Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Beginning 614

News of the Dark Queen's death came to Princess Tasria in the midst of her third bout with the weapons master. Distracted by the royal messenger's waving arms, she let Ofornio's sword-tip slip past her guard and thump the breath out of her. For a time she knew nothing but spinning blackness and whooping after air. When she straightened and pulled off the grilled practice-helm, the messenger's errand had been overtaken by shouts of jubilation along the narrow streets of Evermorna's capitol, cheers surging up the hill to the palace gates.

"The Dark Queen is defeated! Evermorna is saved!"

Dizziness swept her again, and she clutched the weapons stand, spears and halberds rattling with her trembling. The Dark Queen dead? But-- "But I was prophesied to be her destruction," Tasria said as the city's bells pealed out triumph. "How can she be dead, and I not gone against her?"

"Hmm, possibly I was mistaken," Ofornio offered. "Perhaps I misinterpreted the prophecy. Perhaps it is Queen Letitia the Witchbringer you are destined to vanquish. Yes, it's clear now. Queen Letitia the Witchbringer. We must continue our practice!"

Orfornio gripped his sword and swung again at the clumsy, spoiled little bitch.

Opening: Batgirl.....Continuation: anon.


writtenwyrdd said...

Great opening line--it sucks me into the action, gives me a modest amount of backstory (there's a Dark Queen, who by name is not likely a good person, and a Princess, who is somehow involved witht he Dark Queen) and sense of place (we aren't in a modern chick lit story but in a fantasy.) That's all good.

But the scenario you describe after that is not quite working for me yet. Needs a bit of editing, organizing, and some logic errors fixed. Primarily, though, the first paragraph needs to be better focused so that we learn more about the character as we move into the messenger's news. Because the descriptions of the fight/getting struck/getting winded aren't effective.

First off, no one is going to distract a royal in the middle of a fight by waving their arms about. It might get someone crippled or killed, even with practice weapons. Second, the princess would likely have a reaction to either her allowing herself to be distracted or to the idiot who distracted her in the middle of the fight; show that, and you give the reader so much information about your character! And you can do that with very little effort--such as having her scowling at the messenger and check the impulse to strike him because her weapons master would not approve. Or the weapsons master saying something about letting herself get distracted and she thinks how she'll have her father punish the man for his cheek. Or she recognizes her idiocy and apologizes to the weapons master. She might even be afraid for the weapons master becasue her father the king might kill the man for actually striking his daughter in the practice ring! You can go a number of ways with it.

Try envisioning what you are describing here and ask yourself how the action would really take place. The trick I find is to keep it simple. So instead of having her looking at a waving messenger, her concentration might be broken by hearing a commotion. She looks away, gets thumped and knocked down, and the person she is fighting with chastises her or something. Then she goes over to the messenger.

A few nitpicks: I thought "whooping after air" and the description of a sword tip "thumping" were awkward. One gasps for air because 'whooping' is a yell, usually of glee; and 'thumping' implies being struck with force by a blunt object or an edge, not the tip, of a sword.

No extended talk of dizziness and the results of getting thumped, either; because that implies your sword-swinging princess is wimpy,lol.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, and I forgot to say that I also liked the last line of your entry, "How can she be dead and I not gone against her?"

This isn't quite there yet, but it does a wonderful job of implying that the Dark Queen ISN'T dead and that the kid will have to go against her during the course of the story.

However, the line sounds a bit whiny as written. Possibly you can keep the line as is if you give us more about the girl's character in paragraph number 1. But as is with no previous sense of who this princess is, the reader may take the whiny tone and find her irritating instead of catchign the important foreshadowning here.

Overall, this is a clever ploy, but not working 100% for you yet.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

The weapons master stepped forward, a sturdy linen handkerchief in his callused hand. He pushed Tasria aside and wiped her fingerprints from the gleaming hafts of the weapons in the stand.
"It's quite simple," he said calmly. "You aren't Princess Tasria. She got kidnapped back in the prologue. You're just the scullery maid."

--Marissa Doyle

Ofornio was whooping too, for different reasons.

“That prophecy.” he said. “Useful, was it not? She counted on it, you know, as much as you did, never guessing that I had planted it. She suborned me into her service, ordered me to train you as poorly as I could and to report to her on your progress. And I reported you a giddy girl, easily distractable, no threat yet. And when the time was right I put strychnine in her wine.”

Tasria’s shock sent the halberds clattering to the floor. “Why?”

“Several reasons, my Princess. The Dark Queen was getting out of hand, for one. And then there was you, with your father’s blood and your mother’s looks, a ruler the people would have loved. But now they will see you only as the one who failed her prophesied task, and me as the one who saved Evermorna from destruction.

