Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Beginning 667

As Alexander, son of Xavier, walked through the crowd of people in the marketplace, someone who didn’t know any better would think he was royalty. The brown-skinned youth strode forward with all the confidence of a general and all the regal bearing of a king. The bags laden with groceries he carried did nothing to detract from his commanding presence. As he went, the crowd parted before him. But they did so not out of respect, but out of fear. Alex might seem human at a first glance, but there were signs otherwise, such as his pointed ears. While Alex was human on his father’s side, his mother was Kenlor, those hardy and enchanted tribespeople that Men considered savages. In the eyes of many, this was a crime beyond all forgiveness. But despite the prejudice he faced daily, Alex refused to hide what he was, and the word shame held no meaning for him. Neither did humility.

"What the merry Hell?"

Alex stopped in his tracks as a shrewish, gray-haired woman ejected from the crowd.

"Have you no shame? No humility?" The woman glared at Alex.

"Madam, I am--" he said.

You are? Look at me. I just trekked half a frigging mile through this godforsaken parking lot on my bad foot -- I'm diabetic, you know; tell him Herb."

"She's diabetic, you know . . . " Herb told him.

"Because you"--she smacked him with her umbrella -- "took the only handicapped space. Are silly pointy ears a disability now? I don't think so. Are--" she looked -- "Pop Tarts a disability? Not in this version of reality. So what have you got to say for yourself? Eh? Eh?"

Alex had nothing to say for himself. He threw his groceries into his car and drove away, having just learnt the meaning of righteous indignation.



Opening: Brett Wade.....Continuation: ril

45 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

A blockage stepped into the lane before him, a hulk of a man. His torso rose high like the rear end of a knight's war horse, mounted on legs as sturdily built. Powerful arms dangled from either shoulder, fists curled tight as a mace's head. The man's granite face looked down at Alexander, eyes narrowed to a glare, mouth turned to a scowl.

“Boy.” the man called out.

Most days, Alexander would simply meet any challenger's gaze with his own and pass the coward without incident. This day, he stopped.

“I am Alexander, son of Xavier,” he said. “Kenlor blood may flow through my veins, but you will accord me the same respect you would any of his majesty's subjects around us.”

The market around them had come to a freeze, but a soft wind rustled through the air. Alexander smiled and felt at ease.

The man snorted, and lifted his gaze.

“For the last time, child,” he growled. “We do not care who or what you are. Just stop venturing into town without even a loincloth.”

--Prem


As Alexander continued down the street, he crossed paths with a beggar who scurried out of the way. Alex turned his nose up at the poor man and said, “That’s right, pure-breed, run from me. I am part Kenlor and not afraid to expose myself.”

“No one cares that you’re Kenlor, sir.” replied the beggar. “The problem is, well, you’re a nudist and everyone is afraid to brush against you.”

--Matthew


Neither did clothes.

--Khazar-khum


Nor diligence. He should have studied harder in school; then he wouldn't be stuck bagging groceries and bussing them out to the parking lot.

He reached into his pocket for the magic talisman. As he waved it in front of him, there sounded a gentle "chirrup" and the door of his chariot unlocked. He rode a Prius. At first glance, it seemed like a car, but while on one side it was a Toyota, on the other it was a Kenmore.

He stowed his groceries, got inside his vehicle and trundled silently away, smiling to himself. Smug. That was a word Alex knew only too well.

--anon.


That’s right, back off folks, he thought. Pointy ears are baaaaad. Elves got pointy ears, vulcans got pointy ears, fucking vampires got pointy ears. “That’s right!” he said out loud to some frightened old lady. “Vampires got pointy ears too!”

“Shut up, ya stinking Kenlor!” the butcher shouted from his stall. He waved a huge meat cleaver in Alexander’s direction.

Alexander ignored him and added a little swagger to his stride. But the butcher’s words hurt. Alexander bit the inside of his lip hoping the pain would push back the sadness that threatened to spill out of him.

Legolas got pointy ears, he thought. Spock got pointy ears, fucking Dracula got pointy ears…

--Matt Heppe


Such haughty steps may have caused another to trip and fall over his own feet; however, it did not cause Alex to trip, perhaps another characteristic that distinguished him from not being fully human. Although many things were clear to the Alexander, such as pride, the importance of walking puffed up, acting high and mighty, being both conceited and arrogant, and presenting an image of authority, other things were not. For example, he was not real clear why some feared him and some others thought of unforgiveable crimes so repugnant they could not be named when he walked without disgrace through congested places to shop.

