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Trying to start writing again... looking for feedback

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posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 06:01 AM
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So... I haven't posted much in this forum, and nothing in a few years, but I'm trying to get back into writing again, and I figured ATS would be a good place to put some things up for feedback. I've only got maybe two pages done so far on my first (new) short story, and I'm not quite happy with it yet, so I won't put it up right away, but I'll describe some of my ideas and see what people think.

First of all, the idea is more suited towards a series of short stories. (or full novels, but I'm starting with short stories :p) The setting is the present day and world, except that paranormal/magical stuff is real, and it will take place in different locations in each story as the main character, Alex, travels in the course of his work. (in the one I started, he will travel to Harvard to investigate the suicide of a professor found with all sorts of occultic things at the scene) He works as a sort of paranormal investigator (I'm not really sure exactly how to describe what he does) but the basic idea is that he deals with things like haunted houses, possessions, weird monsters, and whatever other strange magical and occult stuff he might happen to come across. To describe what sort of genre it's in, I think it's a combination of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. (it isn't actually set in the Cthulhu mythos, though; I'd thought about doing that, but decided against it, for various reasons)

The only two characters that will appear in every story are Alex (the 'detective') and Nicole, who is kind of like his girlfriend. (it's complicated :p) In addition to the usual things that complicate such a relationship, Nicole is a ghost. She haunts the house where she was killed (by Alex... I did say complicated, right?
) and can only appear at night. Alex is very much a loner, and he's got a very serious disposition most of the time, and he's extremely intelligent. The only person he opens up to about anything is Nicole; he doesn't really like being around other people. She, on the other hand, is Alex's opposite in many respects. She's much more outgoing, and nowhere near as serious as Alex is. One of the main reasons she is in the story is basically to give us more information about Alex, since he isn't going to give it to anyone else, and I'm not using the omnscient form of narration so I won't be showing what he's thinking, in order to make him more mysterious. (it is 3rd person narration around Alex most/all of the time)

I want to keep Alex's past a deliberate mystery, but I'll mention a few things here in order to better give an idea of some of his motivations. In the past, he used to use magic and dabble in the occult and that sort of thing, and he didn't care who he hurt or what price he had to pay for his power. After he killed Nicole (I haven't decided precisely how, but I'm thinking he sacrificed her in some kind of ritual) he had a change of heart and dedicates his life to helping and protecting people from the very sort of thing he used to be. He also swears off using all magic for any reason; he solves and fights his problems without it, though he will use the knowledge he has of it to help him.

Okay, so hopefully that gives a basic outline of what I'm trying to do. At this point (since I haven't actually posted any writing yet) I'm more interested in things like, Would you actually want to read something like this? Does it sound interesting? Do you see any obvious flaws in any of my basic ideas?

I'm also not sure how much planning and outlining i should do beforehand, or whether I should just start writing without really thinking about it. (I've been going quite slowly right now) I've got some more details about Alex and Nicole jotted down than I've given here, but I'm still worried I perhaps haven't planned them out enough (particularly Nicole) and that as a result they might not behave consistently.

In a few days or a week or so I'll hopefully have something good enough that I'll feel comfortable sharing it for comments/criticism.




posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 08:06 AM
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I don't know about posting stuff on ATS. Personally, I would not. While there are many members who would happily give constructive feedback, there are just as many who would love to come in and rip it to shreds for no reason.

The best place, I think, is Authonomy, where other writers, both published and not, will read and give feedback on your work. It's free, and because it is what the site is for, you will get next-to-no trolling and so on. I keep meaning to get back on it as it was pretty helpful, and I got my first fan on there


EDIT: I'll add this here, since I used up my characters in the post below - another reason posting here may not be the best is that it takes time to read over someone's work and come up with constructive criticism. Even the post below took me about 40 minutes reading your posts and then thinking about stuff and typing my replies (though admittedly, I kept stopping to stare out the window). Doesn't mean you can't try though - just be prepared for unpleasant comments.

EDIT 2: Having said all of the above, I now realise there is a forum section dedicated to short stories
I never knew it existed, so if it works, great.

[edit on 27-7-2010 by ShadowArcher]



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 08:50 AM
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As for the ideas you've posted, reading the first paragraph reminds me of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently books. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Very funny.


Originally posted by DragonsDemesne
He works as a sort of paranormal investigator (I'm not really sure exactly how to describe what he does) but the basic idea is that he deals with things like haunted houses, possessions, weird monsters, and whatever other strange magical and occult stuff he might happen to come across.


