Horror of Hayesfield- first 2900

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Chazemataz
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Horror of Hayesfield- first 2900

Post by Chazemataz » May 11th, 2011, 11:28 pm

Please let me know how this works for you. I'm always very skittish about sharing my writing but I suppose getting some feedback couldn't hurt. I also recently submitted this along with a snyopsis after a partial request, and got turned down (of course, I submitted all three chapters, but I'm not about to post 20,000 words here and bore everyone to tears).

Two major things:

One of the largest themes of the story is the fact that Adam finds refuge in reading & writing. His journal is part of who he is; therefore, he records all of his thoughts. Now, that doesn't mean he's literally writing at the times when the text switches to his journal writing. It's moreso a narrative device that one is not meant to put much thought into. does this work well, or were you confused?

Also, I sometimes feel like my writing is bland/plain. Some have called this a good thing, others have critized me for it. Opinion?

Thanks!

Chapter 1: The Devil at the Window
Final week of August, 2010


If I could sum up everything I’ve learned in the past few years, and was forced to do it all in one big paragraph, it would be this: life is sort of like being tied to the train tracks, and you’re just lying there, staring off into the distance, waiting for the train to hit you. Except, when it does hit, you think in that last moment. And, you don’t think about everything that’s happened to you. It’s not like your life flashes before your eyes like they say in books and movies. Nope, life is a lot simpler than that. You think: “Get me the hell out of here!”

That’s basically what has happened to me. Only the train tracks I am on right now is a long stretch of winding Ohio road called the “I-71” and it was headed straight south to nowhere.


The fifteen-year old boy called Adam scribbled furiously in a leatherback journal like his life depended on it. The harsh summer sunlight that was so rare in Ohio gleamed off its gilded edges and danced on the face of Adam’s younger brother, Ian.

“Adam, I’m trying to play Call of Duty here! Get that light outta my eyes!”

Ian dramatically shielded his eyes as if he were staring directly into the sun. Adam nodded, mouthed a single, half-honest “sorry”, and buried his brain into his writing again.

I can tell that Ian is unhappy with the way things have turned out for us. I can feel the pain in his voice, and I can see it in the way he withdraws into his video games. He’s only 13; and I don’t really think he “gets” just how much our situation really…well, sucks.
“Can one of you please grab Puddles? I’m trying to drive, and the poor thing keeps trying to crawl into my lap. That’s how accidents happen.”

Actually, to say it sucks is not a harsh enough way of putting it. Sucks is what you say when you fall and scrape your knee, or when your teacher assigns you a six-page essay on the causes of the French Revolution due tomorrow, or when you are in a fight with your girlfriend of seven whole months.

This doesn’t suck. It’s complete crap.

Adam set his journal and ballpoint pen next to his feet. He grasped the shaky, shaggy poodle out of his mother’s lap.

”You’re getting big, Puddles,” Adam whispered. Puddles responded by licking his face and laying his head lazily on Adam’s shoulder.

Adam had to contort his arms to write in the journal again with Puddles in the way, but he managed it somehow. This time, he wrote a single sentence:

Puddles is one of my best friends.

Then, thoughtfully, he scratched it out and wrote:
Puddles is my best friend… my only friend.
“What’s wrong, Ad?”

His mother shot a frown at him. Adam slammed his journal shut and dropped it on the ground. He hated that nickname. He was not an advertisement.

“Nothing, Mom. I’m done writing for the day, that’s all. At least until we get to Grandma and Grandpa’s,” he answered.

”You’re a rotten liar, Adam. Something is bugging you more than a swarm of gnats.”

”Are we almost there? Puddles is getting restless. Aren’t you, boy?” Adam asked, cutting off his mother as she said “gnats”.

”Almost there. In fact… there’s the sign right over that pine tree.”

She lifted a hand up from the steering wheel to point at an old, decrepit looking wooden sign. It punctuated the thick trees that encased the highway. Written there in faded red lettering was this:

Welcome to Hayesfield , THE TOWN HIDDEN IN THE TREES!
Population: 7,000... and HAPPY!


If you have to put up a huge sign reassuring a bunch of random strangers that your town is happy, chances are… it’s probably not exactly Disneyland.

