Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Beginning 663

Hadde ignored the bitter wind that swept the Great Forest as she scanned the column of raiders passing through the trees ahead. Stronger than the smell of fallen leaves and earth, she could smell their filth and sweat. She smelled something else as well. The scent of rot. The scent of death.

Fifteen of the raiders wore the bright tunics of Kiremi nomads, although they only had four horses, and those half-starved. The Kiremi themselves didn’t look much better. They seemed weary and defeated, not like the last time they had stormed her village. The Wasting is as bad on the plains as it is in the forest, Hadde thought.

Five strangers marched with the Kiremi. Unlike the nomads, they wore bear-skull masks and padded leather aketons and carried javelins and axes instead of bows and sabres. Their long fur cloaks and heavily bearded faces made them look like huge bear-beasts. They looked fiercer than any people she had ever seen. And there was no sense of defeat in the way they carried themselves.

Not only did the Kiremi bring allies, they also brought a captive. She recognized Geros, a young hunter from Fallingbrook. His hands were tied behind his back and his mouth was gagged. Two Kiremi walked beside him. One held a rope tied around his neck.

“The Kiremi are back,” Hadde said as Belor and Calen joined her behind the fallen tree hiding her from view. “They have Geros.”

Belor stood, dropped his axe and waved his hands in the air. "That's it, I'm outta here."

"What are you doing?" Hadde whispered angrily. "Don't screw this up!"

"Sorry, I can't be a part of this. It just doesn't feel right."

"What are you talking about? We evoke the senses, we describe the situation and the scenery, we have military strategy coming into play--"

"Yeah, but . . .don't make me say it."

"Just say it already!"

"Fine . . . this reminds me of Eragon. Oh God, I didn't want to hurt you. Forget I said anything."

"You bastard. You cruel fucking bastard."


Opening: Matt Heppe.....Continuation: Matthew

29 comments:

Adam Heine said...

I like this just fine. I would read on.

I was a little confused at the second "Kiremi" in the second paragraph. Something about the way it was worded made me think they were something different from the nomads and their horses. Maybe just say "The nomads themselves...".

Also, I didn't make the connection that the bear-men were the Kiremi's allies. The way it was described, it actually sounded like the Kiremi were the captives and the bear-men the victors. A lot of that had to do with the phrase "weary and defeated" in the second paragraph. I'd thought they were defeated in a military sense. So maybe strike "defeated" and mention that the bear-men are Kiremi allies up front in paragraph 3.

Oh, also maybe drop "the bitter wind" from the opening sentence. It carries no meaning with it that I could see. (If it does have meaning, then maybe make that clearer somewhere else).

At least those are my thoughts. Do what you will.

Aimee K. Maher said...

To much information for me at one time, but, I haven't had coffee yet. I just know that if I picked this book up in the morning, I would have put it down.

I had to read it more than once. It sounded like there were more of these Karimi, but wait, no, fifteen. OK. And five more guys. Wait, one more guy....

I like how your story looks so far and I'm curious to find out more because I'm a fantasy nerd, but I'd tweak this opening. It has to grab, not confuse. Notice paragraphs 2 and 3 start with a number. Don't know why that bugs me, it just does.

~5 star continuation. You guys are nuts.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

Belor had just about enough of Hadde, her irritating habit of describing every last, stupid detail about everything she saw was bad enough but when she stated the obvious, which is the only thing she ever said, that really fried his butt.

Ignoring the cold wind, he stood up and placed his hands on his hips where there was a hung a large sword engraved with the symbols of his tribesman and these same symbols were embroidered on the quilted woolen armor he wore under his long coat, which was trimmed with the fur of a black bear, found in the Great Forest. He was furious and he looked even more fiercer than the people they were spying on and there was no sense of defeat in his eyes, which were blue.

“I’m going home. I never liked your village. I never liked Geros and this wind is too bitter for me,” he said and then stomped off leaving tracks in the snow, which was white, and in a display of anger, which did not look like anything like defeatism.

--Vivian Whetham

Aimee K. Maher said...

Hey man, this is new beginning 663.

I already ordered a t-shirt that says "I survived 662".

Evil Editor said...

First time through when I read "the Kiremi themselves didn't look much better" I assumed it meant the Kiremi didn't look much better than the raiders who were wearing tunics of Kiremi nomads. Like the raiders had disguised themselves as Kiremi nomads and were mixed in with the actual Kiremi. Calling the same opeople raiders, Kiremi, and nomads within the first few sentences doesn't help us get grounded in the scene.

