Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Beginning 882

A hooded figure raced through the streets, feet splashing like giant water balloons in ankle-deep puddles. In her arms was a damp bundle, only identifiable as a baby from the small cry it gave. She ducked beneath a store’s awning to protect her child from the onslaught of rain. The baby cried softly.

“Shh,” she urged, stroking the child’s head. She made a fearful glance to her left, brushing her soaked, sandy blonde hair away from her eyes. “They might hear us.”

How anyone could hear over the pounding rain and constant thunder, one can only guess, but this woman quaked in terror. A flash of lightning illuminated her surroundings. For a moment, she thought she saw a shadowy figure silhouetted against the sky.

Though she tried to assure herself no one else would be out in this weather, the thought felt far from reassuring. After all, the only people who’d brave these conditions were those searching for her and her child. Little did it comfort her that they were as unaccustomed to the weather as she.

Suddenly, a spotlight flared in the distance. The shadowy figure was illuminated. The man leaned into the raging wind and pelting rain. His windbreaker flapped wildly, yet his perfectly coiffed hair was motionless. How was that possible? Was he one of them? He had to be; why else would he be out in this downpour?

He looked familiar but she couldn't place his face. Something about his eyes . . . Then suddenly she realized who it was. Sal Salmbocco, WNNZ weather reporter, the only other person crazy enough to be out in this weather.

Opening: Ryan Mueller.....Continuation: Anon.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Overwritten. You're using too much description and detail to get us to feel the immediacy and tension you want us to feel.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

Something scuffed nearby. She tried to melt back into the shadows, willing her baby to keep quiet.

They couldn't make her do it. It was evil. The very thought of what they wanted turned her stomach. Without thinking, she grasped the small bundle tighter, and it let out a whimper.

"Over here!" The nurse rounded the corner and ran toward her. The nurse's scrubs were stained night blue by the relentless rain. "Here she is!"

The man came into view behind the nurse, his usually wavy brown hair flat against his sodden scalp. "Come on," he said to her. "You can't stay out here. Come back with us. Face it, Liz, you've gotta learn to change his diaper some time."


Evil Editor said...

P1: It's not clear in sentence 1 whether the analogy is comparing "splashing" to giant water balloons in ankle-deep puddles, or "feet splashing in ankle-deep puddles" to giant water balloons. If the latter, word it as I did to make it clear. A better idea is to delete it from the story and save it in case we ever have another bad analogy writing exercise.

Sentence 2 would be clearer if "only" were moved between "baby" and "from."

We don't need the baby to cry twice in the same paragraph.

P2: Probably not the best time to tell us her hair is sandy blonde.

P3: Dump the first sentence. It's telling us what's already been shown.

If she's under an awning, would she be able to see something silhouetted against the sky?

P4: I'd dump it all and get to what happens next. She's not gonna stand there theorizing about whether whoever's after her would be out in the rain.

Chicory said...

The line "How anyone could hear over the pounding rain and constant thunder, one could only guess" seems rather Lemony Snicket to me. I suspect that's not the feel you want. Try naming the woman and getting into her head more.

Ryan Mueller said...

Thanks for the comments everybody. I was worried I had tried a little too hard with this opening, and it seems that was the case.

@Evil Editor

I was questioning the water balloons line to begin with. It was one of those things I added because I get complaints that I don't use enough figurative language. Goes to show I should just stick to my natural writing style, I guess.

Also, the part about her sandy blonde hair was a recent addition when I realized I had never described her appearance.

I always think it's funny how I have these little parts that bother me that I don't know how to fix. Then, those are the exact parts people comment on.

Here's my new attempt at an opening, taking into account the comments so far:

A hooded figure raced through the streets, feet splashing in ankle-deep puddles. In her arms was a damp bundle, identifiable as a baby only from the small cry it gave. She ducked beneath a store’s awning to shield her child from the onslaught of rain.

“Shh,” she urged, stroking the child’s head. She made a fearful glance to her left. “They might hear us.”

A flash of lightning illuminated her surroundings. For a moment, she thought she saw a shadowy figure silhouetted against the storefronts across the street.

“You’re just imagining things, Amy,” she muttered to herself. After all, her pursuers had never experienced a storm like this either. How could they possibly see her through the downpour?

Amy pulled the blanket away from her baby’s head and looked into his deep blue eyes. She couldn’t bear the thought of their parting, but as long as her child remained with her, he would never be free; he would never be safe.

A clap of thunder startled her from her thoughts. She thought she saw somebody again out of the corner of her eye. For the briefest of moments, she stared longingly at the store in front of which she had taken cover—before remembering what she could do.

Unknown said...

There are some POV issues.

The new Para 1 is Omni. Someone else is looking at her and describing what's happening. Ex - "A hooded figure" rather than "Amy". This paragraph fell flat for me.

2nd Par is still Omni. She stroked the child's head. Not "Amy stroked her William's head."

P3 - if you are going to illuminate the surroundings, for the love of Pete, tell me about them. Right now I don't know if this is the 1700s, present day, 2525, or on a planet far far away.

P4 - felt unnecessary and info dumpy. Get me to some action.

