Friday, November 14, 2008

New Beginning 574

Let me tell you a secret. It's something they don't want you to know. If you keep believing the lies they're feeding you, about faerie tales and happy endings, you'll be completely defenseless when they come for you, and then it will be too late. Maybe it already is too late. But I've got to try to save you. I've got to tell you the truth:

Faeries aren't immortal.

I know what you're thinking. What about the three faeries from Sleeping Beauty? What about faerie godmothers? What about all those stories you heard as a child and believed, wholeheartedly, until the sad, dark reality sunk in and you stopped believing in anything you couldn't see, touch, taste? If faeries were real, they'd be little glowing spirits flitting around on gilded wings, kissing babies and fixing failed relationships with a flick of the wrist and flash of glittery light. Right?

Not exactly.

"Uh, Mr. Clempson, let me stop you right there. They are not faeries, they are cockroaches, and they are damned near immortal, and this apartment is not worth two thousand bucks a month, so let's start again, shall we?"

Opening: Chelsea P......Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuation:

See, that's what I mean. I'm driving along Van Buren and SPLAT something cracks the windshield. So I pull over to see what I hit, and there he is. Stuck under the wipers.

They can die.

And this one's going to cost me $127.50 for a new windshield.


Evil Editor said...

The third paragraph doesn't seem to be making the expected point. What's expected from the way it begins is that it will say something like:

I know what you're thinking. Every faerie you've ever read about was immortal. Don't believe everything you read.

The actual paragraph seems to address whether real faeries are like those in faerie tales, not whether they're immortal. Now if you changed Faeries aren't immortal to Faeries aren't philanthropists...

Sank, not sunk.

Anonymous said...

What about the three faeries from Sleeping Beauty? What about faerie godmothers?

None of those are necessarily supposed to be immortal, are they? Anyway, you might want to specify that the fairies you "know I'm thinking" about are modern Disney-types, not the kind that spit on your eye so you can see to deliver their babies, and then blind you. I mean, old-school Tam Lin stuff isn't that obscure these days.

NICE continuation. :)

Anonymous said...

Who are you talking to? (For that matter, who is talking?)

Because most people, at least in the U.S. if you believe the stats, apparently go from believing in fairy tales to believing in some sort of higher power, often referred to as God, so not sure your logic is on target in the third para. Not debating the merits of going from one belief to other other, just pointing it out...

batgirl said...

It's got some intrigue to it, but could be trimmed and intensified. I'm all for the fairy tales, but found myself wanting the point to come along a bit earlier.

And I know this is picky of me, but the 'faerie' spelling usually indicates the old-school human-size wild-hunt type of fae, not the Tinkerbell Disney(tm) sort that the following description brings up. The Disney sort are definitely 'fairy'.
By the way, there's a children's book called The Various, about a slightly different type of old-school fae.

Hey, khazar, have you seen Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book?

Dave Fragments said...

Many years ago, I gave my niece the very first "Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book."

There are two narratives going on here. One that fairies aren't immortal and the other that fairies aren't like Disney's Tinkerbell or Snow White's Fairy Godmother. I suggest you pick one of the narratives and drop the other (or use it later).

You could introduce the fairy hero of the story in the second paragraph - Faeries aren't immortal. by adding "at least I'm not." Or "Sharon wasn't." Or "Not in Syracuse, NY yesterday. The one I met was 6'4" and built like a lumberjack." Or maybe "Except the ones that spit fire and throw flaming thunderbolts."

That will put some physical substance to the opening and hopefully draw the reader into the story.

Anonymous said...

Last sentence in the third paragraph is too wordy. Read it out loud. Too many adjectives. Too many different images-they all muddle together. Tighten.

Evil Editor said...

First time I've ever a one-word sentence called wordy, but I agree, that word needs to be tightened. How about: "Eh?"

Anonymous said...

Yes, batgirl, I have. I don't believe any were scraped off of windshields, though.

Frankly, I like the style, but if it's not a story about a fairy exterminator service I will probably be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Okay, second to last.

And I like how you tightened your first sentence by dropping the verb. Edgy.

Anonymous said...

I felt like I was being lectured to by a belligerent elf who had a lousy childhood but now only drinks after 5PM - mostly.

Maybe I'm just not into this style.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book is vile, evil and awful. BOO.

But I digress.

I do have one question for the commentators: how did the first paragraph work for you?

For some reason, I've always been insecure about that paragraph - maybe because I like it and fear changing it. But a lot of you took issue with the later parts, which makes me wonder if paragraph 1 was OK. Thoughts? Feelings? Lamentations?

Also, do any of you critique over at I would love this kind of insight on longer pieces of writing.

And EE, you're right. "Right" was a freakishly long sentence. Sometimes I babble like that. What can I say?

I will be back to respond to each of you when this thing has been up a bit longer. :)

Chelsea Pitcher said...


So common consensus is, switch out Disney references with the likes of Titania, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Tamlin's faerie queen and Leanan Sidhe. But not Keplie. Kelpie is so trendy nowadays.


Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Chelsea. I'm afraid this opening feels bipolar to me all the way around. Paragraph one, which you asked about, makes the assumption that we, the readers, are still believing in happy endings. Yet paragraph three infers we, the readers, have seen the dark and no longer believe.

And I, too, never thought that even the fairy faeries were immortal. Didn't we all clap to keep a dying Tinker Bell alive? Revealing their mortality as a secret that's going to save me is a huge letdown. What are you really setting the reader up for? Showing the reader how to kill a faerie or eradicate their kind completely?

And, yeah, if you set us up with "faerie" rather than "fairy", we ain't thinking Disney. Your intended audience will know difference from the get go.

Also, I'm assuming that you segue soon from present tense/second person to something else? The tense and tone could work well as a prologue-ish beginning, but you have to tweak it to your audience - and keep it consistent - to make it really work.

Anon 2:46 - Been here long? You fit right in.

Khazar - love your contin.

talpianna said...

Tinkerbell had the clap???

Dave Fragments said...

I kinda don't like the immortality stuff. Unless it is important to the story, you only need to establish that your fairies are not Disney-like, benevolent Pollyannas.

I'd take this:
Let me tell you a secret. ... If you keep believing the lies they're feeding you, ... you'll be completely defenseless when they come for you

and mate it with this:
Faeries aren't ... little glowing spirits flitting around on gilded wings, kissing babies and fixing failed relationships with a flick of the wrist and flash of glittery light.

Then introduce your character.

BTW - on a lighter note: THere were five years of Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Calenders. They were great for stocking stuffers and raging laughter. Sadly, Lady Cottington ran out of fairies. However, I replaced them with the warped, warped, warped Bunny Suicides ;)

Anonymous said...

I gave Tinkerbelle the clap, back in the day. So, I too was among those suspicious of an intro. . . I believe Phoenix said it quite succinctly:

Revealing their mortality as a secret that's going to save me is a huge letdown.

and it made me wonder if this was YA. So the tone might work better there. But the POV does seem pov-vy.

I guess the main thing I wanted to add: The 1st sentence is such a set-up phrase and/or cliche, that the reader really, (I mean really)expects a grand thing and the "Not-immortal-but-sure-as-hell-real" proposition doesn't quite deliver. Not sure if I'd read on, no matter how you spell fairy!


writtenwyrdd said...

I rather like the start, but I want to know who is speaking and have some physical surroundings and activity going on. Does the speaker grab the presumed listener by the lapels, shove his face in the listener's and proceed to speak like a rabid maniac, spraying spittle in the guy's face becasue the speaker is a maniac whom we should run like hell away from? Or is this person an avuncular sort with merry Santa Claus eyes and a voice that could entice said fairies to land on his fingers adn wait blissfully until he pinches their heads between his fingers?

Surroundings and visual cues set the stage for the story. They make a promise as to what the story is going to be to the reader. They act to garner attention and suck the reader in.

There's not enough of that here.

Anonymous said...

Phoenix, I think 'immortal' doesn't always mean 'incapable of being killed." Tinkerbelle was poisoned. Tolkien's Elves are immortal in the sense that they don't die of old age, but not that they can't be killed.

Chelsea, it;s hard to tell about the first para without having a clearer sense of how we're meant to respond to the narrator. I got the impression of a bitter and somewhat unbalanced speaker who cares about the person they're addressing. It also started me wondering if the 'they' who 'don't want you to know' are the faeries themselves or someone else.

I didn't get the 'faerie-exterminator' sense at all. I did wonder about the switch from 'faeries aren't immortal' to "faeries aren't benevolent'. I figured we were being set up for one of two things. (1-- faeries are actually much shorter-lived than humans; they sometimes offer humans the chance to exchange natures and lifespans, counting on the human belief that faeries are immortal or (2-- faeries wish they actually had the immortality and the powers that humans ascribe to them, and the gap between stories and reality makes them bitter, so they go around putting evil enchantments on writers (or maybe even enthusiastic readers) of faerie tales.

I'd like to know what's really coming next :-)

EB said...

I'm with Wendy on this one.

Then again, I have no idea what difference between "fairy" and "faerie" is. (I rather assumed it was like "gray" vs. "grey", but apparently not.)

Interesting about Tink having the clap though.

danceluvr said...

"Tinkerbell had the clap???"

Thanks, talpianna, for the laugh. Needed it today while LA is burning -- again.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the term "faeries" is out of vogue and we are now supposed to call them "metrosexuals".

Ellie said...

Let me tell you a secret. It's something they don't want you to know. If you keep believing the lies they're feeding you

While I think the idea of this beginning is good, in practice, you're kind of saying the same thing three times in a row. It doesn't draw me in nearly as quickly as it would if it were leaner and less repetitive. Dave F.'s is an example of what I mean.

talpianna said...

Spenser used the spelling in The Faerie Queene. I'm not sure if it signified anything special, since English spelling wasn't standardized at the time. His characters were called faeries, but that's just because the narrative setup (such as it is) takes place in an alternate allegorical England called "Faerie"; other writers have used "Logres," which is an old name for England. They are, except for the allegorical element, just humans in form, powers, and behavior.

