March 30, 2019 at 1:00 pm #4830
I’ve rewritten the first chapter of my WIP so many time I feel completely blind to it. Have I created a hook or is it just plain confusing?
Would appreciate any thoughts. It is young adult genre, so you’ll need to pretend you’re sixteen! I’m intending to apply to Write Mentor with it, so any nit picking also appreciated.
Were they watching me now?
The prickle started between my shoulder blades and trickled down my limbs like iced water the moment I stepped outside the front door. But I mustn’t scan the garden for shadows within the darkness; that would give me away. I just pulled on my helmet and swung onto my motorbike
Deep breath, Alex. Act normal, mate.
As if I knew what normal looked like.
I kicked the engine into life, flipped on the headlight, and the front of Auntie’s red brick house jumped out of the gloom. Tight wound muscles urged me to open up the throttle, but I caught the impulse in a death grip and let the bike roll down the driveway to the road, flinching as the sweep of the light morphed bushes into leaping menaces. Not that I feared unknown demons in the dark; it was the monsters that looked like ordinary people that scared the shit out of me.
The road was empty as I left the drive. I twisted the accelerator and my mouth stretched into a quick grin at the responding rumble. Auntie hated my bike, said it would likely get me killed, but riding was the only time I felt safe. Crazy logic, considering it was a car accident that killed my family, but crazy was my best friend these days. When I was on the move, nobody or no-thing could reach me.
The familiar street flashed past. No one on the corner, no one at the bus stop. A couple on the right, coming this way along the pavement, arms wrapped around waists, faces pressed close. Interested in each other, not me. But still I checked in my mirror. Did one of them turn to watch me?
Vibrations buzzed up my arms and spine and I leaned forward, hugging my frame to the bike. As the current of the main road traffic swallowed me, tight clenched fingers could relax and fear streamed away like so much exhaust fumes. This was good. Just me, the bike and the road. When a gap opened to my right, I touched the accelerator and slipped sideways, smoothly sliding between cars and other bikes. Moments like this were what kept me sane. I could almost have enjoyed myself if it hadn’t been for the barbed wire that was uncoiling in my belly at the thought of my destination. I was nuts to have agreed to this.
Going to a new pub wasn’t a big deal for my friends. They were lucky; they didn’t know the truth. And so my stomach spat acid and sweat pooled against the lining of my helmet, all because I had to walk into a room of strangers. A room where I wouldn’t know the exits and the quickest way out, where the barman would be a stranger and the regulars unknown. But mostly, there would be no way to guess who might be a normal person and who something else.
Crap, I had to stop thinking like this. Tonight was a last time out with my classmates before we all headed off to university. It was them that wanted to try a new place. But I couldn’t let that stop me because at uni everything and everyone would be new. So this was a test, a trial run; if I couldn’t walk into a crowded room where my friends were waiting, I didn’t stand a chance of getting a life.
For now I focused on the throb of my bike, the race of passing tarmac and the Russian roulette of weaving through the London traffic. No thoughts needed – about the past or the future. Rob had given me directions to the pub but even after several false turns I got there way too quickly. The bike engine died with a twist of the key, and my stomach did a barrel roll as a car drifted past and pulled in further down the street.
Had they been following me? My helmet glass fogged as my breath came in sharp pants. Any sign of interest from them, and I’d ram the key back into the ignition and be out of here. The car doors opened and people spilled out, laughing, heading for the pub.
God, I was a wreck. They were just friends on a night out, but my heart was a loose cannon against my ribs as I scanned their faces, searching. The one that watched me wasn’t among them, and neither was she. The nurse. I’d not seen her since that day in the hospital, but still I always checked, even after twelve years. If they ever guessed how much I’d seen, how much I remembered, would they come for me?
Now the road was empty, lit by pools of phosphorescence from the street lamps. My gaze slid over terraced house fronts, searching the shadows between the lights. Nothing suspect. People lived their lives behind those windows, blind to the monsters that moved among them. I licked my lips and the sting of salt touched my tongue as panic scratched at the edge of my mind.
Come on, Alex. Get your act together. Don’t think, move.
Light and noise spilled from the pub’s windows and I ripped off my helmet, hugging it to my chest. The memory clawed to break free, and I caught a shred of fear, twisting it into the burn of anger. Because that was the only way I could function, the only way I could force myself to walk into the place. If only I could keep that memory pinned down.
The memory of what happened when my sister died.
