Friday, July 24, 2009

New Beginning 666


Slubka’s throat hurt. Her lungs hurt. Her stomach heaved. That meant, she supposed, that she was alive. Her arm hurt, too, from being pinned under her against a cold concrete floor. She had made it into the Emergency Building, then. That meant she would live a little longer; which meant she still had work to do. She sat up.

She was in a long narrow room, its outer wall lined with windows that seemed to suck light away rather than admitting it. No telling how long she’d been unconscious; the Unwind’s darkness could blot out sunlight as readily as moon and stars. Pale light and a murmur of distant voices came through the half-open inner door. No one else was in the room. She must have gotten this far on her own; if anyone else had brought her in they’d have known her for a Dova, a windspeaker, and stayed to see what she could do for them. Precious little, she guessed; but it was time to find out.

She watched her breath steaming, let her mind spread with it through the stale air of the outer rooms where the Unwind rattled the windows, the worse air of the inner room where the miners huddled, fearing the Unwind, their neighbors and themselves.

“So, what do you think?” said the wife.

“I don’t know, honey.” said the husband. “Slubka just doesn’t sound like the kind of name I want to give to our baby girl. Okay, I’ve heard yours now you listen to mine...

Stephanie went to the grocery store to buy some milk. She discovered--”

“Wait a minute...Stephanie? You want our kid to grow up with a name like Stephanie? No one will take her seriously!”

“Hold on, you said I would get a chance to illustrate my choice with a story.”

“No one wants to hear a story about a girl named Stephanie. Do you think I’m about to give birth to a goblin? Okay, listen to my second choice...

Analby was trapped in a deep, dark hole...”


Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Matthew



39 comments:

_*Rachel*_ said...

I like this, Joanna. Somebody's probably going to complain about the choppiness of the first bit, but I think the style there is fine, considering she's just regained consciousness. But, of course, I have a few nitpicks.

Unwind is going to be read as unwind instead of un-wind if you don't write it differently. Un-Wind, Nothing-Wind, Darkwind, etc.

The windows that suck light away are cool, but the sentence after it took me two reads to understand. Maybe: No telling how lon she'd been unconscious, not when the pitch-black Unwind was outside. I dunno.

Dova reads Dove. Do you want it that way?

I'd delete the "with it" in the first sentence of the last paragraph. And in the final list, I'd prefer to put a comma after neighbors. I know you don't have to, but I like it better that way, as do Strunk & White, Chapter 1, Section 2. About as far as I've read yet.

All in all, I really like this. There was so much right with this paragraph it was easy just to find a few tiny things that bothered me. If I wasn't reading with critiquing in mind, the only things that would have bothered me would be the Unwind and the comma.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Too bad about the New Beginning Number, by the way. Just pretend it's an upside-down 999 and don't take it as a sign.

~Aimee States said...

The first paragraph should be shot. Give it a blindfold and a cigarette. Need I remind you what Vonnegut said about semicolons? If I notice them, they aren't working to your advantage.

"the Unwind’s darkness could blot out sunlight as readily as moon and stars."

~You have to think about everything you type. The moon and stars give off light.

Anonymous said...

This intrigues, it's good. It would be better if you defined the "unwind" word a bit more instead of leaving it so ambiguous. It's used here to orient your protagonist but it doesn't orient the reader. I don't know if it has something to do with air [not-windy] or something to do with string [unwinding or not wound up] or if it's about a gang of thugs or witches or space aliens.

Evil Editor said...

P2: delete "darkness." It's understood from the rest, which has better symmetry if it reads: and the Unwind could blot out the sun as readily as the moon and stars.


No one else was in the room. She would have noticed this first. Just add the word "alone" after She was, and you can delete this sentence.


She wouldn't think "a Dova, a windspeaker," that's the author telling us what a Dova is. Use one or the other. Use windspeaker if we need an idea what she is right now. If we don't, you can use Dova and we'll learn what it means later.


I can do without "but it was time to find out."


P3. Is this missing the word "to" or "into" after "windows"? It doesn't seem to be a sentence.

Matthew said...

I like it so far, I would keep reading.

After reading Rachel's post, I'm not sure how you wanted us to read Unwind. For the record, I read it as un-wine-d.

Slubka is an odd name, is your character human?

Sarah Laurenson said...

I like this. I don't mind the semi-colon. I do mind using 'meant' three times in the first paragraph. That repetition always catches my eye, but probably not your average reader.

Un-Wind as in not windy? Now it makes more sense, with the windspeaker. I totally didn't go there when I read it as unwind (like with string).

EE's already said some of my other nits.

Good job! I'd read on.

mb said...

