Thursday, September 02, 2010

New Beginning 781

As Leisha disembarked, the hot desert wind hit her like an anvil. She stumbled back into the steps already rising behind her. She was the only one travelling to the Frontierlands today, the airship was preparing for departure. She squinted against the sunlight. The excitement of travelling quickly receded; she felt small and alone and very far from home. Leisha clenched her fists. This was not some adventure holiday that she could walk away from on a whim. She had to find Hanjo.

She could just about hear what he'd have to say about this. "Pretend it's an adventure. You are the hero, on a grand quest." Hanjo always made things sound like fun. "Pretend you are an actress. Laugh in their faces."

She gave her travel box a hefty tug and dragged it into the station. She didn't expect to need it; hopefully she could return on tonight's airship and be home by morning. But she packed the box full, just in case. She had to look the part. She stopped by a reflective window and checked. Her hair was in a tight braid, her face freshly scrubbed, her dress clean and unwrinkled.

"Hello there, Frontierlands," Leisha whispered at her reflection. Then she shook her head and dragged the travel box into the station. This wasn't some Adventure Quest Film, this was for real. She had to find Hanjo.

As the station door closed behind her, providing remarkably little respite from the heat, she heard a shuffle.

"And what's a movie star doing way out here?" a man's voice asked her.

She was about to turn and laugh in his face, when she realized she recognized the voice. "Hanjo!"

"Not so difficult to find me, eh? Did you bring it?"

She pulled a small box out of her pocket.

"You're a doll. Can't believe I left it on the sink. This is no place to be without a razor, and the ones the hotels give you are next to useless. Look! They haven't closed the doors yet -- you can make it home on the same airship. How great is that? Gotta go. Registration starts in an hour and I want to network with the keynote speakers before the gala dinner. Here, buy yourself a sandwich or something, and don't forget to take the dog out or he'll crap on the carpet again, little bastard. Travel safe, babe. See ya!"

Hanjo strode away. Somehow he always made his things sound like fun. Hers? Not so much.

Opening: Sylvia.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

He was the only one who knew just where the hell her training was going to start in this godforsaken amusement park.


Evil Editor said...

In real life hammers do the hitting. Anvils only hit cats and coyotes and ducks, usually by falling on their heads from a great distance, turning them into accordions.

I find it hard to buy an airship preparing for departure seconds after arriving. For that matter I find it hard to buy that a trip with only one passenger would take off when they could claim mechanical problems.

How long was this flight, that her face is freshly scrubbed and her dress unwrinkled when she disembarks?

none said...

She gave her travel box a hefty tug and dragged it into the station. She didn't expect to need it; hopefully she could return on tonight's airship and be home by morning. But she packed the box full, just in case.

The missing 'had' makes nonsense of the last sentence. She's dragging the box around, then she packs it just after disembarking? Pay attention to the timeline of your story, and don't listen to those who claim all 'hads' are bad.

This opening is a bit 'eh'. There's nothing particularly wrong with it (apart from the anvil) but there's nothing particularly enticing about it either. Leisha seems to care more about her appearance and her fantasies than about the missing Hanjo. So it's not very exciting for the reader, either. I need more than this to want to read on.

Stacy said...

I didn't enjoy the simile of something as . . . well, airy . . . as the wind hitting someone like something as concrete as an anvil. That struck me as incongruous, at least at first glance.

Anonymous said...

Is "She had to find Hanjo" in there twice deliberately? Did she stumble back into the steps because the wind was pushing her? That's not clear. Why was she initially excited about travel if the purpose of her trip all along was "not some adventure holiday"? I get the impression she's dragging her "travel box" on the ground and they don't have wheels in the future -- I guess they don't have the words "suitcase" or "luggage" in the future, either.

It's okay with me that her face is scrubbed if they have facilities on the airship, but the unwrinkled dress is odd.

Dave Fragments said...

When I read this, I was struck by Déjà Vu. This is familiar. I have seen this as an archetype. I have heard this discussed. So right now, the author is going crazy wondering how and where. No, I haven't hacked your computer and neither did those black-hooded men from that black helicopter in your back yard.

My first observation about this opening is that the paragraphs alternate -- #1 Leisha, #2 Hanjo, #3 Leisha, #4 Hanjo. I feel like I'm watching ping pong up close and getting whiplash.
My second observation is she's obviously not expecting what she sees and it is overwhelming to her. What I read on the page is underwhelming. She is not prepared mentally, physically, in clothes, or types of suitcases or any much else for entering frontier. She is a fish out of water right now. She has doubts. She's uncertain. Her hair isn't ready, nor is her dress.
My third observation, isn't Frontierland part of Disneyworld?
My fourth observation is do you see in the comments how much the current opening distracts from what you want to say?

So may I suggest an opening sentence or two:
The sirocco of Frontier's desert hit Leisha, pushing her back toward the receding steps of the airship. She dragged her travel box into the station. She had packed it full, just in case. She had to look the part. A life depended on it. She had to find Hanjo.

That sets up Leisha, the frontier and Hanjo. You can add the rest about her thoughts and her appearance. The reader already knows that this is more than a vacation or road trip and someone is in jeopardy. I personally would put a line of dialog from the station attendant or some other character to her at this point. You can write whatever you feel is best about Leisha and her quest.

