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October Gray

Guest Brandon T.

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Guest Brandon T.

Howdy, everyone. I'm Brandon, as indicated by the display name (I know, I'm amazingly creative with names), and I'm a new member here at AD. Uh. I stumbled across this site some time ago. But I was using Nifty to read most of my online fiction so I didn't really need another site. And then I came to realize that Nifty suddenly wasn't really meeting my needs as for as quality goes and so I decided to revisit AD. Surprise, surprise when I found out that I wasn't the only one who had that problem! Yay. So I've been reading AD for about three months now? I think, somewhere in there. And lately, I've been wanting to sort of breaking into the writing scene as well and so I finally sort of got the courage to join and to see if I could get some help and maybe a few tips. From what I've seen while lurking around (which I do all of the time, please don't call the cops or anything because I'm really nice and will totally bake you cookies =o) the community here is amazingly supportive and in general, wonderful. Lots of my favorite online authors are here, so that's a bonus. SO. Anyhoo, I ramble a lot, as you can see. I decided to post this story because I wanted to see what you guys thought of not only the story, but my writing and if you had any tips as far as keeping with a story and finding the motivation to write.

In regard to specifics of this. It's called October Gray. And it was originally going to be a multi-chapter story and this is really the second chapter, but I found that I like this better than the first chapter I wrote. Now, I was just wondering if I should leave it as a short story and go back and sort of tinker with it so it feels more complete or if I should continue on with adding chapters. I'd also like to know what you guys think about the characterizations here and the dynamics between the two characters that occur in this particular scene. And what thoughts you have regarding that. One of my major weaknesses is writing scenes with multiple characters so I'd like to really get a feel for how it's looking so far. To make my question simple, I guess, I was just wondering what sort of feedback an established community known for providing high-quality fiction has for not only this story but my writing in general. Ahaha. I ramble, I know, and I'll shut up.


The birds above the water danced like puppets on strings. Their calls were gentle, but ultimately strident reminders of his discontent. They could cry out until their screams died silent and cold in their chests, but they?d never be able to direct the wind how they wanted, never change the flow of the water, and never make the fish jump just that little bit higher so they could be gobbled by waiting, hungry beaks. All they could do was ride the breeze. He was envious of the birds even in their limited freedom and angry at himself for having fallen so far from grace. His thoughts were no longer still as they had been last night, when he?d lain numb and broken on his bed, trying not to breathe, trying not be, but were now restless and frenetic. A multitude of shapes and colors passed before his mind?s eye, arranging themselves in a careless geometry of worry and confusion. The swirling, billowing chaos of a wrecked life splashed inside of the space left by a gone away love. Just like the hot cider in his cup, lashing out against the curves of his mug, angry, bitter, jaded. So many things to plan and so many plans to salvage. Errands. Errands. He sat on the drying brown grass, watching the birds, hating them for their freedom though he knew well the things they couldn?t control. Silent judgment. It came so easily to him now. Mercifully, he was spared of happy people. He didn?t know if he could bare the exuberant flashes of yellow and joy being splashed on to his drab, gray canvas. He enjoyed the dark, loved the drab.

Afternoon had come in not so long ago. Gray, chilly, dour. He didn?t mind the company of the dark clouds overhead, and would not complained they brought rain tagging along, but they hadn?t. Instead, they blotted out the sun and cast dark shadows across the river banks, staining the water choppy pewter. In the distance, he could hear the bellow of the boats, singing their river songs like a dirge to the happy times in his life. Had he really been that happy? He liked to think so. He pressed his mug to his lips and drank in the heat. The flavor was rich and heady, but the warmth was what kept his lips pressed just to the brim. His fingers tightened, red knuckles going suddenly white. Heat. He could not recall having felt cold, but now that he was warming, he couldn?t help but to think maybe he had been. Just the smallest bit. Again, he didn?t mind. The cold was one of his favorite companions. Along with the rain, the gray skies, and the slowness of the season. Cold. It made him feel so alive before it numbed him and robbed his fingertips of sensation and life. Everything in moderation; it was his lifestyle, moderation. Moderate cold, moderate numbness, moderate everything else. Except love. He had never been good at -not- loving. Or withholding it. A romantic glutton, his friends liked to say. A masochist, he?d heard them whispering also, but that he pretended not to hear.

