Saturday, January 29, 2011
Yesterday was a very frustrating writing day for me. I tried to write something--anything--and none of my projects wanted to cooperate. I ended up forcing out a snippet of my latest short story venture, a historical fantasy/ fairy tale retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It's less than 500 words, not a full scene, or even half a scene. And it doesn't start at the beginning of the scene either. It was merely a moment of the story that was clear enough in my head to translate into words on the screen.
I suppose writing that little bit is better than writing nothing. And since I haven't posted anything on the forum in a while [ed: the forum I am referring to here is the Writer's Digest SF/F critique forum in which I have been a co-mod since 2009] I decided to post this snippet and see what kind of response it got from the other writers there. Although I am both a mod and a published author, I am not above receiving suggestions from writers, no matter what stage of their writing career they happen to be in at the time. Most of the writers there are as-of-yet unpublished. This does not mean they don't have something valuable to offer.
So I posted this last night:
This is going to be nothing but a big 'ol teaser because this story is coming out so. Stinking. Slow. I swear, a snail could slide across an adhesive strip from one end of my apartment to the other before I get the first draft done.
This is part of my Little Red Riding Hood retelling. Rosalia is the viewpoint character, a young woman in her late teens. The story is set in 18th-century France.
Clickety click here for the music I listened to while writing this snippet.
This snippet is from the first scene, but it is not the very beginning. I have a tendency to jump around sometimes when I write a first draft. Sorry.
The wolf's nose stung my cheek, cold and slick. My back numbed quickly as its front paws kept my shoulders pinned in the snow. The silence of the forest felt heavier than a down-filled blanket. Snowflakes drifted straight down into my eyes from the neverending grey sky above. I was as good as dead in this position, unable to reach my pistol, yet the wolf did nothing more than sniff me. Like it was contemplating whether or not it needed to add salt before taking a bite. My only hope was that it didn't leave a mess of me for my brother to find.
Tears spilled across my temples. "Just eat me and get it over with! Why must you torment me, wolf?"
"The name," it said, "is Vidar. And I am not going to eat you. You are… different."
Different how, I wanted to ask, but… the wolf had spoken to me, as if it were a person. And it had a name? No. Surely I'd hit my head when I fell. Hard. This was a hallucination. Wild animals could not speak and they certainly did not name themselves.
"Rosalia!" Bastien shouted in the distance. "Where are you?"
A chill seized my body as the wolf locked its ice blue eyes with mine. Bastien's voice hung in the still air. Steady hoofbeats drew closer. "If you do not go now, you are dead when my brother finds us."
"I am dead either way." Without further explanation, the wolf jumped off of me and trotted deeper into the forest, weaving through trees bare as skeletons until its ghostly silhouette blurred behind the curtain of falling snow.
Thanks for reading!
And here were the comments [ed: I wish emoticons showed up on blogger. ergh.]:
Joe (the hubby): Not your best but the teaser at the end would make me read more.
Writer 1 (who is one of my main CPs): I hate to say it....
But I agree. Not your best. The first paragraph was a little rough, and the dialogue feels a little too "contemporary" for 18th century France. However, the last paragraph saved it enough I would have turned a page, if there was one.
Writer 2: Not bad for a first draft. :)
Probably a trivial thing to notice, but the word pistol helped anchor the timeframe in my mind. I probably would've picked something generic, like gun, and not captured what you did, I mean, who says pistol but someone from back in the day? Nice attention to detail.
I can't wait to see how you'll polish this up, like the example snippets of your own work you post on your blog.
Good luck, hopefully the trickle will turn into a steady flow.
Lydia: Thanks for the comments, guys. :)
[Writer 1], can you point out what, specifically, felt "contemporary" in the dialogue? I'm not seeing it.
Writer 1: Hmm.
Like it was contemplating whether or not it needed to add salt before taking a biteSomehow it sounds almost...sarcastic or snarky to my head. *shrug* (also, was salt readily available in 18th century France? I seem to recall it being VERY expensive in that time period, where wars were even fought over salt and pepper and other spices)
Also the line:
Get it over with.sounded off to me. More formal might be "Finish it." But I'm not sure.
Lydia: I'll have to research the salt thing because I honestly don't know (and that's part of what's causing the slowness in the writing because there are a lot of things I have to research). The idea of that line was that she is thinking it's going to eat her but it was oddly taking its time about it.
