Friday, April 18, 2008

A Snippet






Lillie, on exorcism detail, at a private graveyard on an abandoned farm about to be turned into a housing development:

With the sun in my eyes, at first I thought the old site was empty. It lacked that waiting, listening hush I'd come to expect from such places.

Not so. An old man leaned against the fence watching over the fields, shielding his eyes from the sun like me. I heard a woman calling.

So I tramped back through the tangle to the midpoint of the site, turned the four quarters slowly, and read out the names from my list of generations.
As I named them I mentally added the epitaphic designations of grief and loss: the beloved wife of, the only son of, dear daughter of. Ephraim Bryant, Ebenezer Bryant, Joshua Tilden, Mary Tilden, Annabel Bryant...

Three shades only, worn and thin, drifted toward me, like silver whispers in the quiet gold of the afternoon.

I dispatched them. Reluctantly. Regretfully. An easy task this time.

Then I went and climbed over the fence and sat on a rock in the sunshine, near where the old man had stood vigil, between a bilberry bush in white blossom and a rusted harrow netted in blackberry brambles.

Was what I was doing the right thing?
Godforsaken or not, the specters that had lingered here on this abandoned, lonely little hill would have harmed no one who came after. Had it been wrong to banish them, to use my Talent on such frail and harmless spirits?
Were the SOS right in their vociferous protests against the actions of my kind?

I sat there a long time, pulling at the dead grass at my feet, listening to the busy chirps of gossiping sparrows, looking over the unleavened fields beyond, the nearest covered with pale dry cornstalks beaten into the earth like bones. A red-winged blackbird swayed on a cattail along a tiny creek. A flight of swallows dipped and danced like souls released.

I could only hope what the bean sidhe said was true. That the dead are grateful for rest.




47 comments:

ChristineEldin said...

Bernita, I love this!!! When I first started reading your blog, you had snippets of your writing which I really enjoyed. This is my favorite line:
Three shades only, worn and thin, drifted toward me, like silver whispers in the quiet gold of the afternoon.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

It was nice how you gave her a quiet time to reflect upon her internal and external conflict. Too often, books nowadays rush headlong into the next crisis and we learn nothing of the protag in the process.

writtenwyrdd said...

As always, lush use of language.

I think it's good for characters to question their motives within the story. It both reassures readers that their interpretations where right, and it also shows the character's growth.

I suppose, like anything else, it takes a careful hand to illustrate the self-examination process.

writtenwyrdd said...

ON reading SS@S's comment, I find that in my crit group I am chided for use of too much narrative when I allow my character to think too much.

I think a lot of the time the newer books are like our lives, running from one crisis to another without regard for our need to reflect and absorb the world of the story, and to allow the characters to breathe a little, too.

Bernita said...

Chris, thank you!
I have to resist the urge to post everything sometimes.

Bernita said...

SS, I have been nagged to include more such introspection.

Thank you, Written.
Sometimes it seems almost artificial to allow/create time for reflection because of that real-life parallel, but I agree it's necessary.

spyscribbler said...

Ohmigosh, Bernita, this is awesome. Way to "deepen" her! This is fantastic, the absolute best Lillie I've ever read. Wow!

BernardL said...

Beautifully composed excerpt, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Natasha.

Bernita said...

Bernard, thank you.

Robyn said...

Oh, this is just beautiful. I'm grateful for the compassion here- one thing that always bothered me about ghost hunter tales, fictional or 'real,' is that a law-abiding decent person automatically becomes malevolent when he or she becomes a ghost.

Bernita said...

Robyn, thank you. Lillie ( and I) ascribe to the belief that ghosts act much the same way as they did when a living being.

raine said...

Beautiful command of the language, as always. Your imagery is breathtaking.
I like Lillie more and more.

bookfraud said...

wonderful snippet indeed; beautifully written. i appreciate how you activate all the senses -- i try to adhere to the flannery o'connor rule that says you have to activate at least three sensory perceptions before one can truly build a scene.

why is it so many writers are afraid to do so? insecurity? inability? i wonder.

writtenwyrdd said...

I think the lack bookfraud mentions may also have to do with the 'trend' of hurried stories, jam-packed with action, action, action (and more action). We are accustomed to MTV-length sound bytes and nano-second pauses, but not to leisurely meanders through thoughtful, visual prose.

I like writing that kind of writing and find that many people seem to be turned off by it. Heck, even I find myself sometimes wishing the writer would get on with it when I'm forgetting to relax and just enjoy the world.

We get trained into it, habituated. Then it seems normal. Bleh.

Travis Erwin said...

Captivating and richly described as all of your snippets are. I know I'm intrigued and drawn in.

Bernita said...

So glad you like it and her, Raine. Bless you.

I didn't really, Book, though I hope that smell is implied.I wonder if the extra sensory counts. Thank you.

Perhaps some writers omit them because they do not identify within the scene,or choose the video method - sight and hearing - only.

Bernita said...

Written, the "fast-paced" mantra.One sees it all the time in book reviews, like an assurance of quality.

Travis, thank you. It's especially nice if readers can feel within a scene, invisible, like a ghost themselves.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Wyrd said: "I am chided for use of too much narrative when I allow my character to think too much."