When the call to reality came, it came not from the white-bellied gulls or the dragging river tide leaping and bounding against the bridge stones, but somewhere distant and foreign just over his shoulder. At first, he mistook it for stray weeds of his consciousness, another wistful thought gone astray. Thought that perhaps he should have brought coffee along for the walk to the river, and not cider. Caffeine could do wonders in clearing out the cobwebs in the mind. He ran his fingers around the brim of the cup, soaking up the cider and warmth of the cup. The river was listless, but somehow alive. Resilient in its dullness. Vivid in its pallor. Oh to be the river. To find your way everywhere, to find a new bend, a new turn, a new name everywhere you went, but to remain yourself! Sometimes, he felt like the river. That he was named and categorized and mapped, studied and controlled, but ultimately unknown. With depths unexplored and ever changing, vast and sprawling. But, he was mostly like the seagulls. Free to act within the construction handed to him, by others. He couldn?t change the world to suit his own needs and couldn?t change his needs to suit the world; he could be, simply, himself?Wynne Gerard.

He turned his neck just enough to let him cast a glance over his shoulder. Following the backward and away slope of the hill to the crest, he spotted a figure in black and felt dread, which had become so familiar so quickly, pool in his stomach. Dread was never really what he expected it to be. It was never cold as some tried to get him to believe. It was warm. Warm and filling, much like happiness and pride. Telling the difference took a monumental effort so he simply let the situation dictate to him which was which. In this situation, staring up at a familiar silhouette in the distance, he was certain it was dread. No one else would come sliding down a hill in heels, black leggings, and a smart new coat with her arms flailing about over her head anxiously and her blond hair flapping in the wind, looking all of twelve for her antics. Her voice was lyrical, high and musical while floating on the breeze, but not laughing as it typically was. From where he sat watching with narrowed green eyes, he could tell she was not pleased. And why should she be when he had intentionally not returned all fifty of her phone calls and the various annoyed e-mails and instant messages she?d sent since last night. This was a most cruel and bitter irony. His attempt to dodge and hide away had only brought about what he feared most. Not worst, but this was still very bad. And awkward. Yes, decidedly a most awkward situation in the making.

?Wynnie!? At last, the mysterious sound was given shape. It was no longer the mysterious, haunting call of the river, but the agitated, worried call of his friend. His dear friend, she would have corrected him had he spoken it aloud. She came to a stop; thankfully. Her gangly decent down the hill had worried him. How she had managed to make it down all of the way without lodging a heel in the soil and tearing her shoes from her ankles baffled him. But he new better to question her. Hands folded across the lap, lips together, eyes stuck on the bits of grass now fringing her coat and clinging to her leggings, and back mostly erect, he watched her gather herself. Her chest rose and fell heavily, her cheeks were now dark red instead of white as can be, and her hair was messy and in disarray; she looked like she had just slid down a hill to chastise her friend. Why hadn?t she just taken the steps? Bolting hadn?t really been an option for him, not that he would have even if he?d known she would be coming along to disrupt his peace, so why hadn?t she just taken a few moments to walk down the built-in stairs? ?Shit.? And now there was a run in her leggings. His lips turned down at the corners. Classic. Absolutely classic. ?Look what you?ve made me do.? The clever retort he had been cultivating lay dead on the floor of his mind, murdered by tact.

?Hello, Marjorie.?

?Don?t you, ?Hello, Marjorie? me, Wynne Gerard! Where have you been??

He raised a hand, the one not busy with the cup, and flicked it first to the left and then to the right. With his fingers extended, he circled the hand over his hand, catching in the sweeping arc the birds, the boats, and the river. The sky rumbled somewhere far away, apparently angry for being excluded. Oh, Marjorie. Sweet, delicate Marjorie whose expressions were now tight and pinched. She was in one of her mothering, smothering moods. Marjorie subscribed to the school of thought that grieving was never to be private, pain never a secret. An unsettled quiet rose up between them like dust after a stampede, the echoes of all the things left un-shouted bounding all around them. Her dark brown eyes glittered like angry diamonds in the African sun, but he remained resolute, placid in his expression as he stared at the space between her eyebrows, sightless. He could already hear it, a recounting of the fifty voicemails. The ones that she?d left and had yet somehow missed the hint he had been throwing to her. But that was not surprising in and of itself. Marjorie did not do hints. Marjorie did not do hints, she did not do subtle. She did angry, she did overbearing, she did overprotective, and she did maternal. But hints? Especially those involving personal space and time alone? Certainly not

