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Old 27th November 2011, 02:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Brand spanking new

I've abandoned the Seven Dragons story (I read the first chapter the other day and it bored me) so I'm starting something completely new.

I've asked a couple of questions for the story already. The 'no plot' thread was to do with this, and the 'believable superpower' one was too.

So. This might not look fantasy yet, but I swear to you it is. This is all I have so far and I just want to know if you'd read on? Is it gripping enough for an opener? And also, is it just rubbish?

Thank you in advance.

(Oh and, um, this is not in the least bit autobiographical.)

----

Chapter One

Ambrose leaned over the side of the bath, grabbed the little bottle of hotel bubble bath he’d dropped on the carpet, and read the back of it. Organic extra virgin olive oil. Shea butter. Juniperberry oil. Titanium dioxide.

Okay, so he didn’t know what the last one was, but he was certain that it couldn’t be anything bad. The hotel was far too expensive to have supplied him with sub-par bubble bath. He dumped the bottle onto the carpet again and lay back with a sigh.

One of the lights beside the mirror was flickering. Only a little but it was distracting. Every now and then, a flicker. He glared at it.

“Mercer?” he called.

Nothing.

Huffing, he sat up, causing the bath water to slosh over the side. “Mercer!” he barked. He grumbled to himself, got to his feet, and clambered out of the bath. Soapsuds slid down his thighs.

Ambrose removed the glass shade and fiddled with the bulb as water dripped from his elbows. The shock happened so fast he didn’t even cry out.

***

Man found dead at Abbey House hotel named as... Jenn sighed and read through the news article, frowning to herself at the graphic descriptions of the deceased. She reached for the cup of tea sitting beside her keyboard and took a sip, pulling a face at how cold it was. Bored, she clicked on the video at the side of her browser and watched a clip of a dog on a skateboard. The video had fifteen million views. Fifteen million. Some people had nothing better to do with themselves.

She pushed her chair back and got to her feet, taking her cup out into the kitchen and leaving it in the sink to deal with later, before returning to her desk again. Life, she thought, was incredibly dull. She stared at the screen, told herself to get on with it, then closed the browser down, knowing that the internet only distracted her. Opening a blank document, she watched as the cursor blinked.

Write something, she told herself. Anything.

She flexed her fingers and typed: Lucy Jackson kept men in her basement. Jenn smiled, pleased with her sentence. She read it again and then started to write, the words flowing across the screen. A half-page later and she was on the internet again, researching, she told herself. All writers researched. She tapped a name into the search engine and pressed enter.

Ambrose Lawson.

Jenn sighed as she gazed at the pictures that came up. Ambrose Lawson, actor, ex-pop star. The most beautiful man that ever lived. He was tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed with pale skin and lips like rose petals. There were pictures of him laughing and smiling and pictures of him looking sultry and serious. God, she wanted his babies. She grinned to herself, knowing that she was acting like a love-struck teenager. She read his profile on the actor's database. Again. He could play the piano, speak French and Italian, sing, dance... She'd watched interviews with him and wondered how he could be so handsome and so funny and so intelligent. She hated him. But she loved him more.

There has to be something wrong with him. No man was that perfect. He probably hated babies or kicked puppies. She wondered if he was gay but realised that didn't make him any less perfect. Just less... obtainable. Not that she had a chance anyway. She was a wannabe nobody writer and he was Ambrose Lawson. Besides, she was ugly.

W
ell, not beautiful.

Her ears were too big and her lips were too small. She looked like a mouse.

"Mice are cute," she said, enlarging one of the pictures and setting it as her desktop background. "And furry..."

She closed the windows, saved her work and admired Ambrose Lawson smiling back at her, his eyes so dark they were almost black. She turned the computer off and went to sit on the sofa, picking up the book she had left on the arm and finding her folded corner.

I
should write to him.

She shook her head and tried to concentrate on the book. I should write a script for him.

"Be quiet," she told herself. She read the same sentence four times before she gave up and put the book down. Instead, she leaned forwards to grab the remote from the coffee table and switched the TV on.

"...multiple knife wounds," the female newsreader said, looking grim and serious behind her empty desk. "The body was discovered by staff-"

Jenn changed the channel and curled her legs up onto the sofa. She flicked through the shopping channels, stopping briefly when she spotted a silver bangle she liked the look of, before moving on again when she saw the price. She settled on a documentary about beached whales and watched it with a vague interest. She could write about whales. A horror story about whales beaching themselves for some unknown sinister reason. Maybe that would work better than the Lucy Jackson story.

