Friday, April 17, 2009

New Beginning 629

It’s an interesting experience, rushing headlong through the woods after dark. The trees and bushes scratch me like they’re trying to and it’s a wonder I haven’t slammed into anything solid enough to break bones.

Ugh, it’s hard to breathe, probably because of the Goliath-sized arm clamped around my waist. I didn’t ask to be carried, but the monster doesn’t care. I wonder if the ride would be more comfortable slung over its shoulder.

And honestly, all this for a rose? It was nobody’s, growing by the pathside!

Hey, light… some sort of building up ahead—stone, maybe. Medieval, with a giant gateway and courtyard.

Wait, medieval in Colorado? Nearly as weird as a tabloid! But the building has to be medieval—torchlight, stone walls, a tapestry with more square feet than my family’s house. Well, at least I’m out of the trees.

I wish I could take a better look at those tapestries…. No, what I’d really like is to be home hot tea and some Robert Frost. Goodness, at this point I’d take reading Poe alone on a stormy night with no electricity!

Well, maybe not Poe, but I think you know what I mean.

The monster stops at the top of the stairs. I can see some swords on the wall, stained glass windows, carpets on the stone floors.

A tall man in a long coat walks over to me. "So this is my rose thief, yes?"

I glance up at him. Dark hair, impossibly good-looking, and fangs. Vampire fangs.

I drop my head. How in God's name did I get trapped inside a crummy romance novel?

Opening: _*Rachel*_.....Continuation: Khazar-khum


writtenwyrdd said...

I really liked the premise of this, but your pov is problemmatic for me. I think you would be best served with past tense, not present; or, if you wish to keep the present tense, consider your details a bit better. Stream of consciousness with random observations doesn't work as well as it could here because the details are off.

I think that there's some good writing here, but it isn't quite working yet. I liked it enough to keep reading a bit, but if you keep confusing me with things like "nearly as weird as a tabloid" and "No, what I'd really like is to be home hot tea and some Robert Frost" I will not want to keep going.

Bear in mind that, especially in the opening, the details need to build the scene and pull the reader in. The details show something about the character, but they don't show anything really pertinent to the crisis of the moment. She's thinkign about poetry and tabloids instead of what to do, experiencing any emotion at all except intellectual curiosity.

Like I said, I like this and there's a lot of good stuff here. I really liked the voice.

Evil Editor said...

You move from there's a building up ahead to looking at the tapestry (which is surely inside) without letting us know you've reached and entered the building.

"Nearly as weird as a tabloid" isn't working.

There's a missing word or two in the "I wish..." paragraph.

batgirl said...

Beauty and the Beast, or going right back to the Singing Soaring Lark?
The contrast between the hectic events and the narrator's detached tone could be heightened, maybe by bringing in a few more details of discomfort - right now it seems a bit _too_ much observed rather than experienced.
Nice light tone, and could be cute, though I'm a bit burnt-out on ironic twisted fairy-tales.

fairyhedgehog said...

I liked this, with reservations about the two main issues writtenwyrdd picked up on. (I thought I didn't get the tabloid reference because I'm from the UK.)

I did enjoy it though and I would read on.

Dave Fragments said...

Stopping by the side of the road to pick a rose and getting hauled of by a giant isn't a normal occurrence. It's not just an "interesting experience" and the speculation of what's more comfortable a hip carry or a fireman's carry. The reader is not ready for that level of nonchalance.

Some of your language gives me fits. The trees and bushes scratch me like they’re trying to seems to anthropomorphize the trees without a good reason. It's the giant's lack of care that lets the bushes and trees brush and scratch him.

it’s a wonder I haven’t slammed into anything solid enough to break bones. -- argh, that's just not the way you carry someone. It wouldn't make sense for the giant to let him bash into a tree and suffer broken bones or internal injuries. The imagery is working against your intent. Possibly you want a more logical statement like: The goliath hasn't smacked my head into a tree but he has run me through brambles and thorn bushes. ... BTW - there's too many "has, hasn't, have" and those inactive type of verbs.

I lke the Frost and Poe comments in the last paragraph of the opening. Why don't you start with them? Possibly like this: I wasn't admiring woods on a snowy evening but a perfect red rose when Goliath grabbed me and carried me into the woods. An arm as thick as my thigh held me on his hip as he ran through brambles, over fallen trees and past evergreens. With each giant footfall I bounced and lost another breath.
Then you can work in Poe and have your character see the Castle Gateway and into the courtyard. That's when he realizes he's no longer in Colorado, Toto. He somehow said Ta-ta to the real world.

And please, don't mention the tapestry until you describe the castle and have them go inside to the main room. And then mention the tapestry only if it has some fateful, predictive scene woven into it. It's pick on tapestry day -- April 17th of any year ending in odd number.

_*rachel*_ said...

I did have a bit of trouble with this opening; this is about my 5th try. I think I'd better rewrite it, so I'll get back to you soon.

This is indeed a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, mostly because it's my favorite fairy tale. I'm still stuck on a title; any suggestions?

