Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Beginning 210

An unknown figure, cloaked in late night shadows, crept down the hallway towards the entrance to Monk’s Abbey, just to the right of the Cathedral’s pommel. It was here that all the highest-ranking monks, including the Archpriest himself, slept.

Four main buildings were attached to the Church purlieu, Monk’s Abbey, Prelate Hall where lived the lower ranked monks, including the novices, Servant’s Alley and the Dungeon. The dungeon, situated at the tip of the sword-shaped cathedral, was built underground to protect the faithful of Vordis from the sight and sound of evil in the form of the condemned. But the evil being done this night did not confine itself to the dungeon.

Upon reaching the entrance, the figure spoke a word and the door opened silently. Unlike the other buildings, Monk’s Abbey was attached to the Cathedral by a short wooden walkway completely sealed and paved over with clay tiles to match the roof.

Entering the Archpriest’s chambers, the figure bowed diffidently and presented a parchment. "Read it," the Archpriest commanded.

The figure broke the seal and unfolded the parchment. "It is from the Archbishop, your grace. He indicates that your pommel bears resemblance to the impotent testicle of a mangy dog and is inferior in every way to the great spire of his Cathedral."

The Archpriest rose red-faced to his feet. "What effrontery is this?"

"I am but a messenger, your grace," the figure said in hushed tones, and bowed again.

"Then return this message whence it came, and with it take these words: Your gargoyles cling to the entrance of your shed like the crabs to a country whore."

"As you will, your grace." The messenger bowed once more, and left the room. Proceeding back along the covered walkway, he smiled to himself. Their vanity would escalate this quickly. Soon the Presbyterians would have control of Vordis and all its purlieus.

Opening: Michele Acker.....Continuation: ril


Saipan Writer said...

Oh ril--another great continuation.

I got pulled in by the first paragraph, and then pushed out by the second. Then I liked the first sentence of paragraph 3, but not the rest.

I'd suggest leaving the architecture and design elements out at first. You can add them in when needed.


Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Uh, please define Pommel. The online reference things describe it as a decoration on the hilt of a sword.
Purlieu is defined as outlying bits (that doesn't help the story).
Vordis means something but I can't read or speak that language.
And Archpriest?

Are you Anthony Burgess in disguise?

Anonymous said...

The bits about architecture and sleeping arrangements are irrelevant to the story (at this point), and because you're "telling" rather than "showing" us all this stuff, they're also dull to read.

Here's your beginning, if you take out all the "telling":

An unknown figure, cloaked in late night shadows, crept down the hallway towards the entrance to Monk’s Abbey. Upon reaching the entrance, the figure spoke a word and the door opened silently.

And that's it! Those two sentences are the only two that actually take us into the story; the rest was infodump.

You might have a great story here, but I couldn't read it because I would get so frustrated wading through the junk trying to find the plot.

My suggestion would be to chop out everything that doesn't advance the plot, and then try to put it back in subtly and in small bites, taking care to paint the scene for the reader, rather than lecturing them on what things look like.

Anonymous said...

To whom is the figure unknown?

The reader doesn't know who the figure is, so you don't have to tell us it's an unknown figure.

Agree with others re description of architecture and sleeping arrangements.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't get a clear sense of the place despite the overly detailed description of the building and its environs. Mainly this was due to terms which had no meaning, as well as some archaic sentence structure which distracted me.

Author, I like your use of language, but you didn't hook me with all this description. You say there is a figure, the first couple of sentences give me the sense of maybe-Gothic sensibility, and then we lose the figure to get all this description.

Additionally, you use so many words that seem to not exist in the use you have them that this must be fantasy (Pommel?). Dumping this amount of terms not explained in context can be offputting to a reader.

Brenda said...

If this started with ril's stuff, I'd keep reading. What a riot!

I'm with the others here on the excessive words that serve no purpose. There's no action. I've stopped reading books that give me too much description. If he passes a odd door, or finds a hidden passway, that's a description we need to know about because it may end up later in the story. Rest of this just seems like filler.

Anonymous said...


I agree with whitemouse that your opening would be well-served with these two sentences:

An unknown figure, cloaked in late night shadows, crept down the hallway towards the entrance to Monk’s Abbey. Upon reaching the entrance, the figure spoke a word and the door opened silently.

I think I understand that you're working to set the tone of your story with the "tone" of your setting; on this I agree with saipan writer, who suggested leaving these out initially, and adding them as they work in naturally with your story line, especially because many of the terms are not commonly known.

