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Christopher--Chapter 1 Version 2

by andyccn 

Posted: 30 October 2004
Word Count: 1595
Summary: Largely-edited version of chapter 1 for my novel, Christopher. THIS IS THE FINAL COPY.

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Silver towers stand proud against the East Australian sky line. November sunlight shines from the heart of Sydney city; office workers throughout the metropolis detest the heat as much as the Monday morning itself. Just another day.

Forty kilometres North, a lone figure walks the white sands of Palm Beach, oblivious to the world around him, save for his mate.

"Come on Goldie, the water won't hurt you."

The voice carried on the breeze to where a silent observer stood still, keeping a vigil over the popular tourist trap. He hid behind the sandy walls of the surf club admiring, not for the first time, the picturesque coastline with its ever-green palms and outback-style fences, upon which he lent as if it were the only thing keeping him standing.

He took time of late to acknowledge the scenery, for it was the only thing he could look at without lying. Were he to meet anyone's gaze, they would see his secret--that the famous cutie, Chris Newman, is weak. He is Chris. He is weak. He does have a secret--one so terrible it would tear through the souls of his loved ones, leaving little but their trodden corpses on life's illogical path.

Why did things have to change?
Questions. Too many. Too few answers.

The observer derived the sense of security he often craved from the wall blotting out his life in the public domain. He longed for a place where he wasn't famous, where no one yelled his name from across the street; but in the depths of a heart he no longer held claim to, he knew that would never happen.

The golden Labrador pranced about in the shallow waters below. Afraid of the water lapping over its paws, it bounced around in the surf, unable to comprehend why the water retreated, then raced back for another attack, time after time. After a few attempts to swim with the waves, the Lab gave up and galloped off to join its master. They soon disappeared from view behind a layer of greenery.


He didn't flinch at the sound of a man shouting his name. With the position and status he held in this city, it was difficult, if not impossible, for him to be alone, be himself.

He thought nothing more of it until the man stood at his side, his hands buried in the pockets of a crisp, black suit. This was no fan. This was the guy Chris had asked to ruin his life.

"You must be Pete. I've been waiting."
"Pete Mansky, AFP."
"Drop the act, yeah? I know who you are, I know why you're here."
"I'm here because you called me, Christopher."
"I called the police, not the secret service. And don't call me Christopher. I hate it."
"Fine--Chris. I'm Pete Mansky from the Sydney police. As I understand it, you've got secrets to tell."
"Then you understand wrong. I've got a story to tell, yes, but you'll never know my secrets. I don't trust you enough to keep them."

Pete offered a hand, hairy, and twice the normal size for a man his age. "Can we start over? You called because you wanted help. I'm here."
Chris gave the hand a glance, then looked away, his mood blatant. He had no desire to make an ally in Pete. "You can't help me. No one can. Everyone carries the intent to deceive."
"You can trust me."
"How can I be sure?" Chris asked.
"We're the police.”
"So? That's never stopped anybody before. You hear all the time of protected witnesses killed at new homes in different countries. Their deaths are staged to look like robberies, or a car crash, or . . . whatever."
"Only because in time the criminals realise they're alive. You won't be. The city will be rid of a dangerous organisation for good, meanwhile Chris Newman will commit suicide at a remote spot up north. You will have a new identity, new documents, a new life--here in Sydney, another state, another country, wherever."
"If I decide not to tell?"

Shrieks of laughter escaped a group of tourists as they passed close by. Chris glared at them, Pete forgotten for a second, as he realised his own world was mocking him.

Pete waited until the laughter died before continuing. "We'll get them, and rest assured young man, if they get convicted, so do you. You're an accessory to crime--an illegal and dangerous position to be in. Right now the gang need you, but it won't be forever. They'll bleed you dry, then dispose of you like a sack of garbage. They'll kill you, for real."

"That's a touching story," Chris replied, "but you know what? I'm gonna take my chances--they can't touch me."
"Strong words, but those of a fool. Elton took a chance--look at him now."

For the first time during their encounter, Chris turned to Pete, and mentally took note of who this person, from whom he had sought help, was. Dark patches nestled beneath his eyes revealed a stressful existence; stretch lines the length of his forehead told of a life approaching retirement. His eyes gave no clues to his inner feelings, and every part of Pete's body showed little, if any, emotion. This was just another job.

"How dare you bring Elton into this." Chris's eyes bore into Pete's, searching for something, any sign of compassion. "Do you have no respect, man?"
Pete dug his hands deeper in his pockets, and walked away. Chris yelled after him. "Where on Earth do you think you're going? You're supposed to help me!"
"How can I help you when you don't trust me?"
"I trust no one. Don't take it personally."
"Fine," Pete replied. "You're an idiot, you're a selfish bastard, and you're going to die. Don't take it personally."

Of all the things people had called Chris over the years, selfish was none of them. Arrogant, attention-seeker, yes, but not selfish. Never selfish. It wasn't his nature, neither was deceit, neither was lying. But that was then. Things had changed; he had changed. The world had moved on.

His eyes burned. He longed to punch something, someone, and not stop, ever. On the horizon, a boat drifted slowly towards him, shrouded with the mists of hatred. In the space of a blink, it was gone.

