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Ghosts Chapter 1

by SteveB 

Posted: 24 August 2008
Word Count: 607
Summary: Prologue posted elsewhere
Related Works: Ghosts - Reworked Prologue • 

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Four flies move slowly in the blood and mess. Bruising has blackened the skin. Pieces of bone from the cranium protrude through ripped and broken flesh. The skull is misshapen, its surface warped and bloated. Dead.
Each time the flies move, a minute ripple disturbs the sticky surface of blood.
Dew has soaked his clothes. All around him droplets of water hang gleaming like miniature streetlights from tall strands of grass. Occasionally, a drop falls. It lands and rolls slowly over his pallid flesh. Then it disappears from view beneath him.
A track of flattened grass leads from his body. All along the track, there are traces of blood. Mostly diluted by the dew, but some thick and newly clotted.
One arm is folded under his body. The other stretches out, fingers splayed. Gripping onto nothingness. His fingernails are dirty, the mud and grime bold against his grey, white skin. A blood-stained Doc Marten boot lays a metre or so from the body.

The flies didn’t move when the dog first came. Sniffing around the body, salivating wildly at its discovery. It found the thin, bloodstained jacket lying some feet away. It pulled and tugged at it like a toy.
Then a whistle and a call. The dog left.
Now more movement.
The dog was returning. With its owner. But still the flies still didn’t move…

Five thirty.
Will Davenport jerked awake moments before the alarm. His body damp, his skin clammy. The sheets tangled and knotted beneath him. The night had not left him to peaceful sleep.
He leant across the bed and turned the alarm clock off. He cursed his tiredness. He’d been dreaming about Lucy Sykes.
His first ghost.
Now one of many. But Lucy Sykes kept a stronger hold on him. You never forget your first love, your first kiss, your first car.
Your first ghost.
A four-year-old girl. Brown eyes set against the palest of skin. Honey blond hair tied back with a frayed pink ribbon. Lying at the bottom of the stairs like a discarded doll. Her eyes open and staring at some distant, faraway point.
He had fallen into those dead brown eyes. And become forever lost.

Will took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. He shook his head and swung his legs over the side of the bed. A large black and white photo hung over the headboard. It showed a man and woman holding hands on a beach. To the right of the woman, a young sandy haired boy was staring distracted towards the sea. In the background, families were playing on the sand; making sandcastles, eating ice creams, playing football.
But the boy just stared out to the horizon.
The date was written in neat, italicised script in the bottom right corner of the photograph - June 1984. Will was 10 years old.
Within 10 years of the photo being taken, both his parents would be dead.

He walked to the window and drew back the curtains. His own glassy reflection stared wearily back at him. The boy from the photograph had now become a sandy haired man, his hair cropped short, his face tired, his skin looking older than his 32 years.
He pulled open the window and felt the fresh air cool against his damp body. The bedroom smelt stale. Too many cigarettes and too little time spent airing the place.
He looked out over the small cottage garden at the rear of the house. The lawn needed mowing and the flowerbeds needed weeding. He silently promised he’d get down to it at the weekend. But he wouldn’t. He knew he wouldn’t.

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Comments by other Members

Sandy at 13:42 on 25 August 2008  Report this post
I loved everything about it. The prologue was just right for a thriller, the character Will and his situation summed up in a few skilful words - no tedious description. Brilliant. I have read it twice in order to give some constructive criticism and the only thing I can come up with was the use of 'didn't' in the prologue. I would have preferred 'did not'. I can't put my finger on exactly why except to say that in a scene of such atmospheric gravity abbreviated words seem too casual. I hope you are going to post some more of Ghosts.

SteveB at 20:42 on 25 August 2008  Report this post

Many thanks for your very kind comments.

There is one bit of Ghosts already posted which was the 'official' prologue - the novel will keep being posted slowly - it is already complete and has done many rounds of agents - with no success as of yet - I am doing yet another rewrite which I will use this wonderful site as a sounding board for...

Your comment re didn't versus did not is an interesting one - on first drafts I normally always use 'did not', 'could not', 'is not' etc... then as I edit, I usually compress them with abbreviation... I will have to think through the effect of the abbreviation on this one.

Once again many thanks


KathM at 20:58 on 25 August 2008  Report this post
Hi Steve, gosh this is very polished and very effective. I like the immediate launching in the MC's unnusual affinity with ghosts and the reference to the little girl. The grotesque opening is v.well written and although I personally find detailed gore a bit off-putting I don't mind it at all in context, and anyway, there is a huge market for this stuff. Love the first love, first kiss, first ghost line. Love the garden he should tend but knows he won't. Very good inviting of sympathy for MC.
The only nit pick I could find was the phrase: was staring distracted towards the sea. If you are staring, in what way would it look distracted? The two seem to contradict each other. But hey, that's all I could find in the whole damn thing! Great stuff.

sheilab at 21:33 on 26 August 2008  Report this post


Woops - hit the wrong key too quickly. Sorry!

Okay, what I wanted to say was - what a great follow on from a great prologue. Boy, Steve, you can write. This is so gritty, real and tense I felt my jaw tightening as I read it and I had to read it several times to get it all in - my eyes kept skipping ahead the first few times.

Now, my only (minor) comment is this - having just gone back and re-read your prologue it's a lot of full-on action up front.

So, I'm assuming (possibly wrong about this) that Lucy Sykes is the same girl who was murdered so dreadfully in the prologue? For me, then, I need a bit more of a different approach to the story when I hit Ch 1 - something that leaves me guessing a bit.

