Monday, December 04, 2006

New Beginning 169

A warm rain is pounding on the cobblestones when the mulecar stops in The Balfun's Square. Shipman steps off the footboard, while wagons and horse carriages rattle past on steel-rimmed wheels. He hurries to the sheltered sidewalk at the edge of the square. A hand-painted sign, dimly lit against the overcast by a pair of covered gas lanterns, displays a license number and the image of a bright blue door standing ajar to reveal a pastoral landscape.

Shipman recognizes the sign. By local standards, the tavern looks from the sidewalk to be clean and well-kept, but he thinks the local standards are downright medieval. He fully expects to find the bartender wearing an eyepatch and speaking in a bizarre and incomprehensible pidgin-- and not just for dramatic effect.

Inside, Shipman finds the tavern as he expected: a rough-hewn place, full of the smells of fieldwork. The men are in good humor though, swigging from giant tankards as they laugh and sing.

Shipman strides forward and gains the attention of the barkeep. “A pint of your most popular ale, if you please,” he says.

The barkeep fills a tankard and presents it to Shipman. “This is our finest. We brew it ourselves.”

Shipman takes a draft, and immediately sprays the mouthful across the bar. “Good God, man,” he exclaims. “Do you brew this? Or do you merely cask it directly from the piss-tubes of those mules outside?”

The tavern falls silent. Turning toward a hulking beast of a man who has just walked up from the cellar, a firkin hefted under each arm, the barkeep says, “There’s a gentleman ’ere would like a word with you, Mr. Budweiser.”

Opening: j h woodyatt.....Continuation: Anonymous


Anonymous said...

LOL LOL. As a devotee of good beer, I loved that continuation!

Kate Thornton said...

I liked this opening - it could go anywhere from the setting - into a mystery (I would hope) or into historical or romance or another world. I was interested and would read on.

The continuation is brilliant and I am *still* laughing!

Dave Fragments said...

Wow, long, long sentences...
It's an interesting style and sometimes it works well and other times, it stumbles.
The "bright blue door" leaves me puzzled. The reader doesn't know the imagery of the blue door and the pastoral landscape. It's a field of grains and hops signifying brewery.

The second paragraph deals with Shipman's expectations and is a little weak explaining his thoughts and feelings. It's a matter of emphasis. "But he thinks the local standards are downright medieval" is buried in the middle of the paragraph. It needs tweaked to stand out.

And all you nitpickers out there, pardon my Pittsburghese.

HawkOwl said...

It was off to such a good start and then the style completely fell to pieces in the last two sentences. That's too bad.

Rei said...

I find present tense awkward, as do a majority of readers -- but if you can do it well, it should be fine. However, your adjectives are holding up your plot at gunpoint.

Bernita said...

Though I don't care for present tense, agree with Hawkowl.
It's the "By local standards..." sentence that is your problem.

Nancy Beck said...

That continuation was spot on! Hubby and I are devotees of good beer (don't snicker; there is life beyond Budweiser, like Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, for example). Hubby's also a homebrewer, and, I'll say you don't have to go that far to get cruddy-tasting homebrew: Just flip the hose around when you're transferring the beer off the yeast and into a carboy or something, and you'll get beer that tastes similar to cardboard.

But I digress.

I kind of liked this one (it has a beer in it, heh heh). A couple of the sentences are longish, so maybe they can be broken into smaller sentences. "The long pastoral scene" had me confused for a bit, but it may be that that will be explained a little ways in.

And as for present tense...I usually don't like it, but I've come around to a more neutral take on it: If it's a short story or if it's used in one person's POV among other POVs, I can handle it. So present tense doesn't turn me off right away as it used to. It could be because I've read some stories recently that use it so well I was kept interested in the story.

Good luck with it, author!


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

I'm with the others who didn't like the present tense -- is it really necessary?

In the first sentence, why do you say "rain is pounding the cobblestones" instead of "rain pounds the cobblestones"? Small nitpick but in general that sort of thing tightens writing, and it IS your first sentence.

Other than that I liked it. I even liked the sentences others didn't like -- the local standards being downright medieval had me giggling, and the part about bizarre and incomprehensible pidgin not just for dramatic effect had me in stitches. If you're going for humor here, you hit it spot on for me. (I'm known for having an odd sense of humor though). If you're not going for humor, you might want to rethink those comments.

All in all I liked it -- good luck!

(LOVED the continuation. Am I the only one who thinks Bud Light tastes like slightly rancid water?)

Anonymous said...

No tension. No action. Any hope of a dead body soon? When does the story actually start?

The present tense wouldn't have bothered me if the story succeeded in drawing me, but that wasn't the case. Sorry, but I wouldn't read on.

Anonymous said...

Loved the continuation.

Quite liked the opening, I would read on a bit to see where it was going. Not sure about the use of present tense though.

Bud Lite IS rancid water. Luckily my local hostelry supplies real beer. Although if the landlord's cat walks in, some fool is likely to tell him his beer's arrived. Which explains why he's not speaking to me!:)

Anonymous said...

