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Smyrna 1911 Maisie`s Progress part 2

by George1947 

Posted: 06 November 2018
Word Count: 3705
Summary: The following is as far as Maisie has progressed. Maisie and Behzat are two of about ten central characters.


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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


 
 
Maisie read the note again.  it read, ‘There is a matter I would like to discuss with you.  Would it be convenient for you to attend the Police House at 3.00 pm on Saturday?’  It was signed Commiser Behzat.  Maisie knew who Behzat was but could only guess at what he might want.  Had her exit from Paris caught up with her already?  She hardly thought so.  The Conte had a great deal of influence, of course, and could easily have informed the Smyrna Police of her arrival.  But why?  The last thing he would have wanted was to have Maisie back in Paris.
 
-----------
Some days later
 
“Please make yourself comfortable, Miss Mansfield.”  Behzat indicated a divan by the window.  He did not sit at his desk but took the chair where guests would normally sit.   “Can I bring you some tea? Or limonada?”
“No thank you, sir.”  What do I call this copper?
  “Or if you prefer, kadaifi.  Do you have sweet tooth,  I love lochum, but my favourite is honeyed orange peel.”  Maisie smiled and shook her head.  
“I trust I have not inconvenience you too much.”
“Not at all, it’s a pleasure” said Maisie, “I have heard so much about you.  it's nice to meet you in person.”
“I hope I have not disappointed you”
“I haven't known you long enough to be appointed or disappointed.”   Behzat laughed.
“Let us hope that does not arise.  I endeavour to show our foreign visitors the breadth of our Turkish hospitality.  I consider it my duty to deliver complete satisfaction.”
“Lovely.” Maisie beamed.
“Well now.  Let me come to the point.  It seems that your employment at the Huck was arranged by a letter of recommendation from Paris.”
“That’s right. M. Avedissian is an old friend of the Conte de Tourballe.  The Conte stays at the Huck when he is in Smyrne.”  Name-dropping is fine so long as you don’t don't overdo it. One more time, just for luck. “The Conte is an old friend of mine so when I told him I wanted to visit the Ottoman world he was kind enough to give me a letter of introduction to M. Avedissian.”
“Evet, Mademoiselle,yes, I am aware of these matters.  However, it appears that the Ministry of the Interior is not.  They know nothing of your engagement at the Grand Huck, consequently, not aware of your existence, unaware that you are even in the country.  Anything could happen to you.”
“But I had my passport stamped on arrival.  All my papers were in order”
“Just so, but that stamp permits you only to visit the country.  It does not, usually” he examined his fingernails, “allow you to practice your profession.”
“My profession.  You mean as a stage artiste”
“As you say.  As a stage artiste”
“But all I do is sing and dance a little.”
“Oh, you dance too.  I did not know that.  Have you informed to Ottoman Folk Dance Society of your work?” He looked at her, “No, I thought so. There appears to be a number of violations that need some attention.  Also, there is the question of tax payable on your earnings.  Here in Smyrna, our Greek cousins have an  beneficial arrangement with the Ministry of Finance and Excise,” his voice dropped by ten decibels, “they pay whatever they care to.”  He got up a moved to the window beside the divan.  However, I do not think that particular flexibility would be open to an American citizen.”  He looked away from the window and down at Maisie, “Do you?”  Maisie paused,
“Well, what about that?  A home run and I bet you’ve never even heard of baseball.”
“Home run?.  I don’t understand.”
“I bet you don’t, Captain.” Behzat considered this epithet: Captain, a rank which did not exist in the Ottoman Police but he did enjoy the sound of it, Captain Behzat.  Meanwhile Maisie was thinking ‘This guy wants to eat me and bury the bones for later.  Aw well, here we go.’  “Yes sir, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t realise all those things.  I just thought the letter would take care of all that.  I’m so sorry.”  Behzat was looking out of the window again.  He did not respond.   Outside, the packet from Constantinople was disgorging its passengers at Konak Quay.  A melee of horses, camels, carts and all their attendants were performing a dance that took place every day at this hour.  He could see Ugur, whistle in hand, trying to organise the throng. Behzat smiled.  The young policeman had little chance of success, like asking worms to stand to attention.
“What’s so funny, Captain?
“I was just observing my young colleague.  In years to come I am sure he will make a fine police officer.”
“I still don’t see the joke.”
