I had my nightmare again last night.
We are in the woods, as we had been thirteen years ago. It is crisp and shadows are lengthening. The trail seems to deliberately send out roots and holes to trip us.
Nex makes a comment and tightness seizes my neck and jaw. My face flushes and a pain tears across my stomach, as if I had been punched. A wave spreads from my forehead, blurring my vision as it passes through my eyes. It flickers the air between us and reaches Nex. He stumbles slightly with the impact as the wave buffets him and reverberates across his body. His face abruptly freezes and changes colour, and he drops heavily near my feet. The groan is so deep that it seems to come from his very soul. But the silence that follows is worse, and I know that he has died.
But here nightmare diverges from the actual events. Nex’s spirit rises from his body, and his finger points toward me and his voice booms across the forest, across the country, around the world, so that nobody living or dead could miss the proclamation:
“She did it. Here is the freak who caused my heart to stop by sheer will.”
I always awaken sweating and shivering. Although my head spins and I my stomach is heavy, I start to prepare the spells to purify my mind, to achieve the calm and discipline necessary to control the curse.
But the curse is not easily controlled.
Once my breathing slows, I cast the spells and force myself to swallow two of the magic pills.
The stomach pain fades, but I'm afraid to go back to sleep, for I know my ridiculously detailed dreams cannot be controlled by Midol.
Opening: JAS.....Continuation: Bran Flakes
Starts out okay.
Since 2nd graf is in present tense, you want past tense, not past perfect, for the flashback. "As we were thirteen years ago."
3rd graf starts out unpromisingly, since Nex at the beginning looks like a typo for Next.
Then it all goes to pieces. I can't figure out what's happening. Give the reader a break.
This isn't as bad as starting with a dream, as it's a dream about an event that did take place. However, the dream is awfully detailed. It is crisp? I'm not sure what that means even if I'm awake, so it's hard to imagine waking and remembering that it was crisp in your dreram. When I wake, all I remember from my dream is that I was running away and someone was chasing me. I never remember whether or not it was crisp. "The trail seems to deliberately send out roots and holes to trip us" sounds like something you might think as the event took place, but not something you'd recall from a dream.
If P2 began "Nex and I" instead of "We," we'd know it was just the two of them. As it is, there could be a half dozen hikers or soldiers on this trail.
A wave spreads from my forehead, blurring my vision as it passes through my eyes. This seems to be either backwards or impossible. If the wave spreads from her forehead toward Nex, it shouldn't then pass through her eyes.
I would cut p2 and 3 to something like:
Nex and I are in the woods, as we were thirteen years ago. Nex says something to me, I don't recall what, and tightness seizes my neck and jaw. My face flushes and a wave blurs my vision as it passes through my eyes and strikes Nex. He stumbles with the impact and drops heavily near my feet. His groan is so deep it seems to come from his very soul. But the silence that follows is worse, and I know he has died.
The whole point of the opening is to get to the hook (where the dream diverges from reality), and this gets you there faster.
Is Nex a dog? That was my impression, a dog. This might be a nice passage elsewhere in the story, but overall, I'd say your story will likely be 1000% more gripping if you start with the inciting incident, not a dream about it.
The "freak" really pulled me out of it. So different from the tone of the piece so far that it could have been the cont.
Possibly, there is another word?
Just stylistically, fwiw, I would like "I had the nightmare again last night" better than "my". It's hard to have somoene else's nightmare.
Also, "We are in the woods, as we were thirteen years ago" sounds better than the clunky had been, to me.
I did double take (re-read) "Nex" but it was quick and I moved on easily so if you love the name, I don't think it's a big deal.
I do like the transition "here the nightmare diverges..."
I would read on.
What threw me (for whatever that's worth) was the amount of physical sensation, pain and discomfort and so on. Do most people get that in a dream? I'd suggest swapping it for emotional sensation, fear, despair, frustration and such. As it is, the narrator seems emotionally detached from Nex kicking over.
I'd also suggest pruning the amount of sensation. I found myself getting lost in the detail.
I did get lost in the detail.
There's a sentence with a physical reaction, then another sentence with a physical reaction, then another so I skim the third, only to find out it's something actually happening so I have to go backtrack. Not a good start :)
You might do better to introduce the name Nex in a place where the word "Next" wouldn't occur i.e. in the middle of a sentence.
I did write a long comment about having an opening line in its own paragraph and the problems thereof, but it might just be me that sees it as problematic?
Thanks for the input.
Yep, I had agonised about whether a flashback was the best place to start a story, so the feedback was useful. I was wanting to convey a sense of horror at what she had accidentally done, so that even thirteen years later, her sense of guilt and remorse overwhelms her. Ok, so flashback ain't the best starting point.
She has a deadly magical curse that she needs to keep hidden, and struggles everyday to manage. So maybe I'll start with poor Nex's death, and fast forward thirteen years.
@ EE - the wave is three-dimensional, like a sound wave. It spreads out from a point on her forehead like an expanding sphere. So it passes through her eyes, and another point of the wave hits Nex with deadly results. Clearly, I'll have to re-word it.
@Anon, Nex is a crappy Fantasy name for a an adult male, I'll need to rethink it.
@ Bran Flakes.
Thanks for the continuation. I'll have to rethink "curse" to describe her poorly controlled magical power that kills others - oops - there goes another one. Would you believe I'd forgotten that The Curse was a euphemism for menstruation? That's what happens when your parents insist on proper words for boldily functions.
BTW, Bran, does your handle indicate that you're a "regular" contributor here? or that you have moral fibre? Or verbal diarrhoea? I'm fascinated by that choice of name.
I didn't comment yesterday because I agreed with EE's suggestions and it all seemed to work. Today, it seems to me that you are starting your story out like this:
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
I think that approach is going to make your job of keeping the reader interested harder.
How about going about revealing the reader for the bad dream in a different way? I’m going to call your character "Emily" because I work easier with names. "Nex" isn't bad for me. Nestor is a real name, BTW, and we used to call him "Nes"...
Think about something like:
The traffic light turned green but Emily's car didn't move. She sat in the fog of a deep forest, Nex's face floating up in front of her eyes, its dead lips accusing. "Killer," it said. "Killer!" Emily's scream blended into the car horns as the reality of the traffic light returned. She inched through the intersection, hands trembling, heart thumping like a bad piston. The flashing lights of a police cruiser said she better pull over and explain this behavior.
That lets you keep the explanation of her much feared magic powers until the end of the chapter. It's the big climax where she says admits to herself that she killed Nex with deadly magical force. It's a nightmare because "Emily" time and again tries to deny it. Her unconscious knows she killed Nex but her conscious mind doesn't want to believe it or admit that she has that ability. The suppression only works so much before the memory resurfaces as visions and nightmares.
All of the above I believe ;).
That, plus my name is Brandon, and I was eating frosted flakes, and made it up on a whim.
But yeah... I like your deep, meaningful reasons much better ;).
Thank you for submitting your beginning!
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