Saturday, May 10, 2008

New Beginning 498

"Forty denir, a full healing, and you get me transportation to the next town after I give you the stone." Kailis leaned against a rough stone wall, her blue-grey eyes locked on the heavily cloaked figure in the shadows.

"Twenty, and I transport you outside the city walls," the figure rumbled. The city walls were very high, and the gates were guarded by intense men, who might recognize Kailis as a thief.

"Look--do you want that altar-jewel, or not? I," she tapped her budding chest, "am the best thief in town. I can get it for you. Someone else? Good luck."

The wizard arched a manicured eyebrow at her. She continued, "Remember, a few weeks ago, when someone robbed that rich trader from Nakan? That was me. And, trust me, he guarded his little treasury like it held his soul, his heir, and his balls." She ran a hand through her dark, raggedly cropped hair in annoyance.

"You, child?"

"Yes." The street-rat sighed audibly, and continued, "Thirty five, transportation to the next town, and a full healing."

"Twenty-five, I cure that rash and you can borrow my horse."

"Thirty. You take me to the Halfway Inn and a full healing. Try getting that stone without me."

"Twenty-seven fifty and I take you to the roadhouse, and an unexplained partial remission."

"Final offer. Twenty-nine, you take me to the roadhouse on your motorbike, and I get better myself."

The wizard grunted. There was a long pause; then the robed figure chuckled. He waved his hand and held it out to the girl; in it was the Altar stone, glinting in the sunlight. "Can you believe it?" he said. "I almost forgot I'm a wizard. I don't even need you!"

Opening: anon......Continuation: anon.


Julie Weathers said...

~~"Holy smokes." The wizard yelped. "Its Evil Editor walking down the street. We must hide before he realizes how similar our dialogue is to Alan Dean Foster's: Splinter of the Mind's eye."

"That is the beauty of my theft." Kailis chuckled. "I change a few words around and it's not copyright infringement."

Evil Editor raises his magic lufa and yells, "To the slush pile with you."

And now all that we have left is a blank page.~~

Ouch. If this is true, you're obviously going to have to make some deep revisions. I know in genre writing there are certain elements in common to the point of being cliche, but you have to prove why yours is different. If this dialogue is that similar it would be a deal breaker for me to read.

"Budding chest" is one of those phrases like "throbbing member" that makes me cringe. Plus, like Kiersten's continuation, the first thing that crosses my mind is a flower garden. Find a different feature to describe her youth if you need to, but the wizard calls her a child so it's already there.

~he guarded his little treasury like it held his soul, his heir, and his balls."~

The first thing I think of here is someone gelded him and he thinks he'll find a magical healer to reattach them. Then I wonder if the box with his treasure and balls is refrigerated. Don't give my fevered brain reasons to go down strange rabbit trails.

I like the bit about her cropped hair.

Most sighs are audible so you don't need that. She sighed soft as a whisper or something if you need to describe it.

EE is right, if he's a wizard, why does he need the girl? You can solve this by adding a sentence from her telling him why he needs her.

Whirlochre said...

On the whole, I quite liked this, but I'm tripped up by a few phrases, most of which seem to require a simple trimming.

Not sure how you can be 'heavily' cloaked unless you're wearing a sack over your head.

Is the figure made of stone? If not — no need for 'rumbled'. Just 'said'.

'Intense' men sounds weird. Is there a better word for them?

'Budding' chest — I agree with JW. Ditto 'audibly'

Arching eyebrows is a cliched twitch, not helped here by being 'manicured'.

'Ragged' hair will do for 'raggedly cropped'.

I'd pop 'she continued' between Nakan and 'That was me'. Looks odd where it is.

So - on the whole it's looking like adverbs, adjectives and doubled-up descriptions that are bugging me and if you chop these, it would work better without flattening the detail.

What they're actually saying is good — we're straight into the business. Just a tad fussy.

Dave Fragments said...

I think this is fat with words. Too many of them.
(GROAN, he's at it again!)

