Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Beginning 144

Nothing but forest--miles and miles of forest--stretched out in front of her in every direction. After wasting four hours of daylight climbing to the top of the ridge, she’d hoped to see more. A distant ribbon of highway, a lone radio tower, anything manmade that would point her way back to civilization.

Lost. The word she’d been refusing to acknowledge suddenly reverberated through her mind. “I’m lost,” she said it aloud, trying on the sound of it, surprised by the quiver in her voice and the knot in her gut.

Again, she wondered at the incongruity of having done something so stupid. She’d been warned back at the ranger station. Never hike Hell’s Gate Wilderness alone, not even a day hike the tall blond ranger had cautioned.

“Come on Carly, you can do this,” she muttered, walking to the tree where she’d propped her battered backpack. She grabbed the pack, slung it over her shoulders and started humping back down the trail.

Walking would have been quicker than humping, of course, but not nearly as much fun, and hey, the tall blond ranger was cute. She was glad he'd insisted on accompanying her, even if he was as lost as she was.

Opening: anonymous.....Continuation: McKoala


Kate Thornton said...

OMG! The continuation! LOL!

Dave Fragments said...

I like this. It’s really good. It has style without pretension and a nice attitude.
I’d add the one word sentence “Forest.” before “nothing but” in the first line.
And then I’d add the one word sentence “Warned.” And delete “Again” in the third paragraph.
Also, perhaps “humping” is not the appropriate word to describe the long, hard walk back especially since you mention a tall blond ranger and the reader thinks love interest, or at least lust interest. Try traipse or hike or even schlep. Look for some other word (thesaurus time).
Propped and grabbed in the last two sentences don’t work in close proximity to each other. Replace propped with leaned and it should read be better.oyztrn

Bernita said...

Liked the beginning, written with clarity.
The last paragraph though made my interest wane because I wondered if the character was slipping into cliche.
Maybe just my personal aversion to the name, and to the "feisty" type character who gives herself motivational talks.
Would probably hang on to find out what her reasons were for the self-acknowledged stupidity.
It would have to be more than just "proving herself" or a contrary exhibition of independence.

Nancy Beck said...

LOL at the continuation! :-)

This sounded good to me - the tension and nervousness of the MC comes across very well. I'd definitely read more.

The nitpick stuff:

“I’m lost,” she said it aloud, trying on the sound of it, surprised by the quiver in her voice and the knot in her gut.

I don't quite know what "trying on the sound of it" means, so I'd cut that, as "surprised by the quiver in her voice and the knot in her gut" lets us know in a few words how scared she is.

And like dave said, I'd use a word other than "humping," which the continuation, ahem, showed what that term means (to me, anyway, heh, heh).

Good luck!


HawkOwl said...

The continuation deserves a high hat. The rest is bad characterization in a flat style and reminds me of a scene in The Hobbit, minus the fact that I liked The Hobbit. I also don't see how forest can stretch "in front of her in every diretion." "In front of" is ONE direction.

Even if this was better written, I can't imagine a plot to follow this opening that would appeal to me. I certainly wouldn't read more - if I read this much.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the opening, but I did NOT like the continuation. It is, however, better than the stinky one I submitted.

The opening is interesting, has a clear problem with bad consequences, and is well written. I wanted to know what was going to happen to her.

Anonymous said...

Humping is a pretty common term in descriptions of walking under a heavy backpack, or a load of any kind. It doesn't sound odd to me at all. I can't think of another word that describes the action as well. Pay no attention to the dirty minds among us, I say (on this point, anyway).

First paragraph: arouses interest.
Second paragraph: still interesting, but waning a bit.
Third paragraph: I don't like the word incongruity here. It's...well, incongruous. Also, the missing comma between "hike" and "the" is bothersome.

Fourth para: A little self-talk goes a long way, and this amount is all right. You could eliminate either "grabbed the pack" or "slung it over her shoulders"--probably the former.

Nice beginning of what I hope and expect will be a rollicking survival story. I love those.

(poobah of pulp)

Anonymous said...

I like this opening. I was seriously lost while hiking once and there was a moment when panic and fear set in, the moment when I had to admit to myself I was lost. This does a good job of conveying that feeling. Though the bit about the cute blonde ranger changes the whole tone of the opening for me. Maybe when she is in less of a panic she can go back to thinking about cute ranger buns; it kinda breaks the tension here. The continuation is funny because it exploits this flaw. Still, I'd keep reading at this point.

Anonymous said...

Humping is often used in the military the way the author used it. Trust me. I've humped an 80 pound pack through the Philippine jungle in August and hiking or walking would not do it justice. -JTC

Anonymous said...

I agree generally with the folks who like this opening, and with most of the suggestions for minor changes - 'in front' OR 'every direction' and so on.

However, I DO like 'trying on the sound of it', mainly because I do that myself when something big is happening that I have been avoiding facing.

"I’m lost,” she said it aloud, trying on the sound of it, surprised by the quiver in her voice and the knot in her gut.