Also, because I'm not a parent, I could use advice. If your (hypothetical) daughter took you on a picnic in the woods to meet an unofficial boyfriend, pre-warning you that he looks weird but is nice enough, and you show up to find he's furry, shy, and has sharp claws, what would you do? Shotgun? Run? Brave it out?

none said...

Umm, we have tabloids in the UK, fairy. Sometimes I fear we invented them.

I like the voice in this. It's so blithe about the whole experience.


_*rachel*_ said...

The POV stabilizes a bit later on, so I plan to stick with this tense, writtenwyrdd. Good chronological point, EE. And I do like the continuation, Khazar-khum. About the only romance I ever do is fairy tale retakes; I despise almost everything else.

Two different versions; don't worry about spelling. Which is better and are there any huge mistakes in either?

What in the world is this monster’s problem? You’d think it’d have better things to do than kidnap me for touching a lously little wildflower! And you’d also think there’d be more comfortable transportation through a nighttime forest than under it’s Goliath-sized arm, though there apparently isn’t.
I wonder if it’s going to eat me? Ugh, I hope not! If I had one wish right now, I’d be home reading Robert Frost. In fact, I’d even take reading Poe alone on a stormy night!
Well, maybe not Poe, but I think you know what I mean.
Whoa, what’s that? There’s a castle up ahead—a genuine, medieval castle. I really never expected to see a medieval castle in Colorado, especially not in the 21st century.
We enter the torchlit courtyard and burst into the main building, which is dark, hollow-sounding, and musty. Blech.


My fingers scrabble vainly at the Goliath-sized arm around my waist, trying to get myself out; even if I do fall on poison ivy or thorns, I won’t be crashing through the nighttime woods to who-knows-where.
I can’t escape, which really annoys me. Fine, I’ll be mad—mad is better than panicky, isn’t it? There’s plenty to be mad about, like the fact that this monster obviously doesn’t have anything better to do than kidnap me when I was only looking at a wildflower. Yes, that makes me mad.
I’m still scared, though, almost as scared as I get when I read Poe alone on stormy nights.
We’re out of the woods, thank goodness!
Wait… why is there a medieval castle here? I didn’t know 21st century Colorado had any castles.
The monster charges through the torchlit courtyard and into the musty-smelling castle, still carrying me.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Definitely version one. But I feel the Poe/Frost thing still slows down the action a lot.

Both versions give a lot of what's going on inside the narrator's head but not a lot of what's happening to her.

Is this YA?

Anonymous said...

I feel like there's something that is clashing in this scene. The fact that a monster is kidnapping her doesn't seem to faze her at all (oh, she's mad about being kidnapped - she's not freaking about the monster part). And yet she's surprised to see a castle in the woods?

I'm sorry, but if I were being carried of by a monster I really wouldn't wonder why there's suddenly a castle. I'd be too freaked out by the monster.

Stick and Move said...

I'm guessing this is YA, so I make this remark under that pretense. Maybe exclamation points work in YA, I don't know, I don't read YA. Personally, as a reader, they annoy me. As a writer I use them with great discretion, for the same reason I don't like them as a reader. I read some chick lit book a while back, don't remember the title (something Creek, set in South Carolina) or the author's name (Barbara something, three word name, I think there was a Fenton in there somewhere), but she used exclamation points in just about all of her dialogue. All over the place, just for the hell of it it seemed. That book hit the wall a few times, but I finished it just to see what was the hubbub about this bestselling author. I still don't know.

But I digress.

Exclamation points, for me, should be used only when there is no other way to convey urgency.

none said...

Yes, but the fact that the narrator isn't freaking out about the monster is what makes this interesting enough to read on. Screaming females have been done. And done.

Umm, despising books you haven't read (and you can't have read all romances) comes across as pretty ignorant. It's okayish here, but I wouldn't include it in a query :).

batgirl said...

Random observation: if it's Beauty and the Beast Classic, the one who's grabbed for picking a rose is the heroine's father, so I figured the narrator was male.
If the heroine is grabbed for picking a rose, that would be closer to Tam Lin.

I can understand that the story moves faster if it skips the father and goes straight to the girl, but that does lose the important character event of Beauty choosing to keep the promise her father made, despite her own fears, which leads to her loyalty to the Beast. Presumably your version would have something else to offer.

_*rachel*_ said...

Just sayin' y'all in the romance market don't need to worry about any competition from me; anything romantic I read or write is generally a subplot at most. I'm not big on mushy for the sake of mushy, like the boy&girl who stand in the hallway by one of my classes, whisper romantically, and kiss with slobbery noises you can hear over a yard away. True story.

I'll look at the exclamation points again; the revisions are rough. As for the narrator... I'd like to say she's pretty brave and has a dry sense of humor. The "interesting" is, in my mind, said with the little quirk of the eyebrows that means that, bad or good, it is... interesting. I guess it doesn't work as well in writing.

I like the Poe, because she makes more references to it later on. I may have to cut it all, though, since I changed the ending so the castle doesn't split down the middle like the House of Usher.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

The revisions are better from a technical standpoint, but I'm still just don't get this girl. I mean, why would she go off on odd mental tangents, even in the face of imminent peril...?


