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Mrbugg's novel :P

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Wow, Gamedev keeps surprising me, even after a year or two! I had no clue we could post our non-game writing projects here. So, if it''s still okay, I''d love if someone could read and critique the tenatively-titled Conspiracy to Commit. This first chapter 7 pages long, so I''ll definitly understand if only part of it is read. Any help is greatful! So now... I present the first completed chapter of my psychological thriller... Conspiracy to Commit. “This is the beginning of the end of your life.” In the darkened auditorium, no can notice my desperate feeling of the grooves and chips in the wooden podium beneath my hands. Rubbing slowly, I let my eyes work casually over the audience, letting the words sink in. “The air around you is bitter cold, and your head is sore as hell. You vomit on yourself, fighting back the pain. Desperately you try to fight through the fog in order to figure out what’s going on.” My death-grip on the ancient wooden scabbard loosens. The words are coming more easily now. “As your eyes begin to adjust to the darkness, you see you’re in an enclosed space. A basement or garage, maybe. Mixed in between the smell of your own vomit and urine is the odour of age- mould and water damage.” “Trying to get up, you discover you’ve been chained to something. The truth suddenly hits you as you begin to sob in chest-racking fits. You’re being held prisoner against your will.” I dare another gaze at my audience, fighting anxiety down. Peering back at me are 200 pairs of eyes. 245, actually. I blink away the thought of being consumed by the sea of pupils and continue. “A laugh out of nowhere causes you to freeze. It’s a cruel but clearly satisfactory laugh. Someone is kneeling right in front of you. The figure stands up, approaching. You begin to sob again, clawing at the ground, willing yourself to dissolve into the frigid concrete wall behind you.” An itch is beginning to start within my ragged blonde crew-cut. I fight the urge to reach for it. “It’s then you notice for the first time you don’t have pants or underwear. Nothing but the vomit-soaked blue blouse you wear when you go out clubbing.” “Here, let me help you with that, sweetie.” “You fight back; knowing it’s worthless, but trying anyway. As quick as it began, it’s over. You’re left with nothing but your bra, which he also dispatches of. You scream as he rips it off from the front, leaving you completely exposed.” To my surprise, a wince or two catches my eye. I keep driving on. “Everything is sore, from your raw nerves to your head to god knows what else. But it’s not ever yet. Not by a long, long shot.” “Just as you cringe, bracing for the inevitable, it stops. The figure disappears into the darkness. Leaning back against the wall, closing your eyes, the sobbing begins again.” “Eyes still closed, still enveloped by the pain, you don’t notice the figure step towards you again.” “Suddenly, an absolutely blinding pain strikes. It’s incredible. Screaming, you hear the laugh again. You realize the pain is coming from between your legs. In an instant, a warm, oozing feeling runs down your thighs. It’s your blood, and there’s a lot of it.” With one final, hard, stare at my audience, I lead into the end. “The assault on your vagina continues. You’re in too much pain to cry, too much pain to do anything but scream. The darkness makes it impossible to see what’s happening, but your own vision is beginning to darken with the sears of pain.” “It seems like an eternity, but suddenly, the sound of a slight craaack resounds from somewhere. The ravaging ripping of your vulva and pelvic area is replaced by a warm fuzziness. More and more and more warm, oozing fluid pours from you, but the amount doesn’t worry you.” “Slowly, everything begins to fade. You have no way of knowing your pelvic ceiling has just been broken through, lacerating both your kidney and spleen. However, blood loss has taken care of the pain. Everything is fading away to black.” On cue, the sleek, black projector in the back of the University of Toronto’s Sidney Smith Hall snaps on. In a macabre dance of black and white, partnered with red, blue and green, my grim account springs to life on the wall. “The account I’ve just given is that of the last minutes of Stacey Dawn Fraser, a 21-year-old freshman at Campion College in Regina, based on medical examiner’s reports, scene visitations by myself, and interrogation of her killer. Her body was later disposed of in a field behind her apartment, and it was behavioural profiling in conjunction with forensic evidence that assisted the Regina Police Service in putting together an initial picture of the unsub.” I try not to pant into the microphone. The worst of my time is over. I’ve got their interest, their attention, with my opening speech. The rest of the lecture is nothing too creative- the basics of criminal profiling, something I lecture on often. However, the usual tenants of the Hall, U of T’s