The big Dutch boy wanted to fight about the ship's name again. She was a 400 ton merchantman called Tijdverdrijf- 'Pastime' in English. Four years as a printer's devil had taught Rafferty Flynn his letters well enough to spell it, but damned if he could pronounce it. The closest he got was 'tits-fer-drift.' Apparently, it wasn't close enough, because the square-headed carpenter's apprentice had never missed an opportunity to take offense at Raff's mangling of the word.
“You scrawny Irish rat,” the Dutchie shouted. “I'm tired of your funny talk.”
It seemed silly to Raff that the Dutchie, whose sing-song accent made him think of a braying donkey, should mock his perfectly respectable brogue. And sillier still that the larger boy should want to settle the issue with fists. But here they were, circling one another on the sun-beaten mid deck, both sweating and flushed in the still Caribbean air, hands clenched and faces twisted, ready to pound one another senseless. All in all, Raff thought, a foolish way to spend a morning.
But before the first punch could be thrown, Brennan, the American deck hand, stepped between them. "Dudes!" he yelled. "Whassup? Take a goddamned chill pill wouldja?"
Now there was a diction they could really hate.
Opening: Sean McCluskey.....Continuation: anon.
I don't see four years as a printer's devil as relevant. First of all, he wouldn't have been hired as a printer's devil if he didn't know his letters. Second, knowing your letters doesn't mean you can spell "Tijdverdrijf." I know my letters and I just typed it a few seconds ago, but now I'll try to type it again without looking: Tidjerdijt. Obviously you have to see it and memorize it. Unless you're Dutch, in which case all you have to do is hear it spoken and you immediately know the spelling.
I'd get rid of "both sweating and flushed in the still Caribbean air," and work in their location later when nothing's happening.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" The Captain inserted himself between the two circling youths. "Avast there! What's all this about?"
Riff and the Dutch boy glared at each other. After a few moments, Riff broke the stalemate. "It was him," he said, the Irish softening the words despite his anger. "I asked him to tell me how to say the boat's name, and he spat in my face."
"That's what all this is? He said the boat's name and spat in your face?" The Captain roared with laughter. "Well, bonny lad," he said. "There's a lot you need to learn about the Dutch language!"
I to re-read the first paragraph a couple of times to work out who was who, and who had the POV. Too many proper nouns and the tense is a tad confusing.
But I loved this, in a way that I didn't want to find fault with it.
"had never missed" <-- think that'd read better without the had.
Mid deck <-- are you sure that's the term you want?
I like the third paragraph much better than the first. Why not ditch the narrative summary and start the scene with Rafferty mispronouncing the ship's name? Altho with a crew of mixed nationalities, the ship would probably have lots of versions of its name that would eventually boil down into a nickname. Think Billy Ruffian for Bellerophon.
For me, sing-song and braying don't really go together; they evoke very different ideas. Sing-song is speaking as if you're singing. A donkey's bray doesn't have much of a song rhythm, really.
If there's sun on the mid-deck, the ship is in trouble.
I'd just cut it in half to start with. How many times do you say that the Dutch boy wanted a fight?
1) wanted to fight
2) never missed an opportunity to take offense
3) tired of your funny talk
4) settle the issue with fists
5) pound one another senseless
'Mid deck' comes to me via an exhaustive perusal of Wikipedia, so it could well be wrong (or anachronistic).
I was told that there were POV issues in the last thing I posted here, too. It's a problem I never realized I had, which is just one more reason why EE and sites like it are so valuable.
Wikipedia-- a very useful tool for checking an occasional fact. But if you've set your book on a ship, I hope you read a few books about ships in the period you're writing about.
I agree that you might want to change the order of what happens here. The first para starts with Rafferty's conclusion and then moves into backstory. Try starting with the diction offence:
"You scrawny Irish rat"
See where that takes you. Since Rafferty knows exactly where saying "Tits-fer-drift" is going to get him, you might also want to include either Rafferty trying to avoid a fight but being forced to say the name or Rafferty deliberately finding an excuse to say the name (trying to provoke a fight).
Also, it may just be me, but "I'm tired of your funny talk" doesn't ring true. It sounds like an info dump and isn't even needed since Rafferty knows exactly what made Dutchie mad. I don't think Dutchie would say anything more after "rat" - I think he'd just let fly.
Well, where ARE they on the ship? What kind of ship is it (sail, steam, diesel)? What year is this?
Carpenter's mate, not apprentice, maybe?
I googled "400 ton merchantman" and came up with a bunch of links to circa 17th century ships.
Also "printer's devil" originates about 100 to 200 years or more before the ship references.
So this is a big wooden merchant ship with sails being used for trade. Possibly a Dutch East Indies ship.
In fact, there is a ship named "Tijdverdrijf" in the mid 17th century.
I'm in a Sherlock Holmes sort of mood today.
Ok, so it's probably a Fluyt. That took longer than it should've.
So they could be on the poop deck, the quarterdeck or the main deck.
It wasn't so much a point of view problem (for me) this time. It more about being aware that at the start of a story (or a scene) the reader doesn't immediately know who has the POV and to make it easy to them to work it out (they're simple creatures sometimes).
Also, if you're going write about ships you can be sure of one thing, you'll get things wrong. If it's an important part of your story, well, you'll have to go beyond Wikipedia. If it's just a small bit at the start, probably best idea is to get someone to read it. (It's one of those areas where the more research you do, the less you know.)
(Squirrel: On the quarterdeck, how could you think such a thing?)
It's not an RN vessel, so yeah, I did think the heresy. Eh.
I didn't see a POV problem; I saw a narrative summary problem. Not that everybody shares my love of scenes and in medias res openings.
Research far beyond wiki is needed, especially as sea stories are often read by fans of Patrick O'Brian, the King of Research (try Master and Commander for starters). He's probably set higher expectations for accuracy in naval matters than can comfortably be met. And no, an apology at the end of the book won't cut it for an author who isn't already established. Or indeed for one who is, in a sane world!
Are we going to sail up the Medway and pound the British fleet?
@ author: I'm glad that you didn't fall into the stereotype of the making Irish fellow a hot-headed bare-knuckle boxing champ.
Interesting choice of adjectives for a Dutch accent: sing-song? Yeah, maybe. They stretch some vowels and can't cope with the English J sound. My Dutch neighbor called me "Yoo-Unn" throughout my childhood.
"Braying" however, I can't hear. They mangle some consonant sounds, making them unnecessarily harsh (k and h, for example). “Barking” is more accurate, to my untrained ear. But since you could pronounce and interpret the ship’s name, you’re probably a better authority on the topic than I.
I’d read on, I liked the characterisations, particularly the Irish pacifist.
nwerp, stupid disappearing comments
So, the ship is a Fluyt and may well be on its way to pound the English fleet in the Medway.
In that case, the boys are probably on the poop deck, the quarterdeck* or the main deck.
Research beyond the wiki is required, as Patrick O'Brian set a high standard for detail and accuracy in his Master & Commander series. Of course, if this is Fantasy, you can always take the Temeraire approach and write round everything you don't know, in the meanwhile dazzling the readers with Shiny Dragons so that they don't notice and even go out and buy your next book.
*depending on rules about who can be on the quarterdeck of course
Eh. bad narrative summary; go 'way.
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