Author Topic: "Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV  (Read 1884 times)

Offline Underche

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 17
    • View Profile
"Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV
« on: January 28, 2010, 10:45:36 PM »
At this the priest, whose muttering and rocking had been a ceaseless background to our exchange, went rigid. “Cashus!” he hissed without turning round. “I beseech you! You must dismiss this demon beast, this—”

Not another word, Warder!” The Armschief, too, had spoken without turning, but his command lashed the priest into silence. The two men stood facing opposite directions, their backs nearly touching. For a moment they were utterly still. Then Warder Yun broke away and, heels rasping the planks, strode quickly along the porch, around one corner of the house, and out of my sight. His acolyte, after one smoking glance at me, scampered after.

Cashus stared through me, his weathered face flushed, his mouth compressed to a hard line. Yun’s breach of manners seemed to agitate him as nothing else could. That it was so on my behalf was reason for astonishment and a surge of gratitude. But I sensed that to thank him openly for his rebuke of the priest would somehow smirch the honor, as well as widen the already troublesome breach between the two men. So I stood in oblivious silence, ears still, watching his nostrils flare with quick breaths. After some time he inhaled more deeply, his shoulders relaxing, and when he spoke again his voice was as low and even as before. “I imagine you’re famished after your sleep. Forget the mess slop that toxicant of a cook is serving. I will have food set out for you here.” He turned and stepped to the main door of the house, paused with one hand on the curved iron latch. “Ready yourself, Kicker. Eat and drink, have the smith sharpen your weapon.” He tilted his chin again, this time in the direction of the mountains. “There will be little rest for any of us once we have these Svedi Lusen in hand.” He opened the door and passed inside.

I bounded to the north side of the house, opposite the one to which Yun had removed himself. There was a listing old tool shed there in a yard of wind-parched grass and weeds. I lay my gaff and bow against it and settled myself, leaning back on my tail with arms folded. Shortly I saw Cashus exit the house and set off to the south for the encampment meadow, erect and imperturbable. He had scarcely receded before the Warder and his younger shadow came stooping into view, following the Armschief at a discreet distance. I snorted, shook myself, and looked to the mountains hard by.

After some minutes the farmhouse door scraped open again and I turned to see a young woman step out onto the porch. She carried a trencher before her, steam rising from it like wet shakes under sunlight. The smell of boiled carrots and fried fish filled my nostrils. My stomach lurched and rumbled as it recalled its emptiness after my long slumber. The skin across my ribs felt taut as a framed hide, and my mouth flooded with drool. I took a prefatory hop toward the house.

The woman craned her neck, looking first to the south in the direction Cashus and the Redeemers had gone, then around to me. Her diffident expression changed and she took a startled step back, as if to flee into the house. I thought of the farmhand compelled to whip me awake. Willing myself to stillness, I lowered my gaze and waited. I could hear a flurry of whispering from the doorway as the girl hesitated.

“...Is it there, Ava?... Does it see you?... No, don’t leave the food here... It might not sate, then what’s next with the door close to hand?... Take it round the side, Ava!... We must feed it, the Armschief said so... It won’t eat you, yer no’but string an’ sticks!... Ha ha! When she goes, we’ll bar the door!... Shush! No, we will not... Pay him no mind, now... Go on...”

The whispers dissolved into agonized giggling. The girl’s slippers brushed the porch in halting cadence, and the boards creaked as she approached the north end. I glanced up from under my lashes. She was short, fair, and slim, clothed in a demure homespun shift and currant head cloth, with hands thick and ruddy from daily labors. Farmer’s daughter or niece, I guessed. I had seen few locals since the Armschief commandeered the homestead. True, I had slept long in suret, but as in most settled places we had passed through I quickly made myself as scarce as possible, and never courted meetings. Cashus had no need to warn me of the tumult my presence could incite. So hers was the first name I learned there, and the last.

After some delay, the woman stood speechless and trembling at the edge of the porch. She seemed averse to doing more, so I gave sign of my intent to approach and take the food. At once she gasped and, crouching low, set the trencher clattering on the planks. Then she stood, hands fisted at her sides, and began to back away much more quickly than she had approached. I bowed my head and, in what I hoped was a soothing rumble, said, “Jadi'go. I thank you, Ava.” She squeaked, whirled, fled.

