Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Beginning 329

Alania halted upon reaching the shore. She gazed down at the water, intent upon seeing into the future. Unfortunately, there was no future for her to see anymore. Her magic was gone, somehow taken from her. Had she taken the time earlier to foresee her own future, she might have known what steps to take for protection. Instead, she had helped others willingly so their lives might be a bit easier.

"Nothing?" Jodry asked as he tightened the splint upon his leg momentarily so it wouldn't slip out of place.

"Only blackness. I do know you shouldn't make that so tight."

"It slips loose when I walk."

"We should rest anyway. Maybe we'll find steeds soon. Then you won't have to worry about it slipping."

"I deserve having to walk. It's my fault our other mounts were lost. I shouldn't have lost my temper at them after falling off," Jodry said.

"Look on the bright side," said Alania. "If you hadn't, we wouldn't have had any glue for the splint."

Opening: Dave Kuzminski.....Continuation: 150


shaded-lily said...

Long ago I had a Mister Boffo cartoon on my fridge -- two suits in an office, one says to the other: "Our corporate psychic quit without notice ... something unexpected came up."

Fortunately I don't read fantasy, so I don't have to try to read this story without thinking of that cartoon.

Chris Eldin said...

The writing is good, but I have a problem with the characters as they are introduced. Alania seems like a willing patsy. Her magic is stolen, she helps others at the expense of herself. She's halting and gazing. Basically, a statue. I don't like to see weakness and passivity in a character right off the bat.

Can you start with Jodry losing his temper? I'm interested in that scene.

Good luck!


writtenwyrdd said...

My feeling when I read this was that it was dull. I am not sufficiently interested in what is going on, because the characters don't seem to be that interested. Their conversation struck me as desultory, like it's a hot day and they are laying about on the beach, sipping margeritas or something.

I wouldn't say this is bad, but it didn't grab me. There isn't any scene set, and I am guessing you have someone with a leg in a splint, walking. Yet it appears the broken leg isn't much of a problem.

jjdebenedictis said...

Sorry, but I think this needs a bit of work.

For a start, it's repetitive. The word "future" gets used three times in the first paragraph and it takes five sentences to say that Alania gift of prescience has surprised her by disappearing. Next, Jodry tightens his splint and then three lines of dialogue relate back to his splint and the tightening thereof, and the fourth line of dialogue is still related to his leg. Also, "tightening" and "tight" happen very close together.

To fix the repetitive aspects, you should try to find ways to convey the maximum amount of information in the minimum number of words. You can get the reader up to speed on the backstory a lot faster than this.

The next issue is that the writing is a bit stilted. That shows up in the dialogue in particular (people don't talk like that in conversation), but it was also evident in paragraph one.

Again, if you omit needless words, it would help quite a bit. I'm a big fan of using simple language - which you do here very nicely - but simple language is most powerful when you use it economically. Too much waffle, and simple language begins to sound annoyingly bland.

Here's an example of how you might trim your word count and still convey what you mean:

"Only blackness. Don't make that so tight."

"It slips when I walk."

"We should rest anyway. Maybe we'll find steeds soon."

"I deserve to walk. This is my fault. I shouldn't have lost my temper after falling off,"

The third issue I had is that this moment doesn't really get us into the story. I'd probably keep reading, because these two are clearly in some trouble. However, there are more gripping moments for a seer to worry about the loss of her gift and I'd rather see Jodry fall off his horse and freak out than hear about it after the fact. It doesn't seem like this story starts in the right place. People trudging around feeling sorry for themselves isn't a particularly exciting spot to begin.

The rest of my criticisms are just nitpicks:

"Maybe we'll find steeds soon."
- Are these two horse-thieves? Horses cost a lot of money, and you don't generally just "find" them - at least not ones suitable for riding, depending on the world your story is placed in. This statement is a little like a pair of hikers saying, "Maybe we'll find a car soon." It makes you wonder.

"...as he tightened the splint upon his leg momentarily so it wouldn't slip out of place."
- The word "momentarily" is a little problematic. It sounds like he only needed the splint tightened for one moment. Did you mean "quickly"? Also, the sentence would be clearer if you put that modifier beside the verb it is supposed to be modifying ("tightened").

Anonymous said...

I liked the writing, and I'd give it more time to get really interesting, but I'd want to see something new, creative, or action-oriented in the next page or so.

Dave Fragments said...

How about:
"Alania stood on the bank. The water reflected only her image and not her future. I've lost the magic, she thought.
"Anything?" Jodry asked as he ...
"I helped other and never thought about myself," she sighed. "You shouldn't..."

Just a suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Just a minor nitpick...

If she looked into her own future, she would've forseen this and the fact that it was inevitable.

Therefore, there would be no point in trying to find ways to step around her fate, as the fate she saw would arrive absolutely.


Anonymous said...

The continuation was tea-out-the-nose snortingly hilarious.

Dave Fragments said...

Ah, NICK discovered Schroedinger's Cat and the headache of seeing the future (add in time travel to that migraine).

