Friday, March 11, 2016

New Beginning 1055


My aching shoulders beg me to quit, but with blistered fingers I tighten my grip on the pickaxe. Sometimes my body fails me; my mind seldom does. With dust in my lungs and sweat dripping from my forehead I raise the rusty pick above my head and follow through with my swing. As the dust settles a bright sparkle, like a full moon bathed in blood shines through cracks in the splitting rock. These gems are as precious as water. I’ve found another crystal.

While prying it loose with the tip of my pick it pops out and bounces near the chasm beside the mineshaft. I dive for the crystal before it falls. I’ve got it. But now I’m leaning over the edge, teetering on the precipice of a bottomless pit. A chill shiver shoots up my spine as I watch a chunk of dirt fall, fall, and fall until it’s consumed by the darkness. I squirm back a couple inches taking a deep sigh of relief. Opening my hand I find the precious stone cradled in my palm.

I peer over the ledge. Cold air stagnates above the pit. What’s lurking down there in the shadows? Only death.

Hey, Death,” I say, “Whassup? Didn’t see you down there at first.”

“No worries, Paul B. Just give me that crystal or I’m gonna shake shiv that pick into your head till the moon shines through the bloody cracks. You know the rules. You work for me now.”

“But digging for blood crystals is in my nature," I say.

“It was in your nature. Now you swing for me, dig? Now turn on the fan and don’t make me get up again.”

I don’t like my new gig, but hey, it's a living.


Opening: Eric Bendas.....Continuation: JSF


5 comments:

Evil Editor said...

There isn't necessarily any difference between "seldom" and "sometimes." For instance, if a basketball player makes ten percent of his foul shots, you could say he seldom makes one or he sometimes makes one. You might change "seldom" to "never."

I would get "These gems are as precious as water."out of the first paragraph. It makes more sense in the 2nd paragraph after you risk your life to grab it, although even there, (since we don't yet know how precious water is here) I'm not sure it's helpful. We don't think of water as precious unless we live in the desert or Flint, Michigan. And the fact that you're willing to work this hard for crystals shows us they're precious, so maybe you don't need to tell us twice.

While I appreciate your trying to make digging up gems exciting by almost falling off a precipice, I hope something else is about to happen to justify starting here.

Anonymous said...

You lose me when you describe the character using a pickaxe of the type that you can raise overhead and put a full swing into. Gems may be hard, but they are also brittle. They have cleavage planes--part of what makes them look nice once polished up. You hit a diamond in the right place and it will shatter completely. Using a pickaxe is a good way to mine metal or dig through firmly clumped dirt, not find gems. For that you'll want chisels or small hammers, and preferably rock that's not still attached to a wall.

You describe something sparkling after the dust settles. Even assuming your gems glow in the dark strongly enough to be seen through a crack in the rock, a layer of rock dust settling over it is going to smother that (not to mention, it takes a long time for fine dust to completely settle, which you realize since it's in his lungs). If the gems don't glow in the dark, the problem is worse. Raw gemstones frequently have surfaces rough enough that they won't shine in full daylight, let alone with the type of lanterns or spotty wiring used in mines. Gems often look just like the bit of gravel next to them. And if it's sparkling because the narrator broke it along a cleavage plane, you now have two gems, not one.

I have a hard time believing someone who's teetering over a pit where the fall will kill them takes time to take in the view and think about it. And, if he's teetering over the edge, it's going to take more than a couple inches before he's safe unless he's only a few inches tall.

It sounds off to me that the narrator says he's got the gem, but then he says he finds it in his hand.

Do more research. Also, you appear to be missing commas.

All that being said, I like the idea of starting by finding a cool gem, assuming the story actually progress from this point and doesn't fall into backstory as to why this gem is important or why the narrator is here.

davefragments said...

I'm not sure that I want to struggle through all that prose to get to the tidbits it contains.

This sentence is Description One, Description two, and then an Action.
My aching shoulders beg me to quit, but with blistered fingers I tighten my grip on the pickaxe.

This sentence is Description One, Description Two, Action One, Action Two.
With dust in my lungs and sweat dripping from my forehead, I raise the rusty pick above my head and follow through with my swing.

This sentence follows the same pattern: Description One, Sparkle ..., Description two...
As the dust settles, a bright sparkle, like a full moon bathed in blood shines through cracks in the splitting rock.

And this set of sentences is just work for me:
Action, Action, Description One (lean), Description Two (teeter), Description Three (bottomless), Description Four (shiver), Description Five (fall), Action (consume), Descriptive Six (squirm), Action (sigh), Descriptive (opening), Action (find), and a final Descriptive (cradled) ...
I dive for the crystal before it falls. I’ve got it. But now I’m leaning over the edge, teetering on the precipice of a bottomless pit. A chill shiver shoots up my spine as I watch a chunk of dirt fall, fall, and fall until it’s consumed by the darkness. I squirm back a couple inches taking a deep sigh of relief. Opening my hand I find the precious stone cradled in my palm.

That's a lot of work for a reader to make it through. I might have said: I dive for the crystal and catch it. And then describe the chasm.

There's not anything wrong with the opening but it makes the reader work at finding the hook to keep reading.
It's like slow motion or molasses for me to read. Now this might just be me. I like a First Person narrative to be more active voiced and quicker paced.

BTW - Grammarly picked up 8 errors.



AA said...

Is this a Minecraft novel? I expect a creeper to show up any minute.

"Sometimes my body fails me; my mind seldom does." This doesn't seem necessary. Is there are particular reason your mind would need to be sharp to swing a pickaxe?

Eric Bendas said...

Wow, there's a lot of great suggestions here. I'll work hard at incorporating these changes. Thanks everybody.

And unfortunately no, it's not a story about Minecraft.