"Alex, it's time for dinner."
"In a minute, mom. I want to see the parade."
"It's not a parade, Alex, as I've told you before, it's a funeral procession. They go by your window nearly every day, do you have to watch every one?"
Alexander's second story bedroom faced the Dead Road, the dirt path from town center to the necropolis. Long, loud processions passed his window every day, and Alexander did not understand them.
His parents told him; he was from Earth, these people were different. He could see that. They said; he was only eleven, lots of time to understand things. Maybe.
The grievers went first, crying and wailing and catching their tears in little vases. Then came the musicians, playing on pipes, horns, stringed instruments, and drums. After them came the liturgists, reading from holy books and making sermons out of the passages. Then came the family and friends. Last came the problem.
The body and spirit. That wasn't a metaphor. For some reason, on this planet, the spirit was visible and it stayed with the body. With the spirit were the spirit tamers, which is to say thugs of the religion, carrying magic-imbued chains with which they whipped the spirit of the dead.
"Come on, Alex!" His mother appeared behind him, urging him to dinner.
"But Mom!" he whined. "It's the bodies." They could both see through the window the wagons carrying the distended, gray corpses, each with a twisted, writhing spirit floating above.
Mom turned away and headed back to the kitchen. Why had they moved to this God-forsaken planet, and why had she believed the realtor who told her this was the quietest road in town?
She opened the liquor cabinet and stared inside. She had some spirits of her own to tame.
Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Anon.
It is hard to whip a spirit with chains if you are a spirit tamer. It can take a long time to learn how to pick up the chains and longer to hang on them as you swing them. That's the job Alex wanted. Step one was figuring out how to become a spirit. He found a Spirit School on a book of matches and sent his allowance.
"Come on, Alex!"
Alex was just about to moan 'all right," and trudge down to the kitchen when he noticed the last carriage. Usually the spirits were old, hunched, miserable wretches cowering from the stinging chains. But this one glowed brightly in the twighlight. It writhed and snapped at the tamers, defying their magic; and it had two faces -- one side serene and smiling, the other bitter, twisted, unrepenting.
He heard footsteps behind him. "Mom, look at this." She sighed and joined him at the window. "What kind of person...?"
Alex's mother gasped. "Why, Alex; that's the bastard who sold us this fucking house!"
It's really an interesting concept. But the opening suffers from As-you-know-Bob-- using dialogue as exposition. Alex would have to be a particularly dim 11-year-old not to know something that his mom had told him a number of times.
It's also not important that we know that Alex is from earth-- saying "on this planet" later conveys that, but basically it's a symptom of the problem: this opening is drowning in backstory. Don't worry if the reader gets the important stuff about your world. Plunge into the story and you'll be fine.
I would eliminate paragraph 3. It's dialogue that's already taken place several times. By now, Mom would order Alex to come to dinner immediately or would just start without him. She wouldn't tell him yet again that it's a funeral procession or that it happens daily.
Paragraph 5 has punctuation problems. The first semicolon should be a colon. The second semicolon can be deleted. The comma after Earth should be a semicolon.
Paragraph 6 is a list, and as such I wouldn't include another list (of musical instruments) within it. Perhaps combine sentences 2 and 3 into: After them came the musicians, playing on their horns and drums, followed by the liturgists, reading from their holy books.
The concept here is good; it's the writing that's not working. The dialogue from the mom in paragraph 3 has an "as you know, bob" feel, and paragraph 4 is too "telly."
I'm intrigued by the concept. I think if you clean up the writing, this could work. What would the mother actually say in paragraph 3? Let the reader to pick up from the nuances what's going on.
One more thought-- once you remove the infodumps, you may find yourself asking if this is really where the story opens. A kid sitting in his room while mom puts dinner on the table isn't especially gripping, unless the house is about to explode.
A] What they said.
B] Maybe it's a bit of author's homework, in which you are basically working out the geography and rules of the world for yourself.
Starting with the action scene would be more exciting for readers.
Has anyone ever said "In a minute, mom"? Going back to my kidhood mindset, I'd skip to "But I wannna see the parade" or I'd say "Okay" and then keep watching it.
I think "But I want to see the parade" sounds more real.
Instead of "as I've told you before" how about "How many times to I have to tell you--it's not a parade. It's a funeral." Now my smart ass tween might keep calling it that to be funny; this kid doesn't sound funny, so I'm not sure why someone that old would keep calling it that. A four year old, yes, but eleven?
In the 4th para, do you really mean a semicolon??
I do like the "last came the problem" but the description after needs some work. I kid so "young" as to call a funeral a parade, repeatedly, wouldn't think "that wasn't a metaphor"--it's too advanced for how you've already portrayed him.
Aaagh, the internet deleted my comment!
OK. This is interesting, but you need to cut.
1&2: could use some sort of action tags so they're not Brenda Starr dialogue.
3: might be better as, "It's a funeral, Alex, and do you have to watch every one?"
4&5: cut, and work in the exposition later. For now, mentioning that he's looking out the window onto Death Road works.
6: long, but not bad.
7: cut "That wasn't a metaphor. For some reason,".
And that last paragraph really creeps me out.
Has anyone ever said "In a minute, mom"?
Yes, I'm pretty sure they have.
Whose POV are we in here? If it's Alex's, then he has an impressive vocabulary for his age.
Love the concept. The writing needs work as per the above (I did cringe when I hit the exposition), but that was creepy as hell. I'd really like to see where you go with this.
If it's Alex's, then he has an impressive vocabulary for his age.
I think this:
They said; he was only eleven, lots of time to understand things. Maybe.
is possibly foreshadowing the revelation that Alex is actually thirty-two.
Honestly, vocabulary depends on the person. I was only 11 or 12 when I learned "ostentatious." (Still love that word.)
Liturgists actually gets more google hits than ostentatious, so maybe :D. Still, it isn't written as if it's a child thinking--not as far as I see it, anyway. La. Been a long time since I was a child....
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