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Old 04-26-2010, 08:52 PM
jpwrites (Offline)
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Default Please critique this chapter


This is my starting off point for the novel I'm working on. I'm now going to the beginning and piecing it together and a little bit of the part that takes place after this chapter. Would love critique - I'm pretty sure I'm using past and present tense interchangably (I've always had this problem), so I'll need to fix that. Thanks!

Chapter Three
There is only one path to Heaven. On Earth, we call it love. ~Unknown

"James. *James! *Shit - we're losing him!"

James opened the eyes of his soul and looked down upon the lifeless body he had once occupied laying on the operating table. *Doctors and nurses were rushing around trying to shock his body back to life. *But, he knew. *That person he was looking down upon no longer existed in human form.*

He looked around the room. *Finally, the head doctor called the time of death and covered my pale mass. *Heads down, they retreated from the operating room. *

I knew what was coming next. Suddenly, I was there with her. *I could feel the air around her shift as she saw him approach and with one look up at his face, she let the air escape from her lungs and a sob bellowed out. *She sat down on the chair behind her and suddenly, realizing she needed to breathe, drew in a gasp. *A wail drew out of her lips as he stopped in front of her. *She looked up. *Their eyes met. *

"Mrs. Pearce... *We tried everything we..."

I knew she was not registering the words she was hearing. *She was already flashing back to the memories of today. *She was wondering how this could be. *I could hear her thoughts; her feelings. *'It's all a dream. *It's all a dream.' *She repeated the phrase over and over again in her mind, rocking herself in the cold, hard chair, her hand pressed upon her lips.

In that moment, I wanted to connect with her more than ever and let her know I was ok - that the horrific events of the day hadn't ended me completely. *I was here. *I was with her. *

I watched him reach down and place a hand upon her shoulder and then he left her. *I could feel the overwhelming emptiness take her. *

I felt the room go hazy and a bright light replaced the hospital waiting room decor. *

"No!" I yelled. *I wanted to be back with her. *I wanted to wrap my arms around her and ease the pain. *Instead, I was in a void of nothing but white.*

"James." *I recognized the voice. *"Come here, son." *It was my father.

I looked around, but saw no one. *A floating yellow orb came out of the white and glided over in front of me. *Before I knew it, the orb enveloped me and a deep, penetrating feeling of benevolence came over me. *My heart swelled. *

The white started to fade and a grassy green area arose around me. *Hard, steel playground equipment was rising out of the ground. *I recognized the area as the park down the street from my childhood home. *

Then, I saw him. *My father stepped out from behind the jungle gym. *This time instead of being seen as an orb, he looked much like he did about ten years before his cancer diagnosis. *The diagnosis that eventually took his life.*

Tanned, leather skin and blue eyes shining, my father walked forward and stopped a few feet away from me. *A smile appeared across his face as he reached into his pocket. *He pulled out a pack of Marlboros and grabbed a cigarette. *His eyes met mine as he lifted the stick to his mouth. *

"Want one?" he asked.

It was then I wondered whether or not I looked human, too. *I looked down and raised my hands up to my face. *I turned my hands over and noticed that they looked quite a bit younger. *The years of hard work and calloused skin was erased and replaced with a soft, inexperienced covering. *I wish I could see myself in a mirror. *I shook my head.

"No, thanks. *I gave those up, you know?" *

I watched my father light his with his lighter. *Even in heaven, this shit still is addicting, I thought. *It had been quite a while since I had smoked.

"Recognize where we're at?" he asked.

"Yeah, I do. *Haven't seen this place in years."

My father took a drag and exhaled.

"I chose this place because it reminds me of you. *Remember all the times we came out here and threw the ball around?"*

"I do."

"Those were the days..." *I saw my father look past me in thought and then his eyes came back to focus in on mine.

"I've missed you."

In that moment, I felt like my five year old self again; the one who wanted nothing more than a hug from his father when he came home from a long day at work. *The one who wanted to be picked up and thrown in the air after wrestling around on the living room floor with his greatest role model. *I felt myself catching a sob in my throat.

"I've missed you, too, Pop." *My father put his cigarette out on the ground and I left his gaze. *His hand came to rest on my shoulder.

"You probably have a lot of questions for me, don't you? Let's go sit down."

Suddenly, reality flooded back in. *I was dead. *All this around me wasn't real. *The grass, the metal, the wood - all fabricated.

We walked over to a picnic table and settled down on the wood planks.

"So, this is it?" I asked. *"This is heaven? *I mean, I'm dead, right?"

"Yes. *Life as you used to know it is now over. *But, you're not exactly in heaven yet, James." *My father pulled out another cigarette and lit it. *He didn't offer me one this time.

