Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Beginning 97


I’ve loved her for as long as I can remember. I lost her years ago, but I still see her before me. I carry the hope that I’ll find her again soon.

We first met in elementary school and became constant companions. I remember the photograph of us together outside the chapel after our First Holy Communion. In a lacy white dress with a light embroidered veil pinned to the crown of her head, both pieces painstakingly made by her mother, she looked like a miniature bride. “Stop running, you two! You’ll ruin your clothes!” My father’s voice boomed. The photograph captured us just as we came to an abrupt stop, facing each other and grinning. Even in the black and white picture, the afternoon sun made Lucy’s veil glow like a halo, surrounding her head with light.

I thought nothing of it at the time, but when I saw that same halo around her head in our school pictures, I understood. God wanted her in heaven.

And so I sent her to Him. And though I had to say eleven Hail Mary's and an Our Father for that one, I have no regrets.


Opening: anonymous.....Continuation: Virginia Miss and Kate Thornton

21 comments:

Novelust said...

If I may be indelicate - I get a really weird vibe from the 'miniature bride' comparison. If this is supposed to be a sweet story, I hope the author considers changing it. If not, good job. That coupled with the 'I've loved her for as long as I can remember' beginning make me think I'm in for a really creepy novel.

HawkOwl said...

I was done at the first sentence, and then the second sentence was worse. Too corny.

Anonymous said...

Ditto.

Plus, the "I remember the photograph..." device doesn't work. The narrator is remembering the moment itself, not a photograph.

writtenwyrdd said...

The writing was nicely visual, but I wasn't hooked by it. I would have kept reading for a bit, though.

The veil reference confused me as well.

Bernita said...

Mild.

BuffySquirrel said...

But but but...

Girls taking first communion often DO look like little brides, as in this picture.

Dave said...

I think I know what the author is trying to do.
This is a memory so vivid, so inspiring that from the moment it happened, it possessed the narrator’s mind and remained there ever after, even beyond death or many years of separation.
You haven’t quite got the words right. You need to work on it and it is hard, head-banging off the wall work.

This is the hardest job of rewriting the first one to three sentences (dozen words) until they snap. It might be changing the order of sentences or it might be finding new words that transfer the emotions you feel in your mind to the mind of the reader. Let me say that again—find a way to create the emotions that you feel in the mind of the reader.

Anonymous said...

Touche, buffy (I can't do the little squggly line above the "e").

Dan Lewis said...

Starting with a flashback is usually risky, because the flashback does not have any story yet to illuminate. That's what happens here, and it doesn't work for me.

The hero's mission statement seems a little limp to me. "I carry the hope that I'll find her again soon" is not exactly an awe-inspiring outline of the guy's determination.

Is the story being told in the "present" with the character reminiscing about the backstory before getting on with the quest to find her, or is the quest already over by the time the first lines are written? This would affect the way I read the first paragraph, say as invocation, exposition, elegy, etc.

What's the period/setting of the story? Can't tell.

I've written elsewhere about my dislike for pronouns before names. Suffice it to say that all the "her"s in the first paragraph grated on me. YMMV.

The second paragraph is disorganized. The first sentence promises elementary school and companionship, then the rest of the paragraph recounts a first Communion. In the middle of the paragraph, the father speaks. Often, a new paragraph begins when someone speaks. Then, shift of subject matter #4, a photograph darts out of the brush and captures the children. Another new paragraph maybe? And it wouldn't hurt to say who is taking the photograph of kids running just as they come to an abrupt stop. It feels like you tried to cram a little scene into too few sentences.

Why does the father tell Lucy to stop as well as the narrator? I can't speak for all parents, but I would hesitate to tell other people's kids what to do unless I was babysitting them. It implies an undue familiarity, unless the narrator's family and Lucy's family are special friends.

The biggest problem, though, is that the flashback is boring. Get to the good part!

writtenwyrdd said...

If this is First Communion, a lot of non-Catholics wouldn't get the veil reference. Glad to know that's probably what it was, though.

jeb said...

An unknown narrator mooning over a photograph/memory of a decades-old first communion hardly makes for a vivid, must-turn-page opening. Surely something more interesting happens in the first chapter and could be used instead?

Sorry, but I could barely force my eyes to keep reading long enough to get to the continuation.

RainSplats said...

I liked the potential story.

Have you ever seen Memento with Guy Pierce? Background is essential to the storyline, but he still starts out in the middle of action: "I wake up. I'm in a hotel."...etc.
The first scene unfolds without jumping straight into the essential background. It gives you time to wonder--catches your interest.

For New Begining 97, I love that the author has worked out a detailed background. I'd like to see it held back for longer--have the chars act as they would with that background, but don't share it with the reader yet.

"I carry the hope that I'll find her again soon." Why? Start the book with him doing something that gives him that hope. Even if that action doesn't pan out, it'll hold my interest and let me become invested in him as a char.

braun said...

Dan - I dunno, it's kind of a time-honored tradition in the sappy romance to start in the present, long bereft of love, than flash back to happier times. This reveries is often induced by the glimpse of some precious, memory-laden object. Notebooks, jewelry, photographs...

Malia said...

I'd like to ditto what Dave said. Those first few lines need to zing and snap if this is going to work because flashbacks/memories are so risky. Make your sentences unusual rather than mundane and cliche-like.

I didn't have any problem with the "miniature bride" comparison because I understood what the author was trying to achieve.

Pete Tzinski said...

Now, if the author left the continuation in and kept writing from there, I would happily buy the novel.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Always ask: Is this really where my story begins?

A good book does not begin with character-filtered past or a three sentence summary of what the book's about.

BuffySquirrel said...

Seems to me that a good book can probably begin with anything at all, as we all have different ideas about what is "a good book". Many novels do begin with a one sentence summary of what the book is about. For example, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." We could argue about whether or not that's a good book, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing too add to the above except to say that as an opening, this just didn't excite me. I wouldn't keep reading. Sorry.

McKoala said...

I'm sorry, but this is too sentimental for me.

Anonymous said...

This is like the voice over to a film. I agree with Dave's comments. This needs more work to win the reader over.

The bride image is spot on. Holy communion today is competitive - who has the best dressed child? - rather than focussing on the spiritual aspect.

The dad probably would tell both kids off as it seems to be set in the 50's or 60's, judging by the black and white photo.

Keep at it, writer. One thing, is the speaker male or female?

Dan Lewis said...

Dan - I dunno, it's kind of a time-honored tradition in the sappy romance to start in the present, long bereft of love, than flash back to happier times. This reveries is often induced by the glimpse of some precious, memory-laden object. Notebooks, jewelry, photographs...

Braun, I suppose I agree with you. The template isn't wrong; Casablanca is a bit like that. But Casablanca, by contrast, does a lot of setting the scene and action before the flashbacks to Paris. I don't think this piece is doing much of anything in the present before the flashback. A vague opening paragraph does not set my scene, if you know what I mean.

I suppose it doesn't totally ruin my interest in the story, but it is having a negative effect on my desire to read further.