The other thing about Unwind is that it's the title of a terrific dystopian YA book by Neal Shusterman, where it means something very specific -- so it took me a while to figure out this was something to do with wind.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I'm guessing the Unwind is something like the Nothing or the Morah. Anti-matter in a very sinister, blustery way.

Dave F. said...

I would like to get to the part about her being a windspeaker and the Unwind faster. That seems to be the exciting part. Personally, I'd trash the entire first paragraph and most of the second for a single sentence but that's my style and not your style. But let me say this: We know she hurts and the hospital is drab. Prune some of those words. Get to the third paragraph faster.

BTW - When I first moved into my house, it had a rural delivery route. My number was Route 2 box 666B. As the properties were subdivided, they ran out of numbers and had 666A,B,C,D and next door was 667F while across the street was 625. The Post Office was a little bit non-linear. EE is, at least, linear.

Steve said...

I think this could use a little cleaning up - that semicolon looks out of place to me, certainly - but it's basically getting the job done, isn't it? Introduces the protagonist and hits the ground running with a dramatic situation ... It works for me.

I did have a couple of seconds' worth of cognitive disconnect before I worked out how to pronounce "Unwind", though. And I'm not a big fan of Slubka as a name ... though I guess it's only the second daftest name we've seen this week, at that. (Any chance Slubka could team up with Satiety Wherret? Maybe they could fight crime.)

Ruth said...

I liked this too.

I read Unwind as un-wine-d as well.

I read Dova as Dova, not as Dove.

Don't like the name Slubka, but only because it's an ugly name. It didn't bother me in the way that, say, Satiety would in a book. It made me assume this was a different world from ours (and possibly not human); if that's correct, I don't see any problems with it. Except it's an ugly name, but you don't judge a character by their name (Hermione, anyone?).

I like the first paragraph and don't think you need to cut anything from it. I found the "which meant she still had work to do" a good look into the mindset of a character who, a moment ago, thought she might have been dead.

I initially skimmed over the second paragraph a little bit, and agree this could be tightened somewhat - such as cutting out the "No one else was in the room" sentence and just adding "alone" in "She was [alone] in a long narrow room".

These are such minor nitpicks though! I'd definitely read on. :)

Joanna said...

Thanks all! This was much more positive than I had expected...

Rachel, you got exactly what I meant by Unwind. Obviously it confused a lot of other people, so I need to change that.

Anyone, please: is Un-Wind any clearer? Would Anti-Wind be better or lead you to expect something more scientific?

Sarah L, I'll reduce the number of 'meant's in the first paragraph; thanks. EE, I'll cut 'with it', that would help.

I'll think more about Slubka's name. She is meant to be a rather harsh and unromantic heroine. Also, this story began as my conribution to the Bad Backstory exercise, where I chose the names Slubka and Bugnok for their unappealing qualities; and then I realized there was a real story in there, but Slubka already had her name. (I did change Bugnok, who is less important anyway.) Yes, Slubka is human, but not of our world or language base.

Evil Editor said...

The problem is that unwind is already a word. It's going to be hard to get people to pronounce it differently, hyphenated or not. If we knew what the unwind did we might be able to suggest something else. It can cause darkness and rattle windows. Anything else? Is it ever windy when the unwind is around?

~Aimee States said...

"Yes, Slubka is human, but not of our world or language base."

I hope I don't sound like a nit-pick here, but I think we humans have ownership of the word human. That description would make her a humanoid, or some such sh*t (I'm not the sci-fi pro). I just don't want you to write 300 pages of "human on another planet" and figure that out later. Unless there's a mass alien abduction involved here. Alien abductions are neat.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Anti implies being against; Un implies nothingness. With the Anti-Wind, I get the impression that it's against the wind, or it's political, or something like that. With the Un-Wind, I think of it as a wind made up of things like darkness and fear and nothingness. I think if you write it as Un-Wind, you may still have one or two readers think it's unwind until you mention the windspeaker bit, but they'll be able to figure it out.

Evil Editor said...

To me anti and un both make it the opposite of wind. Which means a state of there being no wind. The eye of a hurricane or just dead calm. Of course it can mean anything you want it to if it's your word, but if you choose to make up a word that includes "wind" readers will expect a logical reason. What does it have to do with wind?

Ruth said...

The "nothingwind"? Un-wind would have the same problem as unwind, I think. Antiwind sounds like it's the opposite of wind. Would "nothingwind" or "darknesswind" (although much more longwinded) be better? Or something with a similar meaning but shorter... umm... the nilwind/nixwind... nah, I'm out.

