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Pointers Anyone?

Hi All


I'm new to writing even though I am now in my mid fifties.  I have always wanted to write but, over the years I have either lacked confidence or determination to put pen to paper so to speak.  


So for me to even reach this stage is a huge achievement for me.  Whether my work is poor or good is of no real concern for me at this point.  I am currently experimenting with the ideas that fill my head.


What I am looking for is practical pointers from anyone.  Am I structuring the story in the right way?  Can I improve on the story by expanding the descriptions of the characters and and plot scenarios?


I have included here a section of my story.  So please I welcome all forms of critique.  After all I am on a steep learning curve.




Steven, four years old. Sitting at the top of the stairs, covering his ears, crying.  Wishing that daddy would stop.


Four years old and subjected to the emotional abuse that has scarred him for life.  Yes he remembers too well those early years, and what his father was capable of.


Other than that, Steven was a normal four year old, who attended nursery full time.  He enjoyed being at the nursery, playing with other children and the music.


Steven’s father worked in a colliery and his mother worked in an engineering works.  It was an era of mills and mines. 


He had suffered from convulsions, more or less from birth, and had to take medication to control the seizures.  He was also unfortunate to have a lazy eye. His right eye turned inwards.


At this tender age Steven was unaware what love and hate really was.  How these feelings would converge in on him and meld into one.  The next three years would put paid to that.  


“Why the **bleep** is my tea shrivelled up and **bleep**ing dry.”  His father shouted as he slapped his mother to the floor.  She just lay there sobbing.  Father stormed out of the house.  He held his breath for a while then turned around to go into the living room.  He turned on the t.v. to watch cartoons.


He was listening to his mum clearing up the mess in the kitchen.  Steven knew what was going to happen later, and he wasn’t looking forward to going to bed.


“No please Danny, please stop it hurts.”  His mum moaned quietly, but he could hear the sounds coming from his parents bedroom.  He didn’t understand what they were, all he knew was that daddy was hurting mummy.


He heard his fathers fist hit his mother, and then he heard the noise of his mother falling down the stairs.  At this point he was at his door watching what was going on.  Hoping that it would be over soon.


And this was how it was for Steven for the next three years.


  • potetjppotetjp Professor

    Your returns in some words are very odd, e.g. comin[HRt]g.

  • You did a very nice job! Especially for someone who is just starting out. I have a handful of suggestions and questions, which I will interpolate in red...




    Steven, four years old. Sitting at the top of the stairs, covering his ears, crying.  Wishing that daddy would stop. stop what? I think you need to add a word here to establish the nature of the abuse right away.


    Four years old and subjected to the emotional abuse that has scarred him for life.  Yes he remembers too well those early years, and what his father was capable of. If you are talking about the thoughts of a four-year-old, I think that is a little young for a child to be pondering his "early years." If these are thoughts being had by someone much older who is recalling his life at the age of four, you should make that clear.


    Other than that, Steven was a normal four year old, who attended nursery full time.  He enjoyed being at the nursery, playing with other children and the music. he was playing with children and music? Reverse the order: "he enjoyed the music and playing with other children."


    Steven’s father worked in a colliery and his mother worked in an engineering works.  It was an era of mills and mines. If this is a period piece, make that clearer as well.


    He had suffered from convulsions, more or less from birth, and had to take medication to control the seizures.  He was also unfortunate to have a lazy eye. His right eye turned inwards.


    At this tender age Steven was unaware what love and hate really was.  How these feelings would converge in on him and meld into one.  The next three years would put paid to that.  


    Too much of the foregoing was what is known as an "information dump"---you are telling the reader things rather than letting them discover this information in the course of the story. 


    And, again, it is really unclear how old your character is at the time the story is being told.


    “Why the **bleep** is my tea shrivelled up and **bleep**ing dry,” his father shouted as he slapped his mother to the floor.  She just lay there sobbing.  Father stormed out of the house.  He [this should be "Steven" since the last name you mentioned was "Father"--otherwise the "he" in this sentence is referring to the father] held his breath for a while then turned around to go into the living room.  He turned on the t.v. to watch cartoons.


    He was listening to his mum clearing up the mess in the kitchen.  Steven knew what was going to happen later, and he wasn’t looking forward to going to bed.


    “No please Danny, please stop it hurts,”  his mum moaned quietly, but he could hear the sounds coming from his parents bedroom. this was a sudden change in time and place since the last we heard his mother was cleaning up the kitchen  He didn’t understand what they were, all he knew was that daddy was hurting mummy.


    He heard his father's fist hit his mother, and then he heard the noise of his mother falling down the stairs. they were in the bedroom the last I heard. Also, if Steven doesn't understand what the sounds are, how does he know the sound of his father's fist?  At this point he was at his door watching what was going on.  Hoping that it would be over soon.