“Here we are, boys. Our home until further notice,” Adam’s mother exclaimed, feigning excitement. Adam admired her effort to stay positive, but her edginess shone through. Here they were, returning to her old middle-of-nowhere home smack dab in the middle-of-nowhere. She had left sixteen years ago for the big city, only to return once more and be caught right back in the tangled mess of trees, fog, and swamp that was Hayesfield, Ohio.

The Luckless family SUV whizzed on through the downtown area, which consisted of a few office buildings, an assortment of boutique shops, and a decrepit park lining the main street that cut right down the center of it. After exiting this main street, she drove through a few suburban streets (some of which looked a tad bit run-down; others looked just like normal suburbia) and turned onto an empty back road that was covered only by trees on either side. This back road went on for about a mile or so, and it only seemed to take them deeper and deeper into the woods.

Adam hadn’t seen his grandparent’s old house since Christmas Eve. And every time he saw it, it was like he was seeing it for the very first time in his life. The Harlow Manor was a huge Victorian almost-mansion that was lived in like an old pair of blue jeans. The structure was an eerily beautiful testament to old-world European architectural styles. The three-story, gray-shingled house was obscured by trees and a cast-iron gate, and emanated an aura of intrigue and curiosity. If they had casually drove past it, Adam would have assumed it was an abandoned old “haunted” house; the kind that children would tell campfire tales to each other about hearing wails and shrieks coming from within its walls. Perhaps they would speak of seeing the specter of an older gentleman standing in the single window of the third-floor attic room where Adam would be staying. The domed roof and pillars were reminiscent of that of a Roman coliseum, and harkened to an era long gone by.

The rusted gate hung open as Adam’s mother drove through. Sitting on the winding front porch were Adam’s grandparents- Ruby and Henry Candle. As their car came to a grinding halt, she pulled herself up off the steps with the support of the nearby railing and hobbled over to meet her daughter and grandchildren.

Adam received a loving embrace the moment he stepped out of the car.

”Adam! Look at you! I ain’t spoken to you for, well, about a month. Not since I telephoned to ask how things were going. Speaking of which… how’re you, sweets?”

”Hi, Grams. I’ve… been better. All of us have,” Adam replied, flashing her just the slightest hint of a smile.

Grandma Candle is one of the most nurturing people I've ever met. She gives off major grandmotherly vibes, from her lilac-scented perfume to her oversized pink glasses that make her look like a ladybug. Her gray perm was droopy today because of the humidity, but normally it stood upright in a way that made Ian refer to it as “Grandma’s afro”. She just celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday a few weeks ago, and yet here she was, still going strong.

“Do you need any help with that luggage, Elizabeth?” Grandma asked.
”Hey, Mom. I’d appreciate it if you could grab Puddles’ food and bed for me. Where’s he sleeping?”

Grandma glanced down at the four-legged black lab that was sitting at her feet and scratched his ears, which caused his hind leg to shake in joy. His pink tongue hung out of the right side of his mouth and flopped carelessly in the late August air.

“I set the first floor laundry room all up for him. Isn’t that right, boy? You’re such a good dog,” she replied in a baby talk voice.

Ian exited the car, his face still buried in his PSP. He obviously had hoped to dodge his grandmother and get out of carrying any luggage into the house, which made Adam frown.

“I’m sleeping in the bathroom? Hell no.”

“Ian! You ain’t even given me a hug yet! And no, silly, I meant the dog.”

Grandma laughed and grabbed Ian. It was a lopsided hug, with Ian’s PSP squished up against her yellow blouse. He grunted and turned to walk into the house just as Grandpa Candle arrived. Due to his bad leg, he walked with a cane, so it took him a while to walk down to the car.

“Henry, dear, we’re just now headed into the house. Did you say hi to Elizabeth and the boys?”

He slowly wheeled around and gave them a little wave. Adam waved back and Elizabeth gave him a smile as they walked into the house.

I’ll always remember Grandpa as the one who fueled my overactive imagination as a child. I can’t even count the hours I’d waste, sitting with him on the front porch in the summertime, listening to far-fetched stories of dragons and wizards, trolls and witches, princesses and knights in shining armor. A few years ago, he suffered a stroke that snatched away his brilliant mind and greatly reduced his ability to talk and walk. Every menial task was now a mountain of trouble for him. He used to be considered the most intelligent person in Hayesfield . People would pay money and sign up for his courses at the community college just to hear his theories on life, the universe, and the supernatural. Now, the only thing that remains are his hundreds of mysterious journals that lie scattered over his desk. Maybe I’ll have to try to decipher them.
The bright foyer of the house was quite spacious, and stairs with a red carpet flourish led up to the second floor. The attic was all the way on the third floor- a creaky old door had to practically be forced open in order to gain entry.

