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First Page Saturday: OH MY GOD! MY GIRLFRIEND'S A BARBARIAN…...

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OH MY GOD! MY GIRLFRIEND’S A BARBARIAN… (Or POLITICIAN? can’t decide)

A Sharp Edged Narrative of Characters Tangled Up In the Passion Realm

…AND SOME MEN ARE FROM GRAMMATIKA CHALLINGA

And the moral of this dream (Tet) is, don’t take lifestyle lessons from cultural newcomers-obviously.

Once, enclosed within a time cycle, a ten year one, there were six living entities bound by the laws of material nature moving as individuals inside a complete whole. Constantly engaged in profit-minded service this handful of living beings, it should be mentioned, have read the right books but in the wrong order. One of these transient, presently earthbound beings is Omni and his girlfriend/shrink was Neon Light. Neon, working late tying up some loose ends, planned to surprise Omni and Nivea with his favourite, a triple cheese-on-triple cheese (with extra grilled cheese and kidney beans) on a dingy-sized pizza, big enough for three of them to share. If she stayed over then from Blackfriars it’d be easy for her to walk to Tri-Kilo before commercial markets opened. Neon was at a great point in her life now, after being led astray, finding her way back…slowly. She loved her job, she loved hanging out with her boyfriend and old chum at there shared flat. Finally, she was gradually beginning to feel like the point of life where you wait for something to happen, was passing, and the best part was yet to come. She hadn’t spoken to her annoying parents in ages, gladly. Whenever father called to say he’d touched down and was holding discussions near, especially at his consulting house, the Analyses Of Finite Commodities Affiliates, a large consultancy building for fiscal members in Immortal Approachville, she always made sure she was out the area or previously engaged, getting her big brother Nick to cover (to Nick’s half-amazement at the length of this family feud and his half-presumption that it would only continue, unless she had a proper one-on-one with their mother). Yes, the time had come for a truce in the parent-daughter war which she first initiated, and now it seemed all involved were softening with age so sit down talks were fast becoming inevitable. Their final camel’s back incident years ago came about when she ducked out of University, because of pre-romanticized ideas of it being some ridged academics sanctum of literature where one could successfully transmigrate from apprentice to master. When she got to Uni, the one in west Zone1 and supposedly rated fourth best in the country, it became apparent that this was not to be the case. Neon returned back from her family ponderings of yesteryear, and refocused her eyes to turn off her CPU and prepare to leave work.
But freakishly at the same time, Vienna was hailing a black cab with Nick following, watching, then tracking behind from a safe distance. The cab’s "on duty’ light came on as it pulled over so Nick ran back to his own car with a head full of determined spears, ready to pounce with questions when she reached her destination, a destination that Nick was unaware of. His levels of suspicion were beginning to reach a plateau. In separate vehicles and a few cars apart they entered Tri-Kilo. She stopped outside the Shadowless Towers east-facing car park entrance. It was now his levels of suspicion reached its peak! She paid the cab driver, looked up, and around. Since their blazing row the sky had completely darkened for the night and the spotless streets, usually busy with brokers, and traders, rushing back and fourth across squares were completely empty. She went over to one of the large, air-carrier-sized metal shutters sealing Shadowless off from the outside world and began to tamper about with the flashing digilock. Nick watched from his parked car, battling with Mr P Actience, undecided on what step to take next. He grabbed his moby balancing the two merits of, phoning her to scream that he was fifty meters behind and psychotic, against what Mr P Atience was whispering in his mind, advising that he first: wait and see why in Krsna’s paramantra was she entering his place of work when 731 Filter Systems was down the block and, why she was using a key thought up until a heartbeat ago, impossible to be in her possession. But see now, this was a different game, and he wanted confirmation of exactly what she was playing at there, as the fibre optic interface, the only light anywhere near the shutters, illuminated her steamy breath. He observed, thinking, with Vienna, trying to look as nonchalant as possible in her big dark coat and handbag, stepping under, by now, rising shutters into the darkness of the car park.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

37 Comments

  1. Lurker
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 05:11:13

    I’m sorry. I tried to read this, but I gave up after the fourth sentence (not counting the confusing clutter at the beginning). By then I still didn’t understand what is going on or why I should care. Combine this with these long paragraphs and there is no reason for me (as a reader) to push on.

