Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Beginning 863

Quinton breathed a sigh of relief as the door closed, cutting off the shrieking and giggling of his nieces. He loved visiting his sister and her family, and did so whenever his trading ventures gave him opportunity, but the noise! The tension in his shoulders unwound as he headed to the kitchen to wash the dishes. He’d promised to straighten up the house and, after that, he needed to finish preparing for his trip tomorrow.

As he set the last mug on the sideboard to drain, knocking interrupted the pleasant stillness. The two men on the stoop were the last thing he expected to see.

“May we come in?”

“Ah. Certainly. The sitting room is through the door on the left,” he stepped aside, gesturing. After they passed, he shut the door and stood a moment, staring unseeing at the grain of the wood. Had they come for him? Impossible.

He followed them into the sitting room, where his youngest niece stood, still laughing and shrieking. The two men began to fit a white jacket around her writhing form, started fastening the straps.

Thank God, breathed Quinton. It was not I for whom they came.

His sister roared into the room then. “No! No, not her. She’s acting that way because she’s six. He’s the one!” Quinton tensed when he saw her finger point at him. “He’s the nut with OCD. He’s washed the dishes four times since dinner. And I swear to God! If he straightens up the house one more time—I’ll kill him!”

Quinton didn’t care for the men’s approach, though he did appreciate the pleasant silence of their steps on the soft carpet.

Opening: Ryoryo.....Continuation: Dixon


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Great continuation.

There are a lot of contradictions in a short space here. He loves visiting his sister (and the children, presumably) but he hates the noise (made by the children). Loud noise can seldom be converted to pleasant stillness just by closing a door-- relative calm, maybe.

And then the men on the stoop were the last thing he'd expected to see-- and yet he wonders if they've come for him. So he must've been expecting them... because usually when there are men on the stoop, they just want to give you pamphlets.

I think we need to know more about the men who appear on the stoop in order for us to get some sense that they're a threat. A brief description or something.

Evil Editor said...

P1. I would change "promised" to "offered." "Promised" could give the impression he's responsible for the mess or that housecleaning was a condition of his staying there.

I think one comma after "house" would be better than two surrounding "after that."

P2. I guess the last sentence is okay if it's true, though when you're in someone else's house, you don't have clear expectations for what you'll find when you answer a knock on the door. Perhaps these two men were less likely than three ostriches dressed like cowboys, but I doubt it.

P4. Period after "left," and start a new sentence with "He." Or change to "he said, stepping aside..."

Probably there's no need to say "on the left" and also gesture. "... through there," he said, gesturing to the left" works, or just delete "gesturing." Of course, saying "left" and gesturing might be a way of avoiding confusion over whether he means their left or his left, but even if he would do both, we don't need to know every tiny detail of this scene.

Adele said...

The second sentence's formality makes me think this is set - oh, at least 150 years ago. If so, I don't understand him promising to straighten up the house, let alone do the dishes. And I don't understand his sister letting him do it and where's the scullery maid anyway.

That sounds trivial, but it's enough to make me stop reading, given that nothing else happens.

vkw said...

I didn't like "tensions in his shoulders unwound" - seems trivial and breaks the flow.


He headed for the sink to wash the dishes as he promised. . .

(He's in the kitchen already, right?)

(it could he headed further into the kitchen . . . but whatever)


"He would straighten up the house after that, as he promised, before preparing for his trip tomorrow."

He set the last mugh on the sideboard when knocking interrupted his temporary reprieve.

Also didn't like "staring unseeing at the grain of wood."

It seems to break the flow. . .

maybe "After they left, he shut the door and stood a moment staring. Had they come for him? Impossible.

(One would think if the men in black come for you, they don't talk to sister first. Maybe he's wondering what they are doing there at all)

well anyway. . . as written, it's not bad but I'm not hooked yet. Something better happen quick or the book jacket better be real interesting.

batgirl said...

I feel as if the author is trying too hard for mystery, and ending up with vagueness. 'trading ventures' could be anything, and the lack of detail about the men leaves me without a hook to entice me further - plus it's rather unnatural for a pov character who's obviously a rather fussy close observer to have this blank spot about something that matters.

For what it's worth, I've done this sort of under-writing, being afraid that my readers are such intuitive geniuses (genii?) that if I give them more than the merest, slightest clues they will guess the ending right away.
Usually it's better to give the clues.

Dave Fragments said...

I don't understand why the screaming kids introduce the story. You first give the reader the image of children being children and creating all the tension in Quinton to two nondescript men who the reader doesn't have any idea about, let alone foreboding or menace.

none said...

I suppose the idea is to set up a situation where everything is much as usual, then disrupt it by having the two men arrive. The trouble isn't so much with the setup as that the writing is blah. Too much tell rather than show, the unnecessary!, and the cliches (tension in his shoulders, last thing he expected to see). There's nothing new, unexpected or original here. Start again.

Ryoryo said...

Enjoyed the continuation -- nice job, Dixon.

Thanks to everyone who made actual suggestions -- I appreciate it.

Some further information. This is a fantasy novel. The men at the door are easily recognizable from their uniforms, though Quinton does not know them personally. I agree that I need to insert some description of them at their first appearance. I'm struggling with how to introduce them and the group they are a part of, partially because of their role in this scene. They are members of the Guard, basically the country's border patrol. People ( most often young-ish people, teens) are selected, seemingly at random, to join this group (I will refrain from giving details on why here) and find out because a pair of Guards show up and tell them. On seeing them, Quinton knows that he has just been selected because he's the only one in the house (even if it is his sister's house) and the Guard are sort of notorious for showing up in exactly the right place to find who they are looking for without actually asking around. (nb: they want to come in and talk because they don't yet know Quinton is actually the person they are looking for -- they just have a name and a location, but nto a description).

What I'm trying to set up in the first paragraph is that Quinton has a life that he is happy with, and that life is being completely derailed. That's why he stops and stares at the door -- he's in shock and is trying to collect himself.

Apparently, I also need to add something which indicates that it was the front door closing behind his nieces, who are leaving with their parents. So, the house is quiet in their absence.

I tend toward a very sparse style when I write, so it's good to have a better sense of what I'm leaving out that should not be left out.



Unknown said...

when he thinks about the kids it sounds like he doesn't like being around them at all and appears too stressed at the mention of his tense muscles.(showing the contradiction)

Since you want to show that he is happy maybe lessen the stress level and show how he enjoys spending time with them (did they play a game that day?) but after a few hours it's nice to have a little break.

So he knows who they are and that they want him because he's the only one in the house right? It might help to show his reaction at the sight of them.

As he set the last mug on the sideboard to drain, knocking interrupted the pleasant stillness. He opened the door to find two men ("in uniform"? or "wearing sashes", hats?). Quinton froze.

“May we come in?”

Then later you could replace
"Had they come for him?" with "What were they doing there? He already knew the answer." mm not that exactly but you get the idea. or maybe "Was he ready for this?" or he was in denial.

If you need to put a thought there just have something that foreshadows what's going to happen and shows that he knows what they want.

I write like that all the time. Whenever I finish a chapter I always get someone to read it and tell me what they think is going on because usually information is missing and they misunderstand a lot of it.

Ryoryo said...

Thanks, Emily! That was very helpful.

I've always had this problem. I had to write stories in 2nd grade, and I would write two sentences on the paper. But when my mom would ask me about them, I would go on and on. But I couldn't be convinced (at the time) that I needed to actually write down any more than I had. :)