Psychology classes, do not comprise the audience. The spectators on this day are police officers. Peers. As a criminal profiler for the Behavioural Sciences Unit of the RCMP, I’m also a member of the International Criminal Investigative Analysis Fellowship- the training body for would-be profilers. Splitting time between our unit (which provides polygraph analysis, maintenance of the national violent crimes database and crime scene reconstruction) and ICIAF, my plate is full. However, it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Until the infamous Dr. Jack Mitchell found himself ICIAF instructor for Eastern Canada. If you listen to me tell it, it’s the workload I have a gripe with. As it usually happens, though, the only person listening to me save face is I. However, my personal life (whether it exists or not is another issue) makes me the perfect pinch whatever, and my bosses take advantage of that fact. I’m not married. Not divorced either. 20 years ago, my psychology school sweetheart, Amy, decided she wanted to join the emerging trend of liberated woman, leaving for Vancouver to become a legal eagle. Had I known I’d be 45 and without kids, I’d have given myself a swift kick in the ass and begged her to take me back. Instead, I got sad, mad, and became a cop. I’m on the tail end of my career now- dying back the patches of grey hair that push my creased eye sockets and profuse chin to the forefront, checking in on my RRSP contributions, and clipping out the classified for that cabin on Thunder Bay where I might like to retire. That dreaded, yet welcomed, R word. Peering out amongst the navy blue sea, lost in thought, I scan the faces towards the rear out of boredom. Making no effort to keep stoic, the detectives in back preen and stretch. One noisily picks apart her Styrofoam cup, eyes glazed over. The slamming of the auditorium door breaks the spell. Instantly, their eyes dart to the door, Toronto’s finest ever ready. Styrofoam lady guiltily kicks the pieces under her feet, and puts on her best scolding face for the late patron. I recognize the new face instantly. Manoeuvring his 300-pound bulk not so elegantly down the narrow space at back, gesturing apologies profusely, is an old friend. Detective Michael Carroll, or Mike as he’s known to those closest to him. A group I pride myself on being a part of, if only for the better part of a year. Paying no attention to the harsh glare of Styrofoam lady and the others who have taken up the cause of accosting him, Mike’s hands begin a sudden, feverish wave. It’s then that I first notice the flush of his cheeks and panting, a sound much like that of a bear in his cave, echoing in the cramped corner of the lecture space. I furl my brows in his direction, a silent what the hell? “And… and, it’s this third discipline, truth verification, that the Behavioural Sciences Unit also focuses.” Stranded in my sea of words, I thrash about in them, trying to regain my place. “Too numerous to discuss within the scope of this lecture, truth verification techniques can take on many forms, from the well-known polygraph method to the less acknowledged practice of forensic hypno…” Eyes narrowing to slits, expression contorted somewhere between anger and confusion, I break eye contact with the audience and stare at Mike’s frantic motions. Right away, those unaware to the spectacle unfolding behind them turn to join in staring. It’s for the first time that I notice that Mike is holding something. Almost swallowed up by his massive, fleshy palm is a pager. No longer the centre of attention, I allow myself to scramble inside my coat pocket for mine. Switching on the silent device, it dawns on me that trying to avoid the embarrassment of it buzzing unexpectedly has led to this public distraction. Before I can switch it on, the loud report of footsteps on concrete grabs my attention. ICIAF Chairperson Jim Trawson’s gangly gait lands him at my side in a mere few seconds. “Sorry to interrupt the lecture, folks, but Dr. Mitchell is needed. Please stay in your seats, and he’ll be back before you know it. Thanks for your cooperation.” The last of Trawson’s statement does nothing to stop the steady departure of officers out of the auditorium, most looking for washrooms. Gesturing me to step out of distance of the microphone, Trawson licks his lips and darts his eyes frantically, frizzy white hair bobbing atop his artificially tanned, wrinkled head. My PhD in Psychology isn’t needed to read the nervousness seeping from every inch of his short, stickly person. Whispering to escape any slight risk of his words reaching what is left of my audience, Trawson almost isn’t audible above the murmurs emanating from the open lobby doors. “Jack, you‘re needed. There’s been a…” His fear is evident as he peers into my eyes, searching for words to explain. Swallowing, he shakes his head, defeated by the emotion quickly welling in his face. “Visitors are waiting in back for you.” Ambling down the aisle and pausing briefly at the exit of Lecture Hall 1083 to turn towards me, Trawson