Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Beginning 486

Grace gripped the rail, her gaze intent on the little ship that raced in front of her. With its sails spread against the grey sea, the schooner looked like a large gull skimming the waves as it tried to shake off its pursuers.

It wouldn't. The gap between them was closing, if slowly.

"Faster," Grace shouted.

I'm trying, came the response from her own ship.

Behind and above, the Wind Weaver's white sails filled the sky, as many as the masts could bear and each stretched full by the wind. The barque was obviously full pressed. Grace frowned. "We should be closing faster than this. It's just a little trader."

"It's movin well for a dead ship," the first mate, Henry, leaned beside her, his lashing tail reflecting his impatience, "maybe twenty turns even."

Sleeping, the Wind Weaver corrected, but Grace ignored that thought. A ship was awake, or it wasn't, there was no need to differentiate.

Maneuvering expertly, the Wind Weaver bore down on the overmatched schooner. The battery had a little juice left in her yet.

"Run out the guns!" Henry barked with excitement, his tail lashing faster.


Grace gave the order to fire, and a broadside crashed into the schooner. Her captain wiggled the joystick on his remote control, vowing to wear around and rake the Wind Weaver's main deck with grapeshot. Too late. The schooner was hors de combat. Captain Billy burst into tears as his expensive model boat laid her bones on the bottom of the Central Park pond.

There was playing pirates, and then there was Grace's version of playing pirates.


Opening: Xenith.....Continuation: Mignon

22 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


After all, old magic flowed through its decks and masts, and it could function with more precision than any living captain could work out of her.

A gust of wind suddenly filled the spinnaker and Grace felt the Wind Weaver almost leap out of the water with the force. They heeled over steeply and Grace and Henry braced themselves until the Wind Weaver corrected. The gap between them and the schooner had somehow narrowed considerably. Grace leaned forward, squinting to read the colors of the flag whipping on the schooner’s aft deck.

“What do you see?” shouted Henry, for the wind became suddenly loud and insistent.

Grace turned to him with a shocked expression of disbelief. “I can’t believe it. It’s the Jewel Trader!”

“That’s impossible. The Jewel and all her crew was lost in a spring storm years ago. How could it be here now?”

Grace couldn’t answer because all of a sudden two things happened. The Jewel Trader began to disappear under the waves and dark clouds burst from the skies above her. Grace whirled around and screamed at the ship, “Sharp to starboard! Sharp to starboard! She’s going to pull us down after her!”

- Sengei Tawn


“Go faster!” Grace shouted, again as her own ship’s sails throbbed above her.

The Wind Weaver’s sigh was lost to the breeze. I’m trying, I’m--

“It’s changing course!” Grace shaded her eyes with one hand as the schooner banked and turned to the east. “Don’t lose it! Hard to port!”

Henry swung the wheel and the Wind Weaver tilted, turning across the currents. It bounced across the top of the ocean, pitching like a tossed cork. A dry groan sounded from deep within the ship’s hull as it slammed into a high wave. The forward hatch retched open and dirty bilge water and debris spewed out into the waters.

I’m sorry, Wind Weaver mumbled, as its sails went limp and the schooner vanished into the distance. I’m sorry...

“Jesus! What kind of cheap, useless-- Damn it, Henry! Did you forget to give this tub its Dramamine again?”

--ril

Evil Editor said...

The excitement of the chase, and the intriguing details of the first mate's tail, the sentient ship, the female captain. A good opening, though somehow it doesn't feel like the opening, like we're supposed to already know who Grace is.

fairyhedgehog said...

This was very exciting.
One minor point - I could have done with something to indicate when the boat was speaking: if not quotes, then maybe italics. It was slightly confusing on first reading.

kitty said...

I would begin with Grace shouting "Faster." I'd deep-six all unnecessary words and speed up the pace.

...

Dave F. said...

This is a case of too many words. It needs immediacy.

