Friday, August 01, 2008

New Beginning 535

It was that thinning-out time at a bonfire party, when some people are getting sleepy and others are beginning to think of adventures. Since sunset, the whole town of Mirrogarden had been gathered on the Green celebrating the eve of Aleth’s tenth birthday. Aleth, for one, did not want the evening to end.

She sat on a log beside Werner, her best friend and neighbour, while Werner’s father, Dr. Vegter, reclined in the grass on her other side. Aleth popped a bit of roast apple in her mouth and turned around to see where people were going. Behind her, three fathers and numerous small children were sprawled on the grass sleeping, and two little girls murmured secrets to one another in the dark.

Aleth waved at them, then turned back to Werner. The fire lit his broad smile and made him look even older than almost-thirteen.

“Can we go hunting for Night Lizards now?” Aleth asked him.

“Oh, I don't think anyone would notice."

Werner's father caught Aleth's hand when she started to rise.

"Here, kid. You'll need this."

"What's that?" She eyed the small foil packet he thrust into her hand.

"Trust me. Never go 'lizard hunting' without one."

Opening: AR.....Continuation: writtenwyrdd


Anonymous said...

I thought this was pretty good, but I recommend against using names that sound like real names with a lisp.

I'd want to know pretty quickly what kind of ten-year-old gets the whole town out for her birthday party.

Dave Fragments said...

By the time I got to Can we go hunting for Night Lizards now? I was asleep. And although I myself am not a hunter, I find the practice is hunting Night Lizards endlessly exciting. Well, not really. But they must be important because they are capitalized.

What part of the evening didn't Aleth want to end? partying with the town? Sitting with Werner? Eating apple bits? Or waiting to hunt lizards. Admiring Werner?

"The entire town of Mirrogarden celebrated Aleth's 13th birthday with a bonfire, picnic and fireworks." Afterward, Alethe and her BFF Werner went walking in the woods."

Are the woods filled with kidnappers? Are the Night Lizards T-Rex's in disguise? Is Werner in the running for that new HBO show about Porn stars? (that wasn't fair to the author, I know. But it'll leave people wondering what new adult program HBO is planning.) My point is that she doesn't seem too thrilled about her birthday party.

She might say to Werner "Lizard hunting would make this night perfect!" And he might reply with stars in his eyes and 13 year old teen angst in his loins, stuttering yes. Or he might be the sensible kid who says "Your father wouldn't like that."

How about starting out with the crowd of people still left at her Birthday party? The smell of the bonfire and roasted food? The night air. Is there a moon out? Or do the stars light the way into the forest?

Of course I could be all wrong about this. This opening seems to tame to me.

AR said...

Wow, this was quick. And - confession - I really don't get the foil packet thing. Is it my innocence or my slow-wittedness? Wait...does it feel "wrong" to have a ten-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old boy acting this way? I'd hoped that boys would be interested in my story if one of the kids was male, but maybe it doesn't work that way.

150: Now that pronunciation - with a short 'a' - is stuck in my head forever. I had imagined it being pronounced with a long 'a.' (It's a real word if not a real name.) However, it's impossible to control how readers "hear" a printed word. You're right, I'm going to have to change it.

Check; I'll make sure what follows explains that party clearly. (It's not the girl, it's the birthday. In this society the eleventh year is traditionally that in which a person's adult character is determined so it's launched with the blessing of one's community. Plus, the town is really small and they are just looking for occasions to party.)

WouldBe said...

AR, I like the prose and feel of this opening, particularly the first two paragraphs. The second two seem to lose a little steam.

This seems disconnected from the previous paragraph: "Aleth waved at them...." It doesn't seem likely that she'd be waving at sleeping fathers or little girls chatting in the *dark*. (I notice now that those folks were behind her, so maybe she's waving at the people leaving...maybe reverse those sentences?)

A tiny hint about what sort of story we're reading would help, I think.

Good luck.

--Bill H.

talpianna said...

AR--the foil packet contains seasoning from a package of Instant Ramen, in case they decide to cook and eat the lizards...

(More seriously, think of what activity young people often sneak off into the woods for that would be safer with something that comes in a foil packet.)

Anonymous said...

On the sneaking off into the woods bit, sex or at least a good gropefest was the first thing that occurred to me. And I'd have difficulty believing a father would let his pre-teen (or teen) daughter go off into the night with a slightly older male friend. Especially from a party in her honour.

Assuming the night-sneaking is important to the plot, I see a way around this: if the party wasn't in her honour but in some other girl's (with hers coming next month, or having been last month), she might be able to sneak off without being noticed.

Also, if you used 'village' instead of 'town', the whole populace turning out for the party would be more easy to absorb.

McKoala said...

Just a word for the continuation. Naughty, hilarious WW.

I think the start could be tightened. The first para could even be reduced to the first sentence. And why does Aleth care where people are going?

Anonymous said...

The continuation is brilliant. The opening, on the other hand, while nicely written, lacks feeling. My suggestion is to paint the scene with a few short lines of what's there, then cut to dialog or something else that's more immediate.

AR said...

Absorbing all this...thanks for your input, everyone.

none said...

Oh dear, what a bunch of euphemists!

The foil wrapped packet is a condom.

*feels no shame*

writtenwyrdd said...

I think my original comment got lost yesterday. Anyhow, I think what I said is basically what others said, that the situation isn't clear enough.

What led me to use the condom (foil packet) was that the kid saying "Oh, I don't think anyone would notice" sounded like a total lecher to me and not a kid; and Night Lizard hunting sounded like a euphemism for kanoodling in the woods.

Also, it was just an odd feeling set up for a ten-year-old's bday party to be attended by the whole town. Not unless she's special somehow, in which case I would expect there to be a bit more supervision.

I think that this suffers from starting with a non-event. If what happens in the woods is the real starting point, you could always start with "We shouldn't have left the party to come out here" and relay the danger or situation instead. Or whatever applies to this story, along with some clues as to which sort of story this is to be. We need to know if this is contemporary, urban fantasy, science fiction, whatever. If you look at the start of a bunch of books you can see that subtle clues are there. And the promise you make in the first pages as to what sort of story this is will be part of what sells the book to readers.
Just my opinion, of course. But

Beth said...

What everyone else said. It could be interesting, but it really isn't. There's no tension.