Stuart Nash grasped the metal handrail with both hands, convulsed, and through streaming eyes watched the remains of his breakfast vanish into the churning waters of the North Atlantic. Another spasm ran through his slight frame, but there was nothing left in his stomach to come up. He spat, vainly trying to clear the foul burning taste from his mouth. Beneath him, the research vessel Waylander surged and rolled as the vast cold grey waves jostled her. Spray prickled across Stu's face and the backs of his hands, the only parts of him exposed to the elements. His grip on the rail tightened. Before him there was only an endless vista of wild iron-grey sea, clouds scudding across a sky only a few shades lighter. Stu looked weakly out across the sea, and hated every square foot of it.
There were footsteps on the deck behind him, and a warm voice said, "Oh, shit, Stu, not again, man?"
"Afraid so, Zack," Stuart moaned. "I told you at the start, I don't sail well. I wanna go home."
"I don't blame you, " Zack said. "But wouldn't that look bad? I mean, you are the captain."
Opening: Steve Wright.....Continuation: Faceless Minion (mostly)
One of my beta readers said that opening was "right up there with Austen". So choose wisely.
The writing here is very evocative and vivid. I feel like I could be standing on the heaving deck, viewing the heaving sea, and listening to the heaving man.
The problem is, this is all I've got to go on at the moment, and I'm inclined to back away with distaste if the scene continues in this vomitous vein, but I'd definitely read on to see what's happening here.
"It's Captain Nash to you, Seaman. Now get back to your station."
Stu nodded, weakly.
He let himself be helped to his feet, then lurched towards the Waylander's cabin. Why did he agree to captain this bloody ship?
"Funny, that's just what the guy down there on the Waylander was saying."
Stu nodded weakly.
The warm voice chilled. "You should have listened to me the first time."
Stu wretched again, and still nothing came up. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "I know, Mom. No more Twinkies for breakfast."
"I'm sorry, man." Stuart belched. "I told you at the start, I don't sail well..."
"I know that, Stu. Anybody would get a little sick in this." He was rubbing his slicker with a rag. "But Stu, I told you before, you gotta stand on the leeward side."
“If you think this is bad,” said Stu between retches, “you should see what’s coming out the other end....”
“Hell no, uh-uh, and, man, no way.” answered the warm voice of Porter, a man who would definitely be played by Snoop Dog if this were a movie. As Porter rapidly turned away in disgust, the dollar sign on his gold necklace struck Stu across the brow and left a deep cut. The chilling arctic air burned the open wound and Stu’s grip on the railing tightened further.
“Damn it, Porter!” Stu yelled over the restless arctic waves, “If you weren’t such an expert in Norse history and literature, who for some reason is traveling with a research team to the Arctic Circle, I would have you thrown overboard!”
"Yeah," Stuart croaked, "again. Just like the last ten times."
Reggie made a note on his clipboard. "Sorry to hear it, man. If it makes you feel any better, half the focus group is hurling. Those idiots back at the lab must not know what the hell they're doing. New and Improved Dramamine my ass!"
"If you don't start saving that stuff we'll be out of food in less than a week. And then…"
Stu nodded. "I know. But they always eat the skinny guys last. To be honest, I don't think this research is going to tell us anything we don't already know about cannibalism."
"Naw, naw, I just threw up this time," replied Stu.
"Yeah," said Stuart, clutching his belly, "that Ramsay cookbook ain't all it's cracked up to be."
His friend shook his head, unconvinced. "You sure you marinaded the veal like he said? If I remember right, the instructions are pretty specific — and there's a picture."
"Uh huh," grunted Stuart, poising to hurl another quart of prime beef stock into the tossing waves, "but I don't think that meat is so good. It's six months since we left port."
His friend offered him a reassuring hand, rubbing in circles at the base of his ribs as a gastric melange of spiced peppers fountained into the mist. "Maybe tomorrow we should try something simple — like a salad. The lettuces look a bit floppy but I'm sure we could work wonders with the artichokes..."
“What’s wrong?” garbled Stu. “You know I get seasick, Terry.”
“What’s wrong? You spent the whole first paragraph throwing up, how are people supposed to make fun of that?”