  2. Julie
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 05:34:46

    Wow, someone must have bought an ENORMOUS magnetic poetry kit…

  3. M.K. Hobson
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 05:43:15

    Is it April Fool’s Day already?

  4. Karenna
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 05:43:33

    I’m sorry… My usual practice is to find something positive to say when I comment on things like this. I had a very hard time doing that in this case.

    First of all, shorter paragraphs, please! My eyes went all squiggly trying to read those huge blocks of text, and you jump from one thought or concept to another to another in the space of a single paragraph. I could be wrong here, but I think generally the rule of thumb is one idea, one paragraph.

    Please watch the adverbs. Those “ly” words. I’m guilty of overusing them myself, but you use more than one in the same sentence a couple times, and not only does it stand out, but it sounds redundant even when they don’t quite mean the same thing. For example, “Finally, she was gradually…” You don’t need both “ly” words there.

    Verb tenses. You skip back and forth between past and present a couple times, and it makes some of what you have here read like your pre-writing notes on the story rather than the story itself.

    I’m not sure whether your first four lines, before the first big block-paragraph, are intended as a title and introduction or what… Are they part of your story, or are they there for our benefit?

    The first sentence of your first big block paragraph is intriguing. But then it goes on to read like notes rather than an actual story, and it all falls flat. Maybe it’s because my eyes went squiggly, but I couldn’t really find any action to draw me into the story. Or any way to relate to the characters. (And who’s Vienna? She’s mentioned at the beginning of the second paragraph, but I didn’t see any mention of her in the first.)

    Watch your spelling, punctuation, etc. “…there shared flat” should be “their shared flat.” “Whenever father called…” should either be “Whenever her father called” or should be “Whenever Father called.” That sort of thing.

    Overall, you might have an interesting concept here, but it’s very hard to tell amongst what I’ve noted above and other issues. Unfortunately, this reads very much like an unedited first draft/story outline. With some careful proofreading, serious revisions, and a really catchy hook, your story itself might come to match the great idea you have in mind.

  5. Nadia
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 06:04:41

    I gave up before I could reach the end of the 1st gigantic paragraph. You really need to learn to break things up in digestible chunks. It’s just really really overwhelming to see a ton of text in such density unless it has some really hooky and striking voice. Even then you may lose your reader.

    OTOH — I may not be your target reader. :)

  6. KatS
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 06:31:37

    As others have mentioned, please break up your paragraphs.

    Also, I suggest you start with the action to pull in the reader, unless this is a prologue of some sort that prefaces the real action. If that were the case, I’d still break up the narrative – it’s too tiring to read as-is.

    Less adverbs and tighter sentences would be good, too. You have too many compound clauses such as:

    Yes, the time had come for a truce in the parent-daughter war which she first initiated, and now it seemed all involved were softening with age so sit down talks were fast becoming inevitable.

    That could be rewritten to something like this:

    She had started this parent-daughter war, and it was now time to declare a truce.

    And quite honestly, I got the feeling you were writing with a thesaurus by your computer. You need to simplify your language and bring in more active verbs.

  7. Ros
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 06:43:59

    You can’t call a character Nivea. Well, not unless you have a sponsorship deal, I suppose.

  8. Leah
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 06:58:26

    There is actually a singer out there named Nivea, who is romantically linked to Lil Wayne. I am too old to know this myself–I googled the name because I thought there was a mythical character w/that name. Still, chances are good that an editor would make you change it.

    Same comment about the verb tenses. Also, it’s hard to tell whose POV you want to follow. And this really reads like a giant summary–I wondered if this was actually a very lengthy query, rather than a first page. At this rate, you’ll be done with the novel in less than 20 pages.