Not sure I'm explaining this very well (it's difficult because you write so well it's really hard to find where I think you should change it). I just think that a prologue serves a very specific purpose which is to hook the reader in and keep him/her wondering as the plot progresses. My only (very slight) reservation with this is that your prologue seems to lead directly into Chapter 1?

I'm sure you'll read this and think 'bloody woman, can't she see it's not like that at all?' So, apologies in advance.

And, quite seriously - wow!


SteveB at 21:36 on 26 August 2008  Report this post

Thanks very much for commenting on my stuff again - your comments are very kind - the 'distracted towards the sea' refers to him not appearing to be part of all the other things going on on the beach - but you have made me wonder whether distracted is the correct word... I will have to think about using a better word...

Many thanks again


SteveB at 21:41 on 26 August 2008  Report this post

A very concise comment which I will take as a compliment - hopefully it isn't one of these text-speak things like lol - i wold feel a complete fool if wow stood for 'without worth' 'or 'waste of words' or 'worst in world' etc....

I think all I can add is lol :-)

Many thanks



Apologies for typos - i wold is, of course, I would - strangely my teenage offspring would probably think i wold was absolutely fine... and it would probably get them a good grade at GCSE...

sheilab at 21:51 on 26 August 2008  Report this post

I'm the last person in the world to WOW (what old... whatever, can't think of a suitable).

I only discovered about six months ago the true meaning of LOL - always thought it meant lots of love then heard a story about someone who sent a message of condolence after a death thinking the same thing.....

Hey, great, great writing Steve. Really cannot wait to see the rest. Also, I've got endless feedback on all my work (from various different sites) and it all contradicts each other so, in the case of my feedback, I'm most probably wrong and you should ignore everything I say apart from the bits where I say how great you are.


SteveB at 22:04 on 26 August 2008  Report this post
Sheila - the thought of LOL being sent on a message of condolence is making me smile stupidly in that 'shouldn't be smiling at that kind of mistake' way... can't stop smiling though...

I have to say that for a very short period of time I thought lol meant lots of love too - then someone said it to me who wouldn't do that kind of thing - so I had to Google it to find out what it meant...

Your comments are very helpful - the Prologue was originally much longer - so there was more 'padding' between what happened in the Prologue and Chapter 1. Also, I am slashing and burning the original version of everything - which again compresses plot lines. I will have to think through the effect of this as I get more and more into it.

Thank you for your very kind compliments on my writing - having been rejected by so many agents, it is always heartening to get positive feedback...

I will keep putting Ghosts up as I go through my latest edit - somewhere it must go horribly wrong and get very dull - I am really hoping that people here will notice it and tell me...

Thanks very much again


sheilab at 22:16 on 26 August 2008  Report this post
Hi Steve

Don't stuff it up with so much action we don't have a proper chance to get to know Will - let him talk to us too.

Have just gone through the n'th rewrite of a book which I've made so action-packed-for-fear-of-being-boring it's impenetrable. Am now in a sort of 'let my characters breathe' stage - I bet your characters have loads to say, too.

LOL,WOW and, here's one I only discovered recently, TTFN


BigSmile at 15:11 on 07 November 2008  Report this post
Hi Steve

I haven't read the prologue, so I'm coming into it blind. I get the impression you've edited what's here compared to versions others have commented on.

I liked the first part with the body - it hooked me in straight away - well done. I did find the second part with Will didn't hook me in as much, I think this is because you're trying to impart a lot of background material/facts about Will to the reader in a few paragraphs, and it's probably too much and detracts from what's going on. You may do better to drip feed this info in a little later - however it may just be me.

There were a few specific points;
A blood-stained Doc Marten boot lays a metre or so from the body
Saying a metre sounds very precise and like a formal report. I felt it at slight odds with the tone of the rest of the description. Maybe just "lays nearby" would be better.

The dog was returning
The tense of the opening piece seemed to get a bit confused. You start off in the present "four flies move slowly", but then it morphs into the past "dog was".

dead brown eyes
You need a comma after "dead".

The lawn needed mowing and the flowerbeds needed weeding
Repetition of "needed".

All in all this shows promise, and I look forward to reading more.

I hope this is helpful.


SteveB at 16:35 on 07 November 2008  Report this post

Thank you very much for your comments - they are very useful - and indeed, I have acted on them and made some changes.

I will have a look at your work over the next few days - I see from a posting of yours that you are in 'rejection city' - it is a place I know well... as, I suspect, do many, many people who write.

I am not posting much at present on the site - and do feel rather guilty about it given that so many people give up their time to provide such useful feedback - but I am madly editing the first novel I completed - Ghosts.

I am cutting like a lunatic to try and get that 'pace' injected (yes I recognise that comment you have heard about 'pace' so well). To give you a feeling of where I am on this - and it might help with your own issues - I have edited Version 10 of the novel (so I had already cut a great deal out in the previous edits) to get the first 50 pages ready to submit to an agent - and what is now 50 pages was once 90 pages... I am being really, really brutal with the editing - and you know what - when you get into that mindset, you can take so much out. And if you are really critical, you notice (with some sadness and a tad of embarrassment) that out of all those lovely words you worked on, so many just slow the novel down (however finely crafted they may have been...) - the edit I am currently on has been a salutary lesson....

Again, many thanks for your comments


BigSmile at 17:03 on 07 November 2008  Report this post
Hi Steve

Yes I do know what you mean. In my first draft I had a character who stood on one leg whilst playing darts and balanced like one of Disney's dancing hippos. People said those paragraphs were great description, and the darts game he was playing was excellent at setting the scene in the pub. Unfortunately, in later revisions it was pointed out that the darts match brought the pace crashing down, so it had to go...

That's just one example of many.



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