Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Beginning 203


Minor Annals V

That year brought plague and pestilence and a desperate hunger.

And fear.

The night skies were like ichor and the clouds clung like the poisoned spume on the rocks of the shrinking river.

That year the maidens of the clan were sacrificed one by one to the new priest's unsatiated god.

That year I stood on the stony hillside with the others, our faces washed to bloody bone in the streaming torch light.

When the moon curved above the clouds like a knife I watched the priest raise his arms in incantation.

I saw the sigil of the goddess written in the sky above her veiled face and knew he lied.

When he led me forth his eyes gleamed red. My mother moaned, and the clan rustled like a hot wind through dry leaves.

I waited until we reached the stinking altar before I struck.

I let them tear him to pieces among the stones.

There were no more sacrifices that year.

That year, or thereafter.


Minor Annals VI

A Juca bug crawls up the wall of my hut and I smash it.

With my thumb.

Hard.

I offer the bug to Tzetoqiee, but he turns his nose up at it.

He says I've changed since my friends and I ripped out the intestines of the priest last year.

Men.


Minor Annals VII

That year I considered publishing my annals on stone tablets, but decided against it.

I guess you could say I'm very annal-retentive.


Minor Annals VIII

Skipped work today and gnawed on a coca leaf for an hour instead.

Whoa.

I'm doing this again tomorrow.

Tomorrow, and thereafter.


Opening: Bernita.....Continuation: Pacatrue

37 comments:

Bernita said...

~sniggering over "whoa!"~

Thank you, Pacatrue.

Rei said...

Great continuation, Pacatrue. :)

Author:

This didn't work for me. It's trying to be poetry, but I don't feel it succeeding.

* "Ichor" is so overused (and misused) that you might as well simply write what ichor means ("the blood of gods") instead of it. Ursula LeGuin calls it “the infallible touchstone of the seventh-rate."

* In that line, you have two "like" similes, which grows tiresome after the long list of "ands".

* You sometimes get a bit heavy on the adjectives. For example, "streaming" torch light -- what sort of extra imagery are you trying to conjure with that word?

* Some of your imagery doesn't make sense -- for example, "the moon curved above the clouds like a knife". Knives don't look like the moon -- a sickle or scythe, perhaps, both of which are more powerful nouns in this situation due to their harvesting/death symbolism.

* Some things are just odd. Example: "her veiled face" -- the goddess's face? When did the Goddess arrive incarnate?

Etc.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Rei.
Fair enough, even to the "seventh rate" intimation - though I must protest that there are curved knives which are neither sickles nor scythes.

Anonymous said...

I liked it very much and would read more. -JTC

bunnygirl said...

Great continuation, Paca!

Bernita, I like the tone, I like what's happening, and I even don't mind the language. But all of it seems styled more like poetry than for fiction.

The one-sentence paragraphs made it feel choppy and disconnected, and the words are pretty fancy for a first-person narrator.

A lot is happening in these first 150 words. It leaves me wondering if it might all be backstory. If it's not backstory, then things are moving too fast, on too high a plane for me to feel a connection with the narrator. And I truly want to like her. She sounds like she kicks ass.

I would read on, but I would be looking for something to bridge the distance between me and the narrator. Right now the language feels very formal and I'm not warming up to her or her situation.

Virginia Miss said...

I disagree that ichor is overused since I didn't even know what it meant. However, since less is more, a bit of paring might increase the effectiveness of this opening. You might want to save the descriptions for specific settings. I like "the clouds clung like poisoned spume on the rocks of the shrinking river" but maybe you could use it to describe that particular night instead of "that year."

I suggest you cut a few adjectives in the stony hillside sentence: "our faces washed to bone in the torch light." (unless the faces are literally bloody)

Also, in the line about the sigil, the phrase "above her veiled face and knew he lied" confused me. Unless the "veiled face" is literal, I'd cut those words and just leave it as "written in the sky." (If you mean it literally, where is the goddess standing in relation to the priest and the narrator?)

cm allison said...

I'd read more also, but what threw me off for right now was all the "that year"s. Perhaps if you condensed the lines a little more?

pjd said...

Generally I don't read autobiographies, but this has a ring to it.

Seriously, I like it generally. It's got characterization, conflict, some setting, and a promise of change and upheaval in the clan.

My nit to pick: if an incantation is spoken, is it really correct to say, "... raise his arms in incantation"?

Finally: When did it become bad form to use more than one sentence in a paragraph? I understand the pacing and like it at the beginning, but by the time we get to the red eyes, I think it begins to get tedious. Just MHO.

Sundae Best said...

Hilarious continuation, Pacatrue!

