Thursday, 15 September 2011

'“Maybe she’s got concussion!” The boy who yelled this out did it with the same excitement he might have felt suggesting he’d won a free holiday.' Take 2!

Since I basically heard crickets in response to my post yesterday, I'm assuming all is not well in Raven's Keep. However, I have taken on board Prerna's extremely helpful comments and hopefully am now posting a vastly superior draft of the opening section of my manuscript, Raven's Keep. I might be shooting myself in the foot with this, but even if only one person comments to let me know what now needs improvement then it's better than nothing. If there are any lurkers out there- remember you can leave anonymous comments, so go crazy!

(Here's the synopsis again for those who don't know: A teenage girl wakes up in a strange town to find that she has amnesia and no one knows who she is. It is a gothic/urban fantasy with a bit of a murder mystery thrown in.)

Chapter one:

Yellow dots played on her eyelids like tap-dancing ants. Her body itched and tingled as it began to wake up, but she kept her eyes shut and didn’t move. Every bone felt heavy and fragile beneath her skin. A confusion of voices filled the air, asking strange questions that made no sense and invaded her space. She wanted to pull the covers over her head and shut the sounds out, but the more conscious she became, the more she doubted that she was in a bed. The patter of ants turned into the jab of needles.
“Make way, make way.
She could just make out the clucked muttering that comes from a crowd being jostled as someone shoves through, but still she didn’t move, though she could feel her heart pounding in her chest as though determined to draw attention to itself.
“For goodness sake everyone. I’m here now. I’ll deal with this.”
She felt her eyelids twitch. The needles were trying to pry them open. She had begun to sense the people forming a semi circle around her; to feel the bumpiness of the ground beneath her body. 
“Now.” The same bossy voice came again, nearer this time. “What is going on?”
“It’s like she appeared from nowhere.” Someone answered. “She’s still alive, but I dunno what’s wrong.” 
A silence prickled the atmosphere before the bossy voice continued: “how long has she been lying here?” 
“Not long,” another person said. “Do you think she should go to the hospital?”
Cora opened her eyes.
She blinked in the sharp sunlight as the dots continued to make things blurry, and realised her view was obscured by what looked like a crimson mop. She blinked again and the vision reshaped itself into the hair atop a woman’s head. The face below it was middle-aged and fleshy, with several layers of loose powder that made Cora think of uncooked pizza dough. She blinked again and the woman’s blue eyes came into focus.
“Everyone stand back!” It was the bossy voice, Cora realised. The woman was ‘bossy voice.’ She kneeled in the dirt beside Cora, her legs protected from the ground by a shabby tweed jacket that didn’t look like it belonged to her. “The stranger is awake.”
“Who are you?” The words were out before anything else came to mind, but a second later an onslaught of more important questions rushed at her. What was going on? Where was she? How had she got there? Too many thoughts buzzed in Cora’s head like a frantic swarm of bees. Not much was coming to her in that moment, but she felt confident that she didn’t normally wake up outside and surrounded by a bunch of strangers.    
The woman pressed her lips together. “I was going to ask you the same question. You’re the one who was lying unconscious in the street.”
Cora stared at her, trying to focus. Silver earrings hung like church bells through the woman’s short hair, brushing the shoulder pads of a tailored, striped navy suit. Everyone else stood back from the woman, and Cora realised that they all knew who the woman was. She turned her attention to the crowd. No one looked familiar. Teenage boys drawn by the commotion. Mothers with toddlers. Shop keepers who had left their stores unattended to find out what was going on. All were strangers. Cora twisted her head and saw that she was lying on the cobbled ground of what appeared to be a town square. Even now people exited the shops, attracted by the sight of a crowd on such a sleepy, sunny day.
Despite the gathering it was quiet. The cobbles stretched from one side of shops to the other, leaving no road for any cars to get through.
Cora struggled to sit up, feeling her cheeks burn under everyone’s eyes. Immediately a headache threatened to rip open her skull. Massaging her forehead, she looked around the crowd, searching for an escape. She needed to get away- she didn’t know why, but she felt this need for escape as a certainty in the same way she felt her aching legs. A strange snapping sound brought her back to the person in front of her.
“Now look at me.” Even the birds seemed to quiet down when Bossy Woman clicked her fingers. “What’s your name?”
“Cora.” It sounded strange on her tongue. “Cora,” she tried again.
“Cora?” Bossy Woman lifted an eyebrow.
“That’s it.”
“Don’t be stupid. Your wits aren’t addled now, are they? Or perhaps you fell on your head. You must have a last name.”
