1. Justin Phillips
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    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    Read a book experiment

    Discussion in 'Writing Prompts' started by Justin Phillips, Apr 17, 2016.

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    Lately, I haven't been too happy with my work. I feel like I have these stories to tell, but getting them down on paper and reading well is a different story. (I am also very self critical) Years ago, everything came so naturally, but after taking a three year or so sabbatical, it has been extremely hard to get back into the flow. Part of this I think has been accredited to also not reading a book in about three years. I got out of habit, and it shows.

    So, I decided to do this little experiment, after beginning a new WIP, and being incredibly unhappy with how my sentences flowed. I've been wanting to get back into reading anyway, so it was the perfect time to try this. I am going to post two versions of my WIP's opening, the first written a couple of days ago, and the second version was written last night, immediately after a few chapters of Robin Cook's Abduction.

    Note, I'm not saying either of these are worth a crap, but this experiment is for how reading affects my writing style. In the second version, I feel like I made a huge leap towards getting my original voice back. Neither versions are the complete opening, but leave off at the point that I have gotten to so far.

    In case you don't know, you can minimize the window until it formats into a more novel-like structure. Also reading on your smart phone makes it look like an ebook almost
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    Chapter One- Version One

    “He’s waking up…”

    “Vitals?”

    “Pulse is slow, but acceptable.”

    Nick Miller opened his eyes slowly. His head hurt like a bitch, and the blinding white light above him wasn’t helping. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out except a hoarse whisper.

    “Don’t move,” came a man’s voice above him. The dark shape of the stranger’s head blocked out a portion of the piercing light, but Nick found it hard to focus. He gathered that he was laying flat on his back, and not moving wasn’t really a problem. “Moving will only make it worse.”

    His head pounding, Nick decided to take the disembodied voice’s advice. He found it much more comfortable to lie there with his eyes closed. It was hard to think, but from what fragments of memory he could piece together, there were no logical reasons that he should be laying flat on his back, feeling half dead, with strange men talking medical jargon over him.

    “Heart rate climbing sir. Should we give the shot?”

    “Not yet.”

    Oh God, I’ve been kidnapped, Nick said wildly in his head. His body felt numb and lifeless, except for the excruciating headache, and his heart flailing in his chest like a gasping goldfish, flopping helplessly around outside its fishbowl. They must have drugged me. I’ve been kidnapped and they drugged me. Oh shit… I’m going to die…

    As the frigid state of his paralysis began to slowly thaw, he finally felt his throat open and took a quick gasp of air.

    “….Where….am I?” he managed to croak out. If he was going to die soon, he could at least get that much out of them.

    “They told you not to move,” came a new voice from his left side. It sounded feminine; and perhaps it was Nick’s inability to think clearly, but he couldn’t tell if it was angry, or relieved. “You stupid boy. You stubborn, stupid boy.” The voice grew closer as it spoke, and he suddenly felt a small, soft hand clasp into his.

    Another dark figure leaned over him, once again blocking out a portion of the stark, white light above. “Nick,” it said, “I want you to recite the alphabet, backwards, starting from the letter K.”

    “I’m... not… fucking…doing…that….”

    “Ok, he’s awake!” chimed the dark figure above him. “Give him the shot.”

    Searing hot pain soared through Nick’s body, starting somewhere around his right thigh, ripping it’s way through every blood vessel. He shot up into a sitting position, breathing heavily. Feeling returned to every extremity. His heart pounded. Sweat poured down his face. His hand squeezed tight, but the stranger holding it did not wince.

    “What… the hell… was that?” he said between labored breaths. Scanning his environment, Nick realized he was sitting on a long examination table. Two men in white lab coats stood to his right. One of them, short and round, with thick rimmed glasses, looked up from a beeping monitor and smiled at him.

    “Welcome back, agent,” the man said, “how do you feel?”

    “I… can’t… breathe…” Nick replied, gasping. He clutched his heart with his free hand, which felt like it was about to break free and fly to the moon. “Who…the hell….are you….”

