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Working title: The Masterpiece, 700+ words

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  #1  
Old 10-13-2013, 09:29 AM
garviel (Offline)
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Default Working title: The Masterpiece, 700+ words


This is a new novella I am working on. It is the opening scene, where I try to establish some facts and peculiarities of the main character. Although not apparent in this part, the story will incorporate some horror elements later on.

All comments are welcome. I am specifically interested to know what you think of the main character.




The Masterpiece

Lucian Auberon Smythe arrived at his sixteenth century estate at precisely five in the afternoon. His chauffeur manouvered the pearl white 1968 Rolls Royce Phantom VI around the impeccably maintained green island of perennial grass and stopped adjacent to the building's main entrance. The awaiting butler approached promptly but calmly to open the door.

“Good afternoon sir,” he said in his well mannered upper class English. “I trust my lord had a pleasant journey,” he added as his master exited the limousine.

“Quite adequate,” Smythe replied noticing some autumn leaves scattered on the ground. “See to it that those leaves are removed before my guest arrives will you.”

“Of course, sir.”

Once inside Smythe absently handed the butler his tailored leather gloves and allowed him to take his bespoked Savile Row knee-length outer garment. His thoughts were elsewhere.

“Dinner at six, sir?” the butler inquired drawing him back to the current time and place.

Smythe looked at him. “That will be satisfactory,” he said after a moments pause and turned to proceed up the stairs to his study.

The study was a work of perfection. Furniture of dark heavy wood and freshly oiled leather, accompanied by a large mahogany desk took up half of the room on his left as he entered. To his right was an equal in style, large bookshelf holding several rare and exclusive volumes. Positioned discretely yet easily visible for the occasional visiting collector's delight, and indeed to Smythe's pleasure of enjoying their envious looks, was a near priceless 1605 edition of Don Quixote in its original title El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote De la Mancha and next to it a 1667 first edition of Paradise Lost by John Milton.

In concordance with the time of the year, Antonio Vivaldi's Autumn from The Four Seasons emanated through invisibly positioned loudspeakers. At the far end of the room, near the sepia coloured see-through roof to floor curtains, an Italian Fazioli ten foot concert grand kept in perfect tune rested ready to perform. Diffused sunlight entered the room and baded his carefully selected paintings above the heavy furniture in a warm light. Smythe's absolute favorite hang among them. The companion portrait to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Kept among private collectors ever since he finished it, this superlative work of art remained unknown to the public. It had taken him years to acquire, and it was the most cherished of objects in his collection.

Glancing across the room his eyes fell upon the antique chesstable with its inlaid black and white marblestone squares and ornate silver pieces. He strolled over to have a final look at the position. The steps of his polished shoes silenced by thick carpets.

Smythe played white agaist grandmaster Vladimir Korchnoi, but his opponent played a solid Sicillian Defence and had not lost tempo. He stretched out his hand and picked up the bishop on the c1 square. As he did so the sleeve of his shirt slid out from underneath his suit exactly twentyone millimeters. Enough to reveal to a guest or visitor his gold cufflinks with inset diamonds surrounding a polished black pearl in the center, but not so much as to appear pretentious. He set the silver bishop down on e3. It landed with a low clonk against the marble. Later in the evening he would write the usual letter with his move and have it posted the next day.

Smythe cast a look at his Patek Philippe wristwatch. It read a quarter past five. He walked over to the large desk and sat down. Opened the right drawer and picked up a small piece of paper. Held it up and stared at it. “Excellence does not require perfection” was written across it. A quote by Henry James. Smythe sighed. “What a hobbit!” Abruptly he put it back, as if abhorred by it.

He let his eyes pan around his study. This entire estate including himself was a living proof of excellence from perfection. Everything should be achieved through perfection. And excellence demanded it.

The butler appeared in the doorway.

“Mr. Octavian awaits downstairs, sir. Shall I send him up?”

Smythe rose from his chair and walked over by the windows. There were no leaves in the driveway anymore. “Send him up.”

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  #2  
Old 10-13-2013, 01:53 PM
Andy Mitchell (Offline)
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The opening is pretty strong in my view, as in the first few sentences does what it meant to - hook the reader. I like the details at the start, it sets the tone and the pace for the story. This is well written and a good start. Keep going, I want to read more.
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:22 PM
risk10 (Offline)
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After your kind advice and critique of my last story has lead to a radical re-think in the way I write descriptive pieces, I was keen to provide some feedback here.

Really, this is brilliantly written.


All I have are "nitpicks", which you can feel free to take or leave.

Originally Posted by garviel View Post

“Good afternoon sir,” he said in his well mannered upper class English.
Not sure about the term "well mannered". I know what you are saying, but I think something like "in perfect Queen's English" or just keep it as upper class, lose the well mannered. (the perfect Queen's English I like as it keeps in line with Lucian's perfectionist character).

