Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Beginning 587

July 14

A fleck of blue gleamed in the sunlight on a patch of white snow and gray sand.

"A flower on a glacier?" Einar asked himself as he scrambled up the slope. "A single forget-me-not?" The sight of it brought to mind what he had been trying to remember all morning: today was Bryndis's birthday.

Einar was not a plant man. He was a birdman, especially when it came to the savory ptarmigan. And hreindyr—reindeer hunters were his thing now. He was on hreindyr surveillance now, checking the trails and the herds before the utlendingar came in August. He knew no bird would fly this high and hreindyr were also rare: there were no plants. Nothing more than the wind and lichens usually made it to this elevation. But somehow a seed had found the spot and a blue gleym-mer-ei had sprouted.

The flower was just outside the shadow of a boulder. Rivulets of water spilled from a pool of ice and snow at the base of the rock. A ragged piece of cloth poked through the water and the debris. Einar stepped into the pool to pull up the rag, thinking it was probably a burlap picnic sack dropped by some hiker. But when he touched the rough material and tried to tug it from the ice, he could feel the ribbed threads of woven cloth. The material was not burlap sacking and it was frozen to a hard leathery surface which he could glimpse where the stringy cords had rotted. He suspected the piece of burlap was clothing, a cloak or a hood unlike any he had ever seen before, a garment from a human body in the ice. And he was certain this find was not anyone who had gone missing recently.

A sound behind him made Einar freeze. He was not alone. A voice rumbled and boomed across the icy wasteland.

"Dammit, Roxie -- I thought I told you to clean out the ice box? There are freaking roaches in here!"

Einar scuttled away.

"And one of 'em's still alive! Gross. I'm gonna order Pizza."

Fearing for his life, Einar hid himself behind a tall Hrar-gen Dass and considered his past sins as the world went dark.

Karma. It was indeed a bitch.


Opening: Ann Cassin.....Continuation: Anon.

31 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


And then he saw the rotting remains of the red velvet jacket, burned by what had to have been a missile.

He backed away. No wonder the hreindyr were scarce. They must have flown away when this happened.

What would he tell Bryndis when she asked about Christmas this year?

--khazar-khum


Then he realized he hadn't seen his hreindyr-reindeer-watching partner in a while.

--freddie

Evil Editor said...

If I'm on hreindyr surveillance I'm gonna find a better place to do it than where hreindyr are rare, at an elevation where nothing more than the wind and lichens make it.

In any case, dropping paragraph 3 will get us to the body faster. If that's too distressing you could insert . . .

Nothing more than the wind and lichens usually made it to this elevation. But somehow a seed had found the spot and a blue gleym-mer-ei had sprouted.

. . . after "A single forget-me-not?" in paragraph 2. Then all we lose are the birdman and Reindeer Parmigian and the silly-sounding reindeer hunters were his thing now, and the utlendingar. We can do wiithout all that at least for now.

Xiexie said...

I must say firstly that I read this aloud and the spellings and unfamiliar did get me. It may be a dumb question but why use "hreindyr" if you'll also use "reindeer" -- is that to tell us we're in Iceland, Scandinavia or such? I think the names Einar and Bryndis along with mentioning glacier have already put me somewhere in the artic. "Hreindyr" just blicked my eyes.

Another question: why savory ptarmigan? Do people eat them?

I think you can trim paragraph 3 and get us to the discovery quicker since that's the "moment". The rest is muddling your moment.

(P.S. Hi everybody!)

writtenwyrdd said...

There's a lot of good imagery here, but as an opening this is still somewhat inaccessible for me.

I'd omit the first paragraph or at least all the color descriptions in it. I had to reread it a couple of times before moving on.

I'd use English words instead of foreign, or revise so you don't throw so many at the readers at once. I actually didn't get that Hreindyr were reindeer, because I was having such difficulty settling into the story due to the many complex sentences, foreign words I had to puzzle out and descriptions that weren't pulling me in.

I think this needs a little bit more focus and a little more sense of what the issue with the blue flower is in order to work.

stick and move said...

I agree with the previous comments re the funny words. They were like speedbumps. I like the imagery, though, I had a good feel for the setting.

The continuation was awesome! A well-balanced parody with a twist of bizarre. Nice work.

Jennifer said...

I think writtenwyrdd has said it perfectly. There is beauty in this, quite a bit actually, but you've muted its accessibility. We need to be swept up without stumbling.

Joanna said...

I liked the image of the flower in the glacier, and the color descriptions generally. I still am not sure if the hreindyr Einar is surveilling are reindeer or reindeer hunters. And the flower being identified as both forget-me-not and glym-mer-ei puzzled me; is that the same flower,first in English and then in some Scandinavian or fantasy language? or a flower belonging to Einar's world or his far past or future time which happens to resemble our forget-me-not? And if the utlendingar (outlanders?) are going to be mentioned, could we have a sentence fragment that gives us some idea of who or what they are?
I do like new, foreign or invented words, and liked the sound of these, also the names. But the words were confusing as used.

