Monday, November 03, 2008

New Beginning 569

The man walked quickly, swinging his cane. Although his outer clothing was suitably dark, stray light from occasional windows touched the lace at his wrists. His footsteps echoed against tall houses. From time to time, he turned quickly to look behind, but always the street seemed empty. He tucked a book tighter under one arm and walked on.

Eventually, with a last glance to the rear, he turned down a narrow lane. No light shone from friendly windows here. His steps slowed.

“Keep walking,” hissed a voice in impeccable French. A shadowed figure came to his side, matching his pace over the uneven cobblestones. “You’re being followed.”

“I was careful,” the walker protested. “I saw no-one.”

“Two of them, keeping well back. You must not be found with it. Give it to me, and I will see it safe to France this very week.”

“No. I took the risk. I want to collect the reward myself.”

“This is too important to risk capture. I can pay you here and now.”

The walker cast another glance over his shoulder. In the faint light from the street he had left, a pair of burly silhouettes showed. One held a lantern high, but its light was insufficient to penetrate far along the narrow alley. “Merde. Give me my reward then.”

Quickly they exchanged anonymous packages.

"It is done. I bid you adieu."

"Wait. At least tell me your name."

The stranger thought for a moment. "Some people call me Maurice . . . "

* * *

Grisham stopped typing and rubbed his eyes. "OK, let's see what I've got. I've got a walker, I've got a talker, I've got a midnight stalker. . . Damn it!" He pulled the tiny speakers out of his ears. "I have got to stop listening to the Steve Miller Band when I write."

Opening: Jeb.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

The impeccable Frenchman held out an iPhone 3G.

"Here. With this, you will always know just how many minions are watching you!"


"Reward? Bien sur." The shadowy figure tensed, then relaxed. "By all the laws of genre fiction, I should stab you, loot your corpse and flee, but I can't bring myself to bloody such a nice suit of clothes. Here's fifty francs to bribe the two following you. Now, give me the Maguffin and be quick. There's only another half-page left of the prologue." --Batgirl

Light flared from lanterns and cheerful music rang from the windows above them. The burly silhouettes, each bearing a glowing lamp, advanced, kicking their feet high in rhythm.
"Yes, Mr. Walker, you can claim your reward now," announced the shadowy figure--rather less shadowy as the lanterns bore down on them. "But first, a skill-testing question."


Mention of the reward, combined with the ambience of the alley and the swinging lantern was too much.

The walker stopped walking.

The talker stopped talking.

The stalkers stopped stalking.

The main characters balked while the readers gawked.

Even poor Phoenix couldn't think of a suitable way to end this rhyme.

--Chris Eldin

"Hey! Over there!" One of the burly men held up his lantern and peered toward them.

"Very well." The walker handed over the book and took a package of money in exchange before disappearing into the night.

The shadowy figure squinted at the book: Speaking English With an Accent: The Truth About France.

"Alors! If zese secrets get in ze hands of ze Americains, our cultoor she will be worsless."


The man handed over the bound manuscript he carried and received in return a small envelope of cash.

"If this is truly what they wanted," the shadowed figure said, his voice low so as not to attract attention, "then more will follow. If not, then our business is done." He disappeared into the darkness.

The man looked back along the alley. The two burly figures were approaching. He adjusted his spectacles to try and make them out.

"There he is! Get him!"

The man slid into the shadows. It was getting ever harder to find a publisher willing to work with unagented authors, and the thugs from the AAR were always just one step behind.


"Nom d'un nom," hissed the voice, in perfect English. "What I have to go through to get a copy of Novel Deviations!"


Evil Editor said...

Not sure why no one is identified. One character is The man and the walker, one character is a voice and a shadowed figure, and the other two are two of them and burly silhouettes. Can you put it in first person or give the walker a name?

Would the walker really hand over "it" to a shadowed figure? The guy could be in cahoots with the burly silhouettes. Hissing in a foreign language would make him hard to identify by voice. Maybe he should say, "It's me, Francois. Give it to me, because the two burly silhouettes will take it from you, but will be unable to take it from me. Also, they're probably going to kill you whether you have it or not, so you may as well give it to me.

writtenwyrdd said...

This read like a prolog to me. Not bad, but not all that interesting due to the watered down nature of the tension. I think just giving a more of a pov character and that individual's feelings (fear, nerves, etc.) might give enough edginess. I'd have read on, though.

Anonymous said...