I see no problems with basically man-shaped creatures with similar genes/traits/etc on another planet being called humans if they're more or less the same as us.

Wonderwood said...

Yeah, Unwind has to go, I think. As was pointed out, it's already a word and not the one you want, so I agree changing it would be an improvement.

Sanswind? Nah.

Wait. I've got it. Zombiewind. Tah dah.

Xiexie said...

Hi Joanna,

Everyone already mentioned my nits.

Now onto this Unwind thingy:

I prefer Un-Wind. Personally I read Un-Wind as uhn wind and not as uhn-whined.

EE, I disagree. (Ha that rhymes!) Anti-Wind reads to me like "against the wind" IMO; Un-Wind reads to me as being more opposituous (not a word, I know, but I think it should be) to Wind.

And yes, how does Un-Wind behave?

~Aimee States said...

Why not just call it The Wind? No-fail on the decipher.

Steve said...

Would it help, maybe, to give the Unwind an actual wind name? (A moment's Googling led me to this page:-

http://ggweather.com/winds.html

with tons of them. Recovering Stephen R. Donaldson readers like myself will recognize "bayamo", of course, but there's plenty of others to choose from.)

_*Rachel*_ said...

Ever seen Prince of Egypt? I'm visualizing the Un-Wind as something like the Plague of the Firstborn, or something dramatic and scary like the swarm of locusts. Maybe something like what I've heard of dust storms in the Dust Bowl. Big, dark cloud, evil in every way, blowing through the air and scaring people.

You could try something like Darkwind, but don't get too fancy; I think something like Deathwind would be too obvious.

Anonymous said...

Naming the unwind after what it isn't gives the impression you still need to fully clarify what it is to yourself. Why not just sling out six or ten Scrabble letters, arrange them in a way English speakers can reasonably hope to pronounce, and use your own fantasy genre name?

Joanna said...

Thanks again. Sorry to be late answering your very helpful comments and questions.

In its weaker forms the Un-Wind manifests as stagnant, foul-smelling air, formless fear and difficulty in thinking. In its stronger forms it sucks away light and air and can cause death by asphyxia as well as inducing panic or mindless rage. (The rattling windows are resisting suction, not pressure.) It feeds on human fear, pain, hate and death. The windspeakers, and the wind of the living world, work against it. So no, I can't call it Wind. I'm thinking about what I can call it and would be really glad to hear further suggestions...

Matthew said...

I don't think it will do us any good to speculate on names for Unwind without us actually knowing what it is.

When I read it as Un-wine-d I pictured it as some sort of juggernaut that was unwinding the fabric of time itself. Or maybe a better way to put it is that it was something that was un-creating the universe. That sounded pretty cool to me, so I would prefer it if you kept Unwind.

But asking us to name this is like asking a stranger to name your child. Only you can pick something with meaning, we just like what sounds cool.

Evil Editor said...

The Reeking
The Stench
The Stinkwind

~Aimee States said...

Vacuity, Interstice, Lacuna, Nullity, there's a lot you could do with it.

Anonymous said...

In its weaker forms the Un-Wind manifests as stagnant, foul-smelling air, formless fear and difficulty in thinking. In its stronger forms it sucks away light and air and can cause death by asphyxia as well as inducing panic or mindless rage... It feeds on human fear, pain, hate and death.

It's the Fox News Channel?

Dave F. said...

In its weaker forms the Un-Wind manifests as stagnant, foul-smelling air, formless fear and difficulty in thinking.

Reminds me of Rush Limbaugh's fat backside. But all joking aside:

try Uhr-wind, where Uhr is the German root for primeval wind.

Anonymous said...

Ha, yeah! Call it The Rush.

Joanna said...

Another stab at the opening is below. I didn’t find any name I liked better than Un-Wind, but maybe clarifying what it does early on will help.

(Separate note: For a later piece of the story I’d be very grateful for advice from one of you who knows more about ballistics. If someone used a handgun to shoot another person who was standing right in front of a window 6-8 feet away, would it be likely that the shot would pass through the body and break the window? It needn’t be a sure thing; it doesn’t have to happen in the story, but the MC has to convince someone else that this is what will happen if he shoots her.)

***

Ravka’s lungs ached. Her stomach heaved. That meant, she supposed, that she was alive. Her arm hurt, too, from being pinned under her against a cold concrete floor. She had made it into the Emergency Building, then. She would live a little longer. She still had work to do.
Ravka sat up gingerly. She was alone in a long narrow room, its outer wall lined with floor-to-ceiling windows that sucked light away rather than admitting it. The dark outside was even thicker now than when she came in. The Un-Wind was still strengthening. No wonder. She had turned and tried to hold it back, to let more of the miners into the almost-safety of the sealed building, but the Un-Wind had sucked her courage away with her breath so that she stumbled inside and collapsed, leaving a crowd milling blindly behind her. Many of them must have been trapped outside; they would be dead now, or dying, feeding the Un-Wind with their despair.
A distant murmur of voices came through the inner door. None of the other refugees had seen that she was a Dova, a windspeaker; else they’d have kept her close to see what she could do for them. Precious little, she guessed.

