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Fallen

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Old 10-23-2008, 05:08 AM
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This is a novel that I just started. Below I have posted the first two chapters. I realize that it is very long, and I'm NOT expecting anyone to read both and give a line by line critique. Feel free to read just one chapter, or both if you wish, and give feedback. I can handle good constructive criticism. Also, if you could let me know what elements you are fond of that would be appreciated as well.

Also, I listen to music when I write. I can't write without it to be honest. So for a reference. I listened to the following while writing this chapter:
1) I'm so sick- flyleaf
2) My Body is a cage- Arcade Fire
3) Soul Meets Body- Death Cab
4) Animal I've Become- Three Days Grace (Hugely influenced this chapter)
5) Keep Breathing- Ingrid Michaelson (Another big influence)

FALLEN
By: Lindy Hickman

"TWICE or thrice had I loved thee, before I knew thy face or name;
so in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft"

John Donne
Air and Angels




Part 1: Ember Nash
Chapter 1: So Long Sanity

There is a beauty in madness, a distinct freedom in knowing that your mind lacks filters and restraint. It is a lovely and fantastic thing to realize that you operate outside the realm of reason. There is enlightenment to be found in seeing one's own ignorance, but first, always at first, there is darkness.

I had embraced my own insanity, not immediately of course. No one wants to believe they are crazy, but I knew that I was. Normal sane people didn't feel lost inside themselves. They didn’t the things I’ve seen.

Accepting my insanity seemed easy at first, liberating even. Unfortunately, it also resulted in regular visits to Dr. Vogel. I knew, as I lay staring up at the tiled ceiling, that I was getting closer and closer to the land of white walls every day. It was only a matter of time before the good doctor had me fitted for a straitjacket and added prescription drugs to my food pyramid. I heard the door behind me open. The quiet, plodding footsteps that followed drummed a familiar cadence. I didn’t need to redirect my gaze in order to identify my companion.

“Hello, Ms. Nash.”

“Ember,” I stated languidly. “You can call me Ember, Doc. Feel free to save the formalities for my parents. They pay the bill.”

“Of course.” He smiled warmly as he positioned himself in his oversized leather chair. “I see you still haven’t warmed up to the chaise.”

I had rejected his couch, one of many actions that he found odd. Since our sessions had begun several weeks ago, I had chosen to lie on his floor instead. At first he objected, with little success. I was certain he had added this behavioral abnormality to my repertoire of inexplicable activity. I didn't really care. He sat before me quietly, his hands folded in his lap. He had salt and pepper hair, which was combed neatly into place. His face, though marred by countless hours of contemplation, was kind. I was nearly positive that my sessions had added years to the poor man, and I felt a small twinge of guilt as he prodded me.


“So, are we going to talk today, Ms. Nash?”

My eyebrows lifted slightly.

“Pardon me. Are we going to talk today, Ember?”

“Sure.”

Relief flooded his face.

“Feel free to talk, Doc. I’m listening.” My voice was flat.

“Okay," he sighed. "I can start if you’d like. Why are you here, Ember?”

I paused, wondering if I should humor him. I had been seeing Dr. Vogel twice a week for five weeks. Each time I had resolved to say absolutely nothing, but this time was different.

“Dr. V, why does it matter whether or not I explain the finer points of my insanity? I promise you’ll get paid either way.” I paused, “Is this about the couch? I’ll sit on the couch if it makes you feel better.”

He chuckled lightly. I wondered if he was allowed to do that. Wasn’t there some kind of psychiatric code with laws like ‘thou shalt own a couch’ and ‘thou shalt never display genuine emotion in front of patients’? He interrupted my inward rant.


“It’s not the couch. You can hang by your knees from the curtain rod if it makes you comfortable. I just want to help you, Ember, but I can’t do that if you won’t let me.”

“You want to help me?”


He nodded in response.

“No, Doc. You say you want to help, but you don’t. Not really. You want to prove that I’m crazy so that you can lock me in a mental institution, maybe even run tests on me like some kind of lab rat. I’ll make it really easy for you. I’m nuts. I admit it. Shackle me Dr. V; I’m a regular threat to society!”

He chuckled again. “You’ve watched too much television. I don’t think you’re crazy.”

“That makes one of us.”

“The truth is, Ember, you might find that I understand you better than you think, that I know a thing or two about feeling…peculiar.” He paused, exhaling quickly. Resituating, he leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees and folding his hands. “However, in order to discover all of that, you would have to tell me why your parents brought you here, and why they say you’ve been upset recently. You would have to trust me. His speech was less than convincing, but his expression, his eyes, communicated what his words could not. I was crumbling. My jaw tightened.

“How do I know that I can trust you?”

“You don’t, I suppose. I can give you my word and nothing else. It’s all I have.”

“It’s not good enough.”

“That’s fair.” He folded his hands behind his head and leaned back into his inviting chair. “You’re not obligated to tell me what is going on. I can endure your silent treatment.” He pursed his lips, “But, I often wonder if you can.”

My chest ached at his observation. I was the sand in an hour glass. With each passing day, I was disappearing, slipping through the cracks inflicted by my madness. Would it ever stop? I wore my inner conflict like a target, and he could see my resolve dwindling. He prepared the final blow.

“If you think you can endure whatever is troubling you, then perhaps I’m not needed after all?”

I was quiet for a long moment, weighing my options. I knew I couldn’t bear the injuries inflicted by my insanity much longer. If left untreated, they would send me deeper and deeper into my inner grave. I wanted to be strong enough, to lick my own wounds and return to life as usual. I didn’t want to be saved, but I couldn’t be my own hero. He had won, and he knew it. He sat waiting, knowing that a response would come, that my secrets were barely contained by my lips. My white flag was raised.

“Fine, if you are really that eager to join me in the seventh circle, then who am I to stop you?” My tone exposed my inner defeat. Dr. Vogel nodded slightly and smiled reassuringly.

I sat up and pulled my brown bag towards me. I dug through it, brushing old receipts and gum wrappers aside. Retrieving a newspaper clipping, I handed it to him. The headline was engraved into my mind, “Mother of Two Drowns in Lake Desmond”.

He was puzzled. “Okay. Why don’t you tell me what this is about?”

I sat quietly for a long moment and considered readopting my vow of silence, but I knew that this was the point of no return. I had made my choice. With my back resting against the couch, I pulled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. My chin dropped. My auburn hair fell loosely, curtaining around my face. I couldn’t speak. The words were trapped in my throat. My green eyes threatened to spill over with tears. Already the brimming moisture drenched my lashes.

“Ember.” His gaze was gentle. “Tell me what this is about.”

“I saw her,” I whispered. The words tumbled out so quickly and quietly. I had heard them so many times in my head, and yet they were exponentially more frightening as they tainted the quiet of the office.

“Who, Ember? Who did you see?”

“Her…” I noticed that I had been holding my breath. Quickly, I inhaled, barely allowing the air to fill my lungs as a tear escaped my lashes. “That woman who drowned, I saw her.” I tucked my hair behind my ear and looked at him, expecting skepticism to color his face. Yet, as his eyes met mine, there was no trace of doubt or disbelief.

“What do you mean when you say that you saw her? Did you see her drowning?”

My voice was sharp, “No! No, I didn’t see her drowning. I mean that I saw her, her dead, lifeless corpse. It was…” I exhaled and bit my lower lip. “It was in my head. Like… like a nightmare.” The tears emerged freely now. Tumbling defiantly down my cheeks, they fell from my chin staining my white blouse.


The flashing mental picture was devastatingly memorable. “Mother of Two”, Debra Langston, hung suspended on a grey canvas of cold, murky water. Her ghostly complexion was complemented by long russet hair and shining grey eyes. Even as she drifted, limp and unresponsive, it was clear that she was beautiful.

Her lifeless expression reflected sheer terror. It was agonizingly malformed and embossed unnaturally on her pale, lovely face. She was ethereal as she floated listlessly, hollow and distorted by the gentle current. The image of her perforated the safe chambers of my mind. No longer repressed and concealed it consumed my being. I was relieved when Dr. Vogel interrupted my grisly recollection.

“So, you saw a mental image of this woman, this woman here?” he turned the article towards me and pointed to Debra’s smiling photograph. I nodded, shrinking back as Debra’s face stared back at me. I could feel myself trembling as I sat retreating into myself.

His voice was soft, “and she was dead?”