On the way up, Adam stole a look at the various portraits lining the hallway walls. There were many old, browned portraits of fonder years long gone by. Grandma kept up all the portraits, and took a great deal of pride in them. Nobody was even allowed to touch them, or else, she’d protest, “you’ll smudge up the picture frame”.

The tiny attic room stunk of mothballs and Febreeze. His new bedroom consisted of a light blue carpet, a mid-sized window with a latch, and a desk with a double bed and bookcase. Adam was most thrilled about the bookcase. In his old house, he’d only had a few tiny shelves on which to store his vast collection of books, and many of them ended up on the floor, much to his mother’s displeasure. Now, he’d have a single place to store them all, and know exactly where they were located.

Adam set down his bags and put the journal on his desk, and made the brief journey back out to the SUV to get the box with his personal belongings in it, including his computer. Upon returning, he noticed something there that he hadn’t noticed before: a painting.

The portrait was hanging right above his cream colored double bed. Its frame was charcoal colored and it couldn’t have been any larger than about two feet by a foot. The angelic girl in the picture was utterly gorgeous. Whoever had painted it was a master at capturing the life in his or her subjects. The picture had likely survived a few years of wear & tear, and had come out with a weathered look that complimented the old fashioned looking girl. Her face was lightly tanned, and her brunette hair streamed down both sides of her cheeks, with a quaint blue ribbon knotted atop her head in a bow, as if she were a Christmas present. The eyes of this girl struck him the most- they were precisely the same color as his: bright hazel. She was floating up into the sky like an eagle. The picture contained just a smidgeon of resemblance to the ascension of Christ. Perhaps this was the intention of the original artist.
Underneath it was an inscription, hastily scrawled in letters that appeared to have been etched there as if by claws:

Even Heaven would be Hell without you.

Even Hell would be better than the situation I’ve found myself in.

Aurlumen
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Re: Horror of Hayesfield- first 2900

Post by Aurlumen » May 23rd, 2011, 11:39 pm

Hiya! I know you posted this a few weeks ago but I figure a reply won't hurt lol.

Okay so you even warned me about the switching back and forth between him writing in the journal but I was still confused when I came across it. I think the reason it might be that way is because when he's writing in his journal it's written in first-person and the regular narrative is written in third-person. I don't know if you're dead-set on writing that in third-person but I would consider writing the regular narrative in first-person. I think it would flow better.

