Me too

Hello one and all,

This is my first post to the forums, though I have lurked in the background for quite some time. I too am a budding writer with no one to turn to for criticism. I would like to post an excerpt if there are no objections. Is 400 words the usual length for ‘offerings’?

I look forward to a response.



Look around, you’ll see that – so long as it’s relatively polite and not legally actionable – you can post just about anything you like. So sure, go ahead, post something you’ve written.

As to length, that’s wide open. Choose a selection long enough to give us a sense of how you write, what you’re trying to say, but short enough that we don’t lose our way getting to the end.

400 words ought to do it, but don’t pad or cut needlessly.


To add to Phil’s good advice:

It will help readers and potential advice-givers if you introduce your scrivening with some context — three or four sentences that explain roughly what genre or genres the overall story belongs to, where the scrivening stands within it, who the characters are and what they have been doing just beforehand.


Thanks Phil.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the first scene of the first chapter of a short novel I’m working on titled “Miss Bentley’s”. It is set in the 50’s. Hopefully that will be enough of an introduction.

“Worst stew I’ve ever tasted!” He threw his fork and spoon on the table with a loud clang and looked round disdainfully at the other diners, all of whom were eating silently with heads bowed until this outburst.

Mrs. Pomphrey, who had been sipping her tea at the time, nearly choked and now sat spluttering into her plate. The Smithers’ twins, who at the tender age of eight were not accustomed to such rough table manners, sat stunned with mouths gaping. Jenny Smithers had some of the aforementioned stew dribbling from the left side of her mouth and it was beginning to make an interesting stain on the front of her freshly starched blouse. Jimmy Smithers was a tad highly strung, and he got such a fright that he sprayed his mouthful all over Mr. Blythe, who had the great misfortune to be sitting opposite Jimmy. Mr. Blythe was now busying himself with his napkin trying in vain to remove the masticated mess from his glasses, his face, the front of his sports jacket, the sleeves of his sports jacket, and practically every exposed area of his person from table height up. He was failing miserably. Indeed, rather than removing the mash, he was succeeding in smudging it into something that resembled a painting by one of the famous impressionists done in shades of brown with the occasional flecks of white and orange. Mrs. Smithers, the twins’ mother, had such a look of indignation on her face, that it left no doubt as to how she felt about the matter. Miss Bentley, the creator of the offending offering, sat quite calmly at the head of the table, as if this were a regular occurrence and not worth worrying about. She smiled down the table at whiskered wrongdoer with a look that seemed to assure him that, though he had transgressed, all was forgiven.

Bluey (Marmaduke)‎ Malone sat silently surveying the scene, taking it all in. He had seen this kind of outburst before, for it wasn’t the first time that Miss Bentley’s culinary curiosities had caused a stir at the table. He had been sampling her cooking every winter for the last four years, and though he could vouch for it most of the time, he had also born witness to several culinary disasters, not the least of which was the oyster chowder she made one year. Though she did her best to get, as she said, “only prime ingredients”, one or two of the mollusks must have been bad, and all six of the guests had contracted severe cases of diarrhoea. The consequent competition for the only toilet in the establishment left tempers frayed and faces pinched — not to mention other parts of the anatomy — for the next few days.

I’d appreciate any constructive criticism.


Hiya Darryl,
Thanks for posting your excerpt.
I`m commenting, just as a reader, not from an erudite standpoint.

Having read the piece three times, Im coping with, a bout of the chuckles. The scene youve created is indeed a chucklesome one.

I wondering if there`s a reason for not identifying, the hairy miscreant, since all the other characters are pretty well defined and named.

I`ll restrict my nitpicks to the first paragraph and leave the rest to others.

Is, hairy, disdainful of the other diners, for suffering in silence, or, of Miss Bentley for dishing up a load of old slop? If the latter, I`d be inclined towards, hairy, skewering Miss Bentley, with a disdainful glare, as he lets his fork and spoon drop to the table, with the resultant clatter startling the other diners, causing them all to look up. As it is, it reads to me, as if his ire is directed towards the other unfortunates sat around the table.

