Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Beginning 665

“You murdered her!?” A priestess in white robes turned away, unable to look at her lover.

“I did what I had to do! Don’t you understand? This is for us--This is so we can spend eternity together!” The handsome youth approached the priestess and placed his hands on her shoulders. She stopped shaking upon his touch and he gently turned her until their eyes met. “We talked about this, remember? Why let heaven decide what’s best for us when we can forge our own destiny?”

“But...murder? This is not you...This is not the man I fell in love with. You’ve been listening to those fools in the town--You let them influence you! Why did you have to tell them that I taught you the ways of the priestesses? It is forbidden for a man to know such things!”

“Why is it forbidden? Because it was ordained by the heavens? If heaven is so against what we are doing then why did they not stop you from teaching me their secrets? Why did they not intervene when we stepped beyond our bounds and used our gifts to control spirits?”

"Our gifts? What gifts? You've ruined everything. How can we possibly be together for eternity now?"

"But I thought--"

"Did you? I don't think you thought at all. You could have just told her you didn't care for the arrangements. By the Heavens... I suppose it's up to me to salvage this. You go to the tavern or something; I'll see if I can find us another Wedding Planner."

Opening: Matthew.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

"They have intervened! Because I taught you the female mysteries, they have visited upon you the female curse! Do you not understand!? First mood swings ... now violence - You have PMT!"


Rosie glanced up, remembering too late just where she was. She laid down the Barbie and Ken prototypes and sat down, reddening.

"Uh, very nice, Ms. Flanagan," said the CEO. "Anything else?"

"Well, as you can see, Priestess Barbie and Sorcerer Ken would make a wonderful addition to our partnering Disney market."


Lightning crashed through the open window killing the youth instantly.

"Sorry for the delay. There was a flood on the plains that required divine intervention. A group of townsfolk will be here in a moment to give you your due. Be a good girl and wait for them." The shining being withdrew.

Outside, the spirit of the murdered woman high-fived the angel as they sped off to gather a lynch mob.

--Faceless Minion


They turned. Standing in the hall behind them was fully half the pantheon.

"Actually, we were waiting for you to finish up the exposition," Lothar the Crocodile God explained, fingering the edge of his sword. "Everybody got all that? Doomed love, forbidden magic, etcetera? Great. Let's get to the smiting!"

--Sarah from Hawthorne

"Fine," she said, and gave him the look. His heart sank.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I mean, when your mother said--"

"Don't bring my mother into this. You always blame my mother."

"No, I'm not blaming her, I--"

"Fine. I said fine. Forget it. I'm going to clean the sacrificial altar."

He sighed and watched her go. It looked like this was going to be worse than the time he left the toilet seat up.


"The same reason they didn't interfere with the two hundred and fifty six preceding candidates for Chief Homicide?" He gulped. Maybe he should have listened to his mother and stayed away from those spotted mushrooms.

--Jacob Topp-Mugglestone

“We did so many awful things...the murder, teaching the forbidden secrets, having a three-way while the high priestess watched, the spirit orgy, hanging those monkeys by the ankles and pelting them with eggs, farting near that guy eating lunch and then walking away like it was nothing--”

“We had to do those things--especially the three-way--to prove that the gods don’t care what we mortals do. But, hey, it could be worse. I could’ve written my own continuation--Only a sad asshole would do something like that.”


Evil Editor said...

No matter what the POV is, the characters' names would be known. When you say "A priestess....turned away, I immediately assume they don't know each other, only to discover they're lovers. "The" priestess is better than "A" priestess, but just deleting the entire second sentence seems the best solution.

Hard to believe she would stop shaking upon his touch, as his confession has possibly doomed their future.

Steve Wright said...

Um. Yes. "A priestess in white robes" ... A priestess? She doesn't have a name or a physical description, which is humiliating enough - but she doesn't even rate the definite article? I mean, what would happen to fiction in general if this sort of thing started to spread? "Luke, I am your father," said some bloke in a tin hat ... It just doesn't bear thinking of.

Not that the other party - "the handsome youth" - is much better off.

Also, if I ever commit murder, and talk about it later with my significant other, I would hope the conversation would be less "shout things about gender roles that we already know" and more "where are we going to hide the body?" But maybe that's just me.

