Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Beginning 96


"You don’t want this, no more than I do."

"I don't want it." I tried to keep the exasperation out of my voice. Firespark hadn't earned it. "But Terra does. We don’t start wars accidentally."

The Pathchild ambassador twined his fingers, all six hands worth moving in constantly changing patterns. I tried to keep my eyes on his face. Nervous? Confused? Angry? A year after contact, I still couldn't be sure. "Is it war, now?" he said at last. "I thought you called it a 'declaration of intent to annex.'"

"True. And if you accept the annexation, there'll be no war. I have a whole stack of agreements right here." The Interplanetary Relations Council didn't think they'd fight. Even Counselor Avrams, normally a sensible man, thought we might be able to get through this without an exchange of hostilities. I knew there wasn't a chance in hell.

The ambassador's face finally registered an emotion that was simple to parse. Defeat. "I, ah, I will look these over and consult my superiors."

I wanted to scream at the snivelling little pacifist, but I bit my tongue and instead reached nonchalantly into my pocket. Fingered my blaster. Oh, there was going to be an exchange of hostilities all right. Whether Terra wanted it or not.


Continuation: Braun

18 comments:

Beth said...

Ooooh (she coos enthusiastically). Cut the first two paragraphs, start with the third, and you've got a winner. I'd read on in a heartbeat.

The first paragraph--nothing but a line of unattributed dialogue--is meaningless without context. The second paragraph is almost as confusing. Even once we figure out what's going on, they contribute nothing by way of character development, setting, or plot.

But in the third paragraph, everything clicks into focus. I can see who's talking. The description of the Pathchild ambassador, the six hands moving in changing patterns...this is a wonderful, engaging visual that puts me right there in the story. We also get the POV character's insights in the very next sentence. And the dialogue (so beautifully understated, but I can just hear the undertones) tells me exactly what the conversation is about, and provides an immediate layer of tension. As a first paragraph, this is about as perfect as it gets. Please tell me you're going to delete the first two and go with this.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this. A lot. We are right at the War/No War decision, and can see that War is likely.

I would nix the first sentence in favor of something more compelling.

How about, "War would benefit neither of our species." "I don't want war, (alien name). It's the demands of my government." or some such.

A great beginning. I want MORE. :)

pjd said...

I think beth hit the nail on the head, though I got seriously hung up on trying to figure out how worth fit into that thing about six hands. Does the ambassador have six hands, or six hands worth of fingers?

I like the general image of multiple hands moving constantly followed by the note of trying to avoid being distracted by it. I would just nix the word worth.

Anonymous said...

Great advise, Beth. I don't read this kind of story, so I can't really comment in general, but I reread the beginning, starting wtih the 3rd paragraph, and found it MUCH more compelling. Those six hands were great.

braun said...

Yeah, the most interesting thing about this scene is the alien ambassador with six hands. Get him in there first thing, makes a great hook.

Bernita said...

The problem for me is also who's who and what's what.
It wasn't until later I realized there were probably only two speakers and that Firespark is the ambassador - though I wonder uneasily if Firespark may be the name of the soon-to-be-annexed country.
It is intriguing though.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this an episode of Babylon 5? Or was it Deep Space 9?

Virginia Miss said...

Good opening.

Wyttenwyrd's advice is good; get the war issue into the first sentence. Then jump right into the ambassador.

And I second pjd's point about "worth" -- I had to read the sentence about his six hands twice to understand it. Just have his hands move, without the word "worth." This sentence is too important, you don't want to have anything in it that makes a reader stumble.

Ashni said...

Thank you all. And now I must admit that this is not the original beginning, but a rewrite of a scene that originally took place on page 20. I got two rejections on the partials, and was trying to figure out if it was worth starting in a different place. Apparently, the answer is yes. I'll cut the first two paragraphs, and then my res should finally be in media enough.

Now I've just got to rewrite the rest of this scene, and find places to integrate some vital information that was in the original beginning.

xiqay said...

I read this twice. It was a little confusing to me. On second reading, I take it Firespark is the Pathchild ambassador. Terra is a planet or government.

You have two ambassadors sitting down together and one says "we don't start wars accidentally," meaning this is an intentional start of war. What do I know, I've never been privy to a meeting of ambassadors, but this didn't strike me as particularly diplomatic. Or believable.

I also didn't like the italics for emphasis or being told that the narrator is exasperated. I'd prefer hearing it or seeing it in the story.

And there seemed to be a lot of stuff between lines of dialogue, making it harder to follow.

I'm not sure I'd keep reading.

Good luck.

HawkOwl said...

I find it hard to relate to someone who's exasperated in the first paragraph without any indication why. I also agree on "worth." I actually thought at first that he had six hands worth moving and a few more not worth moving.

However, I don't read science fiction for the dialogue. The style isn't a problem, so if the back copy is promising, I'd read this.

Spooks said...

I thought this a very strong opening despite the bit of confusion at the beginning. Some great advice from Beth. I'd keep on reading. I really liked it.

NB

McKoala said...

I think Beth nailed it. I was confused by so many new names in the whole section and if you can lose the first two then that problem disappears too (for a while!).

I also love the six hands and that would be an arresting image to start on.

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to relate to someone who's exasperated in the first paragraph without any indication why.

Yeah...

I hate myself too...

BuffySquirrel said...

Terra is Earth, as all SF readers know...

(well, okay, maybe not ALL)

braun said...

What!? I thought Terra referred to Terra Reid of "Taradise". This changes my understanding of the opening completely.

magz said...

Good Science Fiction! I'd read this, let us know when it's published oh Author!

(And please tell me where I might meet a 6-handed alien, bet he gives a backrub to die for hehe)

Ashni said...

Magz: After spending hours typing, that's what I keep thinking about! And thank you, I certainly will let people know. I'm never shy about boasting.