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Carpe Diem (working title), Chapter 4 (extract)

by el gringo 

Posted: 19 October 2005
Word Count: 3639
Summary: This extract covers Erin's therapy session. It's very much work in progress, so please make some allowance - I will excise the cliches and stylistic faults! Really interested to hear whether the characterisation sounds consistent and logical, since you now know some things about her in her own voice, and from the perspective of Karl in chapter 6. Also whether the tension builds well - does it make you want to keep reading?

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The scene: an elegant Victorian house on the borders of Hampstead. A young woman sits in an airy, spacious lobby area. A chequerboard of black and white marble tiles contrasts with walls painted a restful shade of yellow. A receptionist in a light grey suit sits at a desk, the computer screen reflected in her horn-rimmed glasses, her hair scraped into a severe bun.

An open white marble fireplace stands close behind her desk, daffodils occupying the space where a fire might once have roared. In fact, flowers are a recurring theme: fresh gladioli sit in a white vase on a small semicircular table to the woman’s right. More flowers can be seen on windowsills curving away up a broad metal staircase to the other side of the receptionist’s desk.

From behind the desk a CD of Chopin nocturnes plays softly. The woman has on other occasions heard Mozart piano concertos, Mendelssohn lieder, even on one glorious occasion Beethoven’s Appassionata. Her eyes are half-closed as she listens. Her face is handsome rather than pretty, made up in a coy, minimal way, disguising the worst ravages of her declining 30s. Her hair is cropped over her ears, though regretfully so – her fingers course restlessly through the chestnut layers.

She dresses conservatively: a knee-length skirt and tasteful cream cotton blouse with cardigan. The shame of her body image prevents any excursions into knee-length boots, short skirts or tight jeans. The shame carried with her is called obesity, never plump, cuddly or curvy. Fat is the term of abuse she hurls at the mirror, alone and naked in her small flat.
The music wafts gently, enhanced briefly by a soft tone. The receptionist picks up a handset and speaks in hushed tones. Her eyes rise gently towards the woman. She smiles empathetically.

“You can go in now, Miss Innes.”

The woman stands, a little uneasily, nods and flashes a brief returned smile. She is tall, but rarely stands to her full height. She moves to a door further along the same wall, taps the tasteful white wood, stands still.
“Come,” a gentle American voice burrs from the far side. The woman turns the handle and steps inwards, head slightly bowed towards the floor. She steps forwards.

“A moment. Do sit, please.” A tiny gesture prompts the woman forwards.

Dr Holland sits in a green leather chair, one cream-trousered leg draped languidly over the other. A small notepad rests on her lap, held by long and flawless fingers as she scribbles words across the page.
The woman selects a wooden chair with cushioned seat. She passes a comfortable leather sofa and a deeper armchair and sits, both feet planted firmly on a light beige carpet. The room is large, split between two meeting areas, each surrounded by a variety of chairs. A large desk and bookcase is partially hidden in the darker recesses. Still more flowers adorn the walls and furniture alongside discreetly placed boxes of tissues. The lobby music is no longer audible.

Dr Holland stops writing and clicks her pen off. She looks at her patient with genuine warmth.

“Good morning, Erin. How are you today?”

Erin sits for a moment, lips slightly apart, fingers teasing short waves of hair.

“Confused. Maybe. Yes, confused.”

Dr Holland’s delicate pianists’ fingers slide a small, neat pair of gunmetal designer glasses from her face. She holds one earpiece to her lips as if about to chew the end.

“How does it make you feel, Erin?”

Erin sits for a very long moment and frowns as if the question is fraught with difficulty.

“OK. Can you give me three more words that describe this feeling?” Dr Holland presses on.

“Like I’m totally lost. Out of control. Can’t trust my own mind,” Erin throws the words into the air like a conjuror. Dr Holland nods slowly.

“Good,” she drawls. “Perhaps we can explore those feelings a little more. Where did we get up to, last week?”

“I was talking about my father. How he broke his promise to me.”

“Father…” the word falls on Dr Holland’s tongue like a burgundy from a poor vintage. “Never daddy, always father…”

“Yes, father.” Erin recognizes the coldness in her voice.