--Vivian Whetham


With the military precision of a general, Alexander laid out his wares — first, the carrots, arranged in straight lines, then the legumes and potatoes in a cluster, and a single bulbous radish on a pride-of-place plinth.

Presently, a snotty boy happened by.

"How much?" he enquired, with a sniff.

Alexander's ears pricked up and he rubbed his palms together.

"Two coin a pound for the carrots," he beamed, "three for the legumes, one for the potatoes and—"

The boy laughed and threw a coin into Alexander's clay money pot.

"Take this, Kenlor scum!" he cried, and opened fire with the potatoes.

--Whirlochre

Evil Editor said...

More Unchosen Continuations:


Neither did the word 'bill'. Neither did the word 'payment'. However, the words "Stop, Thief!" did. As the shopkeeper came out to chase him down, the word 'run' meant quite a lot, as did the word 'dodge,' the word 'police' and the words 'thirty days in the slammer'.

--debhoag


Which wasn't very good for him on vocabulary tests. But Alex was above those.

--Rachel


Another youth might have been ashamed to enter a grocery store and insist that the cashier should accept twelve copies of Novel Deviations in lieu of cash. Another creator might have been humbled by the remarks made about the value of the work he offered. But Alex smiled with all the exultation of a demigod who had just quit his humble disguise and flattened the braggart who insulted him. In point of fact Alex did not flatten the cashiers. He simply tapped his dark glasses, calling the cashier’s attention to the ominous red glow banked behind them. Being other than human had its benefits.

--Joanna


In fact, he held his head so high that he failed to spy the small, sausage shaped dog darting across the square, intend on capturing as scrawny cat. Alex tripped, cursed, and found himself face down on the dirty stones. Eggs and tomatoes flew out of his grocery bags and he felt, for the first time, a flicker of embarrassment. That strange sensation of hot blushing only increased when he raised his head from the damp pavement and saw a slim, human, foot carefully planted on the slab of meat he had meant to grill for dinner.

--writerperson

Evil Editor said...

I would combine the first two sentences into:

Alexander, son of Xavier, walked through the crowded marketplace with the confidence of a general and the regal bearing of a king.

I'd end the passage at ...out of fear. The rest can be worked in a little later after something happens. It's too early to be hitting us with all this info.

~Aimee States said...

I'm annoyed by the contrast, it doesn't feel realistic. He's got all kinds of confidence and walks through the market freely, but then you say his existence is "a crime beyond all forgiveness". If it was that severe, he'd be hiding those ears, I don't care how confident he is. That and, it's more interesting that way.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Intriguing ideas. Not very exciting opening. A bit too much information all at once. If you can work that in gradually as something is happening, then you're more likely to pull me in.

Eric P. said...

Three words: Show, don't tell.

Fourth word: Please.

Anonymous said...

What they said. Most of this reads like author's notes to self re character #1. These details are good to write out so you can keep track, but this isn't the best way to present the info to readers. I fear similar paragraphs are sprinkled throughout with the equivalent dirt on ensuing characters #2-348. It works better to put such notes in another file for your own reference and work biographical background into the story as it is needed.

Brett said...

@ Aimee States:

I beg to differ. During the story, I make a point of him being brazen and uncompromising. It's part of his charm as a character (and it's what gets the plot rolling). If you're worried that his confidence makes him an "untouchable," then rest easy. He gets into lots of trouble.

I want him to be proud and uncompromising because usually persecuted characters are constantly hiding. This makes him different. Also, his cousin, Kiana, is the one who tries to hide that she's a half-breed. This causes a conflict between her and Alex that forms the backbone of the opening plot.

Why shouldn't Alex be proud of his lineage?

Brett said...

I'd like to give you a slightly re-edited opening. I also included a little of what happens afterward, so you can see where I'm going with this.
--------

Alexander, son of Xolan, strode through the crowd in the marketplace with all the confidence of a general and all the regal bearing of a king. As he went, the crowd parted before him. But they did so not out of respect, but out of fear. The good citizens held the firm conviction that anyone within a five foot radius of a half-breed would suffer an excruciating death. But despite such prejudice, Alex refused to hide what he was. The word shame held no meaning for him. Neither did humility.

The sun was hanging low in the sky now, bathing the blue sandstone of the city in its warm orange light. Alex wanted to get home before dusk and fortunately, this was his last stop. He halted his one-man procession in front of a modest vegetable stand. The merchant glared at him from the corner of his eyes, though never daring direct eye contact. He was scrutinizing him as if he expected something worse than robbery. He looked tough, but his body reeked of fear.