He released his clasp on the fence, and rounded the side of the surf club. Several kids were playing soccer on the green, minus a ball. It was imaginary, as were the goals, and the game was evidently self-refereed, for better or worse.

The game and the kids reminded him of days gone by when he and Mitch, then best friends, would play in the exact same manner.

"Six points!" one of the lads shouted.
"What? That was out!" an opponent yelled back.
"Was not. I'm telling you six points. Denise--you saw that, didn't you?"
"How could I?" The blonde who answered, Denise apparently, looked too old to be playing imaginary soccer, and, come to think of it, she looked so not the person to be playing soccer at all. "The ball's not even real, there's no posts, none of you can play, and this game sucks."

She stormed off in a manner reminiscent of a Tina mood. For all the things she had done to him when they were together, Chris still loved her. He would gladly take her back--if she wasn't in Britain, and if she wasn't getting married in a few months time. Damn the world. Damn Tina. Damn her fiancé for loving her like crazy and asking her to marry him. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe there was another Tina out there, waiting to walk into his life. Yeah, right.

Denise's streaked hair shone through the haze like a beacon bursts through a stormy night's cloud, just as Tina's would have done, had she not turned it to . . .

"Last chance, Christopher."

Pete's call stole his chain of thought. Denise had overwhelmed him so completely, made long-buried memories to re-surface, that he'd failed to hear the Mercedes pull next to the kerb behind him and spread itself over nearly three parking spaces. He recognised the song blasting from the stereo--one that would go down in history as a classic; a song that, unlike himself, would never die. Beautiful Day. How ironic--perhaps Pete had a sense of humour? Or simply a twisted streak?

The kids on the green were still arguing about the same damn shot. It was only a flipping game, no wonder Denise had deserted them. Where was she anyway? Probably gone by now, if she had any sense. The road was dead, as always, and no one occupied the picnic benches next to the green. It couldn't get more private than this.

Chris turned back to the Merc, and crouched next to the window. "Port Kembla, Monday at seven," he whispered.
"What's going down?" Pete asked between a broken rendition of "don't let it get away." He smacked the stereo, which only caused it to skip even more.
"You're smart," Chris said. "Work it out."
Pete reached out and placed his hand on Chris's shoulder. "You're a good kid. You're brave." He squeezed his shoulder, a final act of reassurance. The next time they would meet, it would all be over. Or it would have just begun.

"Monday night, Chris. Be there."

He stood and watched Pete's Mercedes ease out of the car park and down the road until it was out of sight. He was alone.

"Six points!"

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Comments by other Members

Salty at 12:36 on 31 October 2004  Report this post
Andy, this is a great effort and really feels like the beginning of something for you.

Just an opinion, but this line just feels a little clunky to me and a bit over written,

November sunlight shines from the heart of the metropolis, filling offices across Sydney with a heat that is as unwelcome to the employees as the Monday morning itself

And the East Australian skyline? Is the skyline we are seeing really the East Australian skyline, as this gives a false perception of a skyline spanning a continent, of which the city is tiny part. Or is it the Sydney skyline, a city skyline.

Forty kilometers North, a lean figure wanders the length of Palm Beach, nature's proudest work of art, now bronzed over in the early morning light.

by referring to the lean figure first, you are making him the subject of this sentence, and thus the following two descriptive statements are about the lean figure and not the beach. Perhaps I have misread this, but it is Palm Beach that is ‘nature’s proudest work of art, and not the lean figure (either way, this is a rather sweeping statement, and one which as a reader I would take issue with, as I have been to Whale Beach, and there are better beaches – in my opinion. So straight away you are creating a conflict with your reader).

The paragraph commencing The voice carried on the I found confusing. I have no idea at all what this Glad is. You really need to spell it out for the idiots – this idiot writing now, as I cannot read your mind, only what you have written on the page, and I need to know more about what is really going on here, and you are not telling me. I just think there is too much here to be covered in such a short span, and so randomly. Break down what your character is saying into subjects, and tackle each subject seperately, building one on the other, specifically informing the reader what it is you want them to know.

A shriek of laughter, so perfect in timing but only out of pure coincidence, escaped a group of tourists as they passed close by.

Please don’t tell me something is ‘perfect’, show it to me. You are ‘telling’ the reader how you want them to respond to your work, rather than setting something they can respond to, and hoping it is what you want. And sometimes the most interesting reactions are when people find in your work elements you never intended to be there. I think this sentence stands simply as

A shriek of laughter as a group of tourists passed close by, and then a reaction from a character, or whatever you feel fits.

Early on, you commence sentences observations which are not the primary subject of the sentence, and this causes the reader to back-step, searching for sentence coherence.

Hidden behind the walls of the surf club, the silent observer admired,

Made of brick the same gold shade as the beach itself, the surf club gave the observer the sense of security he often craved.

are a couple of examples. (About the second statement I would proffer a ‘why?’)

To keep things simple, start the sentence with the subject, if you intend throwing in additional elements.