I'm not sure I'd call the bear-beast guys strangers. This could be taken to imply that the rest of the party aren't strangers to Hadde.

Why are the Kiremi referred to as raiders? They seem to be nomads walking through the woods. Are they raiding anything? Is there evidence that they've been raiding anything?

Matthew said...

The term bear-beast bugged me. A bear is a beast so it would be like saying parrot-bird or man-human.

There's a lot of counting and description of enemies before Hadde notices her friend is a prisoner--Isn't that the first thing she would notice? Wouldn't it make her angry or afraid depending on her character? What does she feel when she sees him?

I would keep reading to see where the dialogue goes, but I need to see some emotion to get hooked.

If you invert the middle three letters of Hadde, you get Heppe. Coincidence?

Eric P. said...

You seem to draw a distinction between the "raiders" who "wore the tunics of the Kiremi nomads" and "the Kiremi themselves." Then there are "five strangers" thrown in. Yet later they're identified collectively as "the Kiermi are back." Are they all Kiremi, or not? (For that matter, what is a Kiremi? One of my little peeves in fantasy lit is when the author drops in a made-up word as though we all should already have a clear picture of it.)

Stylistically, you need stronger verbs. "Ignored, scanned, smelled, wore, seemed, marched, wore, looked, brought, recognized, joined..." These are all very bland and mostly nonspecific, and that makes you depend on flat declarative sentences to add your details. It's the difference between "She walked slowly and gingerly into the room, favoring one foot" and "She limped."

Anonymous said...

I would reword the first paragraph thusly:

Hadde ignored the bitter wind as she scanned the column of raiders moving through the trees. The smell of filth and sweat overpowered the fallen leaves and earth and she smelled something else as well. The scnet of rot. The scent of death.



This part of p2 was confusing to me - "Fifteen of the raiders wore the bright tunics of Kiremi nomads, although they only had four horses, and those half-starved. The Kiremi themselves didn’t look much better." I was not sure what was being referred to and had to reread it several times.

I would use a different word than "fiercer" - it breaks the flow - I think.

How did Hadde see the aketons under the long fur cloaks? Also - not to be overly nitpicky here but the definition of Aketon is padded leather, isn't it? Its like saying the blue, azure sky (azure is blue)

definition of Aketon:a padded and quilted garment, usually of linen, worn under or instead of plate or mail.

I would use padded leather armor then refer to it as Aketon later on so those that do not know what it is do not have to stop and look it up.

I was not thrilled with this either -

"They looked fiercer than any people she had ever seen. And there was no sense of defeat in the way they carried themselves."

I am thinking, wow, if you look fiercer than anything she had ever seen before then certainly you would not look like you are anyway defeated.

Maybe something like "There was no defeat in their eyes and Hadde had never seen a more fierce looking band of warriors."

and I had two thoughts on the last paragraph . . .

Three armored people hiding behind one fallen log? I have seen a lot of fallen logs in the forest and I am not sure three grown warriors would be able to hide behind one. . . but I can go with it.

But the one thing I did not like the most is this:

“The Kiremi are back,” Hadde said as Belor and Calen joined her behind the fallen tree hiding her from view. “They have Geros.”

I would assume that Belor and Calen would know that the Kiremi were back and who they were - they should be able to see this for themselves. It seemed to be something quite obvious or odd to say in this circumstance.

"The scourage is back!" "The Kiremi are in bad shape." Or "Do you know who they travel with?"

or "They have Geros" would even be enough.

I am imagining this Hadde hiding behind the log, her friends arrive, they don't want to be detected and the warrior says - The sky is blue.

It was an interesting opening, however, and I wanted to read more but the problems I noted, got in the way.

vkw

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't have kept on, reminds me too much of a logic/algebra test problem. Also, although I know making up nouns is standard practice in Fantasy, one hopes it can be done in a way enhances the text, rather than just challenging the reader to learn 20 undefined new words per page.

Matt Heppe said...

Thanks for all the comments so far. Looking at it with fresh eyes I see how I confused everyone in the second paragraph. Very easily fixed.

I didn't want a prologue in this book. You pick up everything you need to know about the Kiremi/Landomeri conflict through dialogue in the first two chapters.