Dr Holland pierces her patient with a probing gaze. “Yes, we were talking about a provisional diagnosis, weren’t we? Tell me, do you…trust any man, any man at all now?”

Erin turns back sharply. “Yes. Oh, yes, there are men I trust. The ones that accept me for what I am. I’m a very different person now.”

Dr Holland’s head lolls slightly backwards. “Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it shortly.

“Not the same thing at all. He let me down, he lied to me, he made me lose all trust for him. He made me lose trust in myself.”

“So you can never forgive your father?”

Erin sighs and shifts her eyes through a pair of French doors towards a well-maintained garden. Spring flowers there, roses too. A restful outlook with a curved gravel path, garden benches located beneath mature shade trees. Erin looks beyond to the next row of gardens and the backs of Victorian villas beyond. What kind of people are in those houses? Are they suffering a million private griefs beyond the lacy curtains? She pictures the torture of a suburban Victorian housewife and for a brief glimpse sees her own life as one of freedom and opportunity. A twinge of pain between Erin’s cloudy green eyes, a frown.

“I remember when I was about, maybe 9 or 10. We were out together doing errands because my mother was ill. I later found out she’d had a series of miscarriages over many years. My father resented her because she could never produce a son, only this runt of a daughter.” Erin scans Dr Holland’s face, but the doctor’s smooth and attractive face betrays no emotion. The words begin to tumble out rapidly as the memory returns to a vivid loop before Erin’s eyes.

“Anyway, we were out shopping. He hated shopping and was grumpy. He had to buy me shoes for school and I liked the shiny patent ones with a pink rose but I really wanted the ones with a heel. It was very daring then, a heel. The deputy head sent home girls whose heels were too high. This pair were just on the border of acceptability. The other girls would have taken some notice of me if I’d had these heels. But my father…”

“He didn’t approve of the other girls?” The question is sharp.

“No, he wouldn’t let me invite any home to play. On one occasion when another girl asked me to tea at her house I wasn’t allowed to go.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“I hated him for that. I wanted to hit him.”

“But you didn’t?”

“No, I didn’t.” Dr Holland purses her lip and writes a few words on her pad.

“So you wanted to buy the heels,” she asks lightly.

“Yes. I wanted to buy the heels, but I felt guilty about them. But then I saw the one friend I had at school. Her name was Catrionia. I loved her name, the Irish spelling too.” Erin remembers her own name and shudders.

“She was short and fat, but her father spoiled her with everything. I wished I could be her. But she set a high standard. I had to keep up with her, whatever the latest was. I had to have my ears pierced to keep her friendship, only I didn’t tell my father. He was furious. He beat me. Hard. I was never allowed to wear earrings again. I had to tell Catrionia they hurt my ears and put plasters on them, but she didn’t believe me.”

“But these heels…”

“The heels would have been one up on Catrionia. Not even she was allowed to wear heels. She would have been jealous. That was so daring, but I knew he wouldn’t approve of them. So I picked up the patent pair and the heels and asked him. I said it. I said the word. I said ‘daddy, which of these shoes do you like?’ In my little girl voice. I wanted him to smile and say ‘you choose, darling’ like Catrionia’s father would have done.”

“So what did he say?” Dr Holland uncrosses her legs and leans forward, her cool grey eyes firmly fixed on her patient.

“He looked at his watch, then picked up a plain and ordinary pair of shoes from the shelf and took them to the counter without a word. And I could see the look on Catrionia’s face. It was a sneer. She detested me.” An involuntary tremble causes Erin’s arm to shake, banging the chair arm. She takes it firmly in with the other hand and holds it in her lap.

“So what did you do?”

“I howled. There and then. I fell to my knees and howled like a baby.”

“You were totally humiliated in the eyes of your friend?” Dr Holland’s eyes penetrate deep. Erin’s wayward arm has transmitted its vibration up her neck and into her lips. She grabs a handful of tissues, screws up her face.
“Yes, utterly. She never spoke to me again after that day. I hardly ever spoke to anyone in school after that. I was afraid…”

“Of rejection?” Dr Holland finishes the sentence crisply, hand dancing across her pad.

