Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Beginning 54

Cole couldn't run any more. Her legs gave out and she collapsed on the snow with a defeated whump. The Hunter was close, but the cold and her lack of sleep sapped her of the will to keep going.

He'll catch me. Sure as shit, if she didn't get up right now, it was over. Only question is whether it's over on my terms, or his.

She rolled onto her back and watched her breath rise into the frigid air, white clouds of exhaustion. A gnarled tree towered over her, gray sky filtered through its bare branches. It wasn't the worst place in the world to die.

Not that she would give up easily. Cole reached into the waist of her fur-lined leather pants and drew out her gun. She clutched the weapon close to her chest, cradled it lovingly. When the Hunter caught up with her, she would go down fighting. If she were lucky, maybe she'd take him out with her.

If only she hadn't skinned his brother to make her pants. Then the werewolf might not be after her at all. She ran a hand down her thigh, feeling the supple leather. Oh, they were totally worth it though.

She looked around for a hiding place. Maybe she could take him by surprise. Maybe, just maybe, there was a matching jacket in her future.

Continuation: Kathy Collins


Anonymous said...

I like. I would read more. -JTC

Anonymous said...

I thought this was great! I would definitely read more. I do think you can take out 'sure as shit' and still have the same feel as well as the out in 'take him out with her' Other than those tiny little qualms I absolutely loved it. Great job author

Anonymous said...

First thing that struck me was the number of wasted words (I've become a voracious weeder of my own work lately):

"Cole couldn't run any more. Her legs gave out and she collapsed on the snow with a defeated whump. The Hunter was close, but the cold and her lack of sleep sapped her of the will to keep going." [39 words]

Cole couldn't run any more. She collapsed on the snow. The Hunter was close, but cold and lack of sleep sapped her will to keep going." [27 words - 30% shorter without loss of information or - imho - atmosphere]

An easy 30% tightening in the first paragraph suggests the rest of the book may also contain 30% 'filler'.

Second paragraph: I find the jump into and out of and into her thoughts again a distraction. Group them. Also, the information that she is about to be caught is implicit in all that went before. This might go better after the third paragraph, just before she decides she won't give up that easily.

Third paragraph: good imagery, might be stronger if it came right after paragraph 1. The last sentence raises a question, though: what is a worse place for this character to die? Stuck indoors out of the fresh air? In a dungeon or jail cell? Hanging in a marketplace? Sent off-world to work herself to death in a prison colony? Use some of those saved words from paragraph 1 to orient us to the rest of the world/culture/society.

Anonymous said...

Two problems, for me.

1: Is shit sure? What is it sure of?

2: Cole reminds me of Cole Slaw (or however its spelled).

Sounds like fun, even with the salad-namesake heroine, and the 'shit' thing. Write on.

I enjoyed the continuation, yet... are you sure its wearwoolf leather, not fur? You know, the funky type?

And, yes, I do realize, that I'm a nitwit, thanks.

PJD said...

Well done. Sets the scene, action, and character very quickly. Quibbles:

Remove the "Sure as shit." It's the narrator's voice intruding on the character's... or italicize it and put it in Cole's thoughts if you want to keep it. (My problem is not the language but the conflict of voice.)

I think the "Not that she would give up easily" can be deleted. The rest of the paragraph shows that without having to tell us.

The "defeated whump" seemed less tense than the other images, a little comical actually. Maybe a different word there? She sounds more like a duffel bag tossed on the snow than a person running for her life and giving up.

Well done. I'd read more.

spongey437 said...

I agree with taking out the "sure as shit" part - not needed. But I find that, unless it is in dialogue somewhere, profanity is rarely needed. I would say this might be part of her thoughts but it is not in italics, and even so, I still dont think it is needed.

I liked the rest of it though and would definitely want to read more. And I liked the part about taking him out with her at the end because that is a thought someone in her predicament might have.

Nice job.

Lisa Cohen said...

I would definitely read on. Some grammatical nits. No comma needed between 'my terms or his'.

I think the dependent clause 'white clouds of exhaustion' would be clearer placed after 'her breath' and before 'rise'.

Either you need an 'and' and no comma before 'cradled it lovingly', or change cradled to cradling.

It may be grammatically correct either way, but I kept stumbling on 'if she were lucky'. She is singular, so 'was lucky'.

The continuation was very funny, so bravo to that author as well.

Anonymous said...

Got to agree, this is very good.


Bethany said...

I was unsure of the word "whump" in the second sentence... but then I read more and it got better and I forgot about the Whumping until I decided to comment. But you may want to rethink the whump. Others may not be as forgiving as me.

Overall great work.

Anonymous said...

Cole reminds me of Cole Porter. And you lost me at fur-lined leather pants.