Originally Posted by garviel View Post
The steps of his polished shoes silenced by thick carpets.


Not sure whether you need the plural on carpet (really nitpicky, but hey I gotta give you something).

Your character, if somewhat a stereotype of the snobby English Toffee, is vivid. I like the characterisation myself, and find that sticking close to well-known tropes is fine when trying to deliver a particular picture.

Can I ask, gaviel are you American?

TAKE THE RISK
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Old 10-13-2013, 05:31 PM
Writingfan27 (Offline)
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Your character is clearly a perfectionist but that quote was right. "Excellence does not require perfection." Not in all cases anyway.

As for the piece itself, I give it five stars. Great work.
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Old 10-14-2013, 12:56 AM
garviel (Offline)
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Andy

The opening is pretty strong in my view, as in the first few sentences does what it meant to - hook the reader.
I was slightly anxious whether it would hook the reader. Glad it did so for you

Thank you very much for your comments


Risk

You comments are much appreciated.
Not sure about the term "well mannered". I know what you are saying, but I think something like "in perfect Queen's English" or just keep it as upper class, lose the well mannered. (the perfect Queen's English I like as it keeps in line with Lucian's perfectionist character).
I agree. It did not feel quite right to me as I wrote it, but I left it in to see if it would be commented on. Your suggestion "in perfect Queen's English" did not enter my mind as I pondered this part, but I think it sounds better and suits Lucian's character

Not sure whether you need the plural on carpet (really nitpicky, but hey I gotta give you something).

Your character, if somewhat a stereotype of the snobby English Toffee, is vivid. I like the characterisation myself, and find that sticking close to well-known tropes is fine when trying to deliver a particular picture.

Can I ask, gaviel are you American?
My intention was to convey the idea of several carpets, rather than wall to wall carpet. That may be too vague a description though.

I did a little bit of research for this piece in regards to the rare and exclusive books and the grand piano. The Mona Lisa companion portrait is just my imagination working As far as I know there is no such thing.

I tried to use fairly known objects but at the same time indicate his extravagance and his need for absolute perfection in his collection. A second edition of Paradise Lost just wouldn't do for him. A Steinway Grand would be too "common" in his mind, and a Rolex too pretentious and so on. I found it a slightly difficult balance. But I think it works.

American? Nope, I am from Norway Did my writing indicate American?


Thank you indeed for your feedback


Writingfan

Your character is clearly a perfectionist but that quote was right. "Excellence does not require perfection." Not in all cases anyway.
I agree with you I used this quote to portray Lucian's extreme belief in perfection. In his mind, everything should be done to perfection.

Thanks for commenting. Much appreciated



Garviel
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Old 10-14-2013, 05:55 AM
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I agree, the first sentences successfully hook the reader, especially a reader who is into this period/style of writing.

Also agree that the characterization is strong and well defined. Which is something I struggle with as a writer.

I'm not much of an editor, so I'll leave the grammar, etc. criticism for someone more reliable.
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  #7  
Old 10-20-2013, 04:53 AM
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Originally Posted by garviel View Post


Lucian Auberon Smythe arrived at his sixteenth century estate at precisely five in the afternoon. His chauffeur manouvered the pearl white 1968 Rolls Royce Phantom VI around the impeccably maintained green island of perennial grass and stopped adjacent to the building's main entrance. The awaiting butler approached promptly but calmly to open the door.


Perennial grass seems an odd description. Most grasses are perennial. Ornamental maybe if you don't mean common or garden lawn grass.

“Good afternoon sir,” he said in his well mannered upper class English. “I trust my lord had a pleasant journey,” he added as his master exited the limousine.

Once inside Smythe absently handed the butler his tailored leather gloves and allowed him to take his bespoked Savile Row knee-length outer garment. His thoughts were elsewhere.
Description of any steps or doors would give a better perspective on the house.

“Dinner at six, sir?” the butler inquired drawing him back to the current time and place.
Entirely personal but this feels a tad early for the type of household. But then maybe it is Smythe's choice.


In concordance with the time of the year, Antonio Vivaldi's Autumn from The Four Seasons emanated through invisibly positioned loudspeakers. At the far end of the room, near the sepia coloured see-through roof to floor curtains, an Italian Fazioli ten foot concert grand kept in perfect tune rested ready to perform. Diffused sunlight entered the room and baded his carefully selected paintings above the heavy furniture in a warm light. Smythe's absolute favorite hang among them. The companion portrait to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Kept among private collectors ever since he finished it, this superlative work of art remained unknown to the public. It had taken him years to acquire, and it was the most cherished of objects in his collection.
This infodumps a little. Try to relate Smythe a little more to it. (too much would ruin the voice I know) For example he uses the remote to turn on the music, gets the Butler to pull back the curtains. The one thing the museum worker in me is cringing at is the light bathing a priceless painting lol Noooo you'll fade it He'd have that in a separate room devoid of light or an alcove or in someway preserved. If he is in the secret service maybe a special glass?