Here's my usual, deeply intellectual, thoroughly thought through (I love alliteration), and absolutely useful opinion:

Any story that starts in a tavern, pub, or beer joint has got to be good. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Any story that starts in a tavern, pub, or beer joint has got to be good.

Funny; I have almost the opposite reaction to such a setting.

PJD said...

I enjoyed the opening and was not bothered by the absence of tension or action in the first 150. I know the experts all say not to open with setting, but I found the prose and description engaging. I'd read on to see where it's going. It had better be going somewhere soon, though.

I personally don't much care for the character's name, but that's really neither here nor there, is it?

And, although I agree with JTC, I must point out that it doesn't actually start out in a tavern...

Anonymous said...

It sounds to me like an alternate world. Who would call a vehicle drawn by mules a 'mulecar'? And the 'pastoral landscape' within the tavern makes me think it is yet another alternate world.

Just my bizarre imagination at work, I'm sure.

P.S. with apologies to the breweries of the good ol' U.S. of A, Canadian and British beers pack more punch than the stuff my dad calls 'cow piss'.

Give me a pint of Creemore on a cold winter day.

Anonymous said...

Mad props for the continuation. Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah— forgot to mention: the dead body shows up at about word #450, right in the middle of dialogue. Snake venom dart.

HawkOwl said...

I have to say, there is such a world of difference between "the rain pounds" and "the rain is pounding," that in Russian there are two verbs for every one of ours. One means "to do" and one means "to be doing." I say this is definitely a "is -ing" kind of moment.

GutterBall said...

Any story that starts in a tavern, pub, or beer joint has got to be good.

Amen and hallelujah. God bless beer.

I'm pretty neutral on the opening, however. It doesn't engage me immediately, but I usually give a book more than a buck-fiddy to do that. Thus, if it still had this tone by the end of the first couple of pages, I'd put it down. If it picked up, I'd be happy as a pig in...errr...really happy.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Hawkowl on "a warm rain pounds" versus "a warm rain is pounding". The rain is pounding as something else is happening (the mulecar pulling to a stop). "A warm rain pounds the cobblestones when the mulecar stops..." makes it sound like the rain doesn't pound until the mulecar stops. I'm all for tightening (my writing needs tightening more than a loose wheel on a mulecar) but you can also tighten the style right out of the prose.

I liked the opening, though I'm not a big fan of present tense in a long story (it works for me in short stories, though). I'd read a bit more just to see if I can get past the tense problem.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah— forgot to mention: the dead body shows up at about word #450, right in the middle of dialogue. Snake venom dart.

Yee-ah, baby!
*pumps fist in the air*

McKoala said...

Dr Harold Shipman, the world's most prolific serial murderer, has kind of put me off that name.

The blue door confused me 'cos I thought it was an actual door and he was looking at an actual landscape.

I might read on; but how much further would depend on if I could live with the present tense and the tone, which is slipping into patronizing in that second paragraph.

I love the continuation!

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

"A warm rain pounds the cobblestones when the mulecar stops..."

I was thinking "A warm rain pounds the cobblestones AS the mulecar stops", not when, but I didn't say that.

And I certainly agree that there is a place for the progressive -- I'm a huge fan of the imperfect "was doing" instead of "did" -- but this just doesn't seem like that place to me.

But I'm, uh, just a nut... oh wait, that line is taken...

Anonymous said...

The continuation was hilarious! But I loved the opening too, with all its rich details (cobblestones, steel-rimmed carriage wheels, gas lanterns). The setting and period drew me in immediately.

If I discovered these first paragraphs in an aisle at Borders, I'd buy this book.

Anonymous said...

Tavern + Snake venom dart = Best Seller! -JTC

writtenwyrdd said...

The prose is very clear, and establishes the situation well, I thought. Something about it bothered me, though, and I had to think about it before commenting. I think it was the details you chose to pick out. Steel rimmed wheels, the mulecart... They were both slightly off from what I'd expect from a period novel and just odd choices for a fantasy. I didn't have a clear feel for the situation because of them, I think.

I hope that doesn't sound confusing or too nit picky. It's probably just me. If this is historical, perhaps a bit of something to indicate this. If it's fantasy (which the sign with its doorway made me think) then something more concretely 'non-normal'.

Anonymous said...

I neglected to mention it here before, and EvilEditor didn't pass it along... the novel is a high fantasy. I'm in the middle of rewriting.

Anonymous said...

Snake venom rocks!

I liked the writing. Also, I can wait a few pages before action begins. What?! I don't watch TV, so I have a (slightly) longer attention span.

The tavern continuation reminded me of "Onece upon a time in Mexico" beginning, which I liked. (Movie theater is not same as tv, don't bug me. Besides, that was years ago.)

Tavern beginning: I find drunks extreamely funny, unless they're in my face.

Present tense: I don't mind that, probably just because I'm weird. But there must be other weirdos out there, besides me! At least two, or three...

braun said...

I recommend you rewrite the novel to be about a washed-up rock band called "Snake Venom Dart" that stumbles across a murder plot when their alcoholic lead singer is killed in a bar one stormy night.

Think about it.