Between that and my superior fencing skills, who do you think will get the crown now?” He lifted an imaginary goblet of metheglin. “Here’s to the reign of King Nightshade!”


The messenger frowned and looked down at his scroll. "The proclamation says, 'pawn to rook 3, knight to queen 4, king's rook takes dark queen, checkmate."

"Ofornio!" THe princess summoned her teacher. "Quickly! Teach me backgammon!"


"Whoa, hold on." The messenger held up his hand. "Nobody said 'dead'. I said defeated. She just isn't prime time anymore -- you know, the whole diet thing."
Yet Tasria could not contain her disappointment, convinced that Tasria's Book Club should have led to the ratings downfall of the Dark Queen...


Ofornio patted her shoulder. "Too bad, Tas," he consoled in his gravelly voice. "But that mud-wrestling contract is still open."


No one in the courtyard heard her. Even Tasria's personal guard were whooping with joy, their duties momentarily forgotten. Only the messenger noticed her speaking and leaned in closer, trying to hear through the din.

"Hours of physical training. Years of magic study!" the princess wailed into his ear. "And the Dark Queen just bloody - HURK!"

Tasria never saw the needle thin dagger, the royal messenger's arm move in a sudden blur of motion. She stared dumbly down at the blood seeping through her shirt.
"Perhaps a few more hours would have helped," purred the royal messenger in a suddenly feminine voice before vanishing in a puff of smoke.

A hundred leagues away the messenger reappeared, her features already morphing into a cold, deathly beauty. A troll trotted up quickly with a skull goblet full of unicorn blood.

"How fared the fight, Your Highness?" he said.

"What fight?" grumbled the Dark Queen sulkily, tossing back the goblet's contents in one gulp. "I swear, these prophesied saviors get dumber every decade."

--Sarah from Hawthorne

The messenger shrugged. "Can't really say. She was getting on a bit."

Tasria shook her head and pouted. "So now what do I do?"

The messenger glanced at her long, pointed spears. "You could take up knitting..." he suggested.

Tasria sighed.

* * *


cast off.


* * *


Insert 8 more quarters to play again.

* * *

"Huh?! What the f--?"

"One... Two... Three... Four... Five..."


The messenger coughed apologetically. "I'm afraid there's been a filing error in your destiny. Your prophecy actually reads that you will marry Howie Stamp and live in the suburbs until Howie runs off with his receptionist twelve years later. If you could just sign this manifest--here, I have a pen...."


"Oh that," said the messenger, who had suddenly taken a great interest in his shoes. "I think the oracle was just trying to make you feel a bit better about that snafu with the Dragon of Sneargon. And the thing with the Troll of Dunwhin Bridge. And the Rabbit of Eastern Glen."

--James Klousia

The End
Evil Editor laid down his pen with a sigh of contentment. 300 pages of editing dealt with in one fell swoop. How he loved his job.


"Because you would lose, like you always do." Ofornio dropped the face-guard, revealing the twisted maw of the hated Dark Queen.
"I will kill you!" Tasria charged, her wooden practice sword held high.

"Not this time." The Dark Queen lowered her spear, spitting the surging princess on its tip.


150 said...

I got nothing. I just loved this, and I'd probably buy it outright on the strength of that last line alone. Let me know when it's available.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Yeah, what Written said.

I liked this a lot but I thought it might be more interesting if she was distracted by the message rather than the messenger. If this is of such huge import, the messenger might not be able to wait for the bout to finish, so the message is shouted right at the moment, he enters the salle.

Then this is so central to the life of the Princess that she is fatally distracted.

Good start!

Genre Reviewer said...

I'm assuming by the fact that Tasria gets distracted that she isn't a very good fencer (or warrior) yet, and the way she jumps to conclusions makes her seem very young or naive.

As someone else pointed out, people only said the Dark Queen is defeated, not that she's dead.

One way to fix it would be to have the people say she's dead. Another would be to have her ask if the Dark Queen was dead. Another would be for her to think something like "The Dark Queen would never surrender so she must be dead."

