Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Beginning 878

The broken glass of the windshield spiraled out like a web. The girl’s skull had shattered it on impact. Now her body slumped against the door of the vehicle, eyes staring out.

Even in the dim light, I knew she was dead.

Not so for the man in the driver’s seat. His breath came out in little rasps. I reached in through the window and touched his head. Just a little jolt, to blur his memories. When he came to, the scene would tell a story his mind could not place. He’d see the front of the vehicle smashed in, and the body of a buck sprawled out before it.

And he would know what had happened.

As for the girl, the one who’d climbed into his car a few miles back, well . . . He wouldn’t even remember her.

I dragged her body into the woods. Even in the darkness, she was a wonder to behold. Once a living organism, filled with possibility. Now a bag of skin containing sharp secrets.

Her blood stained my gloves.

I stripped off her clothes with less care than I’d like to admit. Underneath, she was as pale as I am. Her hair was a duller shade of red, but that was no surprise. What human would have hair like mine? If I wanted to pass as one of them, everything about me would have to be dimmed.

My wings rustled at the thought of it.

Her clothes were bigger than I anticipated and hung loosely from my body. But still it felt good, to be a little more like them. But smarter. Thanks to their genetic meddling, I was so much smarter, now.

I remembered the look on his face, as I had crossed the road in front of them. His wide eyes. The silent "Why?!" that his mouth screamed as the car swerved toward the tree.

Why? Because it's time for the oppressed to become free. Steel yourself, mankind, steel yourself for the rise of the planet of the chickens.

Opening: Chelsea P......Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

P1: You could say The crack in the windshield spiraled out like a web. Otherwise readers might think the glass is lying all over the ground.

P4: You could say "guess" instead of "know." Or put "know" in quotation marks. Obviously he wouldn't know what had happened.

Those are minor, ignorable nitpicks. The scene is a good hook, even before the wings. I'd read on to find out if this is an angel or demon or alien or mutant or chicken.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

I carefully gutted my new costume, bundling the entrails neatly for the wild dogs.

Ouch! I pricked my finger on one of those secrets. The blood stained my gloves, mixed with the girl's. It was a brighter shade of red, but that was no surprise. What human would have blood as red as mine? If I wanted to pass as one of them, I'd have to turn down the wattage on the tiny bulbs making my hair and blood glow.

I slipped the girl's skin over my head and used a piece of mirror from the demolished car to examine myself. Unfortunately, when the skull shattered on impact, it took half of the face with it. My wings thought I should think these things through more; I told them to shut up but took note. Next time I'll just use a nice, simple poison.

--Tamara Marnell

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Writer, I don't know how many readers you'd lose with that first paragraph. But I know I'd be one of them.

Iago said...

I like this. It feels like there might be a good story here, and I would keep reading. It is a little laboured in places - you could probably tighten it up and help it flow a bit more smoothly - but you didn't lose this reader.

Dave Fragments said...

I have seen a few busted up windshields and "spiraled" is a distraction for me. The use of "broken glass" right at the start implies (to me at least) shattered and granulated. Windshields don't do that. Door windows might granulate but windshields don't. IT's the way the glass is laminated.
So this is a matter of fixing the language. Maybe just "the broken windshield bulged, shattered by the girl's head".

Mythbusters did a test of moose and car accidents and the moose was so tall that it shattered the windshield and rolled over the car.

I've had friends who smacked big deer and the deer does indeed roll up and shatter the windshield but not like that moose. It's a moose mass thing. I only ever clipped a deer with a side view mirror and had it break out the driver's door window. I drove to a car wash and got the glass bit vaccumed off me.

I have seen cars rammed into trees with a dead deer in teh road behind them. That's a lose control of the when the deer hits and them thar trees don't move, pardner...

Sarah Laurenson said...

This is a tough one for me. The first part was losing me. Not my cuppa, you know. Then it started to draw me in. Still might not be my cuppa, but the writing is solid.

Then I started thinking it over and wondering how this, um, chicken knew the girl had gotten into the car a few miles back. And how would the driver assume there was no one else in the car with that distinctive head dome in the windshield. I've seen it in my windshield once and it is very distinctive (in that case she lived - walked away from the accident even and spent no time in the hospital).

So from my personal experience, there are things here that are not jiving.

I would read on to see where this was taking me.

Love the contin!

MC said...

I'd read on for sure. As others noted, it could use some tightening, but it's a good hook and I'd just have to find out if it's a chicken.

vkw said...

I think the first paragraph is very rough.

Try something like -

When the car hit the -----, the girl's head hit the windshield, shattering it. It reminded me of a web.

Even in the dim light, I knew she was dead.

I think that's all you need. I wouldn't add another word.


Even in the dim light, I knew she was dead. The girl's eyes stared blankly into space thru the shattered windshield.

The man in the driver's seat was still breathing, if only barely.

The rest of it is pretty good. I would read on.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Dave, there's a part of Alaska known as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, or, to Alaskans, "Mat-Su".

Mat-Su is a law unto itself.

Sarah Palin lives there. When Americans were staring aghast at the infamous Katie Couric interview and saying "OMG, that's Alaskans?" Alaskans were saying "That's Mat-Su."

Why am I telling you this?

