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Here is an introduction to Charles Kane. My second main character. Comments welcome for those who have time. 

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  • Hi Roger,

    I think the piece nicely sums up why Charles is different from a 'normal' SIS agent. 

    I was a bit confused by the first paragraph. One moment, Charles is in the cafe, and the very next, he's in his 'den'. Perhaps a new paragraph or something to separate the two places?

    While I am all for 'spare' writing, I think the insertion of a word or two here and there would also help - e.g. 'Entered the Café, tripped on the entrance threshold, every bloody time.'

    For me, this sentence needs a 'He' or 'Charles' at the start.

    I like the sound of the plot too.

    I'm no expert but hope this helps.

    Neal

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    • Thanks for the comments, Neal. The Den is located two floors above the cafe in the same building. As to style, I admit that in places feel it has been reduced to social media language! After I attended the editing course, I have been trying different approaches. Thanks again. Enjoy the webinar and have an enjoyable weekend.

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    • First off, as a child of the late 70's and 80's, the subject hits home with me.  Most younger people give me the exact same reaction Chas. gets when I mention the Soviet Union.  Here in the States, especially where I live in Washington state (Seattle area), we're dealing with a wave of Socialism taking over the political system.  I cross-reference now with Soviet socialism and I get blank stares.  You hit that right on the nose and I loved it.  Your topic and your storyline will hit home with a good audience.  It's not going to play to the young.  It will play to the middle-aged fan base that kind of slips through the cracks in today's market.  Charles' quirks run from the usual (drunkeness) to the odd (talking to stuffed spiders).  Using a good mix creates a good character.  Charles isn't a typecast; he's a unique character afflicted with typical problems (making him believable) and atypical quirks (making him a likeable oddity).  You're doing well with him.

      Now for the unfun stuff...

      I've noticed that there are places where punctuation is used very oddly.

      Charles wiped his brow; massaged the crown of his head, collected the dossiers, slumped into his chair; and contemplated the events that were unfolding at a speed he had not anticipated. 

      Mixing semicolons and commas.  Run with commas for separation.  Use semicolons to separate two complete sentences in one run or, less commonly used, as a listing comma.  Check through the work for this as I see it quite a few times.

      He hadn't been convinced the already dubbed the dawn of a new era would 

      Here, you're using a title of sorts so throw single quotes around it:

      He hadn't been convinced the already dubbed 'the dawn of a new era' would

      It allows the reader to pull away from the double 'the' used in the sentence that would otherwise be awkward.  I'd recommend pulling the second 'the' anyway and stick with 'dawn of a new era'

      Luckily, they did not know about Fred. 

      This comes in the middle of a paragraph that you started talking about the den.  I realized Fred is in the den and both the den and the spider would bring Charles ridicule but you make a severe jump here.  A new paragraph seems in order and a tie in would help bring the two jarringly different statements together.

      by a tsunami that would wipe away everything

      A tsunami?  There's no mention before or after of a natural disaster.  You say that Charles believes there's a conspiracy.  While I'm all for using hyperbole, you need something connecting.  A tsunami of what?

      One more quick note and then I'll shush.  On page six, you suddenly jump from Charles' perspective to Sam's perspective.  Having been a victim of that myself, I can tell you it's a pain in the butt.  Editors and readers get confused at the sudden change.  Jumping from one to another is fine but put a break in between to let the reader know there's a jump coming.

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      • Hi Stephen,

        Thanks so much for the time you have taken to respond and the sound advice. Not that I am trying to make excuses but I have slight (and probably increasing) dyslexia. In my professional work, I had to use professional editors/proofreaders for official documents. . Frequently at my own cost!

        I'm pleased you liked Charles and the topic. I'm now struggling with the editing of the three books. 

        Have a great weekend in your wonderful State of Washington.  

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        • Stephen, spot on with your comments on old Soviet socialism (Communism) and the likely target market. And your critique in general.

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        • Hi Roger.

          My goodness, what a rollicking read. So much happening. Charles is a very strongly-drawn character and his eccenticities make him someone you wouldn't forget in a hurry, if perhaps not like all that much! His character, and the tone of the piece in general, definitely hark back to the days of the Cold War and the sometimes bleak, cynical world view of 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold' and its like. In many ways, he comes across as a bit of a throwback (something which perhaps makes him interesting as a 'flawed protagonist') but it did make me wonder if Sam, in particular, would treat him with quite the affection she seems to! Without further context it's difficult to say for sure.

          Stephen and Neal have already highlighted the viewpoint switch and some 'readability' issues, and I'd agree with them. There's so much happening here, and the narrative is so dense, that it's really important to guide the reader clearly and accurately through the external events and Charles's inner thoughts and feelings.

          A really in-depth proof-read would spot and hopefully solve a lot of the moments where the technical aspects interrupt the flow and excitement of the story.

          One other thing I found was that you sometimes introduce secondary characters - Carruthers, Lord Friggington, the 'bastard aristocrat and CIA informer', 'the young Pavlov' - with relatively little context as to exactly who they are or their relationship to Charles. He knows who they are, of course. You know who they are, since you know your characters so well. But don't forget that we don't!

          I confess that I did struggle a bit to make sense of some of Charles's thoughts on such people and events. Maybe that's intended, if he's an unreliable narrator. But I think sometimes you could give the reader a bit more help in understanding Charles's past and the people he's thinking or talking about.

          An interesting character and setting, though, lots of tantalising set-ups for where the story will go, and the pace is exciting.

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          • Thanks so much, Jon. I very much appreciate your comments. This is where I have been 'torn' between various forms of advice, including the issue of prologue or "flashback" to the breaching of the Berlin Wall. I had included these at the start of the book and explained Charles' thoughts in more detail when he witnessed the breaching of the Berlin Wall. It included Pavlov's interrogation of the CIA informer and then throwing him out of a watchtower in East Berlin.. Carruthers does not appear anymore in the story. Lord Friggington is the Home Secretary and responsible for MI5. 

            I am pleased that you have brought up these issues. My style has normally slower, more description and I can see that with trying to introduce pace, I have slipped up and missed out info for the readers. Charles is actually a very complex person. In earlier drafts, I had briefly described his time at Cambridge. Working-class kid, returning home at the weekends to do charity work (food kitchens for striking dockers' kids). Frequently ridiculted by the likes of Friggington (entitled and elite) and naturally accused of being a Commie. I had sown some doubts as to whether that could be the case, but Charles is a patriot and beleives in rights. And despite his rough outward appearance is quite caring and protective with people he trusts and who are unjustly treated. This explains Sam's affection. Despite the name being very "English", she has an Indian father and British mother  I dropped most of this information as it had been suggested that I was providing too much back story. I'll have to reconsider and find a way to introduce these issues into the story in an appropriate manner. 

            Charles first appears in the introductory chapters after two other MCs are introduced (Pavlov and Laura Pellegrino). Friggington only makes rare appearances in the story. 

            Thanks again, you have given me much to think about. Looks like I have a busy weekend, luckily next week I'll be going into isolation for almost two months. 

            Enjoy the weekend. Especially, if there is still sun in the UK!


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          • Roger… my top-line concern here is with the character's name… Charles Kane. The same as the titular character in Citizen Kane. There is, perhaps, too great a risk of confusion, or assumption of influence.

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            • Thanks - his surname has already been changed several times!

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