Thursday, November 05, 2009

New Beginning 700!

Mara awoke to the sound of different bells.

On most other days of the year, there would be the clangour of the brass handbells as the monitors roved the hallways and wakened their charges for the morning meal. But, this day, there would be no morning meal, and instead of the brass handbells, it was the deep voices of the great iron bells in the high towers that woke her, pealing out over the whole of the great fane in the city of Gran Seray.

Mara turned over in the narrow bunk and pulled the bedclothes tighter around her, but it was no use; the bells were cheerfully and tunefully insistent; she must wake. She opened her eyes to see a pair of long legs dangling down in front of her, before her roommate Mea dropped down from the upper bunk.

"Come on." Mea merrily pulled Mara's blankets away.

"If I could sleep just another hour . . . " Mara groaned.

"Don't be silly," Mea answered. "You don't want to be late for your own execution!"

Opening: Steve Wright.....Continuation: Khazar-khum


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"They weren't kidding about those bells," Mea muttered.

"Yeah," Mara croaked. "Not exactly what I had in mind for my summer."

"You ever get the feeling it's kind of a joke? I mean, that our parents are playing on us? An all-bells music camp? Not much we can learn from banging bells back and forth—"

Mara sat up. "What?!" she cried. "But I play the cello!"


Evil Editor said...

Although you immediately explain what you mean by "different bells," I don't like starting with that sentence. It could mean different kinds of bells ringing together rather than different from most days. I'd start with paragraph 2 and change "her" to "Mara."

Mara/Mea is better than Mara/Mary or Mea/Mia, but I can envision readers mixing up the characters.

Matthew said...

Yeah, it would be better to start off with paragraph 2. The description of the bells is nice, but I would rather read about what she is hearing as opposed to what she's not hearing.

Even if you didn't change it, I would read on.

Anonymous said...

How I read this:

Finding no person in the first line, I skipped down to Paragraph 2 in search of a character. Found a character, not doing much. So I went back to Paragraph 1 to see if I missed something interesting. Seemingly not, since I have no idea where or when this is or so what. Now I'm thinking this'll be a slow paced narrative all right. First we have to wake the character up, then, god forbid, get her dressed, go downstairs, eat breakfast, check her email and hair, feed the dog, and it'll be page 25 before I know if we've got a murder mystery here or a romance or what. So then I figured, yeah. This is why they say don't start with someone waking up.

_*Rachel*_ said...

No, no, you got it all wrong. The brass bells are alarum bells, not alarm bells, and the iron bells need to be grimmer.

You see what this reminded me of? The difference in bells here distracts me from your actual story and makes me go off on POEetic tangents.

Anyway, this doesn't quite hook me. I'm interested in why there are different bells and whether or not they're in an insane asylum, but not in Mara waking up.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I have to say for once I (respectfully, of course) disagree with EE and the other commentators. I thought the "different bells" opening established a sense of place quickly and in a unique manner. I would definitely read on.

Steve Wright said...

I was sort of hoping the bit about the "great fane in the city of Gran Seray" might clue people in to the "fantasy" genre... but, apparently, it doesn't work for everyone. Oh, well.

If it's any consolation... on this particular special day, they don't get breakfast. So that's a couple of paragraphs saved, then.

(The continuation is disturbingly in-character. Has someone been reading my manuscript?... Nah, that'll never happen!)

Dave F. said...

I like the second paragraph because (to me) it invokes Poe's great poem of "The Bells"... I have heard a very impressive reading of The Bells in Russian. You can all hear the sung version of that in Rachmaninov's The Bells composition for orchestra.

But that's a digression...
I like the second paragraph. I wouldn't touch it. It has an excitement to if that serves well as an opening. I can see the town in my mind, lit by the morning sun, awakened by the peeling of bells and ready for a celebration. It's a happy time.

The third paragraph puzzles me.
the bells were cheerfully and tunefully insistent
WHAT? How could bells not be insistent. These aren't usual bells which you so wonderfully point out in the second paragraph. SO why now does Mara try not to wake up. These bells have significance. They carry a message. They summon a people.

My suggestion is to drop the "sleepiness without reason." It's boring. If Mara is tired, then she was preparing for whatever the bells are signaling late into the night. If she's disinterested, give her a reason. Give the reader some reason for Mara not wanting to wake up that is significant to the story.

And please drop the two adverbs. That's one of my big mistakes in writing. I find that when I write a good paragraph or two or three, then all of a sudden, I relax and follow it with a paragraph of lesser quality. That's what happened here. You wrote that wonderful second paragraph that evokes an entire city and the next paragraph pales by comparison.