Because there is a University of Alaska extension in Mat-Su, and it offers, or at least offered at one time, a class in butchering roadkill moose.

Higher education. It's worth every penny you pay for it.

Dave Fragments said...

I have no objections to hunting or even butchering moose. I don't hunt because it's too cold out there to hunt for my taste (that's not as wimpy as it sounds). We got geese, turkey, deer, ravenous deer (not carnivorous), trout, squirrel, bear, wild rabbit, Easter bunny, gopher, groundhog, moles, Bambi, BUT NO moose. chicken hawks, maybe an eagle, owls, mice, lots of birdies but no moose.

I worked with a fellow who always used to "trade" lunches. HE'd have something in his lunch bucket that was breaded and deep fried and would always trade another worker for lunch. It turned out, he used to pick up road kill and deep fry it. Raised and killed 200 chickens for his daughter's wedding. No one traded ever again. The thoughts of deep friend road kill didn't appeal to their culinary tastes...

But that doesn't help Chelsea with her opening at all. I did make me smile.

Evil Editor said...

Killing a moose is like killing Bullwinkle, which I consider more egregious than doing something like killing Bambi. Meese are big like rhinoceri, and should not be killed.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Deep fried road kill?

Almost as good as the clip with Paulson being interviewed as someone was grinding turkeys in the woodchipper in the background. Letterman classic.


But I liked the opening. Screw it down a touch more and good luck. I'd read on.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

EE, I agree. Let moose do the killing sez I.

In Anchorage they roam the city, esp during the winter-- nothing like coming bang smack up against a moose on a city street. The done thing is to back away slowly and, insofar as possible, politely.

When they're camped out by the front door, you call in sick.

The main problem with the opening graf is that, like meese, it is too violent. Obviously not too violent for some readers... but why alienate anyone that early in the story?

Evil Editor said...

It's not as violent as it would have been if the story started a couple minutes earlier.

none said...

The opening's too violent? What do you people usually read?

batgirl said...

I liked this, and though I don't read a lot of horror / dark fantasy these days, I didn't find it too violent an opening. Sometimes it can be useful to have an opening that warns people off before they get into a story that's going to be very strong meat.
Let us not forget that not every story is meant to appeal to every reader, and one purpose of openings is to convey who the story is for.

Anonymous said...

"You people"??


Chelsea Pitcher said...


:) I *loved* the continuation, and EEs later inclusion of Bullwinkle. Pretty much the best comments a girl could ask for.

My main issue with this opening is that I don't like starting the first two sentences with "the". It feels repetitive but I have yet to find another option that I like better. VKW, I very much appreciate your suggestions. If anyone else has thoughts on the matter, don't hesitate to speak up!

Thank you to EE and Dave for pointing out the issue with the broken windshield. You are right, there is definitely a better (and more accurate) way to put that. Also, EE I like your suggestion of "guess" vs. "know".

Sarah, I love your attention to detail. You are absolutely right about the dent in the windshield. A few paragraphs later, the protag--er, chicken!--uses glamour to cover up the damage.

Alaska, I appreciate your honesty, and I think there is an irony here: if I picked up a book that began with a moose gutting I would definitely stop reading, because that would be too violent/graphic for me. In fact, I specifically didn't start the book with the accident because that would've been too violent for me, too.

Rather than implying: “This is a dark and violent story with lots of slashings and crashings," I’m attempting to imply: "This is a story with an undercurrent of danger, which could surface at any time." That way, the entire time the protag is in the human world, and a human boy is falling for her, the reader doesn't know if she actually caused the car accident or simply witnessed it. It's my little attempt at tension.

It seems like, here, it’s working more for some than for others.

To everyone else who offered suggestions and support, as always, your words are a salve to my writerly soul. I thank you.

none said...

Sorry! I meant, of course, you were-people!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Buffy- What do were-people (or, more grammatically, done-been-people) read?

Mm. I-person mostly reads middle grades novels. Perhaps that's the problem.

However, though I don't like violence a whole lot, it might be that my real objection to the first paragraph is that it introduces us to only one character and that character is dead. Not engaging, to me anyway.

Chelsea, I probably wouldn't read a moose-gutting book either.

Word verification: humphs.

none said...

Were-people read transformative literature.

I didn't find anything particularly wrong with the opening, but it didn't inspire me to read on, either. Possibly that's simply due to the absence of the narrator.

Anonymous said...

That way, the entire time the protag is in the human world, and a human boy is falling for her, the reader doesn't know if she actually caused the car accident or simply witnessed it. It's my little attempt at tension.

Interesting, because I had assumed that the "chicken" had caused the accident to kill the teenage girl and would have stopped reading because I'm not interested in protags that kill children.

Anonymous said...

I didn't get a chicken thing or that poultry caused the accicent. I thought it was nice touch. Shivering/quivering wings. A taste for blood but restrained. Hints I like. Thumbs up.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Ahhh, interesting. Absence of the narrator. That could be what's bugging me about the first paragraph. Thanks Buffy and Alaska!

I love the conflicting interpretations of the anons. Thanks for sharing your views!

I really like the discussion about what people read. I read a lot of YA because that's primarily what I write, and I'm sure that affects what I do and don't like here. Have people ever just listed their favorite books/genres on here? I would love to see a list like that!

Thanks to all who came by or came back :)