She tapped her chin with the remote, then changed the channel again.

Tomorrow, she thought, I'll write to him.

* * *

Tomorrow came far too quickly. Jenn woke up before the alarm and turned it off before it could start. She got out of bed and went into the bathroom, wishing that it was Sunday again and that she didn't have to go to work. Or, more accurately, that she didn't have to go to work at the hotel. I need a new job, she thought, brushing her teeth.

Once she'd finished in the bathroom, she went back into her bedroom, putting on her work uniform and wishing that the blue tabard at least fitted properly. It was too big and too shapeless and made her look like a sack of potatoes. Her marigolds were in the front pocket and she knew she'd probably get moaned at for forgetting to put them back in the box before leaving. She didn't care. Let them moan. When she was a famous author she wouldn't have to put up with such pettiness. She grinned to herself as she went downstairs, turning the radio on so that she had something to listen to while she ate her breakfast.

"...Abbey House hotel murder victim..."

Jenn groaned. They were still talking about that? She didn't like hearing about murders in hotels, especially as she worked in one. She had visions of going in to clean one of the bathrooms and finding someone hanging from the shower rail. That would make a good story though. She put her bowl in the sink next to her mug from the night before and told herself that she would definitely wash up when she got home. Well, maybe not as soon as she got home. Probably in the evening after she'd had her tea and had more than a bowl and a mug to wash. It was more environmentally friendly that way anyway.

Jenn walked to work. Sometimes she wished she worked farther away so that she had a reason to drive and therefore a valid excuse not to turn up if her car broke down or if it snowed. Last winter, she was the only housekeeper who had made it in and she'd had to clean all twenty rooms on her own. She walked through the carpark, noticing the large handprint on the glass pane of the front door before she even got there. Why people couldn't use the handle was beyond her.
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Old 27th November 2011, 03:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Not autobiographical, eh...?

Anyway, nice and easily readable, but I wonder if Jenn's scenes go on a bit too long -- I felt it was beginning to border on the self-indulgent, especially as it's so not autobiographical... She's bored, she's a wannabe writer in a dead-end job (literally, it seems...) and she has a crush on a film star. Do we need to know more than that at this stage? Can the slovenly habits and the rest of it wait for later in the book?

There's an awful lot of telling in there, as well -- the para about Ben Barnes'... ooops... Ambrose's perfections in particular seems like a ginormous info-dump. I think it might read better if you took out most of that and again fed it through later on.

As for Ambrose, is the bit about the bubble bath going to be super-relevant, because the titanium oxide causes him to swap bodies with someone else, or come back with superpowers? If so, fine. If not, to me it's a distraction so again I'd wonder about its inclusion, especially in the opening lines. And is that a real ingredients list? Because it doesn't sound it to me -- shea butter in a body lotion, yes, but in a bubble bath? And why bother with organic if the other stuff isn't? And if Mercer is a gofer, wouldn't he/she have run the bath? In which case it would be a hanging offence to leave the empty bottle there.

Other nit-picking -- a posh hotel with carpet on the bathroom floor??? And aren't there very stringent rules about electric bulbs in bathrooms, to avoid all possible chance of electric shocks?
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Old 27th November 2011, 04:07 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Who's Ben Barnes? *ahem*

Thanks, TJ. Yeah it's a real ingredients list!! I looked it up - I even went on to find out exactly what Titanium Dioxide was (makes the bubbles extra bubbly or some such). And yeah, he'll be the guy with the superpowers, so it's relevant.

I didn't think through the carpet on the bathroom floor (it's cos we have carpet in ours). And I've no idea about bulbs in bathrooms - I worked in a hotel for five years and I was the only member of staff who knew how to change the bathroom lightbulbs! I based that bit on a real story though - some singer stood up in the bath to fiddle with a lightbulb and electrocuted himself and died.

I was just thinking I've got better at the longer paragraphs and now they're too long! I'll chop some of that out. Ta!
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Old 27th November 2011, 04:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Yes, I think I'd read on. You're right that it doesn't scream "fantasy", but that's perfectly fine when all we've seen is Chapter 1, though you might want to show us a more fantastical scene to comment on, too, once you've written one.
Admittedly, those with shorter attention spans might be tempted to put it down, as the opening is purely character development. Not that this is a bad thing, you understand - It's just that it doesn't answer the question "is there something really interesting to this story? Should I read on, or should I pick up something else?" Maybe you should make Jenn's scene Chapter 2, and instead dedicate Chapter 1 to Ambrose, and what befalls him (as I'm guessing he's the murder victim the news is talking about. ). Create an ominous atmosphere for it, flesh it out a little more, imply that something very strange, though we can't quite put our finger on what, is going on. This'll create an immediate sense of mystery by the time Jenn comes into the picture, and the reader will want to know just what happened in that hotel room.
What do you think?
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Old 27th November 2011, 05:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mouse View Post
Chapter One

Ambrose leaned over the side of the bath, grabbed the little bottle of hotel bubble bath he’d dropped on the carpet, and read the back of it. Organic extra virgin olive oil. Shea butter. Juniperberry oil. Titanium dioxide.

