Friday, October 29, 2010

New Beginning 800!

Professor Rupert Bingham was frequently inclined to spend Sunday afternoon locked inside his study, pouring over his notes in preparation for the coming week. Sunday, being the church-mandated day of rest, his assistant normally had the afternoon off and the Professor often found himself completely alone with his thoughts. Today was no different, save that a package had arrived from the Marchioness Durrenbach, and Professor Bingham was eager to discover its contents. He had been patient all morning, attending church services, as was required of a gentleman of good standing, and had politely suffered through an excruciating tea with his fussy neighbor, Mrs. Firth. Now he was finally at leisure to unwrap the mysterious package and learn what secrets were contained within.

Carefully, he untied the twine binding the parcel and peeled back the brown paper wrapping. Inside was a good-sized, square wooden box with a hinged lid—newly made, so it must not have accompanied the original artifact from Turkey. Raising the lid, Professor Bingham gazed with interest at the curious object nestled inside.

But where to look, where to focus, with his Turkey-conscious professorly eyes? The crude terracotta bowl? Or the custard, unspilled, within? Or the neat circle of cling wrap sealing custard from atmosphere, mystery from evident custardiness, so thin he could pop it with one of his wayward nostril hairs and suck, suck, suck till every last one of his Academia-honed Sensibilities vs Personal-Lust-For-Antique-Middle-Eastern-Custard dilemmas was resolved in favour of custard, then caution, then custard, then caution, then custard, then thenthenthenthenthen, over and over and over again, till he could take it no more, NO MORE!

Instinctively, he shot himself.


Opening: Joie.....Continuation: Whirlochre

17 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

PORING over his notes. Learn to use the bloody language.

Evil Editor said...

I find it hard to buy that the guy was eager to discover the contents of the package if he didn't open it when it arrived.

Who delivered the package on this church-mandated day of rest?

"Good-sized" isn't a useful description of the wooden box. First, good-sized can mean anything unless we have something to compare it to, and second, I assume the box is the size of the original package, minus the wrapping paper, in which case Rupert already knew the size. Thus, as we're in Rupert's POV, it would be better to tell us the size of the package rather than the box.

It feels a bit strange that Rupert knows the box contains an artifact from Turkey. His eagerness to discover the package's contents, to learn its secrets, gave the impression he had no idea. Obviously he has an idea, possibly because the Marchioness regularly sends him Turkish artifacts, but having built up suspense about the package contents, I recommend not revealing anything about them until Rupert opens the box.

alaskaravenclaw said...

There's nothing wrong with pouring over your notes. I do it all the time myself-- they're only notes. A little orange juice or maple syrup won't hurt 'em.

I just hope he doesn't pour over the Turkish object. That could upset the Marchioness no end.

(Query for Britons or denizens of other royalty-afflicted nations: does one have a Marchioness Durrenbach, or a Marchioness of Durrenbach?)

Seriously-- author, you're trying to build suspense about what's in the good-sized box. That's good. But the way you're doing it, by slowing us down with unnecessary detail and description, is not so good.

You're also giving us the professor's character; he's the kinda guy who does what's expected of him. But by showing us that he can wait to open the box, you're making the box less urgent.

Anonymous said...

Sunday, being the church-mandated day of rest, his assistant normally had the afternoon off and the Professor often found himself completely alone with his thoughts.

As written, not a sentence. (Like mine--see, I can do it, too.) Remove the part btw the commas and read it again.

How about: His assistant normally had Sundays off, as it was the church-mandated day of rest, and the Professor often found himself alone with his thoughts on those days...

I like the fussy neighbor, as I have one myself, but perhaps you could give an example--dashed off--of what made the tea excruciating. You know, a detail, a snippet of conversation, etc.

I sort of like the affected tone of this. Just clean it up a bit.

Dave F. said...

Today feels like a Sunday to me. I don't know why but it does.

I remember and old game show called "Name That Tune" and I can create that opening in 89 words.

Professor Rupert Bingham spent Sunday afternoons locked inside his study, preparing for the coming week. This Sunday, his assistant away, a package arrived from the Marchioness Durrenbach, and he wished to know its contents. He had been patient and dutiful, attending church services, suffering through a tea and now, late afternoon, he at stood alone with the package.

He untied the twine and peeled back the brown paper wrapping. Inside was a wooden box of modern manufacturer. Raising the lid, Professor Bingham gazed at the curious object nestled inside.


I think the details that I removed from your original do not enhance what the professor finds in the box. Those words might be effective in building Bingham's world but not in advancing the reader's interest to the object in the box. It's what is in the box that is important.