Is she stoned? She's stoned, isn't she? Never mind. Carry on!

_*rachel*_ said...

I've always wondered if there were girls before Beauty, who didn't see the Beast as a person. In other words, this guy has been around for 300ish years and nobody can stand him. He's almost given up. Beauty isn't so much brave enough to sacrifice herself for her father as brave enough to give him a second chance, even if she has to hunt him down to do it. It's a slightly humorous take.

And no, despite the fact that it might be funny, she's not stoned. As a general rule, all my stoned characters are stoned by having rocks thrown at them. (Unless you cound sleeping potions.)

talpianna said...

How much are you changing the original? The premise for capture in the fairy tale is that the merchant has stolen a rose from the Beast's own garden, not picked a wildflower from the side of the road.

I think that Robin McKinley's BEAUTY is pretty much a perfect retelling of the story; I've never read one I liked as much, not even her own new version written 20 years later. I wonder if she'll do another 20 years after that?

none said...

Rachel, you could try:

It's an...interesting experience....

Sets the word "interesting" off a bit.


writtenwyrdd said...

Honestly, the original is far better than the revised versions.

Your choice on the pov, so don't think it matters what I say on that point. present tense can work. Just be sure it's serving the story and not your ego. (Ego is like a dog who keeps dropping his ball in your lap, it wants to play with you, get your attention.)

I'd stick with tweaking the original. My suggestions:

It's pretty scary, being carried headlong through the forest under a giant's arm. The trees and bushes slap my face and arms and it's a wonder I haven't slammed into anything solid enough to break bones.

I just changed the details here. You can change them your own way, but what I did was to pick details that gave more of a portrait of the scene and the protagonist's emotions. "Interesting experience" is cold and clinical. Anthropomorphizing (sp) the trees is distracting, so I omitted that. You could have her stick her face inthe giant's side to keep the branches from hitting her face, too, then have her feel jounced, out of breath, etc.

The thing your retries lack is the impact of this original opening. I like your original opening a lot, but like I said before it's not quite working yet.

Unknown said...

Loved the continuation!

This sounds very much like the sort of thing I'd write, by the way, so I'm very at home with the tone and voice, and don't have the same disconnect issues other folks are having. The disconnect is a neat technique, and it can be very effective.

With that said... it's pretty clear from the comments it's not working for people here.

Rachel, I don't know what you've got coming after this, but you might want to take a look at whether or not this is really the place to start your story if you want this tone/voice. Maybe folks are reacting to the tone/event disconnect and tense more strongly than they might otherwise because it takes away from the immediacy and makes what's going seem more like backstory at this particular point. (Yeah, I know that sounds kind of contradictory, but that's the reaction I had to it.)

You might want to start with the first event in the castle, where the nonchalance wouldn't be quite as disconcerting and distracting, and the bravado of it would be more natural. Once you've set the tone, this sort of disconnect can work, but I wonder if this scene is really the place to start things off.

I have the feeling that while this scene may be the start of events, you aren't really seeing it as the true start of your story--it's just something that has to happen first. See if things work better for you if it has actually already happened.

_*rachel*_ said...

You know, D. Lemma, you may be right. What if I started with this, which is a slightly revised portion a little futher down?

We rattle up steps, a door creaks, and I fly for about a tenth of a second.
The door slams.
Somebody’s whimpering.
Yes. Stop it, silly Madeline.
I stop and make myself breathe evenly. Just because I’m locked in a medieval castle in the backwoods of Colorado, with a Goliath-sized monster lurking outside my room, doesn’t mean I—stop panicking. Breathe in, out, in, out. That’s better.
Taking a deep breath, I open my eyes, but the room’s pitch-black. Is there a nice, big window? A giant chimney? I wish I could see a way out.
And all this for one little flower growing in a bunch of weeds. What’s that monster’s problem, anyway?
I feel my way along the wall; no window, but I bark my shins on a trunk. Are there any weapons in the trunk? Nope, just a holey blanket, some sort of clothing that used to be wearable, and—eek!—live mice. I think I’ll search something else.
A fireplace! The poker I nearly stumble over could be useful; I pick it up. Now, can I fit up the chimney?
Achoo! I guess not.

writtenwyrdd said...

I like your latest version, too, but the reveal of the castle in the earlier one was really nice, too. I still like the original one best.

Unknown said...

Hm. I think you need to start in a more active place than that. What's her first active confrontation with the Beast? Is it in the woods before your original opening, or is she pretty much grabbed without warning? Or is it shortly after this scene? See what happens if you start with the first real give and take between Madeline and the Beast.

none said...

I think the point where it begins now is fine. Great introduction to the voice.

And don't worry about it not working for people here--most of them are not your market. Including me!

Try sending your first page here: (read the guidelines first!) for an opinion from someone with experience of the YA market. You might have to wait a while, though.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I love the newest version. The first three had interesting parts but didn't hook me. The last one grabbed me and held on. I felt addicted. I want to read more.

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