Monday, May 11, 2009

New Beginning 636

I stood in the land of shadows staring at a world of light. Tendrils of darkness circled my legs, scuttled up my back and twisted around my wings, and for a moment I looked back the way I’d come. Ominous mountains impaled low-hanging clouds, and in the distance a shining black castle perched above a ravenous sea. Studying the familiar caves, the places I had explored as a child, I waited for the single tear to well up in my eye, reminding me of all I was giving up. Nothing came.

I cast the darkness from my limbs and slid my toes to the place where stones met grass. The blades tickled my feet, welcoming me, but the forest that rose before me was not so inviting. Ancient trees reached toward the sky, their roots and branches entwined, and within them lurked creatures even I would find strange. This great green beast stretched on for miles, its brambles creeping between tree trunks like extended claws. Did I dare disturb its slumber?

In response to my own trepidation, I lifted a foot and stepped into the forest of the Seelie Court.

At first, I heard just the wind in the trees, like a clique whispering about the new girl; then, I heard rhythmic chanting, growing louder and louder: "guil-TY! guil-TY! guil-TY!"

As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw them. An improbable procession sliding through the trees, approaching me, led by a clown with orange hair and a rabbit on a pogo stick.

"Guil-TY!" Boing. "Guil-TY!" Boing, boing.

"Guilty!" The rabbit shouted.

The clown balanced a spotted, boiled egg on his nose. "The egg says, boil her in custard!"

"Guilty!"

"The egg says, circumcise him with a cheese grater!"

"Guil--"

The crowd fell silent. All eyes fell on me. I cursed my stupidity. Through my poor sense of direction and faulty memory, I had stumbled into the forest of the Silly Court.


Opening: Chelsea.....Continuation: Anon.

28 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuation:


Instantly, grass blades scrambled between my toes, wriggled up my calves and tickled the hollows behind my knees. I giggled in surprise. Tendrils of night wormed about my shoulders and scritched into my armpits. I howled with laughter.

"Ooooh," said the honey-dripping voice of the Seelie Queen. "Tickle fight!"


--Batgirl

Evil Editor said...

The tone is effective, but I'm not sure you're painting a clear picture.

You claim to be staring at a world of light, but the forest is described as ...not so inviting. Ancient trees reached toward the sky, their roots and branches entwined, and within them lurked creatures even I would find strange. This great green beast stretched on for miles, its brambles creeping between tree trunks like extended claws.

It sounds at least as dark as the world of ominous mountains/ravenous sea/black castle you're leaving. You seem to be trying to make a light/dark contrast, but both worlds seem equally dark.

I don't see how you can study caves from a distance.

I'm not clear on where stones meet grass. If you're about to step into the forest, I would expect grass to be ending. Yet the grass welcomes you. Are you moving from grass to stones or vice versa? Actually, if you drop a stone onto some grass they meet, thanks to gravity, so something like where grass ended and stone began (or vice versa) would be clearer.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I like your style. Had to go back and re-read the first paragraph to get a better feel for the setting though. I think a little more grounding would help.

Nice voice. Beautiful descriptions. A little tweak for clarity and I'm reading on.

batgirl said...

Ooh, brilliant continuation!

I like the opening. Weirdness is well established, especially by the tactile darkness. Makes me wonder what sort of creature our narrator is. I'm almost sorry to see her/him leaving darkness for the Seelie Court, which I've met before - though this may be a different and distinctive Seelie Court, and I'd give it a chance.

EE's right that 'world of light' sets up different expectations than the forest scene offered. The narrator may well see it as a world of light, by comparison, but when it comes so early, the reader has to use his/her own images to fill the words.

Dave F. said...

I'm puzzled by this opening. I know that a Seelie Court is a bunch of good fairies or in the D&D version, Titania and company as in Midsummer's Night's Titania. That goes counter to some of the words that indicate perils and gloom and dread. It's kinda like hauling out the previews of those vampire movies I don't watch (Bloodrayne and Underworld) because they are dark and dreary excuses for bloodlust and gore-fests. Not that you're writing bloodlust and gore-fest. (oops, lost the line of thought there)...
It's kinda like hauling out the previews of those vampire movies and then going to the movie only to find light, airy comedy romance.

