Wednesday, December 04, 2013

New Beginning 1020

Displayed in this prison Jeffrey calls a "proper dress", I fight a losing battle for dignity. He only trumpets our betrothal because he's convinced tolerance of a suspected exotic proves his standing. Lord Whithall revels in boasting the spoils his favor won in the East at every opportunity.

The moneylenders and I know better, but Jeffrey's grasping friends are happy to oblige his illusion. Slaves parade onto the lawn, laden with trays. The men shovel food into their sweaty faces as if it might otherwise disappear. I witnessed finer manners dining with Tem├╝jin's hordes.

Bannantine wags a thick finger. "Better save your gold, boy-o. You're too old to play the gallant for Charles."

What of Charles? I'd ask if anyone would answer.

"More of this madness." Weakness tightens Jeffrey's voice. "Lambert will never allow his return."

Why must news travel slower than gossip?

If Charles rules, I can cast off the bonds of this farce. I won't need a ship. I'll fly to my northern lands. Until then, I can keep mum, forfeit what little fortune Jeffrey knows about, and endure.

The King will surely remember our adventures. Nine years isn't long, even for a blood-born man.

The theater lights came up in the private screening room.

"Jesus H. Chrysler, Priscilla," said Elvis. "No one's going to watch this crap, and the few who do will know it's about me and the Colonel. I don't care if you've picked an obscure moment in English history and changed everyone's names, I'm pulling the funding. I won't have the world remembering the Colonel and me as some flag waving rainbow coalition."

That evening, Elvis Presley was found dead in the toilet outside of the Jungle Room. 

Opening: Mich Fisher.....Continuation: Kregger


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Disgusted, I clang my tin cup against the bars of my gilded cage.

"Oy there, mate. What's a gal got to go to get some hooch, round 'ere?" I wail, desperate for the oblivion I know the drink will bring.

Jeffrey rolls his eyes and tosses a half-eaten turkey drum my way. It falls short but my fingertips can just reach it laying in the dirt before me.

"Filthy bugger," I mutter to myself, picking leaf debris from my meal. At least that rat-bastard Charles had the decency to hand me his leftovers.

--Veronica Rundell

Or a man who'd been violated by Bannantine's finger. He'd violated all of us, and we were his minions whether we liked it or not. Jeffrey had tattooed himself with drawings of thick fingers--rather phallic looking sketches I'd thought. I must bow to the finger until I get the King's text. I'll wait nine more years if I have to.


Evil Editor said...

Not clear if Lord Whithall and Jeffrey are the same person. Not clear to whom Bannantine is speaking (Deleting the "What of Charles..." paragraph would help that.) Not clear what the news/gossip line refers to. I'd get rid of that, too.

I'll fly to my northern lands? Will readers think this means air travel exists? Does it?

You should be able to ground us in the situation better than this, without resorting to infodumping. If Charles returns to England and assumes the throne is is better than If Charles rules, which could be any real or fictional Charles.

Presumably the narrator is the vampire queen, so I'm wondering why she puts up with Jeffrey's demands instead of sucking all the blood from his neck, but I'm sure she has her reasons.

Dave Fragments said...

It is too dense and too much to digest in that few words. My advice would be to find a compelling thought or action in the opening few words and make it sound perfectly normal. Then add the world building and all the differences.

I once wrote a murder mystery in a world with anthromorphic humanoids and in the opening the lead detective fell face-first in a mud puddle as he got to the murder. That cheesy, old-school pratfall gave the reader the chance to smirk before I described the detective had claws, fangs and facial hair.

Maybe begin with the thought that they (the sycophants and hanger-ons) already decided Charles' fate but first they had to eat and gossip and indulge their egos in lies and gluttony. It's like Mozart says in AMADEUS - who doesn't want to gossip with their hairdresser.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dave. Give us some breathing room. Also, I think you need to gain control of your prose. The speaker is not only in a prison; she is displayed in a prison. Therein she fights -- a battle, is it necessary to state? -- for dignity. Jeffrey has entered the engagement because it "proves his standing" or improves his standing? Is he actually "trumpeting" in this scene? "Trumpet" is certainly a more active verb, but all I think I need here is that Jeffrey has entered this betrothal for the reasons you state. "Revels" OR "boasts" would suffice. Spoils are things that are won; Lord Whithall's spoils from the East, or the spoils from his Eastern exploits, would be less busy than "the spoils he won."

All that sounds like nit-picking, but unfortunately the whole passage strikes me as labored and hyper-literary. I'd relax your style. No need to write so hard.

--Down Girl

Mich (author) said...

Thank you again for a helpful smack.

EE, you're my black-hearted hero. I'm starting a fresh round of edits tomorrow, and can't wait to do it right this time.

Dave, I could kiss you. Thank you for a brilliant inspiration for the new version.

Down Girl, you're absolutely right. I have a tendency toward being overwrought at the start, which must be beaten to death. There's no such thing as nit-picking, when the first page or two will determine the fate of the whole book. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

St0n3henge said...

