Monday, July 06, 2009

New Beginning 659

The heavy wooden doors, engraved with the image of a dragon, swung slowly open on their iron hinges, revealing a lone figure, a man. Immediately the two guards that had been leaning against the door fell to the ground. Dead.

The intruder cleaned and sheathed the twin short swords he carried, one on either side. He was fairly tall, with straight black hair, crystalline blue eyes, and golden-brown skin that rippled over muscle and sinew. His attire was dark and austere. His only accessories were the two short swords, and a rather large one slung across his back and concealed in black cloth. The most curious thing about him was the rough sack he was carrying.

“They just don’t make doorkeepers like they used to,” the man said wryly. He sauntered into the torch-lit, yet perpetually gloomy and shadow-haunted throne room, wherein sat on a black wrought-iron chair the very person he had come to see. “Greetings, Gripgrim, Lord of Thardus,” he called out in a deep, resonant voice. He over-bowed, more in mockery than respect.

“Welcome, surly warrior,” said Gripgrim, “to The League of Cliché Spouting, Stock Fantasy Characters.”

A scrawny thief sharpened a dagger in the corner and said, “Join us . . . or die.”

“Stay your hand, thief.” said a bearded dwarf. “You can catch more flies with honey than--”

“Silence!” cried an elf as he shot a venomous stare in the dwarf’s direction. “Does your foolishness know no bounds?!”

“Enough! Time is of the essence,” declared Randolph the wizard as he placed a magic amulet on his staff. “Let’s lock and load.”

Opening: Brett Wade.....Continuation: Matthew


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

“Greetings, you strangely handsome man with the mysterious dark past and iron-clad body any warm or . . . . cold-blooded woman would beg to have,” the raven haired beauty with the eyes the color of grass said. She nudged the body sitting upright in his throne with an elongated fingernail painted red. “They don’t make Lords like they use to either,” the vampiress said after the body hit the ground with a thud. The Lord’s head wavered back and forth, strangely grotesque but interesting enough to comment on.

She stepped further out of the throne’s gloom. “Don’t bother looking for the Lord’s entourage. Usually he just sits in here all by his lonesome waiting for the doors to bang open but they were surrounding him today like flies on a corpse. I told them to skiddaddle and skiddaddle they did,” she said as she snapped her fingers for emphasize. "I apologize . . . I was lying. They actually became corpses for the flies," she corrected, her voice dripping with sarcasm and humor. "Fifty of them. I left the doormen for you big boy."

The voluptuous woman’s breasts like fatten doves sneaked a look out of her low front, becoming almost visible, but not quite, yet enticing all the same. Now out of the shadows and in full light of the greasy torches the full beauty of evil was revealed in a lace trimmed satin dress that clung to the perfect body like a wet t-shirt. There was a slit that ran up the length of her leg to a point on her thigh that made it scandalous. There was another slit on the opposite side that made it obscene. There was smidgen of blood over her lips that gave her an intoxicating, yet deadly allure like red wine laced with poison. She licked her lips.

Sashaying up to the man with the wry, crooked smile and curly long hair that barely touched his rounded, full shoulders, she ran a finger down his half open shirt and breathed into his ear, “Can I play with your sword?” --Vivian Whetham

The muscular man stepped further into the room, his boots resounded loudly against the tiles of the floor. He began to speak again but was reduced to mumbling as his false bravado disappeared in the greasy light of the fluttering torches.

“I give up, I give up,” he nearly wailed. “I have slain ten harpies, rescued three princesses, seized a castle or two and have tamed the wild horses of the abyss. I have perused a thousand blogs, read his blog a million times, but I still can’t get EE to read my manuscript.” His knees buckled under him and was left to grovel at the Lord’s feet, “Please won’t you help me?”

Lord Thardus removed his mask, revealing muttonchops and terrorizing red eyes that glowed brightly in the gathering gloom. “Well, yes, I suppose I could but first . . .I have a very small task for you. Do you know what a query letter is?”

--Vivian Whetham

"How did you get in?" Gripgrim asked in thin and querulous tones. "I left orders -"

"Oh, I couldn't let your guards stop me," the stranger replied. "Not when I bring you this bounty."

