Friday, August 11, 2006
New Beginning 66
“She’s over here,” a man’s voice called.
Karol crouched deeper in the tall grass, wrenching her eyes shut. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t talking about her. Her hopes fell away as hoof beats drew closer.
She’d been sure she’d seen them before they’d seen her. At two miles away, walking their horses out of a thick clump of trees, they should never have noticed her across the overgrown Kentucky plain. She had dropped to the ground and duck-walked into the tall weeds crowding the sides of the dirt path. She was careful not to leave a trail, making sure not to break the grass as she went through, fluffing it back up after her passing bent the stalks. One hundred yards and she stopped, not wanting the rustling of the grass to draw the horsemen’s eyes.
Her precautions had been useless.
Back in the asylum Carson sighed. Why did I take this job running security? he wondered. Before he could think of an answer, his radio squawked.
"Carson, I found her," the voice crackled. "I saw a woman acting oddly, walking like a duck and fluffing weeds. It's her. Can you send someone out with the big net?"
Opening: Gareth Bendall.....Continuation: Dave Conifer
Posted by Evil Editor at 7:18 PM
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Great continuation, by the way!
Um, there were a few things that bothered me. First, the word 'wrenched' is normally used to describe an aggressive movement towards something, or open. Normally, one wrenches a door open, not shut. One wrenches away from something, not toward. Change the word 'wrenched'. it doesn't work.
Also, the sentence, "she'd been sure she'd seen them before they'd seen her" sounds so awkward! "She was sure she'd seen them before they saw her" works just as well, if not better. Trust me on this.
You can weed out a lot of the second paragraph. Most of it is pointless; we want to know what happens, not how she fluffed up grass.
Hope that helps!
The net! LOL LOL. I love it.
I agree with the first anonymous, there is WAY too much info about how she duck walked and fluffed grass. This all means nothing and creates really weird images in the readers head that detract from what is going on.
And this may be small, but I also had a problem with the phrase "Kentucky plain". I have lived in KY for 30 years, born and bred, and have never seen a plain in this state. We have hills, lots and lots of hills, some smaller, some bigger. You might occasionally come across a field that is close to being flat. But we are definately not known as being a plain state. The word plain makes me think of places like Kansas or Iowa, and Kentucky is not like that at all. Basically, it affects the atmosphere and completely threw me off.
"Duck-walked" sounded funny. I would crawl. I like funny, but is that what was meant here?
Of course, due to my nutty upbringing, I might be mistaken. I mean, I did think that shit can't be sure, and that Cole is related to a salad. If that's the case, my humble appologies.
Love the continuation.
Other than the misuse of the word "wrench," which wrenched me out of the story, this started promisingly. But the descent into explanations of how she got where she is and why she thought she was hidden, killed the tension.
I suggest dropping that second paragraph entirely. You can work in some little details about the setting as the action progresses.
Why not start just a little earlier, and show the heroine duckwalking into the weeds and fluffing them up behind her, rather than telling us it happened? Dramatise the scene, rather than infodump on us.
I liked the opening; I just think it needs more "show" and less "tell".
My main complaint is it would take someone an hour to take big "duck walk" steps and then reach down and fluff up the grass behind her for 100 yards. And how do you do that? Balance on one foot while you fluff?
Just have her run on the pavement, it would take 20 seconds.
Same with wrenching. What is duckwalking? How do you do it when you have dropped to the ground?
I, too, didn't much enjoy the duck walking and fluffing. It was as if we were in the moment in the first two paragraphs, then wrenched out of it in the next.
The author might want to go back to the keyboard on this one.
All backstory explanation.
Are her attempts to evade really important to the tale?
If it is then let's have a little sweaty, fearful feverishness as it occurs.
Either begin with when she sees them, or go on from where she's spotted.
"wrenched her eyes shut" is artificial and unrealistic. "Fell to the ground" is contradicted by "duck-walked." "Fluffed" does not give an image consistent with tension.
And damn, everyone has great eyesight - two miles!
Don't tell us she duck walked. Show her quacking, flapping her elbows and goose-stepping. We'll fill in the blanks for ourselves!
If this is historical, which I assume it is due to the men being on horseback, then I think the setting is fine. I figured it was supposed to be a description of the barrens. "Prairie" or "barrens" would seem to be a more common name than "plains," though. Heck, she could be picking cactus thorns out of her feet, and it'd still be okay for historic Kentucky. For example, here's the web site of a nature preserve. http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/kentucky/preserves/art10906.html "The preserve is an outstanding remnant of the original 'Big Barrens,' large prairie-like expanses of grassland that covered much of midwestern Kentucky."
In fact, my first thought was she's either an escaped slave or it's earlier and she's Native American. But the name "Karol" doesn't seem typical for either of those, so I dunno.
"Heck, she could be picking cactus thorns out of her feet, and it'd still be okay for historic Kentucky."
Even if this is historically true, that would need to be explained. My earlier point is that the state isn't known for that fact. It's known for rolling hills, horse farms, tabacco, Jim Beam, mountains in the east, but not grasslands. As a reader, I was thrown off because it goes against what I have experienced to be true of my home state. An author who is going to write a historical novel needs to be aware that even if setting could be historically accurate, if it goes against what many people assume, it could cause problems. I'm sure there have been plains here in the past, hell, the whole state was underwater at some point in history, but that doesn't mean that an author can write about the great ocean of Kentucky and have readers just accept that it's ok.
My point is that it was a phrase that affected the way I read the beginning, and not in a good way. Depening on what the author is going for, he/she may or may not want to take a look at that phrase again.
An author who is going to write a historical novel needs to be aware that even if setting could be historically accurate, if it goes against what many people assume, it could cause problems.
That's a good point. I'm wondering the best way for an author to handle it. Anyone have suggestions for a rewrite on this one, without an infodump or interrupting the immediacy of the action?
Um, assuming it is historical fiction and the author meant to set it in the Kentucky barrens, that is. Maybe the real solution is just to change the word "Kentucky" to "Nebraska." :)
Another Kentuckian weighing in here -- central Kentucky, where I grew up, was originally a grassland dotted with trees. A savanah, if you will, but still hilly. "Plains" implies an inappropriate flatness.
I actually enjoy the duckwalking. It's a great excercise, especially when accompanied by wing flapping, and quacking, as suggested by braun.
The problem is, I crack up a bit too quickly.
My mind goes two ways here: 1) I'd definitely read on because you've set up a great situtation, compelling me to find out what happens to her.
2)However (you knew there had to be a however, right?), there are a few things that gave me pause:
- Karol, I thought was a male at first, so I had to retrace a bit.
- There's an overload of pronouns. I'd try to rework some sentences, so you don't need a scorecard between the "hers" and "theys".
- Fluffing the grass back up after walking on it really throws me. I get it. I just don't think that's very logical thinking. If it is, since it's counterintuitive because it will cost you time, then you need to explain the benefits. Or tell how she learned this technique. As it is, it'll slow her down considerably and I don't think it would have the desired effect anyway.
All that said, it's an intriguing opening. Keep going!
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