Friday, November 21, 2008

New Beginning 577

It was a humid August night, and in seconds, Ceah Holt was going to walk into a glass wall. The street was empty. The sunset was draining. A song was in her mind and she watched a few scattered birds fly past the treetops as she walked.

She hadn’t felt this free in six weeks: summer school had ended that afternoon. She had taken Socials 10 so she could skip it in school and free up some blocks in later grades for AP courses and spares. She felt content. Accomplished. One step further on her path to success. She smiled up at the sky. She was fifteen and life was good for Ceah Holt. Yes, life was very good.


Ceah cursed, jumped back - and stopped. She and the glass stared at each other. Pressing her hand against the surface, Ceah tried to confirm what she was seeing: a large piece of glass in the middle of a Vancouver street.

I am going insane.

Something cold rolled over her fingers. She looked at her hand and her eyes popped; the glass had melted around her hand, burying it into the glass.

Biting back the urge to scream, Ceah attempted to wrench her hand out.

The glass poured over her arm like cold lava. Her entire right arm was immobilized. Ceah screamed. Her voice melted into the damp air.

Darkness loomed over her. It smiled.

"And so," concluded Professor Trumpet, "Ceah found herself in a totally different dimension, one with rainbows, silver trees, perpetually blue skies, and kindred woodland spirits." He shuffled his papers. "Time's up. Come to class next time armed with a plethora of portals, wardrobes, rabbit holes, etc. We shall discuss the various devices fantasy writers use to transport their characters from World A to World B."

Opening: Raylin Silver.....Continuaton: anon.


Evil Editor said...

There's something to be said for trying to hook us in the first sentence, but walking into a glass wall on the street might be as shocking to us as it is to Ceah if you haven't already revealed that it's going to happen.

The Socials 10 sentence raises several questions. Like, What is Socials 10, how can one thing free up blocks in more than one grade, what are spares? Are they what we used to call electives? I assume summer school is held in school, so she didn't take Socials 10 so she could skip it in school, but so she could skip it in fall semester maybe. It would be simpler to say:

She had taken Socials 10 to free up space in her fall schedule for an AP course.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

Life was good for darkness right then. It had completely swallowed the sunset and the birds and was nibbling away the sharp edges of the treetops. It had already engulfed the spaces under trees and between buildings. It was slowly licking the bright colors from the pedestrians on the sidewalk. One step further in the coming of total night. It drooled down at the earth, covering the flower garden in front of the library with inky drops. A few seconds ago it had sucked Ceah Holt into a glass wall. Yes, life was very good.


"Ceah, for Christ's sake, wake up!"
A slap like a dead salmon across her cheek.

"Whuh, um, huh?" Ceah blinked, recognized the roar of the audience, the hoots and catcalls and the glare of the lights all aimed at her and Tatum in the ring.

"Jaysus, girl, that's the last time I agree to fight a narcoleptic jello wrestler."


And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is how this supposedly harmless prank, the old invisible-wall-in-the-middle-
of-the-road, brutally killed a brilliant young woman in her prime--

"Objection, your Honor! This in no way establishes how my client could have possibly known Ms. Holt had a fear of glass--"

"He doesn't have to prove the production company knew of Ms. Holt's... unusual phobia," the judge said wearily. "That's why they call it involuntary manslaughter."

The judge narrowed his eyes at producer Gavin Whittaker, who squirmed in the defendant's chair. Who would have thought that "Funny Bloopers and Wacky Pranks XXI" could have gone so wrong?

--Sarah from Hawthorne

And it was wearing a Goalie's mask.

Ceah's entire body was now on the other side of the glass, smack dab in the middle of an alternate dimension that was smack dab in the middle of a hockey game . Luckily, so were her eyes; when they'd popped out, the glass had still been liquid and they'd landed near the blue line. Ceah quickly rescued her baby blues but stopped short of an icing call. She kept her head down and skated up-ice.

She gave in to the urge to scream when the puck hit her jaw.

I am going insane.

As she crawled to the box, she realized she was actually a "he" (anatomically correct) in this alternate reality. She wondered if the cigar was really a cigar, so to speak, until the moment when the sac hit the bench and then she had an overwhelming urge to scratch her balls, so she did.

