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Snapshot Vigilante Chapter 1

by Barney 

Posted: 11 September 2003
Word Count: 891
Summary: The start of a novel I'm aiming at teenage boys... there seems to be very little out there for them which credits them with any intelligence, so I thought I'd give it a go...

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I SIT IN THE COLD CELL perched on the edge of a bunk that is basically a wooden box with a pitifully thin mattress and a scratchy blanket. I am three feet from the dull steel toilet and I have been practising lobbing spit into the bowl. Consequently my throat is dry and they refuse to bring me a drink. Consequently there is a phlegm and spittle dot-to-dot of my lousy aim on the floor.
There is very little to do. I have counted the white bricks on the far wall. I won’t tell you how many because you don’t deserve to know. You haven’t earned it through three hours of boredom. That’s just for me, and the idiots who have tried to immortalise themselves with their crude graffiti messages that currently keep me company. Apparently a number of people, male and female, have been known to suck. Daz, Simmo, Nosh and Robbie have all frequented this cell. They all ‘woz ere’. For want of a pen, a turd was curled and used. The police might have cleaned that up. Didn’t they know I was coming? Ha ha. My favourite is written in red biro by the side of the toilet. There is an arrow and a message that reads: Tunnel This Way.
Red pen. I wonder if it was a teacher? I wonder if any of my teachers have ever sat in a police cell at four in the morning? I wonder…
The blood on my arms and hands has dried, so I begin picking it off and flicking it in the direction of the elusive steel bowl. Rusty petals fall atop thick tears around a chrome coffin, mourning for waste. I could get an ‘A’ in English for that rubbish, though I guess exams are now out of the question, not least because they’ll have to get all that blood off the hall floor before tomorrow’s opener, history.
I’m history.
In what sense yet, I can’t tell.

Half an hour passes before I get any company. Two plod walk in, dressed in civilian clothes, but with their badges held out in front of them like talismans. Lord protect me from the sixteen year old covered in blood. He might have killed two already. They don’t look scared though, just doing things by the book. The badges disappear.
The oldest speaks. He has grey hair at the sides and a goatee to compensate for what he’s losing on top. ‘I’m Detective Inspector Harris, and this is D.S. Nolsen.’ Nolsen doesn’t even flicker. I wave and get a scowl in return.
Harris tells me to get real. Apparently I’m in serious trouble. He makes a point of mentioning the names of the dead. Frannie Young and Trevor McSpree. Fanny and Muck Spray. He’s trying to bring home to me the enormity of the situation. He tells me about giving the bad news to unsuspecting mothers. He even mentions my mum, hoping that he might just squeeze out a tear yet.
I give them nothing, but ten out of ten for trying.
The only comment that gets a reaction from me is the news that we’re moving rooms. I’m swapping ‘cell six’ for ‘interview room two’. Thank God for more bricks to count. I smile as I pick off more blood.
I suffer the rigmarole and indignity of cuffs that take thirty seconds to put on and forty-five to take off, for a walk that takes only six seconds door to door. This is a very small station. The interview only appears bigger than the cell because of the absence of a toilet. I might put in for a transfer.
Once in I am seated in a chair by a table, upon which I must have my hands at all times. It is flush to a wall where a tape-recorder is built in, presumably so I can’t pick it up and stove in somebody’s head. I am disappointed that there is no mirror with big cheeses looking in on me from another room. My headmaster, my mentor, my mum.
They both pull up chairs opposite me, hunching forward like that ‘thinker’ statue they tried to make us imitate in art. My sculpture did something else with its fist. Two day exclusion.
Harris explains that they want to ask me some questions about the evening and record them. I agree to it, although some part of me thinks I should have my lawyer present, or is that only in Hollywood?
They set the tape rolling, introduce themselves and then me (I say ‘hello’) and then read me my rights. They’re delivered with lack of conviction and in such a sleepy rhythm that I don’t actually hear the words, only droning sounds.
I do hear the first question though. Quite clearly. ‘Tell us what happened,’ says Harris.

Police, teachers, parents; they always want to hear stories backwards. They always want the end first. Despite the open-ended nature of Harris’ question I know he wants me to start with the deaths of Fanny and Muck. Then maybe if he wants more I can work back from there.
The story is better than that. Starting at the end doesn’t do it justice. Still, I give them what they want.
To them I say: ‘My English teacher, Alfred Willie, killed them both.’
But to you I say…

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Comments by other Members

Barney at 23:15 on 11 September 2003  Report this post
Hello. Just in case anyone read this before my recent edit... sorry! I've taken some of the naughtier words out. You see, when I first wrote the chapter it was for adults not teens, and although I've now changed direction with the later chapters I forgot to edit the first. It still might be a little close to the knuckle. I'm thinking of 14-16 market who might go for adult fiction anyway... I'd appreciate comments (be gentle!)---Barney

Anj at 09:52 on 12 September 2003  Report this post

I just loved this. The tone is so noirish, and perhaps that's something new to teenage fiction. It really grabbed my attention from the first words. You set up the mystery of what happened, why he's there really well.

