This is topic Æsir Dawn in forum Fragments and Feedback for Books at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
It's funny, I've had Draft Zero for this story languishing for nearly four years. It wasn't until I finally found my inspiration for the opening lines of Daisyworld, that this just popped into my head the moment my alarm went off this morning. Any comments would be helpful.

Version 1:

The first day of spring dawned crisp and clean in this Year of Tears. A year when the gods would reveal the futures of men and lands by signs, portents, and in some cases, visions.

At the cock’s first call, Folcwyn Gladwinson rolled off his straw mattress, bounded upright, caught his left foot in his crumpled trousers lying on the floor, staggered forward and hit his right hip on the railing then tumbled over the edge to land in the pile of loose hay ten feet below. He sat upright, spat out the barley head that had lodged itself in his mouth and, looking up, chuckled as he rubbed his head.

“Could have been worse,” he said as he stood up. Brushing loose bits of straw from his body, he walked to the ladder and climbed back up to his nightly eyrie. He picked up his pants, and being

Version 2:

It was no use trying to go back to sleep; Folcwyn knew that. He rolled onto his back and looked up into the pre-dawn gloom shrouding the thatch and rafters above him in darkness. After six years apprenticing to his father, today really was the day. Today he would walk into the foundry and start making the mould for his sword. A sword made by his hand and will. A sword to wield, a sword to defend his home, a sword to shout out, “I am now a man!”

With a sword in his hand he could join the shieldwall and the moot. Why, next year, he could even attend the yearly Choosing on the commons and offer himself to the Way-el-Kree. He--his train of thought died as another one rose up and demanded attention. Today was the first day of spring, the start of the Year of Tears. For the next year the gods would reveal to men their fate,

Version 3 (opening line):

The stinging smell of ammonia bit at the bridge of Folcwyn's nose and the back of his throat as he stood in the privy doing what everyone does first thing in the morning.

Final version:

As he pattered across the ice-cold flagstones in his bare feet, Folcwyn really wished his father loved his mother a little less. Most people are happy with packed earthen floors, he thought; and the few who aren’t, are happy enough with wooden planks placed over the dirt. But not my father! No, the moment he saw a paved floor he decided he was going to give one to his bride to be, my mother, Alfwen.

And, he did too! Despite the cost, the raised eyebrows, and the muttered comments about pandering to the whims of a new wyfe, he had presented my mother with a stone and mortar floor proof against dirt, dust, and errant water invasions. Once my father sets his mind to something, nothing can stop him from getting what he wants!

Folcwyn grinned as he opened the door of their single-roomed home


[ March 13, 2015, 09:07 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by Denevius (Member # 9682) on :
Who bounds out of bed? It's something you see in television and movies, but in real life, I don't think there's much bounding out of bed. Part of the reason is that actual rooms have stuff in them, so you don't won't to bound *into* something (and this room seems to be at an elevated level, which makes the action even more strange). Part of the reason is that you're usually groggy when you first wake up, so you aren't moving very fast. And if you a pet, say a dog or cat, you don't want to bound onto them and crush them. Or if you have a little human somewhere in the house who might be there.

And do people tend to roll out of bed? I've read this description before, but again, I've never seen anyone actually 'roll' out of bed. If you're sleeping on your back, you sit up. If you're sleeping on your stomach, you turn over and sit up. How many turns constitute a roll? Lately I've been sleeping in these small Asian beds, so there's definitely not much of a chance to roll anywhere. Can you roll out of a straw mattress?

A lot of the opening is dedicated to how the character gets out of bed and falls, so I'm guessing there's something important about it. Maybe a metaphor for the rest of the book. Or maybe it says something about the character. Right now, though, it reads as both TVish and unnecessary. I've learned nothing about the character or the story or the environment.

