Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Beginning 501

We all witnessed the kidnappings. No one truly saw them take the children away, but we knew whom to blame. All our towns' children, ages ten to thirteen, vanished in a blink's time. No one had that power but the witches in the south. Those evil magicians manipulated the heavens rode down on us under cover of cloud.

Lightning struck our lands, and thunder crashed above us, shaking the earth. The clouds grew darker and heavier, but not one drop of water fell from them. We first watched in amazement. Never before had we witnessed a storm without rain. Then those despicable witches poured down from the clouds in effortless flight.

They returned our children to us, confirming our suspicions. We scooped up the returned and fled to our homes. Back to their clouds and to the south, the sorcerers left without a word. Celebrations consumed us until the food ran short and our rejoicing grew tiring. We returned to our homes once again and finally had a chance for a contented rest.

The next morning we woke to a horror. Our youngest had begun vanishing, fading away before our eyes. Laughter erupted from the skies, and clouds to the south roiled without rainfall. This time the sorcerers forced us to witness their thievery.



Constable Sprackett finished reading the statement. He chewed thoughtfully and swallowed. "Let's run through the facts one more time, shall we?" he said. "A mysterious gang, consisting of magicians, witches and sorcerers, descended from a -- let me see -- laughing sky, and took away all the children. Just like that?"

"Yes, constable."

"Are you sure about this? Witches and all?"

"Yes, constable."

"Sign at the bottom, Mrs. Todd; we'll be in touch." He brushed crumbs off the table and slid the papers across. "These are delicious pies by the way; what's in them?"


Opening: Xiexie.....Continuation: ril

30 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


We begged with them, pleaded. Spare the children, we cried. Shrieking our anguish to the skies, our town called, Take the teenagers!

--Kiersten


But we were not fools. The witches returned the olders, and they would return the infants soon enough. We had to move fast and leave town to be free of the whiny, puking brats for good. Thank heavens it wasn't raining.

--ril



Even more horrifying, the children they had returned began to look like their father.

Unfortunately, they all looked exactly the same--the milkman.

Why hadn't anyone suspected him before? It should have been obvious. Farmers and villagers with cows don't need to buy milk from a dashing milkman.

--Julie Weathers

Dave F. said...

GEE EE, You really should rent the PBS Version of Sweeney Todd that showed up on TV. I like Angela Lansbury in the role of Mrs Lovett. She is so deliciously warped. I haven't seen the Movie version with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter but they leave out some of the music. You see, Sweeney slits their throats and Mrs Lovett bakes the pies. He screams - Now my arm is complete - when reunited with his razors and she screams - It's all in the spices dearie...

But to the opening:
I dislike the duality of the opening. The witches or magicians take the kids, return them, and then take them again. You want us to feel the horror twice in very few words.

I will also quibble with opening and closing the excerpt with the word witness. It doesn't work as a closer because the second time the kids disappear, the townspeople see only the clouds on the horizon as evidence. "They made us witness their thievery" means the townspeople saw the kids being taken and that by your narrative, isn't true.

To my mind, simple townfolk would not let their children out of their sight after the kids returned the first time. I would stay so close to that kid, it wouldn't be funny. I've had to mind kids in amusement parks, malls and Disney parks, as lifeguard at a pool. And I can tell you that I DO have eyes in the back of my head. These townfolk strike my as simpletons and fools. I feel no sympathy for them because they lost the kids twice. When I turn on the ability to observe, I see everything. These townsfolk are almost deaf, dumb and blind - not to mention stupid.

Evil Editor said...

I did see the PBS version, but that must be 6 or 7 years ago.

Evil Editor said...

The last sentence of p.1 seems to be missing a word, perhaps "who".

Dave seems to assume the kids are being kidnapped a second time. I'm guessing the kids are literally vanishing, as from a spell.

I think it would be better to call them the same thing each time, witches, magicians or sorcerers. And "they" or "them" whenever it's clear who you mean.

For me, "We knew whom to blame" doesn't clear up the contradiction of We all witnessed the kidnappings/No one truly saw them...

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't that be "who" to blame? I thought this was too confusing (the various supernaturals, see EE's comment about consistent ID) and too much backstory. The vanishing part at the end made me think of the photo in Back to the Future,, amd I imagined the children as holographic or something.

ME

Sarah Laurenson said...

Intriguing, but a bit confusing. I'd read on.

Here's my suggestion that clears up my confusion. Not sure it's the way the story goes though.