The question is Can a fortune teller see his/her own future and change it?"

Most of us scientific types believe there is a reason for the "maybe, possibilly might be" Cat in the box. You can't alter the past. In reality, time travel is impossible. Not only that, but the future is nothing but choices that aren't predetermined. (Some of my religious friends absolutely get frantic when I say that).

Can Alania see her future and is that future then fixed in stone? We could have a really deep philosophical discussion about this. But why?

Does it matter that Alania didn't look into her future? Or is the real point that her magic ability has left her and why has that happened. Were the events of that day so momentous that they deserved Alania looking into the future to discover Jodry's broken leg and their loss of horses?

Let me pose this statement - I think that Hamlet foresees his duel with Laertes. Once he sees his father's ghost, he sets out to prove the murder. He knows full well that this is a dangerous path adn it might result in his death. He deliberately kills Polonius thinking him the king. He doesn't see the death of Ophelia and he knows it's his fault. But he does foresee his duel with Laertes and I think he accepts his death knowing that it will reveal the kind as a usurper and murderer. He foresees the future and chooses to accept his death, even to facilitate his death. Hamlet is relentless in his purpose.

The question here in the opening is, Why do we need to know the magic is gone and what is the event that precipitated that loss? We start the story after the loss and Alania is only midly disturbed by the loss. The same for Jodry, in fact he jokes about it.
Why then, is this important to the story? I've gona long way around to ask the question, is this the best place to start the story? Does the scene deserve more emotion? Are these two in any peril other than their stupidity of falling off a horse? Are they running away or running to?

Anonymous said...

I thought this was quite readable as an intro. paragraph with two characters.

Instead, she had helped others willingly so their lives might be a bit easier.

"I deserve having to walk. It's my fault our other mounts were lost. I shouldn't have lost my temper..."

After thorough readthrough, I had a good sense of the two people talking, what and where they were (the shore, resting, hoping for horses -- I've been there!)and that there would be "magic" sure to follow. Nit at "Upon his leg momentarily" -- wouldn't the splint just be "on" his leg?

This is not my genre so I may miss nuances. Both characters sound kinds wimpy so far.

Nancy Beck said...

I kind of liked this, although I think the first paragraph needs to be revised. In fact, I think dave's (the poster) take on it is a good first step.

I found the exchange about Jodry's splint to be irritating; I think you should cut it to an even more brief dialog, as I don't think it adds much here.

Just my 2 cents, Dave K!


none said...

The guy's walking around on a broken leg and people think he's "wimpy". Tough crowd!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid this isn't working so well for me. But I'm looking at it as adult fantasy. Maybe if it's geared for a much younger crowd, I could see it working better.

Setting: They've reached the shore. Of what? A lake? A sea?

Author intrusion or weird third-person limited POV? I would say this is omni POV, except for "unfortunately," "somehow taken from her", and the last two sentences of the first 'graph.

Not really enough emotion showing through. Her Sight is gone and it's simply unfortunate and has been somehow taken? Not:

Alania halted at the lakeshore. She stared into the water, willing herself to see the future, throwing her thoughts again and again at the calm surface that only reflected back sky and trees. Strangling a cry, she sank onto the grassy bank. It was true then. Her magic was gone, ripped away in the night. How, she didn't know. She had prevented catastrophe for so many others, why had she missed it for herself?

You need this in your style, of course, but unless this is younger than young adult, consider making the reader feel how Alania must feel. Unless it is just ho-hum for her. In that case, it's going to be a pretty ho-hum start for the reader, too. If this is truly the spot to start.

Others have suggested tightening the splint conversation. Also, does his leg not hurt? Give the reader something to empathize with. These characters seem so accepting and bland so far, I'm afraid.

I agree with jjb about the possibility of simply stumbling across unowned tamed steeds. Why "steeds" and "mounts"? Why not just one or the other, or simply "horses" or "reindeer" or "stags" or whatever qualifies as steeds in this land?

A niggle: Jodry falls off and hurts his leg, yet is still able to muster up enough fight to drive off TWO steeds? He doesn't just scream and shout or whatever at his own, but at Aliana's mount, too? I was finding that a bit of a stretch.

Let us know who your target audience is please. That might put me, at least, into a whole 'nother mind set about this opening.

150 - you're twisted. I so didn't want to laugh. But I did.

Brenda said...

roflmao @ the continuation! Oh, so, so bad. I love it.

Dave Kuzminski said...


McKoala said...

Continuation was great! The start didn't grip me, there was little emotion and Alania seemed a bit saintly for my taste. I wondered if it was the start of a chapter rather than a novel?

none said...

He wouldn't need to scream and shout at both horses. Horses are herd animals. If one bolts, it's likely the other will, too. Same as when one bird flies up, all the rest of the flock do as well, even if they haven't seen the danger.

Anonymous said...

superb continuation!

opening: hmm, that's the start of your novel? Do you really think that's punchy enough to catch a reader's attention?