Sunday, August 06, 2006

New Beginning 48

I remember the day we were collected. It was the 21st day of September in the earth year 2002. An early autumn day, It smelled of fresh rain and damp earth, of green leaves tinged with orange and red.

No matter how long I live, I’ll remember that day. I remember that day so clearly, so vividly. It was one of those rare days that while experiencing it, you wish could last forever. It might have lasted forever but they came to collect us. I always think of Earth while waiting. Waiting is the hard part. Doing is the easy part.

The sky was a brilliant blue dotted with puffy white clouds. The air was cool and fresh. We walked to school along streets lined by pastel houses with yards full of orange and red and yellow mums. The flowers filled the air with a fresh perfume. The barbeques filled the air with smoke.

The creature pointed toward the dark, gaping maw of a giant vat. "Into the sauce, boys," he said. "Marinade is essential." How well I remember his words, the smells, that day.

Ever the little gentleman, I helped my friends step up, one by one, reassuring them that it would all be fine. Once they were swimming in the honey-garlic goo, I smiled over my shoulder at the creature. "Enough?"

"Another half dozen," it said. "Do you want the Exalted One to go away hungry on his one visit to this solar system?"

I headed to the schoolyard on wings of flower-scented breeze. Yes, I remember that day. How well I remember it.

Opening: Dave.....Continuation: J.E. Barnard


Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm not sure how you can smell green leaves tinged with orange and red (I've never been able to smell colors, myself).

Second of all, the middle paragraph is a bit sloppy. Your first sentence reads "No matter how long I live, I'll remember that day." and then you repeat yourself by saying "I remember that day so clearly, so vividly." Clean up this paragraph; it needs to be done!

Third, you describe how it smelled in the first paragraph, and then you break off from the description, and then you continue it in the third paragraph. Be consistent!

Those are some of the things I noticed right off the bat about this page.

braun said...

Don't listen to the inevitable nitpickers. This is very well done. I'm intrigued, it's beautifully written, and I'd gladly read more.

Keep writing!

Sherri said...

A good opening sentence. I do agree with anonymous about the color-smelling, but I am intrigued and would like to know more. One other little thing I would change is to combine the first two sentences of the second paragraph. Although I can see how you were trying to set a certain tone with the repetition, for some reason it struck me odd.

Still, a very good job. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Insteadof telling us how well you remembered it, tell us WHAT you remembered. The fact that you're able to tell us stuff in such detail? THAT means you remembered. We'll understand that. We're smart.

Anonymous said...

I think it is beautifully written. My only nitpick would be that the word "day" is used six times in the first two paragraphs. Otherwise, I agree that it is very intriguing and I would definitely read on.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I agree with anon.

Hey, if it helps any, I still have to go through my novel with a fine toothed comb, to brush out the redundancies, etc.

Look at it this way, better fix the pages now, before they are on an editor's desk.

McKoala said... You even repeat 'orange and red'. I want to know who 'collected' them and why, but I think this needs a rewrite to either cut out the repetition or make it work effectively (which would include some cutting). Although no real problem with the colour smelling here.

Anonymous said...

Too much remembering for me. And too much orange and red. The idea of this opening is fabulous--I particularly liked the first sentence--but the fabulosity got lost in colors, clouds, and scents.

Kanani said...

Poetic prose is fun to write. It has everything the thing that great writing must: words and phrases as music, carrying a rhythm that creates the mood. In this case, it's crucial that you treat it carefully. Clich├ęs must be avoided, word repetitions must be limited and the language has to be pared down to essentials.

The burden for the writer is that often one becomes so enamored with language that the description begins to overshadow the voice of the narrator. So we end up long description and a stalled motive --what is the narrator's attitude, and what is he or she trying to impart?

The narrative voice always needs to impart attitude. Right now it's caught up in nostalgia, but you'll need to switch gears quickly so that it doesn't become a wander down harmony lane.

Nice start. You have some lovely images: fresh rain, damp earth, of green leaves tinged with orange. Line by line, cull your words. Get rid of any imagery that is not unique or be ruthless and pare it down (like the 3rd paragraph) . Figure out what's essential and what is not.

For the very best in imagery, study poetry. Mary Oliver is a great place to start.

Good luck with the rewrite and thank you for tossing this up here.

braun may call us nitpickers, but this is what a critque is for. Take it to any agent, he or she might not give you the benefit of feedback. They'll just toss it out. And that's why you're here.

Anonymous said...

MisterEditor says:

You're right!
An editor, writing teacher, good critique partner would've returned a page filled with lines and squiggles. A book doctor would've charged you $3,000.00 for the same thing.