Okay, so he didn’t know what the last one was, but he was certain that it couldn’t be anything bad. The hotel was far too expensive to have supplied him with sub-par bubble bath. He dumped the bottle onto the carpet again and lay back with a sigh.

One of the lights beside the mirror was flickering. Only a little but it was distracting. Every now and then, a flicker. He glared at it.

“Mercer?” he called.

Nothing.

Huffing, he sat up, causing the bath water to slosh over the side. “Mercer!” he barked. He grumbled to himself, got to his feet, and clambered out of the bath. Soapsuds slid down his thighs.

Ambrose removed the glass shade and fiddled with the bulb as water dripped from his elbows. The shock happened so fast he didn’t even cry out. I'm reading this and thinking has he never heard of a Darwin award? If it's a case of you want him intentionally to come over as a bit dim, then this sort of action is fine, if it's the case you just need him to have a shock, there may be other ways; I got a really bad one a couple of years ago from Xmas tree lights.

***

Man found dead at Abbey House hotel named as... Jenn sighed and read through the news article, frowning to herself at the graphic descriptions of the deceased. She reached for the cup of tea sitting beside her keyboard and took a sip, pulling a face at how cold it was. Bored, she clicked on the video at the side of her browser and watched a clip of a dog on a skateboard. The video had fifteen million views. Fifteen million. Some people had nothing better to do with themselves.

She pushed her chair back and got to her feet, taking her cup out into the kitchen and leaving it in the sink to deal with later, before returning to her desk again. Life, she thought, was incredibly dull. She stared at the screen, told herself to get on with it, then closed the browser down, knowing that the internet only distracted her. Opening a blank document, she watched as the cursor blinked.

Write something, she told herself. Anything.

She flexed her fingers and typed: Lucy Jackson kept men in her basement. Jenn smiled, pleased with her sentence. She read it again and then started to write, the words flowing across the screen. A half-page later and she was on the internet again, researching, she told herself. All writers researched. She tapped a name into the search engine and pressed enter.

Ambrose Lawson.

Jenn sighed as she gazed at the pictures that came up. Ambrose Lawson, actor, ex-pop star. The most beautiful man that ever lived. He was tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed with pale skin and lips like rose petals. There were pictures of him laughing and smiling and pictures of him looking sultry and serious. God, she wanted his babies. She grinned to herself, knowing that she was acting like a love-struck teenager. She read his profile on the actor's database. Again. He could play the piano, speak French and Italian, sing, dance... She'd watched interviews with him and wondered how he could be so handsome and so funny and so intelligent. She hated him. But she loved him more. She sounds like a love-struck teenager, so if she's significantly older, I'm need to know.

There has to be something wrong with him. No man was that perfect. He probably hated babies or kicked puppies. She wondered if he was gay but realised that didn't make him any less perfect. Just less... obtainable. Not that she had a chance anyway. She was a wannabe nobody writer and he was Ambrose Lawson. Besides, she was ugly.

Well, not beautiful.I'm starting to wonder is she self absorbed.

Her ears were too big and her lips were too small. She looked like a mouse.

"Mice are cute," she said, enlarging one of the pictures and setting it as her desktop background. "And furry..."No auto bio there, then

She closed the windows, saved her work and admired Ambrose Lawson smiling back at her, his eyes so dark they were almost black. She turned the computer off and went to sit on the sofa, picking up the book she had left on the arm and finding her folded corner.

I should write to him.

She shook her head and tried to concentrate on the book. I should write a script for him.

"Be quiet," she told herself. She read the same sentence four times before she gave up and put the book down. Instead, she leaned forwards to grab the remote from the coffee table and switched the TV on.

"...multiple knife wounds," the female newsreader said, looking grim and serious behind her empty desk. "The body was discovered by staff-"

Jenn changed the channel and curled her legs up onto the sofa. She flicked through the shopping channels, stopping briefly when she spotted a silver bangle she liked the look of, before moving on again when she saw the price. She settled on a documentary about beached whales and watched it with a vague interest. She could write about whales. A horror story about whales beaching themselves for some unknown sinister reason. Maybe that would work better than the Lucy Jackson story.