And, err, since we kind of know it's a dramatic scene to start with, does it really need so many exclamation marks?

Mame said...

I found the exclamation points annoying! A conversation where everyone is urgent can be detailed with wringing hands or something!

And be careful with the ...pausing.

I think "Our gifts? What gifts?" killed what you have going on. Is she a priestess or not? Did she teach him to knit?

"I don't think you thought what you think you did. Think about it"

I'd change that sentence, but that's me being picky.

It's really not that bad, murder captures people's attention. More murder!

Sarah Laurenson said...

When you said "a priestess", I got the image of one of many. Or at least that there were more of them around. And having her turn away from her lover had me wondering if her lover was the person being spoken to or just another guy in the room.

All that confusion in the first line stopped me cold. I skimmed some of the rest and it seemed like info dump disguised as dialogue, but I wasn't really reading it to tell for sure.

Anonymous said...

Why did you skip the action [murder] scene just to start with a talking scene?

Since they don't have names it seems like 2 minor characters delivering info about offstage events & backstory, like one of Shakespeare's heralds would do. But it isn't a play so it's not clear why you need that kind of device.

Evil Editor said...

I think "Our gifts? What gifts?" killed what you have going on.

This line is from the continuation.

Adam Heine said...

The dialogue struck me as melodramatic, like a soap opera. I have trouble imagining real people talking like this.

The line about "Why didn't the heavens stop us from sinning" bothered me too, but I'm pretty sure that has less to do with the writing and more to do with theology (I mean, what, does he want heaven to force him to do every little good thing?). If that's the theme of the story, I might stop reading soon, but I might also be in the minority on that.

Mame said...

Ha! If anything is going to humble a person, it's hanging out here.

Matt said...

Wow, I didn't know it would be so poorly recieved. Thanks for the feedback everyone.

Looks like I need more practice.

Mame said...

I wouldn't feel too bad Matthew. I'm betting this lot would bite the nose and tear the ears off of Stephen King after tackling him and rolling down the basement steps to his doom.

Eric P. said...

Sorry to say it, but.... isn't this the opening scene of The Mummy?

Dave Fragments said...

Don't take it as poorly received, take it as an opportunity to do better, to improve your writing.

When I would co-author and publish technical papers (in my career as a scientist), I saw lots of evil, nasty comments. It hurts for a little while but all of those comments made the final paper better. I heard it all back then.

Remember that on first hearing a critic called the magnificent Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto "music that stinks to the ear" and that's one of the most beloved violin concertos today.

don't despair. You can fix it all. To pen a novel with an opening like this, I think you have to create a sweeping love scene. She has given up everything for her lover and he disappoints. She didn't teach him forbidden knowledge for him to become a murderer. He's less than she expected and she tells him. Then he steps beyond and by asking "Why is it forbidden?". That's repudiating her faith as a priestess, attacking the gods. She not simply going to say "you disappoint me," he's crushed her love, her faith and her world. He's made the decision for her and she's not prepared for that much destruction and he has used her to his gain and her loss.

He broke her heart and your writing needs to reflect that. Think of the last time a lover broke your heart or kicked you into the gutter or walked out with their middle finger raised at you and write that pain into her words.

Wes said...

Ditto on all the comments about identifying the speakers. But not to worry, that's an easy fix. A little work on the dialogue, and you'll be in great shape.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the problems is that the dialogue does not ring true. Too many complete sentences, no contractions, explaining things already known. Read it outloud. Even if it is from a different time period, it's not coming off as authentic.

Unknown said...

Trust your words. You don't need to add all that exclamatory punctuation if the words are the right ones. Set the scene. Let the characters move, storm around the room, throw their hands in the air. In other words, in addition to picking the right words, you need to give the dialog some description to show the urgency and emotion. All you have are two people yelling at each other.

Somewhere I read a guideline that you get one exclamation mark every hundred pages or so. You have 4 in the first 3 paragraphs. It tells me that you don’t trust the reader to get it right and use the punctuation as a lazy way of indicating what I should be feeling. Build the scene slower.

Don't feel bad, we all go through the ringer here. And our writing is better for it.

Anonymous said...