“Yes,” my words quivered.

“All right.” He plucked a tissue from the box next to him and handed it to me. “Such images can be very troubling,” he soothed, as I wiped the moisture from my eyes.

“That’s not it.”

“What’s not it?” He looked back at me, his eyes searching my face vigorously.

“I mean--” I stopped myself. Swallowing hard, I wondered whether or not I should continue. “The images, they scare me. They upset me, but that’s not why I’m crying.”


“Images. They happen often.” Dr. Vogel said the words as if he already knew them to be true. There was no hint of shock or disturbance in his tone.

I nodded.

“I see.” He clasped the paper clipping with both hands. “You said the images aren’t the cause for your anxiety. Tell me… what is?”

I rested my chin on my knees. My eyes scrambled across the room looking for a distraction. I wanted to run, to forget the past five minutes, to forget her. Dr. Vogel felt my hesitation.

"Ember, stay with me." He raised the article, strategically covering Debra’s picture with his right hand. "Tell me why this is upsetting you."

My gaze met his. "My dream... I had it last week."

He glanced down at the newspaper.

“Ember.” His stare intensified as he formulated his next statement. “She drowned yesterday.”

“I know.”


__________________________________________________ ________________________________________________

Part One: Ember Nash

Chapter 2: Suicidal Statue


“Hey, you’ve reached Ember. Wait for the beep. You know the drill.”

That voice-- my voice-- sounded utterly foreign, almost as if it wasn’t mine at all. The voicemail greeting rang routinely from my cell phone and I found myself repelled by the slight lilt in my own tone. The voice that followed was even more off-putting.

“Ember, this is Dr. Vogel. You missed your sessions this past week. I’ve tried contacting you a few times, but I still haven’t heard from you. Perhaps you haven’t received my messages.” He sighed knowingly. “Then again, maybe you have. Either way, I think it’s really important that you come see me this week. There are several things I’d like to…discuss. Your next appointment is scheduled for 4:15 on Wednesday. I’ll be expecting you.”

I deleted his message without hesitation and placed my phone next to me on the kitchen table. I drew my name in my cheerios with my spoon. My eyes were fixated on the fluid tides of milk. Unable to eat, I allowed my mind to wander. It had been quite some time since I had indulged in a state of reverie. I had worked tirelessly to busy my mind. Leaving it idle made it more and more susceptible to “the terrors”. That’s how I referred to my haunting dreams. In truth, they weren’t really dreams at all. The terrors were never confined to the night or bound to a sleeping state. They permeated my mind at all hours. It’s true that they came more readily as I slept --something I had done very little of—but they also lingered in the day.

My band-aid approach to solving my problem seemed to be working. The more I occupied my thoughts, the less the terrors came. Now, I just had to figure out how to live without sleep. The dark, inset circles beneath my eyes were telling of my restless nights. “Ember!” The sound of my name being called was drowned out by the noise of my thoughts. For a moment, I hadn’t realized that someone had spoken to me. “Ember, honey?”

My head swiveled around quickly to find my mom standing in the doorway. A grey pant-suit hung elegantly over her slender figure. Her dark auburn hair was twisted tidily into a bun, putting slight tension on the outer edges of her soft face. Her doe eyes exuded worry.

“Honey, you look awful. Still no sleep?” Her voice cracked softly as her forehead furrowed disquietly.

“No, I slept just fine,” I lied. “I’m bad-dream free. I think these sessions with Dr. Vogel are really helping.” More lies. If I were Pinocchio, I could have pole vaulted with my nose.

Mom smiled as she grabbed her briefcase by the door. She turned towards me again. “I’m glad to hear that.” She paused. “By the way; I think I’m going to drive you to your session this week. I’d like to see how things are coming along.”

I knew my poor lying had failed to convince her.

“Oh, don’t bother, Mom” I smiled as compellingly as possible. “Really, there’s no need. I’m fine. Besides, I can’t ask you to take off of work…” She stopped me.

“You didn’t ask. I offered.”

“I know but…I don’t want you to go to all of that trouble. Really, I’m fine.”

She sighed and opened the front door. Relieved, I turned back towards my bowl of cereal and retrieved my spoon. “Oh, Ember, one last thing.”

I held onto my spoon as I turned towards her casually.

“You’re not the only one in contact with Dr. Vogel.” She raised one eyebrow. “4:15 on Wednesday, you are expected and you are going.”

There was no escape. “Fine” I sighed. Omniscient Mom strikes again,” I raised my fist, lifting the spoon reverently as if it were Excalibur. My bout of humor seemed to appease her. Her severe expression melted into a grin as she disappeared out the front door. I watched her as she marched across the lawn, counting her steps. Seven. Eight. Nine. She reached the black Lexus and ducked into it gracefully. As she backed out of the driveway I searched for another distraction.

I checked the time: 7:46. I had class in exactly fourteen minutes. I knew that I could get to school in fifteen. I smiled at the realization that I was going to be embarrassingly late. Distraction found. I scurried around the house and put on my uniform. The grotesque plaid patterned skirt draped unflatteringly over my boyish hips. My unfavorable, two-dimensional figure was made even more noticeable as I tucked in my polo shirt. I had long given up hope that a statuesque body with my name on it was on lay away somewhere. Instead, I had accepted my seemingly shapeless figure.

I didn’t bother to comb my hair. Instead I allowed its waves to fall freely past my shoulders. Smoothing it hastily as I brushed my teeth, I noticed sunken green eyes staring back at me in the bathroom mirror. No wonder Mom had looked so concerned; my face was shrouded in sleep deprivation. I glanced at my alarm clock: 7:52. Hurriedly I grabbed my keys off the counter and scurried across the lawn towards my black Civic.

The day inched by monotonously. I had examined every aspect of it to the point of exhaustion. My English teacher, Mr. Dewhurst, was suffering from a cold. During the course of our class he had coughed twelve times, blown his nose twice, and picked it once when he suspected no one was paying any attention.

My math classroom had thirty-two ceiling tiles. Six of them had suffered water damage. I had counted sixty-seven dress code violations and thirteen cases of prohibited displays of affection.

At lunch, seventeen people sat alone --only six of them did so by choice--. One of the lunch-ladies neglected to wear a hairnet, and another wiped her nose with her gloved hand before preparing a sandwich. I chose to forego school lunch at least for the day, possibly forever.

In Geography, I noted chin stubble on Mrs. Broganmeyer. One whisker protruded so far from her face that it quite nearly inhabited a separate zip code. Two people had dozed off during her lecture. One of them, Jeffery Mannis, was slumped over his corner desk, snoring softly. A small puddle of drool escaped him. His buddies had taken it upon themselves to treat his cheek as an art canvas. Images of the anatomical persuasion were articulated on his face in sharpie. In spite of all of this I envied him. At least he could sleep.

The last bell finally resounded. I made my way through the sea of plaid and cackie as my locker came into view. My locker partner, Dylan Page, was no where in sight. Dylan often kept to himself, which was one of the things I liked about him. When we did frequent our locker at the same time, there was no need for small talk or formalities. It was an unspoken understanding that neither of us expected our shared space to jumpstart a friendship. About a month ago, our locker became his drug-trafficking locale. That struck a nerve, but it was easy enough to convince him to conduct business elsewhere. We had had no further problems. If there was one thing Dylan Page didn’t need, it was another problem. It was no secret that he self medicated to dull the pain of his parent’s divorce. His father was a senator, whose very public affair with his campaign manager had torn the family apart.

As I opened my locker I was met by the familiar and disturbing “art” that Dylan had posted on the interior wall. I glanced at the tattered notebook pages more carefully than I ever had before. One pictured an unidentifiable creature with blood oozing from one eye and tears from the other. Another portrayed a man ripping his own heart from his chest. As I took in the grotesque scenes, I pitied Dylan. For the first time since these pictures had appeared, I understood that there was pain behind them, that Dylan said in pictures what he couldn’t formulate in words. Dylan and I were not so different, we both felt lost inside of ourselves.

My welcomed tardiness earlier that day had caused me to park in the back corner of the school’s overflow lot, about a quarter of a mile away. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have cared; I probably would have enjoyed the long walk. That is, if a torrential downpour hadn’t enveloped the entire state of Vermont. A disgruntled moan escaped as I peered out the school’s entrance at the monsoon conditions. A few of my classmates scurried in the student parking lot. Others, like me, crowded around the windows and watched forlornly. Some, determined to wait-out the storm, situating themselves on the benches and tiled floor. I considered doing the same but decided against it, remembering that idle time and mindless behavior went against my self-prescribed treatment methods. Inhaling stiffly, I pushed open the heavy door and headed towards the lot.