Mara doesn't just wake up, the bells excite her and she anticipates something happening. Give us a taste of that excitement.

Now I have thought that the bells signal war or bad times or the death of a ruler. That can work too.

vkw said...

I thought the opening was "okay" but I would definately shorten P.1 and I would not equate, "deep voices of great iron bells. . . pealing out over the whole of" with "cheerfully and tunefully insistent"

Probably need to move to the action quicker. Definately needs to get their faster.

In my mind "Big Iron Bells" = "ominous, oppressive"

"Handheld clangy bells" = "Annoying, common place, attention getting alarm"

"windchimes" = "cheerful, pleasant, insistent, uneding as the wind"

but you know thats me.

vkw said...

P.S. ditto on the names.

Dave F. said...

I was sort of hoping the bit about the "great fane in the city of Gran Seray" might clue people in to the "fantasy" genre... but, apparently, it doesn't work for everyone. Oh, well.

arghh, Steve, ARGHH!!!

Then mention "Fane" or "Gran Seray" in the subsequent paragraph. Work that into Mara and Mea waking. Call the reader back to Gran Seray.

In the three paragraphs the image of waking is presented. That's three times -- (1) Mara awoke, (2) that woke her, (3) she must wake. --
And there is only one mention of
the great fane in the city of Gran Seray.

So by that repetition or multiple emphasis, what is more important?

Do you see why the first and third paragraphs aren't serving the story? Mara and Mea are awakened to take part in a function. They are called to the celebrate. Maybe they don't look at it as a celebration (like all those church services I was drug to as a kid) but that's for you to tell us.

That second paragraph is excellent. Make the next one it's mate.

Eric said...

I like this voice. My only quibble is that there's a lot about bells and a little about the characters. Then again, how much can you really do in 150 words?

I'm not sure I like the "deep voices of the great iron bells" described as "cheerfully and tunefully." Compare the dark sounds of the first phrase with the bright happy sounds of the second-- Only a subtle disconnect of tone, but these things add up in this kind of prose.

Xiexie said...

Hey Steve,

I actually did get the fantasy element here with "fame in the city of Gran Seray".

I'm with Sarah from Hawthorne. I feel no pace issues. Also, I do agree about Mara and Mea being a bit too similar.

Steve Wright said...

The similarity between the names... the church Mara works for is a very hidebound institution, and one of the ways it's hidebound is, it files its novices in alphabetical order. So Mara is in the "Ma-Me" dorm ...

But this has annoyed other readers, too, so I'll give some thought to renaming Mea. (She's not a particularly important character, anyway.)

Hanne said...

I had to look up both "clangour" and "fane" (blushes). I like them both; great words.

It was "monitors" that tripped me up - that evokes schools to me, not a monastery. But then again, I didn't catch fane.

Thematically, I like opening on the signal bells that announce the massive change upcoming in her life. (She's the red priestess, right?)

Anonymous said...

I like the promise the writing shows, but I do feel like the part telling us whats not happen isn't working.

I think something like below would be a good opening.

Today there would be no breakfast.

The deep voices of the great iron bells in the high towers that pealed out over the city of Gran Seray and woke Mara.

She turned over in the narrow bunk and pulled the bedclothes tighter around her, but it was no use. The bells were cheerfully insistent that she must wake. She opened her eyes to see a pair of long legs dangling from the upper bunk. Her roommate Mea dropped down...

I feel similar changes makes it more active and you can use dialogue or wait until later to contrast a normal day with this one. I put the breakfast line in because I think it might be important, but it asks the reader a question - why isn't there breakfast?- that needs to be answered. If it's not important or the answer isn't proportionally weighted to starting with it, then I wouldn't put it there.

Steve Wright said...

Hanne - yes, this is the red priestess, and this is the day she becomes the red priestess. I'm aiming for a sort of tising tension in the first chapter ... whether I'm hitting the mark is for the reader to determine, I guess. So it starts off low-key.

As a baritone myself, I take a certain amount of issue with the people saying deep voices can't be cheerful and tuneful!

I am now becoming extremely conscious of just how much time in the book Mara spends lying down in bed (sometimes prostrate from illness or magical misadventures, sometimes with her boyfriend). I could probably work out a percentage, but I think it might depress me. Oh, well.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

A suggestion on the names issue: perhaps you can give Mea a significantly longer name than Mara. Then even if the girls have the same first letter, the names will still look distinct on the page.

Robin S. said...

Oh Good Lord - sorry Sparky,I just noticed this said #700.

Wow - thanks for doing this, and being here!