Kallis leans against a stone wall. We don't need the rough.

Locked her blue-green eyes? This is from her POV and I never think about my eye color, nor does anyone else.

Make a choice: It's either a "heavily cloaked figure" or a "figure" (not yet a man), or a "Wizard" or whatever he/she/it is... If he is a wizard, hidden in a heavy cloak, wearing clean and neat clothing and hands betraying a soft lifestyle, then say it in one sentence. That's what Kallis sees in him.

"her dark, raggedly cropped hair" again, I never think of my short gray hair when I run my hands through it.

Now Kallis is a "street rat"... What's a ready to think of that? I would have him/she/it - the cloaked figure say to her "You? you're nothing but a street rat. Why should I trust you?" That's a better bargaining chip than merely arching an eyebrow under heavy hood in the dim light of an alley. If this were a movie or TV show, then the camera could show arching eyebrows. In real life, people seldom see arching eyebrows.

Now let me ask this -- does the second sentence in P2 belong as the last line in P1? Then it would read as: Kailis leaned against a rough stone, her eyes locked on the cloaked figure. The city was guarded by intense men, who might recognize Kailis as a thief."
Then the next two lines are all dialog.
"Twenty, and I transport you outside the city walls."
"Not goo d enough. Look--do you want that altar-jewel, or not?" She tapped her budding chest.
"I am the best thief in town. I can get it for you."
"You? you're nothing but a street rat. Why should I trust you?"

Now you can write snappier dialog than I can. I think this is tighter and has a bit more urgency than the original.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm in a hurry. I gotta fix some typos.

#1 - What's a READER to think of that?

#2 - Kailis locked her eyes on the cloaked figure. SHE HAD TO LEAVE THE CITY BUT, the city was guarded by intense men, who might recognize Kailis as a thief.

#3 - I forgot to say that when you separate dialog like that, you slow the action down. Placing dialog together creates action and increases tension.

Bonnie said...

Not bad. You've got a nice breezy tone and some zip to the dialogue.

But a wizard in a cloak and a girl thief strikes me as a rather cliche'd situation. You'd have to show me some real writing chops to make me think you could do anythng original with it, but budding chests, arching eyebrows, and audible sighs make me think more cliches, not originality.

writtenwyrdd said...

Unlike Dave, I don't think this has 'too many words'. But the complaint is valid because it's too many adverbial words. You could easily tuck in description without actually spelling it out as description. Instead of leaning against a rough stone wall, the rough stone might dig into her shoulder or something.

In any case, reading this is sort of like trying to drink a full cup of coffee on a bumpy road. It's a bit difficult to get a lock on the imagery because it's just a little too awkward to manage easily.

Streamline, reword and yeah, remove the unfortunate similarity to Alan Dean Foster's work that Julie noted.

I liked the situation, though. I think this is a decent opening, although not perfect. (Not much is when we see it here, anyhow, so you are in excellent company with the rest of us!)

Kiersten White said...

Dave, I happen to think about my eye color all the time.

Julie Weathers said...

WW, Lyle is the one who noticed the similarity. I haven't read the book. I simply agreed if the dialogue was nearly verbatim it needs to change.

Julie Weathers said...

Kierstan's comment makes me laugh.

I do have to wonder why the girl needs healing. I might have dropped some kind of hint about it if it is important.

Xenith said...

I'm not sure that girl thieves are a cliche (on the basis, I've been trying to read every fantasy book with a major character that's a thief -- for all that it's supposed to be a fantasy archtype there are surprisingly few of them & I haven't as yet come across any of the female persuasion, of course I've probably missed some but if it's common enough to considered a cliche, it shouldn't be that hard to miss) but there is a feeling of "been there, read this" about the opening.

It would have to do something very soon to show this isn't the usual standard fantasy fare.

Also, I find haggling hard to follow, so having it thrown in at the very beginning where nothing else doesn't make for easy reading

Xenith said...

(Hope previous comment didn't go missing?)

