Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Change is Good

I'm embracing change...or maybe it's embracing me. After nine years at my "day job" downsizing has moved me to the "starving artist" category. I have already picked up some work and continue to freelance write, but it's my first time in eighteen years without full-time employment.

So why should my writing be any different? I'm embracing the change. 

Recently a round of Pitch Madness hosted by Brenda Drake brought me to realize something. My writing is strong, the voice is good, the story interesting...sure I thought that, but having folks at the competition say it felt really great. However...(don't you hate those) the first chapter didn't put me through to the second round. 

Here is where the realization hit. I had the right words, written well, but they were in the wrong order. I basically had a prologue with the secondary main character in the spotlight. (Read the book and you'll understand about the "secondary" MC.) I also needed a better first sentence, not that the previous one was bad, but it needed to be better. After some head scratching and a foot stomp or two, I stood back, snipped the sections and rearranged them. The previous version is in this post, if you want to compare. 

I'd love to hear what you think, so please post those comments.  Without further ado--here is the new first chapter...okay, maybe just one more ado... Note that the first scene break happens at 250 words, the place where many contests require you to stop. ;-)


           Mutilated bodies stood in piles like cordwood around Vincent. Looking for a way out, he staggered and clutched his stomach, gagging at the stench. As he straightened, something darted from the fog--something not human. It leaped at him, razor-edged claws extended.
As the beast hit, Vincent's eyes slammed open, they darted around, taking in his room and landed on the clock. This wasn't the first strange dream to hit him recently, but he'd never slept at his desk before. He couldn't be late for the appointment with his Advisor, the fourth this month. He sat up shakily and blew out.
Stillness descended on the world around him. The back of his neck tingled like a spider crawled up it.
What's changed?
Vincent happened to glance out the window and saw it coming: the fog. It marched across the ocean waves like an invasion of cotton soldiers. A wall of billowing white from north to south as far as the eye could see. As it crept over the building, he opened his window, letting its cool, comforting embrace wash over him.
Despite his shortcomings, Vincent had an enormous imagination. The scenes he played in his mind rivaled any movie he'd ever watched. This talent had carried him through many nights, when the screams of his parents fighting or passion came through the walls. The fog played an important role, blurring the edges of the world. It made reality seem thin, as if his dreams came to life.

His career at Pacific Coast University wasn't going as he'd hoped. Maybe it's time to ignore Mom and Dad and do what I want. The idea made his stomach roil as he climbed the stairs outside his dorm.
But...what do I like?
He breathed in the water-laden air as the fog chased him up the hill. "That's easy--man I love this weather," he said to himself.
The storm front had come through a week ago, with screaming winds and drops of rain so heavy it was almost dangerous to be outdoors. After the deluge passed, the campus had let out a collective sigh of relief. Everyone looked forward to a return of the usual sunny days, except for Vincent. He had always felt at ease in weather that concealed him--having it back brought a smile.
He glanced up from the sidewalk, as a pretty blonde passed, tilting her head, and smiling back at him. His Irish/Italian heritage provided broad shoulders, strong, distinctive features, and blue eyes. Those and his dark shoulder length hair tended to push women's buttons. Not that he did anything about it. Ducking his head, blushing, he kept walking along the road through campus. Maybe I'll start a career at the coffee house. Just gotta pierce my ear. Is it the left or the right you're supposed to do? I'll get some tattoos. He shook his head. I can't even decide what to get, let alone where to put it.

Vincent stared at the floor of his Advisor's office.
"Vincent." Mr. Fisher took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You do well in all your coursework." He flipped through the papers on his desk. "A solid four point O, but you can't major in everything. This is what?" He held up one of the sheets of paper and shook it lightly. "The sixth time you've switched? Or are we on number seven? This is your third year, don't you think it's time you settled on a direction?" He cleaned his glasses and slipped the dark frames back on. "Unless, of course, you want to be a professional student?" He smiled.
"No, sir. I need to figure something out, I agree, it's just..."
"Vincent. What's really the matter?"
"I...I'm sure you're tired of seeing my name on the appointment sheet." He sighed. "My dad wants me to go into law; well, at least he does now. My mom is on this new health regime, and thought that sports therapy would be a good field."
"Yes, Vincent, it's good that your parents are involved but it is, after all, your life. Not theirs." He glanced at his watch and patted his hand on the desk. "Our time's up, I'm afraid. Take a look at your options, and let me know what you decide."
"Thank you, Mr. Fisher," Vincent said, as he stood.
"My door is always open." The Advisor waved as Vincent left. Walking quietly down the hall, he lowered his head as he passed the secretary's desk, hoping she wouldn't make eye contact with him.


  1. Oh, yeah... this opening is even better! It's much clearer now that Vincent is the protagonist, and that the opening scene isn't really happening--it's a vision. I like it a lot.

    One thing stuck out for me, though-- in the next couple of scenes, there aren't any references to the visions. It seems like these intense, realistic-feeling scenes would stay on his mind somehow as he goes through the motions of his day. The fact that there was fog in his vision and then fog actually outside as he walked up the hill... maybe that could spur some kind of small reaction or anxiety?

    Take my comment with a grain of fellow-writer-salt. ;-)

    Have fun with the story and don't give up on it.

    1. Hi Lisa.

      Thanks a bunch for the comment. I do see what you are saying, however while we see that it's a vision, he thinks it's only a dream. As I also tried to show, he's tied up with school and what life is throwing at him, anxiety about that is overriding other things. At this point, he's not able to see past that. Once he realizes what's happening, that he is having visions, it takes over his life, so your suggestion is right on the money. :-)

      You hit on another thing that is close to my heart. Having fun with our writing. It's like sex...if you're not enjoying're not doing it right. ;-)

      Pop over any time and thanks again for the thoughts.


  2. I was absolutely drawn in more this time around. Having it centered more around Vincent definitely makes it more alluring. I got that he thought it was a dream when it really was a vision, I liked that the fog was there in real life as well. Loving where it's going!

    I'm curious to see how he'll balance his everyday student life with what's about to be thrown at him...

    1. Thanks S.K.!

      Someday, when the stars align, Tearing the Shroud will be out for the world to see. Until then, it is in the hands of critique partners and a few select beta readers. *cough*