I reached my car eight-hundred and sixty-seven steps later. As I trudged towards it, I realized that it was the sole vehicle remaining in the overflow lot. At the beginning of my journey I attempted to shield my hair with a notebook, but this method was quickly deserted. As a result, my hair now hung soaking and disheveled. It clung to my cheeks and back, heavy and fragrant with the smell of rainwater. My knee-high socks failed to remain true to their name as they both sagged languidly at my ankles.

My car was warm and convivial as I slunk into it. Twisting the key in the ignition, it gently purred to life. I refocused the rearview mirror, and peered at my reflection. My unkempt image provoked a weary chuckle. Suddenly I was grateful that I was alone. I looked pitifully haggard, like a soaking stray cat.

My hands worked quickly to titivate my appearance to no avail. Giving up, I reached towards the rearview mirror to reposition it. Gently, it swiveled to a stop, encasing the reflection of a tall, still figure. I blinked swiftly, squinting as I stared at the man’s reflection. Dark blonde curls hung at his temples, dripping with rain. Steel-jawed, his face appeared as if it were etched from stone. His unrelenting gaze was steadfast as he peered into the back window of the Civic.

I awakened from my daze, realizing how awkwardly I had gawked at the stranger framed in the rearview reflection. Busying myself, I engaged the brake and shifted into reverse. Surely he would move when he saw the brake lights illuminated. In the mirror I could see him cloaked in a red haze, but he remained unmoving.

Is he suicidal? My aggravation increased steadily. For crying out loud! I have enough qualifications for entrance into a psych ward. I do not need to add manslaughter to the list! I honked my horn impatiently. His face remained composed --smug even--. One corner of his mouth curved slightly into a smirk. In that moment I felt my final thread of sanity sever. An irate growl bellowed in my throat as I thrust the car into park. I was dangerously close to assisting the attractive stranger in his suicide mission.

I flung my car door open, as my mind scrambled to contrive a fearsome tirade. Plodding in the puddle beneath my car door, my foot planted in the ground with agitated force. Venomous words seethed in my mouth as I turned to face him, the suicidal statue. I stopped short, staggering as I stared at the vacant gray scene. I was alone.


Last edited by PENsive; 11-03-2008 at 06:28 AM.. Reason: IT WAS A MESS! BUT IT'S BETTER NOW :)
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:40 AM
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I'll refrain from commenting on the music--*cough* --and tell you what I thought of the story. I don't have a whole lotta time, so this will be brief.

First of all, this reminded me of the movie "Sixth Sense", produced by one of my all-time favorite moviemakers, M. Night Shyamalan. Basically it follows a child psychiatrist and one of his patients. Eventually the kid reveals that he can see dead people, as they were when they died. No, that doesn't give away any surprises, it's a pretty obvious piece of the movie. Don't worry, not a spoiler

I guess you can see why the stories reminded me of each other though. Going beyond the parallels, I thought your writing was very good! You have a firm grasp on sentence structure, grammar, and spelling, and I had to do more than a cursory sweep to find anything wrong!

About the storyline, I think you could do a bit to liven it up. It's a bit slow to start, but that's fine, 'cuz you're putting us into the story one toe at a time, to get us accustomed to the characters and all. You'd better give us a little more action more quickly, though, because the first chapter of a book is hugely important. People look at it, and if they're not drawn in, they don't buy the book. You need to dangle a carrot or two. The counseling sessions are interesting, mostly due to Ember's biting wit (Which I love, by the way!), but the school day could be sharpened. There's some interesting stuff there, but it's a little irrelevent, and needs tightening. Not much of it pertains to the rest of the story. You need to watch that--give us the protagonists thoughts, give us a perspective on her life, sure, but please don't go off into a "Dear diary, today I ate breakfast, which was cereal and coffee, went to class, which was really boring because this teacher droned on, etc.". Not saying you do that, it's just that you hover on the edge of over-detailing us here.

Really well-written, and with an interesting and singular character! I find myself craving more of her sarcasm already You developed her nicely enough for me to already feel some kinship with her (We nutcases must stick together ). Keep the story going!
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Old 10-24-2008, 07:27 AM
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Hey Winterbite!

Thank you so much for the feedback, and for reading the entire thing! I realize it's long.

Your suggestions were very helpful, I'll have to take a look at the second chapter and see where alterations can be made. I'm thinking of introducing the "suicidal statue" a little earlier on to grab the reader's attention.

Happy Writing,

PENsive
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:33 PM
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If it had been hard to get through, I would have told you to shorten it, but I actually didn't have a problem with the length. Your character was quite compelling. I kept wondering what sort of things she'd say or do next. She seems a bit apathetic, but not so much that it bores us. It only adds a dimension to her!

Tell ya what. Since nobody's made a move on this story yet, I'll come in and give it a full line-by-line critique tonight! I've got an obligation to another member to do a line-by-line as well, but I'll dispatch that and move in on yours next. If I turn out to have too many comments and it takes too long, I'll drop it and continue it later, but I don't anticipate getting bogged down. I don't think I'll have to stop and correct too many SPAG or syntax errors.

I'll be back tonight. Or very early next morning. The two tend to be one and the same for me
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Old 10-24-2008, 03:02 PM
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Winterbite... Have I mentioned how insanely cool you are?
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Old 10-24-2008, 05:35 PM
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Hi Pensive----I’m not sure how I feel about this example of writing. I’m lead to believe it’s the first chapter of a novel, yet it’s a very thin topic to base a novel on.
Anyway there is something about the writing, or perhaps the presentation, that’s so far has drawn me in. I will do a paragraph by paragraph critique publishing only those paragraphs I wish to comment on. Remember my comments are just that, I’m not always right, but I’m always honest.
I will save my overall comments of this chapter for the end.

There is a beauty in madness, a distinct freedom in knowing that your mind lacks filters and restraint. It is a lovely and fantastic thing to realize that you operate outside the realm of reason. There is enlightenment to be found in seeing one's own ignorance. But first, always at first there is darkness.


(The last sentence should be joined with the previous one, because it doesn’t make it as a sentence. [But first, always at first, there is darkness.] This is not a sentence, it’s a descriptive fraise, which enlarges on the previous sentence, this fraise lacks a principle.)

I had embraced my own insanity. Not immediately of course, no one wants to believe they are crazy, but I knew that I was. Normal people, sane people, didn't feel lost inside themselves. They didn't see the things I saw.


(The first sentence should encompass the start of the second sentence, I mean [not immediately of course] specifically. Change the period after [insanity] to a comma, change the comma after course to a period. Example:--Normal people, sane people, didn't feel lost inside themselves--they didn't see the things I’ve seen. Just a tense thing at the end.)

Accepting my insanity seemed easy at first, liberating even. Unfortunately, it also resulted in my regular visits to Dr. Vogel. I knew, as I lay staring up at the tiled ceiling, that I was getting closer and closer to the land of white walls everyday. It was only a matter of time before the good Dr. had me fitted for a straight jacket and added prescription drugs to my food pyramid. I heard the door behind me open steadily. The quiet, plodding footsteps that followed drummed a familiar cadence. I didn’t need to redirect my gaze in order to identify my companion.


(The third sentence seems a little awkward to me, oh well you be the judge.)

“Ember,” I stated languidly. “You can call me Ember Doc. Feel free to save the formalities for my parents. They pay the bill.”


(I’m not a fan of dialog tags, when used for no parent reason they just come across as stupid to me. Example: ---“Ember—you can call me Ember, Doc. Feel free to save the formalities for my parents, after all they pay the bills.])


I had rejected his couch, one of many actions that he found odd. Since our sessions had begun several weeks ago, I had chosen to lie on his floor instead. At first he objected, I'm sure he had added this behavioral abnormality to my repertoire inexplicable activity. I didn't really care. He sat before me quietly, his hands folded in his lap. He had salt and pepper hair, which was combed neatly into place. His face, though clearly marked rigidly by countless hours of contemplation, was kind. I was nearly positive that my sessions had added years to the poor man, and I felt a small twinge of guilt as he prodded me. “So, are we going to talk today, Ms. Nash?”