“I don’t sell to the likes of you,” he said.

Alex was unmoved by the man’s reply. He had expected it. The merchant’s refusal was only a minor annoyance. “Too bad,” Alex said with a smirk, approaching the stand. “If you’re smart, you will sell to me, or you might not sell to anyone else.”

“Look, point-ears, I said I don’t sell to your kind. Now beat it or–”

“Or what?” Alex put the groceries down and crossed his arms. He wasn’t especially muscular, but nevertheless made quite an imposing figure.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You're showing, not telling. You've got something kind of cool with the ironic contrast between his bearing, his groceries, and his social standing, but you could make it much more concise and ironic, and do it without yet going into his ancestry.

The name Kiana is much better, except I've got a cousin named Quiana--or Qiana, I can't remember. Come to think of it, I've got another cousin on the other side whose name starts with Q, too. Weird.

Anonymous said...

the opening was not uninteresting but I found it repetitive and I was going "get on with it"

Example:

"someone who didn’t know any better would think he was royalty"

"strode forward with all the confidence of a general and all the regal bearing of a king."

"did nothing to detract from his commanding presence"

"the word shame held no meaning for him. Neither did humility."

Four phrases in one paragraph that essentially says exactly the same thing: Alex is proud and we know this from his look and his walk.

Then there was this line - which was different and intriguing:

"But they did so not out of respect, but out of fear."

Then you went onto explain he is a minority - essentially and being discriminated against because of it.

Now in my opinion people are discriminated against not out of fear but because the persecutors think they are better than "those people", usually because they lack self-confidence or pride themselves.

so I went - cool they fear him - why and then went . . .he's just a minority. what a let down. Kind of boring. Usual mix-breed sort of thing.

There is a huge difference between ostercizing someone and fearing them.

I want to know why they feared him. Did he do something wrong? did he have a bad reputation? If someone looks at him wrong is he going to pound them into the ground? Did he beat the heck out of someone the last time he was in the marketplace? Is his dad the Sheriff?

vkw

P.S. Loved the continuation.

Dave F. said...

I am all for a radical approach on this. I've often said to cut by half. However this time, I think 90% is appropriate. Bring up a little post-it type note, copy the paragraph over to it and then cut almost everything. I'm not saying throw it away, just put it on the side.

Leave these words:
Alex refused to hide what he was, and the word shame held no meaning for him. Neither did humility.

Go directly to the scene and the action. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Everything you said before the last two sentences can be said later as the action unfolds. That's the reason for the post it type note. You can see what information you want to add back into the text and incorporate it in as the action moves forward.

Just cut it out. I might be drastic. I might be more harsh than the others, but here's why:

In one sentence Alex is fixed in the reader's mind. That's all a reader needs is one sentence. Then you reinforce all those indications with his behavior in the rest of the book. Someone can call him a "pointy-eared jerk" or a "proud ass" or some other insult and he responds.

Even if the next sentence was the obvious "Look at the big man carrying groceries like an old house maid." And then Alex's reaction of either saying nothing and walking on or (on the other extreme) beating the guy to a pulp. You have a reason to reveal his biracial heritage and his regal bloodline in tiny bits. Let the reader piece that all together from parts and tidbits.

Jump into the action and reveal backstory slowly.

Steve said...

Me and my ten-foot pole were just going to sit quietly in the corner and read Proust, but some of this stuff makes it too hard for us to bite our tongues and hold our peace. From the new-and-improved version:-

The good citizens held the firm conviction that anyone within a five foot radius of a half-breed would suffer an excruciating death.

Um, if that's the case, there's no way he can buy groceries, and in fact, just by walking around in a crowded marketplace, he must be guilty, in their eyes, of attempted mass murder. As a matter of simple self-preservation, the only rational thing they can do is throw stuff at him from a range of six feet or more until he dies or runs away.

(Which makes his interaction with the merchant seem all the more unpleasant, of course. "You! Peasant! There are items not checked off on my shopping list! I demand you risk excruciating death, so that I may have my veggies!")

Seriously ... you talk about the charm of this character, but I have to ask: what charm? From what you've shown us, he's arrogant, touchy, demanding, selfish, and has a massive chip on his shoulder. These are not charming characteristics. Why should I want to read a book about this guy? I'd happily stay more than five feet away from him, even though I don't believe in the excruciating death thing.

Anonymous said...

Brett -

I would condense your opening down to something like this:

Alexander, son of Xolan, strode through the crowd in the marketplace with the confidence of a general and the bearing of a king. As he went, the crowd gave him a wide berth, but he did not mind.