Private suffering was an impossibility with Marjorie in your life. He could remember the first time he?d broken up with a boyfriend while under her watchful eye. Most people called it friendship, he called it a prison watch, but he knew better than to split semantics about Marjorie?s care giving. Yes. That break up, he remembered well because not only had Marjorie called him thirty times and left another forty or fifty messages on his answering machine, but she had tried to move in with him. Just for a few weeks, she?d said. Just to make sure he was okay. Suffering was a fun, group activity, not something to be handled alone, in your own time. No. She would have none of that if she could help it. Malignant narcissism. It was only his guess what she wanted to do to him now. How had she even found out? Even with her bizarre need to be included in every aspect of his life, there was no way she could have known. He hadn?t told her. He had not gone to their favorite little spot that morning for coffee so perhaps that had sounded some alarms. Maybe that?s what the calls had been over, not John. John who?d left him. And without an explanation. Some day, he would get over it. Some day, the past tense wouldn?t feel so heavy.

She pursed her lips. He turned away from her, to the water, and she moved to sit next to him, suddenly not caring about the state of her ruined stockings or how much grass was now going to stick to her black coat. More of her annoying tendency to dote on the emotionally wounded. Marjorie to save the day! Swooping in with her kind, sweet voice and gentle, arm rubbing, superiority lurking in her eyes. Pity and sympathy all wrapped up into one package. To the pitying went the power, and the pitied were thrown into a subordinate position. It?s how it always was. Comforting was seldom for the benefit of the hurting person, but so that the one doing all of the soothing and sympathizing could go home at night and pat herself on the back, proud of the job she?d done helping a dear, dear friend. And when someone passed them on the street, saw the small circles on his back she made with her hands and heard the gentle cadence of her French-Canadian voice, they communicated in their whispering voices about what a wonderful friend she was. Not that he typically had a problem with it; he simply felt annoyed in his current state. But he would play his role, why disrupt the order of things as they were? It was not his place to shove her away while she snatched her glory. His day would come, a time when she needed him, and he would be there to bask in the glow of being not only wanted, but needed. A day when he would become a necessity.

?You weren?t in our spot, love. I was worried.?

He hadn?t been there, no. But that had been hours ago, and he could not but to wonder what had occupied her between then and now. There was work, family, and general traffic, to be sure. And then errands. Not to mention the people who stopped her for a chat because people always stopped Marjorie for a chat. Hers was one of those easygoing presences that overwhelmed you like sultry heat in the summertime. It came everywhere and touched everything, bathing the entire world in a hazy, rippling fringe of warmth and languor. Bees to honey, buzzing as they spread their pollen. Nothing substantial ever came of those little chats between the grocery store aisles or on the sidewalk or at the fruit stand, but he could see the light in Marjorie?s eyes each time someone went out of their way to return her hello. Each time they babbled back to her in that river-like gurgle, water running inanely beneath the bridge. That is what had delayed Marjorie in finding him, he knew it. His lips smoothed at their centers, but bowed up at the corners; the river curved out of sight, passing into the thicket of trees just beyond the arching bridge, glistening like poured silver. Of course she had been worried. Where he loved, Marjorie worried. More things to feed her sense of self-worth. To make clear that everyone loved her, but more importantly, that everyone needed her. He could not look at her face, the worry would have made him laugh. Silly Marjorie. If he had wanted to talk to her, he would have showed up for morning coffee and then for lunchtime tea as they did everyday. Of course she worried, her routine had been disrupted.

The strings tugging her along through her day had been snipped and she?d been left bereft and without any idea of what to do with herself. Naturally, she?d had to expand her search for mealtime companions all of two feet to find someone, anyone willing to take his place. Marjorie seldom ate alone, but he was confident in her ability to find a suitable replace if only for the one day. Bees to honey, buzzing busily by. And she?d found him so there was no use in groaning or complaining at whatever deity was responsible for this little slip-up. There would be plenty of times to blaspheme the Gods later, for having given John the idea to drop him like a bad habit. And not the fun, interesting bad habits. Those were far harder to forget, impossible to leave behind. They were in your blood, ingrained to your very core. Those bad habits were a part of your soul, stubborn and absolute. The only way to shed one of them was to change your identity completely, to alter yourself on some basic, fundamental level. No. To John, he was nothing more than elbows on the table. There was no getting out of this mess, was there? None. He was trapped.

