Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Beginning 372

The pain was fully gone, carried off in the swirls of cloying mist and ripples of dark water all about. It still lapped up against him, head to toe, like the intimate warmth and touch of a body, but the water had finally loosened its hold and allowed him to come awake. Stars glittered in the nighttime shroud overhead, but their light offered little to see by. At the edge of vision, where darkness reigned, mist stirred and came alive with the movement of furtive shadows.

“Who’s there?” Barr called out and rolled into a crouch, straining to see through the gloom. Mist roiled about and clung to his skin, sent a shiver down his back that conquered all warmth. “Hello?”

He saw them scatter and fade, as a whisper of magic touched his ears. His mother appeared from nowhere, stepping through the mists as if she too were a shadow given substance. Seeing her again brought back all the uncertainty he had tried to deal with the first time they met. He wasn’t sure how to react, how he was supposed to feel. All those years before his father Daroth was killed, then with Tuvrin and the elves, Barr had no idea what it was like to have a mother of his own.

At least not in this lifetime.

She stepped closer, looked up at him with pale blue eyes. She was iridescence itself, a shining light come to life. Her eyes, especially, gave Barr pause. They seemed far away, somehow, living in the other realm even as they gazed up at him. She spoke: “Like, kid, uh . . . Barr . . . bummer, dude. I mean, like, heavy, what am I supposed to do with you, huh?”


She cut him off, slicing her hand impatiently through the swirling night mist. “Drag, man. You should split, go back on the road with Tuvrin and the Elves. Bein’ a roadie is far out, dig?” She swirled her gowns, tye-dyed and strung with beads, and smiled up at him dreamily.

“Listen,” she went on, “I told that dude Daroth years ago, almost sixteen years, I wasn’t into his earth mother bag. But no, we had to do it naturally, we had to be one with the freakin’ universe, which was Daroth-speak for, ‘Oh Mary Beth, please don’t make me wear a condom.’”

Opening: Joe.....Continuation: Robin S.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

She smiled at him, a wispy smile that dissolved at the corners of her mouth, into the mist, yet beckoned him closer. Barr hesitated, but the lingering doubts subsided, and he smiled back at his mother and went to her.

With a swiftness and solidity not often associated with shadows, even magic shadows, she snatched his ear and twisted it downward. "For Grooble's sake, Barr! Are those vines growing outta your head? Can you at least wash your hair once and a while? And would it really kill you to try and keep one set of clothes from looking like they've been trampled by a herd of elf cattle? Do you know how difficult it is to get those stains out? Of course you don't. I'm the one who always does it. And what's that? Is that a sword? What have I said about swords, Barr? If I've told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't run around with sharp objects! You'll poke your eye out. And another thing…"


Her white dress drifted around her slim body like tendrils of the dissipating fog. As the figure approached, Barr could make out her face, gentle, haloed by soft, blonde hair. He reached out a hand, desperate to touch her. “Mother?”

She turned her sparkling sapphire eyes toward him. “Mother? You trying to be smart, boy? You got no goddamn respect anymore. What did I tell you about messing out here by the pond? Didn’t I tell you that old boat was a piece of crap? Didn’t I tell you your father, God rest his no good soul, never spent a minute to patch its holes? Now get your skinny wet ass off the ground and get inside that house where there’s trash to take out and floors to clean, or, God help me, I’ll take a switch to you yet.”

Barr breathed deeply of the crisp winter air. He knew exactly what to do, and turned and waded back toward the depths of the lake.

Perhaps in the next lifetime...



"The word does not roll off your lips so easily as it should," she said, standing in misty chiaroscuro. Pity.

"For you or me?"

"[i]Pity's[i/] the word for us both . . . and the kingdom, too."

"What?" Barr did not know his mother well, but the gravity of her unexpected visit began to weigh on him.

"The elves. They are in rebellion."

"Elves, in rebellion? Mother, that is not possible, is it? Only a great evil could forge a barrier between Uncle Garrot and the elves."

"That evil has a name. It is [i]Tuvrin[/i], your brother.

"Tuvrin? No!"

It is he who pursues your mother now, carrying her death sentence in his vest. She places herself under your protection and care; there is no other who can help her . . . Son."

--Bill Highsmith

Evil Editor said...

Too much mist. In the first two paragraphs the mist is cloying, stirring, roiling, and clinging; in the third p. the mother steps through it. Okay, it's misty.

Is it the water or the pain still lapping against him? It sounds like the pain, but you said the pain was fully gone.

His mother didn't appear from nowhere; she appeared from within or beyond the mist.