Well, this is combined with action, and conflict is woven through her action and thought, so I think it works well. I mean, if they just sit down to dinner, or in a car, and don't argue or experience doubt or conflict, then the scene is not useful. In my opinion, this scene furthers plot, reveals character, and shows setting, which is my benchmark(s) for all scenes.

Scott from Oregon said...

Do we know already how these silver dudes are "dispatched"?

If not really, I'd like to place an order for an additional sentence that breifly explains her methods (though I am pretty sure we already know by now by your choice of details)

You missed a hump, I believe, in your backberry brambles...

Very elegant writing as per usual, bernita!Nice nice nice!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You know, another thing, I just was watching Ghosthunters on SciFi and they caught a tape of "something" answering their queries of "Are you here?"

She said: Of course I'm here. Where are you?

I really like the idea of different planes; some ghosts living on in the world they knew while we enter and might appear as ghosts to them. I can think of at least one place in my series I can insert such a situation.

Demon Hunter said...

Bernita,
I love this story and your writing! :*) Wow, is all I can say. :*)

Bernita said...

~beams at SS~

Thank you, Scott.
Yes, this scene is about a third of the way in, so the reader knows the theory of her methods.
I don't understand what you mean by " a hump in the blackberry brambles."

SS, there are a couple of reliable instances of bi-locations, dopplegangers and vardogers in paranormal research of that sort of thing.The best conclusion in one instance pointed to some sort of time slip or warp that could explain it. I could look up the reference if you wish.

Bernita said...

Oh, my Demon, thank you!

writtenwyrdd said...

SS said, "In my opinion, this scene furthers plot, reveals character, and shows setting, which is my benchmark(s) for all scenes."

Agreement. I hope you know I was on the side of the fence with bernita, weighing in for allowing characters time to contemplate, here and there.

Scott from Oregon said...

You wrote "branble"... (I looked it up. It is still bramble)

Dave F. said...

I like this very much. It's a thoughtful introspection about the character. It works very well.
Two minor things.
i) Do you really want to say this in the words you have? Was what I was doing the right thing? After all, she could just say "Am I doing right?" and get the same idea across. This might be a case where the more complex thought is better than the short thought.
ii) Do too many of the paragraphs begin with "i"? I noticed this. It popped up at me. But I can't tell if you should keep it or not. If this is the only part of the book where Lillie narrates her movements -- I did this, so I did that, I traipsed here -- then let it stand. A singular POV like this in first person would serve to highlight her thoughts.

Bernita said...

Ah! Scott, thank you for spotting that!
Lazy eyes and fumble fingers this morning, I guess.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Dave.
Yes, Lillie would phrase it the longer way; and yes, I watch for the "I's" and avoid them where ever possible.

Gabriele C. said...

Lovely. I've known such summer evenings, and I was right there.

I think good books need such quiet, introspective moments. It must not be a page of meandering, musing monologue; a few poignant lines do just fine.

Billy said...

All I can say is that this is great prose. You and the Muse must be on the best of terms :)

Bernita said...

"and I was right there."
That is a high compliment, Gabriele. Thank you.
Yes, some action scenes don't have time for anything but action, and introspection in those scenes beyond a fleeting thought would not be realistic.

Kind of you, Billy. Thank you.

Bernita said...

~beams at Written~

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking time to express her conflict: is it the wandering souls or ourselves that we bereave in an exorcism?

Asa

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Oh, I knew Wyrd. I just think people don't read carefully sometimes (other people, not you) and the action slows down and then they're all, What? We're just going to sit here and stare at the friggin trees?

In a lesser writer's hands, that's what Lillie would have been doing. But Bernita (and I suspect you, too Wyrd, though I haven't read your stuff) knows how to structure a scene.

Ello said...

Bernita - I so can't wait to read the whole thing. The whole thing!!!!! I loved this! I love Lillie, she is so alive to me and so full of great emotional turmoil. Even in a moment of quiet reflection, you can see that she is a deep one. Love it. Are you getting close to the end? May I be a beta reader? If you need one? Honestly, I just want to read it.

Bernita said...

That, Asa, is a deep and fascinating question.

~cyberhugs both SS and Written~

Oh, Ello! Thank you! So kind of you.
Am about 2/3 along in the WIP.
Another Lillie short story should be out in June.

Leigh Russell said...

I love the calm atmosphere you evoke through your language. It reads so easily. Do you consciously select your words or does it just flow?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Leigh.
Sometimes they flow - sometimes it's a case of knock-down, kidney punch and eye-gouge!

Charles Gramlich said...

so beautifully written. Especially the description at the end. And that last line was a kicker.

Lisa said...

Lovely, lovely prose. I really do adore this character.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Charles and Lisa.
~ducks head and shuffles feet~

Steve Malley said...

A bright and beautiful thread, compelling dark patterns glinting in the light.

I want to follow that thread until I see the whole garment.

SzélsőFa said...

What a great read it was, with lots of nice images. One can almost feel like sitting there with Lily.

Bernita said...

A beautiful compliment, Steve. Thank you.

Glad of that, Szelsofa. Thank you.

Julie Weathers said...

Whoa, this is beautifully written. I will definitely be looking for this one.

Julie

Bernita said...

Thank you, Julie.