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Thread: First page of short novel looking for feedback

  1. #1
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    First page of short novel looking for feedback

    I am writing a short novel, trying to get the style of the writing down before I go into writing more. The basic story is about a man who joins the military right before world war 3 and his company is thrown into the front lines of the beginning battle.

    I am looking for anything that will help improve my writing before I dive into the real story. I am still a novice writer so this is more a learning process than anything so please criticize my work in any way, harsh or not I don't mind.


    Chapter 1
    New beginings

    I was never really a fighting man, early in school I was the kid getting pushed around for no reason other than I allowed it. I wouldn't stand idlely by but I did not retailiate, it was more nerviousness than fear. It didn't take long for me to realize I could not let this happen and more then once the pent up anger and tugging urge for revenge got the best of me. By the time the freshman year came nobody really messed with me other than the odd senior who didn't know me. That was quickly snuffed out by my willingness to stand up and get in their face.

    I think the loss of my father when I was a very young boy, maybe 4 or 5, had something to do with it. The lack of a father figure with only my mother raising me, it didn't help much. I lack the conviction a man must hold to succeed in life which only a man with his fathers wisdom passed on can give. I'm not saying in any way my mother did me wrong, she did wonderful and I would not expect nothing more, even much less. She was one of the main reasons I survived my early hardship in school and I loved her dearly.

    The main things you learn in highschool are not academic but life lessons that for the most part hold true till your death bed. Little things about how people work and the way they generally react to certain situations. The way a girls eyes glance down and a certain seriousness washes over their face hinting for a kiss. The way the fast talkers are quick to back off when it comes down to it. The way confidence commands respect. The way good friends never end up being so.

    Looking back and knowing what I know now, things just seem funny. I try not to think about it much due to the deep hatred I had of school. I hear alot of people wishing they were back in high school, with no worries or bills, always hanging out with friends, a never ending crop of girls. It sounds appealing but the truth of matter is a different story. School was the worst thing I ever experienced, pointless homework that practiced knowledge utterly useless in everyday life. The only valuble thing was the experience of dealing with people... and girls.

    I'd rather work for what I have, have the freedom of a grown man. I can find my own friends and my own girls, I have no shortages in the outside world. Then I find my self in the same situation, a new envirenment, new rules, and new hardships, but the underlying issues errely similar. Dejivu in its true form will smack you in the face and blur your head. From the first moments on the bus to boot camp it was evident. You can see the cliques form almost immediately falling into place like a self solving puzzle.

    I sat next to a rail of a man, with eyes sunken into his skull almost screaming with intensity. His hair was long and a pure black with a beard equally as long. He looks like a hippy fresh out of woodstock. His face grew narrow as it reached his chin and his teeth seems cartoonish large; his mouth almost couldn't contain them. He glanced over to me and muttered "Hi, I'm Shawn." Voice essentally a wishper as it cracked with nervousness. He held out a hand requesting mine and I delivered. His hand held weakly in mine and after a good two shakes I replied "The names Jake..."

    There was a slight awkward pause as neither of us had anything else to say. Finally I broke the silence and asked "What made you sign up?" He glanced down and grimiced at the question I waited confused at his reaction "My father made me join, he said every one of our ancestors did the same... Said it would be good for me." He looked away for a second down the bus seats and looked back at me "How about you?" I found my self smiling at the question remembering all the times I longed for this moment. Playing war as a kid and even well into my teens I read war books about the brothership of war. It would always put a knot in my throat to think of how brave and selfless these warriors were. "I've always wanted to, and since my dad died in the Iraqi war when I was young I just wanted to honor him."

    Shawns eyes looked out the window at a formation of planes passing by, they made a deep rumble in the air like an earthquake. It was muffled and overwhelmed by the sounds of the bus but I could still hear it. "Wont be much longer." I said to him, I could hear excitment in my voice as it rose higher than I expected. Little did I know the hell I was about to endure the next thirteen weeks. "Yeah.. can't ****ing wait." he replied under his breath sarcastically. I looked over at him as he glanced out the window, I felt my smile fade away mimicking the mood in his voice.


    I thank anyone who reads this even if they do not reply.
    Last edited by mcc_2420; 08-18-2012 at 01:56 PM. Reason: "pent up fear and tugging urge" fixed to "pent up anger and tugging urge"

  2. #2
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    Good on you for posting your first piece on here.
    There are a couple of problems with this you might want to consider - regardless of the typos -

    idlely - retailiate - nerviousness all in the opening paragraph.

    Plot-wise you're spending too much time reflecting on your childhood. If you're writing a long semi-autobiographical novel you might get away with it but most readers expect something interesting to be happening rather quickly.