I agree with the second thing you pointed out. "Finish it" would be a better phrase.
Writer 1: Here's a good place to start:
It's got a general history of salt, which might be helpful. Of course, it is a small thing. So it may not be a super big deal, I just happened to notice because I'm a History Channel watcher. :)
Lydia: Interesting... but far too complex for what I need for this short story (I checked out some other sites in addition to the one you linked). I selected the 18th century because of the fashion and weaponry. If mentioning salt is going to raise some questioning brows, I'll just remove it. No biggie.
Writer 1: *nod*
It may just be me. I did a TON of research for [redacted], so it may be just I know something that most people won't.
You could replace salt with "seasoning" or "spice" which would be more general. Or even "flavor." Dunno.
Writer 3 (who is also one of my main CPs):
[quotes from Lydia's original post: "The story is set in 18th-century France."]
Before I read this, I'd just like to take the opportunity to say MUAHAHAHAAAAAaaaaaa!!! You've been bitten by the historical fiction bug. It's a nasty little thing that burrows into your brain and pops up when you least expect it. ;)
Writer 3: The only things that made me pause have already been pointed out.
I liked it. I think this has some great potential for a fresh take on Little Red.
I have a fractured fairy tale of my own that's been floating around in my brain for years -- [redacted]. It's not a priority, but this made me think of it again. :)
Writer 4: This has certainly teased my mind. Also, I read the exchange about the pistol. I'm not sure what it was called then but it was a single shot cap-and-ball type. (Muzzle loaded)
Writer 5: Twisted fairy tales, wolves, an 18th century setting. What's not to love? Hee, hee.
I have no doubt you'll turn this into something wonderful, and I didn't notice anything that hasn't already been mentioned.
Bastien is the name of the MC in my [redacted] story! And I'm NOT changing it! If you get this published before mine is (which, duh, of course you will) I just want you to know I didn't steal the name from you. :)
Writer 6: Aw... Bastien from 'The Never Ending Story.' LOVE the name.
Anyway, the only thing not mentioned that snagged me (even though it READS like a great line) is 'The silence of the forest felt heavier than a down-filled blanket.' Down blankets are light & fluffy - not heavy in my opinion. But then again she's in snow & that makes sense. Just didn't click for me, tho.
Other than that, loved it. I definitely want to read more! Hope it starts flowing for you...
Writer 7: "Off of" should be shortened to "off". No need for the extra word.
Writer 8: [quotes Lydia's second comment above]
I have noticed that with respect to my story - being set in the 1840's - had to research the emergence of molasses of all things because "I'd said it felt like someone dipped her head in molasses" for a description. Period pieces are so tricky.
I gotta say I love the premise for this - as a fairy tale fanatic, this is right up my alley.
Writer 3: [quotes Writer 4's comment above]
They were just called pistols. Or perhaps, by some, flintlock pistols to distinguish them from earlier matchlock weapons. But I think for a teenage girl, pistol would be appropriate.
*I love my book on weapons, it's awesome.*
Joe: Hehe. [Writer 1] shall hereforth be known as "salt nerd".
Lydia: [quotes Writer 3's second comment above]
Sounds cool. :)
And yes, historical fiction is growing on me. I've previously shied away from it because of how much research is involved. But then I realized... it's really not much more than what I do for sci-fi.
Lydia: [quotes Writer 5's comment above]
Ha! I've been wanting to use the name Bastien in a story for a long time. This seemed like the perfect fit. And it's kind of a common name, so I wouldn't think you stole it from me. I've seen it in other people's WIPs and in some published works. All fantasy.
Lydia: [quotes Writer 6's comment above]
I had a down-filled pillow when I was a kid and it was freakishly heavy. But I actually don't like that line very much either, so I'm going to cut it. Glad it wasn't just me. :)
[ed: more comments were added AFTER the date of this journal entry]
This is why I love online writing communities. I am always amazed by how different people will pick up on/ point out different things they noticed, whether it be something they particularly liked or something that just didn't seem quite right. And even though this tiny snippet was completely picked apart [ed: and it continued to be in the comments made after this date], seeing this feedback has given me motivation to keep working on this project because, for the most part, the piece was well-received.
As long as there is a potential audience, I have a reason to keep writing.