"I'm not sure I understand."

My father shifted his legs under the table and exhaled a cloud of smoke. *I could tell from the look in his eyes that he had anticipated that answer.

"James, your whole life, you were taught that once you die, you go to heaven and live happily ever after, but there's more to it than just that. *Life doesn't just end the second your heart stops beating. *Your purpose is actually just beginning."

If I wasn't understanding before, I sure as hell wasn't now. *My father could sense that. *He continued on anyways.

"Our time on earth is just a part of a bigger picture. *Our real purpose is once we get here. *There are people we leave behind who still need us. *They need us to be able to fulfill what's left of their human lives so that one day they can join us here and continue the cycle. *The job of helping those we left behind is our purpose. *It's our destiny."

I took in what my father had just told me. *While I still didn't completely understand and I'm sure wouldn't until I knew more of exactly what this purpose of mine was, my heart felt a little fuller knowing that my death wasn't necessarily in vain. *

"Do you remember when I was diagnosed with lung cancer and you swore up and down to me you would stop smoking, too?"

"Yes."

"Well, did you?"

I thought back upon that memory. *Hearing my father's diagnosis from his lips when he had asked me to come over to his house that humid July afternoon had nearly crushed me. *But, as hard as it was to hear and as hard as it was to see him go through chemotherapy and radiation over the next year, it didn't stop me from continuing the habit myself despite my lies to my father that I would quit. *Hell, I even had to hide it from Lydia. *

"No. *I didn't."

I looked over at the meadow behind my father. *I had never admitted that to anyone. *Doing so now made me feel like shit. *

I looked back into my father's piercing blue eyes. *He smiled. *I could sense that he had known.

"When I died, I was met by a guide, much like you are meeting with me now. *I was told the same information that I am telling you now. *I went and fulfilled my purpose - the reason in which I was born. *It wasn't just one task I needed to complete and help someone out with. *For me, it was something as simple as getting someone to stop smoking because of my death. *But, I had other taskes that were also much, much harder than that."

I swallowed. **

"How will I know what my purpose is? *How will I know who I'm supposed to help?"

My father's eyes sparkled and a smile grew upon his face.

"Oh, James - that's what you'll have to find out for yourself. *Do your own detective work."

He stood up and tossed the cigarette aside. *He looked down at me and then stepped over the picnic table bench. *

"It's time for me to go now."

"Wait! *Will I see you again, Pops?"

My father was already walking away into the meadow. *He stuck his thumb up in the air for me to see. *He frequently had done this to me as a child as his non-verbal way of saying, "chances are pretty good." *As an adult, he used the sign as a way to show me his approval. *

I watched him walk away until he disappeared. *I wanted to run after him, but something inside of me made me stop. *A feeling of anticipation came over me. *I was ready for my destiny. *

** *
** * **


*

***

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  #2  
Old 04-27-2010, 05:38 AM
anthony draco (Offline)
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You remain somewhat consistent with your grammar. I assume that you're not a native speaker, so I think it might help if you try your best to proofread, and after that, find someone that is willing to proofread for you, such as a beta-reader. It'll fix your main concern.

The very first problem I can see, however, is not the language. Your narrator is not a very specific person, while it should be throughout at least one scene.

The first suggestion is that you choose a certain narrative view.

Pick a person you want to use as a narrator, be it your character, or a third person that represent your voice, or your voice. Fix it in your mind.

The level of omniscience/knowledge comes next. How much do you want this person who tells the story to know? As much as your character? Or as much as you do? Fix it in your mind.

There should be only one answer for each question.

If you choose to narrate it as your character's voice. Then it should be 'I' throughout the scene. 'I' should know as much as your character. So that means 'I' will not see it if someone approaches 'me' from behind with a gun. And if you use 'I', stick with 'I' for at least the entire length of the scene. You seem to use this for the most part of the story. If you want to use this one, then you must change and refer to your main character as 'I' for the entire scene. 'I' will not be able to see if 'I' looks haggard without a mirror. 'I' can only assume so. There's only one level of intimacy for 'I', because 'I' can only be your character, no one else. See the beginning of the scene where you describe the main character as 'James', and the soul as 'his soul'? That's where you should fix. They're 'I' and 'my soul'.

If you choose to narrate as an invisible person standing there. You must also choose how intimately close he is to your character. Is he standing right behind your character's eyes, feeling everything your character does, and know what your character thinks? If he is, then he should remain this constant distance throughout the entire scene. Which will mean that he will not see it when a gun points behind your character's back either. He will also see your character looks haggard only when your character uses a mirror. Or he can only assume your character looks haggard. This narrator is rather intimate with your character. He stands in your character's head, in your character's shoes. He is as close to your character as one can be without being the same person. He will refer to your character as 'he'.