Just think of all the money that's being saved by posting on EE's board! (Note to EE: start accepting Visa, MC, and Paypal. You're on a roll here, kiddo).

Those who only want a pat on the back, should go back and write by themselves.
(However, I think the writer of this piece has shown a sensitivity that is open to learning, and will be able to take what has been offered here).

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a candidate for Nanoism v2 (Nanowrimo-hate myself forum). Repeat, repeat, repeat. Build that word count! (Edit later.)

Word repetitions (day, orange & red, fresh, air. Idea repetitions (remembering, waiting, autumn, collecting us). Sentence structure (It was, It..., It...; or I remember, I think, I...; or The sky was...The air was...The flowers...)

The repetitions give a strong sense of nostalgia. So you've got mood. But it's not very interesting reading. imho.

By the end of the first sentence, I was convinced this was a story told from the POV of a flower or crop. I thought it was hilarious, until paragraph 2. Then I just thought it had not been edited.

The pastel houses clash with the orange and red, btw.

And by placing your story in the past, it makes it harder to believe that UFOs arrived to "collect" someone. If it's just the school bus, we're going to be very disappointed. (assuming we keep reading)

Nikki said...

The main character is in a town, and he can smell leaves and flowers? Wouldn't petrol be more likely? And there can't be many flowers in early autumn, certainly not fresh dewy ones.

I think you can smell leaves, but not the colours of leaves, which is where this sentence goes wrong.

I think "Waiting is the hard part. Doing is the easy part." should be cut, it ruins the tone you're trying to create.

Too many 'I remembers/that days'. I'm bored.

Two recommendations: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Two questions:

1) If a mum wore blue, was she killed by the Suburban Conformity Brigade?

2) Are your people waiting at the gates of St Peter, or in purgatory?

Finally the continuation was utterly brilliant and I take my hat off to the person who wrote it. I love the placement of commas in this line: "How well I remember his words, the smells, that day."

Anonymous said...

WTF? That was my first reaction to this piece. I have no idea what is going on, and the pretty language only seems to be getting in the way of anything resembling a story. I liked the first line, but after that, we wander around in circles of vague remembrance and pretty images. WTF is going on? I'd stop reading, based on this.

The continuation was a relief, because it actually said something concrete. In the first 150 words, I don't have enough faith in the author to continue reading if there's no indication that anything interesting is going to happen.

Anonymous said...

I quite like the general air of this, but I think you can do without the second para altogether. If you need the bit about waiting, stick it in somewhere else, where it doesn't interrupt the flow of description.

At the very least, lose the first two sentences of that paragraph. When I was reading it, my reaction was "oi! I get you remember it already! Would you quit with telling me how well you remeber it and tell me WHAT you remember?"

I also have a little problem with the orange and red bit. The sentence would be fine if orange and red leaves had a particular smell - but to my knowledge, unless they are fallen and rotting, they don't. If you insert 'fallen' in place of 'green' you have a smell that is appropriate to your atmosphere.



PS - as someone who just had wildly (and widely) different comments posted to my opening, remember that there is no arguement about taste. Some people will hate your style (as it is very distinctive) whatever you do, and some will love it, ditto. Listen to the ones that offer specific criticism.

Anonymous said...

I think the people who are telling you you're being repetitive are wrong. Well, okay, you are being repetitive, but it's obvious (to me) that it's deliberate. I mean, look at all the words you repeat: day, remember, waiting, part--it's an effect, whether it was conscious on your behalf or not. There's a rhythm to your prose. It's almost like a numbing sort of feeling that it creates. Don't screw with it.

That, and the verb "collected," are enough to make me want to read more.

But the description in your third paragraph feels a little lazy--it's like there's some sort of manual that has the ten most popular adjectives that apply to a suburban spring afternoon, and you dumped it all in there. I'd try picking out just one or two details, and describe them in an unexpected way. This makes the details you do pick seem more vivid--like they're the ones genuinely etched in your memory.

Anonymous said...

Every time I thought it might be getting to the point (he/she/it was being collected for what?), the narration drifted off into more rhapsodies about what a lovely day it was. The first paragraph is fine (well, maybe except for the bit about being able to smell green leaves tinged with orange and red; that description needs some rearranging), but the second repeats the same thought over and over, and the third is just more scene-setting filled with cliched description.

Keep the first two sentences, and rethink where you want to go from there.

braun said...

braun may call us nitpickers, but this is what a critque is for. Take it to any agent, he or she might not give you the benefit of feedback. They'll just toss it out. And that's why you're here.