He flung the rough sack at Gripgrim's feet. "We heard that Thardus Publications was running low on slush," he said, "so here! Over three hundred hopeful submissions, all no doubt the finest quality literary fiction! Why, some of them have even enclosed SASEs. Enjoy!"

Gripgrim groaned.


With a heave, the man flung down his sack, scattering half a dozen flat boxes across the floor. The scent of dough, tomatoes, and salty fish filled the room.

"That will be $95.44, from one who dares order six anchovy pies from Conan's Pizza Parlor," the man said saucily.

The wizened figure on the thone threw back his head in a horrible cackle. "Foolish mortal!" he croaked in a voice like a cheese grater. "This is a prank. Gripgrim ordered no such pizza and Gripgrim shall never pay!"

The man drew his swords, but he was too late. In a burst of oily smoke the demon lord disappeared.

"Curse you, prince of evil!" the man grumbled. "Now this will come out of my salary."

--Sarah from Hawthorne

Evil Editor said...

I don't buy that you can approach two guys guarding a door, kill both, and have them remain upright so that they don't fall till you open the door.

Are these two sentences not contradictory:

His only accessories were the two short swords, and a rather large one slung across his back and concealed in black cloth. The most curious thing about him was the rough sack he was carrying.

Even if it's not contradictory, when I see a guy carrying two short swords, a long sword wrapped in cloth and a sack, I'm not likely to remark that those are his only accessories. How much junk does the guy have to be carrying before the word "only" ceases to make sense?

Dave Fragments said...

I think that the clause "engraved with the image of a dragon" slows the action.

Also I don't quite understand the guards. Are they opening the door? Inside the doors? Surprised by the doors opening? You don't have to say where they are, it's the blocking of the action that is giving me trouble. They don't seem to act very guard-like to me.

And then you insert this clause "that had been leaning against the door"... What an action killer that is. Now before I get lectured about "had" again. This "had" clause delays the death of the guards and makes it anticlimactic.

How about:
As the dragon doors opened on their huge iron hinges, the two guards dropped to the floor dead and one man stood in the opening.
"They just don’t make doorkeepers like they used to..."

Note that I cut openly, immediately, and I would cut perpetually and wherein.
Note that I moved the snarky comment up to action it comments on -- dimwit guard's death. Now your hero can enter the chamber unperturbed and make sport of Lord Gripgrim while you describe his state of half clothed, muscular wonder. He is half clothed or barechested isn't he? He's not in a waist coat or ninja outfit. So I guess he's a Conan the Barbarian clone. And I guess that Gripgrim is the evil flabby ruler dressed in black and gray and makes human sacrifice on odd Tuesdays.

Matt said...

I might be cool with this scene if it appeared later on in the novel, but to open with it? I've seen that scenario play out in many fantasies and it's just not gripping.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Is this a Sword and Sorcery novel or a Romance? Almost feels like both.

Needs tightening, faster pacing. The guards dropped dead for no apparent reason the way this is paced right now.

As it stands, it's not pulling me in. Too much confusion about the genre and what mood you're trying to set with this opening.

Steve Wright said...

I'm still trying to work out how he's carrying the sack when he's got a shortsword in each hand. Gripped in his teeth? Clenched between his no doubt muscular buttocks? Inquiring minds want to know.

I have to say, so far, my sympathies are entirely with the doorkeepers. There they are, minding their own business, doing no harm to anybody, and then this guy comes along and kills them for no discernible reason. Does he do this to the staff everywhere he goes? "Hi, my name is Charles and I'll be your server this eve - *akkk* *thud*" (You can't take him anywhere.)

I didn't care much for his physical description ... crystalline eyes, to me, suggests he gets scratches on his eyelids whenever he blinks. And, traditionally, isn't it the muscles that are supposed to ripple, while the skin just goes along for the ride? Unless he's lost a lot of weight recently, so he's got lots of loose skin - that'd give him rippling skin, though it's maybe not the image you want, exactly.