The reader doesn't care about Bingham's day. The reader will care if the box contains the Holy Grail, or if the box holds an Elvis Commemorative plate that Bingham hangs on his wall at the end of the novel, or if the box contains a pressed flower in a frame ala "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"... Or the Bishop's Bird Stump in "To Say Nothing of the Dog."

All of the world building details come after the object in the box is revealed. The object in the box is only the hook into your novel. Get the reader to that object and then build your world.

Ellie said...

I really like the idea of the professor being excited to open the box but dutifully forcing himself through all his obligations of the day first. That's a strong image to start with. But it needs to be distilled and presented in a way that feels like the story already has momentum and we're getting swept into it.

Everything else is worldbuilding, stationary, not needed at the moment, and makes the story feel like we've just climbed onto a bike and are craaaaaanking at the pedals, barely wobbling forward, not going anywhere yet.

Anonymous said...

Try starting with what is now on page 2. Or with the delivery. This seems like the setup for a bunch of those logic puzzles from the GRE: if the professor is eager to open his package, but it is Sunday, when there are no deliveries, what day did the bloody thing arrive?

_*rachel*_ said...

I'd cut to the chase already: Professor Rupert Bingham had been patient all morning, attending church services, as was required of a gentleman of good standing, and had politely suffered through an excruciating tea with his fussy neighbor, Mrs. Firth.

Now he was alone and locked inside his study, with the package from the Marchioness Durrenbach on the desk before him.

And on to your next paragraph.

This has a nice tone to it, but make sure you don't get caught up in details and description to the cost of the fun stuff.

arhooley said...

Actually, there's another way to fix that sentence beginning with "Sunday, being the church-mandated day of rest." As it is, you have a dangling modifier that designates "Sunday" as "his assistant." If you lose the comma after "Sunday" you'll be all right. Anyone wants to argue with me, I've got the tedious details ready.

I can see what you're trying to do, Author. You want to evoke a fine and detail-oriented mind by using similar language. You'll need a good editor.

vkw said...

Anonymous 11:51; You just made my day, maybe my week. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Particularly concerning about your comment, but not to the point I would issue an official complaint, is in my the youth the only test any industrious student would even contemplate taking or, for that matter, any reputable institution would consider considering, was the GRE. Now, it's MAT, MAt - one doesn't study for the MAT. Back in the day when I road my dinosaur to school and back things were tougher, but they say I am better for it.

Author: I understand that your opening was to give the reader a unique voice, but you still need to make it believable like other minions and EE suggested. Usually, the mandatory day of rest, meant the ENTIRE Sunday, not just the morning, especially when attending church was mandatory as well.

vkw

Anonymous said...

You want to show us the era and social standing of your protag through language and events - good. But - and this is a common problem - you've overdone it a bit. Stilted language and descriptions of polite social events easily become a tedious slog for the reader. Try taking out nearly all of your darlings - change "was frequently inclined to spend" to "often spent", for example - and see the pace pick up.

Also take out your little info dumps. Phrases like "being the church-mandated day of rest" and "as was required of a gentleman of good standing" are not things people thought or said during the era in which your story is set. People didn't need to explain society to themselves because that society was natural for them.

The reader will be more engaged by inferring information than from it being spoon-fed to him.

stacy said...

Well, I seem to be the exception. I quite liked this, in spite of the "pouring" vs. "poring." It was a bit slow, but I found myself drawn in, anyway. I really wanted to know what was in the box.

I hope it's not custard.

Anonymous said...

I liked this a lot. The fussy language reflected the professor's fussy life and made me acquainted with his world. I smiled as I read it. I would not rush the writing to the box. I don't think the professor lives in a world where one rushes.

Anonymous said...

AHA! Buffy is being a

"pore-cupine"

;)

Dave F. said...

Congratulations on 800 new beginnings!

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I'd start with:

Professor Bingham untied the twine and peeled back the brown paper wrapping. Inside was a wooden box of modern manufacturer. Raising the lid, he gazed at the curious object nestled inside.

Then only dab in a touch of your details, if they matter.

If the assistant isn't in the room and has no affect on the box opening why is she in the opening?
If Sunday is mandated a day of rest why would she ever work it?

Work through the inconsistent things, (Sunday delivery on rest day) and it will smooth out and speed up.

It reads like you are from today and have read a lot about yesteryear but haven't separated then and now on the page which caused a few problems in the delivery/logic flow.

Good luck.

Mac

Anonymous said...

I also really liked this and did not feel it moved slowly. I was drawn in and wanted to read more.