Great continuation!

Dave F. said...

You've got adverbs messing up your narrative. EEEUUWWW - adverbs.
(Pardon me, that was gratuitous and mean-spirited. I apologize.)
Adverbs are like a zit on a teenage girl who has a date that night. In the long term, inconsequential but immediately, a disaster.

quickly, suitably, and quickly a second time, eventually, friendly, are sucking the action out of your writing. Try rewriting those lines without adverbs.

Just for the sake of a name, I'll use Maurice.

Maurice fast-stepped through the shadows, cane forward, light from the odd window touching his face, revealing the lace around his wrists. From the dark spots, he'd turn and listen for movement behind him. Silence, emptiness and yet, He clutched the book tighter.

I also have a suggestion about the dialog.
Keep walking,
"You’re being followed." AND
Two of them, keeping well back.
are duplicative in triplicate. They slow down the dialog and action. If the second man simply said:
"Keep walking. Two men are following you."
Then since there are only two people in the scene, Maurice has to answer "I was careful. I saw no one."
And then the strange man with no name can continue with:
"We can't risk losing the book."

and that goes faster, speeds the action. I like to keep dialog together. But then, I also have a habit of writing only dialog and filling out the setting and colorful details afterward. I'm wordy when I talk but when I write, I try to make the dialog sparse as if the conversants speak in shorthand.

BTW - how do we know this stranger is what he purports to be?

benwah said...

I don't quite share EE's desire for naming some of your characters here. As WW pointed out, it reads like a prologue and we haven't yet found our footing. That's fine (for me, anyway).

But some of the writing didn't

"suitably dark." What does that mean? If you're saying his top coat (a stronger and more specific term than "outer clothing" which could be a parka or a burka) is "suitably" dark, does that mean he's an undertaker? Or in camoflage? While the lace is a nice touch, you're implying that it's white, but it needn't be.

"No light shone from friendly windows." Does that mean light shone from the grouchy ones? Again, I think you mean the windows in this lane are all dark. But the windows being friendly or not...meh. This isn't Disney and I trust you don't really wish to anthropomorphize the windows.

Again with the French.

If the walker doesn't know the hissing Frenchman, I find it hard to believe he'd hand over the book. If he does know him, you should include a line or gesture or response that lets us know that.

Is the book the package? It's not clear to me.

This is okay, but the clarity issues, if they pile up, would put me off from reading much further.

pacatrue said...

I was drawn to the situation quite a bit, so for me this is a great place to start in the story. Others have talked about ways to change the writing.

Since a Steve Miller Band album was the first one I ever bought as a child, I heart the continuation. I am sad that there was no "pompitous of love" however.

Anonymous said...

I liked suitably dark--I took it to mean that it was dark enough so that he blended into the night, as contrasted with the light that was picked up by the lace. Did not like friendly windows. Also didn't mind the lack of names as this read very prologue-ish to me.

Evil Editor said...

While I don't need to know their names (and in fact there's no reason to believe the POV character knows anyone else's name), calling one character the man when every character in the scene is a man, and calling one character the walker when every character in the scene is walking, and calling one character a shadowed figure when every character in the scene is a shadowed figure is likely to lead to confusion sooner or later. Is it that hard to identify someone by a trait that's unique to him? The man in the gabardine suit, or the Brazilian?

Dave F. said...

The most famous "man with no name" is the character that Clint Eastwood plays in the Sergio Leoni spaghetti Western trilogy and even then, one of the named characters keeps calling him "Blondie"...

Jeb said...

What a lot of continuations.

"Now, give me the Maguffin and be quick."

LOL! Batgirl has read (or written) the whole first scene!!!

Agreed that the characters need some names or other distinguishing features. This is from an old historical mystery that I decided long ago never to attempt to publish, and not just because I've learned in the interim how bloody annoying openings with nameless mystery characters are.

After I sent this, I realized it was utterly adrift in time and geography, as well as other grounding details. I should have either written the locale into the opening or at least included the dateline at the top, which is in the manuscript proper:

London, November 10, 1812

But then I'd have missed the iPhone continuation, and possibly the ones with bad French accents.

Thanks for the comments.

talpianna said...

I want to know how someone manages to hiss “Keep walking,” a phrase with no sibilants.

ril said...

I want to know how someone manages to hiss “Keep walking,” a phrase with no sibilants.

He's speaking French.

talpianna said...

You can't really hiss "continuer à la marche," either.