I had other thoughts, but Matthew's continuation summed them up quite neatly.

Mame said...

I assumed they died spontaneously for no reason, so, problem.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Yeah, too many stock characters. But what really bugged me was the word 'attire.' Somehow that word screams cheap porn literature to me. Anybody else?

Eric P. said...

The black hair, the rippling muscles, the two swords, the wake of carnage... of course! It's fanfic for Groo the Wanderer!

Did I err?

Unknown said...

You can ignore me since no one else seems bothered by this - but what's the POV? Who is telling me what this guy looks like? Or that he's an "intruder?" The tone seems like its trying for full omniscient but then, you're also hiding information from me. Which is a bit of a "no-no" in full Omni.

How many hands does the "intruder"
have? Because the way I make it, he needs 4. Two to hold the short swords, one to clean the swords and another for the sack.

Rather than describe the "intruder" spend those words separating yourself from the cliched situation. Tighten up your word usage too.

All that said, I would probably read some more to see if this went in a new direction.

BTW- the continuations were really wonderful!

Hepius said...

I can't visualize the action in the first paragraph. Are the guards inside the doors or outside? Were they leaning against the doors because they were trying to hold them closed or were they already dead? How did they die?

Who hires such pathetic twits to guard their throne room? Didn't they see the guy with three swords and Conan muscles coming?

Which hand is the sack in? What's curious about the sack?

He's not very good at concealing the "large" sword. We can all see it.

Paragraph two makes me think this is a romance.

Is Gripgrim actually the good guy? Are we going to get a sudden reversal and see sarcasm-man get his ass handed to him?

Chelsea Pitcher said...

A writing teacher once asked our class to write a story using no adjectives. Sadly, I failed. This does too. The first paragraph alone has several more adjectives than I felt it needed. I wonder if you would consider taking out ALL the adjectives in the passage and then plugging back in the ones you feel it truly needs. You may end up putting them all back in, but you might find it reads just as well with less.

Beyond this, I liked the passage well enough. I agree about making the murder of the guards clearer, and moving the doorkeeper line up. But I think, with a little tweaking, the opening could be quite funny.

none said...

Please tell me this is satirical. That's the only reason I would consider reading on.

I've seen many attempts at satirising OTT Fantasy. They rarely work, but Diana Wynne-Jones' "Tough Guide to FantasyLand" is pretty damn good.

And no, it isn't possible to write with no adjectives. Nor should we try, except perhaps to prove that to ourselves.

Dave Fragments said...

Oh good grief...

He wipes the broad side of his short swords on his thighs and resheaths them. This guy ain't the delicate type to pull out a hanky and wipes, oils and shines them.

And then he spits on the floor just to be disgusting to Lord G...

I also have ideas about the rough sack but this is a family blog so I'll keep those ideas to myself.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I think most of the class managed it. I did mention it was a writing exercise, right?

Anonymous said...

Sinew, really?

I had the same POV issue. Having a tough time with Ha Jin's writing right now because every time a new character enters, it is some variation of "He was tall and in his mid-forties with dark hair," or "She was slight with a thin face and looked to be in her early twenties." In other words, it's not woven into the narrative very well. BUT at least it always comes from the POV character's, well, POV. Here I am thinking who is telling me what this guy looks like.

Also not that you can't use adverbs and adjectives, but not to tell us things that you should illustrate. He said wryly. If it's wry, we'll get it. Trust us. The room was torch-lit but perpetually gloomy--why is it gloomy--because there is a correlation, at least for me: The less you trust me as a reader, the less I trust you as a narrator.

I actually don't mind the first para, even with the engraved dragons. But then it gets a bit messy for me.

_*rachel*_ said...

You've actually got a character named Gripgrim? No way!

Matthew's right about the cliche. Go hence and read ye Diana Wynn Jones, who'll topple the Dark Lords to pieces.

You slough off into boring stuff in the second paragraph. I mean, he kills somebody and you're describing his hair?

