Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Beginning 138

"Is it true he is handsome, this contract of yours?"

Arbelle was combing her sister's hair: long, slow, steady strokes bringing the night tangles to the surface where she could tease them free. Her sister already wore her morning dress and was putting together her face before breakfast. It was a good morning ritual, the brushing of the hair; a time for sibling gossip before facing the rest of the family, and the world that insisted on invading their home.

"I have a picture of him in my safe-room," said Delaem. She put her hand on the brush to stop her sister's work, turned round and smiled. "He appears reasonably handsome."

They both giggled, no care for decorum. "Pictures can be doctored, you know," said Arbelle. "Mother whispered to me one night that Father's picture was at least ten years out of date when she came to compare it to the flesh!"

"Indeed," Dalaem said, "but I sent a maid to verify his likeness. His skin is smooth and taut as a nectarine's."

They laughed wantonly at this. "But skin can be tighted," said Arbelle. "Father told me Aunt Constance's face was so stretched she could but grin like an imbecile."

"Oh, but he can be no more than twenty-five, for his teeth are perfectly white." Dalaem stretched her lips to show her own teeth, and they giggled again like infants.

"But teeth can be whitened. Grandmother told me how Uncle Thorgood had every tooth replaced with pearl." Arbelle smiled coquettishly. "He is strong and virile, though? I shall quickly have a niece or nephew?"

"I asked the maid her opinion." Dalaem flushed as she continued. "She told me by the way he fills his britches he puts a horse to shame."

They laughed uncontrollably, and then Arbelle said, "But do you not remember the surgery that cousin Silas took?" The color drained from Dalaem's face as she recalled it.

Continuation: ril


HawkOwl said...

I'm gonna get a rubber stamp that says "too many words, too little story."

Stacia said...

I think it needs a little trimming, and the "put her face together" is a little awkward, but overall I liked this. It gives a good sense of the characters and the kind of life they live--lots of show, not tell.

McKoala said...

This is a bit too coy and coquettish for my taste, but it's not my genre, so over to the historical folk for some more sensible comments...

Anonymous said...

I'll just note that there's no tension or conflict here, and thus nothing to really engage the reader's curiosity and draw them into the story. Find the point where the main character(s) realise that they have a problem to solve, and then start the story at that point. This is too humdrum a moment to begin the book with.

I think I also need a stamp. My second sentence above seems to be the one comment I make most often about story beginnings. :-)

Bernita said...

Which is she doing?
Combing or brushing?
Seems a bit tangled.

Leah said...

"Is it true he is handsome, this contract of yours?"

That sentence made me think the protag is a contract killer or a prostitute. Absent a blurb, I still don't know which (if either) she is.

uraqq: What Bush's critics call his war

Dave Fragments said...

How is Arbelle combing the hair of her sister as she is putting makeup on her face? This is a stupid question from a bachelor.

Why beat around the bush, just come out and have one sister complain about arrainged or contracted marraiges.

When you say: "They both giggled, no care for decorum. "Pictures can be doctored, you know," said Arbelle. "Mother whispered to me one night that Father's picture was at least ten years out of date when she came to compare it to the flesh!"
What naughtiness are they talking about? An out of date picture from ten or twenty years ago? That doesn't add up. They would giggle about a naked picture that had been doctored. It takes about 15 minutes and photoshop to remove warts, blemishes, age lines, crows feet, luggage eyes, and merely two minutes to make the more obvious adjustment y'all are thinking about (dirty minds)...

Besides, this is one of those too many words: "no care for decorum" implies what Arbelle should tell her sister about the past. "ooohlala, not only was he short, but 12 years older and 40 pounds heavier with a butt that sagged even in toreador pants, bad breath and stinky feet..."
- now that is lack of decorum. And since when do sisters have decorum unless we're writing a period piece?

By the way - in the previous paragraph you already said "time for sibling gossip before facing the world" so "no care for decorum" is doubly redundant, superfluious, excessive, repeated, broken-recordish, etc... {hint}{HINT} ;)

And this line: "I've hidden a picture of him and he's reasonably handsome" brings to mind those awful blind dates to "nice" girls with "glasses". Why would a young girl have a safe room and do you want to talk about that on the first page? Why can't she say "Oh, I have seen his picture and he's not a hairy ugly beast with three teeth," giggle, giggle, "he's really rather nice looking, some might say handsome in a rugged way." And that would serve to say more about her discerning eye than his nice skin compared to a taut plum.
Personally, I like my men, ginger... (Sorry, I digress.)

Gotta go eat dinner. Read all of this as constructive with a BEASTIALLY HUNGRY sense of humor.

Xenith said...

I was disappointed to reach the end of this one. It's smooth & easy to read, and the mention of the photos piques my curiousity.

IMO the best hook is one that is easy to swallow.

Curious about where/when though. It feels like a futuristic/alternate world setting. If it's supposed to be a real world period piece, then it's not working.

Anonymous said...

so over to the historical folk for some more sensible comments...

Umm, actually I read this as an Atwood-type fable, not a historical. (Maybe it's the safe room and the contract thing working on me)

I liked this. I like Atwood. If it's really the intro to a romance, however, then I'd hope for a lot more action and conflict to keep me going.

Anonymous said...

This was face-lift 200; it's erotic SFF.

Steph_J said...

I had the same problem as Leah with the first sentence. I thought the girls were hitmen(hitpersons?). Referring to victims as “contracts” serves to dehumanize them. Even after I realized the girls were discussing an arranged marriage, the word still had a dehumanizing effect.

The beginning of the story flowed nicely for me. I thought it was interesting enough to keep me reading…until I read the post from anonymous 6:09pm. I’m not even sure what erotic SFF is! Is that like having sex with aliens and intergalactic probe devices?! This is too adult for me. Interesting beginning…but I’ll have to pass on the rest of the book.

One more point though:

"Pictures can be doctored, you know," said Arbelle. "Mother whispered to me one night that Father's picture was at least ten years out of date when she came to compare it to the flesh!"

The second statement that Arbelle makes would read better if it backed up the first one. An out of date picture doesn’t have anything to do with a doctored picture. You might try replacing “doctored” with the word ‘misleading’, or else give an example of how her Father’s picture was altered.

Rik said...

Many thanks to all the Minions for their comments on this. It is indeed the first paragraphs to Facelift #200.

In fact this is my first attempt at a "proper" novel - the one I intend to workshop to death and learn from my mistakes before hiding it in the attic and hoping nobody discovers it after I'm dead. So it gives me great hope to find that some Minions found the dialogue to be readable!

But there's still plenty of things for me to learn - I think getting the first page right is one of the more advanced lessons, and I need to attend to more basic things like characterisations and plotlines first ...

HawkOwl said...

I'd worry more about getting the rest of the novel perfect. The first page isn't gonna sell the novel if the rest sucks, but a good novel will sell an indifferent first page.