Monday, December 08, 2008

New Beginning 583

The lugger ghosted northward, parallel to the rugged shoreline, its gray hull and oak-tanned sails almost invisible in the pre-dawn darkness. All through the midnight hours it had silent crept up coast and down beneath the scudding clouds, waiting for some signal from the thin, dark line of the land. Three passengers huddled in their damp cloaks between lashed barrels and tried to believe they were comfortable.

It might almost have been true for the older woman, whose sturdy bulk seemed to withstand the chill better than her young companion’s smaller form. Shivering violently, Amelie wished, not for the first time on their long, secretive journey, that she might find even a quarter of Marthe’s stoic strength. She wondered again at Marthe’s revelation, given only when they were safe aboard with sails set for England: she was going home.

Until the long-ago age of fifteen years, old Marthe had lived along that inhospitable dark shore lurking somewhere off the starboard bow. In those days, nigh unto fifty years ago, travel between England and France was open to anyone who could pay for passage. Now the only possible journey between the two countries was dark, dangerous and wet.

Still, the passengers, wealthy though they were, willingly endured all manner of hardship. Amelie wondered if perhaps they did it to prove they weren't soft at the knees. All this cold and rain and exposure to . . . "questionable" people. And for what?

She looked at Marthe, who seemed content despite her discomfort, and realized: the trip had been worth it. Where else could they have gotten a decent croissant?


Opening: jeb.....Continuation: freddie

9 comments:

Evil Editor said...

p1: The midnight hours? How many midnight hours are there? Or is that a common nautical expression? Maybe "mid-night"?

"it had silent crept" Is that intentional? It sounds old fashioned but it might be hard to handle for a whole novel.

P2: Though it's clear that Amelie is the young companion, sentence 1 leads us to believe you're going to be talking about the older woman.

P3: We don't need the word "old" as you've descibed the age of 15 as "long ago." "Old" doesn't make it much more specific.

Why do you specify that there are three passengers but mention only two?

writtenwyrdd said...

There's some awkwardness to the language and some pov shifts, but the visual imagery you started with is very lovely. I'm totally confused at "she was going home" as it took four reads for me to decide you meant the 'she' to refer to Marthe and that Marthe was returning to England.

I'd say tighten and focus on being in the pov character's head and you have a nice opening.

My attemps at pruning:

"The lugger ghosted northward, parallel to the rugged shoreline, its gray hull and tanned sails blended into the pre-dawn dark. All through the long night it had crept up coast and down beneath the scudding clouds, awaiting some signal from the thin, dark line of land. Three passengers huddled in their damp cloaks between lashed barrels and tried to believe they were comfortable.

It might almost have been true for the older woman, whose sturdy bulk seemed to withstand the chill better than her young companion's smaller form. Shivering violently, Amelie wished, not for the first time on their long, secretive journey, that she might have even a quarter of Marthe's stoicism. And she wondered again at Marthe's revelation--that Marthe was returning home, that she'd lived along this inhospitable dark shore until she was fifteen years old.

That was long ago now. And in those days, nearly fifty years ago, travel between England and France was open to anyone who could pay for passage. Now the only possible journey between the two countries was dark, dangerous and wet."

BuffySquirrel said...

Some good writing here, although I don't think you need pre-dawn.

Up and down the coast? Which way is the wind blowing? Wouldn't they do better to lie-to off-shore?

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that the omniscient pov at the beginning is fine. You will likely receive complaints from many about it; but it's a common and acceptable to open with an omniscient pov and 'zoom in' to the pov character.

What I meant by being in the pov character's head was regarding the point after we get into Amelie's perspective.

Dave F. said...

I read these three paragaphs and wanted more. I wanted Amelie to speak to Marthe about the cold with words like: "I'm cold Marthe, I wish I had your strength" between the second and third paragraphs.

I'd either reveal that we are in the English channel in the first paragraph by saying noting that "journey between the two countries was dark, dangerous and wet."
Or, I would remove "parallel to the rugged shoreline," and "waiting for some signal from the thin, dark line of the land." and use them in the third paragraph when you talk about the two countries.

McKoala said...

I love, love, love that first line.

Xenith said...

That's not backstory sneaking in there is it? I want to know what these characters are up to now, whether they interest me, whether I care enough about them to keep reading. I don't want to now about something that happened fifty years. Later, sure, not now.

freddie said...

In the first paragraph, we get how difficult it is to travel. Then you introduce your characters in the second paragraph. In the third paragraph, you go back to talking about how difficult it is to travel.

I need some elaboration on the last sentence of the second paragraph.

But the writing is very good and you've set a lovely tone. This feels a little like gothic horror to me, which is a personal fave. At any rate, I'd read on.

Jeb said...

Thank you for all the detailed comments. They are all useful.

I forgot I had sent this one in, so seeing it, and seeing it get some positive response, gave me a double bonus today. Better than a double-chocolate latte.