Once again, this is just an opinion for you to check or chuck as you see fit, as in; the silent observer hid behind the surf club wall, admiring…

I really hope I have not sounded discouraging here. I did enjoy this, and it is just a few ideas for you to be going on with. Good luck with your writing, and I look forward to reading more.




Typo alert

you commence sentences **with** observations

andyccn at 21:32 on 31 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Ian,

Thanks for the feedback, it's not at all discouraging!--It only makes me more determined to better myself.
Now you've pointed these things out, particular about the subjects of the sentence, I know where I'm going wrong and can see your point. It was never my strongpoint in school, maybe that's why I want to do it so much now!

I'll be addressing what you've suggested soon, and edit this version appropriately.


Kal at 16:52 on 01 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Andy

I am not good with the grammar side but I thought this was a really interesting read. For me the scene was visual and I got a real sense of the mc's popularity.

i look forward to reading more.


andyccn at 23:59 on 01 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Kal,

Many thanks for your compliments! It's great to hear you visualised the scene well - that's the part I always worry about - will people see it the way I see it?

Ian, I've edited as I see fit.

> You were right about "East Australian" suggesting a continent. It's supposed to be we see the country - East Australia, then we're shown the city - Sydney, then we're taken to specifics - the offices, then Palm Beach, then Chris.
> I see your point about the "November sunlight..." appearing clunky and overwritten, have edited this.
> With the "Forty kilometres north..." sentence, I've decided to move the time frame ahead slightly so we're into proper daylight rather than dawn. It's made things slightly easier in descriptions, as well as time sense in the story. I understand also about the reader's perception of Palm/Whale beach. I was trying to set the idea in the reader's minds that Chris leads an idyllic lifestyle-living near a gorgeous (well I think so :) ) beach, is famous and well-liked by everyone, and attracts the "chicks"!
I think I've retained this, but in a slightly different manner.

> The "The voice carried on..." sentence was a bit of a shambles I must admit. I wanted to get the point across that Chris's "secret" will destory his mother, Glad, but now you don't find out about why it would until (partly) in the 2nd chapter, and fully later on (about 1/4 of the way through) in the story. Plus, I'd already partly covered this with the line "...one so terrible it would tear through the souls of his loved ones..." (and he does love his mother, right? Yep.)

> "Perfect." Ah. Difficult one. I wasn't 100% sure whether everyone would get the feel for the situation (why the laughter is appropriate there, and the effect it gives) so I went for the blunt approach. Have edited this too.

> Subjects and observations. Like I said earlier, sentence structure (subject, object, etc) has never been a strong point, but I get what you've said, and think I've done better. I've also explained a little more why he needs the security of the surf club.

Hope you like the changes, I do!

Cheers, Andy

Account Closed at 19:55 on 05 November 2004  Report this post
I really got into this once the two men met up and started talking, and I wondered therefore if you could make it even punchier by starting at that point and then bringing in some of the description while they're having all this exciting & tense conflict?

Also loved the contrast of the imaginary football game, and how it makes your MC feel, but I'm not sure the entry of the ex-fiancee helps at this point? - it may be telling us too much too soon, and he can for now just feel sad and we can find out later why??

Definitely want to read on and find out more though - great stuff!



andyccn at 09:57 on 06 November 2004  Report this post
Thanks Anne, your comments mean a lot.

I understand what you mean about bringing in the conflict to start with, but the reader needs to know how alone the MC is, and it's clear at the very last chapter just how important the first image of the dog and the lone guy on the beach is.

I'm not giving anything away, but the story ends with the same scene - Chris watching someone on the beach, with the same golden Lab playing.

The part about Tina, again it becomes clearer throughout the story why he's thinking about her, because we will learn they have a long history, and it makes him more attracted to Denise because of this. Needless to say a bit of romance develops here, but maybe in a future sequel (I've got a couple of ideas) this leads to strife between the two. Who knows? I'll just wait and see later down the track.

Thank you


I'm not giving anything away, but the story ends with the same scene - Chris watching someone on the beach, with the same golden Lab playing ...

... and the scene is equally as devestating, but for different reasons.

Skippoo at 11:42 on 22 December 2004  Report this post
Hi Andy,

I enjoyed this. It's very visual and I liked the 'sweeping camera' effect of the opening description which kind of sets up the desolate and reflective feel of the piece nicely.

I felt it was vague who was talking at the beginning, though. Perhaps we need a sharper introduction to Chris.

A hand "twice the normal size for a man his age". This seemed odd! For starters humanly impossible and once he's beyond puberty a man's age should have no effect on hand size, should it?!

"Chris turned to Pete, and mentally took note of who this person, from who he had sought help, was". We know he soght help from him, so I think it's unnecessary you say it again here.

I think the main problem I had here was empathising with your main character, to be honest! He's feeling sorry for himself and taking himself pretty seriously straight away. Some of the decriptions like "he realised his own world was mocking him" are pretty dramatic. For me, for that drama to work, the reader needs to be drawn in by Chris first.

Just looked at other comments. I actually noted that I thought your grammar was good when I first read it. Your punctuation is pretty much faultless!

Anyway, I hope some of this is helpful. Best of luck with it!


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