Friday, October 02, 2009

New Beginning 691

Moonlight shined through a paper window, dimly lighting a small room. Mina rested peacefully on top of her tattered sheets, listening to the waves crash against a pebbled beach outside. She could hear the stones jostling under each wave--a relaxing sound that was her favorite lullaby--and her mind vacillated between sleeping and waking. She began to dream of her mother. Did her mother fall asleep to the same lullaby?

Something felt strange. Mina’s eyes fluttered open and the world around her appeared hazy. She sensed something. Perhaps she was partially dreaming--No. Someone was in the room with her. Her vision came into focus and she looked toward the doorway. A decrepit old woman was there. The crone’s eyes were hollow. Its dress was covered in shadow and its grey skin was translucent. As it glided towards Mina, its feet dragged, rhythmically thumping over cracks in the floorboards.

The woman stood, bent over, by Mina's bed. Her breath rasped in her lungs, sending a dry stench across Mina's face. "Are you awake, child?"

"Of course I'm awake," she replied. "Nobody likes reading a story where someone wakes from a dream."


"Don't I know it, child," the crone chuckled. "You should hear what they say about waking up to a stranger in the room."

"And if the room just happens to be white?" Mina added.

Their laughter was nearly audible over the jostling pebbles.


Opening: Matthew.....Continuation: Anon.

30 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


"Mom!"

"Don't you 'Mom' me," hissed the crone. "Dracula came to see me long before you were even a gleam in your father's eye, and I'm getting him tonight! It's almost time for him to be here. Now, get the hell out of my bed!"

--khazar-khum



Mina picked up her nearby guitar and played some chords to the rhythm. The crone produced a syncopated, catchy rhythm, and Mina knew just how to accompany it.

The crone stopped moving forward and started tapping her decrepit toes instead. Mina started singing "I walk 47 miles of barb-wire, I got a rattlesnake for a necktie...", and soon the old crone came in on the chorus, singing "Who do you love" in an unmelodic wheeze.

They open next week at Cicero's nightclub; Mira and Crone is already a big hit on Youtube, be the first to catch this new sensation (somewhat) live!

--Jorac



Mina sat up. "Mom, I cranked your 'Sounds of the Ocean' CD up as loud as I dared for you. Ok? I thought we had a deal. No dancing. Now go back to bed."

--Mother (Re)produces


"Oh, hi, Mom," said Mina. "You're home early. Say, I was wondering, did you ever fall asleep to the lullaby of the--"

"Stow it," said her mother. "The noise from all those darn waves on the rocks is giving me a headache. I don't sMina sighed and sat up. "Oi! What the hell are you doing?"

The thing pulled up short, its menace undercut by an expression of confusion. Mina took pity on the poor old crone.

"Look, either you glide silently and eerily, or you thump your way ominously across the floor, terrifying your victim with each repetition. You can't glide and thump. Jesus, what kind of lame ghost are you?"

Deeply embarrassed, the crone sank back down through the floorboards. Shaking her head, Mina laid down and tried to go back to sleep. In the distance she could hear the faint clanging of the village church bells. Mina had just enough time to wonder if there was any chocolate cake left before she drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

--Sarah from Hawthorne


Mina sighed in resignation at another disturbed night. These nocturnal visits had become a regular occurrence, ever since that bastard sold her the paper windows and doors, saying they were just as secure as the regular kind.

--anon.


No! thought Mina. Surely, she was dead and gone! - But there was no denying it; the hideous revenant's feet wore stilettos, and when it opened its mouth to speak, its breath stank of grave-mold and gin.

"Opening with a character dreaming?" The ghost of Miss Snark cocked an all too substantial cluegun. "You've got one more paragraph to prove you're not a nitwit, bucko."

--Steve Wright


"Didn't mean to wake you, Mina," her roomate's voice croaked. "It's the damned meat loaf and mushy peas. The food here is a crime against nature. I'm tellin' ya, if Mort was still here, may he rest in peace..."

