Monday, August 14, 2006

New Beginning 71


Red Witch

The snow was too deep to easily cross. There was a thin crust of ice on top, crust that would break under his weight and that of the girl he was carrying. If only he could find that hiking trail that was supposed to be here! If he could get on the trail like he'd intended to in the first place then he could bypass having to plow his way across the unprotected landscape. They'd be easily spotted if he ventured much further out of the trees. Was that a risk he was willing to take?

Reverently Terry shifted his arms to get a good look at Cassie's face. What he saw made him frown – the fever was back, her skin was flushed almost as red as her hair. She couldn't take much more of this. Already her breath was coming in shallow, liquid gasps. Terry feared it was pneumonia.

Now he had two problems - the snow, and the fact that the Red Witch would never want to eat a diseased girl. He wiped the spittle off the girl's mouth. Maybe the Witch wouldn't notice the fever once her dinner had been roasted at 350 degrees.


Opening: K.D McEntire.....Continuation: Pacatrue

16 comments:

Sherri said...

I like this. You definitely started in the middle of the action. I'd read further to find out how this danger is resolved.

A couple of awkward places, IMO:

"If only he could find THE hiking trail..." and 2nd para, delete "reverently".

My two bytes. Good luck with it!

Bernita said...

Eliminate the passivity.
It destroys your intended tension.

CitaPita said...

More cannibal jokes? There are some scary Minions around these parts...

Funny, though.

HawkOwl said...

See, to me, the "red witch" is what comes around once a month to females. I don't think I'd even pick up the book to look at the cover art.

Also, I would write "the snow was too deep to cross easily." I'm not fastidious about split infinitives, but I think this one sounds really wrong, and you want to put your best foot forward on the first sentence.

Also, the first paragraph uses too many words. I would go:

"The snow was too deep to cross easily, and there was a thin crust of ice on top that would break under their combined weight. If only he could find the hiking trail, he wouldn't have to plow his way across the unprotected landscape. They'd be easily spotted if he ventured much further out of the trees. Was that a risk he was willing to take?"

Also, I like that you actually know what snow does, but if there are trees, an open space, and a hiking trail in the trees, it seems logical that he could follow the edge of the trees instead of cutting across, thus following a shorter path than the hiking trail but staying under cover.

Also, it sounds like he is carrying Cassie in his arms in the classic movie position. If he has a ways to go, I think it's more likely he'd have her in a fireman's carry, or a piggyback.

However, I think it has potential.

Anonymous said...

I like this, but the first paragraph is a little too tedious to read. There's no tension, when I know that there is supposed to be. Cut it down. You might even be able to get it down to three or so sentences. The fewer the sentences, the faster the story goes, the more tension there is.

Cathy said...

I picked up on the passivity, too. Easily fixable.

You've got me asking all the right questions. Who is the redhead? How did she get sick? Why is he fearful of being caught? What you've written is interesting enough for me to want to figure it out.

Rei said...

Reverently Terry. Now that's a strange first name.

Perhaps you meant to have a comma? :)

Virginia Miss said...

The situation draws the reader in, but your language dilutes the tension by having passive verbs in both the first two sentences. Some suggestions: get rid of the split infinitive in the first sentence. Change the second sentence to "The thin crust of ice on top would break under..." Combine the third and fourth sentences: "If only he could find that hiking trail, he wouldn't have to plow his way across unprotected landscape."

xiqay said...

Great place to start.

I agree with other comments. Get rid of the split infinitive in the first sentence.

I didn't like the phrase "like he'd intended to in the first place" and would delete it. Didn't like the word "bypass"-not sure why. Maybe us "avoid"?

Loved the glide into his internal thoughts with the question "was that a risk..." Very smooth.

Didn't like reverently (and no comma). If he adores this person (presumably the red witch), show it, don't use some lame adjective. Have him treat her carefully or something.

Liked the "shallow, liquid gasps." Didn't like "Terry feared it was pneumonia." Don't need it.