Erin’s hand brushes her face. She speaks in barely a whisper. “Yes.”
“And your father?”

Erin swallows heavily, reaches for another tissue and looks above the therapist’s left shoulder towards a wall lined with framed certificates. “He walked off…and left me there.”

Dr Holland waits a full minute as Erin’s tears flow and are mopped up. She speaks abruptly: “I can understand how you felt let down. But you said your father lied to you too.”

Erin looks up with a startled expression. Stung, she gabbles: “Yes, he lied. He told me terrible lies. Lies I can’t repeat.”

Dr Holland leans forward and speaks in an insistent whisper: “What did he do to you, Erin? What is it you’re suppressing? What could be so terrible?”
Erin’s lips move soundlessly for a second. She shakes her head, but no words emerge. Erin feels the tension rise as Dr Holland inspects her with a nod of approval, then scribbles another note. Her mind is a kaleidoscope of fractured images she barely remembers, images pigeon-holed and never revisited.

“And what about your mother? What does she think?”

Erin hears herself blurt out the words in little more than a squeak: “I don’t, I haven’t spoken to her for years.”

Dr Holland sits bolt upright. “OK. That’s enough for now. Perhaps we can start some hypnotherapy next week.”

Erin blinks and looks back to the therapist in relief, her lip twisted. The kaleidoscope slowly fades.

“Now. You were going to tell me about your feelings this week,” the doctor’s tone has changed. She sounds cheerful once more. “What was it that confused you?”

Erin’s voice cracks but she staves off the advancing tears and sits defiantly, “I don’t know what happened. But I felt it was all my fault.”

Dr Holland nods but says nothing.

“You know the Redbrook Place Society?” A small nod and turn of the head indicates the doctor’s desire to know more.

“I received an invitation to dinner there a couple of weeks ago. Came out of the blue. It was very white, with gold edging, and it was beautifully printed, with an RSVP on the bottom to a PO box address – very odd. I’ve never seen anything like it. I put it on my desk and looked at it for a week. I wondered how they got my name and address, what it was all about, who was behind it. I had so many questions, but I knew I couldn’t go. It would be another humiliation, being with so many people. I don’t even go to Christmas parties, I can’t face those people enjoying themselves.”
“But you did go. Why? What changed your mind?”

“The phone call. It was late, about 10 o’clock, three days before the dinner. It was a man’s voice, very refined, but I didn’t recognise who it was. He never assumed I wouldn’t attend. Just asked me if I would be ready for the car to collect me at 7:30pm on that night. It was as if he’d made my mind up for me. I couldn’t refuse. It was settled. And sure enough, at 7:30 on the night of the dinner, there was a knock on the door. It was a tall guy, very smartly dressed in a 3-piece black suit and silk tie. He said he was my driver.”

“Were you ready?”

“No. I was dressed in jeans. He waited for me while I changed. I’ve got one decent dress, I wore it to a wedding once so it’s not really made for a dinner party, but he just bowed when I was ready and off we went.”

“Did you wear make-up?”

“The basics. Lipstick, mascara, shadow, a little powder.”

Dr Holland smiles very slightly. “What did you expect?”

“I didn’t know, but I knew I didn’t want to look out of place. So I put on some make-up before we left. He took me to a black Mercedes and opened the back door for me. I didn’t know what to think. I had my heart in my mouth. He might have been a rapist, but somehow I felt safe, as if I was fated to follow this driver to wherever he was going.”

“And where did he take you?”

“It was somewhere near the British museum, I think, but I’m not entirely sure where. He parked in a side street and directed me to a small plain door in a blank wall. Didn’t look very grand to me, but he assured me it was the right place to go. So he got back in the car and drove off. And as he did, another black car pulled up, and another followed that one. – a queue of them. And people started to get out of the cars and congregate around this door.”

“What sort of people were they, Erin?”

“Most of them were in evening dress. But there were all sorts of people – men and women, some in their twenties, some older, some looked quite rich but some were very ordinary. I stood there and counted them. By the time they’d all arrived there were exactly twenty.”

“So what happened next?”

