Thursday, May 06, 2010

New Beginning 749

Leah wasn’t used to cities. Her eyes and ears and mind were stuffed with people. Inside the bus station a man discussed his newspaper with an invisible friend and a woman repeated to her (visible) husband, “So the average on the quiz is eighty and you got forty-six. I mean, dear, even for you...”. Outside a man chased a hat which rolled away on its shiny stiff brim. A woman with a red head-scarf walked in the other direction, mahogany-skinned children jostling around her knees. Her face was set, weary, but her hands moved constantly, grasping the arm of a girl on the verge of wandering off, caressing the head of a crying boy, resting briefly on the dusky back of the creature that slipped between them, quieting the boy and arresting the girl by its presence although they weren’t looking at it.

Leah didn’t look at it either until the family had passed. Then it stuck in her awareness. She shut her eyes, holding its image: arched silver-black neck, swirling shadow of mane and tail, liquid dark eye...Had she really seen the horn?

Not that she could ask anyone. They gabbled away in their strange language while people appeared and disappeared and strange creatures slinked between them and the sunlight pulsed with strange colors, and why couldn't she get that song out of her head?

No, Leah wasn't a good traveler. Her first day here, after a breakfast of coffee and a couple of brownies, and Amsterdam was turning out to be the strangest place she'd ever been.

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


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Leah blinked. She put her hand in her pocket and felt the lint that had gathered next to the inner seam. She shifted her hand in frustration until the tip of her nail stuck onto the open corner of a wadded up piece of gum. Then, locating her glasses, she gripped them and placed them on the tip of her nose.

Leah looked again. Swirling and dancing in the crowd, she saw it clearly: a horn. In her confusion and delirium, she rubbed her ears and her eyes, letting go of the stunned children depending on her.

A man in a hat only inches away from her leaned over and shouted, "Really, can you shut those children up? We're trying to enjoy the parade."

--C.E. Bailey

Skinning children with mahogany had been outlawed a long time ago. The Horn of Plenty, named because it got plenty angry when it saw these kids, tossed its mane, flicked its tail and beat on the old woman with a rubber chicken. There are some things you can't do anymore and skinning kids with mahogany was one of them. The new order was firm on this.


The woman with the red head-scarf (now visible), kicked the wooden children aside, and without looking, caressed the hat the crying boy wearily stuffed in a newspaper the Unicorn bought at the bus station when the eye and ear quiz peaked at eighty five, and said, 'You Leah? The village girl?'


Evil Editor said...

It seems to me that if Leah is as overwhelmed by the setting as the first two sentences imply, she wouldn't be noticing things in such detail. Especially the conversation about the quiz between the woman and the man she somehow knows is the woman's husband.

Even if she would, P.1. starts out as if we're going to get a list of all the interesting things Leah sees, but instead focuses on the woman with the children, even though she seems no more remarkable than the other people. Thus I suggest dumping the newspaper man and the quiz woman and the hat man and opening with Leah outside the bus station watching the woman and her kids and the hairy rhinoceros.

The first sentence could have Leah exiting the station and setting down her suitcase, thus informing us that she's just arrived.

fairyhedgehog said...

My main problem with this was that I found myself skimming by the end of the first paragraph, so when I got to paragraph two I had to go back to see what it was as I'd missed the reference to the creature that slipped between them.

Joanna Hoyt said...

Thanks all. Great continuations! Fairyhedgehog, that was actually the effect I was going for--the unicorn almost escapes Leah's notice, and I meant it to almost escape the reader's as well. This quality of the unicorn's is important in the rest of the story....I'm just lucky that you stopped and reread instead of chucking the whole thing.

EE, I find cities overwhelming precisely because I can't stop noticing the conversations and behavior of the people around me. But you're right, she can't know that the quiz woman is married to the man; I'll fix that.

Can y'all suggest a better way of inconspicuously introducing the unicorn without losing the reader? And, Anon's continuation was great, but...did this give the impression that Leah is high/stoned? That wasn't what I'd meant.

Chicory said...

I missed that the invisible friend was supposed to clue you in to the different world. I assumed she was making a tongue-in-cheek remark about someone mumbling to himself. I didn't realize this was fantasy until the unicorn showed up.

I was kind of surprised EE didn't make any jokes about all the people stuffed in Leah's head. :) I'm assuming that's figurative -but after reading further, it's hard to tell. Maybe she DOES have a bunch of other people sharing her mind.

John said...

Great continuation.

Matt said...

It's bogged down in detail. Mention her being overwhelmed by the city and trust the reader to imagine it.

vkw said...

yep, the man focus of the opening gets lost in the forest.

I think you should focus on the tree.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I got a little bit confused from a logic perspective.

On first read, it appears the woman and the creature are doing identical things. The mother is grasping the girl's arm; the creature is arresting her. The mother is caressing the boy to comfort him; the creature is quieting him. Why the double duty? Seems as though either the mother or the nanny-creature would be watching after the kids, not both.

Then Leah only looks at the creature after the family has passed when we've just gotten a rundown of what the creature looks like and what it's been doing. I thought the rundown was from Leah's POV, but the second paragraph suggests otherwise.

_*rachel*_ said...

I'm still laughing at that continuation; it's only timing that saved my laptop from a bubble tea bath.

But Anon has a point; this does feel a bit pot brownie-ish. Showing us how overwhelming it is by showing how many people there are is definitely a legitimate choice; I'm just not sure this is the right place for it.

When you begin a story, you want to begin with the/a main character, or at least someone related to the plot. Leah is indeed the first person you mention, but then you mention a lot of other people, and my mind wants to think they're related to the plot instead of illustrating a point.

As for the invisible friend, maybe you should skip that if you've got a story about unicorns nobody else sees.

I feel with Leah, though. I'm used to medium-sized cities, and places like Chicago and New York feel overwhelming. Some of it's the people, but what always sticks out is how the buildings are so tall and close together. A girl needs some sky.

Off to read some Overheard in New York now.

Stick and Move said...

I think your strategy is a little faulty if you're hoping to slip something past the reader in the first few paragraphs, or at all, for that matter. Showing us that it almost escapes Leah's attention should serve your purpose. If your strategy is to lull the reader into skimming, it worked, but that doesn't make it a sound strategy.