Keats used "faery" to mean something a little different from the tradition. In older English legend and folklore, fairies/faeries came in all shapes and sizes; but the ones who made it into the stories were usually human-sized and capable of having love affairs with mortals. They were by no means benevolent, which is why you weren't supposed to mention them by name, lest you summon them--you called them "the Good People" or "Pharisees."

The cutesy-poo little buttercup-dwellers come from Shakespeare's comic fairies in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and especially Mercutio's Queen Mab speech in ROMEO AND JULIET; Drayton's NYMPHIDIA and other imitations of Shakespeare, and even Spenser's own MUIOPOTMOS: or, The Fate of the Butterfly, a mock epic in which the characters are insects but are described as miniature humans.

Hmm. I think I shall continue this in my blog.

writtenwyrdd said...

If it's any help to you all, the variations of fairy, faerie, fery, and feri crop up in wiccan these days. There seems to be a decided preference among a lot of neopagans for 'faerie' because of the coolness factor or something.

In writing, I like the 'faerie' spelling because it gives the sense of being not from 'fairy tales' and of being something new and different. It may or may not be.

Is it a trend? Dunno. But I do suspect that the neopagans are influencing the choice, if only a small amount.

Anonymous said...

Ellie said the thing I was going to point out. That'll teach me to be too tired to hit the keyboard early.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

If Tinkerbell has the clap, can the clap be cleared up by clapping?

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Ok kids. I'm about to post a rewrite but first, a couple of clarifying points:

This is YA fiction, for those who wondered.

The tone of the opening is supposed to sound conspiratorial, rather than belligerent or bitter. At least, that was the intent.

For me, "fairy" is something imaginary and "faerie" is (or has the possibility to be) something real. And yes there can be a connection to pagans/Wiccans and their belief in earth spirits.

Some of you had questions about the plot that wouldn't necessarily be cleared up from any opening. If you want you can reference the reworked query for The Last Changeling in the comments section of Face Lift 567:

Chelsea Pitcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brenda said...

Um, since when did Snow White have a fairy godmother? I missed that version.

My 8 year old daughter would love this beginning. It has an attitude that would speak to her.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I don't know if anyone is coming back here (come back! Tink will be stuck with the clap if you don't come back and clap!) but on the chance that they are, I shall take the time to answer some specific concerns.

I believed the "immortality" thing was important because the speaker is a faerie and her life is in danger. Obviously this didn't land, so I took it out. You see: you ask, you receive. Sometimes.

Tam Lim obscure? Are you kidding? It's the go-to reference these days. It's like people think no other Scottish ballads exist.

The narrator was speaking to a 17 year old boy, describing fey she thought he'd most likely recognize. But, like I said, it didn't land, so I tweaked it.

It is a little odd that so many people spoke of sleeping beauty and fairy godmothers as if they originated with Disney, though.

anon #1
I love this. But people don't necessarily go from believing in faeries to believing in gods either. People who believe in gods, a lot of the time, believe in them from their youth. And some people start out believing in faeries (earth spirits) and continue on that way. Still, your Point is valid, and well-received.

dave f.
I love your "lumberjack" continuation. Just awesome. Still boo to Lady Cottington's, and yet I find the Gashlycrumb Tinies delightful.

Just looked up Bunny Suicides. Could not stop laughing. I suppose you can only hear those fascist kids taunting, "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids," so many times before you lose it completely.

Anon 2:10
Read my work ALOUD? Are you kidding? This NEVER occured to me. *hit self in head*

Honey I've read this thing aloud so many times I can recite this passage 100 miles from the manuscript. I've read it so many times the words sometimes cease to mean anything. And the (second to) last sentence in that paragraph used to have more adjectives. Oh yeah, I said it. MORE adjectives. :)

I was not going for "bitter." Definitely not "belligerent drunk." Yikes. Hopefully the new version is less so . . .?

Talpianna is right-o about the different interpretations of faeries, though something few people realize is that the transition from belevonent to malevolent happened largely during the spread of Christianity (at least throughout Western Europe, where a lot of the referenced stories come from.) Pagan-ish, earth worshipping religions often recognized faeries as earth spirits. Christianity obviously had little room for benevolent earth spirits who lived independently from humans and God, and thus they were likened by the Church to demons and vilified for centuries. So now we have this good faerie/bad faerie split and most people don't even know why. Same with witches.

On a side note, playful little attendant faeries did not "come from" Shakespeare. He Popularized them. (And Titania and Oberon were not purely comical. Their every action effected the entire planet.) Little elementals have existed in mythology long before Shakespeare, all over the world.

thank you for the comment about your daughter. The book is geared toward 12 and up, because of some somewhat-mature issues involved, but I'm glad you think it has a speaking-to-youth quality.

Everyone else
If I didn't comment to you personally, I probably took your suggestions and applied them to the new query, or else answered your question in my reply to another. Thank you all so much once again. If you have comments on the new version I'm happy to hear them. :)