I'm so excited about my JuCanWriMo. So far so good! I'm looking forward to checking in with all of you on Wednesday.
Today's First Page Friday is a good one, so let's get right to it.
The Two-Way Leech
by Melanie Goldmund
“Blood-sucker, power-feeder, energy conduit,” the crewmembers chanted over and over again.Not wanting to understand, Vero reached up to her thought-translator, but as soon as she touched the gold circlet, Cur smacked her hand away, and fingered the handle of his short whip in unnecessary warning.Vero glanced away, back to the dais where the tyrant superior stood, staring out across the rows of assembled crewmen with his arms outstretched.At least they weren’t staring at her anymore, making her uncomfortably aware that she was a stranger and a female among them, and completely dependent on Cur for protection.
A crewman marched up the middle aisle and presented an open box to the tyrant superior.The man reached down, lifted up a gold circlet very similar to the one that Vero was wearing, then placed it on his own head.Was that a thought translator, too?Why would he need it, if he were the leader on board the ship, as Cur had indicated?It must be something else.The gemstone in the tyrant’s circlet was dark red and as big as an egg, where Vero’s was small and white, and as she watched, it began to pulse in time with the men’s chanting.She looked away.As the first crewman retreated, another approached, holding a round container.
The tyrant superior reached in and pulled out a long, thin wriggling creature, like a long, black worm.He held it aloft, and the men fell silent, but only long enough for him to call out, “The prisoner!”Then the crewmen began a new chant. “Blood!Blood!Blood!”
Cur grabbed Vero by the upper arm and dragged her into the aisle.She stumbled along, not wanting to get any closer to the tyrant superior and that writhing creature, but Cur propelled her relentlessly up on to the dais.Panting with fear, she landed on her knees at the man’s feet..He knelt down, too, then extended the hand that held the black worm.Vero flinched back, but Cur gripped her by the hair and under her chin.As the worm lashed towards her, Vero squeezed her eyes shut and tried to twist out of Cur’s grip.Something sharp bored straight into her jugular vein, burning as it went, and Vero opened her mouth to scream.
Ms. Shreditor’s Comments
This story gets off to a compelling start with the mysterious chanting of the crewmembers. We meet a very unnerved Vero, who witnesses the unfolding scene with a certain air of helplessness. I was a bit unclear about Cur’s role. There’s no exposition to introduce him, so the reader is left to decipher the few clues given about his character. The whip suggests that he’s somehow in charge of Vero, but we’re ever told exactly who he is. Even a simple identifier—e.g., “…but as soon as she touched the gold circlet, the guard, Cur, smacked her hand away”—would go a long way in terms of clarification.
I found the names to be intriguing. Are we to associate character names with their Latin meanings? For those of you just tuning in to the Dead Language Network, vero means “in truth.” Cur means “why.” My one comment: the name “Vero” strikes me as somewhat masculine. The narrative establishes her sex quickly enough, but it’s still difficult for me to associate this name with a female character.
The scene presented here is supremely creepy. The tyrant superior pulls up the wormlike creature from the container with the crewmembers’ eerie chanting as his soundtrack. The narrative is almost like slow torture as it guides the worm toward Vero’s jugular.
The presence of “thought-translators” suggests to me that this will be some sort of dystopian sci-fi story. Make sure that, in the pages and chapters that follow, there is motivation behind the world you build. Too often, I crack open dystopian fiction only to find some generic world with “big bads” in power, but the story never offers up a reason why these corrupt figures behave as they do (or, even worse, the dystopian element is incidental to some tepid romance). Vivid world-building is a vital component of any story like this.
So, long story short, keep on keepin’ on. The story is creepy, and the pacing is just right. Consider the world you wish to build carefully so as not to fall into the “generic dystopian universe” trap that currently plagues the genre. But you are on the right track.
Thanks to Melanie and Ms. Shreditor. This has definitely been a "creepy book" type week on my blog. :)
See you next week!