Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Beginning 683

Emma was uncertain of how much time had passed since he last used her. It didn’t matter. What mattered was The Collector would come searching for her eventually. When he did, his eyes would be brimming with pain, his hands would tremble as he brought her to his lips and…With a shiver she forced herself to stop thinking about the inescapable future.

The door crashed open. Dust drizzled from the doorframe like grey nuclear snow. It settled in The Collector’s hair as he staggered and limped into the room. Dragging his left leg behind him, he painted smears of blood across the floor with his foot.

At the sight of his blood Emma knew she was needed at last.

His face screwed into a grimace as he squeezed his fingers into the pocket of his jeans and, with a flash of triumph, produced his newest prize. The glass bottle he held between thumb and forefinger was unremarkable. It might have been a shot bottle of liquor, but it was hard to tell since the labels had been peeled away and the previous contents drained. He held the prize up to his eyes, his hungry gaze glittering.

“We’ll see what makes you so special in a minute,” he said to the bottle in his upraised hand. He limped forward and winced. “But first I need to see Emma.”

"Emma!"

She watched as The Collector pulled open a drawer and tossed aside the sundries it contained, searching for the bag that was hidden there. Soon they would share the magic, he would feel her, cold against his lips, and she would take the pain--

* * *


Marcus Welt looked up from the page and peered at his client. "So let me get this straight," he said. "This is the story of a man's descent into reefer madness, as told by Emma the Sentient Bong? What is it, exactly,
you've been smoking?"


Opening: Beth Light.....Continuation: Anon.

30 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


* * *


"This one's interesting," said the intern.

With a groan, the editor stood up and shambled over. The intern winced. The editor hadn't showered in a few days, and he was wearing his Iron Maiden T-shirt, too, the one he hadn't washed since Steve Harris gobbed on it at a concert in in 1987.

"What is it, kid?" the editor slurred, his Thunderbird-tainted breath redolent in the younger man's ear.

"Weird POV in the slush," the intern said.

The editor peered at the page, idly scratching his beard. Through the cracked windowpane came a dreadful shriek. Neither man flinched. They were used to the noise; the drunken slaughtermen in the abattoir next door botched every tenth killing.

"Who's this Emma?" asked the editor.

"That's what's interesting," said the intern. "She seems to be ... the main character's hip flask?"

The editor shook his head. Bits of dandruff scattered across the young man's desk. "Nah," he said. "That makes it literary. We don't do literary. Not here at Harlequin."

--Steve Wright

Matthew said...

Just a little nitpick. When showing a sudden change in thought it's better to use a dash -- than a pause ...

That's what I've been raised to believe anyway.

That bottle must be really important if Emma studies it so carefully in the midst of a tense situation. I'm curious enough to read a little more.

Dave F. said...

Is this a vampire thing? I can't tell.

What gives me mucho grief in this is that you open with Emma's thoughts and then suddenly "The Collector" suddenly speaks to someone else.

As far as the opening is concerned there are only two people in this scene, Emma and the Collector.

~Aimee States said...

You lost me with the first sentence.

"Emma was uncertain of how much time had passed since he..."

I would restructure that if you intend to keep it, but the first paragraph can go. I'd start the with the second one, and a better opening line. And drop this "It might have been a shot bottle of liquor, but it was hard to tell since the labels had been peeled away and the previous contents drained." Unnecessary, and it hurts your rhythm. And lines like "screwed into a grimace" always make me groan.

"Gaze glittering" doesn't do it for me either. And saying "But first I need to see Emma" is moot. She's right there.

But I do want to know what's in that bottle, so keep going.

_*Rachel*_ said...

This just confuses me. Some of it's that, at first, Emma seems scared of the collector. Then when he comes in, he seems like an eccentric, unscary person.

I think the two continuations have pointed it out: who is Emma? I assumed a girl, but she really could be an it. I took "used" to mean he was abusing her, but that connotation is totally different if she's inanimate. And maybe it's the word "used" that's confusing me in the first place.

Beth Light said...

This is the author.
Great continuations! I literally laughed out loud.
To clarify, Emma is not an inanimate object. She is a soul being held captive by The Collector inside of a glass bottle.

The Collector collects souls with special abilities (Emma's ability is healing) and uses thier talents as his own.

I knew the beginning was trippy, but is it too trippy?

Beth Light

Evil Editor said...

This certainly piques the curiosity, but to me there are too many mysteries going on at once. What does the collector collect? Is there something currently in the bottle? What's special about the bottle? Why is the man talking to the bottle? Why does the collector have to search for Emma? Doesn't he know where she is? Who or what is Emma? Bring her to his lips? Why is the Collector bleeding?

You want us to wonder about something enough to keep reading, but you don't want us wondering about so much that we get annoyed and move on to something else.