“There is no joke, Mademoiselle Mansfield, you are here in Turkey with no papers, no work permit, no tax accreditation.  You are little more than a refugee.”  She had a chilly feeling she knew where this was going.  “Why, if you permit me to say” he was looking straight at her, “you are not not even under the care of a guardian.  Life can be difficult here in Turkey for a woman on her own, no-one to watch out for her, no-one to help her.”  Behzat sat down on the divan. “As things stand, it is my duty to send you back to Paris.  It may be on a train.  It may be on a boat.”
“It seems. Captain, I’ve got myself into a pickle.” In for a penny.  “Is there any way out of this?
“Well, Maisie. I may call you Maisie, may I not?” His voice was softer now.  “The situation is serious, but not critical.  Here in Turkey, Allah smiles all.  But our success is not due to Allah alone.  We Turks are a pragmatic people.  We learned long ago there are many roads to the same destination.  Sometimes, like the Romans, the direct route is desirable while at other times, very much like your very own countrymen, a more relaxed journey is preferred.”
“I’m not quite following you.”  She said, though she had not paid so much attention since she had arrived.  “What Romans?”
“Here in Turkey we like to trade.  You know the word barter?  It means we exchange something you want for something I want.  No money changes hands, that is the beauty of the arrangement.  It is an arrangement between friends. What is of little value to each party before the transaction, is bartered for something of greater value after the transaction.  In Turkish we call it serendipity.”  ‘In America we call it hogwash, thought Maisie.  Behzat got up and moved to his desk.  He sat down and appeared to think deeply. Finally, he said,
“Mademoiselle Mansfield, Maisie. Like you, I am alone. I too sometimes need the comfort of another human being, someone who can help overcome the stresses of the day’s toil.  I think it would be possible for me to work on the necessary papers for you, if you might share an evening or two helping me overcome the burdens of my authority.”
“And how exactly could I help you overcome the burdens of your authority?” He paused as if considering the options.
“My bed is large and it seems irreverent to sleep in it alone”  He was up again, ants in his pants.  He moved to the divan sat down and placed a hand on Maisie’s knee.
“Now, just wait a second.  Are you saying that if I sleep with you, you will sort things out for me?  Is that what you’re saying?”
“You will find me a generous benefactor.”
“Well, let me tell you, you can bennie your own factor.  I thought you Turks were gentlemen.  You’re no different to those Frenchies, you toad.”
“Mademoiselle, you are a desirable woman. You are like Turkish Delight to a man.  Frenchies or Turks.  You are very beautiful.”
“Yes, you’re right there.  What you think is beautiful, you Frenchies and Turks should keep in your pants.”
“You are making a big mistake” he moved closer to her.” I could make things very difficult for you.  I, and I alone, know the reasons why you were forced to leave Paris.  If this were to become common knowledge do you think you would last a minute here in Smyrna?”   She was surprised, rocked would be a better description, but either way, she was astounded.
 “You wouldn’t” the words escaped like a captive bird from a cage.  It had thrown her  brain sideways.  ‘Think, woman’.’  Again, involuntarily, she turned away.
“Things don’t have to be like that” He, gentle, almost pleading.
“I’m so glad you see it that way”
“There’s no need to worry, pashas” From behind he put his hands on her shoulders.
“Well, I am worried.  There.”
“There is nothing to be worried about.  We will be good friends and I will see to it that our mutual secrets stay secret.”  His hand moved from her shoulder to her hip.  “There’s no reason for you to get upset.  I’ll look after you.” His hand slid under her arm, across her body and found her breast.  Maisie took a slow breath and said,
 “If you don’t get your hand off of me, I’m going to kill you.”
“Kill me?”  He laughed lightly.  “Hardly Kismet?”
“More Hamlet, if you ask me.” she said.
“Before I’ve even got to know you.  Here, at the beginning of our adventure.” Hand still on her breast, he leant in to kiss her neck.  ‘That’s it’ she thought, “BAM!”    Maisie rocketed to her feet and glared at the Captain.  Slowly he rose to face her.
“You would kill me?  For what?  For suggesting that two lonely people might bring a little happiness to each other.  For allowing myself to show you the feelings I have for you.”
