Monday, February 02, 2015

New Beginning 1039

My desires, before becoming one of the undead, were simple: party every night, and violate a goddess for hours. I achieved the former easily in my house in the English countryside, but was not naked with a goddess until my summer solstice orgy of seventeen sixty-three.

I was carefree and aroused on that hot, breezy night. Nothing was going to stop me from bedding every woman I pleased. But all I wanted was one of the thirteen naked women—referred to as goddesses, and hired to manage my biggest party of the year—to choose me as her pet. They were prostitutes with a mysterious pimp whose face I never saw without a mask. He went by Vlad. A friend of a friend had recommended him. I would mail a letter requesting his services, and a crow would return the next day with his obliging reply on crisp paper. A trained crow was a strange and wonderful creature to have.

The party began in my massive, oval shaped gilded ballroom used mostly for drunken, dirty dancing. Nearly one thousand people wearing Venetian masks stood under crystal chandeliers ablaze with lit white candles. Curious cherubs, virile gods, and sensuous goddesses watched us from the fresco on the ceiling. Whenever I looked up, I scowled. What did they care? Why wouldn’t they join us.

That's when I broke out my hunting rifle.

I had it tucked down the leg of my modestly Satanic trousers in the hope of attracting goddess after goddess, but if I was going to be ignored I was left with no alternative. When I put on my costume it was an easy matter to slip the rifle down past my hip; not so the unusually acrobatic feat of taking it out again while surrounded by hundreds of cavorting harlots. The best I could do was to unzip my flies to reach for the trigger and aim the gun by raising a leg. When it went off, I nearly lost a shoe, but those first few shots did the trick.

Goddesses and wrinkled bankers scattered in a reverse tsunami of panic and entrails. I could barely contain my excitement, hopping beneath the chandeliers with the devil-may-care pluck of a mongrel pissing on the door of a church.

Then a voice cried out — a pained voice.

"Stop Sir, please stop right away."

From the squirt of blood, the shrieks of horror, a tiny girl appeared, teddy bear clutched to her Marilyn Manson T Shirt.

"Those Satanic trousers of yours would fetch a mint on Ebay, but if you keep bouncing around like that you'll split the crotch. What say you take them off and we post a bid right now? I'll take the first hundred quid and you can keep the rest. You can even borrow a spare pair of my Daddy's trousers for a tenner if you like, unless it's your preference to continue romping around this Bacchinalian revel in your underwear like the people dressed as Satyrs."

My leg de-cocked, my hip clicked, and my eyebrow shot up. At that moment I must have looked like I was selectively epileptic.

"Fine," I said, "all we need now is a monkey wrench."

Opening: CavalierdeNuit.....Continuation: Whirlochre


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuatioon:

And then I asked myself why I was thinking about having sexy dance time with people painted on a ceiling. Maybe if the molding was shaped just right …


Well, maybe … but not right now. That was a project for another day. Oh, and maybe I should train a crow while I was at it. Trained crows seem like a super useful thing to have around. Not creepy at all.

But I was being silly working on my To Do list in the midst of my party. Back to the naked women!

—Sarah Hipple

Evil Editor said...

The actual continuation said "spanner" rather than monkey wrench, which is more appropriate for a story set in the English countryside, but which may not be a familiar term to as many readers. Besides, a monkey wrench is bigger and thus funnier. In fact, maybe it should be the jaws of life.

Evil Editor said...

P2: I would change "pleased" to "wished" or "desired" or "wanted." "pleased could be interpreted to mean he had to please them before he could bed them rather than that he simply pleased to bed them. It's okay to write dates numerically.

P3: hyphenate oval-shaped. The last three sentences lose me. Why does he scowl? Because the characters in the fresco are being judgmental? What did they care about what? That he scowled? Or that there were 1000 people in masks standing in the ballroom? Why wouldn't they join us. I assume that needs a question mark, but I don't get the meaning. Presumably he knows why the figures in the fresco aren't joining them, so what is he saying? That the figure are being judgmental, but would probably join them if they could? I would drop all three sentences, but if they're important, make it clear what you mean.

Of course a pimp with a trained crow is a can't-lose combination, but maybe he should go by Vladimir.

AS Olivier said...

Honestly, I don't find this as punchy as it could be. There's prostitutes, a guy called Vlad and a trained crow, and that's all very cool, but I want more of what's immediately happening. In first person, I expect more of the character's thoughts and voice. I'm not feeling the voice as much as I'd like - this feels a bit cold. I would read on because I'm curious about Vlad and the prostitutes, but I'm not hugely gripped.

khazarkhum said...

This sounds more like a description of a weird commercial, or a music video that makes no sense, than it does like the opening of a novel.

From what I can gather, our protagonist is a vampire who is also a strike-out king. He is disconnected, from his world, himself and us.

Dave Fragments said...

