1.14.2007

HH Com Rd 2 #46 (635)

Hook here


"Lia, who's at the door?" Wel leaned forward in his chair and squinted into the entryway.

"It's the king's guard, Uncle Wel," Lillia said.

"So? What do they want?" He didn't understand the fear he saw in her face. Irrational. Lia had no reason to fear the king's guard.

"They want--." Lia paused. "They say that they're here to arrest me."

"Arrest you? No, girl. Don't be foolish." Wel pushed Lillia gently aside and took her place in the doorway. He studied the two BlueVests standing on his porch. "You're giving my niece a scare," he said. "Tell me. What can I do for you?"

"I'm sorry, old jonn," the guard said, "but the woman heard me correctly. We're here to take one Lillia Brushmery into king's custody."

"Wha-- Lillia? Why?"

"Theft," the BlueVest said. "She was convicted this morning."

"Theft? The girl has never stolen a thing in her life!" Wel let out a grunt of protest as the BlueVest took him by the shoulders and shifted him to one side. Then the guard walked through the front door --Wel's door!-- and into his house. What in Galerie was going on
here? Wel looked at Lillia, his eyes wide. What kind of ridiculous mistake was this?

"You need to come with us, Miss Brushmery."

"Wha--? Wait!" Wel said. He darted forward and put a hand on the BlueVest's arm. "Wait just a second there, young man. You're not taking my niece anywhere!"

"I'm sorry, she must come with us to the palace." He turned toward Lillia. "Come along, Miss. It's--"

"No, no, no!" Wel said. "You listen to me, boy. I worked for the kingdom for thirty years! I'm a loyal subject and this is a law-abiding family, and I'm not going to let you come into my home and drag Lia off to The Burrows because of some idiotic mix-up!"

Wel glared at the young guard. The boy frowned and motioned for his companion to join them. The two loomed side by side in front of Wel. They were huge lads but Wel wasn't going to be threatened.

"Uncle Wel, please."

He turned to face her. "Do you know anything about this?"

She shook her head. "No. I don't know anything about a theft." She glanced at the guards.

"You see?" Wel turned to the head guard. "She doesn't know a thing about it!"

"Uncle Wel." Lillia put a hand on Wel's arm.

"Just a second, Lia. Let me talk to them." He turned to the head guard. "What in Galerie is going on here? You can't just convict somebody without a trial. We have rights!"

"Uncle Wel," Lia repeated. "Stop it, Uncle."

Wel turned to her. "Stop what? Stop trying to keep these idiots from dragging you off to The Burrows?"

"It looks like they're set on it either way," she said. "I don't want you to get into trouble, Uncle Wel. Please. I'll go with them tonight and you and Keltin can get this straightened out tomorrow."

"No, Lia. This doesn't make any sense."

"It's okay. Really. It's just one night, I'll be fine." Her smile was thin.

"But…" Wel sighed. But what? The girl was right; there was nothing he could do now.

Lia turned to face the guards, eyes narrowed and shining with tears.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Don't I look ready for my hanging?" she asked. Her voice was harsh, angry. The head guard reached for Lia's arm and she jerked it away. "What, your beloved king didn't ask you to put me in irons?"

What was she talking about? The guard looked as puzzled as Wel felt.

"Lia, what's all this about a hanging?" Wel asked. "You don't have to worry, sweetheart. We'll get this taken care of tomorrow."

"I know, Uncle Wel. I guess I'm just scared." She continued in a broken voice. "Please go down to the brewery as soon as you can and tell Keltin what happened. Tell him… tell him he was right. And that I love him, and I'm sorry I couldn't say goodbye. I love you, UncleWel."

"I-- I love you too, Lia. Keltin and me, we'll take care of this in the morning. Don't be scared."

Lia nodded, spilling a tear down her cheek. She straightened her shoulders --so slim next to those two giants-- as the BlueVests flanked her. Wel stood in the doorway and watched as they lead his Lillia out into the clear spring night.


It's not zippy writing in that we don't feel much urgency, but it's not overladen with description and backstory. I'd give this one some more pages because I liked the idea in the hook, but I have a feeling this is in that dreadful category of "nothing wrong but not enough right" which is just impossible to critique.

15 comments:

Zuleme said...

As I was reading it I thought, why don't they demand to go along and see the king right away and get this sorted out. Waiting until tomorrow seems a bit flat. What are they going to do all night, sit around and worry?
Just my first reaction.

whitemouse said...

I agree that it's hard to say what's wrong other than the fact that the piece just doesn't hold the reader's attention. Wel takes too long to believe what's happening, Lillia takes too long to convince him to shut up and let her go, and I don't care much for any of the characters because I haven't connected emotionally with any of them yet.

My best suggestions would be to make it move a bit faster and to find a way to make the reader really empathise with Wel's distress, so that we care about the thing he cares about: Lillia being taken away to prison.

Bella Stander said...

This could be any generic fantasy or historical fiction. There was no spark here--nothing special in terms of language, character, setting--and no reason to care enough about the heroine to keep on reading.

Virginia Miss said...

Although the premise and the opening scene are interesting, this writing doesn't zip along.

Author, I suggest you prune this, you could say the same thing in less than half the words by cutting unnecessary action and repeated information.