Bernita, I really enjoyed this, even though I had to look up a few words (ichor, spume). No complaints, though. Every day we learn something new is a good day.

When I got the end of the "beginning" part, it seemed complete. I've read short stories with less satisfying ends. Pretty sweet trick for a mere 150 words.

As long as I had a dictionary handy, I'd definitely read more. :-)

McKoala said...

Too many short paragraphs for my liking. They made me feel like you were striving for significance rather than letting it flow naturally from the words. Other than that I liked it, but I wasn't sure about the title, and neither was Pacatrue, I see. Inspired continuation!

Bernita said...

You caught me, Sundae Best.
From the Minor Annals are a series of "shorts," each intended to be complete in themselves, following the pattern of old chronicles to justify the repetition of "that year."
This is not a true "beginnings", but I owed EE.
There seems to be some confusion about the clouds veiling the face of the goddess, Selene.
I'll see if I can make that clearer.

Sundae Best said...

Bernita said...

"You caught me, Sundae Best."

Cool - my first bust of the new year!

This collection was a lovely idea, Bernita. I hope we get to read more.

xiqay said...

OMG. LOL at the continuation. Brilliant.


I didn't much like this opening. I thought the "purty language" and clever writing style got in the way of what might be a good story.

Obviously, others did like it, so my comments are offered for what they're worth (probably not much)--one person's reaction.

The first one-sentence paragraph, and second one-sentence paragraph, and third one-sentence paragraph were all okay. They set a mood and drew me in. I did stop at "ichor" because I didn't know what it meant (so that pulled me out of the story a bit, but since it was my ignorance, I wouldn't let a little thing like that stop me).

But then I wanted things to pick up a bit, so the next one-sentence paragraph was irritating. And by the third "that year" I was thinking, so what. Who cares. Let me stop reading this.

I didn't like the moon curving above the clouds like a knife. I think of knives as straight. I don't think of the moon as curving.

When I got to "sigil written in the sky," I was more than irritated by the vocabulary (get the dictionary--why not just say "sign") and passive tone. Slower and slower--makes me think there's nothing much to be said, so we have to amble along.

Knew he lied about what? That the god was unsatiated? Because the goddess said so? Because the goddess' sign was a nice head of thunderstorms and it was going to rain, finally, and end the drought? Oh, you didn't mention drought, just plague and pestilence. So how could she "know"? What is this mysterious sigil. Let me, the reader, have a clue, please.

Now-I did like "stinking altar"--that's a plainly worded phrase with visceral appeal (or repulsion, actually).

Then she strikes--and in the next sentence she lets the crowd tear him to pieces. What did she do? How did she know the crowd was behind her?

Call me a prosaic boor. Well, I may be. And I am not your intended audience, because I don't ususally read fantasy (this is fantasy, isn't it?). But this seemed off, to me. Too slow and laden with unnecessary verbiage in parts, yet not enough detail in others.

And an odd absence of feeling or character insight by the narrator into herself.

Not my cuppa.

Good luck.

Dave said...

What do we know? This is a clan society. Human sacrifice exists, even if in fear of extinction. That makes it a pre-Christian, barbarian type of society. At least one member of the clan is able to see the sign of a goddess and slays the lying priest. Altruistic? Gender-driven?
There’s more. Last year was a bad year. And for the rest of this year, there weren’t any more sacrifices, ever again. The shrinking river is not a name but a description. SOmething bad is going on.

Stuff we don’t know.
Is this looking back in nostalgia? Was the protagonist a man or a woman? Did economic matters get better or stay the same? Did the clan acquire more maidens? Why are these the “minor chronicles” and not major – certainly the events are major, aren’t they? They hint at major events, nothing close by, nothing in the last year or the year to come. But the annals still hint at troubled times. This is heavy and not happy. It's not a comedy, it's a serious story and even the happpy parts will be muted.

Mostly, I worry that you can keep up a narrative like this for a novel. At some point, I think you have to break into narrative that is more traditional. It sounds like the voiceover on a Conan movie (And I don’t mean that in a bad way). I mean it sounds like the biography of a heroic figure.

I like the atmospherics and the quickness of the setup. It does invite the reader to continue.

I'd love to have a name attached to the speaker. I think that would be fascinating. It's not an "I, Sally Suburb or Dolores Housewife," ... It's more like "I Cassandra, soothsayer of Atlantis, Queen of the..." or maybe I, your humble servant Marika, daughter of the last king of Aragon," ...
something like that.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we’re all back to taking ourselves and our critiques way too seriously. It’s time for some self-satire!