I like adjectives and adverbs, but this is overwritten. I don't think you need most of those descriptors, and I don't think you're using them very effectively, either. Almost everything about the door could be replaced with "ponderous," which gives the connotation of slow, heavy, etc. Verbs like "swung" and "fell" are more interesting as "creaked" and "toppled." Don't go trigger-happy with the thesaurus, but use it; it'll spice things up a lot.

"Immediately" makes me think that the doors finish opening before the guys fall.

Why is he sheathing his swords? He hasn't killed Gripgrim yet.

If you have to describe him, do it later. Same with the mysterious sack.

The man's first line is annoying because it's the sort of smart-alecky thing every cliche hero says.

Some things on the Evil Overlord's List apply to good guys, too. Ones that may come in handy here: 6, 16, 40, 58, 110, 117, 137, 138, and 142.

I assumed a belt, Steve, but if you're right I do NOT want to know.

I assumed the guy went stab-stab and shoved the doors open. And I'd think dripping swords were more theatric, expecially if you needed to use them again soon. Though if they're sentient swords, who knows?

Anonymous said...

It starts with an action scene. That's good.

Adam Heine said...

I'm usually the last one to complain about cliche, but that's what bothered me more than anything here. I felt like I was reading The Eye of Argon and that's... bad.

Maybe I'd like it better if I had a character to like, or if I knew why Gripgrim was a bad man or something. Barbarian-ninja action guys are cool, but not without likable character or reasonable goals.

_*rachel*_ said...

Anon 8:05 is right: you started in a good place, Brett, you're just having some problems. Keep working and you'll get better; that's how life goes.

Anonymous said...

My problem with the opening is that it did sound a bit cliche' to me.

My second problem is that kings or lords or noblemen don't usually sit alone on their thrones all day doing nothing but count the ceiling tiles. Their should be someone in the room with him - probably alot of someones.

So let's suppose that your character did get get past the guards, and they remained standing, leaning against the door - hard to believe but this is fantasy let's go for it. Maybe the MC even took the time to prop them for the effect.

I will not, however, believe the Lord is sitting in his throne room by himself.

Third problem - the intruder walks in, the doormen drop to the floor, he takes the time to clean his weapons and Gripgrim does nothing? He doesn't jump up? He doesn't call out? He doesn't draw his sword? He does say greetings intruder come on in, could I get you a cup of coffee?

Cleaning swords takes some time - the Lord should have responded.

But I did like the way it read and besides with being too "stock", too many adjectives and the Lord having to be dead to not have responded. . . I think it may be an interesting read if something really cool and unpredictable happens fairly soon.


Mother (Re)produces. said...

Hey, don't underestimate the interest factor of hair to certain genre audiences. But I do feel giving him split ends and a bad hair day may give us some clue as to his motivation.

I like the name Gripgrim. Doesn't his cousin Griphook work at Gringott's Bank?

The only reason I'm curious about the sack is because *somebody* is telling me I ought to be. Actually, the most curious thing about this guy is why he just skewered two people.

But seriously; you need to work on your description of this guy. I'm assuming that with the present description- muscle, sinew, shiny black hair, that we are supposed to admire him. I find it kind of scary that after that, the narrator (who is... you?) tells us the most interesting thing about him is the sack. This is a bad sign.

Whirlochre said...

Sorry, author, but I have to echo everyone else.

It is a little 'stock', but since there appears to be a hint of satire in the first line of dialogue, I'm hoping this will eventually be milked. If it's straight fantasy, you may be in trouble.

One improvement you could make might be to think hard about all those adjectives in para 2 and work the descriptions into the action. You'll also need to figure out the problem of the suggested third limb for carrying the booty. Maybe the sack is tied around his waist?

the torch-lit, yet perpetually gloomy and shadow-haunted throne room is contradictory and overstated.

none said...

Once you get past "the cat sat on the mat" you're bound to be using adjectives. Of course, 'adjectives' includes more than just the obvious, same as not all adverbs end 'ly'. I suspect that when people blithely suggest never using adjs and advs, they're referring only to the words they *know* are adjs and advs. I don't trust a rule you can't frame without breaking it.

But I digress. I like the dragon doors, but I think they could have been described more interestingly. And in fewer words.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the name Gripgrim but I swear I've seen it used someplace before.

