Monday, November 16, 2009

New Beginning 703

Nicholas Tremain watched as the computer screen darkened, casting a shadow across the sky. “She means us to marry.”

“What gave you that idea?” Aaryanna asked, snatching her hand from his. “Our first kiss, or your clumsy proposal?”

“I haven’t proposed yet,” Nicholas reminded her, studying the countryside. Birds paused in midair, the stream ceased to flow, and the clouds no longer moved in the sky. The world held still in anticipation of its author’s return, but Nicholas was finally free to act on his own. He wasn’t looking forward to a night spent alone on the countryside arguing with Aaryanna.

“You’re about to,” Aaryanna said, smoothing skirts that didn’t require it. Despite the fact that Nicholas had just rescued her from Baron Farent’s men, her appearance remained immaculate. Even her hair was perfectly straight.

Nicholas’ shirt was torn, his hair was sticking out from sweat, and a knife scratch marred his cheek. He gave her an irritated look. “Not if I can help it.”

Aaryanna shook her head. “And how are you going to stop it? Will you Block her?”

"No. She would expect that. We must be more-- Shh!" The sky lit up and birdsong resumed. "I sense she is near..."

"What shall we do? How will you and me escape--" The ground shook. The grass, once soft beneath Aaryanna's feet rucked and rutted, a wavering green line.

"She's watching. Quick, Aaryanna--" Under Nicholas's shoes, the earth puckered and turned bright red, accusing. He felt weak. "We're finished. What's happening to you? Arianna!"


"Nicholas! Save me! Save--"

Microsoft Word has detected an unexpected error and needs to close.


Opening: Padawan.....Continuation: anon.

32 comments:

Aimee said...

I had to stop and reread a few parts, and didn't really understand what this was about until the continuation. Considering that I'm not a complete dolt, you could stand to clarify this a bit.

I'd read more, though.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


"In a way," Nicholas replied. "Have you ever heard that wonderful cause of writer's block, Tetris?"

--Rachel



"No," said Nicholas. "You will."
With the grace and speed of a cat, he mussed up her perfect hair, stuck a finger up his left nostril, and burped, "wanna marry me, Toots?"
As her manicured hand flew to her head to repair the damage, he rubbed his sweaty head on her blouse, and wiped a booger on her smooth skirt.

She was already out the window by the time he had the lid of the bottle of Ex-lax.

--Mother (Re)produces



"No," said Nicholas thoughtfully, fingering the steak knife he'd quietly pocketed at Lady Foculty's dinner party three chapters back. Aaryanna sighed and rolled her eyes, presenting a tempting stretch of lily-white neck. "No, I had something else in mind..."

--Sarah from Hawthorne



“There is a simple solution,” Nicholas whispered while he got up to assume a more dramatic pose. After several minutes he settled on a heroic wide leg stance, but couldn’t decide between putting his fists on his muscular hips or stretching out his manly hands to the horizon.

Aaryanna rolled her eyes. “So what’s your simple solution?”

“There!” he said, pointing at the night sky.

“What? The red moon of Entyrion?”

Now it was Nicholas’s turn to roll his eyes. “Not that! I mean the one floating just above the red moon of Entyrion. ” He squinted his eyes and nodded slowly, “Yes, that recycle bin should be able to solve all our problems.”

--Nicolette

Evil Editor said...

It seems unlikely that a character in a novel would know what the author intends. Especially an author who's unreliable enough to have the heroine looking immaculate when she shouldn't. I tend to think of a character as having been born when the story began, and thus being naive about everything. Not that I have a problem with the character being wise to the author's intentions, as long as this is consistent throughout.

Perhaps it's part of a series and Aaryanna has been in the author's previous book(s)?

Anonymous said...

Author here! Great Continuation!

Good point Aimee! I am not sure if this is the best place to start the story, so I threw it at the minions. Would it be easier, or make more sense, to start it out with the author writing the book? I ahd it that way at firsts, but was advised to jump to the characters first...