    I found it hard to follow, but then I have a sinus headache and the kids are whining for breakfast. I do like some of the world-building details and situations you describe–it sounds like this could be interesting and funny. But you need to play out the scenes you describe, add dialogue, take us inside at least one person’s head…. Everybody starts somewhere. You have a good idea, and just need to develop some skills–which is better than having skills, but boring, derivative ideas. Keep writing and good luck!

  9. Alisa
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 07:18:12

    oh….my…uhm, yeah, wow. that’s… *hands you ice cream & tissues* think you’re gonna need them by the time the day is over.

    As said before–break up paragraphs. I’m not sure I actually managed to read this all, its scattered and just all crunched together.

    This looks more like brainstorming, quick scribble of a scene snippet that pops to mind and saved for later than a even the roughest of first drafts.

    Slow down, there’s definitely some imagination there. Possibly some real potential for a very interesting humorous sci-fi world. But–the world-building rammed in here is….done RoadRunner on Crack speed leaving it senseless, more adjectives and adverbs isn’t the key of getting worldbuilding “out of the way”. That’s the sense I get too, info-dump-rush-rush-rush get the “boring” of the world building out of the way to get to the fun parts.

    And I’m not sure who the character even is, other than female. Not the vaguest sense of *who* she is. What she’s thinking, or anything but her favorite is extra cheese & kidney beans on some kind of pizza…not a good hook for getting sympathy/interest in the character.

  10. Carolyn
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 07:24:51

    I have to confess – I took one look at that humongous paragraph (or was it two? hard to tell) and couldn’t read. My eyes just aren’t that good anymore.

    Sorry.

  11. Stephanie
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 07:27:26

    I’m afraid this lost me about two sentences in. Apart from the formatting problem–unless it’s the author’s intention to present all this text in one giant paragraph, in which case I suggest shorter paragraphs are easier on the readers’ eyes–there was a ton of info-dump presented in omniscient 3rd person POV. I couldn’t tell where the author left off and the characters were supposed to begin. This approach simply doesn’t make for effective storytelling.

  12. theo
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 07:34:22

    *blinks*

    I need to say up front that I am probably your least likely target audience. Even so, there is so much…stuff in here and, like everyone else mentioned, in such huge chunks, I was going cross-eyed trying to read it.

    This example:

    Whenever father called to say he'd touched down and was holding discussions near, especially at his consulting house, the Analyses Of Finite Commodities Affiliates, a large consultancy building for fiscal members in Immortal Approachville, she always made sure she was out the area or previously engaged, getting her big brother Nick to cover (to Nick's half-amazement at the length of this family feud and his half-presumption that it would only continue, unless she had a proper one-on-one with their mother).

    is 80 words of which half the information is pointless at this time.

    Whenever Father visited his consulting house, she made sure she was unavailable or she’d get her big brother, Nick to cover for her.

    Quick example, but you get the idea. Unless all that info about what her father does and where he works is pertinent in the first two or three pages, work it in later. All that additional info is part of what made my eyes water.

    I agree about wondering if this is a prologue. I kept waiting for something to happen. For some dialogue, for…anything. Even the part about Nick and Vienna (which made a picture of a Vienna sausage come immediately to mind) meant nothing because I didn’t care. There was nothing to draw me to the characters.

    I know how harsh this sounds and I’m sorry. And understand, please, this is just me, but it reads like a bad dream someone jotted notes about and never went back to make them coherent. Like I said though, I’m not your target reader, I’m sure. To my mind, it needs a great deal of tightening up, reformatting and rethinking.

    Good luck.

  13. Anonymous
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 07:56:54

    Edited by Jane because I don’t think we need to engage in clinical diagnosis based on someone’s fictional efforts.