“I’ve already felt your feelings.  Let me tell you once and for all time, you keep your filthy hands to yourself, do you understand?  You can push me into the bay and tell me to swim home but you ain’t getting your hands on me before then, or even after.”  Behzat marveled at this woman.  He had never come up against resistance like this in any of his posts around the Empire.  Here was a woman who said she would kill him, the Commiser of Police, what grit.  He would have her, this American she-devil.  And before she could react, he had thrown his hand across her throat and dragged her backwards on to the divan.  With his other hand he lifted her skirts and plunged it between her thighs.  Great writers in the past have juxtaposed scenes of pain with scenes of mirth, for what it very neatly does, is show each of us the vicissitudes of life.  One minute you’re up the next you’re down.  Well this is what happened to Behzat.  There he was contemplating the commencement on a new adventure when, CRUNCH! his groin erupted. A bolt of pain exploded through his body, burned its way from his arse to his throat like a poker.  Maisie had rammed her knee into his genitals. It sent him sprawling across the floor. With his face on the carpet, he lay for a few seconds until the pain subsided and then hauled himself to his knees and looked up to find Maisie holding a single-shot Derringer one inch from his forehead.
“Don’t move.  Don’t even breath. Now listen to me you slimy reptile. You can do whatever you want to me, go ahead, but if you ever lay another finger on me I’m going to leave a little ball of lead in that disgusting brain of yours, d’you understand.”  He blinked.  “Now, I’m going to put this pistol back in my bag and walk out of her.  And you can fry in hell, for all I care.”  She put the pistol in her bag and headed for the door.
Her hand was on the door handle when from behind her, almost conversationally, Behzat said, “We have not finished our talk.” Still with her back to him, she said,
“I’ve said all I want to say.” She turned the handle and opened the door.
“If you walk out that door I will have you under arrest before you reach the quay and within seven days you will be sent sent to a ‘correction center’ near the Russian Border.”  Maisie turned around and put her hand into her purse.
“If you want to talk, talk, but if you come near me again, I’ll kill you, sure as eggs.“
“That will not be necessary” he rounded his desk and sat in his chair.  “Take a seat.”
“I can listen and stand at the same time.  I’m cute like that.”
“Very well.  Let us review the situation. One, you are working in our country without a permit of any sort.  Two, you pay no tax to the ministry.  Three, there is a prima facae case to consult the Surete for corroboration of your story.  Four, I have a duty to consult with the Ottoman Folk Dance Society who will need to ascertain your dance credentials.  Five…”
“I told you already, Captain, go fuck yourself.”  He sat back in his chair, crossed his arms and studied at the ceiling.
“You have a lot to learn about the Turkish man.”
“American, French, Turkish.  What’s to learn?”  By now, Maisie was mentally packing her valise.
 “Let me come to the point” he said, “As I said before there is more than one way to arrive at a conclusion.  It would be a pity to have to deport such a spirited woman from our city.  You have made quite an impression already, but,” he paused, “it is a fact that you do not have the correct papers and, as such, it is my duty to act on that information.”  Her eyes seemed to shout but her mouth stayed silent.  He moved to the window again and observed that the melee on the quayside was beginning to abate. The packet gave a long blast on its fog-horn.  “You are a regular visitor to the Huck, are you not?”  He glanced at her over his shoulder,  “Are you not?” he repeated with emphasis.
“Yes” She hissed.
“Here is my proposition.  In recent years the Huck has become the most prestigious hotel in Smyrna.  As such, it attracts many important men.  It also attracts many not-so-desirable men.  Men with dark pasts.  Men whose motives are not sympatico with the growth of our city. Men who need watching.  Criminals, con men.”   He looked at her again for a few seconds and this time it was his eyes that were hot and sharp.  She hadn’t seen this look before, it was hard and heartless, like a cobra focused on its prey.
“I’m listening,” she said, with more bravado than she felt. 
“I want you to observe the comings and goings of the hotel.  Who is there with who.  Who is talking to who.  You will be my eyes and ears.” 
“You sure that’s the only bits of me you want?”  He smiled at this, the hard look in his eyes gone now, replaced with a good-humoured twinkle.
“Can you blame me?”
“What’s in it for me?”
“As my observer, I can truthfully state that you are a friend of Turkey and authorise the relevant papers for you to practice your art here in Smyrna.”
“You just want me to look and listen?  You don’t want me to get involved in any of your shenanigans?”
“You understand me completely.”       
“And you’ll keep your hands to yourself?”  Behzat’s chin tilted almost imperceptibly to the side which was the gesture in these parts of indicating agreement
“Of course.” 
“And I’ll keep my pistol, thank you”
 