    I think the loss of my father when I was a very young boy, maybe 4 or 5, had something to do with it.
    Are you saying you don't know how old you were when he died?

    And you're making sweeping generalisations about what it's like to grow up in a single-parent family. A little too simplistic for the story that will follow to ring true.

    I did like some of the memories you have of school - the 'life lessons' as you term them - but I was growing a little impatient. You seemed to get bogged down with what you hated most about school. We've all been at school. We know what sucked and what didn't. Where is this leading?

    As for the paragraph about being your own man - it was out of place and didn't seem a genuine discovery someone would make in such circumstances. During combat maybe. But not on a bus ride.

    The next 13 weeks might indeed be interesting to read about but I think you took too long to get to this point in your story. It only begins on the journey to boot camp.

    H

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    When I walked off the shuttle bus and stood on the yellow foot prints chipped from aging, I didn't know what to expect. Looking around I didn't think anyone knew the hell we were about to endure. I certainly wasn't prepared for the constant pushing and harrasment by the drill instructors who at the time seemed like merciless machines bent on making every step as a marine harder.

    At first the drill instructor didn't say anything, he just walked around us. He had his hands behind his back and a stern look on his face scanning every man who stood before him. He stopped almost in mid stride and exploded into a scream "Where the **** do you think you are? Stand up straght, drop your ****ing bags and hold your head up high! This is not preschool and I am not you prissy *** teacher. I am your drill instructor. My name is Sargent Mathews but you call me sir."

    He paused for a second looking more pissed off every moment that passed "When I give you an order you scream yes sir at the top of your lungs!" We all did as told and produced a deafening roar "YES SIR!" Then stood there quietly. Two rows up a short fellow, with pitch black hair turned his head to the right glancing at the man beside him. Mathews eyes shot in his direction "Did I tell you to move maggot?" The recruit snapped his head back to look straight "No sir!" Mathews walked over to him as fast as he could with out running and got in his face.

    "You are my puppet, when I say jump you don't say how high you say yes sir and jump as high as your midget legs can!"

    "Yes sir!"

    "When I say run you run like there's a ****ing lion chasing you!"

    "Yes sir!"

    "When I say shut the **** up you shut the **** up. Now shut the **** up"

    "Yes sir!"

    "You stupid little pissant I said shut the **** up!"

    How we were going to put up with this *** hole screaming in our face twenty four seven was beyond me at the time. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody was going to deck this guy. I expected the drill instructors to be rough but this is a little much. My stomach begun to swim in fear at the thought of another 13 weeks of this.


    This is what I came up with from the tips you gave me. I skipped the bus ride, I was going to use it to help put a little back story to the character but I guess it is not very exciting to pull the readers in.

    Sorry for all the profanity but it is to set the mood.
    Last edited by mcc_2420; 09-05-2012 at 05:29 PM.

  4. #4
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    I think with the biographical details you can get away with them, but you'll need more of them. You rush through the story of him learning to stand up for himself in a paragraph.
    Either much less, or much more would work for me. At the moment it is cluttering up your prose and slowing the pace.

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    Doesn't quite match the terror I experienced at MCRD.
    Infidel.

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    You have managed to set the mood, but anyone who has watched a movie recording military recruitment and training will find nothing new here. Your sergeant is a stereotypical, loud-mouthed bully. So what? Do we need this spelling out to us?

    The dialogue is tiresomely predictable and must have taken you all of twenty seconds to write. If the rest of the novel is as formulaic as this section it's not going to be very original or interesting to read I'm afraid. It's all been done before.

    H

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    Both of these are just rough drafts and I plan on changing most of it like I said I am just trying to get my style of writing down. Also, drill sargents are bullys that is their job to keep you motivated and to teach you to react under pressure . Also it teaches you to follow orders at the fastest speed possible. It is stereotypical because that is how they do things.

    The first chapter will not have any of the real troubles of a recruit because it is just showing the struggles of settling in to a new lifestyle.

    Thanks for the feed back and I got what I needed. When I write the rough draft of the first chapter I will post it here to see what you guys think. It will probably be full of mistakes because I am a novice writer and don't expect to write good work right away. Once again thanks for your time.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcc_2420 View Post
    Both of these are just rough drafts and I plan on changing most of it like I said I am just trying to get my style of writing down. Also, drill sargents are bullys that is their job to keep you motivated and to teach you to react under pressure . Also it teaches you to follow orders at the fastest speed possible. It is stereotypical because that is how they do things.
    So if they are stereotypes why bother describing their behaviour in such detail? As soon as you label a character 'drill sargent' that's enough for us to picture the guy inside our heads. There's no need to come up with dialogue to demonstrate their aptitude for being a**holes.

    H

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