Hope the above makes some kind of sense, and is of some use to you.
I`d love to read the finished piece.
Thanks for the laugh! :smiley:
Take care


You say it’s set in the 50s, but not where. Sounds like the UK or else an old Crown colony. To my ear, the style is reminiscent of P. G. Wodehouse, or S. J. Perelman: arch, baroque, feux-fustian. It may still be pleasing to many, but it definitely sounds dated, if that’s the effect you want.

In that line of humor, the whole point is to take a long time going nowhere, just musing about silly matters, in the vein of Monty Python. I think this piece would really take off if you used less description and more dialogue. It’s a bit like that Mr. Creosote scene in “The Meaning of Life.” And now, for a spot of lunch…


I hear a bit of early Dickens – Pickwick Papers, for instance.
Long sentences are difficult to manage gracefully, and I think you do pretty well with them. You might tighten up some details. For instance,

The picture of Blythe (well-named) is funny by itself, even funnier with the tight follow-up.


Thank you all very much for the comments. I should have given more background.

The story is set in Australia, which, as you can probably tell from my vowels, is where I’m from. I agree that the style is dated. I wasn’t going for any particular effect, but I must admit a heavy Wodehouse influence. I admire his way with words.

I realise now that I stopped one or two paragraphs too short. He is introduced in the next paragraph. I’ve pasted the next two paragraphs below so you can meet the culprit.

The cause of the current commotion was none other than J J. Johnson, retired banker, now amateur investment consultant and part-time ornithologist. He had most recently been in the news after several investors followed his advice to invest heavily in a little know company exploring for gold at Kalgoorlie. Everything looked rosy for the deal until it became known that the director of the company had been arrested for trying to sell the Sydney Harbour Bridge to an oriental gentleman for an outrageous figure — the fact that he had tried to throw in Ayre’s Rock for an extra fiver hadn’t helped either. Needless to say, J.J. was none too popular and the only thing that saved him was that the prospecting company hadn’t been able to get off the ground before the director’s downfall. The would-be magnates were able to get their money back. This left J.J. saying, “Would have been an excellent investment,” and “How was I to know he’d turn out to be a bounder?” The fact that no one had actually lost any money allowed him to save his hide if not his reputation

This was the first day of his first stay at Miss Bentley’s humble establishment, and at this rate, it would most likely be his last (day and stay)‎. On his arrival at the guest house, he had let it be known exactly how things had to be while he was there. No sooner had he crossed the threshold than he regaled Miss Bentley with his “requirements”. These included how his meals were to be cooked, what time he liked to be woken, what newspapers he liked to read, and generally how he expected to be treated while he graced the guest house with his presence. Miss Bentley accepted all this in good humour and smiled one of her now famous what-on-earth-do-you-think-you’re-talking-about smiles. Mr. Blythe and Bluey had been sitting on the verandah during the verbal assault, and Mr. Blythe admitted that he didn’t think he had ever heard such a pompous ass in all his life. Bluey couldn’t help but agree and wondered what it was going to be like staying under the same roof as this punctilious pighead. On his way into the house, Mr. Johnson looked at both men askance and then continued to follow Miss Bentley. The next time they were to meet was at the fated dinner.

On reading over this section again, I wonder if there isn’t too much description. In any case, it should give you an idea of the type of man I have in mind.

I think you advice about having him glare at Miss Bentley is excellent. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.

I appreciate druid’s comment about less description and more dialogue. I do tend to get carried away with description and find it hard to get a good balance between the two. I shall keep working on it, particularly tightening it up, as PJS suggested.

