She went down hard and fighting with every strength and power she possessed. Insidious tendrils of blank emptiness snaked down into her memories, wrenching, grasping. Her hands flew to the pounding at her temples. The dank, dark cell fell away beneath an onslaught of blinding pain.
She planted her mind at the bottom of her soul and stretched it forth. Then taking hold of a powerful wave of burning light, she hurled it against the assault.
The stealing loss of sensation died away as memory blazed to life once more.
She clutched the word close to her.
Her identity she had earned, lived, sacrificed heart and soul and will to gain. She would not lay it down without a fight, she thought fiercely. Wrath billowed up from within at the men and the drug, blinding her vision with anger.
That was when she lost control and fell into the terrible darkness.
* * *
Gus shrugged, balled up the piece of paper and threw it onto the table. "So, what's yours say?"
Emily grinned. "Expect gift from a wealthy stranger."
Opening: Megs.....Continuation: anon.
"Been a while since you drowned yourself in chocolate cake. Is it that bad?"
"I'm not Salory anymore."
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's salary, not salory. And you've never been "salary." You just right the checks."
"They call me the Salary Bitch," she said. "That has to count for something."
"Sure it does honey. Now go wash the chocolate cake off your face."
The carnage she found when her senses returned shocked her. That Salorý could be capable of this. She clutched her throbbing temples, the tendrils of the drug still burning her nostrils and bitter on her tongue. They were broken, but they deserved it.
No one, ever, will light up in a no smoking zone when Salorý is there.
As we don't know what exactly is going on, it might be better to do this in fewer words. Possibly cut the first three paragraphs, or at least condense them into one short paragraph.
I'm guessing this is fantasy or sci fi and that she has psychic powers of some sort.
"Planted her mind at the bottom of her soul" didn't work for me, although I imagine it could later in the book if the concept has been explained. I did get the feel of some psychic warfare going on but I wasn't clear what.
"Taking hold of a powerful wave of burning light, she hurled it against the assault" clued me in to the kind of story this is, which I appreciated.
I would tighten it up. E.g. the "and" in the first sentence could be replaced by a comma. You don't need "Then" in the second paragraph, or "she thought fiercely" further on. It's clear who is thinking because we are in her head. You could also lose "That was when" in the final paragraph.
I found her name distracting.
It's the kind of thing I tend to read and if it was tightened up I would read on.
A bit over-loaded - but you have some good lines.
This is something of a confusing place to start; it feels out of context. But if this is where you want to start, I'd advise you anchor it more in her physical world so it's less like opening with a dream. A little more along the lines of the "dark, dank cell," maybe something about her eyes rolling up until only the whites showed.
Just going with this, here's what I'd cut: the second paragraph (or make it a little less surreal), and "she though fiercely" (it's implied).
Ignoring some of the distractions and looking more at what you say about the situation she's in, I'm getting interested. With some editing, I would definitely read further.
Not sure what to do with this. Seems like you spent a lot of time on the typography, like those mad poets do. Plus, it's stinking cryptic. Maybe it's all in her head. Or not. I'm guessing the author must be setting off on an exploration of some kind of deep cosmic stuff. Or a schizophrenic break. Maybe a horror story. Can't tell which. Not sure how long I'd keep reading but my attention span for timeless placeless stories about disembodied/depersonalized characters isn't very impressive.
You are dancing around the action. If I worked at it for a time, I could use some variation of each sentence in the first three paragraphs as an opening line. But as they are written, it is murky and indistinct like muddy waters.
The question in the reader's mind is what is happening here? I gather form the rest of the opening, she's a prisoner and has been shot up with some sort of drug that wipes out her free will or inhibitions (something like that) and her captors want her to reveal something vital.
She went down hard fighting against the truth serum.
Her hands flew to her templses as the drug sent insidious tenrils snaking into her mind.
The dank cell walls fell away as the drug took effect and warped her mind.
Whatever jeopardy she is in has to come out in the opening.
The paragraph starting "Her identity she had earned" is a good candidate for the opening. although I think something more like:
She would not give up her mind without a fight. She lived too long, sacrificed, lost and gained to fail under the drug's assault. Wrath billowed ...etc..."
