Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Beginning 216

Sea spray. The brine stings in my nostrils, lays heavy on my tongue.

My mage inhales deeply, pronounces it, “Brisk.” She smiles.

The air has the taste of uncleaned fish. My stomach growls. I follow my mage up a plank that leads to the deck of a ship.

A guard challenges us. I smell his fear, but he hides it well. His voice barely quavers. “This ship is a private vessel, not for hire,” he says. “Seek passage elsewhere.”

My mage’s grin spreads slow across her face. “I’m not a passenger. I’m crew.”

The guard laughs. It is not a pleasant sound. “Is that what the captain be calling his whores now?” His thumb jerks toward me. “And what be that?”

My muscles tense, but my mage’s raised hand stays me. She flings to him her proof of contract. She is huntress here, controls his moves.

The guard catches it, looks at it, at her. His eyes are those of a cornered hart. Prey knows when it is trapped.

“Well?” Her voice has deepened. I can hear her annoyance.

The guard points over his shoulder. “Your cabin be der.”

My mage snaps her robe and stalks past him. A quick motion with her hand and the door to our cabin swings open. “Insolent buffoon,” she mutters. Her fingers trail down my arm. “You’ve been lonely since we lost Netch. Perhaps we should replace him?"

I tell her that I wish only for her long and painful death, but my words come out as chittering gibberish. She smiles and pats the fur on my face. I hop away from her and--

"Derivative drivel," I hear Miss Snark intone.

The harshness of her words falls fast upon my ears, weighs heavy in my soul. I shake my head, bare my teeth. Search for a way to prove her wrong.

Too late.

The word knows when it is written.

The sentence knows when it is read.

I feel the despair, like the crumbling of a decaying log kicked into dissolution, as my life is, thoughtless, thrown back upon the shelf.

The reader knows when he's been screwed.

Opening: Phoenix.....Continuation: Rashenbo/Anonymous


E.S. Tesla said...

Is this a play-by-play of a role playing session? Does it continue to tell us about a group of young men masturbating in a dark basement?


Bernita said...

I liked it.
The abrupt sentences -if standard throughout - might become irritating in an entire novel, however.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this also. You might consider editing to vary sentence length and structure unless there is a compelling reason to build up tension.

It's a standard and functional sort of fantasy beginning, which is what the continuations picked up on. I think that is a good thing, and will help you sell it.

I'd have read on. Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

Grammar police here. Second sentence, should be "lies heavy," not "lays heavy."

Anonymous said...

I was thrown by all the 'my's. Couldn't it be 'the mage' in one of the instances?

Of course, that could be due to MY illiteracy, but I thought, I'd mention it.

I loved 'The air has the taste of uncleaned fish' line.

Dave Fragments said...

Whenever I read of an apprentice, I think back upon Adso of Melk in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.
Eco creates an apprentice without a mess of "my master" and other submissive titles, fawning obesciences, and (bluntly) ass-kissing servitude.
I see too much narration of the type "My Master does this" and "My Master does that" and "that person reacts to My Master" in this story. It is not interesting to me and destroys the story.
It's a pet peeve of mine.
It might just be me but I would rather read about a character with a greater identity than one so attached to another person that he/she/it keeps saying My Master, My Liege, My Mage, etc...

Also, is it deliberate that the Mage declares it Brisk and the apprentice declares it "Stinks" of dead fish?
Does an "uncleaned" fish stink differently than a "dead" fish when it rots? Is this something significant? And would that wonderfully offensive smell make you hungry? And in the first lines, this he/she/it of an apprentice declares the sting of briny sea spray. That's one nasally challenging dock. The guard also stinks of fear. Do noses get strained like eyes?

The talk about "The Huntress"...
It seems odd that she is hunting the guard who will sail with her on the ship. This seems illogical to me. Sorry, maybe it's lack of caffeine. But this is a simple meeting of a Mage with apprentice and a guard on a gang plank.

Wonderwood said...

I'm not wild about first person present tense in novel length fiction, but that's just my personal taste. As far as this opening is concerned, it piqued my interest, makes me wonder who or what the narrator is. I assume the short choppy sentences serve a purpose, urgency perhaps, but as Bernita noted, this style would become annoying if it continues for too long. Bottom line, I'd keep reading a while longer.

Bernita said...

Dave, we don't know (yet) if the apprentice is in human form.
The emphasis on scent might be appropriate.

writtenwyrdd said...

