Monday, September 17, 2007

New Beginning 364

It was a stately room. Lacquered wood veneer lined the walls, and a solitary window threw shafts of light on the once blood-red carpet. Seven high-backed chairs were arranged in a semi-circle in the center of the room. In these chairs sat seven men. They spoke to each other in hushed, frantic whispers.

“That’s enough, gentlemen.”

The muttering ceased as another entered the room. The newcomer closed the door behind him and quickly locked it, then removed the key and concealed it in the folds of his robes. “Are we all present?”

“We are, chamberlain.”

“Good. We have little time to spare.” He crossed to the window and peered out.

The men glanced at one another. “I trust you were not followed,” one of them said.

“Don’t be a fool!” the chamberlain said. “I am not that careless.” He glared at the others. “The one we await will be here momentarily.”

The men resumed their murmuring, the volume rising as each second passed, while the chamberlain, his face set in stone, stared out the window.

A moment later, an abrupt rap on the door silenced the men. The chamberlain walked swiftly over, drawing the key out of his robes and unlocking the door with a quick turn of the wrist. He hesitated, then opened the door.

A burly man dressed in blue burst into the room. The men collectively gasped, then broke into incoherent uproar. One stood, pointing an accusatory finger at the chamberlain. “Traitor! I knew you were followed!”

“I was not!” shouted the chamberlain.

“Then how did he know the secret knock?”

“Secret knock?” said the man in blue. “I just knock—”

“It was an abrupt rap! I distinctly heard an abrupt rap!” The men resumed their arguing.

The man in blue held up his hands. “Gentlemen! Gentlemen, PLEASE!” The room fell silent. “I’m asking you nicely.” He held up a small rectangular device. “I’m also recording the fact that I’m asking you nicely, so as to avoid another investigation, Mr. Fossberg.” Mr. Fossberg folded his arms and huffed. “Now please, pretty please, return to your rooms.”

The men grumbled, but shuffled out the door. The man in blue turned to the chamberlain and extended his hand. “The lounge keys, Mr. Chamberlain? Thank you. And if you lift them from Nurse Molly again, it’s the end of green Jello for you. Got it?”

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: blogless_troll


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

A disheveled young wizard with a scar on his forehead stumbled into the room, followed by a large, tall, menacing robed figure with wand drawn.

"Are you sure you weren't followed?"

"Not a soul."

"And the boy?"

"Blindness charm."

"Excellent." Emphasis on the sibilant.


A bald, beefy black man with sunglasses on his forhead waited at the door, a cardboard cake on wheels behind him. The chamberlain was momentarily confused, but he managed to recover and stutter, “Are . . . are you the one?”

“Yep, one and only” replied the beefy one as he punched a series of buttons on a small electronic device. As he began to push the cake into the room, careful to avoid the wood-trimmed walls, he flipped another switch and loud music blared from speakers imbedded in the cake. He was practically shouting at the chamberlain when he said, “The one and only Stripper-In-A-Cake, at your service, sir!”


Two delivery men stood at the threshold carrying a large wooden crate. The chamberlain directed them where to place it and signed for it. As soon as the delivery men had gone, the chamberlain prized open the crate with the ceremonial crow bar.

"The moment is finally here," one of the men said, watching the chamberlain remove the contents of the crate and distribute them to the men. "I thought it would never come."

Once each of the men had received one of the items from the crate, the chamberlain strode to the head of the room and recited the ancient incantation to begin the rite:



"Pizza! Let's see that was five regular pepperoni, three supremes and a vegetarian."

The chamberlain rummaged in his robe. He pressed a wad of money into the delivery boy's free hand. "Keep the change," he muttered.

Balancing the nine boxes in one hand, the chamberlain once again locked the door. He turned and slid his burden onto the table.

"All right, gentlemen. Let's get down to business."


A hooded figure swept in. Delicate hands pushed back the hood to reveal an ashen face surrounded by soft, black hair. Time had passed since their last meeting. Narrow lines touched the corners of her eyes and thin strands of gray wove through her hair. But her lips were full and red; she was still as beautiful as any this land had seen.

“Thank you, chamberlain,” she said. Doubt flickered across his face before he bowed and left the room. “My friends,” she said to the remaining men. “Our enemies are about us again; I need your help. The old queen has been spotted in the forest and it is said she has amassed a great army. Can I count on you?”

They looked at one another, then grinned and nodded -- Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy.


