Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Beginning 730

Rune stepped over a limestone-laden stream of cold water running across the floor of the cavern. Above him, bat-like creatures twitched and squeaked. He pointed his flashlight at the ceiling thirty feet overhead and fluffed the back of Steve's hair, laughing. Steve hunched over, pulling the hood over his head and neck to prevent any guano from getting on his body.

"Think of each all those flying critters up there like raptors wanting to land ammoniated poo on your head. Don't you just love it?" Rune squeaked, flapped his hands.

"Whoever said caves are for contemplation was a fool," Steve said. Charlene pushed Rune onto a stalagmite.

"I don't know why the settlers are fascinated these dung heaps. There's nothing special about caves on this world." She attached a Vid-Cam and light to the wall and aimed it at Rune. "Any clown who can scratch his name into the wall thinks they'll be famous. The Twelve Cities ought to be ashamed to let shit like this be posted," Charlene ranted. Both men shrugged their best I don't care if I left the toilet seat up, who cares attitude.

Charlene gave Rune another playful shove onto the stalagmite, this time impaling him.

Two million bats, perhaps offended by the blood now polluting their Stream of Cold Running Water, took turns depositing guano on Rune as he slowly bled to death.

Charlene recorded the event. "Now that is how you become famous," she said.


Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon.

22 comments:

christina said...

The cont. made me burst out laughing! I think this is interesting and I'd read on! But it needs some tightening. The last line is little awkward mainly because it uses the word care 2x: Both men shrugged their best I don't care if I left the toilet seat up, who cares attitude.

The first paragraph could be tightened, maybe something like this:
Rune stepped over a stream of cold water, laden with limestone, which ran across the floor of the cavern. Above him, bat-like creatures twitched and squeaked. Pointing his flashlight at the ceiling thirty feet above, he fluffed the back of Steve's hair, and laughed. Steve hunched over, pulling the hood over his head and neck to prevent any guano from getting on his body.

fairyhedgehog said...

I got a real sense of the cave but I agree it could do with some tightening.

I found the first sentence didn't completely flow for me, although it did set the scene rather well.

I thought if Steve pulled up his hood it would protect his head, not his body.

Second para needs "each" removed.

I like the idea that the caves are not for contemplation!

I think Charlene's action needs to be on a new line. I was surprised at the sudden mention of her name. You could attach her action to the "I don't know..." speech, as I wasn't clear whose turn it was to speak then. (And you're missing a "with" after fascinated.)

I wasn't sure of the logic of the end of that last paragraph and the toilet seat image didn't quite work for me here.

I get a good sense of the genre (sci fi) and the setting and I want to know what happens next.

wendy said...

I can see there's a lot of room for these characters to develop into something very interesting.

I think you should chose one of these:

"Both men shrugged

their best I don't care if I left the toilet seat up,

who cares attitude."

Since we often talk with our bodies I would have no trouble with something like this:
Both men shrugged, "who cares?"

Of course I can't punctuate that sentence well, but I know you can. ;)

I also had trouble with Steve pulling up his sweatshirt hood long after they entered the cave. That's a nit-pic though.

Three people in a conversation is always more difficult to keep track of and far less intimate (harder to align with) than one or maybe two.

It's an interesting start. In someways I think you may be craming in too many details and leaving out some necessary context cues. However that's just my opinion and I don't read much sci-fi.

And I hope knowing that fact (little sci-fi)will not make you think less of me, friend Dave.

Good luck with your story. I can't wait to see more.

Kings Falcon said...

The continuation was great.

I have to say that personally I was a bit disappointed to start with someone named "Rune" and have everyone else with mundane names. There's a bit of "so, as you know Bob" and some POV issues.
POV issues for me:

(1) Rune knows what the "bat-like creatures" are and would call them Smeeps or whatever they are called. The "bat-like" is, IMO, you intruding as the author.
(2) Telling me why Steve hunched over is his POV. If Rune is telling this story he's not going to know that.
(3) Rune (assuming he's the POV) that it was HIS best "I don't care if I left the toliet seat up" attitude but can't tell Steve thinks this too.