My wife (when she's pleased with me) calls me Mattie. This sometimes comes out as Maddie. My last name is Heppe. So my protagonists name is a derivation of Mattie-Maddie-Heppe-Hadde.

The only similarities between Hadde and myself is that we both trust people and look for the good in them. This sometimes gets us both into trouble.

Thanks again. Keep the comments rolling...

Sarah Laurenson said...

I liked this and would read on.

Did have a slight problem with 'his' in this part:

Two Kiremi walked beside him. One held a rope tied around his neck.

I know it refers to Geros, however, in my quick reading, it refered back to 'one'. So a Kiremi is walking with Geros and the Kiremi is holding a rope that is tied around his own neck. At least, that's the image I got.

Agree with a lot of the other comments here. But I'd still read on.

Steve said...

I don't think this is too bad, as an opening - it's information-heavy, so you need to take care it's not too clunky ... but, by and large, I think it's getting the information across fairly efficiently. It's causing me no pain, so I'd read on.

That continuation, now ... that is vicious.

Anonymous said...

Nice writing style but too many strange terms and names, as the other Anon noted. BTW,

Wouldn't have kept on, reminds me too much of a logic/algebra test problem.

LOL! otherwise known as a "story problem". If fifteen raiders and five strangers have only four horses between them and travel at a rate of less than two kilometers per hour, how many Gyros will they eat in a given day?

Dave F. said...

I've seen this opening in the movies. Let me explain.
There are sequences in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA where David Lean opens on a vast expanse of desert and we see a caravan of Arabic tribesmen snaking their way across the sands to meet with each other.

In TARAS BULBA, Taras assembles the Mongols in a long ride and we see each addition to his band and their colorful costumes.

And last, In SPACEBALLS, the opening sequence has the camera stationary and the command ship moving above it for a very long, long time. The shot is meant as a satire and since we're watching Mel Brooks' own special brand of loony, it works. (The spaceship has 4 speeds: light speed, hyper speed, ludicrous speed and plaid.)

Now the point is that you might use a long description like this in the middle of the story because you've set up the reason for the assembling and the reader is ready to go along with it for the color, but you can't use it to begin a story unless you're Mel Brooks doing grandiose satire.

The first paragraph hints at the scent of death. I'd drop the scent of rot. Woodsy forest type rot is one thing but flesh rotting is quite different. Also, according to my paramedic and fireman friends, death has a distinctive smell. The reader wants to know from the first paragraph what is dead. You go a full four more paragraphs without telling the reader. That's naughty, naughty.

BTW -- Is this a battle scene with dead bodies?

In the fourth paragraph, you describe Geros as merely a prisoner and in the fifth paragraph you have Hadde say "They have Geros." To tell the truth, when I read that fifth paragraph, I wondered if Hadde was more than just stupid. A) She's been watching this troops surreptitiously and you didn't tell the reader. B) Is Geros as important as the "smell of death" I've been wondering about? Or is that like the lack of scented bubblebath, aftershave and cologne among the small troop of fighters -- just a throwaway description. And also, you describe Geros as "a young hunter from Fallingbrook" and that made me assume that Geros meant nothing much to Hadde other than local color.

Perhaps your opening sentence is dialog: "The raiders captured Geros."
Or: "The young fool thought his arrows would beat steel and armor," Belor said.
Or maybe: "Hadde smelled the scent of death from the battlefield as the Kiremi nomads stripped the dead and took prisoners. They hauled Geros across the battlefied, his hands tied and a noose around his neck."

Some variation of those. Put us right into their dilemma -- rescuing Geros from the Raiders.

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree with pretty much what everyone else said. This is typical fantasy fare as near as I can see, yet it left me sort of Meh, not that interested.

On a lighter note, when you said "They have Geros," Gyros (the sandwich) came to mind and I spewed coffee. Maybe not a good word choice, but it's probably just me.

Joanna said...

I didn't find the Kiremi/raiders/strangers confusing, and I liked this opening until Hadde's comment. I didn't know what an aketon was, so the 'padded leather' part was helpful to me. I'd keep reading.

BuffySquirrel said...

The writing flows nicely enough, but there's not a lot here to engage the emotions. Hadde doesn't even seem to care about the captive. It's all emotionally very flat.

The line about ignoring the wind gives the wind a prominence it shouldn't have if it's being ignored. Not sure if there's a way round that, though :).

