Thursday, October 20, 2005

Setting myself up for a fall?

Over on his blog Gopher's posted up a chunk of something he's working on asking for opinions. Thought I'd do the same (especially as I attempted to critique - it was supposed to be helpful!) and it seems fair to allow him to do the same to me.... if you want to that is Gopher!
Before I pasted the following in I thought I'd give it a quick read through to make sure I don't utterly shame myself, but after deleting a bit of the 2nd line I decided to just post it warts and all as maybe that'd be more interesting. Okay, enough excuses, here's a bit of 'Green and Pleasant Land' uncut and raw -
Oh yeah, just to set the scene in the previous chapter a tree has grown in a school car park over night.....

Chapter 2

Awkwardly Dylan pressed the numbers on the keypad of the small mobile phone his inexperience making him clumsy. The phone rang and rang until Dylan gave up took the phone away from his ear and looked down at it as if it were an alien artifact and pressed the end button to make it stop.
“No answer?”
“No, he’s not in,” said Dylan to his school friend. “Still at the allotment,” he added.
“There’s a surprise.”
“Yeah,” said Dylan as he handed back the mobile phone to Gareth. ‘Thanks for that.”
“No problem.” Gareth put the phone into a pouch on his bag strap, ‘You going to get a phone then?”
It was not the first time Gareth had asked this question, Dylan had hoped his friend would have realised by now that it was very unlikely he was going to get a mobile phone, but Gareth wasn’t noted for being smart or sensitive.
“Maybe sometime.”
“You should, I can’t imagine how you can do anything without one.”
Trying not to make it sound like a sigh Dylan made a noncommittal sort of sound and carried on walking. As handy as a mobile phone might be he couldn’t afford one and neither could his dad. Anyway, as far as Dylan could tell all a mobile phone did was allow you to send pointless text messages or waste time saying nothing very important to someone you saw all the time anyway.
“Are you going to meet your dad at the allotment then?” asked Gareth tiring of advertising the merits of mobile phones.
“No, if I’m still going to get home before him I’ll start making dinner.”
Gareth and Dylan were late because they had stayed to see what was happening around the tree in the car park. Clegg, the school janitor, had cordoned off the tree with some of the ‘caution wet surface’ signs. Three of them had fallen over in the wind and the fourth looked equally incapable of the task of protecting the tree from observers. A few other school children had decided wait until Mr Wales had left so they could have a closer look at the tree.
Something about the tree drew Dylan to it. Stepping over one of the fallen yellow signs he reached out touching the rough bark with the tips of his fingers before placing both his hands flat on the trunk. It felt warm and seemed to pulse beneath him. A girl Dylan recognised from the year above followed his lead. Then another girl, and then a boy, and another. Of the sixteen children who had decided to hang around the car park after the school had closed twelve of them had felt the need to touch the tree.
Gareth had not been so impressed, “What do they look like, eh?” he chuckled to Alex Stebbs, a well built boy good at running, hockey and beating up other children if he felt like it. “Shut up Barnacle,” he replied as he stepped through the crowd to touch the tree himself.
By the time he and the others left Dylan thought he should see if his dad was home incase he was wondering where his son was. Luckily Gareth never missed a chance to get into anyone’s good graces and happily loaned Dylan his mobile phone.


Gopher said...

I don't think I'm able to criticise a childrens story.

I've made some amendments based on your suggestions.

I may put up a completely seperate part later though. Good criticism is always good!

Danny said...

Well you know I like this bit, but I didn't especially go into a lot of detail about why... I think it's because it seems kind of pagan, in a Wicker Man kind of way, or the river boat scene from The Night of the Hunter. It's quite powerful for it... Sorry should have said that the other day, but I didn't express it very well...

Nimiwey said...

So far so good...and damn cell phones to hell, I too refuse to have one. They are a plague to the 21st century you heathens.

Nimiwey said...

Nothing like sitting out to dinner with someone while he's talking on his goddamned phone while I look at my feet. NOT THAT IM BITTER.

paulhd said...

Sadly I got my first mobile about a year ago due to increasing pressure from Rebecca who wanted to be able to contact me incase of emergencies - unsurprisingly she's pretty much the only person who I phone and she's the only person who calls me.
Strange comment Gopher, a story's a story whether it's a children's one or not. Making 'concessions' to children is a mistake so if it doesn't work for adults it won't work for kids.
Cheers for the observation Danny, you're bang on with how the scene works, I particularly pleased as I hadn't planned it until it was written and I though the same thing. It's given me a who new direction - as has reading an insert in The Independent called 'Disappearing World'

Gopher said...

Well I still won't criticise, and I agree with the concessions remark.

Gopher said...

Not to be awkward or unfair - simply my criticism is not that constructive at the moment so it's not worth mentioning. I'll keep reading until I figure it out.

Nimiwey said...

Cell phones solely for spousal communications is OK. Brain's an attorney so we get calls often, always, not as bad as some I've seen though.

I hate it when I'm out with someone and they just pull out the phone and start dialing someone. I feel I am owed the explanation of whom they NEED to call during their time out with me. It's inviting someone else into our date ergo I have a right to know who, right? Bastards. Burn you cell phone bastards.

One more thing...I LOATHE it when I am walking and people are walking around me talking like they are schizophrenics on their goddamned ear piece phones, I think they're talking to me I POLITELY RESPOND only to notice that the person doesn't even notice any living thing around him/her but is talking to someone on the FRICKIN phone. Grr.

Trees are awesome center pieces for stories. (I have hugged a few). Full of = verdance, hope, immortality, etc. Maybe I'll try a story with a younger appeal some time.

paul said...

good stuff! you've managed that seemingly effortless trick of conjuring a whole scene without needing to describe much in detail, just the bit about the 'caution' signs does it all for me. and the tree straddles that happy line where the fantastical becomes somehow eminently plausible. i like that place! (call it magical realism if you like.)

perhaps a slight lack of punctuation here and there (first para esp.), but that's just nit-picking really.

i'm looking forward to some more... and i'll actually try and say something about it this time unlike my inability to comment on simian beyond 'this is good'.

Danny said...

Yeah, it seems to have just dropped fully formed onto the page, kind of fitting given the story in question...
Really strong stuff...

paulhd said...

Cheers Paul, Danny (I wish it was fully formed, but I'll certainly settle for 'hey, I like where this is going, better take advantage of it') Trying to conjure scenes with minimal description is a bit of a goal of mine, and I imagine a later draft will see the word count of the posted chunk reduced by about 20%
The magic realism thing is unintentional as it's a genre I've never been able to get away with even though I very much want to like it (David Almond is the closest I get), more on that later....
Although the origin of the trees is pretty set in my mind I had dabbled with alternatives, I would've liked to give the story a strong Miyasaki of nature in revolt but it's not the way I work and I think it would be a mistake to force it or even just steal surface elements from someone far better than me. On the other hand I hope it'll show his influence.
Anyway, I geuess I'd better get on with writing the thing instead of writing about it!