She tapped her chin with the remote, then changed the channel again.

Tomorrow, she thought, I'll write to him.

* * *

Tomorrow came far too quickly. Jenn woke up before the alarm and turned it off before it could start. She got out of bed and went into the bathroom, wishing that it was Sunday again and that she didn't have to go to work. Or, more accurately, that she didn't have to go to work at the hotel. I need a new job, she thought, brushing her teeth.

Once she'd finished in the bathroom, she went back into her bedroom, putting on her work uniform and wishing that the blue tabard at least fitted properly. It was too big and too shapeless and made her look like a sack of potatoes. Her marigolds were in the front pocket and she knew she'd probably get moaned at for forgetting to put them back in the box before leaving. She didn't care. Let them moan. When she was a famous author she wouldn't have to put up with such pettiness. She grinned to herself as she went downstairs, turning the radio on so that she had something to listen to while she ate her breakfast.I have to be honest I switched off about halfway through this para.

"...Abbey House hotel murder victim..."

Jenn groaned. They were still talking about that? She didn't like hearing about murders in hotels, especially as she worked in one. She had visions of going in to clean one of the bathrooms and finding someone hanging from the shower rail. That would make a good story though. She put her bowl in the sink next to her mug from the night before and told herself that she would definitely wash up when she got home. Well, maybe not as soon as she got home. Probably in the evening after she'd had her tea and had more than a bowl and a mug to wash. It was more environmentally friendly that way anyway.

Jenn walked to work. Sometimes she wished she worked farther away so that she had a reason to drive and therefore a valid excuse not to turn up if her car broke down or if it snowed. Last winter, she was the only housekeeper who had made it in and she'd had to clean all twenty rooms on her own. She walked through the carpark, noticing the large handprint on the glass pane of the front door before she even got there. Why people couldn't use the handle was beyond her.
Hi Mouse, I quite liked the set up and I'm wondering if she's going to find him dead. I assume the he's intellligent is ironic given the stupidity of his actions. but I did find her a bit self absorbed and didn't really buy into her; maybe there was too much about a fantasy relationship and it came across as a wee bit sad.
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Old 27th November 2011, 05:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

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Originally Posted by Tecdavid View Post
Yes, I think I'd read on. You're right that it doesn't scream "fantasy", but that's perfectly fine when all we've seen is Chapter 1, though you might want to show us a more fantastical scene to comment on, too, once you've written one.
Admittedly, those with shorter attention spans might be tempted to put it down, as the opening is purely character development. Not that this is a bad thing, you understand - It's just that it doesn't answer the question "is there something really interesting to this story? Should I read on, or should I pick up something else?" Maybe you should make Jenn's scene Chapter 2, and instead dedicate Chapter 1 to Ambrose, and what befalls him (as I'm guessing he's the murder victim the news is talking about. ). Create an ominous atmosphere for it, flesh it out a little more, imply that something very strange, though we can't quite put our finger on what, is going on. This'll create an immediate sense of mystery by the time Jenn comes into the picture, and the reader will want to know just what happened in that hotel room.
What do you think?
No, he's not the murder victim. But he is the person the murderer is after. Jenn finds a body at the end of chapter one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by springs1971 View Post
Hi Mouse, I quite liked the set up and I'm wondering if she's going to find him dead. I assume the he's intellligent is ironic given the stupidity of his actions. but I did find her a bit self absorbed and didn't really buy into her; maybe there was too much about a fantasy relationship and it came across as a wee bit sad.
Yeah, he is supposed to be a bit dim. Like I said to TJ, some guy really did die doing that!

Anyway, thanks all but I think I'm going to scrap this. Just thinking about it while I was eating my tea. No plot. Crap characters. Not very fantasy.
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Old 27th November 2011, 05:40 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

I'm confused. Is the body she reads about in the newspaper Ambrose's? I assume not, because if she read his name we'd know about it, but then whose is it and why aren't we told? (Edit, just seen your reply above -- in that case it reads as though you're deliberately making it vague and possibly even misleading us, I think)

I also agree with TJ and Springs (there's a rubbish seventies cop show waiting to have happened) about the Jenn sections. There's far too much detail which might be important to you because you're developing the character, but which reminds me of my very first attempts at writing real-world stuff. (That might sound harsh, but I'm saying it because I know you're capable of much better.)

