Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Revised opening scene

by Suw on March 17, 2009

I’m revising almost everything I’ve already written for The Revenge of the Books of Hay, and adding in a lot more. The total word count currently stands at 25,112, which is about 20,000 more words than I originally thought this story would bear. Whilst the backstory has blossomed, the stuff set in the present day is starting to look a bit threadbare by comparison and is going to need a lot of TLC to bring it up to snuff.

I thought I’d post up the revised opening scene which I’ve tried to plump up a bit. I still laugh every time I read it, not because it’s particularly funny but because the “How to get published” presentation I went to a while back included the sage advice, Never start with the weather. Oops.

As usual, have at it in the comments.

Ernest Scrimshire pulled the nape of his jacket up over his head. He hesitated on the bookshop doorstep as the heavy oak door shut behind him, then plunged into the pelting rain. The remains of Hay Castle loomed up behind him and provided some shelter for a moment or two. The ruined Norman tower, covered in thick ivy, was a dark mass to his right. Behind him rose the Jacobean mansion, the blind windows of the eastern wing, blocked by rusting sheets of steel or left wide open for the bats to fly through, staring over his shoulder. The wing that had escaped the ravenous fire thirty years before housed the books, and its glory made the ravaged third all the more pitiful.

Ernest hesitated at the top of the steep steps that lead between neatly trimmed trimmed topiary down the embankment to the Castle Green. The stone was slick and dangerous, and he took a hold of the hand rail, still holding his jacket up with his other hand. It wasn’t far to home, but he’d be soaked to the skin before he got to the other side of the tiny walled green. It was barely 15 yards across but the rain was coming down like stair rods.

The lush grass, thick after a wet summer and long overdue a mow, soaked up the weather and mud spattered the bottoms of his trousers. The embankment ended in a stone walled ha ha. Bookshelves backed up against the ha ha and the wall opposite as if defending themselves against all that lay outside, or perhaps they were cowering away from the torrents that lashed them.

Ernest felt a pang of guilt as he hurried past the exposed and vulnerable books towards the tiny stone archway that lead out onto the street. Every time it rained, he wished he had found time to erect some sort of shelter for them, just something to keep the worst of the rain off. But every time it was dry he was busy with other things, with urgent things that couldn’t wait. Or couldn’t wait insofar as Griffith Loyd was concerned. Most things could wait for Ernest.

He hurried home, leaving the soggy books behind him. Sad and unloved, they stood in serried ranks along the shelves: outside, unprotected, at the mercy of the elements. As if the desultory prices they were on offer for, 30p for a paperback, 50p for a hard cover, wasn’t insult enough in a world where 50p barely bought half a loaf of bread.

The Literary Guide to the United States stood next to More For Jonathan and Indoor Plants, A Compendium, but should any brave souls take a shine to one of these illustrious titles and try to remove one from the shelf, they would find the covers stuck together, past rains and subsequent hot spells having bound them together as fast as any glue.

The poor large format books were relegated to the lower shelves, no longer lined up neatly, but piled in sorry heaps. The weaker, thinner paperbacks curled up in pain, their pages wrapped foetally around their spines, their deformity crushed into place by heavier hard covers. The muddy path that lead the book buyers around the green threatened to cast its muck over everything, except the mould had got there first. Mildew spots grew on every page, consuming the type and eating away at the paper.

No one would want one of these pathetic books in their house. They weren’t even fit for kindling in the town’s many fireplaces. Instead, they sat on their shelves, quietly rotting.

The wind swung to the north and a different cadre of books cringed away from the cruel rain.

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