EE: The characters are born when the story begins, but this story is nearly finished. Nicholas and Aaryanna have been together awhile...and they hate eachother. I've written the book to where the characters can tell their authors intentions, (which is why they seek to Block their author's intentions...but it's a hard process to block an author, and it doesn't always work. Nicholas has a roommate who knows he's going to die at the end of the book, so he comes to Reality with Nicholas.)

I guess they kind of pick up on the clues like a reader, and have a general sense of what the author is thinking when they are writing, (their mood sometimes too.)

I originally had Anne writing the book, and the scene that Aaryanna and Nicholas are in before they try to Block her. In it, NIcholas is trying to propose. I am debating between having that be the opening, or this. I suspect the former would give more grounding to the reader?

(Thank you so much for your insight on this...)

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

This didn't grab me, and I wonder if this is the best place to start. Wouldn't it be a more interesting situation for Nicholas and Aaryanna if the author called it quits right in the middle of the fight scene?

That would also provide you with a better situation for showing the mechanics of your world and answering what to me is the big question of any "my characters are rebelling!" story: Authors leave their characters in peril all the time. If their characters are self-aware, how is it that when the author comes back she finds her characters just as she left them?

Joanna said...

This is *Writer's Block*, isn't it? I'd definitely keep reading. I think I'd keep reading even if I hadn't seen the query. I'm a little confused about where Nicholas and Aaryanna are watching from; are the arrested birds and clouds on the darkening computer screen or in the separate character-world which simply happens to be shadowed by the computer screen?

Evil Editor said...

I'm not bothered by this as a starting point. There are a couple clues what's going on, and I assume the whole point is to let the reader figure it out.

Anonymous said...

Sarah: When the author quits writing for the night, hour, whatever...the characters hang out in her world doing as they wish. If they're lucky, she gets Writer's Block. (Either caused by them or outside sources.) Once the author starts writing again, the characetrs are pulled straight back to the action.

The original start was this:

In a small, two bedroom apartment Anne sat a computer, writing a book. She read aloud to her roommate, Sara. “Aaryanna’s eyes sparkled like the noon day sun.”

“No, that sounds stupid.”

“Oh. How about:

“Upon the stench filled battle grounds, Aaryanna’s beauty inspired hope where only despair could be found.”
“And why is Aaryanna on a battlefield?”

“It sounds dramatic. What better place for a proposal than a blood soaked battlefield?”

“Every woman’s dream,” Sara said dryly. “Why don’t you just face the facts: Nicholas doesn’t want to propose to Aaryanna.”

“Yes, he does,” Anne said, studying her story.

Nicholas held Aaryanna’s hand in both of his, unable to believe his luck that she was finally his. “I thought I lost you,” he whispered.

“Never,” Aaryanna breathed, running her fingers through his soft hair. “No matter what happens to me, you never will.”

“Not if I can help it,” Nicholas vowed, squeezing her hand. “I have nothing of value to give you, but...”

“Your love,” Aaryanna interrupted him, touching her fingers to his lips, “is enough for me.”

“You have it,” Nicholas said, admiring her beautiful face. He was a country knight, hardly better than a peasant, but she loved him anyway. A princess loved him. His princess. He was willing to give his life for her, but now he was hoping to share it. “Aaryanna will you,”


“Marry me,” Anne said, frustrated. “Why can’t I get him to say it?”

“Because he doesn’t like her.”

“Or maybe I just need some fresh air,” Anne said, pushing back her chair. “Lets take a walk.”
***
(It's really rough and would need work if I used it again, but someone suggested to start straight with Nicholas and Aaryanna...so I'm kind of wondering which part works best? Directly following this scene is Nicholas and Aaryanna on the countryside.)

Joanna, yes, this is Writer's Block! They're in their world, but are aware of the computer screen. Once they're in the Block, the screen is gone. The hardest thing about this story has been trying to figure out the start.

Thank you Evil!

Dave F. said...