Now it's time for me to explain what I remembered: Claudia Cardinale arriving in Flagstone to claim Sweetwater in the movie "Once Upon a Time in the West." The commentary track on the DVD explains the entire scene and how it establishes the character of Jill (Cardinale).

vkw said...

I think the reason why everyone is going oh-ho-hum is that the author tried to introduced too much too soon without setting up any sort of urgency:

Reading through the opening , his is what I know.

1. Leisha has arrived in the hot desert via spaceship
2. She's unprepared for the frontier but she's here to find Hanjo
3. It's not that urgent because she thinks it will take a day but she overpacks anyway
4.Hanjo is missing and has a plesant cheerleading personality
5. And she's concern by how she looks in the frontier with no else about, demonstrating more vainity that anything else - maybe some annoyance that Han is missing.

You showed us a lot of things but by doing so you gave us no reason to care about anything.

So I agree with EE. A ship wouldn't be dropping off one person and be taking off immmediately without some reason.
There has to be a reason Leisha believes it will take a day but packs for a week, I wouldn't go there.

I would try, "Leisha heaved her heavy travel bag over her shoulder, wondering why she had packed so much. She had to fight her way into the station; the wind sweeping off the desert was like a oven, sucking the air out of her lungs. Leisha wasn't prepared for this. It was made worse by the spaceship taxing to the refueling depot just visible on the horizon amongst the cacti.

Leisha sighed and heaved harder, reminding herself she didn't have a choice.

YOu can discuss later why she packed for a week when she hoped she was here for a day. You can bring up her appearance later.

Like this "A strand of hair had escaped her braid, Leisha tucked it behind her ear as she considered what to do next. Deciding the most practical thing was the best course, she slipped out of her skirt and into a pair of jeans; somehow this gave her confidence. She was ready to get to work now or like Hanjo would say, 'now you got your big pants on'.

She didn't know if she should laugh or cry. "Hanjo where are you?" she said to herself, not caring if the fat woman in the next stall heard her or not.

anyway: its like you gave us a laundry list. 1. setting, space ship, desert, rugged frontier, isolation, check
2. Hanjo missing, check
3. Leisha's lack of confidence, check
4. Hanjo's personality, check
5. Leisha's appearance, check
6. Leisha's purpose, check

7. Give the reader a reason to care, not so much.

I keep on reading Han Solo when I read Hanjo. Not necessary a bad thing but just so you know.

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey, you are either totally stealing my arrival by airship with sirocco winds opening or I'm in trouble.

_*rachel*_ said...

This isn't bad, but it needs some cuts. I'd prune some of the sentences in the first paragraph or two, and cut the window-mirror description; it's overused. Try telling us she smooths her skirt and runs her fingers though her hair, maybe.

Be careful of things like in the first paragraph, where you have a row of sentences beginning with "she."

"Frontierlands today[;] the airship"

No anvil. There's an image in a poem I read today: "the face-slapping wind." You need something that actually would hit her in the face.

Sylvia said...

Ow ow ow ouch!

Backstory: I wrote 15,000 words of glorious prose (honestly!) and three astute readers said "Your story starts at the 8k mark. Throw away the previous."

So yes, I'm trying to force a lot of backstory into a very small space. I have dresses that are similarly unflattering.

And I'll drop the anvil (I had the coyote in mind!) and um, rewrite.


Dave Fragments said...

So yes, I'm trying to force a lot of backstory into a very small space.

A decade ago, J.M. Straczynski complete Babylon 5 and worte 14 episodes of a series titled CRUSADE. That show has two sets of 7 episodes because of a fight with the network.

What is important to us in this discussion, is that one set of seven episodes begins while nearly six months after the spaceship was sent on its crusade... The other set of seven episodes start with a full on exposition of a disaster that requires that command central find s captain, then they introduce him, then they commission of the spaceship, then it starts on its voyage. Do you see the similarity to your situation. The story begins in the middle with daily, mundane things and what the reader doesn't know is what keeps them interested.

So keep all that 8K of backstory on the side, reveal it as the characters move through the story.

Leisha lands on this desert planet an innocent looking for Hanjo. She and the reader will discover why he isn't where he is supposed to be. Why he needs her. Why she might be in jeopardy in this place. And over the first half of the novel you will be able to present their relationship in little bits as the story unfolds. There might even bee a secret part of the backstory that makes the climax bigger, more poignant or more dramatic. I have a good example of how a character can surprise the reader but it involves Married with Zombies and I don't want to discuss it here. You can email me if you are going to read MwZ.

That is much more interesting than a linear relation of how they met, how they worked together, his call for help, her trip, etc...

I try to do this with varying levels of success.

Whirlochre said...

One further thing, beside the anvil, is the number of sentences beginning "she". That hit me.

But — I'm liking the visuals, and now you've outlined the backstory problem, I can see how this reads as it does.

Easily tweakable, for a more instant 1st drop, methinks.

Sounds like your dresses and my trousers were both made by the same cruel God. Makes you feel sorry for the unfortunate transvestites out there who, in order to balance their work/life commitments, will be forced to don both.

Anonymous said...

Fontierlands. I'd change the name. Heat hits every centimeter of skin and soaks your scalp when you step into it.
Liked the opening, good luck massaging it.