Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Beginning 920

“Five agents! Five!” Sergeant Mallory slammed his fist onto the desk, making the bones of his wrist tremble like an abacus. “Five! And now you want to try?”

Sharmayne met his gaze, her softly-glowing green eyes bright in the dim office. “I think I know where they may have gone wrong, sir.”

“You?” Mallory straightened up, the white of his skull reflecting the light. “How long have you been here? Three months?”

“Yes, sir, but I—“

“Three months! You know how long I’ve been doing this?”

Sharmayne held her ground. “Two hundred, forty seven years, eight months and four days.”

“Damn right! And I’ve got at least another century to go before I can retire. And if you think you know more than me, you’ve got another thing coming!”

“Can I at least tell you my idea?”

“Go ahead! It’s not like I have anything important to do.”

She took a long breath. Unlike most Awakened, she had kept her lips, nose, ears and breasts; except for the pallor of her skin and her glowing eyes, she could be mistaken for a human. “What I was going to say, sir, is that I think they approached this farmer Stanton the wrong way. I think that a quieter method might get better results.”

“Oh you do, do you?” Mallory leaned back, red eyes glittering. “And just why do you think that? These were some of my best men! And they were shot down dead by Stanton. You really think sweet-talking is going to help?”

“It can’t possibly hurt.” She folded her arms across her chest. “At school they said that there are better ways of dealing with humans being tried now in Europe. That’s all I want to try.”

“School.” Mallory shook his head, gray hair wagging. “Listen. When I started here, we didn’t have crap like schools. We just went out there and did our jobs. And we didn’t take any guff from farmers!”

“You have to go to school,” she began. “If you want to—“

“—to have any chance of succeeding in the world today. Yeah, I know. I hear it all the time.” Mallory sighed, blowing papers astray. “All right. I’ll let you go. But if you get killed, don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

“Thank you, sir.” She hesitated by the office door. “I won’t let you down.”

“See that you don’t.”

Retrieving the Stanton dossier from the out box, Sharmayne left.

Sitting there in his office, sensing that somehow he'd just lost yet another argument, Mallory couldn't help but feel aggrieved that she got to keep her tits but he hadn't been able to hang on to his balls.

Opening: Khazar-khum.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"One more thing!" Mallory said.

Sharmayne turned back and stood in the doorway. "Yes, sir?"

Mallory fixed his piercing stare on her for a full three minutes, saying nothing, his brow creased in deep thought. "That's all."

Puzzled, Sharmayne turned again and left.

Yes, Mallory thought, shifting to a more comfortable position in his chair. Real ones are much perkier.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I was going to complain about the bones rattling like an abacus, but then I read on and saw. Still not a huge fan of similes on the opening page, but others don't agree with me on this.

No comma after two hundred.

This seems like a pretty good set-up, and probably the right place to begin the story: Plucky young (!) cop (?) defies boss. (Are they cops?)

Evil Editor said...

P1: I would dump the simile and the second "Five!" If you don't dump them, I would delete "making, and change "tremble" to "trembling."

P6: Unlikely that she would answer his question to the exact day. That's what Data would do on Star Trek TNG.

P7: How long till he retires seems irrelevant; not clear why he would bring it up.

P11: She already knows the agents were shot dead. As you know Bob.

P12: "being tried now in Europe" could be interpreted as describing the humans rather than the ways (tried in a court of law). I don't think Europe is needed.

I get the impression Sarge's preferred plan is to do nothing. Normally law enforcement doesn't give up after 5 of theirs have been shot. They send in the big guns. Which makes me wonder exactly what their original business with the farmer was.

The quotation marks are backwards at the end of the two sentences that end with dashes.

Laurie said...

I like the idea of this, but I think the opening can be trimmed up. I agree with what the others have already said: the bones-like-an-abacus threw me out completely; it wasn't until I got down to his white skull that I got it. How about opening by telling us he's skeletal right off? That's pretty cool.

Mentioning the heroine's glowing green eyes right away is always going to get an eye roll from me (not to mention emphasis on breasts), but that's me. I'd just say that she can pass for human except for yada yada. We can get that she's got breasts and lips and all from that. ^_^

I'm also not wild about making the hero/ine seem smart by making everyone else dumb, and Mallory is being dumb here - plus I'm tired of dumb cops. Again, that's me. I'd prefer a thoughtful boss who might be at his wits end about what to do, but is far from giving up on the problem and willing to listen to a new recruit if she gets to her point quickly. Instead of dwelling on her physical appearance, how about having her speak right up and say, "Boss, I think this is the problem here and what I propose to do about it." ^_^

Plus, as EE says, there's a lot of As You Know Bob going on here as far as the crime. I think you could introduce all this more naturally.

I like the idea of zombies in normal jobs and I love cross-genre - a police procedural fantasy sounds like a lot of fun, so you'd have me there. You can clearly write, so no problems there. Good luck. ^_^

Khazar-khum said...