Impossible, unexplainable. Crazy. But I knew what I’d seen.March 30, 2019 at 2:53 pm #4832BellaParticipant
This is great. A good build up of tension and it certainly kept my attention as I wondered what Alex is so afraid of, and why.
The prickle started between my shoulder blades and trickled down my limbs like iced water the moment I stepped outside the front door – I thought “the moment I stepped…” was continuing the simile so this pulled me out of the action a bit until I registered. Maybe start the sentence with “The moment….” I love the description of the prickle, though.
and the front of Auntie’s red brick house jumped out of the gloom. – lovely visual.
Not that I feared unknown demons in the dark; it was the monsters that looked like ordinary people that scared the shit out of me. – three lots of “that”
nobody or no-thing could reach me. – I think I see what you’re trying to do with the hyphen but it feels clumsy.
if it hadn’t been for the barbed wire that was uncoiling in my belly at the thought of my destination – great description
all because I had to walk into a room of strangers. A room where I wouldn’t know the exits and the quickest way out, where the barman would be a stranger and the regulars unknown. – this feels a bit wordy. Maybe delete “of strangers. A room”. This would get rid of the repetition of stranger too.
If they ever guessed how much I’d seen, how much I remembered, would they come for me? – I would have thought the answer to the question is a foregone conclusion given they are watching him. Maybe turn it into a bald statement “they would come for me”.
But I knew what I’d seen. – strong final sentence to hook us into reading on.March 30, 2019 at 4:44 pm #4835
Thanks Bella. I’m relieved it works for you and thanks for all the tweaks. Definitely should be ‘they would come for me.’ Great catch.March 30, 2019 at 7:55 pm #4836
I like this a LOT Kate and defnitely want to read on. One of the intriguing things for me (don’t know if it’s intentional, presume so) is that, despite the ‘mate’ I don’t 100% know what sex the narrator is at this point – either woukd be of interest.
I entirely agree with Bella’s tweaks, the following are my own reactions and are to be ignored at will
“But I mustn’t scan the garden for shadows within the darkness” seems a bit … poetic? “mustn’t look like I’m looking” seems more natural to me.
Not sure you can ‘kick the engine into life’ to start and turn off with a key ignition.
“The road empty in both directions, I moved off” (Sorry – I don’t like re-writing but can’t explain – again, suggestion)
As an aside, “leaning forwards” doesn’t quite work; but you can leaning to steer, and grip tank with knees. ‘Slaloming’ between cars (not sure about other bikes. My bike experience is mostly as a pillion on an old bike, but I have been pillion on a much faster one, hurtling down Mont Ventoux).
Like the conjunction of ‘barbed wire’ and ‘belly’ and some other cracking descriptions.
Helmets have plastic visors – definitely no glass!
Woul likely also wear gloves and so take helmet off, stuff gloves inside and hold by the straps or bottom frame ove forearm.
As I said, a lot of excellent acrion and set up for much more to come.March 30, 2019 at 9:45 pm #4837
Thanks Sandra. The ‘mate’ was an attempt to show gender. Always tricky in first person. I’ve never been on a motorbike so your observations are most useful, as are your suggested tweaks. Much appreciated.March 31, 2019 at 8:27 am #4842
Then ‘mate’ worked, don’t fret – the trouble with reading to critique is that one tries too hard and focuses on unnecessaries.March 31, 2019 at 9:27 am #4844
I do that too, Sandra.March 31, 2019 at 9:46 am #4845
Kate, it also crossed my mind, on first reading, that Alex would’ve referred to his bike by make: ‘his Ducati 500 Hornet’ (or something – I made that up). If you want some better info than I have about modern bikes I can find out, but need to know how old he is – there might be rules about what cc a bike for what age.March 31, 2019 at 10:10 am #4846
That would be a nice touch, Sandra. He’s 18 and it’s his pride and joy.March 31, 2019 at 10:48 am #4848
Steve is out – on his BSA B33 – today, I’ll ask him when he returns.March 31, 2019 at 3:57 pm #4851
Just checked with Steve and apparently an 18 year old is limited to bikes of no more than 125 cc – nippy enough to weave through London traffic, but max speed of ~60mph (and not as nippy as the twist’n’go scooters beloved by street thieves) Once he’s 19 and had has 2 years experience he can go larger.
Happy to answer any other questions on the subject.April 1, 2019 at 7:11 am #4859
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