Anonymous said...

...but the MC has to convince someone else that this is what will happen if he shoots her.

If all the MC has to do is convince someone this will happen, it doesn't matter if it can actually happen or not; it only matters how convincing the MC is.

Matthew said...

I'm surprised you revised this because everyone liked the first one so much. I like them both, I don't you could go wrong either way.

As for the ballistics, I'm not an expert but I believe once a bullet enters a human body, it's very hard to predict what it will do. It could bounce off a bone, pass right through, or get lodged in the body.

Ruth said...

I like the revision. Ravka is a MUCH nicer name than Slubka. :)

This is a much more gripping beginning; my attention is immediately caught. I liked your first beginning, but I like this one even more.

I only have one suggestion:

She had turned and tried to hold it back, to let more of the miners into the almost-safety of the sealed building, but the Un-Wind had sucked her courage away with her breath so that she stumbled inside and collapsed, leaving a crowd milling blindly behind her.

I would change the tense slightly there. Earlier you mention her thought: She had made it into the Emergency Building, then. Confusion; disorientiation; no clear memory of what's just happened (which is pretty understandable). But later, you show her clear memory of "stumbling inside and collapsing".

I would just suggest entering a "must have" there:

She had turned and tried to hold it back, to let more of the miners into the almost-safety of the sealed building, but the Un-Wind had sucked her courage away with her breath. She must have stumbled inside and collapsed, leaving a crowd milling blindly behind her.

Or even:

She remembered turning and trying to hold it back, to let more of the miners into the almost-safety of the sealed building, but the Un-Wind had sucked her courage away with her breath. She supposed she must have stumbled inside and collapsed, leaving a crowd milling blindly behind her.

Question: If she was the one holding the door open to try and keep the Un-Wind out, who closed the door once she stumbled in? Or was it one of those auto-closing doors?

Other question: If a bunch of people have just rushed in, where are they all? Is fainting a common thing after being in the Un-Wind? (Wouldn't surprise me.) If so, you'd think there would be a few other comatose people in the room, too. If not, why did no one notice there was an unconscious girl lying there, and at least try and drag her onto a bed?

The second question is less important as for all I know, you answer that in the next paragraph.

Note: I think the Un-Wind is better than the Unwind - and the capitalisation of "wind" (I think) shows that you are actually talking about the wind.

By the way - if you need beta readers, I volunteer! I really want to read this book. :)

Kings Falcon said...

Having spent Monday at the shooting range doesn't make me a ballistics expert but . . . it depends on the gun and ammo. We shot probably 8 different guns. The 22 revolver with light ammo I spent most of the day playing with wouldn't do it, but a bear gun with hollow point ammo might. So could anything designed to bring down big game.
There's also the problem with the gunk inside us - both the soft stuff and the bone. A 22 is going to rattle around inside and probably not exit. Something higher? Depends on what it is and if it hits bone. But there would be a chance.
But remember, unless the assailant is new to guns, she probably knows what the weapon and ammo can do. It's going to be a hard sell if it's not possible.

Joanna said...

Ruth--thank you, I don't know how I missed the tense problem. And I'd be very, very grateful for a beta reader. It's not a book, just a short story. I've found a logic flaw I need to fix, but would be glad to send it to you on the weekend when I've fixed the hole. How do I contact you? If you send me a message at joannahoyt at yahoo dot com I can reply on that...

Matthew and Kings Falcon, thanks too. It sounds as though there's enough of a possibility of window-breaking for the MC to work on. I've never written stories involving guns before and it;'s good to have people to check with.

Matthew said...

Your MC could also threaten the bad guy with the possibility that he will miss her entirely.

Did you know that they've done studies with police officers firing weapons at point blank range in stressful situations? The Princeton study found that for every ten shots--at point blank range--trained officers only connected on two.

That gives your bad guy an 80% chance of missing your MC and blowing out the window. Would you take any risk with an 80% chance of failure?

Um, yeah...I made that statistic up. But I had you going there, didn't I? See what I'm getting at?

_*Rachel*_ said...

The explanation in the second is nice, but I like the first one better. The second one has too many short sentences, and less sense of her.

Ravka's not bad for a name.