Monday, February 18, 2008

New Beginning 450

"It must be cool, pretending to die," Jordan mused, watching one gray-coated soldier stiffen, then suddenly buckle at the knees and slump to the grass. For two or three more minutes, he kept a sharp eye on the casualty, hoping – and at the same time hoping not – to spot a traitorous breath or twitch. Satisfied, he directed his supervision to another infantryman.

His friend Matt was more interested in the gunfire. "Do you think the guns back then made this much smoke, or more?" he asked.

"I'll bet it's the same. These guys are really serious, you know. My dad says it's their passion; they all have real jobs and stuff, but on the weekends they go all over the country having these battles. Sure, they're going to do everything right."

"Except die," Matt argued. "No one really dies."

Jordan thought about this. What if someone did?

Three Years Later . . .

“Welcome back to ESPN2, and with us today is Jordan Parris, creator of CWR Death Match. Jordan, did you ever expect your new sport to be this popular?”

“Well, Don, when it first came to me, it seemed like a neat idea. Let’s face it: those Civil War Re-enactments weren’t exactly prime time viewing.”

“Kind of dull?”

“And I thought, why not give it an edge? Give the guys real ammunition. Kind of like Rollerball for accountants. A lot of people were against it at first.”

“Incredible. But Jordan -- how do you account for it becoming so huge?”

“That’s the bit even I didn’t anticipate. But when you think about it, who wouldn’t want to see a tax inspector or a school principal or a zoning inspector face the muzzle of a loaded musket?”

“No argument there. So what’s next, Jordan?”

“Glad you asked. I’m right now in talks with ESPN over my Celebrity Beat the Time Bomb Domino Topple.”

Opening: Kalynne Pudner.....Continuation: ril


Whirlochre said...

I'm assuming there is some sort of re-enactment theme to this as per the continuation, and as such, would read on.

But, like the famous magic trick with the saw and the lady, this opener has two halves.

The dialogue half is good but the first part needs some attention.

First - the gray-coated soldier does a little too much, and I would remove the 'stiffen'. If he must stiffen - let this be what is sudden, rather than the buckling of the knees.

Second - you needn't be as specific about the number of minutes Jordan keeps his eyes on the casualty. It just sounds a little odd - a vague figure comprised of two specific ones. Try 'a minute or so' (same word count).

Third - '-and at the same time hoping not -' - I get the idea that he doesn't want his illusion shattering, but this clause breaks the flow of the sentence.

Fourth - 'scrutiny' rather than 'supervision' - unless it is a tabletop game and he's in charge.

The final sentence sets up an interesting potential plot.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

"And so, he lay his head down on the desk and simply died. Dying is as simple as that." Sister Mary Xavier folded her arms and tapped her foot. Her stout figure and stern manner depressed the air around her. the young kids said flowers died in her presence.

"That's what all bad boys get for playing those stupid, ultra-realistic video games and masturbating. It rots the mind and blackens the soul." Sister Regina Shillelagh wagged her finger at the assembly.

"Now what should we do when tempted?" Sister Mary Xavier asked.

"Sue the Church for the never-ending psychiatric bills to cure our nightmares?"

"Tommy Tyler, do you want to be saved and go to heaven?" Sister Regina Shillelagh raised her ruler.

"Or damned and go to hell." Sister Mary Xavier finished the sentence with barely a break. It was like they were wired together.

--Dave F.

He had read the script before taking the job as military advisor to Stephen Spielberg. Even Matt had laughed over the scenes as they walked through the set and listened to the director's ideas of how a battle would have taken place in 1862.

Of course no one really died during filming. It was the movie that was going to die -- at the box office.


He let Matt wander away as his imagination followed that trail. What if someone's musket had a real bullet in and shot Sam Billing, the fire chief, in the eye? What if someone carelessly loaded a real lead ball into the canon and it took off Pete Sankett's head, leaving the town without a bank manager? What if Matt Lines, son of the mayor, tripped over something and disemboweled himself on Sammy Affleck's bayonet?

Jordan smiled to himself and slowly set off after his friend. It was, at that time, just idle thinking; no one, not least Jordan himself, had expected the asteroid to hit at that very moment.


Evil Editor said...

p1: I can see Jordan looking for a breath or twitch, but I'm not sure why he would be "hoping" one way or the other. Is a twitch unusual in a person who's just been shot?

p2: Why "or more"? Why not "or less"? If these guns are making more smoke than Matt expected, you could just delete "or more." If they're making less smoke than Matt expected, he could say, "Didn't the guns back then make more smoke?"

p3: I'd delete: you know. My dad says it's their passion; they all have real jobs and stuff, but on the weekends they go all over the country having these battles.

It's not all responsive to the question. More of an "As you know, Matt" statement.

Dave Fragments said...

The money line is: "Jordan thought about this. What if someone did?

All the rest of the opening is prologue and window dressing to the insight we get into Jordan's character and the upcoming story.
Please tell me that Jordan either kills someone or is accused of killing someone during a reenactment.

I should say that again: Jordan is enamored of the realistic actions of the soldier and he either discovers the way to commit murder or will become involved in a murder by reenactment.