You can always call him a paranormal investigator - that does cover quite a range of things - and it's ok if he comes across things that don't necessarily fall under that catagory. My step-mother works in a call centre, but on occassion, she's paid to babysit - that's not part of call centre work. Weak example, but you see what I mean.



She haunts the house where she was killed (by Alex... I did say complicated, right?
) and can only appear at night.


That is quite a good premise - that he killed her. The only thing is that you'll have to make sure you convey his feelings of guilt, etc, well (assuming he has such feelings...it's complicated after all!). Also, you'll need a reason she can only appear at night.



Alex is very much a loner, and he's got a very serious disposition most of the time, and he's extremely intelligent ... One of the main reasons she is in the story is basically to give us more information about Alex, since he isn't going to give it to anyone else, and I'm not using the omnscient form of narration so I won't be showing what he's thinking, in order to make him more mysterious. (it is 3rd person narration around Alex most/all of the time)


Don't take this the wrong way, but I hope you're very intelligent! Or else, it will be rather tricky to write a 'very intelligent' character
Also, I am not sure what you mean when you say you will not be showing what he is thinking because it's 3rd person. If you intend to write it so that there is nothing but action (ie, no exposition) I don't know how well that will work. Generally, you give exposition; even if it is only a tiny amount. For example, you might have him looking over the crime scene and say 'the grisly scene brought back memories of Nicole's death', or some such thing.



In the past, he used to use magic and dabble in the occult and that sort of thing, and he didn't care who he hurt or what price he had to pay for his power. After he killed Nicole (I haven't decided precisely how, but I'm thinking he sacrificed her in some kind of ritual) he had a change of heart and dedicates his life to helping and protecting people from the very sort of thing he used to be. He also swears off using all magic for any reason; he solves and fights his problems without it, though he will use the knowledge he has of it to help him.


This ties in to what I said above - how are you going to get across the kind of person he was without exposition? It will also be particularly hard to show the reader just how he feels about killing Nicole and all the other things he'll have done. Also, you'll want to be careful here - if you decide he sacrificed Nicole particularly - as you don't want the reader to dislike your character; not if he is supposed to be the hero of the thing. It can be difficult to make an anti-hero work well. Perhaps saying that he hurt people due to carelessness and not understanding the powers he was dealing with, etc, rather than him being, basically, evil (of course, that's only how it comes across from the little you've written; I may be way off).



I'm more interested in things like, Would you actually want to read something like this? Does it sound interesting?


It does sound quite interesting - again, it reminded me of Dirk Gently, which can't be bad. Whether I'd want to read it is impossible to say at the moment.



I'm also not sure how much planning and outlining i should do beforehand, or whether I should just start writing without really thinking about it. (I've been going quite slowly right now) I've got some more details about Alex and Nicole jotted down than I've given here, but I'm still worried I perhaps haven't planned them out enough (particularly Nicole) and that as a result they might not behave consistently.


I can only say my experience here. To clarify, I have written two science fantasy novels (130,000 and 95,000 words respectively), and half of two others. I have nothing published, and though I have tried, I have not tried all that hard and know that the books still need work, really.

Planning and outlining
For the first book, I sat at my computer about seven years ago and began to write about the very first spaceship launched to search for inhabitable planets. Four or five years later, I finished my first rewrite. No longer did it have anything to do with the original premise, nor the second premise, nor did the rewrite have 70% of what the first draft contained. I wrote whatever came to mind, to the degree that all the twists were a surprise to me! That worked for me, but won't for everyone.

For the second book, I noted down a few things - most of it as I went, though. I would say that, if you do plan the stories, do so fairly roughly. A beginning, middle and end should suffice - with, perhaps, a few major plot points in between. And you needn't stick to it anyway if something better comes to mind while writing.

Character notes
Again, I wrote nothing about this kind of thing. I wish I had, though. It has been about seven years since I started writing the series, and I only now have finally put together information about some of the main characters. At present, if a character crops up in another book, I need to go back to previous books and read a few choice chapters, which can get annoying. If I were you, I would do this part first, even though it can be annoying, and you'll want to get to the proper writing; you'll be glad you took the time. Write the main things about each character. What they look like, how they behave, their history, etc. Even if you don't use half of the stuff, the feel that you really know these characters will come across.

I hope some of that helps to some extent


[edit on 27-7-2010 by ShadowArcher]



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 09:20 AM
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reply to post by DragonsDemesne
 


Hi DragonsDemesne. Hope you don’t mind if I offer some opinions on your working premise? You’re welcome to ignore, take in or discuss them as you see fit!

