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Ex Libris

[Writing] Prose 'Tone'

Okay. A few folks have already seen two of these snippets, albeit in slightly different forms. I'm tossing this up as another experiment, and this time, one not limited to my friends list. (God help me!)

The Last Page is still underway, and about seven chapters from completion. (Whew!) But I had another story idea come to me, and I've done the first little part of it up in a couple of different tones. I figure I could do it as a pulp/dramatic story, or as a couple of different tones. So here are three 'opening' snippets to the same story, and I'm curious which one grabs you the most.


Snippet #1

        They say that a city never sleeps; maybe that's true for some 
cities, but not this one. Here in Seattle, there's a moment between 1:30 
and 2 in the morning when the city catches its breath, and everything 
holds still. I savor that moment, as my city closes her eyes for that 
instant, and relax in its silence; I like my solitude, when I can find 
it. They say that a city never sleeps, but they're wrong; I'm the one 
that never does. Me, and those like me.
        One hand rests on the blade I always carry, bringing the 
reassuring soft rattle of wood and metal to my ears. It is an 
imposing-looking ceremonial Indonesian knife, the hilt and sheath of 
carved wood in a pattern of horses and the blade rust-spattered with age. 
The sight of it alone has given would-be assailants second thoughts; 
there is something about facing a blade that strikes more fear into one 
than a gun does, even when spattered with rust as dark as spilled blood. 
Eons of racial memory, perhaps, or the deadly glitter of light reflected 
from metal.
        I caress the carved mane of the horse on the hilt with the tip of 
one finger. The dagger was nothing special when I found it at one of the 
small shops of esoterica scattered throughout the city, a curio buried in 
an umbrella bin. Now it burns with power beneath my touch, dangerous and 
beautiful in the still night, a warning every bit as deliberate as a 
policeman's holstered gun or a ganger's brandished knife.
        Not everything heeds a warning, though; those are the ones which 
concern me.




Snippet #2

        They say a city never sleeps.
        Actually, they say /the/ city never sleeps, as if there were only 
one; as typically conceited as most other human statements, and as 
typically wrong as well. There is a moment when every city sleeps, when 
she catches her breath, letting out a long sigh as she lets go of the 
day. Cities dream too, after all. Not like you or me; the city never 
dreams about missing her bus, or showing up at work only to realize she 
forgot her pants. The dreams of a city are strange and incomprehensible, 
the hopes and nightmares of everything living there.
        It might be the instant before dawn, or 2:38 in the morning, or 
five minutes after the last bus runs for the night; cities catch their 
sleep when they can, just like those who live in them. Most people, if 
they're awake, only ever notice this moment as a sudden hush. That eerie 
moment, when for just a single breath everything seems empty and alone.
        Things live in those moments, things that can escape from the 
city's dreams and move into the waking world. You'd think more people 
would notice, but most people can't even think about the world past the 
sound bites on the morning news. And so you need someone like me. Most 
cities have at least one, whether they were dreamed into existence, or 
called to the task. As far as I know, I'm the only one who chose it for 
myself.
        No one ever accused me of making /good/ choices.
        The wooden hilt of my knife, warmed by my own body heat, is a 
reassuring presence in my hand. It's a showy blade, more style than 
substance; something I found in a curio shop, all carved vines and ornate 
Indonesian loops. The blade itself is covered in rust, but I rarely need 
to draw it; the dagger looks like something from out of a low-budget 
horror flick, and most people with any common sense -- or fashion sense 
-- run at the sight of it. For those that don't, I've long since made the 
knife a power focus in its own right; it's still a potent weapon, even if 
it likely couldn't cut butter.
        I can feel the moment approaching as the city seems to slow 
around me; unseen things press against the barrier between the waking and 
dreaming cities, hoping tonight will be the night they can tear through.