It took me a moment to realize this was the story about the book characters come to life and then it all made sense. My first thought was why did the computer screen cast a dark shadow across the sky.

The trick will be giving the reader enough clues so they figure out that these are characters in a novel and they don't want to do what the author is going to write.

Only a few words give me heartburn.

When I use the verb "snatch," I think of snatching an object not removing my hand. Yank might be better. It probably doesn't matter.

Countryside is used twice. What would you think on not using that owrd and replacing "casting a shadow across the sky" with "casting a shadow across the wooded glen"?
And then, in the third paragraph, you can remove the first "in the countryside." And as for the second occurrence of the word, "on the countryside"... I just realized that it is ON and not IN. In that case, let it be.

"Even her hair was perfectly straight" Ooohlala, two of my favorite pet peeves. (wink, wink). How about something like "Her hair, windblown like a model on a beach. Her makeup, not smudged. Her clothes, crisp, fresh as morning dew."
And then you can describe Nicholas as smelling like a horse, knife scratched, bruised, battered and dressed in the Salvation Army's finest giveaways.

Give them some color. Give them a tone of voice, too.

Look at your words and think about making them more interesting or giving your characters more depth.

Eric said...

It's close, and the tone is good, but it doesn't quite do it for me (though I've already declared my affection for the concept as a whole). It feels a bit much like everybody knows what's going on except the poor reader--who in turn would know all if only someone would say something-- which is always frustrating.

My personal preference, for what it's worth, would be to see more of a Slow Reveal in the style of Stranger than Fiction or The Truman Show. Presumably the characters weren't always fully aware that they were the brainchildren of some invisible God-like author? How did they figure it out? Let us figure it out with them-- the slow, nagging suspicion that all may not be as it appears... the initial skepticism... the growing paranoia...

That might not be your story, but that would be one way to make it work. Just a thought.

Definitely don't start with the author if Nicholas and Aaryanna are going to be your POV characters.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Intersetingly, EE corrected the bad grammar in the continuation that caused the grammar nag to put a wavering green line under Aaryanna.

Once an editor, eh...?

sylvia said...

I kind of like your initial intro, as it makes it very clear what's happening and also increases my sympathy for the author.

Evil Editor said...

Fixed. Having never used Microsoft Word, I didn't get it.

Does this mean I should also stop fixing all your spelling errors in the future?

Anonymous said...

Only the intentional ones.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insights, everyone! I definitely see the need to clarify, which works well, since I am still in the revision stages of this book.

BuffySquirrel said...

I have no idea what's going on here.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what's going on here.

Basically, aspiring writers submit openings to their novels; other aspiring writers or like-minded smart-arses append a mildly humorous continuation, and then the opening is put up for peer review. It's kind of simple, really...

I thought you knew that. Bump on the head?

Anonymous said...

I think she's referring to the first page of my story. :)

BuffySquirrel said...

I think I was. Then again, the bump on the head is also possible.

Anonymous said...

Loved the continuation! Since I'd read the query for this, I was able to piece together the blocked author's author's intent, but I think I'd pass on so contrived a plot as this appears to be.

Buffy, it's autumn now; how many times have we told you to beware falling nuts?

Anonymous Anon

BuffySquirrel said...

I think that would be the first time, Anon Anon. But then again, my head's rattled.

Anonymous said...

Author, this is really cool. I admit I didn't get it until I read the comment thread but then I went back and realized how awesome this is.

I don't think you should worry about dumbing it down for slow people like me, though. We're used to it and we catch on eventually.

Nice work1

...dave conifer

Anonymous said...

"When the author quits writing for the night, hour, whatever...the characters hang out in her world doing as they wish. If they're lucky, she gets Writer's Block. (Either caused by them or outside sources.) Once the author starts writing again, the characetrs are pulled straight back to the action."

Sorry, it's me again. I love this.

...dave conifer

_*Rachel*_ said...