But Mina started to drift off again,the Thorazine doing its work as the noise of the city trash trucks once again morphed into the ceaseless crashing of waves on a pebbled beach. Everything at Shady Rest seemed better after medication time.

--Kate Thornton


It leaned over Mina, and moonlight shined through its empty eye sockets. “Mina, you left the car lights on again.”

Mina looked up and screamed. “Oh, bloody Sunday. Not you again, Aunt Wacker!”

Ms. Wacker pursed her faded lips together. “I’m your landlady, as well as your aunt, dear. By now, you should know how to take care of the car.”

--anon.


Mina tensed as the apparition rustled toward her like old newspaper in a wind. How could she have got her mother's instructions so wrong. The sea whispered like tissue paper; the house was sturdy and its paper windows kept out the breeze. If only she had remembered outside reverse fold followed by half rabbit ear, instead of double crimp, her prince charming would be approaching, instead of this ugly old crone.

Screw Origami; tomorrow it's back to the Legos.

--anon.

Evil Editor said...

Apropos of nothing:

This opening, when combined with some of the continuations, is similar to New Beginning 178 http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2006/12/new-beginning-178.html


Moonlight shone?

Wouldn't the sound of the ocean surf drown out the sound of jostling stones?

Something felt strange. and She sensed something. are so vague they may as well be deleted.

Aimee States said...

This one isn't working for me after sentence two. And an old woman shouldn't necessarily be called "it"--so lose one description, and keep the other.

The continuation is perfect.

Whirlochre said...

I quite like this, and would read on.

But you have to be decisive about the sex of your crone (good advice for outside this blog too, I find).

First, you refer to her as a woman, then as an old crone (generally taken to be female), then four times as an 'it'. Is she so decrepit her tits fell off? This threw me completely. I'd go with 'her' rather than 'it', seing as she's introduced as someone rather than something.

Aimee States said...

Gah! Whenever I go back and reread my comments, I always come off sounding like such a wench. Not my intention.

The first paragraph can be fixed by saying something like "she could see the stones in her mind, jostling under each wave--a vision that lulled her to sleep" (sort of like counting sheep, yo). I like the way you use imagery, but the stones clacking just doesn't fly. It's minor stuff, really.

Steve Wright said...

I think it's a pretty good dramatic sort of opening, with some good atmospheric stuff - but some parts of the xecution don't work for me. "Shined" made me grind my teeth and grimace quite a lot, and the bit about the (?) ghost gliding but also dragging its feet seemed ... off. To me, those seem contradictory, in that gliding is a smooth movement, but dragging one's feet isn't.

But these are the sort of thing that'll get fixed in the next revision anyway, I guess ... On balance, I'd read on.

Joanna said...

I've heard stones rubbing against each other as waves recede, and it is a soothing sound. But those waves weren't crashing, just stretching up and down on a pebbled surface.

I would keep reading this, I think; I like the scene-setting and I'm curious about Mina's mother. I'd be more sure of it if there were fewer adjectives and if the third sentence of the second para was gone.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I like the feel of this and would read on.

The crone/old woman/it thing threw me, but so did the paper window. What's a paper window? Are we in Japan?

Matthew said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

The crone changes from a woman to an it when Mina realizes it's a ghost and not a person. I'll change it to her since it took people out of the story. (Whirl made a convincing point)

Shone...rookie mistake.

It's not Japan, it's Korea. Remember my query from a few months back? (face-lift 645?) This is the opening for that. I changed Minjee to Mina because I didn't want people to get hung up on foreign names again. (Mina is also a Korean name, it just happens to be identical to a European one)

Thanks for the tips, everyone. The continuations were good.

pacatrue said...

Korea, Sarah, if I remember my queries correctly.

Yeah, woman/it.

Would it work to just start with paragraph 2, suitably rewritten? Can't decide.

chelsea said...

One more vote to lose the "it". It's clear that the narrator thinks the crone is creepy, but I'm not sure why. Also, I get the feeling that this crone is different from a human, which adds to the confusion.

