Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New Beginning 692

We packed snacks and squash-vine trumpets and left Avery’s house in broad daylight. The drive to the trailhead was short, but when we got out of the car we were already in shadow; the mountain blocked the sun. Avery said we’d have enough light for going up and we’d remember our way when we came down. Anyway he knew the path, and he had (he said) good balance and excellent night vision and could help me if I had trouble getting back down. I didn’t intend to need help. I would always be eight years younger than Avery, but I was eighteen now, an adult and his equal. And while it might suit him to be helpful and protective to women, it suited me to be independent of men.

The place was lovely enough to take my mind off independence. Even in the muted light the last maple leaves showed red-gold against the dark green of pines and the silver of bare branches. The trail climbed through thick woods and across narrow clearings full of berry brambles. Yes, Avery told me, hikers were welcome to pick the berries even though this was public land.

I still think of him up there in the fading light, his mouth full of sweet, juicy berries, a pine cone up his ass, his cold, lifeless eyes wide with shock as I covered his corpse with maple leaves. Yes, Avery -- excellent night vision, but you didn't see that coming, did you, you patronizing, misogynistic bastard? Your good balance didn't help you this time, did it, you fat fuck? Independence: that's what I'm talking about. Looks like I won't always be eight years younger than you, after all.

Opening: Joanna......Continuation: Anon.


150 said...

I like this a lot. Nice job, Anon.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

I pulled my Smith & Wesson from where I'd hidden it under the snacks and squash-vine trumpets and aimed it at Avery's head.

"So pick and eat," I ordered.

Five minutes later, as he crouched puking his guts out, I switched on my flashlight and headed down the trail. Another five minutes brought the satisfying sound of Avery's squeals as he stumbled off the track into the berry brambles. It suited me to be independent of men.

--Paul Penna

As the path topped the ridge, it opened out into a small clearing across which sunbeams danced like excited children. "This is my favorite place in the world," Avery said "It's so romantic."

My heart began to sink.

Avery sat himself on a smooth boulder by the trees and looked up at me. "We've known each other for years, Agnes," he said. "And now you're all grown up. There's something I... I mean I want to..."

I closed my eyes. I should have known this was coming. How was I to tell him it, ah, suited me to be independent of men?

As luck would have it, fate intervened, and while Avery's galantry was a little patronising and irritating, it turned out to be my saviour. If he hadn't insisted on carrying the heavy bag of trail mix, the bear might not have come out of the wood and torn his face off.


_*Rachel*_ said...

If Avery's supposed to get a bit annoying, this works. It's good enough I'm going to nitpick:

I'm not exactly sure why they're packing squash-vine trumpets. It may just be me.


They really can pick the berries? There's a public amphitheater in my hometown, and raspberries grow wild around it; those are fine to pick. Same with the mulberries by the parking lot at Prophet's Rock. But on most of the trails I've hiked, picking anything, especially to eat, is verboten.

Joanna said...

Sorry, I wrote this one but didn't put my name on.

I guess I've given the wrong idea in the opening--the narrator does want to show Avery she's tough, but she's also grateful to, fond of, and somewhat sweet on him. That becomes clear in the next 2 paragraphs. But it sounds as though I've already given the impression that she just resents him. I was trying to get her age and gender unobtrusivley into the first paragraph...I'll work on this.

Evil Editor said...

I would change "intend" to "expect." Needing help isn't something one intends.

We discussed with another New Beginning whether edible berries would be available at the time of year when most of the leaves had fallen. I think of berries as a summer crop, but I guess it depends on the berry and the latitude.

I think ...but I was an adult now..." is enough without her declaring her exact age. Maybe you can work it in later, but here it sounds like it's just for the reader's information.

Aimee States said...

There are some repetitive phrases in the first paragraph, and I felt the first sentence of the second paragraph contradicted the line preceding it too much. Other than that, you have a nice style. I love this line...

"Even in the muted light the last maple leaves showed red-gold against the dark green of pines and the silver of bare branches."

Although, I would change it to "darkness of pines" so you aren't using color words repetitively.

"hikers were welcome to pick the berries even though this was public land."

This would make more sense if it was private land.

Eric P. said...