?I was busy?sorry for not calling you.? He watched the birds, now skimming low across the river, splashing it up into the dull mid-afternoon light. For a moment, the drops were glittering gems. Taken from the dull, listless mass of water, they were made into precious stones, perfect and unique. Beautiful. He watched the break from homogeneity with a hushed sense of awe, lips apart, eyes wide, but his overall demeanor subdued. The energy for an outburst was not there, but he wanted very much to shout and to point and to sing. Look there! Look! But just as quickly as they?d come apart from the water, they became, again, a part of it. He felt something in him go numb and slack, his expression grew calm like the river. Smooth and glossy at the surface, but beneath alive and bursting, ready to leap and splash and sing. Marjorie did not buy his lie. He could feel the disbelief in her eyes more than see it because he wasn?t looking at her. But it remained, burning at the base of his neck, where her eyes were staring. Perhaps more annoying than her habit of smothering people with her caring was her staring. ?What??

?Bullshit. Complete bullshit, Wynnie!? She slapped his arm, he flinched when his cider spilled on to the inside of his palm. Eyes narrowed, lips pinched, and brows came together. Touching was strictly off-limits, she knew that. How could she not know that? In public, touching was forbidden between them. He didn?t want anyone getting the wrong idea about anything. It would scare off potential friends if they thought that there was more between Marjorie and himself than there actually was. It was always disturbing to him when he saw close friends fall all over each other in a sloppy collection of arms, legs, and drunken giggles. Far from attractive. She knew how he felt. This is exactly why he had not gone to meet her this morning. Marjorie, in her great zeal, often disregarded the rules and boundaries of their friendship and defied the dichotomy of their relationship. And on top of that, she called him that name! The one she had promised to use only in private, only between the two of them. It was the last humiliating relic of his childhood, the last thing his mother could use in her battle against his growing-older. Forget that he hadn?t been busy, forget that he?d just lied to her, Marjorie was doing more harm than good.

?Marjorie.? It was all he said. His voice vibrated somewhat harshly against his throat before finally rattling free. She stared at him. A blank, uninspiring look on her face.

?You know how I worry, Wynne. Would a call have been too much to ask??

No, but fifty certainly would have been. If she had expected him to return all of those calls (as she probably had), she was definitely out of herself, as her people liked to say. Out of herself, but still utterly Marjorie. He sat quietly, studying the dark red stain on his hand. The heat had at first been startling, but now that it?d settled, it was comforting. The skin was darker and warm where the cider had splashed. The palm aside from that painted streak was ashen and cool. He watched her hand cover his, but he did not push her away. Secluded to a spot on the river, touching was okay. Her chin rested on his shoulder, and he wanted to tell her to get her hair out of his face, but the energy for it wasn?t there.

?You?ll be okay, Wynnie.?

Inside, he wanted to scream and jump and sing to the river; he wanted to tell her she was wrong.

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Oh, wow. This is scary, 'cause it's a lot of responsibility to be one of the first to discuss an author's work, particularly if one isn't all that great a writer, and really can't offer a lot of help.

You have way, WAY, WAY too much description. Not only are the details overwhelming, but they sometimes even contradict each other. I can see what you are trying to do, as in setting mood, indicating feelings, but it is just too much. I don't know how to put this gently, but you have 13 huge paragraphs and some small ones with dialogue, and all that is really communicated is that he is sitting on the riverbank, and his over-the-top irritating female friend has found him.

Don't be too upset with my analysis though, as I will cut my own stuff down to the point of non-existance, and it is hard for me to embellish. In fact, I'd probably say that he's sitting on the riverbank, bemoaning life, and upset that his female friend has found him. I doubt that THAT is much better, as it has nothing to offer the reader. We both need to work towards that middle ground, enough to be clear, but not too much to frustrate.

