Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Beginning 62

In the lulling warmth of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Faith sat immobile at the organ. Easter Sunday morning mass had ended and sweat dotted her brow from her efforts. Terry came to her and nearly grazed her ear with his mouth as he whispered, "Iggy's on his way up."

Faith cringed, remembering the point in the mass when Father Tom had announced the retirement of Father Bob due to illness and named Father Patrick Sean Goodman as his replacement. She hadn't seen Sean since high school and long suppressed feelings for him jolted her. Her hand slipped onto the keyboard and a cacophony of notes burst from the organ. Everyone stared at her, and the anonymity she craved in doing her job well faded along with the blasphemous noise.

Holy week had drained her. She just wanted to get through this mass without incident, escape home where her orderly life awaited her, and eat a traditional Easter meal with her father. Not even fingering the massive organ helped when she felt like this.

And now Patrick Sean was a priest. How many times had she turned away his advances when he was in seminary, refusing to be a party to the breaking of his vows? Would he pressure her again? Could she resist again?

She spied Father Patrick Sean talking to Terry. He placed an arm around the altar boy and led him away toward the sacristy.

Faith let out a long sigh. She had nothing to worry about.

Continuation: Kate Thornton


Anonymous said...

At first glance, this opening has tension and draws me into Faith's POV.

However, it is not at all clear who Terry is, why his 'grazing' mouth is important (is it unusual? is he hitting on her?), who Iggy is, if the incoming Irish Father has any connection to either, and why Faith (what an OTT name) is cringing (although I'd read a few paragraphs further to get that info, except that she starts thinking about lunch).

Explain what kind of organ this is if you're going to have it making noise at a careless keystroke. My experience of old (assumption, I admit) Catholic churches is that they still have pipe organs, which don't make noise if the bellows aren't being pumped.

If this ISN'T an older, larger church full of Easter-week penitents, make that more apparent so other readers don't form the same mental picture as I did. If the organ is a modern one, electric-powered, make that plain as well.

Good luck.

[afjsh = the sound of the bellows' foot pump slowly releasing the last of its air at the end of the hymn]

HawkOwl said...

"Not even fingering the massive organ helped when she felt like this."

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

But as for the original 150, meh. Like Jeb said, too many names of people we know nothing about, and why does she go from "cringing" and "jolting" to thinking about lunch, and if mass is over, why is she thinking she just wants to get through it?

More importantly (to me), I don't think it's very engaging. Woman gets cranky remembering rejection by high school crush... So what? And why isn't she over high school yet? Get a life, woman!

If there is some serious tension potential in this ex-high-school-crush thing, the opening needs to be reworked to reflect some of that tension, because otherwise I'm just expecting a whole novel of tedious sentimentality. (Which is awesome if this is intended as a romance novel, actually.) For example, maybe it would help to start with the moment of the announcement, when action (of sorts) actually happens, rather than with Faith reminiscing about it after mass. Then it could flashback to a particularly vivid memory from high school, so we have something happening, soon, of more interest than Faith's internal monologue.

Then again if the ex-high-school-crush thing isn't gonna be a source of much tension, ditch the whole thing and write a new opening that does have to do with the main conflict.

Dave Fragments said...

Let me nitpick:
As someone who has played electric, pipe, theater and carillon organs Let me explain the choices.

a) Electric (like Hammond or Wurlitzer or Lowrey) These play out speakers and with a light touch. The response is instantaneous unless the organist is at the back of the church and the speakers at the sides then there is a delay due to the speed of sound. Drop anyhting on that keyboard and her it immediately. they get loud and soft by the action of a pedal changing an electric potentiometer (volume control. (hint: your best cost-effective bet)

b) pipe with electric blowers (no one uses bellow anymore. These organs give new meaning to the word schizophrenic - they have a delay between the key and the note because of the passage of air. It's like playing several tenths to a full second ahead of your ears. Rapid passages are truly challenging. Drop something on these keys and you might be able to say "oh shit" before you hear it. Pipe organs get loud oan soft based on dampers (doors) enclosing the pipes in cabinets that open and close). YOu can hear them BANG during crescendo and decrescendo. But to paraphrase Bach, when they speak, they speak with the voice of God Almighty.

c) carillons - I hope the organist is in a sealed chamber with earphones because the notes come from bells in a tower far, far away. Georgeous music but a true challenge.

d) Theater organs and have different stops (desire or fifth and elm) than Church organs. They sound wrong if they are used in the wrong place. Theater organs nowadays are mostly electric. Theater organs also have vibrato devices which give them distinctive orchestral effects. They have drums, castenets, cymbals and funky diapasons. Theater organs sound like Kate Smith and Broadway. Church organs sound like, well church.

e) Baroque Organ: a tiny whisp of a thing that's really a bunch of tweety little flutes stuck together. In my opinion, they all play Vivaldi and I wouldn line my birdcage with that stuff.

f) Electric Keyboards: Surely you jest. That's as bad a thought as accordians in church.

McKoala said...

Oh, some girls never get over their high school crushes... Not that I would ever... well, anyway, back to the plot.

I didn't really respond to this one. Immobile in para 1 suggests a shock, but it seems that she's just tired? Slumped/relaxed etc. might work better. I'm curious about the organ too - everybody staring at her? Doesn't she have her back to them? It's exhausting, yet a slip of the hand leads to a cacophany of notes?

The second paragraph doesn't work for me - too much squeezed in. Back story, characters, actions all mixed up in tense. When did her hand slip - now or during the service? I also thought that were too many names in the intro overall - Faith...Terry...Iggy...Father Tom...Father Bob...Father Patrick Sean Goodman etc. I think I'd like to feel/see how she feels about Sean before I'm told.

