Monday, July 31, 2006

New Beginning 22

The masses had received the Lord’s blessing and had confessed for transgressions against their fellow man. With a cacophony of strained voices, they had praised the Lord with song, and had begged forgiveness for the inborn sins of their self-righteous souls. And as the church bells pealed, dismissing the congregation, Paine Robertson slipped out the door like the serpent out of Eden.

He walked across the dirt road to the freshly-swept porch of Fillmore’s Leathers, plopped down on the wooden planks and waited for his foster parents to finish mingling with the rest of the Lord’s flock. Like lambs to the proverbial slaughter, the parishioners waited to speak with the Reverend Chapman, thanking him for his eloquent sermon about the evils of magic. It was a message Paine thought typical of the new Church of the Ascension and of the good Reverend who brought it all the way from the Confederation.

The Confederation. That unholy alliance of the proverbial blind leading the proverbial blind to the proverbial forbidden fruit. Paine suspected that the Church of the Ascension held the proverbial key. That was why Reverend Chapman preached against magic as though it were the proverbial original sin. The Confederation feared magic. And Paine knew how to use it.

He was the proverbial prodigal son, except no one had prepared him a feast with the proverbial fatted calf. How did that African proverb go? A weapon which you don't have in your hand won't kill a snake. He pulled out his wand and sent a bolt of lightning through the reverend's heart. A weapon which you do have in your hand, he thought, will.

Continuation: Nancy Conner/Evil Editor


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
If you read this out loud you'd be embarrassed to say "cacophony."

8:19 AM
Eliza said...
I'll say this much: I'm already hooked on this story. Just as a reader and not a professional, I'd want more.

My gripe is with something I do often: the double verbing. "had received" "had confesed" "had praised" "had begged" -- all in the first paragraph.

Also, they're begging forgiveness after they've already confessed transgressions against each other...might want to clump those together.

So to clean that up and put it a little more presently:

"The masses received the Lord's blessing. They confessed their transgressions and begged forgiveness for the inborn sins of their self-righteous souls. With a cocophany of strained voices, they praised the Lord with song. And as the church bells pealed, dismissing..."

If it was me, I'd probably want to cut the first sentence of the second paragraph into two.

"He walked across the dirt road to the freshly swept porch of Fillmore's Leathers and plopped down on the wooden planks. As he waited, his foster parents mingled with the rest of the Lord's flock."

I'm really caught in the story by the second half of the second paragraph, so kudos.

8:34 AM
nconner said...
What I like about this opening is the immediate tension between Paine and the congregation (and by extension with his foster parents). You set up conflict right away.

Several things make it hard for me to step into this world. I can't picture Paine--from the vocabulary of the opening paragraph (assuming he's the POV character here) and from his action of slipping out, I thought he was an adult. But then I find he has foster parents, which suggests he's an adolescent at the oldest. Consider scaling back your diction (toss the thesaurus) to make the opening sound more like something in the mind of someone Paine's age, whatever age that is. When you decrease the narrator's psychic distance from the POV character, readers are drawn closer to that character, too.

I didn't like the phrase begged forgiveness for the inborn sins of their self-righteous souls. Maybe this is Paine's view of their hypocrisy, but souls that beg forgiveness for their sins aren't "self-righteous"--the self-righteous are usually a lot more interested in other people's sins. I liked the simile of the serpent out of Eden--it says a lot about the character. Like lambs to the proverbial slaughter felt lazy, the word "proverbial" suggesting, "I know this is a cliche but I'm putting it in, anyway--but at least you'll know that I know it's a cliche." The Church of the Ascension is a real church. Unless you're talking about Episopalians/Anglicans, you might want to give the fictional church a different name. Finally, I have no idea what "the Confederation" refers to at the end (although I assume this would be explained in what follows). It tripped me up, though--left me wondering whether what starts off like a family drama is in fact sci fi/fantasy.

8:52 AM
Kanani said...
Your writing has a nice flow and you have a gift for description. I can tell you get swept up with the sounds of words. This said, watch out for run on sentences, and paragraphs that have several long sentences rather than varying your lenght.

The second sentence is awkward. Have you read it aloud?
Cacophony imparts a rather different image from the word 'strained.' It's up to you whether or not to use it, but as #1 said, read it aloud. You really don't need it.

Watch word repetitions.
"Had" is like a step that trips you, when what you really want is a smooth plane. It stops the movement of the piece. You really don't need it to impart past tense. Read it aloud to see.

"out" is used twice in the same sentence. If someone is slipping, then I'd have the slipping through rather than out. Stay with those long sounds, and get rid of the second "out."

Also... watch out for clichés such as "lambs to the proverbial slaughter." Comb your writing for them. It's easy to overlook them.

Nice work. I'd want to read more.

9:04 AM
Annie said...
I love the serpent out of eden simile, but the "lambs to the slaughter" cliche made me wince.

Overall, I'm intrigued by this story. I tend to like stories about cults and corrupt churches, so this is something that would catch my eye.

I agree with nconner on the issue of the voice -- I was very surprised to find that the narrator was young enough to be in foster care. I think that if the story is really going to be from his POV -- and not just an omniscient narrator -- that you need to make sure the vocabulary and structure of the narration is appropriate for a child of his age (whatever at age may be).

none said...

Starting with past perfect suggests you've started the story in the wrong place. If you really want to start here, you can probably reduce the number of had's.

The masses had received the Lord's blessing and confessed their transgressions against their fellow man. With a cacophony of strained voices, they had praised the Lord with song, and begged forgiveness for the inborn sins of their self-righteous souls.

To me, it's still off-putting to start in past perfect, but using simple past where possible reduces the impact.

Anonymous said...

One thing on the voice of kids & teens--it's sometimes laden with just this type of glamourous language. Just this morning my 12 yo daughter used the word "bustling," which made me think of my grandmother.

I like it. I'd keep reading.

And I agree with comments here (confess before receiving the blessing, get rid of "had," rephrase "inborn sins of their self-righteous souls," ditch the tired similes--proverbial...,). And also, I liked slipping out like the serpent out of Eden. Sets up my expectation of Paine.

It seems to be set in an alternative past (dirt roads, Fillmore's Leathers, wooden planks and the Confederation). That alone might keep me reading too!

Thanks for sharing.