Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Beginning 167

Tira closed her eyes and let the stings of the rising, tittering crowd flow away over the gold leaf that surrounded her. Lifting her head and hands from the corrected lace ribbons running through Tsibi’s hair, she looked to see what had set the selection day crowd aloft.

It was easy to find the girl. The golden fabric of a Feernon was rolled up so that it dangled mere inches below the teeth in which she clinched it. Tira watched her, hoping to see her body shaking, hoping to see that she was a girl taking a risk for her family. But the young one’s utter calm betrayed the fact that she believed. She was here to reveal the greatness of Lord Karil, who was now raising his crossbow towards her, whose perfect hands could never miss.

It had not been long since the wide-hipped blonde had muffled a scream when her outstretched arm was pierced by Gandim near the wrist, but this time it was only the outsiders who gave a cry when the shaft landed in the girl’s throat. Was death intended to be like this?

Question 34.

This question is worth 50 points and tests your reading comprehension. Answer each section as fully as possible, and support your answers.

a. What does the description of one of the women as a “wide-hipped blonde” tell us about the status of, and attitude toward, the female gender in the society depicted in this passage? (10 pts.)

b. Who would win an archery contest between Lord Karil and Robin Hood? (10 pts.)

c. Was death intended to be like this? Discuss. (20 pts.)

d. Describe and provide five uses of a Feernon. (10 pts.)

Opening: Pacatrue.....Continuation: ril


Anonymous said...

Well, I do a fair bit of editing for a living, and I also write and read fantasy for a living, and I had to read the original beginning five times before it began to make sense--even with the study guide at the end. (Which is a hoot. And by the way, it's not questions any more, it's item stems, just so you know. Educationese,ya gotta love it.)

If the whole ms. is written like this, it needs a thorough edit for clarity, simplicity, and subordinate-clause-ectomy. It also needs a dose of attempted-variety removal, as in, if you're referring to character X, call her character X. There is no need to resort to such phrases as "the wide-hipped blonde" unless it's directly and explicitly relevant to the plot that she's a blonde with big hips (and in that case, why are they wasting her childbearing capacity by using her for target practice?).

The underlying idea, as far as I can determine, has potential--it's fairly standard fantasy but there are interesting things happening. At the moment they're hidden behind a screen of impenetrable prose. Clear that away and you may have something.

HawkOwl said...

Wow. That was something else. And of course with my ANTM problem and the protagonist being named "Tira," I put two and two together and couldn't shake the impression that this is about some kind of weird runway show on an articulated pontoon or something. Then it gets raised slowly as the girls are walking. And Tira is hoping to see the girl's body shaking because she wants her to want this as much as she, Tira, wants her to want it, because this show is about passion, not talent, and as a wide-hipped blonde of course you have to work it that much harder. And I suppose we all have a hard time crying out with a shaft in our throat, don't we? In any case this would be a good solution to Tira's weekly conundrum. "I have two girls standing before me, but I only have one photo. So who goes home? Oh, a shaft landed in this girl's throat, so I guess she does. This is not America's Next Top Chickenhead."

So if the novel has anything to do with my perception of it, then yeah, I'd want to read it. If not, um, no.

Anonymous said...

I am utterly confused. What is happening to whom? Where are we?

braun said...

Please don't load all your world-building into the first 150 words! Cause no one has ANY clue what is going on here.

Ril's continuation is brilliant, though.

Anonymous said...

Umm, let me get my coffee and come back to read it again. When I first read about the gold leaf, I thought the story was about an ant colony.

I know, I know...

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Oh, Paca... Please tell me you're making fun of a certain style of prose with this. I'm so confused!

If this is intended to be a serious submission, I recommend the following:

1. Strip out all the adjectives.
2. Change all passive voice to active voice.
3. Shorten some of those ginormous sentences.
4. Reduce the number of characters, if at all possible. You're introducing five or six (hard to tell) in just three paragraphs, and that's hard on a reader.
5. Rebuild from there, being careful not to overload this scene, which I suspect can stand very well on its own.

Clearly something is happening and I have a sense that it's interesting, even compelling. But as it's currently written, I'm so bogged down in the adjectives, sentence structure and unfamiliar words and names that I can't focus on the story.

You obviously have a love of language and you manage to convey some good imagery with this. But a little goes a long way, and in this case you've way overspiced the soup, so to speak.

I'm afraid I must rescind both previous offers of marriage. Bunnyhusband will no doubt be pleased.

Anonymous said...