Yes, life was very good, Ceph thought. He had the funny feeling that he had thought that very thought before.


Anger and incredulity seethed in Ceah's mind. Hilary said this thing was a ceiling, not a wall! And she said you could crack it if you tried hard enough! She might have mentioned that it sucks you in...

Then the glassy darkness froze around her thoughts.

Moral: Never listen to anyone from south of the border.


Ceah was found several days later, wandering in woodlands at the edge of town. Physically, she was unharmed, but her designer clothes had been replaced by a simple linen dress and she was quiet, introspective, thoughtful, compassionate, less self-assured: a very different young woman. Just as we promised.

So, if there's anything else we can help you with, Mr and Mrs Holt, just give us a call. You can settle your account at the desk on the way out.


BuffySquirrel said...

Whatever it is she's walked into, it isn't glass. Having her think it's glass is one thing; having the objective narrator TELL us it's glass is another. Objective narrators should not lie!

Anonymous said...

This feels like it is trying to hard and coming up short. Not a fan of telling us what she is about to do, since it seems that she is the pov character and she wouldn't know that she is about to crash. Speaking of which, I don't care for the "Crash." Seems like a lazy way of getting her into the glass. Don't care for the personification of things going on either-- she and the glass looking at each other (wtf), the darkness smiling. Watch for unintential repetition: "the GLASS had melted...burying it in the GLASS."

Sorry, the last new beg. was a hard act to follow.

Loved the continuation though. I thought, "Exactly!"

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Her name hangs me up everytime I see it.

And I understood the classes, and summer school and freeing up blocks of next semester for AP classes. Then again, I have a daughter who just went through all of that the last two years.

benwah said...

This falls flat for me.

It's largely tell, not show. The onomatopoetic "crash" is bland and yet without your previous telling us that Ceah is going to walk into glass, the sound is without attribution and meaningless. The sound could easily be a fender bender or a bike messenger colliding with a mailbox or a clumsy mover losing his struggle with a tiffany lamp. And Buffy is right; this glass-like thing isn't glass, yet your narrator tells us it is -- you've created a credibility problem.

Felt free, content, accomplished...again a rather bland repetition.

You've used "was" five times in the first graph which leads to boring sentence structure and rhythm.

Is the glass literally staring back? Or is it her reflection staring back? The tension here is why the hell's there a pane of glass in the middle of the street (although it's such a trope of cartoony car chases that I wasn't really hooked).

And, I'm afraid, the continuation points out a flaw with this sudden hunk of glass appearing out of nowhere.

Kiersten said...

I don't think you need any of the school stuff, unless you are trying to establish that she is firmly in our world. There's got to be a less clunky way to do so, probably in a single sentence. If I were less lazy, I would figure it out for you. But I'm very lazy.

Also, there's an unnecessary comma in the very first sentence, but since that sentence should go anyway, no worries.

I do quite like the description of the glass pouring over her arm like cold lava, and her voice melting into the damp air. The last two sentences are great.

This just needs some serious paring down. You've got good imagry, and I would be interested to find out what is going on.

vespers-for-ray said...

yay! Thank you all. I didn't know what to do with this...I didn't know what to fix...

(And the continuation made me laugh out loud!)

I'm currently revising this and I have gathered some have an issue with the first sentence, but I don't really gather what that issue is...except the fact that the objective narrator is lying, which I shall fix immediately!

Could anyone please explain the deficiencies of the first sentence to me?

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that since you had to try so hard to get this to work and it still doesn't work, you have the wrong starting point.

I like the idea of bumping against glass and having it suck her in, but it smacks so strongly of the Matrix scene where the mirror floods up Neo's arm that I think you need to deliberately make it not seem like that scene lest it appear as a cheap rip off. I sincerely doubt you were trying to describe exactly that special effect, but it sounds like it on paper as it stands.

good luck with therevisions!

Evil Editor said...

My complaint about the 1st sentence is that it gives away what's about to happen, eliminating the shock value of the "glass" in the street.

Buffy's complaint is that the all-knowing narrator is claiming it's glass, which isn't true.