I didn't hate this, but I have to echo the others about too much. The writing's a bit tangled, and what you write gives a rather mixed message to me in terms of who your character is. I gather we are in Gripgrim, "Lord of Thardus" pov? It feels like we are in the pov of a cultered person looking down (class-wise) on a barbarian. Your Gripgrim notices fastidious details like dress, bad hair and cleaning swords in a tacky manner. This is all a good approach, to me...however you overlook one thing: The emotion and a bit of logic.

If we are in Gripgrim's pov and someone has just charged into the throne room or wherever after slaughtering your guards, would you be that emotionless?

I think that if this character is the bad guy, perhaps you can do a Ming the Merciless impression here...but again, I'm not sure it's the best choice. Why start in teh head of the villian (which I presume this Gripgrim fellow is?) when he (presumably) isn't hte main character of the story?

So, if my impressions are correct, you have portrayed your villian in the opening via his pov, and it lacks the emotion to make me care. If he isn't the villian, you might consider making your pov character not appear to be the villian.

I didn't hate this, but it confused me. I don't think I'd read on because I didn't like your pov guy and he didn't interest me. Maybe if he notices something interesting it would help.

Joanna said...

I'm finding the comments more confusing than the opening--what makes this intruder seem like a hero? Killing people at unawares and then making jokes about it sounds like definite villain behavior.

Minor nitpick: 'accessories' seems an odd word for swords.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

You're right B.S. Only you know the true adjectives. The rest of us are morons. Thanks for once again saving the day with Buffy's Corrections.

If the rest of us stopped giving advice, and simply showed up to mock the New Beginnings and say we wouldn't read on, like you do, this site would be So Much More Helpful!!!

Btw, "the cat sat on a mat" sounds like something you submitted. It doesn't sound anything like the piece we're actually discussing.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile back on the farm or in the throne room -

i don't like getting too nitpicky about specific words because I think all authors should have their own style -

but I have some time.

"engraved with the image of a dragon" - does break the flow. If you need it for the story put it over the throne, engraved in the throne or on a banner hanging above the throne - you can get it in.

Still don't know how he could clean and sheathe his swords that he carried in both of his hands and the Lord does not respond in some manner.

"Crystalline" does not quite fit.

"accesorries" seems too modern for the setting.

"a rather large one" hmm? Claymore maybe, not sure I like "rather"

The intruder sheathed the twin short swords he carred. He was tall, with straight black hair and piercing blues eyes. Muscles and sinew rippled over golden-brown skin and slung across his back was a rough sack and a large sword.

(leave out the "most curious thing" let your reader decide if this is interesting.)

One of the mistakes i have when I write that I am seeing in your writing - you're not being convincing. You don't need "fairly" "rather" "the most curious thing about him" choose is the room gloomy or lit by torches? "the very person he came to see" not necessary - your readers will know this by the conversation that proceeds. Have faith in your readers and your writing.

I was trying to rewrite the last paragraph and could not. There are many places where you can tighten this up and have a better descriptive setting.
I like the last two sentences, however.

And, again i would continue to read on even if nothing was changed.


Xenith said...

Oh, I missed this one, but having recently read I shall drop a link to it

Anonymous said...

Maybe the POV character is the king's brother, hiding behind a tapestry and hoping the intruder manages to kill his sibling before the alarm can be raised. Now THAT would lure my eyes onward.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the feedback. I wrote this a while agao, and I can definitely see the need for improvement. I would also like to thank you guys for not being overly harsh. It annoys me when people just say "you suck" and dont give any actual feedback.

That said, for those of you who have a problem with the hero's first line (yes, he is the hero, or maybe anti-hero), what about it don't you like? Why is smart-alecky cliche? Is it only cliche if he only does this to be dramatic or just because it is? It's not just something he says for flair, its actually in his personality. He's a smart-alecky guy and he makes smart-alecky comments through the entire book. Are you saying that its bad to have a smart-alecky hero? I could use some clarification here.

Adam Heine said...

"...what about it don't you like? Why is smart-alecky cliche?"

