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Would somebody please read these few paragraphs for me?
67

Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 10:18

it's the opening bit to my novel which I'm working on in a really disorganised and patchy fashion - it's a novel about an autistic woman who suffers a breakdown, and her road to recovery, her way of looking at the world and her obsessions and phobias, with a backdrop of her studies in early modern witch-beliefs (drawing parallels between individual and aggregate psychology around mysticism/magical thinking/primal fears etc) and feminist critical theory, focusing a lot on her troubled relationship with her mother who probably also had autism but wasn't recognised - hard to explain but probably quite poncy

I know it's narcissistic but I haven't got anyone IRL that I want to embarrass myself in front of...

if it's awful adolescent doggerel then please TELL me

but tell me gently

here goes



I have a strange and powerful relationship with clothes. It?s visceral, carnal; real love, equally real loathing. I could browse the whole spectrum of human emotions, just rifling through the reels in a dressmakers? shop. Clothes are intoxicating. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Listen. A swirling bell-shaped skirt, peppermint satin, cool, light, fluid, rippling over your legs in the summer sunshine. A chocolate velvet party dress, shirred bronze in candlelight, brushing your face like the wings of a moth for an instant before falling into place about your body with the warm weight of luxury. A smoky grey felt glove lying on a polished oak floor, slim-fingered, reposing in a gesture of languid assent.


Architecture lends us a man-made world, a skilful illusion borne out of our innate fear of abandonment. Our minds are dwarfed and derailed by the complexity of Nature?s own constructive genius, we struggle like a child in an 11+ exam required to ?continue the pattern 98723436287678891467?. Our intuition tells us that randomness is a falsehood and that there must be a formula, a logic, and tells us also that our brains are simply too rudimentary to perceive it yet ? millions of years lie between us and the truth. To second-guess evolution is a dangerous game ? would you hand a four year old a butcher knife? Our deepest fears, dramatised most eloquently in the Book of Genesis, revolve around the fear of human beings acquiring and inevitably misusing the mathematical language of Nature. When God threw that apple at Newton, he should have picked it up and examined it ? he might have seen the marks of Adam?s teeth.


So we inhabit a crudely pixellated landscape of flat colours and right angles, a world chopped up like a toddler?s dinner into bite-sized blocks, smoothly interacting before our eyes like a perfect game of Tetris. Our urban super-reality is designed to support and enclose us in an illusion of safety ? buildings define our limits, they mark out our territory and direct our movements. They are the unblinking stewards on the periphery of our vision, shouting out instructions; dress codes, appropriate noise levels, a visual autocue of the expectations which lie within. Buildings can hold us dear in an unending embrace, keep us warm and dry, shield us from the terrifying complexity and sheer scale of ?outside?, or they can grip, punish and isolate us when we transgress. And when they crumble, our instinctive selves coil and leap with fear and fascination.

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 10:22

oh FUCK I fully intended to namechange

oh well, too late now

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 10:24

OK I've just read it and it's bloody dreadful

back to the drawing board

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solo · 14/11/2008 10:29

Trying to read it and Dd needs my attention, so will come back to it. I love the first paragraph...

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Kathyis6incheshigh · 14/11/2008 10:32

It's beautifully written and interesting but a bit difficult. It wouldn't grab me when I picked it up if it was a novel because I'd be wanting to know who the characters are and get started on the story. Also, I didn't see the connections between the 3 paras so couldn't see where it was going.

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 10:35

Thanks for that Kathy, that's really useful. It wants diluting a bit maybe?

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 10:43

ok have decided to post another section for contrast - I know this is really self-indulgent but I would be so grateful for honest comments

*

At 9.23 on the morning of 17th April 2008 officers of the Environmental Health Team at Exeter City Council rang the doorbell of the property known as ?Cherry Trees?, 16 Fortescue Road, Pennsylvania, Exeter. They rang the prescribed three times and left a decent interval before backing up and barging the door open with a single practised shove. The sight that greeted the three men resembled nothing any of them had ever encountered in a combined total of 47 years? service. These men had cleared countless wrecked and abandoned homes, had overseen the removal of a multitude of dead and dying human bodies in various stages of decrepitude and decay. They had shovelled out hundreds of dead rats and shooed away enough stray cats to populate a cats? home twice over. They had taken responsibility for the tasteful and swift disposal of skip-loads of detritus of every possible description ? beer cans, war medals, baby dolls, oven trays caked in sausage fat, postcards, leather brogues, hamster cages, dentures, pizza boxes, armchairs with their innards spilling out, newspapers old and new, kipper ties, crutches, jewellery boxes - every imaginable by-product of a human life suddenly derailed. They were, as any one of them would have confirmed with a laconic roll of his eyes, not easily shocked.

