The Crimson Ideal Excerpt

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LeAnne
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The Crimson Ideal Excerpt

Post by LeAnne » August 4th, 2010, 1:40 pm

Hello there! I have having a lot of difficulty with this chapter, which is actually the second chapter of my book, The Crimson Ideal. The first is a little over 250 words and serves as a prologue, but this is where our characters are introduced. So I'm offering this up for you all to tear apart and I mean it. Be ruthless with this. I'm caught between the plot and too much description and I'm not feeling very confident at all about this chapter. I'm almost finished with the book and really need to polish up this first chapter so it holds the reader's attention. So, bombs away. Get nitty-gritty with this one. Be a detail freak. Be a grammar shark. And if there's no saving this chapter, by all means say it. Just extend a little love and maybe a cookie at the end, thank you. ;P Oh, and do keep in mind that it's commercial literary fiction.

The engine of the rented coupe growled restlessly under the lead foot of Mark Wilson as the car roamed the Parisian streets, a panther roaming through the vast, iron jungle. It was a concrete jungle instead of greens, where leaf-covered patches of earth were, in truth, large traffic circles and high tree tops were tall steel buildings that scraped the edge of the vast, cloudy blue sky. Sidewalks, full to the brim with an assortment of commuters, were daily beaten trails through the tangles of buildings. Some of the looming structures were the offices of prestigious executives, others were small cafes where suited individuals were eating a late lunch.

All of this floated by the tinted glass of Marianne's backseat window, leaving her breathless with the sudden realization of exactly where she was.

L'Defense. The modern, glittering arch of the business district stood behind her, saluting its stone twin, the Arc de Triomphe, with resolute stiffness. The world of glass belonging to the metal general warped the structure of the car as they flew by, shifting the wheels at crazed angles, turning backwards as they moved onward into the forest.

Things could get lost in the reflections. People could be turned upside-down or wander into uncharted territories made of mirrors. The sky could warp and rays of midday light could reflect back into the face of their maker, mocking the laws of how things were outside of the deceiving glass. To survive in this jungle you had to keep your wits about you.

Yet, to survive was to flourish. All sorts of life teemed in the efforts of the people. It was a complicated puzzle where each person had a different part, grinding a gear next to the other gears that turned the wheels of progress. Business was the means of progress, and lack of business was the means of distraction, which stemmed into many unfortunate trails to nowhere. Overall, the world of glass was a good face, despite the opinion of those who worked in the means of distractions, crawling underneath the foundations of the iron giants in the hopes of tearing down the intricate machines.

Marianne smiled. To think that she had been squished between two hot, uncomfortable airplane seats just an hour ago was somewhat surreal. The thought of arriving in a place like this at all was far from the reaches of her mind when she had been told that she would accompany her father on a business trip to France. She had thought of the famous Tour de Eiffel, as most usually do, and thought of nothing behind the figure that truly defined the city. It was only now, in this great moment of realization, that Paris was not a single iron structure and could not be grasped with merely one photograph. As with any city, the definition was in its people.

Marianne, despite her youth, was fairly experienced in observing individuals that crossed her path. Expressions and actions told interesting stories to pass the time and she enjoyed picking them apart, searching for answers of their dispositions and making up answers when there were none to be found. It could have been a bad habit, but if it was she didn't think much of it.

Still caught in her amazement, Marianne lurched into the plush leather at her back when Mark slammed on the brakes to make yet another left turn. The sudden movement of the car jarred her from her bout of fascination and brought her into reality, where Mrs. Wilson was making rude comments about Mr. Wilson's driving from the passenger seat.

"If you could just drive the damn car, Mark, we wouldn't be in this mess."

"And you expect me to know exactly where I’m going when we just got here."

"We could have taken a cab."

"I wanted to drive"

"Well then drive and stop trying to kill us, for heaven's sake."

Mark muttered a few unmentionable things under his breath for a reply and refused to look at his wife, keeping his eyes glued to the road. Mrs. Wilson merely shook her head, lifting up her camera again and shooting another round of pictures at the blurs in the window.