Also, you mention he's not necessarily writing in his journal at the precise moment we're reading it but I think the audience might see it that way since the first two times it switches back and forth he's actually writing it as it's happening, right? I wonder if you have considered writing the entire book in journal format?
~~~~
"If I could sum up everything I’ve learned in the past few years, and was forced to do it all in one big paragraph, it would be this: life is sort of like being tied to the train tracks, and you’re just lying there, staring off into the distance, waiting for the train to hit you. Except, when it does hit, you think in that last moment. And, you don’t think about everything that’s happened to you. It’s not like your life flashes before your eyes like they say in books and movies. Nope, life is a lot simpler than that. You think: “Get me the hell out of here!”

That’s basically what has happened to me. Only the train tracks I am on right now is a long stretch of winding Ohio road called the “I-71” and it was headed straight south to nowhere."

Okay, honestly the first paragraph doesn't do it for me. "And was forced to do it all in one big paragraph" doesn't work. At this point the audience doesn't know yet that this is him writing in his journal and this kinds of throws me off. Think of it this way, would you say this out loud? It just sounds odd. I think this is partly because when you say you're 'summing it up' that indicates already that what you're about to say is going to be short. I would just put it as "If I could sum up everything I've learned in the past few years, it would be this: etcetcetc." And the next few sentences in that paragraph don't flow well for me.

"Life is like being tied down to train tracks. You're lying there, staring off into the distance, waiting for the train to hit you."

"Except, when it does hit, you think in that last moment." This doesn't make sense to me. You're about to die so it's clear that you would be thinking. And it also sounds incomplete. Like you should be saying 'you think in that last moment about __________."

I would suggest: "When it does hit, though, you're not thinking about everything that's happened to you. Your life doesn't flash before your eyes like they say in books and movies. Nope, life is a lot simpler than that. You think: “Get me the hell out of here!”

That being said, I would rethink that entire paragraph. I was expecting something more profound... I know he's 15 so maybe it wouldn't be profound but when he's talking about life or death situations (even as a metaphor) I was expecting something more than get me out of here. That's obvious that people would think that. And then I don't see how that connects to the following sentence. It made it sound like he already experienced that moment not that he's about to (from visiting his grandparents). Either way I get (I think) that he doesn't want to visit them but I don't really feel that bad for him. It could be because I don't think visiting his grandparents really compares to getting hit by a train.

This is how I would format the next part:
"The fifteen-year old boy called Adam scribbled furiously in a leatherback journal like his life depended on it. The harsh summer sunlight that was so rare in Ohio gleamed off its gilded edges and danced on the face of Adam’s younger brother, Ian. (The sun is gleaming off of what? Adam's journal? I thought it was made out of leather? Or what light is Ian talking about in the next line?)

“Adam, I’m trying to play Call of Duty here! Get that light outta my eyes!” Ian dramatically shielded his eyes as if he were staring directly into the sun. (Putting these two lines together helps the readers know that Ian is the one who's saying this.)

Adam nodded, mouthed a single, half-honest “sorry”, and buried his brain into his writing again." (Buried his brain? That sounds weird. Maybe you could say he buried his head into his journal?)

"He’s only 13; and I don’t really think he “gets” just how much our situation really…well, sucks." ('Gets' shouldn't be in quotation marks.)

"Actually, to say it sucks is not a harsh enough way of putting it. Sucks is what you say when you fall and scrape your knee, or when your teacher assigns you a six-page essay on the causes of the French Revolution due tomorrow, or when you are in a fight with your girlfriend of seven whole months."
This doesn’t suck. It’s complete crap.[/i]" (I don't really feel much of a difference between 'sucks' and 'complete crap'. Not feeling the urgency here. It could be because I still don't know what's so bad about their situation? I don't even know what their situation here? It's making it hard to connect with the characters. Could lead to me losing interest.)

This isn't really important but I find it odd that his mom calls him Ad. Adam is already a short name. I understand some people shorten short names like Ry for Ryan or Jay for James or something like that but Ad is not commonly heard anywhere and seems a bit out of place.

”You’re a rotten liar, Adam. Something is bugging you more than a swarm of gnats.” What evidence is there that something's bothering him? Is it because she saw/heard him scratch out the sentence? I assume she didn't see it because she's driving but if she heard it I don't understand why that would mean something's wrong with him. That only indicates to me that he made a mistake on whatever he wrote. If anything you can put that when he scratched the sentence out he pressed very hard on the paper or did it so roughly that she was able to hear it.

Then in the next line from Adam, apparently he's cutting his mother off as she finished her sentence. But since you add that in at the end it's not apparent until we read it. I would suggest maybe doing something like this:

”You’re a rotten liar, Adam. Something is bugging you more than a swarm of gnats--”

”Are we almost there?" Adam asked, cutting her off. "Puddles is getting restless. Aren’t you, boy?” Or obviously you could just put 'Adam asked' since the dashes indicate that he cut her off. Something like that.

"She lifted a hand up from the steering wheel to point at an old, decrepit-looking wooden sign. It punctuated the thick trees that encased the highway. Written there in faded red lettering was this:"