But is this invisible person standing somewhat away from your character? Does he see only the action your character does but not the thoughts? Is he focusing his eyes mainly on your character and see only a bit more around your character? If so, he should remain this constant distance throughout the scene. He should only see what your character does, not the thoughts. He can see someone interacting with your character. He can see a little bit more around your character, a little behind your character, but not too far behind, because he is not god-like in the story like you. Which means that he'll only see a gun pointing behind your character's back if it's very close to your character. If the gunner is sniping your character from three blocks away, this person will not see it coming. Nor will your character. This person will be able to see if your character look haggard or not without mirror, because he's not standing right behind your character's eyes. But he cannot tell what your character thinks, because he's a seperate person standing away. He will refer to your character as 'he'.

If you choose to narrate it as your voice/god's voice. Then your knowledge of this story is, of course, god-like and absolute. You are the author, so you know everything. You're free to describe anyone's thought, anything you can see, which is almost everything in your story. But be careful, do not get into someone's head, and jump out, then describe the knowledge in another person's head. It's disconcerting to read. There's only one level of intimacy for 'you/god' with your character, because 'you/god' can only be 'you/god', observing from afar, but still knows everything. If you choose to describe the scene as your own voice, then remain yourself the entire length of the scene. You will, of course, refer to your character as 'he'.

This is the narrative distance, omniscience and intimacy. Choose a level, and remain constant throughout the scene.

Do not jump around someone's head. This is a rule that shouldn't be ignored.

Do not get discouraged, either. You've only made one mistake. Just that the mistake you've made requires some explanation.

Last edited by anthony draco; 04-27-2010 at 05:53 AM..
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  #3  
Old 04-27-2010, 09:03 AM
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Yes, I want to speak in James' voice. Thanks so much for the critique!! I really appreciate it. I'm going to go back and look at that. Again - thank you!
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:27 AM
jpwrites (Offline)
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Here's the edit:

Chapter Three
There is only one path to Heaven. On Earth, we call it love. ~Unknown

"James.* James!* Shit - we're losing him!"

I opened the eyes of my soul and looked down upon the still body I had once occupied laying on the operating table.* Doctors and nurses were rushing around trying to shock my body back to life.* But, I already knew.* That person I was looking down upon no longer existed.

I looked around the room.* After a few final attempts to revive me, the head doctor called the time of death and covered my pale mass.* Heads down, they retreated from the operating room.*

I knew what was coming next. Suddenly, I was in the waiting room with her.* I could feel the air around her shift as she saw him approach and with one look up at his face, she let the air escape from her lungs and a sob bellowed out.* She sat down on the chair behind her and suddenly, realizing she needed to breathe, drew in a gasp.* A wail drew out of her lips as he stopped in front of her.* She looked up.* Their eyes met.*

"Mrs. Pearce...* We tried everything we..."

I knew she was not registering the words she was hearing.* She was already flashing back to the memories of the day.* She was wondering how this could be.* I could hear her thoughts; her feelings.* 'It's all a dream.* It's all a dream.'* She repeated the phrase over and over again in her mind, rocking herself in the cold, hard chair, her hand pressed upon her lips.

In that moment, I wanted to connect with her more than ever and let her know I was ok - that the horrific events of the day hadn't ended me completely.* I was here.* I was with her.*

I watched him reach down and place a hand upon her shoulder and then he left her.* I could feel the overwhelming emptiness take her.*

I felt the room go hazy and a bright light replaced the hospital waiting room decor.*

"No!" I yelled.* I wanted to be back with her.* I wanted to wrap my arms around her and ease the pain.* Instead, I was in a void of nothing but white.

"James."* I recognized the voice.* "Come here, son."* It was my father.

I looked around, but saw no one.* A floating yellow orb came out of the white and glided over in front of me.* Before I knew it, the orb enveloped my being and a deep, penetrating feeling of benevolence came over me.* My heart swelled.*

The white started to fade and a grassy green area arose around me.* Hard, steel playground equipment came out of the ground.* I recognized the area as the park down the street from my childhood home.*

Then, I saw him.* My father stepped out from behind a jungle gym.* This time instead of being seen as an orb, he looked much like he did about ten years before his cancer diagnosis - the diagnosis that eventually took his life.

Tanned, leather skin and blue eyes shining, my father walked forward and stopped a few feet away from me.* A smile appeared across his face as he reached into his pocket.* He pulled out a pack of Marlboros and grabbed a cigarette.* His eyes met mine as he lifted the stick to his mouth.*

"Want one?" he asked.