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Oh. Sorry. I always forget my manners. Welcome to the AD forums. I'm glad you like the writing here, and I'm sure you'll get lots of good advice. Just don't let it get to you if you feel a bit hurt. Nobody intentionally says things to hurt people here; they all mean well (but some are curmudgeons). :lol:

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I'm going to partially disagree with Trab. Not about the "welcome" but about your story. I really like your writing style. It's not that there's too much description, it's that there's too much description without anything happening. You need some action in there amongst the descriptions.

With nothing happening there's not enough to hold people there to read more. You have to get your hooks in the reader first.

It reminds me of a very popular book that I abhor called "Little, Big" -- not enough happens among the description to hold any interest. Even when nothing is happening, things happen.

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Guest Brandon T.

Well. That was fast. Not that I'm disappointed at all!

First, I'd like to thank you both for reading it first of all and second, offering your thoughts about it.

What Trab brought up is really sort of the corner stone of my writing style. I try to bring this sense of place and character and all of the intangible things and to give the internal landscape a little love because that's typically where my interests are drawn. Sort of internally and toward character and giving the characters a sense of self and identity. And in doing that, I always end up forgetting about the the plot and the action that has to go on outside. And when there are things going on, they're small things. Small things that end up tying into more introspective character development.

But I can totally see where you're coming from. Sort of. What do you think 'needs' to happen? That's always my thought when someone tells me that. What -should- happen? Because to me, the chapter was mostly about Wynn's first tentative steps toward dealing with the end of a relationship. The plot in my head was always more focused on the character than a series of events. Sort of the slow progression and internal changes happening at this moment in his life. And I meant to document and mark these changes with various settings and scenes and colors. That's why there was so much description. That -was- my action. Though I guess that's not very readable in the end.

Hm. BUT. Writing that requires explanation is obviously not effective writing. So. I think I'm gonna rethink this a bit. Thanks for the thoughts, guys. Much appreciated.

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Different authors have different styles. Stephen Donaldson is the first person that springs to mind as an author that is heavy on descriptions, so don't worry about that part. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with being heavy on descriptions. However, WBMS is right -- more needs to happen to hold the reader's interest.

Another suggestion is to break up some of those paragraphs. I, personally, find it easier to read if the paragraphs are shorter. Big chunks of text in a small space tend to make my eye wander to the next paragraph, rather than reading carefully.

The writing itself was fine. There were mistakes that an editor should pick up, but nothing too glaring.

In other words, a promising start. You've got things to work on, but what you have done shows potential. At least in my opinion.

PS: And welcome!

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If you're honestly looking for opinion, for feedback, and not ego-flattering words of praise, you've probably come to thte right place, because people tend to be honest here. Both Wibby and Trab just were. I will to, trying to offer adivce. If you don't want advice, it's best not to read on. If you do, I hope this helps.

I don't get the feel you know where you're going with this. What it feels like is you know a lot of words and are trying to splatter the page with them much like Jackson Pollock did to his canvasses. If you have a plot in mind, if this is going somewhere we'd like to visit, you need to make us want to go there with you. We neeed to feel there's a reward awating us if we keep reading.

What I felt is the more I read, the more of the same is what would be ahead of me. And it got a bit laborious, plowing through the verbiage, waiting for the interesting stuff to happen.

Now that's one person's opinion. I like stories that have some clarity, some forward movement, where I can anticipate some drama, where I am drawn to the characters and what is happening to them. What I know about your protagonist is he likes the drab, he was numb, he was beaten mentally, he's cold and likes the dark. If this is his character, he isn't exactly someone I'm going to want to spend time getting to know. I don't think I'm going to care about him.

So why do I want to continue reading? That's the question all readers will be asking. It's up to you to give them a reason. Wibby said as much. And he was right.

I don't know whether there was too much description, but that might be one way to put it. What I felt is the description was meaningless, that it didn't further the plot, that it was there more for your benefit than ours. Is it necessary? Perhaps it is, but it would be nice to be shown that.

You very obviously know how to write. Your structure and grammar are great. You're certainly capable. My opinion is you should try again, and when you do so, think about how readers will react to what you're writing. What would be your reaction to reading something that started like this. Would you continue?

This isn't meant to be discouraging. It's meant to get you out of such a literary mode and into a more accessible one for the reader. There are a lot of literary works written, and for some reason that's beyond my understanding, a lot that get published. So I am well aware some people might find this a whole lot more attractive than I do.

