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  #1  
Old 10-15-2006, 02:46 PM
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Opinions needed on two short paragraphs


Opening paragraphs from Ch. 6 of my current work-in-progress. Please let me know if it sounds 'off' and where.

Many thanks, in advance-

CH.6: (excerpt)

God speaks to me sometimes, but not in King James English like most tend to believe. He speaks in terms of light and shadow, in the way that the breeze caresses my face and in the way the sunlight touches trees and paints them pink and gold. With a half-pint bottle of whiskey in hand, I find myself perched on the rocks overlooking the neighborhood of Cedar Crest and ask Him to point me toward the person who took Glory from my brother, his wife and me.

The rock is not easy to sit on. It's sharp in all the wrong places, but it’s the same rock I used to visit so many years ago when I needed hard-to-find solitude. Kids tagged these once picturesque rocks over the last couple of decades and now they’re a melange of different colors. About four feet away is the nearly obscured mark I left on one of the boulders not long after my fifteenth birthday. It reads, "Ana and Jo, Friends 4 Ever." The sight of it brings forth the urge to cry, but that immediately passes when I hear the sound of approaching footsteps. I set the bottle aside, pull my .22 automatic from my ankle holster and turn to watch the trail behind me. A human-shaped shadow falls across my personal stone. It appears that I have unwanted company.

******

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Old 10-15-2006, 03:42 PM
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I believe this is the first thing of yours that I have read - so I can't really say if it is "off" in the sense of it being not up to par.

But I can say that I like it a lot the way it is. The whiskey bottle was a nice surprise among images of sunlight and I loved the bit about the rock being sharp in all the wrong places.

I set the bottle aside, pull my .22 automatic from my ankle holster and turn to watch the trail behind me. A human-shaped shadow falls across my personal stone. It appears that I have unwanted company.
I will say that the last sentence here seems a bit over dramatic. It kind of reminded me of a voice-over in a cheesy crime movie or something. And the gun kind of startled me - I'm not sure whether in a good or bad way, though it does make things more interesting.

I'm curious about this being the start of chapter 6. It feels and reads like a start to a chapter 1 - a start that would be quite intriguing.
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Old 10-15-2006, 06:11 PM
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This is a tight little scene and my only suggestion has to do with the second sentence is long and has some repeated phrasing.

Originally Posted by OnceUponATime
He speaks in terms of light and shadow, (This almost feels like a statement of fact so I would suggest a period and begin the description in the next) in The way that the breeze caresses my face , and in the wayhow the sunlight touches the trees ((for whatever reason my brain wants to say 'painting' - since it's a condition of the trees themselves and delete the 'and paints')) them pink and gold.
I'm also not sure if the suggestion regarding the 'paint/painting' cause s a tense problem - just sounded better in my head.

Like Icarus I am curious where this all started -
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Old 10-15-2006, 08:54 PM
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Well I like this just the way it is. It's very vivid in all the right places, and leaves the reader (that would be me) wondering what's gonna happen next.

I would definitely like to read more of this.
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Old 10-15-2006, 08:59 PM
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I'm going to have to echo Darth's words. I couldn't find anything wrong with it just by glancing over it, grammatically, but otherwise, I'd love to see more; perferably from Chapter 1
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Old 10-15-2006, 09:08 PM
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i will have to agree with darth and oasis on not changing anything in the paragraphs. they are formed nicely and the imagery is perfect.
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Old 10-15-2006, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by onceuponatime
Kids tagged these once picturesque rocks over the last couple of decades and now they’re a melange of different colors.
I wasn't too found of this sentence - I think the word "kids" made it feel out of place. Took me out of the flow.
I'd just have it say "These once picturesque rocks have been tagged multiple times over the last couple of decades, leaving them a melange of different colors"... or something like that, but worded better.

Lethe took my other suggestion.. soooo:
Overall you've painted a very interesting image... I'm curious to read more.
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
I will say that the last sentence here seems a bit over dramatic. It kind of reminded me of a voice-over in a cheesy crime movie or something. And the gun kind of startled me - I'm not sure whether in a good or bad way, though it does make things more interesting.