Marianne frowned slightly at their booming voices in the small car, but resigned herself to biting her lip and keeping her mouth shut. She couldn't however, resist rolling her eyes as Mrs. Wilson jabbed her window with a long manicured nail, making a very undesirable ping.

"Look, Mark!" Mrs. Wilson exclaimed.

"I'm trying to drive."

"You're certainly missing out. What amazing architecture! Surely these buildings were designed with the idea of the entire city being an exhibition of modern art. Don't you think so, dear?"

"Yes, certainly." Mark replied shortly.

"Where's your sense of conversation?" scoffed Mrs. Wilson, frowning at her husband.

Marianne looked to her right at her father, Joseph, who was also sitting conveniently in the back. It was the perfect place to meet eyes with a full understanding that they both shared the same annoyance.

If Marianne was to be frank and completely honest, the Wilsons were perhaps the most disagreeable couple she had ever met, and it wasn't just her teenage angst. Marianne had easily come to that conclusion after being forced to bear their presence without interruption for the entire flight to Paris, disliking the two more as the hours dragged on. They had bickered and reconciled countless times, had watched every movie on the tiny 'seat-screens' with the volume on full blast, and had thoroughly evaluated every meal they had been given on the flight in loud, complaining tones. And, unfortunately, Marianne and her father were stuck with them for the entire summer.

After Mrs. Wilson's comment faded away, silence was left in the car. It was a strange silence, as silences go, but it closely resembled a feeling of awe and amazement with the great city, despite the former petty disagreements. Buildings and people continued to roll by the windows like moving snapshots on a blank screen, each picture creating a string of questions that created gaps between the frames.

They were all near strangers still. There was something about the Dufrênes and the Wilsons that offered acquaintance but didn't entirely mix. It was a relationship of oil and water at best, even though they had no strong resentment for each other except for Marianne's slight annoyance.

The separation stemmed from their social distinctions. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were both the privileged heirs of wealthy families that contributed to their fortunes and were perfectly at ease with Mr. Wilson's company travels.

Joseph, though a translator for the Wilsons, could not have been farther away from their society. He was not usually so mobile and had taken the job as a means of providing for Marianne over the summer, for he was not so fortunately blessed with the wealth that Mr. and Wilson threw around over frivolous things. It was a mystery as to if he actually liked the job that Mark had put him up to, but he had taken it nonetheless and flown back to the great city that had been his home fifteen years before.

Marianne watched him from her side of the car, noticing that he was just as silent as he usually was, sitting completely still with his head turned away from her, his hazel eyes peering out of the tinted window. She wondered what it was like to see this all again after such a long stay in another country. Unlike Joseph, she didn't remember what France was like due to moving at such a young age and had listened with captivation at the tales her mother and father had spun out for her as she was growing up. In person, it was better than she had ever imagined so far and easily distracted her with its complexity.

Marianne turned back to her window again and busied herself by picking apart what flew before her eyes, making notes in her head of the little things that delighted her. As she gazed at this great lighted joy of Paris, she slipped back out of the reality of the humming car and into the elaborate world of her dreams, wondering, truly pondering, what role she was to have in it.

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cheekychook
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Re: The Crimson Ideal Excerpt

