A new beginning ...

ZlodeyVolk

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#1
Do you know that physiological reaction which occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival? That's where I am, right now.

This is the latest version (half-baked, this morning) of the intro to Effluent Society—which I bill as a snarky but playful, with any luck humorous, probably dystopian novel. I'm not looking for comments upon grammar or lexis; they are a part of the joke. All I really want to know, at this stage, is whether the passage is utterly repellant, merely dull, or an inducement to further reading …


ACCORDING TO THE BOFFINS, AN INFINITE NUMBER of universes may co-exist. Of course there are those who immediately misconstrue the concept of infinity to mean that everything is possible, and then go on to pester them with silly questions such as: ‘Is there a universe in which two plus two equals five?’ These individuals have missed the point entirely, insofar as the boffins are speaking of an infinite number of possible universes and, alas, not everything one can imagine is possible.

Consider integers. There is an infinite number of them; yet π can never be one among them, no matter how much one might wish things were otherwise, because it is impossible for π to be an integer—

Except among a very small and hopefully atypical subset of almost pathologically literal-minded Yeshuans, who mulishly insist their scriptures prove that π is exactly three. Fortunately the spiritual well-being of these non-representative believers is being safeguarded by pastors who regularly confiscate their flocks’ small change, because the ratio of the diameters and circumferences of about all the coins minted and circulated in the Federal Dominion of Tir Arallfyd invariably works out to 3.141592653589… et cetera, and said coins therefore are an abomination.

Anyway …

To the extent we may invest our trust in any claim that there is an infinite number of possible universes, let it be entered into the record that the universe in which this tale is set is the one in which Yr Ymerodraeth Brydeinig Fawr a Ffyniannus yet endures.

That’s ‘The Great and Prosperous British Empire’ to those among us who are not conversant in the official language of the political class.

Let the record reflect, too, that were I to present a map of said Great and Prosperous yada yada yada, I would call your attention to said empire’s southernmost dominion—namely, the continent-sized island called Tir Arallfyd. Which, to eliminate all possibility of mistake, should additionally be distinguished by the legend you are here, writ large upon it in vivid-reddish-orange majuscules.

About everybody knows that the world’s deadliest venomous animals all may be found in the Federal Dominion of Tir Arallfyd. For example, the enchanting strong-blue waters of the famed Coral Coast are home to the most venomous creature of all—Sicarius maris, an inconspicuous greyish-blue jellyfish which is popularly known as ‘[OBSCENE EXPLETIVE]! It’s like walking over flaming coals with a rusty three-inch nail grinding into my heel!’ Meanwhile, upon the sun-kissed beaches and reefs of New Albion and Cariad Harbours, you might stumble upon the less-imaginatively named brilliant-blue-ringed octopus (Malumpolypus ceruleae)—an eye-catching little cephalopod, the venomous properties of which were not fully appreciated until only quite recently.

Then again, you’re about as likely to encounter either of these beasties, in those places whither you and I are going, as you are to be savaged by a duckmole (Similis error). Which shy, aquatic, egg-laying mammal also is venomous, now I come to think upon it.

Anyway …

There also are plenty of terrestrial nasties to go around—exempli gratia, the infamous atrax (Atrax ingens), which is widely acknowledged the most dangerous spider in the world; as well as the notorious payanak (Notechis mortiferum), the venom of which snake is shamelessly flaunted as the most neurotoxic in the world.

Inter alia.

Yet even the ‘Spring-heeled Jack’ (Myrmecia maligna)—a vicious, inch-long, bluish-black ant with whopping-big brilliant-orange-yellow nippers and a bite that feels like one has just spilled battery acid onto a paper cut—receives more publicity than the lowly common nervous tick (Ixodes timens). Which seems quite unfair, given that I. timens’s bite contains enough neurotoxins to paralyse and kill large animals, as well as small to medium-sized children.

Under-represented or not, I. timens continues to puzzle the boffins, simply because they can find no really good reason for it to be quite so venomous as it is. Admittedly, I. timens is an arachnid, and therefore is distantly related to spiders and scorpions. Unlike spiders and scorpions, though, I. timens is not a predator—it is a parasite. And it never serves a parasite’s best interest, to kill its host outright.

Unless, of course, the parasite in question simply does not give a toss.