Behind this particular front door, however, there awaited none of the standard horrors for which the seasoned EHO automatically braces himself. There were no saucepans of rotting food, no kitchen bin over-running with maggots, no swollen corpse, no bemused and underfed pet cowering in a corner. Instead the team?s eyes were met with a blazing cacophony of psychedelic colours and textures that made them stop and blink in momentary confusion. The room wasn?t dirty or neglected, far from it. The door opened into a generous square sitting room with a deep bay window and high Victorian ceiling. Every inch of the walls, floor and ceiling of this room was covered with fabric of every possible hue -?there was jewel-green velvet, plum damask satin, burnt orange, magenta, sunflower, ashes of roses. As the eye began to acclimatise, it was possible to discern the familiar shapes of furniture ? a three-piece suite, a coffee table, all swathed in layer upon layer of assorted material. Here and there about the room were tall piles of clothing, not the drab heaps of greying laundry the men were accustomed to seeing in the houses they worked in ? one of the certain hallmarks of an inhabitant ?not coping? -but seemingly brand-new, colourful and varied. These weren?t tossed randomly, they were sculptural.

?Some sort of fucking fruit cake? one of the men muttered, clearly rattled. This sort of thing wasn?t normal. You knew where you were with dead rats and mouldy kebab boxes. You clean up, you get on the blower, you pack up your kit and move on to the next one.

His colleague looked up to reply in kind, then gave a strangulated half-scream as his eyes snagged on something behind the man, in the hall leading off the room they stood in. A perpendicular line -?knotted, like a rope ? and a humped shape hanging from it, ominously still.

?Jesus! I think it?s a woman. Stanley knife, quick,? said Ron, the man who?d seen her.

They cut the woman down and laid her down, Ron?s fingers jabbing into the pressure point on her neck before her back hit the velvet-cushioned floor.

?She?s alive, but only just. Get an ambulance. And ring the boss. Now! Stupid bloody woman..? To men who spent their professional lives up against the seamy underbelly of life, and witnessing the astonishing resilience of those who survive it, an attempted suicide in an environment devoid of the usual signs of poverty and failure seemed an obscene, impossibly self-indulgent.

Ron gazed at the rope the woman had used. It was an attractive thing, carefully constructed out of at least a hundred small strips of cloth ? there was ruched chocolate shot silk, red polka dotted satin, pink corduroy, the recognisable half of a child?s dressy lace collar. It crossed his mind that it wouldn?t look out of place in a circus routine or a magic show, being hauled out of a top hat to the gasps of delighted children. The scraps of cloth had been neatly knotted together by small and agile hands. Ron stared down at his own blunt fingers.

?It must have taken ages,? he said, hopelessly. ?Why would anyone do this??

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Jux · 14/11/2008 10:43

It's not awful doggerel, it's very good and I will certainly buy the book when it's published - please let me know when the time comes. Your prose is wonderful and evocative. In three paragraphs you have captured my imagination and I want to read the rest. (But not in dribs and drabs, I want the whole thing!)

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 10:51

thanks Jux, that's lovely of you! one more gratuitous bump before I go out...

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Jux · 14/11/2008 11:47

Oh you're horrible! Why have you put more? I didn't want to read it in bits but I want more now. Have you finished it? Do you have a publisher? I want it now, stuff delayed gratification.

It is very very good.

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purpleduck · 14/11/2008 12:06

I like the second bit.
The first bit was Trying Too Hard. There were some really good sentences, but my pet peeve is when authors OVER describe, or use unneccesarily uncommon words just fro the sake of it.

The second excerpt was very good, and I know I will be wondering what will happen for awhile to come. The only bit that rankles was that the cord was "an attractive thing"...