The sun was hanging low in the sky, bathing the blue sandstone of the city in its warm orange light. Alex wanted to get home before dusk and fortunately, this was his last stop. He halted his one-man procession in front of a modest vegetable stand.

The merchant glared at him, although he was not brave enough to make direct eye contact. “I don’t sell to the likes of you.”

Alex expected the reply and found it be a minor annoyance. “Too bad,” he answered as he put his groceries down and crossed his arms. “If you’re smart, you will sell to me or you might not sell to anyone else.”

“Look, point-ears, I said I don’t sell to your kind. Now beat it or–”

“Or what?” Alex answered. He was not overly muscular but he made an imposing figure nevertheless.

Also - the way you have it written - he stopped in front of the vegetable stand which I would assume would be close enough for conversation and indicate he was ready to buy something. Then he was greeted and then Alex moved in closer.

Conversations in real life starts when someone is close enough - they don't start and then speakers move closer together, (unless something happens that causes a conversation to occur when none was originally intended).

In a supermarket if you are too far away to converse with an employee, you call out, "Hey where are the tomatoes?" They answer. You move on.

But if you move in closer, you're singaling you are expecting a conversation. "Do you have any meat specials today?"

"Yes ma'am - we have . . . . . Is there anything else"

"No. Thank you very much."

People watch. It's fun.

In your writing, Alex was close enough to signal he wanted to engage in conversation but then had to move in closer.

vkw

Xiexie said...

I don't see a conflict of interested between his demeanor and how society sees him. It reminds me personally of some in my family who at that time in the Deep South passed for white and those who chose not to.

Otherwise, I agree with the show-don't-tell crowd. This infodump about Alexander could be shown to us through actions he takes or from others in response to him.

I'd read on tho.

Brett said...

Wow, you guys are impossible to please. But I'm up to the challenge.

Also, @ Steve:
I believe you either misunderstand, or are insinuating that I do not know my character. Allow me to clarify. Alex is arrogant and has something of a chip on his shoulder (because he's been seen his entire life as a living weapon). However, he is not the near-evil person you make him out to be. He is however, aggressive and commanding. He challenges people. Thats what I mean by charm. Even though he's persecuted, he's not a victim.

Now, lets try again.
-----

Alexander, son of Xolan, strode through the crowd in the marketplace with all the confidence of a general and all the regal bearing of a king. As he went, the crowd parted before him. But they did so not out of respect, but out of fear. Fear of the raw destructive power contained within him. To them, his very existence was a crime against nature.

The sun hung low in the sky, bathing the blue sandstone of the city in its warm orange light. Alex wanted to get home before dusk and fortunately, this was his last stop. He halted his one-man procession in front of a modest vegetable stand. The merchant put on a tough face, but avoided eye contact.
“I’d like to buy some radishes.” Alex said.

“I don’t sell to the likes of you,” the merchant replied.

Alex was unmoved by the man’s reply. It was only a minor annoyance. “Too bad,” Alex said with a smirk. “If you’re smart, you will sell to me, or you might not sell to anyone else.”

“Look, point-ears, I said I don’t sell to your kind. Now beat it or–”

“Or what?” Alex put the groceries down and crossed his arms. He wasn’t especially muscular, but nevertheless made an imposing figure.

“Well, I figure the guards’ll know how to deal with you.”

“Really?” Alex smirked again and ran his fingers casually through his reddish-black hair. “Look, I know your type. The type who will brave anything … at a distance. Now, I’m becoming very impatient. I get dangerous when I’m impatient. And when I get dangerous, your other customers won’t want to stick around and see what happens. But none of that has to happen. Just let me buy the radishes and I’ll be on my way.”

Khazar-khum said...

It's interesting how many of us pictured a smug SOB strolling about nude. Or does he have an Evil Editoresque reason for that smugness?

Anonymous said...

Better - a few coppers.

"strode through the crowd in the marketplace with all the confidence of a general and all the regal bearing of a king."

Ask yourself - how is walking with the confidence of a general and the regal bearing of a king different? Also does not regal imply royalty and royalty imply kingly?

Regal \Re"gal\ (r?"gal), a. [L. regalis, fr. rex, regis, a king

Of or pertaining to a king; kingly; royal; as, regal authority, pomp, or sway.

you kind of wrote "all the kingly manner of a king" - hence why I changed it up.

"Wow, you guys are impossible to please. But I'm up to the challenge."

