Friday, June 29, 2007

New Beginning 305


"This one." The Diplomat jerked down the collar of his shirt. A long, oddly artistic finger traced the jagged scar zigging up the hard curve of his pectoral to his shoulder. "Dirt witch with a corkscrew. Thought I'd pissed in her charm spell. Twenty-seven stitches and a blood transfusion."

Always uneasy with this part of the bargain, Kanna Tanvert eyed the old wound with what she hoped looked like fascination and tried not to picture all those stitches. The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met, and though his expression rarely changed when he talked about them, she knew he took unholy pleasure in his macabre version of show and tell.

Trying not to flinch under the force of his glittering, impassive gaze, she forced an appropriate response. "Damn, man. I think you owe me two books for something that ugly."

"Hmmf," the Diplomat muttered. "I suppose that's reasonable. Just remember -- our boilerplate says we get the digital rights in perpetuity. If you don't like it, we'll renegotiate."

Kanna Tanvert smiled. Another sale. Sure, AAR might frown on her wrestling beneath the sheets with the chief editor of Simon and Schuster, but as long as the six-figure deals kept rolling in, they could bite her scar-kissing arse.


Opening: Gutterball.....Continuation: Rei

26 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


"Can you do the job, or not?"

"Of course. It just ... more elaborate than I expected."

"Fine. You know what I like."

"I can do one unicorn with a rainbow on the first book cover and and on the other . . . a waterfall?"

He pulled his collar back into place. "OK. What time tomorrow?"

"Early so no one sees you come in."

He nodded and quickly slipped out the door.

Kanna sighed. Why did all the wierdos have to come to her tattoo parlor?

Khazar-Khum

150 said...

I'd read on!

Beth said...

Snerk. Great continuation.

Love the opening. Just a couple little nits:

Not sure why you needed to modify artistic with oddly. What's so odd about it being artistic-looking? Long fingers are almost always considered "artistic."

Also-- "A long, oddly artistic finger traced..." sounds disembodied. I wasn't sure at first if it was meant to be his finger or someone else's. A friend of mine nicknamed this type of writing the "phantom limb syndrome," where fingers, arms, lips, whatever, appear to be self-motivated. Not saying you can't ever write it that way, but this early in the opening, we have no contextual clues. So I'd reword that slightly: "He traced the jagged scar with a long, artistic finger, zigging up..." or "With a long, artistic finger, he traced the scar..." etc.

Otherwise--more, please!!!

Bernita said...

books?
After that fine build-up I am "outraged and somewhat miffed" to find they are bargining over "books."

Dave said...

This reminds me of the scene in "JAWS" where Quint and Hooper are drunk and showing off enumerating their scars. You know how that ends.

My mind is having trouble reconciling "he took unholy pleasure" and "his glittering, impassive gaze".

And the premise is that he shows her a scar and then she buys his manuscript? That doesn't sound like I understood the opening.

The Green Cat said...

My guess is she's a witch on the search for arcane knowledge and she has to strike some pretty hard bargains for her rare books.

I'd read on, Gutterball. There's tension in the interaction between these two characters and I want to see what's going to happen to them.

phoenix said...

Oh, Rei, a continuation ripped from today's headlines. Sweet!

Gutterball: Maybe it plays out in the next 150, but I don't understand Kanna's reactions here. She's been through this before, but is still uneasy about it. Got that. But why is she trying not to flinch under an impassive gaze -- and why does an impassive gaze have such force?

As for "Trying not to flinch under the force of his glittering, impassive gaze, she forced an appropriate response" is the repetition of "force" here intentional? I don't get it if it is.

That "Jaws" scene was the first thing that popped into my mind, too. For ill or good, it gave me an immediate handle on The Diplomat.

The "oddly artistic" juxtaposition didn't bother me because I interpretted it that this is the kind of guy about whom you don't expect anything to be "artistic."

I think I'd really like it if I just understood Kanna's reactions a little more.

ME said...

Yep, I thought of Jaws too. I also took the "oddly artistic" to be in contrast with a Diplomat, but I see the point in the comment about disembodied appendeges. Kanna Tanvert, is that an anagram? Tan Tank Raven? Anyhow, I wasn't sure whether she was a witch, an author or a tat artist, but I'd read more because the diplomat is acting so strangely for someone with that title and so far, you haven't mentioned anybody screaming. Although that corkscrew couldn't have been very pleasant.

Very good cont!!

GutterBall said...