  14. DS
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 08:09:20

    I’ve read a bit of experimental fiction where the arrangement of the words on the paper is part of the story telling. If that is your intent, I would suggest you reconsider the placement. The wall of text overwhelmed me and I simply gave up.

  15. AnotherLori
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 08:22:42

    **scratching head**

    I need coffee.

  16. Anon76
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 08:27:14

    First, thank you for having the courage to put your work out there, but…

    This reads to me like a long ramble. Everthing is clumped together (and not just the paragraphs.) It seems that whatever popped into your head hit the page at a frantic and prolonged pace. If that was your intent, then you certainly achieved it, but IMHO, this, as is, would be a very hard sell.

  17. Seressia
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 08:39:20

    I think it’s meant to be some sort of tongue-in-cheek style like Robert Asprin’s MythAdventures series. I can’t say for sure because my eyes began to throb with the first four lines and then refused to go through the following block of text.

    I can’t add anything else here, except to say that blocks of text work in the classics and perhaps in literary fiction but they do not work in commercial fiction. You have several readers here saying they were intimidated by the wall of text. Take that to heart.

    I feel like the author is telling the story instead of the characters. Few people do this well–the author as character. It smacks a little of “I am brilliant, let me show you why,” and the story becomes a vehicle of your supposed cleverness instead of a tale of your characters’ adventures.

    I would advise doing a lot of reading in the genre you wish this to be, then pick it up again. Or better yet, start over.

  18. Fae Sutherland
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 09:07:19

    Is this a joke? I appreciate that some commenters seem to be taking it seriously, but…it’s a joke, right?

    *hopes so*

  19. joanne
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 09:44:49

    Those people are not bad writers. They are not bad people. They are not even stupid people.

    What they are is schizophrenic.

    Oh an excellent clarification, thank you.

    Given that my first thought upon reading was that it was inevitable that the boys-from-Yale would someday offer an entry, and that this was their effort, I’m happy to accept your interpretation.
    Mental illness makes the writing excusable.

  20. anon
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 10:10:38

    I will say I liked a lot of your imagery. It was vivid. But I didn’t feel a connection or interest in the characters themselves because your first page is a pizza with a little too much on it. =) I get a feeling like you’re trying too hard to be out-there with your style and sense of humor. I also get a feeling you have the ability to write something fun. This is just too overwhelming, both technically and stylistically, to be enjoyable. And that’s just for a first page. If you’ve written in this style for an entire novel, you must be exhausted. I’m impressed by the force and liveliness of your work, but I could never read a whole novel written this way.

    It might work a little better if you just took your main character and opened with her. Stay in her POV, break up your long paras into nice readable ones, let us come to care about her problem, keep your interesting imagery but don’t overwhellm us or your character with it. Don’t give up. You seem to have fun, writing. That’s important. I hear too many writers gripe about how they hate the process. True, it is work, but no cause for such misery.

    I agree with posters who say you should read more, and study what you read, to get a better feel for characterization. A lot of interesting quirks do not necessarily make an interesting character.
    Good luck.

  21. Anion
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 10:42:59

    …I don’t get it.

    Sorry.

  22. anon
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 11:29:38

    Schizophrenia is the first thing I thought when attempting to read this. I don’t understand any of it.

  23. JoB
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 11:40:12

    White space.
    Patience.

    Use more words.

    .
    TELLING

    .
    But freakishly at the same time, Vienna was hailing a black cab with Nick following, watching, then tracking behind from a safe distance. The cab's ‘on duty' light came on as it pulled over so Nick ran back to his own car with a head full of determined spears, ready to pounce with questions when she reached her destination, a destination that Nick was unaware of.

    .
    SHOWING

    .
    Freakishly, at the same time Vienna was hailing a black cab on Main, Nick was trying for a baby blue one on State Street.

    No luck. The cab's ‘on duty' light came on as it pulled over.

    “Damn it to hell.” Nick ran back to his own car with a head full of determined spears, ready to pounce with questions when she reached her destination.