(The last sentence is dialog and therefore must start a new paragraph.)

“Pardon me. Are we going to talk today, Ember?”


(Perhaps it’s me, but I can’t understand why he’s saying [pardon me], I would just drop the pardon me thing.)

He chuckled lightly. I wondered if he was allowed to do that. Wasn’t there some kind of psychiatric code with laws like ‘thou shalt own a couch’ and ‘thou shalt never display genuine emotion in front of patients’? He interrupted my inward rant, “It’s not the couch. You can hang by your knees from the curtain rod if it makes you comfortable. I just want to help you, Ember. But, I can’t do that if you won’t let
Me.

(I would combine the first two sentences, like this, perhaps: -- He chuckled lightly--I wondered if he was allowed to do that. In the sentence starting [He interrupted] you need a period after rant. Since the rest of this group of words is dialog, you must start a new paragraph. Last two sentences should be combined. Example: -- “I just want to help you, Ember, but I can’t do that, if you won’t let me.” The two sentences are a natural for being combined, in fact when ever we start a sentence with the word but, it generally works better as an add-on.)


“You want to help me,” it wasn’t a question but he nodded in response. “No Doc. You say you want to help, but you don’t, not really. You want to prove that I’m crazy so that you can lock me in a mental institution, maybe even run tests on me like some kind of lab rat. I’ll make it easy for you. I’m nuts. I admit it. Shackle me Dr. V, I’m a regular threat to society.”

(What you have praised at the start of this paragraph is in fact a question, just because you go on to say it wasn’t doesn’t change it. From a grammar point of view it is a question and must have a question mark. Example:--“You want to help me?” I didn’t intend it to be a question, but he nodded in response. Replace the comma after [Dr. V] with a semicolon. The short blunt sentences work well here, they convey a since of mania.)

“The truth is Ember, you might find that I understand you better than you think, that I know a thing or two about feeling…peculiar. But, in order to discover all of that, you would have to tell me why your parents brought you here, and why they say you’ve been upset recently. You would have to trust me. ” His speech was less than convincing, but his expression, his eyes, communicated what his words could not. I softened under his gaze.

(Okay I find several areas, particularly in the first half of this paragraph that either confuse, or out right loss me. Example: -- [“The truth Ember is you might find that I understand you a lot better than you think. I know a thing or two about feeling…particularly suicidal feelings. In order to discover all of that, you will have to tell me why your parents brought you here, and why they say you’ve been upset recently.] I was lost as to why you wrote [feelings…peculiar.] last , but not least your pension for starting sentences with and or but.)

“Fine,” my tone exposed my inner defeat as Dr. Vogel nodded slightly and smiled.


(Here I think these two sentences sound much better separated. Example: ---“Fine,” the tone exposed my inner feelings of defeat. Dr. Vogel nodded slightly and smiled reassuringly.)

“I see. What do you mean when you say that you saw her? Did you see her drowning?”


([I see] is not what one says, before asking what one means. I would drop the words I see.)

Her lifeless expression reflected shear terror. It was agonizingly construed and embossed unnaturally on her pale, lovely face. She was ethereal as she floated listlessly, hollow and distorted by the gentle current. The image of her perforated the safe chambers of my mind. No longer repressed and concealed, it consumed my being. I was relieved when Dr. Vogel interrupted my grisly recollection.

(You don’t need the comma after the word concealed.)

“So. You saw a mental image of this woman, this woman here?” he turned the article towards me and pointed to Debra’s smiling photograph. I nodded, shrinking back as Debra’s face stared back at me. I could feel myself trembling as I sat recoiling into myself.


(“So, you saw---, end of the last sentence. Example:--I could feel the trembling as I retreated back into myself. It’s not wise to repeat words like myself so close together.)

His voice was soft, “And she was dead?”


(The first fraise ends with a comma, the second fraise starts with a capital.

“yes,” my words quivered.


(“Yes,”)

“Alright,” he plucked a tissue from the box next to him and handed it to me. “Such images can be very troubling,” he soothed as I wiped the moisture from my eyes.


(I think you need a comma after soothed,)

I rested my chin on my knees. My eyes scrambled across the room looking for a distraction. I wanted to run, to forget the past five minutes, to forget her. Dr. Vogal felt my hesitation.


(Dr. Vogel= typo.)

Very nice story, Pensive. You have a very good imagination, along with a great sense of story. Your writing is for the most error free, but you have a problem with sentence structure and in a few cases wordage, resulting in confusion of both story line and dialog. You have a lot of talent, I hope ou continue your writing.


Talk top you soon---ablelaz.






























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Old 10-24-2008, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by PENsive View Post


FALLEN
By: Lindy Hickman

"TWICE or thrice had I loved thee, before I knew thy face or name;
so in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft"

John Donne
Air and Angels





Part One: Ember Nash



Chapter 1: Darkened Dreams



There is a beauty in madness, a distinct freedom in knowing that your mind lacks filters and restraint. It is a lovely and fantastic thing to realize that you operate outside the realm of reason.(Operating outside the realm of reason...I like that. I think I do that occasionally ) There is enlightenment to be found in seeing one's own ignorance(I've just gotta butt in with a random fact here. Whether you knew it or not, you're echoing the view of quite a few ancient Greek philosophers. Socrates, Plato, etc. The first rule of knowledge was to realize that you were ignorant). But first, always at first there is darkness.(The second clause is an independent clause in itself, and its redundant with the first one. Taking out the "But first" will fix the sentence, but I encourage you to play around with it. I personally would write it: "But darkness always comes before that dawn." You don't lose the dramatic effect if you put something like that it in)

I had embraced my own insanity. Not immediately of course,(Ooh...this is a tricky bit. One part of me is screaming "Comma splice!", which is basically joining two stand-alone sentences with a comma instead of making them two sentences, or joining them with a different word, etc. But while separating them would look good, technically it would leave a fragment. Not a problem. That's perfectly acceptable as long as the fragment isn't dangling or anything, but the goal of this critique is to preserve SPAG, so I'd suggest adding "for" in front of "no one". That effectively morphs the whole sentence into one big independent clause. Ta-da!) no one wants to believe they are crazy, but I knew that I was. Normal people, sane people,(I'd just say, "Normal, sane people. The list with no "and" works sometimes, but for some reason, not here) didn't feel lost inside themselves. They didn't see the things I saw.

Accepting my insanity seemed easy at first, liberating even. Unfortunately, it also resulted in my regular visits to Dr. Vogel. I knew, as I lay staring up at the tiled ceiling, that I was getting closer and closer to the land of white walls everyday(Everyday means routine, daily, average, etc. Every day, on the other hand, means "with each coming day". One guess which one you want here ). It was only a matter of time before the good Dr(Abbreviations are only used in front of a name. "doctor"). had me fitted for a straight jacket(Who'd want a gay jacket anyway? Forgive my humour. It's actually "straitjacket". And I have to wonder...is this standard procedure for mental patients who aren't dangerous to themselves? I was pretty sure that straitjackets were a one-size-fits all affair anyway) and added prescription drugs to my food pyramid. I heard the door behind me open steadily(Implies a slowness. you probably want to replace that or just do away with it). The quiet, plodding footsteps that followed drummed a familiar cadence. I didn’t need to redirect my gaze in order to identify my companion.

“Hello Ms. Nash.”

“Ember,” I stated languidly. “You can call me Ember Doc. Feel free to save the formalities for my parents. They pay the bill.”

“Of course.” He smiled warmly as he positioned himself in his oversized leather chair. “I see you still haven’t warmed up to the chez.”

I had rejected his couch, one of many actions that he found odd. Since our sessions had begun several weeks ago, I had chosen to lie on his floor instead. (That's fun. I'm beginning to get a feel for her character here. Maybe because I'd do something similar, were I going on regular visits to a shrink )At first he objected,(Now this is an up-and-up comma splice, and sort of a dangling sentence too. You should separate this clause from the other, because they're both independent. In other words, put a period here. And complete the thought in that first clause. At first he objected, but then...he recognized the futility?) I'm sure(Mixed tenses. "I am" is the present, "I was" is the past. You're writing in past, so use the past tense as uniformly as possible) he had added this behavioral abnormality to my repertoire inexplicable activity. I didn't really care. He sat before me quietly, his hands folded in his lap. He had salt and pepper hair, which was combed neatly into place. His face, though clearly marked rigidly(You can't mark a face rigidly. It can have a rigid, stiff quality, but I don't see how it could be marked...sorry, I'm belabouring this, aren't I? I'm sure you see what I'm saying) by countless hours of contemplation, was kind. I was nearly positive that my sessions had added years to the poor man, and I felt a small twinge of guilt as he prodded me. (That sign means "new paragraph. You always want to set speech into its own paragraph)“So, are we going to talk today, Ms. Nash?”



