Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Beginning 440

On the planet of Zulaire, legend had it that to find the tracks of the fabled urabu in front of one would guarantee a year of good fortune. Urabu were majestic, long legged gazelle-like creatures, with three impossibly sweeping ebony horns, to whom were attributed all sorts of magical powers. Glimpsing the creature itself for even a second would be a stroke of luck or divine favor, or both, conferring at least a decade of blessings from the spirits. Urabu were rare, some even insisted extinct, or perhaps creatures of myth altogether.

To touch one was known to be impossible . . . for how does one touch what does not exist?

Andrianda Markriss, outworlder by birth, longtime resident of Zulaire, stood holding her breath in a forest clearing. Her entire concentration was on not disturbing the five creatures now ranged in front of her.

They were inworlders, natives of Zulaire, judging by the way they sucked in the poisonous miasma. Short and stumpy of leg, with clothes that were so last season as to be laughable, they were creatures of legendary boorishness. To see one was said to guarantee seven years of bad hair days. To touch one was inadvisable, for it would result in a severe rash that presented with blistering and subcutaneous lesions, requiring the application of expensive salves.

Andrianda remained motionless as a statue, still not doing anything that might spark a flame of interest in someone reading her story.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Mignon


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Then, she quickly learned why no one had ever seen one...or at least reported seeing one. The Zulaire spotted her and in the blink of an eye the whole brace surrounded her, baring their fangs, licking their chops, and clicking their tongues in a revolting display of bad dinner manners. These were not just Zulaire, they were WereZulaire.

"Hi, guys," said Andrianda. "Um, I know where there is a whole nest of girls just as plump and juicy as me. Want to make a deal?"

--Bill H.

"All right, now turn to the left?"

Andrianda rolled her eyes and did as commanded, her hooves leaving sparkling prints in the soft dirt. "How much longer will this take?" She glared at the photographer and his camera crew with annoyance.

"We're almost done, love! Hold that expression! Except... give me a little bit more 'pouty'!"

She clenched her teeth a moment, but complied.

"Great! Fabulous! This will set me for life! I can't believe we're getting photos of a real, live urabu! But I have to ask, why do you need the money so badly?"

"If only you humans hadn't invented internet poker," she replied with a sigh. "As soon as I enter the room, everyone else gets a lucky streak, and I'm stuck with a 2-7 off-suit."

"That's too bad, love. All right, now give me 'horny'!"

Andrianda narrowed her eyes, and was sorely tempted to prove that her horns had their standard non-magical uses, as well.


What were they? Soft-skinned bipeds, yes, with loose manes that fell to their shoulders, clad in vivid colors that clashed with each other. Occasionally they pointed at her, whispering in their own language amongst themselves.

Perhaps if she ignored them they would go on their way and leave her in peace.

She turned away. No, they were still there, chittering excitedly. What could they want? Well, they were no concern of hers. Swinging her head so that her horns flashed in the sun, she ambled off to find some oats.


They were motionless but for the faintest quiver.

The Urabu were a wondrous sight. Long, muscular legs supported a broad, gray body with a pattern so delicate as to resemble watermarked silk. Deep blue eyes communicated an intelligence unheard of in any other quadruped. The most gentle of creatures, those sweeping horns had never harmed another beast. Today was indeed a fortuitous day, and one that would one day entertain her great-grandchildren.

"Sic 'im, boys." Andrianda's five hunting dogs, released from their anticipation, launched toward the Urabu and brought it down with ease. This was gonna look good over the fireplace, next to the unicorn.


Desperately, she wished these beautiful wild creatures were the luck-inducing urabu of legend. Alas, no. They were, instead, a family of razor-fanged tiggerbu, known to have a special appetite for outworlders such as she.


Evil Editor said...

Paragraph 1:

You don't need "of" in front of Zulaire. You don't need "in front of one," as that's where anything you find tends to be.

You don't need "for even a second," as that's the upper time limit for a glimpse anyway.

You don't need "long-legged," as "gazelle-like" tells us it has the features of a gazelle. You don't need "all sorts of," as it adds nothing.

You don't need "at least a decade of"; If it lasts that long, let's assume it's forever.

I'd also drop the last sentence. It's fabled, a creature of myth, and doesn't exist, so calling it rare or perhaps extinct makes it less astounding when we discover Andy looking at them.

I'd also leave out the part about finding the tracks. Seeing one brings blessings from the spirits is what we need.

So something like the following would get us where we're going faster:

On the planet Zulaire, legend had it that to merely glimpse the fabled urabu would confer great blessings from the spirits. Urabu were majestic, gazelle-like creatures, with three impossibly sweeping ebony horns, and with wondrous magical powers. To touch one was known to be impossible . . . for how does one touch what does not exist?

Andrianda Markriss, outworlder by birth, longtime resident of Zulaire, stood holding her breath in a forest clearing. Her entire concentration was on not disturbing the five creatures now ranged in front of her.

Another possiblility is to put the Andrianda paragraph first, and take it from there.

Sarah Laurenson said...

EE and the continuation say it all. Very wordy. After you tighten this up, I think it'll be a great beginning.

Anonymous said...