"chances are… it’s probably not exactly Disneyland." (I'd take out the elipsis as this isn't really used for suspense or a trailing thought. "probably not exactly". I'd take out either 'probably' or 'exactly' with them both in there it seems conflicting.)

"Here they were, returning to her old middle-of-nowhere home smack dab in the middle-of-nowhere."

"She had left sixteen years ago for the big city (what city?), only to return once more and be caught right back in the tangled mess of trees, fog, and swamp that was Hayesfield, Ohio." (trees, fogs and swamps? I'd keep it plural throughout.)

"she drove through a few suburban streets (some of which looked a tad bit run-down; others looked just like normal suburbia)" Since what's in the parenthesis is interrupting the sentence you can replace them with dashes. But there are two complete sentences in there so you should either combine them or just put one part. Because if you say 'some' looked run-down we know that not ALL of them are. So the next clause is not necessary. Or you could say "--which were a mix of run-down and well-kept streets--"

"and turned onto an empty back road that was covered only by trees on either side. This back road went on for about a mile or so and it only seemed to take them deeper and deeper into the woods."

"And every time he saw it, it was like he was seeing it for the very first time in his life." It seems like sometimes you have unecessary words. This beefs up the word count for sure but it's better if you don't include words like that. It reads better in our minds when you're concise. As long as you say what you need to say.

"If they had casually drove (driven) past it, Adam would have assumed it was an abandoned old “haunted” house (first, you don't have to keep saying the house is old, we get it. second, haunted shouldn't be in quotations. abandoned suggests the house is not kept in good condition and so does the word haunted. is this so?); the kind that children would tell campfire tales to each other about hearing wails and shrieks coming from within its walls." (so does this mean the house looks scary? If so, I'd suggest putting something in there to say that. Perhaps he used to be afraid of visiting when he was younger or something of the sort. Otherwise I'm not really feeling it.)

"Perhaps they would speak of seeing (What? Is this a mistake? Did you mean 'sneak a peak' or something?) the specter of an older gentleman standing in the single window of the third-floor attic room where Adam would be staying. The domed roof and pillars were reminiscent of that of a Roman coliseum, and harkened to an era long gone by." (I think this last sentence belongs earlier in the paragraph when you're describing the styles of the house. Like after the third or fourth sentence.)

"As their car came to a grinding halt, she pulled herself up off the steps with the support of the nearby railing and hobbled over to meet her daughter and grandchildren them."

When you're describing Grandma Candle in the journal he switches to past tense. All previous journal entries were in present tense. I think this makes the journal entries sort of disruptive because they switch tenses and may or may not be happening as we read it. So I would stick to one throughout the book. It might be difficult to figure this out but maybe you could look at other novels that deal with the switching around between journals and narrative and see how they do it. Because the way you have it now makes me feel like his journal entries read more like what he's thinking rather than things he's writing down right at that moment or later on. I hope that makes sense.

“I set the first floor laundry room all up for him. Isn’t that right, boy? You’re such a good dog,” she replied in a baby-talk voice."

"Ian exited the car, his face still buried in his PSP (I think you should mention the PSP earlier. He mentioned playing the videogame but you didn't mention what on.) He had obviously hoped to dodge his grandmother and get out of carrying any luggage into the house, which made Adam frown." (I switched the two words around but by saying he hoped to dodge his grandmother and carrying luggage... well what did he do that made this obvious? He doesn't do anything after he gets out of the car. That doesn't mean anything. Perhaps he was too engrossed in his game to get out right away. You should say once he got out of the car he went straight to the house or that maybe while he was still IN the car Adam saw him fiddling around to stall getting out or something of the sort.)

"He grunted and turned to walk into the house just as Grandpa Candle arrived with his cane. It had taken him a while to walk down to the car due to his bad leg." (Something like that. We assume that since he has a cane that he has some sort of injury or impairment.)

“Henry, dear, we’re just now headed into the house. Did you say hi to Elizabeth and the boys?” (It seems like Henry just got there, as we saw in the previous line. Therefore we already know that he hasn't greeted any of them yet. So why would she ask?)

He slowly wheeled around and gave them a little wave. Adam waved back and Elizabeth gave him a smile as they walked into the house." (Okay this is a bit confusing. If Henry is approaching them why is he wheeling around? Isn't he already facing them? If they had already passed him on his way down to the car wouldn't they have stopped and said hi or wouldn't he have turned around and gone inside with them?)

Then we get a journal entry about Grandpa. I was under the impression that he didn't want to come here. Especially with the first paragraph saying he was on the train tracks and such. Now if that was some sort of predicting some future turmoil that will take place sometime after they get all settled in here, I don't think that works good because it seems like he's predicting the future. You said he doesn't necessarily write his journals at the moment, so this could be something he writes later on, but it seems like that's what he did since he was writing in the car. So I'm not sure what's going on right now.

Also this paragraph switches tenses right in it, though it seems more present tense than past. Which is a change from the journal about Grandma.