This is good. Avery does come off as a bit annoying and full of himself, but not oppressively so.

Perhaps the problem comes from the narrator making a point that she wants to be independent of men, yet she's hanging out with Avery who's telling her what to do every step of the way.

I'm also in the dark about the squash-vine trumpets. Usually hikers don't like extraneous baggage.

Overall, good voice and good start on characters. Hilarious continuations.

Matthew said...

I thought it was okay, but not as good as some of Joanna's previous entries.

The description was good and I felt like I was hiking up a mountain, but the eighteen years of age thing broke the flow.

I didn't get the impression that she resents Avery. I actually thought they were a couple.

mb said...

What IS a squash-vine trumpet? I have a mental image but am not sure if it's right. I googled it and got Evil Editor.

Anonymous said...

This is too vague.

broad daylight
short drive (how long is short-five minutes, ten minutes, thirty minutes)
the trail head (okay, maybe you don't have to tell us, but I'll believe this more if you do)
the mountain (which mountain?)
the place was lovely (how)

"I didn’t intend to need help." This is way better than "taking my mind off independence."

MC's thoughts. "I'm independent. I'm independent, I'm independent. Oh look at that pretty maple leaf. It's so beautiful I'm not going to think about independence anymore."

"I was eighteen now, an adult and his equal" but at seventeen I allowed him to treat me like a child and don't even get me started on how I let him treat me when I was sixteen.

already in shadow; the mountain blocked the sun ( this too is vague- I think you mean the trail head was "in shadow" because the mountain blocked the sun. Then again you might mean the sun is setting and the mountain blocked the setting sun. I could live with this if there weren't so many other vague idea's floating around.)

"Even in the muted light the last maple leaves showed red-gold against the dark green of pines and the silver of bare branches"

the verb here is "were" not showed, unless you mean "glowed" but that would require some sunlight.

The dark green of pines= the dark green of the pines or the dark green pines.

Silver bare branches of what? if your referring to the maple tree then you need to flip the order so the silver branches follow maple tree, otherwise you have to tell us what you're talking about.

Overall I'm not sold. What does it smell like? How does the air feel? What sounds are there? Is the trail steep? Is it covered in leaves? What is her "crush" doing? Does he offer his hand to help her? Is the trail marked or unmarked?

And finally, must we really have all those ands? Yes, yes voice and all that jaz, but can't you find a way to keep the voice without making run on sentences?

Joanna said...

Thanks all.

EE--yes, I'll leave the age off, and change 'didn't intend to' to 'was determined not to."

Aimee--yes, I'll cut the opening sentence of the second paragraph.

Eric--you're right about the independence contradiction; the MC is conflicted. She realizes this, and deals with it, later in the story.

Mb: Squash-vine trumpets are made by cutting off sections of squash vies (which are hollow) and slitting the mouthpiece end. You can't play tunes on them, but they make a lot of noise. And yes, they are important; the late hike is timed so that the trumpets can be blown on the summit at sunset. (that's mentioned in the 3rd paragraph.)

Anonymous; I hear that you're not sold. I don't see a way to use most of your suggestions helpfully; I think our tastes are different.

Dave F. said...

I'd prefer fewer words but not like before when I've said cut by half. This doesn't need anything like that drastic a cut.

It needs to be less by a word or two, maybe a half dozen.

You don't need broad.
You can say "A short drive to the trailhead brought us into the shadow of the mountain." That gets you to the point faster.

And then after that "He had, (he said) ..." is one of those past perfect constructions that kills action. If it is the speaker's style, then leave it. Forget I said this. I'm personally don't like "had" and "was"...

And then, "eighteen now" --- "now" is a verbal construct and I only use it in dialog. It's a verbal crutch like "Uh" and "OK" and all that. Do you need that particular word to establish her narrative style or will that become apparent in the next paragraph with "Yes, Avery told me"?

I think the hesitation you hear in some readers is over a few too many words that slow things down. There is nothing wrong with them but the opening isn't perky. It doesn't drag but not a brisk walk. This is more like a leisurely saunter bordering on an aimless wander.

batgirl said...