So to breakfast. First, there was prayer. I put hands over eyes and, ears flat, asked the Two-tongued God to strike me deaf and voiceless should I ever shirk my submission. Then, taking up the hot trencher in both palms, claws extended to cradle the edge, I set to. I often ate alone this way, far from the cohort or with only Sarjin Hougoh for company. Early in the trek some of the infantry, perhaps goaded by a certain gos’kalkel, had complained to him of my “heathenish gabbling and revolting gluttony” at mealtimes. Amusing, this, since it implied their own manners were above reproach. Hougoh had related their petition in tones of sarcasm and affront, as if to have me defy it, but I knew better. Years before, he had seen me nearly disembowel some oaf who thought to filch my meal as I prayed to D’juab for punishment, which He nearly granted me. That time, Hougoh’s intervention alone had prevented an entire company from attempting to avenge the attack, so saving most of their lives as well as my own. In ensuing years there had been a handful of other, less bloody, incidents. Neither of us wished to retread those paths.

In the present, I may have dined alone, but not unobserved. Two small faces spied on me from the farmhouse door, canting past the jamb and then withdrawing whenever I stared at them directly. The hair of each was longish and tousled, so that I could not discern their sex with any certainty. It did not matter. They were children, and I did not care for them. I had not seen youngsters of my own kind since I myself had been a weanling. I despaired to be reminded of it, the loss of generations, and the diminishment of my folk that progressed inexorably, season upon season, until what remained was an ever-dwindling race of aging adults, of senescents. And all the while our nemeses, the creatures who had slain us in our very wombs, multiplied and spread. Since my downfall I had lived with them, aided them, come to respect certain of their number, seen their ingenuity, their inexhaustible vitality and fecundity. But their spawn ever brought me back to the bitter judgment that had befallen me and mine. A thought struck me then, and not for the first time since I had joined this trek. The Svedi Lusen, it was said, were two children, human children, of ten or eleven years. And I was charged with their protection.

You are a Pauhtvo. You shall shield the Svedi Lusen from all harm. If necessary, with your life as forfeit.

This was the unbreakable vow that brought me here. A vow soon to be tested, perhaps this very day. Is there anything you require for the climb? the Armschief had asked me. Yes. I would pray to the Two-tongued God again for weakness and rage, and mutely hope that if in His contrary way He did not grant me these with one of His mouths, He might send me strength and patience with the other.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2010, 11:13:55 PM by Underche »

Benjamin

  • Guest
Re: "Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2010, 08:46:28 PM »
Hi Underche

The following are my own personal opinions on how to craft a story. Use what seems logical and toss the rest.

To me, the descriptions are too descriptive. Readers buy books to see things happen, to see a plot constantly moving forward. However, there's no plot movement during descriptions, so it's easy to lose a reader because of too much description.
I suggest using contractions to make the story not sound like a science book.

When another person speaks or does something, they get their own paragraph. Paragraph three needs broken up  for this reason. Also, a long paragraph with no white space is an obstacle rather than a pleasure, most will be skipped over by the average reader. Glance into any recent novel to see how each person gets his own paragraph.

One of the hardest things I've had to learn is to write for the reader and not for myself. I now ask myself, what emotions will this paragraph cause the reader to have? If I speak this paragraph in a crowded restaurant, will people go silent to hear more? If not, I might be writing for my own agenda instead of my readers entertainment.

Many authors have seen RUE in their edited manuscripts. It stands for--resist the urge to explain.
Example: Her diffident expression changed and she took a startled step back, as if to flee into the house.
remove the word "startled." That she took a "step back" is self explanatory, and doesn't need to be explained.

This is a very inventive story, and that's what sells. Good luck with this.

Benjamin

Offline Underche

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 17
    • View Profile
Re: "Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2010, 10:45:07 PM »
Benjamin,

Thanks for the advice: valid points all. Valid, that is, for the "average" bestseller consumed by the "average" reader. Yes, I know current theory: short chapters, short paragraphs, all action, minimal character development and description, simple sentences written the way "average" persons speak between blog entries and tweets. This is the James Patterson school of novel writing, and a highly sensible and lucrative career path it is. Logically, all contemporary writers should follow his model. (Or better yet, join his stable of richly compensated co-authors.) The trouble is, I can't read his novels with anything close to pleasure or less than irritation for their relentless dumbing down of story-telling traditions. How could I possibly write one except on a purely mercenary level? I can live with myself, penniless and pride intact, if I lose every last "average" reader on earth. Yet I've heard rumors that another species of reader still exists, though endangered and perhaps close to extinction--a reader with patience and curiousity, a reader willing to wade through long sections of relative inaction to glimpse a deeper insight into setting or character. These odd readers may even find inexpressible (and inexplicable) pleasure in the works of James, of Proust, of Woolf. Not that I'm fooling myself, understand. I am writing an action novel of a sort, full of non-frontloaded blood and battles and chases in a wholly imagined future--literature of the lowest sort. In short, no true lover of a genius such as Proust will ever follow me down this bumpy path. But then again, I....oh, damn, I've gone and made this paragraph too long!