Something that struck me immediately; your initial idea of having a travelling paranormal investigator who has a murky/mysterious background is fine, but you should be aware that they have been utilized several times before; think X Files, The Dresden Files, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Supernatural etc.

Whilst none of the above examples are exactly the same as your creation, there’s enough comparable connections between them to allow us to spot the association.

Saying that, there’s more than likely enough room out there for another troubled soul who mixes it with the paranormal.

However, why not give “Alex” an edge – something unique and different - that the others don’t have, to distinguish him from, and therefore lift him above, them?

What that angle/back-story/story-arc may be is up to you, but my opinion is that you’re going to need that unique selling point for your main character.

Maybe there’s no need to think linearly; why not start the story at the apparent end of Alex’s life as he faces his “nemesis”, or as he’s reminiscing on his adventures to someone younger (don’t think that beginning a story with an apparent ending is actually giving away the ending; you can always do one final big – and unexpected – “reveal” of a hitherto unknown but important secret).

The one thing that hit me is that your opening story line is quite suggestive of another investigator of all things odd: Robert Langdon in the Dan Brown novels:


in the one I started, he will travel to Harvard to investigate the suicide of a professor found with all sorts of occultic things at the scene


Remember the opening scenes in “The Da Vinci Code”, with the professor lying dead in his own museum surrounded by clues etc? This is just my observation, but I do believe that it is quite easy to allow outside influences to not only colour a writer’s work, but to overtly influence that work too. By all means use accepted structure to create a story line (as Brown does formulaically), but you must add your own slant to it to make it different.


I want to keep Alex's past a deliberate mystery…


This is a great idea. The more we read of what he can do, as in:


…he used to use magic and dabble in the occult and he didn't care who he hurt or what price he had to pay for his power …


but without actually knowing the precise details, the more interesting the character becomes. You really don’t need to tell us everything about him; suggest things but don’t explain. Leave it to the reader to deduce what they will from the morsels of information you give. If you go down the road of revealing his entire history, he’ll become another Buffy character, unless, of course, that’s what you wanted…


Alex is very much a loner, and he's got a very serious disposition most of the time…


Cool. So he’s almost an anti-hero.


…and he's extremely intelligent.


Ok. This is in no way an attempt to question your intelligence, but you do realize that you simply cannot just say in a story that a character is extremely intelligent, you absolutely have to demonstrate his intelligence believably and consistently in the written word.


The only two characters that will appear in every story are Alex (the 'detective') and Nicole, who is kind of like his girlfriend.



After he killed Nicole (I haven't decided precisely how, but I'm thinking he sacrificed her in some kind of ritual)


He killed her, and now she’s his ghostly “girlfriend”? Forgiving sort, isn’t she? You’re going to have to go some to explain her complete about face from murder victim to light-hearted assistant.

As to her being there as a vehicle to explain his history; I would watch that carefully as she would quickly become the one to deliver any relevant “data dump” about Alex. This relegates her to a narrator’s role and, in my opinion, if that isn’t handled subtly then it will read clumsily.

My take on her would be that maybe now – in death - she isn’t entirely what she was before she died; her continued existence in spirit is merely symbolic and she is actually Alex’s conscience and memory embodied in the one person he loved, but had to kill. Her physical appearance is a constant reminder of his dark past. He cannot do the work he does now with a conscience, as it can be distasteful, so it resides elsewhere. That fact could be a secret reveal in his last story. Once again, these are just my thoughts and you can do with them what you will…


He also swears off using all magic for any reason; he solves and fights his problems without it, though he will use the knowledge he has of it to help him.


Personally, I would have Alex use the magic he has been given to combat the powers that bestowed them upon him. That would make it a sort of divine justice upon the “dark ones”.

Let me expand on that as an example of not letting the story go down familiar – and therefore predictable - routes: who’s to say that Alex’s change of heart from baddie to crusading goodie was actually his own idea? It may well appear that he is on a crusade to defeat evil and that’s all there is to it, but in the end why not have him shown to be the pawn of far greater, positive powers?

At the very last gasp, as this is revealed to us that he was being used as a tool of divine vengeance, you have him say that he knew all along and could have stopped it if he had wished. Double whammy.


I'm also not sure how much planning and outlining i should do beforehand, or whether I should just start writing without really thinking about it.


Write, write, write. And when you’re tired, write a little more. Get as much information you can on the page/screen, then begin the editing process.

If you want to create character bibles that’s fine, but having a darn good concept in your head of who and what Alex and Nicole are can also serve you well. And remember part of the fun of creating characters is that they will do unexpected things; never be too rigid in that respect, and go where your subconscious takes you (unless it’s a ludicrous scenario, of course).

