Monday, March 30, 2009

New Beginning 622

“They say dying is like this: You see everything in color for a moment, billowing vivid red and orange and black, but you can’t hear anything. Then all you see is light, and you drift away on a wind that isn’t there. Nobody misses you, notices you going, because they’re dying, too. And it only takes the tiniest bit of a second.

“That’s what it’s like when the bomb goes off.

“But it won’t be like that for me. For me, there’s a place in the mountains, up high where it’s always cool and often snowy. There’s a camp there, full of people living among the tall, green trees in those beautiful mountains.

“It’s a beautiful place to die, but you don’t die very quickly unless they shoot you. If they don’t shoot you, it’ll be starvation or overwork or disease or beatings or all of them together. It takes you weeks, maybe months, to die in that camp.

“That’s what happens if you fail—you take a vacation in the mountains. Nobody who goes there for vacation ever returns.

“So give me back to them, just like you agreed. But if you have any mercy, kill me first.”

"Oh for god's sake, Kevin," I snapped. "A weekend with your grandparents won't kill you!" I threw open his bedroom curtains; he screamed and flung his arms up against the sunlight. "Now pack your suitcase and get out there and be nice to them. The Playstation will still be here when you get back."


Opening: Rachel.....Continuation: Sarah from Hawthorne

17 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


Dear Jeffrey,

I know it's hard at first, but trust me, darling, pretty soon you'll love summer camp so much you won't want to come home.
Your loving Mom.

PS: Daddy says thank you for the handsewn wallet.

--Batgirl


* * *


Meredith rolled her eyes. "Listen, Ralph -- nobody ever died at camp Happy Peaks, okay? It'll do you good. Lots of fun activities to lose a little of that puppy fat. You're not going to die of starvation, and you're certainly not going to be shot!"

She exchanged glances with the mother standing next to her. They shared in the deceit.

--anon.


"Because I really don't want to go my in-laws' family reunion."

--freddie

Chris Eldin said...

LOL @ the continuation!

I liked the first two paragraphs, but then after that felt is was overwritten, which was what the contin played on. Is there some of this you can trim? But, I did want to keep reading...

Evil Editor said...

I'd delete "living among the tall, green trees in those beautiful mountains." You just said it was in the mountains the previous sentence. And it's not worth remarking that the people are living among trees. If there's a camp in the mountains, I assume there are trees. And if there are trees I assume they are tall and green.

150 said...

The continuation killed me, but the best part was that all the continuations picked up on the same idea. :)

V. Dunn said...

I like this a lot! Your narrator's voice is very compelling and I'd definitely keep reading. (Is he evil? He sounds evil...)

That said, I do see where it can be tightened up a little. The third paragraph could simply read...

“But it won’t be like that for me. For me, there’s a camp in the mountains, up high where it’s always cool and often snowy.

“It’s a beautiful place to die, etc..."

I'd even consider moving the "that's what happens when you fail" vacation paragraph to a different place in the monologue. I think the speaker's main concern is stated in the sentence about how it takes weeks or months to die in the camp. Therefore it could have more punch if you don't bury that line, but instead highlight it like this...

"...It takes you weeks, maybe months, to die in that camp.

“So give me back to them, just like you agreed. But if you have any mercy, kill me first.”

YMMV, of course.

Bevie said...

The continuation was great!

I like the opening. You set a nice tone. The first two paragraphs are great.

The "That's what happens if you fail" confused me. Fail at what? Living in the mountains?

I may be reading it wrong.

batgirl said...

No problem with the writing, other than the OTT aspect already mentioned. But I got hung up because of the old logic problem - how can you know what dying is like unless you're dead? And that distracted me with who told the speaker what death is like. Does he talk to ghosts? If he knows there's life after death, is this fantasy? Or sf, if there's a bomb that effective. Because real-world bombs aren't anything like as clean or final. Perhaps the speaker is delusional, or justifying his own terrorist acts?
So yes, this gave me questions, which an opening should do. You might want to get more quickly to the camp, which provides a necessary touch of world-building and grounding.
Also you don't want a reader wondering why the person being spoken to is so patient, and thinking they should have shut him/her up a paragraph ago.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Agreeing with what's being said here. I loved the first couple of paragraphs (and that fantastic continuaiton). Then you started to lose me - both with the unknowns and the long windedeness of the piece.

Great voice!

_*Rachel*_ said...

Totally AWESOME continuation!

FYI, this begins a sf short story in a world/multi-planet system embroiled in something like the cold war. Also, my MC is female.

The bomb would be atomic/nuclear/similar, hence the color and drifting and speed.

The camp is gulag-style.

I'm reluctant to call my MC any more evil than average. Let's say she's caught in the middle.

What about this as the edited version?