"I’ll always remember Grandpa as the one who fueled my overactive imagination as a child. I can’t even count the hours I’d waste ('I wasted' but wasted suggests regret. I'd say 'spent') , sitting with him on the front porch in the summertime, listening to far-fetched stories of dragons and wizards, trolls and witches, princesses and knights in shining armor. A few years ago, he suffered a stroke that snatched away (I'd use other words here. compromised?) his brilliant mind and greatly reduced his ability to talk and walk. Every menial task was is now a mountain of trouble for him. He was considered the most intelligent person in Hayesfield. People would pay money and sign up for his courses at the community college just to hear his theories on life, the universe, and the supernatural. Now, the only things (there's more than one journal) that remains are his hundreds of mysterious (why are they mysterious? assuming he wrote them before his stroke they should be readable. If they're mysterious for another reason, why? Are they written in code or something like that?) journals that lie scattered over his desk. Maybe I’ll have to try to decipher them." (Why does he have to try? Is there some information from them that he needs? Or is he simply curious? In that case he doesn't 'have' to decipher them. Also why decipher? There's no indication that they're not readable or not in English.)

"The attic was all the way on the third floor (All the way makes it seem like youre exaggerating the distance. We know the attic will be on the highest floor. This isn't surprising.)- a creaky old door had to be practically forced open in order to gain entry (we know you're opening a door in order to get inside. it isn't necessary to say it)."

"Adam stole a look at the various portraits lining the hallway walls. (Stole suggests he wasn't supposed to be looking. But as these are portraits in a public area, not in someone's bedroom for instance, I would use another word here.) There were many old, browned portraits (I'd change this sentence. Portraits means there's people in them. So if that's what you meant then perhaps say something about the faces he's looking at. Saying portraits of fonder years doesn't really mean anything to me.) of fonder years long gone by. Grandma kept up all the portraits (this is obvious since he's looking at them at the moment), and took a great deal of pride in them. Nobody was even allowed to touch them, or else, (no commas around 'or else') she’d protest, “You’ll smudge up the picture frame”. (Also punctuation goes before the end quotation mark. Even when you tag the dialogue on the end like this.)

"In his old house, he’d only had a few tiny shelves on which to store his vast collection of books, and many of them ended up on the floor, much to his mother’s displeasure. (This sentence is too long. 'many of them ended up on the floor' is a complete sentence so I'd make it a new one.) Now, he’d have a single place to store them all, and know exactly where they were located. (Okay the commas are misplaced here. If you took out the middle clause "he'd have a single place to store them all" would the sentence make sense? No. Commas don't always go in places where we would naturally pause if we were talking out loud. Which is what some people think. So you can have it as 'now, he'd have a single place to store them all and know exactly where they were located.' or not have any commas at all. It depends on how you want it to read. I could be wrong but I don't think a comma goes after all because you don't have a complete sentence after 'and'. And I would change 'where they were located' to 'where each was located'. If he had books all over the place it's easy not to know where any particular book is. If you have them all in a bookcase you know it's there somewhere.

"and made the brief journey back out to the SUV" So before you said the attic was 'all the way' on the third floor. so does he feel it's a short walk or not? Also if it is on the third floor I wouldn't exactly say it's a brief journey back to the car.

Upon returning, he noticed something there that he hadn’t noticed before: a portrait of a girl. (Where is it that he didn't notice it the first time. You describe the room as though he's looking around and taking it all in--which is expected. But no mention of the painting. Also, since he's been here before wouldn't he know the painting is there already? Or is it a new addition?)

Okay I'm going to switch around a few of these sentences. Because you mention the frame and then how big it is. Then you mention the girl. Then you mention the painter and how the painting overall looks. Then you go back to the girl. I would suggest keeping the mentions of the girl all together.

The portrait was hanging right above his cream-colored double bed (maybe you should mention the bed's color the first time you mention it). It had a charcoal frame with dimensions of about a foot by two feet. The picture (portrait) had likely survived a few years of wear and tear (why, does it look old?), and had come out with a weathered look that complimented the old-fashioned looking girl (what indication do we get of this?). Whoever had painted it was a master at capturing the life in his or her subjects. The angelic girl in the picture was utterly gorgeous. Her face was lightly tanned, and her brunette hair streamed down both sides of her cheeks, with a quaint blue ribbon knotted atop her head in a bow, as if she were a Christmas present (how is this old-fashioned? And we don't know what else she's wearing.). The girl's eyes struck him the most- they were precisely the same color as his: bright hazel. She was floating up into the sky like an eagle, slightly resembling the ascension of Christ. Perhaps this was the intention of the original artist. (Saying 'original' makes me think that someone else painted a similar portrait or copied the original one. If it's not the origninal but a print then I don't think 'original' is necessary. Also since there's a lot of symbolism in paintings I don't think the last sentence is necessary at all. The reader will come to the conclusion that this was the intention anyway.)

"Underneath it (in the wall? in the frame?) was a hastily scrawled inscription, (it doesn't seem like an inscription. it doesn't pertain to the portrait unless whoever wrote it is talking about the girl in the portrait. perhaps 'message'?) etched into the _____ as if by claws:"

"Even Hell would be better than the situation I’ve found myself in." Which is what, exactly?
~~~