It's the first sentence and the money line that must be together.
I would prune ruthlessly.
-remove "suddenly,"
-delete "two or three minutes" it adds nothing. It slows the action.
-delete "Satisfied, he directed his supervision to another infantryman." Why? because the interaction with Matt is the logical path to follow. Watching another soldier is obsessional.

These guns use black powder and black powder is smoky. If you ever see a muzzle loader in action, it spits smoke and fire and gunk and wadding and bullet, of course. And it spits a huge cloud of smoke. Battlefield accounts speak of smoke-filled battles. That brings us to the second and third third paragraphs.
I have a strict rule, if I've written "you know" or "so-and-so says" or anything like that, it's fodder for the trash bin.

This is saying the same thing twice:
#1 - His friend Matt was more interested in the gunfire
#2 - "Do you think the guns back then made this much smoke, or more?"
Use the spoken word because it sets up the money line.

And the answer will be fewer words - ""I'll bet it's the same. These guys are really serious, ... They're going to do everything authentic."
Or even "They're going to use authentic black powder."

That gets you below 100 words with your own style and your own words. And the reader has an idea of what is going to happen.

Brenda said...

I took the "watching for movement" part to mean the character was seeing how true to life the actor kept it. It's like watching those real life mannequins - you stare to see if you can "catch them" breathing or moving at ALL. I liked that part because it IS how people react when watching this kind of acting. And the "hoping - and a the same time hoping not", very good. You kind of want to catch them messing up, but at the same time, you want them to be that good at acting to impress you. Not only does it feel that way when you're watching it (so the reader can associate with it) but also gives you a little insight into the character's personality.

On your third paragraph, I get what you're saying and I think it is important to have it because you're dead on: people who do this for a hobby are SO into it (my neighbor growing up was die-hard about it). I just think you could use some rephrasing.

I have a lot of words here and not a lot being said, but I hope it helps and you get what I mean. I shouldn't reply when I have to take meds because I ramble on. Sorry.

Wes said...

"Black powder, white smoke." Black gunpowder makes white smoke. That might be useful for you if you're not aware of it. Many writers describe it as black smoke.

I'm a re-enactor but of the fur trade and Santa Fe Trail era (big surprise), not Civil War. The re-enactors would be nearly 100% "period" (accurate). I've even seen people with toothbrushes made with hog brisles and soap made from yucca roots.

A very interesting premise. I've often wondered what if some wack-job slipped a Minie (e acute accent) Ball into his rifle at a reenactment? It could easily happen. I'm sure you know the Minie Ball, developed by a French captain, was not a round ball, but a conical bullet. It revolutionize warfare because of the speed with which it could be loaded and its accuracy. That's why the causalties in the Civil War were so horrible. The tactics didn't catch up with the technology.

Dave Fragments said...

One thing about black powder guns, they require cotton wadding to keep the powder from falling out. That wadding comes out the front of the gun like a bullet. At very close range, it can harm. It's like a firecracker.

Bernita said...

Other than a few very minor tweaks already mentioned, this is a very interesting beginning.

Robin S. said...

Hi Kalynne,

I like the idea behind your opening.

I'm not a fan of 'mused' and 'argued' etc., with dialogue. It may be simply a personal preference, so no big issue, but it seems that they are propping up what the dialogue itself already tells us.

Love the continuation.

McKoala said...

I wasn't quite sure where Jordan and Matt were in relation to the soldiers, and that bugged me. Other than that, definitely a different locale and great last line.

Wonderwood said...

Elmore Leonard had a subplot in one of his books, I think Tishomingo Blues, that involved a Civil War reenactment as a medium for offing some redneck bad guys. Check it out if you haven't already.

As for the opening, I liked it. It isn't perfect yet, and some of the suggestions are valid, but overall I liked it. I dug the opening line, too. It's a good quick hook without trying too hard or sounding hooky.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I'd like to see where this is going. There have been a few mysteries that dealt with murder during re-enactments, such as Murder at the War (the SCA Pennsic War, which technically isn't re-enactment, but the average Joe doesn't know that) and something about Revenge and Flamingoes (the Revolutionary War, I think). But the books I know about were written a few years ago. However, from this short intro, we can't really assume that's the direction this will take, can we? :o)

I'm with EE on the "as you know, Bob" setup here. Especially since these are kids. Even a little know-it-all wouldn't let on it was Dad that says these things, I don't think.

Xenith said...

This sounds interesting but is it mystery or YA or something else? It does make a different, I mean if this was the opening to a romance, I'd be looking at it differently. EE -- is it possible to add a genre category to the openings?

(My brother-in-law does American Civil War reenacting, which isn't that odd, except I believe he's the only guy in Tasmania who does it so he, um, doesn't get to actually do much :) He does run off to the US every couple of years though.)

talpianna said...

Phoenix: Mary Monica Pulver's Murder at the War was reprinted in paperback as Knight Fall. Peter S. Beagle's fantasy The Folk of the Air also has an SCA background.

Donna Andrews's Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos is set at a craft fair that is part of a re-enactment of the 1781 siege of Yorktown.