Wouldn't he be drawn to it...puzzled, intrigued...?

That was nit picking, but just giving my honest opinion.

Keep it up, and I really do want to know what happens!!

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Jux · 14/11/2008 12:32

I don't agree with you, purpleduck, about the first 3 paras. They are what got me hooked. (My first post was delayed as I don't refresh as often as perhaps I should!)

And tbh, I think the cord being an attractive 'thing' is fine in the context as it is undefined, if you see what I mean? It's the cord which has been used for suicide and made presumably for that purpose, but it is also beautiful and has obviously been made with great love and attention. I think thing is a good word to use here as it leaves it completely open as to what it is. It's a kind of undescriptive description for something which is full of contradictions. I'm blathering, sorry.

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StormInAnECup · 14/11/2008 12:42

Message withdrawn

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NotQuiteCockney · 14/11/2008 12:43

Greeny, I'm happy to read through this, but I tend to comment a lot, good and bad. (I haven't read other people's comments, as I'd rather not be biased.)

Do you want me to do this? There are other examples of my work on people's writing on this section ...

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purpleduck · 14/11/2008 12:45

I wasn't being mean, honest!!! Just giving my honest opinion!!! And I did say that I will be wondering what will happen -for me that is the best praise.


Greensleeves, you have said in another thread that you have the Home Planetarium - is it any good?

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LurkerOfTheUniverse · 14/11/2008 12:49

your first post was, imo, just too wordy, especially for an opening paragraph. But I did like some of your descriptions

"Clothes are intoxicating. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Listen. A swirling bell-shaped skirt, peppermint satin, cool, light, fluid, rippling over your legs in the summer sunshine. A chocolate velvet party dress, shirred bronze in candlelight, brushing your face like the wings of a moth for an instant before falling into place about your body with the warm weight of luxury. A smoky grey felt glove lying on a polished oak floor, slim-fingered, reposing in a gesture of languid assent."

Really liked this, it flows beautifully.

I don't know what i'm talking about though, I just read alot of books

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 20:42

NQC yes please, if you have the time! I can take it

purpleduck the Home Planetarium is great IMO, ds1 loves it, but it took quite a lot of initial faffing and repositioning to get it to project the iamges clearly

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 20:59

purpleduck, if you're looking for space-related toys, we also have this which is one of ds1's favourite things, it was a real hit

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Greensleeves · 14/11/2008 21:30

.

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purpleduck · 14/11/2008 21:30

Thanks Greensleeves

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NotQuiteCockney · 14/11/2008 22:32

Greeny, I am home now but slightly drunk - will do it tomorrow - I was pretty tired today anyway, so no doubt Not At My Best. (I've been doing a new creative writing class of late, so my critiquing skills are sharp.)

Don't worry, I'm not mean. See here and www.mumsnet.com/Talk/creative_writing/607450-anyone-want-to-read-my-first-chapter-looking-for-honest.

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Raggydoll · 14/11/2008 23:27

The 2 posts are very different pieces of writing.

Post 1 - Interesting. Your style is memorable and very different to most main stream novels. It is quite indulgent in that it does not move the story forward but is simply descriptive observation. I like it because it is beautiful but it doesn't seem to have a purpose (yet)...

Post 2 - I think this is very good. More mainstream and not as unique as the first post. It has good pace and I have a vivid picture in my mind of the scene and characters. The fabric house has really got my interest piqued and I want to know more about the woman.

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NotQuiteCockney · 15/11/2008 07:24

Ok, here goes.

I have a strange and powerful relationship with clothes. It?s visceral, carnal; real love, equally real loathing. [nice turn of phrase] I could browse the whole spectrum of human emotions, just rifling through the reels [uncommon word, can be jarring (as in, I had to look it up!)] in a dressmakers? shop. Clothes are intoxicating. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Listen. A swirling bell-shaped skirt, peppermint satin, cool, light, fluid, rippling over your legs in the summer sunshine. A chocolate velvet party dress, shirred bronze in candlelight, brushing your face like the wings of a moth for an instant before falling into place about your body with the warm weight of luxury. [good, very concrete] A smoky grey felt glove lying on a polished oak floor, slim-fingered, reposing in a gesture of languid assent. [maybe a bit much ...]