    And this was how it was for Steven for the next three years.


    I think you may be in a little too much of a hurry. Take your time more. Get a little more into Steven's head and his feelings. Let the reader experience what he is feeling and listen in on his thoughts rather than telling us what they are. Make the reader share in his confusion and fear. Was he shaking during the final scene in your sample? Was he crying? You may want to consider telling this a little more from Steven's point of view rather than that of an omniscient narrator. 


    Black Cat Studios
  • I think Ron has nailed it.


    There's a good core of a story there, and you've got a good perspective for telling it, but you want to slow down a bit and pace yourself. It's a bit like, well, imagine yourself telling a ghost story to small children. You don't want to get to the spooky bit too quickly; you want to build it up, a little at a time, until finally you throw out the big surprise that makes them all shriek.


    Telling stories to adults isn't wuite like that, but you still want to tell the story a bit at a time. There's a saying, "Don't tell us what you can show us."


    As an example, you tell us about the child's eye turned inward. Which, by the way, might be a great way of saying that the child has a talent for seeing things a different way, or for introspection. But instead of telling us about the eye, have the boy's mum talking about it with a neighbor, perhaps...


     . "I'm worried about that wall-eye," said Steven's Mother.  "It makes him look, well, you know. Not Right."

     . "I wouldn't trouble yourself too much," said Mother Dimble. "My Eddie, now his left eye was droopy when he'd get tired, you know, right up till he was school-age. Then it came along normal, after that." But Mrs. Dimble had to acknowledge, if only to herself, that Eddie's lazy eye was nowhere near so bad as  Steven's.


    So you see, that way the wall-eye grows naturally into the story, instead of being something that the author tells us.


    I don't know if you'll find it useful, but a few of us put together a thread on writing, some tips and tricks, you know. You can find it here:



    Hope that helps.


    Thanks Ron


    I really appreciate your time and effort you have given.  I understand the pointers and I will be implementing most of them.  I'm not sure if I explain that the story in essence is my own personal experience.  The book is finished (well at least the first edition), but by no means complete.  I want to tell this story as fluently as possible and I guess at the time of writing a lot of which was written as more pf an emotional account..


    This is the reason why I am looking for advice.


    Once again thank you for the input.



  • Thank ypu Skoob for your comments.


    I guess at the time of wrting this story,  I was very much emotionally connected to what I was writing.  This is the sort of advice I am looking for.  As I said in my original post I'm on a steep learning curve which, with advice from yourself and others will only enhance my writng technique.  Slowing down the story amd adding additional information is more than likely what is needed.  I will definitely visit the link you have provided for the workshop.


    Once again thank you for your input

  • Hi Ron and Skoob


    Taking on board the advice that has given I have re-written this chapter.  I'm hoping that I'm on the right track with this. 


    Steven, four years old. Sitting at the top of the stairs, covering his ears, crying.  Wishing that daddy would stop. These were memories for him even now in his mid fifties.  The events he witnessed and experienced all those years ago, still fresh in his mind.


    Four years old and subjected to the emotional abuse that has scarred him for life.  Yes he remembers too well those early years, and what his father was capable of.


    Other than that, Steven was a normal four year old, who attended nursery full time.  He enjoyed being at the nursery, enjoying the music and playing with other children.


    At this time, Steven’s father worked in a colliery and his mother worked in an engineering works.  It was an era of mills and mines. 


    He had suffered from convulsions, more or less from birth, and had to take medication to control the seizures.  These seizures, to a four year old, were starting to become the norm for him.  He suffered from the seizures through his childhood, spending a lot of this time in and out of hospital.


    He remembers even at four years old when his father came home sometimes, that he was not in a good mood.  He could smell the beer on his father, he could see the anger on his father’s face. When all too often his father raised his voice to his mother.


    “Why the **bleep** is my tea shrivelled up and **bleep**ing dry.”  His father shouted as he slapped his mother to the floor.  She just lay there sobbing.  Father stormed out of the house.  Steven held his breath for a while then turned around to go into the living room.  He turned on the t.v. to watch cartoons.


    He was listening to his mum clearing up the mess in the kitchen.  Steven knew what was going to happen later, and he wasn’t looking forward to going to bed.


    That night and so many nights to come, his father returned home, slamming doors and stomping up the stairs.  Steven huddled under his bed covers, shaking, tears running down his face.  Just waiting for what was about to happen.  He already knew what that was, it was now a regular thing, becoming almost normal to him.  


    Steven reminisced of those times,  even now he could feel the fear welling up inside him. Hiding in his bed, just waiting for the horrible noises that would come from his parents bedroom. Then like clockwork he heard his mother crying sheepishly.