Post by cheekychook » August 4th, 2010, 7:32 pm

LeAnne wrote:Hello there! I have having a lot of difficulty with this chapter, which is actually the second chapter of my book, The Crimson Ideal. The first is a little over 250 words and serves as a prologue, but this is where our characters are introduced. So I'm offering this up for you all to tear apart and I mean it. Be ruthless with this. I'm caught between the plot and too much description and I'm not feeling very confident at all about this chapter. I'm almost finished with the book and really need to polish up this first chapter so it holds the reader's attention. So, bombs away. Get nitty-gritty with this one. Be a detail freak. Be a grammar shark. And if there's no saving this chapter, by all means say it. Just extend a little love and maybe a cookie at the end, thank you. ;P Oh, and do keep in mind that it's commercial literary fiction. Hi Leanne. A few comments up front, then I'll make some others throughout your chapter. I have no idea what the rest of your story is about, but something you might consider doing is reading through the entire rest of your manuscript then, when you get to the end, immediately sit down and write your opening chapter or two (whichever early chapters you're struggling with)---sometimes it's easier to see if your novel is coming full circle if the entire book, including the end, is really fresh in your mind. Just a suggestion. I'll offer you a cookie now, not because I'm going to be horrendously outrageous in my critique---just so you have something to snack on while you read on. ;)

The engine of the rented coupe growled restlessly under the lead foot of Mark Wilson as the car roamed the Parisian streets, a panther roaming through the vast, iron jungle. It was a concrete jungle instead of greens, where leaf-covered patches of earth were, in truth, large traffic circles and high tree tops were tall steel buildings that scraped the edge of the vast, cloudy blue sky. Sidewalks, full to the brim with an assortment of commuters, were daily beaten trails through the tangles of buildings. Some of the looming structures were the offices of prestigious executives, others were small cafes where suited individuals were eating a late lunch. This paragraph feels very wordy to me, and while some of the description is good other images don't really across clearly---try to streamline it a little and make it really clear what you're depicting.

All of this floated by the tinted glass of Marianne's backseat window, leaving her breathless with the sudden realization of exactly where she was. Good---introduces Marianne and tells us how she's feeling---consider changing "All of this", particularly if you alter the first paragraph---this sentence could actually be in your first paragraph, depending on how you tweak it.

L'Defense. (La Defense or Le grande arche de la Defense---follow with a comma, not a period.), the modern, glittering arch of the business district stood behind her, saluted its stone twin, (the--delete the) l'arc de Triomphe, with resolute stiffness. The world of glass belonging to the metal general warped the structure of the car as they flew by, shifting the wheels at crazed angles, turning backwards as they moved onward into the forest. I don't know what this last sentence means---world of glass belonging to the metal general? Wheels at crazed angles? Is this still the metaphorical forest or have we left Paris?

Things could get lost in the reflections.What reflections? People could be turned upside-down or wander into uncharted territories made of mirrors. The sky could warp and rays of midday light could reflect back into the face of their maker, mocking the laws of how things were outside of the deceiving glass. This is sounding more sci-fi/other world than like a description of how Marianne is viewing Paris. To survive in this jungle you had to keep your wits about you. Surviving the jungle is a little cliche, and I think you would be better either comparing the city to a jungle OR a forest, not both--- but the sentiment about needing your wits about you to survive life in the city is good---particularly if you're trying to tell us that Marianne realizes she needs to keep her wits about her now that she's in a foreign city.

Yet, to survive was to flourish. Why does surviving guarantee flourishing? Couldn't surviving entail just getting by?All sorts of life teemed in the efforts of the people. It was a complicated puzzle where each person had a different part, grinding a gear next to the other gears that turned the wheels of progress. Business was the means of progress, and lack of business was the means of distraction, which stemmed into many unfortunate trails to nowhere. Overall, the world of glass was a good face, despite the opinion of those who worked in the means of distractions, crawling underneath the foundations of the iron giants in the hopes of tearing down the intricate machines. Like in your first paragraph the description gets very tedious---pick your favorite parts and steamline it down---also keep in mind you introduced us to Marianne and gave us a glimpse at her thoughts, but then you launched back into three paragraphs of description where we almost forget she's there.)

Marianne smiled. To think that she had been squished between two hot, uncomfortable airplane seats just an hour ago was somewhat surreal. The thought of arriving in a place like this at all was far from the reaches of her mind when she had been told that she would accompany her father on a business trip to France. She had thought of the famous Tour de Eiffel, as most usually do, and thought of nothing behind the figure that truly defined the city. It was only now, in this great moment of realization, that Paris was not a single iron structure and could not be grasped with merely one photograph. As with any city, the definition was in its people. (Glad we're back to Marianne and her reaction---but you drift in and out of her a little---if you're going to zoom in on her thoughts bring us in and stay with her...if you're going to narrate from a distance for a while then do that---zooming in and pulling back repeatedly is confusing to the reader.)