You will still be setting the tone, but the flow of the story can hold the interest of your readers as events and description unfold.

I liked this: But the evil being done this night did not confine itself to the dungeon.

If you're working towards a Gothic feeling, this works.

And, ril, I loved the continuation, especially this:

He indicates that your pommel bears resemblance to the impotent testicle of a mangy dog and is inferior in every way to the great spire of his Cathedral.

Oh, yeah. Very Monty Python. Thanks for the smile.

Robin S.

Bernita said...

I agree with Anon.
Why tell us the figure is "unknown"?
And unnecessary because of "cloaked" and "crept."
And I feel I'm at the wrong end of a telescope.
Yes, churches were often in a cruciform design. Yes, swords often had a cruciform hand guard.
But to stick us with "pommel" right off creates a cart-before-the horse WTF.
And we don't need the floor plan at this point anyway, do we?

Anonymous said...

Awesome continuation! Nice work ril.

Author, I agree with the other comments, too much description. I have to fight this same impulse. I often find myself opening scenes with paragraphs of description, rather than drawing the reader in with compelling action and dropping in bite-sized nuggets of the setting. Your opening sentence is compelling, but then you dulled my senses with description and architectural and religious terms that I didn't understand. Whitemouse whittled it down nicely. You can take those two sentences, and dress them up with a bit of setting, but keep the action moving, especially in the beginning. I always allow for the fact that this is only 150 words, and the next paragraph might launch us into the story. See if you can work it in sooner.

Anonymous said...

Ril, that is another great one. If I was a snark-like sycophant I'd do what they do and invent a wild story about liquids being spewed on my keyboard. Hey maybe I will.

(revised comment)

After I read Ril's continuation I did the following:

1) Sprayed coffee on my keyboard.
2) vomited on my monitor.
3) [I'm too shy to say what happened next but it involves the CPU unit under my desk]

Tacky enough for ya' ?

Anonymous said...

Yanno, maybe there's a little too much description. For me, though, it really helped set the scene. I know I'm in the minority but I like some detailed description of setting and I don't mind investing an extra minute or two of reading in it. That way I know I'm in an ornate, sacred setting, maybe even at the Vatican, rather than in the basement of the church at the corner of 7th and Hickory.

Cut it down some maybe, but write it YOUR WAY.

...dave conifer

shaded-lily said...

I'm with the majority for once -- I found the architectural description disruptive to the flow of the story here. I also think the word "unknown" is unneeded.

Other than that, the opening is interesting, and (if I read fantasy) I'd read this.

Classic continuation. :D That one has to be in Novel Deviations II.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anonymous Dave Conifer. I don't mind scene setting description one bit. I agree it needs to be done carefully, however.

I think the word "unknown" can be deleted and some of the paragraphs streamlined, but to do a wholesale delete is unnecessary.

Just my humble opinion.

Wonderwood said...

I don't typically mind some scene-setting, but if it bogs down the action too much I'll lose interest. In this case, I think the description could be trimmed, but I wouldn't throw it all away. It helps to set the tone. I'd just see if it could be worked in with smaller pieces within the action. Outstanding continuation ril!

BTW, anyone that's bored to tears, or wants to be, please check out the first chapter on my blog.

Anonymous said...

I'd read the book that the continuation is for :)

I don't necessarily mind an opening that emphasizes the setting, but this struck me as, well, rather trite, really. Like the very first words ought to be, "It was a dark and stormy night." Apparently it's a fantasy setting, with the Vardis and the sword-shaped cathedral, but it's still a dark and stormy knight.

You might want to pay attention to your punctuation and sentence structure, too. The way it's presently written, you have the Servant's Alley and the Dungeon included with the novices as lower-ranked monks.

McKoala said...

I strongly agree on the 'unknown' figure. We don't know anybody yet, and it's cloaked and creeping, so clearly suspicious. I had no idea what a pommel was when it came to a catherdral and I drifted off during the description of the buildins and who slept where. The creeping figure is the story so far, stick with him.

Blogless Troll said...

This beverage snorting phenomenon is fascinating. But what all you anonymous jokers laughing at the Snark-created snorting hordes don't realize is she created you too. And you appear to be dead even in the ridiculous race. It's like a less colorful version of The Sneeches, with Miss Snark as Sylvester McMonkey McBean.