Tuesday, December 22, 2009

line 13

You must have a line 13. It is one of those numbers that calls you out. Anyway ...
Sunshine wasn't something Viola could dwell on. It wouldn't matter if she felt the sun on her back this Spring. What mattered was that they were not yet being shelled; they were not yet smelling cordite.
Now we are in the war. This works OK as far as I can see. There is something slightly impersonal about the voice again. It is like when there is a personal quality, the language becomes too contemporary. So to find a heroine - or to write a heroine - of a time, I can't quite make the voice work. But it isn't too bad. I don't mind the contrast between what used to be important, and what now (and I guess artificially) is important. She is perhaps too much a woman in danger - a sacrifical lamb so to speak. So she has to fight off that assumption soonish. But we know she knows about war; she knows the smell of cordite. So she has survived the war, and not only because she has been behind the lines.
She is not particularly likable at this point, we have nothing really to latch onto yet. But I guess this is the problem with the line by line approach. No reader would read this slowly; most readers would already be at a pointy piece of her personality (alliteration again, not happy). But if you can find likability early, and gently, I think it has to be a good thing. Perhaps she needs more yearning in those sentences ... like
She could only just remember how the early spring sun could melt the winter frost from her bones. It was, once, a marker in her year. This year, it had no place. What mattered this year was ... And then the rest of that sentence above could finish here. I like the 'once'.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

line 9?

Yes, losing count. As I am unsure which of the threads is the 'real' one, the count is a tiny bit off. Too bad. So we know that Viola has reached the hen house and that it is raining and it is dawn.
The hens were quiet, settled, sleeping in the feathery fug of their tiny shelter.
This is not too bad. I like the contrast between Viola's discomfort with the rain and her woollen skirt, and the peace of the hens. 'Feathery fug' might be a bit much. I think I have a problem with liking alliteration. It seems a bit too 'headline'. Blame sub editors for debasing alliteration ... Nah, I don't really mean that; some of my best friends ...
It was warmer than the house, here with the hens.
Perhaps things are the wrong way around. Should hens be warmer than humans? I suppose the hens would have no objection as long as that warmer place wasn't a pot.
Viola felt her shoulders drop. Warm and dry. It was like another country. She could hardly wait for Spring to come. But Spring didn't mean new growth and ripening sun now. It meant the battle fields got busy again.
I like her shoulders dropping and the short sentences here. It is possible that I am telling too much in these couple of line about the war and her feelings about it. Should this be veiled for a little longer? Probably. I think that the final line might take us out of the period. It has a distinctly contemporary flavour - 'got busy' in particular - but perhaps not. It is closer in flavour to the last thread in my last post. Makes Viola a more contemporary heroine. Which is, I think, a good thing. But not authentic. Dang.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

line 6 (ish)

Her skirt clung to her legs, heavy with water.
Nope. Too much water.
As she made her way through the garden, her wool skirt clung to her legs, making her feel that she was walking through thick mud.
Now that is a nice bit of foreshadowing. Thick mud, someone will strike that at some point, couple of chapters away. And it is a bit ominous too. I guess. It is OK this sentence, but it seems to be missing something, or perhaps there is too much here. I think it is the last clause that disrupts the thing. I don't mind the ideas, but I don't like the shape. So.
Although walking over grass, the weight of her long, wet, woolen skirt made her feel that she was wading through thick mud. She kicked out, wrestling the material away from her skin. But it clung like sticky fingers and by the time she opened the door of the hen house she was ready to flling it off completely.
Hmm. I have walked her across the garden. That is a relief. Why do I want this rain, this wool, this angry? No idea really other than it was apperently wet when this particular battle in World War One was fought. Ya can't argue with history. And it is a bit oppressive. You don't think at this point that happy things will happen in this story. And, for all I know, they probably won't.
So, these lines - four, five six, seven eight nine (I think that is where I am up to) - are probably a paragraph. The opening paragraph of the first chapter. Not really an attention grabber you would argue. Not like On the day he was to die ... or anything. Or she was to die, in this case. But is she to die? I could go back to line 4 and write something like:
Death was never far from her except when she went to collect eggs from the hens at dawn. It was a few minutes where things were too new to be close to death. On this particular day, Viola walked though the rain to the hen house. The dawn was grey; there were no pink shreds in the sky. But there was still the perfect warm whiteness of fresh eggs to look forward to.
Maybe this is better. It is not as stiff and old fashioned as the first version. Viola has a bit more of a presence in this one. I like her better. Dunno why.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