crooks a finger in a follow me motion. Glancing one last time at the remnants of my audience, I crane my neck in search of Mike. He too has left. The staccato clip of our dress shoes on the thinly carpeted floor reverberates in the vast and now near-empty space. Performing a formal, tight right turn, and then a left in the same style, Trawson guides me through twin sets of metal doors at the back of the Hall. Unprepared for the blinding darkness of the rear passage, it takes a few seconds for my pupils to catch the darkness. Misshapen shapes begin to take on the outline of sharply cut leather jackets, and three people arranged in a semi-circle emerge from the black. The figure closest to me is the first to break the silence. “Dr. Mitchell.” Amidst the sadness grappling his voice, I can still pick out RCMP Assistant Commissioner Alan Menary’s razor-sharp tone, as commanding of attention as the shattering of glass. This time, however, there’s another edge. “Dr. Mitchell, we’re sorry for having to pull you away...” He stumbles, allowing me a quick glance to his wings. Flanking Paille are two other Assistant Commissioners I recognize- hook-nosed, animated Marc Paille and the short, but fiery Marie Persson. Inseparable, but never ones to admit it, the three ACs pride themselves in perfect, almost inhuman, efficiency. Today, however, their humanity is in full force, bewildered looks of pain enveloping all of them. Paille is the next to speak up, his deep French-Canadian accent sounding heavy in the small space. “Jack, we require your services immediately.” A sad drawl gradually brings the last word to a halt. Before he can speak again, Menary clears his throat. Paille makes no objection, eyes and resolve wilting in the abrupt silence’s wake. “Jack, Commissioner Dupre’s wife has been brutally murdered in their Ottawa home, and Dupre is nowhere to be found.” My sockets can barely contain the violent jerk of my eyelids, now fully open. A slow, warm chill runs the length of my back, nerves prickly in the aftermath. Shock. That’s what this is. The worst of what human can do to another may cross my desk daily, and may follow me home at night in my dreams, but I’ve never stopped reacting. This tragedy is closer than all of those. This one has hit close to home. The lingo of the distraught, having their faith in quaint suburban life shattered with the double homicide or arrest next door. “What time?” I ask, trying to become calm enough to be useful. Persson rubs a hand over her flustered face, swallowing hard. “Ah, a little over an hour ago. The housekeeper was coming back from an errand, and couldn’t re-enter the property until Mrs. Dupre opened their security gate. When she was unable to reach her, she called for help.” “What’s happening at the Dupre home now?” I ask, images of news helicopters and endless passers-by floating through my mind. Paille’s accent again echoes and lingers against concrete, but is now as frigid as the basement where Stacey Fraser’s life was snatched. “There’s a small crisis team on hand going through the scene. We want to keep this quiet, Jack.” He says in a near-whisper. Tweaking his thick, handlebar moustache, he considers the surprised look on my face. “Jack, you know that once the media catches on, it will be… pandemonium. The home is a mess as it is, no need to wreak further havoc. We need the time to work before everyone and his dog swarm the property.” His accent breaks into his words towards the end, fumbling the cliche. Menary and Persson nod silently in agreement, faces drawn in identical sincerity. The awkward silence in which I face the proposition is broken by the bang of a door opened too quickly. Audible in the adjacent space is the desperate, hoarse huffing of breath. Seconds later, another crash of metal entranceway against concrete, this time right beside me, announces Mike Carroll’s entrance. His taut, booming voice threatens to deafen us in the tiny space. His face once again red from the aggressive callisthenics endured with each step, he struggles to talk. A brief pause does nothing to lower his heart, but it magically fuels the movement of his hearty, sausage-shaped lips. “Alan, how’s it going? Anything new? “I haven’t checked in yet, Detective. I imagine they’re making progress.” “How many people know?” I question, annoyed by the interruption. I’m in the zone now. “Trawson, us, the team at Dupre’s, and a few senior officers.” Explains Menary. His voice is calmer, though a new edge has seeped into the tail ends of his words. Irritation, almost. “Al….” Mike’s booming voice starts, but Menary is quick to cut him off, suddenly turning away from us to face his partners. “Marc, Marie, we need to see Trawson before too long. Let’s get going.” The three Assistant Commissioners nod an unspoken goodbye, and begin to leave. Mike begins to boil. “What the fuck was that about?” He barks. “Assholes.” He adds with some final indignation. “Impatience, maybe?” I wonder out loud, just as perplexed. “Yeah, well, I’m impatient to shove my foot up his ass.” Grumbles