Your assumption is that the "criticism" given here is actually of any value in improving the opening. While that seems like a given to most of the people here, I have my serious doubts.

Given that all but one of us are ametures, maybe instead of playing armchair Evil Editor it would be more helpful to people submitting openings if our critiques focused on if we enjoyed it, if we understood it, and if we would keep reading.

We can, at best, say if an opening works for us or not. How to make it work, that's the author's job, and even with the best editor in the world they'd still have to ultimately figure that out on their own.

Anonymous said...

Braun, I agree with you. Some things are a matter of taste. It's one thing to say "I stopped reading because I like orange better than yellow." It's another thing entirely to say "In YA, shirts have to be orange, not yellow."

I learn a lot about writing from being here. Without the right attitude, though, one can "unlearn" even more. Sure, writers must follow many rules in order to be coherent. But it's important, in my opinion, to have the guts and discipline to write his or her own story within these rules without pausing to quiver when a critic isn't sure that a lion would behave that way. Maybe, just maybe, a lion WOULD behave that way in the world this writer has created. Or maybe not. How can an amateur critic know after reading 150 words?

Like Stephen King says, don't be afraid to write with the door shut.

Anonymous said...

You know that old yarn, "You had me at hello?" Well, you had me at the first paragraph. It is beautifully written.

I kept reading through the second and third paragraphs, so overwhelmed by the beauty of the first that I let the others be colored by it, too. But, on second read (and third), it turns out (in my opinion) that the beauty and accomplishment of the first paragraph do not follow.

You clearly have loads of talent. You maintain the tempo - which is perfect - but you need to keep the clever newness of the writing, too. You can do it. Back to the drawing board! Don't let something special get recycled into pulp by taking short cuts.

Anonymous said...

As much as I woud like to agree with you braun and the anonymous person who agreed with braun, you also have to understand that not only are we writers critiquing another person's work, we are readers first and foremost. Readers can be nitpicky too, you realize. Repetition turns me off as a reader. I can recognize sloppy writing as a reader. To me, this was poorly edited. If the repetition was on purpose, I truly did not get that sense. I felt that the writer was trying to take up space. And that is not me speaking as a writer. It is me speaking as a reader.

Braun, a response to someone's writing should have good responses and negative ones. It is no help to an aspiring writer to tell them that they are doing wonderfully and that there is nothing to change. There is always something that can be fixed, always. The writer's idea here sounds very interesting. However, because the writing is sloppy, you would be hard pressed to find me reading any more of it. All it needs is some good editing. Axe the second paragraph, shorten the third and put everything that you wrote in the second paragraph into a last paragraph of this opening. There, you see? If you think about it, it is still the same writing. It is still the same story. Just less sloppy.

No need to be so sensitive, all of you who hate nitpickers. They are not forcing anyone to change their work. They are only telling that writer, as a reader, what a reader would like to see. Besides, if you hate nitpickers so much, kindly do not reply to a post that is meant to be nitpicked.

Dave Fragments said...

Let me say something about editors, critiques and reviews.

I published in scientific journals back in the 80’s and 90’s, with at least three others other researchers if not six or seven. So all that writing was collaborative and done by consensus. The company demanded four internal audits before we went to a journal. In some cases, the head office had to review the article separately. Prestigious journals, like Fuel, Nature, AICHE Journal of Engineering, ACS Fuel Chemistry, Fuel Processing Technol, etc... would then send the article out for at least two if not three technical edits and two internal editors (copyeditor and journal editor). No one publishes scientific work unless the author listens to and answers those reviewers. I have learned to set aside my ego when asking for critiques (many, many lessons in patience). The art of the edit comes in understanding what the reviewer is asking the writer to do or determine what deficiency the reviewer sees in the writing.

Notice I use the word review and not critique. There is a difference. A critic’s job is to criticize while a reviewer’s job is to add value. Adding value is the key to accepting reviews and even criticism. That's the authors job and it ain't easy.

magz said...

"you also have to understand that not only are we writers critiquing another person's work, we are readers first and foremost"

this anonE 'gets it!' speaking for myownself, I'm a Reader, who writes only because I so love to read. This intro does little to genuinely suck me into the story, tho I'd be happy to keep reading once all my more interesting books for the week were finished.

Each and every Author, speaks in their own voice and deserves to be heard even if they appear to have not much to say.

I've almost never put a book down unread once I've picked it up, tho some are instantly forgotten. The ones that stick.. are the ones that matter. Writers? Write on, and Readers? Keep on reading! (And Author; just remember folks here are making judgements based on only a very few words, I'd read this book!)

Jane said...

I'm really interested in this opening. It's fascinating.

