Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Red Pen Progression

Forgotten and laid away - but not in lavender - for about 25 years, the following is from an old unpublished novel. Decided I don't need to find the rest of the manuscript. The first chapter or two will do to illustrate certain Hope it does not drive you all staggering away pressing your eyeballs or to fall into individual catatonic fits.

It came out of the blue of a spring sky.
It wound in through the open window, quivering in the sudden silence like an arrow coming to earth, both the beauty and the menace of an alert in its single drawn-out note.
A war horn, sounding a challenge a thousand years old.
I felt my heart thud in primitive recognition of the warning signal, felt a coldness between my shoulder blades like the breath of a Valkyrie.
The quiet stretched out.
Then, just as Time stood poised, ready to spin backward, someone broke the silence and the spell with a deadpan whisper, "The Vikings are coming."
A laugh went up around the seminar room, and the Twentieth Century expelled a long sigh and prepared to go forward again.
I drew a ragged breath and began reading where I hasd so abruptly broken off.
"...Eard git ne const,
frecne stowe thaer thu findan miht
sinnigne secg; sec gif thu dyrre!"
Some lingering tension held the rest of the class immobile as my voice rose and rang over the rhythms of Anglo-Saxon alliteration. To my own ears my voice sounded harsh and strangely prophetic.

Oh dear. A post-graduate seminar room is not, perhaps, the most interesting place to start a story.
Poor Valkyries. They are so abused. Quite apart from the fact that the simile is marginally cliche, the placement is off. Like a drummer crowding a beat, the image is slung at the reader too early, before one has time to identify with the character and sympathize with her fear. Though the intended image is thematically appropriate, I feel it casts a shade of pale lilac - if not purple - over the beginning.
I am so sorry I wrote "felt my heart thud." Aack. And "began reading"...should be "continued."
The last paragraph isn't so bad though.
Feel free to slice and dice, as I won't bother to comment on every bloody error and fault, just those that annoy me most.


Ric said...

We tend to forget you've already celebrated Thanksgiving, so today is just another day. As opposed to the madness around here, with 5am sales and large doses of butter laced foods.

Some of us have way more than two or three novels hiding away. I have two full file drawers, many of which probably would have been published if I hadn't given up after five rejection letters.

Live and learn.

This time is the charm.
Thanks for sharing this morning.

Bernita said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Ric.
We got our first snow though. Just in from shovelling. Snowman snow. Heavy.
We needed Miss Snark years ago, didn't we? To tell us not to give up until mega rejections, not a paltry three or five.

Gabriele C. said...

Well, there were worse beginnings on the showcase link Miss Snark gave us. :)

Here's some of mine, a cheesy scene about an unhappy lover. It's so for the trash bin. Not only because it's cheesy and infodumpy, but because I've replaced Roderic's (one of the MCs) sister Florence with his cousin Estrild, a much stronger character. She and Kjartan (another MC) will not meet in Scotland but during the troubles in Normandy; they will fall in love an get separated. Edward Bruce is to become a much darker character because he tries to actively blackmail Roderic in hope the king won't let him return home and Edward could snatch Estrild, bereft of father, uncle and cousin.

Yes, it is a complicated story and belive me, it was worse before I introduced a plot into it.

"There she sits alone again". Edward Bruce looked out of the window into the castle garden where Florence had made herself comfortable on a wooden bench with a book she did not read. "Poor lass, she mourns her father, and nothing can give her comfort, it seems."

Geneviève came to his side. "Brother, I have long considered whether I might tell you something that was trusted to my confidence. But I can't stand to see you hankering after Florence like that. Believe me, she cannot forget that Norseman who had been the captive of her brother."

"Kjartan!" Edward stumbled back from the window. "Kjartan! She thinks about him! Oh unhappy fate. But then ... after so long a time ... she doesn't even know whether he is still alive."

"Edward, she tries not to speak about him, but she often does so despite herself. Alive or dead, she cannot forget him. One day she might succomb to the necessity of marrying someone to protect her, and in that case she may prefer a man she knows and trusts. But I doubt that she will ever be able to return your love."

Edward sank onto a chair, his head buried in his hands. Geneviève touched his hair in passing and left the room. Florence in love. In love with this Norseman. He had never mentioned Kjartan when he had spoken about the time at Toulouse, because Girart Sinclair hated the Viking who had bereft him of his son. Thus, Florence could not know what had become of him after he and her brother had left Scotland. But she might hope that Roderic would look favourably to a marriage between his sister and his best friend. Shall I tell her that I have met Kjartan? It would rekindle her hope - and end mine forever. But some time has passed after I have left Kjartan, he could as well have met death in the meantime. Will she ever forget? A rival like Kjartan, handsome and gallant. How can I cope with him? No, let him be lost to her - perhaps he IS already lost. Edward rose and began to pack his belongings for the journey to Normandy. And I can't even wish for death in battle, since I have promised Girart to protect his daughter.

When Florence entered the room to say farewell, he took in the sight of her, dark-haired, pale and slender, eyes like sapphires, as if he was to see her for the last time. Her smile was sad. One word could have brightened that smile. But Edward did not speak that word.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

OMG!!!!!Even your bad stuff is good. I've ust figured something out though,(a metamucil moment) you are literary fiction, Yahoo!!! I'm trying to be commercial fiction, Whew!!

I could never write prose the way you do!

But please translate what was said at the end>>>>I'm not bilingual:-)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I just figured it out....not ust!

Ric said...

Happy First Snow, Bernita.

We are getting a terrible blast today. 11 degrees, 40 mph winds, blowing snow.

This could have waited until January...

Bernita said...

Hoot! Gabriele,that's not saying much. They were sooo bad.
Fortunately, like SciFi, historicals allow one some leaway in establishing scene, but I see why you want to dump it or skin it. Just too much for the reader to keep straight too soon and Brus comes across as just a little whimpy.

Pooh, Bonnie, if this is literary fiction, I'll eat it.Translation comes in the next post. Thank you, kind girl, but wait until you see more before you start throwing undeserved bouquets around.

Thank you, Ric. Glad it's not that cold here - yet.When I think of how I used to rush out and roll around in this stuff as a kid, it makes me positively ill.

Gabriele C. said...

Hehe, dear Edward will not be wimpy in the revision. I need a few more bad guys in that book.

Oh, and a bad girl, but her I got already in the first draft. Kazimiera Princess of the Abodrites. How this Slavic tribe in northern Germany comes into it? Long story, and the lack of a plot in the first version - I just sent my MCs all over Europe. But I've gotten it connected now.

Bernita said...

I'm sure it will work out well, Gabriele, sounds a bit Malory like in some ways.