Friday, June 22, 2007

New Beginning 300!!

I was weary and sore when I came to the great house of the Mackays. In my state, nothing seemed very grand, not the Church, not the village with its rock beach, and not the dark, dark house anchored on the hill above the choppy loch.

The coach had been on the road for days coming up from Edinburgh, and even for a young man, or a boy as my father would type it, it was weary business on the hard seat, swaying and lurching back and forth. Mostly though, I was tired of the coach, tired of rain, tired of the views from the open windows, and tired of my timorous fear. Fear - Perhaps it could not really be called a fear, but I had been tense and shaky for days as I came alone to this place where all things would be new to me.

In the door, the wind tugged at me, but was fresh and salt and welcome, as I came down out of the coach. At that second, after the smells of the carriage, I was ready to smile in relief and look forward to – whatever came. Ignobly, I fell on the last step and dropped to my knees in the mud.

It was then, at the lowest point in this wretched journey, that I first met McNulty. His strong hands brought me to my feet as he told me, “Ach man, yer mucktle’s feckled twix moar ’n’ broar. Gin yon hoose ’n’ fettle fer m’ tock.”

No doubt, I thought, he's offering to carry my bags to the house. “I am grateful, sir, for your assistance,” I told him.

“Ahh,” he said as we passed through the massive doorway, “twas nicht mer ’n’ enny mon ’t’ twickle in laird ’d’dee.”

I assumed he was asking me to remove my muddied breeches and my other too-long-worn clothes so that he might wash them. I had not expected to encounter such gentle hospitality in this northern wilderness.

McNulty led me to the kitchen, where the range filled the room with warmth--enough so that I had no need to request a blanket while waiting for the return of my garments and undergarments, which lay on the floor, McNulty having thus far neglected to commence laundering them.

Being Sunday evening, the Mackays were still at chapel, but I was grateful for the company of this honest, working chap as he fed me and had me drink fine whisky. We talked for hours, and eventually I asked him in good humor, “So, tell me sir: do all the working men in these parts wear lady’s clothing?”

“’n’ dw awl thewme bee haylin’ frome tha souythe sytt ’round thir hostes’ kytchings naickit?” he replied. “Woar widja mean ta skuttle tha mittie ’n’ morah y’sassenach shithead.” Strangely his tone seemed colder than before.

Opening: Scott Jones.....Continuation: ril


Rei said...

Good opening. I especially like the first para; I think it succinctly gives a nice sense of the ambiance.

Unknown said...

and not the dark, dark house two darks are not necessary. Dark. We get it.

or a boy as my father would type it, this took me out of the story to ask, is Dad a writer? Why does he type it and not say it? Why should I care?

it was weary business this sounded strange to me. what was weary business? I assume you mean the ride but the sentence isn’t constructed that way.

Fear – Perhaps (perhaps is not capitalized here) it could not really be called a fear, but I had been tense and shaky for days as I came alone to this place where all things would be new to me.

What is this if not fear of the unknown? I get the feeling this guy is going to break out in song any second. Is he about to sing a twisted version of Singing in the Rain?

In the door, the wind tugged at me What? You were IN the door? How does one become lodged within a door? Now that would be fear – the splinters would prickle my delicate areas. Oh my!

fresh and salt and welcome the wind was salt? Is this guy visiting Sodom? Didn’t you hear the big guy say not to look back?!

At that second, after the smells of the carriage adding this phrase after ‘at that second’ takes away any drama or tension. Just leave off the ‘at that second’. It sounded odd there anyway.

I was ready to smile you were ready to, but you didn’t? just say you smiled. Or farted. Whatever.

Ignobly, I fell on the last step and dropped to my knees in the mud. Okay, here I laughed. Was I supposed to? I did. Then I farted.

Writer, I do like this beginning in some twisted way but I think it needs some work. I’d have probably kept reading just to see what else happened to the poor schmuck.

Shawn said...

Worst. Scottish. Dialect. Evah.

Dave Fragments said...

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that the first two paragraphs say the same things in different words.
Does the author need both paragraphs Or will one do? It's a good opening - engaging and anticipatory.

As for RIL's continuation. That's stunning.

Anonymous said...

More later on the opening. Mmphm. I dinna ken that ril be a fan o' the letters o' that fine lassie, Diana. Verra bloody well done, aye!

writtenwyrdd said...