Mike. Suddenly, footsteps crackle on the cement floor just around the corner. Almost inaudible, ICIAF chair Jim Trawson’s light gait propels him through the still-swinging doors and into view. “Gentleman!” Trawson says, his voice reaching octaves as he exudes a sullen, but forcedly polite, welcome. “How ar....” Exploding the air is an incredible electronic howl. The din of inevitable commotion in the rest of the building is drowned out by the painful sound, leaving us in a vacuum of sensory bombardment. “WHAT IN THE FUCK IS THAT?” Bellows Mike, initial surprise wiped out by anger. “Fiiiire... Fire alarm!” cracks Trawson’s voice as he too tries to beat the synthesized screams. With impossible quickness for his bulk, Mike storms through the doors and into the stairwell, ICIAF chair and I in his wake. The source of the alarm is clear in our first steps into the junction between my private meeting place and the Lecture Rooms. Closing lazily, unhurried by the urgency fuelling everything else, is an emergency exit. Beyond, a swirling cacophony of snow and ice crystals blinds us to seeing clearly outside. Heaving to a stop, Mike violently reverses the door‘s course in one shove, washing the dark space with a dizzying burst of natural light. Bolting into the bitter-cold of a Toronto December is a maddening experience, eyes urgently narrowing to counter blinding albedo and crisp sunlight against our retinas. In between black spots and white snowflakes, I catch a glimpse of navy-blue paint as tires squeal. Screaming hoarsely at the vehicle, our lead leaps, still half-blind, across the icy alley. In a bone-jarring thud, flesh and bone contact ruddy snow and steel-hard ice as Mike loses traction and falls. Curses flood into his desperate yells at the departing vehicle, swallowed by the mid-afternoon traffic on St. George Street. “Fucking assholes! When I got a hold of you...” his swearing continues in the direction of the vehicle, as if the fleeing passengers might be able to hear him. Behind us, a steady flow of those from my audience pour into the alley, gawking at the sprawled form. Gingerly rising from the ground, Mike’s mouth stops little. Expletives still churning forth, oblivious to the uneasy eyes riveted on his performance, he approaches the door. Sweeping the crowd with livid eyes and panting with rabid force, several spectators instinctively step back, expecting another burst of hate from his mouth. Instead, Mike falls just short of walking into their midst, he too gawking. Panic immerses me, as visions of my good friend collapsing flash before my eyes. Precious seconds pass, and with no danger to his health apparent, I too study the crowd. I don’t notice the difference until Mike speaks up. Jowls flailing, he hunts for breath between words. Flying spittle causes those in the front row to recoil. “Where are Menary and the other two pricks?” he challenges, flush cheeks flapping noisily. “Well? Where the fuck are they?” In an almost-humorous moment, a dozen pairs of eyes dart back and forth, discretely signalling for an answer. The sound of several throats emptying breaks a nervous silence that has descended upon the group. Trawson steps out from the rear of the group and punctuates his own nervousness with a hearty swallow. “Detective, they passed right by me on their way back to the lecture hall. I’m sure they went out the front way. And there’s no need to speak so foully. They are Assistant Commissioners, not young recruits you may feel the ne...” “Can it, Trawson. I can speak any way I fucking want, thank you very much.” Looking like a fairly aged David to Mike’s Goliath frame, it takes me a few seconds to step in and stop the pissing match. “Mr. Trawson, with all due respect, Detective Carroll just experienced a bad fall. He’s simply acting out of emotion, I can assure you. His professional...” “Jack, I can assure you I’m alright. Trawson’s got no business telling me what I can and can’t do.” I know enough about Mike not to take his patronizing remark to heart. His eyes reflect the tenderness he’s masking with this display of might. “Detective, I may not be an accredited member of the RCMP, but I assure you, I can lodge a compla...” The electronic braying of a cellphone stops his threat in its tracks. A mad scramble of hands into pockets takes the attention away from Mike’s glare and the all-encompassing chill in its wake. For a moment, I almost forget the chilling news we’ve received. Swallowing, I prepare to break the news. “Hold on... what? What’s wrong at Dupre‘s home?” My eyes bulge violently again. I hadn’t wanted them to find out this way. “... and what? Their housekeeper can’t get in?” Mike snaps his head around, ears picking up the snippet of conversation from the back. Sensing our stares, the stocky man on the cell palms the speaker and whispers. “Nothing to be worried about. Commissioner Dupre’s maid is wigging out. Locked out or some thing... What, no, not you... sorry... I‘m Toronto... what the hell am I supposed to do? ” Oblivious to our panic, he resumes the conversation.