I hope one of those will chime in here, because I really don't want this to seem like piling on. But you asked, and I do want you to know my reaction.

Please keep trying. We all get better the more we write. I'm still learning, too. As my editors keep reminding me. They'd like the process to be a bit faster, that's all.


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Guest Brandon T.

Oh, you guys haven't been discouraged at all. Very helpful. Your thoughts are very much appreciated.

The paragraphs. I think that I would have to go back after finishing a story or a scene and break those up because if I get a lot of smaller paragraphs, my internal writing rhythm gets disrupted and the story's pacing goes astray and then there's no getting it back from there for me. But that's definitely a point to consider. In my word processor, it doesn't look that daunting, but I see now that I have to be mindful of how that translates to other screens and appears to different people.

Which leads me to the next point. I really SHOULD worry about how it reads to other people. I do, I really try to imagine how something will read. I read it aloud to check for rhythm and cadence and voice. I try to weed out the awkwardness and to work on brevity so things are dragged on and on and on with run-ons (I do miss them here and there, yes, most definitely), but you guys have pointed out that I should read more closely and to read in the mindset of people who don't share my tastes in writing. What Cole (I love your stories, by the way) said was true. I am in this literary mode and that's how I've always written, that's how I've always approached writing. From a literary standpoint. But that doesn't read, I see. It's not accessible or easy to read. It's difficult and requires a certain sort of taste. Changing will not be easy, and to be honest, I would really prefer to find some sort of... middleground between my current style and one that reads a little easier. Hm. Yay, I love new goals and challenges.

To answer your question, Cole, I would have continued reading it. Haha. I'm a big fan of literary works. They're my preferred genre. Andre Aciman's Call Me by Your Name and Thomas Hal Philips' The Bitterweed Path are really sort of my personal canon for gay literature. Both are literary and the plot is backseat at best to their character development and other matters such as setting and place. They're where I go for inspiration in terms of style and approach to dealing with emotions and thoughts and feelings in my writing. In the internet world, Rick Beck's Discovering Gregory is what I judge all other stories by. So, my tastes run along that literary, descriptive vein, I suppose. Growing up on Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Hurston and to a lesser extent Hemingway has left its mark in my writing and I don't know if I'll be able to shake it entirely without losing my identity or being able to look at something I've written and feel proud of it, you know? Not that I won't change. My style changes all of the time so I look forward to this next step. Exciting.

And Cole, you pointed out one of the themes of that chapter. More of the same. The whole thing was a drab depiction of life and how it is more of the same. The character couldn't be bothered to think of anything outside of himself or beyond the horizon because he's lived such a dull, listless existence, he's grow accustomed to those bends in the river. The description I felt wasn't meaningless because it was tied to the character. The whole imagery and things going on around him were meant to reflect his conclusions about what awaited him tomorrow; more of the same. But again, that's just how I write and apparently, my intentions went askew. Discussion of my influences and my personal preferences aside, I think the general consensus seems to be that I DO need to try to find that middleground in the writing, where my writing doesn't get in its own way and flows to wherever it's headed. But I generally REALLY dislike stories that have this set end with this and that happening to so and so. My favorite endings are those that aren't really endings. Those things that present a final scenario for the reader to experience and draw their own conclusions over. Like Chekov. His endings were always messy and left you wondering, questioning, and sometimes disgruntled. But that's just how I learned to end stories. And without an end, there really can be no plot in the traditional sense, I don't think. My stories are almost always driven by character.

So, this will be an interesting departure for me. Hm. You've given me a lot to think about. Thank you so much for you input and insight, guys. REALLY. Tremendous thanks.

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but you guys have pointed out that I should read more closely and to read in the mindset of people who don't share my tastes in writing.

The challenge will be to read it without the knowledge of where it is going. You, as the author, have some inkling of what is going to happen next, what is going to be said next. The reader does not. Your challenge is going to be to read that as if you had no idea of what is coming, and then determine if that description is enough to hold the reader, despite there not being any 'action'.

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Very well said. It is obvious I'm not the one to critique your writing, because I'm abysmal at literary, ambiguous stories. Some people love them. Like you do. And that's certainly your prerogative. I get frustrated when I read an entire story and have no inkling at the end how the various plot lines were resolved. Drives me nuts, actually. But I recognize that's me, not a problem with the writing. So more power to you if you can do this. It takes a different way of looking at the world than I have, that's all.