    First he had to catch her. I spend my life one pace behind. He swung into traffic, following the reflection of her tail lights in the rain-slicked streets. No idea where she was going. None.

    .
    If you take time to give us the step by step and the visuals and the internals you let the reader ‘live’ the story.

  24. Anion
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 12:26:28

    By the way, just a general comment, not just to this particular author:

    Don’t refer to your own work as “sharp-edged” or “hilarious” or “stunningly well-written” or “ground-breaking” or any number of other complimentary phrases. It automatically makes any industry professional you show it to assume it’s going to be crap.

  25. Deb Kinnard
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 15:01:10

    I may be your target reader if this piece turns out to be what I believe it might be. Fantasy or SF romance? If so, provided no vampires, werewolves or other such comes in, I’m right there wanting to see what this might become. Also Jennifer Stevenson would “get” this, because the things she writes have a lot of us scratching our heads at first reading…and they end up brilliant.

    That said, I couldn’t track it. There was too much going on for me. Take one character (at this point I don’t mind which) and start in his or her viewpoint, and give me what they’re DOING instead of a lot of background information.

    After you’ve revised this as the other commenters suggest, I think it could turn out amazing.

    My take.

  26. Julia Sullivan
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 16:53:27

    If you are trying to do a Jennifer Stevenson/Robert Rankin/Kathy Acker/Alasdair Gray whoever thing, it is not working. This is just word salad.

    Experimental writing is ten times as hard as mainstream writing. Every word in an experimental novel is carefully selected.

    Read it out loud. If you cannot read it out loud, edit the stuff you stumble over. Then read it out loud again. Kathy Acker reads out loud like a dream. It has to read naturally, no matter how out-there and wacky and edgy you want it to be.

  27. Shiloh Walker
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 17:55:44

    I’m not getting either. I’m sorry. Not even sure what to suggest because I’m not sure exactly what’s up.

  28. Heather H
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 18:44:19

    Barely a quarter in and I thought it had to be someone’s joke.

  29. Joanne Renaud
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 20:51:13

    Anonymous at #13 had written a long, interesting post about the writing of schizophrenics, and how this page reminded her strongly of many things written by her relatives who had schizophrenia. I’m really sorry it was taken down, it was fascinating reading… and I think she had a point.

    This writing completely baffles me.

  30. Diana
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 21:24:20

    No real comment on the writing, but can we all please stop playing arm-chair psychologist? Anon #13’s comment was inappropriate; just because you don’t immediately “get” a writing excerpt (for the record, I didn’t understand it either), that doesn’t give you license to diagnose people you don’t know with serious medical illnesses.

  31. Arianna Skye
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 22:56:15

    Very hard to read, but I applaud Jane for editing #13’s comment. Just because someone’s writing is hard to follow, doesn’t mean the person has a mental disorder or illness. Who knows, maybe that was the effect they were going for. I commend this person for being brave enough to allow their work to be posted. Please have some respect.

  32. just saying
    Sep 13, 2009 @ 06:24:44

    I applaud Jane for editing comment #13.

    I’ve read things like this before, and the authors were most definitely not mentally ill, they were however very young, mostly early teens, without the skill or experience to quite manage the world building and pacing and writing just as fast as they can. In some cases with no patience or care for the “minor” details trying to get to THE SCENE be it sex, action, some great comedy as fast as they can.

    I’ve tried to help edit things like this before, namely my thirteen year old daughter’s creative writing assignments for school written down in such a rush that it is enough to make your eyes cross and water and head explode trying to sort the dang thing out. It’s enough to make me want to tear out and the go rounds of I don’t care what’s good enough for your teacher, do it right have ended with huffing puffing stomping and door slamming on my daughter’s part seem endless. There’s hope though because the next time she comes up with an assignment to be looked over, what she huffed and puffed and thought I was a big meanie about the time before has been corrected within her writing and it’s on to the next “battle”.