The first paragraph comes across as declarative sentences strung together with no connections. "I like string cheese. People are ugly. Look at this pomegranate."

Okay, not that bad, but sort of like that.

Anyway..."He only trumpets our betrothal because he's convinced tolerance of a suspected exotic proves his standing." I'm not sure this sentence means what you think it means. What exotic? What standing? What trumpet?

Take it easy. Your sentences are tumbling all over themselves in your eagerness to get your story out.

'Bannantine wags a thick finger. "Better save your gold, boy-o. You're too old to play the gallant for Charles."'

This comes out of nowhere. I don't know who's talking, to whom, or what about.

Take it slower. Take time to build the scene.

Unknown said...

Okay, so I took the prison dress more figuratively. Like she was wearing something wholly uncomfortable and un appealing at Jeffrey's behest, but author, you can see there are too many ways for us simple readerfolk to interpret this passage.

Help us out. Make it simple. Describe the scene and immediate conflict so we can dip out toes into this world, then hit us with the bigger arc. Let us see, feel, taste, hear, touch the environment of the MC. Cultivate a flow, don't plunge us neck deep inside of 200 words. The second half of your passage would do well as a first chapter ending, if you build the opening and transition.

Also, character soup alert. There are seven characters in this passage--at least. Cut the names by half. Your MC feels interesting, so expand her voice. Let her tell this story, not divulge her plans....

Best of luck!

Mich (author) said...

Thanks again EE and minions for such helpful advice. Rereading your comments made me realize I had an opening that served the story better in the previous draft, so tweaked it with an eye toward your criticism. If you're inclined to give it another whirl, the new version is below. Dave F, thanks for poking me to return to this idea in the rewrite.

In trying to cut down on character soup, I've considered Bannantine referring only to "the governor" but, as contemporaries, the men know him well and would call him by name. Am I being too OCD at the expense of easier reading?

After a week in Port Royal, I've learned only that Jeffrey spends my money more enthusiastically at home. Rumors of Charles returning to take the throne continue to spread, and the Protectorate's toadies grab every opportunity to indulge themselves. Jeffrey's so-called friends crowd the lawn, toasting his hospitality and gulping down all the food and drink they can get their hands on. They preen and gossip, too busy wallowing in privilege to let reality spoil their fun.

Barefoot slaves file out, carrying trays full of bland delicacies. The scent of cook's spicy goat stew lingering on their uniforms makes my mouth water as they pass by. I'd ask for a bowl, but the company has finally stopped gawking at me, and I don't want more of their attention.

Finn Bannantine sways in his chair, wagging a thick finger while a slave pours him another drink. If his pattern holds, he spoils for a fight. "Better save your gold, boy-o. You're too old to play the gallant for Charles."

"This madness, again." Stress tightens Jeffrey's voice and his hands ball into fists. "They'll never allow him to rule."

"Why else would D'Oyley bow and scrape like a blackie to MacGregor?" At last, Bannantine says news worth hearing. The Governor changes allegiance. Whoever MacGregor is, just the mention of his name makes Jeffrey tremble and the ladies' hearts beat faster. He sounds promising.

"Probably owes him money." The party's only bachelor seems familiar with the experience.

I don't have to guess why Jeffrey shudders.

"I'll tolerate no more talk of royalist swine," he shouts, his face bright red.

I could kill him. For years, I've listened to his empty promises of recovering my lands. Now, the useless bastard stalls to keep his hand in my purse. I'll relish giving him the farewell he deserves.

When Charles reigns, I can escape this farce. Even a blood-born man as debauched as him won't forget the favors he owes. I'll settle for Aberdeenshire.

Evil Editor said...

I don't know if it's OCD, but the first 5 paragraphs mention the following characters: the narrator, Jeffrey, Charles, D'Oyley, MacGregor, Finn Bannantine, the Governor, barefoot slaves, swooning ladies, the Protectorate's toadies, and a cook.

I can't tell if "Better save your gold" is being said by the narrator to Finn or by Finn to someone else.

I can't tell who says "Probably owes him money," except that he's a bachelor. I don't know which characters are married.

Assuming "I'll tolerate..." is said by Jeffrey, put it in the same paragraph with the line above it.

I can't even tell the narrator's female, much less that she's a vampire queen.

I know people were gawking at the narrator earlier for some reason and have now stopped for some reason, but that's not much. You want the reader to form a connection with your main character before you throw us into a scene with so many people. One possibility: Open with the first paragraph (minus the last sentence) then skip down to: I could kill him. I will kill him once Charles reigns and I can escape this farce. Even a blood-born man as debauched as Charles won't forget the favors he owes. I'll settle for Aberdeenshire.

That still doesn't tell us her gender. Maybe change "farce" to "farce of a love affair" if that's what it is.

Of course the back cover will tell us she's a vampire, so you don't need to say "How I'll relish sinking my fangs into his neck and draining every last drop of his blood," but you don't want it to sound like historical fiction and then spring the vampire aspect on us in chapter 6. A vampire queen isn't going to tell her story without boasting about her royal lineage ASAP.