————————————
Many days later
 
The banquet started at eight but Behzat was there an hour early.  He had work to do.  He went to the bar, ordered raki and water, and sat observing the built-up to the evening.   He was looking for Maisie.  Staff hurried around attending to last minute details but he didn’t want to ask for her as that would set the birds chattering.  From the kitchen her heard M. Anton berating his staff.  The night porter hurried into the    dining room with an armful of knives and forks as  Mr Avedissian was exiting.  On seeing Behzat, Mr Avedissian approached, ‘How was the Commiser?  Would he like to go to his table now?  Another drink, maybe?’.  ‘No,’ he was informed, the Commiser was enjoying his night off, thank you.’  The archaeologist passed by.  He looked very different to their first meeting when he had met him on a routine visit to the excavations.  Now he wore a pale, linen suit and matching hat.  He felt someone touch his elbow and then there she was.
“Looking for anyone special?” she said, shocking him out of his ruminations.
“We meet again,  Miss Mansfield.” He said, rising from his stool and raising his hat, a perfect gentleman.
“Looks like it, don’t it?”  Her tone was flat and laconic.
Behzat smiled.  He was intrigued by this chimera.
“How are you enjoying  Smyrna?   Have you been swimming?”
“I can take it or leave it.”
“The water is cool at this time of year.  Later it gets much warmer.”
“Is that so?, I’ve been too busy rehearsing”
“Yes, I heard you were creating a flutter  around town  And you’ve moved out of the hotel?”  How did he know that?  Well. He is a copper, I suppose.
“That’s right.  I palled up with a girl I know and we’ve taken a couple of rooms above one of the shops in the market.”
“Above the fishmonger.” he said.  She was surprised
“Yeah.  How d’you know that?”
“I am like the captain of a ship.  I my case, the city.. In calm weather, life is easy, very relaxed,  but when the ship is heading for stormy water that is when a captain has to know where everyone is and what they are doing.  Sure, its a team effort, but there can only be one leader, don;t you think?”
“I try not to think too much.  It gives me a headache.  How about you?”
“I agree, too much thinking can get in the way.  Sometimes its best not to think at all, just follow the captain’s orders.”
“I get terrible sea-sick.”He waited a moment for her quip to evaporate. 
 “You are a woman of action,”  he said.  She scrutinised him.  There was something in the way he said this that made her look again.  ‘A woman of action?.  What was all that about, eh?”  Maybe she’d got him wrong.  Maybe he wasn’t just one of those men whose power had gone to his pants.
“Did you come here for a social call or was there something you wanted?”
“Very perceptive, Miss Mansfield.  As a dancer you will know that you can lead, or you can follow.”
“I can step a tread.” she said.
“You are a dancer, Miss Mansfield, and I am a policeman.”  He did not finish the thought.  “It has been two weeks since we last spoke.  What have you observed here at the hotel?”
“I ain’t seen nothing.  People come and people go.  That’s all,” she said.  He looked at her, waiting. “I don’t know who they are or what they’re doing, do I?”
“I do not expect you to know such things.  I simply want to know who is talking to who?”
“I’ve seen the Mayor a lot.  He talks to anyone who’ll listen.  Mainly the business crowd.  And Mr Avedissian talks to..”
“Apart from Mr Avedissian.”
 Maisie looked about her and in low tones she said,
“I’ve seen girls from the Crescent Moon, right here in the lobby, talking to guests.”
“Miss Maisie, do not underestimate me and I will not underestimate you.  Do we understand each other?”
“Listen mister.  I don;t know what you want from me.  I don’t know how I can help you.  What do I know about anything?”
“I agree.  You know nothing.  I would just like you to tell me who is talking to who?  Comprendez?”
“I don’t know anyone. I can’t I help you?”
“Miss Mansfield, the banquet is about to start.  Would you prefer me to come back tomorrow and in front of all your new friends, ask for you, call you Maisie, like old friends.  Would you prefer that?” She preferred not.
“OK, you silver-tongued devil.”  She gathered her thoughts, “ As I said, the Mayor;s been around a lot and Mr Avedissian was talking to a couple of bankers, German, I think.  She looked at him for approval.  He said,
“Go on.”
“And I saw the girls from the Crescent Moon, keeping company with Mr Rockefeller’s party.”
“ Forget the whores, what else have you seen?”
“One man’s whore is another man’s sweetheart.”  she observed.  He gave her a look.  “I don’t know what to tell you.  Everything is normal.  As it should be.  In a hotel.”  Behzat was getting tired of this.
“Miss Mansfield, if you do not stop thinking of me as an imbecile, you will be on the next camel-train to Mus.
“There’s nothing to tell.  I wish there was.  A couple of lovers, is that your style?  The only thing I saw that I remember was the archaeologist feller cosying up to the classy doll.”
“You mean Alan Jones, the archaeologist working in Ephesus?”
“Suppose so.  I don’t know his name.”
“ And who was the woman?
“How should I know.  I’ve just got here.”
“What was she like?  How old was she?”
“She was a good-looking womanl, like.  Nice clothes an’ all.  Had a lot of jewelry, rings, earrings and stuff.”
“How old would you say?”
“About 35, maybe younger, maybe older.  I couldn’t say”
Behzat considered this,
“And what were they talking about?”
“I don’t know.  I was miles away.”
“Miles away?”, said Behzat with a tone in his voice.
“Talking about a funeral, they were.  That’s all.”
“How do you know?
“ When I went back stage, I heard her say, ‘We’ll have to get  a coffin for him then.’ That’s all.”
 