“I’m just doing my part to set the scene. Besides, they can still make fun of it if they’re clever.”
“Clever? I just glanced at some of the continuations and saw things like Snoop Dog and Chef Gordon Ramsay, do you call that clever? Let’s start over. And this time, vomit in one sentence and move on so that they have more to work with.”
“Okay....” Stu ate a bagel and forced his finger down his throat.
I think big vast cold toneless grey heaping waves is a bit much, and lose prickled.
Still, one of the best ones I've read here.
But I don't know jack, keep that in mind.
Leeward anon, Matthew, and Hanne, I like your continuations.
You're writing tasteful, humorous, classic romance, Steve? I dunno; this just doesn't sound like Austen. It does sound a little overdrawn, though. Stu's throwing up, hates the sea, has a friend on board, great. Sounds like I'd be on a trip like that. It's just that all he's doing is throwing up, and that's not particularly compelling. Not that somebody getting shot in the first paragraph is always compelling, but it's a lot less mundane.
In all, I don't know if you really want this as your opening. Then again, I'm not Austen's editor.
Should that be streaming tears? Or do eyes stream?
I'd lose the entire sentence with "prickled."
I'd lose "as the vast cold grey waves jostled her."
That first paragraph could close:
Before him was an endless vista of wild iron-grey sea; Stu hated every square foot of it.
You lose the clouds, but you avoid repeating "sea." Besides, I can't tell whether you're saying the clouds are a few shades lighter than the sea or that the sky is a few shades lighter than the clouds.
I liked this opening but how many words do you actually need to set up a scene?
I would tone it down a bit. I'm skipping sentences to get to the last sentence to see what is going happen.
Nothing happens. the scene is great, the voice okay, just long. I am not even going to say that is bad because if something happens within a few paragraphs to drag me further into the story - I am going to stick with it.
the problem with choosing the continuation is - nothing is funny about a man being tossed in the artic ocean throwing up. The scene is too vivid and there is not much else to go on.
I would go with faceless minion's however. Because I could probably run with that and write 400 more words about a captain that wants to go home.
"Show me the way to go home. . . " Excuse me - just had a Jaws flashback.
Dang! I'm just too slow today. I wanted to write something cheesy like:
The camera flashed in Stuart's face.
"I can just see the headline now," said the sleezy reporter. "Reknowned Icthyologist Stuart Nash Flashes Hash as Orcas Clash." She smiled and dangled the camera.
Stuart decided this would be a good time to chuck her overboard. Especially since last night in a drunken fit of lust, he had let her see his rash...
I haven't said this in a comment in a while. You could cut that first paragraph by half and it would still be good. It's 139 words in the first paragraph, make it 70 or 75 at most.
I think this is well written, as a description of puking. Like if someone said you must write the best paragraph you can on puking. But as a beginning...at some point with this you step back and say, okay, all that and basically the guy puked. It's not that it's too lovely for puke per se; it's just too overwritten for one action. And from my experience, puking comes on fast and furious. This isn't sex...it's puking. Why take so much longer to describe it than it takes to actually occur?
This just occurred to me. Mind you - I don't like Austen. Not my style. Not my genre. Nothing personal, she probably would not like my style either or the genre I like to read or write.
However I am so looking forward to reading Pride and Prejudice and zombies.
saying that the continuation should go like this
"Stu, my dear friend, I daresay you need to pull yourself together," Zack said. "Are you well enough for me to continue?"
"Well yes I do believe, I am," Stu said, although he did not look like any such thing, sickly pale as he was.
"I am here to announce that the muskets are loaded and the men prepare for the swordship that awaits," the man continued.
"Very good, I am enthused our men's minds are engaged to face this scourage," Stu said before leaning over the railing again.
Zack had known this man for nearly three and twenty years and could say with affirmation that he knew this man's character even in the most direst circumstance including the one which they faced today.
"I was wondering sir, have you given any thought about properly introducing your daughter to your second. It just seems to be the proper thing to do since he seems to be high in color for her," Zack continued as Stu spilled his guts in the high water.
But as for your opening - very nice - a little long, could tighten it up a bit . . . throw in some zombies and I am sure I will read it.
That's nothing like Austen.