It was then I wondered whether or not I looked human, too.* I looked down and raised my hands up to my face.* I turned my hands over and noticed that they looked quite a bit younger.* The years of hard work and calloused skin was erased and replaced with a soft, inexperienced covering.* I wish I could see myself in a mirror.* I shook my head.

"No, thanks.* I gave those up, you know?"*

I watched my father light his with his lighter.* Even in heaven, that shit still is addicting, I thought.*

"Recognize where we're at?" he asked.

"Yeah, I do.* Haven't seen this place in years."

My father took a drag and exhaled.

"I chose this place because it reminds me of you.* Remember all the times we came out here and threw the ball around?"

"I do."

"Those were the days..."* I saw my father look past me in thought and then his eyes came back to focus in on mine.

"I've missed you."

In that moment, I felt like my five year old self again; the one who wanted nothing more than a hug from his father when he came home from a long day at work.* The one who wanted to be picked up and thrown in the air after wrestling around on the living room floor with his greatest role model.* I felt myself catching a sob in my throat.

"I've missed you, too, Pop."* My father put his cigarette out on the ground and I left his gaze.* His hand came to rest on my shoulder.

"You probably have a lot of questions for me, don't you? Let's go sit down."

Suddenly, reality flooded back in.* I was dead.* All this around me wasn't real.* The grass, the metal, the wood - all fabricated.

We walked over to a picnic table and settled down on the wood planks.

"So, this is it?" I asked.* "This is heaven?* I mean, I'm dead, right?"

"Yes.* Life as you used to know it is now over.* But, you're not exactly in heaven yet, James."* My father pulled out another cigarette and lit it.* He didn't offer me one this time.

"I'm not sure I understand."

My father shifted his legs under the table and exhaled a cloud of smoke.* I could tell from the look in his eyes that he had anticipated that answer.

"James, your whole life, you were taught that once you die, you go to heaven and live happily ever after, right?* There's more to it than just that.* Life doesn't just end the second your heart stops beating.* The purpose for your existance is actually just beginning."

If I wasn't understanding before, I sure as hell wasn't now.* My father could sense that.* He continued on anyways.

"Our time on earth is just a part of a bigger picture.* Our real purpose is once we get here.* There are people we leave behind who still need us.* They need us to be able to fulfill what's left of their lives so that one day they can join us here and continue the cycle.* The job of helping those we leave behind is our purpose.* It's our destiny."

I took in what my father had just told me.* While I still didn't completely understand and wouldn't until I knew more of exactly what this purpose of mine was, my heart felt a little fuller knowing that my death wasn't necessarily in vain.*

"Do you remember when I was diagnosed with lung cancer and you swore up and down to me you would stop smoking, too?"

"Yes."

"Well, did you?"

I thought back upon that memory.* Hearing my father's diagnosis from his lips when he had asked me to come over to his house that humid July afternoon had nearly crushed me.* I had promised to him then that I would stop smoking, too.* But, as hard as it was to hear and as hard as it was to see him go through chemotherapy and radiation over the next year, it didn't stop me from continuing the habit myself despite my promise to my father that I would quit.* Hell, I even had to hide it from Lydia.* It wasn't until the day I had buried him in the earth that I made the final commitment to myself to quit.*

"No.* I didn't."

I looked over at the meadow behind my father.* I had never admitted that to anyone.* Doing so now made me feel like shit.*

I looked back into my father's piercing blue eyes.* He smiled.* I could sense that he had known.

"When I died, I was met by a guide, much like you are meeting with me now.* I was told the same information that I am telling you now.* I went and fulfilled my purpose - the reason for which I was born.* It started with getting* a certain someone to stop smoking because of my death."

He looked over at me and winked.

"But, I had other tasks that were also much, much harder than that."

I swallowed.*

"How will I know what my purpose is?* How will I know who I'm supposed to help?"

My father's eyes sparkled and a smile grew upon his face.

"Oh, James - that's what you'll have to find out for yourself.* Do your own detective work."

He stood up and tossed the cigarette aside.* He looked down at me and then stepped over the picnic table bench.*

"It's time for me to go now."

"Wait!* Will I see you again, Pop?"

My father was already walking away into the meadow.* He stuck his thumb up in the air for me to see.* He frequently had done this to me as a child as his non-verbal way of saying, "chances are pretty good."* In my adult years, he used the sign as a way to show me his approval.*

I watched him walk away until he disappeared.* I wanted to run after him, but something inside of me made me stop.* A feeling of anticipation came over me.* I was ready for my destiny to begin.*

* *
* * *




*
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