And Trab's point is excellent. It's one I struggle with too, and perhaps all authors. We know where the story's headed. And we usually want to hide it somewhat. So we have to give the reader enough to understand part of what's being said and lead him on to find out more without giving everything away, when we ourselves already know what's to be given away. It's a balancing act.


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Hello, and welcome, Brandon.

I agree a bit with Wibby and Cole: I think it takes some creativity to describe a boring, bland day but still compel a reader to want to read more. I also think breaking up the paragraphs into short, complete thoughts -- maybe four sentences each -- is a good average. I would avoid long paragraphs unless there's a very strong, compelling reason not to.

I'm a great believer in description, and I believe very much in the idea that -- at least for every new location or place -- the writer has a duty to give the reader as many details as possible of how it looks, feels, tastes, smells, along with what time it is and where it is, and what kind of mood permeates the scene. (I get real frustrated when I encounter stories that don't even provide a sentence or two to tell us where we are and the essentials of what it looks like: inside or outside? new or or old building? city or country? night or day? hot or cold? and so on.)

I agree that deciding on what kind of pace to use is a creative decision, but I'm definitely in the "don't bore us -- get to the chorus" school. I think there's a way to communicate what you're saying with the character's actions as well as in descriptive prose. Maybe splitting it up would help.

I'm reminded of a scene in one of Anne Rice's books, where a character merely walks into an old crumbling mansion outside New Orleans. I think she took more than three pages for the character to go from the outside to deep inside the house before there was even one sentence of dialog, but it was fascinating to read. Her use of language, description, and mood kept you going, and there was eventually a payoff.

But there's a limit to how far you can go with this. If you're a beginner (and we're all amateurs here, more or less), you'd do well to read a few books on Description and Setting. I like Monica Wood's Elements of Writing Fiction: Description from Writers Digest Press, as well as a newer book, Ron Rozelle's Description & Setting: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Believable World of People, Places, and Events.

I don't believe in slavishly following all the examples of writing books like this, but if you can come away with even a dozen ideas from any book on writing, then it's been worth reading. Even the ones I didn't like sometimes gave me a couple of nuggets that I found useful.

One other important point: if this is the very first page of your story, you gotta do everything you can to grab the reader and make them want to commit to reading what you have to say. If you take too long before getting to the point, you run the risk of boring them, or -- worse -- making them stop. Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile is an excellent list of do's and don'ts for any writer, and what Lukeman has to say works for lots of different kinds of writing, including fiction.

BTW: for the record, I just read what you submitted above, and thought it had some positive potential. My gut feeling is that it's about 1/3 long and needs to be cut down to more essentials. I would also avoid re-stating what you've said in a prior sentence. For example, there are ways to communicate that it's cold without saying "It's cold." Have the character pull his coat tighter around his neck, blow on his hands. Aboid the obvious whenever you can.

I'd also advise starting a new paragraph whenever another character speaks, and not to mix dialog and action unless the character talking is actually doing the action. To me, it looks cleaner and it places fewer obstacles in the path of the reader. (But bear in mind I come from a journalism & feature writing background for my own stories.)

I agree that a character-driven story without a traditional plot can work, but my experience is that usually there is a plot, which becomes the back-story of the characters. As long as it gets resolved to some point in the end, then it can still be a satisfying read, but it's definitely a tough challenge.

Keep at it -- I think you have some talent, and I look forward to reading your work.

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I'm going to partially disagree with Trab. Not about the "welcome" but about your story. I really like your writing style. It's not that there's too much description, it's that there's too much description without anything happening. You need some action in there amongst the descriptions.

I'd have to agree with Wibby. I, too, like your style but feel that more action and less paragraph length would aid the reader as well.

I certainly don't want you to stop - please post more!

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I read this twice, and looked at it (as much as I could) from two points of view: first as almost a prose poem, where the emphasis was placed on how the words work together, and second, as a sequence of events. Clearly, this was much more successful in the first view, though even there it seemed that sometimes you were reaching very far afield to make some of those metaphors, similes, etc, work. Remember the words of the great poet: "Less is more. I long for more." The sheer weight of the accumulation of metaphor in this piece is daunting, and to that end I would suggest that some of the details that you visualize in this scene be used as details, not as metaphors. Let them be simple, descriptive comments: "Right at his feet, a rock beneath the waterline created tiny whorls in the riverwater, forming and disappearing and forming again." (that was my attempt at the lyric voice of your piece - sorry it's kind of lame).

