Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Beginning 750

Captain Sevante was studying the makeshift game board when her adversary harped: “Check- mate!”

He laughed with victorious abandon. “Take that, cap’n!” Alden said. He cracked his knuckles in a satisfied manner and then hooked his hands behind his head. It was early afternoon and the sloop’s sails were filled with a balmy breeze that gave the crew ample time to dally.

Idalia de Sevante scowled. “Aw, Drega’s mercy! I hate this game.” She hunched over the game board and pushed back a lock of blood-red hair, poring over the pieces in an attempt to decipher where she had gone wrong.

The boatswain chuckled. “Nah, cap’n. You’ve greater strategy than any I know, but on the seas only. You’re too impatient for a battle of this sort. It takes patience!” he exalted smugly.

Idalia sat back on her heels and rolled her eyes. “Curses. Keep your patience to the grave!”

"Another game, Cap'n?" Alden asked.

"Why not? But first let me get that mosquito off o' your nose afore it sucks out all o' yer blood."

Quick as a flash, Captain Sevante swatted at the parasite. The gleaming point of her hook rammed home into Alden's eyeball and pierced his brain.

"Check, matey!" Idalia shouted as the boatswain toppled to the deck. "Get to yer posts, the rest o' ye -- no time fer patience when there's sailin' to be done!"

Opening: Karina.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

"Are we done Cap'n?"

"Who are you calling a cabin?", the knuckle cracker piped up. His tune was way off.

Chuckles, the boatswain looked at the Cap'n who was called that because he switched ball caps every twenty seconds. The capping was part of his quirky illness which was why he was on a boat with makeshift game board. He could cap all day and not draw attention to himself and beat Idalia De Sevante at makeshift.


"Ay, cap'n, that Ah weel," expectorated the cocky boatswain grimacingly, his eyes cutting back and forth over the horizon. "But ye must promise me, cap'n, that when I'm gone ye'll do iz Ah say and lairn paitience."

"Aw, shut it," Captain Idalia moaned. "You sound just like Dad, and I ran away from him because he was so cursedly strict. Anyway, you won't die anytime soon."

Her companion's parrot squawked as he stomped on his pegleg to fo'c'sle. "Ah wouldna be so sure o' that, lassie. Thar's a dreadful happenstance o' fo'shadwin' to starboard."

Captain Idalia de Sevante jumped hastily to her feet, her mouth wide open and her blood-red hair shining as it bounced in the sunlight. "Drega's animosity, what sort of monster is that?!!!"

The boatswain peered speculatingly at it. "Ar, lassie, you'd best be sayin' your prayers--that thar's an editor."


Evil Editor said...

I would expect Alden to say checkmate right after making his move, not while the captain is studying the board.

The last sentence of paragraph 2 interrupts the scene. If you need it, you could make it the first sentence of the opening.

P.4: No need for Alden to say, It takes patience, as he implied the same idea with his previous statement.

fairyhedgehog said...

I found this a lot to take in all at once.

I'm not sure what a boatswain does. I'm guessing this is meant to show us the Captain being impatient but I'm not sure it really does.

A few suggestions for clarity:

You could begin with Captain Idalia de Sevante in the first sentence, then I'd know who Idalia was straight away in paragraph three. After that I'd pick a single name for her, either Idalia or Captain, and stick with it.

I'd lose "makeshift" unless it really matters. I stumbled on "harped" so I'd be inclined to use "said" or "shouted" instead.

I'd begin paragraph two with Alden's name.

Perhaps I should say that I'm only a reader.

Bernita said...

Listen to EE. I like it.
Continuation was a hoot!

Marissa Doyle said...

I don't want to sound mean, but you're trying too hard. Too many adjectives and over-blown dialogue tags ("harped" and "exalted"--did you mean exulted?) The telling gets in the way of showing what's happening; we're thinking about your words, not about what's actually going on.

batgirl said...

'exalted' means to raise up, so you want 'exulted', and 'harped' is a misuse - to harp on something is to say it over and over, and here we have only seen it said once (also, the circs suggest it would not be said more than once.
I get the impression you're using words you're not quite sure of, hoping to create an archaic or dramatic 'feel'.
I like to have the Pocket Oxford handy while writing, to make sure of words I don't use every day.

Anonymous said...