Hope this helps, or at least gives you food for thought. Good luck!



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 09:24 AM
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Hey DragonsDemesne,

Go for it. I've published a few short stories here on ATS, and always found the replies to be helpful. Not quite sure what Shadow Archer is meaning - I haven't received a 'nasty' reply yet (If anything, you'll develop a fan base). So yes, you should. And if you ever want to get into collaborative writing, feel free to give me a u2u.

Look forward to reading your material.

Cheers
Shane



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 09:55 AM
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I'm also not sure how much planning and outlining i should do beforehand, or whether I should just start writing without really thinking about it. (I've been going quite slowly right now) I've got some more details about Alex and Nicole jotted down than I've given here, but I'm still worried I perhaps haven't planned them out enough (particularly Nicole) and that as a result they might not behave consistently.


Just write.
And then write some more.
Regardless where you 'publish' it - you've got to get those characters OUT of their box and into the land of the living.

As for planning it out ahead of time? Rough is good - any more and IMO you'll be confined and possible crush the inspiration process.

And, if your characters are anything like mine? They're going to write themselves anyway.

So, stop the list making and feeling like you've accomplished something and get down to the writing!


By the way, write for you - not anyone else - and no worrying 'what will others think' before you've even started.


GOOD LUCK TO YOU!

Hope to hear more from you here...

peace

Edit = bold

[edit on 27-7-2010 by silo13]



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 10:41 AM
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Thanks, I really appreciate all the replies.

@shadowarcher: I'm not too worried about being trolled or anything like that, and I don't think most people will just be mean without any reason. I have absolutely no problem with criticism, as long as it's constructive in some way. For instance, "don't quit your day job. n00b" isn't likely to help me, whereas the suggestions people have said so far are useful.

I suppose that in some sense, Alex is a bit of an anti-hero, but I didn't really think of him as such. If he ends up coming off that way, I have no problem with it, but I didn't consciously think of him that way. Even in his past, he wasn't so much evil as just selfish and uncaring. And yes, I definitely did plan on having Alex show he was smart by his actions, rather than just saying 'he's a freaking genius', so I don't think I'll have an issue there.

In regards to Alex and Nicole's relationship, one way I was thinking this might work out is if Nicole *didn't know* that it was Alex who had killed her.

Also, I think I explained the part about my style very poorly; it's actually closer to what you suggest I should do :p The idea is I want the reader to be kept in the dark about Alex's past, but as you point out, I'll have to show at least some of what he's thinking and so on in order to actually tell the story properly. I'll also check out that Authonomy website you linked to.

@beamish: You definitely have a point at there being similarities with other already-done ideas, though of the ones you mention, the only one I am familiar with is The Dresden Files, and even then only with the TV show, so I'm hoping it won't be too derivative. (being too derivative was a huge problem with a fantasy novel I started about nine years ago and abandoned) You also point out the similarities with The Da Vinci Code, and that never even occurred to me until you mentioned it, but it is awfully similar, so I may change that. Based on the ideas I have so far, there isn't any need to have him actually be a professor of anything, so I'll probably change that part completely. (I think that part was actually Lovecraft's work influencing me, rather than Dan Brown, but either way, I do agree it should be addressed)

As to Nicole forgiving Alex, I haven't quite worked that out yet :p Unless I use the above idea of just having her not know who killed her. With her appearing only at night, I was just thinking that ghosts in my fictional universe behave that way; they simply cannot appear during the day. I'm not sure if I need a stronger reason than that, but it's the one I had in my head.

I'd been fairly dead-set against having Alex actually use any sort of magic, but you do present some interesting ideas. I like the idea of there being something 'different' about him, though. One idea I had as I was composing my reply here is that perhaps Alex is much older than he looks. In his character description I'd said that he appears about thirty, but that his eyes make him look much older, so maybe he is actually hundreds of years old, and the reason he is so old is because of some sort of immortality ritual he performed in which he sacrificed Nicole.



posted on Jul, 28 2010 @ 06:07 AM
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Sounds like you've got a very good outline for what you want to write.

Do it.

Just write, and the rest of the story will take care of itself.



posted on Jul, 30 2010 @ 01:35 AM
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I haven't done too much the last few days. I've been struggling with the opening paragraph of the story; something about it just didn't feel quite right. I think I found the problem, though; I hadn't really set the scene quite the way I wanted to. I had started it by having a scene between Alex and Nicole, which I am going to keep. However, instead of that being the first scene, it is now the second scene, and in a fit of inspiration I put this next part together. It doesn't really have anything to do with the rest of the story, but it sets the mood fairly well, I hope...