Thank you all,


Welcome to the forum Darryl,

I don’t normally post on threads like this, as I don’t usually feel I have anything constructive to say. But here I am … why? Because I’m totally confused. I don’t know where this is meant to be set, and it makes me feel I can’t locate you …

Don’t get me wrong … it basically reads like a P.G. Woodhouse type story is coming, or perhaps a Roald Dahl ‘sting-in-the-tail’ story, both of which I really enjoy. But there’s too much which swings back and forwards between Britain and America.

“Pomphrey”, “Blythe”, “Smithers”, even “Miss Bentley”, sound UK seaside boarding-house … names that Woodhouse or Dahl might have come up with, or Bill Bryson, perhaps even Saki in a less vicious moment; “Bluey Malone”, on the other hand, sounds American but with an out-of-place British “Marmaduke” in the middle. And I don’t for one minute believe a UK seaside boarding-house landlady in the 50s would have even heard of “chowder”, leave alone trying — however bizarre her cooking style — to serve “oyster chowder”; I don’t think such a person would talk about getting “prime ingredients” either. On the other hand, I’m happy to believe an American landlady might on both those counts. And who eats “stew” with a spoon?

Then there’s the spelling … “born” rather than “borne”, “mollusks” rather than “molluscs”. I find myself wondering if these are spelling mistakes, or American spellings, and so whether you — since your moniker here says you are actually in Japan — are perhaps an American trying to write British, but with the native American getting in the way, or what.

So the truth is, that, to me, while it promises very well in terms of story line, I would be put off by the questions assailing me from the language angle, and I’m afraid might well give up in irritation after a few pages.

But good luck; you have a good opening for a story there.


PS @ Vic-K: the “hairy miscreant”, a.k.a. the “whiskered wrongdoer”, is clearly the fork and spoon thrower, and for me there’s no immediate need to identify him further by a name, though do I wonder about the epithet in question.

Thanks for the welcome and the comments, Mark.

I’m not American, I’m Australian. ‘Bluey’ was a popular nickname for red-headed men in Australia at about the time this story is set. The spelling discrepancies you pointed out are purely my spelling errors. After having taught English in Japan for over 20 years, your English does tend to become a little Americanised (or should that be Americanized?). The Japanese seem to think that American English is the ‘best’ English to learn, and despite trying to convince them otherwise, the insistence on using American English texts takes its toll. Not that I have anything against American English, mind you.

I take your point about the chowder, though I do like to think of Miss Bentley as being adventurous.

I appreciate all the points you made. It would be a shame to lose readers simply because of careless errors on my part. Thank you.


I enjoyed the piece greatly. I haven’t read much located in 50s Australia (Clive James’ and Barry Humphries’ autobiographies?), and yes, echoes here of James’ go-kart race. In fact I could have taken more of the stew catastrophe.

Just one thought: I like the long sentences, which of course add greatly to the effect you’re striving for, but I would have varied their structure more — too many go “Noun or proper noun, verb…” Even an odd adverb such as “Meanwhile” heading a sentence or two in the second paragraph mightn’t come amiss.


P.S. I’ve seen Aussies eat their stew with a spoon. Even done so myself. :wink:

I’m American and eat my stew with a spoon. Or does stew mean something different on either side of the Atlantic?

But on the topic of critique, allow me to admit up front that I generally prefer more sparse writing styles. I found myself skimming the text, though I did like the “tender age of eight” line. My skimming could indicate that it is too description-heavy, as you suspect, or it might just be a manifestation of my preference for other styles.

I did find what you put up interesting (until you went into so much detail about the banker).

I hope this is helpful!

Hugh and Carradee, thank you for your comments.

Hugh, I take your point about the longer sentences. After re-reading the piece I posted, I can see that a little more variety wouldn’t go amiss.

The main reason I went into so much detail about J. J. is because he is one of the main characters, and I wanted to set the scene for later developments. However, I would like to strike a balance between my tendency to over describe and economy of words. If you have any suggestions, I would be grateful.


P.S. I also eat stew with a spoon; I don’t want to miss any of that delicious gravy!