Historical Fiction - IN THE SHADOW OF THE KINGDOM

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maireadg
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Historical Fiction - IN THE SHADOW OF THE KINGDOM

Post by maireadg » February 6th, 2011, 10:18 am

I am posting an excerpt from my first chapter, though not my first paragraph. My first pages need major revision. I made the mistake of starting my book with weather. I have to admit, it is hard to get away from the wind and the rain when your book is set in Ireland. Hopefully, this will someday be part of a novel of the Great Irish Famine - historical fiction. I know the topic might be depressing to many, but I believe there are many Irish Americans who might like to learn more about why their ancestors left their homeland. Anyway, all feedback is greatly appreciated.


A low moan reverberated against flinty walls. His fibrous groan was thin, like the distant screech of a seagull blown by the wind. Crashing waves echoed inside the confined, rocky space. A large wave surged through the cavern's mouth. She stared with open eyed panic, as it swept closer to her bare toes. It slowly washed outward, staining its newly gained territory. The next onslaught annihilated all evidence of its predecessor, hungrily devouring her footprints. Its sucking outward drag girded her for danger. Merely a few more minutes of tidal action might submerge this poor injured man. She pictured his helpless body battering against the jagged cave walls.

“Can you hear me?” she hailed in English, the victim unlikely to understand her native Gaelic tongue. Her vision accommodated to the dull light. She pressed on towards the rear of the cave, her eyes finally resting on his form.

He lay on his side, flexed in pain, his right cheek buried in wet sand. A torn pant leg revealed bulbous swelling, below the absent rim of his riding boot. She fell to her knees beside him.

“Sir, can you rise?” she questioned, gently shaking his shoulder.

No response. He moaned pitifully. She turned his upper torso. His face pinched in a whimper of pain. She jostled his shoulders again.

“Sir, can you hear me?” she pleaded. “We must move before the tide washes us away.”

No sound uttered, only the plaintive sigh of his labored breathing. An inbound wave pecked his toes. Time was her enemy. The raging tide held no forgiveness. Examining his size and form, she contemplated how to lift him. The next wave rolled over his shins. Drowning was the greatest risk this poor man faced. He still breathed, even if unresponsive to her prodding touch.

Rolling him onto his back, his expression grew subconsciously tentative. She bolstered his head, resting his frame against her breast. Carefully crossing his arms, she interlaced their arms, grasping his forearms. Cowering behind, she strained to shift his weight. He barely moved with her first effort, his buttocks entrenched in a gritty vacuum. Using every ounce of her strength, she heaved his torso. His seat shifted. She struggled again, before tripping on his coat tails. Supporting his trunk, she jerked his lapels, wresting his coat open in a splintered eruption of finely crafted buttons. Sliding his flaccid arms out of satin lined sleeves, she discarded his coat in the grit; a crumpled, aristocratic offering to the tides. Once again, she clasped his folded arms, bracing his rib cage. She hefted his body with grim determination. Steadily, she inched him around. He released a keening sob with each agonizing, sinking foothold gained.

mnaylor3
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Re: Historical Fiction - IN THE SHADOW OF THE KINGDOM

Post by mnaylor3 » February 6th, 2011, 12:41 pm

I like what's going on here. A woman finds an injured man in rocky beach basin, but both might be washed away by the rising tide.

Looks like you're going for cinematic third person and that's fine; but because things are so dire in your scene, I wish I could see it from her perspective.
Using every ounce of her strength,
and
she inched him around.
I don't know what historical fiction writers think, but 'inched' and 'ounce' struck me as possibly anachronistic.

Keep at it,

maireadg
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Re: Historical Fiction - IN THE SHADOW OF THE KINGDOM

Post by maireadg » February 7th, 2011, 6:01 pm

mnaylor3 - Thanks so much for your input. I agree that I need to change the words 'ounce' and 'inch'. Writing in first person narrative is not something I have done much. It may be beyond my skill level at this time. I am very much a beginner when it comes to writing. I think I may rewrite my first few pages in first person as an exercise towards improvement. Thanks again for some great pointers.

Mairead

PR Griffin
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Re: Historical Fiction - IN THE SHADOW OF THE KINGDOM

Post by PR Griffin » February 26th, 2011, 11:22 pm

Hey there;
Whilst I appreciate this is not your opening, I believe you are focussing too much on setting the scene. You dilute your writing and the scene by adding unecessary words fibrous-bulbous swelling (swelling is fine here no need for the former) When writing about the sea, I don't believe most readers want to read a paragraph on how the waves come in and out. It dilutes the scene. Unless you are equating waves to breathe or history/memories being washed and wiped then I would stay away from too much detail here.

'He lay on his side, flexed in pain, his right cheek buried in wet sand. A torn pant leg revealed bulbous swelling, below the absent rim of his riding boot. She fell to her knees beside him.' Move her actions to the beginning, she should fall on her knees then observe for it gives greater poignancy to the moment. Perhaps try- His boot was torn away, the flesh below swollen and pale. He was in pain." Otherwise you run the risk of 'shopping listing' what he looked like.

'No sound uttered, only the plaintive sigh of his labored breathing' You contradict yourself here.

'Rolling him onto his back, his expression grew subconsciously tentative. She bolstered his head, resting his frame against her breast.' Omit his expression... and add She rested his head on her lap/arms/thigh. Is she so strong as to lift a soaked unconscious man onto her chest? Perhaps place more emphasis on her efforts to be gentle but still causing pain. this would enable you to omit this next part...

'Carefully crossing his arms, she interlaced their arms, grasping his forearms. Cowering behind, she strained to shift his weight. He barely moved with her first effort, his buttocks entrenched in a gritty vacuum.' Again you are in danger of sounding like a junior nurse. Too much detail bogs the narrative.

'she discarded his coat in the grit; a crumpled, aristocratic offering to the tides.' The problem with this is your scene is one of immediacy and you are attempting to turn it into a literary comment at every stage. Keep it brief and sharp if you want to convey the danger and pain of the scene. If you do this I believe you will end up with a much stronger piece.

maireadg
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Re: Historical Fiction - IN THE SHADOW OF THE KINGDOM

Post by maireadg » February 27th, 2011, 9:17 am

Thank you PR Griffin for some great feedback. I knew my writing was a little stilted, and missing a sense of urgency which the scene requires. Your input gives me fantastic pointers on where to cut. Your suggestion to focus on her actions and concern will definitely add more needed poignancy.

I laughed when you said the part where she is moving him, runs the risk of sounding like a junior nurse's narrative. I worked as a physical therapist for many years, so instinctively, I think this piece reflects the correct moving technique, with way too much detail 'bogging the narrative'.

I am new to writing and appreciate all input. This week I hope to rewrite my first chapter - it needs major revisions. Thanks again for some great ideas, which will help me with the rest of the chapter. I need to eliminate chunks with too much emphasis on scene description. The rain, the wind, and the waves have taken over!!!! Too many summers spent in wet and windy West Cork, Ireland, I suppose.

All the best!

vasilisa
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Re: Historical Fiction - IN THE SHADOW OF THE KINGDOM

Post by vasilisa » April 11th, 2011, 5:53 pm

"A low moan reverberated against flinty walls. His fibrous groan was thin, like the distant screech of a seagull blown by the wind. "
Try this instead: ""A low, thin moan reverberated against flinty walls, like the distant screech of a seagull blown by the wind."

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