 






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Comments by other Members



Chestersmummy at 12:15 on 10 November 2018  Report this post
I enjoyed the deepening sense of intrigue in this excerpt.  Maisie is very well drawn, hardboiled, feisty, funny while still retaining an innate vulnerability and I like the way you are hinting that there is more to 'the copper' than meets the eye.

There are some typos, eg words not completely finished, which I am sure you will iron out when you re-read it.  Also, you have a habit of not starting a new line when the viewpoint switches to the other character which I found quite confusing and which interrupted the flow. 
Eg: 
“I bet you don’t, Captain.” Behzat considered this epithet: Captain, a rank which did not exist in the Ottoman Police but he did enjoy the sound of it, Captain Behzat.  Meanwhile Maisie was thinking ‘This guy wants to eat me and bury the bones for later.  Aw well, here we go.’  “Yes sir, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t realise all those things.  I just thought the letter would take care of all that.  I’m so sorry.”  Behzat was looking out of the window again.  He did not respond.  
And also:
“Or if you prefer, kadaifi.  Do you have sweet tooth,  I love lochum, but my favourite is honeyed orange peel.”  Maisie smiled and shook her head. 

Otherwise, I thought it was very interesting and I am enjoying its exotic location.




 

Catkin at 21:55 on 10 November 2018  Report this post
The most successful part of this chapter is, for me, the presentation of Maisie’s character. She reminds me of one of the strong, sassy women from the golden days of black and white Hollywood films. I enjoyed her sense of humour and her smart retorts. Maisie is interesting and entertaining, and I would be happy to read more of her story.

The chapter as a whole could be improved by the addition of several things that would add more depth and richness. It is not until all the way down here:

Outside, the packet from Constantinople was disgorging its passengers at Konak Quay.  A melee of horses, camels, carts and all their attendants were performing a dance that took place every day at this hour.  He could see Ugur, whistle in hand, trying to organise the throng. Behzat smiled.  The young policeman had little chance of success, [“it was”, I’d add here] like asking worms to stand to attention.

- that there is any visual or other sensory detail given. This bit above does a lot to make the scene come alive, to make the reader feel that he or she is really there. (And I love the line about the worms.) You need more of this sort of thing scattered throughout the narrative. Otherwise, the scene reads like a playscript on a page: it’s two people talking, but we are not seeing, feeling, hearing or feeling anything in addition to their words. You could add, for instance, her immediate impression of his office - is it big or small, expensively or shabbily decorated? What is her impression of his physical appearance - is he is big, intimidating man or a short, comical-looking man? Does his office smell of cigarette smoke? Are the windows open, and can she hear the sounds from the harbour floating up into the room? Etc, etc.

You don’t say what Maisie looks like, or how she dresses. I’m sure that for a woman like Maisie, her appearance would be very much on her mind. I think you should include a few details about her clothes. I’m sure she must be very glamorous. I realise that I’ve missed a chapter, and perhaps there was some information about her appearance in the part that I missed?

The chapter could also be improved by cutting of material that doesn’t really need to be included - for instance, in the opening, Behzat does a lot of chatting about what he could offer Maisie to eat or drink and whether or not she has been inconvenienced, and that could all be done in fewer words.

Nitpicking:

There are quite a few typos and letters missing from words, and I noticed one American spelling. I’m sure you will pick those up in an edit.

Some days later

- I don’t think you need this heading, because you have already said that the meeting is to be on Saturday.
 