Glancing across the room his eyes fell upon the antique chesstable with its inlaid black and white marblestone squares and ornate silver pieces. He strolled over to have a final look at the position. The steps of his polished shoes silenced by thick carpets.
Chess table
Marble not marblestone
And I'm assuming he strolled over the thick carpet to look at the positions of chess pieces. I think maybe that needs making clearer.

Smythe played white agaist grandmaster Vladimir Korchnoi, but his opponent played a solid Sicillian Defence and had not lost tempo. He stretched out his hand and picked up the bishop on the c1 square. As he did so the sleeve of his shirt slid out from underneath his suit exactly twentyone millimeters. Enough to reveal to a guest or visitor his gold cufflinks with inset diamonds surrounding a polished black pearl in the center, but not so much as to appear pretentious. He set the silver bishop down on e3. It landed with a low clonk against the marble. Later in the evening he would write the usual letter with his move and have it posted the next day.
against
Sicilian
and twenty one

I gather he is always ready for visitors or are his preparations for this visitor in particular.

Smythe cast a look at his Patek Philippe wristwatch. It read a quarter past five. He walked over to the large desk and sat down. Opened the right drawer and picked up a small piece of paper. Held it up and stared at it. “Excellence does not require perfection” was written across it. A quote by Henry James. Smythe sighed. “What a hobbit!” Abruptly he put it back, as if abhorred by it.
Try reading this one out loud. It doesn't make a huge amount of sense but I'm not sure why.

He let his eyes pan around his study. This entire estate including himself was a living proof of excellence from perfection. Everything should be achieved through perfection. And excellence demanded it.
This paragraph is unneeded you have shown it with bells on. I already know it.

“Mr. Octavian awaits downstairs, sir. Shall I send him up?”

Smythe rose from his chair and walked over by the windows. There were no leaves in the driveway anymore. “Send him up.”
[/FONT]
Maybe "Shall I bring/escort/show him up" followed by "Send him up he knows the way" would give a clearer idea of Mr Octavian's frequency of visits and relationship to Smythe.

Overall a nicely written piece reminiscent of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes etc The character is very well defined. I would personally rein the description in just a tad and find ways to relate it to the character's actions just a bit more but there was nothing to stop me reading onto chapter two.

I would also suggest he names the butler.
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Old 10-22-2013, 03:47 AM
garviel (Offline)
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Anya

Thank you very much for your comments and advice

Perennial grass seems an odd description. Most grasses are perennial. Ornamental maybe if you don't mean common or garden lawn grass.
In hindsight I agree with that. I am currently researching ornamental grasses

Entirely personal but this feels a tad early for the type of household. But then maybe it is Smythe's choice.
You are probably correct about that, but there is a reason for it being at six

Description of any steps or doors would give a better perspective on the house.
I'll consider that

The one thing the museum worker in me is cringing at is the light bathing a priceless painting lol Noooo you'll fade it
Thanks, I will definitely rework that part. Just out of curiosity, how long time would it take for the painting to show signs of fading?

And I'm assuming he strolled over the thick carpet to look at the positions of chess pieces. I think maybe that needs making clearer.
Correct, and I will consider rewriting it.

Try reading this one out loud. It doesn't make a huge amount of sense but I'm not sure why.
Oh, fiddlesticks! you noticed it This paragraph did not sit quite well with me. One might ask: why would he suddenly go to his desk, pick up a note he is keeping in his drawer, read it, feel abhorred by it, and put it back. Well, I needed a way to lead the story to the quote which gives an opportunity to show more of Lucian's near fanatical perfectionism. I am considering having the quote show up in a newspaper he has on his desk, and have him notice it as he sits down. That might make the scene more natural.

This paragraph is unneeded you have shown it with bells on. I already know it.
I partially agree with you. However, the way I thought about it, this is Lucian essentially confirming to himself that perfection is the way to go, in relation to the quote. I agree it may be technically unneeded, but perhaps storywise there is a point in keeping it there.


Thank you again for some very good advice The butler actually was named in a previous version, but I removed it. I will think about giving him a name again.

Garviel
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Old 10-22-2013, 04:25 AM
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umm paintings aren't my specialty - I know how to conserve them because my local museum has the likes of a Turner and Constable - paintings that are not even close in value to a Da Vinci.

But from my home I can tell you a couple of weeks of summer will show visible damage on a painting. What he could do perhaps is close the curtains and then open the alcove with the painting in it, specially for the visitor coming.
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