Okay, so I don't read Austen, but if I did, what does "choose wisely" mean? What am I choosing and what are my choices? It almost sounded like a threat. "Don't thump my writing or you'll show yourself a fool."
Just for the record, one of my beta readers said my writing is right up there with Chandler. I said, "Great. I'm writing light-hearted romantic comedy, so I guess I need to lose the cynical analogies." No, no, for real though. Beta readers are great for the ego, but not usually so great for a true reflection of your ability. Not that this sucks, but ah, don't go spending that advance money just yet.
Choose wisely referred to the fact that the continuations were posted in advance and minions were invited to vote for their favorite. Once the vote was over the post was converted to a normal New Beginning.
Nice one, vkw! But MOST DIREST??? Are you kidding me? Oh, and tell me how you like P&P&Z, because it really does look tempting.
Once an author has a reputation and a following, he or she could open with "It was a dark and stormy night," or any of the other winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, and still have people read on. This is only like that, I guess, in that you probably don't have much wiggle room as far as getting things interesting goes.
Can we do a mini Bulwer-Lytton, EE? Sounds like fun!
A writing exercise in which you have to write only one sentence? You trying to get out of working this week?
okay I think I may have started something that was unintentional - so I am going to backpedal.
Buffeysquirrel - of course it does not sound anything like Austen - why on earth would I ever try to imitate an author that I don't like? That's silly. I read pride and predjudice because I had to. If I did not have to it would have ended up next to Twilight - in the pile "books I refuse to finish, but gave an honest chance". I actually do have a shelf in my home that is labeled just this - in my mind. I loan books off of it.
Stick and Move - you lost me. I was commenting on how much I am looking forward to reading Pride and Predjudice and Zombies and if Steve's work was being compared to his - I could satire it with zombies. If Steve's friends think that his work is comparable to Austen - good for him. He has friends that think his novels will be good enough one day to satire and a book that helpless students are forced to read. Good for him.
My friends think I write like Salavatore. I want my friends to think like I write like ME! Don't google him - it's not worth your time.
The point being . . . this is suppose to be fun and helpful. EE (or his minions) may actually point out my delusions on this point . . . but I hope not and please don't - I'm out of haldol. Somedays all I have are delusions.
Steve it was a very good opening. I hope one day to be able to satire it by throwing in some zombies and women with more common sense than those found in P&P. But regardless of my hopes, it was very good and good luck. Your friends are wrong. . You don't write like Austen . . . you write like you. That is only my opinion and the highest opinion I can give anyone.
Let's don't be all serious about this. Relax and just don't do it.
Ah, gotcha, thanks for clarifying, EE. That makes it less arrogant, if still somewhat naive.
Pay me no mind, I'm in a weird mood. Best of luck on the revisions, author, if you decide the piece needs it.
"He spat, vainly trying to clear the foul burning taste from his mouth."
Vainly and burning are the only things I'd change. I don't see how clear puke flavor from your mouth is vain? The idiom "in vain" means useless, but vainly does not. This sentence implies, because he doesn't want to puke flavor in his mouth, that he's a vain man. If you must use an adverb, I'd go with uselessly.
I don't understand why his mouth is burning. Unless I eat something spicy, puke doesn't burn (sometimes not even then) Do you mean foul acid taste?
But those are nits. This is really good writing. We've got good setting, action. We know where we are, we know our MC hates it which raises a good question: Why is he there.
Avoiding "puke" because the reader is too "gentile" (not that any said gentile but that's whats implied- too gentile minded to read a book that starts with puke) is bad advice. Jackass the movie might give us a clue about how gentile our audience is. I And anyway, logic that says it's okay to murder someone, show blood and details, but no okay to puke in the first paragraph is just silly.
Good writing trumps all. And the moral? You can puke, piss, and shit your way to the bank, as long as you do it well.
Umm...doesn't anybody realize that Steve was just joking about the Austen thing? He writes horror.
Someone said Twilight.
"Aimee Maher grasped the metal handrail with both hands, convulsed, and through streaming eyes watched the remains of her spaghetti dinner vanish into the churning waters of the porcelain bowl."
