Friday, August 31, 2007

New Beginning 352

Through the attic’s solitary window, I watched a meaty spider build its web between the eaves and the ivy. Evening obscured my view. The next day, in its absence, I did the best I could to draw the spider from memory. The size of a silver dollar, it had distinctive white markings on its back and striations of brown, white and orange on its legs. At dusk, it reappeared. It dismantled the web and started afresh. How peculiarly meticulous--obliterating such extensive work only to rebuild. How contrary to the ideals of modern industry and manufacture. I watched as it performed this seemingly antipodean procedure again and again. Among the dust-laden shelves, I was fortunate to find Father’s old entomology guide; when I was still young enough that he allowed me to explore with him and my brothers, we would spend the day out in the woods collecting myriad crawlers and then spend evenings classifying them. This particular specimen, I suspected and confirmed, was “Araneus diadematus,” commonly called the garden spider or, aptly, the cross spider. On the fifth morning, after my arachnid friend again disappeared, I heard the jangle of keys suggesting my confinement might finally be over.

The door creaked open and I saw the stooped shadow of my Aunt--she called herself Aunt, but in truth there was little genetic similarity--in the lighted gap.

"You readin' books again?" she asked; her voice dry as the door hinges. "I told ya, ain't no good'll come of readin' books. Look what it did to your ma."

It pained me to recall that page, so recently turned; when events made Aunt Jessica my guardian, I did not anticipate she would handle her role so sternly.

"All them books but it seems you ain't learnin' nothin'." She stooped further and left bread and water for me on the floor. "Well, don't let the bugs get ya." Her words, and the door, creaked to a close.

I returned to my little attic window: the only other exit from this room. After five days, I was weakened, but perhaps I could make my escape . . .

The spider was back. It had started to build a bigger web.


Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril

13 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


While the jailer was putzing with the rusty lock, I tried to snag the crawler and put it in my cigar box of possessions, but it ran off to whatever crag it had managed to find. Then, I was set free, again.
#
"I thought he'd never leave," said the spider. "How oddly idle these bloated creatures are, lazing about vandalizing my walls, performing strange biological maneuvers . . . I shall bite the next one who enters here."

--Bill Highsmith


"Here are your pills, Mr. Mason." A stocky woman dressed in white handed me a small paper cup.

"Has my father lifted my punishment, faithful nurse?"

Nurse Lady rolled her and muttered something unintelligible.

"No...Miss." She seemed to struggle mightily as she addressed me. "Your...father...thinks you should remain here."

I sighed and turned my face back toward where the window would be.

--Anonymous

Evil Editor said...

The POV and language brings to mind some Poe short stories, though until the last sentence it could as easily be a Darwin journal. Paragraphing would help. Start aparagraph with "Among..." and make the last sentence a separate paragraph.
You might try How peculiarly meticulous, I reflected (or marveled or thought). Obliterating such extensive work only to rebuild. This makes me feel more like I'm in the character's head, and not the author's.

when I was still young enough that he allowed me to explore with him and my brothers, isn't clear to me. When he reached a certain age he was no longer allowed to explore? I would expect it to say When I was old enough... or When I was still young enough that I enjoyed exploring...

BuffySquirrel said...

Dickens writes excellent scenes of David's confinement in David Copperfield, scenes that evoke his solitude and increasing despair, and his sense of isolation from the world. I think this is what this opening is also aiming for, but it isn't quite there yet, for me.

There's no sense of imprisonment here until it's mentioned; nothing in what's gone before evokes it. Different word choices might help give a sense of confinement and restriction.

Church Lady said...

I really liked this opening, and the continuation was very good.

To me, the flashback slowed things down. I might move this part to another place in your book:

Among the dust-laden shelves, I was fortunate to find Father’s old entomology guide; when I was still young enough that he allowed me to explore with him and my brothers, we would spend the day out in the woods collecting myriad crawlers and then spend evenings classifying them. This particular specimen, I suspected and confirmed, was “Araneus diadematus,” commonly called the garden spider or, aptly, the cross spider.

JMHO! But I thoroughly enjoyed the writing. I loved the details and how you wrote them.

Cheers,

Robin S. said...

Isn't the narrator female?

I agree this would be better broken up into more than one paragraph.

I like it.

Bernita said...

"when I was still young enough that he allowed me to explore with him and my brothers, we would spend the day out in the woods collecting myriad crawlers and then spend evenings classifying them."
This passage seems intrusive and out of place.
Otherise, very nice.

AmyB said...

I liked this. I wasn't sure at first; I was suspicious it might be one of those books that's all introspection and big words (antipodean?), and no plot. But author, you won me over with the last line. I'd keep reading.

I liked the writing overall. "Meaty" spider kind of grossed me out :).

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all the feedback! I will definitely do some tweaking!

It's the opening for a historical novel (Victorian Britain) so the references to Poe (ok, so he's on the wrong continent) and Dickens and Darwin are very encouraging to me! At least I evoked the desired tone!

As for the bit about being young enough to go exploring with the father and brothers...that's because the narrator is female, who is presently of marriageable age. Her identity becomes clearer in subsequent paragraphs.

And the reason she doesn't feel imprisoned is because it's not exactly the first time she's been in this position.

As for the wonderful continuation...I might have to consider adding a new character. :)

Thanks again for reading!

BuffySquirrel said...

"antipodean" is not a big word. Now, "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis", that's a big word.

Robin S. said...

My earlier comment was eaten -

but the bottom line was: I like it, and I'd read more.

iago said...

Through the attic’s solitary window, I watched a meaty spider build its web between the eaves and the ivy. Evening obscured my view.

I'm not entirely convinced those two sentences work together: If she's watching the spider, how can her view be obscured? Simply changing it to "until evening obscured my view" would work more logically for me, and would also give a sense of the passage of time spent in observing the spider.

If it's Victorian Britain, would she really compare the spider to a silver dollar? Is she an American in Victorian Britain? Maybe compare it to a shilling or a sovereign or something?

On the fifth morning, after my arachnid friend again disappeared, I heard the jangle of keys suggesting my confinement might finally be over.

I'm feeling the need of a comma after keys.

I think the period voice is pretty well captured. A little more tension in the early sentences might prepare better for the realization that she is imprisoned -- reference the smallness of the room, or something else that would give some more sense of emotion, however well suppressed.

Personally, if I was going to read something in a Victorian Britain voice, I would tend toward an author of that time; so I'd be looking for something in this story that explores contemporary ideas or themes through this historical voice. I'm not totally sure I'd have the patience to explore the story at this pace through a whole novel.

writtenwyrdd said...

I confess, this bored me. Not my cup of tea. I think paragraphs would help; but I doubt I'd have been grabbed by it either. Sounds like this is for a particular taste, and I lack it.

Anonymous said...

D'oh! "Silver dollar"! How did I miss that.

Thanks again for reading!
-author