It confused me as well, writtenwyrdd. But, that isn't difficult to do. -JTC

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...

The girl that's getting killed is some sort of sacrifice (a "Feernon") to make the lord who is killing her look good. The person watching has mixed feelings about the ceremony.

That's what I got out of it -- am I right?

I primarily read fantasy so I think that the fact that I need to ask says it all, really...

I did like the sense of atmosphere I got here, and I like the underlying tension, and if I'm right about the basics of what's going on here I think you have a strong opening scene.


Take out the "gold leaf". Even after reading it three times I have no idea what you're talking about; and I, like the anonymous, actually thought you were talking about ants or fairies or something tiny on leaves at first. Also, leave out Tsibi and her lace ribbons, unless they're absolutely vital for the paragraph immediately after the last one we have here. Otherwise you can introduce her later and with less confusion. As it is she doesn't add anything -- I have no idea who she is and I care even less.

I also have no idea what you're talking about with the golden fabric dangling beneath her teeth... I have a strange mental image of a little fabric swing hanging below her chin and mini people (maybe the same ones from the gold leaf) playing on it. I'm pretty sure that's not the impression you want to give.

I think if those were fixed (and also I agree that you should skip referring to her as the "wide-hipped blonde") it would be much more comprehensible and the tension would be able to come out more instead of the confusion.

Dave Fragments said...

I read this late last night just after midnight. I thought it was me. Now, it's morning and upon re-reading it, it still reminds me of a bad acid flashback from the Woodstock Era.
It's trying to hard to be something. I can't tell what that something is because it's too short, too cryptic, too unusual. I hesitate to even compare it to anything. (split infinitive be damned!)
It tries to present a world so different from our own but it does so too fast. The differences overwhelm the reader. It might work if the next ten or twenty pages explained the new world and sets up the situation. However, alone, this just confuses and befuddles the reader. So many characters. So many oddities. And the momentous question of the nature of death.
This might be an opening that just can’t be reduced to 150 or 200 words and evaluated.

Meanwhile, to deal with my subarachnoid hemorrhage:
Question 34:
a) Dey likes Dem Fertile, oink, oink!
b) Depends on who gets to put the apple on his head first.
c) If you haven’t died yet, how can you discuss the metaphysical implications of death?
d) one: barbeque; two: cleaning cloth; three: loincloth; four: phrenologist aid; five: ear wax collector

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a test. I think I failed miserably!

Nancy Beck said...

I'll admit that I was confused, and I read fantasy.

"Corrected" ribbon - what was incorrect about it to begin with?

"It was easy to find the girl." Huh? Why was Tira looking for a girl? Shouldn't she be more concerned about her own plight? Or maybe she isn't in the middle of any plight; I couldn't tell.

Is there any way you can ease us into this world? It seems like you've rushed us in. (Or maybe it's as Dave's said, in that 150-200 word limit isn't going to work with this particular story.)

I think I'll try answering the questions.

a. That men want meaty women, that those emaciated beings going down the runways in this world aren't welcome in that world.

b. My bet's on Robin Hood. After all, he split an arrow from about 100 feet away (or something like that; just thinking about the original movie from the 1930s). So there, Lord Karil!

c. Yes.

d. Tough one.

1. Radiator fluid - makes a car run (try to do that without it) I mean doesn't it Feernon sort of sound like the old stuff that used to be put into car radiators?
2. Tester of fires, to see if fire is indeed hot.
3. A test target for a still learning mage (ooh, the horror!)
4. A messenger, so people in nearby towns know what's going on (they don't have You Tube or TV sets, so how are they going to know about this death or the next one?)
5. A bard, saying stuff like, fear, non, my hapless Princess Tira!

Sorry, Paca, for tearing this apart. It actually sounds like it could be a good story, and I'm willing to suspend disbelief for just about anything. But I found this snippet quite confusing.

I wish you luck with it!


pacatrue said...

Woo-hoo! The comments are all pretty darn consistent - which is that this is all impenetrable garbage. Good to know that now. This three paragraph scene was originally the entire chapter one. Tightened it down a bit too much, huh?

For the record, what's going on is that there is a society of courts. Girls around the age of puberty go through a series of tests - Selection Day - to gain entry. After which, they enter the lap of luxury, for that society, but essentially become slaves. The novel is about Tira realizing that her world is messed up, first escaping, and then leading a sort of revolution to change it / destroy it.

Hm. Anyway, sounds like I need to move back to this being something like Chapter length. I thought the minions would want the action right up front. Perhaps they do, but only if it makes some sort of sense, which apparently now it doesn't.