    With your average schools being more and more concerned about teaching to the tests that help decide funding and school ranking, failing schools getting cut on funding, not to mention the “whole language phonetics” with spelling not worried about as long as the word is comprehensible/tell what the child meant or concern about sentence structure or formal writing style –after all on the test they only need to be able to read the paragraph and answer the multiple choice questions for the paragraph.

    I’m hazarding no guesses on age of this author…just saying the general basics of any sort of writing have been slipping away when it comes to average students, who may have all the imagination in the world, but do not qualify for AP classes or cannot afford to go to one of the better schools for years.

    There is imagination there–good bad or otherwise I can’t sort enough out to say. No matter how unskilled the delivery there are certainly enough details that it seems whatever this is is quite vivid in the author’s mind even if the end result is difficult nearly impossible to read at this point in time. Time, practice, reading, more practice, more reading and even more practice and reading are necessary.

    This author simply has not the grasp of technical skill to clearly get their story across yet. They need to learn the basics, or relearn as the case maybe. There’s something there, but the skill level of the writing and story craft makes it impossible to tell what it is good or bad. Skills can be acquired with time, patience and determination.

    All the technical skill in the world doesn’t make cliched trite crap any less cliched trite crap, simply pleasant on the eyes and readable. Passion for the story and imagination, ability to make the characters breathe are necessary for a *good* story. Writing skill is necessary for a *readable* story. This particular author needs to concentrate on the writing skill to even begin to judge the actual content/creative capability of the story. They may be very capable of a good story, they need to work on readable first.

    Skills can be acquired, including the skills of common courtesy. An honest assessment of this has to be painful to the author, flinging around assumptions of mental illness is going a bit far.

    eta: yes, I realize the lack of grammatical perfection in my comment. my excuse? up all night with youngest and functioning purely on caffeine until I can go to bed. looked at comment after it was posted and decided I’m too darn tired to fix the obvious.

  33. Cherrie
    Sep 13, 2009 @ 12:22:43

    The cyberpunkish writings of my ex-boyfriend were sometimes like this, structurally. Long, rambling paragraphs with crazy capitalization and convoluted sentences that would wrap your brain into a pretzel. Definitely intentional. He was freaking brilliant.

    But this didn’t work for me. Too much pointless info and not enough imagery. When this type of writing is done right–at least in my experience with his stuff; I haven’t read any of the other authors mentioned–it pulls you along like a current you couldn’t swim out of even if you wanted to.

  34. Maili
    Sep 13, 2009 @ 14:25:24

    I think @Julia Sullivan offers an excellent piece of advice. For what it’s worth, anyway.

  35. JulieLeto
    Sep 13, 2009 @ 15:22:44

    Back when I used to teach poetry, I would instruct my students that before they attempted free form poetry, they had to master the forms, since poetry, by its definition is about structure. I think that applies to fiction as well. It is difficult to master experimental fiction when traditional fiction is not at the foundation. You have to know the rules in order to break them effectively–and this piece, which I could not read beyond the first couple of sentences–has no foundation that I could find.

    This is a very astute and well-read group of readers who show up here on Saturdays. I hope the author takes their comments to heart.

  36. Tammy
    Sep 14, 2009 @ 09:04:44

    Experimental writing? First draft? Brain dump? Lack of experience with technical rudiments of grammar, POV, sentence structure etc.? I coudn’t tell. Sorry – despite some interesting descriptions, I could only stick with this for 4 or 5 sentences before exhaustion set in.

    ETA: Julie Leto said: “before they attempted free form poetry, they had to master the forms”

    I think this an essential point, Julie. You have to learn to apply the rules before you can leave them behind.

  37. Coco
    Sep 14, 2009 @ 15:44:29

    It reminds me of a tongue in cheek mish mash of I Heart Huckabees and Woody Allen’s movies: rather aimless and monotonous. I find being dumped into an alternative reality with this much force jarring, there is very little relatable at the beginning for me to continue reading. Perhaps, restructuring would help?

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