“But I had my passport stamped on arrival.  All my papers were in order”

- so Maisie had no idea what the meeting would be about, and here she appears to think that everything was in order. Did she really not know that she might have this sort of trouble? Is the fact that everything is not in order a total shock to her? She seems very calm about it. Is Maisie as hard-boiled on the inside as she appears on the outside? I would think she would be extremely worried and upset at this point, and would be mentally panicking and trying to work out what to do. I had the same thought in the scene where he assaults her. She deals with it in fine style, but what is going on inside? Is she frightened? Upset, but hiding it with anger? I’m not saying that I think you have to go that deep inside her thoughts - perhaps you are not intending to write that sort of story. But if the intention is to write something more than a period adventure, then you need to give some insight into Maisie’s inner life.
 

when from behind her, almost conversationally, Behzat said


- he recovers very quickly from suffering some considerable pain, and having had a gun pointed at him.

Captain, go fuck yourself

- would a woman really say that? In 1911? 


I would have liked to know Maisie’s thoughts about his about-turn. Most abusive men, having been rejected in that way, would have decided to take revenge. She must wonder why he has asked her to spy for him instead.

Here:

Behzat smiled.  He was intrigued by this chimera.
“How are you enjoying  Smyrna?   Have you been swimming?”
“I can take it or leave it.”
“The water is cool at this time of year.  Later it gets much warmer.”
“Is that so?, I’ve been too busy rehearsing”
“Yes, I heard you were creating a flutter  around town  And you’ve moved out of the hotel?”  How did he know that?  Well. He is a copper, I suppose.

- you jump very quickly between viewpoints. It’s possible to do this, of course, but it’s tricky to pull off. Here, the effect is choppy (it’s what’s known as head-hopping).

I hope that’s not too negative a critique. This story, with its intrigue, exotic setting, and the strong character of Maisie has a lot going for it. You have not yet said which genre you see this story fitting into. Do you intend this to be a straightforward historical adventure or spy story, or is it going to be a more literary and serious work?

George1947 at 03:04 on 11 November 2018  Report this post
Catkin, thank you so much for taking the time to look at my writing. If there is anything I can do for you please let me know. A few hours helping you will save me days. Critiques like yours pull me back to reality, no not reality, literary, cos that’s the business we’re in. Story telling
Let me tell you about my story. When people hear about Smyrna the first thing they think about is the holocaust that engulfed it in 1922. Before that it was a jewel of the Mediterranean and it is that Smyrna in which my story is set, before the rise of Turkish (and Greek) nationalism. I started with the city, envisaged it through the eyes of newcomers and distilled it with some real Smyrniotes. I want to write a story about Smyrna, in all its pomp and squalor. My character, me, George Garabetian, is not the type for fine detail, research, polemic, hug a tree (Did you know, we Armenians possess the secret of the Universe?) No. I will leave that to the stuffed shirts. My story will be about people going about their nefarious way. Eleni, her father and her uncle need money. They want to cash in on their father’s legacy, a horde of priceless antiquities that has lain in the family tomb for 75 years. Artine is a sort of ‘artful dodger’ whose pas emerges as the story unfolds. As does Behzat’s. Tom and Jerry (well, you think of a sensible name) are a couple of accident-prone English innocents who get caught up in some serious, but humorous, shit. Think Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bob hope and Bing Crosby. The rest of the ensemble include, Ugur, Behzat’s junior officer, Yasmina, a belly-dancer whom Jerry has fallen in love with and who shares a house with Maisie, Mr Avedissian, the hotel manager, C.F.Cavafy, Alexander Mantachev, the richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller, Lord Barham, the girls from ‘The Crescent Moon’, the local brothel and Kopek, a dog of the streets. That is what I want my story to be about, people and place. I do give a portent of the disaster that is to come but as far as my characters are concerned, that is merely a cloud on the horizon.
 
Since I started writing it has come to my notice that in some simple things I am deficient. One space after a full stop, for instance, stuff like that. However, you mention ‘viewpoint’. That’s something I don’t know about. What is viewpoint? Can you recommend something I could read? Forget the last sentence, I can do that myself. Somebody told me, “New viewpoint, new line”. Is that correct? And what is viewpoint anyway?
 
