Victor sat beside the tomb and decided no good gravedigger was afraid of the dark. As cold mud seeped through his sweatpants, he flicked his Spiderman flashlight on and off, passing its yellow beam over the headstones in Old Jewish Cemetery. He figured it was a good test of bravery—see if he could stand the dark for a whole ten seconds.
Prague creeped him out at night, especially when it rained. Shadows stretched from glowing lanterns. Gothic buildings looked like monsters under the cloudy sky. Victor felt better when he saw other people nearby, struggling with umbrellas or hurrying for shelter. He stood, flicked on his torch, and braced a boot against the shovel. They’d probably call him a grave robber. But he wasn’t stealing bodies, he was adding more.
“Carol,” he called softly, blinking rain out of his eyes. Hoisting his backpack off the ground and onto his shoulders, Victor sought his spirit animal—the polar bear he alone could see. Bark scraped his scarred cheek as he slunk between the trees, hoping no one noticed him.
He spotted Carol on the grass, sticking her muzzle into a bag of Doritos.
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
Carol looked up at him. "Hey, hey, hey, Boo Boo," she said, "look what I found in this pickanick basket!"
Opening: Zombie Boy Bones.....Continuation: khazar-khum
Beside it lay a half-eaten Big Mac and an overturned drink cup. Carol gave him a doleful look: "Can i have another Pepsi?... please?"
I can't complain about the writing. There are a couple things that aren't clear to me. It seems to be very dark when his flashlight isn't on, but he sees people nearby. And why is he doing this at a time when people are nearby? If he sees them, they can see him. Is he digging a hole or filling in a hole? A cemetery would normally be fairly wide open, so why can't he get from here to there without having to go between trees so close together that he scrapes his cheek?
Well, you might say he saw people under the streetlights. When you are under a streetlight at night it is more difficult to see into the dark shadows.
Anyway, I like the opening and would read on. If Carol isn't a human you might give her more of a pet name.
It has suspense, a hook, and a character we'd want to know more about. You're hitting on all cylinders and ready to sail -- I love mixed metaphors and never get a chance to write any.
Though if there are people nearby under streetlights, and you don't want to be seen by them, it's not a good idea to keep turning your flashlight on and off.
Glad the writing itself is okay. The people he sees nearby are near or under streetlights, which is why he can see them. And he's more toward the inside of the cemetery, so people probably wouldn't notice him unless they were looking for him. So "nearby" probably isn't the right word--they're close enough for him to see, but he also has better vision than a human, so he could make them out even from a distance. I should somehow mention that. Old Jewish Cemetery is actually pretty crowded with gravestones. I'll mention he's avoiding those when he bumps into the tree. Thanks for the help!
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. The people are under streetlights, and Victor has better vision than a normal human--he can see things some distance away, though he doesn't have night vision, so he still can't see in the dark. (X
Yeah, I actually planned on changing it since I have another character named Caroline, and Carol was just too similar.
Claudia, You could give him one of those penlights. They are more focused and if it's LED then the beam-width is narrow.
Oh, good idea. Thanks!
I read this:
“Victor sat beside the tomb and decided no good gravedigger was afraid of the dark. As cold mud seeped through his sweatpants, he flicked his Spiderman flashlight on and off, passing its yellow beam over the headstones in Old Jewish Cemetery. He figured it was a good test of bravery—see if he could stand the dark for a whole ten seconds...”
and assumed Victor was a little kid who was participating in some type of prank or bravery test his peers had set up. Sweatpants, Spiderman flashlight, afraid of the dark.
Then I found out he's burying a body and realize he must be not only a lot older but a lot more worldly than the first two sentences clearly paint him. Then you immediately add a polar bear only he can see and I don't know if he's just a kid who's afraid of the dark despite having a huge polar bear to protect him or a mentally ill adult who buries bodies while shining his favorite Spiderman flashlight.
To be honest, with this much confusion going on I'd put the book down before I read any farther. It's all over the place.
Stop trying to cram everything into the opening and lead in properly. Set the scene first. Introduce the main character second. Introduce him properly- give strong hints about his age and mindset.
Make sure you've got the atmosphere right. Is it jittery? Creepy? A little humorous?
Finally, introduce the polar bear. It won't seem so “WTF?” if you mention he has a spirit animal in the preceding paragraph, then the polar bear is revealed.
Take your time with it. Not everything at once.
Victor is twelve. I'm not sure how I'll add the spirit animal in earlier without it getting cluttered, but I'll try and think of something.
I didn't know he was twelve. That brings up way more questions, like how he gets a dead body to a cemetery unseen. Unless the polar bear helped? But I honestly think 12 year olds should be able to handle the dark for more than 10 seconds, unless he has a legitimate fear of the dark?
Anyway, you're not hearing me. There's no need for anything to get "cluttered." Take your time. There is no law that says you must introduce and describe a main character, his spirit animal and the setting in like, four paragraphs. Take your time. In order for there to be any type of mood or atmosphere, you pretty much have to.
Dump the first paragraph. It is meaningless. No one can dig a grave. Try. Unless you have murdered someone and put them in a shallow resting place, which I am sure you haven't done.
Start at 'graph 2.
A polar bear named Carol? Sounds like a joke. Please get either an Inuit or Russian name. If the bear is mystical, make it so.
Doritos? Unless the bear is a relie, aunt, mother grandma reincarnate with a junk food addiction I'd change the thread. Mystical creatures in my humble experience don't crave junk food or any food. Real bears do. They eat anything.
I hope you rethink a few things and good luck.
My animal spirit quide, always close, in the form of a polar bear, scared and lumbering etc.