I'm curious about this being the start of chapter 6. It feels and reads like a start to a chapter 1 - a start that would be quite intriguing.
Thanks for your comments, Icarus - there's a reason the gun is there (explained in Ch 5, unfortunately)

I agree with your opinion on the last line - I'll probably cut it or use something a little less "in-your-face."

Very much appreciated

- Jillian
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Lethe View Post
This is a tight little scene and my only suggestion has to do with the second sentence is long and has some repeated phrasing.



I'm also not sure if the suggestion regarding the 'paint/painting' cause s a tense problem - just sounded better in my head.

Like Icarus I am curious where this all started -
Thanks Lethe - good suggestions. Might replace the verb 'painting' as it's a little over-the-top. I do tend to be wordy, so your ideas for a cut & sentence restructure will be taken into consideration.

Thanks bunches
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by darthwader View Post
Well I like this just the way it is. It's very vivid in all the right places, and leaves the reader (that would be me) wondering what's gonna happen next.

I would definitely like to read more of this.
As much as I'd love to post Ch.1, I can't - this is an excerpt from my novel 'Golden Hour' which has been accepted by a literary agency and is currently being edited for the fifth time. Ch. 6 needs to be completely rewritten, according to the agency, to fix a plot hole I missed. I hate the opener I wrote and am hoping to figure out what I did wrong and all the suggestions I've received here are a BIG help.

I'm glad to hear you'd read on - gives me hope that thing will eventually sell I'll post the micro-synopsis (book jacket blurb) in a day or two if anyone wants to know what the story is about.

Many thanks -
Jillian
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by kellykat60409 View Post
i will have to agree with darth and oasis on not changing anything in the paragraphs. they are formed nicely and the imagery is perfect.
Thanks Oasis & KellyKat - glad to hear you liked it
It does need help, but I'm trying to nail down exactly what I need to fix - I do need to cut a line or two & eliminate some redunancies. Very much appreciated & thanks for taking the time to read it over -

Jillian
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Perfect_Paradox View Post
I
I'd just have it say "These once picturesque rocks have been tagged multiple times over the last couple of decades, leaving them a melange of different colors"... or something like that, but worded better.

Lethe took my other suggestion.. soooo:
Overall you've painted a very interesting image... I'm curious to read more.
Thanks, Perfect - I agree. That sentence and the last one are what stick out to me, too. I'll figure out a better way to write them, or cut them down some.

Thanks very much for taking a peek & offering your opinion - big help to me!

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Old 10-16-2006, 06:37 PM
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I dig it. What do you think of this?

The rock is sharp in all the wrong places, but here I sit.

I wonder how the rocks looked before the kids started tagging them.

Many years ago when I needed hard-to-find solitude, this is where I would come. Only here could I be alone and perfect.

The sound of approaching footsteps makes me set the bottle aside. The hair on the back of my neck settles down as I pull the .22 automatic from my ankle holster.

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Old 10-16-2006, 07:25 PM
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I love it just as it is. There is something about your visionary speech that some may not quite get. Once again, I loved it.
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Old 10-17-2006, 10:57 AM
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Darn, you changed it. Now, it's great. When I first read, I wasn't sure if you were doing a satire on adjectives, like I believe it was Oasis Writer who did that satire on the sci-fi genre with her great little piece. Especially since you originally asked if it was clunky or something like that. I am curious why you chose a .22 -- not very reliable protection -- maybe change it to a .25. In any event, I'm still wondering if your original was a satire on adjectives or if I was simply off base. But, on that point, here's the plug I wanted to get in -- Amy Hempel is perhaps the greatest living writer of our times, and not only according to me. If you haven't seen her work, the "Collection" was published recently and is priceless. Her selective use of adjectives is the best ever seen, not to mention everything else about her. 35,000 lines of fiction in three decades. That's all she wrote, and that's all there will ever be, even though she's still alive and kicking. Again, now your two chapters are great and I'm left wondering. Oh yeah, on the original I also was going to say, you're writing like the Infernal Joe Coleman paints, and was going to ask you if that was intentional. Oh no, wait a minute, did you change it? I like it. JT

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Old 10-17-2006, 11:42 AM
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Oh, I forgot, but you may want to consider taking the word "that" out in a couple of places -- "that" word seems unnecessary and inconsistent with the rest of your work.