My eyebrows lifted slightly.



“Pardon me. Are we going to talk today, Ember?” (A wonderful example of showing instead of telling! Her eyebrows lift, and the doctor picks up on the visual cue, then says so aloud. You didn't have to explain at all. That's something you want to have as much of as possible)

“Sure.”

Relief flooded his face.

“Feel free to talk Doc. I’m listening,” my voice was flat.("My voice was flat" ain't no speech tag. You ended the sentence with a comma, meaning we're expecting a "I said, I muttered, I whatever". But don't go changing that comma to a period...lets keep this "showing, not telling" thing going here. Say "I said flatly". It's a separate description, but not outright telling, like the other way would be.)

“Ok," he sighed. "I can start if you’d like. Why are you here Ember?”

I paused, wondering if I should humor him. I had been seeing Dr. Vogel twice a week for five weeks. Each time I had resolved to say absolutely nothing, but this time was different.

“Dr. V why does it matter whether or not I explain the finer points of my insanity? I promise you’ll get paid either way.” I paused, “Is this about the couch? I’ll sit on the couch if it makes you feel better.”

He chuckled lightly. I wondered if he was allowed to do that. Wasn’t there some kind of psychiatric code with laws like ‘thou shalt own a couch’ and ‘thou shalt never display genuine emotion in front of patients’?(Actually, there is. I don't know about the couch thing, but psychiatrists are actually taught never to display emotion in front of patients. Not a hug if they're crying, not a laugh if the patient jokes...sad, isn't it? Not a code or anything, so you can break the rules, but most psychiatrists won't.) He interrupted my inward rant,(Period, new paragraph) “It’s not the couch. You can hang by your knees from the curtain rod if it makes you comfortable. I just want to help you, Ember. But, I can’t do that if you won’t let Me(The only case I know where you capitalize pronouns is when you're talking about God or Jesus. So decapitalize that one, eh? Unless Dr. V has some secret to be revealed later...).”

“You want to help me,”(Hmm. You seem to be confused as to speech tags. See my notes under the single asterisk at the end. *) it wasn’t a question but he nodded in response. “No Doc. You say you want to help, but you don’t,(Period here instead) not really. You want to prove that I’m crazy so that you can lock me in a mental institution, maybe even run tests on me like some kind of lab rat. I’ll make it easy for you. I’m nuts. I admit it. Shackle me Dr. V, I’m a regular threat to society.”



He chuckled again. “You’ve watched too much television. I don’t think your(You're) crazy…”



“That makes one of us.” (Hehe!)



“The truth is Ember, you might find that I understand you better than you think, that I know a thing or two about feeling…peculiar. But, in order to discover all of that, you would have to tell me why your parents brought you here, and why they say you’ve been upset recently. You would have to trust me. ” His speech was less than convincing, but his expression, his eyes, communicated what his words could not. I softened under his gaze.



“Fine,”(See my asterisk again.*) my tone exposed my inner defeat as Dr. Vogel nodded slightly and smiled.



I sat up and pulled my brown bag towards me. I dug through it, brushing old receipts and gum wrappers aside. I retrieved a newspaper clipping, and handed it to him. The headline was engraved into my mind, “Mother of Two Drowns in Lake Desmond”.

He was puzzled. “Ok(Okk. Okkkk! I'm choking! Okkkk! Sorry, couldn't resist. "OK" is actually always capitalized. Why? Because it's actually short for two words. "Orl Korrect". That's an erroneous spelling of "all correct". Not Latin. . So, technically, it's capital. Though quite a few writers like to go with the more formal version of "okay"). Why don’t you tell me what this is about?”

I sat quietly for a long moment and considered readopting my vow of silence. With my back resting against the couch, I pulled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. My chin dropped. My auburn hair fell loosely, curtaining around my face. I couldn’t speak. The words were trapped in my throat. My green eyes threatened to spill over with tears. Already the brimming moisture had drenched my lashes.

“Ember,”(You've seen this asterisk before, I believe *) his eyes were soft, “tell me what this is about.”

“I saw her,” I whispered. The words fumbled(tumbled?) out so quickly and quietly. I had heard them so many times in my head, and yet they were exponentially more frightening as they tainted the quiet of the office.

“Who Ember? Who did you see?”

“Her…” I noticed that I had been holding my breath. Quickly, I inhaled, barely allowing the air to fill my lungs as a tear escaped my lashes. “That woman who drowned,('nother comma splice. Make it two sentences) I saw her.” I tucked my hair behind my ear and looked at him, expecting skepticism to color his face. Yet, as his eyes met mine, there was no trace of doubt or disbelief.

“I see. What do you mean when you say that you saw her? Did you see her drowning?”

My voice was sharp, “No! No, I didn’t see her drowning. I mean that I saw her, her dead, lifeless corpse. It was…” I exhaled and bit my lower lip. “It was in my head. Like… like a nightmare.” The tears emerged freely now. Tumbling defiantly down my cheeks, they fell from my chin staining my white blouse.



The flashing mental picture was devastatingly memorable. “Mother of Two”, Debra Langston, hung suspended on a grey canvas of cold, murky water. Her ghostly complexion was complemented by long russet(An underused adjective if you ask me. More people should use that word!) hair and shining grey(Ah, a fellow "ey" speller! Most people spell it "gray", at least in America, but not I!). eyes. Even as she drifted, limp and unresponsive, it was clear that she was beautiful.



Her lifeless expression reflected shear(sheer) terror. It was agonizingly construed(Construed means, I'm pretty sure, "to interpret". I don't think that fits here) and embossed unnaturally on her pale, lovely face. She was ethereal as she floated listlessly, hollow and distorted by the gentle current. The image of her perforated the safe chambers of my mind. No longer repressed and concealed, it consumed my being. I was relieved when Dr. Vogel interrupted my grisly recollection.

“So. You saw a mental image of this woman, this woman here?” he turned the article towards me and pointed to Debra’s smiling photograph. I nodded, shrinking back as Debra’s face stared back at me. I could feel myself trembling as I sat recoiling(Recoil means to jerk back, like the shock from firing a gun. Perhaps you mean something like "withdrawing"?) into myself.

His voice was soft,(My asterisk applies here as well *) “And she was dead?”

yes(Yes),” my words quivered.

Alright(Yeah, I know, it's more and more commonly used. I use it alot, but apparently, "all right" is still the proper way to say it. And here's another asterisk for your collection *),” he plucked a tissue from the box next to him and handed it to me. “Such images can be very troubling,” he soothed as I wiped the moisture from my eyes.

“That’s not it.”

“What’s not it?” He looked back at me, his eyes searching my face vigorously.

“I mean,(Breaking off of speech is shown by emdashes: "I mean--")” I stopped myself. Swallowing hard, I wondered whether or not I should continue. “The images,(Another comma splice dilemma, but here I think a period would suit well) they scare me. They upset me but that’s not why I’m crying.”

“Images. They happen often.” Dr. Vogel said the words as if he already knew them to be true. There was no hint of shock or disturbance in his tone.

I nodded.

“I see.” He leaned forward. Resting his elbows on his knees he clasped the paper clipping with both hands. “You said the images aren’t the cause for your anxiety. Tell me… what is?”

I rested my chin on my knees. My eyes scrambled across the room looking for a distraction. I wanted to run, to forget the past five minutes, to forget her. Dr. Vogal felt my hesitation.

"Ember, stay with me," he raised the article strategically covering Debra’s picture with his right hand. "Tell me why this is upsetting you."

My gaze met his. "My dream... I had it last week."

He glanced down at the newspaper.

“Ember,”(*) his stare intensified as he formulated his next statement. “She drowned yesterday.”

“I know.”


Well, breaking off here for now. I'll pick up again, hopefully soon, but I might not make it back until next week. Sadly, one of the only times I have time for extensive critiquing is late Friday night

* Speech tag lesson! You have the form down, its just the period and comma thing and when to use each that's got you. So, I provide illustrations! Note my holiday spirit.