Good for you Brett! I'm proud - remember use what works for you and leave the rest (which means don't take to heart anything you find offensive or anything you can't use.)

vkw

Matthew said...

Alexander walked through the crowded marketplace with the confidence of a general and the regal bearing of a king. The bags laden with groceries he carried did nothing to detract from his commanding presence. As he went, the crowd parted before him. But they did so not out of respect, but out of fear.

He halted his one-man procession in front of a rickety vegetable stand. The merchant grimaced and avoided eye contact.

“I’d like to buy some radishes.” said Alex.

“I don’t sell to the likes of you.”

“Too bad,” Alex said with a smirk. “If you’re smart, you will sell to me, or you might not sell to anyone else.”

“Look, point-ears, I said I don’t sell to your kind. Now beat it or–”

“Or what?” Alex put the groceries down and crossed his arms. He wasn’t muscular, but his Kenlorian features made him appear wild.

“Well, I figure the guards’ll know how to deal with you.” the vendor mumbled as he busied himself cleaning a pear.

Alex leaned in and saw the vendor as a tiger would see its prey. “I don't like trouble, it...annoys me. Just let me buy the radishes and I’ll be on my way.”

Matthew said...

I don't know what compelled me to do that, but I tried to remove some of the telling.

I also have to let you know that everything Alex says to the vendor, it isn't intimidating. In fact, Alex would be laughed off the street if he talked to anybody like that.

People that talk trash are always trying to cover up their weakness. Confident, strong people don't dish out insults to people who are already cowering before them. The truly scary ones are those who say very little and act with indifference.

I hate to say it, but your character is a Gary Stu. The story keeps telling us he's awesome but his actions say otherwise. His cousin, the shy one...Kianna? She's your main character. Alexander is a villain through and through.

I think your writing has potential, it just needs to mature.

Anonymous said...

or -

Alexander walked through the crowded marketplace with the confidence of a general and the bearing of a king. The bags laden with groceries he carried did nothing to detract from his commanding presence. As he went, the crowd parted before him – out of fear, not respect.

He halted his one-man procession in front of a rickety vegetable stand. The merchant grimaced and avoided eye contact.

“I’d like to buy some radishes,” said Alex.

“I don’t sell to the likes of you.”

“Too bad,” Alex said with a smirk, finding the exchange annoying. He may not get home before nightfall if this continued too long. “If you’re smart, you will sell to me or you might not sell to anyone else ever again.”

“Look, point-ears, I said I don’t sell to your kind. Now beat it or–”

“Or what?” Alex put the groceries down and crossed his arms. He wasn’t muscular, but his Kenlorian features made him look dangerous.

“Well, I figure the guards’ll know how to deal with you,” the vendor mumbled as he busied himself cleaning a pear.

Alex leaned in, eying the man with contempt. “I don't like trouble, it...annoys me. Just let me buy the radishes and I’ll be on my way.”

Anonymous said...

I like it. Radishes are under-represented in fantasy.

Robin S. said...

Wonderful continuation, ril! Perfect, actually.

Steve said...

Brett, are you secretly Anne Rice? Because you seem to be telling me I'm interpreting your text from the wrong perspective.

All I know about your character is what you're telling me and showing me. You're saying that, based on that, I should feel he has charm. And I'm saying: sorry, I don't.

Characters don't have to be all fuzzy bunnies and fluffy kittens to be likeable, but they do have to have something about them that engages the reader's sympathies - that gets the reader on their side. So far, I'm not seeing that, here. I'm not on his side; I'm rather hoping that shopkeeper shoves those radishes up his - well, never mind about that. So: what have you got that will make me change my mind?

Brett said...

@ Matthew:
Do you call Alex a villain because he prizes his authenticity? I believe that If you read the interaction between Alex and Kiana later, you might change your mind. Where Alex stresses authenticity, Kiana is more about self-preservation. She also plays a sort of Azula to his Zuko. Watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, and you'll get what I'm going for.

Also, I would argue that if you wholeheartedly believe that this guy is a living weapon, what he says would be intimidating. Furthermore, a requirement for Gary Stu status is getting off scot-free for actions that should entail consequences. That doesn't happen here. However, I can really show you that because it takes more space than there is room for here.

But, I will try again.

-----

Alexander, son of Xolan, strode through the marketplace with all the bearing of a king. The crowd parted before him, not out of respect, but out of fear. Fear of the raw destructive power barely contained within him.

The sun hung low in the sky, bathing the blue sandstone of the city in its warm orange light. Alex wanted to get home before dusk and fortunately, this was his last stop. He halted his one-man procession in front of a modest vegetable stand. The merchant scowled, but avoided eye contact.