"He speaks in terms of light and shadow, in the way that the breeze caresses my face and in the way the sunlight touches trees and paints them pink and gold."

"It appears that I have unwanted company."

JT
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Old 10-17-2006, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Geoffrey Robson View Post
I dig it. What do you think of this?

The rock is sharp in all the wrong places, but here I sit.

Not bad - unfortunately 'here I sit' reminds me of that kids' potty rhyme...


I wonder how the rocks looked before the kids started tagging them.

Many years ago when I needed hard-to-find solitude, this is where I would come. Only here could I be alone and perfect.


Hmmm... I dunno if 'perfect' is quite a good description for this character, but thanks for the input.
The sound of approaching footsteps makes me set the bottle aside. The hair on the back of my neck settles down as I pull the .22 automatic from my ankle holster.
'Hair on the back of my neck' is a little cliche, but thanks for your suggestions. You've pointed out the things that need work, though. Much appreciated -

Jillian
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Old 10-17-2006, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by JRT View Post
Oh, I forgot, but you may want to consider taking the word "that" out in a couple of places -- "that" word seems unnecessary and inconsistent with the rest of your work.

"He speaks in terms of light and shadow, in the way that the breeze caresses my face and in the way the sunlight touches trees and paints them pink and gold."

"It appears that I have unwanted company."

JT

Those dreaded 'THAT's' keep sneaking in....(smacks self in forehead). You're right - they're goners.

Thanks!

Jillian
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Old 10-17-2006, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by JHarrison View Post
I love it just as it is. There is something about your visionary speech that some may not quite get. Once again, I loved it.
Thank you very much, JHarrison, for your compliments

I guess this does sort of have a literary bent to it in terms of description, though it's unintentional. Glad you found merit in it - even though I do get a little wordy.

Much appreciated -

Jillian
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Old 10-17-2006, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by JRT View Post
Darn, you changed it. Now, it's great. When I first read, I wasn't sure if you were doing a satire on adjectives, like I believe it was Oasis Writer who did that satire on the sci-fi genre with her great little piece. Especially since you originally asked if it was clunky or something like that. I am curious why you chose a .22 -- not very reliable protection -- maybe change it to a .25. In any event, I'm still wondering if your original was a satire on adjectives or if I was simply off base. But, on that point, here's the plug I wanted to get in -- Amy Hempel is perhaps the greatest living writer of our times, and not only according to me. If you haven't seen her work, the "Collection" was published recently and is priceless. Her selective use of adjectives is the best ever seen, not to mention everything else about her. 35,000 lines of fiction in three decades. That's all she wrote, and that's all there will ever be, even though she's still alive and kicking. Again, now your two chapters are great and I'm left wondering. Oh yeah, on the original I also was going to say, you're writing like the Infernal Joe Coleman paints, and was going to ask you if that was intentional. Oh no, wait a minute, did you change it? I like it. JT
I've not heard of Amy Hempel or Joe Coleman, but being curious about them now, I'll look them up. My other piece, 'Twisted Fairy Tale' was where I was trying my hand at satire (came up with a 50/50 vote, I suppose, on whether it worked or not). This one is a serious piece, but do you think I have a little too many adjectives? If so, I'll go through and weed them out. I've made a couple of tiny changes to the post here and there, but nothing major. Thanks for taking a look and offering your opinion - I'll be looking at it a little more closely this evening.

Thanks bunches -

Jillian
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Old 10-18-2006, 10:50 AM
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Jillian: Sorry for the joking around, but you got my point, which, of course, is just a matter of personal preference. May I be so bold, however, to suggest that you not use "Mélange," so your readers—presumably ones who know a little about half-pints and hand guns—do not need to stop reading and run for the dictionary.

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." Faulkner (about Hemingway)
"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" Hemingway (about Faulkner)

No, on Amy Hempel? Here’s a News Release from Bennington College:

Bennington’s Graduate Writing program core faculty member Amy Hempel has inspired a virtual standing ovation from critics, authors, and readers alike with her new book The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, published by Scribners.