There's little light to see by where he is, yet out where darkness reigns he sees movement?

I'd cut back on the language of gloom; it feels like you've gone beyond what's necessary to set the scene, and are working from a thesaurus.

He saw them scatter and fade, as a whisper of magic touched his ears.

Saw what scatter and fade? Too much space between the pronoun and its antecedent, I've forgotten what you're talking about. And why his ears? This makes me think she said something to him.

Maybe the 2nd paragraph should just be: “Who’s there?” Barr called out and rolled into a crouch.

Remove "where darkness reigned" from the 1st p. and start the third with the appearance of Mom. It'll still be gloomy, but we'll get to Mom and the elves sooner.

~Nancy said...

Robin's continuation is a hoot! :-)

My first thought: It's misty, again and again and again. I get it, and I think your readers would, too. As much as I like the idea of setting a scene, it can be overdone, as it is here. I think I'd trim it to one sentence.

You could certainly describe how Barr feels within the gloom, which might alternately give us an idea as to what type of person he is.

He saw them scatter and fade, as a whisper of magic touched his ears.

Have to agree with EE here - what did he see scatter and fade? Gnomes? Gremlins? Unicorns? I wanted to know what Barr saw, especially as you're connecting it with magic (which means it must be some sort of magical being, right?).

This sounds kind of cool, Barr getting in touch with a mother he's never known. I'd read on.


BuffySquirrel said...

I figured out that what was scattering and fading was the furtive shadows, but I had to go back and re-read, which is a sure sign of impending rejection in the slushpile, I'm 'fraid.

One small issue that bugs me, but possibly not anybody else in the known universe: the first paragraph has consecutive sentences using a construction with "but". For me, that gives the prose too repetitive a rhythm. Although I've seen worse.

Although this is spooky, it's also imo generally overwritten. I write as one who knows :). There isn't always excess to trim, but I feel there's plenty here that could go. Tighter writing would make for a faster read.

not the author said...

You know, I guess showing your openings here is kind of like sex. I mean, you think you're hot stuff and you put it out there; you wait around until you get some interest; there's an intense burst of activity where you find out you're nowhere near as good as you thought you were; then someone else comes along and you're forgotten about.

Or is it just me?

Bernita said...

Basically good - so is EE's advice.
Don't make it more foggy by making us wonder just what is lapping at him.
"Seeing her again brought back all the uncertainty he had tried to deal with the first time they met. He wasn’t sure how to react, how he was supposed to feel."
Those two sentences, for example, really tell us the same thing. You don't need nuance his emotions all at once.

Dave F. said...

The writer's style reminds me of Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles.
"A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smoldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face that broke upon us... ... ...

This is the climactic appearance of the hound, THE Hound of the Baskervilles. It's fairly restrained because the reader already knows that hound rips peoples throats out and eats their hearts for snackies. (sorry, it just slipped out)

If that's the sort of effect you want to achieve, you're trying too hard. It's easy to overwrite this type of gothic gloominess because of its nature. Beware of too many adjectives and too many subordinate clauses.
Please note that Conan Doyl sandwiches two longish sentences around three short sentences. Reading the quote aloud explains why.

Evil Editor said...

Doyle had to overwrite that section; after we'd become convinced that Alien or Predator was wandering the moors, a restrained description would have been a letdown when we discovered it was just a doggie.

Kings Falcon said...

Apparently I was the only one who was lost by the first paragraph. What is going on? He was in pain. Then he was submerged (?) in water. Then the water rolls back so it's at his sides and he's looking at the stars. Because you are trying to create suspense by withholding information that Barr knows I am lost. Your POV knows what just happened and why. So should I.

Not every sentence needs a metaphor or an overblown description.

How does Barr roll into a crouch if he's floating in the water?

The third sentence seemed a bit info-dumpy too me. You have time to tell me the back-story but right now it's distracting me from figuring out what is happening. Also, isn't he expecting his mother to be waiting for him?

Anonymous said...

I would keep reading b/c there are enough questions that I'd like to have answered. I have to agree, though, that all ther references to the mist are redundant. Less of the dark mood and more of those details that make the reader wonder what is going on with the characters will be more engaging.

Dave F. said...

Oh yes, EE, oh yes.
Conan Doyle wanted that first appearance of the hound to scare the crap out of the reader.