If this is a set-up for a paint-ball fight, good work! If this is a fight to the death, your protag gives up too easily.

Anonymous said...

The phrase "sure as shit", well, that type of thing takes me right out of the story. In dialog it can reveal character, but when I see it in the narrative, I automatically see a writer trying desperately to be "edgy" or something.

I don't know, this was okay.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the comments so far.

Clearly, "sure as shit" hit a nerve. This is intended to establish the character's voice (not the narrator's) and convey a bit about what kind of person she might be. Point taken about it being sandwiched between italicized thoughts. I'm going to do away with the italics and rework that paragraph to make things clearer.

However, "sure as shit" is a pretty common idiom and fits the character (who isn't exactly sunshine and roses), so I'm not entirely convinced that I want to excise it.

Took some other suggestions so far, discarded others. "Were" is the appropriate word to follow "If" (subjunctive form). "Was" could work, but it's more informal.

Oh, and the whump is gone. :)

I appreciate all the comments, and would love to hear more.

Beth said...

Is this supposed to be a tension-filled opening? Because it's not. She falls with a "whump," a comical image. (My initial impression, based on the first two sentences, was that this is a children's novel and she's playing tag with her friends.) Next, she rolls onto her back and watches her breath rising into the air, a relaxed, almost dreamy image. And her thoughts are casual-sounding, not tense or desperate.

The writing itself is lackluster. It has no energy. So, IMO, the very first issue to address here is to look at all the verbs and nouns and wake them up. Make them fresher and sharper. Words are your tools. Don't just let them lie around doing nothing. :)

Anonymous said...

The 'whump' is gone? Nooooooooooo!

Okay, okay, I'll shut up. But not for long!

Anonymous said...

I like it!

Glad to see the "whump" is gone - it was the first distraction. "Sure as shit" didn't bother me as much - I read it as the character's voice, so that was OK. But "cradled it lovingly" really jarred me for some reason - it just seemed completely out of place. It's something you might do in your living room or den, but not when your life is on the line. (I'm sure Jayne cradles Vera lovingly in his bunk, but not when the enemy is approaching.)

(Feel free to ignore these comments, as I am also a Braun-certified nitpicker.)

Macuquinas d' Oro said...

Dear Meghan,

I really liked this and want to read more.

The only problem I saw was the shifting POV's from narrator to Cole. Someone else remarked on this.

Think about staying in Cole's head: it's her reaction to being hunted that we want. Just a few changes would smooth this over.The first line would read " Cole knew she..."The second paragraph would go "He'll catch me, sure as shit, if I don't..."

If "sure as shit" fits Cole's voice, I would NOT change it.

Anonymous said...

The story takes place during the next ice age (in North America) -- speculative fiction. She's been running from the law for months, farther and farther north, nearly to where the land no longer supports people. So when she finally collapses here, it's not that she "gives up too easy". It's that she's at the end of her rope.

"Whump" seemed to me, at the time, to be a decent approximation of what a body might sound like when it falls into snow. It didn't even occur to me that it might seem comedic. Thanks to everyone who pointed that out. As I said, it's gone.

The reference to her pants was intended to help set the scene... this is the ice age, in a part of the country that is almost uninhabitable, so severe is the weather. Perhaps it isn't necessary. But it's pretty much the only bit of detail I've got about the protagonist so far...

And the whole thing is intended to be in Cole's POV -- third person limited. Regardless of the direct thoughts in italics, I thought that would be relatively clear from lines such as "It wasn't the worst place in the world to die" (clearly her thought, and not an omniscient narrator) or "she... watched her breath". Hopefully by removing the italics, that becomes clearer.

McKoala said...

Given that it's in the future, I think that 'sure as shit' is too colloquial to sit well here. Not that I love 'futuristic' oaths - 'by the eyes of the Great God Buntass-el-Noggleboggin' - but 'sure as shit' may not survive until the next ice-age.

HawkOwl said...

See, I really don't think anyone who is about to get killed by someone called "the Hunter" would really think "only question is whether it's over on my terms, or his." And unless it's really extreme, lack of sleep wouldn't sap someone of the will to live. Hypothermia, yes, sleep deprivation, doubt it.

Really, Cole is so casual, yet so not genuine, that I have absolutely no interest in her predicament. She doesn't sound at all motivated and it doesn't even seem all that cold. You're just saying it's cold, but nothing in there sounds like cold weather. (Just because there is snow on the ground doesn't mean it's cold.)

I wouldn't turn the page.

HawkOwl said...

Oh, and the difference between "if she were" and "if she was" isn't about singular v. plural or formal v. informal. It's whether the "if" is possible or not. Thus I would say "if I were a man," which isn't possible since I'm a woman, but "if I was a welder," which is perfectly feasible. In this case I'd definitely go with "if she was." If she was already convinced she wouldn't be lucky, she wouldn't be playing with the gun at all.