I also think the light-bulb thing is a little far-fetched, but I'd be prepared to go with it.

I think I would read on if the Jenn sections were a lot tighter, and if there was something about her that was unique and interesting, or at least uniquely observed. I think your job is to find that something. At present there's no real hook, for me at least.

But I liked the irony in "some people had nothing better to do with themselves". More wit like that would help.

And, er, "soap-suds slid down his thighs" -- is that something Amrose would notice, or something "Jenn" would notice?
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Old 27th November 2011, 05:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Thanks, HB. The light bulb thing happened in real life to someone! Really.

I'm not deliberately making it vague, I just didn't want to shove all the answers in the first chapter. Is it bad to be misled? I wasn't purposely trying to mislead, but I thought it was supposed to be a good thing?! Misdirection and all that. I actually wrote Jenn's bit a few weeks ago, then added the Ambrose bit at the start today as I wanted to start it off with that happening to him as I thought it was more interesting.

But anyway. Scrapped! I think I'll stick to short stories.
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Old 27th November 2011, 06:26 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Quote:
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I'm not deliberately making it vague, I just didn't want to shove all the answers in the first chapter. Is it bad to be misled? I wasn't purposely trying to mislead, but I thought it was supposed to be a good thing?! Misdirection and all that.
But what do you gain by being vague about the name? By concealing the name, it looks as though you're trying to make it seem it might be Ambrose -- but logically it can't be, because Jenn would go OMG!! So the reader thinks that either you as the author have missed this logic and made a mistake, or you're trying to get mystery-mileage out of suggesting something that could not be true.

If you named the first victim, we would still have a mystery -- what connection could it have to the Ambrose incident? (and we would know there is one, because this is a novel) -- but we would at least be clear what the mystery is.
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Old 27th November 2011, 06:39 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Well I wrote that bit first so didn't intend to be vague about the name. I probably just couldn't think of a name at the time! Or, more likely, figured that naming someone would give them an importance that they don't have. But I'm not going to continue it anyway cos it's a big pile of poo - which I thought before I put it up.
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Old 27th November 2011, 08:37 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Mouse, this is a first-ish draft of a first chapter -- it might not be perfect, but it certainly isn't rubbish. Stick with it a little longer and see if the plot develops as you go along -- after all, if someone is trying to kill Ambrose then he's got to avoid being killed, and that's a plot right there.

Incidentally, I didn't mind the no-naming the victim. It was clear to me it wasn't Ambrose since that would have jolted her out of her boredom, and to my mind it would have given the victim too much importance if he's not anyone who is coming into the story again.
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Old 27th November 2011, 08:40 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Absolutely, I enjoyed it very much and read it as a first draft, and felt it had a lot of interest, just needed a little tidying and precis-ing, as all 1sts do.
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Old 27th November 2011, 08:46 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

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Incidentally, I didn't mind the no-naming the victim. It was clear to me it wasn't Ambrose since that would have jolted her out of her boredom, and to my mind it would have given the victim too much importance if he's not anyone who is coming into the story again.
At the risk of banging on, I think it's the way it trails off suggestively after "named as ..." that's the problem for me. If the headline just read "Man found dead at Abbey House hotel" or something, it would have been fine.
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Old 27th November 2011, 08:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

It does sound like it could be a little auto-biographical, not that there is anything wrong with that.

I did feel, as Judge did, that Jenn's scenes did drag on a little too long and without any dialogue that can really put some people to sleep, as there was very little action within them as well. That being said, this could be a perfect starting setup for any number of genres, um, mystery thriller, horror, fantasy, sci fi, drama, a lot of things. Even erotic psychological thriller, considering Jenn's fascination with Ambrose and her low self-esteem about herself.


It's something I feel I'd like to get into, being that you said it is set up for fantasy, which is of course my favorite genre.
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Old 27th November 2011, 10:01 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Brand spanking new

Thanks guys. I'm not fishing for compliments or anything, I just get really irritated at myself when I write crap. First draft or not. Plus I've had a supremely awful weekend. Not that that excuses me.

I just don't like the Jenn character particularly. I don't like any of my females characters lately - probably why I couldn't stick reading the Seven Dragons one, cos all the characters are women. I don't even like her name but can't think of a better one at the moment.

Springs said she sounded teenage. I did ponder making her a teenager so that I could say it was a story for young adults. But like Karn says, I can seeing it being really dark in places and yeah, maybe even a wee bit of the sex. So... I dunno what to do with it, which is why I think I'll just leave it.
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