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Chasing Shadows: First Novel, Please read and provide feedback (Thanks for your time!)

Its my first time, but please...don't go easy on me..

regards,
triniti j.

The sounds of the light rain shower were evident to those who had awakened at that early hour or to those who’d never fallen asleep. There was no breeze, the only signs of movement were created from force of gravity as water fell from the sky, cleansing everything in its path. The streets would dry quickly, and by mid-morning a good majority of the city would never even know that it had rained. Camille Dowling sat staring at the television barely noticing the images on the screen. It was perfect, she thought, the dark; slickness of the morning matched her mood. She was tired, her eyes were glossy, the lids irritated. She stood up, stretched and walked over to her bedroom mirror and tried to smile, but did not recognize the person staring back her.

Angry with herself, Camille turned away and walked over to the bay windows of her upscale town home. It was clear, even as it rained, that it was going to be a sweltering day. Anyone who’d lived in Houston, even for any amount of time knew that the city was famous for its weather, and its reputation for changing every hour. Camille stared at the young magnolia trees that lined the street of her small complex and made a note to schedule maintenance for her front yard the next week. It was strange how her life had become a series of mental post it’s, completely lacking in spontaneity. Call about this, schedule that. Don’t forget to pay this bill or that one. Break up with Darryl…cause he aint shit.

Camille had spent a good portion of the morning agonizing over her relationship with Darryl Collins. Even though he was only 28 years old, Darryl was apparently suffering from, Senility or some early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Camille had witnessed his failing memory the night before as she watched him approach another woman at a local bar. Darryl had conveniently forgotten that he was supposed to be in a committed relationship with Camille. She had shown up at Al’s to surprise him, knowing that the pool hall was his favorite hang out during the week. The surprise was hers when she found him at a booth with the neighborhood hoe.

Camille knew that he wasn’t worth the tears that she had shed; so, she cried more so for what could have been. Darryl wasn’t the right man for her. She had known that from the beginning. Truthfully, he wasn’t her type at all. He was around 5’9, small build, long dread locs and huge ego. But when they met, he said all of the right things and came at her like a gentleman, so she overlooked the lack of immediate attraction. Her biological clock was ticking and Darryl had been the means to end Camille’s loneliness and create the kind of family she’d always longed for. He was reason to make her forget the past, and create a future where she could control her own destiny. The idea, Camille thought was laughable. No one controlled his or her own destiny.

Wiping her eyes and nose with the back of her hand, she grimaced as she noticed smudges of mucus and tears. Biting down on her bottom lip, she contemplated calling in sick. Ultimately, she’d decide against that too. She had received a final reprimand earlier in the month for taking off with out notice and couldn’t afford to be tardy or absent again. Camille hated her job as telephone customer services representative, but it earned her a decent paycheck that along with a somewhat unconventional part-time job, allowed her to live comfortably. She resented having to make a living inside of a drab colorless office and wished for the freedom that working in a call center did not provide. If she could have had her way, she would have gone to Art school and traveled the world as a freelance photographer, possibly working for National Geographic or Time magazine. But as it seemed, that dream would have to be deferred.

Camille jumped in the shower hoping that the heat and steam would help with loosen the tense muscles in her shoulder and neck. Her shower was five minutes longer than it should have been because she was determined to be on time for work. Camille stood in front of her bathroom mirror critiquing her 5’2, 140 lb frame. She figured that she could definitely stand to lose 5 or 10 lbs but knew that she wouldn’t because liked her curves and even more so, she liked to eat. Her naturally curly hair was shoulder length and had a tendency to frizz in humid weather but the style suited her. She thought that her almond shaped eyes were her best feature but lamented that her light complexion did nothing to hide the smattering of freckles across her nose. She stuck her tongue out and smiled, reminding her that self-criticism was not a healthy way to start her day. Grateful that is was a casual day at work; Camille dressed in a wrinkled t-shirt and jeans recycled from an unwashed clothes pile. Eyeing two other baskets of clothes, she made another mental note to finish her laundry that evening.

She glanced at her watch and realized that breakfast at home was not an option; she would have to nibble on something at work. She grabbed her keys, purse and cell phone and walked to her car. As she backed out of the driveway she sighed heavily, realizing that her day wouldn’t be productive until she handled the problem of Darryl. Camille scrolled through the contact list on her cell phone, and dialed Darryl’s number. It rang four times before he answered. She had decided to make the confrontation as short as possible, wanting the conversation to last only for the amount of time it took her to drive to work. And since her job was around the corner from her home, five minutes was all she needed.