It took me all day to get time to comment.
My first thoughts were that this was too much too fast but then I realized that I had done exactly that in the last "New Beginning" I submitted. That's an interesting observation and it might be an instructive one.
"As Olivier" made another good observation. It's not personal enough. Give the speaker a voice that says sexy, wanton, and greedy. something like:
Before becoming one of the undead on the Summer Solstice, my desires were simple: violate a goddess for hours and party every night. I owned a house in the English Countryside and . . .
Don't overload with words. When you say "they were prostitutes with a mysterious pimp whose face I never saw without a mask." you can't say "He went by Vlad." without sounding wordy. You can give your character a better voice and make him sound like a person.
Also, let the reader wonder how strange and wonderful a trained crow is.

And finally, you need to make more of "the undead" aspect. Is it a dread outcome or a desired outcome? Is he speaking ruefully about being made undead or did he willingly join the undead? There should be hints of that in the opening.

Anonymous said...

Is a ballroom large enough for 1000 people to dance in typical for the time period in England? It seems a bit large. (I'd easily believe a few hundred)

alaskaRavenclaw said...

Why doesn't this grab me?

Well, the first two reasons are personal. I don't like erotica and even if I did, I wouldn't go for any in which the protagonist is into, er, violation. (There's a one syllable word for that.)

The third reason: the protagonist is hard to like. Now, it's all right to have an unlikeable protagonist but it is an uphill struggle. You need to give us something else to like if we don't like the protagonist, or we won't read. If we can, perhaps, love to hate him, work from that angle.

The fourth-- it reads like a synopsis. As k-k said. There's a distance... "oh, this happened, and this, and this"... as if someone was telling us their dream. And you know how interesting that can be.

I know you've been working on this for a long time so it's clearly something you care about. Try opening with a scene that's closer to the action. A moment of change. And don't summarize. Put as as close to what's actually happening as possible.

Also, be aware of the "squid in the mouth" factor.

khazarkhum said...

Crows and ravens are smart. If you raise them properly, you can teach them to do all kinds of things, even talk. The crow seemed less bizarre than an apparently stoned narrator who wanted the frescoes to join in the depravity.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the same as synopsis 36?

Evil Editor said...

Apparently, and also Face-Lift 1118. We happily do openings, queries and synopses of the same book.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Thanks for your feedback!

I guess what I'm struggling with is should I put this in a drawer? If the voice still isn't working after three years, maybe it's time to write something new. I don't mind giving up this book and considering it a starter novel, but something keeps pulling me back in...

Anyway, Whirlochre, I laughed out loud and rolled on the floor. You made my week!

EE, thank you for the feedback. Vladimir does sound better.

AS Olivier, do you have any suggestions as to how this could be punchier?

khazarkhum, suggestions are appreciated.

Dave, thanks, I will keep that in mind. I don't know why this character is so difficult to make sound like a person. Perhaps I need to find a different character.

Alaska, maybe I should just put this in a drawer? I do want this book to make it, but I can't keep beating my head against a wall. If it sounds like squid in the mouth, sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, when to shelve a project (for a time)?

How ready do you think it is vs what kind of feedback are you getting? If these opinions are at the same level, you're still seeing your work clearly. If they aren't, you may need to shelve it while you do some outside reading and try to figure out where the disparity is coming from.

The last time you made edits, how extensive were they? If they weren't, then you you may just be rearranging the furniture. Something in you doesn't want to make the changes that may be needed. Put it in a drawer and write something else, cross your fingers and self-publish, or join a writer's group/send it out and hope you get the kind of perspective/feedback you need.

Hope this helps.

AS Olivier said...

I think the voice is the main thing to improve here. Voice can make even the simplest stories memorable - voice and sensory detail that makes the reader feel and see the scene as vividly as though experiencing it first-hand. It can be hard getting it right, and some of that can come from not being involved enough in your story, or not knowing your focaliser character (the character who we experience the story through) well enough. If you really know a character, inside and out, it becomes easier to think how they think, and replicate their thought processes.

As an example from my own writing, I have two different stories, both told in first person. The focaliser characters from each story have very different voices. The focaliser character in the first story (featured in Face Lift 1248 and New Beginning 1036, as a matter of fact) is very nervous and paranoid. As a result, his voice is sometimes rather fractured, so I use a lot of fragments and short jerky sentences, two short ones instead of one long one, that kind of thing. He's also quite a bitter person, so his tone is often angry and abrupt. The second focaliser character from the second story is very different. She's very young, she reads an awful lot, practically lives in books, and is a bit detached from reality. So when I'm writing her voice, I use longer sentences and lots of poetic, dreamy descriptions, and while the vocabulary and sentence structure might be quite mature and articulate, often what she's thinking is quite childish and naive.

Because I know both characters well, I can see how they're different, and how they would have different thought patterns and would observe things differently. That comes out as voice. Obviously I'm not setting myself up as an expert on voice, but I've been told I do it fairly well, and this is the method that works for me so I hope it might be helpful for you too. :)

CavalierdeNuit said...

Thanks Anonymous. I'll shelve this and come back to it. Meanwhile, I'll work on the next one.

AS Olivier, thank you so much for that advice. I haven't "broken through" yet with this voice. I will continue to work on it with what you said in mind.