Architecture lends us [builds us, surely? gives us?] a man-made world, a skilful illusion borne out of our innate fear of abandonment. Our minds are dwarfed and derailed by the complexity of Nature?s own constructive genius, we struggle like a child in an 11+ exam required to ?continue the pattern 98723436287678891467?. Our intuition tells us that randomness is a falsehood and that there must be a formula, a logic, and tells us also that our brains are simply too rudimentary to perceive it yet ? millions of years lie between us and the truth. To second-guess evolution is a dangerous game ? would you hand a four year old a butcher knife? Our deepest fears, dramatised most eloquently in the Book of Genesis, revolve around the fear of human beings acquiring and inevitably misusing the mathematical language of Nature. [really? or is our narrator a bit unreliable here?] When God threw that apple at Newton, he [God, or Newton?] should have picked it up and examined it ? he might have seen the marks of Adam?s teeth. [nice]

So we inhabit a crudely pixellated landscape of flat colours and right angles, a world chopped up like a toddler?s dinner into bite-sized blocks, smoothly interacting before our eyes like a perfect game of Tetris. [nice, but I'm not sure about the interacting] Our urban super-reality is designed to support and enclose us in an illusion of safety ? buildings define our limits, they mark out our territory and direct our movements. They are the unblinking stewards on the periphery of our vision, shouting out instructions; dress codes, appropriate noise levels, a visual autocue of the expectations which lie within. Buildings can hold us dear in an unending embrace, keep us warm and dry, shield us from the terrifying complexity and sheer scale of ?outside?, or they can grip, punish and isolate us when we transgress. And when they crumble, our instinctive selves coil and leap with fear and fascination.

[Overall. Ok, you've got some good ideas here. Your writing style is interesting, your sentences are well-formed, and their length and shape varies. The first paragraph has lots of concrete detail, despite being an internal monologue.

But - I'm not sure this works as the opening of a novel. If our narrator is autistic, would she start a conversation this way? This seems more like a (well-written, interesting) opinion piece, than the start of a novel.

Also, what's with the jump from clothes to architecture? I assume you come back to clothes? If not, the leap is weird.

I know, by doing 1st person, you get around show-don't-tell a bit, but it's still kinda a rule. I don't think I'd open with this - I'd open with action, let us get to know our narrator a bit, before she starts talking this way. And, if this pov is stuff you're going to be showing us in the novel (which I think is a good idea, I think you have some good thoughts here, why not show us this stuff, rather than tell us?]

[second part]

At 9.23 on the morning of 17th April 2008 officers of the Environmental Health Team at Exeter City Council rang the doorbell of the property known as ?Cherry Trees?, 16 Fortescue Road, Pennsylvania, Exeter. They rang the prescribed three times and left a decent interval before backing up and barging the door open with a single practised shove. [really? they just shoved the door open?] The sight that greeted the three men resembled nothing any of them had ever encountered in a combined total of 47 years? service. These men had cleared countless wrecked and abandoned homes, had overseen the removal of a multitude of dead and dying human bodies in various stages of decrepitude and decay. They had shovelled out hundreds of dead rats and shooed away enough stray cats to populate a cats? home twice over. They had taken responsibility for the tasteful and swift disposal of skip-loads of detritus of every possible description ? beer cans, war medals, baby dolls, oven trays caked in sausage fat, postcards, leather brogues, hamster cages, dentures, pizza boxes, armchairs with their innards spilling out, newspapers old and new, kipper ties, crutches, jewellery boxes - every imaginable by-product of a human life suddenly derailed. [maybe too much? I'd rather keep just the last one.] They were, as any one of them would have confirmed with a laconic roll of his eyes, not easily shocked.

