Friday, September 12, 2008

Three on Point


Three on Point,
Edmund H. Osthaus (1858-1928)
watercolor.

Their names are Scott from Oregon, Whirlochre and mine. Writtenwyrdd held a contest t'other week to celebrate two years of blogging. A copy of her "Calfornia Poppies" original provided irrestible inducement. I have coveted that print ~beams~. It will warm the walls of my office this winter.

Written wanted a world-building "scenic opening" with characters and action.

Here's my lucky entry:

She passed through the barricade of trees, bare as old bones, flensed and frozen under the low, clouded cover of the sky bowl that enclosed the day. Brittle grass rasped against her leather leggings like blades on a grindstone and spoke their resentment at her passing in harsh whispers.

Even so, she liked walking here among the mysteries on this cold, still day at the turning of the year, when the crystal-bound earth crunched under her boots like broken teeth, when the feeble light bled all colour to sepia and gray, when the shape of things was not camouflaged by leaves or colour or movement.

The land gave up its secrets at times like these.

She eye-traced the foundation lines of old habitations, the dim, faded rectangles of hearth and wall and portal melted into the dun earth.

Too insignificant for crabbed footnotes in miniscule, the brass-bound chronicles of the Bitter Times ignored the place.

Memory rites at evening in the low-timbered hall spoke only of plague and famine, vague and long ago. A burning, the elders said, to stop the contagion. A hamlet gone like a sparrow glimpsed in firelight.

She move past the ripple of indentations to the hollow, the pit.

None of the tales explained it.

Rotted like a willow from the heart out, a giant oak sprawled like a dead sentry down the bank to the river below. Black water flowed free and sullen around the branches of its crown.

She almost stepped on it.

Ejected, spit out when the great trunk shattered and fell, it lay there like an egg, a dark oval, its surface ridged and wrinkled like a sear leaf, like a brain.

She knew what it was.

She knew these things, though she never knew how.

A soul stone.

Not a thunderstone -- but agate-hearted just the same.

She stared down at it a long time.

She knew now what lay beneath the centuries' accumulation, under the overburden of the pit.

She knew why.

However, this short piece has at least two obvious, face-slapping, technical faults that can't be excused by the brevity of it. Do you recognize them?




39 comments:

StarvingWriteNow said...

All I saw was "she move". Present, not past tense like the rest of it.

Lovely sense of creepiness in that opening, btw.

Bernita said...

Ah, a typo, Beth! I missed that one completely.

Carla said...

Congratulations! If it's the print in the top corner of Written's blog, it's a beauty. No wonder you coveted it.
The excerpt style reminds me of your Minor Annals. Should it?

SzélsőFa said...

Uhm...I did not find them, but in searching I had to re-read the excerpt over and over again, like a hunting dog looking for a trace (I love when your illustrations match the text and the title as well - I love when I recognize it, that is to say...)

I found the middel part about what the elders said a bit confusing, but I thought that was my mistake. It probably is. Anyway... I found none, but enjoyed it, embraced it all the more with every new re-reading.

Bernita said...

Carla, yes! That's the one.
A version of this was written during my Annals period.

Szelsofa, that is so nice. Thank you.
~believe me, errors are there!!~

Whirlochre said...

When I first read this on Writtenwyrdd's blog, I thought it was fantastic — still do. I don't recall finding any fault with it at the time, and even now you've invited all and sundry to be scrutineers, I'm still struggling.

To the 'she move', I can only add 'spit out' (spat out?).

I just hope you're right about this, otherwise you're going to have to slap your face a third time.

Robyn said...

Nope, didn't find them. Carla's right, it does remind one of the minor annals. Are you still working on those?

SzélsőFa said...

Yes, that *spit-spat* thing occurred to me as well, but one never knows with irregular verbs...old forms tailored especially to the atmosphere of the text, special regional forms foreigners never have ever heard of...

writtenwyrdd said...

Glad you are so excited about my humble print. Nice excerpt!

Bernita said...

You made me look, Whirl.
As I understand it, either spit or spat are considered equally correct past tenses.

Robyn, I've been to tied up with the present WIP.

All those, Szelsofa.

Written, I am so pleased.

Charles Gramlich said...

The narrative drive is so powerful here, the voice so fine that I didn't see any mistakes. It's hard to focus on the threads when the overall piece is so well done.

The Anti-Wife said...

Loved the piece. Can't find the faults.

Vesper said...

Congratulations, Bernita!

Ah, a challenge... I have to reread the piece! :-)

Bernita said...

As always, Charles, you are exceedingly kind.

Thank you, AW. To me, they leap off the page.

Thank you, I yum that print of Written's.
There's a double instance of each, Vesper.

Vesper said...

I (think I) got one:

Too insignificant for crabbed footnotes in minuscule, the brass-bound chronicles of the Bitter Times ignored the place.