To find another stately room in complete disarray. Pockets of exposed dry wall gamboled around the room whilst the laquered wood veneer splintered. Three broken windows threw rays of light on the puce colored carpet. Seven high-backed chairs had been stacked in a disorganized and disjointed fashion. Around the stack stood the seven men. They gazed at the other before shouting, "APRIL FOOLS!!!"


QuotLibros said...

Here's the immediate problem I had: Seven men, seven chairs. Enter the Chamberlain. They're still awaiting another. Where are these extra guys sitting?

Evil Editor said...

Nice hook, tone.

Questions that occur to the nitpicker in me:

"Are we all present?" There are seven chairs, each occupied. I guess that correlation is a coincidence? Or the chamberlain doesn't know how many are coming?

Why didn't the organizer provide a chair for the chamberlain?

"Don't be a fool!" seems overly emotional. Glaring and saying "I am not that careless" is sufficient to put the guy in his place.

What was the point of locking the door if he was going to unlock it when someone knocked--especially when he knew the someone was due any moment?

Do the chamberlain's robes have a pocket? I don't think I'd feel that secure about concealing something in folds of my robes.

Lightsmith said...

I always look forward to blogless_troll's continuations. They're consistently funny and well-written.

I liked the opening. I'd probably go with something a little grabbier for the first line. Overall, quite good. Fast-paced and intriguing. I would definitely read on.

Ello said...

Sheesh! There is nothing left to comment on once EE gets done with it! ;o) That's a good thing! All I can reiterate what EE said was what stuck out with me but I agree that I liked the tone and was interested enough to care who comes through the door.

Evil Editor said...

There is nothing left to comment on once EE gets done with it! ;o) That's a good thing!

Is it? I could wait a day, and then comment if I have anything to add to what's been said.

Anonymous said...

Nitpicky, I know, but I think this needs a more careful edit because:

If it's a stately room, why is it lined in wood veneer (which sounds like kitchen cabinets to me) rather than solid wood. Later on, it seems this is set in Renaissance or Medieval times, in which case I don't know if they used veneer at all, and I don't think they used lacquer either - I think the wood would have shone because it was polished, not lacquered.

Just for a moment I thought each chair had seven men. Why not say in each chair a man was seated (or something else a little less clunky), and remove the doubt.

It's unclear who says "That's enough gentlemen" since the newcomer isn't in the room yet but no-one else is singled out.

I'd check the use of momentarily - I have a vague idea it's not grammatically correct here. I think it means "for a moment" rather than "in a moment". Someone who is here momentarily is here only for a moment and then is gone again.

I'm with the others about the chairs and the key-hiding.

Also, this beginning is just mysterious; it hasn't introduced definite conflict or even any identifiable characters. Something needs to happen soon or readers will lose interest.

Church Lady said...

Blogless Troll--Most excellent continuation!! LOL!

Author, the writing here is good, but I'm going to weigh in honestly and say it didn't pull me in. It took a lot of words to get to 7 men sitting and frantically whispering. And we don't have an MC to really hold onto yet. This, to me, reads like a second scene-not an opening scene.

If you're going to keep this as an opening, my opinion would be to start with "I trust you were not followed" and work it from there.

Just some thoughts...

Good luck,

Dave said...

No, I disagree. it's not all over when EE comments on it.
When I first read this, I thought to myself, this is nothing but seven men waiting in a room for an eighth to arrive. That's all.

Not that I haven't seen Waiting for Godot to appreciate the possibilities - - but nothing is happening here. Men are sitting around a table waiting. That's an awfully passive way to open a novel. It's nicely and compentently written. But it still only sets the scene for something yet to come.

Except for the numerology aspects of seven and the minor suspense of "not being followed" there's nothing exciting going on here. Again, waiting might be the point but it's not a point I want to read on and discover.

So I don't think EE says everything about a beginning. I disagree with that.

Robin S. said...

Hi author-

This read pretty well to me.
I'd put a period after 'walls' in the second sentence. Make "A solitary window the beginning of a third sentence.

I'd think the chamberlain would want to be pretty sure who knocked before he opened the door - as careful as he's been up to this point.

I like your description - "the once blood-red carpet".

EE, I like it with you commenting now, up front. If you waited, would you please still say what you were gonna say in the first place?

Lightsmith said...

I like hearing EE's comments first. That way I know how I'm supposed to feel about the Opening. ;-)

Seriously, though, there is usually still plenty left to say after EE has chimed in.