Delbeth Rowe, majority shareholder and Chief Executive Officer of ORB International plc and Chief Executive Officer of the Parliament of Syndics of the Commonwealth of New Gwent withal, might well be a case in point.
 
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#2
Thanks for posting. It's an imaginative piece.
For me, it reads as a floating narrative describing several exotic creepy-crawlies found on distant worlds; much like a voiceover at the beginning of a film. What is not coming across (IMO) is any sense, either physically or emotionally, of the narrator (character). I don't know why they are saying what they're saying, nor do I have any concept of location, time or purpose. If this is the introduction to a novel I would expect to have an insight into the character.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#3
Comments in bold below.

Do you know that physiological reaction which occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival? That's where I am, right now.

This is the latest version (half-baked, this morning) of the intro to Effluent Society—which I bill as a snarky but playful, with any luck humorous, probably (if you're on submission to agents, try to remove the probably and nail the genre with confidence. You can have the conversation about what it really is later, when they show interest. On balance, reading down, I'd leave out the reference to dystopia as it really doesn't feel dystopian (even if it is - I have one book that isn't really a dystopia but feels like it is, so I just call it dystopian now and everyone seems reasonably happy with that) ) dystopian novel. I'm not looking for comments upon grammar or lexis; they are a part of the joke. All I really want to know, at this stage, is whether the passage is utterly repellant, merely dull, or an inducement to further reading …


ACCORDING TO THE BOFFINS, AN INFINITE NUMBER of universes may co-exist. Of course there are those who immediately misconstrue the concept of infinity to mean that everything is possible, and then go on to pester them with silly questions such as: ‘Is there a universe in which two plus two equals five?’ These individuals have missed the point entirely, insofar as the boffins are speaking of an infinite number of possible universes and, alas, not everything one can imagine is possible.

Consider integers. There is an infinite number of them; yet π can never be one among them, no matter how much one might wish things were otherwise, because it is impossible for π to be an integer—

Except among a very small and hopefully atypical subset of almost pathologically literal-minded Yeshuans, who mulishly insist their scriptures prove that π is exactly three. Fortunately the spiritual well-being of these non-representative believers is being safeguarded by pastors who regularly confiscate their flocks’ small change, because the ratio of the diameters and circumferences of about all the coins minted and circulated in the Federal Dominion of Tir Arallfyd invariably works out to 3.141592653589… et cetera, and said coins therefore are an abomination. I like the voice, which is reasonably strong and professor-ish. However, I suspect this is a barrier to agent interest (but not always to reader interest, who are often more open to reading on) - they're looking at this and thinking the story is not clear, or that they are worried this is starting with back story. I'm not sure how to get around that - since you are establishing a voice - but one thing that MIGHT be worth doing is finding other books that begin in this conversational way (maybe Strange/Norrell?) and listing them as comparitors, and briefly saying why. That way, you show that this is a deliberate thing and not a rookie thing of not knowing how to start a story?

Anyway …

To the extent we may invest our trust in any claim that there is an infinite number of possible universes, let it be entered into the record that the universe in which this tale is set is the one in which Yr Ymerodraeth Brydeinig Fawr a Ffyniannus yet endures.

That’s ‘The Great and Prosperous British Empire’ to those among us who are not conversant in the official language of the political class.

Let the record reflect, too, that were I to present a map of said Great and Prosperous yada yada yada, I would call your attention to said empire’s southernmost dominion—namely, the continent-sized island called Tir Arallfyd. Which, to eliminate all possibility of mistake, should additionally be distinguished by the legend you are here, writ large upon it in vivid-reddish-orange majuscules.

About everybody knows that the world’s deadliest venomous animals (This concept is quite hooky and it makes me wonder how you get that closer to the beginning - remember agents may not read more than 50 words if not interested - and I wonder about using some sort of chapter heading eg: IN Which X talks of The Great and Prosperous British Empire, with specific reference to the world's deadliest venemous animals.... but much better.) all may be found in the Federal Dominion of Tir Arallfyd. For example, the enchanting strong-blue waters of the famed Coral Coast are home to the most venomous creature of all—Sicarius maris, an inconspicuous greyish-blue jellyfish which is popularly known as ‘[OBSCENE EXPLETIVE]! It’s like walking over flaming coals with a rusty three-inch nail grinding into my heel!’ Meanwhile, upon the sun-kissed beaches and reefs of New Albion and Cariad Harbours, you might stumble upon the less-imaginatively named brilliant-blue-ringed octopus (Malumpolypus ceruleae)—an eye-catching little cephalopod, the venomous properties of which were not fully appreciated until only quite recently.I'm crying out for a foot note here. I'm so eager to know how the venomous properties came to be known about, and I'm hoping it's a funny story.

