Monday, August 09, 2010

New Beginning 774

Armageddon came slowly.

Imagine you are recently born, still new to this world, innocent. Feel the warm breath of your father calling you awake. Now open your eyes and realize you are alone. Everyone has left. If you hadn’t been so absorbed in your own dreams you would have noticed, but here you are.

Where do you go now?

Picture the feather of a dead dove falling. And when it finally touches ground everything is gone, even you.

This is how Armageddon washed over the planet.

There was no cataclysmic climate change. No megatsunamis, supervolcanoes, or meteorite collisions to cleanse the land of the human parasites that had for so long infested it.

There was no man-made ice-age. No glacial exodus to erase all of mankind’s mistakes.

A swarm of alien invaders did not descend from the heavens in a massive coordinated attack, exterminating life as we know it to make room for their extraterrestrial colonies.

There was no government engineered pathogen.

There were no four horsemen.

Subtle in its means, Armageddon crept over humanity, gently smothering it, leaving only the pathetic struggle of an obsessed old man.

He stared out the window at the silent streets. Even the traffic lights were black and lifeless. He had no clue where it had come from. He'd been unaware of its creeping approach. But now, now that everyone was gone and everything was silent, he knew at last: This was why no one was doing the fucking writing exercises.


Opening: JMK McMullen.....Continuation: Anon.

13 comments:

Evil Editor said...

The statement "...everything is gone, even you" seems to contradict the previous "...here you are. Where do you go now?"

The list of ways life could end goes on too long. I also think it would be more effective without the references to mankind's mistakes, human parasites. That is, with a more objective narrator.

Also, wouldn't the alien colony be terrestrial rather than extraterrestrial? Or extraBorgial?

I would condense it to this:


Armageddon came slowly.

Imagine you are recently born, still new to this world, innocent. Feel the warm breath of your father calling you awake. Now open your eyes and realize you are alone. Everyone has left. If you hadn’t been so absorbed in your own dreams you might have noticed.

Picture the feather of a dead dove falling. And when it finally touches ground everything is gone.

This is how Armageddon washed over the planet.

There was no cataclysmic climate change. There was no government-engineered pathogen. No megatsunamis, supervolcanoes, or meteorite collisions. No swarm of alien invaders descending from the heavens to pave the way for their newest colony.

There were no four horsemen.

Subtle in its means, Armageddon crept over humanity, gently smothering it, leaving only the pathetic struggle of an obsessed old man.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


But even the old man was no match for the waning, pale, mocking moon. As a bath of silvery light washed over the old man's skin, he sensed the change. His flesh boiled and his bones snapped. Painfully, slowly, he transformed into the most terrifying beast known to the universe-- the weredingo.

"Armageddon, you're fucked," weredingo growled as he sprinted out into the barren wilderness ready to kick some end-of-time's ass.

--Angie


"Daggabbit!" he spluttered, kicking the machine yet again, "Where is the kaboom?! There's supposed to be an earth-shattering Kaboom! I. WANT. MY. KABBOOMMM!!!!OUCH!" from one more kick to the stubborn product of a life's work. "Dang cheap vacuum tubes..."

--Panda Rosa


Armageddon--oh DAMN it! Is that the best you can do? Is it really now?
What about the Earth Shattering Ka-Boom? Dash it all, this is NOT what I planned--it needs the Ka-Boom! I Want My Cacophonous Ka-Boom! WHERE'S MY KA-BOOM!


Nurse? Nurse! Please hurry! Okay, okay, yes, inject right there, good. He'll be okay now.'

There's going to be a ka-boom, isn't there? Please? Just one little ka-boom.... please?

--Panda Rosa

BuffySquirrel said...

I suppose it is my curse to be too literally minded, for if I were newly born, I wouldn't understand any of the concepts you're trying to get me to imagine. So, la. Colour me awkward.

Also, 'the feather of a dead dove falling' doesn't work for me; if the dove is dead, it too is falling, not just its feather.

Evil Editor said...

The feather floats gently to earth long after the dove went splat. However, I agree we don't need the bird. The image of the feather as Armageddon is more effective without mentioning the dead dove, which sounds like we're being force-fed a symbol.

Kings Falcon said...

You start with a strong hook but then lose me. The newborn and dead dove analogies fell flat for me. A newborn wouldn't notice or realize the concepts you ask us to accept. The dead dove feather drifting slowly down while the bird plummets was also hard to swallow. Then came the long list of what didn't happen. The hook's promise waned for me. If I was skimming in a bookstore, I wouldn't have made to your better hook at the end of this section:

"Subtle in its means, Armageddon crept over humanity, gently smothering it, leaving only the pathetic struggle of an obsessed old man."

You've already told me "Armageddon came slowly" so as is this sentance is repetition. But, it's more specific and more interesting than the first line. I'd suggest starting there and then launching into the story because while Armageddon may come slowly, I don't have enough leisure time to wade through things that don't matter to a story.

Dave F. said...