There were though a few sentences I found a little confusing to read at first - eg "Consequently there is a phlegm and spittle dot-to-dot of my lousy aim on the floor." Needs reworking. And I realize the 2 "consequently"s were deliberate, but they jarred with me a little.

How would you know the turd had been used if it had been cleaned up?

"My sculpture did something else with its fist. Two day exclusion." Didn't quite understand what this meant?

"I won’t tell you how many because you don’t deserve to know. You haven’t earned it through three hours of boredom." "You haven't earned it" sounds vaguely insulting - maybe "I won't bore you with how many" or something would have been simpler.

A few other sentences - but really, a very minor gripe.

Normally, I'd say there was too much telling-rather-than-showing - but as an intro this works fine, as long as the next scene bursts into dialogue rather than narrative.

Incidentally, I didn't feel there were any "naughty" words that you'd have to excise.

A great start, I'd say. Is that gentle enough for you?:o)


Barney at 18:19 on 12 September 2003  Report this post
Thanks Andrea, and I take on board what you've said. One of my main problems is that I know what I mean, but sometimes I don't express it accurately enough for all others who don't live inside my head... the fist thing is a reference to a hand gesture, but I see I don't quite make that clear... as for the 'you don't deserve it' I think I want him to be a little insulting... I'm not sure yet how the reader will relate to him. I don't think they'll always be sympathetic, but I appreciate how that might come across as odd.

I've still got plenty to work on, and that objective outside view is exactly what I need. Thanks--Barney

ChrisCharlton at 11:38 on 16 September 2003  Report this post
Hi Barney, I enjoyed this as well - and did get the 'hand gesture' line. Maybe it's a boy thing.

I sort of agree with Andrea's comments, but have you ever read William Gibson (Neuromancer) - dark sci-fi. I'm not saying this is, but the style might be similar. You occasionally get sentences which take a re-read to understand. Not to read, you understand, but to understand- they say more on the face of it than it seems. I bring this up because your style includes such sentences ('phlegm and spittle dot-to-dot of my lousy aim on the floor', 'did something else with its fist. Two day exclusion'). These are sentenses you have to think about a bit. I don't think that is necessarilly a bad thing, and as long as it isn't taken to extremes can make for good intelligent reading.

I liked the naritive style, but do feel you need to break it up somewhat. For example - when the cops start reading his rights, you could have something like.

'You have the right to remain silent, the right to.. blah blah' I didn't hear any of the rest. They were bored. So was I. Finally, they finished.

Hope this helps, I look forward to reading what's next.


Barney at 17:31 on 16 September 2003  Report this post
Chris, thanks for the comments. Never read Gibson but I might look him up. I appreciate what you've said; as I've mentioned before, it's good to get a viewpoint that doesn't live in my head. Thanks -- Barney

Naomi at 09:09 on 21 September 2003  Report this post
Bold and gripping from the outset, I think teens will find this really exciting. My only query really is whether the guy would use the word 'consequently,' especially with such emphasis. Maybe it's me, but I can't imagine a 16 year old boy saying that. I like that fact that he insults us as this seems convincing and makes it more engaging. You can virtually smell his anger and boredom from the narrative. Good stuff.

Barney at 22:48 on 23 September 2003  Report this post
Thanks Naomi, always good to hear words of encouragement. Now I just need to get on with chapter 2!


Sue H at 16:46 on 05 December 2003  Report this post

This is good stuff but I have to say the "consequences" did bug me. I really liked the "you don't deserve to know. You haven't earned it" bit. It shows the character, his rudeness and his boredom as well as his don't care attitude. I really have no experience of this - thank god - but "rusty petals"? Presumably there was a lot of blood but would it be that thick that it would peel off in that manner? Don't know how you'd research that - unless you already have?! The policemen are good but you have the opportunity to get a lot of comic milage out of them.

Looking forward to the next chapter, in fact I was annoyed that it ended there. I wanted it to carry on!

ninahare at 17:29 on 23 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Barney, This is a good read, gritty and gripping enough for the readership you're aiming at.

Smaller points;

I'd reduce the amount of adjectives in the first para. I'd get rid of the second 'I wonder...", also at least one consequently.

I didn't feel the language was too stronge.

I love 'I'm history', and the last full para.

We don't get much of how our hero is feeling from his narration. Naturally not, he's a bloke. But even so, I think he should build the tension up a little. If he's not scared, neither will the reader be. At the moment he sounds dead laconical, which would be good, but I wouldn't make it last for ever, it'll get unbelievable.

His response to the accusation is a genuine read-on.

I agree that you soon need an awful lot more dialogue, which I imagine will take us to the beginning of the story...

14-16 will like the idea they're read teenage murder, epesially if the teacher did it. All you have to do now is get the editor on board...

Best of luck, Ninahare.

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