Then again, you’re about as likely to encounter either of these beasties, in those places whither you and I are going, as you are to be savaged by a duckmole (Similis error). Which shy, aquatic, egg-laying mammal also is venomous, now I come to think upon it.

Anyway …

There also are plenty of terrestrial nasties to go around—exempli gratia, the infamous atrax (Atrax ingens), which is widely acknowledged the most dangerous spider in the world; as well as the notorious payanak (Notechis mortiferum), the venom of which snake is shamelessly flaunted as the most neurotoxic in the world.

Inter alia.

Yet even the ‘Spring-heeled Jack’ (Myrmecia maligna)—a vicious, inch-long, bluish-black ant with whopping-big brilliant-orange-yellow nippers and a bite that feels like one has just spilled battery acid onto a paper cut—receives more publicity than the lowly common nervous tick (Ixodes timens). Which seems quite unfair, given that I. timens’s bite contains enough neurotoxins to paralyse and kill large animals, as well as small to medium-sized children.

Under-represented or not, I. timens continues to puzzle the boffins, simply because they can find no really good reason for it to be quite so venomous as it is. Admittedly, I. timens is an arachnid, and therefore is distantly related to spiders and scorpions. Unlike spiders and scorpions, though, I. timens is not a predator—it is a parasite. And it never serves a parasite’s best interest, to kill its host outright.

Unless, of course, the parasite in question simply does not give a toss.

Delbeth Rowe, majority shareholder and Chief Executive Officer of ORB International plc and Chief Executive Officer of the Parliament of Syndics of the Commonwealth of New Gwent withal, might well be a case in point.
I do quite like it - but I can see why agents aren't responding. I think you're going to need to do some research about agents who like quirky projects, list some good comparitors, and be very clear in your query where this is actually going since we get little hint here. Hope it's helpful!
 

millymollymo

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#4
You asked "is it worth carrying on" (or words something like it)
A:
I don't know where you're going with it, but for me it hits - so, please hurry up and answer the questions you've raised in this piece.
Please.
Now.

Main stream agents look for mainstream narrative. Something many of us often forget.

There are plenty of avenues to explore if you accept that this is niche, fun, quirky and oozing a comic-book dysfunctional dystopia style.
 

ZlodeyVolk

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#5
I don't know where you're going with it, but for me it hits - so, please hurry up and answer the questions you've raised in this piece.
Please.
Now.
Thanks. Wow. If this is your reaction, then you might be pleased to know that this particular narrative has been 'finished' (in that it reached the end I intended) more than a year ago; I'm just trying to make the intro more enticing. And to add another interlude (like the one with the urban explorers in a tunnel that shouldn't be there, but involving fluffers, I fancy) so the setup doesn't get too boring, around page 38.

And I'm about 113,000 words into the next book in the sequence … It's going to need some trimming, but I'll see if I can wrap it up at 150,000 or so. I still need to have the showman eaten by a large varanid.
 

ZlodeyVolk

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#6
Comments in bold below.



I do quite like it - but I can see why agents aren't responding. I think you're going to need to do some research about agents who like quirky projects, list some good comparitors, and be very clear in your query where this is actually going since we get little hint here. Hope it's helpful!
Well, the 'probably' isn't in the text; but I read, somewhere, that queries should reflect the novel's style and equivocation is a big part of it. I can lose it, though. And trying to find an agent who's also a kook is good advice—cheers!
 

Phyrebrat

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#7
I liked it. I’d read an entire book on venomous organisms.

I think the Welsh names might deter your more lazy readers but you can’t please everyone.

The voice is the hook so I’m also fine with nothing if particular note happening to anyone/by anyone’s hand.

pH
 

ZlodeyVolk

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#8
Cheers. There's not a lot of Welsh in it, just a touch to give the idea of a slightly different political history. That being said, there's a lot of heteroglossia. And sadly it's not about venomous organisms, as such. Mostly it's about dropping normal people into an abnormal situation. There is a 'drop bear', later, though.

