Welcome back guest author, Stuart White!
In this post he’s commenting on the chapter one, book one of the Jason Seare series, From Where I Lived by Scout Semmes.
Stuart, thanks so much for taking the time to comment and make suggestions!
Reader: Spoiler alert!!! If you haven’t read the chapter first, you might want to HERE.
Guest Post by Stuart White:
My first, instant and perhaps most important response when I read this was – I WANT TO KNOW MORE!
Now that’s good, obviously. My curiosity has been aroused, my interest tickled. Who is Jason? Why has he been shot? And by whom? How did the earth get in this state? Who is this Rachel he’s desperately – if hopelessly – trying to meet. And when is this scenario set? How far in the future?
And Laina the girl on watch? Who is she? Who are the werewolves? Where have they sprung from in this apocalyptic world? Is she (they) baddie or goodie. How is she connected, or will she be connected with Jason?
And that’s a cute opening line, “Jason hadn’t seen the sunlight in two years.” Wow, that means something bad, and we soon learn what it is, that the sun is blacked out from a volcanic eruption and there are no alternative energy supplies because the green lobby made them redundant when they found the Mesh. I rather liked the idea of the Mesh too, a good idea and somehow very vivid and believable.
So hopefully you grabbed the reader – it grabbed this one. And, if I could, I’d go even farther. I’d re-write, or re-tweak the opening to make it even MORE dramatic. When he’s staggering along, perhaps add more graphic description, more adjectives. Make us see that stumbling, sun-starved bleeding figure in all his romantic misery.
And that song he’s singing, is that…the one from West Side Story? “On the street where you live?” If so I like its incongruity, that a modern kid in an apocalyptic future, shot and wounded – and he’s singing a Broadway show tune.
I felt some things needed a little more clarification though. Is Laina a werewolf? I got the impression she was – or if not, was a human who got on with the werewolves. You talked about the ‘elders’ letting her play with them, and then the elders making a decision on location, like the American South rather than the Northern wastes or Canada.
I wasn’t quite sure if the elders themselves were werewolves. Now it may be that the confusion is deliberate, if not it just needs to be rejigged a little, to make it clear if Laina is human or werewolf.
You say it had been a long time since she’d seen another “human, alive at least.”
OK, that could mean she was human too, or that she was a werewolf who simply hadn’t laid eyes on a live human for a while. And if so would she then bite them, as werewolves do?
If you’re not saying that, and I’d understand why, it has to be phrased slightly differently to allow us to get a glimpse of WHY?
But you leave both passages on a cliff-hanger note and that’s good.
GIVE US A BIT MORE
I’d be tempted if it were me to write a little bit more for both segments. Bit more color, bit more description of this bleak awful world. But I’d add this. Any writer will look at someone else’s work and see it a different way, want to add or subtract or change.
I think this generally speaking is a damn good opening that grabs the reader by the cojones and hopes his heart and mind will follow.
You’ve set the scene and told us concisely in a very short time that we’ve got a new apocalyptic world with no sunlight – and the world has – presumably tribes – of werewolves.
You’ve also introduced what I presume are your two main characters (for now). One seems about to expire, the other is about to encounter – something?
That alone shows great skill. The reader knows what kind of world they’re in now. A bleak world, with a possibly dying man (I’ve no doubt he’ll be saved) and an odd feral girl if not a werewolf herself, certainly on friendly terms with werewolves.
And you’ve done that in about – I’d estimate – six hundred words.
Not bad. Good start!!
CHAPTER ONE, BOOK ONE, JASON SEARE SERIES BY SCOUT SEMMES 5-26-15:
CHAPTER ONE –
Jason hadn’t seen sunlight in two years. Now, he stumbled through the darkness, his bare feet catching on rubble. What was left of an Oaktown neighborhood surrounded him, shadowed by darkness and clouds of ash. Pools of dirty gray water were frozen solid and he skidded, barefoot, on them as he continued down the row of burned out shells and skeletons of structures.