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Excellent so far. Everybody loves the Mounties. A little heavy on the dialogue, but not intolerably so. What you need, though, is some anthropomorphic beasts engaged is otherworldly courting rituals. That would be just the ticket.

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Hey you''re writing a novel too? Cool! ^_^ I finally got a chance to read through this, and I like it, it''s a very exciting way to start a story. Slightly confusing because so many people are mentioned in such a short space. Starting out with the main character talking rather than with any description of him is an interesting approach, the opposite of how I usually do things but it seems to work here. I love your title by the way. Are you going to have a theme about the relationship kind of comitting or the insane asylum kind of comitting, or only the crime kind?

Only thing I would change is that word ''scabbard'' - I don''t see how a podium can possibly be referred to as a scabbard. I was wondering confusedly whether he had a sword in his hands as a prop for his speech for a second.

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Thanks for the comments! Iron, what dialogue do you find unnecessary? I know I need to cut it down, but I have no clue where.

Ooopsy, sorry Sun. The Works Word Processor Thesarus gave me scabbard as a possible substitution. What word would be best? Pulpit?

And wow, I never thought about the implications the title had in regards to relationships and being committed for mental illness. Both of those themes are things I decided to leave out of this novel... it''s a big dream, but I want to write 3 of them, and the 2nd one focusses exactly on asylums, and eerily enough, the 3rd on relationships. However, I''m one to love to break stereotype, and I guarantee I''ve got twists lined up to do just that on those themes.

Thanks for the help!!

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I cast my vote for "lectern". "Podium" implies that it''s on a raised platform, and "pulpit" has heavy religious connotations. A lectern is basically a box with an angled top so you can put your lecture materials on it and nobody can see whether or not your knees are shaking. Also handy when your fly is open.