_*Rachel*_ said...

Matthew is all too right about this being like Eragon.

My main tiff with this is that she could be doing something exciting here, and all she's doing is describing their numbers, species/tribe, and clothing. Ambush someone already! Or just skip to the part about Geros, which I think is what's really bothering her, hm?

I gave Eragon a chance, and I'll give you one, too. That means I'll read the first, hunt down the second and gobble it up, memorize your elfen greetings with my friends, see the movie and buy the book... and, a year later, forget you and your third book ever existed.

Dave F. said...

I read Eragon really, really fast before I wrapped it up and gave it as a gift. It didn't strike me as overly wordy. It did have lots of description but that didn't bother me. Now the movie, the movie sucked swamp water, bad adaptation. The movie lacked the depth of the book.
(All my book gifts have my eye-prints on them.)

If an author is going to build a fantasy world, why would they go skimpy on the description? They have to strike a balance between too much and too little. So the amount of description didn't bother me in this opening.

Jeb said...

The lack of emotional engagement is potentially a bigger problem than the wealth of descriptors.
Certain words and phrases create distance between Hadde and her environment, Hadde and her emotions, and thus between Hadde and the reader, who wants to be right there peering over her shoulder, vicariously feeling what she feels and seeing what she sees.

"Hadde ignored the bitter wind that swept the Great Forest as she scanned the column of raiders passing through the trees ahead."

Rather than ignoring the bitter wind - if she's ignoring it, so will the reader - use it. Let her, and the reader, experience it ie

]Eyes stinging from the bitter wind, Hadde peered through the trees to count the raiders.[

"Stronger than the smell of fallen leaves and earth, she could smell their filth and sweat. She smelled something else as well. The scent of rot. The scent of death."

Telling us Hadde smelled things is not as effective as letting her, and us, experience those odors ie

]Their filth and sweat battered down the the comfortable vegetative smells of the Great Forest, the fallen leaves and rotting logs. They brought as well an odor darker still, and too familiar: death.[


"The Wasting is as bad on the plains as it is in the forest, Hadde thought."

"Hadde thought" is an inescapable reminder to the reader that they're only reading. It pushes them right out of the scene you are carefully constructing. We've been firmly in Hadde's head all this while, so a simple re-phrasing can eliminate the distancing effect:

]The Wasting must be as bad on the plains as it was in the forest.[

That's as far as I'll go with examples. I'm sure you're competent to find the other places where you have created unnecessary distance between Hadde and the reader.

Anonymous said...

The first Paragraph was repetitive and boring. I zoned out (thinking and reading at the same time- zero comprehension)

"Fifteen of the raiders wore the bright tunics of Kiremi nomads, although they only had four horses, and those half-starved. The Kiremi themselves didn’t look much better."

This piqued my interest, stopped my thought process and brought me back to the story with the expectation that something exciting was about to happen.

Like a commander trying to keep his soldiers alive and safe.
Or a kidnapping,
Or a fight
Or an escape
Or.... just a bout anything other than what actually follows.

I felt sympathy for raiders. On the other hand I want Hadde to shove a sock in it.

Matt Heppe said...

Here is my revised opening:

Hadde crouched behind the rotting trunk of a fallen tree. Ahead of her the Kiremi raiding party crept deeper into the forest. She counted a score of them--more than enough to destroy Long Meadow. She flexed her fingers against the cold and gripped her bow tighter. Time was short, but Belor and Calen would return soon. She'd send Calen to warn the village.

It had been years since the Kiremi had last invaded the forest. Years since she and her kinsmen had filled them will arrows and sent them reeling back to the plains. Now they were back, and strangers marched with them. The five strangers were big men, all in fur cloaks and carrying heavy javelins. Their presence brought home to her the fact that her village had weakened. A few years ago they could have mustered twenty hunters to match the twenty raiders. Now they'd be lucky to find half as many in time to stop the attack.

A rustling in the leaves caused her to turn. Fear turned to relief as she spotted Belor and Calen crawling toward her. They were a few strides away when a gust of wind sent a wave of dead leaves washing over them. Nearby, a Wasting-weakened tree branch cracked and fell crashing to the forest floor.

Immediately, three arrows whipped into the forest, one embedding itself into a tree just strides from Hadde.

_*Rachel*_ said...

WARNING! BACKSTORY ALERT!