It is, as the movie industry calls it, "revealing the face of evil".
Vincent Price (one of the great gentlemen of all time) portrayed many scary villians. He gave an interview about the very stylish movie - The Abomidable Dr Phibes - where his character seems to speak from behind a mask through a machine. Phibes' wife was lost on an operating table and he is killing the doctors and nurses he feels are responsible for her death.
We never see the real face of his character until the final confrontation when he has the surgeon's son strapped to an operating table with acid about to be poured on his head. Phibes explains that the surgeon's son will have a face like his and pulls the makeup off to reveal a bony, scarred skull - the face of evil.

Conan Doyle surely overwrites the scene because this is the hound of hell, later revealed to be less than that, of course but not at that initial climax on the foggy moor. Doyle builds the tension up to that point and then holds it until the final sequence where the true nature of the hound is revealed and the murderers stand exposed.

A writer only gets one chance to reveal that type of evil. It's a fine line between writing creepy and scary and building the tension OR overwriting an early scene and making the climax seem irrelevant.

BuffySquirrel said...

Not only that, not-the-author--it's preparation for what will happen if/when we finally get our books published :D.

Robin S. said...

Hi Joe,

I agree there's too much of a good thing in the opening - but you've written a lot of good stuff that's just maybe a little lost inside the rest. I'm an overwiter myself- especially when I'm first starting a story or chapter - so for me, excision is the way to go. I know it's hard to do that and keep the rhythm and the sound you want.

I'm not in the camp that would change much of the first paragraph - other than maybe to make the last sentence the first sentence of a second paragraph.

I'd rearrange a little-

1st paragraph- leave alone except remove last sentence and use it next paragraph:

2nd paragraph:
At the edge of vision, where darkness reigned, mist stirred and came alive with the movement of furtive shadows. "Who's there?" Barr called out. He watched them scatter and fade, as a whisper of magic touched his ears.

3rd par: His mother appeared from nowhere, as if she too were a shadow given substance.(And then continue with the rest of the opening).

Only a few things were cut, your own language is intact.

Hope this helps a little. I like how it reads and I simply think it needs a little tightening. All I did was take out most of the second papagraph, and two uses of mist.

Kanani said...

Purple prose is always a beauteous but cumbersome thing.
Cut through the description that doesn't reveal, but merely exists for beauty of prose alone. The other problem with this is that you'll end up repeating the same words over and over again...soon it'll sound all the same.

A little bit of poetic prose goes a long way. Too much and a good reader can tell you've been playing with words over thinking about creating a fully-fleshed character.

Robin S. said...

Purple prose? Isn't that a little over the top?

I've seen (and am very good at making wicked fun of - although have not done so on this blog) purple prose.

Quite a bit of this, in my opinion, is well done. Again - it just needs a paring, as far as I can see. Not everyone is clipped, short and to the point, and that works just fine for me. I like Hemingway, but if I read him every day, I'd blow my own brains out. Sometimes I'm not in that mood. Sometimes I want on-and-on. Gimme Faulkner. Or give me the subtle subterfuge of Walker Percy.

Take sex, for example. Let's say your partner is a boring-assed up and down and in and out idiot in bed. That's a two-minute warning if I ever heard one. (Get it over with.)

On the other hand, so to speak, there's the long-time lover.
Now there STILL may be the occasional two-minute warning (company coming, kid coming in from the movies, work was hell today and you're both exhausted.) But, more often than not, you take your time, because it feels really good - because you're close and you like it that way. And you don't want the short version - but you'll play it as it lays, on occasion, when the only choice is not to do it at all.

Different styles. It's a good thing.

Now I need to get ready for the season premier of The Office.

Anonymous said...

Purple prose? Isn't that a little over the top?

Ha, ha! Good one! Yes, Purple Prose generally is a little over the top!

McKoala said...

I lost my trust right at the start when you said the pain was gone, but then I interpreted 'it still lapped about him' to be the pain. A careful re-read showed me that it was the water. Then I was confused about the water and where he was, what he was doing. Floating? Drowning? Then apparently he's on land. Then his mother appears from the mist. How can he see the stars through the mist, by the way? And he's uncertain about their first meeting?

Sorry, but you've left me completely confused. I guess you were trying to intrigue, but there's too much there for me to sort out.

pacatrue said...

After robin s finished her comment she needed to get ready for the premiere of The Office. I needed a cold shower.

Obligatory... ;)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I needed a hot shower and a scrubbing brush .... each to her own

Robin S. said...

A scrubbing brush, anon? How boring.

Life's too damn short, and subject to surprisingly quick endings, to be that painfully, squeakily clean.

writtenwyrdd said...

YOu have some nice imagery in that first paragraph, but they clash. Not sure what is going on, literal water or water-as-pain.