And don't let her fall into the darkness and defeat too soon. You want the reader invested in her so use this as an opportunity to reveal her to the reader.
Huh. I liked it quite a bit overall. Nice tense situation. I would definitely keep reading. However, there were a few lines worth looking at again that seemed overblown. "Insidious tendrils of blank emptiness" was one.
Actually it's driving me nuts. Basically, this is SFF. Salorý definitely has psychic powers, but is in the process of fighting brainwashing drugs. She loses her memories/identity. It was the best place I could figure to start, since everything hinges on that happening, but how do you write that? Well, I'm going to cull through your wonderful comments and hit it again.
Also, sadly perhaps, I AM a poet. So the typography took zippo time at all. I'll look at that too.
As for the name, it's harder to work with since this is the last place for about half the book (or more) that she remembers it.
Thanks for all the info. :opening Word document, wielding the red pen:
Hi Megs - this is just a thought, but while you've picked a dramatic moment, definitely, I didn't get a very clear idea of what was at stake, what she was fighting for. I mean, she's fighting to retain her memory and identity, that's clear by her clinging to her name (and I like Salory, fwiw). But what's her identity? Maybe if you could work in a fragmentary memory, a snippet of speech or sight, something that hints her memories are worth hanging onto? Something that's dear to her?
Megs - I agree with most of the above. The trouble with these very dramatic openings is that the drama is lost when we don't know anything about the person or the situation. If you can keep the drama but tighten, clarify, and make us care it would be awesome. Then, you know, just bring peace to the Middle East while tap-dancing and juggling lit torches. No problem.
(Also, the name seems fine to me. I never understand when people complain about characters' names.)
Revised as follows:
Salorý went down hard on the cold stone floor of the dank, dark prison cell. Her hands flew to the pounding at her temples. The room fell away beneath an onslaught of blinding pain as tendrils of blank emptiness snaked down into her memories, wrenching them away from her grasp.
She pulled further into the depths of her mind. Taking hold of a powerful wave of burning light, she hurled it against the assault.
Memory blazed to life once more.
Men's voices tumbled around her, but none could breach the burning light beneath her skin or the wall she had erected in her mind. Her eyes stayed shut as she fought inside herself against the powerful mixture of stimulants and mindwiping drugs they had fed her.
Wave after wave of the cold emptiness washed over her thoughts. She pushed back fiercely with wave upon wave of shielding light.
Her identity she had earned, lived, sacrificed heart and soul and will to gain. Taken in as the nameless orphan of a heartless city, Salorý had been forced to work harder, to give up more than anyone else among the Pure until she became the most powerful lightbearer of her order. She would not go down without a fight. Wrath billowed up from within at the men and the drugs, blinding her vision with anger.
That was when she lost control and fell into the terrible darkness.
Hmm... There are times when it makes sense to start in the middle of the action and other times, like now imo, when you need to step back a bit and let us get to know the character before dropping us off a cliff with her.
I can see this being effective once we've invested ourselves with the MC, but now, it just comes across as a bit melodramatic.
Don't get me wrong - I love melodrama and angst and deep dark despair. But in its proper time. At the opening of the story, not so much.
I'm spending too much time trying to figure out what's happening to the MC instead of getting to know her. And reading backstory in the midst of all this just made my head ache.
My suggestion, fwiw, is to take another look at this being the place to start. Perhaps you can open with another exciting scene, say, of her being taken by the men and dragged to the cell. You could give us 3 or 4 pages of her thoughts and drop in a bit of backstory and ground us with who and what she is. Then hit us -- whammo -- with the fight against the drugs.
And if she is fighting the effects with something of her lightbearer power, then I would say that this scene should be even longer to be most effective - with the caveat that the reader should also be given some more grounded imagery to go along with all the symbolic stuff that you seem to think the reader will know or get, but in reality is just plain confusing because we don't anything know about Salory or how her world works yet.
Savory? Salary? Salty?
What's with all the weird names? Jesus H Christ, man. Doesn't anyone just use names like Rose or Paula anymore?
The revised one is better. But I stil can't tell what's going on. And it might just be me, but it seems to have a weird S&M undertone... like she's getting ready to get spanked in a dungeon.
The author loves adjectives too much. I'm an adverb whore myself, but I realize my addiction and I'm trying to overcome it.