Maybe I'm way out of it but steeping into a fairy court doesn't seem to me to contain any peril.

That's what I can't get settled in my mind -- is there really a dread peril as represented by "tendrils of darkness" and impaled clouds and ravenous seas? Is there really a "darkness" hanging over this person? An uninviting forest willed with strange creatures?

You see, if the narrator is looking from the land of shadows contemplating going into a place that's darker and drearier (this great green beast with brambles creeping and claws extended), What are these fairies of the Seelie Court up to? Dressing the narrator in pastels and lace? Pointy toes shoes? Turning Bottom into more than just an ass?

Evil Editor said...

There are so many books set in the world of the Fey that the answer to Dave's question may depend on the author. However, in general, the Seelie Court is not as dark as the Unseelie Court, but it's not Tinkerbell. The Seelie have a different sense of morality from humans. They might be described as mischievous, and not always in a playful way. In any case the narrator seems to be worried more about the forest and its creatures than the Seelie for the moment.

Dave F. said...

Perhaps it is just too many words and needs to be shorter. You guys know me, I'm always cutting my first drafts down to bones. You can always add a few words back after you see the bare bones.

The narrator is standing, first looking back, then looking forward and finally stepping into the next paragraph. How about something like this bit of editing?

I stood in the land of shadows, tendrils of darkness circling my legs, scuttling up my back, twisting around my wings. I looked back. Low-hanging clouds hung over the mountains where I once lived. A shining black castle perched above a ravenous sea and the caves I explored as a child. I did not regret leaving. I did not shed a tear.

Casting the darkness from my limbs, I slid my toes to the place where stones met grass. The blades tickled my feet, welcoming me, but the ancient trees reaching to the sky, the entwined branches blocking the path and unfamiliar creatures lurking within that great green beast slept fitfully. Did I dare disturb its slumber?

In response to my own trepidation, I lifted a foot and stepped into the forest of the Seelie Court.
BTW - I did discover that sleeping forest image almost buried in your imagery. I liked that. You can actually put "The forest slept." before you describe its trees, branches, brambles and critters.

This took me a long time (hours) and EE's extra comment for me to figure out what you were doing with all that imagery. It's a neat set of paragraphs - Janus like.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Hmm. I like it; I'd read it. I'm not sure I have much else to say, which is why I didn't get around to a continuation--too hard to mock. Are the tendrils of darkness literal?

BuffySquirrel said...

Tinkerbell wasn't all that nice, in fact.

_*Rachel*_ said...

And Tinkerbell's language! Sometimes the various fay aren't so nice.

Anonymous said...

"I stood in the land of shadows staring at a world of light."

I've read this before- often. Why tells now when you show us so much better later.

You're story starts here: Tendrils of darkness circled my legs, scuttled up my back and twisted around my wings. I looked back the way I’d come. (If the writing is ominous you don't have tell us the things are ominous too) Mountains impaled low-hanging clouds. In the distance a black castle perched above the sea,( It's dark so I don't expect the castle to shine. Ravenous sea is the same mistake as ominous mountains) and the caves I explored as a child. I didn't feel anything. (Will he kiss his bicep next? I don't care what he is, no one waits for a single to tear to well up)

I cast the darkness from my limbs and slid my toes to the place where stones met grass.( I'm with EE, I don't know what this means and therefore can't offer an alternative) The blades tickled my feet, welcoming me, but the forest that rose before me was not so inviting. (This needs reworked. I hesitate to make a suggestion because it's relying on the previous sentence.) Ancient trees reached toward the sky, their roots and branches entwined, and within them lurked creatures even I would find strange. This great green beast stretched on for miles, its brambles creeping between tree trunks like extended claws. (Enough with the questions, get on with the adventure)

I stepped into the forest of the Seelie Court.