Oh, and the archery contest is one where the candidate puts herself in harm's way to show her faith in the choosing Lord. No, not God whom one might trust with a bow, but a man. Yeah, OK, I guess having 4 different women - Tira, Tsibi, the girl who is about to be shot, and the wide-hipped blonde who was an earlier candidate - in three paragraphs might be a bit much.

I think this comment was longer than the opening.

Amd I can't believe I lost two marriage proposals in one entry. I better go back to my comedy routines writing love letters to EE.

GutterBall said...

a. "Wide-hipped" is usually accepted as a term applying to women capable of giving "easy" birth. That she was merely pierced through the wrist while another woman was shot in the throat probably means that women here are baby-machines and little else.

b. Robin Hood. While Lord Karin never misses, Robin Hood can always beat that shot by shooting through the perfectly shot arrow.

c. Death is subjective for everyone. However, a shot to the throat would bleed out faster than a shot to the wrist, I'd imagine, so less pain/suffering might be involved. Thus, death should be like this, whether it's supposed to be or not.

d. 1. The Incredi-Feernon: used as a cape and thus not to be used at all, especially for superheroes. 2. The Mini-Feernon: a thin swath around the wide hips to show how wide and thus desirable they are. 3. The Long and Flippy-Feernon: for chillier months, used to show a tantalizing hint of ankle. 4. The Flashy-Feernon: as in the story, made of gold-leaf and used to catch attention by blinding one with the sun's reflection. 5. The Ill-Fitting-Feernon: purchased at discount huts by peasants and the less-fortunate nobles and mostly used just to catch the blood from Lord Karin's practice shots.

writtenwyrdd said...

And here I could only think it was some sort of ritual sacrifice!

I like the concept now that you've explained it.

Rei said...

Recommended tagline:

"Provides 100% of your daily recommended dose of 'What The Heck?' "

Stacia said...

Hawkowl, I believe the excerpt is full of what Jade might call "misunderstandingness".

Unfortunately not fierce.

Anonymous said...

YAY! Body on page one!

Er. But...

I'm going to have to make a break from my usual advice of get things moving!!!1! to slow down.

You're not setting the scene well enough. What you've written here is not conveying the image you have in your head. Using very clear and simple language would help a great deal, but you also just need a bit more description and explanation.

I don't, however, think this needs to be expanded back to an entire chapter. If you simplified the language, you could probably turn this into a kick-ass opening in about 400 words, and still lead with the girl getting shot in the throat (which I think you should do; it's a riveting moment and says a great deal about the world you've built.)

Mostly, I just can't picture what's going on. The crowd is rising? They're stinging? Gold leaf? Ribbons? Feernons? Fabric in the teeth? WTF? You just need to do a better job of getting the images in your head into my head intact.

Alternately, you could also fix this scene by streamlining it even more, but then the reader would be missing out on the beauty of the world you've built. What I mean by streamlining even more is, cut out all the description, i.e. start the story here:

Tira watched her, hoping to see her body shaking, hoping to see that she was a girl taking a risk for her family. But the young one’s utter calm betrayed the fact that she believed. She was here to reveal the greatness of Lord Karil, who was now raising his crossbow towards her, whose perfect hands could never miss.

(T)his time it was only the outsiders who gave a cry when the shaft landed in the girl’s throat. Was death intended to be like this?

In this case, you're still leading with the body (YAY!), but the reader doesn't know a thing about the setting. You would have to fill them in on what the world looks like in succeeding paragraphs.

pacatrue said...

As author, I'm going to try my hand at answering the continuation's questions (which I thought were great myself).

1) Being wide-hipped is considered hot in this society. It's sort of like saying she was stacked. And, yeah, such a description doesn't bode well for the status of women.

2) In this chapter, most definitely Robin Hood. Karil wasn't aiming for the woman who was killed. He missed. He's actually a better shot than most others, but while the normal candidate would stand with her Feernon stretched far away from her body and dangling down a few feet to make a more reasonable target, our victim here rolls it up into a tiny little thing clutched in her teeth. That's what makes the crowd gasp.

3) Despite Gutterball's points about the quickness of an arrow-in-the-throat death, I'd have to hope that it isn't proper for any person to be deliberately putting themselves at death's door to prove their faith in another person. What makes Tira special is that she is beginning to see this.

4) A Feernon is just a large piece of golden fabric which is used as a ritual target in this particular test. However, since these tests are religious in nature, I decided the cloth would have a special name and that Tira would use it. Making this clear is an easy fix when I expand the scene back out to its original length.