Actually, I don't think anybody could guess where this thing ends up.
 

millymollymo

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#9
I don't know as much as some here re agents, but I believe they look for a reflection of the voice, the grasp of grammar in the query. Not a direct lift of content. Be professional, don't be the character - so many writers I know fall over this one.
Also, tip: know the difference between UK and rest of the world agents.
They look for, and require different things.
 

Brian G Turner

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#10
I have to admit I don't really get a sense of this being the beginning of a story until the line:

About everybody knows that the world’s deadliest venomous animals all may be found in the Federal Dominion of Tir Arallfyd.
That sets a very Douglas Adams tone to me. Even still, I'd like the opening to be punchier - this is all exposition about the setting, so I'd throw your best lines in as quickly as you can, if possible.
 

ZlodeyVolk

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#11
I'll take the Douglas Adams remark as a compliment. Ta.

It feels expositional, yes. And so it is, although it's only superficially an information dump. It also sets up a lot of themes—co-existent universes; exploitation and parasitism; animals which are peculiar to a location; and the act of dumping, itself—the importance of which become apparent as the story develops.

But we're yet wanting a clear context. Does it help, to say that the next bit straightaway introduces the principal villain protagonist, Delbeth Rowe?
 

Jo Zebedee

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#14
That's a bit bleak.
It is, yeah. :( But it does focus the mind. The way I see it is after I get one interested then I can have the conversation about how best to begin. But an agent is focused on stories they think they can sell - and that means marketable. And part of marketable is the market knowing what the book is about and being hooked quickly.

It always helps me if I remind myself of that - rejections aren’t about quality but marketability.
 

tinkerdan

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#15
I love the voice and it got me into the first para--and beyond; however.

For me it seemed to drone on and on with no real direction; though I could very well be missing something.
I'd want to have a story coming up soon in which to stuff all of this knowledge, though, in fact, having the story come in sooner would give better context to all the data.

Once again, I might have missed a lot by letting the voice carry me through the first half like white water rapids.
 

Toby Frost

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#16
It's hard to know what to say about this, because it's not really my kind of thing. I think it's well-written, and the strong narrative voice reminds me somewhat of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which doesn't do much for me, but a lot of people love). Personally, it feels like what Stephen King calls "throat-clearing" before the real story begins, but it is well-done throat clearing if so. So I can't say that I'd read on, and I can see why it might put off publishers, but the writing seems good and I hope it works out well!
 

ZlodeyVolk

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#17
A'right, then—what about this?

*​

ON PLATFORM 2 OF SÉAMUS COURT STATION, the fluffers were preparing to work.

No; not those whose lot is to arouse the male participants in pornographic films before the cameras may roll. Another sort of fluffer.

Anyway …

The night saw a new hire join Bertwynne Craster’s work crew—to wit: Carys Rowbree, a fairly representative young lass who, having completed only ten years of Commonwealth education, yet could not believe her luck—

And while she wondered, for the umpteenth time, whom among all the gods and goddesses she must have offended, Rowbree held her bundle of work clothes defensively across her breast and threw her anxious gaze around the platform. Eventually, she expressed some concern about the apparent lack of amenities for workers. ‘There isn’t anywhere for us to change?’

Through her glasses, Bertwynne Craster—whose posture and carriage suggested one who has experienced a good deal of life, in all her years upon this Earth; and whose countenance further intimated that she had not enjoyed very much of it—blinked at her latest protégé, and required: ‘Pardon?’

‘Where are we supposed to change?’

‘On the platform,’ Craster finally replied, in the manner of one who cannot believe the answer isn’t obvious.

Rowbree gaped for a second or three, before sputtering: ‘You’re joking.’

Whereupon Craster appended: ‘Or wherever we can find a little nook or cranny, to hide. But there’s none here, so …’ She finished her thought with a resigned shrug.