Nothing remained now but the ruin that followed the clouding of the sun and subsequent collapse of civilization as it was. A civilization built upon an energy source they thought to be limitless but disappeared when the eruptions started and the volcano ash coated the air and filled the atmosphere. No sunlight could get through an atmosphere sealed tight with volcanic ash. All drilling stopped decades ago. Oil and gas had gone the way of whale oil. Drilling had been considered just as barbaric. They had been so enlightened, setting up the Mesh. The mesh had been invisible to the naked eye, but covered the entire world in a blanket of netting that gathered energy from the sun. But their enlightenment couldn’t stop the eruptions of volcanic ash.
Jason dragged himself along. Shivering and stumbling through the dark. Naked and bleeding. In a low voice, choked by ash, he sang to himself.
“On the street where you live…” He choked out what he remembered of the song. He used to have a good voice, or at least Rachel thought he did. But she had always thought the best of him. She was the only one he would ever sing to. Before he met her, then after she was gone, he would only sing when he was absolutely alone.
On the street where you live…
The song drifted in his memory. A frolic from a bygone era of top hats and musicals. He recalled nothing but that one line of song and hiss failing consciousness repeated it in an endless loop as he limped toward his final destination, naked to the waist and shoeless. The darkness followed him, like a vulture waiting for the inevitable. He walked, oblivious of the sharp rubble he stepped over. And with each step, blood gushed from a gaping gunshot wound in his side.
Swaying as he stood, he paused and spoke, his voice cracking. He smiled at an imagined conversation and his lip split. Blood poured down his chin as he smiled and nodded. He mumbled incoherently as he held a conversation with the memory of someone who was more than likely long dead.
“Thanks for asking. Rachel’s waiting for me. Gotta go. ”
Jacon continued on, mumbling to himself, “Just going home to meet her now…just have to get there…”
His breath was coming faster as he struggled against time and blood loss. The freezing temperature and his wound dragged at him, threatening to pull him down. But he pushed on, down to the end of the neighborhood. He tried to call out, but his voice failed and he whispered,
“Almost there Rachel. Wait for me…”
The fog had settled low in the forest. Laina hardly should have called it a forest, for that was long gone. But old habits die hard.
High in her perch on the mushroom cap, surrounded by a jungle of assorted mushroom-like plants, she recalled what the forest had been like when she was only a girl, living with the werewolf pack, kept away from the outside world.
She had been allowed to go with the other children into the woods to play and to run, to have some other place to frolic besides inside the compound where the elders frowned on anything less than diligent work even from children. But here, in the woods, she recalled the feeling of freedom.
She sighed and took a quick sip from her water canteen. It was warm, almost too warm, with the radiated heat from her body. She wondered why the Werewolf pack would have settled so far south in the United States, in the Southern heat, when their body heat was several degrees above the average human’s. They could easily have settled in the colder states or even crossed the border to Canada and lived in the wild. But who was she to question the wisdom of the elders…a smile quirked at her lip.
She had volunteered to be a “watcher.” To be in the mushrooms that had replaced the forest when the trees had died from lack of sun and long since been carted off. she recalled seeing the trucks from the human town from her camp, pulling down and carting off the trees to be burned. A last effort to supply heat and energy to the nearby town after everything else had been used up.
It had been a long time since she had last seen a human. Alive at least.
Suddenly, her senses tingled in the stillness. She breathed low and deep. Concentrating. Searching the ground below. Something was coming.
Hello friends! This is Scout.
I’ve posted my first portion of my novel!
It’s a Dystopian/Paranormal Romance novella. Is that a genre? Well, it is now…I’m aiming for a total of 25,000-30,000 words.
Let’s call it Chapter One. You can read it HERE.
I’ve tried to use some of Stuart White’s many awesome recommendations when it comes to writing a novel and I look forward to his comments. In this first chapter, I focused on getting and keeping the reader’s attention. Tried to use a “hook,” two actually, for the chapter.
I’ll be posting more as I write it, so stay tuned!
Please read, enjoy, share and comment below.