This reads a little like a Discovery Channel or National Geographic introductory voice-over. I am hearing the National Geographic theme music coming on now...

verification word: eebgae
I won't even go there.

AR said...

Dumb question: how come Brits get to add in things like "rather" and "of that sort" and no one tells them that their phrases are extranneous and without meaning? Am I allowed to bring back wordy?

Evil Editor said...

Phrases of that sort are rather sexy in a British accent.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Lost my first post, apparently.

Since I commented on this when it was on the Crapometer, I won't rehash how I think the first two paragraphs are contradictory.

What I want to ask instead is if "Mignon" is a derivative of "Minion" ... and why does this person write such funny continuations?

Anonymous said...

Phrases of that sort are rather sexy in a British accent.

Indeed, since I acquired my British accent, my success with the fairer sex has increased immeasurably. One should know that a well placed "as it were" or even a timely "Gosh!" can dilate the lady's pupils at a dozen yards.

Of course, one can still only aspire to the knicker elastic melting mellifluousness of the Gallic accent...

Unknown said...

The way this opening is set up, it sounds like an exposition-heavy query. I expect to hear ...but when off-worlder Andrianda spots one... [plot].

Much better to start with more of a sense of POV of Andrianda seeing them and reacting. You can show us how rare an expercience this is without opening your story with the exposition.

Anonymous said...

Phoenix, you have to ask if "mignion" is a play on "minion"? Come on. It's brilliant, wish I'd thought of it. And the continuation is funny as hell. As for the opening, I'll chime in with EE and the others. Needs tightening but has some interesting elements. I also agree with Phoenix that these paragraphs contradict each other. Either it's rare or it's a myth. Can't be both. Just my two cents. Keep trimming and good luck!

AR said...

Some accents have all the fun.

talpianna said...

1501, "a favorite; a darling; a low dependant; one who pleases rather than benefits" [Johnson], from M.Fr. mignon "a favorite, darling" (n.), also "dainty, pleasing, favorite" (adj.), from O.Fr. mignot,` perhaps of Celt. origin (cf. O.Ir. min "tender, soft"), or from O.H.G. minnja, minna "love, memory." Used without disparaging overtones 16c.-17c. Online Etymological Dictionary

Despite what the reference says, I believe that it was also used in the 16th-17th centuries to mean "catamite." At least that was the significance of calling Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, the King's (James I) Minion, as in the Sabatini novel. His qualifications for being a minion, according to Wikipedia: Entirely devoid of all high intellectual qualities, Carr was endowed with good looks, excellent spirits, and considerable personal accomplishments.

And see this, from an essay on Marlowe's Edward II:

Prince Edward becomes associated with minions Piers Gaveston and Hugh Spencer Jr. in certain ways; the boy judges his father's love for him in comparison with these rivals for his father's affection and seems to capture the king's caring interest most when the role of the minion has been vacated by Gaveston's and Spencer Jr.'s deaths. The Renaissance meaning of the word "minion" gestures beyond its use in Edward II to signify "lover" or "king's favorite," as when Mortimer Jr. sneers, "The King is lovesick for his minion" (I.iv.87). "Minion" also could be used to describe a beloved child. The OED offers as evidence for this meaning a passage from George Pettie's translation of Stefano Guazzo's Civile Conversation (1581): "I cannot abide the folly of some fathers who make some one of their children their darling and minion." (4) This particular example stresses an important component to the idea of what "minion" means: a minion is some one, and it is his tenure of a singular position that, by its very singular nature, makes him a favorite. The role of a favorite cannot remain such if it is shared.

You just never know what a Mole is likely to dig up!

none said...

Maybe because the people who would tell the Brits that are too busy wondering what a Planning Department is and instructing them to use "kerosene" instead of "paraffin".

Whirlochre said...

Some Brits are Welsh and make no sense at all to anyone other than themselves, no matter how much their words are edited.

Anonymous said...

This is real? I thought it was a hoax.

You can get away with this sort of beginning if you are in the middle of the wilderness and portentously telling a tale around the campfire to a bunch of boy or girl scouts, but as the opening to a novel... it sounds like a lampooning of bad fantasy, to be honest.

You keep saying the same thing every sentence. They're fabled; inferentially, therefore they don't exist. Their horns are impossible; inferentially, therefore, they don't exist. Glimpsing one of them *would* be amazingly lucky (not *was*, which would imply they exist); inferentially, therefore, they don't exist. People insist they are extinct; inferentially, therefore, they don't exist.

To touch one would be impossible; obviously, then, they don't exist.

You could condense the whole thing into two sentences, and it would have a lot more power if you did.

I'm guessing you're young, and that's a good thing, because the more you write the more you will learn. It's really the only way any of us learn.

If you're not young, then... er, sorry.

Robin S. said...

I sleep with a Welshman every night, and I can assure you, he's perfectly understandable.

Evil Editor said...

Doesn't that bother your husband?

Robin S. said...

My husband really enjoyed reading that one just now.

OK- he walked off now, so I'll say...me, too!

Robin S. said...

Oh. He just walked back in the room and asked me if I know where you live and who you are, and he had this wierd smile on his face.

So I guess it's worked out quite well that I don't have any idea about that.