I'd keep reading.

BuffySquirrel said...

There's no such thing as passive verbs, therefore I think the author would have difficulty eliminating them.

Perhaps you mean that the author should avoid constructions like "the snow was" and "there was" if they can find reasonable alternatives.

Dan Lewis said...

The first references to the guy and the girl are pronouns, then names are used in the second paragraph. This obscurity doesn't do much work in the short amount of text from the pronouns to the names, and it's the opposite of the convention for genre fiction (name/tag first, then pronoun).

The second paragraph is in Terry's 3rd-person limited-omniscient point of view. If the first paragraph uses the same point of view as the second, the way Terry thinks of himself in pronouns sounds very strange. If it's not, then there is a jarring point-of-view shift.

The first paragraph sounds like the author thinking through Terry's problem to me. (Dischism) Just picture the author musing to him/herself, "What is Terry going to do next? The snow is too deep to easily cross, and the crust would break under his weight. Oh, I know! He'll find a trail! But what if he has to leave the woods?" And so on. This point of view does not belong in the story.

"What he saw made him frown" is redundant. When the narrator observes Terry seeing something, it creates unnecessary distance. (Perception fallacy) If you cut it, it sounds like this: "Terry shifted his arms to get a good look at Cassie's face. The fever was back, her skin was flushed almost as red as her hair." (There could be a semicolon or period separating the fever and skin clauses; author's choice.)

Frainstorm said...

Reverently needs a comma to follow, but it'd be better to just dump it.

I also had a problem with bypass. It's not the right word in this context.

Another expendable sentence: 2nd paragraph: She couldn't take much more of this. Better to show, which you've done, than to tell here.

And I agree with Sherri to change it to "If only he could find THE hiking trail ..."

Generally, you've got the workings of a good beginning, but need to edit down the word count and ratchet up the tension.

Anonymous said...

Wow, gentle readers, this is why I love this site. 'Dischism'(sounds like a Terry Pratchett word) and 'perception fallacy' - no wonder I skulk on the sidelines.

All I can suggest is: read your work out aloud. The awkwardness of the first paragraph may be apparent then.

illiterate said...

Reminds me of 'Erlking' by Goethe. You know, the father with a sick child in the forest.

Beth said...

The idea of this opening--the action, the setting, the situation--is fine, but the writing needs work. I spotted several problems.

--Liven it up. Avoid passive or bland constructions:

There was a thin crust of ice on top...

could become--

Fragile ice glazed the surface

--Watch for redundancies:

If only he could find that hiking trail that was supposed to be here! If he could get on the trail...

One of those sentences could be easily eliminated.

--Awkward wordiness:

If only he could find that hiking trail that was supposed to be here! If he could get on the trail like he'd intended to in the first place then he could bypass having to plow his way across the unprotected landscape.

could become--

If only he could find that hiking trail and avoid plowing across exposed landscape.

Another wordy one--

What he saw made him frown...

simplified to He frowned

And this gave me pause:

Was that a risk he was willing to take?

It sound out of POV. Maybe instead-- Should he take the risk?

Use the right words, not approximations--

Reverently Terry shifted...

"Reverently" implies worshipfulness, whereas I think you meant cautiously, carefully, gently...

And don't wait until the second paragraph to use his name.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this, and the situation draws me in. This opening is rather weak, though. I'd suggest the first sentence have more of a hook, and please rephrase the rather whiny "if only" lines. That lead in would make me expect the apparent hero to be a milquetoast and possibly so annoying I'd quit the book. But I would have kept reading for a bit based on what I see here.

Possibly you could start with the character doing, not thinking. Something like, "He floundered in the deep snow, shattering the crust at every step. He cursed himself for missing that hiking trail..."

In other words, check for where you the narrator are telling and make the character be doing whatever it is. This will also make the action more immediate and visual, increasing the tension when more passive sentences would not.