"Litter Bag Made of Felt"

A man named Fred once decided to encourage everybody he knew to keep a litter bag in their car. He’d heard it on a Steve Martin record when he was a teenager. Even though Martin meant it as a joke, Fred instantly realized that it was a wonderful idea. In his own car he kept a red, fuzzy one that was made of felt. Sometimes he threw balls of paper in through the sun roof. He loved how the balls arced through the sky like a ball of paper being thrown and landed with a crunch in the bag.

Many of Fred’s friends told him they’d keep one in their car, but didn’t. All they wanted was for Fred to stop nagging them about it.

Then one day Fred had had enough. He stopped keeping a litter bag in his car.



Comment 1: From BroomHilda

This didn't work for me. It's trying to be poetry, but I don't feel it is succeeding.

"Litter Bag" is so overused (and misused) that you might as well simply write what Litter Bag means ("A bag in which refuse can be temporarily stored"). Bertha Snodgrass calls it “a trash bag."

You sometimes get a bit heavy on the adjectives. For example, "red, fuzzy" litter bag -- what sort of extra imagery are you trying to conjure ?

Some of your imagery doesn't make sense -- for example, "arced like a ball of paper being thrown…". Balls of paper don’t arc. Maybe a better analogy would be a “wad” of paper -- a more powerful noun in this situation due to it’s harvesting/death symbolism.

Some things are just odd. Example: why is the bag made of felt?


Comment 2: From JTC

I liked it very much and would read more.


Comment 3: From FunnySquirrel

I like the tone, I like what's happening, and I even don't mind the language. But all of it seems styled more like poetry than for fiction.

The paragraphs contained words, making it feel choppy and disconnected, and the words are pretty fancy for a first-person narrator.

A lot is happening in these first 150 words. It leaves me wondering if it might all be backstory. If it's not backstory, then things are moving too fast, on too high a plane for me to feel a connection with the Fred. And I truly want to like Fred. He sounds like he kicks ass.

I would read on, but I would be looking for something to bridge the distance between me and Fred. Right now the language feels very formal and I'm not warming up to him or his situation.


Comment 4: From IndianaSenorita

I think “Litter Bag” is underused. It should be repeated at least seven more times. However, since less is more, a bit of paring might increase the effectiveness of this opening. You might want to save the descriptions for specific settings. I like "arced through the sky like a ball of paper” but maybe you could use it to describe Fred brushing his teeth instead.


Comment 5: From Pinhead

Seriously, I like it generally. It's got characterization, conflict, some setting, and a promise of change and upheaval in the backseat.

My nit to pick: if trash is in a bag, is it really correct to say that it is litter?


Comment 6: From DaveFlatulence

Too many short paragraphs for my liking. In fact, too many words for my liking. They made me feel like you were striving for significance rather than letting it flow naturally from the words. Other than that I liked it, but I wasn't sure about the title.


Comment 7: From LotsaWords

I didn't much like this opening. I thought the "purty language" and clever writing style got in the way of what might be a good story.

Obviously, others did like it, so my comments are offered for what they're worth (probably not much)--one person's reaction.

The first paragraph, and the second paragraph were okay. They set a mood and drew me in. I did stop at "litter bag" because I didn't know what it meant (so that pulled me out of the story a bit, but since it was my ignorance, I wouldn't let a little thing like that stop me).

But then I wanted things to pick up a bit, so the next paragraph was irritating. I was thinking “so what. Who cares. Let me stop reading this.”

I didn't like the ball arcing through the sunroof. I think of paper ball trajectory as more of a line drive. I don't like felt bags.

I was more than irritated by the vocabulary and passive tone. Slower and slower--makes me think there's nothing much to be said, so we have to amble along.


Call me a prosaic boor. Well, I may be. And I am not your intended audience, because I don't ususally read books about litter bags and cars (this is a book about litter bags and cars, isn't it?). But this seemed off, to me. Too slow and laden with unnecessary verbiage in parts, yet not enough detail in others.

And an odd absence of feeling or character insight by Fred into himself.

Not my cup of joe.

Good luck.
7:56 PM

GutterBall said...

...annal-retentive....

Heheheheh, nicely done, Pac-Man. Very nicely done.

If this style didn't continue for much longer, I'd definitely read more. It's an interesting set-up as, say, a prologue. But a whole book of this, the choice between finishing reading and hanging myself would begin to look as appealing as the one between the Lady and the Tiger.

jgzjqt said...

Dave, I thought this was post-apocalyptic, based on the shrinking river description. But then I wasn't sure and thought maybe it was just alternate reality, or some early setting.

I do think it's pretty clear the narrator is a woman (about to be sacrificed), but I could be wrong.

I like your analyses (and those of the other commenters, too). They help all of us think about our writing.