I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "no one can dig a grave." I've unfortunately had to dig resting places for pets before, so people can dig graves. Do you mean no one can not get caught digging a grave?
Still, I could start at paragraph two, but since I've edited this opening to add more information--this was just a placeholder of sorts, to see if it worked--it would lose some important info, but it's possible I could add that into a different paragraph. Not completely edited, but this is the version with more world information and what replaces the spirit bear, who was just a placeholder while I worked out some things:
Victor sat by the grave and told himself twelve-year-olds weren’t afraid of the dark. Not when they were the 1,000th reincarnation of a darkness God. As mud seeped through his sweatpants, he flicked his Spiderman flashlight on and off, passing its beam over the headstones in Old Jewish Cemetery. He figured it was a good bravery test—see if he could stand the gloom for a whole ten seconds.
Prague creeped him out at night. Shadows stretched from lanterns, and gothic buildings looked like monsters under the cloudy sky. Victor felt better when he saw people under the distant streetlights, struggling with umbrellas or hurrying for shelter. He stood, flicked on his torch, and braced one boot against the shovel. They’d probably call him a grave robber. But he wasn’t stealing bodies, he was adding more.
“Kalistia,” he called softly. Blinking rain out of his eyes, Victor sought his MAJOR—the girl he alone could see. He spotted Kalistia floating above some weeds, her cape of darkness like a black wave. The words on her crop top—NO LIES, ONLY TRUTH—glowed in the dark. “Is it illegal for a darkness God to be afraid of the dark?”
Kalistia’s angular red eyes narrowed. “Mia’s going to find you,” she warned. Her voice reminded Victor of old records—scratchy but nice to listen to. The MAJOR rubbed her face against his, grey skin warm and familiar. “She’s going to find you and make you into a person pie.”
"Gothic buildings looked like monsters..." This is a very poor simile. Sorry, but it is.
“Is it illegal for a darkness God to be afraid of the dark?” I'm not sure what is meant by "illegal." What legality would a god even be bound to?
The absurdity of a darkness god not only being afraid of the dark but using a Spiderman flashlight is coming across as comical. If you were meaning for this opening to be moody, atmospheric or creepy it isn't working.
She's wearing a "cape of darkness," a crop top with glow in the dark letters, and she's floating. And of course, only he can see her. It almost seems like you're going for comedy, here. This is like a Scooby Doo character.
Also, people don't generally rub their faces on other's faces unless they're having sex. This is just strange.
"Person pie" sounds goofy.
This is just all over the place. I can't tell what's supposed to be going on. It's coming across as absurdist humor. And you're still rushing it.
DIgging a real grave would be quite a feat for a twelve-year-old.
MOnsters and Spider-Man and fear of the dark etc. Are reasonable if we're in the POV of a normal 12-year-old, but the kid is apparently aware that he's the 1000th incarnation of a god, which suggests that he would have the knowledge and emotional makeup of someone who's more mature than a child.
True, I guess I can change that simile. But Victor is a kid, so I wanted the narration to reflect his POV. I'm sure I could still come up with something better that's still kid-like, though, so I'll work on it.
About the illegal thing, again, Victor is a kid. My younger siblings will say a number of ridiculous things on a daily basis. This book is often humorous, like Percy Jackson, in which all the Greek gods and myths are presented in funny/ridiculous ways. If him being afraid of the dark is really that absurd, I could remove that, though it plays a larger role since he was never afraid in any past lives. I'm not saying that this isn't confusing or rushed (it very well might be) but the Hunger Games introduces the MC, her mother and sister, their cat, and the setting on just the first page.
"MOnsters and Spider-Man and fear of the dark etc. Are reasonable if we're in the POV of a normal 12-year-old, but the kid is apparently aware that he's the 1000th incarnation of a god, which suggests that he would have the knowledge and emotional makeup of someone who's more mature than a child."
Yeah, I'm having that problem with it. I just wouldn't introduce the god thing at this point. It's too much too soon.
Intellectually aware that something is supposed to be true doesn't automatically grant full understanding. If someone told him that he was the incarnation of a dark god 3 hours previously I don't think he'd be that much different personality-wise (although it may say a few things about his gullibility).
I would say a darkness god being afraid of the dark is ironic rather than wondering if it was illegal, although I don't know how well a typical 12-year-old understands the concept of irony. Thinking there was something wrong with it as opposed to legality questions might be better phrasing. ymmv
My biggest problem with this is that you tell me the kid is scared of the dark, but he's acting more bored than scared.
If the fear is the focus of this, you're starting in an ok place but you need to work on conveying it a bit better. If the focus is supposed to be the grave digging, he could be just as creeped out while digging so you might want to start there. Then we could get to whether he's burying a gerbil named Tarantula, or Pete the bully a whole lot faster.
Think about what you want the reader to know, where you want them to focus, and how you want them to feel. The comments here should be more a measure of whether you're succeeding at what you're trying than instructions for what to do.
I see. This opening needs some work, so I'll try and fix it. Since I've recently had to change the entire opening chapter, I've been having trouble finding a new place to start.
You can do this/write this but you need to get real. No human can dig a human gave. Yes, pets, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters. Do me a favor - take a shovel and go out and dig 6 ft down and a 4 ft wide square grave. You will not be able to do it. You need a back hoe. Unless you are an axe murderer on ice, which my dear, I am sure you are not.
What we write needs to be believable, which I think you can do, but consider. Work and walk through those sentences. Live each one. Try doing all you write about.
Wish you the best, not quite "there" yet but do not quit. Make it better, cheering you on from the other side of the planet, that would be Asia,
The backhoe was invented in 1947. For thousands of years before that, graves were dug by humans. I'm guessing they still are in many places.
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