Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Beginning 950

As Sora Finch huddled in the frame of her bedroom window, the white lights of Cumulus City blinked once and then died. All citizens were inside the Apartment Tower now, curled up in front of wall-sized television sets, safe and sound. As her mother watched a boring news cast from Headquarters in the next room, Sora, preferring more dangerous forms of entertainment, took a deep breath and jumped from the window. She landed in the center of the sky bridge that rested one story below, crouching low to gain her balance. The wind yanked strands of copper hair loose from her ballerina bun as she performed a cartwheel, a huge grin on her face. The tunneled bridge connected to the Education Tower, where Sora took her lessons each morning. As the moon and stars above shaded the eight silver towers in a sickly hue, Sora felt the creatures stir below. She couldn't hear or see them, they were 800 feet below the city after all, but somehow she sensed the presence of the Strays like a second pulse beating within her. The creatures were hungry tonight.

And no one else would feed them; it was against the laws of the Towers. Hang the laws, Sora thought.

She slowly stripped off her school uniform, revealing the mismatched sweater and skirt underneath. Rolling down her knee highs and pulling more hair from her bun, she felt herself changing into another creature of the night, her alter ego: Crazy Cat Lady. All cats - strays or not - deserved a few cat treats now and then.

Opening: Lisa Aldin.....Continuation: Stacy

18 comments:

Evil Editor said...

"Newscast" -- one word.

"She landed on the roof of the sky bridge" would give a clearer picture than "in the center." Assuming I understand the architecture.

I would surround "they were 800 feet below the city after all" with dashes or parentheses instead of commas. Or put a semicolon after "them" and start a new sentence with "but."

I'd change "the tunneled bridge" to the bridge-tunnel or the enclosed bridge.

I assume she has a way back into her apartment from a story below. It doesn't seem like they'd install a way off something that you can only get on by jumping out a window.

Kind of long for a 1st paragraph. Start a new one after "from the window" and/or "face."

BuffySquirrel said...

We saw the query for this a little while ago, iirc.

Honestly, author, when you're sitting by the window watching the sunset, do you think, 'the lights of Macon, Georgia, are going out now'? Or, 'doesn't the sunset make the Hanging BritVic Tower of Macon, Georgia look red tonight?'.

No.

Readers can tell the difference between something the POV character might think vs. something that's been inserted for their benefit.

Start with a character in a situation. How is Sora feeling as she waits for the lights to go out so she can venture through the window? Is she impatient, apprehensive, excited? Don't tell us she prefers more dangerous forms of entertainment. We can guess she doesn't want to watch the newscast from the fact she's not watching the newscast, she's staring out the window.

What does the POV character see? Think? Feel? Not, what do you desperately want to tell the readers in the first paragraph, even though 90% of it can wait. Focus on Sora.

Mister Furkles said...

As her mother watched a boring news cast from Headquarters in the next room, Sora, preferring more dangerous forms of entertainment, took a deep breath and jumped from the window.

I’d split this sentence into two and emphasize the contrast between the mother and Sora. There is also the awkward sequence of “mother watched a newscast”, “from Headquarters”, “in the next room”. Well, of course, mother was in the next room not Headquarters. But the tail reads “from Headquarters in the next room”. You could just leave Headquarters out of it.

As mother watched the newscast in the next room, Sora took a deep breath and jumped out the window.

Now we all want to know about Sora jumping out the window.

Dave Fragments said...

I have a few suggestions and they are easier to put in the opening as rearrangements.

As Sora Finch huddled in the frame of her bedroom window, the white lights of Cumulus City blinked once and then died {do you mean the city goes dark like Mommy turning out the lights on the kids to sleep? Just say "went dark."}. All citizens were inside the Apartment Tower now, curled up in front of wall-sized television sets, safe and sound. As her mother watched a boring news cast from Headquarters in the next room {Doesn't that entire clause about her mother repeat the ideas of the sentence before it? If you think so, remove it.} , Sora, preferred more dangerous forms of entertainment. {I'd make two sentences here} She took a deep breath and jumped from the window.