Something that may be tipping the balance against Avery is that he's the one saying he has good balance and excellent night vision. If the narrator is sweet on him, couldn't she tell us that instead? It might make him seem less boastful.
For what it's worth, I read that as a set-up for Avery breaking his leg or something and the narrator having to make it down in the dark by herself.

Anon, the showing red-gold and the dark green of pines sounded fine to me, and I'm fairly picky about language. Perhaps they're regionalisms you're not familiar with?

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

This is good and gives a really nice sense of place. I love your vocabulary choices.

One quibble - and this is my personal reaction so feel free to ignore if no one else feels the same way - I stumbled over your phrase "independent of men". I read that phrase to mean your character wishes to be separated from men like a modern day Amazon, and I was confused why she would then go hiking with someone like Avery who comes off as nice but condescending. It was only halfway through paragraph two I realized she meant she wanted to be self-sufficient.

But again, just my personal reaction.

Joanna said...

Thanks all. Dave, I'll try some trimming. Sarah, 'self-sufficient' is definitely the better word. Batgirl, I'm still thinking about how Avery comes across. The narrator's not in a position to know about his night vision, but she could vouch for balance.

Aimee States said...

The more I sit around in this blog, the more I realize how grueling this can be. Can you IMAGINE getting this kind of feedback every two hundred words? I'd shoot my cat. Then again, I might write a best seller.

Anonymous said...

Yes because it's sooooo difficult to change "the mountain" to White Mountain. This is art man. Naming things is sooo subjective. And why bother with the correct verb. This is art. When I'm famous everybody will commend me for creative verb use. (Though if we're being honest, the average American reads at the fifth grade level so they probably won't notice. Still for Oxford's sake, have some pride. )

green of pines-

Because its both passive and over written. Look I can do it too.

The broken boat "showed" white against the blue of lake.

The lone wondering balloon "showed" yellow against the red-brown of brick building.

Is the overwriting obvious enough for you now?

No, of course not.We must defend the right create vague and overwritten tomes.

Have at it.

The author certainly can string words together,I'll give her that, but so can I. And so can most of the people here and in the hundreds of other places authors hang out.

Aimee States said...

"We must defend the right create vague and overwritten tomes."

We must also defend the right TO forget words, I assume.

Aimee States said...

On a more serious note, I would point out objectivity.

Obviously, "the last maple leaves showed red-gold" worked on a level for a majority of the readers (I assume).

Sure, you could say "appeared", or "reflected", but in the tone she uses, it works for me. If you remember that less than 1% of the population will ever buy this book if it's published, maybe it won't seem so important.

JP said...

I like this. Nice setting, tone, introduction of the characters. Flows easily.

iago said...

I would change "intend" to "expect." Needing help isn't something one intends.

No, but not needing help might be: particularly if one has something to prove.

But I haven't read Miss Snark's complete archives as thoroughly as some might have, so I might be wrong. Though I'd prefer not to admit it. Obviously.

Xiexie said...

This works well for me. I agree with Dave's trimming, but I don't think it needs a bunch of trimming, just a little here and maybe there. I'd keep reading, and your descriptions made sense to me.

Anonymous, did we have a bad rattle today?

Eric P. said...

Anon-- Actually, when you're famous everybody will criticize your writing and point out all the flaws. That's what happens to famous writers, as a look at any literary criticism will show. Or check out the reviews of any book you like on Amazon. Sorry to burst your bubble, but such is life.

Anyway, did you try actually writing a version that incorporates all your helpful suggestions for clarity? "We left Avery's house at 5:34:26 PM when the sun was 10 degrees above the horizon. The drive to Simons Trailhead lasted 10 minutes and 33 seconds, but when we got out of the Chevy Corolla, White Mountain blocked the sun over the trailhead...." Specific, yes, but also bad.

batgirl said...

This is going to turn into a grammar-quibble trainwreck, isn't it?

How is 'green of pines' passive? It doesn't even have a verb to be passive with.
Also, you can have a plural noun like 'pines' without the definite article if you're speaking of a bunch of non-specific pines. Not so easy with a singular noun like 'lake', as in the example Anon gives, making it a less-than-valid counter-example.

Oh, yeah, and saying 'ooooh' is not a reasoned argument.