Maybe this: ...her gaze intent on the schooner speeding away. Its sails spread like a large gull skimming the waves and trying to avoid its pursuers.

And look at the next paragraph
It wouldn't. The gap between them was closing, if slowly.
Now anyone can argue that they want just those words (This isn't personal, don't take it that way.) That they have style and voice, etc... But "It wouldn't." and "The gap between them was closing, if slowly." say exactly the same thing.
Why not have Grace say: "Can {we/you} close faster?" to the Wind Weaver and just drop the second paragraph?

How about:
"I'm trying," the Wind Weaver's thoughts came into Grace's mind. White sails filled the masts above and behind her harnessing the wind."

So far, and I find this often when I say "too many words," we have "little ship" and "schooner" and "barque" and "little trader" referring to the other ship. If even one of those refers to Wind Weaver, that's my point -- confusion. Too many names.

I also don't understand "twenty turns" but I can live with learning that later on in the story. I also don't understand the sleeping/awake reference. But again, that might be obvious later in the story.

Xenith said...

I love the continuations, but especially the chosen one. I/ /m/i/g/h/t/ /r/e/w/r/i/t/e/ /t/h/e/ /n/o/v/el/. It tags Grace's characters nicely.

like we're supposed to already know who Grace is

She knows, so everyone else should :) That could be tricky to fix without it sounding corny.

fairyhedgehog: It was in italics, but they got lost when I submitted this. I'll try using * or something nex time.

Dave: You have some good points there. I hate referring the ships by their "type" all the time, yet it an easy shorthand to say something about them.

talpianna said...

Intriguing details, as Our Fearless Leader said. I'd read on. Of course, I'm a Horatio Hornblower nut.

McKoala said...

I liked the ideas behind this and thought it was a good start, but was a little confused at first as to who was chasing and who was fleeing.

Whirlochre said...

So late to the party that homo sapiens has evolved into something octopoid with dinky implants—but here goes...

I'm out there on the water with you but one or two planks on the deck are slippery.

'It wouldn't' doesn't work for me. Surely 'couldn't'? And in any case, the (insert inabilityness here) ought to follow hot on the last sentence?

Also, in spite of my barque ignorance, I'm lost on why its full pressedness is obvious. It isn't to me.

And, the comma after 'dead ship' invites a tag. Convert to a full stop and Henry can then lean beside her.

But, look at me—I'm nit-picking.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Another Hornblower nut (though Alexander Kent's Richard Bolitho series is better).

I like this. Love the ship, the tail. Nice little details that tell me we're not in Kansas anymore (besides the ocean).

I, too, was confused about who was chasing whom at first. I thought Grace was the chaser, then that switched, then it switched back. I'd have to look and see what triggered that first switch. Off hand, I'd say it was the way she worried about the chase and it ending badly - like she was afraid she'd get caught.

I'd read on!

Sarah Laurenson said...

The gap between them was closing, if slowly.

This line and the subsequent fear dialogue leads me to that switch even though it explicitly starts out saying Grace was chasing the other ship. Maybe rewording it so it sounds more aggressive?

The fast pace of the action here means not absorbing all details as I read and mostly going on impressions of what's on the page.

Xenith said...

Thanks Tal :)


Also, in spite of my barque ignorance, I'm lost on why its full pressedness is obvious. It isn't to me.

Now you mention it... It did to me when I wrote it, but I think I've edited it out. This is where the others pairs of eyes are so handy.

Nice catch, Sarah. That might have been what was bugging it. It looks like that second paragraph needs rethinking. Thank you!

Author said...

Revised version:


Grace gripped the rail, her gaze intent on the little ship that raced in front of her. With its sails spread against the grey sea, the schooner looked like a large gull skimming the waves as it tried to shake off its pursuers.

It wouldn't. The gap between them was closing, if slowly. Still Grace frowned. "We should be closing faster than this. It's just a little trader."

I'm trying, said her own ship. The Wind Weaver did sound strained. Her white sails filled the sky, each stretched full by the wind, so no slackness there.