“I’d like to buy some radishes.” Alex said.

“I don’t sell to the likes of you,” the merchant replied.

Alex was unmoved by the man’s reply. It was only a minor annoyance. “Too bad,” Alex said with a smirk. “If you’re smart, you will sell to me, or you might not sell to anyone else.”

“Look, point-ears, I said I don’t sell to your kind. Now beat it or–”

“Or what?” Alex put the groceries down and crossed his arms. He wasn’t especially muscular, but nevertheless made an imposing figure.

“Well, I figure the guards’ll know how to deal with you.”

“Really?” Alex smirked again and ran his fingers casually through his reddish-black hair. “Look, I don’t have time for this. I was supposed to be home ten minutes ago. Now, drop the act and give me my radishes.”

Brett said...

@ Steve:
Actually, what I am saying is that the reasons you interpret my hero as evil are:

1. There is material that makes him sympathetic, but it comes along later.

2. I'm kinda biased, obviously. I'm trying (maybe too hard) to make an empowered persecuted character. One who challenges his persecutors instead of hiding from them. He's confrontational.

I thought the fact that he's persecuted would be sympathetic enough. And I'm avoiding angst like the plague. But, to be fair, I ask: What would you suggest I do to make Alex more "likable"?

Brett said...

And no, I've never even heard of Anne Rice.

Ruth said...

"I believe you either misunderstand, or are insinuating that I do not know my character."

I don't think it's that - I think it's more that you talk about the charm of your character, yet we - the readers - don't see any of this charm. He may well be charming later on in the book, but in this beginning he comes across as a bad a-hole (who seems to lack a little self-confidence, imo, or he wouldn't be doing the whole tough talk thing).

If you want him to seem like a bad-ass in the beginning, that's fine. Mission accomplished. All we can comment on here is what we can get from the beginning.

Do you have a critique group? From reading your beginning and query letter I wonder if your writing might benefit from one. (Not picking on you - most writers could benefit from a critique group, myself included.)

A lot of your re-revised beginning seems a bit over-wordy to me. All the confidence of a general = fine. All the regal bearing of a king = the whole passage seems redundant. We can infer that if he's confident, he probably bears himself confidently, too.

Original:
As he went, the crowd parted before him. But they did so not out of respect, but out of fear. Fear of the raw destructive power contained within him. To them, his very existence was a crime against nature.

Could be changed to:
As he walked, the crowd parted before him - not from respect, but from fear. To them, his very existence was a crime against nature.

A specific verb is usually better than a "to go" verb. You don't need to take two sentences to describe their fear - just shunt it in at the end of the last sentence. And why say what they're afraid of? Presumably that will come out later in the story - much more effective to leave the reader wondering exactly why this person is so frightening (imo). You could even cut out the "To them, his very existence..." line, or move it to the next paragraph; that puts the focus on the last word of the previous sentence: FEAR.

The sun hung low in the sky, bathing the blue sandstone of the city in its warm orange light.

Minor nitpick: when you use two colours so close together it becomes noticeable. I'd suggest taking out the "orange" of light, as I find the fact that the sandstone is blue more interesting.

Alex was unmoved by the man’s reply. It was only a minor annoyance. “Too bad,” Alex said with a smirk. “If you’re smart, you will sell to me, or you might not sell to anyone else.”

Alex was unmoved. "Too bad. If you don't sell to me, you might not sell to anyone else." He ran his eyes significantly over the shaky structure of the stall, and flexed one muscle.

OK, maybe not the muscle-flexing part. But you could cut out a few lines of dialogue with the vendor here, and sum it up to make it more effective.

One other comment: I found it unusual that he and the merchant clearly don't know each other. Presumably he has to go through this every time he comes to town to get groceries. If I were a merchant in a town where a known half-Kinlor (?) came to get groceries, I'd have a well-developed routine of huddling in the corner while I yelled at him to just grab what he wanted and leave the money on the counter. I definitely wouldn't get aggro with someone I thought was full of raw, destructive power.

Or maybe Alex doesn't often buy radishes, so it is his first encounter with the merchant. I think it's awesome that this kind of scene is being enacted over the purchase of a few radishes, by the way. :D

Anonymous said...

Might be worthwhile to quit digging for a little while and have a bit of a think about it. The newer versions are not necessarily getting better.

I do hope he gets his radishes, though.

Ruth said...

I prefer the 9:52 revision, by the way (although I still like mine most).