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Replies to This Discussion

The first paragraph starts with a pretty good feel for images, feeling, emotion and mood; but the details throughout the rest bog you down and change the voice and style of your writing. I would attempt to make the story read as a blend of both.

Overall, I am not connected to Camile. She is a basic person who hates her job and is in a bad relationship. She has brought the relationship problem on herself. Why should I care about her or the story? Perhaps the story should start later with the confrontration/breakup or leave out a lot of details later to move the story along in the beginning until the reader is pulled in. For instance what kind of full-time job she has doesn't matter at this point.

Overall, the writing could be more concise since some words are unnecessary at all or at this point such as the word "that" and prepositional phrases and other clauses that don't add much. The first sentence basically says, People who were awake heard it raining. So what?

Here's a quick edit of the first paragraph:

Camille Dowling sat staring at the television barely noticing the images or the sound of light rain. The dark slickness of the predawn morning matched her mood. She was tired. Her eyes were glossy and the lids irritated. The rain cleansed everything in its path but she knew she'd have to take steps to clean up the mess she'd made. She stood up, stretched and walked over to her bedroom mirror. She thought she was smiling but the mirror said otherwise.

Here's a quick edit of the last paragraph:

She glanced at her watch and realized breakfast at home was not an option. She grabbed her keys and purse and walked to her car. As she backed out of the driveway she almost hit the mailbox. She realized she would not be able to concentrate on anything until she handled the problem of Darryl. She picked up her cell phone and dialed his number. She had decided to make it a five minute confrontation. The amount of time it took her to drive to work. It rang four times. "Hi sweetheart, he answered. She didn't see the stop sign.

This story has potential and just needs some rearranging by hooking the reader early, and then editing and tweaking.
I LOVE IT! I usually only read the first 2 paragraphs, but honey I finished this. I hope Darryl and the hoe get what's coming to them.
OOWEE
Hey Triniti,
I want to first say that I loved the feeling and the discription you use in the your paragraph because I really had a mental picture off everything. I didn't feel overwhelmed with to much details or to little details.
As I was reading your second paragraph you said Darryl showed early signs of Alzhemier's disease, I wasn't sure if this was a metphor because of the way he was acting or if he really had the disease. I'm not quite sure what their age range are. I was under the impression in the first paragraph that maybe she's a young adult woman with a much older man or if they are in the same age group?
I would love for you give me your opinion of my chapter as well.
I'm not an editor, so I won't get into the details. I didn't read the story the same way as Usiku, but I think his points are valid. A lot of reading is based on the readers. I read the other comments as well, and as you can see, we all have out opinions. Take them all in, marinate on them, and make use of a good editor. Usiku dead an excellent re-edit of your first 2 paragraphs (good job brah). What I decided to do, to allow for my criticque to be consistent, is to use a system. After a little searching, I pulled these critique from llumina Press. They are more toward a finished book, but they apply. There are others questions that can be asked, and fully expounded upon, but its early and I thought these would fit. Trinity, hopes this works. Now I have to get back to my own novel. Please check out my website and sign my guestbook. (sharpebooksonline.com)

Overall Structure:

1. Where are the ups? The story pulls me in. I’m interested in Camille personal story. We all make mistakes and often find ourslelves helplessly confused.
2. Where are the downs? None, since this is a synopsis. There are non obvious downs.
3. Does the action rise toward a climax or peter out without quite making it? I suspect it will rise when she takes that 5 minute conversation with Darryl.
4. Should the author lengthen the authorr introduction or cut it out altogether and get right into the action? N/A
5. Is the middle too long? Is the payoff too quick? Nope, not really applicable. The story flows well

Flow and Momentum:

1. Does the reader get bored at any particular place? NOPE
2. Is the author keeping the reader curious or has the author, through the questions left unanswered, made the reader deeply committed to finding out what happens next? Yep. I love the line about Darryl displaying senility at age 28.
3. Does the author need to raise the stakes at any particular place to avoid losing the momentum of the story? Not at this point.

Plot and consistency:
1. Does the plot “work?” So far, yes. Just a synopsis, but I can tell there will be tremendous conflict resolution and mental anguish/growth already.
2. Are all the loose ends tied up or are there dangling threads of the story that need to be closed? Nope, Not at this point.
3. Is there a beginning, a middle and an end? Yes – very good
4. Does one follow logically from the other? Absolutely
5. Is there at least one subplot that works well with the main plot? Not sure yet, but more than likely it is. Something for the writer to think about.
6. Did the author lose track at any point (for example: use a blue object in one scene that mistakenly turns red during the next)? No