“The door was opened by someone who looked like a butler. We were shown into a small hall which led to some steps into a wide landing with a very plush crimson carpet over parquet flooring. It made me feel like royalty. We were walking towards a very grand door into a large room. What do you call it? A salon? It was magnificent – the most beautiful room I’ve seen. There were maybe another twenty people already there, and waiters offering glasses of champagne.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“It felt…” Erin feels a strange warmth at the memory. She unfolds her arms and wriggles pleasurably on the seat. “It felt like a release. Like I was being treated with respect. Like a human being. Like my application to rejoin the human race had been accepted. Like I was a…princess.”

She senses Dr Holland’s eyebrows raise by the minutest fraction and the pleasure has been enhanced a hundred fold. Therapists don’t know everything, she thinks, this will kill her. But Dr Holland has anticipated the performance.

“Did it feel like you were acting? Were you playing the role of princess?”
“No. I was just taking in the atmosphere. I had a glass in my hand and I was in a whirl. People were introducing themselves to me, shaking me by the hand, so polite, so accepting. There was a string quartet playing in one corner of the room. It was…” She searches for a suitable epithet. “It was another world. I just couldn’t imagine why they had chosen me to join them. Or how.”

“Go on.”

“Well, I sipped champagne and took in the room and the people for a few minutes. But then the butler banged a gong and a man in evening dress stood up and spoke. He introduced himself. His name was Sir someone. Couldn’t hear clearly. I think his surname might have been French. Or was it… Never mind. He told us a bit about the society and the dinner and the debate…”

“The debate?”

“Yes, after dinner there was to be a debate on the subject of…something to do with the role of secrecy in a democratic society. It sounded interesting.”
“So did you listen to the debate?”

“We never got to the debate.”

“Why not?”

“Well, this French let us into a large dining room. There were circular tables, about six people on each table. There were name cards, we’d been placed very carefully. I was next to a tall blond guy. I’d noticed him immediately. He was looking around the room, but I tried to talk to him.”
Dr Holland replaces her glasses and writes another note.

“Well, then there were waiters and waitresses, they came out of the kitchen, lots of them. Bringing food, lovely food and wine. There was a dish with smoked salmon in it. And then a main course with a rack of lamb. I’m just not used to this treatment. But then while we were eating the main course…” Erin shakes her head.


“I don’t know. There was a top table on a raised platform. Maybe six people, all men, sitting there eating. They were talking. But suddenly it became a lot louder. Two of them started shouting. Then one man stood up and punched the man next to him. No warning. The man fell over the table. I could see blood on his face. He looked as if he was unconscious. The tall guy, the one next to me, he stood up and went to the top table to see the man. I wanted to follow him, but my legs didn’t seem to be working. I couldn’t move. But other people stood up to see what was going on and more people ran over to the top table. Then… I don’t know, it all started to get confused. Somebody threw the top table over. And I could see two people tearing a picture off the wall for some reason. And there was a lot more shouting from around the room. Then the lights went out and I could hear screaming. It was only a second or two, but when the lights came on the waiters were at the tables and shepherding us back to the salon we’d come from, then back out to the door and out on the street. It was so quick. I counted them. There were fourteen people. Six of them were still there, in the building. But I never saw them come out. Then the cars started to appear. They formed a queue in front of us, and we were taken back to our homes, and we were all so shocked we just stepped back into the cars without another word. I couldn’t sleep. I was pacing the floor all night. Doctor, this was so disturbing. I rang into work sick yesterday, couldn’t do anything.”

“And what about the tall man?”

“He was there too. I know his name. His card. It said Karl-Erik Svensson. I know he lives somewhere near me because I could see his car.”

“But Erin, you said this was your fault. Why was it your fault?”

Erin’s voice rises an octave. “I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have gone. It was me, I’m sure it was. If I hadn’t been there, none of this would have happened.”

“That’s not true, is it Erin?”

Erin sniffs, says nothing, concentrates hard over the doctor’s left shoulder.
“You were the victim, weren’t you? You feel like this is your punishment for daring to go out in public and talk to other people and to behave like any other person.”

Erin’s tears flow freely. She shakes her head violently.

Dr Holland speaks abruptly: “Erin, our time is up. But there’s something I want you to try in the next week. Will you do that for me?” Nod. Agree. Anything. “You will talk to three people as equals. And you will write down how you feel about those conversations. We can discuss what you’ve written next time we meet.”