Ditto rei. Nice opening. And I liked 'dark, dark' adn think it's a voice thang. Of course, I use the same device at times. :)

Anonymous said...

I liked the opening and the voice. Both drew me in.

I'm a big fan of anaphora (ex.: not the..., not the...) and (tired of..., tired of...,) but here it's used back-to-back. I'm not sure it's a good idea to repeat the technique so soon after the first, because it loses its power to emphasize.

I'm interested in what others think? Is twice too much?

Bernita said...

I suppose there are nits, but I like it, even to the dark, dark house.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with Spooge on "fresh and salt and welcome." I thought it was about the wind and the scents it carried and thus, good sensory detail.

I also like "the wind tugged at me" -- but the sentence would make better sense if you changed door to threshhold.

I did not care for the repetition of weary. There is so much repetition in this passage that I wanted a fresh word.

I, too, got bumped out of the prose by the typist dad. Is this meant to be a story question?

Unknown said...


i like the words and the images, i just think the writer is using some forms incorrectly.

door should be doorway (or threshold, whatever) and salt should be salty.

Anonymous said...

Very nice. Don't let it worry you if some don't understand the language.

The only improvements I'd suggest are omitting "at that second" and "timorous". I'm too lazy now to look it up, but I think timorous means fearful; if that's right, this usage is redundant. (Also I bobbled at "choppy loch"--sounds good but looks awkward.)

Quite a nice beginning, using clear voice and style to create atmosphere. In the current fad for galloping pace, I get hungry for leisurely prose.


jjdebenedictis said...

This is really nice writing, and the voice works well.

I'm anxious for something resembling a story to show up soon, but given the style, I suspect this tale has a slower start than some. That would seem natural to it.

I'd definitely keep reading, but I do want some plot or tension soon. Really nice work overall, however.

One nit: When I read "timorous fear", I wondered why his (anthropomorphised) fear was feeling so bashful. All my fears are great galloping swashbucklers - they're not timid at all.


Beth said...

The continuation was hysterical. I'm sure it would've been ever funnier had I been able to understand it.

Re the opening--I loved it. The writing was a pleasure to read, and setting is evocative of the Gothic genre so popular with a different generation. Unlike another commenter, I liked "dark, dark house." Very atmospheric. Whoever wrote this has a good ear for language and cadence.

This phrase:

The coach had been on the road for days coming up from Edinburgh

--is a mite unwieldy. You can probably find a more graceful way to say that.

And "timorous fear" doesn't work, unless you mean to say that his fear was itself afraid. And if you did mean to say that...well, don't, 'cause it doesn't make any sense.

If I have any complaint at all, it's that the voice sounds rather feminine and poetic for a boy (or yound man). That's a small complaint, though. I'd definitely keep reading.

Bernita said...

The writer's use of "salt" is not incorrect.
Don't think he needs "in the door" - of the coach I assume - because that's covered with "as I came down out of the coach,"

none said...

Both "door" and "salt" are used correctly. Also, "type" can mean "classify". Before insisting that others are using words incorrectly--and especially before mocking them for it--it's probably a good idea to consult a dictionary.

AmyB said...

Great continuation!

I liked this. It's got a leisurely pace and I'm an impatient reader. But I like that there are so many different styles that work, and I'd certainly have read on.

Didn't care for "dark, dark," and I agree with other commenters that "timorous fear" doesn't quite work. The most jarring bit for me was "as my father would type it," which makes me think the father is at a computer typing stuff, and that just doesn't fit the setting.

Aside from the nits, I enjoyed this opening.

Unknown said...

sorry if i was wrong about the salt and door. the way it was used, it sounded off to me as a reader and made the passage harder to read.

Chris Eldin said...

Is the setting an English moor? I really liked it. Having recently read "A Magic Garden," I felt accustomed to the pace, and again--really liked it. The only 'bump' in the reading was the word 'salt.' I read it over a few times, but it seemed wrong. But that's just a small nit.
Great writing!

Anonymous said...

Real voice that appears to match the period. Delightful!

I, too, was tripped up by "type it" both because my first hit on the word "type" was the "typewriter" definition and because I didn't like the two "it"s bumping. I eventually realized what "type" meant, but you might notice a lot of people are reading it wrong on the first read.

