WIPpet Wednesday from CAMBRIDGE/ROW80 update

Yep. Cambridge. For anyone who’s missed it (you must be new, welcome, stay a while, browse through my previous posts) I have just began two weeks of study at Cambridge as part of an International Summer School they run. Today was/is my third day of classes, which is already a quarter of the way through! Goodness! 

Now, first a ROW80 check in. In a vast improvement from Sunday’s post (which I’m not even going to link because it was so miserable) I am feeling pretty positive. Thank you so much to all the lovely people who posted kind words (or paragraphs) of support, it meant so much to me. I go through phases (like we all do) of self doubt and even self loathing, but receiving so much genuine support from strangers on the internet made me feel a lot better. If I haven’t replied to your comment yet, never fear, I will, I’ve just been busy!

I have probably been the most successful with goal two this week, to enjoy my Cambridge Summer School. The lectures are fantastic, my college is beautiful, and most importantly for me I’ve made so many great friends already. In fact, I’m editing this post (I wrote a draft the other day) at like 11:30pm because I was at the college bar with my new friends – great success! 

Goal three has been a bit more difficult as I am notoriously indecisive when it comes to essay topics, but hopefully by tomorrow I will have decided on a topic and will be able to start proper work (my mind has been buzzing with ideas, it’s SO inspirational being here!). 

Goal four is probably going to have to wait due to goals 2 and 3, but that’s ok. I will try and get around to as many of you as possible, but please don’t be offended (ROWers or WIPpeteers) if I don’t reach you this week!

Now, goal one…ergh. Here’s the problem I’m having. This character, Taura, a very important character (I think), is JUST NOT COOPERATING! No matter what I write or rewrite or edit or add or cut her chapter still feels clunky and wrong and just ergh. “So just cut it” I hear you all shout. I can’t! Which is the problem. Well at least I feel like I can’t. Cutting her chapter(s) would effectively remove the perspective of one of the probably main characters from the story. But maybe her chapters aren’t working because she actually isn’t a main character anymore. But she’s supposed to be. Gah! Or perhaps her chapters just feel strange because she’s the first character (her chapter is chapter 3) to not have a chapter consisting primarily of dialogue, and because I’ve been writing so much dialogue it feels wrong? 

I don’t know.

Which I why I’m enlisting the help of my fellow WIPpeteers (led by the fabulous K.L Schwengel) to assist. Remember a few weeks ago I posted this snippet and everyone was super helpful in giving advice on how to improve it? Well I’m back with the revamped version, which still feels wrong to me. So yes, I am using WIPpet Wednesday to force people to beta read a section of my novel I’m not happy with. So what? That’s what it’s for right, getting feedback? So please, help me. Tell me what you’d change. Tell me what I’ve done right. Tell me if it isn’t working. Tell me if it’s all in my head and it’s fine. 

Anyway, here are a whopping 32 sentences (23+7+2 – from 2014) from the beginning of chapter 3. 

Her own footsteps and the steady drumming of horses’ hooves merged into one in her ears as Taura ran through the towering crops. Above her the moonless sky was illuminated by flickering torches, their flames probing and angry. The previously silent air echoed with a cacophony of shouts and barking, beneath it all the persistent thud of hooves against dirt. In the distance Taura could hear the clang of metal on metal, but the surrounding chaos disguised its direction. She had already been inside the shelter of the cornfields when it had started, whatever it was. For a while it had seemed there was someone running parallel to her in the field, shielded by only a row of crops, but every time she glanced over she saw nothing. Panting, Taura slowed, waiting for her heartbeat to quieten so she could identify how close the horses had come. To her despair it sounded as though despite her silent prayers they were advancing towards her. Cursing under her breath she peered desperately through the clearing crops ahead of her, hoping to find some safety. The flames of the torches had failed to penetrate the night that far though, and she saw nothing but blackness. Creeping forwards hesitantly she slipped her hand beneath her cloak, running her fingers down the smooth blade that lay concealed against her chest. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that, but years of experience had taught her to always prepare for the worst. As she emerged tentatively from the crops the yapping of dogs rose to meet her, accompanied by the clanging of their chains as they strained towards her.

“Taura?”

Although the voice was little more than a whisper she stilled jumped, grabbing the hilt of her dagger instinctively.

“F’ the love of the old farmer, it is ye! Quickly.”

Hesitating to glance back at the cornfields she had emerged from, she felt the farmer’s hand grab her arm and yank her towards him.

“There’s not time for this. Come on. Unless ye want them t’ find ye.”

“Them?”

The farmer grunted. “Like I said, no time for this.”