You have some tense issues. Rune "pointed" his light, "fluffed" the back of Steve's hair and someone is "laughing." The laughing seems to be in the wrong place too. Next sentance has the same issues: Steve "hunched" was "pulling" and "to prevent."

Why is Rune "squeaking?" Is he a mouse? If not, please use said. "Flapped his hands" also gave me some trouble in terms of images.

Charlene's dialog is almost all "as you know Bob" level. She's telling me what the characters already know and would take for granted. Her dialog can be cut to "The Twelve Cities ought to be ashamed to let shit like this be posted." That one line tells me a lot about her but doesn't cram in a lot of information just to tell ME (the reader) it. If the boys argue with her about her opinion, important information can be conveyed more effectively.

Please, please, please as a general rule use "said" and not "ranted", "squeaked" or other dialog tags.

You have a lot of really complex sentances. Try to vary the sentance lenght and structure.

All that said, it's an interesting set up. I'm interested in this fairly disparate group of people and what they are doing in the caves.

Evil Editor said...

I agree that Charlene should come in earlier. And I'm not sure why she pushes Rune onto a stalagmite. I don't like where"Charlene ranted" is in p4. Better to put her tag up front.

150 said...

You have some tense issues.... Next sentance has the same issues: Steve "hunched" was "pulling" and "to prevent."

Steve hunched over, pulling the hood over his head and neck to prevent any guano from getting on his body.

The verbs here are used correctly.

PicardyRose said...

Maybe if you said Rune squeaked AND flapped his hands, it would be clearer that he's imitating a bat in order to annoy/scare Steve.

Stick and Move said...

Great continuation!

This opening doesn't grab me. I first stopped to think "bat-like or bats?" and then the mention of guano made me think, okay, bats, then, so why bat-like? I also stumbled on the last sentence in the first paragraph, thinking a hood protects his head, not his body.

And I agree that squeaked and ranted as dialog tags need to go. I'm in the camp that likes "said" as a tag in almost all cases. Other verbs run the risk of being melodramatic, as both of these do.

Charlene jumps into the scene by pushing Rune onto a stalagmite, for no apparent reason.

The characters act like twelve-year olds, but their language makes me think they're older.

With all of that, all we really learn is that apparently three kids are in a cave, and somehow they can magically attach a vid-cam and light to the wall of the cave.

This seems more like a chapter opening, as it doesn't seem to have much punch for a story opening. But I could be wrong.

Dave F. said...

This opening is to a short story from a year ago that I abandoned twice as unworkable. When I came back to it about a month ago, I changed the sex of one character, the familial relationship of all of them and their relationship to each other. Only the premise of the story remained.

At first, the limestone cave was a reference to Auden's In Praise of Limestone and as is the usual case with starts, only the sentence about contemplation remains from that effort.

christina -- I caught the two "care/cares" too. Easy fix. I will tighten up the wording.

fairyhedgehog -- I will adjust that first sentence. It doesn't flow like if should. Charlene enters the story earlier and more actively. This is definitely Sci-Fi fantasy.

wendy -- I also had trouble with Steve pulling up his sweatshirt hood long after they entered the cave.
It's a setup for later in the story when Steve has to run into the cave naked and fight with Charlene.
In some ways I think you may be craming in too many details and leaving out some necessary context cues.
I can't say much about that now. These comments have shifted the three character's relationship to each other and when I am done with pushing those shifts through the entire story, I'll come back and revisit the comments.

Kings Falcon -- Rune
I might change all of the names. I have to get to the end of this part of the story to figure that out. I've changed the names twice already and I'm used to typing Steve, Charlene, Rune, Slade and Stanton.
bat-like creatures
They are not on earth as we know it but on an earth with one huge continent. So they remain "bat-like" to keep calling attention to that fact.
Why is Rune "squeaking?"
There's no dialog tag there and I fixed that.
Charlene's dialog ... can be cut to
I want her to rant and rave. She's disgruntled and is going to do everything she can to screw with Steve and Rune. Then she dies.

