Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Beginning 112

A pair of hands on her shoulders, shaking her awake.

Struggling out of sleep, Grezilta rolled over and pushed back the covers. She slitted open her eyes. Elisabet’s face hovered in the darkness before her, pale and worried.

Grezilta sat up quickly. “What’s wrong?”

“They’re at the door,” she whispered.

In a moment Grezilta was up and at the dormitory window. Rain trickled down the glass in rivulets, lit gold from the lone street lamp below. If she stood on her tiptoes and turned her head at an awkward angle, she could just see the street below, where two men in dark uniforms were consulting a piece of paper together. Gendarmes, Corvain’s keepers of the peace.

“There’s no time to look,” Elisabet said. “You must get dressed. Hurry.” She pressed an armful of clothes on her.

"Dressed?" hissed Grezilta, shoving the clothes back at Elisabet. "What are you talking about? Those gendarmes have been in the field for six months!"

She darted to the window and lit the red lamp.

"We're going to make a fortune tonight!"

Opening: M.T. .....Continuation: acd.


msjones said...

An excellent beginning and very funny continuation. This one's got to go in the anthology. Anon, claim credit.

Anonymous said...

Good beginning. I'm somewhat intrigued to find out what these dorm girls are doing.

Excellent, excellent continuation.

Beth said...

This is well-written, but lately, agent after agent has been complaining on their blogs about receiving far too many "waking up" openings, to the point where it's almost an automatic rejection.

So I suggest you start here, a more interesting place anyway:

“They’re at the door,” Elisabet whispered.

Anonymous said...

The story does pull you into it quite quickly, which is good, but I did have a few problems with the opening.
I personally don't like the use of really weird names like Grezilta. It draws attention to the name, instead of to the character. Also, the first sentence, isn't a sentence. Yes, sometimes it's okay to play with the rules, but it didn't work for me here.

Kudos on the continuation! I hope those gendaremes shower first!

Anonymous said...

LOL at the continuation!

Anonymous said...

Love the ending!

Anonymous said...

To avoid the "waking up" beginning, why not start the story with:

If (Grezilta) stood on her tiptoes and turned her head at an awkward angle, she could just see the street below, where two men in dark uniforms were consulting a piece of paper together. Gendarmes, Corvain’s keepers of the peace.

"There’s no time to look," Elisabet said. "You must get dressed. Hurry." She pressed an armful of clothes on her.

You'll still have to establish your scene, but this gets us into the action, and Elisabet's statement conveys a lot of the danger. You don't need to start at the moment Grezilta wakes.

Kathleen said...

I like the suggestion of starting with "They're at the door" too. Having read a lot of openings, and the Crap-o-meter, I have to agree that starting with a wake-up seems really over-done.

Good luck!

Nancy Beck said...

That said, I agree the first sentence isn't a sentence, and it didn't work for me (it irritated me, for some reason).

And, while I agree the name Grezilta brought my attention to it because it's unusual, that didn't stop me from reading the entire excerpt.

This is pretty good; interesting. I'd continue on.


Bernita said...

You could begin:
"A pair of hands shook her awake.
Elizabet's face hovered in the darkness before her, pale and worried.
Grezilta sat up quickly..."

My main objection to "Grezilta" is that reviewers may well spell it wrong.

Your choice. It's good - except for that mis-used verb form in the first sentence.
"shaking" does not convey immediacy,it merely produces irritation.
Save fragments of this sort until later.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I like Beth's suggestion better than mine. "They're at the door" is a great place to start.

Rei said...

[quote]A pair of hands on her shoulders, shaking her awake.[/quote]

Doesn't work for me.

[quote]She slitted open her eyes.[/quote]

Uck. "Slitting" usually implies cutting. I know what image you were trying for, but you used the wrong wording.


Distracting name.

[quote]Rain trickled down the glass in rivulets, lit gold from the lone street lamp below.[/quote]

"Lone" adds nothing to this.

[quote]She pressed an armful of clothes on her.[/quote]

"Pressed on her"? That's a strange phrase.

Now for the good stuff: It's an interesting opener that makes you want to read on. I'm just concerned about the technicalities.

PJD said...

Agree on "slitted". Maybe it's just because I watched someone poke a needle into an eyeball on House last night, but I don't fancy self-mutilation such as slitting one's own eyes open.

The "she" in the fourth paragraph is ambiguous. Actually, it refers to Grezilta (yet another name that would be better spelled backwards... at least then it would remind me of Toy Story and not Godzilla). You could leave off the attribution or repeat Elisabet's name there.

Overall, I think it's pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled over the name Grezilta, which my eyes keep morphing into Gretzilla.

But there's a lot of intrigue here, which always makes a deathfish happy.

Anonymous said...

Minor point:

Assuming the beginning is left pretty much as is, I'm not sure "There's no time to look" adds anything. It's one of those cases where implication may be stronger than the statement.

I liked it.

braun said...

I think someone should start a book with the character falling asleep. Whoa.

PJD said...

Been done.
see this story

Of course, it actually starts with some backstory which is even worse.

HawkOwl said...

Braun: Alice in Wonderland

Anonymous said...

Kudos on the continuation.

The beginning-reminded me the opening of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, combined with any period mystery. The rain down the glad, lit by the street lamp below is straight out the Anne Perry novel I just finished.

Didn't like "slitted."

Right now, this opening is too "familiar" for me to be very interested. I wouldn't stop reading because of it, so if I'd picked up the book because the story sounded good, I'd keep going. But if this were all I had to go on, I'd pass.