Depending on the mood I was in and whether or not I'd figured out the premise from the story or the cover, I'd probably read on.

Go with this opening to the story, not the original. Though the original made my eyes widen: you're really good at writing bad novels. Have you had a lot of practice?

Ha.

Anonymous said...

Author - I liked your original start much better because it was clear to me what was going on.

Anonymous said...

I'm working on my revisions and have rewritten the first page a bit. Please tell me if it works better:

Writer’s Block. Anne hated the sound of it, the feel of it, the truth of it. She stared at her computer screen and willed her characters to speak to her. “Marry me,” Anne whispered, her hands hovering over her keyboard. “Why can’t I get you to say it?”

She poked her tongue out and studied her manuscript.

Nicholas held Aaryanna’s hand in both of his, unable to believe his luck that she was finally his. “I thought I lost you,” he whispered.

“Never,” Aaryanna breathed, running her fingers through his soft hair. “No matter what happens to me, you never will.”

“Not if I can help it,” Nicholas vowed, squeezing her hand. “I have nothing of value to give you, but...”

“Your love,” Aaryanna interrupted him, touching her fingers to his lips, “is enough for me.”

“You have it,” Nicholas said, admiring her beautiful face. He was a country knight, hardly better than a peasant, but she loved him anyway. A princess loved him. His princess. He was willing to give his life for her, but now he was hoping to share it. “Aaryanna will you,”

“Marry me,” Anne repeated, louder. She rested her head against her hands, frustrated. Why couldn’t she put to words how much Nicholas loved Aaryanna, how much he wanted to marry her? She felt like he was fighting every word she wrote.

Her roommate, Sara, poked her head through the kitchen doorway. “Are you proposing to your computer again?”

Eric said...

Most of my previous comment still stands.

While you undeniably have skill at writing a "bad novel" (I know it's harder than it seems to do it on purpose-- or else all too easy!), it still leaves the impression, "Oh, a bad novel, I should move on." For it to work as your hook, at least for this reader, it would have to be hilariously bad-- the way it would be if, say, a Terry Pratchett character wrote it.

Also, I'm afraid the idea of reading about a writer trying futilely to make a bad novel good (now where might a writer have gotten that story idea?) is not nearly as attractive as the concept you propose of reading about the characters from the story exploring their meta-world. Stick with their POV, at least in the beginning. Maybe try the Slow Reveal idea just to see how it works.

Still love the concept! You'll get there!

Matthew said...

Maybe you could use more of a transition between reality and fantasy, but I'm not skilled enough to tell you how to do that.

Otherwise, I was into it.

Anonymous said...

I had the "book" part in italics, and forgot to mark it. :o

Good point Eric! Well you know what they say about writing bad books...practice makes perfect! ;)

I like the idea of the slow reveal, but learning that they are characters isn't the focus of the book. (Always an idea if the book becomes a series and focuses on another poor, abused character. ;))

The focus is figuring out how to become Real because no one knows what happens to characters when their author finishes the book. There are speculations of course...;)

Thank you Matthew!

Joanna said...

I like this even better than the first one. Just going by the little bit I can see here I'd find it tempting after "She felt like he was fighting every word she wrote." to begin the next paragraph with "Of course he was..." and go on as Nicholas. Anyhow, this does set me up to sympathize with the author and the characters too.

Dave F. said...

You need to keep the book sections separate from the real word sections. This version is good. It does what you want it to do. But it will work better if the reader can see what is manuscript and what isn't.

Eric said...

A thought occurred to me while I should have been working on my own story: I wonder if it might work to show more of the cognitive dissonance between what the characters are made to say and their independent consciousness? Like--

"I have nothing of value to give you," said Nicholas, wondering how on earth he was capable of saying such mush. "But--"

"Your love," Aaryanna interrupted him, fighting the temptation to slap him across his smug face, "is enough for me."


I don't know-- maybe it just needs to be made goofier in general. Of course I'm a P. G. Wodehouse fan, so take it for what it's worth....