For me, I think it's that we don't know anything about him except his muscly appearance and the fact that he killed two guards for an as-yet unknown reason. These details screamed "action hero" to me. The wry one-liner, wryly said, just confirms it.

Evil Editor said...

I have no problem with smart-alecky heroes. You can be a wise guy and get played by Harrison Ford or you can be all-business and get played by Sylvester Stallone. Neither is more cliche than the other.

Whether the guy would actually say “They just don’t make doorkeepers like they used to,” and then saunter in is another question. Has he seen Gripgrim yet when he says this? If he's talking to G., he should say, If you're wondering how I got in, your doorkeepers seem to be lying down on the job. Or, If you're wondering how I got past your doorkeepers, it was easy after I robbed their children of their fathers by murdering them in cold blood just for doing their boring jobs.

In a movie I could see him making the comment to the camera for a laugh, but in real life, I wouldn't expect him to talk to no one or to saunter until he knows he's safe.

Hepius said...

Muscle-bound, sword (or gun) wielding tough guy who cracks jokes while downing baddies has been done (many times).

To me it screams Dungeons and Dragons. "Ha! I'm a 15th level fighter, nobody can touch me!"

I don't have any reason to think the line is cool because I don't know him or the villain. All I know is that he murdered two guards and mocks his opponents.

I don't have any problem with you starting at this point in the story. I like starting in the midst of the action.

Best of luck.

Unknown said...

Hmmm. Thank you. I'll make some improvements.

Unknown said...

Oh, and for the curious, there's a decapitated head in the sack. XD

Anonymous said...

"...what about it don't you like? Why is smart-alecky cliche?"

I agree with EE - I am a cynical, sarcastic person, (some days), but alas the cameras are not following me around so I don't get a chance to turn to the camera whenever a funny comment pops into my mind to make a remark - I have to actually talk to someone.

I was thinking about this last night and have decided - cliche', smart alecky, stock characters are okay - they work and they sale - but only if you can put them into a new situation/conflict/setting/story.

the opening didn't suck.


Evil Editor said...

So it's like that Joe Pesci movie, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag?

If the sack were dripping blood it would suddenly become his most curious accessory. But I suppose it was removed from its neck too long ago to still be dripping? Wait, have him decapitate the doorkeepers and put their heads in the sack so it's dripping blood.

Also, change the title to 3 Heads in a Gunny Sack.

Unknown said...

Hmm... I think I fixed the major problems. Do I have to send it in again, or can I post it in the comment thread?

batgirl said...

Of course there's a head in the sack. What else could there possibly be? As soon as the sack was mentioned, I knew there had to be a head in it.
The problem is that presently even a devoted reader of swords & sorcery (me) has no reason to care whose head it is.
I'm just wondering if this is really where your story begins? People are calling this an action scene, but ... basically the swordsman walks in with a bag. There's not actually any conflict, because the guards just fall dead and BigBad says nothing.
Maybe the story begins where the swordsman meets something he can't dispose of with a quick sword and a stale quip?

Evil Editor said...

Post it in the comments.

Unknown said...

The ponderous wooden doors creaked open on their iron hinges, revealing a lone swordsman. The two guards that had been leaning against the door were lying on the ground. Dead.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, your highness,” the man said, “but your service quality has diminished a lot since my last visit. For a moment, I didn’t think I was going to be granted an audience at all.” The intruder wiped his twin weapons on his thighs and sheathed them on either side as he entered. He over-bowed in mockery to the lord seated on the black wrought-iron throne before him.

Aside from the Lord of Thardus and his guards, the torch-lit chamber was empty. His highness had a particularly bad habit of having his courtiers killed. Lord Kelatos sprung to his feet, his face contorted in fury. With his bald head and long nose he resembled a pale vulture, wrapped in robes of blood-crimson and violet. He shook his black-iron scepter in the air furiously and shouted, “You! How did you get in here?”

“Well, it should be obvious, but since it isn’t, did you happen to notice the dead doorkeepers?”

Evil Editor said...