“Thank you doctor. Goodbye.”

Erin stands unsteadily and reorientates herself. The tranquil room swims back into view. She stumbles gratefully towards the door. Dr Holland smiles, calls to her, lightly.

“Oh, Erin. I notice you’re not wearing heels.”

Erin turns back, feels her face flush redder still. Her hands swing up to her ear lobes. She hears her robotic voice: “No. I’m not wearing earrings either.”

The two women stare into one another’s eyes for a moment longer than comfort allows.

Dr Holland speaks pleasantly but firmly: “Goodbye Erin. I’ll see you Friday, same time.”

Erin’s mind is focused on the tall, thin, blond features of Karl-Erik Svensson. He’s a stranger. We are equals. I will find him.

* * * * *
Yes, of course I’m Erin. You knew that, didn’t you? This therapist asks me why I write about myself in the third person. Simple: this Erin person isn’t me. She’s a stranger and I’m trapped in her body. I’m not this woman and this woman is not me, and all I want is to escape from her.

Well, for the record the diagnosis the therapist gave me is Avoidant Personality Disorder. APD to you.

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Comments by other Members

Zigeroon at 10:26 on 20 October 2005  Report this post

el gringo

An interesting read. One or two points came up:-

In para 2 I don't think there is any need for the 'In fact...' the sentence works well with out it.

When talking about her pushing her fingers through her hair I didn't understand the reference 'though regretfully so'

When Erin first meets with the therapist it might be better if their discussion starts a little more slowly, eases in rather than straight into the session. I appreciate therapists are busy people and Erin has been before but it just feels too quick.

At the venue where the fight occurs, would the orgasnisers keep the people waiting outside the venue until they had all arrived?

The explanation of the condition and the revelation of who Erin is would be better filtered out over time if this is a longer piece.

It was very readable and Erin comes across as a lady with hidden problems that the reader wants to find out about. Look forward to the next section.


el gringo at 10:42 on 20 October 2005  Report this post
Thanks for the comments. Noted, though some of the rough edges (including the rapid start to the session) would be resolved in the third or fourth drafts. As for Erin's problems, they will form an ongoing subplot through the book. Needless to say, she's being somewhat economical with the actualite...

You've also hit upon a key element of the story. In fact, it's a deliberate ploy to push the people out into the street, totally bewildered, for reasons that will later become apparent. It's supposed to sound fishy to the reader, so I'm quite gratified that it does!


choille at 22:46 on 20 October 2005  Report this post
Hi el gringo,

I found this rather a weird read - weird in a good way, and therefore intriging.

Her face is handsome rather than pretty, made up in a coy, minimal way, disguising the worst ravages of her declining 30s. -This line will alienate any woman over the age of 30, I would think. Also the use of the word 'coy' signifies a male perspective.

“Never daddy, always father…” - would this question be asked? Would a mature woman be automatically presumed to call her father Daddy?

“Did you wear make-up?”Again I wouldn't have thought a 'normal' therapist would have asked this.

“Well, this French[should there be something else after French?] let us into a large dining room.

“Oh, Erin. I notice you’re not wearing heels.” - The therapist is really starting to give me the creeps. Is this intentional.
I like this story and the strange venue and the fight.

I found the opening a little slow, almost too much halting description, but that is just me. I then thought it read very well and really made me want more.

All the best with it.

el gringo at 23:17 on 20 October 2005  Report this post
Thanks for that, Caroline. Criticisms accepted - I have female friends reading it, and doubtless they'll come up with similar conclusions about the masculine perspective.

The personality of the therapist is one intriguing aspect I want to build up - she does return later in the book. I did intend her to have a vicious streak, though I wonder whether I've overdone it. Need to tone down her antipathy towards her patient or phrase it in more professional language, maybe. The question about heels is essential to the ongoing plot since it concerns Erin's relationship with her father and why she's rejected her mother. Incidentally, although I did undergo therapy for some time, the only thing this therapist really shares with mine is gender!!


choille at 23:24 on 20 October 2005  Report this post
I think I'm taking a feminist perspective with this. I think make-up, high heels etc are not really an essential to inner happiness. I didn't mean it as critism.