Evil Editor -- Charlene should come in earlier. And I'm not sure why she pushes Rune onto a stalagmite. I don't like where"Charlene ranted" is in p4. Better to put her tag up front.
I see what you mean and I'm fixing it.

Anonymous 150 -- Thanks Anon.

PicardyRose -- I fixed that line.

Dave F. said...

Stick and Move -- I'm not sure what to say.

Most likely I will change this before I get through to the end. This gives more of an idea of what the beginning of this part of Rune and Steve's story really is. They are the only men left alive on the planet at the end.

Rune stepped over the stream of limestone-laden water running across the floor of the cavern. Above him, bat-like creatures twitched and squeaked. He pointed his flashlight at the ceiling thirty feet overhead and fluffed the back of Steve's hair, laughing. Charlene shoved him against a stalagmite.

"Why are you guys so fascinated with caves? They're nothing but dung heaps," she said.

"Think of those flying critters up there like raptors wanting to land ammoniated poo on your head, Stevie-boy... Don'tcha just love flying critters?" Rune squeaked and flapped his hands. Steve hunched over and pulled his hood tighter over his head and neck to prevent any falling guano from sliding down the back of his neck.

"Whoever said caves are for contemplation was a fool," Steve said. Charlene laughed out loud.

"Don't get her started," Rune said. Charlene attached a Vid-Cam and light to the wall and aimed it at Rune.

"Any clown who can scratch his name into the wall thinks they'll be famous. The Twelve Cities ought to be ashamed to let shit like your two want to create be posted," Charlene said, folding her arms, tapping her foot, shoving her nose high. Both men shrugged their best so what if I left the toilet seat up, who cares attitude. That didn't stop Charlene from launching into her favorite political rant like a grand mal seizure.

"It's not fair. They make us astronomers look for planets with single super-continents because they're easily explored and colonized by the weaker masses. Then the Twelve Cities Council shove us unwanted into the millions they transport. I dreamed of the exploring the stars but all I got was this filth infested cave and two goofballs in love with each other and rocks..." She stopped to get her second wind. "They say -- caves fascinate people. Stone makes people feel solid. Caves give us history and solitude. What a crock of dung. The spaces within are sacred, they say. The Council is nothing but a bunch of ass-kissing weasels and sycophants. They aren't brave enough to settle a new world themselves but they are cowards enough to abandon us to the culture of the masses." Charlene's voice made the critters stir. They soiled the air with an acrid rain.

"Damn you woman, you're not the first or the last. Get your boney ass in gear and set up the live feeds for the VR broadcast." Rune set a glow-stick in the drip pool of stalactite. He shooed away the tiny lizards and removed his shirt. Steve scanned the room with the quantum adjustor.

"This cave is stable but different than the model. I think we should recalculate," Steve said.

"It doesn’t look any different." Charlene sneered. Steve held his hand palm up to her face. She snorted and continued to mount vid-cams on the walls.

"Subatomic quantum variations aren't visible to the naked eye. It's quantum stable, at least stable enough to make the VR recordings. It's not stability that troubles me. This cave has a high probability of life. That's unusual. Most caves tend to disorder and collapse." Steve pointed to a nearly formed pillar.

"Maybe it's the flying vermin?" Rune said. Steve pulled his hood into a snout as he adjusted the quantum device. When it beeped, he smiled.

"Amazing. This cave is actually lucky. The probability of death in this cave is damn near zero. Some sort of quantum energy flux convergence. Back home, the common folk told stories of mystical places filled with energy." Steve said. Charlene shoved her face over the quantum adjustor. Steve pulled it away.

_*rachel*_ said...

