Opening for WIP. 900 wds

yorelm

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#1
This is my first post in about 3 years, so I hope things have changed for the better since then. Just seeking views on a present story opening.
---------
Levy needed to hear my announcement, and now. I couldn't proceed without his understanding. I turned from the staring out at my home of New Isrealm and moved away from the roof railing.

I fixed on Levy, sitting under the shade of the awning I had built for him, though it wasn’t much needed since evening approached. He sat cross-legged on a padded mat, hunched over while scribing church drafts. Except for his hands, his body made not one twitch. Only the fabric of his ghutra and the graying hair of his beard rustled from a wind. To me he looked regal; a man deserving of loft.

"Levy, first you need to know my mind is firm for what I'm about to tell you. It won't be to your liking."

He looked up but said nothing, and his lips thinned to a tightened frown. Interruptions always annoyed him.

"I've decided to become your real, blood son, and have already taken measures."

"Jacob, I thought this discussion was over some time ago. When Abbey and I brought you in, we considered you our son that very evening."

And I had always thought of Levy as my father, but he never insisted I refer to him as such. I’ve used his birth name since childhood and have grown used to it. "It's not the same as being of your flesh. Right now your blood line ends with you. Do you not want grandchildren to carry your lineage?"

"If I have no blood child, then that's how it was meant to be."

He didn't mean that. I overheard him speak of his regrets of being childless--a real son or daughter from his loins--on at least two occasions. Once to mother when I was a child, and more recently in confidence to a close friend from the church. He did have remorse.

He placed his writing aside and stood to come closer. His tunic had that cloying church incense smell. "What do you mean you've taken measures?"

"I spoke with Alma--"

"The sorceress? You know how I feel about that, yet you do this?"

"I'm of twenty years now, long past a child's reasoning, and this wasn't considered lightly. I’d like to think you could respect my judgment."

"Yet you disregard that I have forsworn sorcery. Trickery that's not of God. It killed Abbey and that was enough for me."

"Mother was an unfortunate mistake. Let it rest, Levy. Alma's a good woman and has agreed to help...but I had to supply her with a few things." I rushed the last words to get them out before thinking too much.

Levy stared without a blink, waiting for me to continue.

"She needed a sample of your blood and parts of your flesh. I took the blood from that cut a few days ago, and I clipped a nail and a few strands of hair while you slept."

He stiffened to keep control. He knew me well enough to realize an outburst would do more harm than good. Instead, he turned away to look over the city's cubic buildings, and kept his voice deliberately calm. "How could you do this knowing my feelings, Jacob? You have you crossed the bounds of respect."

"As I told you, I considered this for some time. You’re a good man, and your line should continue for centuries to come. In addition, I don't feel complete, almost a parody. I know you love me as a real son, but sometimes it aches to know it isn’t so. We should be tied by true blood."

Levy turned back to me, keeping his face stolid. "And the woman will do this freely?"

"No, she desires a favor, but out of respect for you, she would not tell me or go any further until she received your personal approval."

"Then it is done. I will not consent."

I was prepared for that answer. Actually, I counted on it. Levy was stubborn, but reasonable. He would at least listen to Alma, but would make it clear he could not be easily influenced.

"Doesn't her honor for your permission speak of her character?" I asked.

He considered that. Still, I knew he didn't feel comfortable with anyone of Alma's power possessing parts of him. He would go, if simply to ask for the pieces back.

"Damn you, son, for doing this thing!"

I couldn't bare waiting, so I exploited his concern in order to commence as soon as possible. "Then let us go right now. You don't want her to have your flesh for too long, do you?"

I helped Levy down the ladder to the top floor of our home where I stored my coppersmith tools on the left side, and Levy saved parchments and general supplies on the other. There wasn’t much space for much else. Levy's bones weren't what they used to be, so he needed a rest before descending the final flight to the main floor.

I ungirded my tunic to let it fall to full length, then laced my sandals after fumbling a few times in my haste. We left for Alma's lodging. Earlier she said she had a reckoning that might help sway Levy in my favor. I was counting on that idea to be highly convincing.
 

Brian G Turner

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#2
Some of the sentences read as awkward and convoluted - some of the wording looks like it would be better smoothed out.

I like your character voice in your exposition, but it's not adding any emotional depth or tension/conflict. He knew it would be like this - but we don't get to feel disappointment or triumph in his attempts to trap Levy.

The setting is also very unclear - if this is the opening to the story, I'd like to see it established earlier, as we could be anywhere between modern New York and the ancient Levant - or even on another planet with settlers clinging to a remote Jewishness.

I'm also confused why you have apparently Jewish people in "church" rather than "at temple", which further confuses the setting.

Overall, though, it's not a bad piece - clearly something is happening, but I'd recommend being clearer on a few things mentioned above, and also being deeper with the emotional reactions to give a sense of feeling.

Oh, and welcome back. :)
 

yorelm

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#3
Thank you Brian.
I'm not sure I agree with the voice not showing any emotional depth, but I totally agree it could be a little better in spots. I'll have to work that in. Thx.