line 4

I thought about the three lines I wrote yesterday and I think I will leave them as they are. On a big white page, they will probably look rather nice. And that is all I want to tell so far. A long war. A change. A story.
So, to chapter 1, and the real first line. I don't really mean that. I love a prologue, an introduction, acknowledgements at the beginning of a book. But that is possibly odd. The words 'chapter one' are the big signal that all is beginning. That you have found the start. So, here is line 1 (or line 4 depending on the kind of reader you are).
Viola walked out into the gunmetal grey dawn to check the hen house for eggs.
I have to confess I already hate this line. So here is my heroine. I like the name; she is named for my great aunt. I like the idea of morning; that seems to fit. But the 'gunmetal' is too obvious a link to war and it seems clunky. Also the 'walk' and the 'check' don't seem to fit together comfortably. She might 'leave' to 'check'. I like the eggs in the same way I like the morning. A new beginning. Perhaps it should be something like:
Viola headed toward the hen house, hoping for some eggs.
Still not right. I have lost the time frame. We might assume that it is morning if she is going out for eggs, but we might not. Who goes out and looks for eggs? What time do they do it?
As Viola headed out to check the hen house for eggs, dawn crept into the sky and drew the heavy blackness away, leaving only grey.
No. I really hate that. I lose Viola to the dawn.
Perhaps I go back to the first one, but remove the gunmetal stuff.
Viola walked into the grey dawn. She was not going to lose her routine just because the Boche had decided to swing a fist close to her town. She was going to check for eggs.
OK, so it is three lines. I like this better. She is revealed a bit more here. The dawn doesn't make too much of a play for a plot line. We have a link to the three lines of the Prologue. I think I will leave this as it is. Or remove the middle line. But without the middle line is it too 'John and Betty' ('John can jump. Betty can jump. John and Betty jump.')?
The rain fell, soaking into clothes that were still damp from the rain of the day before.
Too wordy. Would a reader get lost in a sentence like this where the intent appears lost. What are we interested in here, the rain, the clothes, the rain of the day before? Does it matter? Or is it too jumbled? Stuff it, I think I will leave it. But should 'clothes' have a possessive pronoun before it so we know the the clothes belong to Viola? Possibly.
Four lines. Can't seem to stay true to the intent of the blog. Perhaps tomorrow.

Monday, December 7, 2009

line 1

After 1332 days, the Germans made a decisive move.
So that is my opening line. I don't mind it really. I quite like the lengthy quality of the number, and I like the shape of the numbers in the sentence. And it is kinda ambiguous. I guess if you like the histories of wars, and particularly 20th century wars, you might start to make a bit of a connection here, but which one? It is sort of anonymous too; the voice could be anyone.
Damn it, I might write the second one.
It might have been a relief after the years of measuring any victory in feet. At last, at least, something was happening.
Lines 2 and 3. I'm not even being true to the intent of this blog in this first post. It is reading a bit like a prologue I think. Not quite a first chapter. The feel is too ... what? It is too much of an overview. We are not on the ground here, we are observing, and not just from a great high, but perhaps from history. Dunno. But say it is a prologue, this is setting a context. We are in a war. We are now on the move. Something is beginning to happen. Possibly a story. You would hope so.
I quite like the repetition in line 3, but it might be a bit over the top. But I will leave it like this now. And I like the use of the word 'might' in the second line. It gives you a bit of room to move. You might imagine that from here, I would choose to get specific.