Notes: There's action here but it doesn't work because we're told wants going to happen right before the character does it. He looks over his shoulder- why can't he be moving and remember what he's leaving. Why not use that as an opportunity to compare and contrast. Also you really like long sentences. Don't overlook the beauty of short and sweet- much like the beauty of dark and light. It's overwritten and in desperate need of some pruning sheers. That said it's also interesting.

BuffySquirrel said...

I have problems with the mountains being ominous. He's just come from there--surely he knows the mountains pretty well. And he's leaving them behind, so he's not exactly expecting anything to happen there.

Nobody waits for a single tear, it's true, but people do sometimes stand waiting to feel what they expect to feel (or what their culture has lead them to expect to feel). I imagine that's what the author was trying for.

Overall, I don't think I'd read on. This kind of heavy-handed description gets old pretty fast.

chelsea said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. They are wonderfully helpful as always, and many of them were complimentary which makes me feel fuzzy inside.

My biggest concern with the piece was that I was stopping too much to describe the surroundings, and many of you confirmed that this was a problem.

The continuation was delicious, especially the cheese grater. Might want to use that.

EE, your observation are always so logical. They make me think, "How did I MISS that?" I think the stones-meet grass needs to go.

Sarah, you always have such sweet things to say. Thank you for your kind words.

Batgirl, don't worry, she returns to the Dark Court later on, for madness and mayhem and all that fun stuff.

Rachel, thank you for the compliments. The tendrils of darkness are real, but aren't a real threat. I added that in recently, so it may still need a little tweaking.

Anon, you may be right about losing that first sentence. Have to think about it . . .

Buff, you are right about the "single tear". She feels she should be remorseful for leaving, and envisions that cliche tear as the epitome of remorse. But that adds up to a whole lot of nothing if it's not coming across right.

Dave, I hoped you'd come by and suggest where to cut because you are so good at it. So thank you for that. In terms of the Seelie Court, I have a couple of responses to your concern. First, remember Titania and Oberon were not all sweetness and light. They screwed with mortals just because they could (even if they ended up helping them) and the discord between them caused floods and disease and thoroughly mixed-up seasons. Second, your perceptions of the Seelie Court's harmlessness might be EXACTLY what they use to trick humans. You put on these funny pointy shoes and find you can't stop dancing. You put on this lacy frilly gown and find it's laced so tight you can't breathe. Suddenly you're in their complete control and you don't even know how it happened.

Dave F. said...

I've never been given a lacy frilly gown and I can assure you that not only will I never will accept one as a gift, I will never wear one.
;)
I hope my comments helped.

chelsea said...

You think you won't. But when the most amazing creature you've ever seen takes you dancing in the forest, sometimes things just happen. Ha!

Your comments are always helpful.

talpianna said...

I figured that the narrator was leaving the realm of the Unseelie Court for that of the Seelie Court, but I think you should tell us why--banished? a fugitive? an envoy? a tourist? pursuing a forbidden inter-Court love? Selling encyclopedias?

chelsea said...

Encyclopedias! How did you know!!!?? Actually . . . an encyclopedia written by faeries is something I'd like to get my hands on.

She is the daughter of the Unseelie Queen and she is going to strike a deal with the Seelie Queen. You will find that out about three pages from here. Do you think it needs to be sooner?

Phoenix said...

Hi Chelsea:

Remember that a lot of fantasy is richly written. I do think you can edit this a bit more -- some for word choice, some for clarity of thought -- but think hard before you edit your style away. Books that start "slow" and don't give it all away in the first 150 do get pubbed. And books that are rich in imagery get pubbed, too. Not everyone likes spare story telling. Some people prefer Faulkner over Hemingway.

chelsea said...

Thanks Phoenix. You are always very encouraging and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.

Azreal said...

This is a first post for me, though I've been reading through the archives (Miss Snark's as well!) and I will soon have an opening up here for mockery and criticism. Anyways, I've always liked fantasy, and it's nice to see I'm not the only one who knows about the two courts (of course not, but it's made real for me now). Overall, a very nice job chelsea! I definitely want to read more! I don't have anything new to add, so good luck!

