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AUTOPSY OF A NOVEL: TEARING APART MY EARLY WORK

Posted on November 18, 2014

Monsters in Boxers was my second novel. It was written over twelve years ago and really shows my inexperience. I have taken it offline and I am writing an all new book one for 2015.

Below is a scene from a later chapter where Reggie and Troy are trapped in the Chaos Storm with their teacher. I have included commentary so you can see what is seriously off about the book.

"Reggie, wake up," Troy whispered.

Okay, if you were trying to wake someone up, why whisper?

Reggie's eyelids felt like lead weights. He lifted them with great effort to see Troy, still in his monster form, standing over him. Several large bruises peppered his friend's chest. Reggie could make out Ms. Appleton standing behind Troy, her eyes awash with relief.

Two sentences to convey he opened his eyes? Ugh. How about this: His eyes fluttered open. And eyes awash with relief? Seriously, I'm so embarrassed.

"We thought you'd never wake up, Reggie," Troy said.

Reggie's eyes snapped alert. "Don't use my name, idiot." He nodded toward Ms. Appleton. "I don't want her to know I'm this thing."

I told my class that this early effort of mine relies on too many micro-movements happening each time a character speaks. It slows the scene down and spends too much time on gestures the reader doesn't need to enjoy the story. The snapping alert comment is really not needed.

Troy frowned. "Too late. I filled her in on everything as we made our escape from Horde Lord."

Reggie weakly rolled his eyes. It was then that their bizarre surroundings caught his attention. He took a moment to examine them closely. They were in some sort of tunnel. He could make out the walls, which looked organic and riddled with strands of webbing. Evenly spaced hideous lanterns appeared to be growing out of the walls, glowing dimly. "Where are we?"

I can't seem to let go of describing what Reggie's eyes are doing. What is with my optical fixation? Also, clumsy setting description. It needs more and should be ten times creepier.

"Somewhere in the Chaos Storm. I have no idea how to get out of here, and this place is crawling with uglies. Luckily, this side tunnel doesn't seem to have too much traffic." Troy smiled.

Does he need to smile here? Extraneous micro-movement.

Reggie attempted to stand up. "How did you..." A sharp pain shot through his head. He crumpled back to the ground.

"Easy does it, champ. You took quite a blow to the head." Troy clasped hold of his teammate's small shoulders, attempting to offer support.

Reggie rubbed the side of his head, the throbbing source of the pain. He felt a large bump and something wet. He pulled his hand back to see that it was covered in a sticky yellow substance. Panic raced across his face.

Troy tried to calm him down. "Relax, it's just a little head wound. You're not bleeding that much now."

The descriptive tag isn't needed. It's obvious he's trying to calm him down.

Reggie's voice wavered as he spoke. "But my blood's yellow!!"

Look at that, two exclamation marks! My comic book background is showing. If he's spouting this statement out with such exclamatory force, why am I describing it as wavering?

Troy tried to crack a smile. Much like his confidence, it came out looking a little uncertain and shaken. "Hey, just part of being a Monster in Boxers. Relax, you'll be okay. It could always be worse."

"How's that?"

"You could have some of that pesky acid blood," Troy said.

Distant yelling and howling pierced the air. Troy looked down the tunnel. "I'm gonna check things out, see what's going on. You stay here. Ms Appleton needs protecting. She can also get you up to speed." Troy dashed down the tunnel and was swallowed by the groping darkness before Reggie had a chance to protest his plan.

Groping darkness? Okay, young Brian, you're just trying too hard.

Ms. Appleton inched closer to him. She began tearing part of her skirt apart.

Reggie would normally love the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with his favorite teacher, but not in his pathetic monster body and not in the bowels of some monster-ridden Chaos Storm. "What are you doing?"

I will give myself credit. I worked in bowels pretty nicely.

She smiled, the gentle creases around her eyes crinkling sweetly. "Making a bandage for you." She had finished tearing and held out the makeshift bandage to Reggie. "Wrap this around your head, Reggie."

He noticed she said his name almost in a whisper. Reggie did as she said and crudely wrapped the cloth around his head. Despite his huge head, Reggie found he had plenty material left over to tie a decent slipknot. He looked over at his teacher, who was examining him intensely.

Head is mentioned twice and is it that important the reader know he can create a slipknot?

"You're very brave."

And so are you for continuing to read this.

Reggie responded, "Thank you. I..." He felt he owed her an explanation. He wanted to let her know he could turn back into his regular self. He wanted desperately for the two of them to be in class, toiling over some complex math or science problem. Most of all, he wanted to make her feel safe.

I'll end here. This is the one decent paragraph in this chapter so far. I like how it accentuates his relationship with his teacher. Goodness, I am mortified by my lack of skills in this piece.

I'll try to dissect part of another scene soon. I like ripping apart my early work.

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, PLEASE SHARE IT AROUND...
Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2014...
Wow, you're being hard on yourself! Okay, some of the things you mentioned are a little blatant, especially all the eye movements.

Much of the other stuff is only noticeable when you look hard, and I guess that's what you're doing now — criticizing every little thing. That's a good thing, of course, but don't be too hard on yourself. This still reads much better than a lot of other stuff out there!
Comment by BRIAN CLOPPER on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2014...
I am being hard on it, but when you read a book aloud to a class, it really becomes obvious what isn't working. I also feel that it's a good sign I can spot my rookie mistakes. I am excited to see the new novel that will form from this experience.

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