The first paragraph is quite pleasant, though, and raises a good deal of curiosity.

Anonymous said...

Another comment - you might like to take a look at your rhythms. The first three sentences have the same pattern. I guess I noticed it so much because it was the beginning.

I know what you mean by the sounds of the stones under the waves. On a 100-per cent pebble, no-sand beach, it's quite a distinctive sound.

Anonymous said...

Is she so decrepit her tits fell off?

LOL, LOL, LOL

Adam Heine said...

"Of course I'm awake," she replied. "Nobody likes reading a story where someone wakes from a dream."

Laugh out loud funny.

Xiexie said...

I got caught up in sentence 1 because of shined. I think it should be Moonlight shone....

And this is just me, but I found that you used "was" a lot in paragraph 2. Maybe the copulas could be changed to action verbs (accept where they're auxiliary verbs).

_*Rachel*_ said...

You use "lullaby" twice and you need to cut "a relaxing sound that was."

Steve, I loved your continuation.

This is nice, it's just pretty slow. Too slow for me. And isn't yours a bit of a historical action/fantasy? As a reader of genre fiction, it's hard for a book that starts "not with a bang but a whimper." To misquote T.S. Eliot, anyway. Though the proverbial bang can be writing, it usually isn't.

Anonymous said...

Some people think my crits are too harsh. I write the truth as I see it. No cuddly kittens or hand holding. But I will add, I thought you have a high concept buried in the query. Have you finished this? What draft are you on?

Words like decrepit and crone are summary adjectives that tell. Try to show.

Be careful with description. You've attempted to create suspense here, but it missed it's mark because theres too much.

To create suspense the MC has to have a response. Slowly waking up and then giving a play by play on what she's seeing makes her seem relaxed. How would you act if you saw something like that?

Aside from the moon and the waves the whole first paragraph isn't working because its boring. We can learn that Mina is motherless later.

Try

Mina’s eyes fluttered open. Moonlight shone through a paper window, dimly lighting the small room. In the corner was a figure cast in shadow. Was it a dream? The figure stepped forward leaning heavily on her cane. Thump, thump, thump. Out side waves crashed against the beach. The old woman came into to the moonlight and raised her head revealing hollow pits where her eyes should have been. Mina screamed.

Aimee States said...

I'm going to disagree, Anon 6:54.

And this is just my opinion--

While your rewrite has punch, I don't want to open a book and see that staring at me on the first page. I enjoy writing that relaxes into a scene and doesn't rush to the payoff. I need a sense of where I am and who I'm dealing with before the screaming starts. I thought the ocean, the stones, the paper window, the moonlight, was all good description--it set me in place. Although, the dream bit or any reference to dreaming can be canned for obvious reasons. I would drag out the sensations/ surroundings and getting to know Mina even more before this night time scene; I'd start earlier in the day. That whole load of crap (again IMO) about "starting where the action is" can mess a writer up and it's often misunderstood. "The action" can involve whatever internal conflicts the protagonist will deal with over the arch of the story, while also using setup toward the plot.

Stick and Move said...

Anon 6:54, there is a difference between being "too harsh" and being wrong. You say you write the truth as you see it, but your truth isn't necessarily everyone else's. Stating your opinion as fact is a good way to get a rep for being "too harsh". In this case, I just think you're wrong, and I prefer the author's effort over your rewrite.

Stick and Move said...

In fact, now that I think about it Anon 6:54, your rewrite reads more like a list of actions; it has no flow or voice. A cold narration of events. Would Mina observe and comment on the waves outside as the crone thumps toward her? That's what I mean by flow.

Sorry, Anon, I'm cranky this morning and any time you put yourself on a pedestal you become an easy target.

Matthew said...

Wow, I'm glad this is getting so many responses.

Anon6:54-I'm currently rewriting to bring the word count below 110k and to fix a couple of manuscript issues. I've lost count of the revisions, but I believe this will be number 4.