KV said...

Bernita --

I liked your piece very much. And I would love to read the entire book when it is finished.


Kathy V.

Bernita said...

Thank you all.
Very useful comnments.

I don't think the annal form could support an extended narrative either.
They might succeed as interjections in a traditional tale (or in a longer story with different POVs) but not by themselves.

Also, it is interesting that the physical format - the short sentences/paragraphs (as they appear here with spaces between//blog style) - affects how the thing is read.
On a printed page those spaces would not exist, but your reactions indicate that physical placement definitely affects readership reaction.

Am surprised by the vocabulary objections though.

Think giving the speaker a name is valid advice.
Will have to decide if the speaker is a successive incarnation or eternal.

December Quinn said...

I thought this was great, personally. It really grabbed me.

Theo Katz said...

I'm with gutterball -- I liked this as a prologue. I think I would have kept reading if the story followed, and I'm not a fantasy fan.

Your simpler sentences, with the repetition, have a nice King-James-Version thing going.

HawkOwl said...

I liked it, but a) it's going to be hard to transition into the rest of the story, and b) I was really disappointed that the narrator turns out to be female. I hope that as narrator she's an older female, not still the sacrificial-age maiden. That being said, I'd definitely look at more.

Bernita said...

The Minor Annals are a series of brief incidents, from varied places and times, told by a single, female narrator.

My apologies for not indicating that at the outset.

I am grateful for all your comments.

Thank you, Theo. Did make an attempt to reflect the older,hall recitation style.

Yes, Hawkowl. She looks back. This is memory.

This submission was to pay my debt to EE.
I trust it is acceptable, EE?

The Annals do not have ( as yet, or maybe never) a connective story arc.
VIII is up on my blog today and the others can be found via the search engine below my blog roll, for any who would like to see more of them.

xiqay said...

anon 7:56
Hilarious.

And yes, we do take ourselves too seriously at times. Good call.

Bernita,
Nice responses. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure what you were trying to do, but it's been done before, and it was funnier the last time.

writtenwyrdd said...

I like the voice, bernita. I am not sure this level of poetry as prose can function for a longer piece, but the language is lyrical and beautiful.

If you choose to make it into a longer piece, I'd save these annals for interludes between chapters, or a similar structure that allows you to keep both the voice here and tell the longer story.

batgirl said...

I liked the vivid, visceral metaphors, and I liked the spare, dry annal style.
But the two together jarred. The lovely bare-bones ending of 'no sacrifices that year' and the imagery of 'hot wind through dry leaves' are from different stories, I think. Annals don't use simile (though I may be thinking of the wrong sort of annals, being mostly familiar with Ssu-ma-chien).
The third para verges on purple, and ichor doesn't convey an image. Spume is clear, but how do clouds cling?

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:14 -- Duck, something's flyin' over!

Bernita said...

"Annals don't use simile"

What rule is that?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Pacatrue. Tears of funny.

Bernita, I liked it. I wouldn't read it, probably, since I don't like fantasy, but then maybe I would, because this is also historical. As a short piece in a book of related (?) short-shorts, it stands on its own feet.

HawkOwl said...

Personally I get a very clear image from "ichor" and "clouds clung". It's a matter of taste.

You can't please all the people all the time.

batgirl said...

What rule?
None, more of an observation. As I've said, I've mostly read Ssu-ma-chien's annals, and they're pretty straightforward. I doubt anyone's ever written an Idiot's Guide To Annal-Writing, so if you have examples of annals where simile and metaphor are employed, then dandy. I can only say how it rang with me, and lord knows I have no cred.
What colour is ichor? Just curious.

HawkOwl said...

Ichor is whitish-yellow or yellow and watery. Like pus, except not as thick.

Bernita said...

Yes, I do, Batgirl, notwithstanding the first person narrator would allow for such use.
As one example, from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, A.D. 473, "And the Welsh fled the English like fire."

"Ichor" is also defined as the thin, watery, blood-tinged discharge from a wound.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm confused. Why can't annals have metaphore? They are chronicles. And in a fictional chronical on a fantasy world, the writer gets to decide.

Websters says ANNALS are 1 : a record of events arranged in yearly sequence
2 : historical records : CHRONICLES

batgirl said...

That's cool then, don't mind me. It was only my initial impression, and I'm not agent, editor, or published writer. I count for naught.
(I think Tanith Lee somewhere describes the blood of the gods as golden and glowing. Made me think of corn syrup.)

Rashenbo said...

I loved the continuation... the opening though was a little too fluffy for me. I also thought there was some awkward imagery happening. Almost like the writer was a little too involved with the words used versus the story. Course, I could be completely wrong :)