,” I think.

    “Matthew’s head rose as he looked his psychiatrist straight in the eye, “miracles are meant to have happy endings.” I think this is a run-on sentence. I’d recommend breaking it into two separate sentences by replacing the comma with a period.

    “miracles are meant to have happy endings. Mine, however, ended with me getting expelled after the police tried to blame me for Kyle’s death. My parents decided to move from our quaint country home to the crowd streets of Haven, which is one of the worst districts to grow up in the Greater Metropolis of London.” I’d recommend changing this to something like “Miracles are supposed to have happy endings. Mine ended with me getting expelled after they blamed me for Kyle’s death. My family moved to Haven. You heard of Haven? They deal drugs on the street.”

    “What have you learned from the whole experience?” the psychiatrist eventually asked. –> I’d recommend changing this to something like “Did you learn anything from the experience?”

    Matthew snorted as he looked the other man straight in the eyes, “never play the hero. Especially for the girl.” Haha! I like this. If I were reading through this in a store, I would definitely check out chapter 2.

    “Matthew snorted as he looked the other man straight in the eyes, “never play the hero.” This is a run-on sentence. I think the easiest solution would be replacing the comma with a period.

    Looking back, I can’t think of any really good reason that the narrator sounds as intrusively erudite as he does. I would recommend toning it down a bit.

  5. Clapham37on 17 Jul 2010 at 4:59 am

    Thanks a lot. I’ll have a bit of a rewrite and get back to you.

    And I’m pleased you didn’t find it nearly as bad as I was preparing myself for. 🙂

    Oh, and I’m about 90% sure that it’s accidently over here (in England).

  6. Clapham37on 17 Jul 2010 at 5:04 am

    Upon searching google, it appears I’m wrong. Well, technically. Accidentally is the proper spelling, though accidently is accepted most the time.

  7. B. Macon 17 Jul 2010 at 9:32 am

    Instead of rewriting this chapter, could I encourage you to start working on the next one? It’s usually more productive to start rewriting after either (ideally) the manuscript is ready or perhaps when you have written yourself into a corner and can’t get out any other way.

  8. B. Macon 17 Jul 2010 at 10:26 am

    A few dictionaries list “accidently” as an accepted alternate spelling.

    That said, “accidentally” is definitely the preferred term among people that write for a living–I looked at the first 100 sites and noticed very few uses of “accidently” by established academic, news, business and government sites.

  9. Wingson 17 Jul 2010 at 10:48 am

    I like this so far. However, is this a straightforward superhero novel, or are you going in a sci-fi direction instead? I feel that both could work from what I’ve seen.

    “Never play the hero. Especially for the girl.” is now one of my favorite novel lines. Good work! I’d like to see more.

    – Wings

  10. Clapham37on 18 Jul 2010 at 5:16 am

    Right, so I’ve re-written the first chapter taking on board your helpful comments. I get what you mean about continuing to write, however, I just want to get the first parts right so I have a platform to build from.

    The only thing I wasn’t sure about, is what you meant by the narrator sounding “as intrusively erudite as he does”. Do you mean that I’m writing a little too omniscient, or is it something else? If you mean the former, I have kept to being just 3rd person following Matthew now (as far as I can tell), as you mentioned I had moved to at least one other character before.

    Thanks for the praise Wings, I appreciate it more than you could imagine :). As for your question, I wouldn’t know what genre to specifically place it in. Probably an superhero adventure novel. Wouldn’t personally classify it as a sci-fi, that’s for sure.

    Oh, and what do people think about “Outcast Among Pariahs” for the title?

    I won’t bother posting the rewritten version, since it’s a lot to read and the majority is probably the same.

    Thanks again for all the help and critique guys. On to chapter 2 :P.

  11. B. Macon 18 Jul 2010 at 7:27 am

    Okay. Here are some some examples where the narrator’s voice gets lofty enough that it didn’t seem to fit what was happening.

    “he was just preoccupied with a moral dilemma of the highest importance”

    “his lowly age meant that he wouldn’t be able to work at the third largest Water Purification Plant in all of the Greater Metropolis of London for a few years yet.” Here, I’d try something like “he was a few years too young to work at London’s third-largest water purification plant” or “he was a few years too young to work at [ENTRY LEVEL JOB FOR YOUNG PEOPLE], let alone London’s third-largest purification plant.”

    –“Exactly how he had allowed himself to get caught up in the high jinks of the notorious ne’er-do-well known as Kyle, was beyond his comprehension.”

    –Maybe “Kyle’s jovial exterior shattered as his eyes spotted the blissful couple holding hands. Hayley was Kyle’s friend; they had been practically inseparable since their first rebellious truancies, and it was as if Matthew was pissing on his territory.”



    “Outcast Among Pariahs” is okay, but it isn’t entirely clear to me whether he’s an outcast WITH the Pariahs or regarded as an outcast BY the Pariahs. If the relationship between him and the Pariahs is not 100% friendly for whatever reason, what would you think about something like “Not Even the Pariahs Would Have You”?

  12. Clapham37on 18 Jul 2010 at 7:32 am

    Okay, thanks for explaining. Luckily, I’ve rewritten all but the second of your points, but I’ll go back and check for anymore.

    As for the title, you make a valid point. I’ll probably wait till I write more, or all of it, until coming back to it.

  13. B. Macon 18 Jul 2010 at 7:35 am

    “I’ll probably wait till I write more, or all of it, until coming back to it.” Good plan! 🙂

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