I think I will now submit my next opening about the Shmeep and his Wattle-Bottle which is pertanged and fanoogled around the Babbili-toogily. I think it's much clearer.

Anonymous said...

I pretty much followed the action, but the setting would not come clear in my head. There's a crowd watching some sort of ritual ordeal, where young women risk themselves (though I don't know yet what they gain, only that it can advance or enrich their families, not necessarily themselves) at the hands of lordly men. The feernon I read as some sort of pennon, possibly because of the similarity of name. I'm guessing that rolling up the feernon (to make it a smaller target?) is a sort of show-offy sign of faith, and maybe that's what Karil punishes by shooting her in the throat. Earlier, another girl has been shot through the wrist, but I don't know what that means - has she failed or passed? Tira seems to be only an onlooker, fixing the hair of a girl who may be a friend or sister. If they were going to be on the block next, I'd expect a bit more emotional involvement. If the situation can be clarified, it's a strong opening, potentially.
But where is this happening? And what's with the gold leaf? I work with gold leaf (thin-beaten gold foil), as applied to parchment for illumination, and's beautifully ductile but has no tensile strength and it sticks to anything damp (like warm skin) far, far better than it sticks to the surface carefully prepared for it. I honestly cannot picture how a girl (two girls?) can be surrounded by gold leaf. Unless she's in one of those antiqued picture frames.
The crowd stinging isn't comprehensible without some background, at least to me.

Dave Fragments said...

After the explanation, I think it's a good place to begin. However, it's too short. You don't have to go back to the chapter length version. You just need to tell the story of her revelation so that the reader understands it, that your heroine only just now realizes that her life in this society is wrong.

HawkOwl said...

The novel is about Tira realizing that her world is messed up, first escaping, and then leading a sort of revolution to change it / destroy it.

Ah, so it is about ANTM. Work it out!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I didn't understand a word of this.

Anonymous said...

The crowd is "rising" (first sentence)and "aloft" (end of 1st para). Is there floating magic, are they on an airship or viewing elevator platform of some kind, or what? Are you using rising and aloft as metaphors for excitement? If so, it's not really successful.

And what are they laughing ("tittering")at? This is obviously spectator sport, but the tone feels serious rather than amusing or embarrassing.

Methinks you have entered "words mean what I choose them to mean" territory.

Hopelessly baffled,

GutterBall said...

Despite Gutterball's points about the quickness of an arrow-in-the-throat death....

You'd think I'd learn my lesson about blithely comparing two horrible things and actually finding one better than the other, wouldn'tcha?

Anonymous said...

Paca, your explanation clarifies a lot, and makes me curious to read the story when it's completed.

Funny, I got ripped into pretty good for 'explaining' in the comments of my last opening. I say, explain away, we're all here to communicate!

McKoala said...

I was bemused.

Lovely continuation.

So, Paca, now that you're back on the market...

pacatrue said...

Thanks, chumplet. I will certainly explain if people ask any questions to me, but I'm going to try to remain quiet otherwise from now on. The problem is always that explanations, possibly mine too, can come off as the author telling the commenter that they should've liked it, if they'd only understood. The important thing is that the reader didn't get it and that's my fault as author, since I want to write for people like the minions. I thought it was worth saying what was in fact going on because people might be able to help me actually write what I was trying to write. And I did get some useful tips that way, I think.

Oh, gutterball, I laughed through-out your comment, including the analysis of death types, but especially the part about the different Feernons as clothing. But I took all the stuff out about that, because my comments are long enough already. I think I took all of your comments in the manner in which they were meant.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, Pacatrue. Minions forever!

"Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!"

GutterBall said...

I think I took all of your comments in the manner in which they were meant.

Whew. I got to thinking about it after I posted and hoped they wouldn't be taken badly. Good on you, Pac-Man.

And I did neglect to mention that I'd be happy to see what you've done with this world. Fantasy is hard, but when it's done well, it's perhaps my favorite type of literature.

Besides horror, of course. Heh.

Word ver: ipnpuns - I pee in puns. Apropos, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

"I can't believe I lost two marriage proposals in one entry. I better go back to my comedy routines writing love letters to EE."

Solid gold!

Pacatrue, you do have a great singing voice, when you're not trying to bunch up the whole song into one sentence.

Anonymous said...

A one-word critique:


Sorry, I had no clue what was going on in this opening.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, beth, the author summed up the first chapter and stuffed it into opening.