PJD said...

The next ice age? What about global warming? By the time the next ice age hits, surely there will be weapons more sophisticated than a gun tucked in one's fur-lined leather pants. And people will be inhabiting every inch of North America since real estate anywhere "nice" is so expensive.

verification word: grvgf
The sound Cole makes when she whumps to the ground with a muffler wrapped around her mouth. (That would be a scarf, not an auto part.)

Anonymous said...

I like "white clouds of exhaustion." Vivid picture.

I don't like "sure as shit." Cliche and a nonsensical one at that.

I like "She placed the weapon close to her chest, cradled it lovingly." Well paced. Don't worry about grammarians correcting the structure if you do this occasionally throughout the story, it works well. And if you show you know the rules, as it seems you do, you can break them now and again.

I don't like that she falls in the snow, but maybe you'll explain it better later. If she can't run anymore, fine. But she can't walk either? That seems lame. Unless she is suddenly lame, in which case you're okay. Otherwise, I think something has to happen to her to make her not be able to at least walk or you have a protagonist (guess I'm assuming she's the protag) who gives up too easily.

Bottom line, though, it's enough to keep me going. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, Meghan, I'd love to read more of this. I thought the opening was great, dropping the reader right into a tense, potentially dangerous situation. My curiosity was pricked by the mysterious Hunter, and I love the idea of the second ice age.

My only quibble is, if Cole had the gun all along, why does she wait until she's collapsed with exhaustion to use it?

Anonymous said...

Debating if "sure as shit" would last until the next ice age! Could it get any more comical? Ha ha ha ha!

Anonymous said...

As a reader I like "sure as shit" and "whump" in this story. And, with all due respect to jeb, I don't believe there are "wasted words". -JTC

Anonymous said...

I thought the story was taking place in the American West before the major waves of settlement. Say 1840. The "sure as shit" and "take him out with her" thoughts are straight from that era.

I found Cole's voice to be inconsistent. If she thinks "sure as shit," she's not going to be picky about the subjunctive. I like the tough-talking version better, but either one is okay. Just choose.

In several places the narrative doesn't feel like tight third -- I feel like I'm watching her from outside, not looking out through her eyes and feeling the world that she feels.

It's well done, but if I picked it up in the bookstore, I'd pass.

Anonymous said...

I would have put the book down as soon as I found out that the protagonist has a soap-opera name, but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

I think this rocks. I know we're not supposed to criticise the criticisms, but most of the complaints are matters of taste. I'd never take out a phrase like 'sure as shit" because some people can't get past profanity; they wouldn't like what I write anyway.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, many scientists theorize that global warming could trigger the next ice age. And having done the research, I was very surprised to learn that an ice age could happen quickly (like, within the span of three years). Not to the extent that it's at in this story, of course, but the actual climate change that would signify an ice age. And we're just about at the end of our current interglacial period...

Other things could trigger an ice age quite instantaneously... a large comet striking the earth, for example, or a major volcanic eruption. This isn't a scenario that's only possible thousands of years from now, in other words.

So this story doesn't take place quite as far in the future as some are imagining. No laser guns or anything like that. It's a world not entirely removed from our own.

Points taken, of course, and I'll consider every comment here.

Except for the ones dissing Cole's name. ;) It's a perfectly legitimate Celtic name, and not anywhere near as crazy as some of the names I've read.

Anonymous said...

I submitted a continuation to this one in which I focussed on the "defeated whump". Like most of my endings, EE didn't use it. I've since learned to try to write continuations without picking on anything specific in the original 150 words, because EE is way too nice to use one like that [the 'Ring of Fire' continuation is mine]

Anonymous said...


The subjunctive isn't about whether something is possible or not... just whether it's not certain to happen.


Consider "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof. Is it impossible for him to be rich? No, but it's not certain to happen.

In this case, it's not certain that Cole will be lucky enough to kill the Hunter. So this is perfectly acceptable usage.

A lot of people don't bother with the subjunctive, especially in American English, but it's absolutely not incorrect.

alau said...

you totally lost me a "cradled the gun lovingly."

HawkOwl said...

Hmmm... When something is sure to happen I use "when," not "if."

Anonymous said...


I never said anything about something being sure to happen. Of course you'd use "when" if something was sure to happen.

I used two examples: If I Were a Rich Man (not sure to happen), and Cole being lucky enough to kill the Hunter (also not sure to happen).

HawkOwl said...


1) When I get home from work, I will pet my dog.
2) If I was a welder, I'd make more money.
3) If I were a man, I'd be gay.

Are you seeing the difference here? The first is sure to happen. The second is hypothetical, but possible. The third is hypothetical and not possible.