Damn Mathew! You are kidding! there goes my perfectly good opportunity to satire's Steve's work with with zombies and common sensed women. . .
wait . . . I could make the novel into a Austen book . . .but wait no one but helpless students would buy it then
Arrrrrrrrrg. . . I am so confused on what to do. I'll go back to doing my own writing.
Anonymous - my throat has burned for hours everytime I have ever thrown up - especially due to anything but illness. I understood the writing immediately. I felt it in my throat, along with the feeling of bare skin in this -
"Spray prickled across Stu's face and the backs of his hands, the only parts of him exposed to the elements." I've felt this and it hurts and I have hated it.
I got it. It's good.
Ah, Steve was kidding. I get it. Sorry. I guess I missed the joke, took it too seriously, and being in a weird mood (not entirely unusual, but I'm not usually mean-spirited) I wanted to take him down a notch. My bad. My apologies. I'm going to go write some light-hearted romantic comedy now, with the same precision and grace as a ballerina with a bad case of vertigo.
Yeah Aimee, I gave up on Twilight and picked up Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Much Better
but I fell in love with historical fiction when my father read The Robe by L. C. Douglas to me when I was eight. I in turn read the Harry Potter series to my son until he could read it for himself. I was once afraid what he would like as an adult but have come to understand no matter what he enjoys to read, as long as he reads, I am proud.
EE: do you ever review historical fiction in your book reviews? I'm going to try for the next one - which actually looks interesting.
Sorry Steve we are off topic.
We try to vary genres as much as possible. We did two historical fiction books. The current Newsweek has a list of 50 books they think we should read now. One is Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a historical novel. Other books on the list are set in the past, but because they were written in the past.
Buffeysquirrel - of course it does not sound anything like Austen - why on earth would I ever try to imitate an author that I don't like?
I don't know--why did you?
I agree you could do some cutting, but what kind depends upon the type of story you're writing. Is this lit fic or commercial fic?
If it's lit fic, it seems pretty good, but you might want to watch the repeating of descriptions. We have the "churning waters", the "vast cold grey waves" and the "wild iron-grey sea" and they're all saying the same thing in slightly different ways. Modifiers like "weakly" in "looked weakly" aren't doing much but hanging around either.
If it's commercial fic, I think it needs a serious prune, both to make the prose cleaner and to get to something interesting sooner. A new first sentence could be something like this:
Stuart Nash watched the remains of his breakfast vanish into the North Atlantic.
13 words rather than 29 and they get the same message across. Or you could add three more words and throw Through streaming eyes on the beginning of the sentence. Pick one of your three water descriptions and ditch the other two. Combine the last two sentences, or keep them separate but remove the first half of the last one. All the rail-gripping could probably go. Etc.
Although! Perhaps the bigger issue is whether this is really the place you want to start your story. Without knowing anything more about it, it's difficult to say, but you're probably aware that the hero puking as a signal that he's not used to sailing is a fairly common trope. Perhaps there's a more interesting and dynamic opening you can write?
Good luck with it.
Lit Fic doesn't automatically bestow a "get out of jail free" card on over-writing...
Is it about time for me to snap at the Anonymice to get some names already? It seems like about time.
Well, thanks for the comments, all! It's been very interesting ...
This is, of course, not a respectable work of fiction. It's aimed at base persons of low and dubious tastes like, well, me. I mean, I've tried to broaden my appeal as much as possible, but realistically I know I'm going to lose the last of the Jane Austen fans somewhere around the exploding-eyeballs scene.
I should probably make an admission here; this one was written for NaNoWriMo '06, and while I'm trying to knock the MS into submittable shape, I've not tinkered with the opening since the first draft ... so, yeah, it needs some flab trimmed, that's for certain.
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Is it about time for me to snap at the Anonymice to get some names already?
Or at least some numbers.
Steve, it's actually rather insulting to assume that because one likes Jane Austen one doesn't like your sort of writing, so I hope you meant that tongue in cheek. I happen to love ridiculous spoofs and send ups just as much as Austen. Epic space parodies like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Armageddon the Musical are some of the best creativity out there.
Writtenwyrd, it's usually safe to assume my tongue is firmly wedged in my cheek. (And, actually, I've read Jane Austen myself, and enjoyed it.)
(But I certainly am a base person of low and dubious tastes, and there's no getting round it.)
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