The small, unassuming house on the corner of 78th and Westridge bothered the neighbours. None of them could have said why. It wasn’t the house itself. It was well-maintained; the lawn was always cut and the yard was always clean. There were never any complaints of noise, or too many cars parked, or obnoxious visitors. In fact, there had been no visitors at all since the current owner had moved in.

It wasn’t the owner himself, though the feelings surrounding the house started as soon as he had moved in. The quiet young man lived alone; he never spoke unless spoken to, but on those rare occasions that someone addressed him, he was always polite and well-spoken, though distant. Nobody was quite sure what he did for a living, but to live in Westridge, even in such a modest house, meant he was reasonably well off. Whatever he did do, he kept irregular hours; he had been seen coming and going at all times of day or night.

There were little details that people wondered about. The thick blinds that obscured every window at all times. The sense of coldness that seemed to emanate from the place, even now, in the midst of summer. The feeling of emptiness surrounding the place, even when the young man was home, which wasn’t often.

Perhaps it was the mystery of it all that bothered people. Not knowing who the young man was, what he did, where he went, or why he seemed to shut out the world around him. There was no other rational explanation for it. That, of course, did not stop people from proposing irrational explanations…

None of which would have even come close to the truth.



At this point I'm still tweaking the next scene, but for some reason I felt good enough about the one above to share it even though I spent about fifteen minutes total on it, while the following scene has taken me several days and I still don't feel ready to post it.



posted on Aug, 6 2010 @ 03:00 PM
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Here's the next scene in the story. I'm still working on the one after that.


They sat on the hardwood floor across from each other, a chessboard between them. A dim kerosene lamp held back the dark of night, while casting eerie shadows over the board. An old lazy-boy recliner rested, decrepit, in one corner, and a small foldable card table stood near the doorway. A black trench coat was draped over the table, partially covering a large navy blue duffel bag. Thick, dusty blinds obscured the view through the window. A light fixture in the ceiling had empty sockets. Some framed pictures hung on one wall surrounding a large crucifix. Otherwise, the room was absolutely bare.

On the one side sat a young man; he appeared to be in his late twenties, or perhaps early thirties. He was tall of height and large of frame, and stared intently at the board with dark, riveting eyes. His expressionless face gave no hint as to whether he was winning or losing.

On the other side, a beautiful young woman sat cross-legged, her round face resting in the palms of both hands, elbows propped up on her knees. Her shoulder-length hair was somewhere between blonde and brunette, and she was staring deep into the young man’s eyes with her own, watching him watch the board.

Suddenly, he moved, with a precise, deliberate action. “Check,” he announced firmly, as he advanced a rook three spaces.

She smiled slyly; he looked up at her, and his expression softened measurably. “Something amusing?” he asked.

She smiled again. “I knew you’d do that,” she replied in an innocent tone, and then added, “Bishop to d3.” He cocked his head to one side quizzically, as if to ask, ‘Are you sure?’, and finding no response other than the same slow smile, he shrugged, took up the aforementioned piece, and moved it on the board for her.

The young man sat thinking for several minutes, and the two passed the time in silence. After a time, she asked, “Do you have a case tomorrow?”

He looked up, and nodded at her. “There was a suspicious death in Portland today. I got the call a few hours ago. They found some strange books and artifacts at the scene, and the precinct captain recommended I be brought in as a consultant.”

“When do you leave?” she sighed.

“My flight is at 6 A.M.” It was past midnight.

“What!” she gasped. “You should sleep,” she scolded.

A dark cloud came over his face. “Just a few more minutes,” he said, moving a knight to threaten the pinned bishop. “I’m not tired.”
She laughed. It was a warm, kind laugh, not mocking. “Alexander Wayland Walker, it’s past your bedtime! Now go, go, go!” she playfully ordered, waving her fingers towards him dismissively.

“Nicole…” Alex began.

She cut him off. “No buts. Go… go…” Nicole could not finish the sentence; she was suddenly seized by an uncontrollable fit of giggling, doubling over with laughter.

Alex stared at her for a moment, and then laughed as well. “You sound like my mother,” he chuckled, and stood upright, ready to give in.

With an effort, Nicole regained most of her composure. “Then she was very wise.” She nodded sagely, then burst into laughter again.

Alex turned away from Nicole, stifling a yawn. “Goodnight, then,” he said.