Heh, does it clear things up to know that she's just your average book store owner and he's a notorious assassin? He trades her books on arcane folklore (which is kind of her trademark for the store), and she has to stare at his unsightly collection of scars.

I've wibbled off and on about the "oddly" thing. I guess assassins can have artistic fingers without it being weird, but for some reason, I've hesitated to take it out. I don't want anyone thinking he's a painter on the side or something. He's a hard man, very closed and private, and there's nothing else artistic about him.

I like the suggestion about "He traced" instead of the disembodied finger trick, though. Definitely changing that. One of the drawbacks of reading your own opening too many times!

dancinghorse said...

This is a grabber--I'd definitely join the crowd and read on.

The one thing I would do on a new pass is trim most of the modifiers--adjectives and adverbs. That would tighten up your prose and make the opening even stronger.

writtenwyrdd said...

I got stuck on the jerking down the collar of his shirt to show his pectoral scar. Really stretchy shirt, that! The name Diplomat was odd for me, given the conversation. He doesn't sound the least diplomatic, what with scars and the conversation about pissing in a charm spell. So, I think it's probably a nickname.

At any rate, this opening didn't work very well for me, and that's because I don't have enough info yet to feel at home in this world. I am still too confused by what's going on, don't know the environment, and even the names seem off. This is not to say it wouldn't work if I read more; but I honestly think you need to revise a bit to get this to work properly. Seems like good bones for the scene, though. I particularly liked the way the Diplomat guy talks and acts. It just doesn't seem to go with the conversation over books.

McKoala said...

Great continuation!

Nice start, like the names and the characters. But I didn't have to be told that she 'knew' he took pleasure. You're in the process of showing it. I think you can have the confidence in your writing to delete that bit, great line though it is. Or rephrase; let the glitter behind the impassive gaze show the pleasure or something. The unattributed finger caught me out too.

GutterBall said...

Sorry it didn't grab you, Writtenwyrdd. I like to think the next 150 brings the reader in enough to settle the scene, but I honestly don't know. I haven't let my usual readers see this one yet. *sheepish*

And you have an excellent point, McKoala, as usual. Does this read better, or is it the same thing in a different order?

The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met, and though his expression rarely changed when he talked about them, the hard light in his dark eyes told her that he took unholy pleasure in his macabre version of show and tell.

Dave said...

How about dropping the two "had's" and the verbs "told and "tell" ?

Normally unemotional, the Diplomat's eyes gleamed (with unholy pleasure) as he described his numerous scars. Kanna forced herself to watch his macabre exhibition.

Personally, I think "with unholy pleasure" is overdoing it, but that's style and I can live with it.

macabre pleasance said...

gutter, it gives me macabre, unholy pleasure to note that you're overdoing the hell out of it at the close of:

The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met, and though his expression rarely changed when he talked about them, the hard light in his dark eyes told her that he took unholy pleasure in his macabre version of show and tell.

How about just letting the scene do the work without the editorializing:

The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met, and though his expression rarely changed when he talked about them, the hard light in his dark eyes told the pleasure he took in his show and tell.

writtenwyrdd said...

"The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met, and though his expression rarely changed when he talked about them, the hard light in his dark eyes told her that he took unholy pleasure in his macabre version of show and tell."

I think you can just say,
"The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met; and, when he talked about them, the glitter in his eyes told her that he took unholy pleasure in his macabre version of show and tell."

I put glitter back, deleted "and though his expression rarely changed." Glitter is nice except when paired with impassive. And we don't need to be told his expression rarely changed, as that's a wider focus than the moment, seems to me.

Like I said earlier, this scene has good bones, so keep tweaking it.

phoenix said...

I really like macabre pleasance's rewrite here. I disagree with WW that his expression rarely changing is unnecessary; I think that reinforces the fact this isn't the first time these two have been at this. I do heartily agree with WW that "glittering" and "impassive" are at odds with another.

So now just tweak Trying not to flinch under the force of his glittering, impassive gaze, she forced an appropriate response and I'll be a happy camper. What other reaction can Kanna have here that will tell us something more about her and/or her relationship with T.D.?

Beth said...

He's a hard man, very closed and private, and there's nothing else artistic about him.

In that case, keep the "oddly," because it serves as a clue to his character.

And I like this rewrite--

The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met, and though his expression rarely changed when he talked about them, the hard light in his dark eyes told her that he took unholy pleasure in his macabre version of show and tell.