By the way, "a paragraph for every dialog tag", and paragraph breaking of any sort, is entirely arbitrary. The one "rule" I can't bring myself to violate is the dictum against having two speakers in a single paragraph, although I've seen it done without any real damage to the flow of a story.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 10:50:38 PM by Underche »

Benjamin

  • Guest
Re: "Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2010, 01:04:51 AM »
You're quite right. there aren't any set laws for writing, but since most writers write for the maximum amount of money available, I always suggest the ways that pay the most.

I do understand your position on the different writing styles, and I've no doubt that a niche following exists for your particular style. I wish you every success in its pursuit.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help

Offline Kowboy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1666
    • View Profile
Re: "Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2010, 11:12:00 PM »
Benjamin,

Thanks for the advice: valid points all. Valid, that is, for the "average" bestseller consumed by the "average" reader. Yes, I know current theory: short chapters, short paragraphs, all action, minimal character development and description, simple sentences written the way "average" persons speak between blog entries and tweets. This is the James Patterson school of novel writing, and a highly sensible and lucrative career path it is. Logically, all contemporary writers should follow his model. (Or better yet, join his stable of richly compensated co-authors.) The trouble is, I can't read his novels with anything close to pleasure or less than irritation for their relentless dumbing down of story-telling traditions. How could I possibly write one except on a purely mercenary level? I can live with myself, penniless and pride intact, if I lose every last "average" reader on earth. Yet I've heard rumors that another species of reader still exists, though endangered and perhaps close to extinction--a reader with patience and curiousity, a reader willing to wade through long sections of relative inaction to glimpse a deeper insight into setting or character. These odd readers may even find inexpressible (and inexplicable) pleasure in the works of James, of Proust, of Woolf. Not that I'm fooling myself, understand. I am writing an action novel of a sort, full of non-frontloaded blood and battles and chases in a wholly imagined future--literature of the lowest sort. In short, no true lover of a genius such as Proust will ever follow me down this bumpy path. But then again, I....oh, damn, I've gone and made this paragraph too long!

By the way, "a paragraph for every dialog tag", and paragraph breaking of any sort, is entirely arbitrary. The one "rule" I can't bring myself to violate is the dictum against having two speakers in a single paragraph, although I've seen it done without any real damage to the flow of a story.

Underche:

I read a great business book a while ago. It said to never fall in love with your idea/product. I'm afraid you'e committed this sin. No offense, but you are deluding yourself by trying to turn your overdone writing back as the fault of inappreciative readers.

I just read some James, "The Beast In The Jungle", for school. It was one of his most highly acclaimed works and it was insufferable to me. I couldn't skim it fast enough. Eeeccchh.

Kowboy

Offline Underche

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 17
    • View Profile
Re: "Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2010, 09:46:13 AM »
Yes! I see the answer now--must've been blind before. The key to popular fiction: more contractions. Lemme write this down...more...contractions...less...cowbell...

The Novel as Text Message: Cn u rd ths w/o fllng aslp? zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Offline Kowboy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1666
    • View Profile
Re: "Kicker" - Chapter 1, Pt. IV
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2010, 09:57:05 AM »
Yes! I see the answer now--must've been blind before. The key to popular fiction: more contractions. Lemme write this down...more...contractions...less...cowbell...

The Novel as Text Message: Cn u rd ths w/o fllng aslp? zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Underche:

You like reading your own writing. Who doesn't? I read and reread my own all the time. The difference between us is that when I post something for review, I don't blame the sophistication level of my readers for my inability to connect with them.

So read and write away, you'll enjoy yourself. But if you want anyone else to join you, with few exceptions, you'll have to write the stuff people want to read in the form they want to read it. You'll not drag the masses, kicking and screaming, to your viewpoint.

Good luck,

Kowboy