Robin S. said...

This blog is the first place I ever read the words Seelie Court.
All this time and I'm just now seeing I'm out of kilter here, maybe.

chelsea said...

New Version:

I stood in the shadows staring at a world of light. Tendrils of darkness crawled up my legs, tangling in my hair and my wings. Voices slithered in the back of my mind.

Return to the Dark Court, the voices entreated, tempting me for an instant. Forget the forest of light. No sweet salvation lurks within.

“Nor without,” I replied and cast the darkness from my limbs. The shadows scuttled away, murmuring their distaste, and I stepped into the Court of the Bright Faeries.

Nettles littered the ground, hidden by faerie glamour, and I hopped about in a pain-induced dance to avoid them. Up ahead loomed the fabled forest, the culmination of my fears and desires. Thick trunks rose toward the sky, showcasing leaves of gossamer green, and between them crept a forest’s favorite things: brambles, dressed with thorns as sharp as knives; hungry, twisting vines. But worse than anything were the shafts of light pouring out of every gap, filling the spaces where shadows were meant to live.

“How does one survive in a land without shadow?” I wondered aloud, sucking my bottom lip. “Where does one hide?”

_*Rachel*_ said...

The top is pretty good, but I stopped taking it seriously when she started hopping around; she's casting off darkness and going owie at nettles, and the juxtaposition makes it funny. It got a bit confusing there, and I think you need to concentrate more on what she's doing than what it looks like.

There's something about the quote ending with "within" that doesn't sound right, and I think it's the "within."

Better, though. I liked those first few paragraphs a lot.

Evil Editor said...

An improvement. I do have questions:

Not clear to me what the court of the bright Faeries is. She steps into it, but then it says up ahead is the forest. So is the court between the dark court and the forest, or does the court include the forest and other places?

If the nettles are hidden by faerie glamour, how does hopping about help her avoid them?

Is "culmination" the right word for her fears and desires? Maybe something more like "source"?

Dave F. said...

There's a few puzzling commas. I tend to read out loud and it wasn't smooth.

I would change "Up ahead" to "before me"...
Also, I would change "Thick" to "Ancient gnarled" ...
I think those are more suitable words.

As for the glories:
But worse than anything were the shafts of light pouring out of every gap,
Try this:
But worse than anything was the crepuscular light pouring out of every gap,

You can see crepuscular rays at:
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap050831.html
and
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/Crepuscular_rays_in_the_woods_of_Kasterlee,_Belgium.jpg

Dave F. said...

I wanted to add a note, just in case my reference is obscure...
When the Christmas hymn says "Glories stream from heaven above," the glories are crepuscular rays.

Ruth said...

I liked it until:

“How does one survive in a land without shadow?” I wondered aloud, sucking my bottom lip. “Where does one hide?”

That just seemed... weird and unrealistic to me. I have NEVER heard anyone seriously use the "one" way of talking about yourself. "How do you survive..?" - maybe. "Where will I hide?" - maybe. But the "one" just seemed really unusual to me. Unless everyone does actually talk that way in her world. But it threw me out of the story.

I didn't mind the nettle dance. I hope it was meant to be humorous, though....

chelsea said...

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to give feedback! I really appreciate it.

I've taken the nettle line out. It was one of those lines I could never get quite right, and I don't think it's worth keeping it in. So. Poof! It's gone!

EE, the Bright Court encompasses more than just the forest, but I see that is not coming across here. I'll do some tweaking to make it less confusing. I used "culmination" because this is the last step in a long line of steps to overthrow the Dark Court. This is the step that everything was leading up to, the step that will make or break her.

Dave, crepuscular is a great one. I am curious about which commas you found puzzling. (I must know!)

Rachel, I wonder if "within" was problematic for you because it didn't feel like the right word or because the thought felt unfinished (i.e. Beware the forest of light. No sweet salvation lurks within that ancient wood).

Ruth, you make a good point about the language. I love that everyone commented on a different thing.

Thank you again everyone.