P5 - I seem to be in Amy's POV now. This is good but there is no emotion. There's no way this woman is trying to protect HER baby. This is telling me and not showing me. She should be a wreck. There's no immediacy to the threat or her concern. Oh, and there's the whole sigh that this is another Chosen One story that seems to be running in well used grooves.

P6 I'd put the story down here. She can do something (hidden even though I'm in her POV) Why the heck would she be running if she could do something to protect herself or the baby.

I generally like high fantasy and Chosen One stories can be great, but they need to give me something new. You might be starting in the wrong place. You have a great tense scene - a mother has to protect her child - make me feel her pain and worry.

anonname said...

Hi Ryan, "overwriting" for me often means that there are loads of details, but they feel as if they're bogging the story down instead of moving it forward. For example, you set the scene as wet, bring on the baby, then back to the scene to mention the rain, then back to the baby. Instead of the baby, new information, leading to the next important thing for the reader to find out. Or, Amy stops and thinks for a paragraph, and nothing happens while she thinks - this loses the tension.

If it were me, I might do it as short as this. (Keep in mind that I'm not you, I'm not trying to write your story, and I'm not a great writer. The other advice here is probably bette. But I don't know how else to explain how I'd try to keep the momentum and tension going.)

Amy ran, splashing through the puddles that sprouted on the streets. Rain battered her hood and the baby's blanket. Poor boy, no wonder he was crying. She ducked beneath an awning for a moment's rest.

“Shh,” she tried, stroking Babysname's head. “They might hear us.”

A flash of lightning made her jump. Was that shadow on the store across the way a Nameofpursuer? She jumped again as the thunder cracked. It couldn't be. Nameofpursuers had never seen storms. They couldn't possibly be out in this downpour. Could they?

Babysname wailed louder. Amy ran again, shaking. She had to get him away.

Adele said...

I know you've already deleted the water balloon image, but I have to say it anyway: water balloons splash because they explode. The image in my mind was that her feet exploded with every step which is odd because you'd think after two steps she'd have to stop running.

Ryan Mueller said...

Thank you for the comments on the revision everyone. I'm still working on it.

@King's Falcon

I think some of the problem with POV is the fact that Amy isn't the main character; her baby is. But I can't tell it from the baby's point of view because that wouldn't be realistic. The reason I originally went with "hooded figure" was to create a sense of mystery. But I can easily rewrite it with the POV being closer to Amy.

I didn't want to spend time describing the surroundings to much because that would probably also interrupt the sense of immediacy. I'll see if I can find a way to work in some detail that indicates this is present day, though.

Interesting that you took this to mean it's a Chosen One story, because it isn't. Amy's the only one in danger of dying. The bad guy wants the baby alive because he's also the baby's father. But he's evil, so Amy is trying to save her son's soul, more or less.

Well, the something she can do to protect her baby is just another form of running. She can magically unlock doors.

I will try to get the reader a little closer to Amy, though.


Thanks for the advice. I think I can introduce the baby's name here. I can also see the problem with her stopping to think for a few seconds. I'll see if I can surround her thoughts with a little more action.

As for the pursuer's name, she doesn't know at first. Then, when she recognizes him, I don't want to use the name because it would give away a very important plot point.

Kerin said...

I don't want to use the name because it would give away a very important plot point.

If the name is something Amy knows, you may have difficulty not referring to it without sounding contrived. Hard to say without knowing the details of course, but my gut feeling is that you'll get more tension out of the scene by putting that detail out in plain sight. Chances are it'll sail over the heads of all but the most astute reader (a title I make no claim to, lol) until we've read the full story and have that lightbulb moment on the re-read :)

Re. the POV issues - could this scene be told from the pursuer's perspective? Maybe try it and see - you can always go back to Amy if you don't like the change!

Those points aside, I like the beginning; I agree it could use some trimming, but sounds like the sort of thing I would read.

150 said...

Then, when she recognizes him, I don't want to use the name because it would give away a very important plot point.

That's a little bit of a red flag. Does your story really need to hinge on the false mystery? A lot of readers and editors get annoyed when they find out an author has deliberately hidden something that the protagonist knows.

Dave Fragments said...

Think about the following...

There is a link between the climax and end of your story and the beginning. I think you are trying to create that link artificially by hiding a name and that's not working. It's the artificial part that's hurting your opening.

For example: In Phantom of the Opera, the link is the music box. In Sunset Boulevard the link is the dead body in the swimming pool. For Chinatown the link is that one word - Chinatown.

The link is some thing or image that ties the story together. INCEPTION, UNSTOPPABLE, DRACULA all depend on revealing their story in one word.

What people forget about titles is that even in revealing everything in the title, you can craft a gym-dandy, awe-inspiring, really wicked plot twist. Think The Usual Suspects and the twist at the end.

batgirl said...

On the rewrite - This is kind of a pet peeve for me - how much can Amy actually see by the available light? If lightning illuminates the scene, it will do so briefly, in high contrast that's almost black & white. So while she probably knows the baby's eyes are deep blue, she can't see them as deep blue at that moment.