New opening to the…

New opening to the novel. Now, it's only a draft, but I do like it. What do you think?

Every night when she was a little girl, Shefali's father would tell her a story before bed. He was an English professor, so he knew the best stories. She curled up in her bed, beneath the deep blue comforter her mother had embroidered with silver moons and stars, and her father told her adventure stories: Robinson Crusoe, The Three Musketeers, Tarzan. He told her mysteries starring Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Miss Marple. He told her fairy tales and folk tales, small household stories and tales of epic wars. The Illiad took him most of the winter when Shefali was eight, and the Mahabharata ate up the autumn of her ninth year. But his very favorites were the love stories, and he told them again and again.

Prince Rama and Princess Sita. Tristan and Isolde. King Shahryar and Scheherezade. Romeo and Juliet. Arthur and Guinevere. He told Shefali about beautiful women and wise men, black-hearted rivals and foolish fathers. He said that sometimes the lovers would be parted for many years, but that eventually, if they were true and strong and loyal, they would be reunited, for nothing could stand in the way of true love. And though Shefali fought to keep her eyes open so that he would keep telling her stories forever, inevitably, her heavy lids would slide shut. And the last thing she would see before sleep was her mother, leaning in the doorway, listening. The last thing she would hear was her father saying, "But no man has ever loved any woman as much as I love your mother." The last thing she felt was the soft brush of his lips, and then hers, across her forehead as she tumbled into sleep and dreams.

It was many years before she read those stories for herself, and discovered that her father had changed, or left off, the endings. Before Shefali realized that most stories of love had tragic endings, that in those stories, truth and strength and loyalty were not enough to save you. But by then, her own mother had died, taken away far too young. Shefali had already learned that lesson.

8 thoughts on “New opening to the…”

  1. It is pretty and accurate, but very depressing. It sets up the book (IMO) to be a tradegy.

    It is also hard for me to read the continual openings/chapter 1 w/o seeing the rest of the book again as I’m applying my previous knowledge to a form that isn’t there any more.

    But is gorgeous and a good depiction of Nalan.

  2. Interesting — Jed said (in e-mail) that it read like the opening to a romance. Anyone else?

    And Dawn, sorry for the frustrating over-and-over takes. I should be sending out Part I (of V) of a pretty final third draft v. soon now, I think. I’m currently expecting that there’ll be a fourth draft for language and tone, but that essentially the major scenes, etc. will be finalized in this draft. So this one coming is a good draft to read (trying to put aside as much as possible anything you may have read before, because it’s all subject to change in this draft).

  3. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a tragedy. In a way, getting the downer out of the way early can be a way of signalling that the story will be realist but not crushingly so. It all depends on the emphasis.

    When I read this opening (trying to ignore what I know about the rest of the story) I imagine that the theme of the book will be the relationship between romantic stories and life, and Shefali’s journey is likely to be one of rediscovering the joy that drives those stories beyond the disappointment.

  4. It depends — when you say, “romance,” what do you imagine?

    TA *is* a kind of romance, so there’s nothing wrong with letting the opening reflect that.

  5. Not “hard on me” frustrating, more “hard on me” to give you good feedback!!! I love this book and want to own it and I want to be able to help you in any way I can and just feel like I’m not helping. That’s all.

    As for opening like a romance: A Romance from about 200 years ago, yes. A genre Romance of today? I disagree having read a lot recently. Maybe if Shef was a boy, because the Hero’s mom is almost always dead or evil and that leads to everyone but the Heroine being a disappointment in love.

  6. The last sentence is too heavy-handed for me, but I like the rest. I especially like the “eventually…they would be reunited” sentence, and thinking about Roshan’s story at the same time.

  7. I like this opening a lot. I agree that the very last sentence is a bit heavy-handed, but the rest just shines.

    I probably won’t get to read Draft 3, since I’m in the middle of a lot of stuff right now, but by the time Draft 4 is ready to look at, I should again be able to offer comments.

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