As is often the case, I think the story can start later. Even for a novel, where openings can be more gradual. And I think a unique image can crop up somewhere. So far, everything of this opening feels like something I've seen somewhere before.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Sorry to disagree, but I roll out of bed, even when I wake up lying on my back; I reach out to turn off the alarm and continue the motion so my feet hit the floor and I stand up. A minor bound. A lethargic awakening is not my style. I wake up wide-awake and ready; and my pets know to get out of my way.

And this?

Originally posted by Denevius:
I've learned nothing about the character or the story or the environment.
And you say this after your gushing praise of the opening of Jarmo; which is nothing more than scenic exposition without mention of character, conflict, or plot. At least my first 13 contains a character and not just landscape. And, if you haven't learnt anything about the character, the story, or the environment, you're not looking past the obvious.

As for starting the story later, this is as late as I can without resorting to a 5,000 word Prologue of the sack of Troy. I have to show the character in his natural state so you can understand what is about to happen to him--soon.


PS. Perhaps you need more iron in your diet.

[ March 02, 2015, 05:29 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by Denevius (Member # 9682) on :
Sorry, Phil, it was just my opinion. If you don't agree with it, I totally understand. It's your story to do with as you please.

I responded honestly, and you honestly disagree. C'est la vie.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
A thematic preamble, oracle-like, then a hapless man wakes and tumbles out of a, what, hayloft? A straw nest anyway.

A detached, objective overt-covert narrator. For me, a narrator who is between overt and covert is unsettled, doesn't work for me. For a more overt narrator, the narrator expresses attitude (emotion, judgement, evaluation, etc.) about circumstances. I favor a covert narrator, though. An overt narrator looks in from outside a scene. A covert narrator reflects a viewpoint agonist's personal perceptions from inside a scene looking out.

The first paragraph emotionally neutrally and generically summarizes a vague proverb-like weather report and theme of prescience. Spiced words, emotional attitude, could enhance specificity of "Year of Tears" so readers are clued into whose tears: victors' or victims', and whose perspective: criers' or witnesses'.

A weather report is widely deprecated when emotionally inert. A crisp and clean first day of spring is neutral and inert. Consider metaphorical synonyms for "crisp" and "clean" that express the optimism the weather report appears to intend and as foreshadowing -- a, if not the, function of weather reports.

Then the oracle proverb contrasts with the optimism, though further development as emotionally expressive is warranted.

Waking-up scenes are likewise widely deprecated when inert. This one has the added context and texture of a hapless man tumbling, actually, from his berth into a free-fall overboard. Where the scene doesn't work for me is a missed opportunity for a clash of emotional reactions. An overt narrator's judgmental comments would express the man's surprise, at least, about getting tangled in the man's pants, if not fear and the hapless-ness as a moral failure. Likewise the tumble over the rail and the fall. The hay pile landing then a happy and fortunate outcome of the hapless fool's sloth.

Missed opportunities for developing the narrator's attitude toward the action, events, settings, characters, the narrator's voice and identity, in other words, are shortfalls for me of this opening. Either a narrator or an agonist ought best be a narrative's narrative point of view. The narrator can be a moving spy-eye camera, figuratively, rather than a viewpoint agonist's shoulder, or eyes, or mind. I favor the latter most, though allow any of the former are just as nice, if settled and clear who tells this narrative from what vantage point or points.

The waking scene's fall from a height context and texture is a strength for me, though emotionally neutral. The detail which most stands out for me is the barley head caught in the man's teeth. The barley head's potential symbolism is signaled by its specificity as an emphasis, though undeveloped at the moment, another example of possible foreshadowing. The straw bed tick, the tumble into a hay pile, now a barley head specifically, okay, this is a barley storage place in which the man makes his nightly nest.

Does he work there? A barley malting facility? A granary? A bakery? A soup kitchen? The barley destined to become soup, bread, or beer? Vinegar -- bitter spoiled beer -- perhaps? The barley symbolism and foreshadowing then might be, I don't know, a glimpse of the transformative action to come? As is, the barley head and straw nest at least imply the man's basic nature as a transient laborer in an agrarian culture, a degree of setting and character developments. The fall from the straw nest an event which might foreshadow the culture's fall, a degree of event development.