The New York Times Book Review begins, “This could be a very short review. Read this book.” It doesn’t end there. O, The Oprah Magazine writes, “There are writers who pull you along in deep, satisfying drafts of narrative and human color; then there are writers who, sentence by sentence, cause you to stop breathing. Hempel leads the latter group.” Publisher’s Weekly defines “Hempel’s genius, whether in first or third person, is to make her characters’ feelings completely integral to the scenes they inhabit; her terse descriptions become elegantly telegraphic—and telepathic—reportage, with not a word wasted and not a single fact embellished."

Novelist Chuck Palahniuk, who admitted to spending $75 on a copy of her first edition hard cover, observes, “Each story is so tight, so boiled to bare facts, that all you can do is lie on the floor, face down, and praise it.” The New York Times concludes, “You read her stories and wonder, ‘Why are they so wonderful?’ The answer comes to you at the very end of this volume, in a line toward the close of “Offertory.” “Because a human being made this.”

Infernal Joe? Here’s an excerpt from the “The Horrible Happy Life Of Joe Coleman,” a brief article by Steve Appleford, LA City Beat:

Coleman has been called an “outsider” artist, a folk artist, a primitive, a post-post-modernist, a master, a menace. The paintings are easy to read and, for many, nightmares difficult to forget. The subject is often violence and dementia, serial killers and cultural antiheroes, from Charles Manson to Hank Williams to Harry Houdini. They are rich with color and careful draftsmanship, showing touches of figurative Renaissance painting wrapped in the pop-pulp horror of EC Comics. And they are like American folk art in their fixation with details – dense with information, every available space crowded, nothing wasted.

Fear is very much on the minds of Americans in the post-9/11 world, but Coleman’s work is a brutal reminder that fear has always been with us. Now it is functioning like a talisman or an encyclopedia. When a man’s work has comprised unspeakable acts – paintings of autopsies, biting the heads off live mice, strapping explosives to his chest and blowing himself up in public (in a strange pre-figuration of Palestinian suicide bombings that would start years later) – it gives the unspeakable a dark language.

Now thanks for giving me the opportunity for another plug, and these plugs are an attempted gift for you based upon what I've seen you write. How about Benjamin Weissman? Here’s a brief description from Consortium:

"Headless is fearless, fun, and sometimes filthy . . . an alphabet soup of delight in language. Eat up."—Alice Sebold

"Brilliant. Wildly inventive, profane, and hilarious."—Bret Easton Ellis

The author of the acclaimed cult classic Dear Dead Person ("refreshing, nauseating, hilarious"—Kirkus) returns with this long-awaited collection of brilliantly written and outrageously imaginative short stories.

Benjamin Weissman is the author of Dear Dead Person (High Risk/Serpent’s Tail, 1995). He is a contributing editor to Bomb Magazine and writes regularly for the contemporary art magazines Parkett and Artforum. A painter and a professor at Art Center College of Design and Otis College of the Arts, he now lives in Los Angeles.

JT

P.S. Weissman's "Dear Dead Person" collection and Hempel's "Collected Stories" are must reads, just as Peckinpah's "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" is a must see, no matter what the critics said about that masterpiece from the master.

P.P.S. Now, guess who's my favorite author? The unborn daughter of Amy Hempell and the mixed clone of Benjamin Weissman and Sam Peckinpah.

Sorry for ranting! These people excite me! Oh, wait a minute, how about Harry Crews?

Last edited by JRT; 10-18-2006 at 04:14 PM..
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Old 10-18-2006, 03:21 PM
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Your welcome. I did like what you did. It took my imagination on a very cool ride.

My suggestions just popped in my mind. I loved your words, its just at those points for the briefest of moments I felt the rhythm skip. I have read your stuff and I am a fan.


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Old 11-26-2006, 09:40 AM
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The paragraphs seem a bit mashed, though not very obnoxiously so. That's not the best way of putting it, but what I mean is: you have three things you're talking about stretched over two paragraphs. You refer to the rocks in the first, and refer to the person behind you in the second. However, they're not quite material: at first, the rocks you mentioned in paragraph 2 threw me, and the ending just didn't seem to fit. Finally, the last line seems a bit cliched.

