Sunday, August 13, 2006
New Beginning 69
Sir Belvedere's Folly
A bell chimed as the Piers hurried through the archway into Horseguards Parade. "We have just half an hour."
"If your informant is reliable," said Sir Peregrine, keeping pace beside him.
Ahead of them St James' Park was lit up by gaslights. Strings of lanterns hung from trees and bushes. Here and there small crowds gathered around the welcoming glow from makeshift stalls selling drinks, or offering games of chance. Beyond them, dimly visible against the sky, Piers could just make out the towering form of the Pagoda.
"How wide a space will we need to clear?" asked Sir Peregrine, as they pressed through the throng towards the lake.
"I don't know. My contact suggested that it is only intended to be a small explosion, but if it brings the tower down--"
Sir Peregrine nodded, grasping the magnitude of the situation. He stepped to the middle of the park and waved his arms. "Everyone!" he shouted, "Free beer at the docks!"
Screams erupted as stalls were overturned in the stampede. Sir Peregrine was almost swept away with the crowd. He held his ground and rejoined Piers.
"Nice job," remarked Piers. "Now, let's get that box before the bomb explodes." The men unfolded the shovels they had hidden in their cloaks and began to dig.
Opening: anonymous.....Continuation: Chumplet
Posted by Evil Editor at 7:30 AM
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The continuation is priceless!
Oh yes, the original?
Do wonder though, if the word "contact" would be used in this fashion in that period.
I wondered if you meant "the peers" and just misspelled it.
Then I wondered if you meant "the pair."
Then I wondered if "Piers" was a title.
Then, after THREE re-readings, I realized Piers was a name and "the" was misplaced in the first sentence. In any case it made no sense, and threw me off way before I could start to care about the characters.
Call me a nitpicker if you want but this would have made me not only close the book but throw it across the room in frustration. Sorry.
Um, Piers and Peregrine are the Cranford brothers in Patricia Veryan's Regency series "The League of the Jewelled Men." Might want to change those names...
(don't ask how I remembered those two names...I really like her books, and Piers and Peregrin aren't exactly Tom, Dick, and Harry.)
I had several problems with this opening.
1. the Piers--as anon 12:02 mentioned, this was confusing, especially coming in the first sentence.
2. Piers, Peregrine, Parade, Pagoda--there are other letters in the alphabet for starting names.
3. I could not envision the set-up. There's too much architecture and too many landforms/etc., thrown around haphazardly (or so it seemed--perhaps well planned in your mapped world). Archway into the Parade (what is a Horseguards Parade?). Ahead is a park, and there are stalls selling stuff, presumably in the park, there's a bell possibly in the tower and there's a pagoda, and there's a lake. And they all seem to be close enough to be lumped into the same few paragraphs of an opening scene.
4. I couldn't tell if Piers and Peregrine are the good guys or the bad guys. I don't have to know this, but generally I like to know.
5. Some of the writing is repetitive, but even then the time and place is not clear--the park is "lit up" then we see the "lanterns" and then we get a "glow"--sounds like an unusually bright Edwardian or Victorian evening/night setting--but then we get "dimly visible against the sky" and I'm wondering if it's dawn. And the pagoda makes it sound like China, but everything else sounds England in tone, to me.
5. If this is China, you need a lot more than a pagoda to create your setting. If it's England, why would we need a pagoda in the setting at all?
I might like the idea of starting with two guys about to blow up something. Sir Peregrine seems an interesting choice for the job, too, because his title suggests position, and makes me wonder why he's participating in a plot to explode a bomb. But this particular version didn't grab me.
Sorry, but I wouldn't keep reading.
Maybe it's British-occupied Hong Kong at the beginning of the twentieth century. Huh?
What's a Horseguards Parade? It's a road in London along which the Horseguards (they're cavalry, ie soldiers on horses, you can probably find both "soldiers" and "horses" in your dictionary) and others troop the colour (salute a flag) for the Queen's birthday.
The description of St James' Park is obviously correct for the period, and I'm afraid we 'need' the pagoda because, amazingly enough, it was there at the time. Inconsiderate of it, obviously.
Other than 'the Piers' I thought that this was quite a nice start. Just a few niggles - what hour did the bell chime? Do you need the comma after 'drinks' should there be one after 'stalls'? (I say this tentatively, fearful of the wrath of the comma police...) One minute the throng is ahead of them, then they seem to transport into the middle of it.
Small stuff. I like it.
Obviously you know your period. I will say that it is slightly confusing for the uneducated reader, though. My first read-through, I was definitely wondering where (and when) they were. It might be nice to add something familiar to orient the reader, if not right at the beginning then shortly after.
You need a stronger beginning.
It's obviously you can write description, and since that's your strong point you should start off with that. The St. James' Park is the strongest paragraph there.
Describe the Horseguard's Parade. Are there a lot of people? Are you characters shoving their way through a crowd, are they on foot, horse, what are they wearing? What's the occassion, is it dusk? Just give us more for the beginning, which really has to knock us out.
Thank you for letting us dogs have at it. Good luck with the rewrite.
And minor and not so minor lordlings often took commissions in crack cavalry regiments.
Not for nothing was one nicknamed "The Gentlemen's Sons."
I understood the setting with the pagoda just fine from the opening. The misplaced "The" before Piers in the opening sentence confused me as well, but I liked the rest and would read on.
The picture helps explain the scene. But a reader won't have that. And readers will not have researched the place (most likely). Your description may be "accurate" but it may not provide a clear picture for the reader and may instead raise questions (like where am I now?) that draws the reader out of the story.
Like dialogue, which only mimics real conversation---or like stories that sound false even if that's how it really happened--a description has to draw the reader in and not necessarily be a point for point graph of the area.
The architectural detail of your opening confused me.
Just thought you might want to know that. fwiw.
I like historical fiction and I liked this - intriguing and beautifully atmospheric. I wouldn't change a thing - (I mean other than the 'the' in front of Piers and that kind of thing). Gas lights weren't actually very bright so there's nothing confusing about "lit up" and "lanterns" and "dim glow." This would make me want to read on - reminds me of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
I'm with anonyme on this one. The only thing that really threw me was "the Piers," and after getting over that, the rest was good. The "informant" remark is enough to intrigue me right off, so I'll read the next paragraph - which is a nice description of the scene, and the reference to St. James' Park is all that is needed to tell me where this is. Then the "explosion" remark hooks me so I'm ready to turn the page. I'd keep reading - so far this looks very good.
I enjoyed it. It could be proofread some more, but I want to read the next page.
I guess I'm the only one who remembers the show Mr. Belvedere. I kept waiting for a butler.
Outside of the extraneous "the" in the opening sentence, I'm intrigued. Should it be "the Horseguards Parade?" Maybe that explains the wandering "the."
But I'd get over that and keep reading. Great set-up. Wish I had something more to complain about to help you, but I can't find it.
I didn't post the picture to "explain" the scene, but rather to prove the existence of the pagoda. As far as I can see, a pagoda in a London park needs explaining as much as the existence of Chinatown in San Francisco needs explaining, but YMMV.
And the opening isn't mine, fyi.
The opening is mine.
Thanks for the comments, and sorry about the extraneous "the".
It would have helped, I think, if I had made it clear that this was taking place in a Regency setting - something a reader would have known from the cover.
Otherwise I have taken note of the comments and will take them into account when I get to the redrafting stage (this was very much how it came off my fingers first time round - which may account for, but does not excuse, the stray word).
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