    The man’s smile faltered, and the hand squeezing his released. He looked over to find it was attached to a tall, thin woman. She pulled a strand of her long, dark auburn hair behind her right ear, revealing a thin, pretty face beneath. She smiled at him, and proceeded to ask him a few questions:

    “Can you tell me your name?”

    “Nick,” he replied. He took a few deep breaths, and found that the initial surge of pain and anxiety was starting to subside.

    “Your full name, Nick,” she said calmly.

    “Nick Miller.”

    The other man in a white coat began scribbling something down on a clipboard. He was tall and thin, and looked to be not much older than Nick, who had turned twenty-six last April.

    “What’s the last thing you remember?” the girl continued.

    Nick rubbed his eyes furiously. They itched, and felt about twice their usual size. “I don’t know… I went out for drinks last night, then went home… went to bed…”

    The girl’s eyebrows furrowed as she looked towards the men standing on his other side.


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    Chapter One- Version Two

    “He’s waking up.”

    Nick Miller awoke to the sound of voices hovering over him. His head was pounding, and the bright light arched over his face wasn’t helping. He grimaced in the blinding glow, and failed to pull his hand up to shield his eyes. He tried again, to no success. His left hand felt fat and limp beside him. He tried once more, but it simply flailed around beside him like a dying fish, gasping for air. A burst of searing, prickly pain shot through his fingers and wrist, as if his left arm… no, his entire body… was asleep.

    “Don’t move,” said a man’s voice above him. The dark figure of a head craned over him, blocking out a portion of the searing white light, giving Nick’s eyes a bit of relief. “Moving will only make it worse. How’s his heartrate, Sam?”

    “Slow… but acceptable. Should we give him the shot?”

    “Not yet,” said the man who was not Sam.

    Nick found it hard to breathe. Each pull of oxygen was like bricks on his chest. It was hard to react to the fact that two strange men were talking medical jargon over top of him—it was hard to think at all, actually. Like trapped in a foggy, floating state somewhere between a dream and awake. He tried to speak, but nothing came out except a hoarse whisper. This triggered a cough, and his entire body exploded into a red-hot, prickly, tingling nightmare.

    “He told you not to move,” came a new voice to his left. She grabbed his hand—he wished she hadn’t—and began to sob lightly. “You Stupid boy. You stubborn, stupid boy.”

    The tortuous sensation slowly subsided, and feeling finally began to return to his numbed extremities. He took a deep breath and mustered up the courage to try and speak again.

    “Where…the hell… am I?”

    The man who was not Sam once again leaned over him, graciously blocking part of the blinding light. “Nick,” he said, “I want you to recite the alphabet backwards, starting with the letter K.”

    “I’m...not…fucking... doing that…”

    “Alright, he’s awake!” chimed the dark figure above him. “Give him the shot.”

    Something sharp was jammed into Nick’s right thigh; and a new sensation ripped through his veins, scalding its way throughout his entire body, flooding every nerve. He bolted upright, eyes wide. Thick, warm sweat poured down his face, and he found that it was very hard to catch his breath. His hand squeezed tight, but the mysterious lady stranger holding it did not wince.

    “What… the hell… was that?” he said between labored breaths. Scanning his environment, Nick realized that he had been lying on a cold, steel table in a large, dark room. He was wearing black spandex shorts and a black v-neck t-shirt, and tried desperately to remember ever putting something like that on. He fell over to catch his breath, and hit his head on the metal lamp dangling from the ceiling.

    “Try to remain calm,” said the man who was not Sam. The voice belonged to an older man, short and round, wearing a long white lab coat and thick rimmed glasses. His hair was graying, and combed over neatly. On his coat, he wore a golden plaque nametag, which read “Jim” in black beveled letters. He reached out and put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Welcome back agent… how do you feel?”