As the moon and stars above shaded the eight silver towers in a sickly hue, Sora felt the creatures stir below. She couldn't hear or see them -- they were 800 feet below the city after all -- but somehow she sensed the presence of the Strays like a second pulse beating within her. The creatures were hungry tonight. {I moved this because I felt the opening needed the drama it contains earlier than Sara to landing. Let Sara float in the air for a small moment of anticipation.}

She landed on the roof of the skybridge {Drop "that rested one story below" You don't need any of that} Crouching to gain her balance. {Can you crouch high? Or is that a cringe?} I think this fits here with "the skybridge" replaced by "It"} It connected to the Education Tower, where Sora took her lessons each morning. The wind yanked strands of copper hair loose from her ballerina bun as she performed a cartwheel, a huge grin on her face.

That ends my suggestions

Tk said...

Hi Lisa,

I think you keep burying the interesting information at the end of a long sentence. It slows the writing and sucks energy from it. You've used the "as x, y" construction four times in one paragraph. Try breaking up those sentences:

Mom would be watching the boring news cast for at least an hour. Sora took a deep breath and jumped from the window.

She landed on the roof of the sky bridge and spun into a cartwheel, a huge grin on her face. The wind yanked strands of copper hair loose from her ballerina bun.

The moon and stars above shaded the eight silver towers in a sickly hue. Nearly a thousand feet below there was no light, no sound, but Sora felt the Strays, like a second pulse beating within her.

sarahhawthorne said...

Tk and Dave took most of my comments.

I'll just add that I'm pretty sure that when one jumps a full story down onto a hard surface you need to land in roll. Landing in a crouch sounds like ankle breaking time, unless Sora's got some kind of super human ability.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fouvwilGWc

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I'd start with the window jump, then the hungries below then her other thoughts.

Too slow from get go. I like the idea. Trim up the writing. As Dave said, rearrange. I say cut/chop it to keep me interested. After it opens then I don't mind/enjoy some some situational description.

Agree with the roll on the landing unless she's a super girl. Maybe make the beam a platform if she's human?

Brings me to ask is she a gymnast or a super being?

I'd follow this if... i.e. the focus on Mom can come in a little later unless you tighten that up.

I'll look forward to the next version and good luck.

Author said...

Revision:


Before she jumped from her bedroom window, Sora Finch watched the white lights of Cumulus City die. The blackout, which marked curfew, drew lopsided shadows on the walls as a bedtime calm crept into the air. But Sora had no intention to sleep. Not tonight, the night the hunters rested. The night her mother fell asleep on the couch early, unaware of her daughter’s adventures.


As she slipped on her pale pink ballerina slippers and secured the silky ribbons around her ankles, Sora tried to ignore the muffled sounds of the news playing on her mother’s radio in the next room. She slid open the window. Skeletal strands of moonlight stretched across the white-tiled floor and a cold wind rushed in. The flowing curtains tickled her freckled nose as Sora stepped onto the windowsill and gazed at the circle of dark glass towers. The tunneled sky bridges connecting them resembled the elegant silver threads of a spider web. The motorized walkways within the bridges were turned off this time of night, sprinkling a calm over the city.

Evil Editor said...

Jumping from her window is a bigger deal if we know her window is 800 feet up. In this version her window could be on the ground floor. She could be looking up at the towers. Or looking down, but from her one-story house on a hill.

S2: What you need for shadows is light and solid objects. I'll assume the light in her bedroom went out when the blackout began, and the moonlight created shadows? Except it seems like the moonlight came in after she opened the window in P2. In any case, it's not the blackout that causes the shadows.

S3: I would say But Sora did not intend to sleep.

S5: Get rid of this sentence. It suggests there's one night every week or month or whatever when her mother always falls asleep on the couch. If that's the case, and you feel it's important we know it, add "always" after "mother." But I prefer the hunter sentence end the paragraph, as it's more interesting than sleeping mom.

P2: I would describe the curtains as billowing rather than flowing.

I wouldn't think turning off motorized walkways that are inside tunnels hundreds of feet in the air would have much effect on how calm a city is. The curfew would be the main cause of calmness. The motorized walkways at the airport don't exactly create turbulence and frenzy when they're on.

Dave Fragments said...