Rowbree showed Craster a sceptical look, and briefly considered the possibility that she was being set up for some species of initiatory prank—

But Craster evidently had spoken truly. Already Aderyn Pronk—who recalled to mind that co-worker who, at the office Yuletide party, imbibes at least one ‘bevvy’ too many and spends the rest of the evening coaxing colleagues to stand underneath the mistletoe, with her—unabashedly had dropped her strides, preparatory to donning the deep-yellowish-pink safety clothing which Occupational Health & Safety guidelines required all workers to wear in the tunnels. Once her feet had been freed from her acid-washed jeans, she took a seat upon the nearest available bench and commenced to pull on her baggy, deep-yellowish-pink safety trousers.

Needless to say, that she was clad only in T-shirt, socks and panties provoked catcalls from the 01:04 suburban service to Mabarthwr.

Tracy Wingecarribee—whose features and complexion proclaimed her a descendant of the land’s traditional custodians—shouted with laughter, and showed the rowdies her index and middle fingers, raised and parted[1]

But Craster merely tutted at the departing train, and counselled Rowbree: ‘Never mind those yobs. It’s not an easy job, love,’ she then went off, on somewhat a tangent, ‘and it'll take you a while; but you will get used to it.’

‘You won’t,’ Pronk gainsaid, while she tied the laces of her careworn dark-greyish-brown safety boots; and her voice was as limited as you might expect, from one who has a knee pressing into his or her midriff. ‘It’s going on a year, now, and I still can't get used to it.’

‘Well, I said it takes a while—’

But Morag Faddel—who resembled no one so much as a librarian who cannot make peace with the idea that advertising handbills technically are literature—sadly shook her head. ‘I can’t, neither’ she confessed. ‘It's like me days are nights and me nights are days.’

‘Oh, quit your bellyaching,’ Craster remonstrated, although not unkindly. ‘I had an aunty that done thirty-three years on this job.’

‘On this job?’ Rowbree asked, as one who has found cause to mistrust his or her ears.

‘On this job, yeah,’ Craster confirmed. ‘She done thirty-three years on it, then retired. And then I came on the job.’

Pronk grumbled: ‘Good for her. I still can't get used to it …’

In time’s fullness, the fluffers checked each other’s equipment—

And as soon as the 01:24 service to Elverpool had departed, they at last descended into the tunnel. Wyrd and CityRail willing, they should have three train-free hours during which to clean the tracks.


[1] No, not the gesture which was widely adopted as a symbol of Peace, during the ’sixties—the other, altogether more pugnacious sign.
 
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#18
It may just be me, but as I plowed through the opening my thought was, “When will something happen?”

Why do I care that unnamed people claim there are parallel universes? Why do I care that there are people who “misconstrue that idea? Are they in the story? If so, won’t I see that they misunderstand, and how that influences the action in the story? If not, why mention them?

My point is this: If you don’t entertain the reader on every page they close the cover. And given that we have a talking head lecturing the reader on things they’ve not been made to want to know, the question is, is that lecture, in and of itself, entertaining? Remember, only the author can hear the tone and delivery of the one giving that lecture. Have your computer read it aloud to hear what the reader gets. It may something that readers will like. But the question is, is such an audience large enough to be considered a market? My point is that the reader expects drama, which, according to Alfred Hitchcock is life without the "dull bits." And by having someone onstage alone, and talking to us, you risk it being a dull bit. David Mammet wrote an interesting letter to the writers on his TV show that illustrates my concern, and is worth reading for what he says about drama. I can't yet link, but you can find it if you search on, David Mamet's Master Class Memo to the Writers of The Unit

It may be that this will be loved, but I have reservations. Your mileage may differ, of course.
 

HareBrain

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#20
I read the second version without reading the first, so didn't know what to expect. The hook, for me, comes in the exchange about the aunty doing 33 years on *this* job, as in "task". The intrigue of that would keep me going for a while, because it suggests there's something spooky going on (as if she's had to spend 33 years just scrubbing one patch of wall).

If that's not the case, and it just meant the aunty did 33 years in the same job, then you might need to de-emphasise that in case it misleads people.

Also, even if that is a valid hook, I was on the verge of not reaching it because by that stage I was skimming, searching for something to particularly grab my interest. If browsing in a shop, I might already have put it down. I do quite like the narrative voice, but there seem to be a lot of characters introduced, all with self-consciously strange names. I would think about dialling down the quirky tone a little with regard to the characters themselves, and dropping in a couple more hints to intrigue us with what their job is and why it's unusual.
 

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