    “No please Danny, please stop it hurts.”  His mum moaned quietly, but he could hear the sounds coming from his parents bedroom.  Steven lay still in his bed, confused, upset, crying.


    He heard the noise of his mother falling down the stairs.  At this point he was at his door watching what was going on.  Hoping that it would be over soon.


    Steven remembers that those early years, how the way his father was towards his mother, the seizures he suffered from, shaped his perception of what was normal.


    And this was how it was for Steven for the next three years.



  • Much improved! There are still many of the same problems, however. 
    I think that the fact that the story is one in which you are so intimately involved makes it hard for you to appreciate that a reader is not privy to everything you already know. You need to remember that your reader has no preknowledge of your life, so you need to fill in all the details. They do not know how you felt: you need to enable them to share those feelings.
    In several places you have added some words that enable the reader to get into Steven's head a little and share his emotions...but I also think you may have taken Skoob_ym's and my advice a little too literally. For instance, when I used the example of describing how Steven might be shaking or crying, you added almost exactly that phrase and went no further. You need to work a little harder in conveying how and why he was feeling what he did and how these events impacted on him emotionally. You know, because of your own experience, how Steven felt---but the reader does not know this. You need to make the reader share those emotions.
    jmaluk wrote:

    Hi Ron and Skoob


    Taking on board the advice that has given I have re-written this chapter.  I'm hoping that I'm on the right track with this. 


    Steven, four years old. Sitting at the top of the stairs, covering his ears, crying.  Wishing that daddy would stop. again: stop what? These were memories for him even now in his mid fifties.  The events he witnessed and experienced all those years ago, still fresh in his mind.


    Four years old and subjected to the emotional abuse that has scarred him for life.  Yes he remembers too well those early years, and what his father was capable of.


    Other than that, Steven was a normal four year old, who attended nursery full time. 24/7? He enjoyed being at the nursery, enjoying the music and playing with other children. you are simply stating a fact. Why did he enjoy this so much? Because he was away from his father?


    At this time, Steven’s father worked in a colliery and his mother worked in an engineering works.  It was an era of mills and mines. Is this relevant? if so, say why.


    He had suffered from convulsions, more or less from birth, and had to take medication to control the seizures.  These seizures, to a four year old, were starting to become the norm for him.  He suffered from the seizures through his childhood, spending a lot of this time in and out of hospital. again, you are just stating facts. How did these impact his life? how he felt about himself? how his family treated him?


    He remembers now,  even at four years old when how his father would sometimes come came home sometimes, that he was not in a good mood.  He could smell the beer on his father, he could see the anger on his father’s face. When all too often his father raised his voice to his mother. more about the father. what drove this anger?


    “Why the **bleep** is my tea shrivelled up and **bleep**ing dry," his father shouted as he slapped his mother to the floor.  She just lay there sobbing.  Father stormed out of the house.  Steven held his breath for a while then turned around to go into the living room.  He turned on the t.v. to watch cartoons. again, just stating facts. You need to describe how Steven felt seeing this


    He was listening to his mum clearing up the mess in the kitchen.  Steven knew what was going to happen later, and he wasn’t looking forward to going to bed.


    That night and so many nights to come, his father returned home, slamming doors and stomping up the stairs.  Steven huddled under his bed covers, shaking, tears running down his face.  Just waiting for what was about to happen.  He already knew what that was, it was now a regular thing, becoming almost normal to him.  


    Steven reminisced of those times,  even now he could feel the fear welling up inside him. Hiding in his bed, just waiting for the horrible noises that would come from his parents bedroom. Then like clockwork he heard his mother crying sheepishly. good description!


    “No please Danny, please stop it hurts," his mum moaned quietly, but he could hear the sounds coming from his parents' bedroom.  Steven lay still in his bed, confused, upset, crying. you are describing what he is doing, not describing how he is feeling. 


    He heard the noise of his mother falling down the stairs.  At this point he was at his door watching what was going on.  Hoping that it would be over soon. I don't quite understand this. A moment ago he is hiding in bed, obviously upset and even he is at his door, watching


    Steven remembers that those early years, how the way his father was towards his mother, the seizures he suffered from, shaped his perception of what was normal. Here again you are just telling us. Instead, try to convey how his perceptions were changed, how he saw things differently.


    And this was how it was for Steven for the next three years.




    Black Cat Studios
  • another bit of advice here: You seem to be chopping off the sentences at a certain point to make your right margins. Depending on what word processor you're using, it should do this for you automatically.


    You can set your justification to give you "fully justified" if that's what you're trying to do. It will keep you from chopping words apart.

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