Molly said...

Thumbs up from me, I'd definitely read on. I even like Grezilta.

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree with whitemouse. Start with looking out the window. Instant drama. Are we in trouble because the soldiers are coming? Going to meet them?

the name Grizelta implied this is a WWII era book to me.

Anonymous said...


Goodness, that continuation is not at all what I had in mind when I wrote this. The gendarmes are coming to arrest Grezilta, not use her services. It is quite funny, though.

Maybe I should go back to Grizelda, which was her original name. Everyone I meet seems to be unable to pronounce her name. It just seemed perfectly clear to me how to pronounce it because I invented the name.

Thanks for the comments on the sentence-fragment beginning. I've been struggling with it for some time, and your comments have made up my mind to move the beginning up a few sentences as you suggested.

Thank you so much, everyone!

Anonymous said...

I liked both the girls' names - they sounded like Eastern European versions of Elizabeth and Griselda, so I got the feeling (especially after the 'gendarmes') that this was an alternate history, possibly an early to mid 20th c. wartime setting.

Dan Lewis said...

Drizella is the name of one of the evil stepsisters in Disney's Cinderella, for what it's worth. Keep in mind that your readers will see the POV character's name hundreds of times over the course of your story. If you're lucky, they won't cringe much.

How can Grezilta tell that Elisabet is pale if it's dark?

The sentence "If she stood... she could just see..." has the wrong tense. "If... could..." describes something that may or may not happen, not something that just happened. I might expect it in 3rd person omniscient, e.g., "Mark would have been much happier if he had only picked Door Number 2. He would have enjoyed a beautiful life of love with the princess of his dreams. Instead he picked Door Number 1 and was eaten by a tiger."

I don't recognize the name Corvain, so I would peg this story's genre as fantasy (also the characters' strange names, and the fact that you had to put the word gendarme in context), even if you put a lamp out on the street and glass in the window. Maybe some more atmospheric detail would help clarify the genre.

Anonymous said...

Ummm, Dan, is there some reason why fantasy can't have glazed windows and street lighting?

Dan Lewis said...

Good question, Barbara. You spurred some thoughts that interest me, so here we go.

As Faraday proved in the mid-1800s, fantasy and electricity don't mix.

Just kidding. I suppose the lamps could be oil lanterns. Could oil lanterns light up drops of rain so they shine gold? I dunno.

And, news to me but not totally surprising, the glass window only became common in the 17th century (at least in England), while windows made out of flattened animal horn dated to the 14th century in northern Britain. According to Wiki again, glass was a luxury item until 1688.

Thus, in a fantasy setting, typically medieval, I am conditioned to think of windows as openings in a wall with wooden shutters, say, rather than glass. The clear glass window is just modern enough that I go hmmm.

None of this means that the opening is wrong somehow. It is throwing me for a loop a little bit, but that's because I am missing key pieces of context. If I picked up this book in the bookstore, it would say fantasy on the spine, and depending on the content (hopefully), it could have either a helpful picture of the girls riding dragons, or the girls meeting a dwarf consulting a pocketwatch in front of a coal factory. So I could be tipped off to the setting before I read the first word.

There is a great video game called Arcanum that is set in a world with the Middle-Earth races, industrial-revolution technology, and magic. Alternate-history magical Europe is also a great place for a fantasy story (like in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell).

I'm not saying all this to knock the story. Industrial fantasy? I am so there. It's just that all these issues could be cleared up with a few more words of description in the opening. Like a more detailed version of "street lamp." Or maybe a more detailed description of "dark uniforms". And these details, applied unobtrusively, might also make the opening stronger.

Anonymous said...

Without getting into steampunk, which may count as alternate-history, there have been a few fantasy novels or series with an Industrial Revolution or later level of technology. Barbara Hambly's Windrose Chronicles, Teresa Edgerton's Goblin Moon are the ones I can think of offhand.
Certainly bog-standard medieval is the default, as Diana Wynne Jones mocks in her wonderful Rough Guide to Fantasyland, but there's no real reason why it must be.
It actually annoys me to read a fantasy novel where apparently all technological development (not to mention fashion, art and music) has apparently stalled and stagnated at the later medieval period - and no explanation ever given.
But I'm derailing the thread, sorry.

Dan Lewis said...

I'm a fan of steampunk (loved The Difference Engine), but I think calling the sub-genre fantasy, rather than sf, is a stretch.

Jordan took a stab at industry in the Wheel of Time, portraying a mini-renaissance that the hero ushers in. Modesitt, Frankowski, Dave Duncan (the Swordsman trilogy) similarly depicted an era of transition to science. That at least seems to be popular.

Thanks for the recommendations. I haven't done Barbara Hambly for a while.

Anonymous said...

Here is a revised version of the opening:

Grizelda shot up in bed the moment Elisabet went to shake her awake. She hadn’t been sleeping very deeply anyway, hadn’t managed to sleep deeply for days. She looked at the face of her friend, pale and seeming disembodied in the half-light, her expression telling everything. It’s happened, hasn’t it? she was about to say, but Elisabet beat her to the words.

“They’re at the door,” Elisabet said in a terrified whisper.

In a moment Grizelda was up and at the dormitory window. Rain trickled down the glass in rivulets, lit gold from the lone streetlamp below. If she stood on her tiptoes and turned her head at an awkward angle, she could just make out the street, where two men in dark greatcoats huddled by the lamp, trying to read a piece of paper.