Bonnie said...

Didn't grab me. A bunch of men sitting around doing nothing, in a room that's well-described but not very interesting. Waiting for something to happen, yeah, but no tension. So he might have been followed. Why do I care?

And he might have been followed, and he doesn't even check to see who's at the door before he unlocks it?

jjdebenedictis said...

Re: EE's comments
I would be fine with EE only commenting after the rest of us have. I very much value all his thoughts, but I also respect that he created this blog for fun, not to get himself roped into working for all us needy writers. Also, the rest of us shouldn't be altering our opinions in order to agree with EE! I don't see how that's valuable to the writer.

Re: The opening
I really liked how this started. I would read on; there's something going on and we readers are clearly about to find out what. I think there is sufficient tension in the fact that the men are muttering in worry.

I think the first few paragraphs could have been strengthened slightly by deleting the "telling" sentences.

Specifically, you can get rid of the following sentences and I think it only improves the piece:

- It was a stately room.
(No need to tell us; the description that comes after this sentence shows us it's a stately room.)

- The muttering ceased as another entered the room.
(The authority of "That's enough, gentlemen" implies that they shut up when the chamberlain speaks. I don't think you you need to tell us this fellow gets listened to; you do a good job of showing us he's the guy in charge.)

- “Don’t be a fool!” the chamberlain said.
(His anger is implied by the fact that he glares at them later.)

In short, I like this opening. My only advice is that I think you need to expunge all the instances of "telling" and just let the power of your "showing" do the work. You do it well, after all. :-)

Good luck with this!

Bernita said...

May I suggest that if you're wedded to this opening, then begin with "Seven high-backed chairs..."
Numbers always sound significant - even if they aren't.
Add the room details later. Don't lose the rug.
"momentarily" can mean "at any moment" - and it does occur within dialogue, I have no objections to it.
Chamberlain is used as a title. It should be capitalized.
BTW, where is his umbrella?

Phoenix said...

Well, I'll give the guy the benefit of the doubt that he saw whoever it was who knocked while he was looking out the window. So he was being careful in case he was followed. So that didn't bother me.

However, I am bothered by a few other things.

"Stately" doesn't really go with "laquered wood veneer" (cheesy ripoff walls) or with "once blood-red carpet" (old and fading). Nothing stately: that's shiny, newish-looking walls and old, faded carpet. Unless the carpet had been awash in real blood at one time, but I suppose that's too much backstory ...

Does the chamberlain say, "That's enough, gentlemen"? If so, does he wait outside the door to say it, then enter the room? 'Cause the muttering stops when he enters the room, not after he says "That's enough."

Why does the chamberlain glare at the others after affirming he's not careless? Seems odd.

The chamberlain walks "swiftly" to the door, unlocks it with a "quick" turn of his wrist, then "hesitates"? I could buy him hesitating before going to the door, but not after hurrying to get there and get it unlocked.

And others have already mentioned not having more chairs available, the locking/unlocking action, and the seven chairs for seven men (which sounded kind of nusery rhymish, to me).

Sorry, but it just doesn't feel authentic to me.

pacatrue said...

I like that the existence of the meta-waiter. First the chamberlain arrives and shows off his power over the 7 men, but we quickly learn that the chamberlain is himself waiting for person number 9. Following this model, I am going to start my next novel with people waiting for someone who's waiting for someone who's waiting for someone.

McKoala said...

LOL 'true.

Hm, EE. To post before or after the minions? I'm OK either way. Sometimes your comments illuminate the writing for me, sometimes I disagree... like now.

This didn't do much for me. Starting with 'It' threw me right away - that's your first sentence, give me more! Then in the second sentence the 'veneer' and 'once blood-red' seem to undermine the stately anyway. Then nothing much seemed to happen other than a door being locked and unlocked (agreeing with EE that I didn't see the point of that). I don't need a body in the first 100 words, but so far this hasn't grabbed me at all. Hey, it's all personal opinion, though.

Scott said...

Author here--

Great comments, all. Much appreciated and very helpful.

And yes, it pretty much is a bunch of men sitting around waiting for another man.