    “I… can’t… breathe…” Nick replied, nearly hyperventilating. He wriggled out of the man’s touch, and with his free hand he clutched his heart, which felt like it was about to break free and fly to the moon. “Who… the hell… are you…”

    Jim’s smile faltered, and the hand squeezing his released. He turned to his left to find it was attached to a pretty young woman— late twenties, shoulder length dark auburn hair wrapped around her face, her eyes red and swollen. After wiping away a stray tear, she tucked her hair neatly behind her ears, cleared her throat, and proceeded to ask him a few questions.

    “Can you tell me your name?”

    “Nick,” he replied. He took a few deep breaths, and found that the effects of whatever they stuck him with were starting to wear off.

    “Your full name, Nick,” she said, attempting herself to calm down.

    “Nick Miller.”

    The man next to Jim, with matching white lab coat and nametag- Sam- began scribbling something down on a clipboard. He was tall, and thin, and looked to be not much older than Nick, who had turned twenty-four last April.

    “What’s the last thing you remember?” the girl continued.

    Nick rubbed his eyes furiously. They itched, and felt about twice their usual size. “I don’t know… I went out for drinks last night, then went home… went to bed…. Seriously, can someone just tell me where I am? Who the hell are you people?”

    The girl’s swollen eyes danced pleadingly between the two men, who stood on Nick's right side near a tower of computer panels and monitors, observing him fervently. “Nick,” she said, “I need to you understand something, and this is going to be hard. You did not go to sleep in your apartment last night. That happened three years ago.”


    Nick stared blankly at her, waiting for any of his three captors to start laughing hysterically and then tell him what was really going on. Her eyes only narrowed, and took a more pitiful tone.

    “Ok, that’s it,” Nick said, furious. He tried to pull himself off the table, and realized that he was attached to a number of wires running through the neck of his t-shirt and down to his chest. This was the weirdest fucking kidnapping he had ever heard of, and the three of them just stood around, almost looking sorry for him.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
  2. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    Interesting experiment! I've always found reading the right book helpful; it helps me to put my thoughts into words more easily. Every book used to change my style somewhat, but I think I'm growing into my own, as my style doesn't change unless I decide to try something new (as far as I know). I used to "feel" the change, but be unable to prevent it.

    Of course, now I'm curious about Nick . . . you meany:rant:.
     
  3. Justin Phillips
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    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    Wow what you said is exactly how I feel. I wonder if that happens to a large percentage of beginners. It's weird that I still consider myself a beginner, I've been writing fiction since fifth grade haha.

    I really hope that one day you can find out what happens to nick. This will most likely be the first project I complete. (Future me is laughing his ass of right now).

    When I complete chapter one, hopefully very soon, I will post it up for feedback.

    (Although you can find my progress journal on here and it has a short incomplete sypnosis.)

    So did you notice a change in style or at least better flow? Or am I just going nuts over it? I have to add that version one is after completely exhausting every creative attempt to make it good, before I finally decided to read a book.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
  4. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Have you considered writing under the influence? I know it's not really the politic thing to say these days but... Well, it works for me. Get to that plateau where the world feels manageable and just let it go, no reading required. It doesn't always create the best possible prose but it gets you past the hangups of worrying about word use. Feeling the world is all kinda awesome really does allow you to get what you want on paper even if you do need to cut a bunch.

    Substance abuse - You know it makes sense.
     
  5. Justin Phillips
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    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    Sometimes I do, and that's where I get my good ideas, and then I have to go back next day and fix the mess I wrote the night before. I come up with huge ideas, as I'm sure you may know, but for me it makes my sentences more stunted, more unstructered, instead of helping. That's probably why version one is so incredibly... what I call stunted. Sentences are choppy, ideas fall flat. I will say though, I don't think that negates the point of this thread. Version one may have began under the influence but heavily edited the next day. Then it went through

    ah I reread what you wrote, yes I agree it does help me get past hurdles that I spend too much time worrying about sober.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
  6. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    I did notice a difference in style, though exactly what the difference is I can't figure out. I think the flow in both of them is good, and certainly good enough to keep me from getting confused or jerked out of the story. They're both good in their own way. I am a novice, though, so bear that in mind. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
     

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