Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New Beginning 571

Myl stood in the chicken run, throwing handfuls of seed to the greedy hens. She threw the grain like stones, as if it would keep them back, not bring them to her.

Eat and eat, she thought. Then you'll be eaten.

She saw her brother's dusty fair hair over the fence, and her hand went to the kerchief that covered her own shorn head. Tyl leant against the post, waiting for her to be done. She flapped her empty apron at the chickens to show them, then caught the fence rail, hooked bare toes over a slat, and swung herself to the other side.

The bruise on Tyl's face had faded to yellow, but he held himself stiff with yesterday's stripes, where the head groom--his master on the morrow--had laid a stick across his fishbone back. He's a child, she raged, to be switched or slapped, not beaten like a full-grown stable-lad.

If this your mother knew, Her heart would break in two.

The rhyme buzzed in her head until she wanted to shake it loose. She caught hold of Tyl's threadbare shirt and dragged him around the corner of the capon cote, where they couldn't be seen.

"You need to leave," she hissed to Tyl as she pulled him against the rough wood of the cote. "You need to leave right now."

"Ow!" He jerked out of her grasp and gingerly touched the fading bruise on his cheek. His thin face twisted in confusion. "What do you mean?"

Myl waved her hand, her gesture encompassing the farmyard, the dust, the manor. "Have you noticed how everything here is really, really terrible?"

"Yeah." The word was half-laugh, half-sigh.

"But I never seem to leave or fight back or do anything about it?"

"Yeah." Now Tyl's voice was accusatory.

She grabbed the front of her brother's shirt and pulled his face close to hers. "This doesn't feel like one of those literary novels where everyone is depressed for three hundred pages. I think the author's going to give me a kick in the pants to set me on a path of vengeance. Probably by killing you off." Myl released him with a push. "I'm sure somebody will be starting another Dune novel in about five minutes. See if you can get into that one instead."

Opening: Batgirl.....Continuation: Ellie


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"Why," whispered Myl, "did Mom sign us up for Kid's Nation Two?"


Ellie said...

Haha, I like the other continuation better.

This opening was a-MAZ-ing. I want to read the whole story RIGHT NOW.

Evil Editor said...

She flapped her empty apron at the chickens to show them.

Does this mean she flapped her apron at the chickens to show them it was empty? It's more clear this way.

--his master on the morrow--

Not clear what this means. The head groom is being promoted to master tomorrow?

writtenwyrdd said...

Sounds like it's set in the Depression until I learn the kid is either going to be indentured or enslaved as the stable guy's lacky.

I did like this a lot because of all the lovely little details that both show the situation and the girl's character. The fact that she is angry and wants to take it out on the chickens but doesn't do anything viscious is particularly telling. :)

I think it just needs a tiny bit of tweaking. I'd have read more.

Anonymous said...

Great opening. Would definitely read on.

Stylistic question that has been discussed on other blogs.

"He's a child, she raged, to be switched or slapped, not beaten like a full-grown stable-lad."

I'm not sure why, maybe the use of "raged" instead of thought, but without the italics to signify inner thought, I had to reread this. So question for the minions about pov character inner thoughts:
a) italics, no tag
b) italics, with tag like he thought
c) no italics, with tag
d) work inner thought into narrative so you don't need a, b or c


pulp said...

Funniest continuation in a long while!

I assumed the author meant she was shooing the chickens, not showing them: a spelling or typing error.

I was confused by "his master on the morrow," too.

(Google/Blogger acting fussy; sorry if this shows up twice.)

BuffySquirrel said...

Those first two lines almost work, but not quite imo. The first line is a bit bland, and then it's strengthened by the second line, but that in turn is over-explained.

Maybe combine the two?

Myl stood in the chicken run, throwing grain at the greedy hens like stones.

If she's thinking about what she's doing as throwing stones, we can infer that her attitude to the chickens is negative.

benwah said...

brilliant continuation.

chelsea said...

I liked this opening a lot and I think you've struck a good balance between info and action.

The biggest issue I had was with "He's a child, she raged" and I see other people took issue with this as well. The paragraph seems to be about Tyl from the narrator's point of view, but then it switches suddenly to Myl's POV. I wonder if making that sentence a new paragraph and saying "Myl raged" instead of "she raged" would clear that up.

One other small thing: would you consider changing head groom into Head Groom? The title came at me too quickly and I had to step back to realize what you were saying.

Other than those small things, I have no other ideas for making this better. This is a great opening and I agree with those who said they'd like to read the book.

Anonymous said...

Re: inner thoughts, it works better above--

"Eat and eat, she thought. Then you'll be eaten."--

I think because of the tag "she thought" rather than she raged. I think you'd need italics with she raged. But then you'd have to be consistent and do it throughout. I don't think it's a POV change--this seems like close 3rd P, and this is just her inner thought.

Jeb said...

Very good emotion and scene-setting here. A sense of peril and a definite flavour of worse to come. I'd read on.

talpianna said...

This is THE WILLOW KNOT, isn't it? Have you any notion how annoying "Myl and Tyl" is going to become in a hundred pages or so?

freddie said...

I really liked this opening, but I didn't dig the rhyming sentence. That's just a personal preference.

Ellie's done a few great continuations lately, and this is no exception. Hilarious!

benwah said...

Some nice details here: the old bruise and the new lashes which tell us these beatings have been going on awhile; the throwing of grain like stones.

I have little else to add to the "raged" debate. Rage is an emotion but when it comes to the verb, I would expect to see external signs. The Hulk rages. At least have her bite down on her lip to keep her rage in check.

Myl & Tyl... A bit of a tough pyl to swallow for an entire book.

batgirl said...

Ellie, that is sooo brilliant. I send you a heaping tribute of virtual cookies, in whatever flavour(s) you prefer.

Thank you all for finding this depressing - I know that sounds weird, but the first crit session I took it to wanted the unhappiness to be 'front-loaded' to the first page.

Myl's name shifts to Mylla and last to Myllasande as her status improves. Tyl is Tylman. If an editor doesn't like the names, I'll change them with lightning speed - they're placeholders and a hommage to Maeterlinck (the children in Bluebird of Happiness, and yes, it's a pointlessly obscure reference).

Tyl's being made servant to the head groom is clarified in the next couple of paragraphs, and it's the spur for their running away.

So 'raged' is too far from the 'like stones' to connect mentally? Hm.

Ellie said...

I hope you'll see this, batgirl, although it's a pretty late comment.

Thanks for your kind words!

I like the front-loading of misery. It does make me want to read on. Then again, I love A Song of Ice and Fire, so that tells you how depressing I like my literature.

batgirl said...

Thanks, Ellie - oddly, an early beta reader said this story went from Little House on the Prairie to Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe I have a theme going?