Anyway, remembered one other comment I was going to make: Sarah Rees Brennan's THE DEMON'S LEXICON. Her hero is a believable and charming bad-ass - not the kind of guy you'd want to meet in full daylight, let alone down a dark alley. You might want to have a read of that (plus it's a great book) to see how she pulls it off. :)

Brett said...

Thanks, Ruth. I am even now digesting your statements. Also, you may find it interesting to note that while he does get the radishes, he also gets some jail time. ;)

@ Anonymous: I definitely do not like the idea of giving up. (After all, if you quit, you lose to the critics by default. XD jk) But maybe you're right.

Anonymous said...

ditto on the radishes and now let it stew for a bit.

What I've found that works for me is to make a change YOU like and move onto the next page and then the next and then the next. . . then when you are all done . . come back to the first page.

After I went through this, I was really disheartened for I kept thinking if this is so hard for this first paragraph for the first page it will never be finished but as I concentrated on keeping focused on the scene, paring my descriptive phrases down and my infodump limited to a pile of trash rather than a mountain - it became easier and easier.

Some pages were easier than others but when I got to the bad (crap) pages and got stuck - I went back to my critiques of the first paragraph I submitted. 1. start where the action starts. 2. show don't tell. 3. concise not wordy. 4. Less is more. 5. if it is confusing to you - your readers are lost too. 6. How does this pertain to the plot. That is the most important piece that needs to pop. 7. What is your point? Put it down and write around.

Wow . . . that poetry excercise just shows right through.

vkw

P.S. the blue sandstones was very cool :)

Anonymous said...

After all, if you quit, you lose to the critics by default.

There are about as many good critics as there are good writers; they're just harder to spot.

No one can tell you how you must write your story; all they can tell you is how they read it. If they didn't read it the way you thought it would, take the opportunity to figure out why that might be and perhaps give them a few more hints. There's probably knowledge of your character locked up inside your head that is so totally obvious to you that it goes without saying. But it doesn't.

Rushing out new versions to answer to your critics, is perhaps not the best way to improve your story. You're going to lose sight of what you've been trying to tell. Try and absorb the gist of the feedback, not each specific. Look at it as forestry, not tree management.

And eat radishes. They're good for you.

Adam Heine said...

It sounds like people have done a good job of explaining why Alexander comes across unsympathetically. I agree that, with this beginning so far, I wouldn't want to spend a whole book with this character.

You compared him to Zuko (technically you compared his sister to Azula, so if my comparison here is off-base, I apologize). In the beginning of Avatar, Zuko is also an arrogant jerk and completely unlikable. It works in Avatar because he's the villain; he's supposed to be a jerk. It wouldn't work if he were the star.

Zuko becomes sympathetic only after we witness how he (a) was a victim in the past and has struggled to overcome it and (b) temporarily sacrifices his own goals to save the life of someone who hates him. That's when he starts to become likable (key words: "starts to").

The thing is, if you're asking your reader to spend a whole novel with this guy, the best thing you can do is to make him sympathetic at or really close to the start.

Everyone's got their own opinions, not all of them helpful, but I've learned that when a lot of people say the same thing, it's usually time to listen.

Brett said...

Thank you, Adam Heine. I think I'm going to take a break from rapid-fire revising and come back later.

And maybe the reason my judgement is a bit skewed on this is because (even from the beginning) I liked Zuko. Maybe it's personal taste. But since not all readers think like me, I have to let go of that.

Also, do you think it might make Alex more sympathetic if I make it clear that threatening people is the only way he's learned to survive? That would make it so he's less mean. He's just trying to get along. Thoughts?

Evil Editor said...

If you want us to like him, showing him being a nice guy will work better than showing him threatening people. Also, give him normal ears.

~Aimee States said...

Why did I come here, read all that, and wind up wanting to kick a kitten?

BuffySquirrel said...

*saves the kitten*

Steve said...

I don't want to flog this one to death, but ...

If you showed Alex enduring some sort of actual prejudice - if, instead of everyone shying away from him in fear, they were calling him names, children were throwing stuff at him, people were deliberately jostling him and saying "Oi! Watch where you're going!" - and you showed how he handled that, then his decision to stand up for his ethnic heritage and wear his pointy ears with pride might look like a brave and principled decision. (Not, perhaps, a particularly sensible decision, but you can't have everything.)

And if, instead of the scene with the merchant - which really does make him look like a cheap and nasty bully - you had him dealing with an actual threat (half a dozen guys with big sticks come at him yelling "we're gonna do yer, ya pointy-eared git"), then you could show him being a total bad-ass and still keep the reader's sympathy.