Snippet #3

        They like to say that 'the city never sleeps,' as if this were 
some great truth. They're wrong, though; there's a moment when every city 
sleeps. Here in Seattle, it's somewhere between 1:30 and 2 in the 
morning, after the last late-night buses have just made their weary way 
to the bus barns. In that brief moment, as everything holds still, the 
city herself seems to catch her breath and let go of the cares of her day 
as she sleeps into dreams.
        And cities do dream. Not like the dreams of the people who live 
in them, of course; a city never dreams of going to a midterm without its 
pants. A city's dreams are as real as the city itself, a whole second 
city to be discovered. Most people never see it, because they aren't 
willing to look. But then most people try not to think of the world 
around them beyond the sound bites on the morning news.
        But even if they aren't aware of the Dream, the Dream is aware of 
them. Things live in the Dream, and envy the solidity of the waking 
world. They strain hungrily against the boundary between Dream and 
Waking, eager to get free. And in the moment when the city sleeps, when 
that boundary is the weakest, some slip through. That's where I come in.
        Every city has its Watchers; those who can see the Dream, and 
deal with its denizens. Watchers come in all forms and races; some 
Watchers are Dreamed into being, while others find themselves called by 
the city. As far as I know, I am the only one who chose this duty.
        No one ever accused me of making /good/ choices.
        I feel the reassuring weight of the knife in my hand, the carved 
wood of the hilt warm from my touch. It's an ugly blade, fashioned by 
Indonesian craftsmen to look as exotic and imposing as possible in hopes 
a gullible tourist will buy one; I found it in the bottom of an umbrella 
bin in a flea market. The blade is rust-stained and likely couldn't cut 
butter even if you heated the metal first.
        But it works well enough as a weapon; most people will run at the 
sight of a foot-long blade, whether or not it's particularly sharp. 
Something about the glitter of light on metal, or eons of imbued racial 
memory.  For those who don't, I've long since imbued it with no small 
amount of power.  Dull blade or not, it burns as bright as a flame to 
those who can see it, a warning to leave my city alone.
        Not everything out there pays attention to warnings, though; 
those are the things which concern me.



Poll #452600 Snippet Poll

Which Snippet Was Best?

Snippet #1
1(14.3%)
Snippet #2
3(42.9%)
Snippet #3
3(42.9%)


Please add comments on why you felt this way. No, I'm not writing any more of it until I finish TLP, but I really am curious, and trying to figure out which 'tone' works best for this, for after TLP.

Whoot. Sleep now.

Comments

...They have horses in Indonesia? Huh. The things you learn.

(Voted for #3. Seems a good blend to me. Not a pro. Had chocolate. How're you?)
Beats me. I have an Indonesian dagger sitting here on my desk with horse carvings, which at least attests that they know how to carve horse-shaped figures in Indonesia...
I still like snippet #2. Its just that nonchalant tone to it, like...who cares about it... mmm yeah.
I voted for 3 because it has a more personal feeling. Snippet 1 was too Mickey Spillane-Raymond Chandler for me, and 2 was too flippant. Snippet 3 is just more balanced, and seems more like a real person.
I voted for #2, and here's my (albeit scattered) impressions of why:

Number 1, while good, has something in it that just doesn't do it for me: the description of the dagger just isn't "right", if you know what I mean. I like the tone of it otherwise, though.

Number 3 sounds like a Mercedes Lackey book. While I love Misty Lackey's writing style, I'm not sure whether that's what you're going for here - I figured you were aiming for a little more distinctive style. Also, the Dream/Watchers segment was a little roundabout, a little repetitive. (Not to mention that "watchers" are also primary figures of Mercedes Lackey's work - another echo there.)

Number 2 has the best distinctive flavor (although 1's good, too), and I like the semi-informal sense of it; it gives good character definition without being stereotypically "tough guy"-ish, but puts the thought into one's mind that if pushed, the speaker definitely would be the type to fight back. In many ways, that sort of nonchalant acceptance of who the character could be is a major character building point; the character knows who he/she is, and doesn't think twice about it... that's just "normal".

Hope that makes sense.
#3. can't give ya any logical reasoning why, it just read better for me.