Although part of her urged to pull away and run from the hunched man, Taura allowed him to half drag her into the night, which slowly faded to reveal one of the squat stone farmer’s dwellings that littered the space between Carithno’s great wall and the forest. He released her arm only once they reached the door, fumbling in the darkness with the heavy iron lock.

“Why are you helping me?”

Shrugging, the farmer bustled her inside. “We here look after ar’ own, Taura m’girl. Ye may not be one ‘v us, but yer close enough.” He smiled as he pushed the heavy door closed and sealed the latch, revealing the familiar pattern of scars Taura had been unable to make out in the gloom. “Ye don’t ask too many questions, and ye sure don’t give any answers.”

So there you go. Looking at it here I actually hate it less, but that might just be my own desperation…

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9 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday from CAMBRIDGE/ROW80 update

  1. Well, count me in the “I don’t hate it” group. This is good! I’m wondering what she’s escaping.

    If she’s meant to be a main character but she’s not cooperating, maybe you want to explore her as a person a bit more. I decided to just go with it when a plot bunny cropped up about a character this week. Now I know him much better, and his motivation became clear to me through that. Good luck!

  2. That first chunk feels unwieldy I’m wondering if you could break it up with Taura’s actions and thoughts. Instead of saying ‘to her despair’ might not be as powerful as giving her despair a physical shape or a voice. When she curses, what does she say?

    I have a character who talks to herself, and then is embarrassed that she does. She tries to break the habit, but can’t.

    Some traits like that might help -or you might try changing something about her- or maybe writing the chapter from another point of view…

    I hope that some of this is helpful to you! =)

  3. Cambridge! Cambridgey Cambridge! Yay! 🙂 Glad to hear you’re enjoying your summer school so far. As for your excerpt, I think this version is definitely an improvement but the first half still reads a bit clunkily. To break it up, you could turn ‘she heard shouts’ into a line of dialogue which she picks out from the shouts. 🙂

  4. I love this so much more than the first version! The beginning really sets the scene while giving away to where she is. It’s like panning in quickly from a wide shot onto Taura. It’s fantastic. As for the dialogue… you have a character here who doesn’t ask questions, meaning (in my head at least) she’s quieter and doesn’t talk much, so the lack of dialogue seems normal. I think this section is great and doesn’t have a lot of changes necessary.

  5. There’s some fantastic advice up there, much better than I ever could. I think it’s a great passage! I especially love the use of dialect. It’s one of my favorite story elements. Good luck sorting it out! 🙂

  6. First, I have to commiserate. I had a character who really, really, really wanted to be in Edge of Darkness. And I loved him. He was great. I even had some super scenes written for him. Unfortunately, as I tried to work him in to the story as a whole…well…*sigh* He’s no longer in the story. 😦 I just couldn’t make it work. I’m still mourning.

    On to the excerpt. I tripped several times over the first sentence. It reads awkward to me. And I’m with those who think the first paragraph needs some smoothing. Breaking it up would be good. Sinking us a bit further into her skin might help. Instead of telling us it seemed to her someone was running alongside, maybe she thinks she hears footsteps, the rustle of cornstalks not brought about by the wind, the heavy breathing of someone…Use all the senses and smack us in the face with it.

    This, “allowed him to half drag her into the night, which slowly faded to reveal ” why did the night fade? Were there torches? Was the sun coming up? The moon? The stars? This line made me scratch my head.

    Hope some of that helps!

  7. Great excerpt! I agree with other posters on breaking up the first paragraph a bit, and my only other thing is maybe the word “crops.” I’m one of those dorks who gets pulled right out of a story by word repetition – it’s like OCD. I’m new to this whole ROW80 thing, though, so feel free to ignore me. I’d definitely like to find out what happens next!

  8. I don’t think you need much more advice at this point. I liked it. Taura’s thoughts work as well as dialogue, I think. The first paragraph would take up an entire page on an ereader, so you might want to split it into smaller chunks. That’s about all I have to add to what everyone else has said.

  9. A lot of good stuff in this version, Rachel. Add me in for one who finds the repetition of “crops” a bit odd (and since you’ve already told us she’s in a cornfield, why not say “cornstalks”? Use the more precise wording when you can).

    Another smallish nit, and I think it comes from your trying to force her into the story is the use of “she had been taught” “her despair”… distant phrasing effectively. Get us right into her head. Things like choking on the dust that she kicked up in the cornfield but not daring to sneeze or cough (depending on the weather or time of year, cornfields can be amazingly gagging places). And the leaves can give small cuts like papercuts when they whip past… (not to mention the wildlife that sometimes hangs out in the fields from dusk on… particularly woodchucks and raccoons and other middling prey animals).

    Those are my thoughts. And now… I’m off to go dream of being in England again… 😉

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