The first sentence tells us the Collector has used Emma before, but Emma later knows she is needed "at last," which sounds a bit like she's been waiting for the one time she'll be used. Maybe she should know she is needed again instead of at last.

"But first I need to see Emma." Can't he just call to Emma, instead of telling the bottle he needs to see her?

~Aimee States said...

"She is a soul being held captive by The Collector inside of a glass bottle."

That's actually pretty damn cool. But you need to rewrite this so we understand that fact.

Anonymous said...

What they said. Beginning had good intriguing qualities but the logic seems to need a bit of sorting out. As a reader it's not clear if the logic tangle is a test for us or if the author needs to fix something. In a way it reads like paragraph 1 is a beginning, followed by a second beginning in paragraph 2, as these paragraphs lack continuity. Which might be OK.

Terrific continuation.

Eric P. said...

It's a good concept. You shouldn't keep it hidden for so long. As it is, we're being given Emma's POV but we have no idea even what kind of being she is. It creates more confusion than trippiness. We can't picture it even psychedelically if we don't know what we're supposed to be envisioning.

Of course, this may be because it reminds me a bit of one of my pet peeves in fantasy fiction: the characters spend three pages discussing the implications of the Renorian Vlax before the author thinks to tell us poor readers what exactly a Renorian Vlax is. It's all clear enough in the author's mind, you see.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You could tell us Emma is looking through glass, and later maybe say: His leg was bleeding all over the floor, so he'd need Emma. Or: "But first I'll need to see Emma about my leg."

Evil Editor said...

That point was already made: At the sight of his blood Emma knew she was needed at last.

Starting with paragraph 2 eliminates a couple of the mysteries (bringing her to his lips, which makes us wonder if Emma's inanimate, and searching for her, which makes us wonder if she's hiding).

As the bottle fits into a jeans pocket, we know its size, and as we're in Emma's POV, and she knows what's in the bottle, being in one herself, there's no need for her to speculate about the previous contents.

Wes said...

Beth, your concept as explained in your post is very intriguing. Start with it, and you'll hook the reader.

Kings Falcon said...

Good thing for the comments or I'd be totally stumped.

I agree that starting with the second paragraph is better. It gives me a few minor mysteries - who is the Collection, why is he bleeding and who is the POV - while still being clear.

The third paragraph doesn't work for me, but not for the reasons people have mentioned. Since this is Emma's POV I should have some idea what she's feeling about being "used" and the Collector. Presumably, she once had a body and the Collector ripped her soul from it to use her powers leaving her his slave. Let me know what she's feeling here.

The fourth paragraph doesn't seem fit with the urgency. If he's as seriously wounded as "painted smears of blood" indicates, shouldn't he be focused on getting Emma to heal him? If he's going to pause to inspect his new soul, Emma should react to THAT. Does she feel sympathy with the new victim?

The Collector's dialog also had me a bit stumped. Doesn't he know the soul's power before he kills the person to collect it? Since I don't know (from the story) that there's a soul in the bottle and the Collectior is wounded, the dialog seemed forced and unnatural. It seemed more like an author intrusion - look this is important - versus what the Collector would naturally be thinking - "Darn those weredingos. They bit my foot again. I need a quick shot from Emma to heal it."

Don't get discouraged though. The concept is really interesting. While I found the descriptions to be a bit over the top and not very helpful clues as to what was going on, editing will help clear the prose up. Good luck.

Dave F. said...

My trouble was not with the opening four paragraphs. It was with the final one. There wasn't a reference to say that Emma was in a bottle. I thought Vampire because a vampire is a creature that would suck blood to heal and Emma would be his blood supply. Nothing prepared me for the Collector can placing people in tiny bottles and then using them.

And that is all contained in the fifth paragraph. Rather than "he said to the bottle" why don't you say "he said to the MAN in the bottle." And then be very explicit about what he says next, that is: "But first, I need Emma's bottle."

That gives the reader two big clues as to what is happening and it only minimally changes the opening.

When I coauthored technical papers and had to shepherd them through five or six reviewers (all of whom had nit-picky, tedious and involved arguments, my goal was to answer each objection with a minimal change.

What I just did is sort of the same technique. The author needs to keep his/her voice consistent but still make a change large enough for the reader to benefit. I can live with a trippy or spooky or atmospheric opening if at some point, I get a fix of what is going on. In this case, I think changing the spoken words of the Collector works better than mucking and meddling and twiddling and diddling around the rest of the opening.

Steve Wright said...

Well ... there's definitely a lot crammed into this opening, and maybe it needs to be better structured ...

... but, both of us who tried writing a continuation picked "sentient container" as a theme ... and it turns out that your character is a sentient container (which is not the sort of idea that springs automatically to people's minds). So it looks like your idea is coming across loud and clear, one way or another.

chelsea said...