"Must be doin twenty turns at least," Henry said. The first mate leaned on the rail, kicking the rail with a hoof as he watched. "Movin well for a dead ship."

Sleeping, the Weaver corrected, but Grace didn't respond. A ship was awake, or it wasn't, there was no need to differentiate.

Bill said...

I like this rewrite. It is more crisp and clear than the original.

I like that we are obviously in a different world (hoofs, talking ships)and that the main character has a clear goal all right in the opening.

If I picked this up in a book story I would keep reading because it makes me curious to know what is going to happen.

Why are they trying to catch this ship? Why does her first mate have hooves? How does she have a talking ship? What kind of world is this? - I would keep reading because you made me suspend disbeleif enough to continue.

Great Job!

Dave Fragments said...

Her gaze fixed on the schooner racing away from her, Grace gripped the rail of the Wind Weaver. The schooner's sails spread against the grey sea like a large gull skimming the waves as it tried to shake off its pursuers. But the Wind Weaver closed the gap. Still Grace frowned.

"We should be closing faster than this. It's just a little trader."

I'm trying, said the Wind Weaver, sounding strained. Her white sails filled the sky, each stretched full by the wind.

"Must be doin twenty turns at least," Henry the first mate said. He kicked the rail with a hoof as he watched. "Movin well for a dead ship."

Sleeping, the Weaver corrected, but Grace didn't respond. A ship was awake, or it wasn't, there was no need to differentiate.


I think its good but I think you can be tighter and describe the scene better.

You have two ships from the very first word and I think that only one one ship is important - the Wind Weaver. Currently, you don't present the Wind Weaver until paragraph three. So put the Wind Weaver in the first sentences and let the schooner be subordinate to it.

Also, Grace is the Captain. She has so few words and nearly no actions. That makes her either the strong stalwart and silent type or a lump. There's too few words here to do anything about that. There's more story to develop her.

I do not like "so no slackness there." It's a judgment you already made in the previous clauses and in the way the Wind Weaver is struggling.

I also changed the sentence about Henry the fist mate to make it more succinct.

Now I'm a bit worried about all that I"ve written because it sounds so harsh. It isn't I like the opening and I like the setup. It moves and flows. The characters are presented in easy and intersting ways for the reader to discover them. So please don't think I don't like this. I do.

Xenith said...

Thanks guys. That's encouraging.
My progress on this rewrite has been a little slow so far, so it's nice to think I'm doing it right :)

AA said...

Uh...sorry, but I guess I'm not going to be so encouraging. But you wanted feedback, right?
The only way I know how to give meaningful feedback on this is to take it apart, line by line, and show why it isn't working. I used your revised version. So, here it is. (You asked for it.)

"Grace gripped the rail, her gaze intent on the little ship that raced in front of her."

Grace is holding a railing and looking. Okay, but this better get interesting.

"With its sails spread against the grey sea, the schooner looked like a large gull skimming the waves as it tried to shake off its pursuers."

The first part of the sentence- " With its sails spread against the grey sea," is calm and peaceful. The second part- " the schooner looked like a large gull skimming the waves as it tried to shake off its pursuers," is active and chaotic. The sentence contradicts itself.

"It wouldn't. The gap between them was closing, if slowly."

Now we have a gap closing slowly. Kind of like watching paint dry.

"Still Grace frowned."

I just watched a gap close slowly, and now I'm watching somebody frown. Did I mention paint drying?

"We should be closing faster than this. It's just a little trader." I'm trying, said her own ship. The Wind Weaver did sound strained."

What sounds does a ship make when it "sounds strained"? Exactly how does it sound strained?

"Her white sails filled the sky, each stretched full by the wind, so no slackness there."

White sails filling the sky actually sounds kind of peaceful.

"Must be doin twenty turns at least," Henry said. The first mate leaned on the rail, kicking the rail with a hoof as he watched. "Movin well for a dead ship."