"I'm the one cackling now, Farmer Hank," said Tom the Turkey.

The green stuff is whats known as a speech tag. It's basically "he said, she said, it said, with variations, such as "Duane sputtered", "Sara whispered", etc. When you use a speech tag, you use a comma inside the quotes.

When not using a speech tag, however...

"Now you will be Thanksgiving Dinner." Tom looked at Farmer Hank with the light of vengeance in his eyes.

See, I used a period there instead, because "Tom looked" is not a speech tag.

So the basic rule for this is: If it's not a speech tag, use a period! Or exclamation point, whatever the appropriate punctation is.


Now, we'll move on to your other weakness...commas. We've already gone over some of your misuses in that other lesson, but you commit a whole lot of omissions throughout the piece, not to mention comma splices. So, I'll give a few pointers, but ultimately it'll be up to you to check over your writing and get into the habit of fixing this stuff until it becomes ingrained enough for you to just put the commas in the right place without even thinking about it. It's not that hard. It's just a matter of hearing the sentences in your head, and screwing up your face into a really painful position every time one strikes a sour note. If it hurts enough, you'll eventually condition yourself to stop making the error. Pavlov had nothing on me

The first tip I've already given. Detect errors by your native ear (Assuming you're a native English speaker). But then there's another hint, though less reliable. Can each side of the comma stand alone as a sentence(hereafter referred to as an independent clause) or does it need the stuff on the other side of the comma to keep itself from falling down onto its severed limbs and shrieking "Why? Why don't I express a complete thought?" As I said, for writers this is a less useful rule, because often we use commas in some pretty funky, incorrect ways that are nevertheless acceptable. But keep it in mind anyhoo.

And finally, about comma splices...these are easy. If you have a complete sentence that is joined to another complete sentence, like this one will be, you simply replace the comma with a period and the requisite spaces, an irregular comma splice will be harder to fix because it sometimes won't sound good as two sentences, but writers are creative, right? (Did you notice the comma splice?)

As to your writing style, there's not really a whole lot I would tell you to fix. Nothing that comes to mind right now, in fact. You show instead of tell, you use some nice speech tags, your characters are interesting...the plot could use a little work, because at the moment, if it weren't for the sparkling characters, I'd be a bit bored, but other than the need for some spice in the story, you've got a nice way of writing things!
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:29 PM
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Wow. I really liked this. I read through the whole thing, no problem. It kept my interest the entire time and I want to read more.

One strange, weird thing I want to throw out there. I really think chapter one and two could be switched. In chapter one, we are introduced to the strange problem that is haunting Ember (like the name). It would be interesting to start with chapter two, introducing Ember and her fears although we don't know outright what she is afraid of. This idea is not at all necessary or needed for improvement, but...I don't know. I just think it might improve it. Eh. Anyway...

Love your writing style. Looking forward to more of this.
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Old 10-25-2008, 06:00 AM
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Wow! Ablelaz, Singphantom and Winterbite I can't thank y'all enough for your insightful critiques. Winterbite and Ablelaz, I will definietly work on my poor comma usage. I realize that I committed a multitude of comma crimes. Also, I think you are right on Winterbite. The first chapter seems to hold interest pretty well, but the second needs a face lift. I will work on making the introduction of the "suicidal statue" a little more interesting. Again, thank you all for the time you spent critiquing this piece. It is very near and dear to my heart . I can't wait to see the rest of the story play out. It's all very exciting in my head! I find myself getting so attached to my characters that I wish they were real. I suppose that is the life of a writer.

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Old 10-26-2008, 12:02 PM
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Pensive, I thought this an excellent piece of writing, really good and I enjoyed it. I have not done a proper critique because most of it has been adequatly picked up by Winterbite and Abelaz, which were as enjoyable to read.

Ieuan
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Old 10-26-2008, 03:22 PM
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I heard the door behind me open. The quiet, plodding footsteps that followed drummed a familiar cadence.

---------

This sentence was what caught my eye. First thought that came to mind was.

Now this looks interesting!

Believe it or not I came close to not reading it. Twice. Then I told myself, do this justice!


I've noticed that others have done a good job of critiquing.

You see that sentence up there, that sentence is what made me want to read on. Can you imagine if you catch the persons interest in the first sentence you've got them hooked? They want to know more.

However, you see I only got there on my third try. If I'd decided to get out of reading that page I would never have had the chance to read something that was well worth the read. Yes you've read it right.

The beginning was extremely slow. For the rest it was very interesting how you got us to see each person. Moreover, not only getting to know them with only a few words, but wanting to read more.
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Old 10-26-2008, 05:44 PM
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My comments were helpful? Excellent. I am one step further on the road to world domination. I haven't yet decided the best course to take, but so far it involves guitar picks and helpfully commenting on people's stories

I don't have much free time this week, something going on nearly every night an' all, but I'll be back on Friday to finish up my critique without fail! I might be committing thread necromancy by then, but what the heck...I can raise the dead if I want to. So there.

See you then!
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Old 10-30-2008, 06:00 PM
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Just wanted to make sure that you knew I hadn't forgotten you! With any luck, I'll be here Sunday. My Friday-night/Saturday morning critique session won't be happening this week because I have SATs on Saturday, which necessitate getting up at 6:00. So I need to make sure I'm nice and rested.

But have no fear! In the words of Douglas MacArthur...

"I will return!"
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Old 10-31-2008, 04:42 AM
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oooooo, complex words and lots of description ... I'm loving it! lol

This story has ALWAYS been a good story, because so many authors have done the same type of storyline. Maybe that's because people keep reading this stuff, so you could be on to a winner anyway.

When i was reading through it, it seemed like you were trying too hard on the descriptive side and trying to make it 'impressive'. Not a bad thing, but you really need to concentrate on the story alot more than those things.

Just get the polish out and start cleaning then it'll be perfect
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Old 10-31-2008, 09:19 AM
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I really liked your story. Your sense of humour comes out in your writing (I noted chin stubble on Mrs. Broganmeyer. One whisker protruded so far from her face that it quite nearly inhabited a separate zip code.) but it's not overpowering or distracting. I look forward to reading more because of the wit.

You get a sense of her resolve and strength ( I had rejected his couch, one of many actions that he found odd. Since our sessions had begun several weeks ago, I had chosen to lie on his floor instead. At first he objected, with little success. I was certain he had added this behavioral abnormality to my repertoire of inexplicable activity. I didn't really care.) which may be important for the rest of the story. It also makes me identify with the character. I didn't feel she was apathetic.

SPAG has been covered already so I'll not go into it here.
Nice work.

I look forward to the next chapter.
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Old 10-31-2008, 10:34 AM
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Thank you all so much for your encouragement, constructive criticism, and comments (especially you Winterbite). I have begun chapter three, and it has proven to be a little more difficult than the previous two chapters. I'm trying to keep the story going without giving too much away in the beginning... It's a challenge for sure! I'll post what I do have of this chapter tomorrow. Any suggestions are welcome. I'd like to know what you, the reader, is craving, what info you feel your needing, and what elements you would like to see continued. Again, thank you!
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Old 11-02-2008, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by PENsive View Post

FALLEN
By: Lindy Hickman

"TWICE or thrice had I loved thee, before I knew thy face or name;
so in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft"

John Donne
Air and Angels

Part One: Ember Nash




Chapter 2: Suicidal Statue




“Hey you’ve reached Ember. Wait for the beep. You know the drill.”



That voice, my voice,(To offset information from the rest of the sentence in an explanatory form like this, you want to use emdashes. Put double hyphens (--) on either side of the part you want to set off in place of commas. No spaces betwen them and the words they separate) sounded utterly foreign, almost as if it wasn’t mine at all. The voicemail greeting rang routinely from my cell phone and I found myself repelled by the slight lilt in my own tone. The voice that followed was even more off-putting.



“Ember, this is Dr. Vogel. You missed your sessions this past week. I’ve tried contacting you a few times, but I still haven’t heard from you. Perhaps you haven’t received my messages,” he sighed knowingly(Not a good speech tag. First of all, it only applies to one part of the dialogue. He hasn't been sighing all of this knowingly, has he? The best way to convey his attitude would be to put a period at the end of that first bit of dialogue, then say "He sighed knowingly," because that shows both who is speaking and gives us a sense of his attitude), “Then again, maybe you have. Either way, I think it’s really important that you come see me this week. There are several things I’d like to… discuss. You’re(You're is a contraction for "You are". "Your" is possessive, and that's what you want to use here) next appointment is scheduled for 4:15 on Wednesday. I’ll be expecting you.”