Actually, I was inclined to think the pov character is non-human and possibly a pet (or otherwise incapable of speech.)

Anonymous said...

I'm with Bernita, I got the impression from the attention to scents and "prey" that perhaps the narrator is "wolf"?

I found it interesting, and would read on.

Anonymous said...

I read this somewhere else first (Miss Snark? Elektra's Crapometer?) and it stuck out in my mind then as being interesting and well-written. I remember being confused at first, until it occurred to me that the POV character might not be human.

I liked this and would read on. I'm intrigued about who (or what) is speaking to me. The "voice" of the piece probably reflects the voice of the character, so I doubt the whole book is written in this style. For the short term, the style doesn't bother me at all. I think this works.

Anonymous said...

Author here.

Thank you all for your comments!

Bernita: You're right. The stylistic voice I'm trying for could, indeed, become very tiresome in a novel. This is the beginning of a short story.

Yes, the sensory language is intentional. The "apprentice" is a familiar; in this case, a tiger-like beast (wolf was a good guess!). The language (even more so later) is deliberately full of hunter/predator similes/metaphors because that's the way this animal thinks, and yes, it is very scent-oriented because that's the animal's primary sense. It is also told in first person, present tense because everything is "here/now" in the animal's mind. Hopefully that all becomes clear as the story progresses.

But since all that's backstory and characterization, the explanations aren't in the first 150 words. Is this a case where maybe something more along those lines is needed up front?

True confession time: I am the Anonymous that submitted the second half of the continuation (Rashenbo, for the first part: hehe!). Didn't plan on submitting a continuation until I woke up a couple of days later with the thing in my head. After posting, I realized the way I had written it sounded pretty mean. But EE didn't know I was bashing my own work. It was EE who rewrote it a bit and put my snarky words and tone into Miss Snark's mouth. You expect it from her, so takes the sting out. So while we will continue to let the world think of him as *Evil* Editor, here, amongst ourselves, we know he's really not evil at all - just slightly obnoxious. :)

Evil Editor said...

What?! I spend hours trying to decide if I'll lose Phoenix as a minion if I print the more insulting version of the continuation, and it turns out SHE wrote it?

Dave Fragments said...

Yanno, I was going to make a comment that the opening would work if the characters were furries (anthromorphic creatures) but I considered that too mean and nasty a comment.

It makes sense when you say that the narrator is partially a predatory cat. We have all sorts of them around here - Pitt Panthers and Nittany Lions.

Tia Nia said...

Phoenix, I WANT to read this book. (Except, of course, with the lays/lies corrected.) Please let me know when it is published.

Since it's a bugbear of mine, allow me to explain the difference between the present tenses of lay and lie. Those of you who already know it, skip the rest of this post.

For individuals who wish to recline in the clover in the present tense, it goes: I lie, you lie, he she it lies, we lie, you lie, they lie down in the clover. In other words, I lie equals I recline.

However, for individuals who have a transitive significant other who wishes to place the individual in the clover for purposes of a roll, it goes: I lay, you lay, he she it lays, we lay, you lay, they lay the individual down in the clover. In other words, I lay (present tense) equals I place.

Past tense is a whole other animal and the source of much of the confusion, but let's get the present tense clear first.

Hope this is of some help to those not blessed with my grammarphile of a grandmother.

none said...

Well, yanno EE, we are EVIL minions!

McKoala said...

I got a bit confused, 'cos I assumed the narrator was human at first and 'my mage' was some kind of animal, so I had to reread a few times...

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the first person. Course, I am nuts, so...


Interesting problem with the fish. It's possible, that the fish is hopping against the boat, struggling for breath, so it's not dead.

Which means illiterate likes to watch little fishies suffer?

I dunno...

Nancy Beck said...

I'd read this...sounded interesting to me.

I've come to like present tense, as long as it doesn't go on for too long. As the author has stated this is the start of a short story, the 1st person present tense works fine.

Very snarky of you, Author, to bash your own story! :-)

Good luck with it!


writtenwyrdd said...

LAY vs. LIE. This is my bugaboo, as well. But, if you remember that to LAY always takes an object (something that was lain) then you are good to go.

Rashenbo said...

I thought it was a good beginning too... and I definitely got the feeling the POV was a creature of some kind... so I just went with it :) Cool double continuation :)