Mina's reaction comes up in paragraph 3. I couldn't include it because it would have brought the piece over 150 words. I keep her reaction hidden until then because it's something of a surprise (I hope).

Rachel-I know what you mean by a slow opening, but this is the opening I always wanted and when I tried to write one that started with a bang...it flopped (It was posted on this website. I purposefully forgot what number).

I've (hopefully) come to learn what my strengths and limits are as a writer and I'm going to stay within them until my skills improve. I guess what I'm trying to say is that my style is to build towards action by setting the scene, mood, etc.

I had a light rewrite ready to go last night but I'm going to pull it back for now to consider the new comments (Rythm, was, lullaby, etc.). I'll post it later today.

Thanks a lot for your comments and suggestions, it's been a big help.

Matthew said...

Revision:

Moonlight shone through a paper window, dimly lighting a small room. Mina rested peacefully on top of her tattered sheets, listening to the waves crash against a pebbled beach outside. She could hear the stones jostling under each wave--a relaxing sound that was her favorite lullaby--and her mind vacillated between sleeping and waking. She began to dream of her mother. Did her mother fall asleep to the same lullaby?

Mina’s eyes fluttered open and the world around her appeared hazy. Perhaps she was partially dreaming--No. Someone was in the room with her. Her vision came into focus and she looked toward the doorway. A decrepit old woman stood there. The crone’s eyes were hollow. She wore a dress covered in shadow and her grey skin was translucent. As she gravitated towards Mina, her feet dragged, rhythmically thumping over cracks in the floorboards.

Mina yawned, stretched her arms into the air, and then jumped up from the floor. She approached the window and next to it was a folding screen which she then used to block the moonlight. As the room became dark, the crone glowed in a greenish hue. As usual, it was just a common ghost and not a gwisin. Nothing to worry about.

BuffySquirrel said...

After watching multiple episodes of haunted house reality shows, I'm convinced people don't scream when they (think they) see a ghost (one 'ghost' was obviously a moth, fer crying out loud).

I heard sharp intakes of breath, gasps, shouts, swearing, but no screaming.

Personally I blame tv and movies for promulgating the idea that people scream at the slightest provocation.

Evil Editor said...

2nd sentence, last paragraph: change "and" to semicolon and delete "then."

Readers will probably assume Mina is on a bed if she's sleeping on sheets. Maybe she should be on a straw mat so we don't say, "Huh?" when she jumps up from the floor. Or you could give her a bed.

Matthew said...

Okay, I followed your instructions on the second sentence in paragraph 3 and gave Mina a straw mat.

Thanks for all of your help, EE and minions.

Now I have to take the lessons learned here and apply them to the rest of the novel.

Aimee States said...

"As she gravitated towards Mina, her feet dragged, rhythmically thumping over cracks in the floorboards.

Mina yawned, stretched her arms into the air, and then jumped up from the floor."

~You pulled me RIGHT out of the flow there--like I hit a wall--sorry. Even a quickened pulse, something, until she realizes it's "just a ghost" would help it stay on track.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, those who post (snipe?) anonymously are the most likely to be completely wrong. Am I right?

Anonymous said...

Personally I blame tv and movies for promulgating the idea that people scream at the slightest provocation.


Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrghhhhhhhhh!!!!

kitty said...

[quote]It's not Japan, it's Korea. Remember my query from a few months back? (face-lift 645?) This is the opening for that. I changed Minjee to Mina because I didn't want people to get hung up on foreign names again. (Mina is also a Korean name, it just happens to be identical to a European one)[/quote]

I would prefer the name Minjee. It would give more a flavor of the location, and "Mina" + the lounging in bed gives a misleading (and cliche) Dracula mood.

Foreign names can be challenging if they're difficult to pronounce, but Minjee does not have that problem. It has only good scene-setting.

Matthew said...

-Thanks Kitty! I always liked Minjee better.

-Mina wouldn't have a quickened pulse or anything because ghosts frequently wander into her room (she normally keeps the window covered). If it didn't glow in the dark, then she would be scared.