Good luck.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I like the general idea--a twist on a normal fantasy plot. (I move she grows up bitter, finds a time machine, and goes back to kill the Dark Queen, fulfilling the prophecy after all.)
I second/third/whatever writtenwyrd's stuff about double-checking what she'd actually be feeling.
I'm a bit bothered by your writing style, though. I can tell that you're trying to make it sound stylistically fancier/more medieval. I know some of the others like the last line, but the style there seems a bit overdone to me. It sticks out because it's a bit heavier with that inversion-or-whateve-it's-called. If she talks like that the whole time, and it's not for comic effect, you may have trouble. Have you ever read Redwall? Brian Jacques uses lots of accents, though not usually for comic relief. No problem with that. But if, say, only the moles had accents, there would be trouble. It's a matter of consistency; Tasria shouldn't stick out in her speech unless you really mean her to, like you would with someone who has a speech impediment. Make the dialogue flow with your text.
Also--and this is important; you can check with any English teacher on this--watch out for passive voice. I don't see too much beyond the "I was prophesied...", but keep an eye on it. It's something you may want to change while you edit.
Double-check the structure of the last sentence in the third paragraph. I know you haven't diagrammed since third grade ( haven't), but you might want to try it. I think it's the "cheers surging" phrase that doesn't seem to fit in gramatically. Same with the "spears and halberds rattling" phrase.
Also, I did an *approximate* count on your sentence types:
Complex Sentences:5
Simple Sentences:2
Compound Sentences:1
Different authors do different things with sentence structure (just compare Douglass Adams with Hemingway). You tend towards Complex Sentences; you're probably all right for now, but remember to vary sentence structure and mid-sentence punctuation. What one of my English teachers did was have us use at least two examples each of the four main types of sentences and two examples each of ;,:-- to give us practice. Try it on a shorter piece; see how you like it. It could help. Try it also with literary devices like metaphors (I have a feeling you'll really like ellisons).
Again, the idea is really neat and no--despite my nitpicky suggestions--you don't stink. And if it helps any, I correct my own mother's grammar sometimes (though I wouldn't neccessarily be brave enough to give her quite as honest a critique on her writing, though her writing isn't bad). And I am going to be an English teacher....
Keep smiling; you did good.

Whirlochre said...

I quite like this, and I can see the flap of flags atop turrets.

Grabbed enough to read on, but I'm not sure about sword tips thumping the breath out of anyone. That's maces, isn't it?

Also not sure about 'not gone against her'. Funny line.

Phoenix said...

I generally don't jump in when it comes to correcting grammar, but after reading some of the comments, I want to add my nickel's worth.

Barbara, I found nothing about your opening -- especially given the genre and that it's your style -- to nitpick from a purely grammatical perspective. High marks all around.

I do, however, have some personal nitpicks you can use or abuse as you choose. I really, really hate the name Evermorna. Even if this proves to be farce, I'd hate it. Sorry. Not in love with Dark Queen either, but it doesn't grate on me quite as much as Evermorna.

WW has some good observations about Tasria assuming she isn't young and impulsive and easily distracted. But if she's a medieval Valley Girl type, then no need to make this more realistic. "Thump" also works for me since most practice swords either have a capped tip (foils and epees) or are blunt wood (shortswords, broadswords, and sabers). I know -- I've played around with practice swords of all kinds. I stumbled a bit over "whooping" the first time, but used in the way it describes whooping cough or whooping cranes, it's pretty legit.

I did struggle a bit to get through this when I first started reading it, but only because I wasn't captivated by it. Too many Dark Queens and Princesses in my past, I think. And speed reading through it during one of EE's Friday night workshops didn't help. I certainly liked it a lot more on subsequent, calmer reads. I'd give it a few pages if the jacket copy promised more than the Dark Queen and Princess stereotypes. I hope we get to see more of it here.

Phoenix said...

Rachel, most of your advice is very, very good, and are things that all writers should keep in mind as we write. Your observations are excellent for a general audience, just not *quite* on the money for this specific piece of writing.

You've learned well, though, and your passion for the written language comes through loud and clear. I think you'll make a fine English teacher!

I don't know that I've seen you comment here before. What can you tell us about yourself? Are you in school now? Have you been writing long?

Welcome! We can always use someone around here watching after our words :o)

BuffySquirrel said...

"I was prophesied" is pretty bad grammar imo. Events are prophesied. Her birth might have been prophesied. But I don't see how a person can be.

"It was prophesied that I would be her destruction" might be better. Still passive voice, but more grammatical. Or even, "But I am to be her destruction", with the prophecy part implied.

*goes on and on for ages*

Xenith said...

I was going to write about how you need more details tobring out the character but asI was wonderinghow to say that, I reread writtenwyrdd's comment again and she saysit better than I could (and without the weird computer refusing to recognise spacebar stuff), so just read that again!

Itfeels nowjust a touch rushed,as if you're keen to get to her bit of dialogue, but if this is the start of a fantasy novel, you can take a few more p/a/g/e/s/lines to get us into the scene.

I likethat last line though. I want to read the next bit!

Phoenix said...

Bad grammar is not only forgiveable in dialog(ue), Buffy, it's usually expected ;o)

_*Rachel*_ said...

Yah, well, I've most recently been reading Ray Bradbury, Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, lots of poems, etc.; I can't help but be nitpicky. I'm a bit of a nut, but I do have to admit most of this reading list was for The Killer English Class.

I transferred from NaNoWriMo to Miss Snark to here.