You keep starting with her watching the invaders. Can't you start with the arrows?

As far as the backstory goes, give us just enough to understand what's going on, and no more. We don't need a history lesson, just the fact that the Kiremi are invading. Something as simple as "The Kiremi were back," or "Again," tells us all we need to know.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

This gets moving faster than the original version, but the falling tree branch is too convenient as a plot device.
Maybe it's just me, but sending the raiders back full of arrows, makes them look like human hedgehogs inside my head, too comical for the mood your trying for...
I don't see why the five strangers 'brings home' the fact that the village has weakened. This would make more sense if the creeping enemy was the same as last time, but *this* time, the village can't defeat them.

I would keep reading, though.

(Typo: 'with', not 'will')

Anonymous said...

It's okay. "It had been years since the Kiremi had last invaded the forest."

You might be able to save the first sentence, but the rest of this para has to go. It makes more sense to find the village is week when only twenty soldiers can fight, rather than telling us how few there are. ( Why must Calen wait for her to tell him what to do?)

"A rustling in the leaves caused her to turn." I think this works better as, "leaves rustled behind her..."
I also make "fear turned," to "fear changed to..." however wouldn't she be afraid they'd notice any motion she made? And wouldn't she still be afraid of the raiders?

Does she intend to stop them all with her friend before warning the town? Isn't that the fastest way to get caught? Why is she waiting for her friends to return? Won't they draw attention to her position? If the friends could see the raiders, wouldn't it make more sense for them to warn the town first rather than give away the MC's location and risk getting caught? Would'nt make more sense for her to worry about their return alerting the raiders to her location?

"itself" is singular, but "three arrows" are plural

Blue Mouse said...

They way it's written, I feel detached from the story. The inserts of backstory break the flow and the adjectives are too general.

Matt Heppe said...

Thanks for your suggestions. The second paragraph had to go. Here's a re-re-write:

Hadde crouched behind the rotting trunk of a fallen tree. Ahead of her the Kiremi raiding party crept deeper into the forest. She counted a score of them--more than enough to destroy Long Meadow. She flexed her fingers against the cold wind and gripped her bow tighter.

Dry leaves crunched behind her. Startled, she ducked and turned, but it was only Belor and Calen. "Danger, close," she hunter-signed. "Stay low."

Belor gave her a nod and the two hunters crouched lower as they made their way toward her. Hadde was about to turn back to the raiders when a gust of wind sent a wave of dead leaves washing over them. Nearby, a Wasting-weakened tree branch cracked and fell crashing to the forest floor.

Immediately, three arrows whipped into the forest, one embedding itself into a tree just strides from Hadde. Belor and Calen snatched arrows from their quivers. Behind her, a raider gave a short cry. Hadde turned in his direction and pulled some tension into her bow.

She ducked back as a strange warrior struck a Kiremi a hard blow with a javelin shaft. The stranger was a big man in a heavy fur cloak. She had noticed a few others like him with the Kiremi. Hadde couldn't make out his words, but the stranger was clearly berating the nomad. With a look of contempt, the stranger strode into the forest.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I would read on, but I agree with Blue Mouse, there's some detachment here. For me it's because we don't know what Hadde is feeling in this moment. Is she looking forward to cracking some heads? Is she dry mouthed with fear, realizing the people she loves could die in the next few minutes? Is she cool and assessing, running battle plans in her head?

_*Rachel*_ said...

Better, but I still have a few problems. Forthwith:

Immediately, three arrows whipped into the forest, one embedding itself into a tree just strides from Hadde. Belor and Calen snatched arrows from their quivers. Behind her, a raider gave a short cry. Hadde turned in his direction and pulled some tension into her bow. [This sentence is where you lost me. I thought the raiders were in front of her? Also, the way you've been describing those arrows doesn't imply that they're specifically coming from the raiders.]

She ducked back as a strange warrior struck a Kiremi a hard blow with a javelin shaft. The stranger was a big man in a heavy fur cloak. She had noticed a few others like him with the Kiremi. Hadde couldn't make out his words, but the stranger was clearly berating the nomad. With a look of contempt, the stranger strode into the forest. [You totally lost me here. I thought the only people by her were the hunters, and now there's some guy gallavanting around, and I don't like the sentence structure.]

I like how you worked the backstory in--with the Wasted tree, etc. I'm just getting confused in the action now.