.Okay. Our collaborative story has a provisional title. This may change as the story evolves; a good title should cut to the quick of the story and we don't yet know what the story's about. But it gives us a handle while we grope forward in the dark.
Here's where the story now stands. First, what we already had (you'll note that I've made minor revisions; this will continue happening throughout):
The city had been frozen in time. The moon hung, a thin disk of ice, as unchanging as the afternoon sun. Birds were motionless specks in the sky. You could climb the smoke billowing from its chimneys halfway up to heaven and there, perhaps, discover an unimaginable nation living on the clouds just an hour's effort above the mundane world.
Gehenna Immaculata stared at the city from the vantage of the topmost branches of the tallest oak in the adjacent forest. She had no history or philosophy or even peasant morality to help her put what she saw in context. She was illiterate.
She only knew what she wanted.
So far, we have a tableau. Now let's move this into the realm of fiction. Last week, I asked what Immaculata wanted and as of when I sat down to write, got no suggestions. So I made her desire as basic as I could:
Which was food.
I also asked where Ms Immaculata came from. Mike Flynn suggested that she had no memory. This seemed to me a good way of pushing her past deeper into the story's future -- and amnesia has been a reliable workhorse in sf and fantasy for generations -- so it is now implicit in all that happens between the end of the next paragraph and whenever it is that Gehenna has to acknowledge it.
Sandy came up with a plausible explanation of where Gehenna came from and what she wanted. It was a good one, too -- good enough for Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and I consider that quite a successful tale. But by the time I read it, I'd already written the next two paragraphs containing an implied back-story.
Why only implied? Three reasons:
1) The beginning of a story should be primarily concerned with drawing the reader in. Explanations slow things down, so they should be avoided as much as possible.
2) The bruises arouse the readers' curiosity, giving them more reason to continue reading.
3) I have no idea what the back-story is .
Later, we'll come up with something that will serve the story's purpose -- once we learn what that is.
So now we have:
Hunger drove Gehenna down the tree almost as fast as a squirrel, despite her many aches and bruises. Luckily, no bones were broken. So the only disability she suffered was pain -- and pain was hunger's handmaiden.
Note how the last word establishes that this is a medieval and not a modern city.
Next week Gehenna enters the city. The trip there should be glossed over as quickly as possible because it's not as interesting as what the opening promises the city will be. So here's the transition:
From the ground, the city was invisible. But Gehenna had noted that if she lined up a nearby beech with a distant staub, she could follow that line straight to its heart. Not half an hour later she burst free of the forest.
Next week: the city! And here we must deliver the fan service that first paragraph promises. The story demands vivid images of stasis. A drop of water hanging in the air below the spout of a pump? A butterfly frozen above cornflower? A cutpurse eternally sawing away at the string hanging from a citizen's belt?
Your ideas are solicited. Let's see how brilliant you can be.