As to the dialogue issue, it''s a style I''ve encountered in more than one work of modern fiction, especially in the exploding "crime fiction" genre. I personally think it''s an attempt to make the book seem like the popular television shows in the genre, like "Law and Order" or "Homicide". I don''t much like it, but it seems to be successful for other authors, so I don''t recommend that you radically change your style based just on my opinion.

The way I see it, the dialogue-heavy writing style helps to make the characters seem equal and inter-dependent. Most of the discoveries are made in the course of conversations, and whenever anyone makes a decision or a discovery, they immediately present it to their peers for review and advice. It''s a good style for a story with a lot of teamwork, and it works well when you don''t want to have one primary character. It allows you to do things like make an ally into a villain or kill off an important person without hurting the continuity of the story.

On the other hand, you may actually WANT to have a main character, and to offer the audience a single character with which to identify. In this case, a heavily dialogue-laden style can inhibit the connection betweeen the protagonist and the reader. In a situation like that, you want your main character to be seen in far more detail than the other characters, so that they can die or betray him and he''ll still be what he was before. Your Dr. Mitchell, the first-person narrator of the story, seems to be just this sort of character.

So you have a hybrid style. Lots of chit-chat, but a single focal character. I think you need to pick one or the other, but you don''t necessarily have to cut out dialogue to polarize the story in favor of Dr. Mitchell''s perspective.

My advice to you is to let the reader into Dr. Mitchell''s head a little more. You describe reactions and motions well, but it sounds like Dr. Mitchell is telling the story to a buddy at the rest home, years and years later. Try to make it sound like he''s actually reading the story over your shoulder, and explaining things to you when you get to a name or place that you haven''t heard before.

For instance, with Dupre''s disappearance, what you gave us was enough to pique our interest, but knowing that Mitchell knows something we don''t is a little annoying. Instead of saying,
quote:
My sockets can barely contain the violent jerk of my eyelids, now fully open. A slow, warm chill runs the length of my back, nerves prickly in the aftermath. Shock. That’s what this is. The worst of what human can do to another may cross my desk daily, and may follow me home at night in my dreams, but I’ve never stopped reacting. This tragedy is closer than all of those. This one has hit close to home. The lingo of the distraught, having their faith in quaint suburban life shattered with the double homicide or arrest next door.


and tossing us back into the sea of dialogue that makes up the briefing, tell us something about Mitchell''s connection to Dupre and his family. I assume that Mitchell''s been in the business for some time, and Dupre''s rank indicates that he has, too, so say something like, "My sockets can barely contain the violent jerk of my eyelids, now fully open. Jennie Dupre dead? Impossible. I''d spoken to her just a month ago, when I visited Rick. And he''s involved, too. He couldn''t have killed her, no matter what that bastard Menary was implying. It didn''t add up. I had to know more."

I''m a lousy writer, but I hope you see that an insight into the character''s thought processes can be even more intimate than a clear look at their emotions. So far, all you''ve given us of Dr. Mitchell is history and visceral feelings. He''s a trained investigator, and he should exude a sense of analytical rigor, even when he''s upset.

And by the way, what is a "warm chill"? It''s awkward to me, but that''s a very small thing.

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Thanks again for the help!

Yeah, I understand what you''re saying about my style. I''d prefer to keep it that way for now, but I definitly agree I need to give better insight into his head. Because I know Mitchell''s background, I tend to forget the reader knows nothing, and I leave out important tidbits.

Where are some other places that I need to provide greater background and reflection to flesh him out more as a believable character?

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There is a typo in the second line.

"In the darkened auditorium, no can notice my desperate"

no one, none?

Anyways, that said, back to reading.

Heh I wrote "typo" wrong.

[edited by - botman2 on February 21, 2004 6:49:48 AM]

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