Author here, thanks for the comments everybody. I do need to make some revisions, and I agree with the critiques. Readers often pick up on the wordiness...I don't do it to try hard, it's an unconscious stylistic quirk. I end up doing lots of edits and cutting.


Dave Fragments said...

This is one of those "Think of the poor reader opening" that I cut, cut, cut. It's really not that bad and I like the fact that you are opening on dialog (which is one of my favorite things to do). And I like that you are opening in the middle of some action.

The reader sees two people sitting at a chessboard and one says "checkmate." So they are focused on that player. How about opening with the word "Checkmate" and its attribution to boatswains mate Alden. Then you can move to the Captain. It makes the action smoother for the reader. I've played ranked people in Chess and when they say five moves in advance "checkmate" you sit there, staring, thinking, and fifteen minutes later, topple your king. So give the captain the next sentence and let her respond. That structures a paragraph where the reader's mind moves from the chessboard to the boatswain then to the captain and back again when he retorts that she has no patience. Most important, it's all focused on the Captain. The reader isn't tempted to study the boatswain.
Keep the picture in the reader's mind in smooth, easy motions. Don't jiggle them back and forth between characters. Focus on the most important character.
To get back to the opening, you can let the captain express defeat in some way (Take your patience to the grave!) and the scene can move out and away from the completed chess game. Now is the time to show the boat and sky and surroundings. That also shows the captain's impatience in that she doesn't give herself time to figure out the loss.
Think about what you accomplished: you've introduced the Captain, the boatswain, their relationship and that rather interesting tidbit about the captain. Where does the story go from this scene? What does the captain do after this little diversion?
Since there are only two people in the scene, most of those dialog tags are not needed as others pointed out. And don't overwrite (which is what others pointed out too). Just let the characters speak and the readers will get the idea. We all know about losing at chess. You don't need to explain it.

It's something like this:

“Check-mate!” boatswains mate Alden said. He cracked his knuckles in a satisfied manner and then hooked his hands behind his head and laughed with victorious abandon. Captain Idalia de Sevante hunched over the game board, pushed back a lock of blood-red hair and poured over the pieces in an attempt to decipher where she had gone wrong.

“Drega’s mercy! I hate this game.”

“Nah, cap’n. You’ve greater strategy than any I know, but on the seas only. You’re too impatient for a battle of this sort.”

“Curses. Keep your patience to the grave!” Idalia sat back. It was early afternoon and the sloop’s sails were filled with a balmy breeze that gave the crew ample time to dally.

_*rachel*_ said...

I see a glimmer of a fun idea in this, especially if Idalia is captain of a pirate ship. It reminds me of Piratica and Bloody Jack, both of which were fun reads.

This is also a pretty good place to start, assuming something exciting happens soon. It gives us a setup of a girl who's captain of a ship, which is abnormal enough that we want to keep reading. (Though it might also be interesting to start out with how she became captain.) I also get the idea she's young, mostly from her petulance when she loses the game.

That said, I'm getting distracted by your word choice. My best recommendation is to read the Turkey City Lexicon, and focus on the first section. Then double-check things like "harped" and "smugly."

I've never seen someone with blood-red hair.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I like how you restructured that, and thank you for explaining your reasons. Rachel, I'll look up that lexicon. She is indeed captain of a pirate ship and we jump into some action right after this scene.

Eh, as to the hair color, it goes along with her characterization and it's meant to be a really dark red. It's fantasy. I think I can get away with it.

Faceless Minion said...

You’ve greater strategy than any I know, but on the seas only. You’re too impatient for a battle of this sort. It takes patience

My problem with this is that (according to all the nautical fiction I've read ^^) sea battles are slow - boats don't turn fast and there's a lot of maneuvering that need to be done.

_*rachel*_ said...
I've never seen someone with blood-red hair.

Not natural blood-red hair anyway. Is it dyed?

Anonymous said...

Faceless Minion, I appreciate your 'insider's view' on sea battles. It was mostly in reference to the hand-to-hand conflict once ships engage, and combat in general. She likes a good fight.
About the red hair...it's a fantasy story. Seeing as blue bears, jinn, ogres, and mermaids come into play later in the story, I don't feel like her hair color is a big stretch of the imagination.

_*rachel*_ said...

Sometimes you can get away with it, sometimes you can. SFF is funny that way; sometimes hyperspace can be more plausible than blood-red hair.

Anyway, at least you didn't say it was raven-black. That's so cliche it'd be a crime.