The setting is a "known issue" and you just confirmed it. This is an early draft, so I concentrated more on getting the conversation done. Now I can go back and better the setting for a sense of 'place', so I'm already on that. Great call.

This is just the stuff I was looking for. Thanks so much, again.

Oh, and good to be back. I'm also a musician and music took over for a while, but now I've gotten the writing itch again. I never stopped, but it was more like done in the background. Now it's back full force.
 
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TheEndIsNigh

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All just opinions, obviously


This is my first post in about 3 years, so I hope things have changed for the better since then. Just seeking views on a present story opening.

---------
Levy needed to hear my announcement, and now. I couldn't proceed without his understanding. I turned from the staring out at my home of New Isrealm and moved away from the roof railing. (can you stare out at your home? - unless you're at home staring out but it's a bit jarring and not my first thought. In anycase it doesn't help move the story along other than to introduce the iffy Isrealm see comments at the end.)

I fixed on Levy, sitting under the shade of the awning I had built for him, though it wasn’t much needed since evening approached. (who built what,when and for how long it was needed isn't of interest and slows things down) He sat cross-legged on a padded mat, hunched over while scribing church (I'm assuming new Isrealm is a Jewish realm - Is church the right place?) drafts. Except for his hands, his body made not one twitch. Only the fabric of his ghutra and the graying hair of his beard rustled (never heard a beard rustle - pretty hard with cloth too) from a wind. To me he looked regal; a man deserving of loft. (Loft? - do you mean respect?)

"Levy, first you need to know my mind is firm for what I'm about to tell you. It won't be to your liking."

He looked up but said nothing, and his lips thinned to a tightened frown (foreheads frown lips grimace maybe). Interruptions always annoyed him.

"I've decided to become your real, blood son, and have already taken measures."

"Jacob, I thought this discussion was over some time ago. When Abbey and I brought you in, we considered you our son that very evening."

And I had always thought of Levy as my father, but he never insisted I refer to him as such. I’ve used his birth name since childhood and have grown used to it. "It's not the same as being of your flesh. Right now your blood line ends with you. Do you not want grandchildren to carry your lineage?" (but they wouldn't be - Now I've read the rest Im still unconvinced by the tech. If they can change the genetic make up of a child born to a none blood relative then why not go straight for the child - why all this messing about with the potential father.)

"If I have no blood child, then that's how it was meant to be."

He didn't mean that. I overheard him speak of his regrets of being childless--a real son or daughter from his loins--on at least two occasions. Once to mother when I was a child, and more recently in confidence to a close friend from the church. He did have remorse.

He placed his writing aside and stood to come closer. His tunic had that cloying church incense smell. "What do you mean you've taken measures?"

"I spoke with Alma--"

"The sorceress? You know how I feel about that, yet you do this?"

"I'm of twenty years now, long past a child's reasoning, and this wasn't considered lightly. I’d like to think you could respect my judgment."

"Yet you disregard that I have forsworn sorcery. Trickery that's not of God. It killed Abbey and that was enough for me."

"Mother was an unfortunate mistake. Let it rest, Levy. Alma's a good woman and has agreed to help...but I had to supply her with a few things." I rushed the last words to get them out before thinking too much.

Levy stared without a blink, waiting for me to continue.

"She needed a sample of your blood and parts of your flesh. I took the blood from that cut a few days ago, and I clipped a nail and a few strands of hair while you slept."

He stiffened to keep control. He knew me well enough to realize an outburst would do more harm than good. Instead, he turned away to look over the city's cubic buildings, and kept his voice deliberately calm. "How could you do this knowing my feelings, Jacob? You have you crossed the bounds of respect."

"As I told you, I considered this for some time. You’re a good man, and your line should continue for centuries to come. In addition, I don't feel complete, almost a parody. I know you love me as a real son, but sometimes it aches to know it isn’t so. We should be tied by true blood."

Levy turned back to me, keeping his face stolid. "And the woman will do this freely?"

"No, she desires a favor, but out of respect for you, she would not tell me or go any further until she received your personal approval."

"Then it is done. I will not consent."

I was prepared for that answer. Actually, I counted on it. Levy was stubborn, but reasonable. He would at least listen to Alma, but would make it clear he could not be easily influenced.

"Doesn't her honor for your permission speak of her character?" I asked.

He considered that. Still, I knew he didn't feel comfortable with anyone of Alma's power possessing parts of him. He would go, if simply to ask for the pieces back.

"Damn you, son, for doing this thing!"

I couldn't bare waiting, so I exploited his concern in order to commence as soon as possible. "Then let us go right now. You don't want her to have your flesh for too long, do you?"

I helped Levy down the ladder to the top floor of our home where I stored my coppersmith tools on the left side, and Levy saved parchments and general supplies on the other. There wasn’t much space for much else. Levy's bones weren't what they used to be, so he needed a rest before descending the final flight to the main floor.

I ungirded my tunic to let it fall to full length, then laced my sandals after fumbling a few times in my haste. We left for Alma's lodging. Earlier she said she had a reckoning that might help sway Levy in my favor. I was counting on that idea to be highly convincing.
Nice dialogue.