Someone whose name is Rune has no business mocking the arcane, unless you plan to make it foreshadowing of runes/magic/whatever being a big part of his life.

What about Charlene snorting (derisively) when she pushes Rune? It feels like it'd be in character.

Charlene's quote doesn't sound real. What about, "What a dung heap. The settlers must be really superstitious to think there's anything special about these caves."

This isn't a bad opening, but it needs a bit of work. I'd recommend you reread the Turkey City Lexicon, paying extra attention to "Call a Rabbit a Smeerp," "Said" Bookism" and "As You Know, Bob."

---

Now I've read your comments, I'm not surprised this is something you wrote a while ago. It feels like a really different style than what's normally in your openings and writing prompts. Yours is one of the few styles I can usually pick out without seeing the name, and I wouldn't have thought this was yours.

The way you've rewritten it in the comments feels a lot more like your style, but I think there are still some problems with AYKB. I'd get rid of Charlene's rant--all of it.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can offer much more help. Your style for me is a bit like modern dance--I can appreciate the things that go into it, but at some level I just don't get it. Nobody's fault; c'est la vie.

Jeb said...

The revision reads smoother, at least in the opening paragraphs. There some individual actions that bump me out of the developing mental movie, though. One example:

"Charlene sneered. Steve held his hand palm up to her face. She snorted and continued to mount vid-cams on the walls. "

Steve's action is both not clear in itself (what is his intent with the gesture, and why does it read like he shoved his palm right up to her nose?) and intrusive into this very brief Charlene moment (which could be even briefer if she simply sneered and continued to mount vid-cams).

I could name a couple more instances but I think you're smart enough to watch for the tendency.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm intrigued to read more. A cave where you can't die? That sounds like a fun premise.

I think you've got rather a lot of "As you know, Bob" in Charlene's speech now. I wonder if you can just tell us in narrator mode: that seems to be much more acceptable in sci fi than in other genres, as far as I can tell.

I wonder if putting quotation marks around so what if I left the toilet seat up, who cares would make it read more easily.

Putting Charlene in earlier, as you do now, definitely works much better for me.

Sam Albion said...

Rune (CRAP NAME) stepped over a limestone-laden (IS THIS SIGNIFICANT, OR JUST THE WRITER BEING CLEVER?)stream of cold water running across the floor of the cavern. Above him, bat-like (I HATE THIS- THEY'RE EITHER BATS OR THEY'RE NOT) creatures twitched and squeaked. He pointed his flashlight at the ceiling thirty feet overhead and fluffed the back of Steve's hair, laughing. Steve hunched over, pulling the hood over his head and neck to prevent any guano from getting on his body.

"Think of each all those flying critters up there like raptors wanting to land ammoniated poo on your head. Don't you just love it?" Rune squeaked, flapped (FLAPPING )his hands. (THIS SENTENCE, THOUGH, ONLY MAKES ME HATE RUNE MORE. HE'S A PUSSY. I HOPE HE DIES IN THE FIRST CHAPTER)

"Whoever said caves are for contemplation was a fool," Steve said. Charlene pushed Rune onto a stalagmite. (THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WE NOTICE HER. JUST DROP THAT CHARACTER IN, WHY DONTCHA! DUH!)

"I don't know why the settlers are fascinated (BY) these dung heaps. There's nothing special about caves on this world." She attached a Vid-Cam and light to the wall and aimed it at Rune. "Any clown who can scratch his name into the wall thinks they'll be famous. The Twelve Cities ought to be ashamed to let shit like this be posted," (THE COMMA SHOULDN'T BE THERE) Charlene ranted. (WE KNOW CHARLENE IS SPEAKING- GET RID) Both men shrugged their best I don't care if I left the toilet seat up, who cares attitude. (THIS SENTENCE SHOULD BE HYPHENATED)

Charlene gave Rune another playful shove onto the stalagmite, this time impaling him. (RIDICULOUS)

Two million bats, (THEY ARE BATS? NOT BATS? MAKE YOUR MIND UP) perhaps offended by the blood now polluting their Stream of Cold Running Water, (WHY CAPITALISE THIS?) took turns depositing guano on Rune as he slowly bled to death (THE BEST BIT- THE PUSSY RUNE IS DEAD- HURRAH!).