Anon's complaint is that we're not in the point of view of an all-knowing narrator, but of Ceah. If we're in Ceah's POV, she shouldn't know she's about to walk into the glass, so how can she tell us so?

As it happens, removing the "and in seconds... glass wall" portion from sentence one satisfies all of us.

It does seem we're in Ceah's POV because of the line: I am going insane.

Not: I am going insane, Ceah thought.

We are in Ceah's head, and she shouldn't yet know about the glass in sentence one.

vespers-for-ray said...

Okay, so I fixed the beginning abit. Tell me if it's any good!

It was an inconspicuous August night, and Ceah hummed as she walked, eyeing a few scattered birds as they flew over the treetops. Sighing happily, she recalled that summer school had ended that afternoon. Now, with Socials 10 out of the way, she could free up some blocks for AP courses and spares. Ceah smiled up at the sky. She was fifteen, ambitious, and had her future absolutely secured. Life was good for Ceah Holt. Yes, life was very good.

Or so she thought.

A hard surface smashed into her face. She jumped back and cursed, expecting to see a pole, or a bus stop, or—her reflection? Ceah took one step forward, pressed her hand against her mirror image, and touched a smooth surface. She stared dumbly. A piece of glass? On a Vancouver street?

I am going insane.

She looked around her quickly, relieved to see that there were no other people. God, I must look like such an idiot right now…

Something cool rolled over her fingers. She looked at her hand and her eyes popped; the glass had melted around her hand.

Biting back the urge to scream, Ceah attempted to wrench her hand out.

The glass poured over her arm like cold lava. Her entire right arm was immobilized. Ceah screamed and her voice melted into the damp air.

Darkness loomed over her. It smiled.

Elissa M said...

I like the second version much better than the first. I don't like the repetition of "life was good" (in either version). I don't know if it's even needed the first time, since it's telling us something we've already been shown.

And I honestly don't know how darkness can smile, or how Ceah can see it smiling.

None of this is to say I'm not intrigued by the story. I'd keep reading. I'd read even further if it turns out the "glass" isn't a portal to another realm.

Anonymous said...

Weak first sentence on the redo. You start with "it" and then misuse the adjective. I mean, what's an "inconspicuous August night"? Inconspicuous means it's not that noticeable...

BuffySquirrel said...

Maybe the author was trying for inauspicious.

Anonymous said...

This is more subtle, admittedly, but the "or so she thought" is still a pov problem for me. Since we are in her head, she wouldn't think "or so I thought" BEFORE she hit the glass. Before she hits the glass, she is happily walking down the street. So again, for me, that is still illogical. It's the author intruding on close pov and it jars me.

vespers-for-ray said...

Okay, I get why the whole "Or so she thought" doesn't work here. But I thought that you could go into the character's head when writing in omniscient...? Or maybe I'm just confusing this with something else?

Anonymous said...

the problem here, vespers, is that it appears to be close pov and there's no clear indication of omniscient. either that or the *expectation* of 3rd person close in perspective is overwhelming the omniscient narration. In either case, it's something the writer needs to consider.

vespers-for-ray said...

Thanks, Anon. So in that case, how would I fix it so that the omniscient POV is more obvious? I can still go into her head with omniscient, right..?

Evil Editor said...

An omniscient narrator can go inside anyone's head. He sees all, knows all.

It's not used that commonly these days, possibly because no one sees all, knows all. Or possibly because it's more interesting to see the plot unfold through the eyes of one character.

More common than omniscient is to be in the head of one character during each scene. When you begin a new scene by skipping a line or starting a new chapter, you can change the character whose point of view you're in. Thus you're not limited to just one character for the whole book (unless you write in first person).

The point is, if you're reading about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, you might want to pretend you're Sherlock Holmes and try to solve the mystery. If you're in Holmes's head, the mystery is too easy to solve. But you're only in Watson's head, so it seems astounding when Holmes solves it. And you feel like an idiot when he reveals how elementary the solution is.

Omniscient isn't extinct, but readers who pay attention to POV don't expect omniscient.

vespers-for-ray said...

Ah. Okay. I get it. So...technically it's right, but people don't expect omniscient at all, so it's weird when they read it. Kay, I'll fix that up. Thanks you guys!