The rest of your critique I’m going to lump into two categories, 1) Emotional, sensory and visual details and, 2) Interpretations of the characters. The first I need to talk about, the second I will reserve judgement over.
Point 1.
It is true that I have not described Maisie’s looks or dress (neither here nor in the preceding chapter) because I thought it unnecessary. I thought I would leave that to the reader. She is obviously an attractive, adventurous woman. Is it my job to paint her portrait? Seriously, is it? As for her internal turmoil, let’s say with Behzat. She is expecting to be groped. Whenever men arrange to be alone with her, she knows what’s coming. What happens depends on what tickles her fancy. Your point though is, I should inform the reader of Maisie’s (and Behzat’s) feelings and motivation. My first instinct is to say No!. the dialogue should say all that, but I am learning that what I know about them, is not what the reader knows – in other words, I should realise that this is the first time the reader has read this.
Point 2
Point 2 is all about external stuff.
  1. When a man gets kneed in the balls its painful, but it passes. Fairly quickly
  2. This is where I lack finesse. Behzat’s sweet tooth is supposed to represent sex. He says, “Do you have a sweet tooth? I like this. I like that. What do you like?”
  3. Go fuck yourself? Recently I found Louis De Berniere’s ‘Birds Without Wings’ set in similar location and similar time and he uses the word. For now, I’ll leave it in.
  4. Regarding Behzat’s u-turn. His first intention was to recruit her and secondarily, to fuck her, a bonus, but business first. Again though, I take your point, its not obvious, this seems to be my Achilles heel.
 
In future postings you will read more of my descriptive powers which I am not so certain of. My next posting will be or another thread to my story, that of Eleni and Alan, the archaeologist. ( Let me tell you now, I have written about five storylines but I’m having trouble combining them.)
 
Well, thank you so much Catkin and thank you too, Janet.
 
Thank you,

George
 
  •  
 
 
 
 

George1947 at 09:04 on 13 November 2018  Report this post

I've just noticed that There's a word in the previous communique that escaped a final edit.
My apologies to all

George Garabetian

Catkin at 22:42 on 13 November 2018  Report this post

Catkin, thank you so much for taking the time to look at my writing. If there is anything I can do for you please let me know.


You're welcome, George. And I hope to have a story of my own finished soon, so yes, I will post it here.

That is what I want my story to be about, people and place.

So, the way you want this book to turn out is as a great story, rather than a literary work? I'm always asking writers where they see their story fitting in, because it makes such a difference to the type of critique that's needed.

However, you mention ‘viewpoint’. That’s something I don’t know about. What is viewpoint? Can you recommend something I could read?


If you have, say, two characters in a story, there are at least four ways you could use viewpoint to tell that story. Let's call those characters Jim and Jenny. You could tell the story entirely as if you are looking through Jim's eyes, or entirely as if you are looking through Jenny's, or you could alternate between them, so that sometimes you tell the story from one character's point of view, and sometimes from the other's. Or you could take the much more old-fashioned and traditional path, and tell the story mostly from the point of view of the author. Yes, I can recommend something to read. Do the search: "Emma Darwin viewpoint", and read what she has to say about the subject. She's very good at explaining it.

Somebody told me, “New viewpoint, new line”. Is that correct?

Yes, a lot of the time I'd say that it is. It depends what you're writing, of course. In an experimental literary work, it might be acceptable to switch viewpoints in the same line, especially if you actually want a strange effect, and don't mind confusing people. But it's safer to start a new viewpoint on a new line.

It is true that I have not described Maisie’s looks or dress (neither here nor in the preceding chapter) because I thought it unnecessary. I thought I would leave that to the reader. She is obviously an attractive, adventurous woman. Is it my job to paint her portrait? Seriously, is it?


It depends what sort of book you want it to be. If you want not to describe characters, but to let the readers fill them in, that's a reasonable decision. Not describing characters is something that happens more in literary fiction than in general fiction. Your readers will get a more immediate, fuller, more detailed view of your world if you do describe your characters, though. You don't need great, long descriptions in the old-fashioned style of Victorian novels; you could add in little details every so often. Readers can fill in a lot if they are given one or two starting-points. I think of physical description of people and places as being like pegs on which the reader can hang his or her imagination - it's hard to hang anything up without any pegs at all. To give an example, if you were writing about a scruffy and dirty homeless woman, you could probably suggest through her words, and through the way she behaves, that she is most probably scruffy and dirty. But if you said that her fingernails were broken and black with grime, that would be all the reader needed to guess that she is grubby and scruffy all over.
 