Charlene recorded the event. "Now that is how you become famous," she said.


Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon

COMMENTS IN CAPITALS- sam albion xx

Ellie said...

There's probably already a comment in the queue explaining things, but in case not:

Sam -- I think you misunderstand how these continuations work. People who want an opening critiqued submit them to EE. Then other people write a funny continuation to the opening (that's what you see in blue.) The blue text is written by someone else, not part of the story, and supposed to be goofy or different or whatever. Don't bother critiquing that, especially not as part of the original opening.

Also (just my feelings on this) please try to use your critiques to help the writer achieve a more effective opening. "Rune is coming across like a wimp here; if you want him to seem tough, you have to change this" is helpful. "I hate your stupid character and hope he dies" is approximately the least useful thing you could say, short of adding a raspberry at the end. The writer is trying to tell a certain kind of story, not please you personally. Keep that in mind when you make your comments.

Anonymous said...

These are adults that are ranting and squeaking, and fluffing each other's hair and pushing each other onto stalagmites? I was half-expecting a wedgie from someone. Their actions make me think they're bratty little kids. If this is the first time we're meeting these characters, I think we need to see more adult interaction between them if they are indeed adults.

Dave F. said...

Dear Sam,
You did answer some of the questions I had when I posted this opening. I knew it wasn't working and I was too close to it to put my finger on the reasons. May I point out that you also corrected the continuation and may I also point out that CAPS is insulting. Now, it's hard to insult me without being direct about it. I've been involved in too many techincal articles too too many editors and meeting chairmen and "peer-reviewers" where I use to work to get insulted over comments that I asked for. I've been romped and stomped on by lots of people.

But, there are other writers here who have never been published in any form and they can be hurt. So be gentle. As for me, I know how to take your comments and not be emotional.

I read your profile and a bit of your blog. I see that you are a film director. I guess that means you are blunt and straightforward. That is good in a reviewer but very hard on the author.

Rachel,
Yes, I felt that AYKB tendency too. I like to do dialog and I tend to make my characters too talkative. About 4000 words later, a meteor strikes the planet and shatters the continent, killing everyone but Rune and Steve. I may have to start with that event rather than where I have. This might be a case of a good story that started itself in the middle.

Jeb,
I understand. I'll fix that.

FairyHedgeHog,
I see those troubles too. I didn't see them last night but this morning I do.

Sam, Dear Sam,
...Love your eight ball...
Your comments will help me decide how to structure the overall story.

Dave F. said...

Elle -- thanks

ANON 10:38 -- They are adults acting like spoiled brats. On the spaceship they were the elite and now they might be the "landed gentry" but the rest of the settlers are passing them by as anachronisms. I didn't say that too well.

Sam Albion said...

yeah, didn't mean to offend anyone with the caps! I thought it would make my comments easier to read. I don't know you, nor you me, so it wasn't intended to be personal. Everyone else "seemed" to be making revision suggestions, so thought I would too! Now I know how it works.

Dave F. said...

I didn't think you were being personal and I didn't take your suggestions that way.

We all make revision suggestions to each other. Don't stop that.

batgirl said...

This probably isn't helpful, but if any of your readers are cavers, they're going to flinch at people pushing each other into stalactites and sticking stuff on walls. Caves are super-sensitive environments. I suppose it's in line with the general immaturity of the characters, though.

sylvia said...

The revision makes a big difference. My only issue at this point is the feeling that I'm being handed a lot of information that I'll need later - I'm worried about the pop quiz! If this could be parcelled out a little bit more subtly, I think it would make this shine.