I'm in the liking "dark, dark" camp.

I would say "tired of the rain" just to keep the structures fully parallel. And I'd have to agree with the others about "timorous fear," "In the door," and "At that second."

"Ready to smile" was fine for me. First comes the relief, then the clenched face muscles unfreeze and he's about to smile when down he goes.

Word choice and tone do seem quite effeminate. If that's the intent, spot on. If it isn't, is it OK for the reader to think the narrator is female in the first paragraph, then have to re-think gender in the second? Then have to wonder about orientation as the narrative progresses? May not be an issue, but since others have noticed, too...

But really, these are little nits. I liked it overall! A high spot for #300!!

Beth said...

Hey, spooge, surely there's no need to apologize. You didn't know. Ignorance is not a crime. :)

Anyway, fwiw--

salt adj.--
1. Containing or filled with salt: a salt spray; salt tears.
2. Having a salty taste or smell: breathed the salt air.

from the American Heritage dictionary.

ril said...

I should confess, EE's contribution to this continuation was far greater than mine -- and it is all the better for it.


Anonymous said...

Well, I liked this and I didn't even get to nit and pick at the grammar (the great salt door issue) because I'm so late. I will say that when I read that line about the house (dark, dark is fine with me,as is not, not, not and later tired, tired tired. I like poetic prose)(ahem) the house being anchored, I thought of the house in Shipping News where the house, literally, is anchored by chains. Okay, then skipping ahead -- the coach made me think this was a period piece so when I came to the part "would type it" I was stalled again trying to figure how a coach (does author mean a bus?) and typing coexist. Maybe get the weary business on the hard seat in before "for a young man, or ... " Also thought the author was really driving home the "fear" fullness of the boy. Hope it is an important aspect of the story. Fear of the unknown is understandable. Fear of Count Dracula & Co. later on would make this a handy bit of foreshadowing. Still I was liking what I read.
Having established that "salt" is in fact used correctly here, I will only say that it gave me pause. Again. But the pacing here is kinda leisurely anyway, so I was okay with it. For starters. Agree with those who seek to delete At that second. All in all, I've formed an attachment to the little traveller and I would like to read more.

Anonymous said...

One more caboose of a comment: I'm puzzled about the misreading of the word "type." It was perfectly clear to me. I'm a wide reader and my reading fare has not been limited to modern novels. I guess, having read quite a bit of the "old" stuff, those archaic usages add verisimilitude, atmosphere, and voice. If you're only shooting for young readers, or a demographic who reads only new and or YA books, you might have to choose: Will you use authentic language, or will you alter your language to avoid confusing the less widely read?

I hope you go for authenticity.

Perhaps your editor will advise you wisely.


Anonymous said...

I meant, "I guess, because I've read quite a bit of the "old stuff", those archaic usages add verisimilitude..."


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your kind words. I did find that some of the comments were appropriate, particularly around timorous and fear, and the "tired". The continuation was funny from an American perspective, but as my friend Alistair said when I tried on his Dundee accent, "Ai and I bet ye think yer funny, then. Ye'll get yer ass kicked in the Under the Hammer (which is an Aberdeen pub)."

The novel is a period novel but not a historical one- its in the year 1707, two years after the Act of Union. The title is Priest Hole, so the dramatic driver is a person hidden behind the walls. The narrator is 16 years old, just graduated from a Catholic college named Blair, and come to act as archivist or librarian on an estate in Sutherland, which is NW Scotland and in the Highlands. His speech would be more cadenced, and imaged than a modern, street smart, drunken Edinburgh kid. I can confirm this from a couple of period diaries.

The language is slower paced than Mickey Spillane or Dan Brown, and I'm trying to be careful with the mix of archaisms and modern language. I can drive the style back to Thackerey or Dickens if I can keep the pace up, but Pilgrim's Progress - which would be a required book in the library - that would kill the reader. There is not going to be Scots dialect - too much - and spelling was optional in Scotland even in the time of Hume and Bentham (and perhaps Blair).

Thanks again - time to go help someone else. ohjammer, Scott Jones

Beth said...

The novel is a period novel but not a historical one

There's a difference?

At any rate, good luck with this. I personally loved it. And now that I know the setting, I take back my comment about the voice being inappropriate for a young man.