As for her internal turmoil, let’s say with Behzat. She is expecting to be groped. Whenever men arrange to be alone with her, she knows what’s coming. What happens depends on what tickles her fancy. Your point though is, I should inform the reader of Maisie’s (and Behzat’s) feelings and motivation. My first instinct is to say No!. the dialogue should say all that, but I am learning that what I know about them, is not what the reader knows – in other words, I should realise that this is the first time the reader has read this.


It's one way of doing it. I think what is important, though, that as that dialogue progresses, we should learn some of these things. If you try to do it by this method, but don't learn much about the internal life of the characters along the way, then the dialogue-only method isn't doing its job very well. If you want to take this path, then your dialogue had better be damn good, as it will be doing lot of hard work.

When a man gets kneed in the balls its painful, but it passes. Fairly quickly

Well, it seems that I still learn something every day! I would have guessed that was agony, for ages. Even so, she's humiliated him, and he does seem to get over that very quickly.

This is where I lack finesse. Behzat’s sweet tooth is supposed to represent sex. He says, “Do you have a sweet tooth? I like this. I like that. What do you like?”

Ah now, that's interesting. I didn't pick up on that at all. It's a good idea, but it wasn't coming across as you intended, to me at least. I think you need to make it more explicit. Make him creepier about it in some way. Have him say something suggestive, so we get the idea.

Regarding Behzat’s u-turn. His first intention was to recruit her and secondarily, to fuck her, a bonus, but business first

This is why doing everything through dialogue would be so difficult. There is no way anyone would know that unless you also give us a little of his thoughts - either that, or he should tell her that he always intended to recruit her.

I have written about five storylines but I’m having trouble combining them


Maybe you could find some themes in common, and work with those? Or maybe you could tie the action to the place, so the characters pass through the same places? There are lots of ways of doing it. Maybe Maisie could meet all of them? I recently read Olive Kitteridge, a novel with many characters and many different stories. Many of the stories don't interconnect, but it works as a story because it all takes place in the same town, and the characters all know Olive.


 

michwo at 23:22 on 13 November 2018  Report this post
George,
It's all very interesting and adult, but what spoils it for me, and I am a pedant admittedly, is words like 'commiser' for 'commissaire' as in Commissaire Maigret no doubt and 'Conte', which means 'tale' or 'short story' in French, for 'Comte' which means 'Count'.  I do have a degree in French, of course, which probably makes me less forgiving than most of local colour like this.  Also, if Maisie's been in Paris and presumably knows and speaks some French at least, why would she say:  Comprendrez?  when she'd be much better, and more believable, saying:  Vous comprenez?  Evet means 'yes' in Turkish?  I don't think there needs to be a comma before pashas in the sentence:  There's no need to worry, pashas.
All my knowledge of Turkish local colour comes from Eric Ambler's "The Light of Day" out of which a feature film was made about a jewel heist in the Topkapi museum.

George1947 at 17:04 on 15 November 2018  Report this post
Hello again,
Thanks for the heads-up on Emma Darwin: there's a lot to this viewpoint question. I'm going through her tutorial  a little at a time. Also, I see entirely what you measn about 'pegs'. The reader needs 'something' to bite on. The next bit I post has already been written so  it contain many of the faults which you have already highlighted, internal and external desciption, be aware that the reader is reading the words for the first time, give the reader a peg to hang his imagination on. It doesn't have to be a coat-stand complete with hat and umbrella stands.
Micheal, thanks for pointing out the correct spelling of  'Conte', I do  tend to be a bit slao-dash, unlike yourself. (Your note reminds me of a close friend of mind. He speaks Latin the way you and I speak English, he doesn't have a TV,  only recently had a landline installed and talks of mobile phones as being 'pocket telephones'. Oh, and this doesn't apply to you, Michael, just a humourous quirk, he refuses to attach any accent to foreign words; deja-vu, - dedga view, Beethoven - not Baithoven, etc.) As for the 'commissaie' thing, I think in Turkish it is spelt differently, I'll check it out. The other thing is, I don't know how to use foreign words. Do I say 'evet, yes' and 'zacharoplastion, pastry shop' for example. But that is the least of my problems. Thank you all, again.

George Garabetian

Catkin at 21:55 on 15 November 2018  Report this post

Thanks for the heads-up on Emma Darwin: there's a lot to this viewpoint question. I'm going through her tutorial  a little at a time


That's definitely the best way to do it, George.

The next bit I post has already been written so  it contain many of the faults which you have already highlighted


How about having another look at it before you post? You might find that you want to make a few changes?


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