Thursday, September 08, 2011

New Beginning 881

Peels of laughter assaulted Huff as he leaned up against the wall, one knee bent, one boot sole pressed against the store’s bricks. His well-rehearsed, devil-may care persona was as firmly in place as the wide-brimmed hat sitting on his head.

The children squealed again and joyously clapped at the puppet dancing before them.

The puppet with no strings.

It twirled as it pounded its hands together to clang the tambourines tied to its tiny, wooden lifeless hands.

The children cheered louder.

Now it marched around the circle, its stick legs shooting straight out into the air only to be slapped into the dust before shooting out again.

Behind all of them was the puppet master, the magician. He weaved his hands in the air, smiling, laughing as he used the power. His expression was no less gleeful than the children’s, perhaps even more so.

Huff stuck a long straw between his teeth, tightening his jaw. He resisted the urge to spit.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hacking Horace making his way through the square. His torn, dirty brown cloak and scraggly grey hair, sharply contrasted the well-oiled, leather sheathed strapped to his side.

Hacking Horace pulled his sword from its sheath and hacked at the air above the puppet. It continued its dance. "See," Hacking Horace proclaimed. "No strings."

He then turned to the magician and hacked off his head.


Huff swallowed the straw.
The puppet danced on.

"See?
" Hacking Horace said. "No magic. It's just a dancing midget."

The children wandered off, muttering things like, "Ripoff" and "Con artist" and "Bullshit scam."


Opening: vkw.....Continuation: Evil Editor

16 comments:

Chicory said...

I really enjoyed this, but there are two points I thought I'd make.

One: you might want to mention the magician sooner. I thought Huff was the one making the puppet dance, and his nonchalant persona was part of his act.

Two: Do you really want to introduce a guy named Hacking Horace in the line after Huff spits on the ground? Because of the spitting, my first thought at Hacking Horace's name was that he has a perpetual head-cold.

Evil Editor said...

It's never a good sign when the first word of a book is spelled wrong. Peels are what come off apples and oranges.

P1: devil-may-care needs two hyphens.

Just say "as his wide-brimmed hat" and you won't need to say "sitting on his head."

P2. I'd go with "applauded" rather than "clapped at."

P4: No need to tell us a puppet is lifeless.

"Hands" twice in the same sentence isn't right. How about: It twirled as it clanged together the tambourines tied to its tiny, wooden hands.

P6: I'm not sure "slapped" is the right word.

P7: Get rid of "perhaps even more so."

P8. The urge to spit seldom comes over one when one has a straw in one's mouth. Unless one wishes to get the straw out of one's mouth.

P9: "sheath," not "sheathed."

No comma after "hair."

Should that be "contrasted with"?

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


"Hey kids! You having fun? I sure am!" The puppet's nose got really long as he finished yelling at the kids.

Huff watched as Hacking Horace pulled out his mini chain saw from the smooth leather holster and whacked off the puppet's 18 inch nose.

Damn, Huff thought, the little creep never learns. Then he spit.

--Wilkins MacQueen


So he huffed and he puffed and he blew Hacking Horace away. No need to ruin the kids' fun this day.

--Wilkins MacQueen

Dave Fragments said...

I had the same problem as Chicory, I thought Huff was the magician.

I would also say "peals of children's laughter" in the first paragraph. In the second you can say they laughed again as the magician made the puppet dance. Then I would make this all a bit more compact. Cut out words that you don't need until you hit a plot point.

I think that's what this opening needs as much as tightening up -- a plot point. You established Huff. You established we're in a world of magic realism. Now you need to hint at the plot or possibly the climax of the story.

Beth said...

The opening description was utterly confusing. I imagined something completely different from what you intended, starting with the way he was standing and moving on to the fact that I thought he was the one performing the puppet show. There is no transition between the first and second paragraphs to show he's watching, not performing.

Peels should be peals.

Also, because there's so much detailed description here, I can't tell what's important and what's just local color. We don't need to know that he's got one foot propped against the wall. And do we really need to know exactly how the puppet dances? I'm guessing probably not. The important part is the detail about the lack of strings.

Matthew MacNish said...

You're messed up EE.

However, I don't see how Horace's dirty brown cloak is going to contrast sharply against his well oil leather sheath. Is well oiled leather not also brown? Or are you saying they contrast because one is dusty and the other is oiled? Maybe you should say dusty instead of dirty.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

A lot of excess verbiage here. Try to cut half the words out, and this will flow a lot more smoothly.