I particularly like the sentences "Waiting is the hard part. Doing is the easy part." So much so that I would like to see their impact enhanced by breaking "Doing is the easy part." off into its own paragraph. I think this might enhance the eerie foreshadowing of that line. Try putting in a paragraph break after the first "part" and see if you like the emphasis it creates.

I have to agree with the other posters who said it was overly repetitive, though. Like them, I'm dying to get to the part where your narrator is actually abducted. The first two grafs could be so easily consolidated to one, and that one would have more power.

Consider taking out "while experiencing it" in the sentence "It was one of those rare days that while experiencing it, you wish could last forever." Trim mercilessly, and give us one concrete detail we can identify with--not a usual detail, like red and orange leaves, but a slightly odd detail, one that would continue to stand out in someone's memory. The barbecue smoke from the addition actaully wouldn't be bad here.

Good luck with this, author. I'd be excited to read more of it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, liked the first paragraph and the smell of the 'green leaves tinged with orange and red' - the woody scent of dying leaves.

Not so keen on the second line of the second paragraph. It reminds me of a parody of a poetic experience. The paragraph is better without it.

Just a query: are 'mums' flowers? Had a weird vision of kindergarden coloured alien mothers stalking the yards.

If it was edited, I would keep reading.

Anonymous said...

My 2c -- as someone said, it's nice to write poetry. However, presumably, the author is trying to write a story. Things happen in stories. Nothing happens here until we get to the continuation. Of course, then it's totally creepy, but that is what is implied in the first part.

Anyway, you lost me at
"No matter how long I live, I’ll remember that day. I remember that day so clearly, so vividly." You just said the same thing twice, after saying it at the start. Tell us what is important about that day & get on with it.

none said...

"mums" is short for chrysanthemums, and should strictly be 'mums, but has long ago lost its apostrophe.

Anonymous said...

Now that is an opening line that grabs you. Unfortunately, for me anyway, it lets go, but I love the opening line. What a great start.

What's great about it is the use of the word "collected." Not saying you have to explain that in the first 150 words, but there's just too much repetition for me there. Doesn't move the story along. I think you can tighten it up. I get that it's poetic and setting a tempo, but it's the wrong tempo in my mind for the outset of the story.

Lots of redundancies to cut. I know that September 21 is early autumn. I know you'll remember that day because you tell me 4 times in the first 4 sentences. That's just too mcuh to continue.

But keep that opener!

Anonymous said...

I definitely think this has great potential. But I think it would be more powerful if it were trimmed to maybe half its current size. I'd recommend trimming much of the repetition and a bit of description. A little goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

As several people have already mentioned my main sticking point, I'll simply second it: lose the second paragraph.

There's nothing wrong, and a lot to like, with the language and sentence structure. However, the whole paragraph is essentially static, not advancing the story or the character or the setting in any particular way. Lose it, and use those words to give the reader more clues, help them to orient themselves in the story's current reality rather than in its past.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the commentary. I am the author and I wish to remain anonymous.

The original opening of the book was 379 words. Obviously more than EE printed but that's OK. .

I took all your advice and cut it to 123. My nature is to speak slowly, deliberately and I tend to stretch out my writing.

regardless, here is the revision:

I remember the day we were collected. It smelled of fresh rain, of damp earth, of green leaves tinged with orange and red. An autumn morning inviting us into the classroom, a cool breeze carrying discovery through the library windows, these I remember. Robby did Math. The twins did geography. I read.
They came in lightning and thunder, in black armor and helmets, with death rays and energy weapons, on anti-gravity platforms. They were silent, efficient and relentless in their killing, kidnapping, slaughtering that day, my last day on Earth. I’ve counted a thousand years since we walked that earth. Yet, when I wait in the barrenness of space, I dream of earth.
Let me tell you of that day and the ensuing days.

These three thoughts and images will wait for subsequent paragraphs:
1) Waiting is the hard part. Doing is the easy part.
2) We mine asteroids and convert them to commodities.
3) No matter how long I live, I’ll remember that day.

Again, thanks for all the comments.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add that I liked how you revised the opening and I would buy the book. Bonne Chance!

braun said...

I actually liked the detail and vividness of the specific day being remembered. Either way, though, I enjoy your style. I like that it's a very human approach to what looks to be a classic sci-fi setup. Keep going.

Anonymous said...

Good revised opening! For sure I'd read on at least a few more pages.

Anonymous said...

Excellent revision. Really takes you to the good stuff right away! Get this published! I would buy it.

Anonymous said...

Its much clearer after the revision. Hey, you've got a story in there, aftere all! Congrats and good luck.