I believe the thief/wizard thing comes from roleplaying, AD&D? (Never played it myself.) Some writers can get away with turning their roleplay world into a novel (Ray Feist comes to mind) but generally most um there are a lot of these in the slush pile and not so many on the shelves (deliberate tie-ins not included there). The easier it is to hear the dice rolling, the quicker the rejection, I'm sure.

Not that I'm saying this opening or the rest of the novel/story is roleplay related, I have no idea :) but I'd be trying very hard to make it obvious that it wasn't.

talpianna said...

I assumed the "full healing" was for injuries inevitably sustained in the course of the theft.

Does having an eyebrow manicured hurt as much as having a fingernail tweezed?

Unknown said...

I'm The Author here...

The full healing, as will be revealed in a few lines, is because Our Heroine has asthma (not said in so many words, but described reasonably clearly). The reason the wizard isn't taking the stone himself will be revealed a chunk later, when Our Heroine meets the goddess whose temple it is...

I don't think I've ever read Splinter of the Mind's Eye. So I have no idea how similar the dialog is or isn't.

I was trying to describe her without having a Big Chunk of Description (and the "budding chest" was to indicate that we're talking a 14-year-old rather than a 5-year-old or something, perhaps there's a smoother way to do that)

Oh, and we're never going to see the wizard again, after this conversation. In about 4 pages, Our Heroine is going to be dropped halfway around the planet by the aforementioned goddess. For Our Heroine's own good.

EB said...

The word repetition bugs me, as it seems like it is unintentional.

"...give you the STONE." Kailis leaned against a rough STONE wall.

...cloaked FIGURE in the shadows. "20 and I transport you outside the CITY WALLS," the FIGURE rumbled. THE CITY WALLS were...

Twice the figure's a figure then he's a wizard (with a manicured eyebrow?). Something about that was confusing.

Lose the 2nd sentence of the 2nd graph. It's all telling and not at all interesting. I assume the city walls are high otherwise, well, what good are they. It is apparent that the walls pose an obstacle since the wizard has offered transport to the other side. And "intense men" is so vague as to be meaningless.

Then you tell us Kailis is a thief...when you accomplish the very same thing with dialogue in the next graph.

"Budding chest" made me cringe. You start talking Tanner stages so we can pin down where she is in her development, I'm outta here.

I like the term street-rat. I wonder if it would be better uttered by your manicured wizard. "You're nothing but a child. A street rat."

I realize you're trying to describe the girl, but the scene seems to be from her POV and the eye-color bit is disjointed. Particularly if it's dark and shadowy when it's tough to discern eye color.

batgirl said...

Is this opening from the girl's pov? I thought it was omniscient. (Or is only EE allowed to be omniscient?)

Unknown said...

I'm... actually not entirely clear on the distinction betwixt omniscient and merely third person from someone's point of view.
I think... limited-omniscient may be what I'm going for here.

Also... the comment about the trader's heir, soul, and balls? I was just trying to indicate that he guarded his treasury like it held everything most precious to him in the world, rather than mere cash. Like unto bragging that she got into someplace guarded like Fort Knox, except that that would be anachronistic here.

Bonnie said...

You might want to get involved with a learn-to-write forum such as Online Writer's Workshop or Forward Motion to learn more about handling point of view, avoiding cliches, improving your prose, and all that.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

He glanced down at her budding chest. The orchids were starting to bloom, and the daffodils had already opened.

"I don't think I can heal that," he growled.


He cocked his head and gave a wry smile as he stepped out of the shadows. "Very well, child. But don't expect me to like you."

"It's a deal. You truly are a wizard, Doctor House!"


"Look, kid," the wizard said, "Maybe you can do the job. Maybe not. But if you an come back with the stone and you, ahem, guard my balls, I'll pay you the forty, transportation halfway to the next town and give you a full healing, including that nasty case of pox."

"What pox? I don't have no pox!"

He smiled. "You will. Deal or no deal, kid?"