Okay so overall only the title of the book and the chapter (who is this devil?) and the eerieness of the inscription under the portait indicates to me that something weird or perhaps supernatural is going to happen (also the mention of the grandfather's journal). I suppose the house would too if it was described as eerie. You mention the outside looks like a haunted house but since Adam doesn't seem miffed by it then neither do the readers. Do you want us to be scared of the house or at least suspicious of it?

So I think I know now that for some unknown reason (which you should mention early on) Adam and his family are moving in with his grandparents. I'm not sure if he wants to be there or not because he seems to think the world of them but mentions of the train track and their 'situation' make me question this. So the dog is his only friend. (maybe you want to write the dog following him everywhere or else him just writing it in his journal doesn't convince me of it) Why? His brother is unhappy and so is his mother. Why? What's up with the mansion? Did the family inherit it? Are they rich? How did they get it?

So it seems like this portrait he finds is going to be important. Obviously I don't really know at this point. I don't know if this is the end of your first chapter or not... But I think this passage lost me. The end is kind of intriguing because I want to know who wrote that inscription and why and to who, etc. But it takes too long to get there. Maybe you should have the family arriving earlier on and getting to the house quicker so that you don't lose people's interest. A mansion is interesting and especially a creepy one, which I don't know if this is one of them because like I said no one in the family seems to care about going in or not.

The only reason I might think your writing is bland/plain is because there's not enough action to hook me into the story. Basically he's traveling to this grandparents' house, gets out of the car to say hi. Goes to his room, goes back down to get his stuff, goes back up to find a fascinating picture. And I still don't have any idea what this is about. People usually read the first few pages or a book or so to see whether or not they want to keep reading. You need to give them a taste of what the book's about early on or else we're just mentally scanning ahead waiting for something big to happen. You don't necessarily need ACTION but something that keeps the pace going, leading up to the main plot. Also word choice could help a lot too. You don't want to overkill but using bigger words or more interesting adjectives could help. Like saying hideous instead of ugly, which creates a better mental image as we read. Just things like that, nothing over the top.

Anyway I hope this helps. I know I wrote a lot but mainly all you need is fine-tuning on what you already have. Nobody really likes others criticizing their work but it does help for them to see inconsistencies, loopholes or errors that you didn't catch. Plus it can only help, but that's if you go into it with the right mindset haha. Good luck!

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bighockeyhair
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Re: Horror of Hayesfield- first 2900

Post by bighockeyhair » June 1st, 2011, 5:18 pm

I didn't get through all of this, but I'll be happy to give you my impressions from what I did read. I liked that the main character lives in his own private world. I thought dipping in and out of the journal was done well overall.

What bogs down your story, in my mind, are large block paragraphs where you tell the audience (usually in a journal entry or the MC's thoughts) what is going on. Showing is a difficult thing to do, but you have the whole book to set up all the back story etc...So sprinkle it in sparingly or the audience is going to die under and avalanche of info.

Also, thinking out loud here, I was mildly disappointed that your MC's journal entries were simply a rehashing or explanation of events going on in his life, rather than something he uses to really escape. Strange or comical musings on various topics might have held my interest more and could have been used to reveal the character's rich inner world.

Best,
BHH
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My debut novel Malice is now available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Malice-ebook/dp/B005QCC122

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