This is a very cool idea and with a little clarifying I would read on in a second.

I did feel that a couple of phrases were slightly redundant. I think "grey nuclear snow" could just be "nuclear snow," "staggered and limped" could be just "staggered," and "painted smears of blood" could just be "smeared blood."

I love your imagery and attention to detail. I hope you will post a rewrite for us to read.

Sephina said...

I was intrigued enough to want more and was disappointed when I got to the end and there wasn't more. I would have given you a few more paragraphs to entice me further. I didn't find it confusing in a bad way. That may have changed as I went on.

I liked and was hooked. But I'm not an editor or an agent.

Beth Light said...

Thank you all for your advice.
The paragraph after The Collector's dialogue starts with this sentence: Emma was contained in a green glass bottle. But I guess I don't get there quick enough. I will take all of your suggestions into consideration.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi Beth!

Great concept. I've not weighed in here yet because I knew I was intrigued by your opening but I didn't like it.

It reminds me of my dating life - but enough about me.

I waited to read the other comments and I think EE was right on the mark, (again, boy does this get old, frustrating, humbling).

There is at least eight points in the opening that is so intriguing it was hard to see what to focus on . . . it was like walking into a forest and trying to find the right tree to concentrate on.

The concept made me want to read more - the opening left me confused.

I think there is some great advice here to fix this problem - Dave's advice is good, starting at paragraph two would work, pruning back a few of the What Does that mean moments would work.

good look. Very good luck. I want to read this book.

vkw

Anonymous said...

There are ideas here that I like but I'm so frustrated I want hurl this across the room. I've tried to write a coherent critique and it slips into an diatribe about the shades of gray when dealing with ambiguous time.

What I can tell you the ambiguous time in sentence one doesn't match the ambiguous time in sentence two. (How about nixing the ambiguous time altogether?)

his eyes would be brimming with pain, his hands would tremble as he brought her to his lips an"

This sentence is a WTF moment for me. It's overwritten. If this is a romance it might be okay... except even though you've taken pains to avoid the word "rape" that's what I think we have going on.Even if it's not, I have a problem with an MC that romanticizes attack experiences.


Dust falls, water drizzles- unless its dust mixed water.

You have two points of view (which is okay when done well) in close proximity and neither is working for you.

Heroin thinks "I don't know when the last time I saw my x but I'm terrified of him."

X shows up injured. (it feels deus ex machina and turns out to be pointless)

Heroin (who's supposed be terrified)

A: tries to escape.
B: Seizes her chance to kill her injured tormentor
C. Thinks, "at last he needs me" (this is a pointless pov change)

Then the narrator abandons Emma's ship,to marvel over a bottle.

When I read the opening I though Emma was the story. The last Paragraphs suggests, mysterious Bottle is the story.

Usually I'm all for mysterious Bottles, but I really liked Emma (until she turned out to have battered wives syndrome with romantic memories of her abuse)II want to read about her. But the bottle and and what's in it, is the story. Start there.

And you don't need Emma's POV. She's a prop for the bone crusher to heal (and a love interest???)

Er, and double er.

Beth Light said...

Okay guys, here's a rewrite. Is it any better? worse?
Thanks to those who take the time to read this and comment.

Through the glass of Emma’s bottle the tiny basement room appeared curved and distorted. The door crashed open. The Collector limped over the threshold, his movements twisted by the rounded shape of her bottle. He dragged his left leg behind him, smearing blood across the floor with his foot.

At the sight of his blood Emma knew she was needed. Her heart sank.

Sweat dripped down his pale cheek as he limped across the room to where Emma waited. Where they all waited. His collection.

They were displayed in a clean white curio cabinet that stood in stark contrast against the concrete wall. Glass bottles of various shapes, sizes and colors were arranged on the shelves. Spotlights illuminated them, casting colorful shadows as the light passed through the multicolored glass. His eyes scanned over them.

A brief sigh of relief escaped his lips. He reached onto the shelf, grasped Emma’s bottle with one shaky hand and twisted the lid enough to loosen it. The vessel was still capped when he brought it to his lips and in one fluid motion he removed the lid and inhaled, drawing Emma into his lungs.

Emma gasped as a wave of his pain smacked into her.

Evil Editor said...

It's worse. You're trying to address too many things and diluting it. Breathing in Emma's essence or soul or whatever is more dramatic if you haven't revealed that she's part of the collection.
Something like:


The door crashed open and the Collector limped over the threshold. At the sight of his blood Emma knew she was needed again. Her heart sank.

Sweat dripped down his pale cheek as he crossed the room to the white curio cabinet. Glass bottles of various shapes and sizes were carefully arranged on the shelves, spotlights illuminating them, casting colorful shadows. His eyes scanned over them.