I count eight (or nine, depending) images of the Armageddon. My uncertainty is that Armageddon is a battle and not the end of the world. Even Apocalypse holds a double meaning in that the meaning of the word is "revelation." You don't mention "The Book of Revelation" but you use the Four Horsemen image.

It's overload. Every possible method for the earth to end or for mankind's domination of the earth of end is presented in 188 words. And the reader thinks of all of them in about ten seconds. The only image you don't use is that of Ravens circling.

To that end, I think EE had a good start at reducing the words and images to a manageable length. I only say "good start" because the shortened opening still lacks focus.

Feathers are used to great effect in several novels I can think of. (The Four Feathers, The Joy Luck Club, Forest Gump - for starters).
Dead Dove's aren't. Buffy's right about that. The dead dove is distracting. I would suggest that unless you are expanding the feather image later, drop it.

Use fewer words to get the same effect.

Here's my reasoning.
Climate change, tsunamis, volcanoes and meteors are natural events.
Viruses are man made.
Har Magiddo is a battle between the forces of good and evil.
The Final Judgment (Matthew and Revelation) is an event.
Aliens are fiction.

If this Subtle in its means, Armageddon crept over humanity, gently smothering it, leaving only the pathetic struggle of an obsessed old man. is your end of times event, then tailor your images to contrast with that and make the gentleness of it stand out.

Right now, you've got an avalanche of images burying the reader. Sort through the images and use those that apply to the rest of the story.

If this is a battle between good and evil, then use the images of Armageddon and the Last Judgment.

If this is a disaster sci-fi type story, then use all the stuff that advances the story and junk what doesn't. It's a theme thing. I suspect there is a struggle inside this obsessed old man and you need to mirror that in the opening.

The images you do use depend on your story.

_*rachel*_ said...

I'd skip the 2nd through 5th paragraphs and thin out the "there was no" paragraphs. Maybe get rid of the aliens, or end that bit with: "No aliens, no four horsemen."

The final paragraph confused me a bit. I take it to mean there's only one survivor?

I do like the feel of this. It feels like the Armageddon you're talking about--slow and creeping.

vkw said...

Actually I didn't think it was all that bad. I'm interested in what happened to the world.

I didn't like the "Imagine you are . . ." I liked the part where you are awakened away.

Thus

Imagine you are a sleeping child, innocent, peaceful and you hear your father calling. But when you open your eyes everyone has left. If you hadn't been absorbed in your own dreams, you would have noticed but here you are.

I didn't like "where do you go now?" because we know the author is going to tell us that soon enough.

I didn't mind the force fed symbol, but I didn't get how the bird symbolized Armageddon. The feather drifts down the bird is already dead. . . . which means death came quickly to the world. Right? Anyway. Get rid of the sentence.

The list of possible ways to end the world went on too long because it was repetitive. "cataclysmic climate change" is a man made ice age. Get rid of the repetition.

I didn't like human parasites either. A sympathetic survivor would be nice.

my too many coppers for the day.

I loved the continuation.

Amy said...

This is confidently written, and I like the voice. I'd probably read on just for that. But I think the opening analogies do fall flat--they simply don't work for me. I can't picture Armageddon as it is described by the "recently born" analogy or the dead dove falling.

I agree with others that the listing of all the things that didn't happen (climate change, ice-age, aliens, etc.) goes on too long. A couple of examples will be enough; we don't need five.

Chicory said...

I really don't get who I'm supposed to be rooting for here. I didn't even realize the old man was an actual person. I thought he was another literary symbol. I think the story would have a stronger opening if you introduce your main character sooner, and a little more clearly.

Xiexie said...

I'm not so literal with the "newborn" thing. And I would not that the author says recently born. I mean in comparison to an adult, a child is recently born same about a teenage to an elder -- it's all about perspective.

Cut the first sentence.

The sentence Where do you go now? throws me off.

I also don't think that the dove needs to be dead in order to get the metaphor across. I think the feather of a dove falling communicates the image just as well.

I also agree that the voice could be more impartial and less critical of humanity. It would keep it removed and sort of haunting rather than coming off at times as judgmental (i.e. "human parasites, etc.)

Overall: good job.

Dave F. said...

I am currently reading THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin and if you want an atmospheric opening to a novel with an apocalyptic event, it's got a dandy first line:
Before she became The Girl from Nowhere—the One Who Walked In, The First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years—she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.

Thirty four words. I wish I could start my stories that concisely.

And the opening line of Chapter 15 in the same book is a stunner but since the published excerpt online is neither chapter 1 nor 15, I don't feel right reproducing it here.

It's worth going to a library or a bookstore and reading those two openings. They are good examples of the atmospherics you are trying to pull off in this opening.

stacy said...

I guess I'm confused, given that Armageddon doesn't happen in any way described, how it DOES happen.

I took recently born to be more of a metaphorical, Biblical image, like God shaping chaos (or nothing) into the sea and land and wind, etc.

But I'm still confused how Armageddon happens. Does everyone fall asleep?

As far as the writing exercises, I'm BACK. Done with school, and back to writing. Back to hanging around on EE's blog, annoying him and everyone else. : )