Monday, May 13, 2013

New Beginning 1004

Sylvie flit her fingertips through the candle’s flame, wondering how many saints and prophets would have been sent to asylums in the modern age. When the power had just gone out, it was a game of boredom. Now, her eyes locked on the glow. Her newest canvas perched wet and disheveled on its easel. The white rabbit notecard sat open on the coffee table. The thunder cracked, a signal from the ancients or perhaps simply a superb sound off of static electricity. Her hand, preparing itself for a slower passing, cast a shadow like a quivering spider across the words on the page.

“Off with your head.”

When another burst of lightening lit the room, Sylvie closed her eyes, allowing her fingertips to meander through the heat of the flame. Her purple fingernails looked black in the dim light. The thunder boomed again, and someone banged on the door. Her hand flinched. She didn’t move to answer it.

“Wasn’t sure if you had any candles.” Miguel walked in the unlocked door like he had just seen her yesterday. Stumpy pillars filled his hands, and a flashlight poked out of his sweatshirt pocket. He dripped after his two block dash. “Guess I was wrong,” he added, seeing the flame across the room quaking from the breeze he let in. “Do you have a towel?”

Sylvie hid her raw fingertips and limped to the hall closet.

“Always saving the damsel in distress…” The words tasted old in her mouth, worn-out, nostalgic as his morning breath and the dagger she’d put in his back.

The phone rang, screaming like a hungry animal and making Sylvie jump. She'd forgotten, in these days of digital dependence, that her old analog set still worked through a power cut. She grabbed the receiver, drawing it toward her like it was buoyant driftwood on an ocean of bleakness. "Hello?" She cast into the static sea.

"It's the power company," the distant, disembodied voice, unsettling in its normalcy informed her. "We've checked out the problem. We'll have your lights back on shortly; seems your overcharged imagery tripped a breaker at the substation."

Opening: Kris Spisak.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

She snatched a towel and limped back to the parlor to find Miguel turning the pages of the Carroll classic.

He looked up and flashed Sylvie that ol' crooked smile, pulling a fifth of gin from under his sweatshirt. "What say we bury the hatchet, eh Sylvie?"

I dropped the towel in his lap and helped myself to a healthy pull off his bottle. Yeah. I'll bury the hatchet alright, I thought. Right between your eyes, motherfucker.

--Veronica Rundell

"Hey, I couldn't let my favorite girl suffer in the dark." He put the partially-gutted candles on the table, the bones of his arms glistening in the light.


"I know, I know, you weren't expecting me." He pulled out a chair, his skull grinning. "But when I say I'm going to be with someone forever, I mean it."


She limped back and handed Miguel a towel, stained with blood and soot from the charred, stumpy, pillars that had once been her fingers. Miguel forced himself not to look at her bare feet as he dried himself. He flinched when the towel dragged across the angry red wound on his back.

"Off with your head," Sylvie added, closing her eyes and listening to the words of the prophets in the hissing rain. And the thunder rolled.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Purple is my favorite color but it just doesn't look good on prose.

Problems with this degree of metaphor and detail:

1. It stops the readers constantly as we try to figure out what you mean (Why does Miguel have pillars in his hands?) and whether you're speaking metaphorically or not.

2. It distracts from what's important. Does it matter that there's a white rabbit on the notecard? Will we need to know that? Should we be thinking about spiders?

3. It's too slow. Something needs to happen, and in an interesting way. The power going out and Miguel showing up with candles could happen in two sentences and seems pretty much like everyday life.

The story should begin at a point where something changes.

I assume EE is going to tell you that the past tense of flit is flitted (and it doesn't mean the same thing as flicked) and that the stuff that flashes in the sky is lightning, not lightening.

(The dictionary says flit can mean "flutter", but I wonder if "flicked" would work better here. Anyway, you don't ever want readers stopping to wonder if you've chosen the right word.)

Someone or other once said that writing should be a clear pane of glass through which the reader sees the story.

Evil Editor said...

P1: Past tense of "flit" is "flitted." Actually, the alliteration of flit, finger, flame would bug me in sentence 1. How about Sylvie's fingertips danced or skimmed through the candle's flame?

Change "just gone out" to "first gone out" to avoid misinterpretation of "just" as "only."

"Disheveled" isn't a word I would apply to a painting. And since her eyes are locked on the glow of the candle, she wouldn't be seeing the canvas anyway.

P2: Is that the words on the page of a book or on the notecard? Usually we wouldn't refer to a notecard as having pages. But wouldn't the book say Off with their heads or Off with her head?

P3: Lightning, not lightening. Is that purple fingernail polish? Someone do an experiment to see if polished fingernails burst into flame when passed through fire.

P4: Not entirely clear what "like he'd just seen her yesterday" means.

"Stumpy pillars filled his hands" is silly. Can't he just walk in carrying candles?

P6: Can't tell if "she'd" means she would or she had. Big difference.

Dave Fragments said...

I think that there are too many hints and too many possible ways for this opening to go and that hurts it.

Let me list them...
a) possibly Sylvia is in trouble with religious authorities.
b) possibly Sylvia is a visionary like Joan of Arc.
c) The power's been out for years. The powers been out for minutes.
d) We're in an "Alice" type world with anthropomorphic creatures.
e) She has purple fingernails and she's punk. Is this steampunk? Cyberpunk? Magical realism?
f) Miguel cares. Are we in Southern California?
g) Sylvia is a cutter for some reason.
h) We're back to the middle ages with Damsels.
i) oops, no, she's stabbed him and he's bleeding to death in her room.
k) She really is the Red Queen.
l) this is a great trip, pass that hookah over here.
My advice is to focus the opening so that the reader gets a less confusing idea of what is happening and who Sylvia and Miguel are.

And I guess EE was getting pummeled by spam because I'm back to proving I'm not a robot.

Unknown said...

The pace is too slow. Instead of feeling ominous it feels tired and stale.

Why do we care about poor Sylvie singeing herself in the dark?

And why does she/did she stab Miguel in the back?

Give us context. Right now Sylvie sounds like a crazy cat lady cursing all and sundry with voodoo. If she is, well, okay, but I'm still trying to figure out if I want to spend hours of my time reading about her...and right now the answer is no.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

"I noticed your lights were out, too." Miguel stood on the doorstep, illuminated by a flash of lightning. "Thought maybe you could use some candles."

The above contains pretty much what happens in this scene.

Now in order for this to be the right place to start the story, Miguel's arrival needs to herald a change of some kind. This would be clearer if he were holding, say, a dagger, or a winning lottery ticket, or an engagement ring, or a warrant for the protagonist's arrest.