You don't need both of these amplifier phrases, though. Since it's a 'sound' experience, leave the quiver and lose the knot.

I'd turn the page at least once, to get a sense of what she was doing out there.

Anonymous said...

The ribbon of highway line makes me think of the verse from This Land Is Your Land, which then makes me think of jib-jab's This Land, which makes me think of right-wing nut jobs and UN pussies... I don't think that's the association you want!

LOL at the continuation!

pacatrue said...

I've heard the word humping in this context too and have no problem with it. But after the continuation, I can't get the image out of my head of JTC humping an 80 pound pack for hours on end, while his platoon looks the other way thinking, "man, he really needs a girlfriend."

McKoala said...

Sorry for naughty continuation, didn't mean to offend anyone. Not a hiker or a military person, so that word kind of stood out to me.

At least I didn't murder anybody...

Anonymous said...

You did that by accident, McKoala? I thought "humping" was a brilliant double entendre!

none said...

I wondered about "in front of her" and "every direction" as well, but when I read on, I figured it meant every direction she could see from the top of the ridge. In front of her is probably a large enough area to include several directions she could take from where she's standing. Maybe swap those opening lines around.

"After wasting four hours of daylight climbing to the top of the ridge, Carly had hoped to see more. A distant ribbon of highway, a lone radio tower, anything manmade that would point her way back to civilisation. Nothing but forest--miles and miles of forest--stretched out in front of her in every direction.


As "she" has a name, how about using it at the start? Saving it for later doesn't seem to serve any narrative purpose.

Wonderwood said...

I liked the opening and loved the continuation! Great job McKoala. I agree with the comments about "in front of her in every direction". I'd take out "in front of".

I like the phrase "trying on the sound of it", I've seen other writers use it - or some slight variation - effectively, but as I recall it was in a light or humorous situation. It doesn't feel compatible with the tone here.

I sort of disagree with anonymous that implied it had to be a survival story. Just because it starts out with her lost doesn't mean the entire story is necessarily about survival. With the part about the tall blond ranger it could be chic lit.

I'd keep reading to see where the story goes. Kudos again on the continuation.

wordver: dlhjcjim - Slim Jim's Slavik cousin.

Anonymous said...

Mckoala, I think the continuation is hysterical.

I tried to come up with an alternative to that particular word, but could never think of one that fits as well.

Thanks everyone for your helpful insights. This is the fourth time I’ve gone through this gut wrenching process and this time was much less painful. I only threw up once.


GutterBall said...

Humping doesn't bother me. Wow...that sounds wrong. I mean the word "humping" as regards schlepping or marching under duress, etc., doesn't bother me.


I would definitely read more. I don't know why, as I've never been lost in my life, but I love "lost in the woods" stories. It cracks me up to read the things that people will do to survive.

Word ver: tjkqn - it's like chicken, but not.

PJD said...

Funny, I wasn't bothered by the "in front of her in all directions" until someone brought it up. But it reminds me of a friend who taught high school English and once received a story from a student that ended, "He jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions."

Generally, I liked the opening, loved the continuation. Not that the continuation was incredibly difficult to predict but that it was funny and complete and quite economical.

I have been lost walking once, in the dark, on what I thought was a remote road in the hills, as night was cooling towards forty degrees--and me in shorts and a tee shirt. The future is not a nice thing to ponder at a time like that. Thank goodness I was mistaken: The road was not remote, just on the wrong side of the hills. A couple more hours of walking and I was home. (Hey, I heard a few of you mumbling "too bad.")

But that experience leads me to some things I want to know right away that I don't get. What time of year is it? Will it be cold? She's wasted four hours, but is nightfall approaching? And was the four hours really wasted if she can determine landmarks from here? Does she just leave the top of the hill without choosing a direction, a target, and heading for it? And when I first read it, I took "backpack" to be "day pack," meaning she started out this morning and has been going four hours up the hill to the ridge.. but she's totally lost? Or has she been out several days? And does she hear dueling banjos or see dozens of stick-men hanging from the trees?

All these questions don't really bother me because I figure you'll answer them in the next page or two. But if you don't, then I feel I have an incomplete picture and want to know more.

writtenwyrdd said...

mckoala, I don't think anyone was offended. I hope you didn't think I was offended. If you could hear the 4-letter words and off-color humor falling out of my mouth you'd never be concerned about offending me.

Anonymous said...

I like the opening, except for the very end where she seems to be heading down the ridge in some random direction. It seems like she should at least have a thought about where she's going. And if there's a trail, doesn't she have at least a smidgen of an idea?

Loved the continuation.

Anonymous said...

pjd, how did your English teacher friend fail to recognise that famous sentence? It's from a Stephen Leacock parody of Gothick novels, called "Gertrude the Governess, or, Sweet Seventeen" and the full line is, I believe: "He jumped upon his horse and rode off madly in all directions."
It's a catch phrase for several people I know - perhaps because we're Canadian and thus know who Stephen Leacock is.