This opening is actually a prologue for my WIP, and I haven't decided if I'm going to keep it yet.

phoenix said:
The chamberlain walks "swiftly" to the door, unlocks it with a "quick" turn of his wrist, then "hesitates"? I could buy him hesitating before going to the door, but not after hurrying to get there and get it unlocked.--

It's more of an ominous pause, as if he's taking a breath. Whoever's behind that door has bad news and the chamberlain isn't sure he wants to hear it (yes he has to). Maybe a bit too melodramatic.

Dave said:
Men are sitting around a table waiting. That's an awfully passive way to open a novel. But it still only sets the scene for something yet to come. --

Ah, yes, but we get to see what they're all waiting for in the very next sentence!!

I'll tighten this up, delete the telling, and see how it fits in to the whole.

Thanks for the blog, EE!

ME said...

Not much to add at this stage. I agree (and tend to suck up to)EE. I also agree with those who commented on the veneer not being "stately" and the inadequate number of chairs.
I like bernita's idea suggesting "Seven high-backed chairs..." as a beginning. Also agree with JJ regarding EE's
comments -- later being better than sooner!!!

Dave said...

Perhaps they exist in 3x3 groups?
Alternately, two men stand at each compass and one in the Chamberlain in the middle.
Perhaps the traitor will be man number 13?
Perhaps man #11 is a one-eyed Jack?

Wonderwood said...

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I have to chime in with pretty much everyone else on most of the comments. I liked the tone, but agree there are some logic problems in the construction.

I disagree with the "no tension" comments. I think the tension is shown by the worrisome actions of the old men. There is some redundancy in the telling, but that's easily removed.

I have a feeling that the author misused the word "veneer". I could be wrong on this, but I think the author meant to say paneling, or siding or something else. If you meant "veneer", it doesn't support "stately"(which could be removed, anyway).

Some excellent suggestions in the comments. Good luck with it.

Dave said...

A number of years ago, girlfriend of mine made some comments about how I watch movies. Back then I just sat and watched. If I was satsfied at the end, I coldn't articulate why.
She said to me - watch Maggie Smith's performance in "A Room with A View." Now Maggie Smith is one of the best actresses on the screen and whenever she appears, all eyes watch her. However in "A Room With A View" she performed to make the other actresses (the ones more important to the plot) stand out. I watched the movie twice on VHS or DVD, I don't remember which, just to see how she did it. She actually performs to force the viewer to watch the other actresses and by doing that lifts the rest of the cast up to her level of acting. She doesn't steal the scene, she makes the audience pay attention to the story and the other characters.

Why do I say this, Because that's the type of effect you are trying to pull off. You want the seven men waiting for {Godot} to enhance the initial appearance of someone. You want their actions to increase his status in the mind of the reader.
That's not an easy task. Their actions {your writing} have to be like Maggie Smith's performance - superior to the other characters because then, their actions will support their respect for the man and puff him up in the readers eyes. It's all details.

Bernita sees those details. That's why she wants you to start with the seven HIGH backed chair and the ONCE-blood red rug and the other commentators hate wood veneer.

I fully realized that the next sentence might be the payoff. Set the scene a bit tighter and make the meeting important by inference. After all, seven folding charis around a card table won't cut it.

WouldBe said...

I assume that the Chamberlain in this story has official duties to run a household for a nobleman or royal. If that is so and the Chamberlain is the MC then you might consider having him in the room throughout the opening scene.

If the story is about the Chamberlain rather than the royal he serves, then he must be quite a manipulator to have earned MC status. But walking into the room and glaring is not manipulation. To manipulate, he needs to be in the room stirring the kettle rather than playing second fiddle to the he-who-must-be-obeyed figure who is about to enter the room.

I've made a lot of assumptions here, but perhaps that is because the opening forces me to.

Elissa said...

Late to the game, but here's my impression, and it's somewhat different than most everyone else's (except for the stuff that's the same, which I won't repeat).

I found this opening to be somewhat heavy and cliched, like something out of a Disney movie or "The Dark Crystal" (but maybe it's the mention of "Chamberlain" that reminds me of that movie--haven't trusted chamberlains since). Dark room, imposing furniture, dramatic decor, all backed by cheesy suspenseful music.

But my opinions often vary from the mainstream, so take it or leave it.

Scott said...


I wasn't trying to mock you when I said the payoff would occur in the next sentence. If I came across that way, I sincerely apologize.

And I do understand your point about the actions of the characters setting up the ensuing arrival. It all makes perfect sense, and I'll have to work harder to achieve the effect I'm after.

Valuable stuff, guys. Thanks again.