Anonymous said...

What does the narrator want in THIS scene? Obviously, she wants Charles to reign, she wants her land back, etc., but what is her immediate goal that is driving this opening scene? For example, is she mustering all her willpower to not kill Jeffry too soon? Is she listening for a specific piece of news? Trying not to be recognized by a specific guest? If the narrator is a powerful vampire queen, she should be making her own story happen from the very first word, not just passively observing miscellaneous people and conversations at a party. She should want something RIGHT NOW, and every detail she notices should be filtered through that goal.

You have a clear, humorous voice in your comments. Can you get more of that into your story?

Unknown said...

I agree with these comments. Again, too many names, too much to absorb, and really no emotional connection to the MC.

Why would the MC benefit from Charles's return?

Here's the thing, I'm not a dimwit, and I've read a lot of Bonny Prince Charlie historical romance fiction...and I'm struggling to understand any motivation here.

You would be well served to start this scene slower. Let us know who and what about the MC before we drown in the political intrigue.

And, yes, she's too freaking passive for a vampire queen. I want her to relish the thought of ripping Jeffrey's throat out. Right now I have no sympathy or interest in whatever plight she may have because she sounds so very weak.

J.M. said...

Hey, Author

It's still really dense, as EE notes. As highly-wrought as your writing is, it's still not that clear. The ONLY thing the narrator has learned after a week in Port Royal is that her fiance spends her money even more freely back home? She's also learned that certain rumors are continuing, isn't she? And she's probably met a few new people and drawn some conclusions about them.

"If his pattern holds, he spoils for a fight." What pattern? The pattern of finger-waving? Is that a pattern? By "fight" do you mean an argument or actual fisticuffs? Because it seems to me he's a guy for whom fighting is a way of life, making it no big deal that he'll find himself in a fight. "Spoiling" is actually a decision, somewhat synonymous to seeking, but I get the impression from your tone (I may be mistaken) that he'll be stunned when someone takes a verbal or physical swing at him.

Also, isn't Jeffrey technically a bachelor, too?

Yeah, I think you STILL need to breathe more, labor less.

Dave Fragments said...

You are letting all the detail of the scene get in the way of your story. Here's my thoughts.

First off, The narrator and Jeffry aren't on the best of terms. That should be apparent from the start. There are several barracudas here and your tone should reveal that. This isn't a happy love affair.
Second, that these are hangers-ons and sycophants is apparent in one mention and their actions. Don't gild.
Third, the reveal is that the narrator wants Charles to return. That's a big plot point because the narrator is deceiving Jeffrey. That deserves emphasis.

I firmly believe that dialog should be crisp, tight, and together. This type of conversation isn't wordy. It is sharp and revealing.

So here is how I would cut and rearrange this opening. I don't know everything, so I used the words ALIEN and KING.

A week in Port Royal and Jeffrey spends my money enthusiastically.
Rumors of Charles returning the throne continue to spread. Regardless, Jeffrey and the Protectorate's toadies grab every opportunity to indulge. They love his hospitality and gulp down free food and drink, preening, gossiping, wallowing in privilege paid with my money. Finn Bannantine sways in his chair, wagging a thick finger while a slave pours him another drink. He spoils for a fight. "Better save your gold, boy-o. You're too old to play the gallant for Charles."

"It’s madness." Jeffrey's his hands ball into fists. "They'll never allow him to rule."
"Why else would D'Oyley bow and scrape to Governor MacGregor?" Bannantine lets slip news worth hearing. “And you take an ALIEN wife.”
I didn't want their attention. I wanted my lands returned.
"I'll tolerate no more talk of royalist swine," Jeffrey shouts, his face bright red.
I want to destroy him. For years, I've listened to his empty promises. Unless he takes his hand from my purse, I'll give him a proper farewell.
 If Charles becomes KING, he won't forget my favors. I'll settle for Aberdeenshire.

Dave Fragments said...

You might want to make that read:

"I'll tolerate no more talk of royalist swine," Jeffrey shouts, his face bright red.
I didn't want their attention. I wanted my lands returned. For years, I've listened to his empty promises while his hand raided my purse. On day I'll give him a proper farewell.
 If Charles becomes KING, he won't forget my favors. I'll settle for Aberdeenshire.

That seems easier on the reader and keeps dialog together and thoughts together.

Mich (author) said...

Thanks everyone. I'm in the midst of editing, so will definitely focus on making the opening mesh more smoothly with the tone of the rest of the book. Your comments and questions have given me great ideas to establish the critical bits of Kadi's mindset more clearly. She's tolerated a lot of BS out of desperation to get her land back from an unfriendly regime, and Charles returning to rule would solve all her problems. Though she's in a relatively powerless position for the first few pages, you're absolutely right, she needs much more of her usual zazz and agency. I can't wait to finally get it right, and introduce the beginnings of who she is through the rest of the story. If I can get over the front-packing-itis, it'll be a glorious day of revelry. Your head-smacking has been a huge help, thanks again.