“I saw that!” Nicole chided him. “You’ve got to stop doing this to yourself. It isn’t good for you.”

“But my work is…”

Nicole thrust her finger at a darkened hallway. “Sleep. Bed. Now!” she ordered, brooking no argument. She followed him as he slowly walked through the sparsely furnished house and stopped at his bedroom door, waiting for him to go in.

Alex groaned as he crossed the threshold into the room. It contained nothing but a bare mattress on the floor, a sparse rack of clean clothes on one wall, and an enormous pile of dirty laundry heaped on the floor. He looked back once more, and Nicole glared at him. He moaned again to himself, flopped onto the mattress, and was asleep within seconds. Nicole shook her head sadly, and walked back into the front room.

Behind her, the screaming began.

((edit because cut/paste didn't preserve paragraphing. I think I caught them all, but if it looks like two paragraphs are stuck together, that's why :p)

[edit on 6-8-2010 by DragonsDemesne]



posted on Aug, 6 2010 @ 03:36 PM
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reply to post by DragonsDemesne
 


Sounds like a pretty cool story. I'd definitely be interested in reading it. I especially like the idea that his girlfriend is a ghost. It'd be especially funny if she follows him around pestering him by taking over other people's bodies while he's trying to run an investigation... The idea reminds me of Al from Quantum Leap (if you know who that is
)

I too am an aspiring author and I struggle to find sites that offer feedback. Not sure if ATS is the best place, most of what I posted here got only a handful of replies and most of those just to say they liked it. Not much in the way of constructive criticism.

I used to post on a site called fictionpress.net but I didn't get too much attention, I get the feeling you have to be deeply entrenched in other people's work to attract anyone to your own. Sort of like you have to be VERY involved in the community there to get any feedback.

Edit to Add: Will read what you have posted so far and try to offer feedback. I probably should have read the rest of the thread before responding


[edit on 6-8-2010 by Titen-Sxull]



posted on Aug, 6 2010 @ 07:34 PM
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Well, my plan for Nicole is that she is unable to move very far from her body. (in this case, I decided she is cremated and Alex keeps the urn in his home) The other 'rule' I had for ghosts besides that was that the only appear at night. I should have actually mentioned that urn somewhere in the story itself, but I'll just say it's in a room that hasn't been shown yet or something :p

I did have a vague idea that he might bring the urn with him sometimes if he needs Nicole's help, but that won't happen in this particular story. I could see it being pretty funny if she freaked out the police by walking through them or disappearing or that kind of thing.

And yeah, I'm not sure if ATS is the best place to get writing advice, but I figured it couldn't hurt. And even if people are just saying 'cool story' or whatever, at least it means you did something right, even if you aren't sure just what!



posted on Aug, 9 2010 @ 01:46 AM
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Here's the next bit. I'm not certain I'm 100% satisfied with this, but I wanted to get it down for people to comment on.




Officer Malcolm Ross waited in the rain, muttering to himself. He was cold, soaked, and bored. The consultant was an hour late, and Malcolm would rather have been anywhere else but here. Not only that, but the man they were waiting for was a 'paranormal detective’, of all things. What a joke. He was getting drenched for this? Not a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

And so Malcolm stood miserably in the rain. Footsteps sounded behind him, heavy and wet, making suction noises each time a foot was raised out of the mud. Malcolm turned his head, and spotted Inspector Steven Garcia approaching, umbrella in hand. Apparently inspectors ranked high enough to warrant umbrellas. Malcolm wished the inspector would just unlock the house, but he refused to do so until the consultant arrived.

“Is he here yet, Ross?” Garcia boomed above the deluge. His natural tone of voice would have been termed ‘shouting’ in any other man.

Malcolm shook his head, unaware that the act threw droplets of water across Garcia’s face, who frowned but said nothing. “No sir,” he replied. Then, after a pause, asked, “Who is this guy, anyway? I mean, it’s not like our guys don’t know how to handle a crime scene, and he sounds like some kind of quack.”

The inspector shrugged his broad shoulders. “I’ve no idea. Never met him before. I heard from the captain, though,” he added, “that this Walker fellow gets results, and that’s what counts. Though I hear he’s a little… difficult to work with.”

“I still don’t get it. This guy’s a civilian, right?” The inspector nodded. “What’s he going to do that our forensics team can’t?”

“This guy is… a specialist,” Garcia replied slowly. “You know all those weird books and things they found? The captain is convinced that it’s relevant to the case, and that this guy can help. He also says this guy’s got quite a reputation. I tried to look into him, but all the files are classified way above my pay grade.”