Behind this particular front door, however, there awaited none of the standard horrors for which the seasoned EHO automatically braces himself. There were no saucepans of rotting food, no kitchen bin over-running with maggots, no swollen corpse, no bemused [bemused? really? not frantic? ah, right, it can also mean puzzled, not just wry or tolerant amusement ... hmmm.] and underfed pet cowering in a corner. Instead the team?s eyes were met with a blazing cacophony of psychedelic colours and textures [their eyes were met with textures? ouch!] that made them stop and blink in momentary confusion. The room wasn?t dirty or neglected, far from it. The door opened into a generous square sitting room with a deep bay window and high Victorian ceiling. Every inch of the walls, floor and ceiling of this room was covered with fabric of every possible hue [every inch can't be covered with fabric of every possible hue - you mean all the hues are here, right?] -?there was jewel-green velvet, plum damask satin, burnt orange, magenta, sunflower, ashes of roses. As the eye began to acclimatise, it was possible to discern the familiar shapes of furniture ? a three-piece suite, a coffee table, all swathed in layer upon layer of assorted material. Here and there about the room were tall piles of clothing, not the drab heaps of greying laundry the men were accustomed to seeing in the houses they worked in ? one of the certain hallmarks of an inhabitant ?not coping? -but seemingly brand-new, colourful and varied. These weren?t tossed randomly, they were sculptural[ly arranged?].

?Some sort of fucking fruit cake? one of the men muttered, clearly rattled. This sort of thing wasn?t normal. You knew where you were with dead rats and mouldy kebab boxes. You clean up, you get on the blower, you pack up your kit and move on to the next one. [nice]

His colleague looked up to reply in kind, then gave a strangulated half-scream as his eyes snagged on something behind the man, in the hall leading off the room they stood in. A perpendicular line -?knotted, like a rope ? and a humped shape hanging from it, ominously still.

?Jesus! I think it?s a woman. Stanley knife, quick,? said Ron, the man who?d seen her.

They cut the woman down and laid her down, Ron?s fingers jabbing into the pressure point on her neck before her back hit the velvet-cushioned floor.

?She?s alive, but only just. Get an ambulance. And ring the boss. Now! Stupid bloody woman..? To men who spent their professional lives up against the seamy underbelly of life, and witnessing the astonishing resilience of those who survive it, an attempted suicide in an environment devoid of the usual signs of poverty and failure seemed an obscene, impossibly self-indulgent. [too much. this is concrete, don't distract us with theory. suicide is surely always stupid? Oh, also, 'an obscene, impossibly self-indulgent' what? Or don't you want the 'an'?]

Ron gazed at the rope the woman had used. It was an attractive thing, carefully constructed out of at least a hundred small strips of cloth ? there was ruched chocolate shot silk, red polka dotted satin, pink corduroy, the recognisable half of a child?s dressy lace collar. It crossed his mind that it wouldn?t look out of place in a circus routine or a magic show, being hauled out of a top hat to the gasps of delighted children. The scraps of cloth had been neatly knotted together by small and agile hands. Ron stared down at his own blunt fingers.

?It must have taken ages,? he said, hopelessly. ?Why would anyone do this??

[Ok, I really like this bit - this makes me want to read more. Your dialogue is good. Other than the one theoretical bit, this really grabs. As before, your writing is clear and readable and interesting. This would work as an opening scene - I'm sure you've got other bits that would work, too, but you could open here, and then go back or whatever? But yeah, this voice is good, you're writing well and concretely.

I'd be happy to see more of your stuff - you have my email address, if you want to do it that way? If you are comfortable critiquing stuff, I might well ask the same of you, I'm starting to produce more these days, although I have a few people from my writing class and so on that I can do stuff with.]

I'll read and comment on other people's opinions (didn't want mine shaped by theirs), but I'm being kicked off the 'puter by an impatient 7-year-old right now ... hope this helps ...

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NotQuiteCockney · 15/11/2008 09:10

Ok, have looked at other people's views, yes, the first bit ... well, I think it's interesting, and fine as it is, but deffo too much for the start of a novel. Draw us in with people, please, and plot, not ideas. The ideas should sneak up on us, not stand at the entryway, beckoning us in ...

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nkf · 15/11/2008 09:16

The second paragraph is a more interesting opening. I want to know what happens when they knock at the door. And the fact that they've never seen anything like it is intriguing.

If you want the clothes opening, I think you have to go back to basics and show not tell. She's telling us about her love for clothes, we need to feel it. It's rather academic at the moment.

Just my viewo f course.

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Elibean · 15/11/2008 10:13

Would have added, but its all been said really

Just wanted to add, I had no idea you were such a talented writer Greeny - love the ideas, and love your language. Go for it.

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