Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Beginning 760

The sky vanished. Borne on the backs of ravenous winds, the sands raged, swallowing the infinite, cloudless blue. With its demise failed the sun, the day reduced to unseemly dusk. A howl tore through the desert, and the ground shook and groaned in protest.

Caught in the heart of the storm's onslaught were two figures. Indistinguishable in their roan hoods and cloaks, clutched jealously to themselves lest the furious gales snatch their protective gear from their bodies and leave them naked to the harshest of nature’s whims, they trudged onwards, struggling to stay afoot, fighting to stay alive.

Ankle-deep in the shifting, sinking sand, the first of the two travelers, a Priestess, led the way. Her stride was clumsy, encumbered by the sand that weighed her feet down, and yet filled with unshakable purpose, a firm resolve that was marred only by the slightest hint of desperation in her eyes. The second, a Wizard, lagged behind a short distance.

"We're not going to find it in this storm!" he shouted to the woman in front of him. His voice was coarse, raw from too much yelling to be heard over the din.

The Priestess neither halted nor turned.

"Well say something," the Wizard implored.

She did not even break her stride.

"Okay, okay," he screamed, the sand scratching at his throat. "You win. I'll ask the next person we see."


Opening: Michael C. Logarta.....Continuation: Anon.

16 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


'I said, we're not going to find it in this storm,' the wizard called again.

The Priestess neither halted nor turned.

'I said,' the wizard called once again, this time by means of an incantation, which whizzed his words through the swirling sand, 'we're not going to find it in this storm.'

The Priestess neither halted nor turned, her ragged silhouette now merging with the maelstrom.

'Women! You're all the bloody same. You complain for weeks that we never do anything interesting, and the moment I take you out bowling for a spot of adventure, what do you do? Ignore me, same as normal. Soon as this is over, you and I are having a talk. About our relationship, the cats, everything. And this time, I'm putting my foot down, oh yeah. This time...'

Black clouds swirled round him, the void of roaring silence consumed him.

When the Princess got home, she headed straight for the ice cream in the fridge. 'Fuck you, loser.'

--Whirlochre


Several feet away, all but invisible in the swirling cloud, a Camel shook his head in disgust. Amateurs, he thought. If they're insistent on walking through a sandstorm they should at least use some of those flowing robes to tie themselves together, so they don't get separated. And the fact that I can see the Princess's desperate eyes and hear the Wizard's voice means they haven't even covered their faces properly.

They must not be from around here, the Camel decided. Visitors, from some far-off land of green hills and gentle rain. Camelot, maybe.

I wonder what they're looking for? he thought, as he turned and lumbered back into the Tomb of the Golden Pharaoh.

--Sean

stacy said...

I don't know. I can't really buy these two walking through a sandstorm with only protective gear. Even a minor sandstorm seems like it would make any kind of travel impossible, unless they use magic to keep the sand away or something.

But overall, the writing seems overwrought, like the writer is trying hard to infuse danger and excitement into this scene. Still, it's not bad. I'd read on a bit to see if it catches my fancy.

Evil Editor said...

P.1: I'd get rid of: With its demise failed the sun, the day reduced to unseemly dusk. Not clear what it means, unless "failed the sun" is Yoda-speak. You don't want us puzzled at sentence 3.

You might change "desert" to "air." We already get that it's a desert, so it feels like you're telling us because you fear we're too stupid to have figured that out.

Does the ground shake and groan when it's all sand? Even if it does, I'm not sure it would be noticeable in a sandstorm.


P.2: If the hoods and cloaks are the protective gear, I would change "protective gear" to "them." It's like: Holding my pen, clutched tightly lest I drop my writing instrument... You'd change "my writing instrument" to "it," right?


P.3: No need to tell us the Priestess is the first if you're also going to say she's leading the way.

No need to tell us the reason her stride is clumsy is because it's encumbered by sand when you just told us she was ankle-deep.


Actually, the whole first three paragraphs feel overdone and repetitive. The hook is that they're looking for something, not that they're in a storm, so let's get to the dialogue faster, something like:


The sky vanished. Borne on the backs of ravenous winds, the sands raged, swallowing the infinite, cloudless blue.

In the heart of the storm's onslaught, two figures trudged onward, their roan hoods and cloaks clutched jealously to their bodies: a Priestess, her stride purposeful, her eyes showing only a hint of desperation; and, lagging behind a short distance, a Wizard.


Not sure why we're capitalizing "Priestess" and "Wizard."

Dave F. said...

My thoughts when I read this were "overload, overload." There's too many images of a stormy desert with two people struggling to find their way.

Anonymous said...

Hate to be picky, but if the cloudless blue is swallowed, it's not really infinite, is it?

arhooley said...

Anon, I had a similar thought about the infinite, cloudless blue. It's not in the picture -- we are apprised of the sky only to be told that it has vanished -- so it shouldn't be in the description.

Evil Editor said...

I see no problem with the sky. First it's infinitely blue, then a severe sandstorm blows up, and you can no longer see the sky. It's not like a cloud cover slowly crept across the sky.

Kings Falcon said...

Wait tell me if you've heard this one - A priestess and a wizard trudge through a sandstorm . . .

I'd love to know what protective gear could possibly prevent them from being flayed alive.

Try only using one metaphor for each thing and remember not everything doesn't need one.
Try to tone down the description and get us to the action. The hook is: What are they are searching for that is worth the risk of being out in a sandstorm? Get me there sooner. Do that by cutting all the repetition and purple prose. Then show me why this isn't a cliche. If you can do that, I'd follow along to see what happens next.