The writing needs to be stripped clean a little more.
My first thought was you meant went down to the cell, because "went down" and "went down on" is wrong unless its a penis. Change "went down" to something more specific like "fell to the floor" and what's happening will be more clear.
hard, cold, dank, dark, prison, are all adjectives. Using so many detracts from the writing.
"Her hands flew to the pounding at her temples" this implies something else is pounding her temples and she's put her hands there to protect herself. I think you mean "her hands flew to her pounding temples."
The next sentence has lots of problems. What does the "room fell away," mean? Did it really fall or did she cease being able to see it? You've already established she's in pain with " pounding temples." Blinding pain" the it's used is vague. For example if you said, The pain was so intense she lost her sight, then it becomes more specific. "black tendrils" is vague because we don't know whether your being literal or figurative.
I think you mean dug deep within herself (fought back, used her last resolve etc.) by " pulled further" but its not clear.
Powerful modifies wave, wave modifies burning; they all modify light, which is the subject. Even though they're not all adjectives, they've been arranged so they work like adjectives.
You book lots of strong verbs, blazed, tumbled, breached, burning... they loose they're impact and make writing feel overwritten when used too often. Try to balance this a little more, then when you do you "blazed" knows you really mean blazed and not "returned". In this case though, I think you mean returned.
"men's voices" voices is vague. Who are they? Her captors, other prisoners? What are they saying. You don't have to give a conversation, but but a general idea would be good."She heard her captors' voices all around, telling her that continuing to fight was useless."
Try throwing all extra words out the window, and just say what's happening in way that a 101 year old grandmother would understand what's going on. Then go back and play around with jazzing it up.
I hate to say it, but I think I liked the first one a bit better; more conflict, and you didn't slip into infodump--because that's what the 2nd-to-last paragraph is.
On the other hand, this gives a better sense of what's happening in the physical world. Maybe too good a sense.
I'm sorry to be all dithery. So here's my definite advice: work on words for a while. "Blank emptiness" is repetitive, and you've got some other adj/adv overload. You've got some great stuff started--I like the snaking tendrils--but it wouldn't hurt to do some work on word choice.
You've made it clearer, which is good, but there was something about the first one that appealed to me more, especially the first paragraph.
Sorry, that's probably not much help.
This is better, but the first para still bugs me, especially "her hands flew to her temples" and the excessive adjectives.
I'd prefer to see bleeding elbows and her rolling back and forth - something more concretely specific to empathize with her physically before you describe the mind probe business.
On the name, I'll figure out spelling much later in the writing process but the name is pronounced suh-LOR-i with the i as the i in sit. And this is SFF. The name actually has meaning in her language and is a self-chosen name. Rose and Paula, etc. are for stories where English and Earth-languages are spoken, not worlds where those names aren't even linguistically possible.
While I STRONGLY appreciate all the comments and I will dig through this, strip it down further, yada (and I so thought that was info dump, but since someone thought I needed something, thought I'd give it a go), I do have to throw out there the dilemma I seem to come to here: there is NO major physical action going on here. She is physically unhurt. The entire battle is her trying to hold onto her memories. She wasn't dragged in the cell. She woke up there with the drugs already in her system, but I don't want to start with her waking up since she wakes up without memories in the second scene.
Any thoughts on how to include physical detail without losing the fact that this is an INTERNAL battle before I head back to the drawing board?
Thank you again for all the help, even while I cringe under the criticism. LOL
Megs - Can there be a moment when she first realizes the drug is in her system, and knows what it means? When she first starts to fight?
I think there's a difference between info dump and working in just enough info so that the scene comes across.
You have my sympathy. I recently rewrote my first two paragraphs about ten times, only to conclude that the first version was better. Openings are the bane of my existence!
Megs, when you say "she went down hard," one is inclined to interpret that statement as a physical fall - especially with the added image of a cold stone cell.Hence my suggestion about bleeding elbows.
Brilliant point, Bernita. (This is why it's hard to write scenes that happen inside someone's head.)
I assure you, I'm not usually an adjective whore, except when writing mind scenes, 'cause really: how concrete can a noun get in one of those? :sighs:
Thank you everyone.
Back to the drawing board.
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