From a narrative point of view? three pieces: My boyfriend just left me without explanation.

I'm depressed. And my crazy, fag-hag friend just found me and started bugging me.

You have an incredible grasp of language, and clearly some interesting things to say. I hope you'll keep posting and talking to us.



Oh yeah...Wibby, I can't believe you didn't like Little, Big! Phillistine! :lol:

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Hi Brandon, welcome to AD.

On the upside you use some really beautiful imagery, and I have to say I enjoyed it once I'd woken from the coma your paragraph length put me in. ;) Print seems to be different, and you can get away with longer paragraphs. It's amazing how layout and font choice affect reading.

I guess it's all down to style, and inevitably yours isn't mine. October Gray is not a light fluffy read: it's heavy, and I prefer lighter stuff.

I hope the above doesn't seem too negative. It's not meant to be.


Camy - the literary heathen.

PS I love the title!

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I just want to welcome Brandon, too.

I cannot offer a critique at the moment as I have lots of troubles with my Net connection.

However I do want to say how pleased I am with everyone's responses to Brandon's work, including Brandon for graciously accepting the well meant advice and critiques.

This is what we hope the Forums will encourage, interest and helping each other in writing.

Wonderful guys. :lol:

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Guest Brandon T.

Aw, guuuuuuuuuuuuuuys. Thanks bunches. Both for the compliments and the thoughts. So. I reread it, and I realized that things were a bit more vague than I'd intended them to be and far more vague than they needed to be and when I tried to rewrite it, the whole thing came loose at the seams. I just couldn't reconcile what I -wanted- the story to be and what it -needed- to be. So instead of trying to beat the prose into some form that wasn't like wading through maple syrup, I decided to instead use what I'd written as inspiration for something else. Which I'm now working on and I hope to have up at some point in time.

Pecman, I've always intermingled my dialogue with the actions. I've always been reluctant to separate words from the immediate actions that follow them because in my mind it creates this disconnect between the body and the words and the words just become these things that float out, unattached, between two characters and I don't think that's always the case. Though I do see what you're saying. Dialogue should start new paragraphs. I'm thinking I'm going to be more wary of that. And more wary of the paragraph size in general. Trying to keep things less daunting and intimidating.

Camy's right though. Font size and styles definitely affect it. As does screen resolution. In the future, I will definitely be asking for help breaking up paragraphs just until I get a better feel for it. Also, Camy, you weren't negative at all! I do understand that there are some writers who fear criticism and react with anger and resistance to change and improvement and sometimes it's just insecurity talking and sometimes those writers have been the brunt of unnecessarily harsh criticism in the past, but I'm not one of those writers and you guys haven't been harsh in any way. So, don't feel reluctant at all to give me your thoughts. I have nothing but the utmost faith in the sincerity of this site. I know it's all from a helpful place and you wouldn't waste the time writing out thoughts if you weren't kind and you weren't trying to help. I have hard time picturing AD as a place where senseless acts of abuse occur. So, no worries.

Really. I'm saying thank you a lot, I know, so I'm cut this brief and just thank you for all of your thoughts. The next story I post, I'm going try and incorporate all of what you've said and all of the critiques you've given. I'd be silly to be angry when I'm getting advice from established authors in the genre I hope to reach. If anything, I have nothing but more to learn. No malice, none of that bad, negative stuff from me. So. Thank you for the welcomes and the advice. I'm off to tinker on my next thing. Inspired by this discussion of the creative process and styles and the like. This has been quite enlightening.


I think you guys were right on this one. There was a lot of weighty prose and it really didn't go anywhere emotionally either, which was my intention. It dragged. Badly. A problem, I'm hoping to fix in the October Gray revamped-inspired story. Which really won't have the same setting, but, hey, that's writing. One minute you're sure and the next you're upside down, confused.

Trim, trim, trim, I think is what my new mantra's gonna be. Trim away the excess.

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Okay, I can't help myself: trim, trim, snip, snip, and you end up a eunuch if you're not careful. :lol:

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