1.15.2007

HH Com Rd 2 #51 (188)

Hook here

Sathren bent down to gently pull the tiny red flowers from her morlin plants as quickly as she could. Every morning it seemed there was never enough time to spend in her garden, but the needs of her business had to come first. Her small shop was the pride of her life and Sathren was determined to make it a success. (this is telling not showing)

She straightened up to ease her back, then frowned. Some bushes along the fence were yellow and wilted. She set her basket down and went to investigate.

It only took a few moments to see that the plants had been dug up and then badly replanted. Sathren glared at the large house on the other side of the fence. "If that imbecile is hiding money from his wife again, I've half a mind to keep it," Sathren muttered under her
breath.

She carefully moved the damaged bushes aside and began scooping the loose dirt with her hands. After several minutes of digging, her fingers touched something soft and spongy. She jerked her hand away. "Wonderful. Simply wonderful." With a scowl Sathren marched to the
small shed nearby and grabbed a shovel.

"Sathren? Oh, Sathren!"

"I'm in the garden," she called. "The gate is open."

She waited as her friend Giliria hurried down the path. "Oh, there you are. I just had to rush over to tell you the news." Giliria froze and wrinkled her nose. "What is that smell?"

"I think someone buried a pet here."

"And you are digging it up? Ew."

"I want to see if I recognize it. I want to know who thinks it is fine to destroy my plants rather than muss a single petal of their own garden." Sathren returned to her digging.

Giliria said in a choked voice, "Um… Sathren?"

"Yes?"

"That does not look like a paw."

She stared into the hole and saw the tips of bloodless fingers. Rapidly she cleared away the dirt and a hand, then arm was visible.

"Oh, oh, oh!" Giliria's voice rose hysterically.

Sathren stepped to block out the sight of the body and begged, "Don't scream, please do not scream. You will wake the entire street."

"Hand. Hand. Sathren, it was a hand. Why is there a hand in your garden?"

"I don't know." She looked around anxiously. "We'll send for the armsmen and leave everything up to them. Then I'll make you some tea. Citril, your favorite."

Giliria nodded, then gave herself a shake. "Someone should stay with him, um, or her. Oh dear, we don't even know, do we?"

"You go. There is usually an armsman at the west end of the street."

"All right." Giliria raced up the path and vanished through the gate.

Sathren turned back to the hole and winced. She scraped the soil away bit by bit until she had uncovered the entire body. (start here) She stared at the naked corpse for a long moment.

The man was young, that at least was obvious. Dark hair splayed across his discolored face. The cause of his death was no mystery, not with three knife wounds in his chest. "Who in Erynal are you? And what are you doing in my garden?" Sathren said in exasperation.

Giliria returned, two armsmen in tow. The older of the two took one look at the corpse and glared at Sathren. He snapped, "What do you know of this, young woman?"

"Well, I was…"

"And who is this man? Who killed him?"

"I do not…"

"I must warn you that Guildmaster Dourse handles this sort of thing very harshly. Very harshly indeed."

Sathren's eyes narrowed. "I never caught his name before I killed him. The whole garden is filled with bodies. They make the plants grow just beautifully."

The younger armsman rolled his eyes and said, "You deserved that one, Carn."

Carn gaped at her. "Am I to understand that you are confessing to killing this man?"

"Of course not. But it was the only way that I could get you to quiet yourself so that I could answer."

He drew himself up and cleared his throat. "I should carry news of this to the guildhall. Wilms, handle the situation until I return." He left at a pace a bit too brisk for dignity.

Wilms gave Sathren a wry smile and said, "Forgive my guildmate. A real crime was too much for him."


I liked your idea and I think this could work but it's flabby right now.
First, you know how I feel about set up rather than "getting started" right at the start.

And telling rather than showing is one of my big bugaboos. To help with this, imagine there is NO narration at all. Sathren's shop is the pride of her life. If you're just standing there, watching her, how do you know? What does she DO that you say "aha! she's very proud of this shop". That's showing, not telling and it's one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.

I'd read five pages but this isn't getting started with enough verve to hook me much past that.

6 comments:

McKoala said...

I didn't feel much of this - I didn't feel any shock or horror at what she had found. I loved the comment about bodies helping flowers grow, but some of the dialogue was a bit wooden. Mostly, though, I think that you could make this more immediate by showing more of Sathren's sensations and feeling. That will lift your writing out of telling.

PerpetualBeginner said...

Allow me to say that having someone yelling "Hand! Hand!" followed by a comment about an armsman, made me laugh loud enough to wake my kids.

Which is a problem, since I don't think it was intentional on the part of the author.

thraesja said...

I like the premise so far. The irritation with the neighbour hiding money from his wife was a nice touch.

But: Sathren manages to digest the fact that there is a human(oid?) corpse in her garden, then realizes her friend will (over?)react and scream, and that this will wake the neighbours, all in time to step in front of her and prevent the scream? I would think that a scream is a visceral response and would happen almost instantaneously. I also think I'd be too busy trying to figure out WTF rather than thinking about my flighty friend and my neighbours' sleep patterns. Sathren is coming across as mechanical to me. We need to feel her emotions and see the world as she does. That being said, I like her obvious intelligence.

I also liked the interplay between the two armsmen and Sathren, but the dialogue could use some work for realism.

Good luck with those pruning shears. I bet Sathren could help. She seems an avid gardener.

~Nancy said...

If Sathren is as prideful of her shop as you tell us, why don't you show us that instead? Have her straightening things, sweeping up for the third time, going over the books to see if she can find a way to cut her overhead, obsessing over the red flowers, etc.

I think MS is right in that there's a story here, but giving us the right details to sink our teeth into will get us into the story and characters much more quickly.

Twill said...

I liked it. Remember that Miss Snark and KY are not fantasy hounds. The world building you are doing is not necessarily wrong for your intended audience. (I bet KY liked the digging, though.)

Not knowing what kind of person Sathren really is (she could be a retired combat medic, for all we know after 750 words), I can't say whether her reactions are right or wrong.

On the other hand, the "show not tell" for your second and third sentences is trivial. Instead of the "never enough time/pride" lines, have her consider just exactly what she has time for.

Quick bad example -
"If she could just get these two rows pinched and pruned before she opened the store, then she might catch up this evening. Oh, no. What's wrong with the darnethas?"

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the beginning you gave us, but if you make this friend so important at the beginning, you really need to have her be a big part of the story, too.

Telling in the 1st para bothered me a little bit, too, but not much.

The "Hand. Hand" was great, but I can see why an edit to not have it juxtaposed with Armsman might be good. I didn't have that reaction, though. I recall a professor once commenting about a story I submitted, not liking the imagery in the phrase, "she threw up her hands in disgust." Yet it is used all the time. She didn't gig me on the cliche; just on the imagery. Sometimes you cannot win.

I like this. It feels like a quasi-medieval village. Is this a fantasy version of Miss Marple? Please?