150 said...

Hrar-gen Dass. Anon, you win.

I wasn't able to get a clear idea of where and when this took place. It could be a modern story that sounds too ancient, or an ancient story that sounds too modern, but I'd like to know upfront whether to expect that woven cloth to be a ski parka or some of that newfangled loom work.

Agree with Xiexie--use hreindyr or reindeer, not both.

BuffySquirrel said...

Guess the finding of Oetzi the ice-man didn't make much impression in America....

Dave F. said...

I feel bad about my comments here because it feels like piling on. I read this opening some time ago and my thoughts are still the same now.

The sum of this start is that Einar, doing whatever Einar does, sees a wildflower (lovely little blue flower) that leads him to a dead body frozen in the ice these many years.
AND, it's Bryndia's birthday...


Why don't you open with Einar giving Bryndia the forget-me-nots for her birthday and then telling her that he found a body in the ice?

Or perhaps he could tell his (best friend, partner, local sheriff or legal authority) that there is a body up there with the forget-me-nots in his hand to take home.

I have another question. Where are we?
Ptarmigans are found in Canada (game birds, taste like chicken)...
Hreindyr and utlendingar are Norwegian...
I think gleym-mer-ei is Icelandic.
HELP!

writtenwyrdd said...

I think the problem, Buffy, isn't that we haven't heard of an ice man, but that we had trouble spotting it here.

There's a lot that's good here, Author, so do not despair. The concensus that you are getting should help you edit; but this isn't bad writing. Just needs some work still, is all.

Anonymous said...

Yes, don't want to pile on, but I strongly agree with EE and several minions commenting on the distractions of P3 and the nice writing style (if a bit overladen as previously mentioned) that had me reading this opening several times. Almost to the point of continuation, BTW Great One, Anon!!
And I did enjoy the subtleness of the discovery of the body so I would read on! (Especially if there's a map of the region and a terminology list)

Meri

Xenith said...

The third paragraph does slow this down (it's telling, from a more omnisicant point of view *yawn*) but the unusual words being off-putting??? What do you people usually read? :) I thought they added a bit a spice.


I do wonder though, if he's a bit quick with "identifying" the discovery as something other than a missing hiker, unless he has some unmentioned reason for believe this? With Otzi the finders at first thought it was a modern body, they being more commonly found in glaciers than anything of anthropological interest.

BuffySquirrel said...

What worries me about that, wyrd, was it was Bleeding Obvious.

Or maybe only so to me :).

That said, this is a bit wordy and unfocused. Especially evil paragraph 3. But unfamiliar words aren't that scary. Really.

Khazar-khum said...

It's funny, Buffy, because Oetzi was my first impression. But the names made me think "Fantasy" not "Archeology". That, and so far as I know, they don't use reindeer in the Alps.

Anonymous said...

Everybody has been really kind. You should thank them. I for one think this is science fiction and the weird word usage is because your trying "sci-fi it up."

Read these rules-http://www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html-

It addresses your hreindyr infestation. (among others)

Whether your a good writer or not is yet to be seen. One can assume this is 150 of your best words, which makes one ponder what you think are your worst.

That said, I do like the description. You have some ability here. Your trying to show instead of tell but don't quite know how to do it yet and you're not a grammatical mess. This things are good. These things show promise.

Delete paragraphs one and two. Start with three. I don't care what (ever his name is ) thinks about the fabric. And he doesn't need to state " no one is missing". A dead body is enough and I want to know how he reacts to it. I'd really like it he discovered who (ever her name was) dead. It' be even cooler if she was still alive too. Now that's SF.

Finally if this is your first or tenth draft, you need to set it aside. Sek out writing opportunities address skills you struggle with. And onto the, write lots and read lots with variety speech. Nope that's it. Either going to do it or not. Most writers sond like authors they read and I can bet you read an SF book that inspred this.


ps: bad spelling equals invalid. In fact bad spellers can't be writers. This one hundred percent true.

writtenwyrdd said...

I never said that foreign words were bad; what I was trying to explain was that, at the beginning of a story, too many at once pushes a reader back from the story because they have to be cerebral and figure things out rather than absorb the story. I think you will find very few readers prefer having to figure out a story over falling into it seamlessly.

BuffySquirrel said...

That must be why the narrator can't find any :).

BuffySquirrel said...

Then why are William Gibson's books so popular?

150 said...

Most writers sond like authors they read and I can bet you read an SF book that inspred this.

In fact bad spellers can't be writers. This one hundred percent true.


Yeah?

Jennifer said...

Thank you 150.

Someone had to say it.

BuffySquirrel said...

I'd be really surprised if this were inspired by an SF book rather than by, say, Real Life Events.

Anonymous said...

Then why are William Gibson's books so popular?

So we have the William Gibson in or midst or you mean that popular = good writing. This 100% true.