I like this rearranged version:

Sora Finch did not intend to sleep. Not tonight, the night the hunters rested. Sora watched the white lights of Cumulus City die. The blackout, which marked curfew, painted jagged shadows on the sides of the skyscrapers. The tunneled sky bridges connecting them resembled the elegant silver threads of a spider web. The motorized walkways within the bridges were turned off this time of night, sprinkling a calm over the city.

As she slipped on her pale pink ballerina slippers and secured the silky ribbons around her ankles, Sora tried to ignore the muffled sounds of the news playing on her mother’s radio in the next room. She slid open the window. Skeletal strands of moonlight stretched across the white-tiled floor and a cold wind rushed in. The billowing curtains tickled her freckled nose as Sora stepped onto the windowsill and gazed at the circle of dark glass towers.
She jumped from her bedroom window.


I didn't delete much. Here it the deleted stuff: [drew lopsided shadows on the walls as a bedtime calm crept into the air. But The night her mother fell asleep on the couch early, unaware of her daughter’s adventures.]

I like to create a scene as person, setting and then action. We meet Sora first. Then we get to see what she sees out her window - an exotic cityscape. Then we are back in the room with Sora, her shoes and the window. Now we have some tension in the reader - She's going to jump!

P3 will be her landing on the skybridge which returns us to the city and now her adventure and the reader's adventure begins.

That would be my version of your opening. It's one of many possible ways to start.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think you're trying too hard to set the scene and introduce the readers to the world of your story. Too much too soon. Unfold the world as your character moves through it.

sarahhawthorne said...

If going to start in Sora's room, you're overlooking the chance to give us details that would tell us who this girl is. White tile and billowing curtains don't say much about her character; tell us about the old HQ kids posters still up ("BE KIND, BE FRIENDLY, BE OBEDIENT"), the faded photo on the nightstand, even the racy romance her schoolmate insisted on loaning her that's hidden in her sock drawer.

Also, ballet slippers are questionable choice of footwear to go leaping from building to building. They are designed to worn indoors on dance floors. The soles are flat leather that provide neither grip nor shock absorption.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

While I don't usually disagree with sarahhawthorne, in this case I think there's too much detail in the opening already. We need to hit the ground running, and every detail that we have to stop and look at slows us down.

A lot of what's shown here is backstory. It doesn't belong in the opening scene. Move it way back in the story, if you need it at all, and if you don't, delete it.

BuffySquirrel said...

What Alaska said.

A lot of writers seem to think you need to let the reader know exactly what's going on straight away, but it's the questions the readers are asking themselves--what's going on? who's this girl? where are we?--that keep them reading.

sarahhawthorne said...

Hi Alaska!

Alaska is right. I didn't mean to imply you should add more details. What I should have suggested is that you replace the generic details with one or two specific details.

I'm kinda piggy-backing on Dave's advice here to start with character. Cut the moonlight, the white tile, the billowing curtains, and the physical descriptions of coppery hair and freckled noses. Give us description that illuminates character or world. And then get to the jumping out windows!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Hi :-)

Anonymous said...

This looks like an exciting story! My concern is that Sora is passively observing too many miscellaneous details. Try having her intentionally note the details in her environment that are most critical as she prepares to leap out of her window into the dark city night.
Is it important that strands of moonlight are stretching across the floor? Probably not. It would be more important if only a faint shard of moonlight is illuminating the bridge Sora is about to jump onto. She's jumping into complete blackness. That moonlight becomes her only clue for depth.
Is it important that Sora's ballet slippers are pale pink? Probably not. But the fact that she's wearing ballet slippers means landing is going to hurt like the dickens. Surely she knows that, because from what I can tell, she does this regularly. So follow through. Show the pain, and the detail will be much more relevant.
Two or three really good details are far more powerful than a series of assorted sights and sounds. The moment you say pale pink slippers, or freckled nose, or white-tiled floor, you've stepped outside of Sora's immediate emotional experience. The reader has become an observer rather than a participant. Keep the details focused, and this has potential to be a strong opening scene.

PLaF said...

Your opening idea Is gold: we all want to know more about the chick who jumps out of windows. Besides the actual experience of the leap, I'm interested in the high rise, the skybridge, and HQ doling out rules and propaganda. I probably wouldn't miss anything else if you cut it out.
Pink ballet slippers did not ring true here. If she needs them for illegal artistic expression later, then maybe she stows them in a backpack for now.