And I do actually read stuff that's less than classic--just haven't had a lot of time for it lately. I honestly think I'd pick this one up in the library; I like the premise. A little bit of the wording bugged me--sorry about the rant. The writer in me is mad at you, Tasria's Author, for thinking of this idea before me; the teacher/editor in me is the one that's starting to get annoyed at the one or two things that the average ready likely won't specifically notice (you're writing for the ones that will, I hope). If this was THE FINAL EDITED COPY READY FOR PUBLISHING, I'd have a right to be a bit annoyed. But hey, I look at some of the stuff I've written and boy is this writing better. Maybe I'm a bit nitpicky, but some of what I mentioned might help.

Do remember that I'm not you and I'm not your agent/editor/English teacher. If some of my stuff helps, glad to be of service and I wish you good luck. If not--c'est la vie.

And wow, Phoenix, you blog a lot.

pacatrue said...

I would like to chime in uselessly that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Xiexie said...

I echo Pacatrue, also aspire to be an English/Art/or [insert foreign language here] teacher, and I hate sentence diagramming. Never did it. My grammar teacher had her own system.

BuffySquirrel said...

La, Phoenix, I didn't start it!

talpianna said...

It would be a nice twist if Tasria IS in fact a Valley Girl type--sort of an analogue to George Alec Effinger's Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson, a Jewish American Princess who packs a sword on one hip and a credit card on the other, and finds herself in the midst of various famous fantasy and SF worlds.

Robin S. said...

There are a lot of English teachers out there who can write decently well. A few, quite well. A very few, award-winningly well.

Annnnnndddd...there are a boatload of English teachers out there who know the rules of the language but are better off sticking to their teaching.

My point is - knowing the rules of the English language is a fine and good thing - but that doesn't necessarily translate into the makings of a fine writer, or someone who recognizes fine writing.

Nothing personal - simply the truth.

writtenwyrdd said...

I have to say that bad/good grammar is almost beside the point in writing well. The idea is to communicate the sense of place and character and above all story. You can break the rules anytime, so long as you understand what you are doing.

So unless the grammar and punctuation is poor in the sense of getting in the way of communication (because its use is obviously misunderstood) I simply don't care very much how many sentence fragments or what type of sentence structure an author uses. Mixing it up works well; but Hemingway tended to use mostly basic SVO sentences and was lauded for it by most of my English profs.

So, Batgirl, just use your particular style. I think the focus should be on communicating your message well. And grammar and punctuation are only a part of that process.

ril said...

All of my teachers were English.

That's all.

BuffySquirrel said...

Someone who speaks that formally is also likely to speak grammatically. This is not casual speech--this is Fantasy speech!

Anonymous said...

yes, but it's Batgirl's fantasy speech. Not anyone elses.

batgirl said...

Wow, that must be the funniest collection of continuations for some time - brilliant! EE couldn't have had an easy time picking one. (My favourite is 'Teach me backgammon!')

Okay, so I need to make it clear that these are blunted wooden swords (I was good, and I didn't call them 'wasters' because only the WMA geeks would know what it meant) ( and Tas and Ofornio are wearing padded arming jackets. Will do.
Written, I dunno about no messenger interrupting a practice bout. I've seen people - even people who should know better - do some pretty stupid things on or near the fighting field, though the commonest is forgetting that helms restrict view and assuming that the fighter _will_ see them from the periphery, not that he won't, which is what messenger here does. The idea is that the news is so momentous that he pretty much forgets protocol - I'll see what I can do to clarify that.
Tasria is 16, and not a brilliant fighter, but if I go on explaining I'll get boring.

Grammar - gosh, I haven't had my work so closely examined since my dad (who taught high-school English in the '60s) critiqued my compositions. It makes me all nostalgic. He was my first and toughest critic. Thank you all for putting in the time - I'm grateful!

But I'm going to quibble with the squirrel, because I've seen the usage of 'a saviour was prophesied', which seems grammatically pretty similar to 'I was prophesied'. ("A certain savior was prophesied to be coming to dwell among mankind." Contra Celsum, Henry Chadwick, Cambridge 1953)

Phoenix, a friend of mine read Evermorna as Evermomma, because of the font her email uses, so she and I call it the kingdom of Evermomma - would it help to know that they're the bad guys?


BuffySquirrel said...

Who am I to argue with Henry Chadwick?


I believe one term for those wooden practice swords is "backsword".

Anonymous said...

But the prophecy told that I should be her destruction...


writtenwyrdd said...

Well, I'm just operating from being well-versed in firearms and general safety practices around dangerous equipment. One top-of-the-list rule being don't startle someone with a dangerous implement in their hands lest ye get them killed or maimed.

You are the author and I am not omniscient, so you get to decide how this plays out, Batgirl. It's an interesting starting point, too.