This is okay, but "as he watched" is still very passive. Also, you repeated "rail" for no good reason, and the fact that Henry's the first mate seems shoehorned in.

"Sleeping, the Weaver corrected, but Grace didn't respond. A ship was awake, or it wasn't, there was no need to differentiate."

First someone corrects, then someone else responds, then someone else doesn't differentiate. Can my heart handle all this excitement?
Okay, snarky, but you see what I mean.

Besides all the passivity, there's almost no atmosphere. I could barely tell it was outdoors.

AA said...

I did an example rewrite. Yes, I know this still isn't deathless prose, it's just an example. Note that I know nothing about the ocean, ships, or your actual story.

EXAMPLE REWRITE

Grace gripped the rails. Sea mist sprayed up in her face. The little schooner raced in front of her, like a gull skimming the waves.

Henry lashed his tail. "Must be doin' twenty turns at least,"he said. He kicked the rail with a hoof as he leaned forward. "Movin' well for a dead schooner."

Sleeping, Wind Weaver corrected, but Henry ignored the ship's commentary.

Wind Weaver was showing signs of strain. Her sails, as many as the masts could bear, were stretched full by the wind and her riggings creaked.

Grace's boots [hooves? paws?] found purchase on the slippery deck. She spoke up to be heard over the wind.

"We should be closing faster than this. It's just a little trader."

I'm trying, said her own ship.

"I know," Grace returned. She moved closer to the first mate. "Stop kicking the rails, Henry. You know it's not good for them."


Something like this, anyway. It needs less passivity and it needs more details to set the scene. Less looking, watching, leaning on things, thinking about them, etc.
This is my view. Others' will certainly be different.

Xenith said...

Thanks for your feedback.

I get what you're saying, but it's hard for me to see it as anything other than people standing around making comments. "Hurry up and wait," so to speak. Plus wanting to introduce four characters ASAP.

I might try for some more active details. (And you picked up on my mis-edit there with the rail/rail. Oops.)

BuffySquirrel said...

'Passive' actually has a technical meaning in terms of writing. So misusing it to describe anything you don't like isn't helpful.

AA said...

Buffy,

I didn't mean this was written in "passive voice." I'm sure the author knows what voice it's written in. I was trying to describe characters' behavior.

Perhaps I meant "inactivity" instead of "passivity," though that doesn't seem right either. To be fair, I did give examples of the behaviors I meant- "looking, watching, leaning on things, thinking about them..." The best way to describe those behaviors seems to me to be "passive." So I used the word properly.

Besides, it doesn't seem to me, from the author's response, that she misunderstood me at all.

AA said...

Xenith-

I know the example is "hurry up and wait." I didn't know enough about your characters or story to add anything meaningful. Even the things I did add were total filler.

Unfortunately, once I cut out all the standing, leaning, thinking, correcting, stretching, filling, looking like something, trying to do things, and deciding not to do something, there was hardly anything left except character introductions. I'm NOT trying to be mean, really(!), that's just what I saw.

Could you add, maybe, more things that set the scene better, or describe the characters more, or describe the ship in interesting language? Only a few would be needed. Are planks sodden, is hair dripping? Is anything making any sounds?

If this is meant to show a forced inactivity, and all the characters are frustrated because they can't do anything, all chartacters should be annoyed, even in their internal monologue. They should snap at each other. Henry shouldn't sound impressed by the ship's speed, but annoyed by it. Grace could be more irritated by the ship's insistence on the use of one word versus another. Peaceful-sounding references to sails filling a blue sky, etc. need to be left out.

Stress references could then be put in- creaks and groans, whipping wind, etc. All focusing readers' emotions toward the frustration of the characters stuck in a situation.

I don't know if you were going for this or not, but it doesn't make that impact as stands. It's fine to have inactivity as long as the emotions come through well. That way the characters aren't seen as passive do-nothings but as frustrated forced-to-do-nothings. Again assuming this is what you are going for, and I think it might be.