Who's Lord Kalatos? Is he Lord of Thardus? Is he Gripgrim? Just give him one name until we're settled in.

Sprang, not sprung.

If the guy is going to spring to his feet as soon as he sees the hero, let him do so. Don't spend time describing the lord and the room and cleaning swords and bowing. As soon as the intruder's presence is noted, spring.

A more reasonable order of events:

"Sorry to keep you waiting, your highness,” the man said, “but--"

“You! How did you get in here?” Lord Kelatos sprang to his feet, his face contorted in fury.

"For a moment, I didn’t think I was going to be granted an audience at all. Then your doorkeepers dropped dead.” The intruder wiped his twin weapons on his thighs and sheathed them on either side. He over-bowed in mockery to the lord of Thardus.

Work in the descriptions whenever there's a lull in the conversation after that.

Unknown said...

O.o *headdesk* I can't believe I missed the sprang vs. sprung bit.

150 said...

You suck!

I'm totally kidding, I love that we have that reputation. :)

Here's how I see this scene going:

The ponderous wooden doors creaked open on their iron hinges, revealing a lone swordsman. The two guards that had been leaning against the door were lying on the ground. Dead.

“I’m sorry--" said the man, when a guard's spear caught him in the chest and he dropped like a rock.

If my guards leaned against the door rather than standing at attention beside it, I'd fire them.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Hi Brett,

I think EE got it right (surprise!) in terms of plugging in too much info too soon. However, I really liked the pale vulture description, and your last line made me laugh out loud. I like this new version much better.

Unknown said...

Thanks! The reason the guards don't act immediately is because (as is shown later) they now who this guy is, and they're scared of him. (You know, the ubiquitous one-man-army type. XD) When ordered to act, they do so hesitantly. However, would it help if I added a line about how someone throws a spear at him and he dodges or catches it?

Steve Wright said...

Am I the only person in the entire universe who has a problem with the phrase "a decapitated head"?

To me, "to decapitate" means "to cut off the head". So a decapitated head would be, not a head that's been cut off, but a head whose head has been cut off. You can decapitate a person, but you can't decapitate a head unless it's got some sort of supernumerary head growing out of it.

If you want to describe a cut-off head, what's wrong with "severed"? "A bag with a severed head in it" seems perfectly acceptable to me. OK, maybe not the ideal Mothers' Day gift, but apart from that it's fine.

Am I really the only person who's bothered by this? ... Yes, I probably am. I'll shut up now.

Evil Editor said...

It's not really the head that's severed, it's the neck. Or am I the only one bothered by that? Perhaps there's a human head in the bag. Trust us to deduce that it's no longer attached.

Anonymous said...

The second version is better - and for those with problems with decapitated head try:

"in the sack there was a head"

Most readers will know a head in a sack is no longer attached to a neck due to be severed at the neck or other means.

Regardless . . . dead is dead.


Evil Editor said...

Yes, but without calling it a human head, it could be a head of lettuce or a goat's head.

ril said...

Ooh, head of lettuce. That's an even worse Mother's Day gift.

Personally, I think there's a lot to be said for letting feedback sit and stew for a while before rushing out a new version...

Anonymous said...

"in the sack there was a head"

to which Evil replies:

it could be a head of lettuce or a goat's head.

to which anon replies:

But she never lost her head
Even when she was given head
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side

Anonymous said...

And EE is correct, (again) (is he ever wrong?)

anywho (I know that is spelled wrong)

but if you went onto explain the head other than it was decapitated or merely human you get something like:

"In the sack there was a head of an aged man with his eyes plucked out by crows. Blood dripped from the severed neck, soaking the sack."

Now we have a curious sack and we don't have to tell anyone to be curious. :)


pacatrue said...

If a guy like this DID walk in with a head of lettuce (and a nice vinaigrette in a flask), I'd definitely keep reading.

Dave Fragments said...

One of the greatest blood splatters in all of moviedom occurs in Akira Kurasawa's RAN when Kurogane beheads Lady Kaede with one stroke and her blood hits the wall six feet behind her and ten feet in the air. It's an amazing splatter. Lady Kaede deserved it.