Hi all--thank you for the ideas & thoughtful criticism. You have no idea how much that is appreciated.

This is the very first, very rough draft of an idea about undead investigators who try to mediate confrontations with the living. Sharmayne is willing to try the new-age European approach of talking to the people instead of the classic confrontation. In this story she's supposed to mediate for a ghost who believes a human has stolen his farm.

EE--the backwards quote things drive me crazy, too, but for some reason Word insists on them after a dash. Grrrrrr.

Evil Editor said...

I think most word processors do (after an ellipsis, as well). As you're no doubt aware, the fix is to repeat the quote mark, then delete the front one.

Khazar-khum said...

Yes, but when you're rushing--oh, screw it, I'm just lazy sometimes.

Love the continuations, BTW.

Dave Fragments said...

You can turn off the "curly" quote marks in WORD. I have and I like what I see as better without them than with them.

Also, when I do HTML for my website those curly quotes show up as "black blots" when I cut and past. They are two special characters that I don't like.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

As I grow old in this business, I have come to realize that "clean" writing is writing that contains as few words as possible.

That is, as few words as it can contain and still tell the story.

Most details can go, and those that remain will be stronger because of it.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

I love this idea, but there are a couple of things niggling at me.

I don't understand how sergeant's 'best men' can be shot down dead when they are presumably already dead. Sarge seems blase about it, so I don't really understand what's at stake. If they need to spend a week in Embalming after getting shot, that's one thing. If they are really dead, like, permanently removed from all existence, then a stupid little farm dispute doesn't seem to justify that kind of loss. What exactly is at stake in the dispute?
I have the same problem with the 'Dealing with humans' concept; I'm not getting a clear enough picture of the relationships between humans and non-humans here to see what's at stake. Why do they need to deal with the humans at all? What are the consequences if they never get the human off this ghost's farm, and does it justify the trouble they are going to?

Somehow a lot of what you've given us is too vague to do what it ought to be doing. (And the discussions about age, experience and school do go on too long and seem to be for our benefit- would trim those) What I'm saying is, I don't think you need more words, just more specific ones to paint a clearer picture:
The other cops approached farmer Stanton the wrong way- how? pitchforks, cream pies in the face?
What exactly is 'a quieter method' and 'sweet-talking?' After all the emphasis on her body parts and glowing, green eyes and the fact that she is obviously female after the five failed men, if we're talking about the lady-cop-using-feminine-wiles here, beware of cliché. Personally, I want her to be smarter than that. I need a more pressing argument from Sharmayne before I will believe that Sarge would let her go. 'It can't possibly hurt' is nonsense when we know Farmer Brown has blown away five agents already and her 'idea' isn't really an idea, it's a vague theory that a 'quieter method' will work. Tell us what she plans to try, because a clever idea will also make me more convinced that Sarge would really let her.

Picayune, and probably exposing my own ignorance, but would a sergeant be in charge of people with the title 'agent?' I'm assuming Sharmayne is also an agent here. Otherwise it makes even less sense that the sergeant could send out a junior clerk (or whatever she is), presumably with a high chance of having her come back headless and permanently dead, and not be breaking every departmental regulation and facing an internal inquiry, loss of pension, etc...

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I dunno. We're used to looking at queries, so questions like whether all those agents would get involved in Waco, er, Ruby Ridge, er, a stupid little farm dispute would be important there.

But this is just a first page. It's possible we find out on the fourth page what killing a zombie cop entails. It's important, too, not to info-dump in an opening.

(A tease could work. "You'll end up sporked, like the rest of them!")

I'm thinking about the whole Waco thing and I'm thinking that if the cops here are mainly in charge of human/zombie relations, they don't actually have much jurisdiction over humans. So cutting their losses rather than going all Waco might make sense.

Who knows? I liked the opening though I don't care for zombies at all. But I think it could benefit from having a lot of words and details cut. Less is more.

Unknown said...

Love the continuation!

This can be streamlined. There's a lot of "maid and butler" or "as you know, Bob" dialog in this. Work the history and the undead status in a bit more subtly.

The bone rattling didn't thrill me either. Neither did the MC, she's a bit over the tenacious line and into the b**** catagory for me with the "I know what they did wrong" line.

P2. How does Sharmayne know her "softly-glowing green eyes" were "bright in the dim office"? Don't tell me what the POV wouldn't know or pay attention to.

P 10 - You can convey that she's human-like in the conversation and avoid the mini-info dump. Have her explain that while the other agents were all bones, she can pass as human, mostly, and might be able to get the guy to talk rather than shoot.

Frankly, starting with dialog is tough because the instinct is to tell too much. It might be better to start with her outside the farm and trying to figure out how to approach Stanton.

none said...

I think Tolkien wants his !!!!!s back.