Malcolm was about to ask another question, but the sound of a vehicle approaching silenced him. Both men turned to look. A black taxi roared around the corner, sending a wave of water over the lawn that narrowly missed the police officers. The brakes squealed, the car stopped, the back door opened, and a tall young man clad in a black trench coat stepped out. With one hand he carried a dark blue duffel bag. He opened the front door with the other, spoke briefly, and handed the cab driver his fare.

“That’s the guy?” Malcolm asked, slightly disbelieving. “I was expecting someone…”

“Older?” prompted the inspector.

Malcolm nodded. “That and someone a little more… I don’t know, like one of those New Age freaks or something.”

The newcomer approached, ducked under the yellow police tape surrounding the property, and proffered his right hand to shake, which Garcia took. “Alex Walker,” he introduced himself. He slowly looked around the yard, as if mentally photographing everything.

There was an awkward silence, at least for the two police officers. Alex didn’t seem to notice. Garcia cleared his throat loudly. “So… where do you want to start?”

Without moving, Alex replied, “I’ve already started.”

Ross and Garcia gave each other a look. “I see…” Garcia said. A few more moments passed. Suddenly Alex turned around, and walked to the corner of the property. He pointed down with one hand, beckoning for the officers to approach with the other.

Ross looked down. All he saw was mud and rain. “What? There’s nothing here,” he grumbled. He wanted to go inside and do something, not stand out here and get soaked.

Alex bent down and picked something up, showing it to the officers. It was a leaf, green and ovate, covering about half of his palm.

“A leaf,” Ross wryly observed, “I suppose that’s a clue.”

Alex shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. This is an hydrangea anomala leaf.” The officers said nothing. “This plant comes from near the Himalayas, and there are none in the vicinity. It’s also a component for several different magical spells.”

Ross snorted. “Magical spells? That’s a load of crap.” Alex didn’t rise to the bait. He bent down again and examined the ground in minute detail.

Ross and Garcia watched for another minute, until Ross, sick of it all, said, “It’s been raining all day. You aren’t going to find anything there. Let’s go inside.”

Alex touched the police tape thoughtfully between thumb and forefinger, and then stood erect, pocketing the leaf. “Okay.”

Finally, Malcolm thought to himself. Garcia produced the keys and let them inside.



posted on Aug, 9 2010 @ 01:51 AM
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As a bit of a writer myself I can only offer you encouragement and say that since the advent of the kindle and other E-book formats the market for self published material is growing and growing...

Keep at it! and don't give up!



posted on Aug, 12 2010 @ 02:36 AM
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Originally posted by ShadowArcher
I don't know about posting stuff on ATS. Personally, I would not. While there are many members who would happily give constructive feedback, there are just as many who would love to come in and rip it to shreds for no reason.

The best place, I think, is Authonomy, where other writers, both published and not, will read and give feedback on your work. It's free, and because it is what the site is for, you will get next-to-no trolling and so on. I keep meaning to get back on it as it was pretty helpful, and I got my first fan on there


EDIT: I'll add this here, since I used up my characters in the post below - another reason posting here may not be the best is that it takes time to read over someone's work and come up with constructive criticism. Even the post below took me about 40 minutes reading your posts and then thinking about stuff and typing my replies (though admittedly, I kept stopping to stare out the window). Doesn't mean you can't try though - just be prepared for unpleasant comments.

EDIT 2: Having said all of the above, I now realise there is a forum section dedicated to short stories
I never knew it existed, so if it works, great.

[edit on 27-7-2010 by ShadowArcher]


Thank you for the recommendation of this website I never knew about it. Who are you over there? I've already joined and have had some good discussions with some wonderful people, and published authors.



posted on Aug, 12 2010 @ 03:41 AM
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Have you seen thisthread about the ATS writing contest?



posted on Feb, 19 2011 @ 09:01 AM
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As I'd expected, this has been dragging on for quite some time. Anyway, I don't want to leave it half done before starting something else, so here's the next installment:

Eccentric. The instant Alex stepped into the house, he knew that the recently deceased owner had been what so-called ‘normal’ people refer to as ‘eccentric’. It was imprinted indelibly on every possession, like a signature scrawled in purple capital letters. The Victorian era cuckoo clock chimed twice as Ross closed the door, startling him. A tall cabinet from the same time period held vases, pottery, and figurines from throughout history, including a small, golden idol of Anubis that Alex strongly suspected had been smuggled illegally out of Egypt. Paintings hung on every available surface, chronologically disparate, but all thematically linked by the common thread of mythological and religious depictions.