I deleted his message without hesitation,(Delete comma. The sentence does very nicely without it) and placed my phone next to me on the kitchen table. I spooned through the bowl of cereal before me(You already have the phone's position as relative to yours. Adding another relative position is a little redundant. How about just saying, "My bowl of cereal"?) Unable to eat it(Spooned through, as used in the previous sentence, apparently tells us that she's eating. Here, though, you disabuse us of that notion, and that takes a little thinking to get through. It'd be better if you replaced "spooned through" with something like "toyed with" or "stirred about"), I continued to stare at it, allowing my mind to wonder(wander?). It had been quite some time since I had indulged in a state of reverie. I had worked tirelessly to busy my mind. Leaving it idle made it more and more susceptible to “the terrors”. That’s how I referred to my haunting dreams. Although,(This is a comparitive term, meaning that it needs to be in the same sentence as the thing it's refuting or comparing. So your choice here is to either get rid of the comparitive term or make these two sentences into one to get the comparitive term to work) they weren’t really dreams at all. The terrors were never confined to the night or bound to a sleeping state. They permeated my mind at all hours. It’s true that they came more readily as I slept, something I had done very little of. But,(Two things here: comparitive term dangling again (but) and you should put the first highlighted part of the sentence in emdashes, then delete the period. That'll fix both the comma problem and the comparitive term problem) they also lingered in the day.



My band-aid approach to solving my problem seemed to be working. The more I occupied my thoughts,(Delete comma) the less the terrors came. Now, I just had to figure out how to live without sleep. The dark, inset circles beneath my eyes were telling of my restless nights. “Ember,”(Calling denotes yelling, or perhaps questioning. So an exclamation point or a question mark would be good here) the sound of my name being called was drowned out by the noise of my thoughts. For a moment I hadn’t realized that it had actually been spoken(Awkward. Saying "my name has been spoken" is really sort of flat. Referring to you instead of your name is a better way. So "...I hadn't realized that someone had spokent to me"). “Ember, honey?”



My head swiveled around quickly to find my mom standing in the doorway. A grey pant suit(I'm reasonably sure it's pant-suit) hung elegantly over her slender figure. Her dark auburn hair (was)twisted tidily into a bun, putting slight tension on the outer edges of her soft face. Worry exuded from her doe eyes as I faced her.(Exuded from is correct, but "her doe eyes exuded worry" sounds much better, don't you think?) “Honey, you look awful. Still no sleep?” Her voice cracked softly as her forehead furrowed disquietly.



“No, I slept just fine.(Comma instead of period here)” I lied. “I’m bad-dream free. I think these sessions with Dr. Vogel are really helping.” More lies. If I were Pinocchio, I could have pole vaulted with my nose at this point.



Mom smiled as she grabbed her briefcase by the door. She turned towards me again. “I’m glad to hear that,(Commas are only used when preceding a speech tag, i.e: "Mutant squirrels will attack you," she said." When the dialogue precedes an action, i.e "Don't get all uptight." John sipped his coffee. So, with that useful lesson learned, delete this comma and replace with a period!)” she paused, “By the way; I think I’m going to drive you to your session this week. I’d like to see how things are coming along.” I knew my poor lying had failed to convince her.



“Oh don’t bother, Mom” I smiled as compellingly(convincingly?) as possible. “Really, there is(There's sounds more natural) no need. I’m fine. Besides, I can’t ask you to take off of work…” She stopped me.



“You didn’t ask. I offered.”



“I know but… I don’t want you to go to all of that trouble. Really, I’m fine.”



She sighed and opened the front door. Relieved, I turned back towards my bowl of cereal and retrieved my spoon. “Oh, Ember, one last thing.”



I held onto my spoon as I turned towards her casually.



Your(You're. Contraction for "You are". Remember it. ) not the only one in contact with Dr. Vogel,” she raised one eyebrow, “4:15 on Wednesday, you are expected and you are going.”



There was no escape. “Alright. I fold.” Sigh. "Omniscient Mom strikes again,” I raised my fist, lifting the spoon reverently as if it were Excalibur(Yes! You spelled it right! You wouldn't believe how many people try to spell it "Excaliber". Sad, isn't it?). My bout of humor seemed to appease her. Her severe expression melted into a grin as she disappeared out the front door. I watched her as she loped(A lope is sort of an easy run. Is that really what she's doing?) across the lawn, counting her steps. Seven. Eight. Nine. She reached the black Lexus and ducked into it gracefully. As she backed out of the driveway,(Delete comma) I searched for another distraction.



I checked the time,(Delete comma, add colon : ) 7:46. I had class in exactly fourteen minutes. I knew that I could get to school in fifteen. I smiled at the realization that I was going to be embarrassingly late. Distraction found. I scurried around the house and put on my uniform. The grotesque plaid patterned skirt draped adversely(While it can mean unfavorably, it'd probably be better to replace it with an adverb that isn't so often used in a completely different way.) over my boyish hips. My unflattering two-dimensional figure was made even more noticeable as I tucked in my polo shirt. I had long given up hope that a statuesque body with my name on it was on lay away somewhere. Instead, I had accepted my seemingly shapeless figure.



I didn’t bother to comb my hair. Instead I allowed its waves to fall freely past my shoulders. Smoothing it hastily as I brushed my teeth, I noticed sunken green eyes staring back at me in the bathroom mirror. No wonder Mom had looked so concerned; my face was shrouded in sleep deprivation.(I know what that feels like--groan People look at my eyes and instantly ask if I'm alright ) I glanced at my alarm clock,(colon instead : ) 7:52. Hurriedly,(Delete comma) I grabbed my keys off the counter and scurried across the lawn towards my black civic(Honda=Car brand, Civic=car name. Both capitalized. Thus, you see "Honda Civic" in the ads, rather than "Honda civic").



The day inched by monotonously, and yet(Inching by monotonously implies that she had time to do this, so why say "and yet" as if you're going to refute your earlier statement? Seems perfectly complementary to me!) I had examined every aspect of it to the point of exhaustion. My English teacher, Mr. Dewhurst, was suffering from a cold. During the course of our class,(delete comma) he had coughed twelve times, blown his nose twice, and picked it once when he suspected no one was paying any attention.



My math classroom had thirty-two ceiling tiles. Six of them had suffered water damage. I had counted sixty-seven dress code violations,(delete comma) and thirteen cases of prohibited displays of affection.



At lunch, seventeen people sat alone,(Once again, to set off this information, use emdashes: --) only six of them did so by choice. One of the lunch- ladies neglected to wear a hairnet,(no comma) and another wiped her nose with her gloved hand before preparing a sandwich. I chose to forego school lunch,(delete comma) at least for the day, possibly forever.



In Geography, I noted chin stubble on Mrs. Broganmeyer. One whisker protruded so far from her face that it quite nearly inhabited a separate zip code. Two people had dozed off during her lecture. One of them, Jeffery Mannis, was slumped over his corner desk, snoring softly. A small puddle of drool escaped him. His buddies had taken it upon themselves to treat his cheek as an art canvas. Images of the anatomical persuasion were articulated on his face in sharpie. In spite of all of this I envied him. At least he could sleep.



The last bell finally resounded. I made my way through the sea of plaid and cackie as my locker came into view. My locker partner, Dylan Page was no where in sight. Dylan often kept to himself, which was one of the things I liked about him. When we did frequent our locker at the same time, there was no need for small talk or formalities. It was an unspoken understanding that neither of us expected our shared space to jumpstart a friendship. About a month ago, our locker became his drug trafficking(drug-trafficking) local(locale, pronounced low-cal). That struck a nerve, but it was easy enough to convince him to conduct business elsewhere. We had had no further problems. If there was one thing Dylan Page didn’t need, it was another problem. It was no secret that he (was? Or is self-medicated a verb here?)self medicated to dull the pain of his parent’s divorce. His father was a senator, who’s(whose) very public affair with his campaign manager had torn the family apart.(Bet it didn't do wonders for his career either. Oh, wait, Clinton wasn't impeached...)



