FRIDAY FEEDBACK – SCOTT CHAMBERS

We’re looking for more volunteers to share their excerpts for Friday Feedback. So if you have a 150 word piece you want feedback on, email it to Dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Today, Scott Chambers is sharing an excerpt from his adult novel, L.I.F.E.

Lost in the shadows of a gloomy August morning, a satisfied smile played briefly across the face of Mark Woodhouse, serial under achiever. The rapidly fading alarm of his recently acquired personal organiser was soon lost in the drone of distant traffic as it plummeted several stories toward an uncertain, but most likely unpleasant, fate. Sure, he knew it was puerile to derive satisfaction from the wanton destruction of such a helpless gadget, but when life’s pendulum scrapes nadir between mundane and shameful, you learn to take what you can get. 

If you believed the commercials, the LX-2000 Personal Organiser was compact, stylish, and years ahead of its time. In fact viewers that noticed anything in the commercial apart from the cleavage, legs and lycra that constituted the majority of its usual 30 seconds on prime time TV, could be forgiven for believing that the LX-2000 wasn’t just revolutionary, but god-damn psychic. 

If it was so bloody smart, thought Mark, it would have known not to wake me up at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning.

I love the humour in this piece, Scott and your character, Mark has a very strong voice.  I’m thinking the personal organiser has a significant part to play in the story…or at least the inciting incident that starts it off. You set up early that things don’t usually work out for this character so I’m intrigued to see what happens to him next.

Lost in the shadows of a gloomy August morning, a satisfied smile played briefly across the face of Mark Woodhouse, serial under achiever.

This sentence doesn’t communicate clearly. Is Mark lost or is his smile lost or is he lost in thought? I’m wondering if you need the first bit, “Lost in the shadows of a gloomy August morning”.

…when life’s pendulum scrapes nadir between mundane and shameful, you learn to take what you can get.

I’m wondering if the meaning here could be clearer if you said something like when life’s at an all time low, you learn to take what you can get.

Also, I suggest you show this to the reader. The reader will be more sympathetic and care more about Mark’s story if they can see that his life is at an all time low, rather than have you tell them.

If you believed the commercials, the LX-2000 Personal Organiser was compact, stylish, and years ahead of its time. In fact viewers that noticed anything in the commercial apart from the cleavage, legs and lycra that constituted the majority of its usual 30 seconds on prime time TV, could be forgiven for believing that the LX-2000 wasn’t just revolutionary, but god-damn psychic. 

This is a huge amount of detail and it’s funny, but it takes us out of Mark’s point of view. Is it really necessary to the story to give all this information or does the reader just need to know that it is supposed to be top of the range?

It would be snappier if you combined the last two paragraphs with something like

If the now defunct, hi-tech organiser was so bloody smart, thought Mark, it would have known not to wake me up at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning.

The reason I’m suggesting these cuts is that you have done well to engage the reader and make them curious about your character and why his life is a mess and what happened to push him to his limits. If you add too much detail, you lose the tension that you have so cleverly built up.

You have definitely created an intriguing character in Mark and I think readers would be keen to follow his journey.

Thanks for sharing, Scott and I hope you find my comments helpful.

Happy Writing:)

Dee

P.S. don’t forget to email me Dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au if you’d like to submit a piece to Friday Feedback. 

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8 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEEDBACK – SCOTT CHAMBERS

  1. insightful and helpful as always Dee, thanks a bunch! =)
    This was my first ever crack at a novel – and largely unplanned (which has since taught me a LOT!) As you have picked up, it is quite rambly and needs many a nip and tuck. Still on my ‘to do’ list … =)
    Scott

  2. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for sharing your piece. As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the humour. Glad you found my comments helpful. Good luck with the rewrites:)

    Dee

  3. Hi Scott

    I love your witty and satirical writing style and the symbolism in the destruction of this device. However, I sometimes got the feeling your sub-text here was: ‘See how clever a writer I am!’ And you are! But telling your story clearly and effectively should always take precedence. I reckon if you dial down the big words and adverbs/adjectives a tad, your story would be clever AND bristling with sinewy muscle! From my experience, modern editors loathe extraneous words.

    e.g. in your first paragraph, you could delete the words I’ve marked in brackets:
    (Lost in the shadows of a gloomy August morning – I agree with Dee, this can all go), A (satisfied) smile played (briefly) across the face of Mark Woodhouse, serial under achiever. The (rapidly fading) alarm of his (recently acquired) personal organiser was (soon) lost (I’d prefer a verb like ‘drowned’) in the drone of (distant) traffic as it plummeted (several stories – I’d delete this, but it is handy to let us know he’s on a building. Also, sp. – storeys) toward an uncertain, but most likely unpleasant, fate. Sure, he knew it was puerile to derive satisfaction from the (wanton) destruction of such a helpless gadget, but when life’s pendulum scrapes (nadir) between mundane and shameful, you learn to take what you can get.

    Great jobs all round, Scott and Dee. Happy editing!

    DC

  4. I confess I’m a bit of a closet fan of Scott’s writing and use of language. I confess I’m also a sucker for a convolutedly told tales (I get confused within my own thoughts sometimes so am no stranger to winding paths). Plus humour soothes most sores with me. But I do like Dee’s observations and agree with DC’s sentiments regarding less is more. Just wish I could heed that advice more often. Thanks for sharing Scott and the invaluable feedback Dee!

  5. Thanks Dimity,

    I find one of the hardest things in writing is getting rid of the passages that I think are great writing, but don’t really have a place in the story. I think you can get away with a bit more when you’re writing for adults, but for kids you have to really move the story along.

    Hope your writing is going well.

    Dee:)

  6. So true Dee. Does give one a certain sense of satisfaction being cruel to be kind. I find writing for adults more liberating in a sense but writing for children, for all its boundaries and requirements and ultimately more discerning and critical audience, is far far more satisfying, for me anyways!

  7. Ha – thanks DC! Though if I *were* a clever writer I would have actually finished something in the past decade =) Appropriate vocab is a problem I have though; I tend to fall into the trap of writing for me, rather than writing a targetted aidience (this, I’d like to believe, was the downfall of my several picture book attempts; depressing how many preschoolers aren’t au fait with photosynthesis and osmosis. Goh!). Need to repress the academic side of my brain – and the public service mindset of “why say something in 5 understandable words when you can say it in 10 befuddling ones” – that said though, a little ego quashing never goes astray =)

    Glad to hear my convoluted tale telling hasn’t completely put you off Dim – I think I’ll need to employ DC’s wisdom to my most recent musings when I’m done with them!

    Thanks again all, Scott.

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