Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Beginning 632

So this was the place at last. The forbidden road ended in a small stone-paved yard surrounded by brambles. Beyond the yard was a high wall overgrown with dead vines that covered everything but the door.

The night before I had dreamed of that door as a black gaping mouth through which my younger sister Arli passed laughing with her daughter Suli cradled—prisoned—in her arms. It opened into a windowless chamber hung with tapestries. A gold-mailed serpent with human eyes uncoiled itself from a carved seat against the wall and reared above Arli. She reached out to caress it while Suli cried unheeded. I shouted to warn Arli, I who had been like a mother to her, but she did not hear. I tried to run after her, but I could not move.

At last the dream passed into blackness. But again the blackness shaped itself into that doorway, and Arli stepped through it into flames. She smiled as though she felt only comforting warmth, though Suli screamed.

And I woke in the other side of Arli’s bed, with the aftertaste of her sleeping-draught sickly-sweet in my mouth, and Arli and Suli were truly gone.

And I drifted into the realm of Morpheus once more until, seeing Arli and Suli tied up in a camper van driven by a one-handed former Bosnian war criminal who steered with a steel hook, I sat bolt upright and exclaimed: "Accipere quam facere praestat injuriam!"

Ike Beckman hit "save" and leaned back in his chair, grinning. Awesome, he thought. My first try at literary fiction and it's shaping up to be a classic.

Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"Oh..kay." Zack Martinez slowly rose from the table. "Listen, I'm getting a cup of coffee. Want some?"


Nodding, he left the room.

He'd seen some beauties in his day. But this guy, all dolled up in fishnets and Versace, boa around his neck, rambling on about his sister and niece, was a new one. And what he'd done to the woman and the poor kid...well, you saw some bad things in LA, but driving a minivan into the Weinermobile was downright strange.


Evil Editor said...

I like this. It does go into backstory almost immediately, but only from the day before, and starting with the dream wouldn't be effective if we didn't know the setting existed.

I might delete the last two sentences of the long paragraph. It gets us back to the present a little faster, and "She did not hear," "I could not move" indicates that the dream is something the narrator views but cannot participate in, like watching a movie, so maybe she shouldn't try to participate.

Evil Editor said...

Well, you can either start with waking up from the dream so it isn't back-story, and then later she says, "Hey, there's that place I dreamed about yesterday," or you can bring up the dream as back-story when she first sees the place she dreamed about. Starting with the character sleeping is seldom desirable, while back-story is often desirable--if done well.

Dave Fragments said...

There is a very famous example of opening with a dream. And perhaps we should look at how that author opens her novel.
"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderly..."
Don't ever be afraid to learn from a success. If you've never read the first chapter of Rebecca, I suggest that you do.

Your first paragraph is in present time. Why are you using past tense? Those "was" verbs (and they force the next paragraph's "had" verbs) kill action.

Why don't you begin:
I came to the place of my dreams. The forbidden road opening into a stone paved yard surrounded by brambles. At the far end, a high wall overgrown with vines and in its center, the door - (to oblivion) - (to dreams) - (to fire) - (to the serpent realm). "Beyond the yard" gave me heartburn. It indicates something out of the boundaries of the yard. I think you mean the wall ended the yard. I think you mean "at the end of the yard".

Now there's two parts to the dream - the first is the Chamber room with the snake and the second is the world of flames. I am not sure if the dream is recurring or was a one time affair. I am also not sure if Arli and Suli are gone and the speaker is searching for them or if they will step through the door in the future while the narrator looks on helpless.

Here's where I think "Rebecca" fits into the comment. The new Mrs De Winter is talking about events in the past and narrating the entire tale from the view that "we can never go back." And by that meaning she cannot regain her innocence, the joys of her life from her Honeymoon before she set foot in Manderly. Once she set foot in Manderly, Rebecca came to life. It is a sad look back and the entire chapter reflects that sadness. It also is physically true because Manderly lies in ashes.

I don't get that feeling from your opening. You are trying hard to get that effect but it's not there yet. this doorway is obviously a big part of the story. This plain yard is critical to everything. Obviously her sister took the child and walked through the door, was that ominous? Was that bad? Was that something we should fear? You need to use words that reflect the feeling you want.

You might begin the second paragraph with "The door of my dreams. The door of my loss. The door that came to me as I slept and took my sister and her child from this world."

Be careful with the images. Currently, you have conflicting images: Black gaping mouth, chamber with serpent, filled with flames, the foggy dream dissolve and fade.

_*rachel*_ said...

You could try having your narrator comment on the dream as s/he walks, ie, "Arli had walked through this courtyard with Suli screaming in her arms; She was laughing. As I walked the same way, I was not." Something like that.

Overall, though, not bad!

kmari03 said...

This opening is really readable, but the names "Suli" and "Arli" are confusing. Is there a really important reason that they are so similair other than the fact that the characters are family? It's a bit of an unnecessary obstacle to distinguish between them.

This is my first time commenting, so sorry if this isn't helpful.

Joanna said...

Thanks all for the advice. EE, I'm glad the backstory is acceptable here. The last 2 sentences of the long paragraph are there largely because I was told (by the editor who rejected this story) that I needed to identify the MC's gender and age earlier in the story. I'll try to drop that in more briefly.

Dave, you're right about 'beyond..'; I'll fix that. Thanks. The first para is in past tense because I don't like writing in present. And I will think again about the conflicting images. That was somewhat deliberate; the narrator knows the place she has reached is dangerous, but doesn't understand what the danger is until she has been inside t for some time, as it is actually somewhat more subtle than fire or snakes.

thanks, Rachel!

kmari03, I think family members with similar names are common in fary tales and older stories (Jorinda and Joringel...Hansel and Gretel,..Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth; Igraine, Morgaine, Morgause...) I thnk that's what I was thinking of subconsciously.

none said...

Editors say things like that.

Evil Editor said...

For me those sentences don't narrow down her age. We already know she's the older sister of someone with a child. It didn't occur to me tht it was a guy narrating, but maybe that's because I knew the author wasn't a guy. Maybe you could have her lift her veil when the place comes into view in paragraph 1.

It seems like the narrator must be in the room with Arli in the dream, as she describes the tapestries and chair and snake. So why would she try to run after her? Is the room so huge you need to run to reach someone else in it?

What do you mean by I woke in the other side of Arli’s bed? The other side from the side you were on the first time you woke? The other side from the side you were on when you first got in the bed? Is it important to wake from this dream in Arli's bed instead of your own?

Robin B. said...

Didn't have time to read yesterday.

Now that I have - I like it. The only thing that stopped me was the 'in the other side of the bed' phrase. First, my reading mind wanted 'on' a side, not 'in' a side, and then, I wanted something like 'on the other side of the bed from Arli's sleeping body...sleeping draught, etc., but Arli and Suli were truly gone.

Something like that.

You added the 'like a mother' for the editor, right? I like it - it tells me (roughly) who is narrating. I don't really need more, and I'd say this is early enough.

Joanna said...

Thanks; I hadn't caught the awkwardness of the other-side-of-the-bed description. That probably doesn't need to be there. The speaker has been staying in Arli's house ever since Arli's husband left for the place with the door; she meant to comfort Arli and also keep her from running off after her husband; hence the sleeping draught. This is shown a litle later on in the story. I need to think about what to put in the waking-up bit.