For example, cut the first 62 words to 23:

"Lia, who's at the door?"

"It's the king's guard, Uncle Wel. They want-." Lia paused. "They say they're here to arrest me."


Also, don't have Lillia call him Uncle Wel so often. It makes the dialogue sound unnatural.

Good luck.

A Paperback Writer said...

The hook makes it sound like it's Keltin's story. And in these first few pages, it shuffles between focusing on Uncle Wel (we have no idea what Lia does the whole time he's arguing with the men; she just drops off the page for a while) and Lia (who obviously knows more about this arrest than she's telling). I'm confused.

Zapxkitg said...

I agree with Bella Stander & Virginia Miss.

Here's another editing suggestion:

"Lia, who's at the door?" Wel leaned forward in his chair and squinted into the entryway. He didn't understand the fear he saw in her face. Lia had no reason to fear the king's guard.

"They say they're here to arrest me."

Shannon said...

I agree with both Bella and Virginia. The writing needs to be both tightened up and made more specific. You may want to consider cutting out the small bits of unnecessary verbiage (especially some of the dialogue), and adding some specific details that paint a scene in the viewer's eye. What does the door look like? What is Lia wearing and do the guards tug on it when they arrest her? Any of those small details gives insight into both your world and its characters. Eliminating some of the slower dialogue will also make it move a bit faster and create the necessary sense of urgency.

BuffySquirrel said...

What is the guards' goal in this scene? To haul Lillia off to prison expeditiously. What is Lillia's goal in this scene? To go quietly to prison. What is her uncle's goal in this scene? To let her go to prison and sort it all out in the morning.

That's the problem. None of the goals conflict. No conflict, no story.

Anonymous said...

Very, very heavy on dialogue, and not very good dialogue at that. Maybe this would be better written in script form. Or maybe there's another way characters could interact besides talking. The narrator isn't pulling enough weight here either.

Some writers feel dialogue in the first sentences unsettles the opening paragraph - since conversation doesn't occur in a vacuum like this.

Twill said...

Gak. Totally inconsistent use of Lia/ Lillia. Pick one. It's okay if the guards don't call her what everybody else does, but if she's Lia to herself and to Uncle Wel, then use Lia for all other sentences in the entire book, at least until the reader is grooved in.

Second, why would the guard explain to her that they were there to arrest her, and then wait for her uncle to intervene? They are there for a job, they do the job. "You, come with us. Now."

The choreography doesn't make sense unless the guards are totally bored and in no hurry at all. What's their attitude and why? Is Wel so important they have to bow and scrape? Then show it.

As well, you could invent a personality for one or both guards, and the scene could be either more fun or more threatening. Quick example with big dumb brute -

The door thundered hollowly. Lia rushed to open it.

"Who are you, then?" came a deep voice. A Bluevest the size of a small horse filled the doorway. Behind him she heard another.

"Lia."

"Well, then, we're here for..." The guard squinted at a small piece of parchment. "Miss Lillia Brushmery. Bring her now."

"Lia, who's at the door?"

"It's the king's guard, Uncle Wel."

"What do they want, then?"

"They want--" Lia drew her cloak tight against the chill. "They say that they're here to arrest me."

"You're Lillia Brushmery?" The Bluevest shook his head slowly, and put a meaty finger in her face. "You said you were Lia."

"Arrest you? No, girl. Don't be foolish." Wel pushed Lia gently aside and took her place in the doorway.

The Bluevest stared down at him and frowned. "Now, I know you're not Lillia Brushmery. Are you going to bring her, or do I have to..."

"You're giving my niece a scare. Tell me-- what can I do for you?"

and so on.

Of course, if it were comedy, you could have a lot of fun before you got them out the door with her. Or action, something bad could happen to the door and the crockery, they could demonstrate a little sadism or at least impatience.

As buffysquirrel said above, there needs to be some real cross purposes and some real conflict here, not just backstory and foreshadowing.

McKoala said...

If it's any help I found the dialogue to be be a bit wooden. Lots of protestation without passion or results which made me feel that it wasn't really going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I was confused by Lia's outburst to the guard near the end. It seemed like she wanted to reassure her uncle and just go quietly. Then she mentioned *hanging*??? Surely that would make her uncle stand up and fight for her...which isn't what she wants...but then again, he doesn't react to that obviously provacative word (I mean react by changing his actions in any way), so...

Anonymous said...

This is the writer of 635. To all those who read my pages and posted comments... ouch. But thank you. All of your comments are helpful, and most of them are spot-on, I think. I have a lot of work to do. Thanks for taking the time to help me improve this piece. Now I can see better how much the novel needs to be improved, and I'm excited to get to work.

writer with a day job said...

Good luck, 635. You were brave to put it out there and gracious in your acceptance of everyone's comments.

writtenwyrdd said...

This piece isn't bad writing, but it isn't a good beginning, either. It lacks the vital interest-grabbing action. Sure, a gal is going to jail, but you have her say several times it's nothing. If it isn't really nothing, you have to show it. You hint she'll be killed, and then take away that hint.

Perhaps you should write from teh pov of someone who knows enough to be afraid for her life? The old man is clueless and this removes the tension from the opening.