You wouldn't have to compromise your view of the character's personality - just put him in a tough situation and let him deal with it with some class. That's much more likely to get the reader on his side.

Ruth said...

Oh! Good call, Steve. I second that. :)

Faceless Minion said...

I think my problem with this is I'm not forming a connection of any kind with the character because I don't see him reacting to anything until the vegetable seller. That reaction seems incongruous since all I've seen up to that point is silent pride. Also, 'unmoved', 'minor annoyance', and 'smirk' don't add up to a consistent action/reaction for me.

The first place I would expect to see a reaction is where the crowd parts -- it's the first thing that we see occuring outside of him.

Does he:

glare at them?
brace his shoulders and ignore them?
lift his chin a little higher?
smirk?
not react while inwardly despising them?
silently mock them?

I think if I saw a reation I'd be able to form a better picture of him and his circumstances than just him being an arrogant @#$^@ that others have mentioned.

Also, nitpicks mentioned earlier which may be answered further in the text - how big is this town? Is this the first time he's tried shopping in this area? What kind of reputation does he have?

Brett said...

At last, I have completely overhauled my opening. I would implore those who read the first version(s) to give this one some (re)consideration.
------

Alexander, son of Xolan, strode through the marketplace with all the bearing of a king. As he walked, the crowd parted, but not out of respect. The odd person picked up something to throw at him, some cursed, and nearly everyone spat in his general direction. The people of Mora feared Alex. And over time, their fear had soured into hatred.

Life could be difficult when people despised you for existing, but that was the life of a half-breed. The vicious rumors, the cursing, the violence, Alex had learned to endure it all. He refused to be defeated, just as he refused to hide.

Alex tripped and fell, scattering the groceries he had convinced the merchants to let him buy. He then got up and glared at the man who had tripped him. He then proceeded to ignore the man’s lengthy string of oaths, gather the undamaged vegetables, and continue on his way. A gang of five teenage boys followed him away from the crowd, carrying sticks. Alex glanced over his shoulder at them and rolled his eyes. “What a surprise,” he said to himself.

The sun hung low in the sky, bathing the blue sandstone of the city in its warm light. Alex wanted to get home before dusk and was in no mood for whatever “game” the boys wanted to play. He set the groceries down and turned to face his assailants. “Look, I don’t have time for this. I’m sure you’ll get some other opportunity to prove how manly you are.”

“You hear that, boys?” a member of the gang said. “Looks like the half-breed only has half a backbone.” The others laughed at his joke.

“Clever.” Alex said. “Did you come up with that all by yourself?” He knew from experience that he wasn’t going to get rid of them peacefully. His quickest way out was to provoke them to fight.

“Look, point-ears, you'll learn your place, or –”

“Or what?” Alex asked, crossing his arms. “This always ends the same way, so I suggest you give your father his stick back.”

At this remark, the youth Alex had insulted ran forward and swung at him. Alex neatly sidestepped the boy’s blow, tripped him, and kicked him in the ribs.

“Really?” Alex said with a smirk. He didn’t see another boy sneak up behind him. Fortunately, the boy had poor aim and his swing at Alex’s head missed, catching him in the shoulder. Alex whirled on the attacker, wrenched the stick from his hands, and downed him with a blow to the head. He was out cold. But a couple blows to the back alerted Alex that the first boy had gotten up and the other three were circling. Alex was alone against four opponents. But at least now he was armed.

----
Thoughts? In retrospect, this version of the intro is more consistent with the Alex I have in mind. (Thats a roundabout way of saying "Thanks, Steve.")

Sarah Laurenson said...

It's better.

You're doing some tell then show and you only really need show. Trust your reader to get some of the nuances from the interactions instead of rubbing their noses in it with explicit telling.

For example: Maybe try writing this without telling the reader that he gets spit at and why and just show that he gets spit at by people. Your reader will be intrigued about why this kid gets such treatment. And you unveil it a little at a time with the dialogue and other interactions.

Dave F. said...

On this last version I'd remove all of the second paragraph. Then rather than say "Alex tripped" I would say "A merchant tripped Alex" and fix up the rest to match.

Faceless Minion said...

The new version seems more generic fantasy to me. It does a good job of conveying your MC's attitude, but the situation is old.

Also, I still don't see the fear -- just generic bad treatment of a minority. With fear I expect distant bad treatment (spitting, insults, thrown things, unseen meeanness), not direct confrontation with no hints of nervousness nor enough unthinking hatred to allow someone to ignore their fear.