She doesn't come across as vicious, just a little intense on external appearence. This may be intentional and it gave me the creeps, which is good no?
She does appear to have ulterior motives, which I thought was done very subtely.


Dreamer at 01:25 on 21 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Andy,

I’m new to your writing as this is the only thing of yours I’ve read. Parts of the analysis I found interesting and it drew me on. Then at the end I was hit out of left field. Are we reading her journal or diary initially? If so, could you maybe have her close her diary then say these things?

Or is this another entry in the diary. It is an interesting twist but left me a little bewildered as to what was happening. What was I reading etc…

I like how you have her sit in a particular chair and keep both feet planted firmly on the floor. This implies things about her personality. The only thing is you sort of tell us this rather than let us figure out the significance. Instead of ‘She passes a comfortable leather sofa and a deeper armchair’ why not include the chairs in the description of the room. That way we figure out that she has passed these two on our own.

This may be a cultural thing but this made the pen sound electric, ‘Dr Holland stops writing and clicks her pen off’ maybe that is the way you say it over there.

I don’t know if this simile works as a conjurer is perceived as being in control whereas Erin is not. ‘Erin throws the words into the air like a conjuror’. Of course all this may be irrelevant as in the end we see that this is being written by Erin so all this may be intentional. O course maybe it is not being written by Erin. Maybe she is the narrator talking to us? Or maybe this cold has be all befuddled. I suspect the later.

Interesting piece.


el gringo at 18:56 on 21 October 2005  Report this post
Caroline: fair comment - the make-up was related to the diagnosis of Erin's psychological disorder: she chooses not to wear any normally because she wants to keep people at a distance and not get involved, particularly with men. It was a reflection on the character's intention to wipe away the conventional view of femininity from her appearance. But you're right that from a feminist perspective my worthy intentions may appear misogynistic, and we couldn't possibly allow that to happen!

Thanks for the comment about Dr Holland. You are absolutely spot-on, but I won't reveal those motivations at this stage.

Brian: thanks for the comments - points noted! The reason the ending sounds abrupt is because what you've read is part of a chapter, not the full thing! I just included the first sentence from the following section just to illustrate that the character talks about herself in the third person and is narrating this encounter in present tense as if living it, where actually she is looking back at it retrospectively. This sounds complicated but is quite deliberate - the intention is to sound as if she is reliving the encounter in her own mind rather than relating it via a journal. Maybe it doesn't work quite right in that respect?


Vixen at 19:59 on 22 October 2005  Report this post
I think I read the first chapter of this before going to the US. I had the impression that each chapter would focus on the reaction of a different character to the events at the dinner and the reader would slowly realize what had happened. That chapter I remember as sinister...

I don't think wearing heels or makeup quite has the implications you suggest. I can't imagine allowing a nine or ten year old girl to wear heels to school. I'm not even sure they make heels for girls that age! I suppose, these days, they might have a very low heel to be worn as a bridemaid. But heels for anything other than a costume seem more reasonable for a 12 or 13 year old--as does makeup, especially if we are talking about thirty years ago. Heels and makeup suggest sexualization of a nine year old - which well might be what you want to suggest. I think there is an unfortunate tendency to sexualize nine year olds these days but I think it's a recent trend.

I like the character development--this seems like a complex, developed person. The ending where you switch to first person: how is this going to work with the focus on different characters? Is the reader supposed to decide that all of this is written from the perspective of Erin?

el gringo at 21:35 on 22 October 2005  Report this post
Yes - it's all from Erin's perspective, but she chooses to view herself in the third person. This is related to the condition I've ascribed to her - it's a kind of coping strategy used by sufferers of several illnesses to disassociate themselves from the individual who is in so much pain.

The remainder of the chapter consists of Erin speaking direct to the camera, as it were to describe actions in the present, from which two things will be immediately apparent: her portrayal of herself to the therapist is less than wholly accurate; but she is much more savage with herself than with other people - the flipside of Karl-Erik's view of her in the other chapter. I hope she does appear naive yet complex, since I've spent some months honing her personality. Some bits will unravel and become self-evident, but I hope she will keep a few loose ends...