None of the 100+ children I've worked with over the years have been given to squealing or joyously clapping. The children and Huff seem to be acting in ways I've read about in books, but not in ways people really act. Dig deeper.

(Watch some kids watching a puppet show.
"Oh man that's cool."
"No it ain't, it's so fake. I can see his hands."
"Shut up, you can not."
"I seen this last week and there was a naked lady."
"You liar.")

Come to think of it, the description of Hack in the first paragraph kinda matches those plywood silhouettes people nail to their barns.

The Spicy Cupcake said...

tI loved the line "the puppet with no strings." It really made me say "what the?" and want to keep reading.

I thought it was good, but it just seemed a little slow for me.

I didn't think that Huff was the one making the puppet move. I just kind of took him as a bystander whatching everything, so at least one person didn't think it was Huff.

Evil Editor said...

make that two. I assumed it was the magician, and even considered writing a continuation in which it turned out to be Huff.

BuffySquirrel said...

Tambourines? Cymbals, maybe?

Tamara said...

I disagree, AlaskaRavenclaw; I have heard many squeals from the mouths of babes. For example, my fiance's three-year-old niece squealed at a proper ear-splitting level when she successfully got her pink Cinderella brush stuck in my hair. At the sight of a puppet show, though? Not so much. I've also never seen spontaneous clapping, even from adults. It's a very formal behavior. Younger kids just stare; older kids are more interested in other things.

Also, children have very little comprehension of the laws of the natural world, and this is a magical one at that, so the fact that the puppet has no strings probably wouldn't be particularly remarkable. Example: to someone who grew up without modern technologies, smartphones and laptops seem magical and complicated, but to the kids growing up with them now, they're just a fixture of everyday life. I assume if I grew up in a world full of magicians and men with names like "Huff" and "Hacking Horace" a free-standing puppet wouldn't be any more interesting than your run-of-the-mill marrionette.

Anonymous said...

Darn funny continuation! I liked the story frag, but keep thinking it was a tad wordy. And comma-y. I also got the Huff wasn't the puppet master, but clarifying that is an easy fix.

Huff leaned against the store wall, one boot sole pressed against the bricks. His well-rehearsed, devil-may care persona was as firmly in place as the wide-brimmed hat sitting on his head.

Out in the square, the puppet master weaved his hands in the air, smiling. The children giggled at the puppet dancing before them.

The puppet with no strings.

Huff watched the puppet twirl and clang the tambourines tied to its tiny, wooden lifeless hands. It marched in a circle, stick legs shooting straight out into the air only to be slapped into the dust before shooting out again.

The puppet master, the magician, laughed as he used the power, no less gleeful than the children.

Huff stuck a long straw between his teeth, tightening his jaw. He resisted the urge to scowl.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hacking Horace slouching through the crowd. His torn cloak and scraggly grey hair sharply contrasted with the well-oiled leather sheath strapped to his side.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, AlaskaRavenclaw; I have heard many squeals from the mouths of babes...

Seconded.

Though I can understand the kids in Alaska being a little glum...

Sarah Laurenson said...

I got that Huff wasn't the puppet master. Looks like we're about tied on that score.

I liked this beginning. Yeah it needs a bit of sprucing up. Don't have anything to add to what's been said.

I'm imagining peels of laughter hitting someone. Could be very interesting. Do they float on the air or strike like lightning?

Masterful contin, oh Evil Overlord.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I'm going to risk disagreeing with EE and suggest that you keep "lifeless" in there. When I read about a puppet without strings, I start thinking about Pinocchio, so knowing that it's a lifeless puppet helps me to understand that this is a puppet being controlled through magic rather than a living puppet.

It wasn't until several minutes after I had finished reading that a realized that Horace might be known for cutting up people with whatever he has in that sheath rather than coughing up phlegm. Consider a different adjective.

Evil Editor said...

I think I see where you went wrong, Ink. Pinocchio is a fictional character. There are no living puppets. Thus, when I start thinking about a puppet with no strings I think not of Pinocchio, but of Miss Piggy. I understood it was a puppet being controlled by magic from the part where it says there was a magician. Waving his arms and using the power.

Also, if you had read the continuation, you wouldn't have needed to wait several minutes before realizing what "hacking" means.