As I opened my locker I was met by the familiar and disturbing “art” that Dylan had posted in(on) the interior wall. I glanced at the tattered notebook pages,(Delete comma) more carefully than I ever had before. One pictured an unidentifiable creature with blood oozing from one eye,(no comma) and tears from the other. Another portrayed a man ripping his own heart from his chest. As I took in the scenes, I pitied Dylan. For the first time since these pictures had appeared, I understood that there was pain behind them, that Dylan said in pictures what he couldn’t formulate in words. Dylan and I were not so different, we both felt lost inside of ourselves.



My welcomed(She's glad she's late?) tardiness had caused me(Yes, it did cause this, but only indirectly. A more direct approach would be, "meant I had to", which more clearly defines the indirect nature of the cause, whereas "caused me" makes it look like there's a direct relationship. Oh man, I'm beginning to talk like my physics textbook ) to park in the back corner of the school’s overflow lot, about a quarter of a mile away. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have cared; I probably would have enjoyed the long walk. That is, if a torrential downpour hadn’t enveloped the entire state of Vermont. I felt my chest(Goin' down! Lessee...Mrs. Chest, you wanted to go down to floor Abdomen? Sorry, no can do. Chests can't sink--only parts of chests which I won't go into detail about here --because then part of your ribcage and your entire breastbone would have to relocate to somewhere over your stomach. sink as I peered out the school’s entrance at the monsoon conditions. A few of my classmates scurried in (the) student parking lot, (Add a period here and make it its own sentence. Otherwise it's a comma splice--meaning two independent clauses are joined by a comma--a big no-no) others, like me, crowded around the windows and watched forlornly. Some determined to wait-out the storm, situating themselves on the benches and tiled floor. I considered doing the same,(no comma) but decided against it, remembering that idle time and mindless behavior went against my self prescribed(self-prescribed) treatment methods. Inhaling stiffly, I pushed open the heavy door and headed towards the lot.



I reached my car eight-hundred and sixty-seven steps later. As I plodded towards it, I realized that it was the sole car remaining in the overflow lot. At the beginning of my journey I had attempted to shield my hair with a notebook, but this method had been quickly deserted. As a result, my hair now hung soaking and disheveled. It clung to my cheeks and back, heavy and fragrant with the smell of rainwater. My knee high(knee-high) socks had failed to remain true to their name as they both sagged languidly at my ankles.



My car was warm and convivial as I slunk into it, purring to life(You purred to life, or the car did? Better clarify that!) as I twisted the key in the ignition. Refocusing the rearview mirror, I peered at my reflection. My unkempt image provoked a weary chuckle. Suddenly,(no comma) I was grateful that I was alone. I looked pitifully haggard, like a soaking stray cat.



My hands worked quickly to titivate(nice word!) my appearance to no avail. Giving up, I reached towards the rearview mirror to reposition it. Gently, it swiveled to a stop, encasing the reflection of a tall, still figure. I blinked swiftly, squinting as I stared at the man’s reflection. Dark blonde curls hung at his temples, dripping with rain. Steel-jawed, his face appeared as if it were etched from stone. His unrelenting gaze was steadfast as he peered into the back window of the civic(Remember, it's a proper noun, so capitalize!).



I awakened from my daze, realizing how awkwardly I had gawked at the stranger framed in the rearview reflection. Busying myself, I engaged the break(Actually, the point of brakes is that they prevent things from breaking ) and shifted into reverse. Surely he would move when he saw the break(brake) lights illuminated. In the mirror,(delete comma) I could see him cloaked in a red haze, but he remained unmoving. A low grumble rose in my throat.



Is he suicidal? My aggravation increased steadily. For crying out loud! I have enough qualifications for entrance into a psych ward. I do not(putting this in italics would add some great emphasis to the sentence) need to add manslaughter to the list! I honked my horn impatiently. His face remained composed,(emdashes) smug even. One corner of his mouth curved slightly into a smirk. In that moment I felt my final thread of sanity sever. An irate growl bellowed(A little while ago you said, "A low grumble rose in my throat". I think you can see the redundancy problem. Pretty easy to fix. Play with it, eh?) in my throat as I thrust the car into park. I was dangerously close to assisting the attractive stranger in his suicide mission.



My car door flung open,(I flung my car door open?) as my mind scrambled to contrive a fearsome tirade. Plodding in the puddle beneath my car, my foot planted in the ground with agitated force.(This sentence is poorly worded, and pretty much superfluous anyway. How about simply, "My foot splashed into a puddle as I angrily got out of my car.") Venomous words seethed in my mouth as I turned to face him, the suicidal statue. I stopped short, staggering as I stared at the gray scene. I was alone.


It's pretty much well-written, though you have quite a problem with commas, and another area of weakness is dashes, both regular and "em". You rank pretty high on the overall writing meter though, because your style makes up for any discrepancies in SPAG. It's nice and clear, and we can see what you tell us to see. Reading your work is easy despite the commas, etc. So, get those little SPAG niggles cleaned up, and this'll look very nice!

Darn, it's 12:04! I missed my little deadline by three minutes. Oh well, it's finished, and I hope it helps!
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Old 11-03-2008, 06:30 AM
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Winterbite, what can I say? You're the best! I cleaned the piece up a bit (commas and all). So this is the latest version. The only major change is to chapter one. I tried to make Dr. Vogel's speech a little more convincing so that the reader would better understand why Ember confides in him. If anyone wants to just look over that segment and provide feedback that woudl be great. Thanks again (and again and again and again and again) to everyone who commented!
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:25 PM
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Excellent! I see that many of the changes were nicely enacted, and Dr. V's speech was indeed a little more convincing.

Oh, and, not to be a needy hedgehog here (You won't get that joke until you've been certified as "wacky" ) but have you noticed the "Thanks" button at the bottom of every post? You can use it to tell people "Thanks" (No duh ) if their posts have been useful to you! It's a fun way to show people you care. Like a Hallmark card, but less expensive.

Trabajo bueno (Nice work, en Espanol)
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:33 PM
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Wow... that is one handy 'thanks' button!
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:42 PM
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I see you've been busy!

So, you're welcome! I get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside every time I help people. Thanks for providing my hit for the day
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Old 12-12-2008, 03:13 PM
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Hi PENsive,

I really like this. I have to admit that at this stage I've only read chapter 1, but will get to the 2nd and beyond soon. This story has grabbed me already.

I really loved the line:

"It was only a matter of time before the good doctor had me fitted for a straitjacket and added prescription drugs to my food pyramid."

I've only skimmed through others comments so far, so please excuse me if I'm repeating things others have already said.

There were a couple of questions I had that arose from my first reading. These are that:

1. You say she's been going to the Doc for 5 weeks or so, but only had 'the dream' last week. It just brings up some inconsistency here. You could easily add in Ember saying that it was only the most recent one, and there had been others and it would settle the matter.

2. The other is that you say you think you've unsettled the Doc with your visits but all you've done is kept silent and sat on the floor instead of his couch. I doubt this would have un-nerved any kind of experienced Doctor. Just a thought here anyway.

Otherwise I loved it. I look forward to reading the rest.
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Old 12-17-2008, 07:04 PM
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PENsive,

I am new to Writer'sBeat, and I've chosen your story as my first test critique: congratulations . I've only read through the first chapter fully, therefore my criticism may be limited, but bear with me. Okay, you apologized for the chapter being too long, but I felt it was not nearly long enough. Like many of the other readers, I was immediately drawn to "Ember's" witty sarcasm. But, it almost seemed too easy for the doctor to break down the barriers she had risen. With that said, I really like the mystery involved with the pseudo prophetic dream she had of the woman drowning. I felt the ending of the chapter was a cliff hanger, and it really made it difficult to pull away from the computer screen to go to bed. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the writing where Ember is being a "smart ass," is the strongest part of the piece. I feel like you should further develop that aspect of her, in order to solidify all the traits you are presenting. Than, heighten and intensify the struggle for the doctor to break her down, which will in turn increase the suspense for the reader.
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Old 12-18-2008, 04:30 PM
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Hello Nosracymmit,


First off, welcome to Writersbeat! Thank you for reading my piece. It's continually being edited and getting better, but it's not quite where I want it to be. Your advice actually reinforced my own thoughts on this chapter. As you said, the highlight of Ember is that she tends to be a "smartass" but she is also really scared. It's a hard balance to find. Hopefully I'll get it right eventually. Anyway, thanks again for the input. I can't wait to read some of YOUR work!

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