Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Sentence Tuesday: Fantasy Edition

I've finally started reading a book that's been on TBR pile for a long time: Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. The jacket blurb describes this book as one part Robin Hood and one part Ocean's Eleven. It was the latter that attracted my attention and led me to read the opening two lines of the novel:
Locke Lamora's rule of thumb was this: a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim's trust forever. This time around, he planned to spend those three seconds getting strangled.
Turns out, there is a prologue that gives some background to Lamora's character. I'm only 50 or so pages into the book and, so far, I'm enjoying it.

My twofer is a blatant breaking of the two sentence rule. But, seeing as this is my blog, I'm not too conflicted about it. These are the opening two paragraphs of my new steampunk/fantasy tale. Part of me thinks these 'graphs sound pretty darn pretentious and the other part agrees with me. But, with Charles Dickens as my inspiration, I'm trying to emulate at least part of his style. Not coming close, I agree, but there it is.
Had he been able to turn away, Kionell Watson would have missed the thin blade of dawn's light as it cut through the bars of the prison cell, illuminating the dust swirling in the breeze. Had he been able to close his eyes, Kionell Watson would not have seen the pigeon light upon the small ledge, squeeze through the bars, and begin pecking at the crumbs scattered along the alcove. Had he be able to cry out, Kionell Watson would have warned the splotched bird to flee, get away, anything to get its attention and scare it away.

He could do nothing but watch as the murderer Serkis, his cellmate, reached out with a hand so fast it was a blur, grabbed the bird's wing, and hurled it across the dank room. The bird's wing snapped, the stones of the cell sucking the sound away as if it never even happened. Out of his field of vision, Kionell Watson listened to the pitiful flutterings of the wounded bird, its feathers sweeping dust on the floor where usually they unfurl with the wind.
Even now, I'm cringing a little, especially on the last line. But, hey, that's part of the life as a writer: write something and edit later.

For more Two Sentence Goodness, head on over to Women of Mystery.

9 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Love your steampunk opening. I thought the last line worked perfectly. You indeed reached for something there but I believe you caught it. It's the little dangerous turns of phrase that can truly "light" up a story.

Speaking of "light," if I would have one minor quibble. In the opening, you first use "light" as in sunlight, and then when you had the bird "light" on the window I first misunderstood it because I'd been primed by the sunlight. Perhaps something like "perch" for the second "light."

Clare2e said...

I'm enjoying it so far!

I caught the same thing Charles did. When I first read "pigeon light", I perceived it as a type of dawn light. I thought that was as interesting as what it turned out to say when I reread it.

For me, the acceptable level of vividness in purple prose has everything to do with the overall tone. The hearkening to Victoriana well suits the steampunk genre, obviously. If this voice is filling the sails as you go, I'd say keep on with it.

I've heard great things about Locke Lamora.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I can see why the Locke Lamora book intrigued you from the beginning. Great opening hook. I liked your steampunk paragraphs, and I don't consider the style pretentious. Don't know much about steampunk, but a more formal voice works well for historical novels. If I'd quibble about anything it would be repeating Kionell's name in the first three sentences, but I loved the vivid imagery and the bleak tone. Very intriguing and well written.

Leah J. Utas said...

Love the use of what he can't do.

David Cranmer said...

Yeah, your steampunk opening is a winner. I'm glad you decided to give us bonus lines this week.

Scott Parker said...

Charles - thanks for the praise and the suggestion. I'll make sure the bird doesn't light on the sill.

Clare2e - I'm also reading Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and I can see his influence in the prose.

Linda - As I read it aloud to my wife, I caught the same overuse of Kionell's name. It's outta there. Thanks.

Leah - Well, it turns out, in paragraph #3, that Serkis has put him under a spell/hypnotic trance, preventing Kionell from moving and forcing him to reveal his secrets. But I thought three paragraphs was stretching the point of the meme. I'm a huge fan of characters performing an initial act in a story that reveals almost everything about themselves. Thus, I am trying to have chapter 1 filled with murderous dread.

David - Thanks, as always. BTW, where are *your* two lines or are you getting ready to have your story up at Beat to a Pulp?

David Cranmer said...

My story "Vengeance on the 18th" will be up this week at BTAP. I've stolen so many lines from it for previous Twofers that I didn't dare post anymore without giving away the ending.

Barbara Martin said...

Very wicked writing Scott; caught my attention right off. Poor bird though, and very nasty character.

Scott Parker said...

David - Here's what's fun about your title without having read your story: so many connotations come to mind. Looking forward to some pulpy Sunday reading.

Barbara - I'm glad it caught your attention. With me trying to channel Dickens, I didn't know how well it would be to someone not in my own head. Glad you liked it. I read the next three paragraphs to my wife and she was surprised *I* wrote it. I see Serkis as a truly nasty man. Thanks for stopping by.