The heels are a big issue and a trigger point for her personally, by the way. It was quite deliberate to choose something very ordinary and unimportant as the flashpoint she describes to the therapist, which is masking what is really going on. You pick up the hints very well, Vixen - bear in mind that I have a 10-year old daughter and know all about the trend to which you refer, but in this case the sexualisation is something Erin is doing retrospectively.

The next extracts I post will show you a few more characters, by the way. I intend to upload some sections relating to the murder at the start of the book, its subsequent impact and antecedants.

Thanks for all comments - most helpful!


Vixen at 23:51 on 22 October 2005  Report this post
Interesting. I see you've posted the prologue, which I've read, and chapter 6, which I haven't, and this one. I always like unreliable narrators - they allow a multi-level narrative. How successful you'll be depends on what you haven't posted - chapters 1, 2, 3, and how you get from the prologue to here, chapter 4. I like what I've read so far. This looks like the sort of thing that really comes together in second and third drafts, after the entire first draft is finished. After the bones of the piece are finished, you can articulate the skeleton.

Jumbo at 23:33 on 25 October 2005  Report this post

I found this an enjoyable and engrossing read. For me (I haven't read the other pars) I found this believable and consistent even given that I know little of the characters.

I like your writing style - crisp, to the point, prepared to give us detail of character and place but not to the point of overloading us. And I also thought that your dialogue works throughout the piece.

There are some typos and punctuation which no doubt you will catch as you re-edit the piece.

If I can make one point, I found the first three or four paragrpahs confusing in respect of which character you were talking about. For example, the 'She' at the start of the fourth paragraph. Is this the receptionist? Or the young woman? I think that needs clarification.

But as I said, this is a great writing. Good luck with it.

All the best


el gringo at 23:44 on 25 October 2005  Report this post
Thanks, Jumbo. Comments appreciated - it will be clarified, I promise. Just trying to get down the stuff in my head on to virtual paper right now!


chris2 at 22:56 on 27 October 2005  Report this post
El Gringo - I found this compelling and would definitely be propelled to continue reading. I have incidentally read a related previous posting about the society.

Unlike others, I am quite happy about the business over the heels (obviously we're not talking about high heels or stilettos here) but feel that maybe this section could be reduced in length a bit. It's not this bit that will really grab the reader even if it is needed as background explanation - it's the stuff about the meeting you need to get to.

I agree with Zigeroon about keeping them waiting outside before the meeting, which is what I think he meant, rather than after the fight as your response suggested. People in evening dress wouldn't want to stand about for ever and in reality you wouldn't get all the cars arriving simultaneously.

Like Jumbo I also got confused between woman and receptionist in opening section. At one point I thought they were the same person.

Some editing points not mentioned above:

'steps inwards, head slightly bowed towards the floor. She steps forwards. “A moment. Do sit, please.” A tiny gesture prompts the woman forwards. ' Inwards + forwards + forwards. Too many wards. Also steps forwards suggests the opposite of backwards - perhaps forward would be better.

pianists’ fingers -> pianist's fingers.

'It was a tall guy' - 'blond guy' - somehow the word 'guy' doesn't seem to gel with the rest of her speech.

this French [something] let us into a large dining room.

You've got a powerful story-line here with some interesting sub-strands. Should result in a very readable novel. I had no problem with the characterisation of the woman. I thought the therapist a little more abrasive on a couple of occasions than might be expected.


el gringo at 23:08 on 27 October 2005  Report this post
Thanks very much Chris. Feedback greatly appreciated - all points noted. Only one response: the fact that guests are ushered out and left in the cold is quite deliberately planned rather than the accidental farce it appears to be - which is a clue towards the plot!


chris2 at 16:03 on 28 October 2005  Report this post
El Gringo - One clarification. the point I was making about the guests on the pavement was to do with their arrival (i.e. before the meeting, not when they were ushered out).


el gringo at 17:24 on 28 October 2005  Report this post
Thanks - fair comment. In fact, the whole event is stage managed and the interaction and common arrival and departure is intentional on the part of the organisers, for reasons that will become apparent later in the book!


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