“They say dying is like this: You see everything in color for a moment, billowing vivid red and orange and black, but you can’t hear anything. Then all you see is light, and you drift away on a wind that isn’t there. Nobody misses you, notices you going, because they’re dying, too. And it only takes the tiniest bit of a second.

“That’s what it’s like when the bomb goes off.

“But it won’t be like that for me. For me, there’s a camp in the mountains, up high where it’s always cool and often snowy—a beautiful place to die. You don’t die quickly there, not unless they shoot you; usually it’s starvation or beatings or disease.

“That’s what happens if you fail like I have—the government sends you on vacation in the mountains. Except nobody ever returns from those vacations.

“So give me back to them, just like you agreed. But if you have any mercy, kill me first.”

I cut it a bit and rephrased.

Merci beaucoup, tout le monde!
(Thanks a lot, everyone!)

V. Dunn said...

I like your rewrite, especially the way you clarified the whole "if they don't shoot you" sequence. However, I still think you could lose the "vacation" paragraph.

It's a nice analogy, but it's already obvious the speaker has failed. If they hadn't, they wouldn't be going to a gulag.

It also doesn't ring quite true to me. The speaker knows she's failed, the person she's speaking to knows she's failed, so why would she point it out?

I should add that I *love* your first paragraph.

Dave F. said...

Sorry but I don't like the way you leave the statement about the bomb until the second paragraph. I think the first line ought to say "They say dying in the explosion is like this." That lets the reader know the narrator means a bomb. Then, I think you can drop the single sentence second paragraph and go directly into the statement "but it won't be like that for me."

My reason for this is that your original and revised versions ask the reader to think of the entire paragraph, figure out it is a bomb and then immediately move to a pastoral scene where the narrator describes a mountain death of old age or whatever. It's a nice contrast between the atomic death and dying amidst the critter. However, that sentence “That’s what it’s like when the bomb goes off." kills it. At least that's what I finally settled on as I kept going back and thinking about this.

The drama, the impact isn't the explosive death or the pastoral death, it's the failure and the "kill me first" statement.

I would also trash "Except nobody ever returns from those vacations" because by that time we all understand what the narrator is talking about. Death in the woods was established above. All this sentence serves to do is to slow the reader.

BuffySquirrel said...

As I understand it (and I don't have any firsthand reports), if you're vaporised by a nuclear explosion then you don't get the chance to experience it. Your brain is gone before your nerves have time to signal anything to it.

This is a bit slow for a short story opening, imo.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Ha! Thanks for the nice comments but EE should have co-author credit on the continuation: he polished it up quite a bit.

I really liked this a lot. It's well written and has got an awesome hook. The death camp description is truly chilling. The original was perhaps a touch too self-pitying - which is probably why everyone went with a whining child for the continuations - but I think your trims in the rewrite took care of that.

Bevie said...

I like the rewrite. Better minds can tell you how to improve it again.

chelsea said...

I think there might be a way to combine the paragraph about the mountain with the paragraph about failing. Something like:

"But it won’t be like that for me. For me, there’s a camp in the mountains, up high where it’s always cool and often snowy. To the unknowing eye, it looks like a beautiful place to live. In reality, it's a place to die a slow, agonizing death. A place to go when you've failed."

Obviously this is rough, but you get the idea. The rewrite is definitely better. I would keep reading :)

D. Lemma said...

The rewrite is better, but it still feels a little melodramatic, which probably isn't how you want to start out a story. I'd make the emotions a little more raw, personally. If I'd rather die than go back, I doubt I'd take the time to be flowery about it all. You could give the same information in a slightly more direct way and get a lot more emotional bang for the buck.

Think a bit about the one big emotional truth you are trying to get across, and see if you can bring it out more clearly. Right now, I think it's being obscured by the visual imagery rather than being helped by it.

(And I agree you need some sort of transition between peaceful mountains and evil death camp. Doesn't need to be big. Something like "where it’s always cool and often snowy—a beautiful place to die. But the deaths there aren't beautiful, or quick." would do it.)

fairyhedgehog said...

I started reading this and found it wonderfully vivid. I was completely drawn into the first paragraph, until I came to because they're dying too. This puzzled me and broke the flow a bit, until I got to the bomb going off and it fell into place.

I was a bit confused about what was going on. I didn't understand why most people die in a nuclear bomb blast and the main character has to go to a camp in the mountains to die. It's probably just me: I have CFS and I get quite brain-fogged at times.

Oh, and if you have any mercy felt a little stilted. I was wondering if the character wouldn't say something more like But for God's sake, kill me first.

I liked the tall green trees (although I agree that you probably don't need mountains twice).

I'd like the later paragraphs to make things a bit clearer but I did like the way this begins. I would definitely read on.