Yes, the subjunctive exists and yes, "if she were lucky enough" is grammatically correct. It just doesn't mean what you think it means. "If she were" v. "if she was" aren't interchangeable, because they mean different things. Even though both are grammatically correct.

Anonymous said...


Did you even read the link I was kind enough to paste?


Anonymous said...

Meghan: Forgive my 'cole slaw' and 'what's sure as shit' remarks. As a Nutland native, I just can't help my own nutiness, you see.

I do like the story, it sounds like fun.

HawkOwl said...

Why would I do that? Is it anymore to the point than the rest of your comment?

Oh, and while your grammar is still correct, one doesn't say "the link I kindly provided." Generally you say "kindly" when someone else kindly did something for you, or more likely, when you wish they would, as in, say, "kindly close the door behind you." You don't say "kindly" to describe yourself getting snippy because two people have disagreed with your understanding of the subjunctive.

I can see why you're posting anonymously.

Anonymous said...

hawkowl -

Please read my last comment again. I never once used the word "kindly".

Kindly read what has actually been written before replying. And don't worry, this is my last post on the subject. It's obvious that our discussion is going nowhere.

Anonymous said...

A revised version from me, as well (a bit over the word count now).


Cole couldn't run any more. Her legs gave out and she stumbled to the snow-covered ground, defeated. The Hunter was close, but the biting cold and lack of food and sleep sapped her of the will to keep going.

She rolled onto her back and watched her breath rise into the frigid air, white clouds of exhaustion. A gnarled tree towered over her, gray sky filtered through its bare branches. It wasn't the worst place in the world to die.

She shivered as she made her decision. Sure as anything, if she didn't get up right now, he would catch her. She would be taken alive. Serve as an example to others. In prison for life, or sentenced to a public hanging.

That's not how she wanted to go. Cole reached into the waist of her insulated pants and drew out her gun. She clutched the weapon close to her chest, cradled it like a child. When the Hunter caught up to her, she would go down fighting. If she were lucky, maybe she'd take him with her.

Anonymous said...

Meghan, kindly restore the "defeated whump". Make him a lovable furry fellow who speaks only in the subjunctive tense and he could be the character that put's your story over the top.

Seriously, though, I really like what you've written. Sounds like a winner...

Anonymous said...

Meghan: "Sure as anything" works less then "sure as shit". Why not just go with "If she didn't get up right now, he would catch her"? Otherwise, just keep the "sure as shit" thing.

Sorry, just my reaction, which is probably nutty, so you may do the oposite of what I suggest. If "sure as anything" works for your caracter, go for it, it just doesn't seem to mean much.

Seems like an exciting book, so write on.

Anonymous said...

Either "fur-lined pants" (without the leather) or just "pants". Insulated pants just sounds weird. Makes me think of gortex.

Other than that one nitpick, I think it's pretty good. If I were a gramarian... sorry, couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

P.S. The original has more attitude. And, yes, you can cradle your weapon "lovingly", whereas "like a child" is kinda strange.

Also, its good that you're attentive to the other's comments, but it doesn't mean, that you have to do what others tell you. Its your book.

Off course, feel free to ignore my input.

Adele said...


I like this revised version. I agree with the other poster who said to go with "fur-lined" pants. It reminds me of the cold. Insulated pants makes me think of brightly-colored skiwear in the latest styles. :)

We say "sure as anything" around here, so I have a bias toward that particular colloquialism. I think it gets the point across as well as the previous phrase.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a pain in the rear, Meghan, but I think the original was much better. It had an edge, the same edge that I think your main character has.

The revised one sounds like what it is -- a bland, watered down compromise. I think you should follow Stephen King's advice -- write with the door closed. It's too early for you to let us nitpickers change YOUR story (and YOUR query). If an agent or publisher rejects this query, we won't be there with you feeling bummed out. It'll just be you.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, if you don't want the 'whump', can I have it? Swap you for a 'buckled'.

The 'sure as ...' expression turned me off Cole straight away but's that a personal thing. I'd probably skip to the exchanges between the Hunter and Cole to see if that held my attention.

'Fur-lined' and 'leather' were okay. 'Pants' is too modern and shop-bought sounding, especially if Cole had made them herself.

I agree with anon. Stick to your convictions. It's your novel. Now you've revised the opening, all you have to do is put back the 'voice'.

braun said...

Anon commentor, that's one of the truest things I've read here.

Meghan: your unqiue voice in the story is what sets it apart. Don't lose that.

Anonymous said...

quote: Cole couldn't run any more. She collapsed on the snow. The Hunter was close, but cold and lack of sleep sapped her will to keep going." [27 words - 30% shorter without loss of information or - imho - atmosphere]

Bull--your quote ripped out all of the originatlity. And added a pronoun reference error. Good work, Jeb.