All our towns' children, ages ten to thirteen, vanished in a blink's time. Lightning struck our lands, and thunder crashed above us, shaking the earth. The clouds grew darker and heavier, but not one drop of water fell from them. We watched in amazement. Never before had we witnessed a storm without rain. Then those despicable witches of the south poured down from the clouds in effortless flight. No one truly saw them take the children away, but we knew who to blame.

They returned our children to us, confirming our suspicions. We scooped up the returned and fled to our homes. Celebrations consumed us until the food ran short and our rejoicing grew tiring. We finally had a chance for a contented rest.

The next morning we woke to a horror. Our youngest began vanishing, fading away before our eyes. Laughter erupted from the skies, and clouds to the south roiled without rainfall. This time the witches forced us to witness their thievery.

BuffySquirrel said...

Yeah, because Disneyland is FULL of sorcerors....

Again, I found myself too detached from this opening. There's too much "telling" and too many generalisations. I don't see the events happening; I don't feel any emotion.

Whirlochre said...

This reads very flat to me, and I think it's because the sentences are all of a similar length. I'm getting no variety in that respect and it makes figuring out the who/what/why very difficult.

Xiexie said...

I like your reworking there Sarah.

Also wonderful continuation ril

Xiexie said...

I can sense the confusion, Dave -- oh , and Tim Burton's Johnny Depp's Sweeny Todd was brilliant. I really liked it, and who knew Johnny Depp could sing too.

Back to the confusion. The witches took the tween/early teenagers, those from about 11-14. After returning them, they take the younger ones from like toddler-aged to 10-years-old.

Bernita said...

"whom to blame" is correct.

Xiexie said...

Dave, I also agree with your sentiments about children-watching. I have 3 nieces and a shitload of younger cousins that I've had to watch over many a time.

These townspeople didn't take their eyes off the younger children. That's what I was trying to convey with "...sorcerers forced us to witness their thievery." The older kids where whisked away when unattended to; the younger were whisked away whilst being attended to.

Dave F. said...

You have to do more to separate the children by age.

The first time the witches do this, the witches present it as a joke or a mistake or something oter than malice when they return the teens and preteens. That puts the townsfolk off their guard.

The second time, the townsfolk must stand there helpless as the witches hide in the clouds and make the younger children disappear.

There's a time sequence to your events. The oler kids vanish. The witches ride in on clouds, lightning and thunder. They return the kids and make escuses. The next day, the younger children disappear as the townsfolk watch.

That's the basic sequence - now you ahve to dress it up. Make the second day a Sunday or a festival where all the younger children are in the finest clothing and parading around. Make the first day some event where the older kids are gathered together and vanish all at once. Maybe a High School sporting event.

Perhaps turn this into a narration by your main character.

Jeb said...

I enjoy fantasy, but this opening was confusing.

The first two sentences are contradicting each other: We all saw - oh, not really, but we knew who must have done it. The contradiction held me up, irritated me, and kept me from becoming invested in the horror revealed in the third sentence. So I was, as another commentator put it, emotionally detached from the whole scenario.

'Magicians' and 'witches' are two different species of magic user, with different skills and ways of working. Readers of fantasy (presumably your target audience) know the difference. It is generally safe to conflate magicians and sorcerers (except for the nit-pickers among us), but it would be less confusing if you referred to the evil-doers the same way each time, at least until the reader is firmly in the picture.

Dave F. said...

I wast thinking about this as I ate to silly movies and political fertilizer.

Did you ever see the first "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" from the 50's?

Kevin McCarthy, the guy running through traffic, yelling out the story is compelling. He is afraid to fall asleep. He is afraid that the cars are filled with aliens. he's seen his wife and friends converted. He's a real mess, but his frantic panic is compelling.

You need to create that type of passion in your opening. A crazy man (but not crazy) running around through traffic, telling a crazy story.

Phoenix said...

Hi Xiexie: Let me say that if I'm going to have stuff told to me, this is a voice I'm happy to hear it from. So yay for the voice (even if others are disagreeing). However, what that voice is telling me is a bit confusing (as others, too, have mentioned).

P1:
If they witnessed the kidnappngs, that implies they saw or heard something. But then it says no one really saw them. So the children vanish, presumably while some parents or other adults watch. How is that different from when the younger kids are taken? There's laughter, clouds roiling, and kids vanishing the second time, but how is watching the older kids vanish different than watching the younger kids go bye-bye? Other than the addition of some special effects?