The part in italics does not refer to the grammatical subject. See rule no. 11 from Strunk's and White's Elementary Rules of Usage, from "The Elements of Style."

:-)

Bernita said...

Bingo, Vesper!
The phrase was intended to modify "place."
To be proper, it might read "The brass-bound chronicles....place as too insignificant..." or some similar adjustment.

spyscribbler said...

Love it! Speaking of the annals, what happened to them? Weren't you giving us one every weekend for awhile? I miss those. I don't mind repeats. :-)

I'm a big fan of your annals.

Bernita said...

Natasha, thank you. There's about a dozen Annals in all, but my mouth hasn't been set right to add more.

BernardL said...

The pronoun 'She' was the only thing bothering me about the piece. I think interspersing a name would fix it for me. Perhaps She-Ra. :)

Dave F. said...

I like this. I've said that before about your very lyrical "annals" pieces. It is an interesting piece. Nice way to recycle it from the obscurity of the hard drive.

I might not have thought about the problem Vesper pointed out during a reading of the selection. I don't know. It's quite possible I would have just assumed that the written chronicles were like all of history, one sided.

I do have a bit of heartburn with the last half of this
Even so, she liked walking here among the mysteries on this cold, still day at the turning of the year, when the crystal-bound earth crunched under her boots like broken teeth, when the feeble light bled all colour to sepia and gray, when the shape of things was not camouflaged by leaves or colour or movement.

Most specifically "colour" used twice. I like the descriptive when the feeble light bled all colour to sepia and gray
But I don't like the second use of colour. That tugs the two parts of the sentence together. It's the wrong images in my mind.

The winter is transformational:
--) It reveals the hidden
1) It makes the ground crunchy
2) It bleeds colour
3) It removes the camouflage of leaves that hide the bare bones of the metaphor

I would change the last "colour" to "flowers" and strike "movements"... the shape of things was not camouflaged by leaves or flowers.
This ending doesn't need the "three" to be complete. It stops abruptly to let the next sentence take the stage:
The land gave up its secrets at times like these.

But then, this may not be a problem at all. Just a difference of opinion.

Bernita said...

Bernard, it's true that a proper name can help world-building, simply by its associations.

Dave, you've hit one of the main faults.Repetition. "Colour" isn't the only one I repeated. See also "day" and "passed" and "passing."

Scott from Oregon said...

A couple of wee nits but its still very elegant bernita, as always in your writing.

Nice nice nice!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Scott. Yours was vital and original - as usual!

Dave F. said...

Back in the late 80's, one of my colleagues got our article published in the Journal of FUEL. I saw the before and after of the copyedit that FUEL did on the paper.

At work, we had editors that believed in the most conservative and strictest English usage. They prevented researchers from publishing because of commas and crap like that.

But FUEL, they took very good technical writing and turned it into elegant prose. I saw the markup of the copyeditor and he or she changed many things, never affecting the meaning but making the style fit FUEL and enhancing the meaning because the paper became a pleasure to read. not that it wasn't good, but the GOOD our editor insisted on, didn't aid the meaning, didn't clarify the difficult technical parts.

People wonder what's the difference between a good story and a great story. All I can say is it's tiny changes in tiny words.

laughingwolf said...

saw the typo, but tis nothing

an outsider, i dunno of the other stuff...

i'd love to read the whole of this, bernita, looks like and excellent tale

have a great weekend :)

Bernita said...

Certainly this one can be improved by editing, Dave.

Thank you, Lw. Have meant to ask if you are mostly recovered from that rather dreadful fall.

Dave F. said...

I didn't mean that as a criticism of you. Sorry Bernita. That paper taught me many things and I wanted to share.

laughingwolf said...

i'm healing nicely, thx... will have some new scars on my left arm

some pain in the chest yet, really notice it when i sneeze, or move the wrong way... but much better than how it was

your leg healing well?

Gabriele C. said...

That's beautiful.

I didn't find the mistakes, but I don't read with the grammar check on - I don't even write with the grammar check on because that would only get in the way of the flow.

I'll need a trusty beta. Later. ;)

PRNewland said...

Bravo! & Congratulations. :)

Steve Malley said...

A prize well-deserved!

Mighty fine reading!

Bernita said...

Dave, Dave, I didn't see it as criticism at all, and it does apply to this piece - which could be much improved by tweaking.

Relieved to hear that. Foot still aches over any distance beyond my office and the coffee pot, LW, but, like yours, much improved.

Grammar and stuff is for revision, Gabriele! Thank you.

Thank you, PR and Steve.

laughingwolf said...

good to hear, bernita... but what of the distance to the loo, post the potfuls of coffee? :O lol

Lana Gramlich said...

Beats me, but very cool. Congrats on the win! :)

Bernita said...

The loo's just down the hall, LW. Closer than the coffee.

Thank you, Lana.

laughingwolf said...

so, pit stop is possible before refueling? ;) lol

asline innocent said...

I was a little confuse but i gues thats what seduction is about

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