A brief sigh of relief escaped his lips. He reached onto the shelf, grasped Emma’s bottle with one shaky hand and twisted the lid enough to loosen it. The vessel was still capped when he brought it to his lips; in one fluid motion he removed the lid and inhaled, drawing Emma into his lungs.

She gasped as a wave of his pain smacked into her.

~Aimee States said...

*Just for fun

Genies were supposed to be trapped in bottles--not people--but Emma was a healer. Her soul had been stolen by The Collector to be used when he needed her. She spent most of her days staring through a green haze, the shape of the room distorted by the curve of her bottle. When he did use her, it involved pain. He would suck her soul into his lungs, and there she would heal whatever disaster had befallen him. It was a terrible existence.

With a crash, the door of the shack flew open and The Collector stepped in from the storm. Snow and dust swirled around his head, falling from the door jamb above. He dragged his left leg behind him and saw a red smear streaking the floor in his wake. At the sight of his blood Emma knew she was needed, and her heart sank.

Sweat dripped down his pale cheeks as he limped across the room to where she waited. Where they all waited. Their souls were displayed in a clean white curio cabinet that stood in stark contrast against the grimy walls. Glass bottles of various shapes, sizes and colors were arranged on the deep shelves. Spotlights illuminated them, casting colorful shadows as the light passed through the multicolored glass. His eyes scanned over them.

A brief sigh of relief escaped his lips when he found what he was looking for. He reached onto the shelf, grasped Emma’s bottle with one shaky hand, and twisted the lid enough to loosen it. The vessel was still capped when he brought it to his lips and in one fluid motion he removed the lid and inhaled, drawing Emma into his lungs. She gasped as the waves of his pain overwhelmed her.

Beth Light said...

You're right, as always, EE. It's terribly overwritten.

*reaches for chainsaw and goggles*

This might take a while...

_*Rachel*_ said...

It's better in that I have a clue what's going on. I think that makes it doubly better, even if it does need to be pruned.

Anonymous said...

Changing pov is useful, but sometimes it doesn't work. I've written two sample openings. One starting with Emma and one with The Collector. I tried to use as much of your original text as possible.


Emma didn't know when he last used her. Time is hard to measure in a glass bottle. But The Collector had returned injured. He limped toward the shelf and Emma, trailing blood behind him. Then he picked her up with a trembling hand- that's how she knew it was bad. She braced for the pain.

The Collector inhaled her into his lungs and his pain ebbed. His hand stopped shaking and slowly the injuries began to heal. He could hear Emma screaming and feel her writhing with pain. You'd think she'd be used to it by now. He coughed her up and spit her back into the bottle, capping the lid. He could still hear her whimpering. He put the bottle back on the shelf with the rest of his collection and knocked the nuclear dust from his black hair.

Or..........

The door to the bomb shelter crashed open, sending an explosion of nuclear dust into the room. The Collector shook his head, knocking the powder out of his black hair. He staggered into the room, dragging his left leg behind him, painting the floor with blood behind him. He barely had to the strength to lift the bottle. With a trembling hand he brought it to his lips. In one fluid motion he removed the lid and inhaled, drawing Emma into his lungs.

Emma screamed in pain.


It's still my humble opinion that this story is about the collector, not Emma and you should start with him, and focus on him throughout the book. Even if you meant it to be Emma's story, he's stolen the show on a subconscious level. You keep trying to redirect the story to Emma and chaos ensues (which I imagine is quite frustrating for you)

~Aimee States said...

I'm going to disagree on POV, Anon. If the point of this set up is that she escapes eventually and chaos ensues (I'm assuming) then it's her story. She's easily a sympathetic character, so that was my first instinct, but I could be way off.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

The door crashed open. Dust drizzled from the doorframe like grey nuclear snow. It settled in The Collector’s hair as he staggered and limped into the room. Dragging his left leg behind him, he painted smears of blood across the floor with his foot.

Emma was uncertain of how much time had passed since he last used her. It didn’t matter. What did matter was that he returned and would need her now. She could see his eyes were brimming in pain, his hands were trembling. Emma braced herself for the inevitable pain she too would suffer.

His face screwed into a grimace as he squeezed his fingers into the pocket of his jeans and, with a flash of triumph, produced his newest prize. The glass bottle was unremarkable. It might have been a shot bottle of liquor, but Emma knew what it contained and she saw the hunger in his glittering eyes.

His hand trembled when he pushed other bottles of various sizes and shape aside to find a place for his new soul. After placing it, he called out her name and reached for her bottle.

Emma braced out of fear of the pain, she trembled in anticipation for the temporary respite from her prison. He brought her to his lips . . . . and what was left of her began to scream.

Just playing here.

vkw

Beth Light said...

Yes, this is Emma's story. And yes, chapter one ends with her escape.