Garcia let out a low whistle. “Any of this stuff valuable?” he asked.

Alex shrugged. “You could get a few thousand dollars for some of these pieces. That one, though,” he pointed to the Anubis idol, “is worth a lot more. The Egyptian government would like to have that one back, I think.” Finding nothing germane to the case at hand, Alex began to search every room, followed by the two police officers. His eyes slowly slid over every surface, every object, looking for anything important. Several more rooms were like the first, full of antiques and curios, some of which drew the attention of Ross or Garcia, but Alex paid them no mind.

Spotting a library, Alex entered, examining every title, much to Ross’ disgust. “Get on with it, man,” he grumbled, after Alex had been at it for several minutes. Garcia gave him a cautioning look. Not until Alex had checked all the books did he continue his examination of the house.

To Ross’ relief, Alex moved quickly through most of the other rooms. The kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom he gave barely a glance. Only one more room remained to be searched; that door was closed and had yellow police tape stretched across the doorframe.

Without asking permission, Alex tore the tape down with one swift jerk, and, opening the door, entered. Garcia was about to protest, but decided otherwise. Ross did protest, quite loudly, but Alex didn’t respond.

The last room was some sort of study. A few bookshelves leaned against one wall, holding various New Age and occult volumes. Atop a heavy wooden stand rested an open tome. A small Wiccan altar held bowls, knives, and strange tools that neither Ross nor Garcia recognized. In the opposite corner a computer desk and chair sat, screen facing away from the door. In front of this desk, someone had drawn a white chalk outline of a body. Scorch marks had seared the front of the desk and the floor around the area.

Near the altar, someone had drawn a large circle with charcoal, about a meter in diameter. Symbols and sigils had been carefully sketched all around the outside of this circle. It seemed to Ross like a scene out of any number of B horror movies.

Alex took it all in, then abruptly turned to face the officers. “Where is the body?” he demanded, frowning.
Ross and Garcia looked at each other. Amateurs, thought Ross. “The morgue,” Garcia replied. “It’s standard procedure to remove the body after securing the scene.”

Rubbing his forehead, Alex sighed. “I assume you at least took photographs, then. Let me see them.” Garcia fumbled with his briefcase and withdrew a large envelope. Alex examined the photos carefully, his face expressionless.

An older, graying man in his sixties, lay slumped in front of the desk. Covering most of his chest was a huge circular hole, deep enough to expose bone and internal organs. The clothing and skin over most of his upper body had been seared away.

Alex returned the photos to Garcia without comment. He then got on his hands and knees and peered underneath the desk. Almost immediately he stood up again, holding something in his hand. He showed it to the officers. It was a chestnut.

Garcia looked puzzled. Ross rolled his eyes. “I suppose that’s for another one of those magical spells?” he said sarcastically. Alex nodded absently, but did not elaborate; he seemed lost in thought. He walked over to the altar, and stood there for a moment, then checked the books, quickly dismissing the ones on the shelves and focusing on the large volume on the stand. He raised the cover, and, being careful not to lose the page, exposed the title, which read, “The Compleat Demonology of the East.” Alex looked at the page, then at the charcoal circle on the floor, then back where the body had been.

Peering at the tome, Garcia saw a miniature representation of what had been drawn upon the floor of the study. Next to the diagram were notes and the image of some terrible, man-shaped monster, sinister and majestic in appearance. Its face was contorted with a dreadful malice, and its heavily muscled form seemed to be straining against the very paper itself, as if it were trying to break free of the book and cross over into the real world. He shuddered involuntarily at the thought of what someone had obviously been attempting here.
“Who reported the crime?” Alex suddenly asked, jarring Garcia from his thoughts.

Garcia was still composing himself, and so Ross replied first. “A neighbour called it in. Jonathan Burroughs. Some kid in his twenties. No criminal record.”

“Has he been questioned?” queried Alex.

Ross nodded, pointing to Garcia. “Inspector Garcia did that this morning.”

“Kid found the body yesterday afternoon,” Garcia said. “Apparently he was friends with the old guy. Knocked on the door, didn’t get an answer, and found the door unlocked, so he went on in, worried that something might be wrong. Called 911 after finding the body.”

“I see.” Alex’s gaze passed over the room again. Then he held the chestnut he’d picked up, turning it over in his hand. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the leaf he’d taken off the lawn earlier.

“So…” Garcia began, “have you come to any conclusions?” He was curious to see what the young man came up with. Nobody had been able to figure out exactly how the old man had been killed, or what the motive was.

“He was murdered. With black magic.”







 
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