Marianne, despite her youth, was fairly experienced in observing individuals that crossed her path. Expressions and actions told interesting stories to pass the time and she enjoyed picking them apart, searching for answers of their dispositions and making up answers when there were none to be found. It could have been a bad habit, but if it was she didn't think much of it. (I understand what you're saying, but in keeping with my comment above, about streamlining and staying with Marianne once we're getting her thoughts, I'd state this all in simpler, more direct terms---Marienne, despite her youth, was an experienced people watcher and enjoyed creating imaginary lives for the people she observed....not a good example, but you get the idea. The line "It could have been a bad habit..." completely takes us out of Marianne's thoughts again, as you're actually telling us it's something she doesn't think about.)

Still caught in her amazement, Marianne lurched into the plush leather at her back when Mark slammed on the brakes to make yet another left turn. The sudden movement of the car jarred her from her bout of fascination and brought her into reality, where Mrs. Wilson was making rude comments about Mr. Wilson's driving from the passenger seat. (Good description of the jostling car ride, but honestly I'd forgotten that you mentioned the name Mark Wilson in the first paragraph and I got confused about Mark being Mr Wilson since you refer to him by both names in this paragraph---a tweak will fix that) Also good that we're still in Marianne's experience here.

"If you could just drive the damn car, Mark, we wouldn't be in this mess."

"And you expect me to know exactly where I’m going when we just got here."

"We could have taken a cab."

"I wanted to drive"

"Well then drive and stop trying to kill us, for heaven's sake."

Mark muttered a few unmentionable things under his breath (for a reply and refused to look at his wife keeping----you don't need "for a reply, it's implied, and "refused to look" is a point of view switch---only Mark knows why he's not looking, instead just say) and kept his eyes glued to the road. Mrs. Wilson merely shook her head, lifting up her camera again and shoT (oting another round of pictures (at the blurs in the window).

Marianne frowned slightly---don't need at their booming voices in the small car, but resigned herself to biting her lip and keeping her mouth shut. She couldn't however, resist rolling her eyes as Mrs. Wilson jabbed her window with a long manicured nail, making a very undesirable ping.

"Look, Mark!" Mrs. Wilson exclaimed. (Generally speaking exclamation points are frowned upon in adult fiction---don't know why, they just are. Convey the exclamation point with your word choice---which you do here-- "Look" implies the exclamation well.)

"I'm trying to drive." (Good)

"You're certainly missing out. What amazing architecture! Surely these buildings were designed with the idea of the entire city being an exhibition of modern art. Don't you think so, dear?"

"Yes, certainly." Mark replied shortly.---don't need shortly

"Where's your sense of conversation?" scoffed Mrs. Wilson, frowning at her husband.

Marianne looked to her right at her father, Joseph, who was also sitting conveniently in the back. It was the perfect place to meet eyes---awkward phrasing---how about Their eyes met with a full understanding that they both shared the same annoyance.

If Marianne was to be frank and completely honest, the Wilsons were perhaps the most disagreeable couple she had ever met, and it wasn't just her teenage angst. Why wouldn't she be frank and honest in her thoughts? Are we still in Marianne's thoughts or are we pulling back to the narrator again?Marianne had easily come to that conclusion after being forced to bear their presence without interruption for the entire flight to Paris, disliking the two more as the hours dragged on. They had bickered and reconciled countless times, had watched every movie on the tiny 'seat-screens' with the volume on full blast, and had thoroughly evaluated every meal they had been given on the flight in loud, complaining tones. (Good description---they sound like delightful travel companions. *cough*) And, unfortunately, Marianne and her father were stuck with them for the entire summer.