Anon - great continuance.

vkw said...

Okay, I'm going to disagree with just about everyone.

Epic fantasies are cool. They tend to be overloaded with imagery and details but that is the genre. A friend and I were just bemoaning the death of real epic fantasies. Gone are the days of imagery and where an author can describe the branch of a tree reaching out to the moon as the wolves howled their dismay to the night. (in two pages at least) Or the importance of a single blade of grass to a hobbit - in three pages.


I would suggest getting rid of "With its demise" to "The sun failed and with its demise came a unwholesome dusk."

Not sure about the howl, if its important or not. If there isn't a huge lion about to attack leave that sentence out.

So we have, "The sky vanished behind the wall of sand brought by the ravenous winds and the coming night. Soon after, the sun failed completely, and with its demise came an unwholesome blood-red dusk.

Two figures, clutching roan hoods and cloaks to their bodies, fought their way forward into the restless wind, struggling to stay afoot and alive.

It was the priestess who led the way. Her stride clumsy, encumbered as it was by the shifting sand under her sandaled feet, yet she remained purposeful and determined. The storm's fury was no match against her unshakeable spirit. Her companion, a wizard, lagged behind.

"We're not going to find it in this storm," he shouted as loud as his grated voice allowed.

The priestess neither halted nor did she turn.

Well, anyway, I liked it and a bit of tightening would be good. For the first 300 words, generally speaking, even for an epic fantasy, we will want to move the reader a bit quicker into the story, I think.

The epic descriptions of grass can wait until the reader has read half the 600 page book and is willing to indulge the author a bit because they've come this far.

Khazar-khum said...

The continuance saves this.

Sandstorms aren't quite like a blizzard; you can see, it's just tough. The wind is the worst part, really, because you feel like you'll blow away. Every now and then it stops blowing, and then the dust drifts out of the air, like a filthy snowstorm. We get a few here in the desert every year.

Xiexie said...

It's a bit much, but I like it, and I agree with Khazar about the sand. There still is some visibility. I too have no problem with the sky description.

It needs some trimming is all -- especially the 2nd sentence in the second paragraph. That's a grand adjectival clause there -- a bit too grand.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you're right about the sky, and I hadn't really thought about the other meaning of infinite.

Phoenix said...

I love epic fantasy. I love reading it, I love writing it. I love how literary it can be. I love how you can jumble syntax and come up with really cool-sounding phrasing. I love how you can push the purple envelope into the lavenders and lilacs and sometimes even plums.

But too purple and love quickly vanishes. When the pages become florid-full leaves over-painted with the dyes of royal sons, gilded with the wordcraft of a thousand ancestral pens, and over-thick with cascading metaphors that strangle the breath from each lush syllable, the toll-burden weighs heavy on even the most patient of ears and the reader, urged forward by obligation and duty, struggles to stay engaged, fights to stay awake. A fight that crawls word by word, letter by letter toward its inevitable end, to fall at last into tale-crushing doom.

ril said...

But too purple and love quickly vanishes. When the pages become florid-full leaves over-painted with the dyes of royal sons, gilded with the wordcraft of a thousand ancestral pens, and over-thick with cascading metaphors that strangle the breath from each lush syllable, the toll-burden weighs heavy on even the most patient of ears and the reader, urged forward by obligation and duty, struggles to stay engaged, fights to stay awake. A fight that crawls word by word, letter by letter toward its inevitable end, to fall at last into tale-crushing doom.

I have no idea what you just said.



;)

_*rachel*_ said...

Your first few paragraphs are, to be blunt, overblown fluff. Cut them and any other passages like them. This is one of the cases where "kill your darlings" is essential advice.

Start with the dialogue. For two short paragraphs, it's not bad. I'd revise it like this:
---
"We're not going to find it in this storm!" the wizard shouted to the woman in front of him. His voice was raw from yelling, too coarse to be heard over the sandstorm's howling wind.

The priestess neither halted nor turned.
---
I doubt you need to capitalize 'wizard' or 'priestess.' And the storm and the fact that they're searching for something are an interesting enough way to start the story.

Phoenix, I'm not sure if you could have made that point any more clearly.

Kings Falcon said...

Phoenix - that was great.

I also love epic fantasy, but the reading shouldn't be an epic struggle. Brandon Sanderon's epic tales work, IMHO, because they are very readable, and while detailed and lush aren't too dense.

The reader who wades through Tolkien is a dying breed. Today's readers won't sit through a 3 page description of a brick wall.
Tolkein's epic was a milieu story. Middle Earth was the main character. If you are telling a milieu story, go back and look at some of the great ones. They didn't hammer us with the details but weaved them into the action. Try to do that more. Being so description heavy in the first 3 paragraphs can work, but they need to be brillant and it's very hard to do. Again IMHO, the real art in epic fantasy is getting the world detail without adding too much purple.

Also, epic doesn't just mean fantastic setting. It also means a scope of characters and events. Show me the world by letting your characters explore it. Give me a point of view - right now you have at best an omniscient one - again very hard to do well and the market isn't really big on this voice right now.

I don't need you to describe every spec of sand to know they are in a desert. If you want to add setting details, add other senses. What does it smell like? How does the sand and wind feel against thier skin? If you expand the senses used (beyond sight) and give me a POV you can hook the reader and still be epic without plodding along.

Good luck.