It has a nice flow to it. Didn't care for any of the suggestions that involved trimming it.

GutterBall said...

I already tweaked the "double-forced" line, Phoenix. However, I will look at another possible reaction there than flinching. I kinda had the thought that it's a psych-out game for him. If she flinches, he loses respect for her and there's no trade.

Of course...I could just say that. *facepalm*

I'm still working on the unholy pleasure line. It's all in Kanna's POV, and that's how she thinks of it, but I dunno how much of the butter boat really needs to be in the narrative instead of just in her dialogue. Work in progress. Sigh.

But I gotta say that you guys have been extremely helpful, and I can't thank you enough for it.

Deborah K. White said...

I, too, got stuck on the guy jerking down the collar of his shirt to show his pectoral scar. I re-read those lines five times trying to figure them out. In the end, I figured that it must have been a typo of some sort.

The 'worth two books' at the end also totally threw me. Being forced to view his scars is worth two books? Or what? I assume that you'll immediately explain that statement, but I keep getting this feeling that you're deliberately withholding information that's important for me to understand this scene.
I liked your 'voice,' but I wouldn't read on because I don't feel that I really know what's going on here--and I wonder if that's how things are going to continue.

Yes, that additional information does help--so why not work a word or two of that into this beginning? Since the gal knows he's an assassin, is there any reason that you're withholding that information from us? To me, that information would add a lot of tension to the scene.

McKoala said...

The Diplomat had more scars than anyone she'd ever met, and though his expression rarely changed when he talked about them, the hard light in his dark eyes told her that he took unholy pleasure in his macabre version of show and tell.

I like this much better. How about 'betrayed his unholy pleasure in the etc.' ? Just a thought. I know everybody else has already had a go...!

sylvia said...

The scar-for-books thing threw me completely. I just couldn't make sense of how they were negotiating. Reading the follow-up comment, I can cope with an informal agreement on that level (he never shows her the books until she's looked at his scars) but I couldn't quite make sense of it as a serious set-up. It doesn't fit the picture I have of them

To tie it in with previous gtp's, it seems a type of prostitute relationship, which either of them might accept but I would think neither of them would formalise.

Can you write out the scene where they negotiate the agreement? I may be reading them totally wrong but, for me, it jarred.

Dave said...

One thing that is not helping you is that you call the man "The Diplomat" and then with all the baggage attached to that title, (older, staid, proper, stateman, etc) he starts showing scars on his chest. It plays against type. If you want to use the name "Diplomat" with this character, that's fine but to open with only that name in the first paragraph of the novel fixes an image in the reader's head that you may not want.

Later you say "he's a notorious assassin" in the comments. When you introduce him as the "The Diplomat" and Kanna says or does nothing to indicate that he's notorious or assassin.
It's confusing the reader and putting an obstacle in front of them.

I see another problem in that "diplomat" implies age and then "hard curve of his pectoral" implies youth.

If "Dirt witch with a corkscrew. Thought I'd pissed..." is a one time, single use statement then consider that every time I read it, I read "Ditch Witch".
A Ditch Witch is a device for diggin trenches for natural gas and water lines.
So if you only make that statement once then ditch the "dirt". (wince). Unless your book is filled with DIRT witches, you don't need the giggly confusion with Ditch Witch. That's a word nuance, a very fine one but one that I think hurts this opening.

GutterBall said...

There's an explanation for his nickname in the next 300, and he gets a real name in the next couple of chapters. It's a play on expectations for him, true, but there's also a good reason that's not necessary in the first bit. There are only so many concepts you can fit into those crucial 150 words.

Dave, I've never heard of a Ditch Witch, but "dirt witch" is a pretty common phrase in the story. It's an insult on the more PC term "earth witch".

McK, I like "betrayed"! I think that gets just the right feel!

Bernita said...

Diplomat worked fine for me, Gutterball - something like the ironic nick-name "Tiny" for the six foot six guy who weigns in at 250.
In fact I think it sets one of those minor suspense threads. One wonders, because of the scars, just why/how he picked up the personal title.

Dave said...

I see what y'all mean. This comes down to the nuances of words. I trust Bernita about "diplomat."

Just FYI - Ditch Witch is a corporation. The device looks like a monster chain saw six to twelve inches wide and four to ten feet long that digs trenches. Apparently, it's not that common a term. So that might be just the fact that when the neighborhood got city water, I saw the contractors digging water line trenches for lots of neighbors with those things.