After Mrs. Wilson's comment faded away, silence was left in the car. It was a strange silence, as silences go, but it closely resembled a feeling of awe and amazement with the great city, despite the former petty disagreements. You use "silence" three times in two sentences....and the "It was a strange silence..." sentence lost me---silence can't resemble awe---it can be appropriate setting for awe...)Buildings and people continued to roll by the windows like moving snapshots on a blank screen, each picture creating a string of questions that created gaps between the frames. (Good image, but sentence gets too long---don't understand what you mean by "sting of questions" either.)

They were all near strangers still. (Awkward transition since you pulled back and were showing us the scenery again) There was something about the Dufrênes and the Wilsons that offered acquaintance but didn't entirely mix. It was a relationship of oil and water at best (oil and water at best?), even though they had no strong resentment for each other except for Marianne's slight annoyance. (Strong resentment and slight annoyance don't match up---keep it simpler and more direct.)

The separation (disconnect? distance?) stemmed from their social distinctions. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were both the privileged heirs of wealthy families that contributed to their fortunes and were perfectly at ease with Mr. Wilson's company travels.

Joseph, though a translator for the Wilsons, could not have been farther away from their society. He was not usually so mobile and had taken the job as a means of providing for Marianne over the summer, for he was not so fortunately blessed with the wealth that Mr. and Wilson threw around over frivolous things. It was a mystery as to if he actually liked the job that Mark had put him up to, but he had taken it nonetheless and flown back to the great city that had been his home fifteen years before. (It's good that you're describing the characters more, and their class distinction---but I'd steamline this too---it's wordy and gets a little confusing---pluck out the descriptors you feel are most important and put them into clearer, more direct statements. Also---are we back to distant narrator here? or is this how Marianne views their situation?)

Marianne watched him (I think you mean her dad, but it's not clear---identify him again to remind us) from her side of the car, noticing that he was just as silent as he usually was, sitting completely still with his head turned away from her, his hazel eyes peering out of the tinted window. She wondered what it was like to see this all again after such a long stay in another country. Unlike Joseph, she didn't remember what France was like due to moving at such a young age and had listened with captivation at the tales her mother and father had spun out for her as she was growing up. In person, it was better than she had ever imagined so far and easily distracted her with its complexity. (Okay, we're back in Marianne's head again---and that's good---just keep in mind not to zoom out and back.)

Marianne turned back to her window again and busied herself by picking apart what flew before her eyes, making notes in her head of the little things that delighted her. As she gazed at this great lighted joy of Paris, she slipped back out of the reality of the humming car and into the elaborate world of her dreams, wondering, truly pondering, what role she was to have in it. (Still in Marianne's head---which is good---consider making it a little more direct---"picking apart what flew before her eyes" sounds like things are literally flying by her face, whereas I know you mean images...and if we're in her head I'm not sure she'd be thinking that things "delighted" her, as that doesn't sound like a teen voice.)

As I said at the beginning, I have no idea what the rest of your novel is about, so I can't comment on how well this chapter fits with the rest---you definitely don't need to scrap this chapter though, unless the whole rest of the novel is entirely different. I think after you edit this down and focus on keeping us in a particular point of view this chapter will be fine. Overall you offer a lot of good description and you've identified four distinct characters---tweak it down and focus it then see how you like it.

Question---you said it's "literary commercial fiction"----there's literary fiction and there's commercial fiction---which did you mean?

Hope my comments were helpful and not too harsh---good luck with your editing!
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LeAnne
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Re: The Crimson Ideal Excerpt

Post by LeAnne » August 4th, 2010, 7:50 pm

Not harsh at all, and thank you for the cookie. :B *munches happily* I finally found out why this chapter is absolutely driving me insane. It's that switching that you pointed out and I think I'm going to toss out the narrator on this one and just focus on Marianne. Just having that in mind gives me the right direction for this so I can rewrite it.

Edit: Oh and I forgot to answer your question. Right now, with the plot as it is, my book is a hybrid between the two, but I'm leaning toward commercial fiction lately.

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