Characterizations:
1. Are the main characters fully developed? Yes, at this point.
2. Does the reader care what happens to them? I do. She makes me feel Camille
3. Do we know who they are, how they think, how they will act in any given situation? Camille yes,
4. Are they true to themselves and their own motivation? Camille is confused, and it shows. She’s an adult, job, car, blah, blah, blah, but wipes the back of her nose like she is 14 or 15. Love that.
5. Do they think their own thoughts? Yes
6. Do we know what they want and care if they get it? Yes.
7. Are there any two characters who think so much alike they might as well be one person? Too early to say
8. Are the characters believable, them and their actions - Yes

Grammar/Mechanics/ Clarity (word usage, sentence structure):
1. Is the writing grammatically correct? Yes
2. Do sentences flow smoothly? Yes
3. Are there too many sentences in passive voice? No
4. Are sentences convoluted instead of straightforward? No
5. Are there too many words? No
6. Are words used correctly? Is the meaning clear? Yes

Point of View:
1. Does the author maintain a consistent point of view? Yes, I can see Camille trying to figure out life with boyfriend and low-end job. She wants a real man, but clearly has settled for a boy in a man’s body. But, also doesn’t appear she is all that stable either. So the Law of Attraction is working here. I might be jumping the gun, after all this is just an excerpt.
2. Or does the author jump from head to head thereby confusing the reader? No Jumping at this point.
3. Does the point of view work in this story or might a different point of view work better? No, we are into Camille’s head, and it works well.

Market Potential:
1. Is this a story that would appeal to a large mass market or is it one that would appeal to a smaller more targeted market? This is too early to tell, but from the beginning it is a story that would draw a reader in. The writing flows well, and it is not contrived. The Market potential will depend on the larger story. A synopsis would be good to tag along with this excerpt.
2. Who would want to read this book? Definitely women, and I think the age group will range from late teen to mature adult. Men, well, again, only an excerpt.
3. Does the author consider his audience when writing? I believe so, but this goes back to lack of synopsis. I believe the author is aiming at the mature audience, possibly working women. Don’t know. I’m a man, and I like to read, and I do like what I’ve read thus far. I like her language, her descriptive flow. Too many newer books are more into dialog and this and that happened. I love reading a book that takes time to paint a visual picture of both emotion and setting. Triniti does that well.

Summary:
1. What do we think overall? Love what I read overall. The key is to have a strong story to tell, with enough emotional highs, lows, some serious thought provoking issues that matter to the reading audience.
2. Does the book work or does it need work? Only a synopsis – but I think it will work based on what I said above, as well as the intended audience.
3. If it needs editing, how much does it need? All books need editing. LOL But the writer appears to have a fairly good grasp of it – first time or not. (smile)
I do not know how creditable my opinion will because I am not an editor but I enjoy writing and marketing is my specialty. The imagery in the first three sentences had so much power and convinced me to read the excerpt but I became lost when your voice was gone with the wind for lack of a better phrase. The entire pulse of the book has to have the same standard as the first three sentences. I asked myself was it premature to tell the reader, ‘the main character was unrecognizable in the mirror.” Before I appropriate the next paragraph, I did not know what to expect was she abused or suffering from self-esteem problems.

Sometimes Standard English (being proper) in one paragraph and speaking in black dialect in another paragraph can confuse the reader. Also the following words are changes in the voice such as sweltering day, neighbor hoe, cause he aint shit. Some of unnecessary verbiage is in the following sentence, “Anyone who’d lived in Houston, even for any amount of time knew that the city was famous for its weather, and its reputation for changing every hour.”

More information is needed about Darryl. I can't wait to read the revised version. Thanks for sharing and Usiku great job..
You caught my attention. I would like to know more about Darryl, and if this is why she is so sad.Punch up the mood with more action. I like the direction you are going, just needs more bam!
Hi Triniti J.: It's summer of 2011 in H-town and I've finally read your first chapter. I'm a Houston writer too and so I am quite familar with the changing weather, and the heat. Having said that, I must confess your opening almost put me to sleep. I want to get the story from the characters, not the writer. Your set-up was way too long. And I didn't get any dialouge. Period. If she is alone say so, but she has to think!. What does her ex tell her? SAY IT! What does she say in response? Don't keep her inside her head, bring her out and show her to us. A late night phone call from a trusted friend, or family member. A rehashing of the previous weeks conversations with her ex lover. LET HER TALK, NOT YOU!!! Your sentence structure is fine and you have good flow, but we are going to need a crucial element of fiction, CONFLICT. Everybody is breaking up, tell me why I should care less about your protagonist and her situation. Give me drama. And not just any drama, I want to see, hear and feel pain. remorse, regret, hell maybe even a touch of toxic anger. Keep writing everyday and remember to keep the story hot amd flowing.

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