Some positional issues

The setting needs explaining IMO. Are we off planet, in a Jewish setting or is the Isrealm irrelavent?

If so, I'd find a new name, if not then the issues in this tale are likely to be a bit contravercial - changing genetics, master race wise IMO.

Hope I helped

Tein
 

yorelm

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#5
Of course you helped, Tein.
Yes, the setting most definitely needs work. I'll try a repost later after more has been added.

And there is no child yet, that's why Jacob wants it to begin with him. Also, as I mentioned, he has the desire to himself be a part of the bloodline because it hurts him to be Levy's son by "title only."
 

ctg

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#6
You are doing well, and you definitely have talent for writing stories. Follow TEINs and Brian's advices when you do an edit or a rewrite and the next iteration is going to better. Well done, don't give up. ;)
 

tinkerdan

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#7
What you have here is good and it has me wanting to know just what this magic procedure might be.

I'd love to see the POV a bit stronger. Sometimes it felt like it was drifting close to swapping from Jacob to Levy.

That aside as far as the POV and some of the description. I felt there could be improvement with some tightening and perhaps remove too much filtering into or from the POV when giving description.

For example:
I fixed on Levy, sitting under the shade of the awning I had built for him, though it wasn’t much needed since evening approached. He sat cross-legged on a padded mat, hunched over while scribing church drafts. Except for his hands, his body made not one twitch. Only the fabric of his ghutra and the graying hair of his beard rustled from a wind. To me he looked regal; a man deserving of loft.
Any time you can manage this without so many interruptions using I in the sentence, the more the description comes forward or alive.

Consider:

Daniel sat cross-legged on a padded mat, under the elongating evening shade of the porch awning, hunched over drafts he scribed for the church, squinting further in the lamps meager light, his hands the only movement to betray his present conscious state. He was not asleep. The fabric of his ghutra and graying hair of his beard, the only other signs of movement as they rustled in the wind, lent him a regal measure of loft.

You could put this together better than I because what is being described may not have come across that well to me. However the point is that by focusing on describing Levy as Jacob sees him and removing possibly unnecessary added filtering from the POV and reducing the number of short or medium sentences for better pacing you might better clarify the description..

Again--I'm not saying to write it this way--because your style is not the same as mine. However you should consider tightening a lot of this whole piece.
 

Joshua Jones

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#8
Overall, I like the idea and the setting. I think you capture Jewish culture pretty well both in expressions and ideas, your story flows well and explores legitimate concerns for that society. Great job overall.

A couple of nitpicks from the cultural side. As @Brian G Turner noted, "church" is not the right term, unless they are strongly Goyim influenced Messianic Jews. If your story is set during First Temple Judaism (prior to the invasion of the Babylonians), it would be referred to as the Temple. If you are talking Second Temple Judaism, then he, most likely, is connected with a synagogue rather than the Temple (only Palestinian Jews would frequent the Temple, while Hellenistic Jews would visit at most a couple times a year if possible), though his profession as a scribe would suggest otherwise (unless they are Essenes, but then they wouldn't be living in a city as much as their own colony). If Post Temple Judaism, it would surely be a synagogue, and Levi would be a Masorite. From their clothes and mannorisms, they sound like 1st or possibly 2nd Temple, but I cannot say for certain without more information. Of course, if they are in a fictional, futuristic version, there may be a Temple, but they would likely still be using a synagogue.

Also, Abbey seems to me a little off. I assume it is short for Abigail (completely legitimate Jewish name), but I would think Abi or Abbi would be a more likely abbreviation.

But, those are nit-picks from someone who has studied these things FAR too much. I think you have a huge potential for internal conflict and complexity within Levi, who would likely be torn between his pious observation of the Torah and desire for offspring. And, Jacob (which, btw, would be Yacob if you REALLY want to make it exactly precise) has much potential as well.

I look forward to seeing where this goes! Please feel free to ask when you are ready for beta readers; I would be more than happy to take a look.
 

yorelm

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#9
Thanks @tinkerdan. Actually I worked a little on the rewrite today (Sun) based on some of the prev comments. Your style is a bit more elaborate than mine, but I get the idea and will go thru specifically looking for better phrasing to exclude some of the "I's". I'll go paragraph by paragraph and see if I can get it to read better on the repost--most likely I'll just add it to this one. I really appreciate that.

@Joshua Jones
I loved that info so much I copy/pasted in my Scrivener notes. This is pure fantasy loosely based on the "Earth" equivalent, but I'd prefer it not read too inaccurately at the same time. Temple was the first thing I changed on the rewrite per Brian and TheEnd, and I might sprinkle in a fact or two you mentioned above. Abbey will also be searched/replaced with Abbi. Not only would that be slightly more authentic, I like it better, much better, really.

Your Beta offer is extremely kind and I just may take you up on that. Right now, the whole thing is a second draft, so it's lacking in quite a few ways. The opening rewrite I started today will push me up the #3. Maybe after the I've gone through the complete story for draft three, I'll be in touch. Right now it's still too sketchy (as you can tell from my post). Let me add some shading and fill in some colors and I'll consider that a fair state for a Beta show.
 

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