P3:
They flee to their homes. Then they celebrate - I thought they were celebrating at home, but no, it says they returned to their homes once again, so I don't know where they were celebrating. On first read, it also sounded like they were celebrating for a long time (implied by the food running short), not just one evening. And I think you mean they grew tired FROM the rejoicing, but it sounds like they grew tired OF the rejoicing.

P4:
By saying this time was a horror, it implies maybe the older kids vanishing hadn't been a horror. Just tweaking to add 'again' or 'another' or something similar should fix. And yeah, I didn't recognize on first read that this was a different age group now vanishing. And I noted above that I don't see much difference in the witnessing. Your comment explan helped, but that's not what I picked up on first read.

A bit of a rough start but, fixed up, I'd read on.

Ril: I'm afraid Mrs. Todd took me right out of the continuation. Wasn't Mrs. Todd Mrs. Perfect -- and long dead by the time the pies started showing up? Or was that just an unfortunate name choice :o)

Dave: The movie version does cut some essential musical numbers (and sound effects), but it's still a joy. Definitely worth renting. Even if it doesn't have Angela, who couldn't have been more perfect as Mrs. L, in it.

Xenith said...

I like the voice for the first couple of paragraphs, but then I start loking for an individual character and specfic events :)

For me, the first couple of sentence made sense but I did wonder why the children were taken away, returned and then taken away again, even though I read the age thing the first time. So an apparent repeating of events + the general nature of the recounting makes me want to stop reading by the fourth paragraph.

talpianna said...

The musical version of SWEENEY TODD starring Angela Lansbury was televised in 1982. It had had a good stage run previously.

Evil Editor said...

I'm afraid Mrs. Todd took me right out of the continuation.

Mrs. Todd was added by me at the suggestion of those at today's workshop, because the pies were considered too obscure for those who haven't seen Sweeney Todd since 1982. I could have said Mrs. Lovett, but if you don't remember the pies, you're unlikely to remember her name. Besides, the pies aren't mentioned until the last sentence.

Think of it as alternate history in which the main characters live and marry and stay in the pie business.

writtenwyrdd said...

I do like the voice, but you have to clarify the action here. I'd suggest that you just start simply. Perhaps just say they didn't see the first kidnapping, but the witches didn't bother to hide, laughing from the clouds as they took the other kids. I read this three times and still didn't get that it was a different batch of kids taken the second time.

The imagery of the roiling clouds is very nice. I would have read on a bit, but this still needs some work. Streamlining is what I'd call what it needs.

Phoenix said...

Think of it as alternate history in which the main characters live and marry and stay in the pie business.

Oh, it's fiction. Now I get it.

Robin S. said...

Just got in and had a chance to sit down and read through. Then I looked at the comments, and read through again.

I like the voice you've got in this , xiexie, and the idea of this as a beginning.

To me, if you subtract out the first sentence - which is a really good hook of a first sentence - if the rest of the opening flowed from it naturally - if you took the first sentence off - and then started, then I understand what's happening. I can just about see it - and I like it.

ril- I may be the only person on this blog that has never seen Sweeney Todd in any way, shape, or form, and doesn't care - but even so, knowing the anecdotal little bit I know of the story - that was a good continuation.

ril said...

Funnily enough, Sweeny Todd was not in my mind at all when I wrote the continuation...

Evil Editor said...

Right, you randomly chose pies instead of tacos or meatloaf.

ril said...

Remember, I'm British. Pies are an integral part of our cultural heritage.

ril said...

And if I'd said Sushi, less people would have got the joke...

Evil Editor said...

I think half of us are in the next post up.

freddie said...

Robin, you're not the only person who hasn't seen Sweeney Todd in any way, shape, or form.

Totally didn't get the Mrs. Todd reference, but now that I know about it, it adds a whole new layer to the continuation.

freddie said...

I like the writing and pacing of the opening. I found the details confusing, however.

I was going to go into a long description about this, but Dave pretty much covered what I was going to say.

My biggest problem with this, besides the contradictory statements about "witnessing" the kidnappings, is that I didn't get the sense that the townspeople watched their kids closely after the second kidnapping at all. Why were the townspeople celebrating? No reason is given for the first kidnappings, but with the witches' power, if it happened once, surely it could happen again, and the townspeople would be aware of that. Seems to me people would be taking more precautions.

BuffySquirrel said...

Yeah, you had a party, and didn't invite me. Sniffle.

I'm not feeling any voice in this. Just a dry recounting of events. Everything conspires to present indifference to the kidnappings--using "the children" instead of "our"; then "our towns' children", as if they don't belong to people, but to a set of buildings. If that's the impression that's wanted, then it's working well, but it isn't inspiring me to read on.