150 asked: Yeah?

Yah. Gud righting canbe always disqualified by por speling. U didn't no that?

Whuts I was saying is the spelling errors automatically invalidate my points so feel free to disregard my crituques. I'm glad to see you did just that. Thanks.

Regardless of how "invalid" my points are read this link: http://www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html

Every writer should read this even if don't "do" sci-fi.

Xenith said...

Every writer should read this even if don't "do" sci-fi.

Or science fiction for that matter :)

Your problem though, is bad spelling + odd punctuation + missing words = hard to understand, which is never a good way to have your thoughts taken seriously.

Xenith said...

I never said that foreign words were bad; what I was trying to explain was that, at the beginning of a story, too many at once pushes a reader back from the story because they have to be cerebral and figure things out rather than absorb the story. I think you will find very few readers prefer having to figure out a story over falling into it seamlessly.

I went to pick up something to debate this point but yesterday I took all my fiction out to the other room and all I have in here is one of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books, which are obviously not going to be a good counter-example as they're light reading aimed at a large audience. This particular one starts with:

It was not Sergeant Richard Sharpe's fault. He was not in charge. He was junior to at least a dozen men, including a major, a captain, a subadar and two jemadars, yet still he felt responsible.

Bad example yet, and there we have our MC in a weird situation of the head-scratching sort that isn't explained at all until near the end of the first page. (Bad writer, you won't get published.)

I did go out to ponder my fiction bookshelves to find some more mundane books, but they seem to filled with SF&F, things written in the 19th C and Patrick O'Brian books (who is very bad at throwing odd terms at readers with no explanation whatsoever that other people have written books trying to help the reader, you add in his excessive overuse of 'was' and long passages of obvious infodump and there's another writer who is not going to get published). I do read "ordinary" books, but they tend to be library books so they don't hang around.

But this is why I asked, admittedly a little flippantly, what people here actually read? For SF, fantasy & obviously some military/historical drama stuff, that sort of start is commonplace. Whereas I believe with romance, urban fantasy and things set in the here/now it is less common?

There are readers who actually want that "have to figure it out" sort of start, because it telegraphs "that sort of story.

Obviously there are good and bad ways to handle it. Shoving a bunch of odd terms into first sentence, or even the first paragraph, is obviously not it. It works in lines I quoted above because it's obvious from the preceding words that the terms are some form of army rank, which is all the reader needs to know at that point so that's all the reader has to think about. I guess it comes down to reading protocols again.

Now we have the question of whether this has been handled well in the beginning under consideration. I wouldn't say it's done badly, but putting them all into one paragraph makes it look like the author decided the beginning needed a bit of "foreign flavour". When a reader starts thinking about the writer's motives, then the writer has failed. Sorry :)

ril said...

Interesting debate and all, but you're all missing the most important thing. So, here's a recipe for Savory Ptarmigan.

BuffySquirrel said...

No, I mean that William Gibson frequently throws the reader into the middle of the action, and uses hundreds of unfamiliar and made-up words, right from the start, and yet, despite the fact that "few readers" like that kind of thing, sells by the bucketload.

150 said...

I'm all for middle-of-the-action, unfamiliar-words openings. The Golden Compass and Clockwork Orange did it really well. In this opening, though, I really need something to ground me. I don't know whether Einar and Bryndis are made-up, ancient, Icelandic, or hyper-trendy names. I don't know whether Einar is scrambling up the slope using elk-horn spikes, fiberglass snowshoes, or a hoverboard. Hreindyr and gleym-mer-ei might be real words in Norse for all I know. Is he surveilling hreindyr with binoculars? Is his knowledge of nature from years of tribal living, or a PhD in biology?

Throw me a life-preserver--I can't tell what kind of story I'm enjoying!

talpianna said...

These lines confuse me: And hreindyr—reindeer hunters were his thing now. He was on hreindyr surveillance now, checking the trails and the herds before the utlendingar came in August.

His interest is in the hunters, rather than the deer? Why? Is he a professional hunting guide?

I'd like to try the recipe, but I can't get hold of any ptarmigan because I don't live on the ptundra.

As for the opening, it's called in medias res; I think it was invented by some guy called Publius Vergilius Maro. On his deathbed, he asked his friends to burn his unpublished MS; but they published it instead. Generations of Latin students have cursed them ever since.

JLR said...

I enjoyed the first two paragraphs, but I sorta skimmed the rest after the "savory ptarmigan" line. I think there were just too many facts and details, or something, that just slowed down the reading for me.

The use of unfamiliar words and their translation did not bother me, because I've seen that done before in books and it seemed to be omniscient pov there. However, I took "hreindyr" to mean "reindeer hunters" not "reindeer" from the context in the first usage. I'm also not sure what "utlendingar" is.

Btw, the continuation is hilarious!

Jodi

BuffySquirrel said...

Utlendingar looks a bit like 'outlanders' to me; it's a word for "foreigners".