29 July 2009

First Page Entry #4

Forever Keep

A faint breath of violets roused me, a tease of spring air, sunshine and Jeran's kiss. It was a lovely whisper, and pure fantasy. I'd yet to open my eyes, but I was under no misconceptions, Nevron Kareck did not bedeck his dungeons with flowers and my husband was nowhere at hand, thank the gods.

Sometimes I simply smelled violets. It was a construct of my mind, a limited form of defense, granted, but it consumed none of my pathetic strength. Indeed, after calling up the dream-scent with a purpose during the first weeks of my incarceration it now came on its own whimsy.

I didn't mind. Those dreams were a fair stretch better than reality, a reality now breaking upon me.

Screaming wrists and shoulders warned I was strung up by my arms, and the stone beneath my knees, marble-smooth rather than rough, told me I was not in my cell, but in the chamber Kareck dubbed his workroom. Cuts, bruises and breaks re-announced their presence as well, but it was the injury notorious in absence which pained most darkly.

The gut wound, with its deadly seepings, was traitorously Healed.

I groaned.

"She's conscious, my lord." Mavene, the bitch.

I'm intrigued by this story. I would read on, definitely. Got a big problem up front. Got a character who's already gaining my sympathy by dreaming of better times, she's in a dungeon, and she so far seems pretty brave if she's able to call her captive names.

But the sentence structure concerns me right off in the first graph. For instance:

I'd yet to open my eyes, but I was under no misconceptions, Nevron Kareck did not bedeck his dungeons with flowers and my husband was nowhere at hand, thank the gods.

Technically, we've got four complete clauses here and two compound sentences. It's a run-on, to get picky with it, because of improper punctuation. This alerts me as an editor because I wonder if I must re-punctuate the entire story. I'm not saying I'd cut this into four separate sentences, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I passed it through like this without some thought. The two compounds need to be separated by a semi-colon and if I'm doing that, I'd just go to a full-top, and then what's to really keep me from reworking the pacing altogether? Would it work better with a choppy beat? No? But two compound sentences in sequence might bug me... Well, it could work here, but not if that pattern repeats itself. So you see how this leads on?

Caveat. Of course writers employ improper punctuation and run-ons and fragments for effect. But this writer loves long sentences. One of them has 39 words! Whew! I had to go back and reread a couple of times. So in this case, sentence structure is kicking me out of the story rather than taking me by the hand and leading me through it.

To verge further into editorial opinion: Long sentences add to the dreamy sequence at the start, but greatly hinder the transition into cold, hard reality later on. I also don't feel the stone beneath my knees or the cuts and bruises, though this writer
is clearly capable of making me do so. They're buried in so many words, the effect is lost.

Sentence structure is one of the tools in your box, affecting everything from meaning to pacing to atmosphere. It's your job as writers to employ structure to gain intended effect. I don't have total confidence I'm in capable hands in this piece, so I'm wary. But because of the inciting incident,
I would read on.

Thanks so much for entering so we all can learn, including me! :)


Sarah Laurenson said...

This sounds like an awesome story. I like how it starts out with a peaceful scene then morphs into the torture.

I agree with Betsy about the long sentences. I had to stop and reread in order to understand what was being said.

writtenwyrdd said...

The first couple of paragraphs are rather lovely language, quite at odds with the dire situation our pov character is in. When you segue into the pain and torture, it was quite a jolt for me. I think you might consider a bit of foreshadowing that she's masking the pain and whatnot with the pleasant scent. Perhaps just a mention instead of the too-vague "the reality now breaking upon me." (That sentence is very passive, by the way, and thus not as strong as it could be.)

Overall, intriguing, but the change to torture was too abrupt for me. Despite the lovely language you use, it made me have misgivings and be leery of reading on further. I would have, but I was sort of in the mindset where I might have been looking for a reason not to.

reader said...

Long sentences don't bother me. (I read Pynchon and others.)

Choppy sentences do.

Personally, I loved this piece.

I am wondering–to the editors– how they would rewrite:

"A faint breath of violets roused me, a tease of spring air, sunshine and Jeran's kiss."

I am not trying to replace the author, just trying to learn here, so I took a stab at it (trying to follow the editorial directive):

A faint breath of violets roused me. It came with a memory that sustained me, a tease of spring air, sunshine, and Jeran's kiss.

I am not sure this is any better and may be worse.

What worries me about the author rewriting THIS (and other like pieces of writing) is that it has a distinct melody and rhythm. There is an underlying feel to this writing.

Messing with it (at least ME messing with it) seems to chop it even worse.

Again, I am here to learn, so please comment.


BTW, I was completely intrigued by this piece of writing (even though it's not my genre preference).

Kat Heckenbach said...

I personally like the author's use of long sentences, and I didn't have to reread anything. I think writing today can end up choppy because writers are constantly thinking "clean it up," and often go too far. I would maybe just put a period after "misconceptions" and leave the rest. Of course, I'm not an editor :).

As for the lack in describing the pain of the cuts and bruises, the feeling of the stone floor--I feel that gave me insight into the character. This is someone who is used to pain--not someone who's going to notice cuts and bruises--and too much description of those would take away from the next statement:

...it was the injury notorious in absence which pained most darkly.

The gut wound, with its deadly seepings, was traitorously Healed.

I found this the most intriguing of all the first pages yet. I like how the author gave so much info and did so without info-dumping--I have a complete grasp of the character, setting, antagonists, and a real sense of danger.

lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for playing, author! We appreciate it. :) I thought this piece was well-written; i would definitely keep reading. The author does a good job showing the protagonist has multiple problems: being prisoner, being tortured, being separated from her husband, and the "traitorously Healed" gut wound. Very intriguing!

Betsy raises some interesting points about sentence structure. More advanced authors use all the tools at their disposal including sentence structure to tell their story. The long, dreamy sentences work great with the waking scene. And actually, the end of this piece with I groaned. and "She's conscious, my lord." Mavene, the bitch. are actually quite short and to the point... So maybe this author has mastered that. :)
Good luck, author!

Deb Smythe said...

Thanks for the input, guys!

Sorry about the run on sentences. I do have a bad habit of using run on sentences and sentence fragments for pacing and/or to reflect the POV character's state of mind. Dangerous weapons in the hands of this amateur:)

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Some of this is personal taste, but that's what you run up against with editors. :)

I wouldn't rewrite "A faint breath of violets roused me, a tease of spring air, sunshine and Jeran's kiss." It's technically correct and works well besides.

I disagree that writing is getting choppier. (Though I do think it's a "stage" newer writers sometimes go through, myself included.) But I know many current, eloquent, long-winded writers. I had a problem with this particular piece mainly because of punctuation. To me the first run-on I pointed out would have been just as effective (or in my case, more effective) punctuated properly, even broken into two compound sentences.

Breaking the rules usually does not equal "experimental" or "expressive". Breaking the rules, no matter how advanced you are, often is just "breaking the rules." Follow popular, really good authors (even the long-winded ones) and you'll see that by far they follow grammatical conventions.

Deb, I don't think it's a bad habit if it's deliberate. And I too quite liked the last lines, partly because of the contrast with your longer sentences.

David E. Hughes said...

I liked this one as well. The sentence structure did not bother me, but the punctuation would get a second look in the editorial process. Thanks for your entry!

lesleylsmith said...

Interesting picture, Dave! ;^)

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