By the way, at this time, I much prefer fragments and drafts that err on the side of excess emotional attitude expression rather than bland and neutral and inert expression, because that clarifies narrative point of view, at least, and what a narrative is about at all levels and depths, and offers then a clearer and more accessible creative vision for a fragment upon which to comment for guidance purposes if indicated, not to mention, exhibits advanced writing skills a gauge dial's tick above par.

[ March 02, 2015, 03:49 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Well, it seems my homage to Daffy Duck's interpretation of Errol Flynn's portrayal of Robin Hood didn't do the trick. Trippit, trippit, trippit--crash.

This story is, on the whole, dark and malevolent. In an hours story time, young Folcwyn will be witnessing the murder of Astyanax, a 3 month old baby, at the hands of Neoptolemus and Odysseus; it then gets worse. Oh, there is humour, of the gallows variety, and some lighter moments, but the story is about betrayal, revenge, loss, manipulation, and tragedy.

So, I thought a lighter opening might be a better start. Wrong!

Am working on a version that closes the narrative distance to one nearer the central agonist.


[ March 03, 2015, 06:03 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Chastened, I slink back into Hatrack and post a new version of the opening.


PS. It's up at the top.

[ March 04, 2015, 04:29 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
I might consider laying in bed thinking about the day ahead as cliche as waking from a dream. I feel the premise is in tact and that interested me enough but I would consider a new staring point perhaps. Smelling the coal burn on the forge, being nervous as hell… just a thought
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Bent Tree, at least something grabbed your attention. Folcwyn has a very busy morning ahead of him before he gets to the foundry. I have to show readers his attitude to the gods of this world, essentially that they can do no wrong, I have to introduce his hopes for the future, that mirror his faith in the gods, and I have to show him meeting one of his gods; and that's half of chapter one, then he is given the shock of his life and all his assumptions, hopes, and dreams are turned to ash and his only option is to reject everything he previously held dear. End chapter. Oh, what Fun!

As far as I can see I have three choices: lying awake in bed thinking about the momentous day ahead, doing the same thing while washing himself in the cold water of an animal trough, or thinking about it all while standing in the privy doing what guy's do when standing in a privy first thing in the morning.

While the last appeals to me because I don't think it's ever been done before, I don't think I'd get away with it.

But, it's tempting.

Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
I just couldn't resist. Not a full thirteen, just one sentence.

Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
Yes, Even without a back cover synopsis to grab me. I could get a hint of the premise and I was interested enough in continuing to read.

I feel that in Novels, we have a little more potential to relax. I have even seen many novels from published authors begin in cliche, or have an otherwise low impact first page.

I suppose all I am getting at is that we are fledglings so we must do what we can to get an agent or editor's attention.

Oh and if it is the Gods you seek. I like the idea of a prayer or meditation. Splasjing cold water on your face is a form of meditation or at least morning ritual in yoga and I can see that as being true to communicating with the gods.

Good luck. Happy writing, Grumpy
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
While considering if opening this story in a privy was a wise choice I remembered that urine was used in the dyeing industry (clothes, not people) to set the dye to the fabric. So, I looked here The Smithsonian and now I can have Folcwyn walk in on a number of different activities and have his nose assaulted by the smell of stale pee.


PS. Some of the uses may turn your stomach. [Smile]
Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
Ha, I did two years researching Peeponics in nutrient delivery in soil based and aquaponic agriculture systems. You can't turn my stomach with urine [Smile]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Well, despite my small group of Beta readers being okay with me starting a story in the toilet, I was struck by inspiration and changed it entirely. Yes, he's still going to the privy, but that's just to cement milieu and fix a few other little details in the minds of readers.

Thanks for your help.


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