Good use of keeping the shadow theme going throughout. However, "human-sized shadow" seems unnecessary. If we learn that it's a human in the paragraph following, "shadow" should suffice.
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:54 PM
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Thanks Ronox Q - the cliche is long-gone (I'm rather surprised to see this bit turn up again). Much appreciated, though
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Old 11-26-2006, 02:45 PM
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Maybe you're no longer after comments on this as it's an old thread. Still, here's how I might word it if I was revising this. I'm not suggesting you have to revise it the same way, but it incorporates a number of suggestions without me spelling them all out in one long crit. Feel free to ignore any or all of them. A lot of it comes down to style as much as anything else.

God speaks to me sometimes. Not in King James English. His words are light and shadow, like a breeze caressing my face or sunlight stroking trees.

I'm perched on rocks overlooking Cedar Crest. When I was younger I would come here for solitude and sit on my faithful rock. Now the rock feels sharp in all the wrong places. I raise a whiskey bottle to my lips and silently ask Him to point me toward the bastard who took Glory from me. I reach out and touch the fading words left on my fifteenth birthday: Ana and Jo, Friends 4 ever, and the urge to cry swells up inside me. It fades rapidly at the sound of approaching footsteps. My hand settles on the .22 automatic in my ankle holster. As I turn to face the trail a shadow falls across my stone. I have unwanted company.

Cheers,
Rob
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Old 11-26-2006, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by OnceUponATime View Post
Thanks Ronox Q - the cliche is long-gone (I'm rather surprised to see this bit turn up again). Much appreciated, though
Oops. I just read the thing up top, not the posts in the forum. Sorry!
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Old 11-26-2006, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob View Post

God speaks to me sometimes. Not in King James English. His words are light and shadow, like a breeze caressing my face or sunlight stroking trees.

I'm perched on rocks overlooking Cedar Crest. When I was younger I would come here for solitude and sit on my faithful rock. Now the rock feels sharp in all the wrong places. I raise a whiskey bottle to my lips and silently ask Him to point me toward the bastard who took Glory from me. I reach out and touch the fading words left on my fifteenth birthday: Ana and Jo, Friends 4 ever, and the urge to cry swells up inside me. It fades rapidly at the sound of approaching footsteps. My hand settles on the .22 automatic in my ankle holster. As I turn to face the trail a shadow falls across my stone. I have unwanted company.

Cheers,
Rob

Actually, I like your rewrite. Nicely done! I'm still struggling with style issues or 'finding my writer's voice,' as it were. One of the reasons I posted these two para's is because I hated them & couldn't figure out why. I see what you're talking about here. Basically, I took way too long to get to the point. Thanks for posting this -

Best wishes,

Jillian
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Last edited by OnceUponATime; 11-26-2006 at 04:52 PM..
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Old 11-27-2006, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by OnceUponATime View Post
I'm still struggling with style issues or 'finding my writer's voice,' as it were.
Jillian,

If you are still taking comments, please change the .22 to a "two five" if the handgun plays any significant role in your story. I know this is substantive but very important in my own opinion. Besides you can use a few "two fives" in the story as interchangeable with .25, but there is no similar slang for a .22.

Jonathan
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Old 11-27-2006, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by JRT View Post
Jillian,

If you are still taking comments, please change the .22 to a "two five" if the handgun plays any significant role in your story. I know this is substantive but very important in my own opinion. Besides you can use a few "two fives" in the story as interchangeable with .25, but there is no similar slang for a .22.

Jonathan
Thanks JRT - I know next to nothing about guns, so your advice is very helpful

Much appreciated -

Jillian
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Old 12-01-2006, 09:52 AM
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Jillian: you may want to take a look at Death or Prison on the poetry page. Somebody asked for explanations and I provided some discussion about two fives v. three eights. I think if you ask a cop or someone responsible that knows, they would probably recommend a .25 automatic for the self-protection piece your character carries in your novel. And, jeez, if you have the time, I sure would love a critique from you on that angry, vicious-seeming rant and rave. Additionally, if you look, do you think the content there would make for an interesting short short?

www.writersbeat.com/death-prison-t6924.html

Thanks,
Jonathan
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