Sorry not to be positive; it may just be that this is not my thing. I'm assuming it's a romance and I don't read much romance.

Evil Editor said...

When she cringes upon hearing Iggy is on the way up, and then thinks about the point in the sermon when the priest change was announced, I got the impression Iggy was what she used to call Father Sean Patrick. If Iggy is Sean, make it more clear. If he isn't, explain why she cringes when told Iggy is coming.

Anonymous said...

Cacaphony? I always wondered what came out of a fingered organ. Is Amy's mom or dad related to anybody in this story?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments. answer your question, the next paragraph is as follows.

As Terry clumped down the stairs from the choir loft, Faith's shoulders slumped in anticipation of yet another confrontation with Iggy, the parish council president, her implicit boss. She had no explanation that she cared to share with him about the disruptive note. The fault lay with her.

Anonymous said...

It sounds as if Faith is upstairs in a choir loft, so how do people stare at her when she makes the musical gaffe?

And Faith is too much like Father. Making my eyes cross.

And I agree, too many names. Don't need Terry (she could hear Iggy's heavy tread on the stairs up or something less trite). Don't need Father Tom and Father Bob (She cringed when she heard the announcement that Father Patrick Sean Goodman would be their new parish priest.) Not sure if you need Iggy.

I also didn't like the sentence "Holy week had drained her." Perhaps you mean to convey that she'd been very busy during holy week-but generally in Catholic services, there's no music or very little musical accompaniment during Lent, so the church's organist would not be particularly hardpressed at this time. At least, not without further explanation. And Easter mass is such a joyous occasion generally that this seemed disconnected to the time and place. So this sentence seemed to relate to nothing to me.

As for the basic premise, the main character is a woman who once had a relationship with a man who became a priest. She never married. He returns to be the priest at the church where she plays the organ. Sounds almost cliche. Nothing inherently interesting here.

And nothing in the characters as portrayed so far that makes them interesting. jmho.

I would not keep reading.

Anonymous said...

Oh! After reading the comment from nb 62 author, I just now figured out that Faith's hand slipped on the keyboard earlier, during the mass, in response to the announcement about Sean. All this time I've been thinking the second paragraph was occurring after the events in the first paragraph. which, of course, left me wondering what the first half of the second paragraph had to do with the second half of the second paragraph.

Then I'm really confused about when the third paragraph is. "[W]anted to get through this mass without incident" sounds kind of like we're still in the flashback. But the rest of it is ambiguous.

I'd also like to third or fourth or however-manyith that there are too many names introduced too fast. There are three in the first paragraph, four really, since the name of the church occupies some of the same conceptual space. Then three more in the first sentence of the second paragraph, and those are all Father this, that, and the other. At least we have something to hang Faith's identity on, as well as the various Fathers, but Terry and Iggy are anonymous nonentities.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm wondering.
Is this a traditional church with a loft in the back and the organ console set there? Or is this a more modern chruck wtih the choir "loft" set in the front of the church on the main floor?

This is getting in the way of your drama.

I know that even if the parishioners can't see the organist, they will turn and look back at the choir loft or the organ if there is a mistake.

By the way - the largest pipe organ I ever looked at (They wouldn't let me, a high school student touch it even though I had more lessons than the organist) had trumpet stops. These fearful horns nearly broke my eardrums when I forgot and stood in front of them.

Bernita said...

She's a cliche character with her "suppressed feelings", her yearning for her "orderly life."
And jeeze, every organist makes mistakes on occasion, big deal, faux drama.
Sorry, I can't feel for her, she's cardboard.

Anonymous said...

I've got a number of concerns.

First, my mental picture kept getting screwed up. Mass is over, so I'm picturing the church practically empty, but then "everyone" stared at her. Besides, when Terry says Iggy is coming up, I put Faith in the back of the church above the congregation anyway so nobody would be able to see her and she couldn't see anyone staring if they were. Finally, Mass was ended, yet all she wants to do is get through it. All of that had my mind spinning, so I don't think I'd continue.

In addition, I'm assuming that Iggy is also Sean Patrick, but I don't know why you don't tell us so we can be sure one way or another.

And as it stands right now, I don't have a gauge on Faith's age. Being a church organist, my initial guess was retired, but now she thinks back to her high school crush and I'm guessing she must be much younger. If there's a reason for withholding that information, fine. But if not, I'd supply it early.

The final paragraph puzzles me also. If Holy Week drains her, I'm back to guessing she's elderly. Or else something exciting happened during Holy Week and I'd rather be reading about that right now. Or at least getting teased about it. Then she wants to skip "orderly" for "traditional" which doesn't sound like much of an upgrade.

This reads like a lot, but really it's just a few minor fixes that took me an ungodly amount of time to explain. Good luck with it.

Dave Fragments said...

I have to share this true story. I was serving (altar boy) at St. Mary's Help of Christian RC Church(now closed). Anyway, It was after the 10:30 mass on the Sunday that they turned on the refurbished pipe organ. The new sound (aside from all the pipes and stops working) was bells - tiny, pretty chimes that just echoed beautifully across the church.

Now, the organist took to playing "The Bells of St Marys from the movie and Bing Crosby fame before and after every Mass :(

After Mass, the Paster, a really mean old man pointed to me and said "Tell that woman up there that if she plays the Bell's of St Marys one more time she's fired."

Well that was a duty that wasn't pleasant for a fifteen year old. And the greater punch line is that I actually could play the organ better than her and I would never have done any song that cheesy. She couldn't play BACH, I could.

Just had to get that out of me.