Cora felt her chest tighten. “I…I don’t remember.” What was her last name? How old was she? What day was it? Her breaths became shallow as she realised she didn’t know the answer to any of the questions. As stars swam across her eyes she made herself inhale and exhale slowly.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” Someone else called out.
“I don’t think so.” Cora turned over her slender arms, examining both front and back, but the pale, freckled skin was clear of cuts or bruises. Her aching bones didn’t need to be mentioned.
“Maybe she’s got concussion!” The boy who yelled this out did it with the same excitement he might have felt suggesting he’d won a free holiday.
“I’m fine.” Cora didn’t know why she felt the need to hide everything. Perhaps it was because all of the crowd were staring at her as though she’d fallen from the sky; perhaps it was because every instinct told her to run. In a minute she would remember everything, she promised herself, squeezing her fingernails into her palms. It was just taking her longer than normal to wake up and her mind was still foggy from sleep. That was all.
BW rose to her feet and held out a manicured hand that looked like chunky chips dipped in blobs of ketchup. As she waved it in Cora’s face, Cora caught a whiff of disinfectant. “Get up,” BW said, her fingers wriggling when Cora hesitated. “I’m taking you to the hospital. Now.”
With shaking arms, Cora pushed herself upwards, ignoring the proffered aid. BW dropped her arm as though it had failed her and she would like nothing more to do with it.
Cora took a deep breath as she straightened up and felt the air rush to her head. Her legs were as brittle as lollipop sticks and her stomach felt like it was being liquidized in a blender.
“Um… thanks for the offer, but I don’t need to go to hospital. Thanks.” Brushing the dirt off of her clothes, she avoided looking at the crowd. Their gazes only made her stomach churn faster and on top of everything else the fog still refused to clear up. Before she could stop herself she stumbled forward and her arms shot out to keep her balance.
“Don’t be stupid and stop wasting my time,” BW said. “You need to be checked for any damages and then I need to phone your parents.”
“My parents?”
“Of course. How old are you anyway? You don’t look much more than seventeen.”
“I’m … I don’t know.” Cora rubbed at her head again. It still sparked as though a firework was banging about inside of it.
“Oh, for goodness sake, never mind.” BW clutched at Cora’s hand before Cora could shake it off. “We’ll sort it all out once you’ve been checked over.” She turned to the crowd. “Everyone, get back about your day. This isn’t a spectator sport.”
As the crowd dispersed Cora felt the tightness in her chest begin to loosen. “Thanks for that,” she said, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other as BW marched her down the street. “How come they listen to you?”
 “Are you actually saying you don’t know who I am? I’m the Mayor of the town of Raven’s Keep. Mayor Winter.”
“Oh.” Cora bit her lip. The town’s name was unfamiliar. “Where’s that?”
“Right here.” BW paused and grabbed Cora’s shoulders, digging her nails through Cora’s t-shirt. She looked at Cora with a solemn expression, yet her eyes seemed to glitter. “You don’t know where you are or how you got here, do you?”
No and no, but Cora wasn’t about to say it. Instead she shrugged. “I’m just a bit…confused.”
Cora jerked backwards out of BW’s hands and then instantly regretted the action as she almost lost her balance again. “I’m…Cora. And by the way-” she massaged her shoulders “-I’m not deaf.”
BW smiled. “Let’s just get you to the hospital.”

So again, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE comment- say anything at all that comes to mind, even if you think it sounds ridiculous or nitpicky to the extreme! I feel like I'm yelling into a well here: 'is there anyone out there...there...there...' but anyway, you get my drift. Any comment will be welcomed with imaginary cupcakes and the knowledge that you've made a desperate girl happy. So...yeah. I'll shut up now and go look for my dignity. :) 


prerna pickett said...

I really like the changes you made, the story flows better. The only other suggestion I would make is have Bossy Voice introduce herself by name earlier (without letting on that she's the mayor), like when she tells her to look at her have her say 'I'm so and so, who are you?' so that way she can refer to her by name...then again there is a little bit of humor when she just refers to her as bossy voice. I also love the description of the town square, I can picture all the shops and the cobblestone street.

Eleanor at Mirror Of My World said...

its really good char, i like the changes made. especially the beginning, its much better with the description as an opening.

Selina said...

Bossy woman could be a little less annoying to start with and then become ultra irritating. I like to change my mind about characters and dicover new depths to them than find out from day 1 what they are like, usually. Just a suggestion