This has been piled on pretty thoroughly, so I'll stick to a couple of hopefully constructive suggestions:

1. get into the mind and emotions of one of these two characters, and write from that perspective instead of sticking to the outsider's view (yes, I know lots of SFF writers start off omniscient, but most of the published ones already know what they're doing with PoV, and you clearly don't)

2. Wind back the over-emoting dialogue. Your priestess sounds like that dim-bo from Babylon 5. Try showing the emotion via physical actions, gestures, mood music, whatever. You'll probably go overboard on that the first time or two as well, but it will be a good learning experience for you.

Jeb (signing here because Google ate my password info)

Xiexie said...

Personally I like the histrionics of the dialogue. One of the minions (did we ever decide on the minion modifier: plague, I remember voting for plague) mentioned that it sounded like a soap opera. Well, I'm a big fan, so I can deal with it.

Anywho...give us some names. Will it actually hurt us to know their names. Take away some of the info within the question-answer dumps as the story itself.

We truly don't need yet to know that she taught him the Ways of the Priestesses (I know this is the correct plural, but like Englishes, I don't like it); that it's forbidden; the reasons why it is forbidden; nor that they stepped outside their bonds in using them (<--this could be assumed by the previous information). All those facts could be used in the story itself.

They this scene stand alone and then get "a priestess" and "her lover" doing something like fleeing from the citadel/temple/ziggurat/cathedral.

And I'll add again that I didn't mind the tone of the dialogue. There's just too much stuff in there.

Xenith said...

No one seems to have mentioned the lack of place.

We have people. We have people talking. But where they? There's no grounding. No sense of their surroundings. It's just this detached conversation that is hard (for me at least) to get a grip on. Gives us a sense of place. It will give your story substance, and you want that as soon as possible at the beginning.

Ruth (Book Focus) said...

Can I just comment that the first sentence, with two punctuation marks, completely turned me off? Double punctuation marks are (nearly?) always unnecessary, and to me they just sound amateurish.

And agreed on changing "A priestess in white robes" to "The priestess" - makes it clearer who actually spoke the line.

"Handsome youth" is a very generic way of describing someone. Personalise his description a bit. Is he tall, skinny, ponytailed? Does he have thin lips? Sallow skin? Pale eyes? (Presumably not since you said "handsome", but still. "Handsome" gives us absolutely no idea of what he looks like.) (Nor does blond. Describe his features - e.g. weak chin - rather than the colour of his eyes/hair/skin.)

For dialogue, try reading it out loud, and then see if you can imagine real people saying that. This dialogue sounds about right for maybe some Mills&Boon (although I could be wrong, I don't really read that kind of thing) or early Georgette Heyer before she mastered making her characters/dialogue/action more realistic.

By the way:
Handsome youth: "Why is it forbidden? Because it was ordained by the heavens?"
White-robed priestess: "Um, yes. The heavens forbade it. Hence it is forbidden."

I mean, he kinda answers his own question there. What I think he means is: "Who cares if it's forbidden? This just feels so right, baby." (That speech possibly sung.) (Maybe you could work out a way to rhyme all of their dialogue so they can sing it all to each other. That would be awesome. No one would read it, but still.)

...anyway. This definitely has potential, it just needs to be... undramatised a bit. More realistic dialogue, better opening descriptions of characters, and possibly learning the characters' names a bit earlier. What everyone else said. :)

Matt said...


2)Ease up on the exclamation marks!
3)Dial down the drama
4)Description of characters/scene
5)realistic dialogue

Those seem to be the most prominent suggestions. Now I'll let it soak in and work on the rewrite.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Congrats, Matthew.

A bit of trial by fire here. But it's all tough love. We really want you to do better.

And maybe not so much dial down the drama, but shift some to the setting, the action and out of the dialogue. There's a balance there that I'm sure you'll find.

Genre Reviews said...

Reading this, it's like we're watching a play. Since we're not inside someone's head (seeing events from their viewpoint and knowing their feelings and motivations about what's going on), I get the feeling neither character is important.

The generic character descriptions ("a priestess in white robes" and "the handsome youth") reinforce this feeling of watching two minor actors in a play.

Even if they are never-to-be-seen-again minor characters, it's typical these days to pick one character as the viewpoint character instead of using a distant viewpoint.

Just my 2 cents.

_*rachel*_ said...

Funny continuation! Same with all you runner-ups, especially Matthew!

Oh, my, you're right about the place. I assumed a large, white room. Just goes to show....